Alice Allen • Peter Branson • John Cassidy • Rose Cook • Gareth Culshaw • Marie Dullaghan • Jonathan Edwards • Mike Farren • Pete Green • Carl Griffin • Dominic James • Tess Jolly • Angelica Krikler • Juliet Lacey • Edward Lee • Gill McEvoy • Robert Okaji • William Oxley • Andrew Parkin • Darren Ryder • Mark Russell • Katerina Štruncová • David Stuart • Cedric Watts • Helen May Williams • James Wood
THW9 March 7, 2018 THW8 December 6, 2017
THW7 September 10, 2017 THW6 June 3, 2017
THW5 March 7, 2017 THW4 December 6, 2016
THW3 September 1, 2016 THW2 June 1, 2016
THW1 March 1, 2016
Alice Allen: Two poems
The radio is part machine part miracle:
a copper coil, an earphone piece, a whisker of wire –
Father Charles Rey, Jesuit, Meteorologist,
Keeper of the Mission’s Madagascan Crystal Collection,
maker of illegal listening sets for locals in the know
(his own set hidden in a pocket watch) –
coaxes the signal from a fingertip of crystal
at first a terrible scribbling nest of noise
a miniature game of round and round
with the interference, until
the physical thrill of unmistakable
clear human sound –
listen how a voice can rectify the body
simultaneous alive found.
PHOTOGRAPH OF A SERGEANT IN THE MOROCCAN TIRAILLEUR REGIMENT
‘We have been very miserable at times, but the help
and interest of which you gave us testimony
rendered our prisoner life less miserable.’
Sergeant Mohamed ben Mohamed
Letter to the Evening Post, Jersey, 6 June 1945,
He is sitting very upright
on the bentwood chair
in the camp’s tidy kitchen,
wild flowers in a tin on the table.
He is sitting very upright,
wearing a fez,
the leather plaited sandals
of a colonial uniform.
It is strictly forbidden
for members of the North African
Contingent to wear civilian clothes
in the town
– a note sent to the camp
from the Liberating Forces.
He is sitting very upright,
staring at the camera,
at the photographer
retired French Lieutenant,
tireless smuggler of provisions
for the Sergeant and his men.
Lists on strips of ledger paper,
tomato wrapper, card:
pommes de terre, oignons
From Monsieur Dubras
to the President of the Jersey Bowling Club:
Please accept our grateful thanks
for the five balls –
these have been handed over
with the skittles
to each Prisoner of War camp:
British/American and French North African.
Should you find one more ball
this would be highly appreciated
enabling us to treat
the two little crowds alike.
He is sitting very upright
on the bentwood chair
in the camp’s tidy kitchen.
He is staring at the camera.
He is staring at us.
NOTE: The poems are from a collection I am writing about the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands during World War Two. The Jersey my mother grew up in during the 1940s was formed of small farms and fishing communities where Jerriaise was spoken (an old form of Norman French). This British island community and that of the other Channel Islands was deeply affected by five years of occupation, an experience which has never really been part of Britain’s World War Two narrative and which has always had more similarities with its European neighbours across the Channel.
Alice Allen‘s poems have appeared in several magazines and anthologies including most recently, The Moth and Envoi. In 2014 she won the Flambard Poetry Prize. Alice is a poetry reviewer for Sabotage and a writing mentor at the children’s literacy charity, The Ministry of Stories.
Peter Branson: Poem
‘You wouldn’t want me any other way’
from ‘Beeswing’ by Richard Thompson
For Anne Briggs
Bell clear, each note beguiled, the song
speaks for itself. Dark angelus,
its ghost released, you disappear,
the conduit, hands clamped behind,
eyes shut, beauty without pretence,
waiflike, fragile. Beyond the pale,
bedevilled by hard drink, defiant,
you rail “If blokes can, why can’t I?”
Fame not your thing, like blossom on
the wind, you crave the commonplace,
iron muse, word wise, your sacrifice
too complex to be pigeon-holed
on record sleeve, a rolling stone
life happens to, takes by surprise.
Aunt Win: in fond memory
Steps in, the oldest girl of three,
her mother frail, her dad on war-
time hours, four lads. She laps it up:
her word is law, explosive force,
pure energy, her finest hour,
the neighbours say. Once all the boys
have left, her father old, mum dead,
she rules the roost again, gets wed.
Two sisters married, all abide,
six adults, hens, four kids, church mice.
She’s restless till there’s nothing in
or out to blitz, small terraced home
where she holds sway, this tyrant with
a heart of gold and feet of clay.
Most of the time I’m still that kid, afraid
of change, inquisitive. I eavesdrop, day
my dad walks by, finds mum, death on his mind.
He’s met a lorry, lonely country road.
It’s bent around an oak, driver impaled
on scaffold lance the violent stall has hurled
clean through the cabin, metal, sinew, bone,
blade poking out right side between his ribs.
“Begs me to pull it out,” my father’s words;
“Just after, face a blank, he’s gone.” The police
arrive. Much later, statement made, my man
in black’s away again, for sorrow, lone
magpie. Soon churchyard, sexton, grave fresh-made,
drifts by; field’s edge, the old bloke with his scythe.
Peter Branson’s poetry is widely-published, including in Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Envoi, London Magazine, North, Prole, Warwick Review, Iota, Butcher’s Dog, Frogmore Papers, Interpreter’s House, SOUTH, Crannog, THE SHOp, Causeway, Measure, The Columbia Review, Main Street Rag and Other Poetry. His Selected Poems, Red Hill, came out in 2013. His latest collection, Hawk Rising, from Lapwing, Belfast, was published in early April 2016. He was shortlisted for the most recent Poetry Business Pamphlet and Collection competition.
John Cassidy: Three Poems
GUARDING THE NURSES
My driver was a German POW,
taken, he told me, when his tank was hit.
We drove at ease, across the flat
untroubled sand, and saw the sun dive down
behind some sharp hills on the skyline.
We reached the red=crossed hospital
and the nurses’ tented compound lying
within rolling hills of wire, just catching
on its barbs the fleet last glints of sun.
We saw to the formalities, and went in.
My driver took the wagon back to base.
I posted sentries and patrolled the wire.
The tedious night was prickled by a star,
then others, till a vast embroidery stretched
over the desert, drab, silent, bleached.
