Gary Allen • Mike Bartholemew-Biggs • Peter Bennet • Tracy Booth • Tim Dooley • John Duffy • Matthew Duggan • Kate Garrett • Vivien Jones • Charles Lauder Jr • Emma Lee • Richie McCaffrey • Char March • A.F. Moritz • Stanley Moss • Mary Noonan • Mario Petrucci Bethany Pope • Wendy Pratt • Peter Riley • Fiona Sampson • K.V. Skene • Emma Simon Matthew Sweeney • Sheila Wild • Noel Williams • James W. Wood • Dorothy Yamamoto
Previous Poetry: THW1: March 1, 2016
Gary Allen: Extract from Sour Hill
2 The Narrator Puts One Foot in Front of the Other.
Nothing needs to be done, everything happens anyway –
if I stopped climbing this hill
if I stopped descending this hill, Sisyphus-like
and sat for a moment, on this wet ground
by the gated entrance to this evangelical church
my existence would go on regardless.
I am in a kind of space suit that has five senses
that connects me to the physical world
that connects me to other people
and by that same reasoning, I can close myself up like a seed
and what can be seen from windows
from cars, from whatever is passing,
is not, in a sense, me
but a form, a shape shifter, a moment of reflection
going from A to B on the Sour Hill Road.
That this is nightshift, is another story
like all the stories I carry within
and digest, or swallow, or suppress
so that I become blind, deaf, and dumb
like a man who is at the end stage of his multiple sclerosis
how else to deal with the boredom that life has become?
I have watched others slow to such a degree
as to become somnolent in life
like slow rain slipping off a pine branch –
you have to stare unblinking to catch it fall.
Now that I am dead as such
now that I am comatose
I can forget my history
the places I have travelled
the human experiences I have hated or applauded
the books I have written for my own understanding
like a hill, like a name place
a townland, a geographical Royal nonesuch –
at least for a fourteen hour shift.
Gary Allen has published fourteen collections of poetry, most recently, Jackson’s Corner, Greenwich Exchange Publishing, London, 2016. He has published Three novels, Cillin, The Estate, and Twenty-Eight Worlds, and has also published Introductions, a collection of short stories.
Mike Bartholemew-Biggs: Two poems
A FEVERISH REACTION
Waiting on the clinic’s plastic chairs
for your collusion are old newspapers.
They tempt you into turning over scraps
of someone else’s suffering to spread
their anguish even further, like infection.
A taxi-driver clumsily attacked –
for money, not his life – becomes a body
undiscovered in the trunk for days
while agencies ignore his room-mate’s phone calls.
Defeated beauty, bedbound, locks her door,
refusing carers; untouched lunch congeals
beside a whisky bottle nearly empty.
Thirteen-year-old discontent has yearned
for sixteen’s fancied glamour and begins
a willing spiral into victimhood.
In darkened parking lots below the mall
inadequate but cunning kidnappers
pretend their promises of fashion-shoots.
Police take morning-mist soft-focus pictures
on a golf-course in the deepest rough.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your test results will soon come back. A television
in one corner of the room is jabbering
about a siege and showing you a half-burned house.
A leather jacket, draped, half-hides a hopeless face.
You imagine guilt, when cornered, smells like fear
of being taken to a room without an exit
to be blamed. A dandruff-shabby lawyer offers
token bored advice, suggesting owning-up
to lesser charges as a way of carpeting
the corridor that’s leading anyway to blows
and scalding in the showers – all for something petty
when it happened.
When it happened, primitive
reaction was too easily mistaken for
a genuine imperative: let’s make it better
now and brandish jagged panic or drive faster
into roadblocks built with slabs of bad decisions.
Michael Bartholomew-Biggs poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip. His most recent collections are Fred & Blossom (Shoestring 2013), a narrative of love and aviation set in the 1930s, and Pictures from a Postponed Exhibition, an evolution myth based on images by the artist David Walsh (Lapwing, 2014). His website is at http://mikeb-b.blogspot.co.uk/.
Peter Bennet: Seven Poems
I hope you like your room. You overlook
the main gate of the crematorium.
Even if you oversleep you’re sure to wake
in time to watch at least one funeral.
The lingering scent of wreaths in drizzle
will be consoling, like the glare and hum
in your ensuite at midnight and the thump
of water pressure maximum. The climate
is hopeful hereabouts. We compensate
by clinging to despair. We’re private people.
If you require assistance, pray. Don’t come
to find us or the other guests. To peek
and pry is bad taste and a theft of knowledge.
We keep no record of the time or date.
When you decide to go please sign the book.
You’ll find the tablets in your bedside fridge.
Church-smell holds my breath. There is a flutter
high in the roof as if the Holy Ghost
embodied by a bird has lost Her way
between a moment and its memory.
A spider crossing in an eightsome skelter
blood-glow of stained glass did so already.
My time is dwindling but I can’t adjust
to squeeze myself into a smaller future
while That was now and This is then are twisting
recall and attention out of kilter.
The fluttering has reached my head. The spider
has found its way again to unlit dust.
Cool stillness is complete, a silence bruised
by my plan to come back next time yesterday.
The district is moins cher but the address
is decent. She’s in the parlour
in which she breakfasted. It has been tidied
for her to read or write or not.
This is the top floor. There is a cellar
far below with stone steps to a deeper one.
Her nearest window looks down at the courtyard
and a cane chair set out by the concierge
in case of sun. The other frames a view
of roofs of narrow houses and bare trees,
pigeons and sky. It’s time to go
somewhere a long way off and tropical.
If only she can pull herself together
she need not be remembering again
that coffin or museum cabinet
in the dream she has of dust and scraps of cloth
which are the shreds of what she’s wearing now.
C’est bon. She’s picturing a crocodile
that’s basking in digestive sloth
half in and out of mud. She is the leopard
that bats its snout with a mischievous paw
then saunters into foliage
with a leopard’s cough but with a woman’s smile.
I’ve waited here all night lit by the glum
red bulbs above the warning notices.
Pull up the blinds and throw light on the tools
that I thought up and helped you make
when you were still unsure about the rules
and over-sensitive and prone to worries.
I’m with you in the dust now over benches
and angular uncomfortable stools
but you don’t see. You’re half asleep
and at the window as some water bird
hops across grass and then takes wing
to launch itself upon the lake
and on the surface of your mind like beauty.
You rub your chin until your jaw unclenches
then press your forehead and begin to weep.
I know your conscience has been saying Wrong
and reason has said Stop but, trust me, duty
though painful does not make us ghouls.
Throw back the doors. The beneficiaries
of our research already come
limping down the un-signposted access road
or clinging to the sides of dark slow lorries.
The afternoon has paused and hollyhocks
overlook me and the dolls I have set out
along with Teddy Bear beside the shoes
of the man who talks at us because he’s old.
We sit cross-legged on the lawn and pay
attention like a family. He speaks
of circumstances where he did not flinch
when challenged by his regiment
to eat a wine glass. Anecdotes are dim
lanes coiling in a labyrinth
of escapades. They lead to bottlenecks
where he turns fretful and asks me the way.
It’s off to bed for dolls and bear.
But I’m grown up. I check his every inch
of face for liver-spots and pass the time
by itemising wrinkles. Mould
is growing on the shoulder of his coat.
It’s getting cold. He has a runny nose.
We stand. His rise is lizardly.
He thinks there must be someone like me somewhere
and I remember that I married him.
It’s time to please myself. Perhaps to travel.
But now a gentleman with tear-stained cheeks
weeps between two packing cases
and though he can’t make sense for sobbing speaks.
Perhaps he’s found one of the anti-lamps
dear Father always promised to devise
to prove that customers will gladly pay
for obfuscation when the need arises.
He sprawls there like a murky glimpse
of heart-break on the Morris rug.
I could unbend and help him up.
