The High Window: Issue 16 Winter 2019

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The Poets

Kate BehrensMW BewickAlan Travis BraddockPW BridgmanMaggie ButtCaroline CarverClare CrossmanWill DauntBlaise GilburdRebecca Ruth GouldChris Hardy • Keith HowdenNeil LeadbetterEdward LeeKathleen McPhilemyJenny McRobertCaroline MaldonadoRoy MarshallMark MayesSally MichaelsonJohn MoleJill MunroMaxine Rose MunroKaterina NeocleousLinda Rose ParkesCheryl PearsonMichael PennyCarla ScaranoJean StevensRory WatermanJean WatkinsGrant WatsonJules Whiting

 Previous Poetry

THW 15 September 5, 2019   THW 14 June 3, 2019

THW 13  March 6, 2019   THW 12  December 10, 2018   

THW11  September 5, 2018  THW10   May 21, 2018   

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

*****

Kate Behrens: Three Poems

THE BOYFRIENDS

One dived in the river
seconds after proposing, so she might admire
black against white skin, judders
in her own heart. Another exploded
benevolent avenues, disappeared towards
his new indignant persona with hidden fiancées.
They all homed in on an oddball.
Her body, self-drugged, super-reactive, loved.
Half lies bit like piranhas.
She called them ʽbabyʼ ‒
unravelled under hormonesʼ binding reign.

CHALKLAND

How to disintegrate: in the shit/honey smells
from a lit field of rape after a coup-de-foudre
reveals you are, after all, see-through, and swallows
are swallowed by eaves in the derelict farm
(transitional spaces, where only skies darken
where inner-to-outer sheltered, and the white-stomached
mouse).

INCY WINCY SPIDER
For Ayla

Gravel is thrown towards the past,
snail shells.
Nameless air answers.

ʽMore,ʼ she says, ʽmore,ʼ
and my hand climbs her dress
up ladders of rhyme.

My hand is an acornʼs cup.
Scoop the fruit of her skull
into its emptiness.

Remember, trust gets broken.
I post two blackberries
into a mouth that will tell,
lustful for those eyes, mapping.

Kate Behrens has published three collections of poetry with Two Rivers Press. Other poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, Blackbox Manifold, Stand, The High Window, University of Reading Creative Arts Anthologies, Poetry Salzburg Review, Wild Court, The Arts of Peace (Two Rivers Press) and as Oxford Brookesʼ Poem of the Week.

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*****

MW Bewick: Poem

VERB

They cut down the trees
one calm afternoon
as if they were words
that didn’t translate,
surplus adjectives
better removed.
Men stacked up the wood,
left it for the sun
to dry the branches.
The sun did their work.
When it was over
they came back once more,
set fire to the trees –
I smelled the burning
and heard the crackling,
saw the clouds of smoke
and the scarlet flames.
And within three years
I had made my move
from my house, my home,
and never returned.
The trees are my verb

MW Bewick grew up in west Cumbria, on the edge of the Lake District, and now lives in rural Essex. Recent poetry credits include Envoi, The Stinging Fly, London Grip, the Sentinel Literary Quarterly and The Interpreter’s House. His first collection of poetry, Scarecrow, was published in 2017. The Orphaned Spaces, a poetic exploration of edgelands, ex-industrial, derelict and brownfield sites (2018), is a rumination on life, loss and time, through the prism of liminal spaces. He is the co-founder of independent publisher Dunlin Press.

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*****

Alan Travis Braddock: Poem

WATCHING THE ECLIPSE

We know it would scald our eyes –
so hide behind our shades,
and catch some images in pools
or else on camera screens
but then we don’t really see
the moon creeping
over the cold nothing
between us and the stars.

So we make a hole in a card
to capture the tiny scene
on another card
and then see an illusion
of how, for a short time only,
there’s nothing between us
and the nearest star
except this black round rock.

And then the birds, lacking
a head-clock, to say the day was short,
that this is not the night,
go silent as the space between its ticks –
while in our cloudy minds we worry
at light-years and megaspace
across which thought
reaches out through emptiness –

where silence does not think,
where light alone can pass –
and even the light is lonely.

 Alan Travis Braddock is an old man who has been been writing since forever. He’s been a rock-climber, a mountaineer, a marathon runner and a mycologist. He also used to fix computers for IBM. He is a regfular reader at the Black Horse Poets of Wakefield.

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*****

PW Bridgman: Poem

YOU HAVE A VISITOR, SIR

Looking up from The Whitsun Weddings, my attention drawn
xxxto the foot of the purple curtain
by a whisper of movement, I rub my eyes and strain to see.
The hem of a dress? Faded, vaguely patterned, edged with lace,
xxxits colour uncertain.
Surely just a garment left behind by a guest of this hotel before me,
ruffled by a breeze from the open window? Surely. The fire is
xxxdying in the grate.
I am weary of Larkin’s whingeing. It is unaccountably late.
I close my book, swallow down the lees of my gin and lemon
xxxand make to stand.
But now the curtain presses gently inward: in relief, it begins
xxxto show a female form.
Rekindled, fearful thoughts start to swarm.
I stay motionless, rooted to the floor. The glass falls from
xxxmy hand.

A woman’s buttoned boot, her boot, is now visible beneath
xxxthe lace,
its leather toe facing me, shining in the flickering firelight.
Then comes the unmistakable click of metal splints. Her
xxxleg-brace.
The brace that unctuous Mr. Bottle retrieved, blackened, from
xxxthe crematorium—using sleight-
of-hand that only conjurers and undertakers practice—after taking
xxxan anxious call
from my father-in-law (her son Jim). A sentimental man, that Jim.
xxxHe also took home the pall
from her casket (“a lovely royal purple”) to cover Lickspittle’s birdcage.
Lickspittle, her watchful, omniscient African Grey—given to
xxxthe occasional, profane rage—
learned all his lethal oaths from her, you see. She could out-curse
xxxthem all.

“Annie? Annie! I thought you’d left us,” I say to the curtain in a papery,
xxxtremulous voice.
“Nine years ago last Wednesday,” I add, gingerly, waiting for something,
xxxanything.
Nothing. I drift back in memory to her wake. “We’re not here to mourn,
xxxbut rejoice,”
Jim’s brother had remarked. “No, Jackie,” said Jim. “No. You mustn’t.
xxxIt’s a time for forgiving.”
I am startled out of my brief reverie by the wheezing of silk against
xxxthe curtain’s chintz.
The black boot moves again. And again comes the quiet click of
xxxmetal splints.
That sound. It flashes afresh to hold and horrify. My spine stiffens
xxxwith dread.
Then a gust from the open window, the high window, lifts the curtain
xxxaway.
For a moment I see it, and hear it—the African Grey:
“I’ve told them what I know,” the parrot says in Annie’s voice.
xxxWith that, I fall dead.

Note: The line, ‘It flashes afresh to hold and horrify,’ is borrowed from Philip Larkin’s ‘Aubade’.

P.W. Bridgman writes from Vancouver. His selection of poems, entitled A Lamb, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2018. It was preceded in 2013 by a selection of short fiction entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age (Libros Libertad). Bridgman’s writing has appeared in The Moth Magazine, The High Window, The Glasgow Review of Books, The Honest Ulsterman, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Galway Review, Ars Medica, Poetry Salzburg Review and other periodicals and anthologies. Learn more at www.pwbridgman.ca.

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*****

Maggie Butt: Three Poems

WALK

First pulling herself up on the furniture
edging along the sofa, or with someone
bent to hold her hands, and one day
setting out across the expanse of carpet,
one step, two, three, into waiting arms.

