Claire Booker • Melanie Branton • R. Bremner • Sue Burge • Joe Carrick-Varty • Kitty Coles • Peter Daniels • John Duffy • Carrie Etter • Philip Gross • Gili Haimovich • Anne Irwin • Sean Kelly • John Levett • Denise McSheehy • Daniel Marshall • A.F. Moritz • Penny Perry • Michael Ponsford • Sophie Reisbord • Bethany Rivers • Maurice Rutherford • Fiona Sinclair • Jean Stevens • Robin Thomas • Simon Williams • Adam Wyeth
Claire Booker: Three Poems
AMMA- I GOES ON HAJ
The direction in which we all pray in the end –Zeina Hashem Beck
We only know that she is far
on her night journey, tiptoeing up each star
in her white sari, ever closer to the Scorpion’s sting.
Soon she will forget the way
she worked cotton into peacocks and palm trees,
slipped us secret generosities in envelopes.
Those feet that felt nothing for forty years,
will step onto the crescent moon
and dance to the great heartbeat of the Brahmaputra.
On its broad lap, boats are sailing away
with her treasures – six children, the man who was her hearth,
the flame and spark of it,
and prayer –
five wellsprings of the struggling day in which to dip
an ailing body.
Soon she will bathe in the light
of ninety nine moons, those worn wrists with their gold bangles
grown lithe again.
She who knew only four walls, will dive in the ten directions.
She who knew the names of fifth cousins,
will know only one name –
the Ka’bah finally within fingers’ reach.
They make a strange pair –
he, fine boned, dicky-bow, washed-out smile;
she, shellac hard, in-your-face fact,
squeezing him out with her extravagant needs.
She pays the bills, after all.
Each day he must pluck and cajole for hours
(six on concert nights).
He accepts the callouses of tough-love,
strives to recapture that first stir of her ebony neck
with its delicate scroll like a Benin bust,
when his fingertips fizzed
along unexplored borders of her lips,
trekked the polished dunes of her spine.
Some nights, when the moon is right,
the mellow of her breath
is an incantation.
He unwraps her tenderly. She peels him to the bone,
takes him soaring on wild harmonic thermals –
her gut in thrall to his bow’s impetuous
You’re wedged on the aisle side
all breath’d up from the rush for a seat,
blocked by a blether of faces.
In a moment, you’ll see me.
A woman (straight-nosed, gold tooth)
holds her baby to the window.
I float through this Pietà attempting to catch
The baby pat-a-cakes my reflection,
mouths something profound
through rain flecked glass.
As the bus throttles up,
your face begins its fragile journey of turning
Claire Booker’s debut poetry pamphlet Later there will be Postcards is published by Green Bottle Press ( http://www.greenbottlepress.com/our-books ). Her poems have appeared in Ambit, Magma, The Morning Star, The Rialto and The Spectator among others. More at http://www.bookerplays.co.uk
R. Bremner: Two Poems
Yonkers killed the enemy on a microminiature psychedelic journey riding the mystic tide. Oz days lived through dark magic with the grape of the purple sage bringing death and destruction to the gypsy cowboy and his Gila monster. Communication with liberty in the street brought forth an entranced earth beyond the camera obscura. In a new day, Julius Caesar carried a distressing margin of light to his dream of sounds of the dawn. A roundabout sang songs that had been sung by dead oceans like it used to be. Tin luck wanted Lazarus to go eastward and do for the others, but he would say no more until Tartars made the sun shine. A limited edition of black and white released the music of life as a trilogy that scratched the chisel. The Church of Level Power took a scissor tail from the prison in the clearing again.
(Avant Ghetto is a program on WFMU radio.)
Night control calls it lighter in the circles of a minimal instant. Disco dancers and eagles in the night are how it really begins in a lavender axe of telepathic flus. The heavy air is never gonna fall more than enough on another baby’s face. The yummy fur of babies in the cockpit is a night club dish for a jungle explosion. I’m a concert of Eurasian Honki Ponki for a bloody fine day and brilliant evening in cherry red rarities. A similar angel plays sharp to me. Some of my best friends are sheepish sky girls with efficient space. High-speed heartbeats lead to a femme sphinx in the Abysinnian rocks. The cannibals have gone underground in fear of the stutter of danger elastics. The mid-thirties singles scene has delivered fire to the toxic utopia of twisted conveners. That dude looks like a lady in the sandy skies of a deep niche of Calvin Coolidge bells. In the forests of industry, bombers dance with the class of ’81 who so liked spring in the festival of propeller memory. The ultimate painter split 7”with woods in the terror carousel of fiesta muda, the dawn of independent women on the astral plane.
(Thanks to Faye and WFMU.)
R. Bremner has been published in International Poetry Review, Paterson Literary Review, Poets Online, Quarterday, Zombie Logic Review, the Red Wheelbarrow, and many others. From various styles, including formal, Beat, and Surrealism, he has ascended into Absurdism, the only poetry that makes sense to him in an absurd world.
Melanie Branton: Poem
They built the church where my sister got married
twenty-five years ago on a hillside,
so its spire could give me the finger
everywhere I go in this town,
pointing to everything I’ve failed to do and am not,
a sky-sized sheet of inadequacies,
and I can’t block it out.
It’s always there, fucking up my horizon.
And I’m locked out of those ecru terraces,
houses knitted together in a regular pattern,
tight ribbing, cable stitch,
their gardens with trampolines and tricycles,
barbecue sets, extra-large bins for the nappies,
brick patios, Flymos, overcomplicated flower beds,
places I wouldn’t want to live,
their upkeep beyond me,
but still I feel snubbed by their hedges,
by the smug, show-off security
that plunges me in the limelight
when I walk past at night.
I’ve seen my reflection in the window of their people-carrier
and it’s not nice.
Melanie Branton lives in North Somerset and has worked as a teacher, an assistant theatre director and a full-time carer. She has had poems in a variety of journals, including The Interpreter’s House, Prole and Obsessed With Pipework and her debut collection is to be published by Oversteps in 2017.
Sue Burge: Three Poems
See how she fits in the palm of your hand
shiny, saffron, crimson, her painted smile;
break her apart into seven versions of self,
see how her features falter as she shrinks,
her smile a brushflick, an afterthought,
the kind of girl you could easily lose
down the side of a sofa.
See how well her layers are concealed,
she looks complete, how could you guess
what’s inside, where the joins are?
See how hard she has tried to resist
the attempts to align repeating patterns;
how she has always insisted on being off kilter
by a millimetre, a fraction, a lifetime.
The plughole is slick with soap-slimed hair,
the plumbing thick with slippery growth
as she shampoos and pulls, pulls and chews
her choked brain shouting stop, stop, stop.
She has not eaten normal food
for all the days of this shortest month.
Her X-rays are a silvery storybook,
a beautiful child evoked in the silky hair
tendrilling through her intestines,
dna-ed to the day she discovered
danger and allure
are not even flipsides of the same leaf.
Now her hair is a tangle
of dark tumbleweed, deep in her gut.
They lock her away, shave her head.
She plucks herself bloody,
savouring each golden splinter
on her tongue.
In the moonlight
his shadow is a thin
staining the city streets.
His dark lips whisper
from the batwing folds
of his silk-lined cloak.
CCTV tracks his grainy progress,
he senses its flickering caress,
looks up with his Bela Lugosi eyes,
displays his trophies –
a palmful of nail-parings,
a pull of hair,
a scream cut wide.
Sue Burge is a freelance tutor of creative writing and film studies. She is currently the recipient of an Arts Council grant and is using this to write a body of poetry which celebrates the cinematic and literary legacy of Paris. Her poems have appeared in many journals, magazines and on-line publications such as The North, Brittle Star, Mslexia, The Lampeter Review, Stride, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Cake and Orbis.
