Somewhere Else Writers (SEW) July 22: Frank McMahon

Frank McMahon

 ‘A DIFFERENT LAND’ is the second collection of poems by Cirencester-based Frank McMahon. It is published this month by Palewell Press.

Frank said: ‘My Editor thought this was an emotionally charged set of poems and I think that’s right. The inspiration has come from contrasting sources; the natural world, (particularly as experienced during and since lockdowns), social injustice and our treatment of asylum-seekers.

‘Some of the poems are longer meditations on love, our Imperial history, and its continuing presence in our society.

‘Although some were responses to harrowing stories heard on social media, others capture happy and vivid memories. And one is a tribute to a poet of the 8th Century, Du Fu, considered by many Chinese to be their greatest poet. He wrote amazingly powerful verse whilst trying to find refuge for his family from the bloody civil wars of the time. Does anything sound familiar?

‘The title poem came out of the experience of walking the Wainwright Coast-to-Coast path and the stretch across the Pennine watershed.’

‘A Different Land’ is published by http://www.palewellpress.co.uk; also available from Waterstones.

To read the title poem go to cirenscene.com.

To read other works by local writers go to somewhere-else-writers.org.


Nine Standards Rigg. From distance
nine enormous teats of a beast inverted,
suckling the clouds. Waymarks to a no man’s land.

Memorial walk. Uphill, one last stone wall,
tufts of scrawny grass, meadow pipits rapid calls
dissolving. Jet black path, millstone scatter.
A distant curlew.

Nine cairns standing north to south on England’s spine.
If four of us stood fingertip to fingertip
we might surround the girth;
if you stood on my shoulders you might just                                                                 touch the top.

This is borderland where west meets east.
There is no simple passage from this portal.

This land has defined its intrinsic purpose.
It offers no negotiation. A plough would drown
in this living graveyard growing with its dead.
Motherlode, dreich wilderness of treasures,
water-breathing alveoli
ten thousand years of rain
swelling sphagnum’s membranes, held and routed 
to nourish becks and rivers. A carbon sink,
this ground sequesters our excess.

It stretches out ahead, a vast dun pelt
raddled with pitch-black veins.
It will permit your crossing, absorb
the slap and slubber of your boots,
will in time repair itself, swallow your footprints.
This land commands respect.

Ravens’ land, acidic, this sponge has room for bodies
slithering over slabby earth, confused
in thickening mizzle, sucked into a grough
or slack, pressed down by heavy clouds.
Shouts do not carry here.
Face and hands preserved emerge
from Goretex, compass fouled and rusted,
in clotted rucksack a half-eaten lunch.

Do not cross this place at dusk.
Nightmares brew in brackish pools,
bog monsters sheep-devouring, cloaked in sedge, rise
from quags and long abandoned folds.
Do not show a light or breathe too loud.
Hurry slowly.
This land can take you down like grief.

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