A life in steps: to school, to work,
to market, to meet a friend, for exercise,
to breathe, to think, to see the seasons
chase each other, greening again.
Always with purpose, with a place to go.

But not this. To put one foot before the other
towards an un-named place, following
the stream of people as if there was a leader
at the front with a destination held
in her imagination like a display at a museum.

Walking from. Not to.

STRAND

A fine black lace
edges the waves
between the velvet
of the sand
and the frothy tulle
of the waves.
From this distance
it could be fronds of seaweed
left by the high tide
or the vestiges
of an oil spill
staining the strand.
But no
it’s a straggle
of people
one behind the other
wavering along
the firmer sand
close to the water’s edge
swirled by
layers of cloth
blowing round legs
hampering stride
heads covered
for piety or to stop
sand blowing
in mouths and eyes
carrying huge parcels
like bundles of washing.
the lace
rips
and frays
un
ravel
ling

FLIGHT

when your mother kissed you goodbye
her fear took many shapes
a knife in the grip of a frightened boy
the greed of a desperate man
the open grave of never
seeing you again
never knowing your fate

she told herself that you
would always be polite
and charm the strangers
find a way to let her know your future
which shore might welcome you
even if your old home was washed away
and she was far adrift

she knew there would be seas
to cross but told herself you could swim
remembered your small feet
drumming inside her
how she breathed for you

she never imagined that you would launch
yourself through the air
from one ship to another
like a trapeze artist flinging your body
out into the sky
no safety net or practiced hands
ready to catch and grip
no crowd below to gasp

she couldn’t teach you how to fly

Note: This sequence was inspired / enabled by a new set of art works called ‘Run’ by the American painter Mary Behrens http://www.marybehrens.com/ whose distorted and manipulated photographs gave me a way to write about this difficult subject.

Maggie Butt is an ex-journalist and BBC television producer turned poet and novelist.
Her poetry collections are Degrees of Twilight, Sancti Clandestini – Undercover Saints, Ally Pally Prison Camp, petite and Lipstick. A new novel is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. She is an Associate Professor at Middlesex University and an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund. Website: www.maggiebutt.co.uk

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*****

Caroline Carver: Two Poems

LANGUAGES OF SNOW

words fall from the sky
fall from their overcrowded blizzard
of high things not high enough
we look up   both at the same time
to see   or get a feeling
for what’s coming right at us

snow can look grey when it’s falling
no longer airy beings all in white
but a trail of crystals
indentations in mist
reaching out
beyond the outer walls of snow
xxxxxxxxxxxand then no snow
reaching out to the dog
straining towards
a silent whistle only he can hear
background radio talk

outside our blizzard house
starlings pick at remains of words
turning them over
as if they’re fallen leaves
instead of constantly disappearing
crystal language with something to hide

how cold snow is    you say
as if you’ve discovered
something profound
beyond all meaning
but nothing happens
nothing changes
and still words fall like snow
silent as wolves in the forest

(UNTITLED)

a man made from movement
warm water    salt
a man with mermaids in his dreams
day and night
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxone of them
has the face of his daughter
it shocks him
as if he walked into the Kasbah
one bright day
stood behind a decorated screen
looking down on a room
filled with beautiful women
and suddenly    there among them
his teenage daughter

bracelets made from sea shells
hang from    her arms her wrists

Caroline Carver has published six collections of her poetry and  won many awards, including the National Poetry Prize and Italian Silver Wyvern. Born in England, she grew up in Bermuda and Jamaica before returning to the UK. She  completed  her education in Switzerland and France. Subsequently, she emigrated to Canada for 30 years before returning to live in Cornwall.

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*****

Clare Crossman: Two Poems

A PHOTOGRAPH

Here we are, framed, in the rinsed light
of 1950’s black and white, sitting
beside my mother on a small chintz sofa.
Three and five, my brother and myself
in our hand knitted cardigans. His feet
stick out in sandals, I have a grin
and one tooth missing.
My mother always in her best, set hair
sapphire brooch and pearls. This flat
is where we live. We lean.

In memory, my father is at the other
end, with us in between. Owl glasses,
bald head and serious face.
But in reality he is absent- in his office,
organising, writing letters, answering the phone.
But perhaps it was lunchtime
and he came home to eat a sandwich
and take this photograph.

And I think now, that this is what
childhood is, being with the two people
who made you, talking, eating,
sleeping, washing up.
Together, until it seems that it is boring,
so the edges fade and curl.
And grown up, you leave easily,
without realising
that this is what you have.

DISCUSSING PHILIP LARKIN IN ONCOLOGY

Here in the waiting room queue,
where everyone is trying to do
their best,
someone has brought sandwiches
and two relatives, to soften the wait,
and the hours of chemotherapy,
as chemicals drop in.
The conversation turns to,
‘not like it in my day!’ Jokes
to tame time, and the terror of it.

At my appointment you, a concerned
doctor, ask me if I’ve read Larkin?
And I remember a grainy art house film:
him in bicycle clips and a three quarters mac,
looking through black rimmed glasses,
at the modern age and finding it wanting.
What would he have made of counselling?
Head massage? The Macmillan pod?
I suspect, something curmudgeonly.

So I agree, it helps to know his poetry here.
Under high windows bleak with sun,
that glance witness to our passing through.
Beyond the clinical corridors, the lateness
and delays, when something’s being said,
love and wit, survive of us.

We watch from the train,
let the curtains lift,
as the trees leaf, the days exist.
Arriving here, when arrow showers fall, as rain.

Clare Crossman has published five collections of poetry. The last three of which are with Shoestring Press, the latest being The Blue Hour in 2017. She lives outside Cambridge and in 2004 was given a Hawthornden Fellowship. She is currently working on a poetry and landscape film Waterlight about the chalkstream close to her home and writing a fourth collection.  Recently she published Winter flowers – The Life and Work of Lorna Graves 1947 -2006, a memoir of her friendship with Lorna, a distinguished Cumbrian artist.

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*****

Will Daunt: Four poems 

MONTGOMERY, SY15 6PA

Those grey spare hours and bracing B-roads, one
false mood and here I lodge, brought short and soaked
by nomanslands. What’s happened to the warmth
of Shropshire, carried off as June became
a condensation, vanishing?
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxI drive
past England, take a right and cross the worn-
down Dyke of a hidden border. Over
its roofs, the town breathes out the sighs of Wales,
while the Long Mynd sulks. From the trig point, shafts
of clouded pine have nowhere in their sights.

WOBURN, MK45 2HZ

The sound file’s on an older phone. That shriek
across the morning rides the wheat-wind, from
behind the Scotch pine margins, something loud
that rasps beyond the burbles, early, crack-
ing as the serried families wake throughout
their tongue-in-groove encampment.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxBy the wire
I stretch and peer towards the wilds of sun-
dried pasture, tracks and hedgerow. No one comes
or wanders past that dingy creek the lake
has over-filled. No voice calls, ‘What the hell ..?’

WALSINGHAM, NR22 6AL

Isn’t this wrong and the vestigial proof
of what no one believes in days like these?
What’s faith anyhow? Scuttling to Norfolk
and hiding in centuries of hedge-parades?
Telling your pals you’ve retreated to where
all the dead ways hold sway? All those old slid-
ing doors, fuzzy panes, random chants and queu-
ing to see the same tableau?
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThere’s the hub,
properly staged in the village: Please Don’t
Touch. Miles out, the Catholics make do and bend.

