Gale Acuff • Michael Bartholomew-Biggs • Andrew Button • Miki Byrne • John Cassidy • Harry Clifton • David Coldwell • Kitty Coles • Sarah Corbett • Kieran Egan • Rebecca Gethin • David Hale • Chris Hardy • Geoffrey Heptonstall • Norton Hodges • Sarah James • Brian Johnstone • Shirley-Anne Kennedy • Emma Lee • Christopher Levenson • Sally Long • Antony Mair • Caroline Maldonado • Tim Miller • Maxine Rose Munro • Gerard Smyth
Gale Acuff: Poem
I don’t want to go to Hell when I die
so I try to be as good as I can be
here on earth, Miss Hooker recommends it,
she’s my Sunday School teacher so she
ought to know and is aiming for Heaven
herself, when that day comes and she wakes up
dead and waits while God looks into
the Book of Life to find her name, and of course
it will be there—though I don’t expect to be
so lucky to lie there or sit up maybe
for a few moments just to be told
that I don’t appear, my name
anyway, and then the angels will
escort me back out the Pearly Gates
and farther away to the Everlasting
Lake of Fire and then dump me in
for the rest of my life, the life of my soul,
my immortal soul that is, with no hope
of escape while I’m eternally parted
from Miss Hooker — and we can’t have that,
we love each other, or one day we will,
and she’ll love me as much as I love her
when I’m old enough to love like that
and be loved, at 16 or 18 to her 31 or 33,
if she stays single and I grow up
and don’t die in sin, and then
we can date and get married,
I mean to each other, of course.
After class today I asked Miss Hooker,
If I get saved do you promise to marry me
someday? Yes, she replied, but sometimes
adults lie or hope that as you get older
you’ll forget their turnarounds.
So wouldn’t it be something
if, when we die, I go to heaven but she
winds up in Hell for deceiving me?
If I told her that, I might get a true yes
out of her but I think instead I’ll play
the field and do things to make her
want me. She might even come proposing
when I’m a man. If I say yes then,
wherever we go when we’re dead
we’ll go together, where the choices are better,
which just goes to show . . . something. I could ask.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Coe Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008). He has have taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.
Michael Bartholomew-Biggs: Poem
Water meadows push against a river’s bend;
sunlight sparkles off the windows of parked cars.
Twenty-something years ago he was a child
day-tripping somewhere much like this with Mum & Dad.
Now it’s his kids splashing in the muddy shallows.
They’ve kicked a flabby plastic beach ball till they’re tired
of chasing down its unobliging stalls and swerves
and they’ve got bored with waiting when they fling a Frisbee
to their leaden-footed solitary parent.
An ice-cream van arrives amid a shimmering
of Greensleeves. He catches cool vanilla drips
escaping down the cone and half-recalls the knack
of snatching Sunday afternoon as relaxation
from the harassed apprehension of next week.
He’s still standing: better to be lying down
to drowse in sunshine near the scent of new-bruised grass
and hear the clink of other people’s picnic things.
A thin and tingling hint of old contentment drifts
across his memory like spray deodorant
and lasts until he calls them to the borrowed car
that smells of under-use and after-shave and screen-wash
for the drive to where he has to drop the kids
before he starts to worry about Monday and
how much to spend on topping up the petrol tank.
Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a semi-retired mathematician living in London. He is poetry editor of the on line journal London Grip and has for many years been co-organiser of the reading series Poetry in the Crypt. His latest pamphlet The Man Who Wasn’t Ever Here (Wayleave, 2017) is a poetic biography of his elusive Irish grandfather.
Andrew Button: Two Poems
THE IMAGINATION MACHINE
Like a fairground attraction
we were drawn to it.
A disused Ice Cream Van
light blue like old police cars
with a dirty white stripe.
Tyres embedded in the concrete
and a rusty ice cream dispenser.
A Steptoe of the suburbs,
Lisa’s Dad rescued the van from a tip
then disregarded it and his intentions
like a short-lived Samaritan
and in this fickle act donated it
to the working imaginations
of three nine year olds.
Sitting in the driver’s seat,
standing at the hatch pretending,
or just whistling the street tune
that used to bring young taste buds
forming lip-licking queues,
we didn’t need a key
to make it all happen again
TEMPS PERDU, 1982
Prostrate on a trolley
barelegged and bruised,
like somebody was working
a dimmer switch on my eyes,
I came back into the light.
Surrounded by white walls,
abandoned in a corridor
thick with silence,
I couldn’t remember
why I was there.
A waiting room to where?
My Dad materialised
to ask if I was ok
and a nurse paid me a cursory visit .
Like a spaceman, gingerly,
I was still acclimatizing
to my re-entry on terra firma.
Quizzed by police about the accident,
I dredged my memory like a river
for brain cells lost
when I hit the parked car,
my body under the bonnet,
and glasses perched on top.
Realised the day after,
that I was still
in the Breathing Game,
between ambulance and afterlife,
and not another cyclist
pedalling into the sky.
Andrew Button is from Market Bosworth, Leicestershire and has had poems published in various magazines including Orbis, Canon’s Mouth, The Interpreter’s House, Staple and Ink, Sweat and Tears. His debut pamphlet, Dry Days in Wet Towns was published in September 2016 by Erbacce Press. He was also featured in the Templar Anthology of ten poets in 2016, DE4 / A1.
Miki Byrne: Two Poems
I WANT A DEVICE
one with a dial marked one to ten
that will turn fully round,
to engage a cunning mechanism.
I want to hear its churning guts hum.
Feel its power fall over me like a silken net,
bring the magic of morphoses.
I shall relish then, strange delight
of diminishing weight,
that will leave me in a slow seep,
lighten me ‘til my feet barely grip ground.
All traction lost.
I will jump then.
Feel a release from solidity,
I shall raise and lower my arms.
Slowly at first, then fast and elegant
as gull or magpie, until I soar,
high above tile-scaled rooftops,
stern chimneys, rustling, shushing
tops of trees.
