*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Wendy French *Peter Kennedy *Teoti Jardine *Rob Yates *Jan Hutchison *Mohammed Kamran
*Antony Johae *Nancy Mattson *Ian C Smith *Mary Franklin *Colin Bancroft *David Flynn
*Christopher Mulrooney *F M Brown *Sarah Doyle *Allen Ashley *Robert Nisbet
*Michael Thomas *Kerrin P Sharpe

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

collapseA printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be obtained at LG New Poetry Autumn 2014

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

London Grip would like to welcome readers back from their summer travels with a fresh offering of new poetry. John Keats’ autumn may be a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Ours is a season of mists and mystery since we have compiled a selection of largely elusive, enigmatic and even downright menacing poetry.

The cover picture represents the moment of collapse of the Campanile in St Mark’s Square on July 14, 1902 and seems a suitably unsettling image to match the tone of this issue. Its appropriateness is hardly diminished by the fact that the photograph is reckoned by Wikipedia to be a fake: its doubtful provenance merely contributes to the atmosphere of uncertainty. Ala Littoria SA Mussolini 1935The picture can, moreover, be somewhat tenuously related to Kerrin Sharpe’s remarkable sequence ‘answering the call’; and also to Nancy Mattson’s ’Honeymoon Flight, circa 1934’ and Peter Kennedy’s ‘La Galleria’ which touch respectively on the crumbling and eventual collapse of Mussolini’s regime in Italy.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

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

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Wendy French: The Red Cheeked Head

It’s my harvest festival, she explained
to the nurse who helped carve the heart 
of the pumpkin  before the sharp knife
was whisked away, locked in the drawer
of the old smoking room. Fag ends swept in a corner. 

If only bishops had two heads some truth might emerge
and she plucked  a half dead lily from her friend’s bouquet.
A weeping head made in pottery was placed
on the edge of the red flocked cloth, only crocodile tears
have centre stage. She’d once remembered the rules of Chess.

The bishop must look beyond the head to the window
which is now open for the parakeets to fly in 
and drink from the sour wine. 
You don’t understand me, do you? She sang inventing 
words from a song she once thought she’d heard. 

The ears of this pottery head are so big
and the cheeks so red but no one listens anymore,
no one hears or see the cheeks rubbed in distress. 
Thank goodness for wheat grass that grows in abundance 
on the edge of sunlight catching sorrow in its stems. 
.

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Wendy French: Winter Weathers

Because Thor has been at work again
and no one ever answers the telephone;
and because the persistent tone of the ring

takes me down the line to where you might be
near the upturned umbrella abandoned 
on Pendine Sands or blown to sea;

and because you lost umbrella after umbrella 
like that, blaming the new winds,
the in-coming tide, always finding an excuse.

Because of all these signs or omens of wet sands,
ferocious clouds, salt water seeping through shoes,
the tufts of grass on the cliffs daring to raise their heads

before morning and because when you opened the door
that final time and said, 'This is it' and it was it
I have to believe you're riding the amber storm,

sailing the over-turned seas in a time I don't know.
And maybe you're still dancing and maybe 
somewhere is that scarlet dress.
.

Wendy French is currently poet in residence at the Macmillan Centre at UCLH. She has two poetry collections with Rockingham press and Tall Lighthouse. Her latest book is co-authored with Jane Kirwan, Born in the NHS, published by Hippocrates press. This book is poetry, fact, anecdote about living and working under the umbrella of the NHS.

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Peter Kennedy: Paradelle of a Thousand Ships

The paradelle was invented as a hoax by Billy Collins (then US Poet Laureate). A parody of the villanelle, it is ”one of the more demanding French fixed forms … a poem of four six-line stanzas in which the first and second lines, as well as the third and fourth lines of the first three stanzas, must be identical. The fifth and sixth lines, which traditionally resolve these stanzas, must use all the words from the preceding lines and only those words. Similarly, the final stanza must use every word from all the preceding stanzas and only these words.”