BISHOP’S CASTLE, SY9 5AE

Shropshire’s back. Less than an hour on last-leg
roads and I park where the market clangs, bare
and a high street away from that stunted
church. There’s a climb to water colour out-
posts and shop front souvenirs next to hand-
me-down booths, tea slops and banks on the brink.

But the bishop’s quit this parish, leaving
unremembered castles over the town
and the enemy’s moss or ivy, stak-
ing out winter, where dogs fill the short cuts.

Will Daunt has been published Envoi, Orbis, Smoke, Anon, Coast to Coast to Coast, Iota and A New Ulster and been  successful in competitions. He has six collections to his name. More recently, he helped to set up the collaborative Ormskirk Imprint, which launched its first book at the R.S.C. in Stratford In January 2019. The second will be an illustrated guide to the time Gerard Manley Hopkins spent in Liverpool.

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*****

Blaise Gilburd: Two Poems

DEADHEADING

A chunky snip and another head’s gone –
Collecting in my basket each remnant
Of former radiance
My hand alone extinguished.

I’d rather not wear gloves
And accept between my finger and thumb
The waxy skin of the stem
And scratch of its scarlet barbs.

It’s not a task which I enjoy
Though I find fulfilment in the act –
This task entrusted to me.

If I were to step back
And give beauty free rein
Soon each of them would tear
The very petals from their buds.

So I wish that they would carry on
Skyward with no end,
But I know for them to thrive
I must cut the heads again.

STARLINGS ON A SIGNAL TOWER

A jostling and changing black silhouette
Against the darkening blue of night,
They murmur, mesh and cry
Like a ladder rising up to the sky.
I know their dark feathers –
Green bottles filled with oil,
But from the ground this night
It seems more like a tree.
A sharp-edged trunk of lines and angles
Smothered by the swarming leaves –
Falling from a branch then time falls back
And they return up to their perch.

Why do these familiars assemble?
A darkening gaze falling over town.

Like a swarm of bees following their queen
Then settling on the roof of a house
They come together in uneasy weather
When the day is harsh and bright,
But now, like charcoal
smudged across the sky, great clouds billow
from behind the hills.
I fear that they may catch my sight
And drive with razor-beak and claw
But I cannot simply leave them be
As they flock to the thunder
Rolling in.

Blaise Gilburd is a young writer currently studying for his Leaving Certificate  in Galway. Born in England, he  moved to Ireland before the age of one and was raised in the countryside and from that gained a passion for the local nature and folklore. He has previously been published in Crossways Magazine and The Messy Heads. Written when he was eighteen, these poems are his first publication in a UK journal.

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***** 

Rebecca Ruth Gould: Three Poems

STOLEN LIMESTONE

Jerusalem limestone spreads
like an occupation over
the ancient city of Bethlehem.

Cats congregate along
dangerous intersections where
concrete walls break into homes.

Workers pass the dawn
behind the bars of checkpoint 300,
waiting to build settlers’ homes

with stolen limestone.
Children must be fed.
Their hands press against the bars.

Neither Palestinian nor
Israeli, I dwell in the complicity
of routine hypocrisies.

Limestone shimmers
beneath the sun’s glare,
wrapping the occupation

in artificial purity.
Limestone bricks accumulate.
Settlement become homes.

Concrete slabs surround Bethlehem
as its inhabitants live in the shadow
of another’s people’s atrocity

& Palestinians build bridges
of broken memories
on captive territory.

BETHLEHEM

‘We don’t serve Arabs,’
says the man behind the counter.
He fixes his eyes on me &
awaits my consent.

My Arab taxi driver is unfazed.
Racism has long inhabited
these Roman ruins.
Politeness takes over.

We head for the car.
The road bears silent witness to atrocity.
Barren valleys cascade,
one after another.

God is a strange creature,
I think to myself.
What idiot would choose this sterile land
for launching his career?

We reach Bethlehem: checkpoint 300.
I disembark.
Arabs are not allowed
to cross like white women

with American passports.
I journey by foot to the two-storied
white limestone building
I’ve been calling home.

I pass tourists in t-shirts,
Banksy portraits,
& soldiers armed with kalashnikovs.
Like the racist at the counter—

like every well-heeled politician—
like every international law—
armed soldiers avert their gaze,
revealing the glare of the sun.

ARABIC LESSONS

Your glasses broke on your way
to our first Arabic lesson

in Damascus. I found you wandering
through al-Salhiyeh blind,

near Ibn al-Arabi’s tomb,
fording stones & broken glass,

looking for my door.
I did not understand all your words,

but your favourite authors translated.
You liked novelists best.

You did not talk politics, except
to tell me we were being watched

& to predict that revolution
would bring no resolution.

At the first sign of violence,
I escaped to Berlin.

I called you every night.
Every night, the phone buzzed to silence.

I hope your glasses protect your eyes
from the war’s relentless glare.

Rebecca Ruth Gould is the author of the poetry collection Cityscapes (Alien Buddha Press, 2019) and the award-winning monograph Writers & Rebels (Yale University Press). She has translated many books from Persian and Georgian, including After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019). A Pushcart Prize nominee, she was a finalist for the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry (2017) and for Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize (2017).

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*****

Chris Hardy: Poem

GOLGOTHA

Vultures circle above the city
on Good Friday.
Trucks of sheep and chickens
pull up outside the market.
Oxen stumble from the pavement
into traffic, encouraged
by a buffalo whip.

Churches stacked with silent drums.
We buy a rooster, pulled
from the fluttering tangle
on a flat-bed trailer.
Red wattles and wings flap loose
as we carry it, hanging
from bound feet.

Bulls and lambs hobbled in alleys.
Hot afternoon, the day moves slow.
In yards and kitchens animals shift,
heads bowed in the silence.
Mallets, knives, concealed, to hand.

Christ’s sacrifice acclaimed.
Stand, bow, fall, rise,
stand, bow, fall down, all night
then go to clashing chambers,
greased hands shine
in smoke-dim light.
Yellow sand turns red then black.

Sixty days of fasting bought
with piles of bone and slithered bowel,
for rats, pi-dogs and the poor
to suck on once the vultures
have had their fill, snake necks
stretched up, heads back, beaks ajar,
drinking guts like water.

The skin man collects hides
and dries them on the thorn brake,
spread to stab scavengers in the eye
and stop them getting at
the donkey’s cross-striped foal.

Horned gods line the kerb
until hyenas come, gibbering,
gulping skulls and pulp,
leave chalk dry shit
the farmer’s plough folds into
soft black earth for cotton,
winter shawls against the cold.

Chris Hardy’s poems have been widely published. His fourth collection, Sunshine at the end of the world, was published by Indigo Dreams. He is also a musician and a member of LiTTLe MACHiNe who perform their settings of well known poems.

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Keith Howden: Three poems from ‘Lithophone’

1. A LANGUAGE FOR STONES

‘Somewhyle with wormez he werrez and with wolves als,
Somewhyle with wodwos that woned in the knarrez.’
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: 720-21

This was a language for rough land.
Within its structures move the residues
of a more brutal world. An older rhetoric
asserts the echo rememberings
of a cruel supernatural.
Hard vowels trap the rituals of blows,
harsh consonants haunt with resonances
of the knapper’s hand. Within its rhythms
exist the gestures of the primitive,
asserting fen and fell. Alliteration hauls
a syntax more of moor than meadow,
a grammar of rough transits outside the silk
civilities of assonance and rhyme.
The innate parables of its movement
acknowledge codes and hierarchies
of older and unforgiving gods.