At some time in the night a jeep
came in, and a nurse delivered smiles,
hot food for the mess tins, and pails
of tea to see us through till dawn
when the glaring sun came back again.
There were no other happenings.
The half-expected spectres didn’t creep
past us unseen, fixed on robbery or rape.
No cries, no klaxons, no alarms, no shots.
Not much to hold, this night of many nights,
for memory to clamp on and secure.
We rode back in the truck. I nursed
a box of ammo on my knees, unused,
unwanted. The million stars, the food,
the smiles, became the images most firmly guarded.
Pegged-out washing stiffens
and wags slowly if you touch the line.
A blackbird puffed up like a tea-cosy
sits on the fence, bill and eyes bright.
The sky leans towards us over the trees
with armfuls of snow ready to dump.
The child’s eye skates across all of it,
storing and unjudging. Memory
will hold it, to align with other winters,
different, not ever as clear
in recall as this one, with so little
to hold onto. These smallest observed
things only, without reflection. And then,
thoughts whirring with infinitely
more promise than storm clouds or blackbird,
cannot grapple with why these things adhere
and relish a persistence out of key
with the honoured structures of our rationality:
the ball of blackbird, the yellow bill, the huge
clouds, the clothes so strangely wooden on the line.
THE BIG DUB
The woven ropes of water
xxxxxxxxsharply white in the sun
splattered and swirled under the fall
xxxxxxxxbefore the slide onward
flattening into the slow tremble of this pool.
Never was a dive more
xxxxxxxxcompelled by such unrefusable clarity,
the depth clear as air
xxxxxxxxover flat stones and gravel. And crashing
down into it brought silver
clouds of small bubbles bouncing round
xxxxxxxxthis different world, silent
except for the pressuring gentle sway
xxxxxxxxof moving water. Traffic
on the bridge, shouting from children’s play
and whatever else was left
xxxxxxxxup there to live its life, define its moments,
breed its consequences, now
xxxxxxxxkept its irrelevance to itself. The big dub
stayed the river’s onward flow
in slack water for my momentary dive.
xxxxxxxxand left for me a glinting gift
like the suddenly alongside-me flash
of a trout, an everlasting
instant in the downward unstoppable rush.
Dub: a North Country word for a deep pool
in a fast-flowing river
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.
Rose Cook: Four Poems
In north Devon
a pantheon of godwits
a prayer of godwits
an omniscience of godwits
pattered about on the brown mud.
They floated rather,
in that drifty way they have.
Beautiful, light godwits
trotting about on mudflats.
THE DAYS OF THE WHALE
She’s been doing it for a while, nosing
into the bay to chase shoals of mackerel and smelt
that swirl and fly in the wintry sea.
Waves churn with them, silvered
so they draw seal, porpoise, gannets
and this thirty foot Humpback Whale.
We never had one of those before.
People come to the shore,
call directions, are helpful, kind.
One man on his run heard the blast of air rush from her blowhole,
as the whale breathed beside him, rare companion.
We fall into a rhythm,
quiet watchers gather at high tides,
stand to scan the waters, tell soft stories,
waiting as for a god.
Meanwhile, four swans fly in a line,
a pod of dolphins pass
and a black seal scans the sea edge for whitebait.
We watch them all, enraptured,
until the whale herself appears,
big, blue, endangered creature,
wild and deep as a dream.
Boat wave lagoon, the sky scrapes blues over it.
Watery light pours fragility into hushed streets
hung with washing. We stop by a shrine,
whose darkened shelves hold loved faces.
A sudden call to say my friend died, just after midnight.
Heart heavy in my chest, we find peace
in a courtyard of roses, where a poet once lived.
This life. This life. This life.
Ex vota glint on velvet. Pray for a miracle, protection.
Not me, not us, not now, not ever.
Here the pain of religion lies underneath it all.
Find solace in seahorses, marble fishtails, webbed hooves.
HOW TO BUILD A WALL
First scrape your foundations, hasty or careful
will affect the outcome, so make a decision.
Go deep if your will is for height,
but character shows whatever you do.
Place footings – strong, solid –
these stones must have heft enough to hold.
Scavenge for rocks, offer them carefully,
this being the first lift, take time.
Much will be shared, toil and windslip,
fist in with handfuls of heartings,
kind words, gift pockets, tendrils of care.
Find longer through stones, cross-wise, graven,
wait for the right ones to hold tension and stress.
These may be lined then with moss and sweet flowerings,
for this sees completion of the first test.
Begin again, forage for second lift.
Build then with company and a good heart,
place in more heartings with tumble and lustre,
brought for stability to friendship or wall.
To finish, find cope stones, rounded and even,
arranged to sit pretty atop of it all.
They will stand to be gale-swept, hold the wall steady.
Now, to see what is held in and kept out.
Rose Cooke has been widely published in magazines and has written four poetry collections. Originally from Yorkshire, she is now based in Devon and is a well-known South West poet, having performed extensively. Rose co-founded the popular Devon poetry and performance forum One Night Stanza, as well as the poetry performance group Dangerous Cardigans.
Gareth Culshaw: Poem
The wheelbarrow never let me down.
Its wheel helped carry my loads
and the grips sat in my hand
like the horizon on the curve of earth.
No matter what bumps or potholes,
rain or ice the barrow pressed on
leaving tyre marks in sloppy mud
that would harden over winter, linger
to summer. The support it gave,
taking the pressure of the shoulder
girdle. Making the legs lengthen,
and wrists thicken. How I loved
the bounce and bump. I felt older
than I was, lighter in the body.
Nothing was in my way when I
held the handles and saw the path ahead.
The wheelbarrow never let me down
no matter what the weight.
Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He has his first collection out in 2018 by futurecycle.
Back to the top
Marie Dullaghan: Poem
For Eileen, whose kitchen table supports the whole community.
I have seen this table
dressed in patterned cloth,
in lace and frills, in white damask
with the corners hung uneven;
but I prefer it like this –
uncovered, all its stains and scars on show.
Here children crayoned
rainbows and dragons, fingered colour
into the wood’s joints. Here
they wrote ‘thank you’ notes
for birthday gifts; puzzled their way
from two-plus-two to differential calculus;
grew strong on home cooked food.
Others too, have left their mark:
Cassie’s shaking hands spilled chicken soup
when the doctors told her the news;
Mary’s fingernails dug furrows into the wood
weeks after her husband died.
