The High Window, Spring 2022: Poetry

spring 2022

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The Poets

Ben BanyardIsabel BermudezAidan Michael CaseyStephen ClaughtonDouglas ColeJanice DempseyMaurice Devitt Frank DullaghanRobert EttyLorely ForresterRebecca GethinChrissie GittinsCharlotte InnesRosie JacksonTom KellySue KindonTom LaichasEmma Lee Peter Leight Sean McDowellNessa O’MahonyMandy Pannett Ian Parks Matthew PaulEllen Phethean •  Athar C. PavisSharon PhillipsFred PollackLesley Quayle John ShortRowena SommervilleRoss Thompson Olivia TuckSue Wallace-Shaddad Rodney WoodEnda WyleyMantz Yorke

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Previous Poetry

THW24: December 3, 2021 • THW23: THW22: June 6, 2021  •  THW21: March 8, 2021 • THW20: December 4, 2020 •THW19: September 5, 2020 • THW18: May 4, 2020  • THW17: March 7, 2020  • THW 16: December 4, 2019  • 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

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Ben Banyard: Two Poems

TWINS
September 2018 – aged 6 1/2

After the first scan, before we knew their sexes,
I worried about muddling them up as babies.

Then, when we learned they’d be one of each,
I could only think of Topsy and Tim,
a male and female version of each other.
But they couldn’t be more different.

Given the choice of the same toys
they opted to take their own paths.

Daisy, a ballerina swathed in pink, has her dolls.
She’s fearless, an extrovert, a natural at everything.

Jack fills his room with cars and dinosaurs, plays rugby.
He’s quieter, curious, enjoys the intricacies of science.

But for all their differences, their bond is strong,
closer than other brothers and sisters.

Daisy can’t settle in her own room at night. Why?
I miss Jack. I just want him near me.

FIRST GUITAR

He says his dad saved up two quid
out of his factory pay for it.

It looks like a toy, a pretend instrument,
homemade-looking, with a strap
fashioned from good honest string.

But he plays it to this day,
loves its easy action,
the way it sounds beside his voice.

This was the starting point,
the foundation of radio songs
he sketched on its frets
as he perched on the edge of a single bed
inspired by Paul and John, the Big O, Del Shannon.

To him, it’s his first and last,
even while he strums it in a room
full of hundreds of other shinier guitars,
all looking daggers.

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. His third collection of poetry, Hi-Viz, will be published by Yaffle Press in 2021. You can follow Ben’s blog at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com, which includes ‘Finest’ – a series of weekly essays where poets discuss personal favourites of their own work. Ben tweets @bbanyard

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Isabel Bermudez: Three Poems

THE AFRICAN QUILT

They
harnessed boats
to the sea,

the first,
whose mothers
stood on the shore

and watched,
helpless
as their men set forth

in hollowed
logs,
a taste of salt
on the tongue

In a whipping wind,
they spread,
pieces of
the human quilt,
rich brown,
savannah gold,
their veins, cotton thread.

The palms
clashed gently
as the boats left
on a good weather day.
Canoes
without sails,
the first
to know new shores.

It was the Exodus
the bible came to speak of.

Out of Africa they came.
And where the waters
of the oceans
met, in the white cresting drag

of the current,
for a moment
the seas parted.

And the women
in the light,
the first women, wept.

CORAL

The coral bloomed
red and blue and gold
before it turned
to white.
Petrified
it stalks
the current,
forgetting itself
in the long
absence of sand
The seas
shift again
uncertain weight
and tectonic plates
shake themselves
awake,
lift the bones
of the drowned.

MESSERSCHMIDT

The sculptor
had it right,
in Austria, in 1778.

His bronze heads
only ever his own.

Every
puckish mood and fancy
demanded by his demon,
the ‘Spirit of Proportion’

– melancholy
treachery
joy, horror
disgust, ecstasy, despair –

cast in bronze
writ across his face
the flitting bats
the clouds

rising
from the salt ashes of his
century and lonely life:

humours that endure
with new names now
but still no cure.

Isabel Bermudez‘s latest collection of poems is Serenade, poems evoking Spain and the New World, Paekakariki Press, Walthamstow, 2020, with illustrations by Simon Turvey. Two full collections with Rockingham Press: Sanctuary (2018) and Small Disturbances (2016) and two pamphlets Madonna Moon (Coast to Coast to Coast, Liverpool, 2019) and Extranjeros, Flarestack Poets, Birmingham, 2015. She lives in Orpington, Kent.

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Aidan Michael Casey: Poem

THE PUSHOVER

That high roundhouse kick
followed by the spinning back
hook kick is cool but maybe not
much use in a bar fight or likely
to impress a night-club bouncer.
& all that self-defense crap
is choreography. Srsly,
the guy is not gonna stand there
with his arm extended as you
turn his wrist over & sweep
his leg out from under. So, if
you do martial arts, you need
the occasional reality check,
which is why I took up Boxing.

One day, Alfredo turned up
sore as fuck. Some sketchy deal
went south, he was bleary-eyed,
bloodshot & coked up
& he was our trainer, FFS, our
adult in the room & till today
I never saw him glove up.
But he called us out & a couple
of his sidekicks, old-timers,
went a round, tried to make
a joke of it, humour the guy.
But I guessed what was coming
when the shouting got worse &
some of the hard men took a walk.

He was tough & he knew his shit
but I was sharper & I figured
I could just punch & move till he
tired, but he was on to me.
He just laughed & let the shots
bounce off his thick skull & kept
coming, head low, like a bull,
Chavez style, throwing
hard hooks, catching me
on the back foot till I was
groggy & gassed. But I made it
to the buzzer with nothing left.
But it wasn’t over. It was
seconds out, round two.

So I tried to stay on the outside
& throw crosses but he cut
off the ring & the uppercuts
& hooks went off like bangers.
And the third was more of the same
& went on forever, every piledriver
ramming the breath out of me,
every headshot a night on the town
with an infernal hangover in tow.
But I sucked it up & I staggered
& let fly & clinched & when
the buzzer went, he was still
shoving me off & I just let him
tip me over & we were done.

That was one day & not
the worst by a long shot.
The bruises go down & the ribs
eventually mend & my dentist
is a nice woman who lets me
off lightly. What hurts, though,
is when I talk to guys & they’re
drinking & they have no fucking clue
& they’re like, Boxing’s great! I love
Boxing! & they go on about it,
usually in front of girls,
& I always say, if you even
think you like Boxing, bitch,
you’re doing it wrong.

Aidan Michael Casey was born in Dublin and studied English and Philosophy at UCD. Since then, he has taught English in Spain, Germany and Ireland and developed a number of mobile apps. He has poems in many online reviews including Crossways, Page and Spine, Lighten Up Online, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Pangolin Review, Morphrog and A New Ulster as well as the Culture Matters anthology.

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Douglas Cole: Two Poems

MY FATHER’S HOUSE

My father looked out from under the red
tin roof of the Chelan shores condo resort—
seven pools and tennis courts—scanning
with his binoculars and said, that’s it,
when he saw the flat spot on the far ridge,
bought the plot of land with a truckload of cash
and made a cardboard model of the house
that stands there now, walked in through
its big wide double glass doors and never left,
his blue glittering garden view of the lake
and the disappearing mountains,
even when the fires raged and smoke drove
everyone out, deer huddled in the shade
under his stucco eaves as the lightning flashed
until the windstorm traveled on and scorched earth
returned to green jack pines with their burn scars
settling into evening, Perseids shooting overhead
in the night sky reflected in his inlit fountain
where now you may not see him but as I fly
down to that house of his dreams I say
it still amazes me, nice work,
as he smile from the doorway of the pumphouse
and out in the hills coyotes howl.

BIRDMAN

David Fish’s mom was a gay divorcee—
they had a sweet spot of a house
up there in the lower Berkeley hills.
David and I got drunk on Manischewitz wine
at the Passover dinner, went to a James Bond marathon
at the UC Theater, then came back and dropped
a tray of poker chips on the stairs.
His mom took us to the Emeryville mudflats
to build sculptures out of driftwood—
we brought nails and hammers—
somebody made a five-car train that looked so real
no one destroyed it. You could see it for a long time
driving by on the freeway. I’d look for it
to make sure my world was still there.
She took us to the dump to salvage,
found a broken toy electric car you could sit in—
seagulls were everywhere.
I wanted to be in their family, sit in their kitchen
looking through the lead-lined windows
at the Eucalyptus trees and the hummingbirds—
paradise I circled like a vulture in my invisible bird body.

Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. He has been widely published in journals. He is also a regular contributor to Mythaixs, an online journal, where his interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band) have been popular . He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. His website is https://douglastcole.com/.

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Stephen Claughton: Two Poems

LIEDERKREIS

A BBC Lunchtime Concert,
playing in the kitchen
of your almost empty house,

keeps me company now,
as I sit where we used to chat,
whenever I came to visit.

‘Not often enough,’ you’d say,
grilling me with questions,
as you pieced together lunch.

No welcome for me today—
I’ve come for the last time
to read meters and lock up.

The music fills the silence
that had you been at home,
I’d probably have preferred.

It’s the same big transistor set
you never really cared for,
though I liked its clear, dry sound.

We never agreed on much
and maybe you were right,
being Welsh and musical.

Did we ever listen to this,
Schumann’s Liederkreis?
Hearing it sung today

in the fifties’ fitted kitchen
you couldn’t bear to change,
your presence lingering on

like the hint of an after-echo,
I think we must have done,
if not before, then now.

EGON SCHIELE: SELF_PORTRAITS

Even with his clothes on,
Schiele looks exposed,

staring in surprise,
his hair raised in a shock,

as he folds his body through
an origami of the self.

How alarming, then, it looks
to see him in the nude,

sexting us with full views
of poor, forked creature, man,

that starved-looking body,
spare as his technique,

extremities lopped off
without the fiction of framing,

the mottled flesh he smears
with faecal, brown gouache.

They suggest a century’s horrors,
before they even began.

Or was baring more than his soul
simply meant to provoke,

the equivalent in paint
of photo-booth high-jinks,

like an exhibitionist drunk,
striking outrageous poses,

while gurning at the lens,
who ends with a startled look,

when suddenly, without warning,
the shutter finally clicks?

Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared widely in print and online. He has published two pamphlets: The War with Hannibal (Poetry Salzburg, 2019) and The 3-D Clock (Dempsey & Windle, 2020).

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Janice Dempsey: Two Poems

GOING BACK
after Carol Ann Duffy

I wake with dread before the call with news.
For weeks her pain’s been fading.
I drive to Cornwall with helpless gifts, and now
I make that first visit to the cottage hospital.
I can’t believe she won’t get well.
My complacent ignorance takes hold,
my life absorbs me three hundred miles away;
for years she’s just a voice, a Christmas break,
a tiresome guilt behind my eyes,
and all that time she grows stronger,
the ulcer drawing clean skin across;
the lungs healing; the veins clearing,
the blood-flow stronger, the voice more confident,
chatter on a wire of Women’s Institute and CND,
what Dad said, what my half-known brother does
as he grows ever younger, but now
they’re moving house, away from the grey village
where they have become new-comers, back
to the house I love
and my mother weeps as they leave
the way she always cried at each transition
and back we slip through years of change;
she’s nurturing wayward daughters through their teens,
and the son at last returning to her womb,
back, back, through the tears of leaving homes
she’s built as bulwarks against the dark,
back she grows, to cherish me in turn
till I in turn sink back to dark oblivion.

IN MY DREAMS

I meet my mother
She is often younger than my dream-self.
She has soft brown hair.
She has smooth creamy skin.
Her mouth is full and red.
She wears the dress she wore in black and white
when my father snapped her cradling me
in the yard of her mother’s house.

In my dreams
she is sometimes my daughter,
sometimes another sister.
In my dreams
we understand each other and
I can tell her my dreams.

When I wake, I don’t cry
when I remember she is dead.

Janice Dempsey originally trained as a fine artist/painter and taught art in secondary schools. She began writing poetry towards the end of this career and has since become a poetry publisher and writer. Seldom submitting her writing to journals or competitions, she was, however, included in the Poetry Space competition anthology Nothing recognisably human (2013) and came third in the Segora Festival Poetry competition (2014). She has also been published in Dogzplot (US), The Blue Nib and Paris Lit Up magazines.

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Maurice Devitt: Four Poems

THE TENANTS

The house stands still and circumspect
since the last tenants left,
and, even on the brightest days,
seems to have stepped back
into the shadows, security light
on the side passage
a lone siren in the gloom.

Though they talked of travel
and living away, we never knew
they were leaving; peripatetic lives
gathered up and bundled into a waiting taxi,
while we returned to our settled world,
some part of us laid bare
by unfollowed dreams.

THE HOUSE

I hadn’t really been looking for a house
when I came across it on a property site
and was smitten: dreamlike presence
from a childhood story, white stucco
and wisteria, given form on Sunday drives
in a maroon Vauxhall Viva, beetling
through the back roads of North County Dublin,
mapped with the precise geometry of fruit farms
and cricket pitches, skirting the airport
as planes arrowed into a still-nervous sky.
The twisting road into Ballyboughal –
road sign a squiggle overdrawn as a witch –
cottage glimpsed through a fringe of trees,
a young girl on a swing in the front garden
and me kneeling on the back-seat of the car,
twelve-year-old child, desperate
to grow up yet stay the same age,
fantasy house for all my best friends,
the image buried until today, and now
the memories come flooding back,
like little victories
from someone else’s life.

THE HEALTH QUESTIONNAIRE

And someday
all the questions I’ve tended to ignore,
will need to be answered,
as my once perfect body
starts to decay, ailment-by-ailment,
and the taut tendrils of my mind
snap, leaving tracts of information –
the much-vaunted fruits
of study and osmosis – stranded
the wrong side of the divide,
and I will no longer know
which to ferry over first,
the fox, the chicken or the bushel of wheat.

DÉJA VU

Occasionally our memories chicane,
overlapping for seconds and prompting us
to believe we have been here before.
Is it that we have more than one life
running on parallel tracks?
The sensation, spliced into our regular day,
distracts us with the illusion of recognition,
then disappears before we know
what will happen next, leaving us
with a sliver of regret and the feeling
that, though the lessons learnt the first time
may have been forgotten,
the freedom of starting with a blank page
gives us a second shot at joy.

Maurice Devitt was winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015, he published his debut collection, Growing Up in Colour, with Doire Press in 2018. His poems have been nominated for Pushcart, Forward and Best of the Net prizes and his Pushcart-nominated poem, ‘The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work’, was the title poem of an anthology published by Hibernian Writers in 2015. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site.

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Frank Dullaghan: Three Poems

TAKING MY WORDS FOR A WALK IN THE PARK

My words are going.
Not just people’s names –
I always misplaced those –
but the words for objects, places,
some verbs too.
They suddenly leave, leaving me
with an open mouth
and the need for subterfuge.
They are often common-place,
well-known words,
not some exotic stranger
to my conversation. I don’t expect
not to know them when I start.
It’s just that the shelf is empty
when I reach for them, and
my sentence hangs there in the light
with its silent dusty motes.

It can slow me down,
make me seem confused.
I try not to panic, not to call and call.
That just scares the word away
for longer. If I stay calm,
I might find it beside me,
like a disobedient dog in the park
with a grin on its face
and its tongue lolling, as if to say
here I am, I was always close.
So, I put it on a lead and take it home,
tell no one I was terrified
it was gone for good, that I feel
unsure about going out again, might
just sit quietly in the house for a bit.

PARKING

I need to wake myself up.
I am sleep-walking my days
and there is much to be done.

It’s like I get into the car of myself
and don’t have the key.
So, I just sit there looking out

the windscreen at a still-life landscape.
It can take ages to go find keys,
start myself up. I park

in front of the TV for half the day,
listening to news, letting a series
of old detective stories

make off with my time. I haven’t a clue.
But I worry that I do, that I’m allowing myself
to drift, not wanting to face the work

that needs to be done. We are moving
house – nearly thirty-five years
of accumulated stuff. I keep putting it off,

live in two worlds – one where the move
is happening, another where there are no
more roads and I can park up forever.

I could say I am tired, depressed.
But I suppose it’s just too many
miles on the clock.

THERE ARE ALWAYS MARKS LEFT ON THE BODY

There are always marks left on the body –
bruises, weight, a stoop, a shudder. The hurt
always carried forward, leaves you unsteady.

Bruises, weight, a stoop, a shudder – the hurt
finds so many ways to drive you crazy,
make you question yourself, have low self-worth;

finds so many ways to drive you crazy –
though you pick yourself up, you’re easily knocked.
It’s too hard to learn to be less needy.

Though you pick yourself up, you’re easily knocked,
forever repeating the same broken journey,
too weary to try to change, to unlock.

Forever repeating the same broken journey –
parents, lovers, bosses – it never stops.
There are always marks left on the body.

Frank Dullaghan is an Irish writer, now back in the UK after 15 years living in the Middle East and South East Asia. His fifth Collection, In the Coming of Winter, was published by Cinnamon Press in Sept 2021.

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Lorely Forrester: Two Poems

MORNING PRAYER

Later, I will remember breakfast on winter Sundays:
the taste of the day, the way the low sun splashes
diamonds around the blue kitchen. Fire deep-rooted
in the belly of the stove, contentment creaking the
dogs’ baskets, cats heaped in chairs like cushions,
and – best of days – my three most well-loved faces.
Softly the radio bares its soul, spills out the Omnibus,
someone’s choice of tunes and favourite book, word
games and Goons… Warm as winter sunshine, they hook
the small spaces we leave, but we do not care. Too many
smells weave through the air: bacon frying, thick scarlet
moons of tomatoes and fat gold eggs lying spluttering
beside, the scent of coffee vying for place. We are
greedy and satisfied. And passing to and fro, filling
as slabs of hot toast buttery with marmalade, tingling
on tongues dark with oranges, are the exchanges of
the week, the hide and seek of words, the small
inconsequential chatter bright as the litter of stars on
the table top. Blissful to be unaware, drifting amidst the
clutter of blue glass and snowdrops, plates and paintings
and paperwork piled in corners, that little will ever
compare with these blessed ways, these best of days.

CHERRY STONES

We caught the bus back
from the beach
each day, hot under
a bleached sky,
wide eyed
at the gun slung
over the driver’s seat.

The sun stole the air
from the bus
each day, but we
didn’t care. We
had swum in the
cyan sea, were replete
with fresh sardines
and sweet nothings.

We bought red cherries
from the stall
at the beach each day,
then caught the bus.
Blasé with the gun,
towels and swimsuits
wet heaps on the seat,
naked under my dress,
bare sandy feet,
lips, blistered with sun
and with kisses, spitting
sucked cherry stones
into the street.

Lorely Forrester was born in Kenya, raised in the West Indies, moved to England mid-teens and graduated from King’s College, London; afterwards working there at IPC Magazines, in advertising and in documentaries. She lives in Ireland, where she was Editor/Feature writer of Discover Sligo magazine, wrote PR & marketing material, organised events, designed gardens including a Gold Medal-winning garden at Bloom and introduced (commercially) a new rose named WB Yeats. She has been writing and gardening since childhood.

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Robert Etty: Three Poems

THE LINE THAT MR CREW DREW

In five minutes’ time the bell would bring
the time check the school never tired of.
Mr Crew, in his historical suit, and tired
of repeating History today, board-rubbed
his blackboard and chalked a straight line from
left edge, at top pocket height, to right edge.
He heard his voice saying, ‘Look at this line.
The far end is day nought in year nought. The end
at your right is this moment. Now – someone
take this chalk and mark the line at the point
when he thinks the first humans were living.’

Arms in blue blazers rose. ‘Sir!’ ‘Sir!’ ‘Sir!’ ‘Me, Sir!’
Small Paul scrawled a large X two-thirds across.
Sykesy X-ed in the seven-eighths era,
mumbling his reasoning into his sleeve.
‘Yes, well,’ Mr Crew said. ‘It’s nearly the bell –
one last try, someone.’ Walker walked up
and tested the tip of the chalk on his palm.
He dabbed a dot, stepped back, stepped forward,
erased it with a licked thumb, and re-dotted
half an inch from the end. A million years younger,
he put the chalk down and dusted his hands.

