Stuart Pickford


Stuart Pickford

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Grey children are moving across no-man’s land

on the astro. I turn back to Alistair catching up

with ‘Lord of the Flies’ coursework through lunch.

His tanned face is smiling: Have you ever

been to Antigua or island hopping? I look out

at the rehearsal of the truce on the Western Front:

During that Christmas, the Queen’s Westminsters,

wearing top hats and with umbrellas up, cycled across

the frozen sludge to the German trenches, but

after they’d exchanged gifts of Tickler’s jam

for schnapps—or, in our case, bags of Haribo

and Sainsbury’s commemorative chocolate bars—

they scouted the snipers’ positions so next day

they’d be ready for when the Hun raised his head.

Alistair’s staring at a present stuffed in the bin.

What’s that? he asks. A brown paper package

tied up in string is, in this case, just a prop,

I explain. There’s nothing in the battered box.

Can I have it? I shrug. As I check my diary

for our next catch-up session, Alistair holds it out

in both hands. Sir, your Christmas present.

Stuart Pickford

Stuart Pickford’s second collection is ‘Swimming with Jellyfish’ from smith/doorstop (2016). Stuart lives in Harrogate where he teaches in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children.