Myself – tea and tears while
I learned to smile again.
But here too we clapped the guitar,
added our clamour to the chorus;
stacked stemmed-glass pyramids,
watched champagne cascade down
til every cup was full,
anniversaries, birthdays, Burn’s night,
Paddy’s night, George’s night,
graduations, promotions, engagements,
new jobs, new houses, new babies –
any occasion for a bubbly celebration.
This table is cluttered now, letters,
photos, travel brochures,
an unfinished jigsaw,
but still enough space
for coffee cups, elbows, tears, laughter,
the coming and going of cats.
Marie Dullaghan: Born in Ireland, lives in Essex and Dubai. A member of the Dubai poetry collective, Punch, reads regularly with them at venues such as the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature and Sikka Art Fair. Work published in The Shop, Swords Voices, and elsewhere. She has staged several short plays at Dubai’s Short and Sweet Festival, receiving a ‘best script’ award for a production titled Sam’s Friend. Other interests include photography and music.
Jonathan Edwards: Three Poems
So there it is, the spec’d-up, revved-up pride
and joy, the souped-up, vroomed-up and suspension-
lowered, roll-barred, tinted-windowed boy
racer, an exhaust as loud as when
you BMX’d it down the street with one
peg look on your childhood. This car sounds
the way a car should, if you want a car
to park outside your mate’s house, gun the engine,
and say Now listen now. A car that shade
of azure, sapphire, cyan, cobalt, call it
anything you like but bloody blue,
metallic paintwork, sprinkled with a bit of
fairy dust, to Sunday morning over,
not till you see your grin look in the bonnet,
so much as till you see a beauty queen
oh sashed and lolling on it. Look, a car
colander-grilled and bucket-seated, kitted
out with rally headlights, hear-me-coming
CD changer, aphrodisiac
hubcaps, there, a car which if it means
something it means this: you’ll never die.
It’s glinting, waiting for you on the forecourt –
a car which someday, someday soon you’ll buy.
Meanwhile, it’s five past four: you rush from college
on your saddle-raised two-wheeler, quickly
out of range of your elder brother’s jeers,
pick up speed now as you round the corner
to the park and almost run straight into –
well don’t you know she’s out walking the dog
the same time as she does each day this winter –
old Mr Jones’s steady nice-faced daughter.
On gardens, roofs, rain pools
and pools, in puddles too big for the name,
and here, on a city street, a landing bird
aquaplanes. Rain makes its music, gurgles
in the gutter, plays its virtuoso
squelch-solo underfoot, or pitter-
patters on pavements to applaud
its own performance. Rain pours
and pours, collects in children’s wellies, turns
itself to memories, makes gravity
visible and umbrellas trampolines,
forms itself in hailstones big enough to cancel
buses. Let it come down. Let it
come down, all afternoon, so long as
this girl sits in the window watching it,
tears streaming down her cheeks,
dripping from her chin,
gathering their energies again…
Let it come down, so long as she sits there watching –
like rain holds nothing now to awe or harm us,
like she knows everything there is of rain.
WHEN I’M GONE
don’t do this, babe: as they lower my bones
to the ground, the grave, please don’t leap down
to be with me, don’t take the good, fresh earth
and wipe it on your face or underneath
your skirt to be with me, don’t take your lunch,
your dinner, at the cemetery, to eat
with me, or let them find you, huddling
at dawn by my grave, shivering, cuddling
my headstone. Don’t. Don’t wear my scent, my clothes
to be with me, don’t weep or wail or moan,
or turn to drink or God and don’t give up
on job or joy or life to be with me,
to be with me. Don’t do that, babe. And don’t
give me cause to hear that other voice,
which whispers in my ear each time we’re out,
and you look past me at some other bloke,
who grins, or turns to you, or meets your eye:
Fool, what if she don’t need your advice?
Jonathan Edwards‘s first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014), received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.
Mike Farren: Poem
A FIELD IN ENGLAND
Wearing my best suit,
wearing my only suit,
searching for fairy tale white
in the everywhere black,
I pick myself off the barbs
of a barbed-wire fence
in the middle of England.
There are no shores here, no boundaries,
everything that has ever failed
to happen has failed to happen here,
and this field, every field,
every wood, every hedge
curves away from reaching
a state of becoming a place,
and the lines that I walk,
in what sounds like the direction
of sound or what looks
like the direction of light
just bring me back
on the lostness of being
a suit on a body alone in a field
full of mud and of darkness
that clags at the sole
of my shoe and that snags
on my senses and plugs
all the organs through which
the world outside this poem,
this dream of an English field,
might be able to force its way back in.
Mike Farren’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Interpreter’s House, Prole, and Valley Press’s Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry. His debut pamphlet, ‘Pierrot and his mother’ was published in 2017 by Templar Poetry. Mike lives in Shipley, where he is one of the hosts of the Rhubarb open mic night, and works as an editor in academic publishing.
Pete Green: Poem
It is a Monday lunchtime in April and I am
ascending Yorkshire’s coast in a gleaming bus,
Loftus and Redcar sitting up bright, pleasing,
sufficient as beads on a string. The weather
is clear, immaculate, unambiguous
as memories shared with siblings. Up on Boulby Bank
the potash works weigh in, eyewitness to the
whiteness of the day’s blameless palette,
corroborate the sunlight’s blanch of lemon.
This springtime is still tentative. By some way
I am the youngest on board, outsider both in
time and place. The bus slows down to take the
sheer bank at Carlin How. Its unworn engine
labours up the hairpin. A cohort of seasoned locals
chuckles, riding out the gradient, audacious
as the sea breeze, banters with the driver, north-
eastern vowels warm as just-baked stottie cake.
At the peak, a last hoorah. Then, at Marske,
the chatter falls away. To our left, suburbia
yields a new school with the spotless
façade of a conference centre. Fenced within,
tired lads in shirts and jumpers lash
a heavy football along asphalt. And even
the seagulls pause, as, to the right — it’s
there again. Our North Sea — turquoise
and orchestral in its scope, its sweep, these
barely viable vistas, imperious as a tragic ending;
shifts and switch of light suggest salinity and water,
the side-roles set by oceanic chasms
casked with cut-glass bead-chains playing loose
and a brotherhood of turbines rears from the surf,
stilled white blades the limbs of resting
stallions, power spent, replenishing.