Mr Crew nodded sapiently,
patted Walker’s passing shoulder, and told
those still listening: ‘Specks of Earth-dust, boys.
But here ends the lesson.’ The bell chimed in,
and he leaned on the door frame containing
the door that Small Paul was first to reach.
‘Just go, go, go,’ and he waved us out,
and probably cleaned his line off the board
(with Walker’s dot), and marked exercise books,
and laid out some papers for morning, pushed
chairs under desks, and switched off the lights.

THE MATTERS IN MIND

Some quiet day when you won’t be disturbed,
lay them out on the kitchen table.
They’ll cover less space, which may surprise you,
than four of your Common Wildflowers coasters.

As sunlight leans in and exposes each one
and reaches to touch the back of your hand,
begin to shuffle them into an order,
indifferently, so they don’t suspect.

When they’re taking this lying down, move to
one side and scan them edgeways, stand on a chair
for an aerial view, crawl underneath
the table and eavesdrop, turn them over,

rotate them, shake them, deprive them of sleep,
tell them you won’t be played fast and loose with,
play on their weaknesses, play on their heartstrings,
play their own game on a loop till you pause it

to watch the effect silence has. What counts
is control, which you seldom encounter,
except when you’re on the receiving end,
but silence may have a voice in the matter.

Most things are better out than in.
You read this once in a waiting room,
and were reading it through a second time
when the receptionist called your name.

Lay them there now while the table’s empty,
attending to process more than outcome,
as if you’re helping a friend for an hour.
Then move to one side. Stand on a chair.

MAY RAIN

An afternoon with pink shades of blossom,
weeds mass-gathering, jackdaws parenting,
sun appearing inclined to stay,

frowns of clouds above the sycamores
growing greyer, broader and darker,
and rain landing first in single pellets
then multiplying to shotgun fire
on the plastic roof. And thunder somewhere
(or two Typhoons) not properly heard
behind the rattling.

Inside seven seconds all of it stops
and one minute later concrete’s steaming
and birds pass comment from dribbling branch-ends.

Afternoon goes back to what it was doing,
reminded that rain may do this in May
and usually
catch it napping.

Rob Etty lives in Lincolnshire. His most recent collection, Passing the Story Down the Line, was published in 2017 by Shoestring Press. He is a long-standing member of the Nunsthorpe Poetry Group, which meets in Waltham, near Grimsby.

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Rebecca Gethin: Three Poems

FORCE 8 AT PENCAER

Gannets form convoys to tackle the headland.
At some signal
each bird angles their wings and tilts

from their flight path to slot into a line
of chevrons that cleave
to Ynys Meicel. The leader pierces

a channel through lumpy wind for followers
in their wake
beating low to the lava of waves

where air currents rise and fall in a ferment
of lift and throttle.
Being scientists of air, wind engineers

they know how to play the gusts
and feel out passages
through a labyrinth of pressures

on tuned instruments of muscle and cortex.
Miles to go yet
before they disgorge swallowings from distant

fishing grounds into gullets of chicks
crying their hunger
from choirstall nests on their island fastness

lined no longer with kelp and wrack
but with fishing nets
synthetic rope and plastic bags.

SELKIES AT SAVISKAIL BAY

Four slicked heads poked from the sea
as I stepped through kelp debris
from the beach of white sand.

Eyes of basalt. Poised to submerge
they kept watch, measuring distance
from my apparition intruding

into their element. I smoothed myself
into turquoise and glitter.
As much light as water.

They flip-splashed under
until up-gulping a little way out
and drawing me further out

toward them but I turned back to land
to check that I could make it
through the lift and swell.

Perhaps they’d caught the whiff
of my saltlessness
as they whiskered my vibration

in their body of water. The tide
was deepening as they swooshed
through my trail to snuff my scent

or to seal back what was theirs.
I longed to warn them
there’s more to fear than me.

EMSWORTHY MIRE

Waters run just below the earth
scattered with yellow stars of tormentil.
A river’s birthing is like a fledgling’s lift.

In places, you hear grumbling or chanting
and maybe sometimes laughter
until when you search through the reeds

you’re bewildered to find a rill trippling
over stones among ragged robin,
bog myrtle and water forget-me-not.

And though the syllables may change
water never forgets it’s a safe nest here
to well from the dark ova of springs.

Rebecca Gethin has written six poetry publications. She was a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Vanishings was published by Palewell Press in 2020 and a chapbook called Fathom was published by Marble in 2021. She was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition with Messages. She blogs sporadically at www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com.

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Chrissie Gittins: Two Poems

T-SHIRT

You gave it to me in your bedroom –
a private moment.
Black, with white Amnesty insignia.
For years I wore it and thought of you –
your exquisite flower arrangements,
your rubbed lavender in china bowls,
your wild and tamed garden.

Then, in a fierce cull,
I folded it into a black sack
for St Christopher’s.
The day after I regretted giving it away,
dashed back to the shop.
Already sold.

Will the new owner
feel the delicate silk of your hands?
Taste the coffee icing on your biscuits?
Smell the paperwhite narcissus
growing every autumn in your hall?

GALVANIZED NETAL BUCKET

It sits, retired, on the hearth,
its half moon handle resting on the rim.
It held ashes from logs, pine cones, paper trails,
kindling cut from pruned branches left to crack.
Grains cascaded onto compost,
sifting between banana skins and grass.

Full now with unpolluted air
it dreams of future careers –
catching rain water to nourish tender plants,
carrying blemished apples from a bending tree,
mixing paste to hang paper on undulating walls.
It sings its restless clanking song of blue and orange flames
to the poker and the shovel in the dark.

Chrissie Gittins’ poetry collection are Armature (Arc), I’ll Dress One Night As You (Salt) and her latest – Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams). Chrissie appeared on BBC Countryfile with her fifth children’s collection Adder Bluebell, Lobster (Otter-Barry Books). She has received Arts Council and Author’s Foundation awards and she features on the Poetry Archive. Her recent poems are published/forthcoming in the anthologies Women On Nature (Unbound), Wonder (Natural History Museum/Macmillan), A Poet for Every Day of The Year (Macmillan), Empty Nest (Picador), and Night Feeds and Morning Songs (Trapeze).

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*****

Charlotte Innes: TwoPoems

WHEN GHOSTS DIE
– after ‘Uncharted #3,’ a painting by Joe Cibere

There’s blood on the snow and a stag looking over his shoulder
at the huge brown shadow of another stag who’s staring
down the snow-covered slope at a patch of black
that could be the source of the blood, perhaps his corpse,
or the shape of the first stag’s fears that the blood might soon
be his. Behind them both, the woods are burning.

Everywhere, as the earth dries up and drowns,
centuries of history are dying, drought-ridden fields
in Mexico, scattered with corpses of cattle,
castles once guarding the English coast crumbling
into the rising sea. Whole cities are sinking.
Soon, there’ll be no home for ghosts—

INSIDE MY FATHER’S BRAIN
– after ‘Beyond the Mark,’ a painting by Charles Magallanes

A dreamy lilt of plaques and tangles
gentles me to half-prefer
his mildness now to the old mix
of charm and anger, his look-at-me joy.

Inside my father’s brain, I still
detect survivor strength, I’ll do it
my way. I find his childhood home,
his travels drifting round in blinks:
A canal. Grey with waste. Swimmers.

Crossing the brain’s multi-colored
map, dawn-blue ideals still ache
to save the poor, as he was saved.
A waxing crescent moon cries out
from tangles: Wait! Not done. Not yet.

Charlotte Innes is the author of Descanso Drive, a book of poems (Kelsay Books, 2017) and a soon-to-be-published chapbook, Twenty Pandemicals (also from Kelsay Books). Her poems have appeared in many publications including The Hudson Review, The Sewanee Review, Tampa Review, Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review and several anthologies, including The Best American Spiritual Writing for 2006 (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Originally from England, Charlotte Innes now lives in Los Angeles.

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*****

Rosie Jackson: Three Poems for Graham Burchell 1950-2021

AT FOGGINTOR QUARRY

I’m a discus throw from the prison,
sitting by the quarry pool, weighing up
my own deeds, good and bad. I keep
so still the birds don’t notice me,
wagtails, the chirpy whiteness
of their backsides insouciant in the wind.
And here’s a runner, black dog at his heels,
sneaking through crannies in the stones.
Below his shorts, the man’s legs, strong
and brown, remind me of my ex-husband.
He too came to Dartmoor, to live
and die. But we missed each other, mostly,
even in our meeting, like twigs floating
at different speeds. Sometimes I think
I’ve missed everyone I’ve met.
It’s what the word dis-appointment means.
Did I ever properly talk with Graham,
who’s dying? What can you give someone
who has to leave everything behind?
Would he want a share of my faith
in the afterlife? I’d love to get him
waved through more easily, carried over
on sheets of fine Egyptian cotton,
while at the side of the bed stands
the tall figure of Anubis, his canine head
knowing where they’re going,
a silver ankh in his hand like a key.

DOOR NUMBER 6

I’d like to say I’m doing things differently now,
approaching each moment with a new reverence.

I’d like to say the puzzle of fort/da, gone/there
has woken my sense of wonder, that each breath –

the air your lungs betrayed – is a constant miracle.
But the wedge that death slides into the door

soon loses its majesty. It’s an advent calendar
in reverse. Today we close door number 6.

And I’m still eating aimlessly, ignoring birdsong
and those lilac rhododendron flowers the size

of Mohammad Ali’s fist.

NOTE: fort/da or ‘gone/there’, is a pair of repeated words used by Freud as shorthand for the ways we deal with the absence of an object or person by making something disappear and then return.

