*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Neil Curry *Nabin Kumar Chhetri *Roy Marshall *B.Z. Niditch *Deborah Tyler-Bennett *Fiona Sinclair *Marjorie Sweetko *Ian Parks *Thomas Roberts *Siobhan Campbell *Margaret Hollingsworth
*Nancy Mattson *Maggie Butt *Donald Atkinson *Shanta Acharya *Wix Hutton *Stephen Oliver *F.M.Brown *Katherine Venn

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

Editor’s Introduction

This issue’s cover picture shows the ruins of the cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The image relates directly to Wix Hutton’s poem about a walk through the city’s “Red Zone” where reconstruction work is far from complete.

Many of the poems in this issue refer to upheavals and damage of various kinds. Some deal with breakdown of physical or psychological health or with fractured personal relationships. Others face up to the harm caused by political turmoil and revolution. A significant group of contributions – either by serendipity or the subtle working of the zeitgeist – consider the consequences of war, both for those who go to fight and for those who stay behind to receive them when they come back injured or (apparently) unhurt.

The mood however is not relentlessly sombre.  There are some poems – like Donald Atkinson’s tanka – that raise a smile and others, like Maggie Butt’s impressions of Umbria, which allow us to stroll or sit in peaceful and sunlit places

It is a pleasure to present work in this issue by some fine poets who are new to me and – since several of them come from overseas – may also be new to many of our readers. We are continuing to try and widen London Grip’s base of contributors and its audience. If you, the reader, enjoy the poems in this issue do please pass our web address on to someone else.

Please send submissions for the next issue (June 2012) to poetry@londongrip.co.uk, enclosing no more than three poems and including a brief, 2-3 line, biography

We received favourable reactions to our experiment of providing a printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry and so a hard-copy of this posting can be obtained at LG new poetry Spring 2012

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

http://mikeb-b.blogspot.com/

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Neil Curry

A Student of Waves

Just as nightfall sometimes intensifies
The scent of certain flowers, so at first
The very isolation of the island
Deepened the savour of his contentment there;

Then, as the years passed, he found himself
Becoming a student of waves:
Observing the rise of each slow drawn intake,
How it would curl to a poised surge of menace,

Before that deliberate topple-over and roll
And the whiter-than-ever-snowfall-was
Spillage and rush that rattled the pebbles
And grey stones round his veined and scrawny feet.

 

Neil Curry’s Selected Poems Other Rooms is published by Enitharmon Press and his latest book is Six Eighteenth Century Poets published in December 2011 by Greenwich Exchange

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Nabin Kumar Chhetri

The Snow

The snow is terrible this year.
The road towards the library
takes longer than usual.
I keep the books home, waiting,
for the roads to clear up.
Buses drag by,
with chains on their wheels
leaving long monotonous marks.

Smell of raw pines and chimney smoke
brings your memory back
in the thin December air.
The train shrills past every day
slicing the air between the hill and my house.
Your memory touches like wind,
and halts, at that moment
when you left;
like one of those winter evenings.

The snow has been terrible this year.
The days longer without you.
Next year, I will wait,
when they clear the snow.
I will wait at that same station.

I feel you in each passing train.
Please tell me, when will you come?
I will watch from the hilltop
when your train comes
slowly, waltzing and whistling,
from the bends of summer hill.

 

Nabin Kumar Chhetri is a Nepalese poet. He is a member of Scottish PEN. His poetry has been published in Aquapress, Cynic magazine, Penny Dreadful and Tower Journal (US), Weyfarers and Fade Poetry Journal (UK), Ricepaper Magazine and Mawaheb (Canada), The Sun and Quest (India), Nosside Poetry Anthology (Italy), Spiny Babbler (Nepal) and Poetry Quarterly (China).

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Roy Marshall

Triptych

John Berryman

It’s a fridge cold Minnesota day.
The poet crunches to Washington Avenue Bridge,
looks down on the glaze beneath the iron span.

He turns to wave at a young woman,
a passer-by whose face will freeze and drain
in the time it takes to climb the rail

and drop his flapping shadow
through the thick-skinned Mississippi.

 

Virginia Woolf

I could see the line of her spine
through her coat as she crouched
by my garden path, so I rapped the glass
until she stood, pockets sweet-bagged
with stones, then lifted her hand
as if to wave and walked quickly away
towards the Ouse.

