Anne Caldwell, United Kingdom



Slow Train North

Ferns and Voles

The Poems


Slow Train North 

Alice leaves King’s Cross   and  loses her
mobile    signal.   She   sits   in   the quiet
coach    as    it    rumbles    through    the
hinterlands   of   the   capital.   Flats   and
terraced   rows   give   way   to   avenues,
semis  with   clipped  privet.   Here’s   the
Lincolnshire  flatlands  –  big  skies,  reed
beds,   wild   ducks.   Alice  listens  to the
person   opposite    breathing,   to       the
rhythm   of   the  diesel  engine  and   the
whirr   of  an  old  heater  in  the carriage.
Her  coat’s  heavy  with   it.   There’s  her
reflection,  bunched  up  like  the   March
Hare  caught  by  headlights  somewhere
in  The  Wolds.  There’s   the  warmth  of
her face against glass. The Wash sprays
salt through an  open  window,  and  that
pull   north  is  stronger  than  ever.   The
Pole’s magnetic embrace.Maybe   she’ll   cradle a   block of ice and

rip   the  skin off her fingertips.  But   right
now,   she’s  reading Louis MacNeice and
this   is   the  ‘Slow Movement’: the pause
between     opening     and   closing,   the
allegro   and  appassionato. This is where
she   sits.  Between   the   city   and    the
icebergs,   the   heat   and  that stretch of
winter.  No  sun  for  three  months. She’s
just   passing,   finding  joy  in   the   view
from   the   window:   wetlands  alive with
trout,     fireflies     dancing,       rookeries
chattering    and   their   offspring   plump
with love.Anne Caldwell. Prose poem from her

new collection,  Alice   and the North 
(Valley Press) November 2020 




Ferns and Voles

Alice doesn’t  have a   looking-glass but
there’s   a   full-length     mirror   in   her
mother’s  room and a cat that refuses to
smile.  She’s  five and the world’s full of
wonder.  She  makes  rose  petal tea for
her dolls, rabbit  and stuffed  tiger. Alice
has   a   den   in   the   bottom   of    her
wardrobe that smells  of  plimsolls.  She
visits a treehouse at Sarah’s in a   crack
willow where the branches fork and the
sky falls in. Henny Penny run, run!

When it snows,  Alice   burrows  in   drifts
like    a vole and  the  world is  crystalline
and   mauve.  Ice   ferns    her   bedroom
window and  she doesn’t  speak for days.
She turns  six and a baby sister appears.
Alice  makes  a  new  den  in  the garage
from  two  deckchairs,   a  broom  and  a
grey felt blanket. She steals a packet  of
her sister’s Farley’s rusks and eats them
out there on the concrete floor.

A chest freezer full of  lamb  carcasses
and   frozen  veg hums   in   the corner.
Somewhere in the house, her father  is
curled   up   like   a    caterpillar   in  an
armchair, listening  to  Bach, his   head
wreathed in smoke.

Anne Caldwell – Prose Poem from her
new  collection,    ‘Alice and the North’
(Valley Press November 2020)


The Poet


Dr Anne Caldwell is a freelance writer and education specialist, based in England. She has worked for the British Council and is due to become a Royal
Literary Fellow next year. Her specialism is prose poetry and she is a keen walker. Her poetry has appeared in a range of anthologies and magazines in
the UK and internationally. These iinclude The Rialto, Writing Women, The North, Poetry Wales and Stride. Anne has published three collections including Painting the Spiral Staircase (Cinnamon Press). In 2019, she was co-editor of The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry alongside Professor Oz Hardwick. Her fourth collection, Alice and the North, is available for pre-order from Valley Press. and is being launched in November 2020.