A family picture shows us gathered on the lawn.
A family picture shows us gathered on the lawn.
Informal.  All together.  Happy with ourselves.
Informal.  All together.  Happy with ourselves.
A gathered family shows ourselves together,
Informal picture, happy the lawn with us all on.

I wore pale trousers, white shoes.  No grey hair.
I wore pale trousers, white shoes.  No grey hair.
My beard was dark then, Helen, and your dark curls.
My beard was dark then, Helen, and your dark curls.
White my trousers and shoes, pale Helen; dark was I,
Dark beard hair.  Your curls wore no grey then.

One palsied daughter in her wheelchair.  The others kneel, or stand.
One palsied daughter in her wheelchair.  The others kneel, or stand.
A fleet of years set sail that distant day. 
A fleet of years set sail that distant day.
Stand, distant daughter, fleet the palsied wheelchair years --       
That, or kneel; sail her one day in a set of others.

Stand, others; picture trousers, curls, white lawn, dark family;
Hair was wore informal.  A set of ourselves 
Shows us the palsied day -- or a dark wheelchair;  
And then the years that fleet on, all distant.
Sail, happy Helen, one with your daughter together gathered;
I, in my shoes, grey beard, kneel, pale.  No her.

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Peter Kennedy: La Galleria

We went on handing the rocks
from one to the next forward in line.
It was the only means we had
to make progress in the dark.

La galleria dei partigiani -
their secret route in the war.
Now our only way through,
flooded a foot deep.

One false step and you were down
in the water with a busted knee.
We went on handing the rocks
from one to the next forward in line.

We placed them at the tunnel side
as best we could to make a causeway.
Each rearward rock was lifted,
passed forward to become the lead rock.

We went on handing the rocks
from one to the next forward in line.
 
Always forward.

.
When Peter Kennedy retired from his position as a consultant physician he was able to rekindle his interest in writing and poetry. He is a founder member of poetrywivenhoe.

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Teoti Jardine: Te Anau Glow Worm Caves

Floating darkly,
all bearings 
lost.

Glow worms
sprinkled 
overhead,

guide 
me
through.

I reached
past the
why

where 
silence 
whispers.

There,  they 
anchored 
me.

.

Teoti Jardine was born in Queenstown New Zealand, of Maori, Irish and Scottish descent. His tribal affiliations are Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, and Kai Tahu. He completed the Hagley Writers Course in 2011, and has poetry published in The Christchurch Press, The Burwood Hospital News Letter, London Grip, Te Panui Runaka, Te Karaka, Ora Nui and Just another arts magazine. His short stories have been published in Flash Frontier’s International Issues, 2013.

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Rob Yates: Well and Water

Outside the well is making great noises
as if some titan fish were buried
half in its stone wall, half in its water,
letting loose godwide gulps of air
that upflow and break for surface,
burst and sound
as the pale, thin rain falls
on the poor roof.

 

Rob Yates is currently moving and gardening his way through South-East Asia. He previously came runner-up in Oxford University’s, St Peter’s College McKay Poetry Prize and is in the process of editing his first attempt at a novel, entitled Trumbling Grandsire. He hails from Essex.

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Jan Hutchison: Walking madly in the mountains

my stick makes eccentric decisions
without consulting me
 
with a turn of its half-moon neck
it kicks off with side-steps
 
sometimes it seduces me
with a three-legged flick-and-twist
 
many times we crash on an icy slope -
stare up in astonishment
 
the stick measures the length
of our footprints
 
I find a crock of cloudberries
with my dreaming hand

 

Jan Hutchison is represented in Essential NZ Poems and many other anthologies. Her most recent poetry collection is The Happiness of Rain.

