Phil Crockett Thomas / 03 Nov 2021

Stir, field works from the Distant Voices project (2020)

Phil Crockett Thomas

Stir (2020) is a collection of poems and a short essay that were written while I was the research associate on the Distant Voices project (2017-2021). These poems came out of my experience of doing ethnographic research in carceral spaces, a process that focuses on spending time with people, listening, observing and writing notes. They are written from the perspective of an outsider with a pass that allowed access for a limited time only, and who was deeply moved by the people she met on the inside. Most of the poems were first shared as a weekly mailout in the summer of 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic ‘lockdown’. A journal article based on the essay in the collection was published in Crime, Media, Culture (2020). It is free to read here.

The poem below reflects on food, ageing, home, and hospitality. We always brought food in to share for workshops, which often meant walking around supermarkets when they had just opened. On this occasion I had sleepily grabbed a bag of onions thinking that they were apples. The man that inspired this poem is often on my mind.


Bower Bird, 1


He’s the sort

to grab a rock

and smash a window just

to get sent back in.


I put the bag down on the table

crossed onions with rhyming dictionaries:



Thankfully no one ate my error.


The next day he brought us apples

like bloody pointed teeth.

He said that they hurt his

disguised a gift as a warning.


Cigarette in his left bow-fingers

the pair on his right pulse

the button in his throat

as he names each bird

nesting under the lid of the hall.


He goes on.

Sees gulls out loud

as if I had never

(never mind).

I let him teach because.


Words fleshed out

by a soft machine. His fix visible

a cyborg no older than my dad

(because my dad)

takes my hand

and presses into it a bit of gravel

rasps “this stone is special

but no one’s even noticed it!”


We write a song about his television

sound furnishes the nest.


Head cocked, ecstatic

he weathers floods and famine

gleaning things to care for

from the thatch of a world

that has nowhere else to put him.



The poetry pamphlet is free to download, share, and copy for noncommercial purposes with an open access licence (CC BY-NC 3.0)
Download here

Alternatively, print copies are available for £3 from the independent bookstores Good Press and TACO! Author profits will go to Vox Liminis.


Text: Phil Crockett Thomas

Cover Design: Nate Walpole, risoprinted at Sunday’s

Typesetting: Ryan Vance


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