*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Ian C Smith *Frank C Praeger *Phil Wood *Laurie Johnston *Martin Noutch *Thomas Ovans
*Seth Crook *Judith Wolton *Wendy Klein *Peter Branson *Ann Vaughan-Williams *D M Aderibigbe
*Emma Lee *Robert Nisbet *R D McManes *Jeff Bell *Paul Richards

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

ernest-shackletons-ship-endurance

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be obtained at LG new poetry Summer 2013

Please send submissions for the future issues to poetry@londongrip.co.uk, enclosing no more than three poems and including a brief, 2-3 line, biography

Editor’s Introduction

Welcome to the summer posting of London Grip New Poetry. Its rather un-summery cover picture relates to the poem Enduring Conquest by Martin Noutch. This is one of several longish narrative pieces in the issue; and it occurs to me now that mixing long and short poems can be much easier on-line than in a traditional print magazine with its constraints on page size and page count.

An on-line editor also enjoys other freedoms denied to his print magazine counterpart: it is not difficult to include images and to experiment with layout (and perhaps London Grip doesn’t do enough of this?); and there are no postal costs involved in reaching readers and attracting submissions from many parts of the world. Nevertheless I make no bones about saying that a print magazine still feels more “real” to me than a virtual one. (Indeed we at London Grip try to give ourselves more substance by offering a do-it-yourself hard copy version of each posting.)

While preparing this posting, I have heard of two well-respected print magazines encountering difficulties.  In one case the problems are financial; in the other there is a need for fresh hands to cope with the editorial workload. Indeed, by comparison with the effort involved in producing London Grip, getting an issue of a print magazine assembled and produced and distributed strikes me as being quite as daunting as crossing the Antarctic!

I hope the fact that London Grip comes free at the point of use does not tempt any of our readers to let their print magazine subscriptions lapse.  Regard London Grip as a bonus – not as a substitute!

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

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

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Ian C Smith : Estranged

They know scraps of each other’s lives,
details blurred by mutual disapproval.
After years of guilty seclusion
he sees them all again, on Facebook,
using a mutual friend’s shared email.
Another hour of his life speeds away
as curiosity morphs into fascination.

Recognition of aged faces eludes him.
He thinks of meteorite showers battering
a dwarf planet stranded in orbit
at the distant reaches of our universe,
knows his own appearance would shock.
He is grateful for pop-up tags,
bunches of children as generic as flowers.

One photograph is of him, clean-shaven.
He can’t recall where or when,
or the unseen ghost aiming the camera.
He holds a bottle and a drink,
looks strained, prematurely old.
It was a case of then or a fraught never
before outrunning the hounds of banality.

That night, black and wild outside,
the only light on, his reading lamp,
casts a circular pattern on the far wall
while branches claw at his iron roof
like a freezing orphan locked out.
Flashes of memory illuminate his reading,
the chief solace during his days of exile.

 

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in Axon:Creative Explorations,The Best Australian Poetry,Chiron Review, Island, Southerly & Westerly. His fifth book is Contains Language from Ginninderra Press (Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia

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Frank C Praeger : Straight On

He had longings he had never realized,
had never thought about,
turmoil, tawdry tales,
an evasiveness as to end,
unanswered whisperings in the night.

Still, he wore dark glasses 
neither for attention or to avoid recognition.
He cited an increasing photophobic sensitivity, 
he cited stellar movements,
unexplained constellations,
stars that had not yet been.
There was an unperceived narrowing to his habits.

He wanted to cry out, to say enough,
though neither orangutan nor rooster would settle for surrender
and wolf spiders still scuttled across the floor.
There was no color, no ritual enactment,
he had become old without thinking about it.

 

Frank Praeger has had poems in The Recusant and The Rusty Nail. This is his first appearance in London Grip

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Phil Wood : Ghost Dance

It is a paper cut. My finger bleeds
bubbles and pools around the wound and then
dribbles and plops on to my dancing men.
The Cherokees are snaking live with blood.

Redskins don't have plasters, I plead.