 

Sylvia Plath

Behind the curtain London sits,
brittle in a wrap of fog.

She has long since kissed the children,
written a note to call Dr Horder,

pressed her forehead hard
against the frozen glass.

She moulds wet towels and muslin
like putty along the gaps.

There’s nothing more to do.
A milk-float rattles past.

 

Roy Marshall is based in Leicester and has only recently begun to send work to magazines. He has had work accepted by The Rialto, Magma, Staple, Smiths Knoll, The SHOp and elsewhere. His pamphlet Gopagilla will is published by Crystal Clear Creators in 2012.

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B.Z. Niditch

Memory

for Phillip Larkin, 1922-1985 

Your memory
twice buried
a dotted loss
daring another
double cross.

Who remembers
what waits
for the modern
neither Eliot
Yeats or Auden.

 

B.Z. Niditch is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and teacher. His work is widely published in journals and magazines throughout the world,
including: Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Art; The Literary Review;  Denver Quarterly; Hawaii Review,; Le Guepard (France); Kadmos (France);
Prism International; Jejune (Czech Republic); Leopold Bloom (Budapest);  Antioch Review and Prairie Schooner, among others.  He lives in Brookline,
Massachusetts.

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Deborah Tyler-Bennett

Kinda Keats

Title adapted from the 1965 album, Kinda Kinks

‘See here it is – I hold it towards you’ –John Keats, ‘This Living Hand, Now Warm and Capable’

                   Keats House reveals time’s glitchery again,
                   half day’s workshop over in a hand-stretch.
                   Now, outside the Euphorium Café
                   we’re sipping coffee,
                   watching passers-by skirting the Heath
                   in unexpected heat.
                   ‘Time-swallowing happens here’, you say,
                   ‘expect the unexpected’.

 

                                    As if to illustrate, there’s Ray
                   Davies from The Kinks, sentinel
                   by unlikeliest orange van …

 

                   …We laugh, Ray Davies on a sunny afternoon.
                   Keats’s friend, Haydon, could have thumbnail sketched
                   songwriter’s sun-cut silhouette, us soon
                   turned to clafoutis aux cerises, bitter-
                   cocoa torte, and latte … crumbs of this Hampstead
                   summer almanac.
 
                   While, at Keats House, as clocks go winding back,
                   an orange van steals by. As lovers stand
                   for photos against Keats’s mulberry,
                   the poet stretches out his, tenderest, hand.
 

Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s first collection was Clark Gable in Mansfield (King’s England, 2003). Her second, Pavilion (Smokestack), set in Brighton and the world of the dandy came out in 2010. 2011 saw the publication of Revudeville (King’s England), and the chapbook Mytton … Dyer … Sweet Billy Gibson (Nine Arches Press). KInda Keats was written as a result of a Poetry Lives Here residency at Keats House, Hampstead, in 2010.

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Fiona Sinclair

Day Trip

 On the road, uncle’s sat nav commentary directs us
back to his salesman days,
I’ve stayed there often
They always bought tea towels. 
 
At Chichester Cathedral I insist on
photographs of aunt and myself ,
because - discounting chavs , petty criminals,
and those who keep us at Christmas card distance -
she is my only relative,
and time, like a bowling ball is scattering her 70s.
 
After lunch at Bosham Quay,
we lose an hour in a bijou boutique
ransacking clothes rails and daring each other to buy,
whilst outside, uncle has the engine running.
 
Pointing the car homeward he enquires
Quick route or pretty?
I try to squeeze the last dregs out of the trip
suggesting tea and a look round Lewes.
 
But over a pot for three and cake,
we catch each other’s yawns
and are relieved to find that outside
the day has already been snuffed out.
 

Fiona Sinclair’s work has appeared in numerous magazines. Her second pamphlet A game of hide and seek will be published in early 2012. She is the editor of the on line poetry magazine Message in a Bottle.

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Marjorie Sweetko

My oncologist is in remission

My oncologist’s shoulders trumpet the results:
the new lump
turns out to be a lump.
He’s straightened up, colour improved,
though of course we don’t talk cures

As for the radiologist,
I’ve seen through his facade:
inside, he glows.

I have to say I’m pleased with the way
my ophthalmologist responds to stimulus.
He thinks I see better;
I think he looks better.

My osteopath’s in cracking form:
unobstructed energies and everything in place.

