Photo of Jenny Hockey

Jenny Hockey’s poems have appeared in The North, Magma, The Frogmore Papers, Orbis and Dreamcatcher and in a poetry card for Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ). New Writing North awarded her a New Poets Bursary in 2013 and Oversteps Books published her debut collection, ‘Going to bed with the moon’ in 2019 (,




Summoning Birds


We sent a crying of owls

into the woods behind our house,

the day we carried our speaker

out into dusk’s long warmth,

turned up the sound


and silhouettes came swooping back,

settled on the chimney, tricked

into proximity. Had we strayed

through a rent in the veil,

like spirit mediums


talking to the dead — like me

next day, talking to a pigeon

that flew in through the back door,

along the hall to the window seat?


It hunkered down, aching to soar

among limes and oaks in the park.


I found my voice, my hands

cradling its feathery bulk,

the pulse of it here in my grasp,

crouched among my quiet words


until I let it fly —

kept the feather left on my step.


© Jenny Hockey





The summer you didn’t go to France


Remember you’re spared

dread as the ferry docks,

an indigestible meal

waiting behind the terrace carte.


There’s only the river

to grieve for, only an echoing square

at dawn, orchards and allotments,

someone astir with a fork


and the empty road unwinding,

only a vest on your back,

barely a change of clothes

in two half empty bags —


so now you’re as good as there,

the towpath, the poplars, the Loire

already more than enough,

there with a limestone church


and an old dog ambling by,

there with nothing more

than other people’s days

ticking their quiet path.


© Jenny Hockey




Family Break


A ceiling that slants right down

to a cottage window. No view

unless we drop to our knees.


It’s early July. The day hardly sleeps

or is up and about by four,

plucking at bedclothes, pouring birdsong

into our ears. The pillows twist, drenched

in sound, twin beds barely contain us,

the duvets hardly wraparound.


From somewhere a thought

slides under the thatch,

delivers the breaking news


that a man of misfortune and grief

is lying awake in the room next door,

that the kitchen is over stocked with knives

and critical words wrecked yesterday’s walk.


Imagine the headlines the story will make,

says the thought, consider the local tourist trade,

never quite the same


and now there’s a heavy tread

on the stairs. Something comes bumping

against our door, gives a muffled groan.


Saliva dries in my throat


and your brother brings tea on a tray—

no obvious sign of a knife.


© Jenny Hockey




After the diagnosis


there were nights when I knew

no-one, forgot even the number

of the ward they moved you to,


when I sat in big nameless spaces

by trembling machines

that offered me Coke and Twix,


had healthy trees and birds

plastered to their sides,


days when I walked up Brocco Bank

to you — your summer-brown skin,

sun-whitened hair, those brand new

pajama bottoms, exultantly navy blue,


nights of a sighing that peoples 10 pm

when no one cares if you stay or leave,


that sounds like the dead

who make the lift shaft their roost

and keep on reaching out

to patients no-one can ever put right,


days when I sat by your bed for hours,

my time no longer accounted for,

remember how bronzed my legs,

how short my denim skirt.


Now when we cycle past

those sheer grey hospital walls,

their concertina of windows

is watching over us.


© Jenny Hockey








Unasked Question No 5


When I’m walking over fields

where cows are folded to their grass,


a strand of you comes through:

‘Look sharp. Rain’s on its way’


The Pathé film about the Textile Trade

and how it cares for its war orphans


I know you’re one of the grainy boys

clapping silently on the pavilion steps


and I wonder how your mother

could send you away for months,


away from your friend next door,

from the treasure you hid in the cavity wall,


paying out the string —

until the day you both let go.


Boats still anchor by the Exe

under the tower of St Margaret’s Church.


On the memorial built for a war

to end all wars, the name of a father


you barely knew, and later

the name of a brother.


© Jenny Hockey