Up and up until cloud-mist becomes a shawl
and blue surrounds.
The sun will show its golden disc,
lay a path of pink and gold to guide me.
Limitations will fall like shed feathers
as I rise, become a human arrow.
Circle the earth. Weightless and free.
DEN IN THE CELLAR
Paraffin poured its acrid stink
and we crouched, city-dusted fledglings
perched round the old heater.
Warmth lifted earth-tang of damp floor.
Coal dust sparked incendiary specks
upon the stove, crackled saltily upon tongues.
Walls were white-washed but corners
still disappeared into black that poked at our fear
of the dark, tip-toed shivers across napes.
Light water-fall through a grating at street level,
where coal clattered in once a month.
Footsteps echoed, as sliced-up shadows fell,
then slithered away.
Sometimes words drifted down from the street,
like feathers from quarrelsome birds.
We held our breath then, rigid with the thrill.
Wondered if the voices were aware of us,
huddled below, as we told gruesome tales
beneath their feet,
clutched chunks of bread and dripping,
held hands in childish conspiracy,
held in our guts
the excitement of eavesdropping.
Miki Byrne’s poems have appeared in Poems In the Waiting Room, Obsessed with Pipework, Ink Sweat & Tears and in numerous other magazines and /anthologies. She has read On Carlton TV and BBC TV Birmingham, and on various radio stations. She was a finalist for Gloucester Poet Laureate and the founder of the In Your Own Words poetry group at The Roses Theatre Tewkesbury. She now lives near Tewkesbury, Glos.
John Cassidy: Four Poems
He loped along the boundary between
the open grassland and the trees,
a big-nosed moose with shovel antlers
moving with a speed surprising
for a beast his size, like that perhaps
of a kudu when pursued.
I saw no predators here
to drive his travelling,
no bear nor wolf to flash his brain
into alert and galvanise his legs.
Where he was heading was not
for me to guess, or whether he
would think so purposefully,
gliding over vacant miles of grass.
This solo outing was enough, it seemed,
living spontaneously and sucking in
the air of an afternoon, covering ground
in an easy gallop. He had the way of all
massive ungulants, sliding down the epochs
of such lives, steady in how they were,
wholly outside domestication: never gathered
by herdsmen, led to safe bomas
or to milking sheds, away from dangers
swarming in the wild, the predatory teeth.
Those kudu, wildebeest and cousins round the globe,
and here this moose, came down to this
encounter, both of us evolving
to an uneventful clutch of minutes,
part of our lives now in this time,
this place. Then suddenly he swung his head
and turned up towards forest,
vanishing among the darkness of the trees.
It seems to be built-in, this
need to be resentful.
That rounded mound of silk
sitting beside the trodden path
soon finds the small boy’s
boots purposely, gleefully, blundering in.
And in galleries, on posters,
the curve of a sitter’s blameless
cheek, or the expanse of empty sky
in an oiled landscape,
drags in the slashing knife or the slap
of a daubing brush.
Purity can be hard to tolerate.
The magnetism of perfection:
it is more than we can see
without envy or irritation. We shall
not be faced down but cannot deny
its taunting, its possibility.
Abstractedly, I shake black pepper
across my flawless soup.
They’ve been kept in the dark too long
so that the struggle to reach out
and out, imploring light, has stretched them
to pale and straggly, limply caught
between seed and anything with a claim
to identity, each wavering stalk
a searcher after something, each for now
a helpless crawler in the dark.
Even after this, the last stubborn
remnant could, released into light,
in days, weeks, unfurl into leaf,
that drawn-out patience might
finally relax into the home
it was being dragged to.
that tiny grasp on tomorrow,
the ease of belonging.
It was an unsettling image,
like the rolling eye of a panicking horse
or a tree doubling under a shredding wind.
This was the rumbling passage
of a pushchair freed from the force
of its brakes, and the wild arm of the child
fastened into it. All flashed
for a second, only because
of the cliff-edge a little way
downhill., triggering the rushed
restraining arm to halt the course
of this non-event, and glue the stay
of the moment, to stick for a decade
of troublesome uninvited recall.
What systems there are to ensure
this jumble of somewhere-or-other stored
pictures, allowing the random fall
of one or two to nag and torment and endure.
John Cassidy has published collections with Hutchinson and Bloodaxe, and his poems have appeared widely in periodicals and anthologies. They have also featured on BBC TV and radio programmes. Born in Lancashire, he studied English at Manchester University for five years after post-war army service with an East African regiment. He has served as a literature adviser for North West Arts and has conducted readings and seminars at venues from prisons to universities. He was a tutor in Creative Writing at Bolton University, who awarded him an Honorary Doctorate.
Harry Clifton: Two Poems
Let’s play hardball. Hamlet and Horatio
Back from Wittenberg, Laertes in from Paris –
Fencing, sex, and fallings-out at tennis,
At the sagging net of an outer court,
The heart of a long-lost summer… Politics,
War, return us to Denmark. Watch us leap and smash
In chalk-marked space, a court within a court,
A play within a play, as fathers, mothers,
Drift onstage, for the fifth act
And the pile of corpses – venoming foils
For the sons already wounded, too far gone
For school debate, who dropped out
Long ago, with points to score
In love and war, on either side of the question.
STATEN ISLAND FERRY
Martin Folan 1955-2014
Once there was no ferry. Only lights,
The multi-coloured lights of a filling-station
Opposite King’s Inns, in the Dublin night.
‘That’ you told me, ‘is an installation –
Realer than reality….’ And to prove it
In you moved for years, and lived above it,
Steering cars in darkness just for fun
Inside a locked garage, with the headlights on.
Then we were on the ferry. ‘People here
Are ghosts…’ you said, as the pair of us crossed
To the capital city of wealth and happiness,
Work and death, ‘…except for what they wear’.
Dublin behind us, nothing up ahead
But coroner’s witness, what some critic said.
