Rossetti’s Wombat – Joe Neal

“Neal paints a layered and subtle picture of days gone by.
His poems are warm, graceful and keenly observed.” Eoin Colfer


Night Watch

Am I wrong to want to occupy
the secret places of your mind?
Already you have control of mine!
I confess one night I crouched beside
the bed and watched you in your alpha state;
you wore that frown I see when thinking
I’m not listening – the irk that deepens
when I tell you back each word you said;

And now, with every breath you take,
that scowl etches still more deep – until
I bend to feather-kiss those lips and see
your face relax into a secret grace;
did that little peck edit out the bleakness
of your dream – or were you merely faking it?
If only I could listen to your thoughts
I’d know the answer to my quandary.

“In Rossetti’s Wombat he writes like a hipster evangelist; read him and share the pleasure of a poet remembering things he didn’t know he knew.” – Tom Mooney

Mountain Greenery

Chasing mountain peak, I cross the path
of bladder fern and rock stonecrop,
then saxifrage and fir clubmoss
bring me on to base of scree, butter-pat
lines of long-healed scars, so swiftly drawn
by artist’s pen, scrubbed now by light
of effervescent early morning sun;
then on and up the higher hang,
back-and-footing through a broken crack
that widens to an easy chimney stack;
mantel-shelfing now to ledge eyed from below –
and finding there, lurking luscious in the shade,
a precious little Snowdon lily flower
with leaves a sheen of green so rarely seen
at altitude – not even in a dream.


About the Author

Joe Neal was born half-way up a mountain in North Wales. He began his acting career in repertory theatre before attending Nottingham University. He also trained as a journalist, working for the Western Mail (Cardiff), Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.

As an actor, he has performed on stage, radio and television in Britain and Ireland. Between acting work Neal writes extensively on the countryside and natural history as well as devoting time to poetry and short stories which he believes should be read aloud – ‘even to oneself’.

He writes of life and all its strife and tells it at a slant – sometimes with the delight of a child rolling boulders down a slope. His poems plunder dreams and memories and bend to the natural world. He says, ‘Love, I’m afraid, is a constant theme: lost loves, found loves, hoped-for loves, hopeless love. Mostly the last. But as Clint Eastwood says in the character of Dirty Harry, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” ’

A glutton for punishing experiences, he stood twice as an Independent for Parliament in Britain and once in Ireland for the European elections.

His published work has appeared in the Times, Daily Telegraph, Countryman, Waterlog, New Writer, New Society (now defunct), Ireland’s Own, Scaldy Detail and numerous poetry magazines. Performed writing includes Revenge, The Reluctant Trombonist, Send in the Clown and Kites & Catullus. He has read the poems of Seamus Heaney and John Betjeman on BBC television and Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas on BBC radio. Recently he had 12 of his poems published in the anthology Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams.

In 2017 Joe won the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award and was invited to perform his readings to music at the AberJazz Festival in Wales. In 2018 he won an Arts Council bursary for a reading tour of America. Rossetti’s Wombat is Neal’s sixth collection of poetry and follows the widely acclaimed The Next Blue Note (2017), Still Rise the Sun (2016), Hear the Colour (2015), Turn Now the Tide (2014) and Telling It at a Slant (2013). The author has recorded his readings of all six publications.

Neal says his life has been shaped by his childhood in Morfa Bychan, Gwynedd, North Wales and the Roman town of Colchester, Essex, and – more importantly – by time spent in Ireland, where he now lives. He is divorced and a proud grandparent.



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