*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Mukul Dahal *Frances Smith *Jan Hutchison *Murray Bodo *Geoffrey Heptonstall *Anthony Wilson
*Maggie Butt *Ian C Smith *Hugh Underhill *Emma Neale *Michael Lee Johnson *Shadwell Smith
*Phil Wood *John Forth *Neil Curry *Malcolm Carson *Angela Kirby *June Hall *Emma Lee
*Jo Roach *Laura McKee *Michael McCarthy *Rodney Wood *David Flynn
*Bethany W Pope *Stephen Giles *Ruth Bidgood

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be found at LG new poetry Winter 2014-5

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

labrador straitEditor’s Introduction

Several poems in the early part of this winter issue involve chance meetings in unlikely places – Ian C Smith’s Port Aux Basques, for instance. A number of others involve show business references: Shadwell Smith describes an encounter with Tony Hancock; Angela Kirby conjures up the eccentric dance routines of Wilson, Keppel & Betty. The reminiscent and slightly melancholy tone of these pieces is picked up by later poems dealing with memories that slip away or turn into something puzzling and with no prospect of explanation.

hancock missing pagePerhaps this all sounds rather sombre for a pre-Christmas posting. But it is what the poetic zeitgeist seems to have yielded (assuming London Grip’s contributors are in tune with any zeitgeist).

Wilson Keppel BettyWe are of course indebted to our contributors for providing the magazine with any content at all. Indeed they have provided enough content to make this the biggest edition of LGNP so far. And we are similarly grateful to our readers for providing a reason for the content to exist. We send herewith, to readers and writers alike, our best wishes for Christmas and for the New Year.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
http://mikeb-b.blogspot.com/

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Mukul Dahal: The window

The window of my room is open.
It won’t close.

The grass down the field opens it;
I see its slender hands fingering the latch

The brook stretches its hands to open the window;
I see its liquid hands curving as they pull

Wet pebbles from the sand bed
scatter in the middle of the floor.

They draw me to them
and I begin to play.

They push the corner of the shelves
to make space for themselves.

The mango tree standing on the humped soil
of the field opens the window.

A bluster shakes its branches
causing leaves to fall on the floor.

These leaves carry the smell of a distant past.
I play with them.

From the open window I see the horizon
hanging low beyond the rice mill.

The mill’s intermittent noise 
mixes with damaha and dhols.

Grandmother’s voice comes alive
with echoes of them.

The clothes she hung on the wash line
flutter in the backyard.

However much I strive to close,

the window remains open.

 

Mukul Dahal is from Nepal and is living and studying in Scotland

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Jan Hutchison: Second-Hand Dress and little Emma

so the child makes a wish
turn turn  the mother commands
the dress fills with air
threads tense for the touch of a hand

where will Emma go?

she could take a step widdershins
with a down-draught of wind
inside a braided pocket

clasp
the round-hipped stone loafing in the lining
the world smiles at Emma
the dress dips its hem

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Jan Hutchison: Hermit

to whom shall I confide
but you, old man,
waking in a wicker chair

you squint
in an eggcup
of sun
listen to a hammer
clang
monotones

when you are stronger
I'll take you to a beach where trees
grow thicker trunks in winter

and crabs
with soft bellies
edge back-
wards
into borrowed 
shells

 

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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Murray Bodo: While Visiting the Home of Henry James in Rye

My dog, Sally, the Springer 
Spaniel of my childhood, just
bounded down the street outside
Lamb House where I’m reading 
Denise Levertov, waiting
for Henry James to open
the door, the Master of whom 
Levertov writes

.                                  Remember
James rehearsing
over and over his theme, the loss
of innocence and the attainment
(note by separate note sounding its tone
until by accretion a chord resounds) of somber
understanding

like my dog Sally appearing
so many years after my
loss of innocence and me
seeing her and finally
 understanding, not somberly
but with a rueful smile that
things recur and we can bless
what we dismissed like the
childhood dog we outgrew

or in my case “gave up” for
a pseudo-God who disappeared 
years later so that I want to 
run after someone else’s dog, 
embrace her, and say I’m sorry 

I did not understand, lost
my innocence to a false 
repressive religion that
frowned on petting and cuddling
animals I now embrace to
re-find the innocent God 
of my childhood.  

