John White was first published in Michael Horovitz’s seminal review New Departures. He was a TV & Cross-media Director & Producer for many years. He graduated with Distinction from the London Poetry School-Newcastle University Writing Poetry MA in 2021. Recently he has had poems in the New European, Ekphrastic Review, Alchemy Spoon, the newbootsandpantisocracies blog, New Writing Scotland 40 (2022), upcoming in Frogmore Papers, and a poem longlisted in the 2022 UK National Poetry Competition. 


Picnic at St Catherine’s, Guildford

The rich brown sand leaks out from Cretaceous stone
here, cascades down the hill to form a steep beach
falling into the river. This sandstone limb
a parent to these sixties children, lying under,
holds them on this safe home counties shore.

I count twelve in the group, a few obscured. Four turn
to camera, curious. Bob, stripped to the waist, slim,
open-faced, innocent nineteen-year-old grin,
hair round and full across his ears. David,
stripped off from the swim, long hair, tight-fitting
rockers cream-white jeans, medallion on his chest
over bare skin, a little hunched, he talks, intense,
to someone sitting we cannot see. Next, Chrissie
turns her rich dark hair towards us, comfortable
in her swimming gear, bare feet against the sand,
she smiles connecting with her friend behind the lens.
In centre of the group, Graham, older by a few years,
bleary-eyed, watches us beneath a handsome cave
of long brown hair.

Behind them all, wide across the middle ground
the mother river glistens; alternate pools of light
and dark slide by, unnoticed, laying under
their passing lives like that benign hillside.

Where will they go tonight? To Boxers Coffee Bar,
a narrow room above, up winding stairs
to read their poems, men mostly in that time
will play guitars and sing, act out young mating games
with the background frisson of shared lives, shared heroes,
shared signals on the underground bush telegraph,
shared vinyl stacked on shelves in gentler times.

They feel the world turns here. They’ve all read Kerouac,
signed up to the fancy that life is one long high
where you can get a job on the buses, the plant nurseries,
clean uni corridors, be a postman, for now
just drift through jobs, or easy, go sign on,
and meet for ever in the summer sun
beneath St Catherine’s hill.

© John White

Photo Credit: Fred Pipes, Brighton