Abashed, the bus is overtaken by
a hushed, inchoate clucking. Its wi-fi signal
flickers in and out. We don’t know where to look
and I fight back an urge to blurt through the quiet,
share with the old dears that it’s my forty-third
birthday and most fitting yet.
Pete Green is a poet and musician who grew up in Grimsby and lives in Sheffield. They write about walking, railways and impossible things, getting lost, getting drunk, cities and post-industrial predicaments, marginal places in general and coastlines in particular. These preoccupations inform Pete’s debut pamphlet Sheffield Almanac (Longbarrow Press) and most recent solo album We’re Never Going Home. Their poetry has also appeared in journals including The Interpreter’s House, The High Window and Caught by the River. See petegreensolo.com
Carl Griffin: Poem
(WHERE) NOTHING LANDS
No one can see our caravan from anywhere
they’ve ever stood. Even we two forget
the exterior’s design, though some days
we step outside to remind ourselves.
The car which brought us here was long
since driven off some edge or canyon.
We don’t wish to recall where. Buried anyway
beneath dust devils and sand storms.
The caravan is small. Compact. Like
a world. It has everything. A working sink,
two beds, and food to last until we pray.
The only snag is how to measure time
within the confines of ceaseless rain
and ceaseless mist, and a vast space
of air and sky. Or sky and air. Where day
is kin to night. And beyond us, what
lies among the cliffs and islands is
anybody’s guess. Or if the nothing lands
are what we thought or where we left them.
But we don’t tire or want, because two
is community. How long we last is our always.
Carl Griffin is from Swansea, South Wales, and has had poems published in Magma, Poetry Wales and Cheval. He used to review collections and interview poets for Wales Arts Review. He was long-listed for the Cinnamon Pamphlet Poetry Prize and the Melita Hume Prize.
Dominic James: Poem
Six miles out of Tewkesbury
tractors, sweat and dust
new mown hay, diesel heavy
on the air, onset of dusk
a skyline aquarelle:
the antique sketch’s
smoothly executed hills,
delicate as apricot
on glass, hard as porcelain,
robust. A china glaze
surrounds The Lawn Hotel.
Its clientele, rakish
in their tilted hats, old men
mill around the garden chairs,
through wisps of grass they seem
too brightly painted, reddened
by some heat dyed-in
before today’s fierce sun,
murky at the last hurrah.
Further in, on pastureland
an oak stripped white and bare,
from its ruptured trunk run spears
of milky lightning
into the soft night air.
Dominic James wrote short stories for several years before turning to poetry, since when has attended many poetic events in the southern counties, often as part of the Bright Scarf group. Widely published he took a 2nd Prize in the Wirral’s recent Festival of Firsts. He has a collection Pilgrim Station (SPM Publications 2016) and feeds a blog at: http://djamespoetic.blogspot.co.uk
Tess Jolly:Two Poems
There’s still time for you to phone at 6 pm
as you always do, perched on the ottoman
with your darling sea view, the tiger-skin rug
soft on your stockinged feet and Father’s
Toby jugs chuckling from the mantelpiece
beside the lacquer box that holds faded confetti.
You’ll tell me about lunch, your eyes will light
when you describe the trolley wheeled round
laden with cherry gateaux, treacle sponge,
profiteroles plump with cream. After coffee
you walked arm-in-arm along the prom,
rested in the shade while all the young things
slipped past. Harry refused to take his tie off
despite the heat! Soon I’ll see you strolling
past The Grand where we used to meet after work,
dolled up and giggling towards another dance.
When we’ve said goodbye, when we’ve promised
to talk again next week, I’ll carry sandwiches
into the lounge where Jack will be fussing
with his gin, the paper discarded on the gramophone.
He’ll grumble over the time I’ve been gone,
wonder what on earth can be left to say.
Closing the curtains as the hourly bus
advances half-heartedly along a darkening road,
I’ll count the birthday cards again – twelve this year –
arranged beneath the still-life you love:
that square of light on the rim of the glass,
orange peel curling out of the frame.
I’ll lift one down to read the shaky writing:
For Mary, Yours as always, Min. There’s still time
to settle in the hallway with a cup of tea –
the little stool is waiting, the receiver in its cradle.
We enter your dark and silent lounge
to find you mewling in a chair
like the lamb we saw curled
by a cairn on the mountain
as we trudged towards the summit.
Shivering in your nightie you’ve lost
so much weight your skin drapes
round your bones in ruffles and folds
stitched with your veins’ brocade,
your limbs are splayed where they buckled.
Milky eyes roll back in their sockets
too tired to focus, you’ve muddled
the doses and mother’s not here
to tell you what to do, though hearing
her call echo across farmsteads at dusk
you know she’d come back
if only you could hold the thought
in your mind for long enough
to bid these hooves run like they used to
over soft earth. The cloud is low now,
dissolving the stars, wrapping
the mountainside with dread. Reluctant
to leave we add stone after stone
to the mound we’ll know to call landmark
or memorial when we descend.
Tess Jolly has been widely published in UK magazines and has been commended or placed in several competitions, including the Mslexia Poetry Competition and the Poetry Society’s Stanza Poetry Competition. She has won the Hamish Canham Prize and the Anne Born Prize. Her debut pamphlet– Touchpapers – is published by Eyewear and a second pamphlet – Thus the Blue Hour Comes – is due from Indigo dreams.
Angelica Krikler: Poem
Look at how the tree gives herself up for the cycle. She sheds her hair
as her skin gains a malnourished pallor
she kills herself for the cause, laying all her trust in the hope that one day she’ll breathe again, harvest fruits
that the wind will shimmer through her orange maple leaves, and birds and lichens will play amongst her organs, water finding her roots deep in the undergrowth.
her body is uninhabitable but by nature she is a mother: the cruel injustice of winter never fails to take her breath away each year. If this is so
then summer is the lover who cannot commit.
the tree may sleep in the warmth of the sun, with the plants nodding at her on a hot September afternoon,
but she’ll wake to find her favourite star boarded up and bailiffed, her friends dead on her doorstop, on October 1st.
with no flowers, her song transpires from a rustling whisper to the creaking groan of a sunken ship. A mourning call that could chill frost
a lonely whale tune in the widest of oceans.
like a wronged wife, she lets summer touch her again and again – her heart mossy and rotten by their third anniversary.
so that when the time comes for her to be hacked away
it feels like relief.