.                                        Gentle Sally,
hear my prayer, as now I enter 
James’s dining room and walk 
out into the sunlit garden 

where I bury you at last in 
the south west corner of
James’s garden at Lamb House
where the Master buried his own 
dogs and where these elegiac 
lines try to render the tone of
the spreading Mulberry tree
the dog like Sally, and me

 

Note: The quote from Denise Levertov is from “For Those Whom the Gods Love Less” in Sands of the Well (New Directions Publishing, 1996), p. 96.
.
Murray Bodo is a Franciscan Priest. His latest book is Francis and Jesus, 2013. His most recent book of poems is Something Like Jasmine, 2012. In January 2015 Franciscan Media will release his, Enter Assisi: An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality. Fr. Murray resides in inner-city Cincinnati, Ohio, and spends two months of the year in Rome and Assisi, Italy, as a staff member of “Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs.”

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Geoffrey Heptonstall: A Feather Fell Down From Heaven

Of Johnson and Boswell

It was a clumsy lump of a hand.
The words spoken were but half-heard
In the stumbling confusion.
‘I am pleased by your countenance.’
A sentiment not aloud, but by gesture.

The click-clack of carriage wheels,
And an urban echo of horses.
Uncertain feet felt the London stones.
This was not his native pavement,
Different in an indefinite way.

In the street the cockatoo screech
Was the chancers’ way of speaking.
His preference was for a purer diction,
Of constructs in the plain and sturdy style,
As with the Doctor’s imperative tongue

The voice was no other for sure:
The pounding of words on an island shore.
Poets brought their rhymes to the coffee house.
All was amassed for the lexicon
Of fabulous places hitherto unknown.

Boswell’s eye was taken with a serving maid.
Silk-stockinged, she might have graced the stage.
Naked, she would sail in his dreams.
His pleasures in life were varied.
The streets were shadowed at all times. 

When a feather fell down from Heaven.
The sound of the city was stilled.
A cloud passed over the sun.
‘Sir,’ said the Doctor, ‘there will be a storm.’
And soon it came. Then it was dark. 

In the calm that followed they walked,
Determined on their course for ever,
A fellowship of spirit surpassing
Mere circumstance of self.
‘Your hand, sir. I have a liking for you.’

 

Geoffrey Heptonstall is primarily a writer, but has combined writing with lecturing, mentoring and performing. He has been a columnist for Open Democracy since 2013 and a poetry reviewer for The London Magazine since 2011. He was a contributing writer at Contemporary Review 1992-2002 and has written other essays and reviews for Cerise Press, TLS etc.

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Anthony Wilson: The Four of Us

for my mother and father

We are standing by the willow
waiting for the camera to click.
We are all in Sunday best,
though it is a Saturday, trying
not to shiver. It is early May.
There’s time enough to argue
who stands where and even
for a joke-shot. Martin took
an hour to choose his tie, another
two to find it. There is banter
about shoulder pads. We’ve chosen
the frame and the restaurant,
thinking less about posterity
than finding things which fit
and are clean at the exact moment
in history we need to smile together
spontaneously. Each of us has hair.

From three gardens away
a lawnmower begins its drone
carving stripes we’ll never see.
A woodpigeon clatters above us.
The great time we’re having
(or had) is not what’s really there.
Beyond the silent tripod we have
no idea what lies ahead of us –
futures of wild promise,
snapshots of our own children
under this very willow.
We cannot grasp what we have
been given, or can give back,
except we have chosen to stand
here in close proximity (but not touching),

in pale shirts hoping we will time
our smiles to necessary perfection.
What will stay unspoken
is what we’ve lost by being here,
those dubious platforms and trysts
we are in the end safer for missing.