If he consists so fully of devotion
he might turn out to be a prudent move
should I proceed to let my life unravel
entirely into fashion and distraction.
I can afford to let him hope
a while at least. Why not call back my luggage.
Of course he is impossible to love.
But he loves me. He’ll be the first of many.
I see that clearly as he dries his eyes
and blinks them in the light of Daddy’s money.
The first anthropological axiom of the Evil One is not
All men are evil, but All men are the same.
Promise, Son, when you address appearances,
that you won’t fall for similarity
and finish up like I am, unaware
of variation. Steer clear of revery
in case you subsequently fail to wake
to what things actually are or were.
Differentiation is essential work
requiring recognition accurate
as a marksman’s rifle. Seek clarity.
If any object does not have a name
then name it. Learn by heart all essences.
Go nowhere on the train. Avoid the state
that I got into, me and my poor father,
not spotting on the platform among people
very much unlike each other
the beast that leapt – the stench of it – beside us –
straight through the carriage window glass remember –
its wet tongue pressed to the first syllable
of the riddle which makes everything the same.
That finished Dad. And as for me?
I dream all day of what I most resemble.
Peter Bennet was born in Staffordshire in 1942. He has published six books of poetry and many pamphlet collections. He was a PBS Choice in 2008 and shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. He lived for thirty-three years near the Wild Hills o’Wanney in Northumberland, in a remote cottage associated with the ballad-writer James Armstrong, author of Wannie Blossoms. He now lives in Whitley Bay. His latest collection is Border, from Bloodaxe Books. There is more information about Peter Bennet on http://www.bloodaxebooks.com.
Tracy Booth: Poem
MY HUSBAND’S HANDS
Cracked and calloused, like the bark of branches
that he saws and hacks through to make his pay,
my husband’s hands bear scars from injuries
he binds together with electrical tape.
His fingers scrape asbestos from blown head-gaskets,
thread wires through fuses, repair and mend.
Lined and grimed, they’re scrubbed with bicarbonate
then Epaderm, smoothed to sooth the pain.
But my husband’s hands of graft and weather,
these hands of turpentine, petrol and spit
cup my baby’s head, gentle as cotton,
are Mulberry silk when they touch my skin.
Tracy Booth lives in Grimsby and has been writing for ten years. This is her first publication in a poetry journal
Tim Dooley: Two Poems
The lift to this level
opens at a reception
desk where a monitor
from the Australian
floods. The door to
the cloakroom is tall
enough to enter on a
horse. We are meeting
in an office high
above the trading floor,
but you can glimpse
it far down in the atrium.
In what was a war-
time fighter-base and
now’s an open prison,
a trainee barista
prepares our paninis.
While we congratulate
the award winner,
men in lime-green
slacks circle in small
groups catching and
avoiding eyes. And
jump and burrow
inside the fence.
‘But writing has
taken us places’,
I say to him as we
leave the ceremony,
even if we’re only
two that will do
to swell a crowd
or eat a canapé.
But he is already
pacing the riverpath
near Wapping, lines
waves of white hair.
Here she is outside the supermarket,
one hand cradling her face, the other pulling
tightly at the neck of her gabardine coat.
I take her to the coffee shop where, somehow,
you know what to say. I offer a telephone number,
‘Was that wise?’, you seem to ask.
Which makes us late for the reception.
‘I haven’t trained for this’, you advise,
eyeing the champagne anxiously.
‘Do I talk to him?’, I respond.
His white suit and bow-tie fool no-one.
Or are there limitations to disgrace?
It’s perfectly reasonable that I should be asked
to cook chicken paprika out here in the street,
but what is the fish doing in my outstretched hands?
Luckily the boys are here to help
remove stock from the closed-down record store.
They are filling the milk-float nicely.
It’s a pity that someone has taken off the handbrake,
that it’s rolling backward towards the river,
that I can’t seem to gesture for help through these bars.
Tim Dooley is reviews and features editor of Poetry London and a tutor at The Poetry School. His collections include The Interrupted Dream (Anvil 1985), Tenderness (Smith Doorstop 2004), Keeping Time (Salt,2008) Imagined Rooms (Salt, 2010).
John Duffy: Four Poems
‘BEFORE YOU WERE FAMOUS I SAW YOU’
i.m. Kirsty MacColl
Before you were famous I saw you shine,
sometimes, among the morning lines trudging
towards Thornton Heath station. It was years
until I knew your name. And I nearly saw you
once again, heard you sing, hidden in the throng
of that new England you had made your own.
London girl, you caught my eye the first time
ever I saw your secret smile, saw your eyes
gleam and glance, right and left to the crowded
pavements of Melfort Road. It wasn’t only
that that drew me, that presentation
of yourself in to the everyday suburb,
not your black lace gloves, not even them,
it was that trace of song you trailed along
among us commuters, that glamourie.
THAT PRIEST IN IMMINGHAM
You’d think that when the rub and blur of the wind
stops and the engine stops its unheard throb
that there would be relief for us in port – all
those wishful rumours of rum-laced dance halls
crammed with girls who come in packs being true –
but all we get, another three hour shift, shifting
unrevealing containers to the cranes, securing
the containers that take their place,
and every grubby place begins to look like all
the places where we sweat and schlep:
in and out of port so quick, these cranes these days,
no time to smoke, let alone get drunk or laid
or visit temples, hills, shops. See any children.
The ship will never wait for anyone and then
where are you?
Back at sea again: maintain
the ship, fight the war with rust – scraper primer paint –
tighten the bolts that secure the big crates
that tower over us .
There is the moon, the stars like dice,
the empty sea on a four hour watch.
A lonely ship light passes sea-miles away,
you wonder if they wonder about you:
you sometimes feel like an actual sailor,
the morning light, the patterns
in waves and clouds and trailing birds;
and the shipmates who keep you sane
from port to port. For months. There was
that priest in Immingham asked
what he could offer us. I know what my crew,
the skipper said, would really like.
All they get to do is walk on steel.
We got out of his minibus in a car park
in a flat street by a bland church.
Between church and street, a lawn.
For half an hour we walked
barefoot on damp grass.
THEN AND NOW
Now is not possible, now
is ungraspable, slippery
as soap, or squirming
away, a minnow
from a guddling hand.
Now is keeping your
balance on a drum
or ball that rolls; except
in sex when now is
Then, I want to say,
when it was; remember?
Or when I will, I promise,
I am sure, but then
evolves into elusive now
and again the now is
the instant, the point
that maths insists
has no size at all: what,
I wonder, is the point?
The answer is not
these frenzied grabs,
but a still and steady
hand that makes the point
a circle. In that ring
lives everything we’ve made
and done and touched
and named and watched:
if we can catch it, now’s
the time to stretch.
A SHIFT OF SOMETHING MORE
Darkness contains him, the way a minnow
in a jar on a shelf in a house
is held by water, feels the urge
back towards the unobtainable.
He suspects the equinox: certainly
something strange has woken him.
In his sleep he sensed a shift
of something more than tension.
Hours insomniac – speculation
about death, redemption, old lovers,
then the counting of numbers
from one to several hundred –
he gets up to wander, room
to room, to stand at the window.
The street is as still as a photo:
and high above it, apparently
motionless, the moon at full
eclipse, almost, a rim of light
along one limb. He imagines
a world in total night.
Tonight the moon is made
of candlewax, a blob rolled
by fingers; pale orange
(the colour of those six tall
funeral candles, a lifetime ago,
stored with the coffin trestles
in the dusty baptistry, to be lined
in threes either side of the corpse),
and smeared by a sooty wick.
Two or three times he comes back
to look at the gradual change
that appears to stay the same.
Towards morning he sleeps
and dreams: a brass sphere
hovers in mid air, gleaming,
larger than the moon, an etched
perfect Earth, each border, each
boundary, a sharp black line. He can see
his town, believes he will see
his own house, his face at the window.
