After writing poems and songs as a child and teenager, Roy began writing poems again in his late thirties. A pamphlet, Gopagilla, was published in 2012 and received favourable reviews in the TLS and elsewhere. His first full collection The Sun Bathers (Shoestring Press, 2013) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy award, and a second collection The Great Animator appeared in 2017. Previously a nurse, Roy lives in Leicestershire where he works in adult education. He sometimes blogs at https://roymarshall.wordpress.com/
Michael Phelps Versus the Great White
It is hard to get a shark to swim straight,
so the crew speed off with a baited line.
Michael waits his turn, a spring-loaded fin
strapped to his back. He watches the monitors
where his opponent shimmies after the lure.
How beautiful, he thinks, remembering
a Beijing menu that listed shark fin soup.
At school, he too became prey, with his jug ears
and an easily mimicked lisp. One report card read
‘can’t sit still, can't be quiet, can’t concentrate.’
Michael pulls on huge flippers; this is one race
he knows he can never win. He regulates
his breathing, thinks of the money, of how
if a shark stops swimming it dies.
First published in Strix, summer 2018
The Shapeshifter’s Courtship
When he was fish, she became otter.
She changed into oak, he, woodpecker.
He shifted to wheat, she cleaved into furrow.
She thinned into leaf, he thrilled as a breeze.
He fell as blood, she received him as sand.
She flitted into songbird, he soared as hawk.
He rolled into rock, she clung as moss.
She rose as full moon, he became the drawn tide.
He changed into a mirror, she, a stone in flight.
First published in Coast to Coast to Coast, summer 2018