top of page

~ Silver Branch series ~


June 2023

Lesley Curwen

lesley book.jpg

Lesley Curwen is a poet, broadcaster and sailor who lives with her husband in Plymouth, Devon. She often writes about loss and rescue, about the unthinking damage caused by modern lifestyles, and how being close to the sea (in mind or body) can help salve our hurts.

She is often on Twitter as @elcurwen. She blogs about poetry, and features other poets’ work on her website.

Her poems have found homes in anthologies from Black Bough, Broken Sleep and Arachne Press. Nine Pens have published a collaborative pamphlet ‘Invisible Continents’, written by Lesley and two poet -friends from Greenwich Poetry Workshop, Jane R. Rogers and Tahmina Maula.

Lesley was a finalist in the 2023 Poetry Wales competition.

She is joint winner of the Hedgehog Press Debut Collection competition. Her collection ‘Recovery Attempt’ will be published in 2024.

Lesley used to present business news on BBC Radio’s Today programme and also on BBC TV, and has won awards for her reporting on medical and investigative programmes.



a rain of stars flies towards tomorrow

     illuminating heart’s red soil


blackbird blows reveille in night’s ear

           dawn has rolled the sea away from land


hedges wave a continent of blossom

                   poplars rustle ballads to the light


stratospheric winds sketch paisley patterns    

                         smacking boats through blue-dazzle deep


morning-fire ignites the world to rapture 

                                       conjured by galactic alchemy

Shortlisted for the Dai Fry Award and featured in Sun-Tipped Pillars of Our Hearts



Retinal flash of cobalt, kohl and gilt

stabs living irises in Theban air.

Oxygen sucks the resurrection hole

whose air slept mute, unbreathed

for three millennia, dark as Nile-fed

earth and motionless. No prophecy

from moon-god Thoth could ever scry

this all too vivid afterlife of popping

bulbs, theft and sacrilege.

From Black Bough's Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things

British Museum, 1972                             

Gold and lapis cartoon face starred

its gaze on pilgrim crowds aching

to catch a sultry dark-flick eye

and I a single scale in cobra-queue

slid by your placid mask, wondered

why your name meant ‘perfect of life’

when your spine had a twist like mine.

Note: Tutankhamun’s mummifed body showed evidence of scoliosis

From Black Bough's Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things


Jack Frost’s path  

                      Pick a leaf from tinsel hordes.

              A crust of diamonds over flame.

      Drink the scintillating flare

of trillion octahedra.   


Hold it long enough: how

            sharpness founders. Crystal

                 fades to sheen, twinkle

                        thaws to dank.  Star’s work. 

Letter of wishes  


Let the seeds in the bread in my gut

burst through skin and soil to the sky.


Make me a haven of fecund rot

for the tendrils of weeds to climb.

      My bones, a scaffold of growth.


Let every cell of my meat spill

mineral sap into frazzled loam.


Make me a home for diligent germs

who pillage our essence for good.

       My heart, a substrate for love.

Piccadilly Radio car park 1984


Windscreens were solid sheets of guano, wipers glued.

Flocks lit on rooftop parks to broadcast their

white noise and crap. Even Manchester rain was not

enough. It took elbow grease to scrub screens clear. 


Yet they were beautiful, a multitude of luminous

feathers strobing green/blue in sodium glare.

Their dirty magic transformed charmless roofs,

their thousand bird-hearts warming city air.        



Light climbs a skein

of spider silk,

gold flying up

to treetop height

like flicked flash

of dragonfly.


A photon trick

betrays this

thinnest strand,

this toughest line

of all whose anchors

fool our eyes.

Lesley Curwen boat.jpeg



Scarlet striped lighthouse

punctuates a blue as fierce

as wolf-eye.  And the width of it

dazzling, oh dazzling, as stars,        


a galaxy of blue shot through

with white.  And colour, colour sings

in veins, tickles throats with strange

lust to drink the rolling ocean dry.

Published in Black Bough's online edition Sound and Vision.





Glittersplash here they fly.

At harbour's mouth

fins slap, slide under bow,

heart flips

in silly joy.