In the morning he goes out early:
the street is smoored in mist,
hiding windows, swallowing trees,
masking the sky, the promise of the day.
John Duffy is a Glaswegian long settled in Huddersfield, where he helped to found the Albert Poets just over 25 years ago. A former social and community worker, he became a bibliotherapist, using the enjoyment of reading as a mental health tool. He has now retired, and still runs writing workshops in Huddersfield.
Matthew Duggan: Poem
CITY OF GLASS
Passing the disused multi-coloured trams
sleeping in waste of black confetti
garden of shard bottles where children played hopscotch with broken glass,
above concrete trees – walls in golden leaf graffiti.
Cobweb threads the frost on flowerpots
hanging hump of leaves like snowmen in Autumn,
City of glass – A perimeter in Teflon mesh
where conker shells swam in black pastry gutters,
sulphur rising in the blood stone pits of pig flesh.
Drinking cold whispers from warm women
waltzing with the lights from smouldered traffic cones,
pinstripe trees ensemble like tall dark knights of order
aluminium structures tremble where footsteps roam.
Angels played an evening of grave hopping
where a fox is pissing in the air drunk on the dregs of dirty drip trays,
city of glass – a world beneath our feet
recyclable foundations are reassembled like the quickening of a trawlers swaying lamp,
City of glass – Towers of anatomy – a paper cut with no skin!
Matt Duggan was born 1971 in Bristol. He was the Winner of the Erbacce Prize for Poetry in 2015. His poems have appeared in The Journal, Ink, Sweat, And, Tears, Roundyhouse, Five 2 One Magazine, The Dawntreader, The Seventh Quarry, Yellow Chair Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Harbinger Asylum, Lakeview International Journal. His prize winning collection Dystopia 38.10 is now available here: http://erbacce-press.webeden.co.uk/#/matt-duggan/4590351997
Kate Garrett: Poem
PLANNING THE CRONE
Eventually the day arrives when
the lines on my face lead me
from my adopted city.
I leave England behind
to float over roads
and rivers, forests,
land in Eryri, where I
live alone, scratching
up the sides of mountains:
barddoniaeth of rocks.
When I travel to the sea,
my hands and feet
listen to the foam, the sand.
I lend my voice, my ears
to conservationists on the beach,
their rescue mission near complete:
we breathe into the mouths
of verbs, pump the chests
of nouns. We pull whole
sentences out of the waves.
Returning to the trees,
I make myths from patches
of sky weaving through branches.
I learn this new etiquette
so when death comes I
will welcome him, smiling.
Well-rehearsed, I become the earth
in a place where the dirt
still breathes the elements
of my ancestors.
Kate Garrett writes poetry and flash fiction, and edits other people’s – she is a senior editor at Pankhearst, and the founding editor of Three Drops Press / Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her latest fiction book, Bewitched and Other Stories, was released in August 2015 (Pankhearst) and her newest poetry pamphlet The Density of Salt is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams in 2016. She lives in Sheffield, England with her husband, cat, and three clever trolls who call her “mum”.
Vivien Jones: Two Poems
TWELVE HOURS MAX
On this beach
the dry half hosts
the sand blast logs,
the lone, undamaged
left foot trainers,
the twists of plastic rope
in green and orange,
the shattered tubs
of mineral lick,
shattered seabirds too.
Coarse concrete lumps
from a wrecked building,
half-buried, outdone by the
aesthetic of pebbles.
This wet half exists
only between tides,
with cableknit imprints
in the mud, webprints
and four toed tracks,
perfect clues to species
prodding the sheen
for bubbling creatures.
Samphire gleams greenly,
its dry hours brief enough
to ruffle its ferny foliage,
cockles cackle in bubbles,
low tide draws below
flounders in mud cots.
Each twelfth hour
the moon-most wave wets
the last dry sand grains,
stretching its damp reach.
The moon, too, yearns
to see beyond clouds,
we look for silver on prussian
she looks for blue and green,
both cursing the intervening
veils and blankets of cloud.
On cloudless nights, out of the sea
she rises orange, shrinking,
paling to a naval button,
making the sea shimmer, glass glitter,
a palette of cocktail fabrics
draped across sight-lines.
from her pale flat face,
a blue-veined vanity
proud of the great cheese
that once fooled a fox,
the Moon in a bucket.
Vivien Jones won the Poetry London Prize in 2010. In the same year her first poetry collection, About Time, Too, was published by Indigo Dreams. In 2013, with the aid of a Creative Scotland Writer’s Bursary, she completed White Poppies (Pewter Rose Press) a collection of short fiction on the theme of women amongst warriors. She also adapted two of the stories for theatre performance in 2013. For more information see: www.vivienjones.info
Charles Lauder Jr: Poem
HOW TO MOVE A RIVER
Cup the stagnant waist, slipping fingers between muddy channel
of stone lipped upon stone like a mausoleum wall
and the cold, transparent body, plant a foot on each bank, and pull.
A lift out of the grave, arms akimbo, palms up, ready to be received,
comatose, somatic water, its tresses of slops and sloshes
dragged over miles of bone-dry ground not sluiced by sweat
or a bloody belief in hope in years. This is your river.
You’ll have to dig out the new course first, which takes planning
mired with confidence—knowing the water’s mind, the limits
of its fluidity. A single box or a trench dug deep enough
will hold the beast. Wed the river to its new path.
Say, here’s your bed now, lie in it.
Where its mouth lay gurgling in low whispers, its tongue coated
and shaped by detritus licked up along the way, has gone.
Try not to feel guilty about it. Changing structure is changed fate.
Desire loud music from it, a bacchanalia, a curved course
with few straights. Allow it to seduce you.
There will be sleepless nights, fears of a stranger from out
of the desert, lust-filled eyes and pockets full of seed,
polluting the river with whispered words. Fingers skate
along its length, send out ripples, turn it against you.
Heavy drinking will bring deep sleep and dreams of the devil
kicking a hilltop church down into inanimate rubble.
Charles Lauder Jr was born and raised in Texas and spent several years on the East and West Coasts. However, he has lived in the UK Midlands for the past 16 years. His poetry has appeared internationally in journals such as: The North, Magma, Stand, Bare Fiction, The SHOp, California Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, Under the Radar. His pamphlet Bleeds was published by Crystal Clear Creators in 2012.
Emma Lee: Three Poems
I’m not a performer and you made me nervous.
Nine months old and you couldn’t take your eyes
from me. I’d strapped you into your high chair
while I switched on the oven, melted butter
and mixed in icing sugar and flour,
reminding myself your gaze wasn’t hostile:
you had no opinion on how it should be done.
You rolled your toy train. I pushed biscuit mix
into a piping bag, squeezed it out in short, parallel lines,
untouching. There’s time for a story as they bake,
before I melt chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
You marvel at the double-dipped biscuits.
Now you weigh out ingredients. I don’t perform,
merely guide, as you follow the recipe
that was my grandmother’s. She’d bake a batch
in advance so the first job for every visiting grandchild
was to dip the biscuits. My mother’s generation
didn’t bother. I had to teach myself so I could show you.
When you give me a sugary kiss,
my mother is not watching. This is not her recipe.
ANALYSIS OF A RADIO SONG
Of course it’s a love song:
the soft “o” assonances.
One line repeated nine times,
fifteen unrepeated lines
in three hundred and eighty words.
It marked a return to form
for a singer tipping into self-parody
until he split from a girlfriend.
Yet forty-nine references to “I”
and forty-nine references to “you”
make it equitable and intimate,
and radio play-list friendly
so nine consecutive car trips
at different times started
with this song
that got stuck in my head.
It’s simply a love song.
He’s not a clown telling me
to go no further.
The dream within it
makes my journeys more bearable.
A COPPER TEA SET
Grandma and her history
remain unnamed, unknown,
but her copper tea set is saleable.
Its style suggests the 1920s.
But the brass plaques,
each an animal and four to five symbols,
Egyptian, Phoenician or Runic.
