The Little Book of Poems is a pamphlet of selected earlier work (23 poems), which can be requested by sending an email to

Copies are £3 each, and profits will be donated to, and shared equally between, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the Woodland Trust.

© Steve Walter, 1999

The book includes the following poems:

  • Reversed Images
  • Chilling rooms
  • The crack
  • Skomer
  • The find
  • Mind the Gap
  • Corpus Christi
  • One Tree Hill
  • Swindale
  • Gaia
  • Traveller’s fare
  • Lark descending
  • Collision
  • Naked poet
  • Elegy for autumn
  • Zhivago’s frost
  • Cinderella
  • Phoenix rising
  • Ophelia
  • Unspoken
  • Droplet
  • The Admiral Duncan
  • Hundred hours

Reversed images

The sheep and their lambs
look like little
broken drops
of mercury
rolling up the hill
between the hedges
to be fed.

As if someone had
broken a ball
of silver on the hillside
in sunshine and watched
the droplets run down
with their shadows

then wound the film backwards.

© Steve Walter

Chilling rooms

There’s a cold place
where headless victims hang

and steam, breathing
into raw air

preparing themselves
to be eaten.

Some call thispurgatory.

Half-way between hell
and the freezer bag.

© Steve WalterThe Crack

Even the seasons seem to shift, like seismic faults
winter-spring, spring-summer, and weather
fronts cascade, leaving only a shared skin

of refraction, air-water, water-glass.
And the moment feels like yawning steel,
inner surfaces slide friction-free, their tension immiscible.

Personality set to disintegrate. Seconds mark
the borderline, the threshold between sane-insane,
free-captive. And I think of rain falling on limestone

watch how it freezes, how it splits the rock,
breaks open the skull of a mountain,
makes me listen to the molten brain within.

© Steve Walter, First published in Links, April 1999


And the guttering red rock
sliced like decks of cards
slanted into the sea.

And she is there in the mist
in the sea breeze she
is in the gathering dark
she rides the mounting forces
which rise beneath the blackening waves
and she is in the quilted sky

she is there in the billowing
sheeted veils of the afternoon
and in the rakish cry of the gulls
screaming over the graves of shearwater
skeletons, she is at the exits of hollowed burrows
among bits of dead bird, dead rabbit, scattered
beside the remains of Iron Age homesteads
and she is marking the way
in Celtic stone against the unforgiving grey.

(Skomer: a once inhabited island off the South Wales coast)
Sycamore Grove Poetry Prize 1999, Highly Commended

© Steve Walter

The find

I found a poem
lying broken on the sidewalk
its heart still beating

I picked it up
like a fledgling
warm in cupped hands

I took it home
fed it gently
hoping that one day
it might fly.

© Steve Walter

Mind the Gap

Mind the gap!…Mind the gap!…Mind the gap!

Not simply the short freefall from platform
to concrete and rail, nor the spreading dark
between incisors yellowing with age,
and not the slick haven between young thighs,

but the chasm between words, separating
spirit from flesh, pattern from logic
the imagined from the real. The half shadow
which parts design from coincidence

signals each second of the present, distinct
as now, and now, pressing the moments between
birth, rebirth, silence. Something like the line
drawn between the commonplace and catastrophe,

the silver-blue leap of the spark, minus to plus,
static scattering as her hair spreads over the dress
raised beneath her, sky deep lightning, consuming
the instant, releasing tension.

It is knowing that what continues is unknown
which cleaves the spine between the shoulder blades
wrenches the soul from its hiding place
and faces us all with the repeated dawn.

© Steve Walter

Corpus Christi

He kneels, as if he has witnessed slaughter,
sobbing, while other communicants stand
holding out their hands for the Body of Christ.

The white cotton handkerchief he borrowed
is soaked and stained with silt
drained from the channels in his skull.

For a moment the power of Christ crucified
rings true and he is overcome
with the resonance of violent compassion.

