Jill Abram • Janette Ayachi • Johanna Boal • Stephen Bone • Stephen Boyce • Miki Byrne • Ion Corcos • Tom Daley • Terence Dooley • Claire Dyer • Steve Ely • Gerard Fanning • Tony Flynn • Greg Freeman • Jessica Goody • Mark Granier • Pete Green • Jodie Hollander • Victoria Kennefick • Fiona Larkin • David Linklater • Caitriona O’Reilly • Helen Pizzey • Stewart Sanderson • Ruth Sharman • Natalie Shaw • Ruth Steadman • Julia Webb
THW1: March 1, 2016
Jill Abram: Poem
Sand flows through my cinched waist
for three minutes. Then rest.
I labour at someone else’s whim.
He flips me, sand runs again.
Three minutes. Flip. Three more.
I am useful in bursts; three minutes,
consistent. It is my job to count it.
It is his job to watch,
to notice when mine is done.
Jill Abram is Director of the collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and a Tideway Poet. Publications include Under The Radar, Cake and Rialto. She performs regularly in London and occasionally beyond, including Ledbury Poetry Festival, Paris and USA. Jill has produced several poetry events, including Malika’s Poetry Kitchen Tenth Anniversary Showcase, editions of The Shuffle at the Poetry Café. She also curates Stablemates, a series of poetry salons with three poets from one press, at Waterstones Piccadilly on the last Thursday of the month. For further information visit: jillabram.wordpress.com
Janette Ayachi: Poem
I avoid the blood-stains of paper poppies in November
to concentrate on your glimmer through the grey
it is such a pleasure opening up your silver wing
squinting to see the tiny pulse of each cog
overlapping like tangled mandrakes, feeling you
tick in my palm like my first naked newborn.
You are always warm when I reach for you
slipping out from my pocket your chain swivels
over my fingers like the tail of a small animal
flexing in to a curl to fit my shape.
But you are no crucifix, no lucky charm,
no pendant passed down the dying family
you are an amulet, a talisman warning me
of harmful seasons, guarding my lost time
like a bird incubating an egg, protecting me
from dark borrowed time like the eye of Horus.
You stare out from my creased palm the way people
glare out from umbrellas in the winter rain
pale-faced, heads slightly stooped under the canopy
feet firmly pressed side by side narrowing
their body shapes avoiding angered skies
and the cleaving crowds that make them feel less alive.
But why is it you sometimes cower from telling time
your hands should be far steadier than mine.
Our ritual triggers my slow ascent into your vortex of zero
then tunnels me back to mercury-stained mornings.
Janette Ayachi is the editor and founder of The Undertow Review, an online arts and literature journal. She has also featured in performance events and festivals across the U.K including: Neu Reekie, StAnza. Luke &Jack’s Bookshop, Waterstones Edinburgh, Talking Heids, Bedlam Theatre, Ten Red, Dive, Summerhall, Auld Enemies, Scottish Poetry Library, Manchester Library, Regional Voice Theatre Birmingham, Wordpower Books, Byre Theatre St Andrews for StAnza, Otherworldly Books, Newtown Theatre and Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Johanna Boal: Poem
Such a common name Dandelion
from the French dent de lion –
a lion’s tooth, the saw-like leaf
seems loutish on the savannah.
Closed heads tightly packed,
squeezed, with just a little of petals shown
and loud excitement, Bumble Bees
buzzing with matching colours – yellow.
A slight urine smell, the piss-a-bed,
but dandelion petals attractive in my salad.
Healthy drinks, de-caffeinated coffees,
Dandelion and Burdock and water tablets.
The flower withers, creates an image
like cobwebs with its geometric shapes,
a timepiece for children to play;
and fairies wait for the wind to blow
to catch its seeds with its spokelike threads,
an umbrella! Left behind in the soil,
hollow stems with naked stalks look good,
jog your memory, tiny holes like strawberry ends.
Johanna Boal lives in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Blowing Raspberries, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Poetry Space, Worktown, Bolton and elsewhere Her first poetry pamphlet, Cardboard City, was published by Poetry Space, Bristol in 2014: www.poetryspace.co.uk .
Stephen Bone: Poem
Warm from recent slaughter,
the reeking calf skins wait to be washed, soaked
in milk of lime, before stretched tight across frames
to be shaved with the scudding knife,
until smooth as porcelain and ready to be cut to size;
early high end stationery
waiting for official or holy script,
illuminated with smalt, gold leaf, black
of burnt ivory
or perhaps a a virgin canvas
for a cartographer’s goose feather quill
to map the known and unknown lands,
oceans full with sailing vessels
entangled with giant squids or plunging off
the edge of the world, the detailed charting of nowhere.
Stephen Bone‘s work has appeared in various journals in the U.K.
and U.S. His first collection, In The Cinema, was published by Playdead in 2014.
Stephen Boyce: Four Poems
MY MOTHER ANOINTED, BRUGES 1922
Through the window of the perfumery
the assistant in her neat maquillage
watches a small goose-gaggle of schoolgirls
sweep across the cobbles beneath the Belfry.
Notre Dame aux Epines, afternoon exeat.
The doorbell tinkles on its springy coil,
the girls giggle and shush. Slender fingers
trace the mirrored vitrine’s bevelled edges:
Dior, Lanvin, Chanel, and here Arys –
by appointment to the queen of Norway,
also to the royal house of Spain –
ice and fire at one in frosted Lalique glass.
The bottle unstoppered, the scent released,
a pale wrist is kissed with the moistened stem.
L’Amour dans Le Coeur.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSome decades later,
a small advertising card too precious
to be lost – a podgy art nouveau Cupid
paying court to a girl with hair like yours –
all the evidence of your heart’s first fluttering.
Enter the forest with a cautious tread
the way you’ve stepped into this poem.
Be alert to the rustle of leaves –
something small startled in the undergrowth,
brushwood sifting an unexpected breeze.
Listen for a lone crow calling.
Breast the darkness along a track
no longer beaten – you may be lucky,
you may find a way back. Balk, if you must,
at discarded beer cans and bottles,
hesitate at outcrops of fungus,
let the spores settle deep in your lungs.
And if a firecrest fidgets in the canopy,
look to the sky where glistening particles
wait in their billions to moisten the green.
This is the moment you’ll find yourself
peering through the ghostly shadow
of a plunging figure – skydiver,
space-walker, fallen angel – someone lost
whose immaculate wings would not open.