It makes a direct stab into the senses,
a word’s sword leaving the page,
its onomatopoeic and alliterative assault
enclosing felt experience
in the first rituals of its making.
This language fights. Is a knarre sharper,
more threatening, harder than rock?
It carries an attachment to the thing
more energetic than aimless naming,
where sound and function are moulded,
propelled into the senses’ world.
Faith moves in metaphors of rock:
such transits cannot exist in knarrez.

2. BEFORE

Before speech
were the harmonies
of constellations, the impulse
swinging the galaxy’s spheres.

Before speech
were the oratorios
of magma, the sun’s hymn,
the moon’s choreography.

Before speech
were the continents’ rhythms.
the sea’s orchestration
of geology’s anthems.

Before speech
was the music of stone,
the constrained instruments
of a symphonic underground.

Before speech
was stone’s imprisonment
of earth’s locked descants,
its psalms waiting release.

Before speech
were the mineral adjustments,
the counterpoint of ores,
the songs of the knapper’s hand.

3. A MUSIC FOR STONES

Stone seeks its music. Manacled
in mortar, imprisoned in walls,
knows the direction of its longing:

remembering earth’s orchestras,
the innate symphonies of land,
rings intuitive and stays

responsive to the hidden anthems
of its molten forming, to the psalm
continuity of its structures:

embodies the wet intricacies
and soft diameters of grass, the juice
hypotenuses of water’s leach.

Within its caliper are the wind’s hymns,
the latent animus and flex
of millennial seasons. Strike

and hear through geological time
the reverberations and assonances
of mildew’s stellar mechanics,
of the seed’s muscle, of the root’s
slow hunger, rain’s lisping appetites.

Keith Howden did his National Service between 1950-52, which was the first time he saw more of the world than the moorland surrounds of Burnley. Poorly qualified, he was lucky to find a University place at Leeds but wrote no poetry until I was 45, when the Leicester-based magazine Omens started to publish him. His first two books, Marches of Familiar Landscape and Onkonkay were published by Peterloo.  Retiring in 1989, he began to write again.  Since then, most of his  work has been published by Crazy Oik and Penniless.

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*****

Neil Leadbetter: Poem

COLLAPSIBLE CHAIRS

lie in confinement, arms folded, without complaint.
They are not like other chairs.
Uprights are so stand-offish. Unbending,
they leave no room for manoeuvre,
are too uptight for comfort. Collapsibles
are flexible, they bend their joints
into submission,
are accommodating to strangers,
can be taken anywhere.
They withstand the weight of argument
without caving in.

(After Zbigniew Herbert)

Neil Leadbeater is an editor, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh.  His short stories, articles and poems have been published widely both at home and abroad. His latest publications are Finding the River Horse (Littoral Press, 2017), The Engine-room of Europe (editura pim, Iaşi, Romania) and River Hoard (Cyberwit.net, Allahabd, India, 2019). He is a regular reviewer for several  journals including Galatea Resurrects (USA) and Write Out Loud (UK).

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*****

Edward Lee: Two Poems 

THIS
for A

Into your loneliness
we place our voices,
hoping our words
might comfort
your wounded heart.

We do not mean
to remind you
of what you have lost
by praising the virtues
of one now gone –

but faced with grief
we’re foolish
never knowing
whether
to share our own
or simply
listen to yours.

In truth, we know
there’s nothing
that we can do,
nothing better,
nothing worse;
for grief spreads its wings
and only flies
when it is ready –

spreading itself
across the sky:
gentler, lighter
and more forgiving.

HUNGER

No one ate
the sacrificial lamb.
Something akin to guilt
compelled them
to set it
free.

It disappeared
across the horizon,
sunlight blazing
on its off-white
fleece.

The children
reminded them
that they were still
hungry,
that another
splintered day
would leave them
unsustained.

No one, adult or child,
had strength left
to give chase,
and they are all
now hungry
with a pain
prolonging the night,
the night
unfolding
across the world –

self-destructive,
bloated,
gnawing us all.

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. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com

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Kathleen McPhilemy: Two poems

WILLOW BOUGHS AT KELMSCOTT

In the cool of the evening
Mr Morris walks in his garden
Mr Morris of Morris and Co
walks past the medlars and quinces
down to a bend in the river
where he picks up a spray from the willow
the winds tore down in the storm.

Through the symmetries of the vegetable beds
and the less symmetrical orchard
he goes in through the kitchen door
where he gives the willow to May
or Jenny or perhaps it is Jane
to put in a vase or a jar
‘Make what you can of that.’

May looks out of her attic window
to honour the flowering plums
the white and abundant branches
the surging curve of the blossom
from which line and form are abstract
the ground and source of her art
they are like nothing except themselves.

She will go downstairs in the morning
she will study the spray of willow
the intertwining of twigs and leaves
symmetrical and less symmetrical
she will create a repeating pattern
every 52 centimetres
for wallpaper, curtains and tiles.

BACK COUNTRY

On these half-known roads
between the city and the sea
grey condenses on the grass
colours fade from the fields
trees transform to shadowy signallers.

In farms and cottages
at the ends of rough lanes
lights wink on
in the imaginable comfort
of other houses, other lives.

What is not imagined
is the later darkness
cars without plates or lights
sweep into a farmyard
hard men step out.

What is not imagined
are the few words spoken
what they take with them
what they leave behind
under the tarpaulin.

Kathleen McPhilemy grew up in Belfast but has lived in Edinburgh, London and now in Oxford. Shehave published three books, three pamphlets and had poems in anthologies and magazines.

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*****

Jenny McRobert: Two Poems

SNOWFALL

The year that it snowed, Dad made a toboggan
out of an old washboard, knocked together
with splints of wood and string.

The year that it snowed, we tasted the sky
as the slope at the back became a Matterhorn,
our screams like streamers rippling the air.

Sis sat at the front, steering as we hung on,
the string furrowing our soggy woollen hands,
our sleeves leaking like rusty pipes.

Her eyes were bright berry wine, dark curls
danced like mad hares round her bobble hat
– she was fearless. But I was afraid

that we might disappear at the end of the slope
slipping and sliding like the white rabbit
down a hole and never come back.

For the novelty of snow, we climbed Psiloritis
near sis’s home in Crete, her breath a tight
question mark, the opaqueness of fear in her eyes.

She laughed when I said ‘do you have a washboard?’
a string of sound stretching out, and quickly gone,
too slippery for her hands.

The year that it snowed she lay on crisp whiteness.
She rode the slope and didn’t come back.

PASSOVER

In her crisp Brownie uniform,
Pauline pinched my arm until a purple patch
bloomed on it.
‘You killed our Lord, Lid Face.’
Who was this ‘Lord,’ and
when was I supposed to have killed him?
I couldn’t even kill the ants, leg-boxing for
the ha’penny chew I’d dropped on the grass.
I stared into the bathroom mirror;
I was pretty sure my face wasn’t flat.

Pauline threw a back garden picnic;
most of the kids brought
sugar sandwiches on blotting paper bread.
I brought Mum’s homemade kichels.
‘What’s that?’
‘They’re Jewish biscuits.’
The kichels staled, untouched.
I left quietly,
then caught hell fire from Pauline’s mum
all bolted up in her Sally Anne uniform,
swiping, but missing she threw the
scrubbing brush, which bounced off my head.
My knees all scabby and my hands raw,
I scrubbed it out – ‘Pauline is a sod,’
chalked on the pavement all the way home.
What is a ‘sod’ anyway?

