Toady Tells Me, Over Tea and Tabnabs

For Brian Rudd


My father was Boy Toady and I was

Young Toady. Grandfather was Old Toady

and when he died we all moved up one.

Winterton people had nicknames

because there were too many in the village


with the same name. On a drifter,

there might be two Bob Greens asleep

below so if you're going to call the watch

you need shout up Bob-the-devil

not Bob Crow to get the right one.


In the George family there was Social George,

Cuddy George, Jack Starchy, Bill Starchy,

Eddie Starchy, and Punch George. Punch

George drove a big lorry into Yarmouth.

There'd be about eight hundred men and boys


to cart from Winterton for the fishing. Mute,

(I don't know why they named him Mute) he was

a Goffin, and he had two lorries. There was Fizzle,

Flat, and Fatty, Duff, and Dumps, Jello, Poachy,

Fourboat, and Eric Kettle who we called Teapot.


"Toady Tells Me Over Tea and Tabnabs," by Marion Starling Boyer, from The Sea Was Never Far. Main Street Rag. 2019. (Use requires permission of author).




I dream of the black hush

in farming sheds, far off


in Yorkshire, where rhubarb

crowns are forced without


a scrap of soil or light.

The air is warm there,


scented with coal fires

and the wool shoddy


tucked about the plants.

The quiet is so deep


farmers hear the rhubarb

grow – the buds' soft pops,


their rising stems creaking.

In all that darkness


harvest is a ritual

of shadows. Candles flicker


atop iron poles and throw

the pickers' hunched shapes


against the walls as they

bend to cut and cradle


the pale stalks, row after row,

standing at attention.

"After the Telegram Comes" by Marion Starling Boyer, from The Sea Was Never Far. Main Street Rag. 2019.  Published by The Tishman Review and  selected by Lit Youngstown for their 2020 calendar. (Use requires permission of author).




A piece of smurry night broke off,

silver and fish-shaped. It drifted closer,


shimmering, massive as a god.

The navigation light was a single slow-


moving star and the ship purred as it glided

over. Our upturned faces lit with appalled


fascination. Lost, windblown off course,

the zeppelin lowered, sprinkled the lands


with parachute flares – small fires

wafting down –


and found its way to Yarmouth’s

cluster of coastal lights where Baptists


were closing the midweek prayer meeting

with the refrain singing to welcome


pilgrims of the night. Martha Taylor sat

at home knitting a sock. She set the needles


down before turning the heel, her fingers’

misery worse for the rafty weather.


On the road a dog barked and barked.

Two streets over, Liza walked the floor


with the baby, worn out, in a frap.

An unfamiliar throbbing noise drew Sam


Smith, a cobbler, outside to stand

with others in the wet.


The men in the gondola

wore fur-lined shoes with rubber soles.


They warmed themselves with coffee

from a thermos. One, lying flat on his


stomach, peered through a trap door

and dropped the first aerial bomb


ever to fall on England, and then nine

more, managing to ruin a church, to blow


apart buildings, a fishing drifter, Martha

in her chair and Sam standing in the rain.

"Airship, January, 1915" by Marion Starling Boyer, from The Sea Was Never Far. Main Street Rag. 2019.  Published by The Atlanta Review as a finalist for their International Poetry Competition 2018. (Use requires permission of author).

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