THE BEEKEEPER’s WIFE
The beekeeper of Peski cannot leave
his hives, he will not leave his bees.
There are tears in his eyes.
His wife, Svetlana, has grey hairs, he says.
The beekeeper cannot explain what she means
to him; she is there behind him,
with her grey hairs and a catch in her throat.
The bees are there, the industrious bees
which he cannot leave. The neighbours
have all gone, moved away.
This poor Ukraine is broken into pieces,
says Anatoly, beekeeper of Peski.
He will not leave the bees behind.
They have tears in their hives. He can’t explain
what the grey hairs and the bees mean to him.
Ukraine has moved away, with tears
in her eyes and a catch
in her throat. His wife, Svetlana, cannot
explain the neighbours, the tears, or yet the bees.
The beekeeper’s wife is moving
away. She is broken into pieces.
CUTS BOTH WAYS
Perhaps a breadknife
came to hand more readily.
Perhaps he thought its serrated edge
when touching the flesh of the neck.
For when he and his mate
– there’s always a mate standing by –
shoved the kid between the chainlink fence
and the concrete lockup,
threat was mainly what was intended.
So wielding a breadknife
while glaring into his face
eyeball to eyeball,
crushing his back against the wall,
snarling, calling him all the foul names
he could conjure,
was his way of summoning a spell,
a kind of evil magic
that would bend the boy to his will.
The knife did its subtle work
though they saw little of each other
in the days that followed.
And that face is a blur now,
not much more than a shadow,
so that it’s difficult to recall if this
was the same burly lad
had changed the family name
from Feldmann to Field,
and whom a pack of others
– with their bystanders –
once pissed on in a dank alleyway.
Stephen Boyce lives in Dorset. He is the author of two collections, Desire Lines (Arrowhead 2010) and The Sisyphus Dog (Worple 2014) as well as the pamphlets In the Northland (TegArt 2011) and Something Persists (TegArt 2014). He is a founding trustee of Winchester Poetry Festival. www.stephenboycepoetry.com
Miki Byrne: Poem
A SMALL WELSH TOWN IN DECLINE
Steps echoed the shuffling huff-puff of the train
that breathed dragon-steam, filled me with tales
of Welsh folk and legend, yet stilled in shock
as I stepped through station doors.
Melancholy pooled and puddled through narrow streets
that lay in sleeping-beauty stillness.
Spoil-heaps of blue-black slate loomed
behind smoke-darkened terraces, as if mountains
were sliding down to ingest them;
and dark sunlit sparks flashed and glinted,
quick spiteful flickers from where old chunks
knuckled through to the surface.
Every colour was grey shaded to black, in corners
and round the hills dark skirts.
I felt my face fall as if squeezed by depression’s cold hand.
Empty chimneys reminded of when coal was king,
pits and mines filled pockets and aspirations
walked the valley tall as a story book hero.
Faces of passers-by were etched by boredom,
consistent abrasion of unemployment .
Shuttered shop fronts lay exhausted eyelids,
over dull produce, bleak necessities
and denied themselves the bright lift of tourist tat,
kitsch, tawdry baubles that might entice one to stay.
Even the lone cafe offered only a greasy stink,
smeared tables, menus dog-eared, dotted with dried ketchup.
The train whispered its presence like an invitation.
Grateful, I retraced my steps and boarded.
Miki has had three poetry collections published and work included in over 170 poetry magazines and anthologies. She has read on Radio and TV and is active on the spoken word scene in Cheltenham. She also runs a poetry writing group at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury. Miki lived on a Narrowboat for years and began performing her poems in a bikers club in Birmingham. She is disabled and now lives near Tewkesbury. Gloucestershire.UK.
Ion Corcos: Three Poems
I’m sorry I made you walk in deep snow
in Central Park while I strode far ahead of you;
that your backpack was slashed in a hostel
in London, that I couldn’t afford somewhere else;
for making you hitchhike out of Amsterdam,
leaving you alone in a hospital at Cologne.
That I left you waiting outside an art gallery
so I could see an Edward Hopper exhibition;
arrived in France without visas, ignored your
wishes in Paris, booked another dorm room.
I thought I could make a difference;
a whale rising up out of the belly of the sun.
I’ve been to the cave of St John,
climbed the highest peak of Naxos,
but the mountains here are not big enough,
not like when I was a child.
Then they were mysterious.
Now you and I don’t speak.
I’ve danced like Zorba at a port on Easter Sunday,
sat under the tree where Artemis was born.
I’m another world away, and I’m older.
Inside, I don’t want to be small.
I want to dream, lay it out in front of me,
see it all, how it is, with all my faults.
See the gum trees along the creek,
towering over the asphalt road, like the trunks
I left behind; they were in a woodland,
and the road was rough. See the gum
trees along the creek, the grey bark,
tinge of pink; I lived in hope
that they were enough. But he cut them
down. See the gum trees I left behind,
the stands I loved, the place I cannot return to;
there is not enough in between,
not enough death, and winters,
rotten plums, and empty fishing boats,
not enough wonderings, or
the scent of basil, the clank of a goat bell,
or lemons on a dry silt grove.
WE COME IN BOATS TO SEE THEM
A grey seal slumps on cold sand,
grunts as it lumbers on a beach
where not long ago common seals lay;
their beach was taken away; they
had to move, find somewhere else to live.
Now common seals lie on a nearby beach,
swim close by, forage in the shallows,
approach the shore of the grey seal beach,
but the grey seals bar the way.
Our boat skims the tidal creek,
drifts past marshlands to the open sea.
We watch as one seal fronts another,
forces it to the water.
Neither live here year round; they leave,
come back. Like a ghost town after war,
their home may not always be there;
the sea might wash it away,
a tribe may settle in their absence,
man might change his mind
about caring for the seals. Till then,
they share the sea, the fog-chilled air,
the earth, without place.
Ion Corcos has been published in Every Writer, Grey Sparrow Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, Rose Red Review and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. The themes of his work centre on life, nature and spirit. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is www.ioncorcos.wordpress.com
Michael Curtis: Poem
No, not the scribbled DNR,
that snap-sealed plastic bracelet
ten dozen types of cancer
like to clip on a sleeping wrist
before all the harvests are in.