Joe Carrick-Varty: Poem
back home Hinksey will flood soon,
and the villagers will follow
mice and rabbits west
to higher ground,
beyond the Ring Road.
We walked there the day the water left;
dragonflies under the bridge
skimming the surface,
and just in view,
up the hill,
a farmer had been:
lines in crops
making space for
the smell of rain
and the Velcro rip
of your pink North Face jacket;
where a pike surfaced
and then plunged
before we could look.
Joe Carrick-Varty is a poet based in Manchester, who studied English literature with creative writing.
Kitty Coles: Two Poems
These days, mist crawls over the soggy grass
and coils like smoke around the lower air.
Mornings, the sky is ashen, dimly lit,
as if a candle flickered under ice.
The sunsets rage, bloody and mutinous.
The dark comes slowly down, the cold with it.
I walk the heathland paths, stirring the leaves,
which shift and mutter, paperish and peevish.
The fungi shelve the tree trunks, breathe out spores.
The air smells thick, weighted with rot and rain.
Between the twigs, things move, wary, unsure
if they want to be seen or escape notice.
I turn to them and they dissolve, creep back
and slip below the surface of the lake.
The ripples agitate the geese, who rise,
and clap and honk until they’re left alone.
The streets, as I walk home, are populated
by moving things that slide behind the lamp posts.
One keeps itself under the neighbour’s hedge.
I think it wants me to invite it in.
for the stitches to dissolve,
for blood to stop leaking from round the stitches,
for flesh the colour of a crushed plum
to mesh and mend itself,
be pink again,
for flesh that is swollen and hot
to cool and soften,
for pain to lessen its waves
which mount and move
around the body and wash away the self,
to sleep without waking from dreams of drowning,
to sleep without waking
from pain, from pain, from pain,
to walk without wincing,
stumbling like a faun,
to get out of bed,
to get outside the house,
to wash, to dress, to eat like other people,
to speak above a whisper,
to breathe deep,
to think of anything beyond the pain,
for tears to stop coming incessantly,
coming and falling,
in silence, incessantly,
awake and asleep,
to be alive again,
with the curtain open,
watch yellow leaves move
across the blue air,
and light fall softly, softly,
Kitty Coles lives in Surrey and works as a senior adviser for a charity supporting disabled people. She has been writing since she was a child and her poems have appeared in magazines including Mslexia, Iota, Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed With Pipework, Envoi and Ink Sweat and Tears. www.kittyrcoles.com
Peter Daniels: Two Poems
DOWN AND UP
Under the clouds you could say the trees look unhappy:
I let myself yearn with them, I long for a squall.
The storm is heavy but I’m not sad, something is
holding the weight within me, not tipping the scale.
I’ve come to notice when I’m down and up, wallowing
and achieving wonders, ridden by my own cycle.
The weight of the world on my shoulders feels more
satisfying, bigger and heavier than my skull.
Blessed by the weather or a simple coincidence,
odd but true, it gets me there: a modicum of skill.
The sun peeps through the cloud and we all
peep back at it like coy children praised at school.
On the upper side of the cloud cover, God sits deciding
what’s on the cards, sharpening the moon like a sickle.
They’re sturdy, plain, and put there for a purpose,
the metal fences I knew in childhood places:
rows of hurdles, with their ladder-like structure
easy for clambering and perching by all ages.
The gate at the entrance made of grander ironwork
might lean casually, against a knob-topped post.
The drive might be gravelly and respectable,
the grass might be not over-mown, and tussocky.
There are some things they keep in, and others out:
but only the ones above a particular size.
Therefore they are liberal to many creatures:
we’re not talking here about the rabbit-proof type.
There’s no pretence at protection from the weather,
and the weather gives them a dull coat of rust,
yet the iron stays sturdy, even while gradually
warping from temperature change, or bent by a tractor.
They break the view ahead, stop us here and hold us,
while I consider all the iron in the world,
and recognise part of the chemistry that made me.
We leap, step up or climb over them gracefully.
Peter Daniels has won poetry competitions including the Arvon, Ledbury and TLS,
and published pamphlets with Smith/Doorstop and HappenStance. His first
collection was Counting Eggs (Mulfran Press, 2012), and his second, A Season in
Eden, appeared from Gatehouse Press in 2016. His translations of Vladislav
Khodasevich from Russian (Angel Classics, 2013) were shortlisted for three major
John Duffy: Four Poems
In steady rain, two dozen swallows sieve the air:
from roof height upwards they create a web,
a cradle, a basket, a machine that’s fed
on unseen insects.
xxxxxxIn flight they trace dimensions.
The body of them swings away and back again,
the way a weight on a rope slung from a crane’s furthest
tip follows the logic
xxxxxxof gravity and traction.
Each bird threads its path, and the flock expands and shrinks
in a hunter’s gestalt, fattening together
before the rub of the Earth’s tilt spins them over
the Equator into the Cape.
xxxxxxThe only noise
is the static and crackle of rainfall on earth,
on grass, on leaves, on sloping asphalt.
The swallows in silence work in evening light: like hands,
xxxxxxlike your hands, the rain
xxxxxxxxxstrokes my face.
An event’s a cloud
overhead, a shapeless thing
sliding beyond your hopes,
disappearing into blue
as you watch
its leading edge, or
intimate as the breeze
from a wasp¹s wing
cool on the skin
on the back of your hand
before the slight tickle
of feet as it lands.
A baby gulps
for sobs, frets
from itch, stinks,
squirms from rage
of thirst; the mother,
tired and tethered,
looks to the other woman,
tired and sweating
from her strapload
of explosives. It balances
the baby draws breath.
it will come
in with light
cloud that slides
to the edge;
in quick arcs,
shape stone. Space
spill from wings
that lift it
from this place
to its own
or high moor.
It has gone.
dark, stands still.
ODE TO SCISSORS
4,000 years ago,
who was the genius,
who saw what you could become,
made you the shape you are,
used you to make new shapes?
It is like holding hands:
our thumbs fit snug
into one looped handle,
are led to the other,
hooped to feel
the balance between
your unsymmetrical halves.
You pivot your blades
that overlap, that insatiably
gobble a kerf through cardboard.
the strength of steel,
the sharpness of scimitars,
the perfection of crocodile jaws.
Snip! Snap! Snip!
You excise gristle,
cut the fat
away from offal.
You trim leeks,
whose rank smell
rises round me;
you barber parsley,
each shorn green fistful,
and the fronds fall
like leaves into lakes.
How happy you are
in my wife’s hands –
for her you barracuda
through cloth –
from your cutting edge.
under Christmas lights,
and birthday candles,
bright paper, brown paper
Your trim silver
blades trim our nails,
You go to work in salons –
locks of lopped hair
flop to the floor.
The children manufacture mice,
dinosaurs, dragons, rockets,
robots, flowers, dogs,
confetti. You demand
concentration, the table
is quiet as a teacher
could wish a classroom.
No-one ever runs with you,
your blades safe
in their warm grip.
You stand on your snout
in a jar on the sill
and squint down at us:
you survey the room,
dear dowager utensil,
are a lorgnette.
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. His latest collection, The Edge of Seeing, is published by The High Window and is available here.
Carrie Etter: Two Poems
THE FORMER CHAMPION
You think this the city you lost,
as now, descrying it at a distance, you discern
nothing but the outlines of difference.
Would I have you know of the pub renamed
for your favourite poet, the boulevard
whose trees flicker to the music
of the composers you revere?
Women’s eyes linger on
the passing man bearing a resemblance.