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Mohammed Kamran: Subterfuge

A sandal thrown into the gutter
A knife kept on a kitchen counter
Long lines outside the departmental store
A shrill noise in the silence of a power cut

To have an idea or to be completely clueless
about life, about love, about yourself
A life lived too fast as if in a daze
The blue seas bank heavily on the steady beaches

The last eagle over the lighthouse
flies in a descending spiral
A touch of velvet, and then of thorns
Blue eyes in a pure white face

A square made out of circles
proving nothing’s what it seems
Inside out is outside in
A calender goes on and on, for pages

 

Mohammed Kamran is currently with the University of Delhi, He has a published novel to his name, Listen to Me (Amazon). He has also been involved with Marxist politics among the students union and traveling in the interior of the country to work with the labourers. In Delhi. He has been writing columns for various social satirical magazines but his artistic ambitions lie with the poetry of images similar to Rimbaud and Verlaine and the psychological prose of Proust and Joyce

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Antony Johae: At First in Kuwait (after Liberation, 1991)

They put me in a hotel close to the airport.
From the enclosed room where windows didn’t open
and management supplied the air
I saw silent cars cross bridges and underpasses
or curved clover leaf to join 
a four-lane highway with large hard shoulder.
Further off, blocks reached up to a petrol pall
and an unfinished telephone tower into the black of an oil cloud
aftermath of Saddam’s sabotage.
With curtains buttoned back, an inside window 
looked down on a foyer where post-war, 
half-dismantled scaffolding part-revealed 
Tuscan marble, discreet lights, 
soft sofas and flowers in vast vases.

In glass I dropped to the mezzanine
glanced through fingered magazines
thick with Dior, Givenchy, and Chanel,
eyed the guests lounging,
aproned serving girls – pretty and petite
the doormen dark, the décor anodyne
and thought I might have been elsewhere, or anywhere
– at Madrid’s Marriot or Houston’s Hyatt
or Holiday Inn, Hilton – 
but for my contract weighing on me 
as I waited.

Then out of plush-muffled sounds
I heard a woman’s cry reach to the roof
an ululation so profound
it moved me – to another place
a distant desert in no city state
encampment, water-hole
men attired in white
children sandal-less on sand
black-covered women chatting
– and when I returned
there was a wedding party
making for a hired room
and all the while – at once rooted and remote –  
women shrilling
for the sofa-seated couple.

.

Antony Johae has taught in Africa and the Middle East. Now writing freelance in the UK and Lebanon. This poem comes from an unpublished collection: Poems of the East.

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Nancy Mattson: Honeymoon Flight, circa 1934

This is our honeymoon, so far so true.
We packed light: a single valise between us,
my new vanity case. Only the essentials
for a long weekend in Tripoli.

We leave on a wing and a whispered vow		 		
never to return to Rome, our jobs
in plush quarters, hush-hush. 
Never again to follow orders, 
 
or smile at puffed-up little bosses.
Never again to see our village homes
or feast at our mammas’ tables. To praise 
Il Duce for his gifts to Italy? Never again.
 
Yes, we are grateful for his first-class 
tickets on Ala Littoria, his new airline, 
that magnificent baby, futuristical, snappy,
better than any in Europe, even the world! 

We will never forget his greasy speech 
at our wedding feast, his liquid praises
to the bride. I’d rather have drowned 
with a dozen virgins than listen to more. 

When we are safe in the air we will laugh, 
free as swifts or swallows, even eagles! 
Not yet. We are still on the tarmac,
hat brims down, chins to chests,

your hands jammed deep in the pockets 
of your trenchcoat, your belt knotted
tight as the grip I must keep on my 
blood-red handbag. Such soft kid.

.
Nancy Mattson flew over seven time zones when she moved from western Canada to London in 1990. Her third full-length collection, Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead Press, 2012), begins with poems inspired by some early twentieth century Russian women artists but develops into a poetic search for her Finnish great-aunt who disappeared in 1939 in Stalinist Russia.

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Ian C Smith: The man who wasn’t there

He has a knack of avoiding weddings;
a dog dying, an expensive flight booked.
When reviewed together, a dossier of excuses.
It is not just weddings as anathema.
Christmases, birthdays, trigger the effect
cruising police cars impose on the guilty.
His is the face missing in group photographs
yet when he does mix he passes scrutiny.
If cornered by the insistent camera
his look is serious, a dust-jacket portrait.