Let the receptionist smile, cradle
a silver bracelet that admits you
to the adults only pool, cocktails
at dusk, afternoons of dancers
proffering sunlit prosecco
show one to a deferential doorman
for VIP treatment at the opening,
stroll into the reserved bar, nibble
the better canapés while the hostess
breathes promises in your ear
get glitzy, bling your swinging arms
in white Cartier and cool Tiffany,
catwalk the perfumed room
to wild applause, amaze friends
with your effrontery,
anything but this hospital biro
plucked from the top pocket
of a starched night shift uniform
leaving its order to the darkness,
writing off years we were to share.
Michael Curtis is widely published and has given readings and workshops across Europe. He was Writer in Residence for Arts Council, England, the Metropole Arts Centre, the Maison de Poesie, Nord/Pas de Calais, and the Writers and Translators House, Ventspils. His twelfth collection, The Fire in Me Now, was published by Cultured Llama in 2014 and the pamphlet Lullaby Days by Indigo Dreams in 2015
Tom Daley: Two Poems
IN THE MIRROR
These are the stations of the suffering of animals.
Pause where the fox straggled from the far fields,
where he crisscrossed the interstate
when the traffic subsided. Not one headlight
will flicker his eye, his Rust Belt cornea,
his wet nose that sneezed and reaches for its heyday.
There you are, trying to pare admiration
from ripe indifference, gnawing
for that sweetness that flakes away
the unflossed molars. Skin is a live trap
built over a salt flat that will collapse
when the Richter scale heals.
You thin from the corrosion of all that is alert
and unhurt. Manic, snatching at patchwork,
at drastic lusters, at what is now
gone astray in the shine in a fox’s eyes.
PRAISE SONG FOR THE ESSEX RIVER
There where sand sinks
every scripted ritual, disables
the sandal prints
of liquidating prophecies.
Where the glare
of end-game spectacles
settles your steep banks.
Where solar disclosures
might have leavened
the salt in our hearts,
might have predicted
the decay of the bladder.
Someone once watched a buck
and his harem
swim your shallows
at a severe low tide,
take cloven hoof
to your silent dragnets,
your ripples radiusing
blue and mineral.
A tidal river is a gear
stirred by greased axles
reversing their spin
at the behest of the moon.
In your endless switching,
disasters bubbles cannot
disclose. No warmer
than the cold bay.
though we asked the half moon
to mark us with its pocks.
Across your shore,
signatures crabs spilled
from their scavenger
seconds. Across your billows,
something more preoccupied
than the headiest chimera
Tom Daley’s poetry has appeared widely in the United States. A recipient of the Dana Award in Poetry and the Charles and Fanny Fay Wood Prize from the Academy of American Poets, he has also written two plays: Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Irish Servants and In His Ecstasy—The Passion of Gerard Manley Hopkins, His first full collection of poetry, House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems, was published by FutureCycle Press in 2015.
Terence Dooley: Poem
TERMS & CONDITIONS
I tick the box to demonstrate I’ve read
the weasel words beneath, each codicil
diminishing like an optician’s screed,
my hyperlexia at war with my ill-will,
myopia surrendered to short sight.
Greed conquers all: just show me where, I’ll sign.
The multi-pixelled images invite;
I salivate, I swoon, and I must own.
Too late, you shrug, the details on your card
are registered, your purchase is approved,
your fingerprints all over the pre-loved
unnecessary bauble, and your hard-
earned cash is on its way to an address
in Macclesfield. Who steals my purse steals dross.
Terence Dooley has published poems and translations in Ambit, Acumen, Agenda, The Compass, Envoi, The London Magazine, Long Poem Magazine, Poetry London, New Walk, POEM, Brittle Star, Envoi, MPT, Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, Dream Catcher, Ink Sweat & Tears, and in el cuaderno and Quimera (Spain). A pamphlet of his poems is to be published by Argent press, and his translation of Eduardo Moga’s Selected Poems has just been published by Shearsman.
Claire Dyer: Poem
THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH THE FISH
Not that he, a fairground prize
from years ago, was in her bed,
his fins against her skin,
his fish lips fish-kissing her neck,
but rather in his tank on the other side
of the room and her a long way from home,
him shimmying from back to front,
from end to end through the dark hours
and the light hours, watching her grieve
with his fish eyes, his fish mouth
opening in an O and closing in a smile
like he was silent-singing
an Italian aria, the quiet
only broken by the soft wheeze
of the water pump and him rootling
now and then through the gravel,
searching for the kind of happiness
she’d once believed was hers for keeps,
each fruitless fish-dive
a confirmation that yearning
is the occupation of fools.
Claire Dyer is from Reading, Berkshire. Her two poetry collections: Eleven Rooms and Interference Effects, are both published by Two Rivers Press. She was the winner of the 2015 Charles Causley Poetry Prize and her novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair are published by Quercus. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her website is www.clairedyer.com
Steve Ely: Four Poems
THEEUES BREAKE THOROW
There is the dove, and there is the serpent.
Milky Bathsheba, buttocks erect,
soaping her glory in dew-drenched
windflowers: David tearing his Psalter
from deep rhododendrons.
Perulae wilting, dript confetti;
roding woodcock, vespertine
thrumming of bees. Full-beam Venus
driving-out drones, Mars riddancing
maids from the rides. Bedded in bracken
with bot-flies biting, creamy arse-
crack, clocked, cockchafered,
stagged in lines, rohypnol.
WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE WILL YOUR HEART BE ALSO
A buxom wench, firm-fleshed, strong-
shouldered and smooth skinned.
White flesh split to star-pipped heart.
Found blade unfallen silver.
Skinnydip bob-fest; Adam’s pearmain,
ribstoned Eve. God’s brandished
burrknot, serpent pitching
bloody ploughman. Flesh
burkha’d in fig leaves and rotting
to dust. Jobs burdened in billions,
sick with canker. Good works
building credit in heaven,
heaven from ploughman’s earth:
Al-Raqqa, Brasilia, the City.
Kids scrumping catsheads,
Nancy Jackson — those were the days! —
before Apple Garth and Orchard View,
live paedosex on iPhones.
THY WHOLE BODY SHALBE FULL OF LIGHT
One sharing shack with jays
and leverets, honey hived
in walls. Hearth-rug goat kid,
fetlock splinted, slow worm coiled
in coals. Swifts dip the lintel,
antswarm trawling, henbane herb garth
wick with greens. Gate unhinged
and damp grass trampled, danced
the quaking fields — with Angels,
star-sown, dark earth fallen, scythe-
winged rising, quick with screams.
