Croome Plumlines poem

Each month for the duration of the exhibition we will feature the poems written for this project by different groups.

For November we are featuring the poems written by The Worcester Writers Circle

The Day The Letter Arrived.

It was a Monday, as I recall,
the day the letter arrived.
That long buff envelope of officialdom
lying on the mat.

It was a Monday of Mondays,
nothing unusual.
Father seemed solemn,
as if he knew what lay within.
It didn’t say why, 
only that it had to be.

A Thursday it was,
when Father disappeared.
as he rounded the corner shop
at the end of the cobbles,

It was a Monday,
the day the telegram arrived.
Mother knew one day it must come.
It didn’t say why, 
only that it had to be,
on that Monday of Mondays.



Far From The Trenches

The trenches are far away,
but the frontline stands at the end of the street.
Death, industrialised,
manufactured and meticulously assembled
by dainty feminine fingers.

A woman,
doing the work of a man,
wearing the clothes of a man,
helping men to kill men.

Daubed in the sweet scent of cordite
I stand in regimented line.
Jaw firmly clenched,
no protection from the poison air.
The relentless chatter of machines
drowning my spirit.

A barrage of shells
marching on conveyor belts.
They don’t fly here,
but still bring indiscriminate carnage;
mothers and sisters lost
in this no-man’s land.



Chief Taster

A Plethora of plums in their trays awaiting for Grandmother’s Jam making session, with the essence of ingredients of cinnamon, lemon, pectin from the stones and sugar.
Her special recipe on the table for that acquired taste.

Large deep cooking pots, steaming on the old wood stove, while plums simmer like a molten lather, sweetness fills the room as she stirs with the wooden spoon.

I look up licking my lips, waiting to taste the warm slither of plum jam run slowly down my throat, before it has fully set, like my late Grandfather before me found such a treat.

Tim Stavert

Plum Jam

You can do a lot with plums
As I once discovered,
When my grandmother showed me
Once in the kitchen while I hovered.

With Saucepans simmering on the stove
A steam rising, a smell so sweet
She handed me a tasty morsel
A warm slithering plum, a glorious treat.

"Mum’s own recipe during World War One!"
She sent to the trenches for father Ted
He loved her plum jam, a reminder of home
Until the day he returned and died in his bed. 

She thought they would never part
This jar of plum jam she held close to her heart

Tim Stavert


Great Gran's Lovely Jam

Jam! Jam! Lovely Jam!
Homemade, the best I am,
Better than any mass produced
With extra additives introduced.

Made in that good old fashioned way
My Great Gran made in her day,
Picking the fruit from her trees
Her own recipe cooking with ease.

Jars by the stove ready to fill
With her plum jam to set still,
Utensils and ingredients on the table
Added to taste nice and stable.

Stirring into the molten slurry
Like a volcano to erupt in a hurry,
Steam arising a vapour so sweet
Enough to blow me off my feet.

Tim Stavert


World War Jam

Cold wind biting, out in the trenches in the cold snow, during the years of World War One. A young soldier in his mid-teens, sits dreaming of his home fire with embers smouldering with a warm glow.
He looks up at his mother at the kitchen table, stirring the plums into the cooking pots, simmering with the strong fragrant essence filling the room. 

Scooping the last slither of plum jam from his tin with his bread, he takes a bite with a tear running cold down his cheek and barely time to think, a whistle blows for another assault. 

Tim Stavert


My name is Dolly Elwell; Elementary education,
I am a poor girl, a country girl, I’ll help in our salvation.
My young man drives his mules, through hellfire, mud and blood,
I would be fighting with him, but for restraint of womanhood.

So I’m a ward floor scrubber, I do what my matron asks,
Cleanliness next to Godliness, there are no menial tasks.
On my housemaid’s knees, I retreat across each floor,
With brush, bucket and carbolic, I’ll scrub clean this bloody war!

Alan Durham…proud to be Dolly Elwell’s grandson.

Tender Fruit
You must have smelled the plums
every one I picked.
    They're telling me to pant,
    that you're not ready yet.

You must have felt the ladder
pressed against you, hard.
    They're telling me to pant,
    that I'm not ready yet.

Purple plums bloom soft
it rubs off to the touch.
    They're telling me to push
    that the pain is 'not too much.'

See the rotten plums fall,
waspy with decay.
    They say that I am bleeding,
    you must be born without delay.

I glimpse your wrinkled face,
hear your lusty cry.
    They say that I am fading, 
    fading, fading…

Polly Stretton © 2016 


For the Boys in Blue (for Florence May Alma)

My fingers caress the keys,
black and white – ivory friends -
while the lads sit around,
each immersed in ...

They don’t let me in -
most can’t let me in -
but my music, sometimes,
takes their troubled eyes
to quieter places.

My heart plays for them,
but I daren’t think too deep ...
my mind would only
strike discord,

while the lads sit around.

Michael Alma

Florence May Alma (1892-1966) was described as a ‘boot maker’ and she was an accomplished pianist, often playing in the front room of 5 Chamberlain Road, Edmonton, ‘for the boys in blue’ – the sick and wounded service-men from the North Middlesex Hospital, in their blue hospital suits and red ties. Florrie married Jack French, a sailor, in September 1919. 

My Locket

We can’t give in ...
I mustn’t.

My fingers brush what is
the lightest of chains,
though the full weight 
of the locket hangs heavy,
my son, smiling
from a time gone.

“Which of your sons is that?”

Which son:
the silent one,
the fisherman,
or Tom?

Dear Tom …

Michael Alma

My Son Jack     (John Richard Alma died 4 April 1918)

I had a letter from my King, today,
bright colours, lions and unicorns -
crowns and helmets, thistles
and roses – fine creatures of fiction
all swirls and curls, and harps and chains,
and words laid down in foreign tongue,
from a place – a land – over the sea
where my boy fell, as falling rain -
I’ll never see his face again.        

In a letter to Jack’s Mother

“His influence with us, 
while he lived,
was good and it has now, 
by his departure,
been sealed upon us, 
so that it will abide with us
until the end.”          

Thomas F Simmons (16 April 1918)

Michael Alma

Zeppelin over London (3rd September 1916)

All those years ago, at 5 ½ years old,
I remember sitting on my mother’s lap,
on the front-door step, in the early hours, 
neighbours out in the street,
racing up and down, waving, pointing –

joyous shrieking -

cheering someone’s perceived triumph
as young men – sons, husbands, lovers -
fall, burning, from the sky, their comet-tails
lighting the night in a pyrrhic victory
as mother weeps for all sons, everywhere.

Michael Alma

(dedicated to Grandma Maud Thomas 1871-1962 and Jess Alma 1911-1999)

NB Airship was shot down by Lt. W Leefe Robinson of the Worcester Regiment, attached to the Royal Flying Corps

NB The British pilot who shot down the airship, Lieutenant W. Leefe Robinson, was a member of the Worcestershire Regiment, attached to the Royal Flying Corps. He was awarded the VC for this act.



We sing and we chatter
On the detonator shift.
No chemicals to poison,
Make barren, tinge yellow.
Only caps and screws,
Springs and tacks.
Little this with little that.
A dozen pieces
Down the line
To Alice, then Dora,
Edie and Dot.
Clawed and stiff fingers
Ache to the bone
They fumble and slip
Yet the job must be done.
My quota complete,
I test and I weigh,
Stamp and then seal,
Step back,
And survey.

Jan Davies