Then it was here – Passover Eve.
The kitchen was fragrant with expectation;
a table laid with roast lamb,
honeycomb, unleavened bread,
bitter herbs, and Palwin’s sickly-sweet wine.
We are glad that we are here, and not in Egypt.
Elijah’s place is set, but once again he doesn’t come.
Written on the table is a different Elijah;
‘If you prick us do we not bleed’ the blood of
the Pascal Lamb?
The Angel of Death passed over,
the hurt remained on the door post.

Making the transition from Psychologist to poet has been Jenny McRobert’s most pleasurable journey.  Now she has migrated to a land that she loves.  Recently published poems are: ‘Touched’ Picaroon Poetry Issue: #12 May 2018, ‘Jezebel’ Ink Sweat and Tears October 2018, ‘Silver Samovar’ (highly commended by Winchester Writers Festival) and ‘Bakelite Blintzes’ both in The High Window, Issue: #13 Spring 2019, ‘Dragnonfly’ and  ‘Sea shanty for a ship in a bottle’  Words for the Wild April/June 2019.

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*****

Caroline Maldonado: Two Poems

LORENZO LOTTO’S PORTRAITS

Sometimes in museums the paints speak to me
and irony suddenly vanishes
‘Self-portrait’ by Adam Zagajevski

i)

On the condottiere’s fingers
are two rings – one was
recently worn by his wife.

His right hand covers a small
skull scattered with petals:
rose and jasmine,

love and purity.
His other hand rests over
his spleen: site of melancholy.

ii)

Is it the ledger lying open
on a green cloth that prompts
this youth’s anxiety, his skin

moon-like against the dark sky
of his hair? Rose petals are
on his table too and letters,

a ring and a shawl, gold-fringed,
with a lizard half-hidden in its folds,
symbol of resurrection.

Has he rejected his old world
of the lute and hunting horn still
hanging on the shadowed wall?

iii)

Each portrait reflects the desolation
of the painter’s gaze, whether
in the face of friar or goldsmith
or witness to the crucifixion.
Downward and inward his regard.

Light plays on the canvas:
impasto in the grooves,
tones of flesh, the capillaries
around the nose. Lean in close
as if to your bathroom mirror.

RED-EARED SLIDER IN A GREEN POND.

On the park pond freighted with white
tulip petals, twigs and a post-it note,

a rotten branch lifts to bask in the sun.
I leave my bench twice to find it again,

then spot it: red stripes on sodden wood,
a carapace rising and falling with breath.

When Bonnard painted Marthe in the bath
he gave everything the same weight: water,

woman-in-water, enamel, her breath –
captured it all while she still lay in the light.

EL CENTRO DE ARTE CONTEMPOREÁNO BY THE GUADALMEDINA

Even in February the Guadalmedina
is a dry basin where a man can walk
his dog. Inside the gallery are two

video panels next to one another:
a girl turns back to glance at us,
a boy raises his hands to hold

his head. All in slow motion.
Outside, on a bare tree by the river,
two parakeets are hop-hopping

to the lowest branches. Time slows
down as I watch them watching me
until one hops away, seizes a twig

twice her size, manoeuvres it free
and takes off, twig balanced on either
side of her beak like a circus artist

with her pole, weaving far from
the river between high buildings
over the city. I wait for the second

bird to follow. In the gallery
the boy and girl are still moving
but never towards each other.

Light and water streams through them.
The parakeet alone on his tree
cocks his head in the winter sun.

Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator, living in the UK and Italy. Publications include Your call keeps us awake, co-translations with Allen Prowle of poems by the Italian poet, Rocco Scotellaro (Smokestack books 2013), What they say in Avenale, (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2014) and Isabella (Smokestack Books 2019) which includes her own poems and translations of poems by Renaissance poet, Isabella Morra. Her translations from Italian of Laura Fusco’s Limbo is forthcoming (Smokestack Books 2020).

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 Roy Marshall: Poem

ABOVE THE QUARRY AT SOLSTICE

The little salt and pepper dog
might as well have my heart
tethered to her tail.

We print a blank field,
climb iced steps
until I can see clear distance

between what I thought I needed
and what it seems to be. Below us,
railway sleepers rise in thawing snow

like black keys on a piano.
She trots across an orange sun
that is leaving us behind.

Roy Marshall lives and works in Leicestershire. His publications are Gopagilla (2012), The Sun Bathers (2013) and The Great Animator (2017), all from Shoestring Press. His pamphlet of versions of Montale will be published in the autumn of 2019.

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*****

Mark Mayes: Two Poems 

INTO THE LONG GRASS

And when evening came,
he took the lane again.
A dog barked behind the pond.
The sun, an egg yoke,
oozed into the trees.

A rusty gate
still warm from the day.
A block of ice in his chest
melted away.

Somewhere beyond sight,
a gun cracked hollow
across the fields.

Then everything
was deeply quiet,
deeply still.

THE GIFT

The shadow of her wings
flew across my window
one night when I’d lost all hope.
She sits in the cherry tree, but never sings.

I threw some bread out on the lawn.
The sparrows came as did the crow.
My midnight bird looked on silently.
She shook her head, fluffed her tail, like so.

I saw her on the pylon wire,
ice-grey feathers against a greyer sky.
Wires buzzed in chilly drizzle,
diamond glint in her faraway eye.

Then one day she was no more,
in cherry tree or by my door,
watching silently. She had departed
to where the outwardly beautiful live
beside a silver shore.

Taking out the rubbish,
I picked a feather from the gravel.
It was her parting gift to me,
and when I frilled the common grey, like so,
it briefly turned to rainbow.

Mark Mayes writes fiction, poems, and songs. He has had a few things
published here and there. Novels include The Blue Box and The Grass
Below – both published in 2019.

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Sally Michaelson: Two Poems

HOLIDAYS

Twelve suitcases, two parents, four daughters
we didn’t travel light.

When we reached Zurich
Dad treated us: supper in the buffet.

In the warm fog of cigarettes
and shining silverware

waiters in black with white aprons, scrambled
like jazz notes on a keyboard.

Mum, thinking she was being ignored,
waved a menu at a waiter

who mimicked a hooked nose
(which only Mum saw)

but which she took to be
as bad as a Nazi salute

I never got my hot fondue sandwich
or my Swiss hot chocolate

just the next train back to England.

MY FIRST CHILD

I’m back from maternity
with our premature son
too small to take out

It’s freezing

I’m short of food
but have too much milk
overflowing with delight

at having him.

When I’ve given up hope
you ring the bell
instead of using your key

empty a suitcase of non-perishables
onto the floor,
like a travelling salesman

you went for a smoke
when I was giving birth
and didn’t come back.

Sally Michaelson is a recently retired Conference Interpreter living in Brussels. Her poems have been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse, Algebra of Owls, The Bangor Literary Journal, Squawk Back, Amethyst and The Lake.

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*****

John Mole : Four poems

A REVERSED ALPHABET OF CLOSING LINES
for Alan Brownjohn

Zealous was the watchdog that wagged its tail
Young she may be but that is hardly an excuse
X ended the letter that didn’t sign its name
Wonder of wonders when he arrived on time
Violet became a colour she could never abide
Under the circumstances they made a good go of it
Time passed though the clock remained unwound
Some day we shall have forgotten all this
Remember to pick up the shopping list
Quiet was the house with the children gone
Possibly but I’m making no promises
Otherwise there will be nothing left
Neither or both was the only choice
Miss the train once more and that’s it
Lighten our darkness oh Lord
Knowledge of what had happened came too late
Just to hold on was all they could manage
I love you but you must appreciate my position
History may yet prove one of them wrong
Gym membership seemed to be the best hope
Finality is sometimes mistaken for transition
Ends in sight are often a vanishing point
Dry eyes were shameful given the situation
Camp out on the lawn unless the weather breaks
Believe me we’re still in with a chance
Absolutely or not as the case may be

THE LIGHT BOX

Its contents are the joy
Of not being interrupted,
The disconnected wires
That have had enough.