An image search matches them
to the Indus script.
In the Indus river basin,
contemporary to Ancient Egypt,
skilled metallurgists created seals,
each with an image,
and four to five symbols,
too short to be decoded.
Statistically they correspond
with a natural language
but there’s no cipher.
Sir John Marshall, described as a tree
under which nothing grew, stood with his family,
and servants, all dressed in white, and posed
for a photograph taken with the same camera
that took images of the Prince of Wales playing croquet,
while Marshall itched to get back to archaeology.
When a search for Buddhist relics uncovered
a new civilisation, he started five digs
in the Indus basin and published images
of the seals in the 1924 Illustrated London News.
The tea set I bought can’t be his:
not grand enough for dignitaries.
Its standard is that of a set for those
taking a break between serving courses.
But it had to have been commissioned
by someone with access to the seals
and able to make an impression in clay
to be later used as a mould
for these brass plaques
I’m now gently and lightly polishing,
erasing traces of fingertip smears
and unable to make a connection
between symbol and meaning.
[Sir John Marshall (1876-1958) was Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1902 to 1928. He was knighted in 1915.]
Emma Lee‘s third collection is Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams, 2015) and she was co-editor of Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves, 2015). She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for Sabotage Reviews, London Grip and The Journal.
Richie McCaffrey: Poem
There’s a popular café two floors below us
called The Standjutter, its anthem seems
to be ‘You’ll never walk alone’
which the drunks belt out every Sunday,
doing a good job hiding their aloneness.
Two floors above them, the tune’s clear
but the words muffled. This must be
what an eavesdropping god contends with –
when we sing our hearts out and think
we’re birds, all he hears is discordance
and when we fight and spit and shout
and cry it comes as music to his ears.
Richie McCaffery lives in Gent, Belgium but was born in Newcastle, UK. He holds a PhD in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow, where he was a Carnegie scholar. He has published two poetry pamphlets, including Spinning Plates (HappenStance Press, 2012) with a third forthcoming in 2017. In 2014 Nine Arches Press published Cairn, his first full collection. He is also the editor of Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot (Kennedy & Boyd, 2015).
Char March: Poem
An armslength deep
takes us back to the 1600s;
a womanslength deep
takes us to the Vikings;
where does nine solid
feet of mud come from
to cover these worked flints?
what is all this that smothers them?
how is it accreted?
matter cannot be created
has the Viking-layer
blown away in other countries
to gather here and smother ours?
or is it that all mountains
are losing themselves to rain
that, though still pushing skywards,
from the train-crash of India,
the Himalayas are shedding themselves
into the jetstream
and Nepalese grains have been
snowing down here to cover our past
Char March has won many awards as a poet, playwright and short fiction writer. Her credits include: a short story collection Something Vital Fell Through, five poetry collections including The Thousand Natural Shocks, six BBC Radio 4 plays, and seven stage plays. www.charmarch.co.uk
A.F. Moritz: Four Poems
Always there is someone approaching a place,
a place with its waiting person, or monster,
or person who is a monster through extreme
strength or decrepitude. The place is near or far,
maybe so far away it can never be seen
and we see it growing closer and larger
beyond the shoulders and head of the traveler,
who is going to meet death in that place,
or a sleep of centuries,
or a forgotten love, and will be born again,
or made immune to dying,
and will stay in that place or travel on from it
endlessly. The whole scene vanishes then
into our remembrance, where it stays
as something permanent, a proof of permanence,
although its disappearance in the world
proves permanence does not exist.
It remains there
as its details run together
and our remembrance fades—we always expect
to come across it again in some library or song
and renew its outline,
and after years of this we are finally confined
to our beds, we’ll never travel again
to any other place, and that event, wholly forgotten,
becomes only the certainty in us
of the pleasure once of some dream.
ALWAYS NOW FARTHER AWAY
A four-year-old form on the stream bank
in the savage flowers, or a man crossing
an iron bridge in a city wholly asleep
except for me, I was the center,
young and old always the same
center. The blooming mountains, stars and woods,
the blackbirds, horses and people spun
around and away from me. They staggered
and space was sagging under them, they all
sank slower, farther, heavier, crying
out to me, but even their words thickened
and did no more than join their sinking orbits.
And so it was, until I met my love. Then I fell
and rose with the rest of the lost. I too was always
farther away. Each instant
my shapeless vastness
grew with my wanderings. I wonder now
if one day I will fill the universe
with distance from her
and time and space will end.
I called her Woodpecker, she called me Man,
as when a couple delights in addressing each other,
as “Husband,” “Wife”, “My Lord,” “My Lady”,
knowing the once-and-only-once of love
lives more particular within the titles
of acts and duties happily accepted
than in the peculiar masks of names. But, bird
and human, we actually said nothing
out loud, so sure we were that each one knew
everything vital in the other’s privacy.
She clung to the tree leaning her head far back
to look at me, then drew my look
by pecking, pecking, to a crop
of brilliant orange-gold lichen on the bark.
The oak tree in the field of light and snow
was mottled, grooved, and hatched: on the wood,
a world of tones and textures that shifted as
my eye wandered, the way a day of flowing clouds
mottles the sky. I saw that the sky is a sheath
that lives, a costumed pith, a tree. Then she
was finished and in ten series of quick bounds
moved eighty feet to the highest limb in the sun,
a friend off to Egypt to witness for us both
among details that I will never see.
PRAYER TO DAWN
We are an outcrop of Bizancio,
which we hate and our city confronts
across the sea. We try to root out
its memories in us, memories of birth,
threads of treason, as we fight for our lives
against its huge navies and draw our wealth
from the strangely ever expanding commerce
of that empire that collapsed long ago,
the fertility of that rot at all times about
to overwhelm us. In the port the tides
pushing from the quadrant of Bizancio
lap our civic lips and nourish filthy
beards of sea moss, lush
amid gurglings of suffocation,
on the quayside monuments. Only a glint
of icon, glint of Bizancio in the eyes
of our portraits rescues them from being
so real they are us, sweating with fear,
often already dead. Bizancio,
burning thought, burning down, world’s final age,
only, ancient, decrepit dawn, let us go.
A. F. Moritz‘s most recent book is Sequence (2015). Also in 2015, Princeton University Press reissued his 1986 collection, The Tradition, from the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. Moritz’s poetry has received the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Guggenheim fellowship, and the Award in Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Stanley Moss: Four Poems
I smell the 1940 bombings
surrounded by English affection.
Arrived mostly in Manchester, UK,
I call the operator
to hello me later.
I’ve already run into an honored citizen,
bleeding Nameless Corporal War,
I want to take the measure of pleasure,
and I do, in feet, notes, and hand breadths,
in the sky, not in light years, foot by foot.
I know “men have died and worms
have eaten them, but not for love.”
Dressed in green corduroy,
I fall on the bed, I measure worms.
THE THING WRITTEN
The thing written is a sexual thing,
may bite, tell a truth some have died for,
even the most casual initialing
is a touch of love and what love goes for.
A sometime thing, it smiles or has an ugly grin,
on the page or wall may be holy and a sin.
Writing wants, must have, must know,
is flesh, blood, and bone,
proof we are not made to be alone.
Beneath a dove and rainbow
some bank their fire,
wrap their erogenous zones in barbed wire.
Writing may dance in ink flamenco,
kneel before the cross, right
wrongs, fall in love at first sight,
honor the naked languages it holds tight,
kidnap, suck or be sucked for hire,
may look and look or sneak a look,
it has eyes, can read, is remarkable.
From the tower of sexual babble,
when dreams were the beginning of writing,
the angel of dreams descended, stair by stair,
the stone watchtower became the first stone book.
Writing never speaks word, may ache to talk,
and yet each letter of any alphabet
is a fragment of desire,
like half and quarter notes on a staff, or a hawk,
may swoop down, fly higher and higher
to catch a word, and then another word.
