Margaret Royall

Margaret‘s 1st poetry collection ‘Fording The Stream’ appeared Sept 2017 under the pen name Jessica De Guyat.

She was shortlisted for the Bangor Literary Festival and Crowvus poetry prizes in 2018 and her poems have appeared online, in journals and anthologies, most recently Hedgehog Poetry Press, The Blue Nib, Impspired and forthcoming in Sarasvati.

May 2020 saw the publication of her memoir of childhood ‘The Road to Cleethorpes Pier,’ a Haibun fusion of prose and poetry.

In July 2020 she won Hedgehog Press’ Full Fat collection competition and ‘Where Flora Sings,’ was published November 2020. Earth Magicke was published by impspired in 2021.

Margaret leads a women’s poetry group in Nottinghamshire and performs regularly at open mic events in person and online.

A love-hate relationship with my dark under-eye circles

They haunted me from an early age, these
ink stains smeared across delicate ivory skin, 
tainting the dewy bloom of my youth.

Even as a baby they were there, as though someone
had used indelible ink to draw a cartoon feature 
above the cheekbones, christening me ugly.

My mother had them too; I cursed her bones
for that, condemning me to a life of camouflage,
set apart from the pageant queens of pushy mums,

never in their league, always the last to be chosen.
Heavy under the eyes, was what they said, or
You look tired         have you been crying?

Mirrors? Oh I’ve always hated them, 
could not look myself in the eye, turned away
sulking, hiding behind the comfort of a curtain fringe.

That’s not me, not the real me. I was deluded.
To go unnoticed I wore a ghost shroud in public, 
a walking apology for my lack of self-belief.

I’m at fever pitch when a new ad runs on TV
for a miracle concealer, hides dark circles like magic!
And I rush out, a nude-faced convert in sunglasses

to that holy of holies, the John Lewis cosmetics counter,
worshipping like an acolyte at the altar of Aphrodite,
hope muting the nagging voice in my head that says

It probably won’t work! And yes, I know it’s just hype.
But recently I had a big aha moment, when someone
told me I had ‘come-to-bed’ eyes.   and I whooped for joy.

Repercussions of Lark Song in a Summer Meadow

Soaring high on the crest of summer
above the vetch and clover of a Basque meadow, 
his attention is caught by two women dressed in purple, 
holding hands, silently sobbing.

A June heatwave wimples his wings.
The picnickers huddle together; between them
a wicker hamper with du pain, du fromage, du vin,
sadness tugging at its straining straps,

teardrops coating the wedges of honey cake,
dampening the resined bows of the string quartet
preparing to give a rendition of Vaughan William’s
haunting romance, The Lark Ascending.

Midsummer sings today in a minor key, seeking
to blur painful memories. With each morsel swallowed
grief rises in the gullet like foul medicine. The women 
nibble at tempting amuse-bouches but without appetite.

Full-throated he sings to them from a dizzying height,
each cadence alive with buttercup freshness, his
spectral arpeggios lightening the impact of sorrow,
stemming the river of tears.

No need to know cause or effect. He is 
fading into the blue hour, his song restoring 
the sinus rhythm to hearts shattered by trauma, 
strengthening bones hollowed by unspeakable grief.

For a brief moment they glance up, distracted
by his summer concert, their mourning on hold,
smiles sweep across drawn features like dappled dawn…
allowing their hearts to fly free. 

The Blue Hour

I remember him best of all in Norfolk, 
sauntering through evening meadows,
the blue hour weaving its mystical charm.
We floated on air, hovering above the limpid stream, 
each in-breath held        waiting,

each of us part of a collective rhythm.
Exhaling     diaphragm squeezed like a concertina.
Spectators in nature     speaking in whispers     
respectful       this territory theirs not ours.

This was a world where vulnerability cowered;
the fleet of foot, wily of wing       here      then gone.
Water voles in velvet suits, puppet fox with invisible 
strings, playful, then crouching low    scenting danger, 
slinking back to the leash.

A swoop of ghost-owl, hunter with razor-sharp teeth, 
wings scything the dusk     then a curdling cry from 
a field mouse trapped in the pincer grip of talons; 
life inextricably linked to death.

A privileged viewing      yet looking back, I  sometimes
wonder if it was real, or simply a dream, conjured up with
him at the heart of it, where he always was?

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