Even my gynaecologist’s looking up;
making steady progress, he emerges from the depths
to comment on the inevitable pain
of this recession.

Marjorie Sweetko is British and Canadian and lives in Marseille, where she edits English language texts for publication. MHer poetry regularly appears in British journals such as The North, Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, South, South Bank Poetry and Obsessed with Pipework.

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Ian Parks

Cat and Man

The story as I heard it went like this:
a knight was riding home from the crusades
when something fell and fastened on his neck -
a wildcat waiting in the woods
that dropped so sudden, screeched so loud
 
the knight's horse reared and bolted at the shock.
In the mile between the ambush
and the safety of the church
he fought a running battle, dripping blood.
The cat would slink off then come back.
 
Next morning, when they found them in the porch
the stricken man had stiffened as he died,
crushing the cat against the sandstone wall.
They buried them together as you would,
raising a wooden effigy to mark the spot.
 
I edged in from the sunlight as a child.
Scaffolding was holding up the spire.
Six hundred years had passed and still
the bloodstains deepened on the flags.
The knight was very dead: his hands
 
were pressed together as he prayed.
The cat still had some life in him.
He looked as if he'd wake up with a snarl,
spring through the window of the local pub
where the drinking miners told a different tale.
 

In the middle of the twelfth century, according to local legend, Sir Perceval Cressacre was returning to his manor of Barnburgh when he was set upon by a wildcat. The dead body of the knight and that of his assailant were found next morning in the church porch. (A History Of Barnburgh by Paul Jenkins.)

Ian Parks was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. His collections include Shell Island, Love Poems 1979-2009 and The Landing Stage. Poems appear in The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, The Observer, The Independent on Sunday and Stand. In 2012 he will be writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library.

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Thomas Roberts

Bulletin

Reports of casualties have been confirmed by authorities in Afghanistan. The soldiers’ 
next of kin have been informed. A renewed 
Summer offensive is feared say intelligence 
sources in Helmand. Reports of casualties 
have been confirmed.
 
I know one of their number, he was famed
at school for chess, all-in-all a quiet boy.
The soldiers’ next of kin have been informed.
 
I see him in stillness, his silhouette fired
before the fury of a red-raw sun.
Reports of casualties have been confirmed.
 
We were close, but our childhood friendship frayed,
its threads stretched beyond common boundary stones.
The soldiers’ next of kin have been informed.
 
The bulletin sears with the heat of a flame
that chars the fabric of being human.
Reports of casualties have been confirmed.
The soldiers’ next of kin have been informed.
 

Thomas Roberts is a poet based in London where he also works as a lawyer. He is originally from County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

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Siobhan Campbell

Return

Have you seen him, the one who came back,
hot under the collar he wears to steady his neck?
He hears beyond the word, sees far into gesture –
even a hug is laden with dislocation. 

Contingency is in his tenseless verbs.
He is not good at judging distances.
Behind his pores, the other ending lurks
leaking when he can’t find the remote.

Did He not cause their war to end in confusion?
He tells me this is from the Qur’an.
I am confused but dare not tell him so.
It has to be enough that there’s return.
 

Siobhan Campbell’s latest book is Cross-Talk from Seren which follows her Michael Marks Award shortlisted chapbook That Water Speaks in Tongues (Templar). She currently lives in the USA where she lectures on the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing for Kingston University London

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Margaret Hollingsworth

His Word

 His second woman pulls the nets aside
hoping he’ll notice her.
It’s not right, not right, she thinks, but it’s
his choice.  All this is
his choice?  Who am I to say?

She’s in his bedroom,
he’s down there, digging up the lawn,
making a pond.
In Norwich.
Whistling, shirt sleeved,
sweaty, he’s showing off his strength.
He slams the spade into the soil
performing for his wife, down there
in her red hat.
She’s like a garden gnome.

I’ll buy a plastic bag of fish, his second woman thinks,
jiggling the nets.

I’ll  buy a plastic bag of fish like those I got him at the fair
when he was nowt but two legs and a head of hair.
He’ll grow them in his pond.
Last time he put them down the lav.
I’ll buy three herring first and cook their tea tonight.
The sea’s not far from here, he says.
I’m miles from home.
Cod’s not on his menu any more.
When he cooks fish it ends up raw.

