Two cars, photograph by Pat Maycroft

Cuckmere Haven

Ellen Phethean

In reach of London in the Austin,
weekend scent of leather seats,
the tartan rug, sliced bread and fish paste,
fug of cigarettes, and travel sweets.
Stops for petrol, nappies, car sick,
arguments about the route, family spats -
who sits front or back. To keep
the peace, a threat of Father's smack.

A post-war pillbox, chalky cliffs
and shingle frame the scene:
Tom's knee-length shorts and schoolboy fringe
all buckled-up in gabardine;
teenage Jean in outgrown sun dress,
awkward in her ankle socks,
and little Nutmeg grumpy, miffed
at baby in the Moses basket.

Father's pea coat, fag in hand
Mother hums Don't Fence Me In,
shares out food; getting away
from carpets, dust and cooking, being
outdoors her element - a nomad
in a former life, a survivor -
she would have kept on travelling.
But Father was the driver.



Ellen Phethean

Ellen Phethean runs Diamond Twig Press, which she founded with Julia Darling. She also works as a poet, playwright, creative writing tutor and editor.

She has published two poetry collections, Breath, 2009, and Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman, 2014 (both now available from Red Squirrel Press). Wall, her verse novel for teenagers, was published by Smokestack Books. She is currently working on another novel.

She explains "To celebrate their 25 years, Vane Women published NORTHbound, a book of Pat Maycroft's photographs and poems written in response. Each guest poet was given a photograph to respond to. I got this picture of the classic cars on a grassy hillside, and it brought back memories of family outings to the seaside in the 50s."

Ellen's previous Poems of the Month are Triads on Smallness, Down the Dene, Breath and Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman.

More about Ellen Phethean

Poem of the Month full list

Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.


Cuckmere Haven © 2016 by Ellen Phethean: used with permission;
Two Cars photograph © Pat Maycroft: used with permission;
Copyright of poem and photograph remain with the artists: please do not download or republish without permission.