Angelica Krikler is a student from Essex, hoping to study English Literature at university next year. She was 17 when she wrote ‘Tree’ and she spends her time reading, writing and watching American comedy. She has previously been published in The Claremont Review, Cake Magazine, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Morphrog and on Y-Magazine.
Juliet Lacey: Poem
JACK THE LANTERN
Matron’s cut him out with a kitchen devil:
a gap-tooth grinner with a one-candle brain.
She’s stuck him on the sideboard to jizz ‘em up at dinner.
His triangled gaze flickers on zimmers, tremors,
dumped old pap-guzzlers
needing a fun memento in amberlight,
a treat to trick out eternities of halloweens.
One poor patience eyes Jack’s snickering stare,
and pipes: Why put a skull up there?
They shuffle out for telly in the velveteen lounge.
No one sees Jack roll off the sideboard
and smash through glass and leaf-moulding dark
over soft-fallen apples into quince-smelling
aster-time of starry October.
Jack’s bumping, bowling on grass,
deflowering beds, sprung gates,
crashed a progress of stumpers, clump-soles,
patter-past of trainers, jostling anoraks,
muddle of duffles, bobblehats, blown noses,
ghosts and mini-ghouls, skeletons, bats,
riding-tall of small witches on broad backs,
laughter ratchetting, hi-ohs warily called out.
Now Jack’s linked to somebody’s swung hand.
Jack’s a lantern, impish among light carriers.
His angled flash slices here, there
the dark flank striding alongside.
Now they’ve turned up the hill track
Jack’s a spot bobbing orange through woods
to songs snatched from air.
Catching breath, they’ve come clear
to where the old year is stacked for burning.
Now from rite and fire-circle
roast chestnuts and toffee
sparklers and owl cry
Jack’s going. His flare’s white and high.
His spark’s way out, keeps darting up:
bright Jack’s departing as souls used to,
making for a star that’s old, cold, far.
Wrestling with Morpheus in the reading room
above the steaming privet-stinking square,
she felt a breeze, turned to shut the sash,
and he was there, her grizzled Orpheus.
He said: Let’s get the hell out of here.
Doubtful, she consulted the time: it said: No Way.
Left her books, the square, the rusty roses.
They took a cab; sat jaw-dropped and shy,
talking of what to say. The meter ticked.
She stared at the unwinding streets, and thought
of couples in Etruscan funerary poses.
He knew a place to eat with a lawn and fountain.
People shook his hand, gave her the eye.
For lunch a mushroom dish was served, and fish
– or something white. Pictures were askew;
she went to put them right. The waiter said:
Oh no, you’re one of those. They got quite high,
on champagne mostly. He talked of Pissarro.
Later, in deckchairs by a pond, they sagged.
Time drained away. Absently, he held her hand:
a wild old flame’s brief flaring-up before
the all-dividing dark. Love guttered now
once torched the heather and the heaving fells
and blazed the twisting paths on Borrowdale
where she watched him run and run – shockheaded faun –
to plunge stark naked in the icy tarn.
SCAPPI’S TORTOISE PIE*
What you will need, Signora, is a deep dish
and the sharpest knife in Sicily.
You must search for cinnamon, saffron,
nutmeg, cloves – fresh from the hold of a galleon.
Bring thirteen sour oranges from your ripest grove.
Press out the juice with the scent of hot gold.
Onions and mint must be chopped till they ring in the nose
then softened in foaming white goat butter.
Now choose your tortoise.
Signora, do not be tempted by sea-turtle.
Tortoise is the finest meat on earth.
Cut off the head and put it aside
till the body is dead. Be patient, I say.
It could take a day for the body to die.
Now take off the shell and cut off the feet.
Be calm, do not rush. Clean the meat well.
Be sure there’s no bile, that all is lustrous and sweet.
Lay him out in your dish and anoint with spices
crushed to a paste, as thick as you wish.
No need for haste. Sprinkle sugar and salt
and onions and mint to crown him.
Pour in the juice to drown him.
Cover with pastry and put him to cook
as slow as you please until toothsome and tender.
This is slow food, Signora.
Slow to prepare.
Slow to digest.
Slow to reach the heart.
This is the slowest food on earth.
*a 16th century Sicilian recipe
WINTER- FLOWERING PANSIES
perch on pots; the windowsill’s a checkpoint.
Flap faces felt roughly by northerlies
stare in at us. Crazy bugaboos,
we love your howling mouths, dot noses,
made-up eyes. If we squint you spin off
in a coloratura of orioles, minivets,
lorikeets, drongos, speculations soaring
over the City, the unreflecting Thames.
Don’t leave us toneless. Sit and brood, capuchins,
heart easers. We’ll keep on watering
until you’re old. And when you’re dead we’ll sit
and do without and gape and watch below
the huge brown river darkly come and go.
Juliet Lacey‘s poems have appeared in Agenda, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Life, Indigo and the anthology Building Jerusalem (Bloomsbury 2016). She won third prize in the Strokestown International Poetry Competition 2009, and was short-listed in 2013. She is also a playwright, and her play The Long Bones, about the 2nd World War poet Alun Lewis, will feature in the 2018 season at Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead.
Edward Lee: Poem
There is no room for your stuff anymore,
your clothes and books,
your jewellery and make-up,
and unopened painting set.
They can all feed the bin
or charity shops,
but they will no longer
use the space that
I need for… something,
somethings, I have yet to decide;
some new hobby
or neglected pastime,
a new shelf
to store the first pages
of that novel that jangles inside me,
Or an easel
to see if I can paint
(if I can your painting set
This is it, the big clean out,
clean, the exodus
of unneeded things,
unless you return
and not die,
return to me,
Edward Lee‘s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection “Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge” was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection.
Gill McEvoy: Four Poems
A TRIP AWAY WITH MY FATHER
Back home the clock on dad’s sideboard will have stopped.
It’s cantankerous, may never get going again.
Damn these God-botherers, says my father,
jokers the lot of them –
I steer him away from the street preacher.
London is a monster, he complains.
All day it roars and bloody roars.
We are not going to Brighton after all:
Southern Rail is at sixes and sevens
and dad has no intention of hanging about.
He is muttering now about a meal.
Pork chops, he says, with lots of lovely apple sauce –
but it’s all Chinese or Indian round here.
Fish and chips? No, I thought not.