I do. I want to report what you cannot see—
and would, were I not the mayor,
hearkening always to tomorrow.
The pub’s best nook belongs to me.
These two towns joined
by a low bridge, flooded
for weeks before
a reprieve, a holiday
of reunions on
older urges younger
though the sun reigns
alone and large.
The first knee twinge,
the first sense
of air becoming cloth
and doors swing, arms
clasp, and lips press
and press and
ache and tingle
back to the hearth,
one finger idly
tracing the mouth
that will not curse
God and rain,
not, not yet.
Carrie Etter is an American who has lived in England since 2001 and taught at Bath Spa University since 2004. She has published three collections: The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Prize, Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. She also edited Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010) and Linda Lamus’s posthumous collection, A Crater the Size of Calcutta (Mulfran, 2015).
Philip Gross: Four Poems
Not with a bang, but with a dull
cthunk of the autochanger. Then the hiss
xxxxxx(hiss with a waver in it)
soon… This would be not long after time began,
time as a number, as the still pool of everything
xxxxxxso far snapped over the weir
xxxxxxxxxxxxinto a new decade.
I heard it rushing in the hiss; the clunky
Dansette arm bucked slightly, the stylus (and this
xxxxxxwas the wonder I had to believe)
xxxxxxxxxxxxalive, they said, in two
dimensions so that we could hear in three.
Stylus: a shred of tin with a fang on it, a tiny
xxxxxxdiamond. Then I closed my eyes
through impossible space. Into stereo.
The first time. In some nowhere in between
xxxxxxthe wardrobe and my shrug-hung
xxxxxxxxxxxxblue plaid dressing gown,
my school bag next to it, by my Look And Learn
pull-out Solar System (seen from the sidelines,
xxxxxxkeeping Pluto company)
xxxxxxxxxxxxthe ungraspable thing,
music, was teetering up – years on, maybe a lark
ascending; then, Hank Marvin’s one-string solo
xxxxxxdeft work with the tremolo arm
up out of sight and hearing, somewhere
where I spread out with it into nothing, or
xxxxxxwas it that the distance
deeper than I could hold… but inside me?
the slack-jointed run
xxxxxxof the young skateboarder off
the precinct ramp, with a kick
to mount the kerb, along/atop
xxxxxxa low wall, barely slowing –
eyes down, not so much on his feet
as in his body, more haste in the flapping
xxxxxxof his loose tee, or his bum-hung britches
than the slow long stoop and push
of each pulse of his glide
xxxxxxto an inch from the drop
where the wall ends; with barely a twitch
he’s tripped up the board-tip
xxxxxxso it spins free, him
in mid stride now without it, to land
as it offers itself to his hand
xxxxxxjust snug to deal on
to the pavement where his next
step delivers them
xxxxxxtogether, a descending
grace-note, to the theme…
First, the cries
xxxxxx (like birds, but Scouse and Geordie)
xxxxxxxxxxxxand the clatter, then their four,
five, six tangerine tabards
xxxxxxand hard hats, their banter,
xxxxxxxxxxxxtheir casual truckling with gravity
as it dissolves around them,
xxxxxxthe four-storey tower
xxxxxxxxxxxxthey perch in and unpick,
steel tie by fist-sized tie plucked
xxxxxxlike fruit with a flick; a pole’s
xxxxxxxxxxxxfree: to you! and it flows,
tipped-slipped from hand
xxxxxxto hand, one long trickling
xxxxxxxxxxxxcadence like call-and-response
down to the last heave, the thump
xxxxxxin the truck. It’s Saturday,
xxxxxxxxxxxxand overtime, but steady
does it; hurry or delay
xxxxxxcould have your hand off and
xxxxxxxxxxxxthere’s time in this for joshing
as he flips down pole, joke,
xxxxxxthen himself; he pours after it,
xxxxxxxxxxxxfrom each by each storey
that’s no longer there –
xxxxxxall this in minutes, as if time
xxxxxxxxxxxxas well as space were being
deconstructed – our lives, in defter
xxxxxxhands than ours – to the last
xxxxxxxxxxxxclash on the neat stack,
grace, the van already revving,
xxxxxxthen a buck and double shrug
xxxxxxxxxxxxof rattle at the speed bump,
wheel by wheel, and that’s
xxxxxxthe sum of it, OK? The sum
xxxxxxxxxxxxof us. It is. OK.
these curling sound-flakes
xxxxxxgulls slice off the air
like a chef nuancing an onion, so
wincingly thin they’re near
transparent, so deft
xxxxxxit’s a blur…
Just the sound of it, just remembering,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxmy eyes sting.
Inland, at the landfill, they chuck,
xxx squabble, gossip – not this,
xxxxxxnot the sea-
xxx cry, untranslatable
in any human language, equally.
Mob-handed, they’re rigging the air
with cries like hawsers, like high-tensile steel
xx — the great construction project
xxxxx of the moment. Which comes
xxxxxxxx crashing all around us
It’s all echo – the sound of the sound
barrier broken, you might think
forever, not a boom
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx but this brilliant
shatter, a ram-raid on silence, flying
splinters of glass each with the sky
still in them, like the chandelier’s
most thrilling nightmare, or an ice
cave in an earthquake, and it’s only
3.27, teatime, Thursday afternoon.
have already left them:
distance, come too close for comfort
at the window. We are mewed in.
What they say
does not bear thinking.
Give it houseroom, give it too much mind,
it will take you away.
Philip Gross is Professor of Creative Writing at Glamorgan University. He has received many awards for his poetry but also writes fiction for young adults. His latest collection, A Bright Acoustic, has just been published by Bloodaxe. Born in Cornwall, he lived in Bristol and Bath for many years, and now lives in Penarth in South Wales.
Gili Haimovich: Two Poems
It’s summer now and I want to tell you about the gecko.
About how she comes at night to the chill wall of my room,
quiet as night climbing up
to the painting of the rabbit above the printer,
the wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard lie down with the goat,
and our house gecko with a bunny,
with me, my husband and children.
It’s summer now, I stay awake for longer.
I see the sky darken,
I see the absolute blackness
of the gecko’s eyes
on the edge of her body:
like a colon before a sentence.
How lucky we are
to be colonized into English,
to have found each other there.
Is it a message disguised as a poem
or a poem fused into message?
I have to rely on drunkenness.
You are out there somewhere
in the ocean of cyberspace
I imagine you are drowning there
I image the ocean has drunk you
I sms this s.o.s.
It won’t save you.
Gili Haimovich is an Israeli-Canadian poet and translator whose work has appeared widely is journals such as in Poetry International, International Poetry Review, Asymptote, Drain Magazine, Literary Review of Canada. Her chapbook of poems originally written in English, Living on a Blank Page was published by Blue Angel Press in 2008. She has been translated to several languges and is the author of six books in Hebrew. Gili teaches creative writing and facilitates writing-focused therapy for groups and individuals.
Anne Irwin: Three Poems
Snow falls on the budding rowan,
the velvet primulas,
the awakening garden,
small flakes like salt
Their laughter – shadows in the corners,
the echo of a football in the hall,
the band in the shed, their boyish banter.
Photos speak their life,
their piercing absence.
The crow gathers twigs,
plucks hair from sleeping cattle,
daffodils dance pale yellow
in bitter wind. Snow
sprinkles the vacuum.
Sculpted by nuns
she sits prim on a wall
outside the boarding school
hands folded, knees together
her “Child of Mary” medal
on a blue ribbon
a smile, that knows
the seven virtues
the deadly sins
Two years later, London 1969.
before the Rolling Stone concert
in Hyde Park,
a little Greek god takes seed
in the tabernacle of her womb.