The surface of the willow stirs a little
as we wait for Rich to skip
back into line and appear unhurried.
(There is not a time we do not recall
its presence: in summer a miniature  
ballroom, in winter a skeleton).
A magpie, then the Moor Park train.
Then silence. Then a wheezing
and its after-hiss. We become
the record of an adventure
which began far from here with a look
which kept looking, liking what it saw.

 

Anthony Wilson is a poet, blogger and lecturer. His most recent books are Riddance (Worple, 2012) and Love for Now (Impress Books, 2012), a memoir of cancer. He lives and works in Exeter. He can be found online at www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com

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Maggie Butt: Travelling Backwards

Low sun rakes the fields, highlights 
furrows of earth opened to frost;
hedges neatly trimmed, crouched 
low in preparation for winter;
trees, losing leaves, readying
themselves to become sculptures.

I've always booked forward-facing, 
eager for the outskirts of new towns, 
for lakes flung with clouds, for marching
windmills, a white horse guarding a hill.

But now, hurtling towards winter
and twilight, with the passing 
farms hereandgone hereandgone 
I reserve backward-facing –
watch the open country of the past
spread itself far as the eye can see. 

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Maggie Butt: Oakfield Road

I faithfully repeated it, then learned to spell
i before e, the road I’d be returned to
if ever I was lost, where everything 
would be all right and in its place:
each tile on the black-and-white
star-checkered path; the velvet density
of moss in clinker-built garden walls;
grape hyacinths edging the lawn with blue;
at six-o-clock the click of the gate latch
dad home from work, tea on the table,
i always before e.

 

Maggie Butt is a London poet, whose four poetry collections include the sumptuously illustrated Sancti Clandestini – Undercover Saints and the poignant first world-war history Ally Pally Prison Camp which interweaves her poetry with photographs, paintings, and extracts from memoirs and letters written by the prisoners.  Website:www.maggiebutt.co.uk

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Ian C Smith: Port aux Basques

The Labrador Straits a biroed circle on a map,
the sodden packs against their legs
remind him of fed-up children,
or faithful dogs in quayside rain.
Cars, Winnebagos, trucks, swish past
while weather envelops, invades them.
He thinks of primitive people exposed,
a painting by Turner, The Shipping News,
their flimsy tent - home – in his pack,
its Just Married in ghostly lipstick,
the foghorn call to the wishes in his heart
all through the night across Cabot Strait.
Drivers stare but none stop.

Their ferry’s vehicle bay nearly emptied,
hopes of a ride leaving with the gulls,
nagged by the itch of constant concern,
he jokes like a doomed movie character
watching a massive Canada Post truck slow
then exhale to a streaming stop beside them.

Drowned rats, their saviour says.
They agree after the long night awash on deck,
their wet smell crowding his high warm refuge.
He can take them halfway up the island.
They celebrate by succumbing to sleep.
This postman, more guardian angel than saviour,
multiple wheels humming a hymn,
watches over them, bearing news from far-off places.

In her office now, fifty miles from his isolation
where, when he wakes he wants to dream again,
is she the person she intended to become?
Or was when the boat breasted in from the fog?
Do her memories coalesce with his?
He considers the catalogue of coastal wrecks,
knows beauty exists in submerged things,
thinks of his increasing memory fade-outs
as foghorn echoes, or film scenes ending,
walks with a painful arthritic gait
as if soaked and frozen long ago,
the raw joy folded beneath his ribcage
so deep it could last a thousand years. 