THE FOULES OF THE AIRE
The peregrines of Drax
hunt nightjars under floodlights;
in her cooling tower eyrie,
falcon broods midst litteréd skulls.
Tiercel on the gantry, retching
and preening: screaming hypo-
glycaemia fires him aloft; narcotic
bloodsugars sate him to sleep.
Sun flares and dies. Moths
blottering the nimbus. Blurs
scything from darkness smash
and explode; body down,
feathery antennae. Biomass
cast in the furnace.
Steve Ely’s collections Oswald’s Book of Hours (2013) and Englaland (2015) are published by Smokestack Books. His pamphlet Werewolf was published by Calder Valley Poetry in 2016. His biographical work Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield where he is Director of the newly formed Ted Hughes Network.
Gerard Fanning: Four Poems
When Don Givens made off with a treble clef
from the USSR’s hammer and sickle,
I was skiving off with the backroom boys,
though in truth it could hardly have been me
in that real sense, since I’d yet to make out
in the cause of employment or recompense.
Phibsboro Tower gave off its usual blank stare –
the north face of ambition perhaps –
as our comrades, out to test the rub of Dalymount,
made a fuss on those sheets of asbestos,
otherwise the stands. And there were even a few
who managed to leave the buff files
of sob stories from deserted wives,
to abseil in, while I foolishly enquired,
below that famous roar as to what was going
down up there that could ever have held
so many beguiled while giving so little care
to the punishing nutmegs of Giles and Brady,
Brady and Giles. And if this were Subbuteo
on immaculate baize, the seasoned few
who attend out of duty from outlying steppes,
would pass hush-hush notes for future show trials
in some disputed off side. Left with the odour
of Don Givens’ flicks and feints, and a sombre
nicotine pall from the Soviet bench,
I was unable to parry that insistence, and moved
to embrace the allure of long afternoons,
dozing while ignoring all talk of futures,
derivatives, or contracts for difference.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF RICHARD LONG
A pair of shoes, footprints in river mud,
what I thought I saw in Bertraghboy Bay
when a flood of seawater
filmed a meticulous script,
or once on the Little Pigeon River
(wherever that may be) flat stones
laid neat on a bed, or added stones,
and where the Arctic Circle
breasts the Bering Strait,
pale limbs of driftwood
arranged in a lunar diadem.
Abandoned landscapes follow his eye,
combines rusting on half-cut fields,
corrugated sheds, old seed calendars
flapping on stern evenings
as sun scalped farm labourers
dawdle in the weary lullaby
of wind-chime and copperline.
Let this high-end hobo speak
for rock outcrops,
or inclines on pilgrim paths,
but like the schooner curvature
of a kneeling Bedouin – cushioned,
forever in the dust – he’ll always seek
one more mark, though feet
seem not a part of mind or heart.
Her bird bath water is the colour of tea,
bone china gleams on a bedroom wall,
there’s tarp folded on the verandah,
and polished linoleum in the hall.
On a side board, near the ink stand,
her ear trumpet is horse whip clean,
and pictures groaning in frames
hide a jet black Singer sewing machine.
Where once she scattered life
from an apron pocket, her old order
is now sufficient unto the day.
One ounce of prevention, a border
and a pound of care. She feeds cats,
feral strays, the ones who need
quiet sun spots. And she’ll save
their musk and piss to chalk the weeds,
to mind the mice and spare worker bees,
so clover pollinates, cattle thrive
and an empire planes wood for fleets
to venture forth and colonize.
HER CLOSED ACCOUNT
Signatures are all about intention –
‘doesn’t everyone know my name’?
For a short span there were glimpses
where outside stalled on the gossip
of civil war and university days,
pre-marriage hops, doing the continental
in holiday snaps. But here in future time
where the rest must wait in line
who pleads the case for a closed account
when the billets-doux are pre-signed?
Should the hand veer off the page,
let marshalsea rules apply
since now in another frame,
malfeasance and ruin
are the currency of her small dominion,
sinking like a flooded atoll.
Gerard Fanning lives in Dublin. Hombre, his New & Selected poems, was published by Dedalus Press in 2011 and Wake Forest University Press published a selection in 2013.
Tony Flynn: Two Poems
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani
I miss him, my old god, my god-of-the-gaps;
the one it was okay to beg
for things – who’d put stuff right,
or maybe would…
Forsaken, we hang
from each last thread of breath, suffused
with all that ever was,
or will be, all that is:
such deaths as certain
galaxies enjoy – how orphan-stars are lost
entirely in light.
Eros – the will – drifts in the ontological.
What is it we cry out for,
beseeching creatures that we are?
What ancient oceanic tides
drag from infinite distance
at the heart’s shore? …
An Ithaca at every turn!
While all along, the god of love
basks in the shallows
under our noses:
where silence is
are frequencies we miss
which go unheard, a song
of shriven plenitude,
absolved of both memory and desire.
Tony Flynn has published three volumes of poetry: A Strange Routine (Bloodaxe Books), Body Politic (Bloodaxe Books) and The Mermaid Chair: New and Selected Poems (Dream Catcher Books). He has also received a number of awards, including an Eric Gregory Award; an Arts Council of England Writer’s Award; and an award from the Royal Literary Fund. He has taught creative writing in schools and universities, and was the Arts Council of Wales Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Bangor, North Wales.
Greg Freeman: Two Poems
BOOOKING CLERK AT SOWERBY BRIDGE STATION
“I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway station”
Ian Dury, ‘What a Waste’
Forsook the snug at the Black Bull
to tramp the moors with a sister,
or walked across to Hebden Bridge
to watch the building
of the Manchester-Leeds railway.
Portrait of the artist as a young genius,
apple of his father’e eye. Dreamed of joining
the Royal Academy, or placing poems
in Blackwood’s magazine. Became
a booking clerk at Sowerby Bridge station.
There were prospects: before long the station
would be a busy junction, trains running
east and west. Before then there was time
for drinking with the stationmaster, reputed
to knock back ten pints, then report for work.
Housed in a wooden cabin, lodged
at the Pear Tree Inn, just above the station.
Off-duty he walked the canal towpath,
or supped at the Navigation Inn with the boaties,
caroused with the Liverpool-Irish, spirits
veering high and low. Promoted, up a branch line
to Luddendenfoot as stationmaster,
before being banished because of discrepancies
in the accounts. Sent packing as tutor
by the husband of Mrs Robinson, returned
to the parsonage in disgrace. Once he had
conjured up a wonderful land with his siblings.
