Jenny Hockey’s poems range from the sad to the surreal to the celebratory. A Sheffield poet and retired anthropologist, she takes an oblique view of the ups and downs of everyday lives, reviews for Orbis and in 2019 launched her collection, Going to bed with the moon (,,


Because we were friendless, apart that is
from each other, because we were only
twelve and even the Sixties hadn’t begun,
because it got us out of our homes,
we’d catch the bus at The Golden Hind
just like on school days but not —
except we were going to school

to learn the violin, a Saturday morning
put in — and though I went up and down
with my bow, stroking the strings and sniffing
the stuff we had to rub on, nobody told me
I’d need a musical ear, nobody said
there wouldn’t be marks for my fingers
to tell them where to land.

I stuck it a year for the ride and the hope
that maybe I’d learn to play in the end
or someone would carve me some marks
along the neck of my violin. At home
my recorder was sitting it out, knowing
I’d soon be back, the pads of my fingers
tucked in its comfy holes, playing that tune
I’ll never forget. You’ll know it for sure,
it’s the one you always learn first.

© Jenny Hockey



Elder thickened daily in the yard,
putting pressure on the windows.
It needed hacking back.

I was elbow deep,
awash in tiny bibs and socks,
cold feet on the quarry tiles.

The elder thickened night by night
muffling the call of May Ball bands
a thousand miles away.

I was swagging nappies
on my shoulder, losing pegs
among the weeds.
© Jenny Hockey


There’s animals here I almost know —
three to every stony ledge,
plodding an infinite path off your page,
vines spiraling hard on their heels

and knights with scabbards and shields,
each man trapped in his sentry box
primed to ask forever: ‘Who goes there?’

All of them, combatants, creatures,
and plants, copied into your A6 sketchbook,
your faithful reproduction
of a door jamb’s sacred column.

What kept you in place for days
as Italy’s sun bore down on your tweeds —
on you at 23, meticulous translator
from one patient art to another?

Would you sometimes lift your eyes
beyond these few square crowded feet
of Bergamo’s Santa Maria Maggiore

or were you born for the close at hand,
for spillikins, jigsaws and tiddlywinks?
If Lego had been invented, would yours
have been of the tiniest kind?

1Frank Randal (1852-1917) was a former jeweller’s assistant commissioned by John Ruskin to undertake architectural drawings for him.

© Jenny Hockey


Two men, their bodies identical,
one splayed in the arms of his twin
and held up high above the River Saone,
head thrown back like Jesus
on his weeping mother’s lap.

It’s about taking responsibility for oneself,
you said —  but I can’t see a hero
offering up his guilt, a father bearing his son
through the flood —

only a marble-hearted man
lumbered with his own imagined weight
who mistakes the lightness of being alive
for having to soldier on —

a handsome man, stone-deaf
to the river slipping away,
losing itself in the sea.

© Jenny Hockey