In photographs of his own weddings
which he barely attended,
his mute grimaces, failed smiles
in mouldering albums, filed evidence,
could almost be presciently photoshopped.
When asked by a son how he proposed
he said he only became betrothed in leap years,
absolving himself of the consequences
and the rash optimism of wives
in one succinct sentence.

On anniversaries that pass in silence
does he press his face against a window
hearing strange songs of wrong-doing,
arms hanging limp, scorched throat aching,
or is his meticulous exile sweet?      

.
Ian C Smith
’s work has appeared in The Best Australian Poetry, London Grip, New Contrast, Poetry Salzburg Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The Weekend Australian & Westerly. His latest book is Here Where I Work,Ginninderra Press (Adelaide). He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.

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Mary Franklin: Fear of Ghosts

I am Shuswap.  When my husband died I knew
what I had to do.  I dug a hole in the ground
covered it with brush and tree trunks, sweated there
all night.  At dawn, I bathed in a nearby creek
rubbing my body with branches of spruce, needle tips
broken, damp upon my skin, smelling of skunk.
I stuck them in the ground around my wigwam,
listened to their wind-blown swish, swish, swish.

Hunters would not come near for fear of bad luck.
Illness could strike anyone my shadow fell upon.
That summer I slept on a bed of thorn bushes
thrown on the floor to keep his ghost away.
One winter day I crept into the potlatch,
my heart pounding like a wolf's snared in a trap.
I caught the elder's eye.  He nodded and I took
my place once again among my people.

.
Mary Franklin has had poems published in various poetry journals, anthologies and ezines in the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA.

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Colin Bancroft: Absence

It is as though the world is aware of yours
And mirrors it with its own.
No sun. No sky. Just the blank canvas
Of fog, primed with rain –
Stretched across the fallen easel of the moor
That drops off beyond the hedgerow to nothing.
Trees loom as ragged patterns cut 
From this fine cloth of mist. 
Sounds muffle in this hush; 
Hearing the crackle and whir of tyres on the road
Is like listening to a recording of an empty room.
An absence looped over and over and 

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Colin Bancroft is currently studying for an MA in Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has previously had poems published in The Copperfield Review and Broken Wine Magazine. He has also been shortlisted for both the Manchester Bridgewater Prize and the New Holland Press competition.

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David Flynn: Hired Man

He wasn't working.  Out.  He wasn't tried
and true.
I didn't like him.  One bit.  You didn't like
his face.
You didn't like.  His smell.
Rotted apples.
Sweetish.
Rancid.  Son of a bitch.  He stole our
money.
He stole our car.  Away.  They found him
deader
than our love.  Is dead.  They said he
suffered
 a stroke.  I say.  He just got
 too mean.
 
 Now what do we do.  Stuck with no car.
 Stuck in our house.  Now what do we do.

.
David Flynn was born in the textile mill company town of Bemis, TN. His jobs have included newspaper reporter, magazine editor and university teacher. He has five degrees and is both a Fulbright Senior Scholar and a Fulbright Senior Specialist currently on the roster. His literary publications total more than one hundred and forty. David Flynn’s writing blog, where he posts a new story and poem every month, is at http://writing-flynn.blogspot.com/

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Christopher Mulrooney: Fudd of Sheffield

at home with Boudica or as she says Bulldyke
guardian of the ancient pens
he wallops around the venerable city
like a cod long-shanked gravel-eyed
electrified as to his step he knows all the latest
and the earliest too their adopted son
The Green Man of sorts mainly out
a cold-blooded vegetable sort of lout
and all the stodgy gets who are their friends in pub
at Sheffield where the long knives come from 

.
Christopher Mulrooney is the author of symphony (The Moon Publishing & Printing), flotilla (Ood Press), viceroy (Kind of a Hurricane Press), and jamboree (Turf Lane Press, forthcoming). His work has recently appeared in The Interpreter’s House, West Wind Review, Zettel, Indefinite Space, California Quarterly, Soliloquies, Inscape, The Southampton Review, and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review.