Harry Clifton was born in Dublin,but has travelled widely. He won the Patrick Kavanagh award in 1981 and has been the recipient of fellowships in Germany, France, the United States and Australia. He has published five collections of poems, including The Desert Route: Selected Poems 1973-88 with Gallery Press. Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004 was published by Wake Forest in 2007 and won the Irish Times Poetry Now award. He returned to Ireland in 2004 and lives in Dublin. The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass was published by Wake Forest and Bloodaxe Books in 2012, and The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 in 2014. He was Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2010 to 2013. His latest collection, Portobello Sonnets, is published by Bloodaxe.
David Coldwell: Poem
Did that spider really exist?
It dropped from the sun to land
in the depths of a coloured glass
left out for candles
or, for most of the year, rain.
I tipped the jar to its side and let
it roll lazily against its own weight
where it mooned over the table
before coming to a stop
against the back of my hand.
A cruel northerly chilled
us; a wind at odds with the warmth of
the day before clouds
skirted in from the west and shadows
left the landscape in a state of flux.
A line of water cast from the jar
dried on the wooden table top.
The spider balled up in remnants;
a momentary lapse in which I tried
to imagine the kaleidoscope of colours
in the bottled landscape beyond
before turning the jar upside down and shaking
it inches from the ground.
The spider had vanished, nothing
but fragments of time
fell from the glass and filtered out in the breeze.
The conversation over, I closed my eyes
against the mid-day sun
and brushed the itch of imagination
away from my skin.
David Coldwell is an artist and writer based in the village of Marsden in West Yorkshire. His poetry has been published in a number of print and on-line journals and also featured in various poetry anthologies. His debut pamphlet, Flowers by the Road was published by Templar Poetry in 2017 www.davidcoldwell.co.uk.
Kitty Coles: Four Poems
THE WOLF WITHIN
No use setting watchmen to strain
their eyes against the dark,
to watch the shadows, armed against his coming.
No use in these beacons burning,
all night, along the boundary
of the settlement.
No use in moulding silver into bullets,
in keeping lit lamps always
at the windows, in whispering
and keeping very still, in tying
rags to trees beside the water
to ward him off, in wearing charms
on wrists and at the throat,
in learning how to stop the heart
from beating, just long enough
to let the skin grow cold,
to mask the warmth that lets him find his prey.
He lives within already.
This is his dwelling.
My eyes grow heavy with the weight of his.
The pain in my bones
is because I carry his body
inside myself. My veins
are clogged with fur,
sprouting like flowers,
lush and dense and bloody.
The parsley that you gave me curls and yellows.
Its stems grow slack and lie along the earth.
The watermelon tastes too wet, too sweet.
Its seeds lie in my belly like cold shingle.
The statue’s feet are bruised from too much touching.
Her stone abrades my fingers uselessly.
There is no dust beneath our narrow bed.
The motes circle like flies above our heads.
My hope abrades and settles, pale like dust.
Even the rising tide won’t bring us luck.
THIS FUSILLADE OF TICKS
must be the pods splitting, furiously
parting the hinges of
their small scimitars,
spitting their seeds across
heaped dust, blanched grasses.
They hem us in, these walls
of inflexible spindles,
and rise above our heads,
compress baked air
in solid blocks like loaves
that we must push through.
And, high above, the sun
is a terrible deity,
letting down blankets of light
which lid the heath.
We are closed in a dome of amber.
We barely noticed at first:
a fracture in the plaster, as thin as a hair,
then other fractures leading off from it,
veining the walls like rivers on a map,
a bloom like mould, a stealthy scent
of loam, a sound like beetles scuttling
behind the skirting, like something breathing
underneath the floorboards.
The fissures widened, growing like small ravines.
The carpet bunched itself and we saw
darkness flower under it, in damp, irregular splotches,
moley, earthy. And then a vine
extended, beckoning round the mantelpiece,
stretching itself beyond the net of chinks,
as thin and undulant as a caterpillar.
It crept across the room, and more came after,
extending snakishly in their assertions
down from the rafters, stalactites of green,
inching across the hallway, up the stairs.
They sprouted leaves the shape of flinty arrows.
They put forth flowers, white,
spreading like ether, emitting sulphurous stinks
and mists of pollen, which clogged
the plugholes, filmed the windows gold
and laid their sticky dust on furnishings.
We took the secateurs and snipped away
until our thumbs were sore and fingers stiff.
We stayed up late, burning the bales of cuttings,
which caught reluctantly, sizzled like fat.
They grew again, pouring themselves like water,
and bees appeared, as big as hummingbirds,
and twiggy crawling things
with shiny cases and butterflies
that roamed the house in packs
and settled on the bed in a blanket of wings,
their movement causing such substantial breezes
that the windows shook. They quivered
like black petals, like glistening eyelids,
almost colourless, like ravenous
yellow flames, licking, consuming.
Kitty Coles lives in Surrey and works as a senior adviser for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have been widely published. She is one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in August 2017
Sarah Corbett: Four Poems
This is the earth, a portion of it –
the boundary of Wicken Hill
and the line of sight over farms,
moorland, a scattering of houses,
the alert wolf of Heptonstall
church – these sixteen acres
set above the town like a jewel,
a throne of stillness, a green eye.
In spring there will be hares
leaping under foot in the smoky
dawn and sky-falls of lapwings,
their porcelain of broken nests,
the vetch coming, coltsfoot,
starbursts of clover and trefoil
and when the hay is high lacings
of gold spiders; but it is winter,
trees are wiry sculptures,
rooks carved in the branches,
the only things living, it seems,
crows, and the fox at night
getting his dinner, setting
his trail in this year’s snow.
The land is tardy now and wet,
the earth spongy with springs
running over millstone grit
a few feet down – you can hear them.
Put your hand where the ground
opens to the blood warmth,
lie and draw the heat as if
your body were a divining rod,
above you the sky a vast lens
and you its aperture, clouds
beasts dispersing across a field
or souls queuing to enter heaven.
