Beth Hartley

Photo courtesy of Ken Cumberlidge

I am a poet of people and place; the transient and the eternal. I make:  – home, faith, work, words and dinner. Itchy preacher, always Mama. Independent organiser for High Street Poetry: signposting you to the best of local poetry and spoken word. I live in Ely in Cambridgeshire with my family, where I’m part of the Fen Speak team – running Elys main poetry night. Someone invited me once and this is where it led.
I have been published previously by: Allographic, Edgewords, Periwinkle Literary Magazine and a piece of mine will be on Idle Ink in the next month.


My hostel heart
Feels the tightness of four walls and my chest.
Christmas from an over-hot hallway 
but no one saying welcome home.
Fighting the darkness with cookies on Sinta Klaas and hospitality in threes;
Giving away what it cannot afford in hopes of blessing broken and battered 
where others will not go
and the unknowing will never know.
My hostel heart 
beats left wing, socially housed, 
NHS healed blood with every beat.
Knows it’s existence is held tenuous, untrusted, grudging 
by two words they want to erase 
that are the safety in which I sleep 
and the wall I kiss with every morning breath:
Lifelong tenancy.
My hostel heart 
Runs laundry through the night, drives the car and speaks sharply to the staff nurse.
Because not everyone can do what you think and there’s about to be one more.
Because family is made in early morning walks and late night pain relief. 
Because six months opened something that I pray will never heal. 
My hostel heart 
walks praying every footstep. 
Cries out to every empty house;
Come home, come home, come home,
to everyone waiting and waiting, and waiting.
Every head on every temporary bed.
Every soul on street and surfed sofa,
until the world wakes up.
My hostel heart 
lies open, lies awake from August to February.
The cycle running hot with shame and cold with despair,
but it pulses daily. 
Pushing me through complacency and into a different struggle.
So that everyone comes home.

Silt Born

The hand over your mouth
in the dark that you stayed in
because it was just too hard
to reach out for the light:
For a pen,
for a hand to hold,
for anything other 
than the safety of the all-enveloping.
Not in the sense of a warm soft blanket - 
more in the way of a smothering sensation.
Stillness and black,
yet known in chaos.
When you mistake the hands that help
or those that press you down,
plunging beneath the surface. 
When others pull away because 
the cold you know, numbs the soul. 
They turn blue, while you, submerged 
sit stock still at the bottom.
The safety of the waters 
until the day the legs lift;
reflex scissor kick,
and you realise:
That darkness does nothing.
The pallor of your drownêd skin
is not the hide that you fit in.
But see yourself in reflection 
dripping, on the edge; 
Realise you must become amphibious.

Broken Sleep

Woken by the usual shattering
I am enclosed a moment and still hope,
until I feel the cold creep in. 
I am a museum of things I want to forget
and at 5 am -
or any other sharp unhelpful hour -
all the artefacts 
break out;
dancing and chanting,
calling my name. 
I turn and tuck in 
still dreaming of respite; 
the warm embrace of sleep.
Instead I’m rolling into
memory’s icy grip.
All the things I’ve second guessed
are tapping on the glass.
No longer on display 
as evidence of sound decision
but rioting, shouting:
what if?
why did you?
how can you still? 
A crowd of tiny chips from things
digging in my skin
and getting under once again. 
The things I did misguided,
the secrets that I keep.
Everything I stood on, screamed at and ignored. 
Everyone I asked out, shut down and damaged in my haste.
I walk around
as it seems I can do little else. 
for the chaos to subside,
Close the doors and lock the boxes, 
sweep up all the wreckage, 
cortisol in smithereens 
and that drumming in my chest. 
If I wait the bedlam might let go and let me
head down,
bed down, 
be seduced
by torpor’s trance
and I might yet,

One thought on “Beth Hartley

  1. Beth Hartley’s #hostelheart is a very fine heart indeed, and she never fails to speak – and act – from it. In her writings, she routinely finds the universal in the (often deeply) personal – and that’s pretty much all you need from a poet, isn’t it?


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