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F.M. Brown: On A Balcony In Nice
(after hearing a song by Francois Poulenc)

I'm on a broad balcony in Nice
A gauzy breeze persuades the perfume of the young mimosa 
Up to where I stand
And induces excitement and a final appearance of life
In the desiccated scraps of older blossoms
Scratching over the courtyard flagstones

Beside me with no umbrella to eclipse it
The furniture glows so dazzling white
It seems to have a luminescence of its own
On the table breakfast is set
And a Swedish glass jug 
Filled with fresh orange juice

I sip from a matching misted tumbler
One hand resting on a chair back I stare out
At a view which on other days I would find
Breathtaking or a subject for meditation, even an inspiration
Today it is just a backdrop
And no more significant
It might as well be Manchester
Except then we would need a brolly
And the whites wouldn't be quite so bright

I am waiting for a young man
At least they tell me he's young
I know his face
I have seen a photograph
I know his name
Thiery

Lady, the song says
Now you are too old to attract a lover
But not yet grown out of wanting love
There is only one answer for you
Take a gigolo

Thiery, I will say
Come in
Orange juice for you?
I will appear impassive, controlled
As I scrutinise his looks
His manner
His suitability for my purposes
Will he examine me for possible pleasure
Or purely for potential profit?
Will I deceive myself he could grow to love me?
No, no.  Don't answer the bell, Marie.
Tell him that Madame is not at home.
Do your hear me, Marie?

Shake yourself, woman.  Pull yourself together.
This is Manchester.
That's the milkman at the door.
Go and pay him
And wipe that silly look off your face.

Morning, Terry.  What's the damage?
Bit steep this week, Mrs. Stone.
Yes, that'll be all that extra orange juice.

.
FM Brown was born in Sheffield but had to come south to soft Bedfordshire to begin writing poetry

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Sarah Doyle: The Philosophy of Stone

Sticks and stones may break my bones.
No moss upon those Rolling Stones.
 
Tombstone. Ragstone.
Kerbstone. Flagstone.
Heart of stone. Whetstone.
Hearthstone. Headstone.
Silverstone. Stonewear.
Sword-in-stone. Stony stare.
Millstone. Milestone.
Paving stone. Bile stone.
 
Let he who is without sin cast the first –
 
Stone deaf. Stone cold.
Stone Age (very old).
Stepping stone. Moonstone.
Standing stone. Rune stone.
Birthstone. Gravestone.
Stone Roses (rave stone?).
Limestone. Yellowstone.
Gemstone. Rosetta Stone –
 
Talk like an E-gyp-tian…
 
Dry stone. Copestone.
Sharon Stone. Soapstone.
Gallstone. Freestone.
Kidney stone. Keystone.
Stone-broke. Toadstone.
Breaking stone. Lodestone.
Stone-head. Stone basin.
Hailstone. Stone mason.
 
Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw –
 
Stone the crows! Stone me!
Stonewall penalty!
Stonehenge.  Rhinestone.
Lose a stone? Grindstone.
Blarney stone. Brimstone.
Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
Sandstone. Touchstone.
And in this poem – much stone

.
Sarah Doyle has been published in journals such as Poetry News, Orbis, The New Writer and The Dawntreader, and placed in various competitions. She is Poet-in-Residence to the Pre-Raphaelite Society, and co-hosts Rhyme and Rhythm Jazz-Poetry Club at Enfield’s Dugdale Theatre. www.sarahdoyle.co.uk

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Allen Ashley: End of the Line

Now you’re painted in a corner,
your line’s finished with “love”;
you’re digging in the dictionary
with “glove”, “dove” and “above”.

You’ve angered Keats and Wordsworth,
so steal from Harry Beck
a way to take the poem on
you’ve salvaged from the wreck.

Don’t put love at the end of the line –
too late the realisation:
nothing fits and nothing rhymes
except for termination.