My father wears my hat and Colt. He offers
his pipe for peace. It tastes not very nice.
I sip my cherry coke and watch T.V.
I am Native American and all my brothers

dance and die so bravely in black and white.

 

Phil Wood works in a statistics office, which exercises his mind. Poetry is a choice of lifestyle outside the workplace.

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Laurie Johnston : Admiralstrasse Stolpersteine

Brass plates sunk in to the pavement before
Wide ornate doors opening slowly on to
High cool halls leading to broad wood stairs 
Ascending past solid painted walls recessed
With well-made glossed entrances to spacious
Light and airy rooms with heavy furniture
And long drapes hung to deaden noise, dull light
Pulled back now to see what disturbs the street
Where engines have died, doors have slammed
Whistles have blown, orders given, boots stamped
So that uniformed men, rifles back-slung have
Charged up broad streets, banging open wide doors
To hammer upon entrances to light, airy homes and
Taken away people leaving only such traces as
Little brass plates sunk in the pavement allow.

 

Written in Berlin after reading ‘Stolpersteine’ – brass plates sunk in the pavement outside former residences of victims of the Holocaust marking their names and the date of their removal.

Laurie Johnston has been writing poetry for his own mental health since he was a teenager. Along with his family and teaching in a South London school it has kept him sane in to his fiftieth year.

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Martin Noutch: Enduring Conquest

These three short pieces are extracted from a long poem about Shackleton’s boat voyage in the James Caird and the crossing of South Georgia, a feat of endurance and navigation that ended with the expedition’s rescue without the loss of a single man.

                    I –Serving for Shorthand
You know the story of Scott – we measure our resolve
By milliscotts – by asking lots of times ‘Could I?
Have I the heart? The balls? The dare?’
Well, this story stands a risk to become
Another such repeated phrase – ‘Like Scott’,
‘Like Cook’, ‘Like Shackleton’ and so I’m writing
To try to make you see it – to try to douse you
In that sea that cares not whether we
Survive – to rub you raw with repeated tries.
Let waves break on us, start the seams and threaten...

                    II – Water’s Lack
But on the Caird we began to know thirst – 
To know thirst, not simply be acquainted
With a desire, soon fulfilled,
But to know thirst, to know the stages, like
The swelling of the tongue, the rationing
Of swallowing, to prevent the rough pain
Of dry tissue on dry gullet muscle,
Feeling every crack and lineation
In your own throat, feeling your hair’s tussle
As scratches from a wire creation
Roughly crowned upon an unwilling scalp,
Feeling the rolls of eyeballs in sockets,
The momentary ecstasy as splash
Cracks your skin, then drives in the salt again
And ecstasy gives way to suffering.  

            III – Hope to cross the Island
All day all four – all three – had staggered on,
Only meeting when a rest was due
And otherwise strung out in a file – 
Looking at the snow beneath their feet, 
About to try that spot for hold and grip,
About to test that snow for depth, and glance
Ahead – for sure to see the man ahead
Also choosing a route of least peril –
Sometimes a comrade’s glance over shoulder
To check that they were together.
But while the greater part of intellect – 
Such intellects after such exhaustion – 
Was set on finding footing in the snow
A little part was counting: the Boss,
And two behind – and then the counter? Or:
Myself, the two ahead, and then there’s him.
Look and check – where am I in the line?
In the line of men I am not first – 
Nor am I last. While walking none of them –
Three – would admit they kept on counting four.
And when they stopped to breathe they each felt warmth
Of two opposite and one beside them.
Three tired men – perhaps – three lonely men
At the end of their rope, in desperate hope,
Walking not for glory but to rescue,
Accompanied by one who knew the way.

 

Martin Noutch is a primary school teacher living in Islington. He writes verse and fiction for pleasure and occasional drama for schools and churches..

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Thomas Ovans: Agenda

If Jonah had been keen to visit
Nineveh for some event –
a festival of local spices
or an architecture tour –
he would have had more ground for doubting
it was really God who’d sent him.