Enough to snuff the quick / Of her small heat out
– SP ‘Hardcastle Crags’
August, a woozy, pollinated afternoon,
heat on the hills like a shawl. Black
stones of the village pile up, black
on black, burnt in the air’s oven.
Deep in the valley the wood hugs turns
of enfolded land, a seep of dark water
she pulls towards like a blind thing,
the air heavy as sleep where mill ruins
are a green temple. Lost now, the path
peters out to a rabbit-run and a shortcut
becomes a deadfall into a trill of menace,
the first sting, the next and then a host,
sting after sting in her hair, her mouth.
She can only crawl backwards uphill
to the path, a headful of vibrating barrettes
tiny, spent jewels she shakes out,
hands beating the air like a claxon,
heart clapping to disperse the poison.
It must be that an angel
xxxxxxxxwill catch you, stretch out a feathered
xxxxxxxxxxxxarm and soften your fall
as moments later
xxxxxxxxyou will get up and walk back to your
xxxxxxxxxxxxfriends at the party, alarmed into,
astounded to be, alive. In the dark,
xxxxxxxxin the mud, you will hear
xxxxxxxxxxxxthe river singing in the valley
and think to join it, of what ease
xxxxxxxxit will bring and how
xxxxxxxxxxxxit will cool you, your back aflame.
High above the wall
xxxxxxxxis a dark face looking down
xxxxxxxxxxxxfrom where you will lose your hold
and roll backwards, an acrobat
xxxxxxxxdrunk enough to fall
xxxxxxxxxxxxwith grace, abandon, aplomb,
like the woman who fell
xxxxxxxxfrom a plane and broke only her pelvis;
xxxxxxxxxxxxunlike Icarus who dropped
from the sun like a stone.
xxxxxxxxHard not to think of those young men
xxxxxxxxxxxxa century ago staggering from the dark
dazed into, astonished to be, alive.
xxxxxxxxHard not to think of what wars might come.
xxxxxxxxxxxxBut here, now, there is only
the wall, the party a distant thrum
xxxxxxxxand below you the field, those arms
xxxxxxxxxxxxinto which you will fall.
Woods in Snow
It is the fell hour of the year
and we should not have lingered,
but from the field the sky
opened its wings, its fire-brushed feathers.
Between the snow-weighted branches
the dark mists and glitters –
a far-flung galaxy brought near,
a spin of flakes bright as whispers,
and here – true, oh, be true to it –
this closeness of hands, eyes, hearts,
our stilled breath a skipped beat –
in the braided grass, the hind asleep.
Sarah Corbett‘s fifth collection, A Perfect Mirror, will be published by Pavilion Poetry/Liverpool University Press in spring 2018. Her previous books of poetry are: the verse-novel, And She Was (Pavilion Poetry/Liverpool University Press, 2015), Other Beasts (Seren Books, 2008), The Witch Bag (Seren Books, 2002) and The Red Wardrobe (Seren Books 1998). Her work has been shortlisted for The Forward and T.S. Eliot prizes, and widely anthologised and translated. She teaches Creative Writing for Lancaster University and lives in Hebden Bridge.
Kieran Egan: Poem
Why does this man approaching death work so hard
to learn the names of plants,
or that one, heart stammering towards its cease,
struggle with Greek irregular verbs
to be able to read Thucydides before he dies,
or why does she sit with cancer and her telescope and night-sky charts
memorizing the names of yet more stars and nebulae?
What use, what good, what satisfaction to take into the dark
the accumulated names that crumble into nothing at our death?
The plants were indifferent from the beginning
to being named by us; the stars have maybe
more satisfactory names among inhabitants of closer planets,
and Thucydides’ pleasure at being read
stopped at the moment of his own death.
And yet it seems heroic, in the face of oblivion,
to make the effort to etch these names,
to enjoy the power this knowledge gives us
a while longer, continuing with final urgency
what we have done all our lives.
So we try to end as we began, accumulating words
to mark our brief dominion over all the earth we name.
Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quills, Literary Review of Canada, Snapdragon, Dalhousie Review, and Envoi. Some time ago he built a Japanese teahouse and garden as a place in which he would write poetry and, in 2000, published Building My Zen Garden (Houghton-Mifflin, Boston). He has also published many widely translated academic books.
Rebecca Gethin: Poem
We watched for whales from the headland
with our binoculars – far and wide across
the ocean with the sky resting on its shoulders
like the Titan. We hoped sperm whales
might be out there as we’d heard one
on a hydrophone from the boat the day before:
a slow clicking. We were told they spout
at a 45 degree angle as they surface.
We didn’t know baleirros used to look for whales
from that spot, keeping watch for blows
and spoutings, a white diagonal mark against
the blue. They’d signal to boats with harping irons
to go on to the whale when it surfaced
from up to 45 metres below to take in oxygen
to breathe for another hour. Others
would be on their way up. We didn’t know
sperm whales gather in a marguerite shape
round an injured comrade to keep her safe,
nudging their young into the centre too,
guarding one another with their lives.
David Hale: Two Poems
You’re making me uneasy: what have I done
to deserve such a look? is it my lack
of political commitment – the limp
bourgeois images that leak from my pen?
Or perhaps it’s not me you’re looking at
but some guy with a scythe who wants
to put you out of your misery
before the next round of show-trials begin.
Forget about him. Tell me something
about the self-indulgent lyric, or why
the revolution went sour; how it feels
to be standing in Rodchenko’s studio
listening to a blackbird sing as spring’s
lungs expand in the Moscow dusk.
LAMENT FOR A CAR SALESMAN
Eugene sells cars in
a palace of chrome and glass,
a goldfish bowl of
that has nothing if not class.
Attractive, you’d think
to one who worked his way up
selling heaps of scrap –
wears his service-history
on his sleeve – no t-cut or
touching up will hide
the scars on his bodywork.
Yes, it pays the bills.