 

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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Hugh Underhill: The Shadow Of History

From Joseph Roth’s Radetskymarsch, loosely adapted

As he set foot in the café he appeared to them venerable 
and they shrank from addressing him with the old intimacies.
All who saw him that evening were reminded of a ghost
a ghost from the old times and the old Hapsburg monarchy:

the shadow of history fell upon their congenial tables
and next day on their desks in the court ministries.
From office to office he went, from floor to floor 
under lightwells and through cross corridors
and back to the ground floor, met by surly officials
an instant change of address when he revealed his rank

the formalities however were inveterate, near impenetrable
and shadows of history are after all only shadows

the Herr Baron was nevertheless indefatigable: the Kaiser alone 
could redeem the honour of his family name and its nobility 
and at length the Privataudienz was granted
ten times in front of the mirror he checked his full-dress uniform 
adjusted the wings of his white cravat
polished yet again his golden buttons 
and the golden handle of his sword 
brushed his shoes and his coat-tails
combed his side-whiskers

it was an incomparable morning
he chose to walk up the straight as an arrow avenue 
to the Schönbrunner Schloss, the morning birds rejoiced 
the swooning perfume of  lilac and jasmine engrossed him 

and when he was finally admitted to the sovereign presence
the Kaiser’s memory even at his great age was stirred
his indebtedness to this family whose name must be redeemed 

But soon after, this shadow of history was overshadowed by history
implacably furnishing ghosts and more ghosts
his son for whom he had striven among them
and the house of imperial majesty itself. 

 

Now retired, Hugh Underhill has taught at universities in Hong Kong and Australia and is author of five collections of poetry, critical books and articles, and a collection of stories. Recent publications are The Shape of Days (Shoestring Press, 2013) and Between Two Worlds: A Survey of Writing in Britain and Ireland 1900-1914 (Greenwich Exchange, 2014).

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Emma Neale: My Grow Soft World

Search for counter-attack
Replace with hold
Search for attack
Replace with attach
Search for murdered
Replace with heard
Search for killed
Replace with serenaded
Search for ambushed
Replace with invited
Search for missile launchers
Replace with oh red silk fans
Search for front line
Replace with lamp-lit threshold
Search for grenades
Replace with iris bulbs
Search for smart bombs
Replace with crayoned paper folded into lilies, swans
Search for generals
Replace with farmers, orchardists, gardeners, mechanics, doctors, veterinarians, 
school-teachers, artists, painters, house-keepers, marine biologists, zoologists, 
nurses, musicians
Search for combatants
Replace with counselors, conductors, bus drivers, ecologists, train drivers, sailors, 
fire-fighters, ambulance drivers, historians, solar engineers, designers, 
seamstresses, artisan well drillers, builders

Search for profits
Replace with prophets
Save as
New World.doc

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Emma Neale: The Lost Letters

All over the country 
women write fantasy dear john letters to the family:

dear john and john 
I can’t stand the food thrown on the floor 
and the screaming fits any more
I can’t stand the fights over the little things
slippers, socks, toothpaste and DVDs
I can’t stand the ransom demands:
DrAw yoU MoTorbikeS a paRticuLar wAy 
oR therE wilL be sPit and Kick tiLl bEdtiMe
nor the way you take what we call tenderness 
and fling it back as if sorcery turns it to dirt,
the way anger sits like a cup of hot tears 
on the edge of the ribs’ shelf
the way the nerves that run the house’s skin
turn tighter and tighter like cello strings 
about to fly apart into small cat o’ nine tails 

They write them, rewrite them, 
delete and deny them, 
because that’s what adults must do:
civilisation’s bewildered conscripts;
soldiers against 
the truth they don’t tell you 
is that sometimes
even love 
wears 
thin
sometimes the mind’s silks rip
and an animal clambers out.

 

Emma Neale lived in London for eight years during the 1990s but is now based in Dunedin, New Zealand. She’s had five novels and four collections published in her home country, and her poems and extracts from her novels have been published in journals in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and in New Zealand. See also http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/nealemma.html)

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Michael Lee Johnson: If You Find No Poem

If you find
no poem on
your doorstep
in the morning,
no paper, no knock on your door,
your life poorly edited
but no broken dashes
or injured meter –

 
if you do not wear white
satin dresses late in life
embroidered with violet
flowers on the collar;
nor do you have
burials daily
across main street –

 
if no one whispers
in your ear, Emily Dickinson –

 
you feel alone –
but not reclusive –
the sand child
still sleeping in your eyes –
wiping your tears away –

 
if you find
no poem on
your doorstep –
you know
you are not from New England.