Then he could have pleased himself
and done a bit of casual preaching
on the side.  Just making contact,
I can almost hear him say,
but nothing over-obvious.
No need of scaring anyone

least of all myself. 
                    	         It’s not
enough for two to have the same
itinerary.  Both must know
the other knows beforehand why
the journey’s really necessary.

 

Thomas Ovans is Irish and came to London in the mid 1990s. He has a background in technical and academic writing and editing but he has recently begun to diversify into other forms of literature. After being a serious reader of poetry for many years he has now published poems of his own in Smiths Knoll and Message in a Bottle as well as in London Grip.

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Seth Crook : What the Ferrymen Know

Very little.

How to buy a ticket,
and where,
if they can be bothered to say,

being so busy avoiding
the only small rock
in the whole vast bay.

Or where not to buy a ticket
if you buy a few drinks
but keep quiet.

Just this one time

or at least until
they’re next in the bar,
undermanned
in a financial sort of way,

and keen to tell you how
they’d have won the war,
Nelsons all,
if they hadn’t bobbed away.

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry, but likes cod, philosophy and poetry. His poems have recently appeared in Other Poetry, Gutter, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin, The Journal, Antiphon, Northwords Now, Message in a Bottle.

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Judith Wolton : Holiday Chalets

Once they were someone’s dream, these matchbox huts,
chalets of wood, asbestos and damp, rotting
sponge-wet in winter weather, grimly squatting
below sea level, hoping for summer letting; 
staring at rusting concrete ramparts built
to wall out sea, sand and piled up silt.

Sadness and anger huddle here together, camped
out like refugees waiting for recognition.
Pity flees down seedy rat runs cramped 
in vice-like fear, crouched in dumb resistance.
Broken roads lead nowhere hopeful – yet

amongst this debris breeds a strange persistence-
a slow determination to survive, a will to stay,
despite the sodden mattresses, the broken chairs,
the charred and shattered huts, the burnt out cars.
Reflected in an oily puddle lies a star.

 

Judith Wolton lives near the sea in Essex. Has a fascination with margins of land and water, estuaries, marshes etc. She is currently trying to put together a collection – but struggling with two strong themes. She has been placed in various competitions in Essex and Suffolk and is a stalwart supporter of poetryWivenhoe.

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Wendy Klein: And another thing

My neighbour says we’ve had fly-tippers –
at the top of our field -- our field 
where I walk the dogs every day,
but only round its edges,
because it’s usually cultivated: 
wheat last year, feed corn the year before.

I go up there to have a look, and sure enough
there’s an old fridge, already starting to rust,
some manky kitchen cupboards, 
raggedy edges and peeling paint,
drooping in the weeds
alongside planks from a garden fence, 
the wood rotting, the weave loosening.
The dogs sniff at a decaying deer’s head
slung over the hedgerow by a hunter or a poacher

while I stand gawping at this country lane mess
that mimics graffiti in the town -- 
think how daubing railway carriages, 
the sides of flyovers, 
even the occasional building,
makes more sense somehow -- the temptation, 
the tacit invitation, of the empty wall --
the way that Banksy turns it into art, 

but this rubbish has no logic -- 
our hospitable field, 
its tangle of wildflowers in spring, 
rabbit warrens, summer crops, 
that we can’t protect with barbed wire, 
electrical current, the law, or even love.

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Wendy Klein: Primula Vulgaris

What you notice first is their diffidence; 
the way they cluster conspiratorially 
between the slashing leaves of daffodil 
bullies, who deafen them with their garish
bugles; how they seem to whisper secrets
to each other, their creamy heads tipped, 
the better to hear, the better to see
what’s going on in the shade around them.

Floozy gossips they tap into everything, 
spread the word through the undergrowth,
are bursting with the mating calls of birds,
news of brittle eggs, fresh-laid, the urgency 
of shoots bashing against the skin of tight
seeds. Don’t be fooled by their demure smiles; 
primroses know it all – give away nothing.

 

U.S. born Wendy Klein has published two full poetry collections with Cinnamon Press: Cuba in the Blood (2009), and Anything in Turquoise, out in February 2013. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and she will be sole adjudicator in the Havant Literary Festival Poetry Competition 2013.