The sexual thing may be all love or malice,
eunuchs writing in the Forbidden Palace
where poets dressed in rags, or silk and lace.
The thing written touches, kisses, cuddles,
may be democratic, autocratic, medieval
in the 21st century, feudal, imperial, animal,
sexually digital, a Serf, a King, a Queen,
la chose écrite est une chose sexuelle.
I had a woman beautiful as the letter l.
There is the passion of letters, each may mean
another thing, be defaced, after a while.
Writing leans forward,
there is a certain optimism in the written word,
a sexual sunrise that is not daybreak.
Words, words, a carnival of wordplay
on St. Nobody’s Day.
Reader, look, there is an S, a snake
on the cross of the letter T.
The letter of love is still the open-legged V.
How can I dot the i with humanity?
Because I’ve lived beyond my years, I’m in the soup.
I don’t spit in the soup from which I’ve eaten.
Because I am in the soup
amuses a satyr sunning himself on Greek rocks
where Eros masturbates
with a fantasy he is Mars making war, not love.
I read poetry and write garlic lines.
I swim in a zuppa di pesce, my company:
my wife, crawfish, the catch of the day.
Young, there was the question of civilizations,
borscht, wonton, chowders, gazpacho,
an antediluvian primordial soup—
sorry, but I went from soup to soup to nuts.
I loved obscene Andalusian lullabies
sung by abused nannies and wet nurses.
Older than a crab apple tree,
I sing an unaccompanied song that is mine,
ghost songs with my mother and father’s voices
on Liberty Avenue.
A riff on a ram’s horn,
I am a short repeated phrase, frequently played over,
changing chords and harmony
used as background to a solo improvisation.
Eros daydreams beneath my window.
I don’t spit in the soup from which I’ve eaten.
The satyr believes, because of one song I wrote,
my “Satyr Song,” he is my heir.
He says, “I’m broke, extravagant,
since you will be dead before five years pass
you should turn over your interests to me now.”
He’s not an honest murderer,
no songbird, my satyr has appetite for my liver,
but I’ve stolen more kindness than fire.
Reader, keep out of mind my transparency.
The dead never block the view from my window,
or from a mountaintop, or from poetry
that may take the place of a mountain.
You can see I’m in the soup.
I offer you a spoon. Taste how it happens:
the satyr repeats, “I want my golden future now.”
Eros, I leave you a checkbook of unsigned checks, my love.
This is not the first time I’ve talked only in metaphors.
It’s Thanksgiving, I give thanks.
I can still carry a tune.
I played soldier as a child.
I took a purple blanket
and made my terrain, mountains
on a fine evening, my universe,
an autumn battlefield.
Out of a tin candy box burial ground,
not by nation or religion,
enemies made of lead, my soldiers and sailors,
all murderers, good and bad on each side.
I knew and remember their faces.
Troops fought in my bed, for islands,
for mothers and chocolate,
I pulled the chain on the toilet
that overflowed with the big ones of history.
Death was a birthday present
but in my game they all rose again.
At 17, Harmonium in my duffel bag,
I enlisted in the US Navy
my service number 7661612.
I was decorated face and chest
by the red and white ribbons
of my boyhood friend Gerry’s brains.
Arthur lost a leg. Danny the pianist
who played Chopin sonatas
had his spine made into an accordion.
Mary Noonan: Four Poems
THE LONG FORK
In the small terraced council house on Clancy Street
early morning was the sound of a poker raking ashes,
the smell of bread blackening over fire – signals for us
to come down to the wooden table, its oil-cloth hiding
the dark drawer where the long fork lay.
My grandmother would lift a pot from the red-hot range,
making sparks hop, then hand me the fork, instruct me
to spear slices of the soft bread my grandfather had made
at the midnight bakery. I’d take to the flames with my
three-pronged wand, or press bread to the bars until it was
singed with zebra stripes. Eggs would deliver their orange
goo and we’d drown the blackened soldiers in it. Auntie B
would drink her Alka Selzer, let us take a sip, feel the bubbles
tickling our noses, while she back-combed her beehive at
the mirror by the window. And through a haze of hairspray
and cigarette smoke, Grandad’s garden: tea-roses and potato
flowers; hairy goosegogs; scratchy blackcurrant bushes;
cabbage-white butterflies nibbling it all.
Helen is making nettle paper.
We walked the forest path with her
to gather the long stalks, growing in fat clumps
along the lake shore.
Cecilia called the names of the hedgerow-
flowers – tufted vetch, dog violet,
meadowsweet – caught sight of a newt,
skittering under clover.
The quiet of the woodland is deceptive.
On straining to listen again I heard
my thoughts, spinning-jennies falling through
green, and pine needles and cones crackling
beneath unseen feet and claws, then
the singing of thin branches swinging
on their hinges, and from the echo-chamber
of the lake’s glacial bowl, a very low hum.
In a book I saw an image of a nettle coat
pierced with pins, a garment of shaming.
But Helen’s nettle paper is see-through, pea-green
a moiré lake’s screen, or grasshoppers’ wings –
a mossy cobweb from which she will make
lacy forest knickers, panties that unveil
umbels and tendrils and silken donkey ears
listening for what’s kicking up its heels
under the cover of the stinging nettles.
WITH THEE I SWING
‘Above me/the silver birch with my initials stretched
upward to its far-off father, the moon.
Matthew Sweeney, ‘The Blue Hammock’
You’ve torn your hands in three unlikely places
while lifting our cases from a rack, shredding
skin on both forefingers, scoring a deeper wound
at the root of a thumb. We’re making our way
to Berlin, to bury John.
At Marienfeld his urn is placed in a wall,
Billie Holiday’s ‘With Thee I Swing’ inscribed
in gold on a plaque. Lupins are blooming,
your hands bleeding through sticking-plaster
as we walk down leafy Jenbacherweg, the frontier
between east and west where you spent days
together, years, writing, writing – the poet’s
handbook, then the thriller that skewered
the dirty heart of poetry – building, line upon line,
sometimes shouting, furiously, but always
ending with John banging out some old jump-jive tune
on the piano and joining you to drink white Burgundy
on the canopied terrace. You tell me you’ve lost
your other half, and though I’m your girlfriend
of seven years, I know that the comrade who ran
with you across the wild Germanic borderlands,
the blood-brother who pledged his word,
has gone, leaving you alone here. With me.
On the other side of this wall
an old woman is rattling hangers
in a mahogany wardrobe and
pulling open wooden drawers.
I imagine her widowed, small-
boned, arranging bibelots,
a lifetime of small jewels.
When asked, she will say there was
shouting. There was shouting and
banging of doors, and long silences.
One day, a man sobbed on the balcony.
On the other side of this door,
an antique cage rises and falls
through a shaft of seven floors
cut deep into marble and curling
bronze. A missile-shaped weight
creeps up and down the outer wall,
hauling the iron box on its pulleys,
jolting it into motion, sometimes
stopping halfway between floors.
From the bed, I listen to the clanking
of the old machine, the slap of grill doors.
Mary Noonan’s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review (forthcoming), The Dark Horse, Poetry London, The Spectator and The Threepenny Review. Her first collection, The Fado House (Dedalus, 2012), was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and the Strong/Shine Award. A limited edition pamphlet, Father (Bonnefant Press) was published in 2015.
Mario Petrucci: Four Poems
that purple in me
when night sets in – cold
& cloudless with
faster than light
can adjust – so just
this darkening trampoline
overhead – simple &
graded to its
edges as a
pool might seem
to my carp looking up
– no shadow by which to
jerk deeper but
light – no absence but
a firm shade on its
degrees so there
is no way to look past or
through to pale planets
for some light
calm & tuned to its
purpling just before night
resolves too much for any
star yet enough to
strawberry – imagine I hand you
my bowl misting up
from the fridge – then tell me what
recourse to any sense as though you
had never tasted or
had no tongue – could not speak in
fact was not from
this world – this is how it feels with
us today as I look up
this elm somehow immune in its green
tower – sky wearing
the tiniest seedings of cloud on its out-
side – so what
if I stripped love of all sense: relieved
it of its body as if
it could hang there without recourse
to flesh – an idea qui-
-vering air or rolled in the body to
gather a future – are
we strawberries caught in the open
glare of ourselves
speaking nothing but fruit till one
of us comes to
ask what of earth we could give
that tree this sky
that it would remember us by?