Now he suffered silently as the sisters
retold those childhood adventures;
painted himself out of their picture.
THE TWO ALFS
It could be the name of a pub.
How the fans danced down
Wembley Way. Mastermind
of 1966 and all that.
Man of dignity,
his clipped accent
attempted to mask
his Dagenham roots.
Only lost his cool
after the Argentina game
when the players tried to swap shirts.
Another Alf, often close
to tears at the injustice
of his lot. Worshipped
the England manager
for picking Hurst, Peters
and Sir Bobby Moore
to win the World Cup.
Up the Hammers! Didn’t know
his docks were doomed.
Blamed everyone else
for the way life had turned out.
A fumble by Bonetti
–suspect name – in 1970
let the Germans back in.
How easily the sky clouds over,
blue turns to grey. They
aren’t his docklands now.
Perhaps he still haunts Wapping High Street.
Maybe his spectre was dancing
there, after the result.
Fifty years of hurt. At long last,
he’s got his country back!
Greg Freeman is former newspaper sub-editor who is now news editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud. His debut pamphlet collection, Trainspotters, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2015
Jessica Goody: Poem
Potatoes tumble from burlap sacks,
heaped like speckled stones, lying
damp and cool in my hand, their heft
weighed in the paleness of my palm.
Ancient skin is scratched and scarred,
punctuated with moles and liver spots.
The peeler scrapes away the epidermis
of coarse brown paper, revealing gold,
like ore damply shaken from a miner’s pan.
The glint of wielded steel, deftly separating
the toadlike complexion from the prize within.
The brown rind peels away like curling ribbon,
exposing yellow flesh punctured by thumbprints.
The wet-grass scent of freshly-shaven potatoes
bobbing in a bowl like a children’s game, watery
submersibles left to float, like seals in a rookery.
The piled parings resemble rhinoceros hides:
The satisfaction of mounding vegetable peels
heaped like pine straw, the pile of potato skin
strewn like gift wrap on Christmas morning.
The methodical scrape of the peeler as it shreds
the brown tree-bark roughness like scaling fish.
Metaphors abound, similes curling into the air
above as the potatoes slowly fill the empty bowl.
Jessica Goody writes for SunSations Magazine and The Bluffton Sun. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Reader’s Digest, The Seventh Wave, Really System, Event Horizon, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and The Maine Review. Her poem ‘Stockings’ was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition.
Mark Granier: Poem
You know the ones, where the viewer effectively squats
on the car bonnet, and the actor/driver has been told
to keep those hands busy or maybe just feels
it might look less static and more authentic
if the wheel keeps gently clocking back and forth,
back and forth –– though anyone who has driven a car
can almost hear the wild, stock-car screeching
boofing other vehicles, skittling unlucky pedestrians –
but no, they just keep rolling, Old Man River
in a sushi-bar, as if the story were not in danger
of losing its grip, skidding out of its narrative groove
over the hard shoulder into that blank
where words and actions detach – But then who cares
apart from the odd lonely literalist who won’t give
the film crew behind his eyes their well-earned
break, who refuses to realise what he has paid for:
to pass through that primordial, pop-corn-smelling foyer:
banks of upturned faces radiant as dials –
testings of suspension, tinkerings under the hood –
into the realm of shadows, masks, torch-light.
Mark Granier is a Dublin-based writer, photographer and filmmaker. His poems have appeared widely The TLS, The Irish Times, The Spectator, Poetry Review and The New Statesman, and also on the Daily Poem and Verse Daily websites. His fourth collection of poetry, Haunt, was published in 2015. Prizes and awards include the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize in 2004 and a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in 2011. His New & Selected Poems is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2017.
Pete Green: Poem
ABOVE THE PARTY
I wrote a song about a boy who
shuns festivity, instead absconds
to rooftops where the boom and thud
of parties, while persisting, become
dulled and vague. Inspired by
the cosmos that’s implied behind
the clouds, beyond the city lights,
the party guests’ entanglements,
he waxes most sublime to his
unspecified companion. There is
Britpop in the charts and Rob has
grasped my chords and worked them
up expansively, interpreting
my circling eight-bar sequences
as night sky. Though he doesn’t say,
I know it from his Telecaster
chugging darkly at the roots,
his E and A strings summoning
a gather of low cumulus,
and how he adds arpeggios
that glint like blinking halogens
in tower blocks at 3am:
D major lists to minor like
a jet encounters turbulence
then, when the engineer resets
the tape, Rob daubs bright oils
across the canvas he’s just based
in indigo. His second track.
Across the dark, his streaks of
feedback incandesce like comets,
astonish. Finished for the night,
we join the other lads to kick
a ball along the dirt patch linking
studio to farmhouse. Rob and I
take turns to chug a bottle of
Jack Daniels as this summer
evening shapes to an intoxicating
coda. Swelling like an organ
in a church, the sun’s crescendo
plays us out. We’ve never felt
a silence so enveloping.
We’ve never seen a dark like this.
Back at home, the city’s synth-wash
spill of streetlights drowns the cosmos;
out here, though, the Shropshire sky
brings to the mix an overdub
of stars we’ve never seen before.
Today the tape is in my cellar.
Rob works for the council and we
meet at weddings now and then.
Pete Green is a Grimsby-raised, Sheffield-based poet and musician who writes about coastlines, islands, edgelands, railways, walking, love, whisky, music, underachievement, and running away. His poetry has been published by Pankhearst, Route 57, and A Swift Exit, and his debut pamphlet Sheffield Almanac is forthcoming from Longbarrow Press in 2017. Pete’s second solo album We’re Never Going Home was released in July 2016. Read more and listen at https://petegreensolo.com/
Jodie Hollander: Poem
When the world is reduced
to a single dark wood
behind an enormous
house, I wonder:
what if I could swing
from one star to the next
and capture all the light
from that other world—
would I still end in loss
and find the past,
even now, eclipsed
by better, brighter things?
Would I still hear her,
that terrible witch
who each night rises
from a frozen pond,
saying look west, my dear
the weather is upon us,
you’ve done it once again.
