Michael Tolkien

Bridging the Gap


Crossing the swollen, mud-tinged Welland

I see ruined Henchard stare into the Frome

sliding towards Blackwater Pool

that gathers what’s left of anyone who

follows their regrets into the depths.


Leaning on the white Victorian callipers

of Albert Bridge I shore myself up

with fragments: ‘ The river is a strong,

brown god…’or ‘Your god is too small…’

involuntary sound piled up for the mind to rest on.


Or so I may delude myself. Happier those

who look at the river in all its shades and moods,

notice only its height above the banks,

its colour, how it slaps at obstacles.

To them a body of water’s no matter for quoting.


Happier still a child who throws his toy

into the spate and loves watching it career

brightly eastwards round the next bend

which is nowhere and of no concern.


A Hair’s Breadth


When you suddenly felt faint

and the room began to pitch and slew,

I held down your head to keep

the blood flowing there.


Our life together hit me in

a snapshot, and I held fast to it

as if all depended on each breath

that stirred the hair on my arms.


We were clinging to a cliff face

and I must not for a split second

release my fear in case concern

for me made you lose your hold.


I’d heard that leading climbers who hit

an impasse should keep quiet

and look as if they’ve paused to find

a better way round and on.



This collection begins by seeing writers or other artists as detached observers with an agenda. How do they close the divide with day-to-day realities? How closely do we understand familiar surroundings or events? Even our own motives and those people we think we know or knew may seem beyond our reach. When such rifts make us feel puzzled or inadequate we can be reluctant to build bridges or just make a point of not knowing. But, as the fifth section suggests, various kinds of love and friendship close many of these gaps.





   My wife Rosemary is first reader of most poems in various stages of development, and her objective judgments have been invaluable.

    Continuing to ‘workshop’ problematic poems with Rutland Poets is a great advantage in taking a fresh look at rejected and new work.

    Particular thanks are due to my editor, John Forth, who won’t let me off the hook until obscurities and ‘uncreative’ ambiguities are ironed out, and who is quick to spot which pieces are not ‘earning their keep’.

      I am also most grateful to Paul McLoughlin who read through the whole proposed collection with a discerning eye. His comments made me reconsider many crucial details of expression and content.




The illustration is taken from Rosemary Tolkien’s original painting of Albert Bridge in Stamford. The cover was designed and processed by Chris Doyle

This book is available direct from the author