Four Poems by Jack Thacker

First Black Fingernail


The skyline spilt its ink in clear water.

We headed for the veg-patch bearing trays

of leeks, white cabbage, savoy, winter

greens. You were waiting on bare clay


which you’d worked to a fine grain,

tractor with the cabbage-planter raised:

a desk of seedlings, three rusty thrones

where we’d sit and work together side by side.


This time it was my turn to guide us

down the row, to hold a straight line.

You showed me the gears, adjusted the wheel,


then, before a quick ‘mind your fingers’,

shut the cab: a thud, a pulsing pain,

a black cloud in the sunset of my nail.



Wild Oat Picking


You lower your head to the head height of the wheat

and look at eye level with ears of gold – 


you see

               above the surface

                                               a single wild oat


grown tall like a reed; a stray, a weed

swaying in the wind, its flag leaf unfurled. 


You lower your head to the head height of the wheat – 

its sloped and cursive style comes slowly into sight,


the sign of something wild written in the field.

You                         surface                

             above the                            wild,

      see                                 a single          oat.


You walk within the lines, careful with your feet,

for paper plants are delicate and prone to fold.


You lower your head to the head height of the wheat

and spy a shoal of seeds in the washed out light


dancing in the breeze as if a wave had rolled – 

you see                              a           wild


            above the                single          oat


which looks like a night-time shower of sleet

lit up in the glow of a streetlight; a tiny cloud.


You lower your head to the head height of the wheat,

        see            the surface


you –                                    a single wild oat. 





With Dalí legs it

balances a buoy-body,


dips with eel-neck

a head of origami – 


black brows of 

wax moustache


and frightened eyes 

of salmon: a heron 


peacocks across 

between reed beds, 


until with grace 

of automaton spreads


plates of knives, 

tucks neck and legs 


and pterosaurs

downriver – 


a strangeness

steeped in a cup


of grey water.

Then, in the distance,


the creak of dry 

paintbrush on paper.



Turning In


The pestle of hoof-butts on gravel, the heft

of flank and barrel as the cattle stumble

on towards their winter keep, guided on

either side by hurdles, gestures of fence,

goaded from behind, the family in a line,

the farmyard as a funnel, destined for the barn.


They pour into the straw in a rush of wave

on shore, a cloud of fantail sparks and tossed up 

chaff. They kick and hurl and churn but we’re 

tying up the gates, standing in the gap.



Jack Thacker grew up on a farm in Herefordshire. He is currently a PhD student at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, researching contemporary British and Irish poetry and agriculture. He is the co-founder of the York-based poetry magazine Eborakon and is an administrator for the Bristol Poetry Institute. His poems have appeared in PN Review and The Clearing.



Image credit: Bill Dickinson

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