Jodie Hollander has been published Poetry Review, The Rialto, The Dark Horse, The Manchester Review, Verse Daily, Ambit, The Warwick Review, Agenda and Australia’s Best Poems, 2011 & 2015. Her debut collection, The Humane Society, was published by Tall-Lighthouse in 2012. Her next collection, My Dark Horses, is forthcoming from Liverpool University Press. She has been the recipient of a Fulbright award, a Hawthornden Fellowship, an NEH Fellowship and was recently awarded a MacDowell Colony fellowship in February 2015.
Victoria Kennefick: Four Poems
You cook, sloshing oil and wine, tongue a loose purple, spill
about the ex you courted in a Dublin museum
by stuffing envelopes with invitations to an opening.
Your mouth went dry from licking, she glided
seals past your lips, a time before adhesive strips.
You take another sip; I want to eat all the lubricated
lettuce in the bowl, it sheens in candlelight,
but I remind myself my clothes are getting tight.
In exchange this ex let you touch Maude Gonne’s dress.
Was she tiny? I ask; She was, you whisper
your big messy mouth greasy slick. I wonder if,
for all your licking you got to touch more intimate
garments, still warm. I shift in my chair, radicchio winks;
who knew salad could be sexy? Nothing on the table but
greens, a drained glass, your words decanting.
THE MONSTER CALLS FOR HIS MOTHER
Lately in the supermarket, my face concealed
by long locks of ragged hair (the forgiving
fashion of this age) I was testing the ripeness
of an orange, though fruit often putrefies at my
touch. A woman hovered by my arm, You
would be perfect, she whispered, perfect
for Frankenstein. My heart spun, I followed
her to the make-up artists who loved my
pallor. They loved me, mother. They stuck
bolts of metal to my neck, constructed me.
Now, mother I play Frankenstein. I dream
still of my ice raft, the funeral pile
you had me make for this vile flesh. I weep
tears the size of lakes. Mother, what I wouldn’t
give to see you raise your eyes to my face.
ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA FOREVER
A salesman clouded our door with aftershave,
told my father how their glossy pages pressed things
of the earth to themselves. I bought them for you, my father said
lining them up in the mahogany field of our bookcase.
I loved their dimpled cream skins, gilt-edged pages,
but in time forgot they still roosted, dusty on those shelves
until my toddler nephew wanted to see an owl.
I found O where it has always been, eased it off the shelf,
its pages fluttered. Sure enough there was an owl
staring out at us. Owl, I said. Owl, my nephew said.
Owl, Owl, Owl, Owl, Owl, the word’s meaning
slipped away like sleep. I closed my eyes, my father there –
a volume open over his two hands, a bird stretching thin wings
while he coos to it. His half-moon glasses display me
back to myself, his raised eyes over them, see me again.
AT HIS BARE FEET
Before the fight, David is tense,
a slight furrow between marble eyes.
xxxxxxxxxxWe are soaking wet in the gallery,
xxxxxxxxxxsandals squealing; at his bare feet,
Goliath’s head has yet to find its place.
He frowns at our spaghetti weight,
flaunts abdominals, sail-taut.
xxxxxxxxxxWe suck our stomachs in, hold our breaths.
xxxxxxxxxxOn his hand veins bulge, his neck tense –
contrapposto, I go weak at the knees.
His legs, fractured from the move, are fragile
it’s the most stressful life event after breaking
xxxxxxxxxxup; we strain our necks, flat
xxxxxxxxxxfaces stippled with water.
we have caught him in the
just-before, soon he will have the world at his feet,
the giant too; we cluster, silent
xxxxxxxxxxat his eye-line, wanting
xxxxxxxxxxhis warning gaze to ourselves,
hope he’ll be the last to fall.
Victoria Kennefick won the Munster Literature Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition and the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet for White Whale (Southword Editions, 2015). A Fulbright Scholar, her work has been published in Poetry (Chicago), Poetry News (Poetry Society), Poetry Ireland Review, New Irish Writing in The Irish Times, Prelude and elsewhere. She is a recent recipient of a Next Generation Artists Bursary Award 2016 from the Irish Arts Council.
Fiona Larkin: Poem
TRACING THE NIGHT
After the clocks have gone back
she wakes naturally, the vessel
of sleep fast emptying.
She pushes back the heavier cover,
lifts the blind, and her usual view’s
a blur of spherical pixels,
arcing up to the top frame,
roofs and plane trees nebulous
despite the morning brightness.
Her exhalations, her mists
of dream, have drifted, to layer
prints of alveoli on the pane.
Condensed, a night of breaths,
each twitch, each depth, each gasp,
is made visible for an hour.
A bead of water melts into another:
she could almost sip
each slipping drop.
Fiona Larkin was born in London to parents from Mayo and Tipperary. Her poems have been published in journals, including Envoi, And Other Poems, South Bank Poetry, Oxford Magazine and Ink Sweat & Tears. She is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway.
David Linklater: Poem
The filth that gathers
must be cleaned, there’s nothing else for it.
The windows, no one cares for them, they have
grown black sides, specks of dirt press into the clouds.
But they are truthful, they breathe, I open and close them.
Worktops have seen the dicing of meats, peppers, onions,
coffee rings where lonely mugs cooled.
Candles have wept themselves to sleep, through the arch
of the living room window light has curled
the petals of my one living plant.
I fished the old tide from the cupboard
and placed it on the wall after they left.
The waves are dented and yellowed.
It has become quiet here, I speak
nonsense accents, wander the hallway naked,
play floorboards like an instrument.
I take my fill of the evening, everything is thinned out.
The carpark is under construction, this build will
settle the conversation, the ground will have spoken.
A portion of the sun will be claimed, each floor taxed the furthest.
So I get them in, these sunsets, turbines working like a
set of cogs keeping it all moving. I’m passing by
up here. The windows must be cleaned, imperative,
each pane massaged until it shines through the fingers.
The filth slowly peeled as the years go down the sink.
It will blaze out there like a migraine.
And when the trucks arrive with concrete and steel
and the men begin, time will be called on that,
roots of sky plucked, plugged with solids.
I’ll close the curtains, move through to the kitchen,
check out the other side.
David Ross Linklater is a poet from the Highlands of Scotland, living in Glasgow. Since moving he has studied Professional and Journalistic writing and is currently studying a Masters in Creative writing. His work has appeared in Glasgow Review of Books, RAUM, The Grind and The High Flight. You can follow him on Twitter: @DavidRossLinkla
Caitriona O’Reilly: Three Poems
Was it the silver behaviour of water,
its bright fluencies, how it hung glittering on the breath;
how it existed in cold, ghostly mathematics;
how its grey pearled the down of a leaf;
how, heavy, it burst like mercury;
how it held like a metal, lensing itself,
proving the light flexible? Perhaps one of them,
as a boy, watched the rain on the window
grow dense with meaning some dull Lutheran Sunday,
the drops pull apart under their own weight
until, mutatis mutandis, it was but a few steps to fire.