They have done with messages,
Cross purposes, the need
For an answer, the nervous
Hesitant intrusion.

See how they shine
In their intricate silence,
Coiled and at rest
As the spirit quickens.

THE POOR THINGS

Crossing the rickety bridge
of small anxieties, he expects to fall
at each step but the poor things
can’t do without him. Their insignificance
insists on their importance
as they lead him on across
what might have once seemed
a ravine that demanded
courage to negotiate but is now
a lesser darkness seeded with doubt
in search of reassurance
like Have I turned off all the lights?
or Where did I leave my keys?

THE PUNCH AND JUDY PUPPETS
For Simon

Mr. and Mrs. Punch
are selling up, so it’s farewell
to the narrative’s menage
as one by one the puppets
desert an empty booth,
their occupation gone.

The last of them to leave
is the lonely policeman
after his farewell beat
where everyone behaves
because all trouble
has moved on out of town.

Mayhem is now elsewhere
under new management
so good dog Toby
sniffs at a lamp-post
then trots accommodatingly
out of the picture.

Where there was once
a string of sausages
dragged from the butcher
there is now only
a patient, orderly queue
at the meat counter.

The baby has ridden off
on the crocodile’s back
en route for
the Peaceable Kingdom
where all must be disrupted
by their arrival.

As for the hangman
with his knotted rope
not to speak of the devil
we’re better off without them
though in our wildest dreams
that’s still the way to do it!

John Mole  has written poetry for both children and adults. He is also an accomplished jazz clarinettist, and has been known to combine poetry and jazz with other poet-musicians such as Roy Fisher and John Lucas. He has won several prizes for his poetry, including an Eric Gregory award, the Cholmondeley Award and the Signal Award. He trained as a teacher and has worked in both America and Britain.

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Jill Munro: Poem

AN INVISIBILITY OF PTARMIGAN

She came here with a thought to write of clutches of birds —
those strange collective nouns — a Fling of Dunlin,
a Tiding of Magpies, a Muster of Peacocks, a Nye of Pheasants
but a kind friend told her to let go of this themed idea,
that goldfinches weren’t always charming, which she
found when forcing out lines about their caged history.
The friend told her to follow whatever arrived unconsciously
and these would be the real poems she needed to compose.

The truth was revealed when she set all these wild birds free —
there was deceit in lapwings, there was no point in pitying
turtledoves or bothering with the Unkindness of Ravens, the wriggling
Worm of Robins, she should evict thrushes mutating everywhere,
she had no need to play with a Game of Swans. This was how she
discovered pouring from her pen, a straightforward, singular love for him.

Jill Munro’s poetry has appeared in various magazines including The Frogmore Press, The Fenland Reed & The Rialto. Her first collection Man from La Paz was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press, London. She won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition with The Quilted Multiverse (2016) and won the O’Bheal Five Words International Poetry competition 2018. She was also awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2018. She lives in East Sussex.

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Maxine Rose Munro: Two Poems

VENUS

Venus at her front door, arrayed
in boiler suit and rubber boots, off
to clean the fish factory in town.

Sometimes she’s seen in morning pinks,
sometimes the deep blue-black night;
thickly clothed, moving differently

to everyone else, holding heat close
to hidden skin, this is how it is with her
born to the rituals of life, goddess

of childbearing hips and strength
to shoulder any yoke, good enough to keep
a fire going, water flowing, children growing.

Oh Ishtar, oh Ēostre, oh Freya, oh Aphrodite
as you nightly hose out guts and bloody
foam, the work must be done,

times change, but you’ll not be overshadowed
by anyone. Grim as one who goes to slaughter
you stride out to your car, headlights cut

the darkness, Aurora Borealis, all seductive,
sambas above, ignored. Work must be done
and nothing gets in your way.

GIVE ME

These menus proudly list ingredients,
boastful paragraphs that outline each dish,
but it is overmuch.

Give me things of salt and soil:
give me mackerel only this morning pulled from sea,
writhing, shining;

give me that which my distant land provides
and provides well,
carrots, kale, black potato;

all that has been worked
into being by hands that have loved that place
beyond any other,

such as a bannock thick with heavy butter
unparalleled – strong, identifiable, as are the people –
you feel a lack when you are elsewhere;

give me food simple, fresh, made by family,
flavoured with home.
I’m sick for the want of it.

Maxine Rose Munro has been published in in Northwords Now, Glasgow Review of Books, Pushing Out the Boat, and The High Window. She also writes poetry in her native Shetland Scots, some of which can be found in Poetry Scotland and Three Drops from a Cauldron. She has been nominated for both Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize, and was a 2017 SMHAFF International Writers award shortlistee. You can find her here www.maxinerosemunro.com

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*****

Katerina Neocleous: Two Poems

A DAY IN EARLY SPRING

It is a day in early Spring
and I am here, writing
a poem she won’t read because
she doesn’t have the time for it.

The warm spell tricked us all –
trees squeezed out buds, bees revved
and blackbirds started quarrelling
at every gate-post – then it changed again.

Almost overnight, the girl I know
is blossoming. Now she returns
from town, unsatisfied by
how little it can offer

her long hair ruffled by
the easterly that howls and
flings hard rain at everything;
comes in and slams the door

bringing a small flurry
of soft hawthorn petals
to rest beside her trainers.
Says hello and runs upstairs

from where I sometimes catch
sweet bursts of song – from
the young woman she’s becoming
– as she sings along.

Ecstasy

They embrace like ivy
hastening the ruin’s end –
under the broken exit

share narcotic kisses
that erase self and
the body’s borders:

step outside both
crowded nightclub and
St Mary’s graveyard.

Maybe come-downs
are the weight
of coming back

like the small
dove shaped bruise
located above

the scapula,
on her carotid vein
– trembling.

Katerina Neocleous is Assistant Editor of the poetry journal, Obsessed With Pipework. She has been published in various magazines and anthologies; and has two pamphlets forthcoming in late 2019: from Flarestack/ OWP, and from Maytree Press. For more information please visit her at visionsfromhell.wordpress.com

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Linda Rose Parkes:  Poem

A LITTLE ARCHIVE OF THE SHINY SELF

first intake of breath at one in the morning
your mother your first glimpse
of all before you your sister and you
seven years on (a leap, yes, true, but it’s all in the archive)
scooting into Boots to choose stamps
for your albums stationary soap
plash of puddles and tires chips on the bus how you peered
through your glasses frost-bite grazed knees
every high tide swim soaked in colour
first poem you wrote first pair of nylons
the books you read the texts that defied you
the boys you kissed every breeze through each oak tree
fanning your skin rippling your bloodstream
the poems the poems the noise the pauses
the films you saw the films you missed
the twists and endings the plot lines you needed
the friends who forgave you the friends you lost
the inklings and kindlings the tears the elations
all arranged under neat, coherent headings
and stacked in rows (look this is the shelf
for those other countries) or here his eyes
suddenly fixed on you all that longing cranked up as LOVE
enters the room only to founder twelve years later
O your shipwrecked children their voices call
from the pages and that one missing clue
which was almost within hearing the mind link for link
not quite soldered for steel grip
and time spinning fast there isn’t the means to turn
and even now you pass the building
and fail to notice frost that clings to the roof
how light hits the windows.