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Peter Branson : “Some blessed hope”

(reflections on Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Darkling Thrush’, New Year, 2012/13)

Three quarter century’s neglect has left
this feral coppice tired and overspent.
The gate I lean against this blear-eyed New
Year’s Day is propped by barbs of rusted wire,
millennium twelve years away, your time
one hundred more, same tune, a sepia ghost.

Fearless, all frost and fire, the stormcock’s back,
lights up the swaying oak’s exposed topmast;
first salvo, flings its raking challenge in
machine-gun rote, defiant, unabashed,
then charms the darkling treescape with its theme-
song, wassail, band-of-hope – all this despite

the corrugated ground, a spectral, iron
death-mask; our threadbare hospitals and roads;
the central heating on back home full blast;
e-money flooding from rogue credit cards
like blood flushed from cadavered-marble slabs;
soldiers in coffins flown from far off lands.

 

Peter Branson’s poetry has been published, or accepted for publication, by journals in Britain and overseas including Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Anon,Envoi, The London Magazine, The Warwick Review, Iota, Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Magma, Poetry Nottingham, South, The New Writer, Crannog, The Raintown Review, The Columbia Review, The Huston Poetry Review, Barnwood, The Able Muse and Other Poetry. His first collection, The Accidental Tourist, appeared in May 2008. A second collection was published in early 2012 by Caparison Press for The Recusant. More recently a pamphlet has been issued by ‘Silkworms Ink’. He has won prizes and been placed in many competitions, including a ‘highly commended’ in the ‘Petra Kenny International’, first prizes in the ‘Grace Dieu’ and the ‘Envoi International’ and a special commendation in the 2012 Wigtown. His latest book, Red Street, Selected poems, 2000-2012, from Lapwing Press, is due in 2013.

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Ann Vaughan-Williams: Chairs

 His

He was not one to complain about the pain in his knee.
The only thing that told the tale
was the walnut stick he’d lean on as he held forth.

After lunch was his time for forty winks
in the upholstered chair whose covered arms
were frayed by the chafe of his elbows,

his shape deeply moulded down to the springs,
his feet up on the patterned pouffe
whose leather was scored by the rub of his heels.

The chair at the head of the table was high backed,
arms carved and set at the proper height
for a man enthroned in planed elm.

Hers

She had constant complaints, in rotation:
her head; her legs; her knees. But I see her at peace
in her deck chair in the tropical sun. 

In the daytime, here in the cold, I’d hear her background radio
as she stood rolling pastry, boiling jam, sorting the eggs.
Never sat, not in England, not that I ever saw.  And yet

in a corner by the dining room fire was a squat wooden chair,
with a green home-made cushion, well worn.
It was brought here from our life abroad.

Beside it was a notepad, at her centre of organisation.
This was not where she sat for a nap; but she’d nod off,
pencil poised, her head full of lists, beside the phone

making arrangements for the village, the house, the garden.
The chair was her breadth, it suited her short legs.
She’d work here while her children were out at school.

At home in Uganda, there was the sun in the hazy afternoon;
a novel would drop to her lap. At night, in England	
she’d be forever finishing things in the kitchen.

 

Ann Vaughan-Williams has written many poems on the borderline between colonial and post-colonial. Her work has mainly been published in anthologies of Merton Poets and Whatley Writers in South-west London and she has read and published widely. Her first collection was Warming the Stones, and most recently poems were published in London Rivers by Pakakariki Press, in Forty Voices of Richmond University, and in Haiku Quarterly. She runs a weekly writing group for people with mental health problems. She is an editor of the Long Poem Magazine.

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D.M Aderibigbe: Thanksgiving

"Your mother would have
turned 42 today

If she were to
be alive," Grandma says.

Her face is rumpled, like
ruched cotton.

This is another
of grandma's rhapsodic rap-songs

she plays out, whenever
she needs to buy

attention, as a spit-little,
tries to be spectacular to catch

an influential person's interest.
Me and

my sister think
tears peep, then seep

from my grandmother's eyes. She
starts. “Two years ago,

Mum celebrated with
much difficulty her 40th birthday.

