Gaynor Kane (British Working Class Poets)

Gaynor Kane

Gaynor Kane, from Belfast in Northern Ireland, had no idea that when she started a degree with the OU at forty it would be life changing.  It magically turned her into a writer and now she has a few collections of poetry published, all by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Recently, she has been a judge for The North Carolina Poetry Society and guest sub-editor for the inaugural issue of The Storms: A journal of prose, poetry and visual art. Her new chapbook, Eight Types of Love, was released in July. Follow her on Twitter @gaynorkane or read more at



The Lock


I can’t resist the challenge

          of working out your code.

Listen to the click, click, click

          of teeth nipping past the pin.

Listen for the tock of the clock,

          as the dials rotate.

Listen for ticks of numbers falling

          in place and your combo clunk.


You meet my nose with coldness

          and the scent of blood,

new-borns, and his collection

          of copper coins. Mother’s gold

charm bracelet with clover, wishing well,

          clog and key. Or her grandfather’s

old toolbox, a cacophony of giants:

          chisels, claw-hammer, hacksaw, caulk.


Your colour has me thinking

          of boulders along the edge

of Belfast Lough, where O’Neill’s red

          hand alighted after being cleaved

and hurled from sea to land.

          Or mountains of fossilised rocks,

stacked at the docks. Coal carted,

          then scooped in spade loads into sacks.


You are tugboat shaped,

          my thoughts go large to Arrol gantries

and liners nesting within skeletal stocks,

          until fully formed. Rivets struck

like rhythmic heartbeats. Chocks lodged

          in place, to stop them slipping out to sea,

until waters broke and ships

          were birthed by tugboat midwives.


Everything was monochrome, chalk, smoke,

          firebrick, slack. Dunchers, dungarees,

grubby hands and faces at clocking-off,

          men’s boots still gleaming with pride.

Pride passed down paternally,

          reflecting on shiny surfaces,

until the yard was boat-less, barren,

          and the gates all locked.



The Port of the Bog


Its purpose is woven

into the landscape.


East Strand,

a beach of shells:

mussels, clams.

Cast overboard,

washed up; stranded.

Above the high tide line,

are lobster pot pyramids.


Stone walls pincushion

bleached-wood net needles;

colourful markers, buoys

and floats, decorate gardens.

Lawns are quilted by drying nets.

The harbour seal, circles,

disturbs oily rainbows.


Ebb and flow histories,

the rise and fall

of quotas,

trawlers trailed to bog-land.



Those who remember

and those who don’t.




From Benin to Belfast             


Benin boy whittles under shade

of oil palms and cocoa plants. Plagued

by flies, wishing for a spare hand or tail

to swish, like the bony cattle.

He’s told it is a great honour

to prepare ivory for the mask

that will adorn Oba’s hip.

Elephant blood stains ground red.


Guild man, seventeen now,

commissioned to make two new masks.

Portuguese trade has built the Oba

towers of gold, his palace must

be decorated in precious metal.

The man’s hands are chafed,

burnt from smoke smelting

bronze, his eyes strained red.


Ten years later, the same Edo man

is hung from a tree on the end

of an Imperial rope. Crafters guild all suffer

the same fate, red sap flowing down trunks, 

blood puddles. Queen Mother’s ivory

mask and Benin bronzes stowed away

on Admiral Rawson’s ship. Oba’s palace

razed; glowing ash is molten red.




A locally crafted shoe, in a cobwebbed

corner of the Ulster Museum, now stands

looking down on the mask. I think

of the adopted baby you paraded

up and down the Crumlin Road in a Silver Cross,

as the Civil Rights movement,

and the country’s troubles grew,

but you were unaware of them.


You longed to nurture that baby,

with dark tight curls the colour of leather

your father cobbled into boots.

Splintered on finding baby’s house

broken; busted windows, burnt doorframe,

her little red shoe on the threshold.

At Sunday Mass the whole parish

staring through their ivory masks.


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