Linda Rose Parkes was born in the Channel Islands and studied literature at U.E.A, going on to do her M.A in creative writing with Malcolm Bradbury. She has published four collections of poetry, has collaborated with singer-songwriters and is also a painter.

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Cheryl Pearson: Poem

GOLD IN THE LION

In 2005, veterinarians in Rome treated an arthritic lion
with injections of gold

They slip the needle in
while the sick animal is under.
Through living sun
to the muscle. Imagine
the crackle of lightning.
The blaze of light in the thigh.
You never noticed before
how the eyelid, rolled like a shutter,
discloses the eye. Warm
and gold as a Roman morning.
Imagine that, you say. And again,
with wonder, Imagine. Like
they’re topping him up
with the smelted metals
he’s made of. Like his blood
has always been crown-coloured,
shining. The collision of two
tables. Periodic. Operating.
Already we are asking,
What next?, this first fix trailing
a great hope. A tug-boat
with a liner large in its wake.
Its ballrooms, its lights.
A father with hands like root ginger,
the brassy flash of the plunger.
And then the relaxing.
The years after, a luxury.
I think of the vase
in the Japanese museum,
mended with gold along its faults,
its beauty in its repair. Like the father
tossing his daughter skyward.
Gold in his wrists. Gold in her hair.

Cheryl Pearson is the author of Oysterlight (Pindrop Press). Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Mslexia, Under the Radar and Poetry NorthWest. aShe has also twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has won or been placed in competitions including the Cheshire Prize, the Hippocrates Prize, the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize, the Keats Shelley Prize, and the Costa Short Story Award. Her second collection, Menagerie, is forthcoming from The Emma Press.

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Michael Penny:Two Poems

ONCE UPON A TIME

This is a true story
because it doesn’t contradict
any earlier story.

These things happened
and I was there.

I remember them.

If it is all lies
I tell them as a different person
who might also be me.

This memory is the memory
of the last time I remembered it.

I am a witness
only to make a story of what I saw
until what I saw is the story.

These things happened
and I live happily ever after.

ALEXTHYMIA

You believe that
what you can’t put into words
you haven’t felt, even when tears
wash “sadness” down your face.

Your empathy jumps
from state to state
and the chemistry lines up
to make a quantum sob.

The joke’s on you who don’t get it.
With no clue that the story
has all those double meanings
it’s just more words to fail you.

Despite the incomprehension
your face reddens, tears come
and shame you who do not shame.

Eyes widen wordlessly.

Michael Penny lives on an Island, has published five books, and occasionally consults on issues related to the regulation of professionals.

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*****

Carla Scarano: Poem

DISPERSING YOUR ASHES

The Italian flag flaps on the pole of the Ostia shore.
The tin lid eventually opens,
but who is going in, staging your last wishes?
Your self-deprecating will.
Finally, I do. Who else can do it?
The ashes whirl in the wind, unstrained
mix in the roaring waves of the backwash
making it murky.
They splash on my legs
soak my skirt to the waist.
I wonder if they will leave stains,
then shake the urn empty,
the last specks fly and dissolve,
it lasts seconds.
I wish it longer,
more solemn
conclusive in some way.
The sun is setting in a soaring blue.

Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, and is working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood at the University of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/

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*****

Jean Stevens: Three poems

THE PATH OF DESIRE

The path of desire is the path
they don’t want me to take.

What they want for me is tarmac, fences,
gates, the watchful eyes of street lamps.

They don’t want me to know the roughness
of rock littered lanes, the dangers of snow and ice.

They don’t want me to walk out of range;
will call me back, put a leash on me.

They’d rather I never stepped outside
but stayed shut in by walls

in a world as soft as stuffed armchairs,
my only landscape on tv.

I know my destination and that I want to get there
through the mud and stone of the bootleg trail.

Note: A ‘path of desire’ or a bootleg trail is a walking path or track worn
into the ground by habitual human passage rather than by design.

DOLPHINS

Not that they came
but that we were there when they did,
a few people scattered on the shore
of the firth holding our breath,

drawn in by shiny wet curves
lifting through the waves,
soaring into air, pirouetting through
light, to plunge and rise again.

Not that they moved
to a secret music – though they did –
but that, even in their search
for a kill, they gazed at us
as if they knew we were held.

Not that they stayed an hour
then left one by one
in a farewell flourish
but that we knew
we could never signal back.

THE EDGE

Something unknown
is there in the space
in the blue hour
between twilight and dark,

where tides at the edge of the land
turn from ebb to flow, and where
light begins to withdraw
as summer slips into autumn,

between words
that might carry you
down through grass, soil,
stone, to the centre
from where all language springs

or, after a hairpin bend, lead you
on to a narrow track,
at one side the high unforgiving bank,
on the other that fresh-air drop.

Note: where a narrow route leads between a high bank and a sheer plunge into a valley, rally drivers sometimes refer to the danger as a ‘fresh air drop’.

Jean Stevens is a poet and playwright. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Artemis, Bridport Prize Winners’ Anthology, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, The High Window, The London Magazine, Mslexia, The North, Other Poetry, Poetry and Audience, Smoke, Stand, and other magazines, and broadcast on BBC Radio Three and Four. Her recently published collections are Beyond Satnav (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016) and Driving in the Dark (Naked Eye Publishing 2018).

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*****

Rory Waterman: Two Poems

VERGINA SUNS

We’d set off south, across the border,
and entered another fenced-off plot

of former vias, basilicas, atriums
bordered with mosaic knots,

and cricket-static in stagnant heat:
too much, and little. We left, and found

a coffee stall selling freddocinos,
the vendor kicking a ball around

with kids and a mutt. He tried his English
with un-English zeal while we waited:

‘Nottingeham Forest. Your Queeen. Your Brrexit.’
I hadn’t yet reciprocated

when suddenly he jabbed at my chest
and drew my eye to what I’d bought –

my ‘Македонија’ handball shirt –
this last morning there, as a last thought.

‘Why this?’ I’ve been in the country of
Macedonia, I said, with care.

‘Get a PAOK shirt! Take that off!
That insults Greeks everywhere

my friend. I hate to say of a country –
“Macedonia” is liars’

whispered the Macedonian
from the Greek town of Skopia,

narrowing his eyes. ‘What do
you think of this whole situation?’

His gave me change. Gap-tooth-smiled. Nodded
encouragement. Well, the nation

of Macedonia, of course…
I changed tack. Mate, I really don’t know.

I’m not from here, am I? I pleaded.
I do see what you’re saying, though.

Did I? But that was all he needed.
Two Germans came, which let us go.

OPERATION MONDSCHEINSONATE AT COVENTRY TRANSPORT MUSEUM

If the spirit which the citizens of Coventry showed on the night of November 14th 1940 can be re-born in the hearts of our people today, then we shall indeed see the fruits of peace.
Princess Elizabeth, 1948

Improbable cycles at the entrance:
a frame carved a bit like a horse;
penny farthings stretching
above the ‘safety cycles’;

a trike with a tiny wheel
set at the back, as if
to face-plant its decorous rider –
until someone had

the obvious epiphany.
Then the first diamond frames;
then heavy motorcycles;
then the aristocrats’ and doctors’

bonneted cabriolets,
their angry grilles shining
between button-eyed lamps.
Then the War to End All Wars:

a map shows how the factories
abutted their city –
Singer, Siddeley-Deasy,
Rudge-Whitworth, Rover,

Riley, Daimler, Triumph –
where cars gave way for planes
or shells, lathes grinding all night,
and men to ‘factory girls’.