 

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era: now known as the Illinois poet, from Itasca, IL. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, photographer who experiments with poetography (blending poetry with photography) who has been published in many small press magazines. He edits 8 poetry sites. He is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom and several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises , Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.

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Shadwell Smith: The Missing Page

We met beyond your high tide,
silver bristled London lad.
Never in my wildest pint
did I dream the limelight voices
that pressed against us now 
drinks in hand, sharing time.
 
You, one of the champions
of that brilliant crowd
from radio days and monochrome austerity.
Writing for the demob happy
throwing them a catchphrase
to chew on in tomorrow’s canteen.
 
Talking easily
about Sid and Tony
and where it all went wrong.
I tell you my grandad
was Marty Feldman’s milkman
as a fair exchange
 
Then in walks Hancock.
All black hat and Astrakhan collar.
He's holding a finished script.
I’ve just left Alan.
It’s going to be alright Ray.
I’ve found the missing page.

 

Tony Hancock’s ‘Missing Page’ episode is described at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0595688/
The scriptwriters were Alan Simpson & Ray Galton. The episode itself can be watched at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPDH3t1L37

Shadwell Smith is a teacher by day and a poet by night. His poems have previously appeared in Snakeskin, Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Prole and Message in a Bottle.

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Neil Curry: Panem et Circenses

Rain,
incessant rain,
has gluttoned 
on the orange segments
of the mini Ferris Wheel,

and since the lamentable 
and untimely demise
of Portly,
the only lady
hippopotamus 

known to have been capable
of a forward roll, 
takings have
inevitably
fallen badly.

Our pink 
pantechnicon
has been laid up
in a lay-by
overnight;
 
while Mutt and Jeff,
the dwarf deaf-mutes,
we had no option
but to leave behind
in their seafront digs

blithely
singing along
to Irish Audrey’s
asthmatic pianola.

 

Neil Curry’s new collection Some Letters Never Sent was published earlier this year by Enitharmon Press. His study of the 18th Century poet William Cowper will be published shortly by Greenwich Exchange.

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Malcolm Carson: Modus Operandi

A sudden clatter
from the wings
an aria of terror
as feathers fly.
Like an opera roof 
wings vault
over its kill
defying others’ 
jealous gaze. 
A pizzicato of feeding
beyond the roses.
In the morning
a circle of quills
on the sequinned lawn
wet black fluff
emptied of song.

 

Malcolm Carson has had two full collections out from Shoestring Press, Breccia and Rangi Changi, and the recent pamphlet, Cleethorpes Comes to Paris. His website: www.malcolmcarson.co.uk

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Angela Kirby: A Song, A Smile, A Silly Walk

The beautiful Barlow brothers and me, 
we’re stuck in this long queue which curls
its trail of blue smoke round the Chelsea Palace 
in the Kings Road. Edward kisses me, hums
ain’t she sweet, the wind flips up the skirt
I’ve made, a circle of scarlet felt, its three
stiff petticoats going snap, crackle, pop.
Robin holds his umbrella over us, then 
we’re in and cheering all the Openers –
Lovely Lola (the Latin Nightingale), the Two
Pirates, five trapezists, a performing dog –

but at last it’s the Spesh we’ve come for,
the orchestra lumbers into Luigini’s 
‘Egyptian Ballet', dee-dum, de dum, diddle
diddle dum  as a couple of lanky men  
with drooping bootlace moustaches lope on 
in silly tunics, chucking sand over the stage. 
Betty sashays to join them, shaking tassels, 
fringes, sequins; a glittering high octane siren,
undulating her way through ‘Cleopatra's
 Nightmare' and ‘The Seven Veils’. As 
the last veil slips off, the temperature 
soars, we’re swimming in heat, the Circle 
comes to a rolling boil, erupts with whistles  
and catcalls, now Wilson and Keppel slope 
into the Sand Dance, slinking to and fro 
across the rasping sand, mad as hatters, 
and we’re on our feet, heads popping,
 hands poked out flat before us, yelling 
along at the top of our voices, de-dum,
dee-um, diddle diddle dum ... the rest 
of the bill is a blur, and all at once it's over,