But he hates this sterile place,
feels constrained in its airless
showroom that aspires
to art, reduced to test drives
around the block
in machines that clock every
due statistic of mileage
done and engine hum,
have aerodynamics the
envy of a bat –
with no opportunity
to throw a punch, or flog a
motor over lunch,
make some punter feel it’s his
lucky day, until
halfway back to Haringey
the head-gasket aerates his
bonnet. No. And how
he hates the gratitude in
their eyes, those asides –
such a straight bloke Eugene – as
they sign on the dotted line.
As for the meetings…
Sometimes he wakes before dawn –
wants to scream: sod the
quotas, the annual trip to
Minnesota. You’ve got to
get out Eugene – you’ve
got to leave these drones with their
air-con dreams behind,
head for the wide open road
while you still have time.
David Hale was born in Troon but now lives in Gloucestershire. He has a pamphlet from Happenstance, and another from Templar. He teaches, writes, looks after horses and engages in Letterpress printing.
Chris Hardy: Three Poems
Forty pounds for the Summer.
Jed took the big window out
and banged a frame and casement
into the hole like a missing tooth
he’d made in the white wall.
We fitted a new window to leave it open
and let everything that was out there,
moths, cats, ants, beetles, rain,
come in, if it wanted to.
And gourds of scented air
that emptied in the rooms,
filling the house with
sleeping fields and hedgerows.
Each morning a nest of ash
shivered in the grate as a breeze
like water round our feet found its way
from the window to the chimney.
Then we mended brickwork,
roof and doors but kept the falling barn
of dried out planks wavering upright
in the wind and dust,
where swallows lived each Summer.
A MATTER OF COURSE
Look what life has done to us,
rounded our edges,
coloured in our black and white,
bowed our shoulders,
loosened our clothes.
What was anticipated
has run through our hands.
I caught some of it,
even the sun and sky today
are my portion.
The rest I was afraid of
or couldn’t grip –
decisions lying on the mat
before the door was opened,
before the question was asked.
Sometimes I go back,
see my sandalled feet
in the shallows
and when I turn
folded green hills,
a road winding up
which goes to places
I cannot name
HOLDING THE LINE
Her father was a sailor
who sought the shortest route.
Her seamstress mother
sewed a neat straight hem.
She fitted gyroscopes that made
torpedoes run a fast white line
and raised two kids
when that was done.
She knows time
to the minute.
When to rise,
when to eat,
when to go out.
If the gardener
she is afraid.
The clock goes quiet
She watches light
in the tree outside,
that as it fades
alerts the ticking
in each room to start
the habits of the night –
wash, dress, wine,
a narrow bed.
She calls to say
Don’t feel you have to visit
this old woman.
Her diary plans her fate,
she cannot read
her ticked off past
and walks quickly to
her next appointment.
Chris Hardy‘s poems have been widely published. He is also a musician in the trio LiTTLe MACHiNe (www.little-machine.com) who perform their own settings of well known poems.
His fourth collection Sunshine at the end of the world is published by Indigo Dreams.
For more information, poems and links go to http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/chrishardypage.shtml.
Geoffrey Heptonstall: Poem
6 UPPER CHURCH STREET
The Crescent casts a perpetual shadow.
On the balcony we look to the sun
setting in the park, with winds
coming in from the hills.
Cool airs fill sail-like skirts.
And so ‘she’ floats through the years
with many names and faces
merging as one memory,
a muse of our innocence
Inscribed in the future now.
Found on common ground,
a house of rooms, of lives
painted in contrasts, seeking
emerging from the stone
at first as shadows, then as light
shining late in the night vigil.
We were learning towards the dawn
when dreams become visions
of angelic desire, art.
Geoffrey Heptonstall’s novel Heavens’ Invention was recently reprinted in paperback by Black Wolf. A regular contributor to The London Magazine, his poetry has appeared in many magazines, including The American Aesthetic, Envoi, International Literary Quarterly, Kalyna Review, Pacific Review, Meniscus and the Write Place at the Write Time. A member of the Birkbeck Writers’ Hub, he has published short fiction. His reviews and essays have appeared in Contemporary Review, Encounter, London Progressive Journal and the TLS.
Norton Hodges: Four Poems
I want to be the white space
around the mountain.
It seems the tiny figures
in the village below
misunderstood their importance
in the greater scheme of things,
assuming their night torments
were as momentous as this forest,
this mountain, the heavens above.
the scale is correct,
their troubles were minimal
and even though
they are part of this landscape,
by what is larger,
Like them, what I need
is to get beyond the way station
of self-important dreams
and stand on the raw edge
with a mind that is clear, white,
in love with nothingness.
This line is the road not taken
and this is the one that ends
in a siding somewhere where
Dr Beeching’s axe fell long ago.
These are the Nazca lines,
traces left by alien visitors
who arrived in rocket-fuelled chariots
and disappeared into emptiness.
These lines almost make an ‘M’,
for marriage? mess? misstep?
When I was young I expected straight lines,
a kind of fleshly geometry.
This cross-hatching, like bad weather,
like static, like grains from dried grasses,
is it the record of days without purpose,
boiling kettles, eating biscuits?
It seems this body isn’t mine
but someone else’s blank canvas,
made in the workshop of the old masters
completed by journeymen and apprentices.
Somehow my hands acted as if they were free,
grasp, open, close, shake, point, write, caress,
but they seem to bear the marks of unknown scribes,
their graffiti, their hieroglyphics, their inhuman languages.
My mother and father
made my bed,
dusted and tidied;
then they left the room
and closed the door softly
not waiting for a tip.
Your friendly staff
greeted me like an old friend
once they had validated
my credit card
but I learned from
their seamless smiles
that customer care
could never last
a brief rapport.
And now my home’s
a hotel, my refuge
a seasonal special offer,
and every day
after a continental
I count the damage
to my rack rate,
sniff the ambience
of the car park,
and move on.
BLACK SQUARE 1915
He finally found the perfect shade of black.