Each small body aloft

a new word written on the sky.


A constellation of crystal tumblers strobes.

Each glass brimful of seabrine, dim as clouds

propped in occult circle at whose crux a box


sits, anchorshaped, a dovetailed masterpiece

of joiner’s art whose fulgent hinge and key

blaze gold to iris. She conjures this room,


fastness of life’s salt, ship’s locker of her heart.    

How to find a jay

Walk into a wood so full of light and leaf it doesn’t matter

if you do not see a bird. Forget about the bird.

Remember the one who used to love jays

who watched for them with you in this place

who walked her ailing dog along this track

who held your arm in the latter days

who hoped for a sign of something


And when you think of her

your eyes will catch

a flash of




 Little Langdale


On scree, turf, stout hill-bone family lay-lines wave and burn.

Each crag, cairn and passing-place

               radiates significance.


Absence squats on bench-like stones that bear the ring

of flask and cup,  exude a spectral fume of sock

              steamed free from hobnail boot.


Walk this mountain, you disrupt ten thousand intersecting tracks

made holy by those you never knew and yet

               are kin who if you crossed


their path might hold your hand to jump a tricky ford

might laugh the sun to shame when both of you

               fall in.

Winter reflection                    


after Julia Copus

It was a dark day and there was no way

to tell you what I felt. I longed to

take you into the leafless woods,

your face shining at me.  I could not.


Your face shining at me.  I could not

take you into the leafless woods

to tell you what I felt. I longed to.

It was a dark day and there was no way.



Wind ran away with the sky,

swung shadows like scythes.

Grains smashed to powder,

sails whipped & screamed

wheeling on fragile pivots, 

canvas blown flat as fens.

A gale will turn these vanes

into miller’s guillotines. 

in Black Bough’s Christmas edition 2022

Sirena, the mermaid

Her shape is a wineglass drawn in water,

thoroughbred lines, a full-hipped stern,

discreet curve forward to narrow bow.

Amid-ships, a golden mast.


Below, a paradise of old teak glows

the shade of conkers pocket-rubbed.


Look up from the helm, see living sails

blown tight. Smacked by southerly gust

she beats like a soul through summer sky.

Ritual for loss


I will carry the still bee whose small heart beat under crushed wings

whose narrow proboscis reached into the honeywater I offered her

whose body I shaded from sun, whose last hour of nectar-work was

done, whose eyes saw nothing of my giant’s hands, whose body

I will bear on a cardboard bier to a small depression in wet earth

where I will sow her like a seed and say the De Profundis prayer

my grandmother always murmured when she saw a hearse

Dragon fire on the M5  


Tail lights are blazed arterial red.

We gaze at bright hypnotic tint

feast on lumens’ scarlet hearts

touch brakes at every strident wink.


Queued uphill they build a dragon

whose scales are salt-slick with blood

whose swift and smoky progress sets

a flame to every thing we love.




It is the moment when  


the sea bites my fingers numb

the arrow of my stroke is ice-tipped

as if winter hidden in the Sound’s depths

has stretched its tentacles to suck my hands


and I remember


warm Novembers are not the norm

planetary tilt is still assured

seasons still hold, cold is good and

ocean calms a soul in flame





danger of breakers

                salt crystals line lashes

          ozone bemuses lungs

hair coils to frizz

                               beware transmutation by air and spring tide


sea will throw your soul to the south wind

                                 roll you to unlooked for destinations    hold

you alone and shivering in primeval dawn

                                       smash you to skeletal parts and     fold

you in her frozen arms        to prove you are



all boundaries lost    

                      only skin

                                          divides you from gulfs of flashing wet


               float on ocean’s breast                   let your self go                                                                  

Lesley business BBC.jpg

"I hope my writing can show the fierce, breathless beauty of the world, and also the poignant losses it suffers from neglect and exploitation. I want to use my poetry mind to interpret the dirty truths that I learned as a business reporter.

And I try to write about the kind of crises that affected my family, through forced adoption, mental illness and coercive control, as a way to witness and make sense of those happenings."

Lesley Curwen

bottom of page