She cut her birthday cake
with the honed edge of pain

her skin, parched and rough, like
farmland with ridges.

Yet, everyone was happy 
to have her there. Two

years later, she's no more.”
My grandmother ends her story

and pulls a hat, that looks like a
lampshade, from a projecting

nail on the wall, and
uses it to cover her gray hair.

I ask her where she's headed.
“To thank God

for making me witness
yet another tranquil

year in tears.”

 

D.M Aderibigbe is a 23-year old Nigerian undergraduate, studying History and Strategic Studies in the University of Lagos. His poetry and short fiction have been published in journals (including Cannon’s Mouth, The Delinquent, WordRiot, Red River Review, Ditch, Kritya, CommonLine, The Applicant, Thickjam, Cadaverine and DoveTales) and in anthologies, including the Kind-of-a-hurricane Press 2012 Best of Anthology – Storm Cycle. He has been greatly influenced by Natasha Trethewey, Ilya Kaminsky, Naomi Shihab Nye, Wole Soyinka, Octavio Paz and Helen Oyeyemi among others.

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Emma Lee: Mind the Gap

It’s not in the series of broken promises,
but in the chain holding them together.

It’s not in the display of cards on the mantelpiece,
but in the repetition of sticking them in the scrapbook.

It’s not in agreeing to collect his personal effects,
but in a widow’s being asked to clear his office desk. 

It’s not in the apologies, refusals to speak ill,
but in the wait for a response, any response.

It’s not in the fuss and pomp of the funeral,
but in the slow adjustment to its aftermath.

 

Emma Lee’s Yellow Torchlight and the Blues is available from Original Plus. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for The Journal and Sphinx.

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Robert Nisbet: Elspeth’s Tea Garden

 Their working winters have bitten at their happiness.
Their hours and schedules harsh, both have been bullied.
His phrase, ‘We need a break’.

In Elspeth’s Tea Garden, well on into May,
the blossom is effusive, a theatrical onrush
of summer and countryside.
The tea, the clotted cream, are just right too,
lush, uninhibited, yet the weekend’s costs
can be staked out easily along a full month’s reach.
Elspeth, serving, smiles, makes much of them.
They watch the easy drop of a silvery tray,
taste the teapot’s steam. 

Occasionally, as Elspeth scours, washes up,
she is cut by draughts from her own winter
and the broken jug of her relationship.

 

Robert Nisbet, who lives in Pembrokeshire, has taught English and creative writing at a college of education, in two grammar schools, three comprehensives, for two universities and in a raft of adult education centres. He has published just over 100 short stories and nearly 100 poems.

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R.D. McManes: new season

first time out 
never grows old
last year’s grass 
still dormant 
the fairway divots 
wait to heal
and here we stand 
on the tee box
a brown green 
beckons 
in a few weeks 
it will be 
true green

a few 
warm up swings
the mind 
visualizes a shot
tradition is 
imagination alive
the tingle 
of a shot struck
a golf ball launched
into the chilly air

my first 
unplanned fade
last year’s first
was a hook

i play them both 
from the rough
another season
begins with
renewed 
expectations

 

R.D. McManes is the author of seven poetry books and has had over 200 poems featured in 60 worldwide publications ,. He has been a featured speaker and conducted poetry workshops and copyright presentations for the Kansas Author’s Club. He currently resides near Scranton, Kansas.

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Jeff Bell: Bang Bang Bang!

Bang Bang Bang!
Dog under car wheels,
couldn't hit brakes hard,
traffic too close behind.
Bang Bang Bang!
Pulled over, small terrier in road,
Bang Bang Bang!
picked up dog in arms,
still breathing,
Bang Bang Bang!
Two young girls watching
no more than 12 years old,
Crying, told me dog was theirs.
Bang Bang Bang!
Led me to their home,
amazed how quickly 
they composed themselves.
Bang Bang Bang!
Tough kids,
from a tough part of Gateshead.