His dead grandmother kneels with him.
They walk through Westminster Abbey
treading on generations of the English monarchy.

The wafer passes from palm to lips,
entire moments pour
through her fingers like liquid air.

Likewise after supper, He took the cup.© Steve Walter

One tree hill

We play beside dry stone walls
run the paths
beaten through grassy fields
and skip, on switch-back lanes.

In this huge country, the vast acres
of gorse, heather, limestone crags
and mountains threaded with necklaces of stone
are backdrop to brightly coloured dresses, dancing

circles, and you, mother to our cousins
laughing with the girls’ laughter
spinning your own unique sunshine
giving yourself, to make Loop Cottage home.

And we grew with the flame
of their changing, our sleep barely
disturbed by the flight of curlews, their song
like hands, rippling the skirts of dawn.

In these hills, I crossed freezing water
with my Uncle. We shared whitened feet
pulling on our warm, thick socks
together, like men do
before I learnt the word divorce.

© Steve Walter

Swindale (September)

The fine thread of a buzzard’s cry
catches the breeze, in flight
a pair of ravens tumble and spin
their deep-throated almost musical, caw
shaping a ball of sound
which bounces from crag to crag.

It is simply sheer relief, to rest
at the head of this valley
in the huge quiet
of mountain, embraced
by the white noise of water falling.

Here I could forget her – the feel
of her hands on me, the cream of her thigh,
the soft press of her deepest curve
firmly traced in silk.

With you I find peace
in this sacred cove, the quick shadows
of clouds, skirting heather
sensing crevices
as they slip over sunshine
and touch the white ribbons of naked streams.

Tiny, we stand among the remains of glaciers,
the grassy hillocks of rock and soil
clustered, as if they were cupped
by the hands of a god
playing castles at the valley’s end
like a child with sand at the sea’s edge.

Our friend, the tanned naturalist,
gazing across the mountainside
spies a distant shift of russet fur.
Locating the movement,
we spot the angled black
of antlers raised against the sky.

Staring at the high horizon
we watch a family of deer, browsing
among scrub and rock
until, at random, they drift
out of sight, leaving only the rush of water
as we turn to face the gathering silence.

© Steve Walter


I am the man who once wrote the bible
I am the bible sold with the jumble
I am the jumble of ideas in your head
I am the head of an old, oak table
I am the table out in the garden
I am the garden soaked in poison
I am the poison which kept you from birth.

© Steve Walter

Traveller’s Fare

Desperate for touch
I stroke the smooth cream
of your skin

my fingers sense
a fragile roughness
at the joining of your legs

you are cool beneath my hand
I have drunk your warmth
we have eaten together.

Tiny encrustations
of spilt sugar roughen
your smooth surface.

© Steve Walter

Lark descending

A glass falls silently, tense reflections
dancing as it spins, bowl and stem
tumble towards the roots of earth

drawn close to the quarry tile floor
hard, resolute, impermeable, spilling
a river of red wine in slow motion

which splashes on impact before glass
comes to rest in a warm hand, caught
in an instant, remaining intact. Lead shot

explodes in a clump of blood and bone
a tiny, winged shape twists and slides
as if falling on a string, leaking heat

the whole of the day reflected in the curved
black pit of an eye. An early song
vanishes in a shower burst of silence.

© Steve Walter


Cut the red carpet
shut up all the houses
tear down the sides of the cradle
for she has died a youn man’s death.
I watched the Mercedes
take her away
from under the shade
of the pergola
no farewells
no chance to kiss goodbye
only blood on the marble floor
and a faint sense of belonging.

A landmine ruptures in our heart
and all we have to offer are condolences

© Steve Walter

Naked poet

You scared the child in me
by asking to see them, there and then.

I handed over the empty pages
‘Read between the lines,’ I said.

You smiled,
like a mother accepting weeds.

© Steve Walter

Elegy for autumn

The air is cooler now,
instead of summer semi-nakedness
the park is packed with people
fully-clothed, with mums and dads
and children clutching pots of glue.