IN A WORDLY SETTING

When I sense your presence those first days
out of your body, I want you to be an oracle,
to tell me what it’s like in the hinterland.
Do you stand in the ruins of a stained stairwell?
Do you feel you’ve lost your keys but still belong
in the building? I want you to uncork the mystery,
to share that hybrid state, half shoulder, half wing,
as you dip into the wisdom between lives,
perhaps become party to the first word man ever
uttered and what will be the last. Is it true we find
what we expect in death? Those final months,
while you readied yourself to return to smoke,
were you preparing to meet your wife and
unborn child, stolen from you while you slept?
I’ve often wondered if that grief – unparaded,
like all your feelings – was what slowly stole
your breathing too. But now you’re buoyant,
resilient, your soul commanding, tangible,
full of your old lift and light. And though you’re
as scrupulous in your silence as your words,
there’s no doubt what you want to convey –
that this is better than you’d expected,
better than anything you’d taken death,
or ‘God’, to be, that Whitman was right –
‘Death is different and far luckier than you suppose.’
Even when you leave, snatched away, perhaps,
before you can share too much, the room holds
its joyful intensity, as if you’d happily bequeath more.
Then I re-read your poems for their prescience,
half-hidden clues that rise like the almost visible
spires of a city that has slid into the sea.
I remember the night you travelled cross country
for the launch of my book. No orchids, no jay feathers,
just this presence of you – meaty, full of heft, lumbering
downstairs to the stage – a kind of embarrassed love.

Rodie Jackson lives near Frome. What the Ground Holds (Poetry Salzburg, 2014) was followed by The Light Box (Cultured Llama, 2016) and her memoir The Glass Mother (Unthank, 2016). Rosie has taught at the University of East Anglia, UWE, and Cortijo Romero, Spain. She won 1st prize in Poetry Space 2019, 1st at Wells 2018, 1st in Stanley Spencer competition 2017. Two Girls and a Beehive (with Graham Burchell), poems about Spencer, is published by Two Rivers Press, 2020. www.rosiejackson.org.uk

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*****

Sue Kindon: Two Poems

SOLAR BUDDHA

You might spot me
taking the compost to the bin
at your lighting up time,

that bat-flicker moment
when you cease to be plastic resin
with a cheapjack lamp embedded in your lap:

across the barefoot apology for lawn,
I bring you the clumsy leftovers
of my credo

and we glimmer in our fake grotto
like glow-worms
or the fallen stars we are.

In the early hours there’s nothing to forgive.
Your illuminated grin
calms me beyond belief

until the first spoilsport blackbird
dims our communion
and we revert

to garden ornament
and shadow dreamer
among the dandelion fluff.

MY GRANDMOTHER COMES BACK AS A PEAHEN

The jolly Christmas Nan went sour.
She lost her just-one-glass-of-sherry laugh.
Her fruitcake belly went down like a January balloon.

By the time I started going out at night
looking for life, Nan had shrivelled
to the plastic-sheeted spare room bed.

Our house became a misty waiting place;
she lay there groaning “let me die”,
whether anyone was listening or not.

Then she would call for Mum:
“Mabel”. “MayBull”, the pretty name
she’d given to her daughter, now a curse.

Imagine my confusion, fifty-two years on,
when from the terrace of my sundown home
I hear a foghorn voice –

‘Mabel’. ‘MayBull’.
No one to be seen.

On nextdoor’s vegetable plot there struts
a fullblown bird, in throwback turquoise scarf
and heyday plumes.

Sue Kindon lives and writes in the French Pyrenees. She has been widely published in magazines, and has had some success in competitions. She considers her greatest achievement to date to be a prize for a poem in French. She is currently working on a third pamphlet to follow She who pays the piper (2017) and Outside, The Box (2019).

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*****

Tom Kelly: Two Poems

‘THE SPIKE’
1950’s ‘The East Ferry Inn’, Jarrow Slake

My Uncle Tommy, red-faced, garrulous and
me just reaching a table outside the pub.
I eye a pint, big as a bucket.
Uncle lets me sup his beer,
laughing so hard at my reaction I really think he will die.

The pub’s nickname is, ‘The Spike,’ men would break-up rocks,
used as hard core on roads. They were paid a few shillings a day.
Granda Kelly included.
Look closely, we are all there, breaking-up rocks,
laughing tears of joy and heart break.

NORTH SEA

I am drawn, cannot stop eyeing it,
today it is a grey plate;
taking it home to four walls,
to be lost in its constant hold.

Winter: stinging spray on lips,
this watery magnet fights
uncaring dream-thieves, stealing hopes I long for,
the sea is my balm.

Tom Kelly’s ninth poetry collection, This Small Patch has recently been published and re-printed by Red Squirrel Press who also published his short story collection, Behind the Wall.

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*****

Tom Laichas: Two Poems

DIMMICK AV
Here, a hedge, eight feet tall and dense, defends a house. The owner has installed a locked iron door directly into the hedge. Wedged between this door and its frame, pamphlet pages flutter. As I walk by, I read the title:

HAVE YOU KEPT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?

I’m surprised to see this here. We neighbors live beyond the reach of Christian fellow feeling. Friends come and go. As we age, the family scatters. We don’t know our own cousins. We move from one god to another, to no god at all. We believe, then we forget we believe.
We inhale the news. It’s a fragrance dispersed from cell towers, satellite dishes, underground cables and radio transmitters. Nowhere in this scent do we detect the odor of a God.

This is the way we live.

Of course we hear of marvels beyond our sense-experience. We hear, for instance, that a universe exists. Photos taken from earth’s orbit reveal a billion-starred night.
A neighbor on Dimmick believes that NASA fakes the photos. Really, she says, there are just too many stars. Who can trust something like that?

COEUR D’ALENE AVENUE, VENICE, CALIFORNIA

Overhead, green canopy and shaded arcade, the work of the Australian hickory.

The trees seem tame. Don’t kid yourself. They’re unteachable beasts.

Beneath the roadbed, roots as round as human thighs knit thickets curb to curb,
shallow and deep in the beachtown alluvium Roots lift sidewalk slabs. Roots
shatter curbs, pushing cement shards up and out. This is a root encroached avenue.

The city surveils these hickories. The municipal code grants the Bureau of Street
Services power to clear-cut an avenue’s shade if it gets out of hand.

Though wild and willful, the hickory is a patient tree. Months before Man’s Last
Day on Earth, the Bureau’s staff will abandon their work. They’ll huddle at home
with their families, awaiting the apocalyptic end.

On that day, the hickories of Coeur D’Alene will free themselves of every concrete
cage. They’ll break into classrooms and homes. They’ll march across Venice, an
army of trunk and bough.

Hear me, O Venice: Arbor Day is coming.

Tom Laichas‘s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in SpillwayAjiLa Piccioletta BarcaStandAmbit, and elsewhere. He is the author of  Empire of Eden (High Window Press, 2019),  Sixty-Three Photographs at the End of a War (3.1 Press, 2021) and Three Hundred Streets of Venice California (forthcoming from FutureCycle Press, 2023).

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*****

Emma Lee: Three Poems

WHAT YOU HEAR/WHAT I HEAR

My own voice is a monotone. That’s not what you hear.
When I ask how I sound I need a description, not ‘OK’.
‘OK’ is not a sound. When I repeat my question,
you walk away, writing off my frustration.

If you were to sing, I’d know you were out of tune
if I couldn’t hear resonance. If you altered your pitch,
I couldn’t tell if you were closer or further from
where you needed to be. I never sing. It’s safer.

It took eight years from first publication to first poetry
reading. I couldn’t bear the idea of boring an audience.
That no one got up and walked out was the only
indication that maybe I didn’t sound too bad after all.

If you phone me, I cannot recognise your voice.
I have to wait for you to tell me or say something
that clues me into who you are. I have had entire
conversations without knowing who’s talking to me.

It was twenty-one years of poetry readings later
when my teenager talked of how he’d imagine
me reading the poems studied at school that I finally
discovered my voice did convey sounds I couldn’t hear.

SHE SAYS SHE SLEEPS WELL AT NIGHT

In court everyone looks at the defendant.
Let’s dress her in neat pant suits, white tops.
Keep the make-up light, a pony-tail.
Hope her friends don’t talk to the media
about nightclubs and the tattoo, Bella Vita.
The defendant doesn’t speak but watches
attorneys speculate on her actions,
her motive, her changing story, her lies.

In a flood prone area used for dumping trash,
a wooden cross is hastily erected.
The remains of a little girl were found,
since cremated. She shares her mother’s
middle name. She is the only other person
who knew what happened that day
a month before she was reported missing.
She was silenced before she could speak.

THE PENALTY FOR TRESPASSING

The plastic bag caught in a branch
waves like a flag. Something man-made
staking its claim on natural territory.

A wood pigeon’s pupils are unnaturally wide.
No nest this year. She smelt her mate’s blood
on the grey field that yields no food.

Higher that usual rainfall raises the water table,
floods the land. The tree’s roots, unused
to pesticides from nearby arable lands, shrivel.

Summer’s record-breaking heat burns the leaves,
the inefficient production of chlorophyll
and shrivelled roots weaken the tree’s core.

Winter storms finish it. Toppled, it becomes
a home for fungus. The plastic bag flutters, free
of the tangle of twigs, and is found years later

when a beached whale is autopsied.

Emma Lee’s publications include The Significance of a Dress (Arachne, 2020) and Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea  (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.
FB: https://www.facebook.com/EmmaLee1. Twitter @Emma_Le

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*****

Peter Leight: Poem

SELF-PORTRAIT AS AN INNOCENT PERSON SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE

I’m not the one who’s not talking.
Spreading my hands and laying them down in front of me, palms up, as if innocence is a kind of openness,
I often need to remind myself I haven’t done anything,
I’m not the one who’s not even admitting it.
Flattening my fingers and looking through them like a kind of detection:
what I like about the evidence is it’s not going anywhere,
it’s not a vehicle,
personally when I’m not going anywhere I like to sit down and look straight up in the air, all the way up, as if there’s a door opening up there,
I mean when you don’t know what you’re looking for you don’t know what you’re going to find,
can you say show me?
I’m not the one who’s not even looking.
Not thinking where is this coming from,
it’s not an excuse,
I don’t need an excuse:
what I like about the evidence is it’s evidence of something,
what is evidence of nothing?
As long as I’m innocent I’m dropping my shoulders and putting my hands down in a safe place where they’re not doing anything wrong,
not even intending to,
I don’t even understand the concept of probation,
what are they actually trying to prove?
As far as the evidence is concerned you don’t even know it’s buried until you start digging it up,
it’s better when there’s a preponderance,
better when it’s sufficient,
better than what?
Sometimes I think innocence is an application, as if it’s going to be accepted as long as it’s not rejected,
I’m not the one who’s refusing to cooperate,
okay?
Laying my hands down in front of me, palms up, opening them up, as if there’s nothing to hide:
what I like about the evidence is I’m not getting anything on my hands,
not wiping it on my hands,
even when I pick it up—
can you say show me?
I actually think the evidence personal, although it doesn’t belong to anybody, I mean I’m not going to keep it, or share it with anybody else,
why shouldn’t I?