Then democratisation:
slim upright saloons
laid in lines behind lines
of rope and little signs.

We progress from when towards now.
And after the sleek rows
of 1930s corvettes
streamlining to elsewheres

an old couple quietly bypass
the Blitz Experience:
teetering wax men
in ARP saucer-helmets,

stencilled DANGER
by heaps of plastic mud,
corrugated tin
throwing back each

flash and studio bang,
Pathé recordings of
Heinkel 111s from the roof.
How can you imagine?

A marker flare clinks against
a warehouse roof. Another.
Then it starts in waves
as Loftflotte 3

unloads, returns to France,
reloads, wails back, unloads;
light beams track forlornly
from a city left to burn:

a huge ball of fire
shot into the air.
The whole of the roof caved in,
dragging the four men with it.

A Home Guard sat dazed,
one arm torn off. Groans guided
us to two firemen,
one with all limbs missing,

the other with his stomach
hanging out and no limbs.
I vomited, crawled away
and lay with my head in the gutter.

We gathered what remains we could find
and laid them under the trees.
One bomb hit a shelter
and muffled screams could be heard…

But the boards hold just enough
to show what was, then was:
the town half-rendered to piles
cut by jagged walls,

the cathedral an urban Rievaulx,
Churchill solemnly walking
the nave unlike so many
before. And after. Then Holy

Trinity hiding its Doom,
lonely among what was –
lonely now among
what is. The factories

to be brought alive again
‘defiantly’. A withered man
and two marauding grandkids
push past towards what he made

and I follow to the 1950s,
its solid Hillmans and Triumphs
shining as on a forecourt
pricelessly stolen.

Note:the quotations in this poem, some slightly altered, are from We Re-invented the Wheel by Ron Vice (Dunlop Aerospace Limited, 2003).

Rory Waterman‘s poetry books are Tonight the Summer’s Over (Carcanet, 2013), a PBS Recommendation, shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize, and Sarajevo Roses (Carcanet, 2017), recently shortlisted for the Ledbury Forte Prize. His next collection, Sweet Nothings , is due next year from Carcanet. He lives in Nottingham, where he is Senior Lecturer in English at Nottingham Trent University. He  writes regularly for the TLS and co-edits New Walk Editions.

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*****

Jean Watkins: Poem

PEACE

He sets out the chairs, she brings the tea tray.
A blackbird patrols the lawn, pulls out a worm.

She breathes in the wisteria’s heady perfume,
he admires his smooth green lawn, neat edges.

A gang of ants drags a caterpillar to their nest.
Creamy roses cover the fence, the beds are rich

with tulips, euphorbia, peony, phlox, campanula.
“How peaceful it is”, he says, gazing at clear sky.

The blackbirds call madly when magpies come,
attack their nest to smash and suck the eggs.

The cat creeps out from the rhododendrons,
drops s a dead mouse at their feet.

Jean Watkins was born in West Yorkshire and has lived near Reading for many years. She gained a BA from the University of Reading in 2001. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. Two Rivers Press published her first collection, Scrimshaw, in 2013, and the second, Precarious Lives, in 2018.

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*****

Grant Watson: Two Poems

IN THE POOL HOUSE

In the pool house the women have piled
Their belongings onto the table in mounds of
Linen and silk. They have been weighted
Down with earrings and unhooked chains,
Labelled with wedding rings and eternity bands
With chokers and bracelets and mobile phones.

And now they line the slick wooden boards,
Breasts in tight aqua marine and white
Bordered navy. Hips pulled in at the waist
With beaded lycra braids while their feet
Flat against the floor blossom with plumes
Of pink blood as they wait for the blast of
Chlorinated air – for the dull thud and crash
Of orchestra drums in an empty auditorium.

Like ballerinas in the wings they shift from
One leg to the other and talk in hushed
Whispers as if their voices might be amplified
And carry their quiet confessions as telegrams
Across the tiled walls that flicker with bright
And candled limbs. They are in a gallery of
soft possibilities now, the sacred space,
The long forgotten church, the temple hall.

And then they file through the shining gates
The chorus on its rhythmic trajectory, to the
Line of the race blocks, to the numbered lots
Where they will take their places at the dance,
The last strands of hair tucked beneath their
Balloon caps. One last burst of laughter, one
Last timid chuckle for these sisters of the swim.

Then they dive – and into the blue they go
Into the hallowed and weightless underworld –
Like seven ribbons untied from seven bows.

THE CRIME SCENE

At the crime scene the cordons
Are drumming against the
Pear trees along the riverside

They are turning in the breeze
Sending leaves twirling to
The mossy ground where her

Bicycle was left, its pedals
Ribboned with the reflecting
Badges from cereal packets.

The photographers have now
Gathered by the low bridge
And their flashbulbs pop

As a girl from her class makes
The same walk she took
On her way back from school

This girl is prettier than the one
In the photographs, her hair is
Longer too. Tied up in a ball

By her aunt, a friend of the
Mother of the missing child
Who cannot be consoled

And paces the floor of her
House that backs on to the
Common where police are

Currently digging as discreetly
As it is possible to do. While
Teenagers are watching

From the climbing frame and an
An ice cream van has lowered
Its chimes out of respect

For the unfolding scene. As
In a corn field several miles
Out of town

A young girl walks through
The thick set stems
Leaving a trail

Like a plough blade cutting soil.

Grant Watson is a playwright and screenwriter whose last play Perfect Blue was awarded three international awards. He has written extensively for UK television including Holby City, Family Affairs and Doctors. Grant is also a singer-songwriter whose EP Figure in a Dark Landscape is due for release later this year.

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*****

Jules Whiting: Two Poems

SUN DUST FALLING IN TONES OF ORANGE AND SEPIA
(16th October 2017)

Today the sun is an orangey-pink, reflecting
on the parked cars like a newly turned on street-light.

It’s much too warm for so late in October,
heat seems to be crushing the trees, burnishing the air.

Mary in the petrol station says it’s like a 1960’s
horror movie. She’s waiting for the end of days.

The news – fake or not – says Einstein has been justified,
twin proton stars have collided, scientists heard their demise.

Now two lights in the universe have been replaced
by the soft gleam of platinum and gold.

That’s not the reason for this blood sun. We’ve been told
its detritus from wild fires in Portugal,

or the remnants of hurricane Ophelia sucking up Saharan sands,
scattering sun-dust in jewels of soft maple, clouded pearl.

I hold out my hands, stretched
ready to capture all their possibilities.

ANTICIPATION

It starts with the smell of elderflower,
later they’ll be wine.
We’re walking in Millet’s painting
The Angelus, towards the vanishing point.
Everything is mellow; the meadow,
the sunlit fields of unyielding, unripe wheat.
There’s a fleck of colour over Ipsden;
a microlight yellows the blue.
It’s the end of the day as we fall,
earth-cradled, onto melted grass,
reach across the turf-sprung dirt,
till just the tips of our fingers touch –

flesh to flesh. Our eyes tangle, hold.
It’s enough, it’s too much.

Jules Whiting is a country girl who grew up in Cholsey. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Her poems have appeared in Orbis, South, Envoi, The Interpreter’s House and various anthologies, including Stanley Spencer Poems ( Two Rivers Press) and Best of British (PaPer Swans Press).

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*****

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