His second woman’s down here from the North
to wave him off,
on Tuesday night he’ll start his second tour.
I cook Nan, cooks don’t fight
we do the odd surveillance and that’s all, he says.
Cook or cock, he used to kick and bite
and all lad’s like to tumble, like to fall.
Now Nan, he says, now Nan
I’ll give it to you straight, the lads
look after me; if I go, everybody starves,
even in Helmand crewmen have to eat.

 His second woman hopes he’ll stay inside his tent
and never leave
and fry up egg and chips until his tour of duty’s spent.
I promise Nan, when did I ever fail?
Cooks come back.
I guarantee you, I’ll be home.
He laughs. You have my word,
I live by the skillet not the sword.
She’s at the window looking down,
behind her back his empty trousers hang
in plastic from the picture rail.

Things shift, she thinks, and yet they never move.
Down by the hole he’s dug he hugs the gnome and calls her wench,
and on the window ledge his second woman’s fingers clench.
Go home, don’t fret, he says,
I promise you, with me and half the Air Force on the job,
in five month’s time the Taliban will be a joke

And promises are pie crust.
Easy broke.

Margaret Hollingsworth grew up in Sheffield and London. She visits London frequently and currently lives in Toronto. Formerly a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, she is primarily known as a playwright and has written for film and television and published a novel and collection of short stories. She is currently working on a poetry collection.

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Nancy Mattson

Wartime Mother

 She kept a cigarette tin
of thumb-tattered cards
a closed set of answers
to probes about the past
 
No ploy could surprise her
no wish or pleading move her
from her place at the yes-no click
her finger poised on the catch
 
Someone said the world
has seven basic stories:
she told her life in four
with thirteen variations
 
no jokers or wild cards
to warp the spin off-true
each story told with a deep drag
on a Player’s, the ash drooping
 
She dealt out the plots
so often our eyelids ached
our tongues went cloth
our ears glue
 
We learned to exist
off-heart, off-mind
whenever the talk
turned to history
 
Yet she kept a chocolate box
of letters from Karelia
for us to decipher after she’d gone
one way or another
 
 

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Nancy Mattson

Kitchen Perestroika

 The classic method, invented before the Bolsheviks,
worked equally well for the Soviets. Peel them raw
or slip off their skins after boiling and dipping
in cold water. Dice their flesh to the same size 

peas would be if peas were cubes: potato cubes,
carrot cubes, beet cubes, pickle cubes, swede cubes,
finn cubes, polish cubes, kraut-or-jap-or-ukie cubes,
traitors, jews. They’re all the same on the cutting board.

Place them in a clay bowl, cool them in the icebox
to 37.6 degrees, no more no less. As the tongue
of the tsar was tender, so our party leader prefers
nothing too hot or too cold. Mix ingredients well. 

Mask identities with mayonnaise. Forget names,
numbers are more precise: vegetable 1, vege 2, veg 3,
4, 5 and so on and so forth, but the total must be odd.
Serve on circular plates in off-centre domes.

This is the joy of salad cubes, our leader’s favourite dish,
the relish of reconstruction: vegetable perestroika.
 

Nancy Mattson is a Finnish-Canadian writer who has lived in London for 21 years. Her third full collection, Finns and Amazons, will be published by Arrowhead Press in early 2012. Her previous collections are Writing with Mercury (Flambard 2006) and Maria Breaks Her Silence (Coteau 1989).

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Maggie Butt

The Other Holy Places of Umbria

Fonti del Clittunno 
Willows bow down and poplars raise
their arms around clear pools, astonishing
blue at Curacao depths, as if kingfishers
have dived and given up their turquoise
essence at a spring which bubbles
for the river goddess, old as faith.

Perugia Cathedral 
Among the suited, sunglassed men, heavy
with threatening aftershave, one younger,
knowingly handsome, with long wavy hair,
pauses to check his own reflection
in the smoked glass doors to the Duomo.

British and commonwealth war graves cemetery, Rivotorno 
Assisi is strung like a rosary of pink and cream
around the hill where Francis prayed for peace
and preached to ancestors of birds who sing
here now in this green field below the town.
Neat rows of white marble stones
etch silent names and messages, a corner
of a foreign field…   and at the going down
of the sun…   he was our world… and love
from mother. And bones of boys sigh into the soil.

Portonovo 
White pebbles chosen from snow-dazzle beach
where time is measured in the rhythm of small waves
sucking back the shingle. They speak of long-slow
humbling in waves to conjure smoothness; how small
the precious thing may be, picked from a beach of millions.