Peter Leight has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Review, Raritan, Matter, and other magazines.

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*****

Sean McDowell: Three Poems

PERFUME BOTTLES

As numerous as raindrops on a window
the sample bottles of fragrances
she used to dab against her veiny wrists
posed like manger scene figurines
on the lace coverlet of her dressing table.

Floral scents perfumed the bedroom
against gathering dust. Atomizers drooped
like overripe figs. Cut glass facets
faded in weakening daylight
like stars yielding to a pre-dawn glow.

Props against a waning dignity.
No one who came later to clear her room
could have treated them with anything like
her care. Nowhere but in my memory
were they safe from being swept away.

ARTS OF THE BOOK
Chester Beatty Library, July 2018

Sometime when your hours lack
definition or when rain showers
would keep you inside anyway

take a stroll past books and scrolls,
armor and ink wells, jade combs
and woodblock prints. In case

after case, leather-bound volumes lie
open like beggars’ hands behind glass.
A candlelight of gold leaf warms

their display pages. Learn how
each red is ground azurite,
each green, ground verdigris,

each blue, lapis lazuli. Learn how
the black ink of Chinese calligraphy
came from the soot of fired pine.

Pay attention. Let it steep. Learn
how each page required an artist
and one who can perceive its art.

LECTURE UPON A PIGEON

A pigeon lands
on the pier railing near

where weathered fisher
folk rest their rods.

It ratchets looks in all directions,
a shine in its amber eye.

Look closely: even this pigeon
is beautiful.

It hears what we can’t,
sees colors deep into ultraviolet,

always manages
to find its way home.

Who among us
can say the same?

With trilled wing-beats,
it drops to a leaking spigot

beside a vacant bench
and drinks the drops

pooling at the mouth.
For a moment,

its neck shimmers
purple and green

as vibrantly
as a peacock’s tail.

When it flies away,
everything greys again.

Sean McDowell’s poetry has appeared Poetry Ireland Review, The Lyric, Scintilla, Clover, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, Fragments, and of course, The High Window, among other venues. A professor at Seattle University, he also edits the John Donne Journal: Studies in the Age of Donne. A book of essays, Metaphysical Shadows: The Persistence of Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Vaughan, and Marvell in Contemporary Poetry, is forthcoming from Lexington Books.

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*****

Nessa O’Mahony: Three Poems

ARCHAEOLOGY AT KILLAKEE*

The wedge tomb crowns the hill,
stone-cropped with trees
fighting for space, bisecting light
into narrow strips as a jay
hops from branch to branch.

Whose stones, we don’t know.
The capstone toppled,
the name of the occupants
long lost, followers dispersed,
the blind man disappeared
back into the woods
of fading memory.
Till planters fenced them in,
laid down specimen roots
along with their surnames.

Mossed orthostats gap walls
where somebody dragged them.
All that effort
to push up, pull down,
bury, plant,
align to the sun,
mark the top
of one hill
in the sight of others.

To remember.

And all that,
5,000 years ago.
It only takes 5,000 steps
to the other memorial;
over the bridge,
along streams and old roads
the soldiers built
when hunting natives.

Discreet behind trees
where the rope hung,
a name, fading
on brass,
a wooden cross
blurred with rain,
slumped among
withered bouquets.
photo frames empty
as sockets.
No capping stones,
other than those
stippling the boundaries
between fir and elder,
the known and unknown;
just a laminated
certificate of excellence
someone left to say
‘this was somebody’.

NOTE: Killakee is from the Irish Choill an Chaoich: the ‘Wood of the Blindman’

THINGS FOR WHICH THERE IS NO LONGER PURPOSE

It takes time to get your eye in, when beach combing.
Stones merge, little distinguishes itself from shingle,
pell-mell debris of tides on the channel
between this side and the next.
You need to keep your glance down,
let the slow rhythm of step after step,
pebble after rock after pebble,
give distinction, let shapes emerge
and form into sea-glass, shells,
gaping crabs, innards violet.
The urge grows to find patterns beyond
the Fibonacci cockles.
Why this search for meaning?
What can this nibbled lid of a ceramic coffee pot
tell me of accident, of transience?
Or this, a knuckle of sandstone:
sea-tossed, hand-crafted, who knows?
Or, most mysterious, the metal-encased,
rust-imbued pipe. Ship’s screw, gas line,
fifty years, two centuries, tossed by waves,
then dumped without ceremony?
Who says its purpose was to be found,
to be understood?
Earlier, we turned hair-pin bends
in search of beauty.
There was a time when I could navigate,
feel the grip of wheel, trust my steering,
my courage.
Now I leave that to you,
knowing that more than coins flip,
that every breath has two outcomes.

BÁS IN ÉIREANN
Easter 2020

From her social distance
my mother points
to a six-inch cardboard tube
she found in a bookcase
in those long hours of quarantine.

‘I can’t open it,’ she says,
yet her face tells me she has,
has already read the messages
on this dead sea scroll
from the people we were, once.

We could still congregate then,
made jokes, dashed down
our thoughts on the parchment
the Government gave us
with the Millennium Candle.

My brother wrote ‘Bás in Éireann.’
Not knowing he’d take him
at his word a decade later,
my father relied on his old favourite:
‘Go mbeirimíd beo’ .

When he died alone,

Bás in Eireann is an Irish toast favoured by emigrants meaning ‘death in Ireland’, or ‘may you die in your own bed at home’. The full toast is Go mBeirimíd Beo ar an am seo arís which means ‘may we all be alive this time next year’.

Nessa O’Mahony is from Dublin. She has published five volumes of poetry, including The Hollow Woman on the Island (Salmon Poetry 2019) and edited and co-edited a series of anthologies, the most recent (with Paul Munden) being Divining Dante (Recent Work Press 2021).

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*****

Mandy Pannett: Poem

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? ASKS THOMAS NAGEL

xxxxxxHe doesn’t mean the behaviour of bats, not
how would I like the gloom of a cave where I’d
hang upside down or pursue
the echoes of bugs –

How does it feel
for a bat to be bat, for a self
to feel it’s a self.
That’s what he means.

How close can I get?

xxxxxxThe terrain of this cave is full of clues:
Hoof-prints and gnaw-marks on log and mud,
curves on a rock that are smooth
as a bison’s flank.

There’s pollen, says one, in this ménage of bone,
yarrow, cornflower, horsetail, thistle.
Flowers for a ritual,
a burial in the wind?

How close?

xxxxxxRoots of my brain are ancient, wired
to traumas and griefs.

I can imagine
giving birth, gripping a stone
against the pain, receiving the gift of a shell
to place above my heart.

And I can imagine a figure who resembles
my father –
but he’s injured, bleeding, desperate for shelter,
unable even to crawl.

How close can I get?
Closer than cave wall or bone?

No closer than this.

Mandy Pannett works freelance as a creative writing tutor for adults. Her poetry pamphlet The Daedalus Files has recently been published by SPM Publications. Five collections have been published by Oversteps Books, Searle Publishing, SPM Publications and Indigo Dreams Press. A selection of her poems was issued by Integral Contemporary Literature Press with English and Romanian parallel texts. Two novellas have also been published. Mandy has acted as an adjudicator for national competitions and won prizes and been placed herself in others.

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*****

Ian Parks: Two Poems

DRIVER

When day is done, I sit behind the wheel.
You know I never learned to drive
but if I settle back and close my eyes

the garage walls dissolve and disappear
and I can watch the landscape sliding by.
On summer nights I come alive:

the rain is drumming on the roof
and dripping from the lilac in the yard
but I can travel anywhere and feel

the pulse of elsewhere on my palms.
Sometimes I choose the coastal route
where sky and water fade to blue;

sometimes I swerve through city streets
where artificial heat falls clear and hard.
At last, I breathe, accelerate

into the hot air, into the dark,
turn the last corner, open out,
and take the road that leads me back to you.

THOM

He wore a leather jacket when we met
in a clam bar of his choosing
in the fall of ninety-five.

His mind was quick and quicker than
the birds that scoured the tideline
of the California coast.

It was a wrecked, ramshackle place –
upturned barrels and a string of amber lights
where fireflies came dancing until dawn.

At night it came alive
with the faint sweet smell
of tar and mescaline,

with aging surfers and the blues.
Eyes screwed tight,
unshaded from the glare,

he glanced up from his dog-eared
paperback and smiled.
America had saved him he once said

and I could see the truth in that –
the hard light falling and the red sun as it set;
no-one to answer to or make demands.

Only the long beach stretching
and the San Fransico fog,
the fluid line, the right to choose,

the whole broad continent banked up
against the western shore,
a new republic carried in the heart.

I remember that first meeting
not for the poetry we shared
or how he talked with his burned hands

but how he told me freedom was
the thing that matters most
and how a poet should always have tattoos.

Ian Parks is the only poet whose poems have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement and The Morning Star on the same day. His collections include Shell Island, The Exile’s House, and Citizens. His versions of Cavafy were a Poetry Book Society Choice and were shortlisted for The Michael Marks Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The Independent on Sunday, Poetry (Chicago) and many others. He was the first writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library in 2012.

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*****

Matthew Paul: Three Poems

SOFT PLAY

Some crap-bearded dad flip-flops across to mumble,
‘Scuse me, mate’. I put my mucky daydreams on ice,
and detonate my flimsiest smile. As though confessing
to serial murders, he says his son’s had an accident.