Nothing in nature can be destroyed, they said, only changed:
where there were people, a moment before,
suddenly there is the element of carbon. We cannot remember
now, at what age we first heard of it:
their grainy documentaries are silent on the subject.
Somewhere, continually, a hand lifts a charred ladder from a wall,
the bleached shadow that remains is at a strange angle;
as is the shadow of a woman printed on the steps of a building.
Even the most ordinary things became sundials
in the precise calculus of the abyss, which was the mind
of a man who loved John Donne and the poetry of desert places,
and who, in the extreme stillness of a New Mexico dawn,
witnessed his brilliance reflected back to him in sudden starlight,
in the shadow of the Most High
brushing the world with its radioactive wings forever, and who said:
Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.
Not simply the force of air
but a capriciousness originating nowhere
and with no terminus
the ancients imagined as will:
a hoary god fecundating mares
standing with their backsides to him.
A packet of aspirin indicates its contents
are for sciatica, menstrual cramps,
Minutes in this dry, scoured valley are irritants,
a grain of salt under the fingernail.
The distance between silence
and the sudden shriek of the telephone
shrinks to half a hair’s breadth,
to the light-exposed slit in the cat’s eye.
Housewives picture shoals of knives
gleaming quietly in their kitchen drawers.
Thoracic surgeons, aware of the wind’s
blood-thinning properties, stay their scalpels,
listening in to the weather reports.
Five days of wind and the shoreline freezes.
Fish are sucked out of the sea
and freeze-dried where they fall.
Five days of katabatic winds
off the glacial planes of the interior
and we start imagining
storms on Jupiter that last five centuries,
the tottering of our stone-built academies,
what a civilization composed of winds
might really mean.
Resistance, in all senses, being futile,
would we anchor our paper dwellings
with sharpened sticks?
Resigned only to rebuild,
would we plant our meagre gardens
Those from Aleppo were bitterest,
yielding the vividest ink. More permanent
than lampblack or bistre, and at first pale grey,
it darkened, upon exposure,
to the exact shade of rain-pregnant clouds,
since somewhere in the prehistory of ink
is reproduction: a gall-wasp’s nursery,
deliberate worm at the oak apple’s heart.
We knew the recipe by heart for centuries:
we unlettered, tongueless, with hair of ash,
the slattern at the pestle, the bad daughter.
But all who made marks on parchment or paper
dipped their pens in gall, in vitriol; even
the mildest of words like mellow fruitfulness,
of supplication like all I endeavour end
decay equally in time with bare, barren, sterile;
the pages corroding along all their script
like a trail of ash (there is beauty in this)
as the apple of Sodom, the gall, turned
in the hand from gold into ashes and smoke.
Caitriona O’Reilly is originally from Wicklow and now lives in Lincoln. She has worked as a teacher of literature and as an editor and critic. She has published three collections of poetry, The Nowhere Birds (Bloodaxe, 2001); The Sea Cabinet (Bloodaxe, 2006); and most recently Geis (Bloodaxe, 2015) which was a PBS Recommendation, Guardian and Independent book of the year pick, was shortlisted for the Piggott Prize and won the Irish Times Poetry Now Award in 2016.
Helen Pizzey: Poem
Dragged from sleep to a lamp-lit stall,
a small child clings to her mother
She feels hot breath from an animal in pain,
sees a gargoyle head emerge
from filthy hindquarters
before a slimy bundle of hide
and bone thumps
onto straw beneath.
The woman darts
to clear nose
and mouth of mucus;
the heifer turns,
to nuzzle her young.
Licked clean, the calf struggles
to its feet, fixes the girl
in a far-away stare
outside the tender circle.
Helen Pizzey’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the North, Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat & Tears, The French Literary Review and Mslexia. It has also been set for large-scale choral/orchestral works, including for the Opening of the Derry Peace Bridge and a commemoration of RMS Titanic broadcast on Radio 3. Her short fiction, Dad’s Cap, was a runner up in the Bridport Prize 2013. She is Assistant Editor of the regional arts and features magazine, PURBECK!, and lives on the Dorset coast.
Stewart Sanderson: Poem
Perhaps I could believe in something here
where prayers take solid form, becoming rock
and where the sea’s sigh fills the inner ear
with wavelike psalmistry; here where the sough
of wind and water beats against the heart
as poems can; where the Atlantic sky
suggests an all of which this is one part.
An t-Eilean Ì. The island of the I.
Out of such emptiness perhaps I could
construct a doctrine; salvage some event
on which to ground my version of the good –
something as flimsy as a small boat sent
eastwards by an impulsive act of faith.
A word or two. A syllable. A breath.
Stewart Sanderson was born in Glasgow in 1990. In 2015 he
received an Eric Gregory Award. His first pamphlet is Fios (Tapsalteerie,
Ruth Sharman: Five Poems
AFTER THE FIRE
What I want to do now
is dismantle the roof
and let in the sky,
then turn the house
upside down and shake
until it all
falls out –
the twisted Christening silver
and the skeleton
of the standard lamp,
our shared books fused
like the vertebrae
of some prehistoric spine.
I want to hack and scour
until every last flake
from ceilings and walls
and all that’s left
is an airy whiteness
suspended in space,
like the shelters
our seven-year-old strings
amongst the green flames
of hart’s tongue, stuffing in moss
for mortar, balancing
branches and sticks, lightly,
in a game of Spillikins,
across the gaps.
after Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream”
This is his dream, mind.
This hothouse gloom,
the fleshy lotus flowers,
his darling shock-eyed lions
blundering through the bushes.
Would I have chosen
to lounge naked on one hip
purely for his delectation,
with his foliage reaching out
to finger me? To affect
this studio pose, drawing-room
smile, while pretending
to be so pleased with life?
Frozen for eternity
in someone else’s dream.
Adam’s. Henri’s. Even God’s.
Take your pick. (You’ll see
that none of them are here.)
Let the charmer fumble
his notes. I’m all ears. Ready
for a bite of that forbidden fruit,
dozens of whose golden orbs
are dangling overhead.