Bang Bang Bang!
Laid dog down,
in overgrown front garden,
panting, its eyes glazed and open,
staring into the sun,
asked children to create shade.
Front door was open.
Bang Bang Bang!
Father was indoors,
"Hello!" I shouted
got no answer.

Bang Bang Bang!
Went in, guy in lounge,
mid-thirties
watching horse race on TV,
Bang Bang Bang!
"Your dog’s been knocked down!"
I said, but he ignored me
just kept watching as three horses
turned for home,
Bang Bang Bang!
"Your dog ran out and went under my car!"
Bang Bang Bang!
Still his eyes never left the TV.
As one horse edged in front
the roar from the crowd
told me the finish was near

Bang Bang Bang!
I turned and walked out,
his horse must have been winning?
Gave the two young girls £5,
to take their dog to a vet.
I was young
the father didn't care, 
so why should I?
I headed back to my car.

33 years too late
regret wonders what happened 
to the dog and the girls
and did their dad’s horse win after all?
And what became of the £5 note?
Bang Bang Bang!

 

Jeff Bell, poet and musician, originally from South Shields in the North East of England, now living in London over last thirty years. Has recently started writing poetry/prose and finds it a release from  the restrictions of songwriting. Has had several poems recently accepted in various magazines. His music can be heard at www.jeffbellmusic.com

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Paul Richards: The curse of the financial advisor

"I've been shafted!" 
Your words to me 
That February morning 
Just before we moved in
Folded over your mobile 
Caged in your Merc 
Stuck in traffic 
On the Finchley Road 
"My therapist told me to stop keeping things in 
And seeing as you two helped cause my collapse 
Here it is – 

You shafted me 
And I will take a view on that".

That February morning on the Finchley Road, 
Air damp with the sighs of banjaxed travellers, 
You laid your curse on us 
From behind the tinted windows 
Of your burgundy Mercedes.

Over Christmas we’d dumped his 
Critical Illness Cover 
for the Pru, 
Stripped him of his commission 
Left him with nothing 

After he’d sweated sweat for us, 
Going to pieces 
With spiralling flu, panics, debts, 
Fever, family to keep - 
Keeping tabs on multiple addresses 
Money seeping out of 
The Financial Advisor – 

And that wretched ratcheting cough… 
Remember the night, Stephen, 
You choked on that digestive 
At our dining room table— 
Your cherubic face 
fit to bursting with coughing-choking 
As you dived for cover 
In the folds of the 
Critical Illness Cover form, 
pockmarked with spittle, 
And tapped in to your calculator, 
Our tatty room ringing 
with your fat, laughing Singapore chokes?

The winter-long coughing fit over, 
The air somehow going down straight again 
Into your swollen chest, 
The breakdown stifled with tranquilisers 
You lunged for the mobile and 
You put your curse 
On the pair of us 

And at last we move in, 
Your words trailing behind us 
I've been shafted, 
Laughing like a couple of elopers

Boxed in now to the last available space 
of our brand new sitting room

But soon the battle begins 
For what we had in the old place. 
We can’t get it back. 
We unpack and unpack and unpack 
Cut our hands on the edges of boxes 
Till we begin to taste 
Box dust in the water

But nothing is ever enough. 
Never enough space, 
Nowhere where the other is not somehow heard

Then one night in the garden 
Perching on the aluminium step-ladder 
As I tack flapping black bin-liners on to my bed 
(the one the men couldn’t get upstairs) 
To shield it from the rattling rain 
Your words drops in to my head 
I've been shafted... 
and I will take a view on that.

By October 
we are packing again, 
this time only for me. 
Over scrambled eggs on toast we settle the bills 
Then return to stuffing bin liners. 

I won’t ever hear her coming through the front door again. 

Stephen 
We shafted you 
And us too. 
Perhaps we really shouldn’t 
Have gone with the Pru.

 

Paul Richards, reached his half-century last year, and – apart from writing poetry (and playing the piano) – runs his own computer support business. Although very much a North London homeboy he now finds himself residing in South-West London and is loving it, particularly the green and posh bits. His first “proper” poem, written at the age of 9, was a rendition of the nativity in Tim Rice style pop lyrics.

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