This is not the dossy Saturday job that I envisioned.

Pre-empting my response, he mouths, ‘Number two.’
I page Marc, the manager, with the codename (‘Eartha’)
for such an occurrence. ‘You know what to do,’ he barks.
‘No questions, no answers—and no bleedin’ refunds.’

I muster the parents to chivvy their children to the caff.

Next, I clatter the cleaning trolley round, and pretend
I’ve found the offending matter. I spray the eye-stinging
disinfectant, then wait for fifteen minutes, to maximise
spending on out of-date confectionery and fizzy drinks.

The fractious adults look wary when I let the kids back in.

They’re right to be, of course, because among the primary-
coloured balls skulks an unknown number of irregular
shapes, of variable texture. I bring to mind the vexatious
question my classmates and I asked repeatedly in Art:

‘Miss, Miss, what colours do we mix to make brown?’

THE USUAL

Whilst the tannoy informs me the delayed 16:27
to Exeter St David’s, via Salisbury, will divide
at Basingstoke, blah-blah-blah, I duck into

the buffet straddling platforms 11 and 12,
where half a dozen regulars are frozen between
conversations in unswept corners, endless

non sequiturs swashing like sick. At the bar
stocked for Armageddon, mutton-chopped Les,
aproned like a fishmonger, leans forward to ask,

‘What can I get you, guvnor?’, and time dissolves
to fetch me a bottle of Bass from the Folies-Bergère,
in 1882, its red triangle flashing temptation’s wink.

TOP TIPS

‘Kilo packets of granulated sugar
are going for a pound at Poundland,’ relays
Sid, an old boy carrying two bulging

bags-for-life, on the towpath somewhere between
Rotherham and the lead-green-roofed retail
cathedral of Meadowhall. ‘Can’t sniff at that,

can you?’ He recommends, too, Marks and Spark’s new
food hall. ‘Rain or shine’, he walks there every day
for a pork pie. His mam went to the butcher’s

in Attercliffe for hers, ‘five mile each way’;
Sid ‘in pram, pushchair, then by Shanks’s pony’.
He trots off, singing the praises of the crust.

Matthew Paul’s collection, The Evening Entertainment, was published by Eyewear in 2017. His two collections of haiku – The Regulars and The Lammas Lands – and co-written/edited (with John Barlow) anthology, Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku, were published by Snapshot Press. He lives in Rotherham, blogs at matthewpaulpoetry.blog and tweets @MatthewPaulPoet.

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*****

Ellen Phethean: Two Poems

IN TWO MINDS

That old woman in the mirror shocks her
as children’s voices drift in
through the open window.
No-one to reach the awkward zip
or share the pot of Assam in the morning,
she wants to be touched
by someone other than a nurse.
Dreaming her lost ones,
slipping into the bardo seeking news
from the other side of how this will go,
her life is play-acting and
over the horizon is dark.
I am in mourning for my life.
No.
She will be unruly,
throw off her mask, inhabit herself,
go naked into the Tyne at dusk,
swim into deep water.

MENARCHE

She’s a waiting room for the future,
her body awkward luggage,

the moon’s her companion
an eye which closes and opens
very slowly.

Her thoughts are hands,
shuffling and grabbing:
tests and trials are part of it
as her life sings its becoming-

dancing bones, blood chuckling,
the chalky scrape
of nails and hair inching out
the elastane of curves, the rhythm
of her skin a slim sheaf of poems
about to be written

Ellen Phethean lives, teaches and writes in Newcastle upon Tyne. Her books include Poetry: Wall, Smokestack Books 2007; Breath, 2014, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman, Red Squirrel Press 2014 and a young adult trilogy Ren and the Blue Hands, Ren and the Blue Cloth, Ren In Samara, Red Squirrel 2019. ellenphethean.com

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*****

Athar C. Pavis: Two Poems

DEATH OF AN ADJUNCT
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxParis, France

They told him he was out, no longer needed
after thirty-eight years, but he knew what they meant,
they wanted pure compliance, not a veteran,
someone who questioned less, an easy pass,
a body language that bespoke submission ―
in brief, the administration knew best ―
for who was he to doubt collective wisdom
of those who’d just arrived three months before?

I heard the story from someone I knew
who worked there too, but kept a low profile ―
how many times the man had said much more
than anyone ― at meetings he, alone,
dared still to look directors in the eye.
The best retreated to a neutral mien,
the worst sent body signals to conceal
the questioning in their hearts. Imagine them

around a table, twenty-odd or so,
nodding their heads in unison, abject,
a pantomime of furious consent,
as if an unseen hand held them in thrall ―
something about mid-level civil servants
demands obeisance, hierarchical respect.

I sometimes wonder how, from what I know
he’d lasted there so long, and the mistake
of thinking who you are will still prevail
intact, no matter what those meetings cost.
Because the way we’ve spent our days, somehow,
becomes an inner life, the one he’d lost

before he hanged himself in Room 16
choking upon its molded cornices,
his tongue now blackened, his unspoken spleen
taking a life that was no longer his.
*

LOOKING OUT
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxCannes, France

The house on avenue Windsor
reminds me of what our life might be:
someone has blocked up the windows —
there were too many.
It sits blinded on two façades
where the flowers are blooming,
now there’s room for the furniture
where we were living.
And the windows are walls now,
but the stars are hidden.
The house on avenue Windsor
reminds me of the knickknack things
cluttering our space. Outside, in the garden
nodding its heavy head of roses, quite forgotten
our life is waiting.

Sometimes in the midst of their accumulations
piled high for the reckoning, they can smell it too,
perfume of days gone by and heedless hours
and promises like ours.
Is it so hard to step out of these rooms,
curtained from one another, open the doors,
sweep clean the broken crystal, bare the floors
and start again?

The house on avenue Windsor
reminds me of an inexorable blight
eating our soul’s eye: unblinkingly it stares
but cannot see horizons that it hears,
murmurs of sea wind, or impending night
slipping over the Esterels ―

And you and I, above these gutted hills,
still looking out.

Athar C. Pavis grew up in New York City and studied literature in France. She lives both in Maine and in France where she has worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and teaches at the Sorbonne. Her poems have been published in the UK, Canada, and in U.S. magazines, in Measure, Able Muse, The Comstock Review, Slant, Oberon, and Chariton Review, among others. She is currently working on a collection of poetry to be entitled PULLED PORK.

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*****

Sharon Phillips: Poem

HINTERLAND

When John Glenn orbited the earth,
trucks churned in the rubbish dump
down the lane across the marsh,
duckweed crusted the ditches
and a north wind strummed the sallows,
their catkins more smutted
the closer we got to the Severn.
By the Britannia Works soot
lay soft on the ground,
a cyclist whistled don’t be cruel
and Imperial Chemicals puffed out
mustard-grey fumes
that seeped into our living room.
As the Everly Brothers harmonised
on our portable dansette,
we stood by the window to watch
ships come in to the docks
until blue smudges of hills
melted into bonfire sunsets,
the shore became
a galaxy of factory lights,
the sky a nebula
of smoke.

Sharon Phillips stopped writing poetry in 1976 and started again forty years later, when she retired from her career in education. Her poems have been published online and in print and she is currently studying for an MFA at York St. John University. Originally from Bristol, Sharon now lives in Otley, West Yorkshire.

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*****

Fred Pollack: Poem

THE FIRE IS SO DELIGHTFUL

Wandering in from a deep past towards
a shadow in the snow, where,
if it isn’t shelter, you will surely die,
you pound on what is thankfully a door
and are let in. And in the moment
before you faint you recognize
no fear of the stranger, hesitation,
or even much surprise in those
who catch you: simply, there must
be other people, not in this hall
but out in the storm, and they
need help. While you sleep
they warm you carefully, by stages,
treat frost-bitten skin (you dream
of burning), wash you, find furs
that fit. Over broth you look again,
and learn the language, listening. They ask
few questions about where you’re from,
show little interest in its wonders. Have
no chief, only some man or woman
who names priorities, tasks, strengths
that are obvious to everybody anyway.
They determine your strengths, few and crude here,
though eventually you suggest
to the smithy a new type of saw,
and are allowed to hunt as well as to tend
babies. Beneath beards and scars
(for bears have returned and contest the earth)
they have no race. Elaboration of
the self and other worlds is left to the old;
jealousies get reasoned out; grief
is met with hugs and privacy. They talk
one way or another with other places,
where life is much the same. One night by the fire,
sleepless (some are), discussing in whispers
the good, an intellectual says, Drowning
and burning couldn’t do it. Cold could.

Fred Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness (Story Line Press; the former to be reissued by Red Hen Press), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Many other poems in print and online journals.

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*****

Lesley Quayle: Two Poems

JIGSAW MUSINGS

Of course we’re bored now.
And so weary.
We fold days, one upon the other,
like threadbare sheets in the linen press.

He’s doing a jigsaw,
three thousand pieces and two Christmases old.
Antipodean animals.

When I ask,
How’re you getting on?
he doesn’t smile,
just shuffles fragments,
snapping and clicking a picture
into some sort of being.

You?

I vacate the here and now
to re-inhabit my occupations –
soaking sultanas for a fruit cake,
staring out the window;
the blank screen.

Did you know that under ultraviolet light
the fur of a duck billed platypus fluoresces?

CLYDESDALES

I watch them,
columns of bone and muscle,
reefs in a lagoon of grass.

For a moment
They’re hidden,
transfigured by the suspended moment,

tumuli under the sun,
a labour of ancient stones,
motionless in contemplation.

An impassive wind
resurrects them to the curious eye
and they rise like ghosts,

become flesh.
I hear the thud of hooves,
blood pounding my temples.

Lesley Quayle is a poet and editor. She won the BBC Wildlife Magazine Poet of the Year competition and the Trewithen Prize, among others . Her work has featured widely in magazines and anthologies, including The Rialto, Tears in the Fence, Pennine Platform, The North etc., also appearing on Poetry Please. Her poem ‘Termination’ was nominated for a Forward Prize. She is co-editor of 4Word Poetry Press and also co-edited Aireings Poetry Magazine. She has two collections and two pamphlets.