A sandwich in a pub will have to do –
grateful to sink into a darkish corner of the bar,
my father briefly blotted out in shadow.
The clock on the pub wall chimes
how long the day has been.
A GOD DAY
We used to say a good day was a day
given us by God –
It’s a God day
when orange tips and holly blues
flicker in the hedgerows,
a God day
when the sky holds over you
an umbrella of purest blue,
a God day
when you walk in yellow fields of rape,
plunge into the heart of the sun.
POEMS HANGING FROM TREES
It’s useful for a game –
you laminate your best,
and shortest, poems
then hang them from the trees
in your friend’s huge garden.
She sends her guests outside,
each with a notepad
and a pencil
to write the titles down
of every page they find.
The one who finds them all,
or, failing that, gets most,
will receive a CD
of their host’s recording
of A E Housman’s songs.
Some years on you visit her;
you wander in that paradise
of trees and pools and roses,
discover with a shock
your poems hanging from the trees.
The ends curl stiffly up,
the words unreadable.
Stained with moulds and lichen
they look like leaves
about to do their autumn drop.
PRUNING THE WISTERIA
With my secateurs and saw
I’ve clubbed you into ugliness,
a butchered row of blunted paws.
I’ve been cruel only to be kind –
you’ll burst out in this coming May,
if I have got the pruning right,
in lavish spills of lavender.
Besotted bees will drool
among your fragrant blooms.
Until then, this is how you’ll be,
sullen, unappealing, and I will feel
half sorry for my cruelty.
Gill McEvoy has published two full collections with Cinnamon Press: The Plucking Shed (2010)and Rise ( 2013) and three 3 pamphlets from Happenstance Press: Uncertain days (2006), A Sampler (2008) and The First Telling (2014)which won the 2015 Michael Marks Award.
Robert Okaji: Poem
Of odd and even, the figure of natural man.
If an open hand equals five, what, then, is a fist?
The number of fear, of strength and severity.
Pressing the thorn into my thumb, I redeem.
Wood subdues earth.
Of Ishtar, the talisman of magic, the quintessence.
After the fall, the five.
Earth conquers water.
An outstretched body’s form: the pentagon.
Charred flesh, death in the air.
Of perfection and man’s limits.
Five wounds, five mysteries, the pyramid’s representation.
The hamsa deflects an evil eye.
Water extinguishes fire.
I close my eyes and see.
Metal cuts wood.
The staff serves time and pitch in music.
From waves to vibration to nerve impulses.
Nexus of the cardinal directions.
Of balance and harmony; the center.
Product of the first female and male numbers.
The Szechuan peppercorn confuses the tongue.
Fire melts metal.
When multiplied by a factor of itself, the end.
Robert Okaji lives in Texas. He once owned a bookstore, and his poems have appeared in Crann óg, Posit, Underfoot Poetry, Oxidant|Engine, Vox Populi and elsewhere. His tractor is Japanese, as is his favorite knife. His guitar is Italian. He is certain this means something. You’ll find his blog at https://robertokaji.com.
I like the silence of a house
in daytime more than night,
for night is meant for sleep and stars
Outside beyond the window glass
the creaking crows and trees,
unfelt wind disturbing everything
but me pacing the still room
of the mind. There is such a sense
of order comes upon me then,
as like a painter I walk among
the stacked canvases of my poems:
those dreams of joy that light up
life. All around me flutter
pages of memory like spring-freaked
views of ancient woods, and
never quite recaptured thoughts
of time-freckled feelings
that flow like unheard streams
around the inward place of self:
feeling rising into consciousness
out of being that is echoless.
William Oxley was born in Manchester and has been published in The New York Times, The Observer, The Spectator, The Independent, Agenda, Acumen, The London Magazine and Poetry Ireland Review. A study of his poetry, The Romantic Imagination appeared in 2005. His Collected and New Poems came from Rockingham Press in 2014, and Walking Sequence & Other Poems (Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2015). He has given readings in the UK, Nepal, Antibes and elsewhere.
Andrew Parkin: Poem
THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
For the British and Commonwealth Crews
in Bomber Command
A World War’s battles, medals with their bars
leave unfading traceries of scars.
We knock against the stubborn facts
of wasted lives, of anguish, and of tears.
In the jumble of a drawer I find some censored mail
from a boy made old by training and relentless acts
of war. A few survive of those late schoolboys
who became the flyers making drops
in the “wizard” hell-machine of ops.
The Nazis deal us devastation in this devil’s game
and, with interest, we reply with much the same.
Our briefings give us weather, targets, and our paths.
Against the fading light our squadrons climb
to seem but blackened silhouettes
becoming solid models, toys in flight,
held in the hands of boys, lifting above waves
to follow master bombers over sea and land,
to roar through cloud into another flak-filled night.
Now lethal vectors lead to bombing runs,
to search lights, fighter planes and guns.
We land bone-tired, plod from turrets that might doom
an attack or else become our gunner’s tomb.
Some weary crews return to girls and cigarettes,
to lovers’ songs, as if the coloured flares and fires
could not exist. Quis evadet? A chubby Eros,
heedless of a skull, blows bubbles into climbing pirouettes.
The music’s up-beat and then mixed with slows
for those who hold each other tight
to combat fear, for kids already wed
who might, once more, return to a double bed.
by sliding from a moonlit space into embracing cloud.
“I don’t want to set the world on fire….”
We listen to the sounds of German guns
and see their shells exploding into flak.
Relentless searchlights try to pincer us
unless we disappear from enemies below
and wrap ourselves in woollen blanketings
of grey-black cloud, brushing our windows wet.
Cross-cut to refashioned, radiated worlds.
The years sweep past like rain, erode the rage,
find runnels to survivors in a different age.
At eighteen thousand feet, we bounce and drop
as tracer shells explode and burn whatever burns.
The air crews danced with death
defying loss statistics and the Nazis’ best
and worst of sons until that war was laid to rest.
Terse log books noted times for “up” and, job accomplished, “down”.
“Gisela” strafes from dawning sky
as shaking crews begin descent to base.
“’T’aint the same without you, babe,”
she hums with smile or frown to a face
she snapped last week, when their pulses raced.
Three thousand feet, we’re trailing smoke;
another hit spills flame caressing every scream.