One stone, palmful of heaviness, curved smooth
by tides. One circular and flat, the third an egg,
laid by a mythic reptile, laden with promise.
The fourth is chipped, and there within, a gallery of stars,
a diving depth of quartz, worlds within worlds.

Montefalco 1 
Magnolia: a tree of pale cupped female hands
raised in supplication, waiting for the rain.
Each petal as it falls resembles a silk slipper
the pattern for a Roman oil lamp, ready for light.

Montefalco 2 
The fire-flies flash and flicker
round us in  the jasmine scented
dark. A holiness of nightingales
within an olive grove.

Lake Trasimeno 
open the window
let the  dawn-rinsed air rush in
with a river of song
along the lake shore
light amplified by water
peace unfolds its wings
 

Maggie Butt’s poetry has been widely published in magazines and her three collections are Lipstick (Greenwich Exchange, 2007), Petite (Hearing Eye, 2010) and Ally Pally Prison Camp (Oversteps, 2011).

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Donald Atkinson

Three Tanka

Pisan photos 
At the Leaning Tower,
civilisation divides
into age-old tribes:
us, holding it up; and those
daft buggers, pushing it down.

Conversation 
In this washed evening
sunlight, the stucco'd house-fronts
on opposite sides
of the street, decide at last
to come clean with each other.

Li T'ai-Po 
Old man's house so high
on the hillside, home from town
can't get back, too steep.
Now must choose: up here, among
trees  - or down there, with the girls!
 
 

Donald Atkinson grew up mainly in Sheffield and Enfield, and followed a career in teaching – mostly English & Youth Theatre, with a bash at headmastering now and then. His poetry was first published by Jon Silkin in Stand in 1985. Three years later he won both the Peterloo Poets and the Cheltenham Festival TLS poetry competitions, whose judges included Carol Ann Duffy, Tom Paulin & Fleur Adcock. He won the 1990 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize for best first collection with A Sleep of Drowned Fathers (Peterloo). In 1994 he was awarded First Prize in the Sheffield Thursday competition, judged by E.A. Markham & Mimi Khalvati. He has published four more collections, all from ARC, the latest being In Waterlight (2004).

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Shanta Acharya

Find Your Level

The slip of a stream sliding
down mountains, gathering
pace, confidence
bouncing up boulders
disappearing into crevices
exploring the landscape of her birth -
 
The glacier’s head where the sun sits smoking
idly all day long watching the world -
 
Rehearsing to roll over scree, mud, clay,
hills and falls, gathering momentum.
 
If you wish to go fast you must go alone
she hums as she skips along.
 
A river in full spate later, she surveys
her tributaries spread across vast plains
swollen by their siblings’ strength,
as they meet, part and meet again,
powerful currents moving in symphony.
 
If you want to go far travel with others
they sing in chorus holding hands.
 
At the confluence cross-currents coexist,
the waters merge flowing as one mighty river.
 
The memory of her mother’s song echoes
in her veins as she flows finally into the sea -
 
Fed by earth and sky, buffeted by fire and air,
learn to overcome loneliness, find your level.
 

Shanta Acharya was born in India, educated at Oxford and Harvard, lives in London. An internationally published poet, the latest of her five collections is Dreams That Spell The Light (Arc Publications, UK ; 2010). www.shantaacharya.com

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Wix Hutton

You are now entering the Red Zone

Major earthquakes shook Christchurch, New Zealand, in September 2010 and February 2011, followed by thousands of aftershocks. A no-go area in the inner city, the Red Zone, was cordoned off. In November 2011, a viewing route opened amongst the ruined buildings and became known as the Red Zone walk. “Drop, Cover and Hold” is civil defence advice on self-protection in the event of an earthquake.