As she listens to King Crimson’s
“Schizoid Man” and The Stones
with the African drummers
playing “Sympathy for the Devil”,
She is reborn.
In Kensington market,
amid lavender and incense
afghan coats, kaftans,
tie dyed shirts, ethnic rugs,
lace petticoats, mandolins
Che Guevara posters and violins,
she finds a white angora hooded dress
and marries the boy who shares her baby.
A boy not overburdened with piety
who shows her the stars,
on Saturday mornings plays guitar
and sings to her in the bedsit
in Stephens Crescent.
She loves the sacredness
of their anonymity
That year as her belly swells,
she feels the walls of her prison fade.
and vows her baby freedom.
Now she wonders about
those corridors, walking
in single file and silence
above the convent chapel,
the wars waged by mind on body
by saint on woman,
how the nuns shaped those battles,
their battle too.
She also remembers
the treks in the rhododendron woods
and the secrets whispered among the girls
and wonders how her son coped
with the burden of his enforced freedom.
THIS TIME HE PASSES BY
On the north road to Spiddal
where sky pours cream
on the breast of the hills
above red winter bog
a black hearse skims past me,
casts a sideways glance.
I hadn’t seen it coming.
its cold eyed resolve,
its callous stare,
cling like ice.
Numb, I wait
‘til grey hawk rises
from the sedge into the crisp sky
and cuts the frozen threads
with the shrillness of his screech
Anne Irwin lives in Galway, Ireland. In her youth she studied English Literature and Philosophy at University College, Galway Ireland. She is a Homeopath and teacher. She has three sons and six grandchildren. Her poems appears in many magazines including Skylight47, ROPEs Literary Magazine, Irish Left Review, Galway Literary Review, Emerge Literary Review and “The Sea” R.N.L.I. Magazine.
Sean Kelly Four Poems
ORCHIDS ON A WINDOWSILL
Our days are piled like old tires.
You are at your sister’s, or somewhere.
Empty bottles clutter the table.
You slammed the front door last night.
I just let you go.
But I was right, this time; I was right.
Hungover this morning.
A fly crawls up the window.
My white shirt hangs cold on the line.
I check my phone again.
Your painting, Orchids on a Windowsill,
hangs above the fireplace.
You told me once (probably made up)
that Georgia O’Keefe
kept her husband’s ashes in her pillow.
My phone beeps. Your tweet:
Oh God. Wine headache.
Busker under my window
playing Love Will Tear Us Apart
over and over. Send Help.
When we fight we make the walls shake
but you held my hand tight today
while surgeons told us how you would be cut.
Still, we found time to argue
about who was to blame for your forgotten ipod.
Tonight, of all nights, I drank until closing time.
An empty pizza box sits on the table.
I have not watered your plants.
If you were here you would tell me why my neck aches.
Your silk scarf hangs on the chair.
Strangers’ bones loosen in the cemetery
behind our house and I don’t care.
I will never know anything important
about death and not death.
Upstairs, our bed is still unmade.
My girl, be easy.
Soon they will pull your curtain back,
paw at your drip,
administer the ghostly needle.
You lie on your side. A wider than usual
strip of mattress divides us.
We know by now
how these dead hours pass.
For thirty years Abelard the Dominican
copied books by day
and sighed his prayers at night.
Every moment in between
he pictured Eloise
growing old behind convent walls,
and ached like a schoolboy
for the parts of her he never touched.
One nearly-senile midnight he shambled out
in a blizzard to die a mile nearer her bed
and learned, at last, that love
falls like snow on the dead.
That gallery afternoon we tramped
past endless red-faced Generals in Napoleon hats,
dozens of crucifixions under the same ominous sky
and found our way to the long high rooms
filled with Degas’ sketches of dancers, dancers, dancers.
I raise a glass of icy gin
from the picnic table and swallow hard.
My two-year-old son pokes his sandpit with a stick,
then rises to crush a spider in his fist.
Behind the padlocked shed door
the lawnmower sits in darkness
like a beaten animal.
I brush a fly from my glass.
Red and gold, the flowers of summer burn.
By the ivied wall fallen plums are spread.
Swollen and seeping.
You are drifting into sleep
as I lay you down
with a stuffed dog held to your chest.
Outside, the hanging baskets breathe.
Night drops softly
over the abandoned madhouse
and its long, dripping corridors.
Still half-drunk, I kiss your cheek
and pull the blanket to your chin.
A plastic dinosaur grins
on the shelf above your head.
I turn off the lamp and leave you.
Sean Kelly has been writing for several years and has most recently been published in the autumn 2015 edition of The Moth. He has previously been short-listed for Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript competition. He has read his work widely including at the new Writers’ Salon at Listowel Writer’s week. He is CEO at the Everyman Theatre, Cork.
John Levett: Poem
Her barker, who gathers the drinkers in,
xxxxxxxxIs short yet somehow
xxxxxxxxExudes a power
With his cave of a chest, his thick-lipped grin,
xxxxShouting the odds outside a pub
As we, the latecomers, drift by to see
xxxxA girl slipped from an anorak
xxxxWeighed down with chains inside a sack
Then tied with rope, run through with swords,
xxxxTo turn and wriggle like a grub
xxxxBlindly thrashing to set us free
From the spell of his fake atrocity.
She struggles while he takes the bucket round,
xxxxxxxxThen grunts to make
xxxxxxxxHer big escape
And, shimmied out of hessian, astound.
xxxxHer knee is grazed, her wrist contused
And jute dust irritates her swollen eyes
xxxxAs, bowed to blow a thank you kiss
xxxxFrom sacking’s cast-off chrysallis,
She waves at us and makes her damaged way
xxxxPast city drinkers, carrying her shoes
xxxxIn search of make-up to disguise
The cuts and bruises love will cauterize.
We turn away, look down into our drink,
xxxxxxxxNot sure or keen
xxxxxxxxOn what we’ve seen,
Feel conned by something we assumed extinct,
xxxxIts stained tarpaulin, rope and chains,
The leather bags in which he packs such things;
xxxxAnd even her escape won’t free
xxxxUs from our own complicity
Or him, amongst his torture chamber props,
xxxxFrom money and its grubby fling
xxxxAs, divied up before it rains,
He counts out what we’ve paid her for her pains.
I’d seen this as a child, this cameo,
xxxxxxxxA frantic man
xxxxxxxxWith swords and chain
Explaining what the sack would undergo
xxxxOn the cobblestones of Tower Hill
With a strangled voice, thick-tongued, depraved,
xxxxAs blades, unsheathed, were flashed and kissed
xxxxThen swung in a red-knuckled fist
To pierce a trussed-up body’s muffled cries;
xxxxAnd blood, that wasn’t meant to spill,
xxxxMade sure this evening as she waved
Not one of us would walk away unscathed.
John Levett has published five previous collections with Peterloo and Shoestring Press. He was the joint-winner of the National Poetry Competition in 1991 and his third collection was shortlisted for what was then the Whitbread Poetry Award in 1994.
Denise McSheehy: Four Poems
WHAT TOOK MY FANCY
after ‘The Umbrellas’ 1881-6 by Auguste Renoir
The faces or the coming of the rain?
It was spring – I thought the faces were like flowers
and it was all bustle, the umbrellas unfolding.
A young woman in black, her creamy skin.
I wanted her in the foreground –
the women were wholesome that early morning.
But so were the men, red lipped, gloved and hatted.
Of course I came back many times
it’s a mixture of mornings.
I made a sketch, remembered the blue and the shine
the fleeting fall of water
so you see, sense almost –
the little shower, the rain just beginning
umbrellas going up like gawky flowers
black but with the bloom of blue.