I have begun
seeing not rain
nor the raindrops
but that shifting
dryness between –
hearing not the
said – but that
pause for nothing
not any inevitable
hunk of news but
nor one thought
or the next
but what threads
and does not strive
between – then who
not the poem
written – not
even the one
he was a cartoon
in white trousers scything
grass from below the belt as a schooner
might trim green waves taut with near-toppling blasts
but with angled elbows crankshafting low-slung
fists those upper parts were landlubbing
machine parts pressured with
youth’s bright oil and
I ahead of him
craning over my shoulder
backwards at his rising crescendo
of will approaching that mystery of white
trousers the watery steel of his sprint for
a bus whose doors were closing
mostly because it was
on the second whingeing
of its doors face aglow not with the effort
it seemed of the four-second mile in his
head but with his glance
to me: he
caught it and I
the wrong side of glass
didn’t – though I approached
the space they left
nor white but in my
own grey time strolling the faint
musk of his wake
Mario Petrucci is an award-winning poet and translator. His translations include Catullus and Sappho (both with Perdika Press) and Eugenio Montale’s remarkable Xenia sequence (Arc, 2016). Heavy Water: a poem for Chernobyl (Enitharmon, 2004) captured the Arvon Prize, while i tulips (Enitharmon, 2010) delivers “a truly ambitious landmark body of work” (PBS Bulletin). Shortlisted for the 2012 Ted Hughes Award, Petrucci has held pioneering poetry residencies at the Imperial War Museum and with BBC Radio 3. www.mariopetrucci.com
Bethany Pope: Poem
In the moment that the air solidifies to aspic,
gelatinous and clear, and you are suspended like an olive in it,
held between the leap and plummet while the Jeepney
sends its old gears stuttering to a halt,
you have time to contemplate death.
When Gilgamesh sought Utnapishtim at the end of the earth
(the literal end, where time never landed)
the living mummy stroked his beard
and mouthed his words around halves of a broken kola nut.
The life that you are seeking you will never find.
When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
but life they retained in their own keeping.
You shall eat dust.
All the hero fled with was the story.
You have never heard of Samaria,
of Wild Men who feast on mud,
of gods or the hero-kings who serve them.
At seven years old you are flying through air,
three inches from the bullet.
The age of reason has struck at last,
its shock wave spreading like a knife through raw liver,
the colour and texture of the flesh which streaks from the shoulder
of the sack-dressed woman who loved you enough
to thrust you from your seat on the over-crowded bench.
One minute she was stroking your hair,
murmuring over the odd light colour.
Then there was air.
Even this aspic cannot suspend you;
the mass of all this gathered death is not greater than your own.
You sink, and hit the boards resonating
with the thump and shudder of tires over limbs.
Your wide brown eyes are a centimetre
from the oval rainbow
of a single lost fish scale
which swells to encompass your world.
Hell is but a House of Dust and mud is all that fills the hunger.
This is the taste which you hold in your mouth
while the stench of cold sweat plugs your nostrils,
the sweetish rot which seeps
from the ancient pores of the farmer
who let his new-bought chickens fly
to cage your weak body in his shield of bones.
He breathes his scant white beard into his mouth
and gnaws the rough strands.
In the vein-pulse of the rib-racked chest against your cheek
you can feel his heart improbably beating.
The secret of life comes through his heart,
the story you gained from this terrible sinking.
When the gods created man they allotted to him death.
Your life they retained in their own keeping.
In time, you shall be dust.
Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her first novel, Masque, is due out from Seren in 2016. This autumn THW will be publishing her chapbook, Dust.
Wendy Pratt: Poem
God, the wind, it peeled the stones
from the skull of St. Thomas’ church,
left its mouth slacked to a yawn, or a scream,
sounding vowels through the nave, through
the clock-eye, the alter stones, the flat backed,
flat packed dead in their wedding gowns.
I couldn’t have placed you here, in this wind.
You are not even in the gothic ruin, where you might
have met your curse head on, but in the bleak,
modern field where the new builds’ bathrooms
back onto you, and children squeal on trampolines.
They have bitten a hole in the ground
for you, and mouthed you into the soil,
smaller than the giant I’d imagined,
with both your surnames finally intact. You’re
crowded into almost obscurity, sand-blasted
by the wind, where nothing grows and the votives
left to you cling like limpets in your dark.
Wendy Pratt lives just outside Filey, North Yorkshire. Her latest collection, a pamphlet entitled Lapstrake, is published by Flarestack Poets. She also has a full collection and another pamphlet with Prolebooks. Wendy was highly commended in the Forward prize and also won both the Prole laureate and Yorkmix competitions in 2015.
Peter Riley: Extract from Pennine Tales
Thousands of lights spread over valley and hill,
windows, street lamps, earth forms netted in lights.
And in the dark corridors between these lights
do the dead still go from door to door begging
for sustenance? Tell us it has not been all in vain.
And do the living-room lights then twinkle, are they
Co-operative lights? Or does a choir sing in the
dark distance, under the fabric of the town,
“We never thought it would come to this.”
It will come to more yet and take my cold hand.
The world tips slightly, the clock croaks Amen,
that we should see such clarity again.
Thousands of house rows and blocks of flats
spread over valley and hill, Blackburn and Accrington,
the Preston line across north of Manchester,
the living rooms displayed when it gets dark
and the train rides the embankment. Why so
powerless? Later a few farm lights on the black hill
and all this was once a field of action, a place
that mattered, by acts of combination where
free thought walks in the sky by day and night.
To stay, to return, to become old, to learn
the details, the stone paths strung over the hills,
the football fields below. A goods train passes through.
Come all you little vermin that dwell under stones
crushed underfoot of the earth and make together
a faint hissing and rustling in the night which
grows greater towards the central principle
and the separate sounds build to a chorus
saying that 500 years of degradation and humiliation
is as nothing to us, we can persist ten times as long
working towards a modern condition which
recognises at long last the day of the many.
For the landowning aristocracy
are still in charge and there is no end
to our patience and assurance.
I shall lay me down on this bank of sweet primroses
with violets intermixed, and wait
for the world to settle into itself at
immense cost, dreaming of waking
to the sound of sparrows at the window,
dreaming the persistence of labour
under the feet of the new Vikings
and at night the owls will keep vigil
as our heads sink deeper into pillows,
turning as the earth turns, tilting
into the mountain crest at dawn, where
our numbers are called in finally.
Peter Riley was born in Stockport in 1940 and recently retired from Cambridge to Hebden Bridge. He is the author of fifteen books of poetry, and some of prose concerning travel and music. His most recent books are The Glacial Stairway (Carcanet 2011), a book-length poem, Due North (Shearsman 2015), which was shortlisted for the Forward Best Collection Prize in 2015, and Pennine Tales (Calder Valley Poetry 2016).
Fiona Sampson: Three Poems
The way we used to live
in the old house a house
whose thick walls curved like the living
flanks of beasts
do you remember curving walls
the deep-set windows like
a kind of hope their light
white as the whitewashed walls
that someone made from living
things from straw and hair
and took the teeming mud
salted with living things
in tiny constellations
which hung round us there
baked with the dreaming hair
of horses the corn stalks
that crackled underfoot
and in the hand as they
were cut the mysteries
are also sacrifice
each kitchen knife shining
like joy they took the mud
and baked it as you might
a loaf made from corn
because the crust of things
rises and falls like breath
in the flanks of beasts.