Don’t put love at the end of the line –
too frequently she tends
to be beyond your Oystercard;
suspended at weekends.

Brixton, Barking, Epping, Morden,
all the way to Rayners Lane.
Your car’s in hock, the night is young,
you must catch the final train.

Don’t put love at the end of the line –
you’re left with one route out.
If it’s High Barnet or Cockfosters,
she knows you’re heading south.

.
Allen Ashley works as a writer, editor, poet, writing tutor, critical reader and event host. He runs five writing groups including Clockhouse London Writers. www.allenashley.com

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Robert Nisbet: Mermaid

Two decorators. Both of them drink,
play cricket locally. Today, re-painting
the large oak sign outside the Mermaid Inn.
 
She reaches them, a little before noon,
holiday-clad, a pretty girl, whose legs
send their senses staggering with joy.
 
Their thoughts click. She’s been on the box.
Their memories sift like buzz-saws
through their culture’s schedules.
An early-evening sitcom. Barmaid. Sophie.
Warm heart and cleavage. 
 
The smiles they force lie hushed
upon their faces, as she moves,
in her aura, through to the bar.
 
She says ‘Hi’.
 
They return now to their task, in turn
flick brush strokes meaningfully
on their slippery girl’s historic smile,
her stylized breasts, her tail.

.
Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. His short stories appear in his collection Downtrain (Parthian, 2004) and in Story II (Parthian, 2014), his poems in Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011

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Michael Thomas: many mansions

the shepherdess
on the mantel
looks up to heaven

thinks about 
the promise of a house
its many mansions

wonders if
there’s a mansion for her
at least a room

once her soul
sheds her brass body
with a quicksilver tear

and if in fact
she will like sitting
fingers threaded

in boxy air
imagining others
pent adjacently

decorously walled
folded on themselves
stainless vesture

given that the life
for which she was made
was all about hills

bushes black with rain
sopping tresses
ewes pinned in thorn

and sky
lots of sky
and never a room

save the farmer’s
of an evening
ale and repletion

candle-fire
miles away
over bony grass

from where she dealt
with blood
with real lambs dying

.
Michael Thomas’s latest novel is Pilgrims at the White Horizon. His recent poetry collections include Batman’s Hill, South Staffs and The Girl from Midfoxfields. A new collection, Come to Pass, is forthcoming in 2014. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Antioch Review, Critical Survey, The London Magazine and the TLS. He is currently working on Nowherian, the memoirs of Grenadian traveller, Henderson Bray .
www.michaelwthomas.co.uk

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Kerrin P Sharpe: answering the call

i)  the working drawings

the drawings 
move from
the tracing house

to work
the great
bellows of the

cathedral so
the geometry 
of the air

stays holy
so the
plans of small

fish in 
this upturned 
boat become prayer 

ii) why talk to the bellows boy when you can speak to the blacksmith

now my tongue is iron
all 27 bones in my hands
are quick-tempered birds

here in the forge of the forest
it takes 3 days to read the paper

I would rather speak Polish
than sign the sad hymns of fire

when I saddle my carthorse
my cold chisels and hammers
close their dark wings

only church bells nod to me

iii) last supper in Venice

on the dome of St Mark’s
the air is so thin
pigeons are breathless

my wings are rungs of medals
pinned to my singlet

I fall with the rhythm of rowing
into long narrow light
bridges sigh like single oars

no one expects me alive
except my gondola 

and the jacket
from my army days
I call salvation

iv) between the feet of angels

between the feet of angels
air is always
the colour of holiness

     1 part sand
     2 parts fern
     And beechwood

it’s not easy
to coax a river
into a spine of windows

and often after the dance
between lead and light
our hats are the stars

you point at

.
Kerrin P. Sharpe’s first book three days in a wishing well was published by VUP in 2012. Her work appeared in Oxford Poets 13 (Carcanet). Another book, there’s a medical name for this is forthcoming from VUP in August 2014.

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