Perhaps I thought the sky was reflected.
Ah, the elusive sun –
it’s in the straw basket, the child’s golden hoop.
I liked to see the young women, the children
their sweetness in the rain. And the men too.
That’s what I wanted to capture –
the rain shower, its smell
and everyone opening umbrellas.
HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
You wake up and it’s can’t do.
Each day you remember less
forget more. Words, people, places
no slots for them, only an echo.
Yesterday you sat on a hard
bench with Daddy.
Today it’s a struggle
to get into a chair.
Your son’s coming to visit.
Then he doesn’t.
Awkward difficult boy
There’s a knock at the door.
A man says your son is dead.
Who do you tell, tell, tell?
The woman, his mother –
a kiss on her cold held
forehead, huge and stern.
Clothes, misshapen shoes –
Alone. How did that happen?
Glory days, young men with open
necked shirts laughing –
the red leather ball
smooth in the palm of your hand.
And what did you want, did you want?
A limber body, light feet
to be neat and nimble and sure –
You sit like a toad in your chair.
First the flank of land in the level distance
the sky all truffled. The green line of trees.
Then during the day a fluctuation like tides
of temperature and wind
a chilly bluster tugging at tent flaps
the rain becoming steady and it being stiller.
Sound fall on canvas, measured.
The secrecy of shelters.
Wind again, sudden, as if it would clear the rain –
cirrus clouds trailing sun
the pitted ground swallowing up wet
like an open mouth, present and greedy.
Out here you mark these small gradations.
Silently. And in time.
LET IT COME
For it’s a lovely unfolding
the unfolding of flesh in the evening
A needful thing –
this laying down of the body
which is like a prayer in the closing of eyes
the slip slide
yield of the body to rest
Resting; sleep safe, that you will sleep safe
wake well in the morning
On hard ground, a doorway, bench or bed
seek the drift
the sweet silt of it
in the sleeper’s slow sigh
the prayer that we make without speaking
unwinding unknotting unknitting –
Denise McSheehy’s prize winning collection Salt is published by the Poetry Can. She received an Arts Council bursary for the development of work in progress & her poems have appeared in many magazines and been successful in major poetry competitions. Two recent anthologies, Her Wings of Glass and The Book of Love & Loss, included her work. She has received an Author’s Foundation Grant towards her second collection due out in 2017 with Oversteps Books.
Daniel Marshall: Three Poems
he got so drunk one night,
he misplaced the satchel
he keeps all his essentials inside
: bank card, I.D. car keys, hand phone;
now he was destitute; now, nobody
now was time for panic: how would he send
money home if the call came.
he stumbled through the dark side roads
where the houses huddle under the cold
head full of gloom’s trajectory, belly full of makgeoli & squid
despite the stars like pheasant tracks
& the wind in a favorable position to ferry him
– i found him in the morning, unexpectedly,
foetal under unwashed blankets
like a child playing hide & seek,
in our laundry room, blear eyed
& uncertain about the day.
that night my wife sorted his mess out,
scolded him, he scratched his head down
-he had no excuse, just alcohol.
THE WARTS N’ ALL HAGIOGRAPHY OF MASTER-NIM
aloof as orioles in bamboo thickets unless
you match him drink for drink or make him laugh;
he always says he’s just a simple working man
but to visualize an unmade building,
to bend a roof into a smile
are far from the traits of a simpleton.
he can fix anything except himself
: since his wife left with his 3 kids, got married again
-but still she punishes him, gets the kids to call him up
& plead for money she knows he doesn’t have,
which she pockets greedily, she doesn’t need it;
her guerilla revenge, pecuniary blackmail
for his years of neglect, for the doctor’s bills
that mounted to pay for the treatment
of his intestinal cancer, the surgery;
the expensive mistletoe tea he was too weak to forage himself
-for the money he spent on Hanok School,
all that time he stayed cooped up with monks
fastidiously studying their Hanok temple,
fixing their roof tiles, squeaky doors & rotted floors.
she says he should have been putting food on the table
instead of traipsing round the edges of forests,
eyes out for fallen pines that might make nifty Hanok pillars
-for all the quiet he put her through
he may not deserve our pity,
who am i to judge?
he certainly took for granted what he had
never believed for a second everything
could change so drastically
that he’d become a scruffy, alcoholic bachelor
-& now he is become the telltale lesson;
if i know him at all i think he’d agree
beyond all the wood in his head
HALF GRANDMA HALF MERMAID
in Jeju there are mermaids.
you often spot them tied to red buoys
fitted with nets they use as baskets for collecting mollusks
they duck tail beneath the inky crests
rummaging for creatures living among the ‘flowers of the sea’
: soft coral anthozoa shaped like coxcombs.
they swim pushing up to 20kg of mollusk urchin clam
hold their breath for over 2 minutes
dive no matter what the weather says- average age 82.
today the tide budges the shore to their advantage
hoisting their prey from deep waters toward the jigsaw coast.
they’re local icons
a sales pitch for the tourist industry.
you often see murals documenting their past
endeavours painted by some student from Seoul
: the communal atmosphere of breastfeeding while
their children hop scotch rock to rock
& figure out the hiding place of abalone
as octopus soup boils on open fires of acacia wood
enough kelp to rehydrate the pregnant
-all painted cartoonish on stretches of sea wall
for passing motorists to romance as they tour the island.
: in their black rubber diving suits
snorkel mask flippers
they dissolve in a mythic fog
that sucks the sea & shore
in the corner of its mouth.
i always point them out when i spot them
as if i noticed a flash of rare bird
in camouflage feeding its young.
Daniel Marshall is an Englishman living in Jeju Island, Korea. he runs a cafe & guesthouse, which he built with his wife. in the quiet moments afforded him he blogs at danielpaulmarshall.com & traipses round the island admiring & seeking accidentals in shape, sound & colour. he has been published at Poethead, Poetry Shed, FourTiesLitReview, wordsandsilence, thefridayinfluence & O at the Edges.
A.F. Moritz: Two Poems
THE DEAREST FRESHNESS
You walked unknowing and once put down your heel
too hard on the dry white ground among the brittle
stems of joe pye weed: it broke through the crust
you hadn’t known was a crust, and a red goo
seeped upward, filling your shoe, and cracks extended
from the breach you’d made: narrow fissures showing
maroon within, like blood in a complex cut,
badly washed. You raised your cursing head then
to the long chain link fence topped with barbed wire
and the mill beyond. The gentle violet weed
that lived there looked with you. The flower that sucks up poison
and presents it lavender to the bee and your eye.
But you’re no flower, you’re only human. You know
and have to know what it feeds on, what can’t be seen
in the lovely look and the insouciant surviving.
Was this field pure once? Was it ever not this void
that impossibly, though void, is excremental,
and shines and bows gold in the sun, scented with clover
as you stare across to the house unpainted for decades
over by the highway, its glassless upper window
with a curtain swaying? The field was the pure site of sin once.
But now those two sinners never were, nor the world they fouled.
Purity now is just the dregs of an empty origin
remaining in unadulterated traces. A weed’s
appearance, unbothered, beautiful, eating from
some old explosion, the dry crust of a sea of paint.
If you want what purity is, the perpetual instantaneous
return to the ground of a possible world, you’ll have to
desert the word and thought of this day. And think.