This room for example
this ordinary room
that flows away from you
never at rest
it flows and flows as if
in the muddy blues
and greys of water-colour
even this bright morning
already stained already
It isn’t difficult
but it isn’t here
blue lining the shadows
of the trees on summer grass
blue trees on hills
which mean something that goes
on and on the future
is it or the past
in the sunlight
of a day that isn’t here
it’s over there a day
leading the eye as if
the sun were just a spotlight
and under that blue pelt
the woods fomented dreams
going on endlessly.
Fiona Sampson has been published in more than thirty languages, and received various national and international awards. Professor of Poetry at Roehampton University, she is at work on a biography of Mary Shelley, and a study of musical form in poetry. Her latest collection, from which these poems have been taken is The Catch (Chatto & Windus, 2016).
Emma Simon: Three Poems
THE SECOND MRS MUIR
I don’t wear it well. It’s not a style
I thought would ever suit me. But here it is,
a seldom worn nomenclature, left hanging
in the closet like my mother’s rabbit fur coat.
Deemed unseemly now: to swish about
in something so close to skin
that once cosseted another —
as if a cursive signature can bleed
the exact amount of pain involved
in skinning an identity, sloughing off a marriage.
Still, I slip it on from time-to-time
to feel its cut. It has an old-school glamour
you can wrap around yourself,
turn up the collar against the wintry stares,
flurries of gossip.
GUMSHOE STORE DETECTIVE
He could be any one of you
in the shadow of the shelves
watching that woman
in her too thin coat commit to heart
the calorie content of each tin of soup
she picks up
– and then puts down.
Shopper follows shopper
up and down.
It’s hard to tell who’s stalking who
in the striplight glare.
Whose eyes spot a TV dinner habit
masked by asparagus spears,
or clock the formula milk
secreted in a buggy’s undercarriage.
Pick up a bag on tangerines
weigh its moral ambiguities.
Like you he’s damned
a broken heart with drink,
distrusts the slick CCTV
that ousted fishbowl mirrors.
What if he sometimes stands
and stares at boys freewheeling
trolley stacks? It is just ordinary regrets.
He had his dreams too:
of shaking down teenagers
until lipsticks and razor blades
spilled from their pockets.
THE UNITED REFORM CHAPEL
The quietness here is plain. Whitewashed walls
and pale blue panelling absorb the hymns
of congregations past. Each wooden pew exhales
a sigh of prayer books closed as footsteps pass.
Sit here, and pause. Hear the clink of tea cups
put away from coffee mornings in the Memorial Hall,
the clank of spade on stone turning turf outside.
The organ stops are damped now, but lean in
from the gallery to breathe its long slow chords
in the lilies and freesias, the swirls of pollen
caught like flies in amber evening light
that floods in through the tall clear windows.
Emma Simon has been published in various magazines and anthologies. Last year she one of the poets selected for the Jerwood/ Arvon Mentoring scheme. She won the Prole Laureate competition in 2013, and was commended in last year’s Battered Moons poetry competition. She lives in London, where she also works as a part-time copywriter.
K.V. Skene: Poem
LOVE IN A WORLD WEARY WITH REPETITION
Above an architecture of catholic centuries,
of god and St. Finbarr’s,
The Angel of the Resurrection
trumpets the light …
In a world weary with repetition,
someone looks you in the face
and you’re afraid you could get hurt
and it wouldn’t be meaningful,
would be misunderstood. Still,
you take graffiti literally
and too often fear
things will never change –
which changes everything
Your current theologically-correct beliefs
leave brain and body uncoupled
as anarchy rattles
that bird’s egg of a skull
in which amour holds
a submerged anaesthetic quality,
rain on Wandesford Quay, stone underfoot,
another unconscionable synopsis …
but it will soon be tomorrow and that
will take care of that.
K.V. Skene’s work has appeared in Canadian, U.K., U.S., Irish, Indian, Australian and Austrian magazines, most recently in Crossing Borders, (Canada), Acumen (UK,) REAL (USA) Obsessed with Pipework(UK)’ Envoi (UK) and Orbis (UK) Her latest chapbook, Under Aristotle Bridge, was published this year by Finishing Line Press (USA).
Matthew Sweeney: Five Poems
When the red setter ran up the field
after the sheep, and the farmer
dug out his shotgun, and I ran,
screaming, to drive the dog away
down to the beach and into the sea,
then slunk with him back up the hill
to the big white house, where I
shaved off my beard in a frenzy –
What odds, my aunt said, What odds.
When the poisonous jellyfish washed
up on the beach, and the Gardai came
to warn everyone to stay away,
even the windsurfers, who ignored
them, and squelched with their flippers
out to the waves that rose so high
they felt they were free, and children
cried because they couldn’t bathe –
What odds, my aunt said, What odds.
When the helicopter crashed
onto the turfhouse, and the winter’s
turf went on fire, and only the
quick-thinking neighbour’s attaching
the hose to the outside tap made
inroads enough on the flames to
enable the fire-brigade to douse them
and save the house from inferno –
What odds, my aunt said, What odds.
When the storm from space struck
and the tsunami savaged the beach
and swarmed up the road to engulf
the big house, sending us all up to
the flat roof above the scullery,
pulling doors off their hinges to float on
when the water rose, and gangs of gulls
swooped low, shrieking, overhead –
What odds, my aunt said, What odds.
Emily, sorry, Emmeline Pankhurst,
you were some lady. I took the bus
to Moss Side, but you were gone.
I looked for the bus that could go back
to 1903 but it didn’t run anymore.
There was no Suffragette City left.
I wanted to hear you shout through
a megaphone, see you chain yourself
to a railing, watch you posting a
letter-bomb or cutting a telephone
wire, or smashing a few windows.
Manchester seems a lot quieter these
days. You were happy to be in prison
and go on hunger strike. Imagine
the support you’d get if you went live
on television now. When they tried
to demolish your house in the 70s
it caused an unbelievable storm –
the house survived and is your
museum. I almost became a woman
in order to deserve to walk in there.
To give myself a frisson
I bought women’s clothes –
a blue dress and red shoes,
also a long black curly wig.
I shaved my chin and legs,
plucked my bushy eyebrows,
borrowed a stick of mascara,
got happy with the mirror,
then drove to the Gay Village.
The bar I flounced into
was jam-full of trannies.
I opted for a babycham,
bopped a bit to Bob Marley,
dodged a couple of passes,
but when the karaoke started
I was first in the queue. The
song? ‘Lola’, by the Kinks.
The applause is still ringing.
I took home thirty pounds,
and I’ve never gone back.
When you sing your song
you can make it an angry one,
and do it so loud the punks climb out
of their graves to applaud.
Give them your autograph.
When you buy that submarine,
don’t paint it yellow – no, you can
opt for black, and wear a
black eye-patch as you stand
on the conning tower, coming
into the harbour, smiling.
But when you decide you want
a panther, maybe look for a
white one. They’re cooler,
and who knows, you could
name your band after it,
adding an s, and get teeshirts
made, so you can clean up.
And what about green hair,
and a green beard? (Don’t forget
the eyelashes) You could try
being a vegan, and if you
play in Chicago on Paddy’s Day
they’ll ply you with green beer.
You could learn to talk to horses,
or even dogs, but not cats.
Take up a weird variant of zen,
and adapt to speaking Italian,
with a side-interest in grappa.
If you stop to think of me at all,
Imagine a brown bear in an office
looking for the way out. Don’t
worry, I’ll have my own jar of
honey, and I’ll be wearing blue
sunglasses and a porkpie hat.
And I’ll be whistling a polka
as I blunder down the corridors.
Anyway, I hope you live to be
a hundred and ride a red unicycle
down Kurfurstendamm, cheered on
by thousands, while pink bubbles
float above the Reichstag
and try to get to the moon.