Of course I’ve seen it all before.
On TV night after night after night after night
But we’re here in Christchurch for the weekend
Might as well do the Red Zone walk
See things for ourselves.
Where do you get in?
Oh yes there at the top of Cashel Mall
What used to be Cashel Mall
Where the sign says ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK 
Those guys in hi viz vests
There’s a cash donation box there
It doesn’t cost anything to go in does it?
I mean I’m just walking through the Red Zone
How much is that going to cost anyone?
I’m just looking, thanks.
I can see weeds growing
Where we sat last time, I remember
Outside Starbucks in the Square.
Look there’s a camera tripod – quite expensive
That’s worth real money, a good bit of gear like that
It’s lying there out of reach just where he must have dropped it
And fled for his life

Ooh did you
                                                                 feel that
an after
                                                                 shock
that was
                                                                 scary
back and
                                                                 take my hand

Don’t look – that woman is crying
Holding onto the fence where the sign says
DROP, COVER, AND – something
Crying
And the silence
There’s no noise
None at all
People don’t talk
This entire crowd is
Just looking.
Wait a minute I want to put a coin in the donation box.
Look, there are people not putting any money in
The cheapskates –
 

Wix Hutton lives in Nelson, New Zealand, where the strongest Christchurch earthquake shook her house only very gently. She writes poetry, short stories and full length fiction, as well as emails to friends in England assuring them New Zealand is safe.

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Stephen Oliver

Lace

A short blunt street that cuts between two
longer streets back from the riverbank.
The street does not matter. Nothing begins or
ceases here. Nothing matters. 

                              One house.
A tumble-down brick chimney smokes because
it is winter. An old house fallen into ruin
with the smoking chimney late winter. 

A house long fallen into ruin with its grey
plank walls. Planks with gaps between them.
Along the side of this house, as if to contrast
brightness with despair, is set one single,
tall window hung with pure, snow-white curtains.

                             Curtains of fine, filigreed lace,
pure and white and forever new. Behind those snow
white, lace curtains a young woman in her
bedroom dreams and dreams. 

                             She dreams of all
that these snow white curtains promise, behind
a window that is never opened. She dreams,
unseen within her bedroom, through the lace
curtains which fill the room with light that is
fresh and cold as water. 

                             In the ruined house of
grey planks, with gaps between them, under the
broken chimney, the young woman dreams.
She is caught within the glare of her snow white
curtains. They and she become the dream,
this will never stop, it is forever bright.

Stephen Oliver is a New Zealand / Australian author of 16 volumes of poetry. His creative non-fiction has appeared in Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian and New Zealand Literature. His recent poetry collection is Harmonic (SPD Books).His latest chapbook is Apocrypha (Cold Hub Press)

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***

F.M. Brown

Old house

A concrete path; dulled black wrought iron gates
Wide open, but no invitation offered,
A rusty arc shows where the drop-bolt grates –
Once a home in which hands worked, hearts suffered.

Old-fashioned bays and yellowing net curtain,
A concrete path, dulled black wrought iron gates,
The family car its service now uncertain –
A rusty arc shows where the drop-bolt grates.

A thirties' semi, shreds of earlier pride,
Old-fashioned bays and yellowing net curtain,
The ill-painted garage vainly tries to hide
The family car, its service now uncertain.

Number six, a house without a name,
A thirties' semi, shreds of earlier pride,
But fading fast, old age, neglect and shame
The ill-painted garage vainly tries to hide

Wide open, but no invitation offered,
Number six, a house without a name,
Once a home in which hands worked, hearts suffered
But fading fast – old age, neglect and shame.

 

F.M. Brown was born in Yorkshire but came south to Bedfordshire and subsequently began writing poetry – some of which has been published in Other Poetry and Interpreter’s House

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***

Katherine Venn

Henry Road

 This city, this street, this back garden, now;
the glossiness of new ivy leaves
and the single, solitary boldness
of a red tulip I didn’t plant.

Sat on the wooden bench we built ourselves
I can hear two clarinets rising up
like cigarette smoke, like the twined fingers
of lovers new to each other and to love.

Our front door opens onto the street, which
opens onto the park, scene of afternoon strolls –
‘Lovely evening now. Completely blue sky.’
Children pedal bikes up and down the road.

Under the eaves, a wasps’ nest; and beyond,
the quietly humming city, ringed with fields.

 

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***

Katherine Venn

Swifts

 These evenings when I sit
on plastic chairs in a garden filling
up with weeds, or through

the night at my desk, labouring
with the window hitched
wide open to the faces of the houses opposite 

I hear them screaming
before they veer into view –
their insect-like cry –

and watch them as they slice their way
across a tracing-paper sky
winging it in aerial trigonometries 

and wonder at their unnameable call
and other nights, that they make no sound at all.

Katherine Venn studied for a Masters in Creative Writing at UEA in 2009/10, then returned to London to continue working part-time as a commissioning editor. She has just finished her first novel, and produces the literature programme for the Greenbelt arts festival.

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