We can only think what we have words for, but think
what you don’t have words for. Think. What you don’t
have any words for… When you were a child, someone
called you apart from your name. You’ve been that naked,
that desired. It has been, it is, it can be, you know it,
you have known it. You’ll have to desert this subversion
of roots and birds that is what we have, we are,
ORIGIN OF THE IMAGE
Every vision you saw of a new world
drenched in sun and magnitude,
clean, even the chorus of mosquitoes there
benevolent, their hum
telling of sorrow overcome by good,
a song of stingless strengthless angels free
of hunger for blood,
an all-powerful assemblage, a cloud and a dream
moved by the wind through tangles
of reed and trout lily and trailing withes
hung in a mothering
and surrendered immensity
for an untermed glint that gives in sense a beginning—
and maybe that’s what you’re doing now, your mind
on a pure origin, your eye in a poisoned flower.
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.
Penny Perry: Four Poems
Gourds covered my mother’s garden.
Thin necked, big bellied
with leaves the size of hands,
they crowded Canterbury Bells
that worked so hard to live
under the murderous sun.
“Interloper,” said my mother,
a New Yorker, in love
with Wordsworth, hating L.A.
She’d yank gourds
by their fleshy stems.
“No English poet ever wrote
an ode to gourds.”
“Mexicans make things out of them.
Even musical instruments,”
said her best friend, Dorothy,
Costello to her Abbot,
two hundred pounds in shorts.
My mother stood upright as bamboo.
Their straw hats nodded like sunflowers.
Later, Dorothy painted them
Frida Kahlo blue and Mother strung
them above the hollyhocks.
Shaken by wind, seeds sang
inside the hollowed fruit —
gourds swaying the way
Frida’s brightly coloured dresses
once did against the New York skyline.
Nights, like Rivera, my father
dreamed of his Mexican lover.
My mother in a peasant dress,
bare feet warmed by patio stones,
sipped tequila under the city moon.
A swan on wheels, he guides his skinny
black Schwinn up Adelaide Drive.
On my rickety, second hand bike
I follow a block behind.
Sun and sea back-light the paper boy’s pompadour,
his plaid shirt. Bluffs, canyon, the curved arm of the bay.
Front lawns like parks. Mansions that look like
fairy tale castles — movie stars behind their doors.
The paper boy sails the Evening Outlook on Mary Minter’s,
Cinemascope green grass, then dips his hand again
into the pouch on the rack on the back of his bike.
The Outlook with ads for Claude Short’s Plymouth
and Dodge, the Elmiro and Criterion Theaters,
and Tommy’s French Dip Pastrami, lands
on Christopher Isherwood’s drive.
The Schwinn crosses San Vicente to my neighborhood.
Little Mock-Tudors and Spanish bungalows on grassy lots,
with driveways, and bright flowers. No actors or writers
on this street. One doctor, an airline pilot (my friend
Susie’s dad) a car mechanic, a carpet cleaner, and my father,
a hauler of junk.
The paper boy is Roy Rogers on Trigger, Gene Autry
on Champion, Hopalong Cassidy on Topper. He gallops
past the Franklins, the Stewarts, the Roberts. At each house,
he reaches for the pouch, his hand on the news.
Nights, I dream I’m the paper boy. I’ve tucked my long hair
into a 1930’s newsboy cap. Playing cards I’ve clothes-pinned
to the spokes of my sleek bike’s wheels serenade me.
I’m Annie Oakley wowing the Franklins, the Stewarts,
the Roberts, with my perfect aim.
Collection night, my money belt a holster on my hip,
Wendell Corey in his colonial, Anna May Wong
in her stone castle, open their doors for me.
“Gonnif,” my grandmother shouts.
Her dangling earrings that look like
meat choppers sway. “Meshugenner,”
Mr. Wolsky’s wild black curls dance
in the draft from the fan. He waves scissors:
“You say cut, so I cut. Now you don’t want it.”
A skinny Jewish Apollo with a Polish accent,
he hurls the bolt of silver brocade
across the counter. The bolt just misses
the side of my grandmother’s gray bun.
I stare at my scuffed saddle shoes.
From the back of the store, Itzhak Perlman
plays something Slavonic on the violin.
The Irish half of me thinks Jews are crazy.
Mr. Brennan at Leprechaun Candies
doesn’t pour gum drops on his
customers’ heads. My grandmother sighs,
hands Mr.Wolsky paper dollars
that smell of her peppermints, Altoids.
He smiles, wraps the brocade in a paper
bag that says Wolsky’s Fish
from his brother’s market next door.
We walk past Sacks’s where we bought
my saddle shoes, where Jean and Syd Sacks
toss boxes at each other, past the Sample Shop
and Mrs. Grossman’s Distressed Merchandise –
a cigarette burn on the inside of the hem
who will notice? The sweet scent of honey
and sesame, the salty tang of salmon
and dill from the deli. The sun dips
into Santa Monica Bay.
We duck into the dark arcade to the refugee
who makes button holes. Tufts of hair
look like frost-blasted wheat between
her brows. The hum of her sewing machine
is a lonesome groan.
The refugee, unsmiling, hands my grandmother
a suit jacket. Back in the dim arcade
my grandmother mutters, “Short sleeves.
She doesn’t even bother to cover up
the numbers on her arm.”
Another Saturday lost
to my grandmother’s errands.
NOON UNDER THE ORANGE TREE
for my mother
A California housewife —
blue jeans, hair in curlers
wrapped in a red bandana —
sits under an orange tree
eating a peanut butter sandwich,
reading Harper’s Bazaar,
studying models in Lily Anne suits
posing on Park Avenue.
Tired from cooking,
washing floors and waiting nights
for her man to come home,
she dozes in the noonday sun.
Later, she will translate Latin
with her inattentive daughter,
march Caesar through Gaul.
This noon, the last of her life,
drowsy with bird song and bees
and new blossoms
she dreams of Evan Picone suits
and spring tulips.
a ruby-throated hummingbird
rests a moment on the wire,
this noon belongs to her.
Penny Perry is a five time Pushcart nominee and have been widely published in literary magazines in America. Her chapbook, Santa Monica Disposal and Salvage, was published by Garden Oak Press in 2012. Her poem ‘The House on Dover Street’ was a winner of the Western Writer’s Contest judged by Maria Gillan for Persimmon Magazine online.
Michael Ponsford: Three Poems
This is what happens that hot Sunday afternoon:
Dad’s in his upright Parker Knoll, his head corner-
cocked to jazz, his wireless a solid case that gleams
behind gold mesh, with buttons like a juke box,
a dial that slides a red line (when he’s away)
through London, Paris, Hilversum, Athlone.
Today it’s hot, and jumping. ‘Listen to this,’ he says.
‘Gene Krupa, Wire Brush Stomp.’ His knees
are dancing like the clappers, his hands on drums.
He’d love to be behind the kit, flicking at snare
and hi-hat, driving a quick-fire shuffle, people
getting up to look (“What are we standing here for?
Tell Gene to keep on playing”), and dancing
in some sunlit, film-set street.
Mum calls from the kitchen – the sun’s still out,
they could go over Penarth way for a drive.
Dad flails at the splash and ride, drills
the snare again. Then the music stops. The wireless
hisses like some distant, lost applause.
He’s sitting there, and waiting for it all.
See how this gift, our new glass bowl,
covets the east light; these cold March mornings
as it limns itself with gold we wake
to light, sometimes together. The beech tree
from the other room is already touched
with promises of green.
Remember that way windows in Wisconsin
burned gold with ice? And how the river froze
a month, then sighed all night through slow thaw?
And think of Tromso: there’s a sunlight meter
in the city that’s idle for ninety days a year;
it’s so far north there’s darkness
makes you forget the idea of light.
We want too many things, but covet light
the most. I’ll tell you what we’ll do:
we’ll take the gift of gold that blazes
each morning on our poets’ bowl
and save that for when the darkness closes,
carry it in glass from room to room.
