Catherine Whittaker

Catherine has been writing poetry on and off since childhood, and has many of her poems published in anthologies and small magazines. She also tutors in creative writing at a local college and runs a private group based in Stratford. She is part of that offers workshops for all kinds of groups. Catherine finished her degree in Creative Writing [Birmingham University] in 2004. It was hard work but developed her writing. She is currently working on a sequence of autobiographical poems based loosely on her childhood in the Lake District. In her spare time she finds walking a good way to unwind and find ideas for poems.

But If He Comes

Little Red Riding Hood & The Wolf

Spring Cleaning



But If He Comes

I will not wish for Death in this harsh night
but if he comes to me I will not fight,
and I won’t dress in clothing of disguise
if his steel hands press shut my open eyes
I’ll kiss his mouth, sweet in the fading light,

and if he comes and steals away my sight,
takes all my words and binds me iron- tight
slips silently inside me where I lie,
I will not wish for death,

but if he comes in fury as the wind, all bright
as the round-eyed moon so cold and white,
and his spiked claws rip away my cries
takes my shallow breath and lets me die,
then I will rest in his arms of delight. I will not wish for death.

Little Red Riding Hood And The Wolf

Time slips by as she watches
the river swirl with her dreams
of wide foreign lands filled with castles and dragons,
princes handsome and brave.

Pulling her cloak closer as rain begins to fall,
she starts to skip, unevenly hopping over branches and stones,
closes her eyes and thinks of flying over the top of the mountain
where she’s never been;

arms outstretched like an eagle sleek and free.
For grandmother is waiting at home
cleaning the windows carefully
full of spider-webbing fears, murmuring her name.

In the middle of the wood where the trees are dense,
birds are muffled and the silence is full of her breath,
she scratches the bark away from the oak,
whispers her wish three times,

and then he is there beside her,
shabby and tall with his white crumpled shirt and gold earring.
and up his arm writhes a green snake,
but his blank eyes never smile.

His mouth is heart-shaped, words slow and burning.
‘Good afternoon,’ he says and bows low
kisses the tips of her fingers.
She laughs, tiny peals trilling out over the woods.

Her grandmother is walking in the garden
with its boundary stone wall,
opening the gate and looking down the lane
feeling empty and strange.

He dances under the green-shrouded trees,
teeth yellow and broken, eyes inflamed.
But she has dreamed always and knows no fear.
‘Come,’ he says.

Spring Cleaning

She’d kill the dirt
with polish and words,
singing it out of the cracks in the worn lino
as I followed behind with a duster,
and aching arms.

When I complained
she gave me cake in front of the fire,
threw sugar on the coals
to make it burn higher, told me
strange funny stories.

Then we’d strip the cupboards,
repaper them with blue mystical wall paper
as she quoted scraps of poems,
that frightened the spiders.
White sheets were mangled, hung flying,

huge ghosts in the breeze,
energy crackled out of her like flame.
It would be the brasses next,
rubbing until they were gold, triumphant.
They were old family heirlooms,

she’d spin into descriptions
of Aunt May’s mansion,
the room where they’d walled-up
a pregnant maid, you could hear her chains
scrape on quiet summer-nights.

She’d red-lead the porch next,
hands dipped in blood.
I always started to cry when I saw them,
then she’d hold me close
against her flowered apron,

smelling of polish, coal tar soap,
and a slight scent of lemon cake.