The trees are bound with ropes
with chains, staked to the ground.
Children jump to catch
falling leaves, armies of parent
make them stick them back again.

The council sign says:
‘Autumn is cancelled’ –
no more wounded leaves.
There is only glue
and green paint by the bucketful.

Autumn is dead – long live the Fall.

© Steve Walter

Zhivago’s frost

Moments when
whole generations of stories
might fall screaming out of my pen
across the white expanse
the taut dimensions
of papered snow.

The body’s memory
a reflex of enfolded limbs.
Futures fade with each resounding
crack at the edge of midnight.

Her resolution to be rid of me.

© Steve Walter


Finding your shoe beside me
I fill the air above the arch
with your curved form

I imagine all of you
resting upon these two points
toe and heel

and the weight holds
something voluptuous
of which I can only dream

© Steve Walter

Phoenix rising

After all of this is over
there will be no flesh between us.

I watched as you stood
among guttering candles
your eyes as cold as the dawn
your lips shaping words with an intensity
I could not bear to hear
testing the naked sky.

I remember the silk
which hung like a second skin
over the night
and clung to the frosted window.

Now, offer me your hands
let us dress ourselves
in the fine
scented veils of summer.

© Steve Walter

from the painting by Millais

You will be safer out of the air,
underwater. Your flesh too good for kissing,
drifting among broken garlands
scattered like confetti at a wedding

Dead men’s fingers play at your throat,
cold water teases your warm palms, slips
between open lips. The robin listens,
a little, pious priest, preparing
for the requiem.

White flowers cluster beside the brook
like butterflies,distant bells
jangle, out of tune and harsh.

But it is you,Rose of May,
singing crazily ‘Hey Non Nonny’
when from muddy browns, a thousand whispering hands
drag at your dress pulling you down

© Steve Walter


How much
doeseach word
make us who
and what we are?

Each tiny
dark shining silence
of our childhood

holds a passion
which even now
we can’t wholly

© Steve Walter


How small
canwater get, daddy?

he asks,
playing in the bath.

We smile
at the indivisible sea.

© Steve Walter

The Admiral Duncan

The name she wished were mine
since that childhood moment, when
with clenched teeth behind her smile
she wrestled me to the ground.

Now, the risk of falling in love
again, feels as if plastic explosive
is moulded like a fist
at the centre of my chest.

And tonight, if I had chosen
the bright company of gay men
it would have been me
falling in Old Compton Street.

© Steve Walter

Hundred hours

Give one minute’s silence.
Listen as the universe turns.

Listen to the quality of fractured air,
to the hollow thud
of the heart, echoing inside the skull.

Listen to the transient drift of traffic
the catastrophic space between stars
the cavernous tumbling of Earth
as she cartwheels through the heat blastof sun.

Sense the tension between atoms of a grin
burning, since the moment life began
and is beginning now…and now…and NOW.

Listen for the silence of closing eyes
which admit the reaper’s blade.

And listen, the instant digital time
flips past ninety-nine
falls to zero, squares the circle
and we begin again…again…again…

© Steve Walter

Cognac in the afternoon
with acknowledgement to Greenpeace

Imagine planet Earth (4,600 million years old) as someone who is in middle age, 46 years old…on a Monday morning.

Only by the age of 42 did the Earth begin to flower. Dinosaurs and the great reptiles did not appear until a year ago (aged 45). Mammals arrived only eight months ago. In the middle of last week, human-like apes evolved into ape-like humans, and at the weekend the last ice age enveloped the Earth.

Modern humans have been around for four hours. During the last hour we discovered agriculture. The industrial revolution began just a minute ago. During those sixty seconds of biological time, humans have made a rubbish tip of paradise.

We have ransacked the planet for fuel. We have caused the extinction of many hundreds of species of animals, many of which had been here longer than us. Where to now..?


Little Book of Poems