A SUMMER CHILD
We’d lived in it a year and more, but that house stayed
unfamiliar. Windows too narrow to let in light all winter;
on April nights, bass notes pulsed the walls. In May, we lost
both keys. Early June, a flycatcher flicked on telephone wires,
its song an electric stitch.
That month our daughter came, on her grandmother’s birthday.
Early-hours blackness filled the summer hollows;
the coarse named river, that woman-thing, just a slack glint
in shallows. Your breath-pain shoved out quick, quick and it was good
the way blood embroidered
the bed-spread. Our son and other daughters watched
like blank clocks. I stumbled to the telephone. Clouds
had time to clamber across the black sky; and then so bright
again your blood. When they arrived—a midwife too late
for anything but taking weight,
a doctor with his shirt and sweater back to front, the labels
at his throat like stitched-up wounds—a dozen faces stared
from attic rooms, called that she was here already. In pale daybreak,
you stood and danced our daughter. The camera shutter
stuck: the photographs are all half black.
Michael Ponsford was born in Cardiff, and has published poems and short stories in various small press magazines, and a children’s story, Bessemer, with Gomer Press. He works as an English teacher in Wiltshire, but has also taught in the USA and Latvia.
Sophie Reisbord: Poem
I wear high heels in empty hallways
I wear ball gowns in silent rooms
My beauty is not quantifiable
In what I thought I knew
I wear corsets in broken mirrors
I wear prom dresses on my kitchen floor
Anything can be your kingdom
When all you want is more
I wear tulle skirts every morning
Tiaras every night
It’s not real if you can’t touch it
This is the only proof that I’m alive
I wear ballet slippers in the shower
Red ribbons in my hair
I dance until my feet are bleeding
But I no longer care
There’s gold trim in my gym shorts
I wear opals to the store
I love it when people stare at me
They say I look like war
I find glitter in the mediocre
It’s the reason I survive
Some people bend or bleed or break
But I know that I must shine
I wear high heels in empty hallways
I run poetry through my veins
Stars won’t always burn forever
Some will fall like rain
Sophie Reisbord is a fifteen year old writer from Poughkeepsie, New York. Her notable literary achievements include her cringeworthy but nostalgic sixth grade diary, a vivid essay on Timothy Leary that almost got her detention, and the love of English teachers everywhere. She enters her writing anytime she can, even though most of the time the response is not satisfactory. But Sophie Reisbord, fifteen year old writer from New York, doesn’t care because what’s important to her is saying what she needs to say.
Bethany Rivers: Poem
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
There are two tongues
inside in my head.
One is small and delicate
like the centre of a fuschia,
the other large and muscular
like that of a body builder.
Sometimes his story
is louder than mine
which makes it more believable.
It’s then I need reminding
of the truth still hidden
in the bud, yet to open:
bloody, raw, and maybe
not what you want to hear.
Bethany Rivers‘ debut pamphlet, Off the Wall, published this year by Indigo Dreams is inspired by art and silences. Her poems have previously appeared in: Envoi, Ink Sweat & Tears, Cinnamon Press, The Lampeter Review, Three drops from a cauldron, Bare Fiction, Blithe Spirit, Sarasvati, Clear Poetry, I am not a silent poet, The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework, Silver Birch Press and Fair Acre Press. She is a writing mentor and creative writing course leader: http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk
Maurice Rutherford: Four Poems
I was tall enough then to stand on the lower pedal
of his cycle leaned against the veranda front
and see my face, moon-stretched, in the bell
in whose forbidden ring I heard names of magic places
beyond the garden gate – Bowlalley Lane, Springhead,
Little Switzerland, Land of Green Ginger and Wincolmlee.
Sometimes I’d be allowed to meet him, just beyond
the passage-end, returning home from work, and then
he’d crook me in his arm up onto the saddle
and carry my pride high on the cycle home. I remember
the thrill of that, my impatience for the dangling legs
to grow, and the sure salt-cod smell from his coat sleeve
favouring me against the danger of a fall.
Some times, when he let me take his newspapers
from the saddlebag, there were sandwiches
left from lunch – made for him the previous night –
now crisped and curled at the corners,
and I’d enjoy, almost, the taste of adult fare
through a mustard-tortured tongue.
A generation later, crooking my arm and easing him
into the car, I saw anticipation light his face,
starting on a journey to countryside or shore
where we would sit and savour sandwiches and talk
of White City, Swanland, Rotenhering Staithe,
Sammy’s Point and Argyle Street bridge, Gloucester Street.
A July morning, humid, overcast,
brings me to Hull again, first time in years –
some notion of revisiting my past
now there’s so much of it, confirms my fears
of change and alienation. Should have guessed
how takeovers and makeovers would kill
so many landmarks, camouflage the rest;
foolish to think the city could stand still
whilst I moved on.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx A passing gust of gowns
declares I’ve chanced on Graduation Day –
a mix of mortarboards leaves other towns
by train for Paragon, then makes its way
towards Victoria Square, the City Hall
its destination, fussed along by proud
mothers in summer frocks, some dads, and all
to swell the made-it, so-far-so-good crowd.
The Ferens is my goal. Here in the cool
faintly disturbing, viewer-friendly air
I make for Edgar Bundy’s oil, Night School
uneasy, as when first I stood to stare.
Though scarring of the macula impedes
my vision now, I know the young man’s look
of mild bewilderment; the chart he reads
is less distinct, as also is his book
which lies unopened. Has the candlelight
dimmed too? Those older men behind, who pore
over set literature late into the night
merge with the background, darker than before.
Across the Square, alumni celebrate,
then leave. I need more time to concentrate
alone, to seek what Bundy’s not quite shown:
enlightenment. I probe a vast unknown.
Maincrop potato haulms are flowering now,
delicate mauves and yellows, innocent,
content within themselves, unquestioning,
indifferent to precision of their rows
in banked-up, frost-fined tilth his careful hands
have coaxed with hoe and rake; such artistry.
Last year I saw him double-dig this plot;
the youngster, not yet old enough for school,
I heard come up the path to ask him, “What
are you doing, Grandad?” and be thrown
“Nothing to do with you.” Then pressing, “Why
is it nothing to do with me, Grandad?”.
“Because it isn’t nothing to do with you.”
The spade thrust deep again, sliced earth
clean as a butcher’s cleaver severs chops.
Perplexed, the lad withdrew within himself
to find a wonderworld elsewhere. I held
my silence, stayed my own side of the fence
feeling the autumn chill, hearing the slape
and slap of spade and soil, of each cut clod
exposed to face a polystyrene sky.
Maincrop potato haulms are flowering now,
delicate mauves and yellows, innocent,
free from complicity. They share no shame.
POEM ON SATURDAY
Outside my window, a linnet on the laburnum
shows poetry to the other birds, preens,
stutters its wings and corrugates away
across the lawn, and the nest of words
I am waiting to hatch goes cold.
Yesterday, as from the office window I watched
a vessel leave the lockpits, outward bound
for Genoa, slipping the tugs from the task in hand
my feet were treading Italian ground
before the Humber had healed in her wake.
I knew, once, a tall school window high above
the tiers of desks where, in carbolic air,
peas imprisoned in a jar strove for the sky
and begged me join in their climb to the place where
every day is Saturday and Saturday is Christmas.
Maurice Rutherford was born in Hull, East Yorkshire in 1922 and spent his working life, with the interruption of wartime military service, as a technical writer in the ship-repairing industry. His poetry writing largely dried up following the death of his wife five years ago, but his interest in poetry survives via his website on which he shares with readers the poems of others important to him, and where you can read more biographical detail: www.mauricerutherford.com
Fiona Sinclair: Poem
At first an exile’s tone when you recall
Whitstable’s Turner-painted sunsets
admired each evening from sash windows
in your old flat with ‘best view in town’ of sea.