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*****

John Short: Four Poems

LA FERIA
Sevilla 1984

Streets more Picasso than Murillo:
a riot of noise and colour
as mounted men ride into bars
for a quick shot of Fino;
hooves clatter over spent carnations

but in a shady, hidden corner
where the euphoria doesn’t reach,
cool-jacketed waiters move
slow as reptiles, offering sanctuary
and coffee laced with alcohol
at a curved wooden bar.

On the Guadalquivir’s banks
they’re dancing Sevillanas
to the stop-start thrum of peg-heads.
A joint passed by some stranger
and the night turns velvet

until we chance the Ferris wheel
in irresponsible abandon –
its giant metal arms now cradle us
upwards to a pinnacle then
we’re looking down like angels
over the rooftops of Triana.

MAIZE FIELDS
Gascony

Soaked to our necks every dawn,
baked brown in the afternoon
down endless lines like infantry.
So used to your red, arachnoid roots
hovering above the parched earth
naked as a Bacon masterpiece.
You’re not beautiful but your genetics
is a hub of agricultural education.
After so many seasons
you are familiar as a sibling.
We rub shoulders on a daily basis
your roots drink thirstily
from water supplied by machines.
I breathe the evening vegetable freshness.
Dark silence of the empty rows.

NO TRACE

Again, in this Gallic town
with its weight of memories
although today he’d never guess,
yet thirty years ago, penniless
stealing eggs from delivery vans
and cooking meals in the park.
Now he reappears in a new role
like Jean Valjean; on his way
to a book launch, by train, bus;
by thumb, the last kilometres.

He passes a house where once
a poet had invited him for lunch
but now there’s no trace of her
and the metal door is locked.
The autumn sun shines through
tree branches empty-handed,
it’s stolen the past and seems
to have hidden or disposed of it.

BEGGARS OF THE SOUTH

Time-crafted survival codes,
change in paper cups,
rucksacks and dogs on guard
at church entrances
to stake a hostile pitch
while they were spitting fire.

Their cardboard signs declared
an enthusiasm for work,
the righteousness and piety
almost a comic act
turned on when needed,
to convince all benefactors.

Free from the weight
of mortgages or health insurance
living only for today
they could index the charity
potential of each town,
knew where to find a meal.

What did become of them?
I sometimes wonder.
They seemed to vanish
from existence – jaded ghosts,
miserable and obscure
on roads without direction.

John Short lives in Liverpool and is active on the local poetry scene. A previous contributor to The High Window he’s also appeared in magazines like Dream Catcher, London Grip and Poetry Salzburg Review. He’s published four books, one of stories and three of poetry, the most recent being Those Ghosts (Beaten Track 2021). He blogs sporadically at Tsarkoverse.

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*****

Rowena Sommerville: Poem

TO MY GRANDCHILDREN

First – let me say that I am sorry,
sorry that I did not spend
every day, every hour, every minute
fighting for the planet
that you will inherit,
fighting for the air
that will fill your lungs
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxwhich will contain particulates
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxpoisonous oxides
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxand black fungal spores
fighting for the water
that you will drink and bathe in
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthat it might not be industrially synthesised from
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxunreactive solutions
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxof non-allergenic chemical salts
fighting for the animals
that you will live amongst
and take delight in
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthat they should not be reduced
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxto a few useful or scenic species
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxplus those that can survive on sewage

Please do not imagine
that I do not love you above all others,
I do.
And yet, I seem to find myself
capable only of small actions
and minor protests

Although, writing this,
I cannot quite think why

Rowena Sommerville is a writer, maker, illustrator and singer and she lives on top of a cliff looking out to sea in beautiful North Yorkshire. She has worked in the arts for many years, as a creative and as a project producer. She has had several children’s books published (Hutchinson/Random) and has contributed poems to children’s and adults’ anthologies and magazines. Her first adult collection – Melusine – was published by Mudfog Press in September 21. She also writes for and sings with four-woman acapella group Henwen.

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*****

Ross Thompson: Two Poems

HOME, 1983

I loved the sharp snap of a Bengal match,
the tang of charred strontium or the crisp,
crimson wrappers that swaddled a bounty
of bangers smuggled in both my trainers
from a jaunt to Calais for a few francs.

They were tight and dry as Cuban cigars,
and, when lit, blew holes the size of a fist
in stone walls or the vegetable patch.

I loved the chewing gum tack of tarmac
turned to goo by an unencumbered sun,
or angling a glass to char the surface
of dried leaves, or napalming a squadron
of plastic soldiers before Dad scolded
me for green puddles on the garage floor.

I could spend hours staring at coals glowing
in the grate, barely resisting the urge
to scoop them up with my tender infant
palms like burnished gemstones or perfect pearls
direct from the clam, hoping that I could brave
the burn, knowing that I would turn to ash.

LAST BROADCAST

i.m. Stephen Thompson

1.
He knew just how to work a radio,
how to strip thin tips from taut magnet wire
then fix them to each end of the diode,
slow and careful, as if stringing a lyre.

Like setting a broken bone, he mounted
the contraption on the board, then fine-tuned
analogue knobs and pots, still astounded
by his own alchemy when voices crooned

through frequencies. A disciple catching fish,
he reeled in signals before they could fade,
navigating channels, sweeping bandwidth
for quadrophonic songs, forecasts and plays.

2.
Some time later, he turned down the silence
while lying on a hospital gurney,
in awe of the spiked algae-green skyline
of his cardiogram and its journey

into oily water: a one way flight
to the other side where no theremin,
antenna or Ouija board amplified
his voice after static had entered in.

Ross Thompson is a writer from Bangor, Northern Ireland. His debut poetry collection Threading The Light is published by Dedalus Press. His work has appeared on television, radio, short films and in a wide range of publications. Most recently, he wrote and curated A Silent War, a collaborative audio response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is currently working on several projects including editing a second full-length book of poems.

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*****

Olivia Tuck: Four Poems

DOWNS EDGE

We kept coming for tea, even after we’d grown our fringes
and curves. The garden burned in autumn. Who can outstare
a marble-eyed stone deer? We tightrope-walked along the wall
to try, but I grazed my knee, and the days shrunk: the apples fell

with the clocks. Once, we visited after an October gale —
in storms, you’d promise the Downs would guard us, yet
the old yew had been wrestled to the ground. I wondered,
if a gust had done that to an ogress with four hundred rings,

what it might have done to girls unfurling, if it’d wanted to,
if it’d been angry enough. I’m told children only ask questions
if they know they’ll be able to shoulder the answers’ weight.
I didn’t speak. You raked the bonfire-ready leaves

until the patchwork grass hardened to royal icing,
the flint and earth a fruit cake. Christmas arrived in its sleigh
so quickly, then flew with all its spices, its candles.
We cried; clamoured until we could have summer again,

when we could unseal peapods for their sweet green treasure,
hunt fairies among the marigolds, catch newts, spy
on the moon from behind the silver birches, see the stars
open. We could blow bubbles. Inhale the big, big sky.

We played hide-and-seek, and time cheated; skipped
the months, the decades — crushed bluebells and feathers
in its fists. I never understood why the garden ended
in barbed wire, why the barley field was out of bounds,

but I’ve since heard that thieves waited between the husks,
casting shadows, watching as you carried us to bed:
that one dusk, they climbed through a shut window — took
tennis rackets and kaleidoscopes and cot blankets from the loft.

ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

If, as your name suggests, you were a woman,
you’d smoke six cigarillos a day.
You’d wear a straw hat,
and sunglasses, and tasselled sandals.
Your hair would be red,
but no redder than your grenadine lips.
Your eyes would be Chardonnay-gold.
You’d have a beauty spot on your cheek,
and a tattoo of an unspooled anchor
on your hip – you’d be able to hide it there.
You wouldn’t talk much.
Instead, you’d paint with oils, play the viola.
You’d read Rimbaud, take notes
while sitting on Glenelg Beach
in your agapanthus-blue bathing suit,

and I’d put my towel down beside yours.
I’d ask you if you’d read any Verlaine.
We’d talk until the horizon caught fire,
then we’d get the tram back to yours –
you’d lead me across the bone-ivory veranda.
We’d slip behind your Japanese screen,
lie bare and quivering on your daybed,
claiming the last of the light
to make love by. You’d taste of kirsch.
Afterwards – breathless – I’d tell you,
I would forgive you anything.
In a voice like  jacaranda blossom falling
past my ear, you’d whisper,
Who are you to forgive what I’ve done?

JACARANDA: AN OPEN LETTER

They were right about falling
in love, Jacaranda.
A hundred days on and I could
swear my ribs are still fractured
from when that balcony crumbled, sliding
me into your branches.

The avenue I trace
in my sleep mimics mirrors,
cameras, echo chambers.
I move, Jacaranda, and you are
replicated. I compile albums
of star-caught bark, of shadows rustling.

I only knew you as summer closed,
Jacaranda: never got to breathe
in your musk – they say
it’s like honey, or flesh,
when the bud is plucked from the bone.
Am I sick to crave you, Jacaranda,

having heard the volley that rings
when you snap, having watched night
sink heavy over the suburbs, settling
in your nooks like a drought? Before
your rugged skin grazed me as you broke
my fall, I was wandering, as poets do,

Jacaranda. Now, as blank autumn
blows through these Wiltshire ashes, I write
of the seconds before our first touch –
of kindling-dry air, of the Southern Cross,
of the railing giving way as I held it –
then look to the horizon: picture you

in blooming season, Jacaranda,
wearing your spring-bright purple,
dawn urging the heat nearer,
as you kiss a porch
where an old lady has left her lamp
burning for us.

PORTRAIT OF A LITTLE GIRL IN PERTH AIRPORT

In love-worn, lagoon-blue flipflops,
pink shorts, a T-shirt that sings
I surf little waves, you throw cartwheels
among these bars of steel chairs.
Your smile is the little star
clinging to the edge of the Southern Cross.
This arrivals lounge – this sparsely set stage,
its cast ever-shifting – is the volta
between where I left and where I’m making for,
and I – drab, sticky-eyed, sky-drunk –
watch you as if you’re a kangaroo joey
not long fallen from the pouch’s bolthole,
squinting in the light, nose craving the air,
the buds of your feet trembling
with gathering kinetic energy; the promise
of wild dusks, a fine gold chain of horizon.
The intercom chimes. Your mother tuts
as she beckons you and, laughing, you turn
and bound after her, past a wall of windows,
beyond which February’s spark is burning
its last, over the beach-white city,
over the heart-raw dust of the land.