That’s how it works:
you start with the primary colours,
then gradually go inside yourself
and find that what you need
is subtraction, some kind of retreat.
Soon you’re liking bleak plain, steppe or fen,
landscapes without figures.
How much can you take away now?
More and more
until you’ve become
this flatline, this niente.
Norton Hodges has puiblished four collections of poetry and several volumes of translations. He was born in Gravesend, Kent, England in 1948. He studied French and German at the University College of Swansea and taught Modern Languages for 22 years. Sinced his medical retirement in 1997 he has since been widely published in the UK and abroad. In 2005, he was awarded the Grand Prix International Solenzara by a French jury from the Institut Solenzara. He lives in Lincoln. His latest collection Bare Bones will be published by The High Window in June 2018.
Sarah James: Poem
THE NOWHERE SHED
In an overgrown forest, dense
with shadows and hidden scuffling,
an emptied shed rusts.
I discover its pittered husk,
adrift in an eddy of leaves
that settle in corrugated layers.
Two holes make its gargoyle face:
blank eyes stare out
above a doorway mouth.
Rain starts to patter, and there’s no
other shelter. I step inside,
find rotten air, a damp smell
and patches of trapped light.
Like a spoiled secret, its metal shell
spills corroded things, pitter-
patter. Bared steel glistens,
as I hunker down,
listening to my heartbeat.
A thin roof, makeshift walls…
it’s flimsier than a well-pitched tent,
slighter than home or flesh should be,
but this lonely space between earth
and sky will keep me dry,
pitter-patter, for a while.
Sarah James is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor. Winner of the Overton Poetry Prize 2015, her latest collections are: Lampshades & Glass Rivers (Loughborough University) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press). The Magnetic Diaries (KFS) was highly commended in the Forward Prizes and the touring poetry-play version an Edinburgh Festival Fringe highly recommended show. A new pamphlet How to Grown Matches is out with Against the Grain in spring 2018.
Brian Johnstone:Three Poems
THREE DEFINITIONS OF TWILIGHT
Take the shadow of the planet’s curve
as it rises in the east, a steady veiling
of the day. Name it for its qualities
as subtle, painterly, impressionistic,
and call it twilight. Define it then as
night rise, a growing understanding
of the dark, acceptance of necessity
that light will come again. As it will
in star shine, lantern light, the beam
of a torch, or the pulsing of a beacon
out at sea, where men have called it
nautical: that twilight when enough
is seen of stars, of any constellations
to plot a course; twilight of the sailor,
of the voyager, of those who venture
forth. As does the gaze, the long sight
of the scientist defining, in this term,
his take as astronomical: that twilight
when the dark has settled on the land
but every pinprick from the faintest
to the very brightest star makes light
and one swift glance at any corner
of the heavens can show a ready eye
another cluster and another as light
flows on through all the definitions
of what we cannot ever see as space.
JOHN CLARE’S RULES
They sit before him as he writes
– an insult and a kindness, both the same –
mementos of a tree he loved, sat under,
loved another in its shade, laid plans
he thought the tree would see, ancient
as it was, a familiar of the parish
he had dwelt in, it had favoured
centuries before. Centuries when fields
were tilled, common land was open, free
for whosoever trod the paths, gathered
brushwood, grazed their individual beasts.
Gone, as is the oak felled in the name
of progress, of profit to the carpenter who,
hearing of his loss, has made from it
these rules that gather dust upon his desk;
rules pricked out in inches the tree out-topped
in feet. A kindness, to allow of his regret;
an insult, mocking what he can’t forget.
A MESSAGE RECEIVED
Not rescued dripping from the waves
this one, but stumbled on; washed up
and dried by someone’s fire, prepared
to take the paper stoppered there
in wait. They open it, these men who
rescued both the bottle and the message
from some long-forgotten recess
in the building they are working on,
and read the note left eighty years ago.
It tells them of the Flying Squad, joiners
named and, like themselves, engaged
in renovation tasks. It passes on
the record of their work, their pride
in it: the briefest text, but a statement
to be honoured, kept. A memory group
is best to save this relic of the past,
the men decide. Days later and another,
ninety to the day, time-served to the trade,
presents another gift to the collection.
A vintage plane, it triggers something,
prompts the opening of a drawer,
the lifting out of bottle, message,
a reading of the note. All pasts elide.
The gaffer of the Flying Squad, the father
who had long since owned the plane,
is speaking now through decades past
to one old man, his youngest son again.
Brian Johnstone is a poet, writer and performer whose work has appeared throughout Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, in North America and Europe. He has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014) and his work appears on the Poetry Archive website. His memoir Double Exposure was published by Saraband in February 2017. He is a founder and former Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival. http://brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk/
Shirley-Anne Kennedy: Poem
There had been roses
around a wooden door:
old as the hills kind of roses.
Now long gone.
And a lean-to shed,
heavy with nicotine tones
plummy congealed blood
marking the way underfoot
fat maggots plopping down,
from copper plumage above.
In the back bedroom
hung blue gingham curtains
thin enough to read till late
on long summer nights.
She had kissed the boy
from The Old Swan
on the lush spring lawn.
Cherry gloss lipstick
and glitter eyeshadow
smeared across his shirt.
The heels of her shoes
anchored in soft earth.
Shirley-Anne Kennedy is a second year Creative Writing student at the University of Bolton. In 2015 her poem ‘Famine Weavers’ won the University of Bolton poetry competition. Her poems have appeared in Bunbury Magazine, Live from Worktown, Links, Tell Us Another One, Reading the Century and others.
Emma Lee: Three poems
THE DOOR THAT OPENED TO NOWHERE
I was a scruffy schoolgirl in a Georgian house
with rugs we weren’t allowed to stand on.
A delicate, floral tea-set had been laid out
with a small bowl of sugar as the centrepiece.
But my attention was held by a door
on the other side to the one we’d entered through.
The guide said it was there to provide symmetry.