I’ve now seen two exhibitions
where your work was shown
with that of your imitators.
Why? Not one of them gets you.
You were the numero uno.
All that chiaroscuro, the light
and the dark, the deeply felt
human in the religious, yourself
smuggled into the figure of Judas.
Ah, you might have been a ruffian
who stabbed a man in a brawl
in Naples, then ran, but I’d
buy one of your paintings
before twenty of your acolytes’.
Take Ecce Homo, for Example –
the downcast face of the Christ –
are we not all in that, the soliticious
draping of the cloak over him
by the turbaned young man, the
bearded, hatted, Herod, looking out
at us? Yes, you were right to flee
to Sicily, and paint as much as you
could, wild and unforeseen – Peter
Denying Jesus, Salome Receiving
The Head of John the Baptist.
The keepers of the Musee Faber
in Montpellier should know better
than to display you with your
imitators, just as that Gallery in
Budapest should never have shown
all the imitations of your Saint
Sebastian, with your masterpiece
at the dead centre. Caravaggio,
Michelangelo Meriso, you’re the one.
Matthew Sweeney‘s most recent collection is Inquisition Lane, published by Bloodaxe in October 2015. It was reviewed by Angela Topping in THW #1. His previous collection, Horse Music (Bloodaxe, 2013), won the inaugural Piggott Poetry Prize.
Sheila Wild: Four Poems
There was a moment in old age
when he grew tired, so tired
he could hardly get out of his chair,
and more than once he slept in it
in his Sunday jacket, and the day after
could not bear himself.
This change happened suddenly,
as when his favourite painting
of a Thames barge under sail
slipped sideways on the wall,
and there was nothing he,
or I, could do to right it.
God came upon him like the sun,
xxxxxxxxxfirst the light, and then the shadow,
xxxxxxxxxxxxand in between
which sometimes he experienced as
xxxxxxxxxa blessing withdrawn, at others a respite
xxxxxxxxxxxxfrom the fervour
no bones unearthed,
just a piece of red sandstone
with her name incised on it,
the straight lines
of the forgotten runes
a resolution of her life,
the stone’s careful curve
a perfection of error
I found the oracle
not capable of the riddling
the unexpected can be brought
She would not
I left unsatisfied, was not specific
in my offerings.
Sheila Wild lives in the South Pennines. A policy analyst and non-fiction writer, her award winning poetry has appeared in journals such as Orbis, The North and The Rialto. Her first collection, Equinox, is due out from Cinnamon Press in May 2016.
Noel Williams: Poem
THE GARDEN RUN
When I brought statins to his room,
made dumb by everything to say,
he fled the goodbye,
wept hate of Atenolol,
warfarin, brothers, pillowslips.
Today I’m erecting a fence. Digging postholes
is tough through clay and roots.
I’m not sure this stained wood will keep
the rain in check. On the other side
neighbours manage white-currant, forsythia.
They’re young. Tomorrow
they’ll lay a winding path from end to end.
I’ll watch them do the garden run
when the phone rings, zigzag
buddleia and dogrose, brushing
petals to the path.
Noel Williams is published in magazines including Envoi, Wasafiri, Iota, The North and Rialto. He has won several prizes, with four nominations for the Forward Prize and one for the Pushcart. He’s co-editor of Antiphon magazine (antiphon.org.uk) and Reviews Editor for Orbis (www.orbisjournal.com). Cinnamon Press published his first collection, Out of Breath in 2014. For more information, his website:http://noelwilliams.wordpress.com/
James W. Wood: Two Poems
IN DACHAU’S SHADOW
27.4.45 – 27.4.15
Cursed you were, not by fate
but by your humanity, the difference
they hated. Murder and hunger
cross triumphant in the vernal air,
tensile with the possibility
of escape. Jewish, gay, gypsy, straight:
all damned equally by those
who created machines to teach man
perfection – human beings boxed, brutalised.
[Techne does not
weep for us either]
Still there were the songs: voices
no machine could kill, threnodies
surviving in crumpled foolscap,
verses scratched into memory through
slow weeks of hunger, hours
of drudged labour.
And what do
we call suffering? The want of time?
The tyranny of circuits that try
to manage, monitor, report on us?
Who will ink the history of these years? Who
will read them when they do?
gape open: ARBEIT MACHT FREI –
the great lie some keep swallowing,
inhaling it like gas.
A pulse in time,
the belief that grass
must grow again over ash,
that punctured Zyklon tins will rust,
our souls set free at last to dream
beyond the fence, the chip; the guns, the screen.
AFTER THE SUITORS
for Andrew and Francoise Parkin
Your lips, welcoming –
arms hooping, each threat dissolving to gold,
scars and sinews loosening, pock
– marked skirts of fat hanging
from our arms disappear, giving
way to muscle. Bellies taut,
we know youth again, our minds fogging
with the illusion that this world
is not enough for us. The poison
of possessions leaves us and we possess
each other only.
O my Penelope, she
who loves me for the dangers I have passed
and I her that she pities me – everything is ours
and nothing. Now the arc we trace
is halcyon, kingfisher, blessed:
we walk triumphant from this place
our light doubled against the darkness.
James W. Wood is the author of three chapbooks and one full-length collection, The Anvil’s Prayer (Ward/Wood, 2013). His work has appeared in the TLS, Poetry Review, The North, Stand, Critical Quarterly and many other publications. The High Window have just published The Emigrant’s Farewell, his long poem about the migration of the Scots to Canada.
Dorothy Yamamoto: Four Poems
for David Attwooll
The house that we left
is now inhabited by bears
who handle everything
as carefully as they can but
still drop this and that, padding among
the fierce white crumbs of china.
In the kitchen
they give almighty sniffs
picking up odours
of burnt rice, old dog
the blue lotus flame of the gas.
Most of all the bears
hunch against the window
still teary with condensation.
Why didn’t they open the door?
the bears ask each other.
THE FROZEN PICTURE
after Laurent Pernot
He has just discovered the painting.
It’s a hole in the wall that opens out
to a world that he knows.
Winter is on his shoulders
like burrs stuck to the seams of his coat –
his good coat, but not made
for a burden like this.
He walked, he walked, he walked
from his apartment to here, from himself to here,
he locked the door, he slid the key
inside his glove.
Within the frame the trees stand tall,
not talking to one another –
and he would like to say sorry
to the trees, to the steely lake, to the birds
who almost certainly aren’t there.
A grown man, how has he come to this?
MY FATHER AS A SOLDIER
I sleeve myself in my father’s uniform,
tilt his beret at an angle,
feel the kiss of rough serge.
I shove my hands deep in his pockets
for the crumpled pack of cigarettes,
slip one behind an ear.
In Gordon Square, under cherry trees, I rest on an elbow
while someone takes my picture
(my arm proud with its new stripes).
I carry him in my pores, his black oiled hair
blunt fingers bent round a pen
pits of his spectacles on my nose
and go on carrying him while the bombs fall
and windows shatter in a killing rain.
One sliver of glass, just one
would have been enough . . .
but I come through, and he comes with me—
a chromosome’s difference, the war’s luck.
They glide through the slit, blue wafers,
Mount Fuji in one corner.
My father opens one
with his brass paperknife
and says it’s been snowing
for days in Binmanji.
He launches into the story
we’ve heard so many times – how it was once so deep
they rolled back the paper doors
to a whole white wall – he had to tunnel out.
I discover them much later,
a neat stack, in an elastic band
and, still unknown, their characters
dissolve between my fingers
like trefoil tracks of birds, in endless snow.
Dorothy Yamamoto grew up in Barnet, north London, where her Japanese father and English mother settled after the war. That divided background is the source of many of her poems. She now lives in Oxford, and writes non-fiction books about animals as well as poetry. Her collection, Landscape with a Hundred Bridges, came out after she won the 2007 Blinking Eye competititon, judged by Don Paterson.