In smoky black-out hall or Sergeants’ Mess
a band will play transition notes to turn a quick-step tune
into “Begin the Beguine” and linger there before they end
with Ink Spots’ music in a crowded room.
The wind-up gramophone, the box of needles,
steel or wood, with scratchy discs
now gather dust—collectibles or junk.
Earth-bound or airborne,
the incinerated dead I mourn.
“Bless you, honey, for being an angel,”
a bass voice speaks amid falsetto song.
I bless lost crews by crooning to myself
remembered phrases of those war-time tunes.
Performers dead, the songs remain
as echoes from some chamber of the brain.
Where are their girls, those uniforms with wings,
escape maps printed onto silk?
We owe them all our post-war lives.
I mourn for youth itself that flew
to find the dies irae Verdi knew.
“Dropping those bombs again. Never wanted to.
Don’t know what the hell to do. Can’t help it.”
And like a chorus singing bass and tenor,
I hear brave boys who signal through unholy fire.
Our hearts still pulse our blood, but never can restore
to them youth’s ardour—nor their briefest love’s desire.
Note: The chubby Eros is an engraving by Golzius. Gisela was the code name for the German operation by which 200 night fighters on 4 March 1945 flew low across the English coast to attack bombers on their approach to base, when crews were concentrating on landing procedures. This poem was prompted by the fact that a long overdue memorial to Bomber crews was erected in London.
Andrew Parkin was born in Birmingham and studied at Pembroke College Cambridge. He then taught in secondary schools before completing a doctorate in Drama at Bristol. He has since taught in universities in Canada and Hong Kong but now lives in Vancouver. His collections include Hong Kong Poems (1999), The Rendez-Vous (2003), Star with a Thousand Moons (2011) and Another Rendez-Vous (2013).
Darren Ryder: Poem
You think I don’t notice
the minor details but I
know everything about you
except your point of origin
holding you in the palm
of my hand I want
to taste you but first
things first I need to
remove you from your skin
flecked with tiny flaws
I want to taste the caustic
tang of your juices now
but my nails are not
sharp enough to tear you
a knife will open you
yes a knife will guide
me to your waiting core
I’ll be gentle I promise
just dragging the blade beneath
the surface of your calloused
waxy skin peeling it away
a spurt of liquid bursts
out onto a cut on
my finger and it stings.
Darren Ryder is Irish but currently works in Indonesia. He has an MA in English and America Literature from the University of Kent. He has been shortlisted for the Hot Press Young Journalist award and was invited to perform his poetry at Les Grands Voisins in Paris.
Mark Russell: Poem
after Marc Chagall
We like to think
the couple on the wall
above the bed
are the two of us
but without my glasses
their shapes shift and morph
they float off
to the edge
where love begins
to taste like blood
stuns us to stupefaction
enters us like panic
My liquid body turns
all frontal hunch
You lose the posy,
black dress, white frill—
We are two-backed,
we are beasts, we are
gifts to slip each other
Mark Russell: Publications to date include Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop), Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock), ℵ (the book of moose) (Kattywompus), and ا (the book of seals) (Red Ceilings). Other poems have appeared in The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Tears in the Fence, and elsewhere.
Katerina Štruncová: Poem
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
A white bunny
Wearing a suit
And a kiss on a whisker
Is trumpeting out that
Lewis is his father
And it puzzles him a little
The white bunny
Guards the entrance to a tent
Next to three mushrooms
As tall as it happens only in tales
Poisonous as you can tell
Deceiving your senses
If you get a morsel
If you taste a mouthful
The white bunny
Wearing a waistcoat
With hearts and cards
And all sorts of stuff
Is spilling the beans
About the approaching Queen
Sentencing to death
And behind its tail
The curtains are drawn apart
Throwing you into
A world of bewilderment
Where a clock as huge as King-Kong
Ticks perpetually tea time
Where a mad hatter at the table
Sitting on a turtle’s shell
Chortles over his own jokes and riddles
Where a smoking caterpillar in the middle
Blows you dizzy circles
While the clatter of
Cups and cakes and spoons
Fighting in the Battle of Fools
At the palace of Wonderland
Is spinning you around
The promise of
And no rules
Entice you, Alice, to step inside…
Katerina Štruncová comes from the Czech Republic where she studied the English language. After receiving her Master´s Degree and becoming a qualified English teacher, she left for England in order to perfect her English. Working as a dental nurse, she aspires to become a hygienist. Alongside nursing, she gives private English lessons. The reason for writing poetry is connected to her love for playing with words, and it is the means of practising new vocabulary.
David Stuart: Poem
DIURNAL MIGRATION OF THE COMMON TERN
Each day at dawn eight hundred tern fly
from the shingle and salt marsh in untidy chain
over my house and onto the gravel pits that lie
in the sheltered Trent and Ouse floodplain.
Sterna Hirundo, slender, long narrow wings
forked tail, built for speed, yet in its migration
not predisposed to hurry things, its casual
lingering swoops and glides, more an ambulation.
Meanwhile a skein of geese sickle-sweep the sky,
instinct and aerial geometry their obsession ,
and pigeons scramble up from barley and rye
in panic before assuming Red Arrow formation.
But for me the tern’s lazy take-it-or-leave-it
flight style appeals; the lift-off from shingle base,
the leisurely dawn flight over gardens
fields and woodland, the arrival at the place
of food and shallow water, all urgency stifled,
their gentle commuting no anxious rat race.
David Stuart is a retired secondary school teacher living in Habrough. He is a widower with two daughters and two grandchildren. Many of his poems are linked to landscapes in Lincolnshire or in other parts of the world, though their location may only be a starting point for the poem’s theme.
Cedric Watts: Poem
ANGRY ELEGY FOR DYLAN THOMAS
‘Do not go gentle into that good night’,
Said Thomas, dead of booze at 39;
‘Rage, rage, against the dying of the light’,
Advised the man who, speechless, gave no sign;
Was lastly diagnosed with swollen brain,
Pneumonia, fatty liver; slave to drink.
‘Rage, rage’: futile advice; and here’s the pain:
Last week my partner was assessed (just think
Of implications) with… dementia.
That slew my rhyme-scheme, as it will
Slay all her patterns; a lethargic knife
To shred the shrinking brain; the long-drawn kill
Denies all dignity, degrading life.
The poet talked as if we had a choice;
But the approach to death takes choice away.
‘Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’:
Yes, Shakespeare got it right, I’m sad to say.