I wanted to try the handle, even though
it would only lead to brickwork in a city
which had had the imagination to fund
engineers to make the harbour float,
two years after the slave trade was abolished,
to free merchants from being limited by the tide.
The guide didn’t know if the door would open.
Did the merchant’s wife care about
her sugar’s source? Was her wedding
ring comfortable or a tight tether binding
her to this house? Had she written a secret
diary and hidden it behind a loose brick?
Or was her mind shut, like the door;
a fake thing to satisfy the eyes of others?
No answers in this generic room of a family
recreated to give schoolchildren
a sense of history as the middle-classes
had written it: merchants’ names
given to hospitals, schools and charities,
who’d bought floral sugar bowls
and doors that weren’t to be opened.
I SEE YOU
You’re an actor/songwriter in a scene soundtracked by your words
in which the elevator doors shut and you don’t have to say anything, just shake off
your character’s normal, super-confident demeanour, pocket the cellphone,
glance at his reflection and slump, loosen shoulders, weaken knees,
bend at the waist, slip into a crouch, pushing knees aside so the camera’s
on your face which also crumples into the boy’s who wanted his father’s
attention, who battled to make his father proud, who plotted and schemed
to win, who proved the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, who dare not
let anyone see him this way, faetal-positioned in an elevator, chased
by his father’s demons, labelled by his father’s name, lumbered
with adult responsibilities too soon, too scared to collapse, yet by the time
the elevator doors open, he’ll be standing straight, suit smoothed, smirk
back on his face, shoulders rigid enough to carry the devil on his back.
Who hasn’t looked in an elevator mirror and seen someone else’s face
beside their own? A mother’s eyes, a father’s chin, a grandparent’s mouth,
how welcome are they? Do they raise you up or send you down?
It begins as a nebulous thing
suggesting an outline of a cloud.
Images reflected on water droplets
start to merge, coalesce
and pull together. A cluster
of individuals become a crowd.
Wisps amplify as if into speech,
become denser, swirl into coherence
and steadily form a shape as its unifying
movement finds a rhythm. Its centre
strengthens and allows observers
to project their own vision on it.
It doesn’t care if it’s a poem or a cloud.
Emma Lee’s most recent collection is ‘Ghosts in the Desert’ (IDP, 2015). She was co-editor for ‘Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge’ (Five Leaves, 2015) and ‘Welcome to Leicester’ (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). She blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com/
Christopher Levenson: Poem
BEYOND OUR WINDOWS
Beyond our windows I see
the apartment surrounded by
solicitudes of green.
Though only the brightest sun
can infiltrate this shade,
when a faint breeze intervenes
to shuffle intricacies
of foliage and bough,
by a sleight of leaf it seems
drifts of fritilleries
settle upon my palm
and I feel my pulse tricked into
Christopher Levenson has taught English and Creative Writing at Carleton University, Ottawa, and was co-founder and first editor of Arc magazine. He now lives in Vancouver, BC. He has published twelve books of poetry, most recently A Tattered Coat upon a Stick (Quattro, 2017). Originally from London, he has lived in Germany and The Netherlands, with shorter periods in India and the former Yugoslavia, before emigrating to Canada in 1968. He has the distinction of being the first recipient of a Gregory Award in 1960.
Sally Long: Two Poems
ST PIRAN’S DAY
The choughs have returned.
If you take the cliff path
you might see them
jabbing the earth
each bill a bloodied dagger.
they landed here
like the saint
who walked from the waves
dragging his millstone behind him.
In memory of Oliver Cumine
You tramp up the hill
as the village retreats
behind your right shoulder,
cows browse the field
below the path
where you rest your easel,
hoist the canvass,
begin to spread the oils.
I try to place myself in your scene,
familiar, yet unfamiliar,
viewed from a different angle.
Where can I stand
so that I make sense
of the hillside, fields,
Ah yes – there’s the road,
St Stephen’s Church,
Pleasant View Cottages,
and crouching above the hollow
Sally Long is a PhD student at Exeter where she is investigating the influence of The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius on contemporary poetry. She has had poems published in magazines including Agenda, Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg Review and Snakeskin amongst others. Sally edits Allegro Poetry Magazine.
Antony Mair: Poem
I liked small things – stray feathers, buttons,
a marbled pebble found in the street.
I kept an ant in a jam-jar, but it died.
I hid in small spaces, squeezing behind
coats and the vacuum cleaner in a cupboard
or between dusty suitcases in the loft.
My father used to shout at me to speak up
but I’ve always preferred a quiet voice.
I liked the silence after he slammed the door.
I whispered stories to my mother and sister
to stop them crying. I knew I had magic powers.
I dreamt one day I’d cast a spell.
Top shelves would be within my reach,
staircases wide with shallow risers.
My father would whisper his love in my ear.
I’m at home in this little room. The doctor says
we all kill our fathers one way or another.
Look at this stone I found, with veins like blood.
Antony Mair has had poems accepted for publication in numerous magazines and several anthologies. He won first prize in the Rottingdean Writers National Poetry Competition 2016 and has been shortlisted in the Live Canon Poetry Competitions 2016 and 2017.
Caroline Maldonado: Poem
THE FIRST SIGNS OF INFIDELITY IN A PARISIAN CAT
In Rue de Mouffetard’s scented early morning
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxfrom out of the French windows
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxajar above the Boulangerie
he climbs over the wrought-iron railing,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxdelicately treads a pent roof protecting
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthe Glaces Excellentes
across and up to a balcony whose flower
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxboxes burgeon with blooms in a
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxcascade down to the Glaces.
Like a winking eye his collar scintillates
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxin the new sun as he slips in
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthrough the next open window.
Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator. Her poems have appeared in a wide range of magazines and several anthologies. Her publications include the pamphlet What they say in Avenale (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2014), a co-translation with Allen Prowle of poems by Rocco Scotellaro : Your call keeps us awake (Smokestack Books 2013). Isabella, a collection of poems and translations, is forthcoming with Smokestack Books in early 2019. She lives in London and Le Marche, Italy.