Decades working and playing continents away
from home town, but it is the ten-mile move
to my village house that makes you homesick.
Late afternoons I sometimes find you
staring out of front windows.
Initially I Interpret your stance as
entrapment, regret, boredom,
and my happiness stumbles.
In reality, you are comparing sunsets,
expecting to find the village efforts inferior.
But my home’s serendipitous geometry
creates unrestricted views of horizon.
And you have grudgingly begun to concede that
most evenings we have show-stoppers here.
I brush down my happiness at this unexpected
finding in the village’s favour,
its virtuoso sunsets some compensation for
my semi’s dubious décor, small bed, no shower…
Yet in truth, twenty years teaching had me
head down over marking until 6pm
then tucked up in the back bedroom.
So I took such spectacles to be rarities
caught by me on weight loss walks
or when drawing the front curtains.
Now each dusk you turn away from TV
to enjoy the more compelling show,
call me from kitchen to share;
sun suspended like a giant J Arthur rank gong,
clouds massing in ark builder’s validation,
water colour, washed in Taj Mahal pinks, peaches, gold .
So whilst you refer affectionately to Whitstable twilights
like an old lover you still have a soft spot for ,
superlatives are switched to Our sunsets in the village.
Fiona Sinclair is the editor of the on line poetry magazine Message in a Bottle. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals. She has two collections in the pipeline: the first, Second Skins, which will be published this year by Dempsey Windle Press. Fiona lives in a Kentish village with her husband Kim and an imaginary dog.
Jean Stevens: Two Poems
Images slide into my head
like picture postcards
through a letterbox:
a cricket bat and ball on trodden
grass, a dragonfly kite ready
for when we’d race up the hill,
my mother unpacking the plaid rug,
cheese and tomato sandwiches
a jam-filled sponge
my dandelion and burdock drink
cool in a beige stone bottle
and me at the water’s edge
watching with tight breath
my father who couldn’t swim
wading thigh deep towards the far
bank to set a trapped heron free
his rolled-up trousers sopping wet
the breadth of the river between us.
Those days of the floods
I became an acolyte
in the world of drains,
found a grid, washed out
by the glut of wet, drifting
across the drowned lawn
like a miniature leaking raft
another glued to its outlet
by a cement of slurry
beech leaves and clay
sticky and thick as treacle,
then, wading up the road,
now an ankle-deep
saw a drain cover
shaped like a metal frisbee
lifted by the thrust of the flood
and dancing on top of a fountain
whose waters frothed
and curled like the feathers
the Black Prince wore.
Jean Stevens has been published in Acumen, Artemis, Bananas, Dream Catcher, The London Magazine, New Poetry 3 (Arts Council Anthology), The North, Oasis, Orbis, Other Poetry, P.E.N. New Poems Anthology, Poetry and Audience, Smoke, Words, and broadcast on BBC Radio.. She has won the Yorkshire Post Poetry Prize and Leeds Libraries Writing Prize. Her latest collection, Beyond Satnav, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016.
Robin Thomas: Poem
i.m. Miep Gies
Brown beans, split peas, potatoes,
turnip tops, newspapers,
underwear, soap, candles,
meat in the early days, later,
blood sausage; a belt, books
from the library, oats,
handkerchiefs, sweet peas,
peonies, kale, cigarettes,
sauerkraut, yoghurt, jam, biscuits,
exercise books, flour, and for birthdays:
sweets, full cream cheese,
beer, lemon syrup, spice cake,
piccalilli, treacle and once:
You, Miep, shopped, bartered, stole
and carried all these by hand
down cold streets, past nervous,
quizzical, grey-uniformed boys,
and entered the building,
the Luger, the twisted face
a routine peril. There you shared
outside news, jokes, brought fresh air,
day after day, month after month.
Afterwards you went back
Into that echoing building,
the pistol, the contorted face
in every creak, every shadow.
But you climbed the stairs, went in,
collected her scattered papers.
The day the radio told of your death,
snow lay round our cosy house,
much as it must have done
round Anne’s shivering hut as she lay dying.
Our neighbours worked for hours to create
a huge snowman. Next morning
their children rushed out to see it
but its head was gone, its body spoilt.
I helped them repair it. There’s some merit,
isn’t there, Miep, in that?
Robin Thomas completed the MA in Writing Poetry at Kingston University in 2012. He has had poems accepted by a number of journals including Agenda, Envoi, Orbis, Paragram, Brittle Star and Pennine Platform. He has been shortlisted for the Buzzwords, Bridport and Bath Poetry Cafe prizes. His pamphlet A Fury of Yellow was published by Eyewear in November 2016
Simon Williams: Poem
The Lindisfarne Gospels weigh 8.7kg,
or as much as an adult badger,
though round here they measure themselves
against the Exeter Book of Riddles.
Ironically, the Observers Book of Wild Animals
is the same weight as an adolescent weasel,
though not the Colombian sub-species,
which can be much heavier.
Field voles, at a mere 60g, are slightly heavier
than many recent poetry pamphlets.
By fetching one through a catflap, you can
encourage a cat to read more widely.
Encyclopaedia Britannica has 32 volumes
and although it offers well-researched articles
on every indigenous UK mammal, only the wild boar
exceeds its 56kg of lexical goodness.
The 600,000 word, two-volume Shorter Oxford Dictionary
comes in at 5.9 kg, coincidentally
within a smidgen of the weight of a female coypu.
It illustrates clearly how light words are.
The first two lines come from a Durham Cathedral leaflet, accompanying
an exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels in Summer 2013.
Simon Williams has been writing poems for many years and reads his work widely in the South West and further afield. He was elected Bard of Exeter in 2013 and is founder-editor of The Broadsheet magazine. He is widely published, with seven books currently available, the most recent of which are Inti, from Oversteps Books, and Spotting Capybaras in the Work of marc Chagall from Indigo Dreams Press.
Adam Wyeth: Three poems
What I remember now
may not be what happened then,
nevertheless it remains within,
a croak in my throat.
Like the subject my mother
never could broach…
That year she wouldn’t take off
her bottle green cardigan
with the eight-legged silver brooch
clasped over her left breast.
I dream of spiders nesting
on the insides of walls,
long summer days coming
to a standstill, poking an army
of ants with my grandfather’s stick,
as they stream out of a crack
in the curb. My father, somewhere
other, yet keeping abreast.
He rests with me now.
The croak in my throat,
the weight in my chest,
holds fast like an anchor.
Ineluctable. Her cool reproach.
Over and over the eggs hatch.
The woman upstairs has been vacuuming
religiously since she came home from hospital,
empty-handed. Scraping a long nozzle across
floorboards, dragging furniture back and forth
against a constant high-pitched thrum,
a delirious humming bird desperate for pollen.
The bag must have enough dirt, hair
and dead skin in it to form another being.
I lit a fire and a dove
down the chimney
in a burst of flames –
round the room,
bouncing off the furniture,
the walls in soot.
I opened the window
and it tumbled out,
leaving a whiff
of charred feathers
and a trail of smoke-scrawl.
Adam Wyeth lives in Dublin and has published two collections: Silent Music and The Art of Dying. He has also published, The Hidden World of Poetry: Unravelling Celtic Mythology in Contemporary Irish. He has also been successful in international competitions, including The Bridport, Arvon and Ballymaloe Poetry Prizes. Adam has written several plays, some of which have been produced in Ireland and Germany. His 2013 play Hang Up was adapted into a film and premiered at Cork International Film Festival, 2014.