spot lights dim, house lights come up, 
cleaners sweep away fag ends, beer cans, 
chip wrappers. George Robey is driven 
off with tonight’s smiling partner, The 
Lovely Elsie Randolph, Miss Patty Pastrami 
smuggles her Performing Poodle onto
a night bus, heading for her claggy digs 
in Balham, the Five Flying Fortinos scarper
the letti, Robin, Edward and me prance
home together like a trio of drunken chimps, 
sand-dancing over the streets and pavements,
dee-dum, dee-dum, diddle diddle dum,
and I’m in love with both of them.

Edward and Robin married suitable girls 
long ago, moths got the scarlet skirt
and I don’t dance down pavements any more
but on YouTube, George Robey twirls 
his cane, the Two Pirates  protest Oh no 
there isn’t, Wilson, Keppel and Betty caper 
across the sand and someone is singing 
a little of what yer fancy does yer good.

 

Spesh – speciality act. scarper the letti – leave without paying the landlady

An early glimpse of Wilson, Keppel & Betty’s long-running act is at
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/wilson-keppel-and-betty-from-london-clubs-and

Angela Kirby was born in rural Lancashire in 1932 and now lives in London. Apart from bringing up five children, she is the author of five books on cooking and gardening and has an M.A. and D.Phil in Creative Writing from Sussex University. Her poems are widely published and have been read on BBC Radio and Television. In 1996 and 2001 she was the B.B.C.’s Wildlife Poet of the Year. Much of her work is translated into Romanian. Shoestring Press published her three collections ,Mr. Irresistible, 2005, Dirty Work, 2008, A Scent of Winter, 2013. A fourth collection is due soon.
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June Hall: Cane

For my estranged father in Australia on his 90th birthday

I sent it to you on a wing and a prayer, 
a Fred Astaire-style shiny black cane, 
its knob and tip embossed in sterling silver.
Why, even before I shipped it, did I use
the description, elegant, awakening fantasies
of bright lights and an independent air?

We met only once.  This gift was a mistake.  
It rapped loudly at the ever-open door of 
your vanity – an old rhythm of clicks and twirls, 

whirls and taps, of women and affairs, the secret 
and the debonair.  Although the urge grows 
stronger to squash your charms, name the harm 

you’ve caused, your fanfare of effects is strangely
seductive, even at my age.  But something, somehow
has changed the shape of things between us.

Today a new routine is playing: you 
are hiding in your bed, cane forgotten in the cupboard.  
No props can help you now.

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***

June Hall: The When Of Tears

No tears by request.  Don’t make a display:
The code, though unspoken, is clear, I soon learn
as I watch your new coffin sliding away.

You’ve shrunk to a nothing, skin a sick grey,
and sunk beyond pain as bones wait to burn.
No tears by request.  Don’t make a display.

The bad jokes you love die with you today.
I’d laugh at them all if you’d only return
but I’m watching your coffin sliding away.

Long shadows whisper of final decay –
you’ll leave me two kids, a house and an urn.
No tears by request.  Don’t make a display.

Will ash that I fork round our roses convey,
I’m new to my grief with years left to yearn
as I’m watching your coffin sliding away.

Wait – it’s all change!  You’ll live, they now say.
I can’t stop the shakes at this sudden u-turn.
Though no coffin slides, and I’m still on display,
tears stream, unrequested.  You wipe them away.