Tim Miller: Four Poems
THE SUN SETS INTO THE SEA
The sun sets into the sea with a hiss
and rises with the sound of a driven wheel,
the creak of speaking stone, metal and wood.
The sun sets into the sea to simmer
and rises with the sound of stretched leather
and the song of the horse’s chain and bit.
The sun sets into the sea and is doused
and rises with the sound of reborn flame
rolling into another red morning.
The sun sets into the sea, and the sun
disappears down into extinguished night,
a golden disk diving to a dark blue.
But the sun rises as the night retreats
and rises like some cart out on the road
setting to the old labour of daylight,
a wounded wheel and an exhausted gear
chipped and scarred and with a battered hub
like an old mad father afraid to die.
But he always dies when winter comes and
sets colourless into the sea, grey sun
into the iron waves, the sound of sinking.
They would rather row out to Rathlin Island,
they would rather quarry the difficult
mountain over any easier spot
that happened to house the same stone. Demand
made the axes better, as did the withdrawn,
the journeyed-to, the arduous and removed.
Meaning over the merely efficient,
axes polished beyond the cutting blade,
beauty balanced with use, the whole consort
a dance of place, motive and exertion.
(Northern Ireland, 4000 BC)
A SONG TO STONE
The hardened, quiet persistence of stone,
the longevity of our graves beneath them,
not permanent but very nearly so.
Our people should be stone, our families:
the seasons are stone, their circling endurance,
some slab in the landscape always there.
Love is stone, the gods are stone, stable,
the ground is stone in its always giving,
the rivers and the seas are stone, ceaseless.
But then, the most durable anything splits,
or the ground betrays us to starvation
and all the waters rise and overwhelm.
The gods can ignore us and the seasons tilt
and the oldest friends give way to frenzy
and violence, stone put to slaughter’s use.
Yet none of these are so unlikely as failed stone:
instead, deepest veins in all directions,
exemplar of stillness and tenacity.
THE PAINTED STAGS OF CLERMONT-FERRAND
Glorious stag alive on the side of
a painted pot, impossible antlers proud
as they emerge like flowers from the head,
touching an equally unlikely tail
that flourishes up a back and over a
swerving torso more plant than animal –
or just more human than natural,
humour and elation and revelry
in the familiar made improbable,
in the already beautiful further
exalted with limbs of leaf and torso of stalk
all filled in with a smiling flourish of mind.
(France, 120 BC)
Tim Miller’s most recent book is the long narrative poem, To the House of the Sun (S4N Books). His other fiction and poetry have appeared widely. He writes about poetry, history and religion at www.wordandsilence.com. Bone Antler Stone, a collection of poems inspired by European prehistory is scheduled for publication by The High Window in 2018.
Maxine Rose Munro: Poem
That was the summer of evenings.
Every day it rained, grey drumming,
midge-birthing rain. Fat drops sped
by our windows, in a rush to coat
the ground with wet. Yet by end
of day we sunbathed. Drowned
in yellow light daisies opened
unexpected and bees busied,
aware that their time was close.
Late in our days we basked.
A summer unlooked for, we
held hands grown familiar
to each other, if less so to ourselves.
Heat seeped into our bones that
was hard to let go of, keeping us
awake long beyond our usual hours
and we remembered what it was to be
together and we knew there would
not be another summer like this.
Maxine Rose Munro has spent the last few years pootling about the small presses and online journals, most recently in The Open Mouse, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Pushing Out the Boat. In doing so she has discovered that finding the poetry you like leads to finding people who like the poetry you like, something she finds almost unbearably exciting.
Michael Penny: Poem
This is a green place and I live in a green place,
but this is brighter as the sun forbids somber
and trees are content to spread and not stretch to clouds.
This is a red place and I live in a red place,
if only for the passage of sedate sunset
while here, lava mountains remember their red heat.
This is a yellow place and I live in a yellow place
with that same sure sun but shy behind clouds
while its certainty here forces rain and departure.
This is a blue place and I live in a blue place
where it colours horizon as land shades to sea
and sea disappears in a distance of sky.
The waves remember blue’s origin in white
and foam at their edges. I live in white places
where all colours join and collect our presence.
Michael Penny was born in Australia, but now lives in Canada. He has published five books, most recently Outside, Inside with McGill-Queen’s University Press. His work has previously appeared in The High Window. He lives on an island and makes a living as a part-time consultant on regulating professionals.
Gerard Smyth: Three Poems
NIGHTS AT THE ROUND TABLE
When we gather at this round table
to resume the old conversation,
we are like seafarers in the harbour bar,
one of us starts a story he doesn’t finish
or tries to recall a memory that ageing has withered.
Jokes and anecdotes are our lines of defence.
We have our nostalgias for songs half-remembered
and the girls of nineteen sixty-seven
who became our first infatuations
when we saw them dance in their blue denim.
A sign of age is when we keep forgetting
names from the morning roll-call
but not the faces, in rows and pairs –
the boys who played friendship games,
the ones who waged war and had to be winners
back in school days when we listened
to stories and believed what they told us
about The Children of Lir, The Salmon of Knowledge.
(On the 50th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper)
Sunday morning cathedral chimes
but best of all was turning the dial
to Radio Paradise
and those electrifying tunes,
those artful bulletins –
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,
A Day in the Life…
Mindblowing was a word I heard
when the disc stopped spinning,
lost its voice.
It was like breathing new air,
a Godsend in our hands – the unimagined
Lonely Hearts Club Band –
it is now our souvenir of spangled
summer days and youthful beginnings,
of another Annus Mirabilis
but not the one Larkin named,
his warm-up year of sixty-three
when the action started,
the years ahead
like strawberry fields to be harvested.
Gerard Smyth has published eight collections of poetry, including A Song of Elsewhere (Dedalus Press, 2015), and The Fullness of Time: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010 ). He is co-editor, with Pat Boran, of If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (Dedalus Press, 2014).