James Bell

you become sharper with a pencil in your hand

a pencil is more reliable in a storm
it never runs out, just becomes smaller
in your fingers until you can write

no more, no thoughts left among these
shavings and used up lead when six-
sided wood is difficult to find

to hone and sharpen almost like a stake
you stake your life upon sometimes
like a twig to clutch in rough sea

though you are no sailor, the moment
always came in a meeting of minds
in some big hotel, a conference of bird-

like chatter from species know well –
a pencil held hard but rarely broken where 
the race memory returns like a horror film

you did not want to see in the first place
and then could not believe as real as
the tactile movement of pencil over paper

the appearance of a sketch to fill
your synapses with a creative intent
so old now you can nearly see the cave


James Bell was born in Edinburgh and now lives in Brittany in another part of the Celtic fringes. He has published two collections: the just vanished place (2008) and fishing from beginners (2010) both with tall-lighthouse. He continues to write and publish poetry internationally, both online and terrestrial. He contributes articles to an English language journal in France.

James poem is featured in Elbow Room Volume Four.