A Sense of Tiptoe

Karen Hayes

and other articles of faith

Sample Passages

  • The Leper Squint

    The Leper Squint
    St Thomas’ Launceston

    Down where the Tamar meets the Kensey
    Where a stone bridge spans the stream,
    Like starving fish, in feeding frenzy
    Gather a shoal of the unclean.

    And that unrealized congregation,
    Neither quite dead, nor quite unborn
    Crouches, a phantom population
    Buzzing, like bees in queenless swarm.

    Consider the blemished faithful, brothers,
    Leave them stale bread and damaged fruits,
    Wade ankle deep and wipe each other
    Free of contagion from their boots.

    Meet their misfortune with indifference,
    God gives and takes with even hand,
    Run from the heresies of difference,
    Shun what you do not understand.

    Stamp them like post, return to sender,
    Keep them at bay with book and bell,
    Make them conform, they must surrender
    What they once were, and never tell.

    Give them a begging bowl and offer
    Just enough freedom to plead for alms,
    Don’t get too close, for fear you’ll suffer
    Contamination in their arms.

    For this is not the holy water
    Where Jordan’s flood meets Galilee
    And all our good resolves may falter
    Before the river meets the sea.

    St Leonard’s lazar house, example
    Of works of charity benign.
    Now from each giver take a sample,
    Ten sparks are human, one divine.

    Though the unclean, always among us
    Are objects of pity and suspicion,
    Thanks to the crumbs which fate has flung us
    We are not yet in their condition.

    And as, at St Thomas Church, outsiders
    Grasp at grace, the sermons hint
    No space more distant, no chasm wider
    Than that through which the lepers squint

Sample Information


A Sense of Tiptoe – and other articles of faith, a second full collection of poems by Karen Hayes, has a refreshingly singular subject. These engaging poems were written over a period of time and as part of different projects, yet they all touch on aspects of faith.

Karen Hayes was inspired by iconic churches, atmospheric locations, local legends, paintings, religious artifacts and more. She often takes a mundane situation and lifts it into something more spiritual. A visit to a museum is compared to a modern-day pilgrimage, she reflects how we struggle with our doubts, fears, superstition, disease, dead and loss. Yet far from being gloomy, there is always hope and her poems give you a warm feeling about life.

The poems, therefore, not only reflect on the religious aspects of faith but also deal with faith, or lack thereof, in ourselves and our surroundings.

As if the world were ending, or beginning,
A low note throbs and builds beneath your feet.
The flat stones shudder with familiar pleasure
And as the echoed syllables repeat
In phrases learned beyond a thousand years,
The mist around their broken silence clears.
from: At the Cathedral

Karen Hayes’s poems are perceptive and lyrical, and leave plenty room for our own interpretation.

A stranger came to sit at our table,
Who ate our bread
As if it were food for kings.
A table bare of almost everything;
Rough loaf, oiled leaf,
A jug of Earthy wine,
A bowl of broth squeezed from the bone.
Beyond belief,
We brought a stranger home.
from: The Supper at Emmaus

Split into three sections: Definite, Indefinite and Infinite reflects that some of the ideas are bigger and more enduring than those expressed in the individual poem. Be prepared to be surprised and moved by A Sense of Tiptoe.

The Poems


At the Cathedral
The Leper Squint
The Relics
Charmed Circle
The Prayer Book Pilgrimage
Oh, When the Saints
The Carvery


The Repentant Magdalene
Salome with the Head of John the Baptist
The Supper at Emmaus
These Thanet Skies
Room 31
Chef Jesus
The Twelve


A Song of Parting.
At The Crumbly Edge of Empire
Seventy-Nine Bench End
The Women Who Shaped the Church
Ching Alley
The Hurlers
Unborn chicks

A Sense of Tiptoe will be published in November 2020 and can be pre-ordered from this page. For more information or advance review copies please contact the publisher: bernadette@hollandparkpress.co.uk, +44 (0) 7792611929.

ISBN: 9781907320934
Number of pages: 76
Price: £0

Publication date:  12 November 2020


‘In A Sense of Tiptoe Karen Hayes creates an engaging, illuminating and entertaining collection of poetry from a writer who has not only learned and has a deep understanding of her craft, ensuring not a single word is wasted.’ – Tomas Stanger in The Pilgrim

‘Anyone who is an admirer of Causley’s work will also enjoy this book for Hayes comes close to his style while still retaining an individual voice. One of her strong points is her use of rhyme and her ability to relate a story in a perceptive and lyrical way that holds the reader’s attention throughout. Recommended.’ – Neil Leadbeater on Write Out Loud

‘For this reviewer, Karen Hayes scores some direct hits as early as the second poem of this collection whose declared theme is faith.
Several recurring features of the collection are on display in this poem. One is the frequent and emphatic use of rhyme. Another is that the theme of faith is rarely presented in a comforting way.
This is an engaging and rewarding collection which is enhanced by some useful notes on the places and legends that inspired the poems.
The poems seek in a variety of ways to face and grapple honestly with some serious questions about human beliefs regarding relationships with the divine.’ – Michael Bartholomew-Biggs on LondonGrip

‘Hayes brings a modern, even post-modern, exploration to familiar Christian accounts and images, enabling creative reassessment, and refreshing what may otherwise be glossed over by over-familiarity. Her language is fresh and vivid, bypassing cliché and the expected, even when exploring well-worn destinations such as ancient churches, and bell-ringing. This collection is a presentation of gifts, vivid, and rewarding.’ – The Church Times

‘This volume stand out from many collections of modern poetry in its willingness to go beyond the here and now.
‘Ralph,’ is for me the most moving in the volume. Here nature transmutes grief into the glory of the garden.
Hayes is extraordinarily receptive to the whispers and ripples of the great unknown.’ – Gary Day on Everybody’s Reviewing

‘A Sense of Tiptoe is firmly routed in faith as a means of exploring our place in the world, what motivates humans to act and create. Faith becomes a prism through which to understand others and their motives for action from a position of compassion. Through this prism, Karen Hayes reaches out to communicate ideas and gives readers space for their thoughts.’ – Emma Lee on her blog

‘I hope that the book finds many readers. Among perhaps a growing amount of ‘spiritual’ writing I enjoyed Karen’s work for its realistic qualities, a ‘grit in the oyster’ genuineness, and an avoidance of the fey and the sentimental that sometimes disfigures ‘Christian’ writing. There’s some interesting rhyme, and dry wit; she’s a worthy successor to Charles Causley.’ – Martyn Halsall, poet and journalist