Just let me out of Eden.
Give me a windy headland,
the vanilla scent of gorse
and adders basking
among the bracken,
some earnest little ship
beating her way southwards
through the waves, just a smudge
on the far horizon.
Maybe it was always there.
Like that house you’ve walked past
on your way to work, oblivious
to its red door all these years.
A swarm of bees first registered
in a moment of stillness, buzzing
between your ears. Or what others
call ringing, whirring, whistling,
even a neighbour banging
in the upstairs flat. Or maybe
it’s just the way silence sounds.
We use the same words – sadness,
tinnitus, red – without knowing
if we mean the same thing,
stranded, each of us, inside our heads,
as we listen to phantom sounds
and signal to one another
across a great gulf of air.
for my father
That was December too when we cleared
our mother’s dressing-table drawers
and found those prayer books, the hoard
of newspaper cuttings about cancer cures
and all her lipsticks with silly, flirty names
like Super Nectar and Love that Pink, now as dry
as the old trunk road before the monsoons came.
No earthly use. And heaven knows why
there were so many the same, so many cashmeres
still wrapped in cellophane, good as new,
reminding us of her unlived years…
And now you’re anxious to know who
will give house room to the paddy birds
whose broken beaks are pointing at the sky,
to the cabinet your grandfather carved
from rosewood, and the photographs that lie
stranded in boxes muddling views
of “Travancore with prickly pear”
and cousins in ruched swimsuits
squinting on the beach at Scarborough.
Since even they have to go for want of space,
along with china, rugs and silverware,
that pouffe with the swallowtail in pride of place –
things we took for granted, knew were there
but barely noticed till now – on this winter’s day
as a last ribbon of brightness stretches like a thinning artery
along the sky, and it all seems light years away.
Our childhood. Your India.
WAITING FOR THE PERSEID METEORS
Not the promised rain of stars
but shifting archipelagos
with dark straits flowing in between,
stripped of cloud and packed
with so many points of light they merge
like luminous grains of sand;
not that sky-full of arrows they’re seeing
in Ramona or on Smetovi Mountain,
but a single burst of brilliance
as ice and dust, swept
through billions of years,
burns up at last in Earth’s atmosphere
and is witnessed from this speck
in space and time – a suburban garden
where a cat is rummaging in the undergrowth
and crickets scrape their wings
together to attract a mate.
Ruth Sharman lives in Bath, where she works as a freelance editor and French translator. Her poems have appeared in various anthologies including Staple First Editions. Her Birth of the Owl Butterflies, her first full-length collection, was published by Picador. The title poem won second prize in the Arvon International Poetry Competition and also appears on one of the International Baccalaureate’s English exam papers. Her second collection, Scarlet Tiger, was the winner of Templar Poetry’s Straid Collection Award for 2016.
Natalie Shaw: Poem
PERSEPHONE AT THE MANGLE
P stirs the tub as her uncle watches
the sheets a pale soup, her hands white
and fast around the pole she holds.
He watches her every week on washday
one morning he comes and puts his hand
over hers and stops her stirring, the sheet
stops its trace in the water after,
while his beard prickles her face, he whispers
you and me girl, we’re going places.
At night she lies still as baled wood
makes sure her breath moves nothing. He says
please eat baby it tastes so good
He’s thinking of her little pink tongue
Just a taste raspberries and salty
cheese plump as a pillow ready
now closes his eyes and sees
the red point of her tongue, it makes
him shake as he lies beside her. Under
the trees she feeds the sheet through
the press – today the water pours,
it splashes her feet. The smashed fruit
lies open red and bright like jewels
like poison for Juliet she thinks
she kneels and picks out one – two –
more – and bites to each tiny
heart and waits and waits but all
that falls is water from the sheet.
Natalie Shaw is a user researcher living and working in London. She has children of varying ages. She began writing poetry in 2013, and has since been widely published in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Butcher’s Dog, Angle and And Other Poems. She can be found here from time to time.
Ruth Steadman: Poem
for Degas’ ‘Little Dancer’
Fourteen boarding girls, released,
feral in our home clothes –
lumberjack shirts, DMs and love beads,
blonde hair flicked, just so.
Flaunting echoing braying noises
we stalk the Tate royally all day,
smoke Silk Cuts in the toilets,
hang sweet lips out for Greebo boys.
Then we find you: in our tight ring
the black-bronze tang of your first
blood exciting our wild tongues.
Look at you in that ballet skirt – pert
belly, pancake chest, face up, eyes closed,
tasting sunlight. What is it you know?
Ruth Steadman lives in south London, where she works a psychotherapist in both the NHS and private practice. Her poetry has been published on the Royal Academy’s blog and in All that is unsaid, a pamphlet of student work available from The Poetry School. She is currently writing her first novel.
Julia Webb: Three Poems
Brother zoom-zooms in on the back of the moon with his buzz-cut hair and eyeball bulge and the pound-pound bass and the knock-knock door and friends troop up-down up-down and the fridge door open-shut open-shut and beer cans on window ledge balance and bare legs swing-swing on the flat lounge roof and he say hiss-hiss go away sis this is big man stuff and smoke leak-leaks from his nose and laughing swell-swells and spills out of his room along the landing and oh the boom-boom how it shakes the house and the bang-bang neighbour at the door and Mum’s car in the drive and suddenly suddenly hush-hush quiet.
Not glow worms’ small miraculous lamps
or blue flowers of phosphorescence,
but bare-faced halogen,
flashing LED eyeballs,
not lightning crackle across rain-dark sky,
not water’s wavering reflection,
but long life fadelight,
paper globes and weeping crystal,
not rays of sun that astonish the morning,
not star glitter or moon’s conjuring boat,
but the burn of fake firelight:
uplighters, downlighters, cables, fairies,
this is domestic light,
sickly, yellow and unforgiving,
I TRY ON SOME DIFFERENT FATHERS
What if he’d staggered home late
with his stickered flight case,
the bump and grind of the club seeping
from his pores, his voice gruff,
his shirt sticky and perfumed?
What if he’d had an astronaut’s bounce,
if he’d come home from weeks away
a little thinner, a little taller,
got far away look in the glow of the open fridge,
as if there was no beauty left in butter and pickle?
What if you found him asleep in a shop doorway,
newspapers, rags and carrier bags
bunched round his feet like slippers,
an empty lighter fuel bottle by his head?
What if he asked: spare a little change sonny?