I have never seen anything so disarmingly sunny.

Olivia Tuck‘s poetry has appeared in print and online journals including The Interpreter’s House, Lighthouse and Ink Sweat & Tears, as well as Tears in the Fence, where she is an intern. She is soon to begin studying on the Creative Writing – Poetry MA course at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Olivia’s pamphlet Things Only Borderlines Know is published by Black Rabbit Press. She tweets as @livtuckwrites.

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*****

Sue Wallace-Shaddad: Three Poems

TWO SISTERS
after Nina Arbore

They clearly belong to that secret society of sisterhood, those two women
with their chiselled faces, tight lips, angular noses.

The woman in blue looks calmer than her sibling in geometric design.
What does that reveal? Perhaps the fruit bowl might be a clue:

she’ s a homebody, a provider, not given to leaps of imagination.
She knows the value of being older, a steadying hand, wise counsel.

I can imagine the swirl of thoughts hidden from view, one woman keen
on a quiet evening meal, the other desiring bright lights. I hear

the rub of sisterly opinions as they try to agree. I wonder if it’s better
to be blessed with a brother or would the arguments be worse?

I’M CURIOUS ABOUT

the way you tap your fingers
endlessly on a chair,
your ability to riff a sentence
much longer than I can say,
the anime figures in your mind
spilling over into game design,
why you are double-jointed —
was that inherited from me?
your masculine opinion —
useful complement to my views,
the fact you always wear
non-matching socks full of holes,
the difficulty combing that Afro,
your ability to read several screens
at a time, the way your brain
processes data, those clicks
much faster than mine,
where you’ll end up in future,
how you manage that bumpy road,
the conversations you’ll have
when I’m no longer here.

CEMETERY, KHARTOUM
in memory of Nena

On the first anniversary of your death,
I made a pilgrimage to where

you lay: a tree-less graveyard,
bare, low railings marking each plot

cloaked in the arid dust of desert sand,
a plastic red peony the only speck of colour.

Drawing near, I read your name,
that of your daughter, your husband

and those names that kept you company
rose to greet me.

It didn’t seem such a lonely place,
I could see myself there.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad has an MA from Newcastle University/Poetry School London. Her short collection A City Waking Up was published by Dempsey and Windle, October 2020. Shortlisted for the Plough Prize in 2021, her poems have been featured in London Grip, Artemis, Brittle Star, Fenland Poetry Journal, Ink, Sweat & Tears and in various anthologies. Sue also writes poetry reviews for Sphinx Review/Happenstance Press, London Grip and The Alchemy Spoon. She lives in Suffolk and is Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society.

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*****

Rodney Wood: Three Poems

INNUMERABLE ANGELS IN FESTAL GATHERING

Despite their reputation when they come
to earth angels are pretty stupid because
they don’t understand windows. To them
the front and back are the same and windows
reflect trees and Wordsworth’s wandering clouds.
Even though angels have seen it happen
to cherubs and seraphs repeatedly they
still crash into windows on a regular basis,
break their necks and pass away before
rising to heaven. Celestial intermediaries
are supposed to guide and protect us but
numbers decline. They’re placed on the
endangered and threatened species list
between the Amur Leopard and Arctic Fox.

HEIST

M was reportedly sent from Zeus
to the cloud nymph Nephele for a raid.
She was shown M’s ID and granted
him and his agents full access. M took
away the multi-coloured clouds for
closer examination and left his team
behind to look at registers, images
and primaries. After an hour Nephele
texted Zeus to complain the inspection
was taking too long. This was news
to Zeus, who strait away went to see
what was going on. As far as the crew
were concerned they were doing
their job of working for the ruler, protector,
and father of all gods and humans.
They said they’d been hired by M
to do this important work and this
was a training exercise. It dawned
on everyone they’d been duped.
M was never found and it was
decided the matter will be forgotten.
But every now again a rainbow
reminds Zeus what he had lost.

COOK

Grandfather sprinkled a pot-pourri
of flavours long before I was born
in this garrison town. He was in the army
before the School of Cookery. A sergeant,
boiling meat for the officers at their mess

that was probably anything but. I saw
a black and white photo of him once:
severe, a hook moustache beneath dark eyes,
a cap, striped apron, kneeling with his crew
who swore, smoked and drunk beer with a vengeance.

There’s a story he married a noblewoman
with the permission of the CO.
The rest of his life is missing, except this:
when in his 70s at the Red Lion
Pub in Aldershot (the place I had my

stag do but in the saloon bar) but before
he could even enter the rough and
loud public bar, an out of control milk cart
hurtled down the High Street and crushed him
against the pub’s brick wall. His shattered hips

and legs taken to The Cambridge hospital.
They said he’ll never make it but next morning
was sitting up in bed asking for a slice
of pie and jug of beer. That’s it. His story
but maybe it’s a myth like mine will be.

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough. He has been published in many magazines, including Magma (the Deaf Issue) and is currently co-host of a monthly open mic and leader of the Woking Stanza.

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Enda Wyley: Three Poems

AFTER
in memory Janet Mullarney, 1952 – 2020

After her death, the artist rises
from the kitchen floor, surveys

the indigo bird she’s cut in lino there,
wipes her hands on a cloth and sees

from her window that Spring has come,
is a patch of park with cherry blossoms.

Then her peacock struts through her hall,
flapping out into the stilled world

ahead into time to here, where we stand now
at her house with the narrow white door –

on the gate our candle flickering upright
in yellow memory. The dead artist

watches all this – how we walk back
through the dark, the streets subdued.

There’s a cat, white on a shabby wall.
Cranes reach their long arms high up

to the moon’s pink aura. All of this
she sees, minutes just after she dies.

And how, in Newmarket Square, graffiti
startles on night’s billboard: Try Poetry.

BACK LANES

When we first met we did this –
set off with nothing in mind
but to let the city find us both,
a line on a page that surprises.

Now this afternoon, we’re off again.
Wisteria is a new way of thinking,
flares over the wall of a mews, down
a back lane we’ve never been before.

Then a blossom tree appears, a cluster
of pink and white sensation, the exact
texture of this moment where we are,
on the quiet corner of Waterloo road.

We lean our faces into the green window
of First Editions – Mc Gahern’s The Barracks
still vivid in hardback, Heaney solidly there,
all duffle coated, wild haired on the strand.

On Pembroke Lane we find a new way
through the hidden suburbs of our city
that go on and on, cubes of light, salmon
pink walls, children playing in Villa Rosa.

Where will it end? The heat of a bench
by the high reeds, the afternoon sweet
as doughnuts in our palms, the statue girl
swinging forever from a rope on a lamppost.

Overhead, Birdy hunches bronzed and naked on
her portico, watching us, her nose sniffing the air.
Behan’s ghost trundles down Herbert Street, light
on in Montague’s basement, Dublin’s hills beyond.

DAUGHTER

See me, standing at the bright
graffitied wall: U Are Alive.
And look up high to the man
leaning out his attic window.

He’s painting his sill white
for you to net on your phone.
Click. In the Iveagh Gardens,
frost is white dust on the statues.
A dog on the sunken lawn growls

at elephant bones buried below
by the zoo in in nineteen twenty-two.
While further east, snow on the maze
swirls its way to the inner sundial.
I would chase you there, if I could –

find you as a small child again,
in the gaze of the boating tower,
the waterfall behind cascading
your future. A rock for every day,
for every minute that I follow you.

Enda Wyley is a Dublin poet. She has published six collections of poetry, from her debut Eating Baby Jesus, ( 1993 ), through to Borrowed Space, New and Selected Poems, (2014), and The Painter on his Bike (2019 ), Dedalus Press. Awards include the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize, Melbourne University and the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Fellowship. Enda is an adjunct professor for Carlow Pittsburgh MFA Programme USA. She is a member of Aosdána, the affiliation of creative artists in Ireland.

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Mantz Yorke: Three Poems

CLIMBING MUCKISH, CO. DONEGAL, 1963

At last the plateau: here, a decade ago,
the mountain was gouged for quartzite
good enough for optical glass. Today, sand
lies in drifts against a partly roofless hut

and rusted pneumatic drills stand upright
as if the quarrymen were on a tea break,
or had suddenly been spirited away.
Glad to rest after the long zigzag up,

we eat sandwiches as we look across
dark peat beds and small blue loughs
to a landscape of lemony-green waves
that seem like a frozen surge to the sea.

Softly, mist has erased our opportunity
to reach the peak. Black against the sky,
a post marks the start of the path down:
we start the long trek back to our B&B.

TOMATOES

I remember them well –
Ailsa Craigs fresh-picked
from the guest house garden,
sweet and tangy,
with that hint of tomcat.

Perhaps I’m remembering them
in the afterglow
of our honeymoon in Donegal –

or could it be that,
half a century on,
this miserable summer

is the reason why
the Ailsa Craigs from my garden
have no more flavour
than tomatoes I’d find
in a supermarket tray?

INVASION: ANOTHER PLACE

After the film ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978)

Blind, they face out to sea,
some draped with weed,
some dressed in shreds,
some acne’d with barnacles,
and all showing the ravages
of water, oxygen and salt.
These are pods – Gormley’s
replicants – cast in iron
and, to the eye, inanimate.

This beach is Another Place
where low tide is dangerous.
These warty proto-beings
are no innocent inhabitants
of the littoral: they’re merely
waiting till you come close,
so they can absorb your being
and go. You’ll stay of course,
collapsed, a heap of rust.

NOTE: ‘Another Place’ consists of 100 cast iron replicas of the body of the sculptor Antony Gormley, life-size, arranged along three kilometres of the beach at Crosby, near Liverpool, England.

Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in print magazines, anthologies and e-magazines both in the UK and internationally. His collections Voyager and Dark Matters are published by Dempsey & Windle.

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