A narrow terrace, below the sandstone city walls.
We two were twelve years old, in blazers and velour hats,
with harvest shoeboxes: potatoes, Bramleys, a jar
of my mother’s marrow and ginger; buckled runner beans
like the old man’s hands. Newspaper on the table,
a scullery, pots on the draining board,
two greasy armchairs, a thrift of hot coals.
He showed us the figures he carved, let us cradle them:
the shepherd, a sheep slung across his shoulders; a pilgrim
grasping his staff, the fold of cloth, the breathing grain
of the wood. Like the carving they’d tell me the roofer
had found high up in the cathedral rafters:
a woman picking a thorn from her foot.
from 'Reading Through the Night'
Jenifer Smith was born and educated in the north west of England. She has been a teacher for all her working life. She was an advisory teacher for English in Suffolk and is now a senior lecturer in the School of Education at UEA. She is a co-founder of the UK National Writing Project.