And what was Dylan’s boast? ‘I’ve had eighteen
Straight whiskies. That’s the record’: I reflect,
‘In folly, yes.’ ‘Rage, rage’? I do at him,
By drink, by steroid, morphine sulphate, wrecked;
Gone comatose and speechless to his night;
What’s ‘good’ about it? He, still young,
Surrendered, fell in silence, knew no sight
Of any sunset’s ‘dying of the light’.
But who am I to judge? In my long life
I’ve caused two deaths and wounded some poor souls;
And Dylan’s passing, clouded, without strife,
May still have brought him inward golden goals.
(So may she find at last, beyond the mind.)
Perhaps, while stupor stood on guard,
Without a plaint or pang,
Sheer glory flared; with joy unmarred
Soul clapped its hands and sang.
Cedric Watts is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Sussex. He served in the Royal Navy, and took a first-class degree and doctorate in English at Cambridge. His poems have been published in ‘Poetry Review’, ‘Expression’. and other locations. His novel ‘Final Exam’ (by ‘Peter Green’) was praised by Ian McEwan.
Helen May Williams: Two Poems
It’s just the interior of a bedroom
Xxxxxx full of Monday morning thoughts.
From the corner of the room the gargoyle part man part bull
Xxxxxxxstares down at me with an impenetrable look.
His mouth distorted stretches towards me prepared to
Xxxxxxxspew out all the wretchedness of earth.
Transfixed I lie utterly still to stop my remaining self
Xxxxxxx from shattering into a million tiny fragments.
With each renewed intake of breath I gingerly hold
Xxxxxxx stray bits and pieces of soul in queasy stasis.
I remember yesterday how it all went well for a while.
Xxxxxxx At dinner we almost retrieved a belief in conjugal love
almost avoided the teeny ghost of a soul
Xxxxxxx demanding to be fed, needing to be changed.
At thirty-seven I feel my womb shiver again
Xxxxxxx all that’s left is a grim sequence of pain
the same blue memory running through my brain
Xxxxxxx stuck in an endless loop till the magnetic tape finally snaps.
I park the car carefully by the riverside open the door
Xxxxxxx and go inside; then turn to see the cobalt Beetle inch
towards the swirling water. I run and dive —
Xxxxxxx I force the adamant doors in vain.
No attendant midwife bends to rescue my only child
Xxxxxxx from the chill river currents that rock him to sleep.
With my last remaining breath no final push releases him
Xxxxxxx from this steely womb onto safe home ground.
I stare at the soapy water, plunge — fingers first — into
Xxxxxxx Sunday washing-up then feel my mind dissolve
lost in the stream lapping metal oven-dishes
Xxxxxxx I count each rainbow bubble that surfaces touch each tiny expiration.
After the therapy my mind went numb for a while.
Xxxxxxx I remember the white walls watching me as I sat
and shivered in the midsummer heat. Wearing a wool vest
Xxxxxxx I held myself in a cool embrace.
It’s just the interior of a bedroom but the bed seems to move
Xxxxxxx rocking on malignant waves. Faces seem to rise
out of the blue to interrogate my howling brain
Xxxxxxx shot full of Monday morning thoughts.
MEMORIES OF BIRDS
knowing that she was dying that day
the faithful blackbird came to say
‘farewell’ then flew away
My father kept watch from his oak rocking-chair
surveyed the weathered grey bird-table, propped against
the Thirties fence that still screened the pantry
and welcomed familiar lunch-time guests —
blackbird with his browner mate song thrush robin finch —
yet he always startled the bejewelled starlings away.
As a child I felt dismay at the sudden angry knock.
How could I know the horror of seeing vultures
flock then alight on men just recently at his command
now subject to the indignity of pecking tearing beaks
stripping muscle ligament identity to the bare bones?
How could I know the nightmare that woke him for years
blanched trembling and screaming with fears
of guerrillas perched in jungle canopy
as agile and spry as birds of prey camouflaged
to merge with extravagant leaves then spray
the passing troops with bullets from unseen vantages,
the nightmare of precarious wading through slimy mud
arms held high to a searing alien sky
hoping for nothing more than leeches that cling
to the pallid pink flesh on each vulnerable limb?
How could I know his recurrent dream
of enemy eyes that peer through dank verdant branches
of cholera bacilli that lurk inimical predatory
waiting to fever his brain, to lay the visceral
painful trace of chronic unspoken anxiety?
How could I know that most nights
of their marriage he woke trembling and scared —
that in her arms my mother held nightmares?
Helen May Williams is a poet and author, living in West Wales. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza group and is an active member of Penfro Poets. She recently completed a translation of Michel Onfray’s Before Silence (Avant le Silence), a volume of 21st century haiku. Her poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals and anthologies. Her poetry book The Princess of Vix is published by Three Drops Press.
James W. Wood: Poem
for Sophie Taylor
Logs dry in heaps, waiting
Innocently for my axe
To end them. They beg to be cut
Just as fire draws air and air
Longs for fire. Tension
In every concentric wood-ring,
Each one the mark of a year: now lean,
Now fat with rain and sun. For some,
Thirty summer-rings have seen the birth
Of children in this copse: others
Recall two centuries’ passage, the mink
And rats and otters, man’s first strikes
Against their brothers to clear a place
For his pleasure. Then the coming
Of the motor car, total war: electricity, relativity,
Television, the internet, digital insanity. A samurai,
My arms arc up against them: wooden
Rounds cleaved from those trunks
Explode at the crack of my blade, circles
Splitting into firewood just as
A bomb split history in forty-five
Seconds of free-fall over a Japanese city.
My fir and hemlock, their bonsai and peeling flesh:
Modernity’s technicians become Vishnu,
The Bhagavad’s agent of death. Sweating, I straighten
To find rain threatening my horizon,
Then bend again to pick up my mauler
And mete out punishment to some tree
Whose existence inconveniences me. Soon
These trees will warm me when they burn. I feel
The first rain-drops touch my face and wonder
When this spell of mild weather will turn.
James W. Wood is the author of three chapbooks and one full-length collection, The Anvil’s Prayer (Ward/Wood, 2013). His work has appeared in the TLS, Poetry Review, The North, Stand, Critical Quarterly and many other publications. The High Window have just published The Emigrant’s Farewell, his long poem about the migration of the Scots to Canada.