 

June Hall lives in Bath after a rewarding London career in publishing and literary agenting. She has published two collections with Belgrave Press: The Now of Snow (2004) and Bowing to Winter (2010), and is at work on a third. With co-editor, R V Bailey, she is just launching a classic anthology of poetry by 197 contemporary poets: The Book of Love and Loss (Belgrave Press , 2014).

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***

Emma Lee: Where were you?

Everyone asks when something significant happens.
When a murder occurred 
I was asleep.
When a rock star died 
I was walking home.
When a terrorist attack happened	
I was at work.
When a president was assassinated	
I wasn’t born.
I still feel the tremors of loss, 
see the mounds of flowers on the news,
the ‘I lit a candle’ status updates, 
like a dress rehearsal for grief.

When you died, 
I knew exactly where I was, 
but no one asked.
And the dress rehearsals 
were no rehearsal at all.

 

Emma Lee has published two poetry collections, Mimicking a Snowdrop (Thynks Press), Yellow Torchlight and the Blues (Original Plus) and has a third, Ghosts in the Desert forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2015. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.comand is a blogger-reviewer for Simon and Schuster. She also reviews for The Journal, Elsewhere and London Grip magazines

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***

Jo Roach: The Gift

Until your treatment is over
I’ll build you a walled garden.

Walls of mellow brick
slow with history and wise
holding and giving the sun’s warmth,
honeysuckle and jasmine covered.

Within the walls, pillows of lavender
for your heart’s ease,
an apple tree hung with feeders 
for the robin, the comedy of blue tits,
a visit from a solitary wren.

Your garden will be planted with foxgloves 
for the generous to-ing and fro-ing of bees. 
I’ll soak cherries in brandy
press them into marzipan
and cover them in dark chocolate.

I’ll banish the small hours of the night
and the sleeplessness that you dread.

 

Jo Roach who was born and brought up in London draws on her family stories, real and imagined, to write about place, history, disability, love and loss.

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***

Laura McKee: Dear Mum

I'm writing this in telepathic shorthand
if you stick it in google translate

maybe it'll be something
you can get something back from

Remember your notepads of enigma
curls and strokes

you pored over of an evening
whenever a swirly code remained

swirly and coded
I might think of the right word

fill in the blankety blank
and you'd say that's it

Now I can't tell
if all my words to you are blanks

if the odd one unswirls itself
inside your stroked blank head

you nod
that's it

 

Laura McKee started writing poetry a few years ago, by mistake. Her poems have appeared in various journals and online zines, including, Other Poetry, Aireings, Obsessed With Pipework, Snakeskin, Mouse Tales Press, Teesside Artists Journal, Gloom Cupboard, York Mix, Peeking Cat, Nutshells and Nuggets, Fake Poems.

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***

Michael McCarthy: Kevin Street

I grew up in Kevin Street. Did I tell you that?
Close to Guinness’s Brewery. My father worked
at Guinness’s, Everybody in Kevin Street worked 
at Guinness’s, if they worked at all. The nuns prepared
us for First Communion. We learned our Catechism: 
Who made the World? God made the world. 
The nuns gave us silver mints to practise with.
I always liked the taste of the silver mints,
Holy Communion was never as nice after.
I wore a blue suit and short trousers.
Everybody in our street worked at Guinness’s
if they worked at all. Kevin Street, did I tell you?

The coopers were held in the very highest regard. 
If somebody was a cooper there was no more to be said. 
It was handed down from father to son. They didn’t use 
tape or measure, it was all gauged with the naked eye. 
The oak was left to season for two years, then prepared 
and steamed to get the right curve on the stave, so that
they’d lock into each other.  They burned wood shavings 
to char the insides and seal the wood. Then the metal hoops.
Thirty two gallons to the barrel. The coopers were held 
in the highest regard. The nuns gave us silver mints.
Holy Communion after the mints was never as nice.
Did I tell you I grew up in Kevin Street. 

 

Michael Mc Carthy is an Irish born poet living in the U.K. He has been a winner of The Patrick Kavanagh Award and his most recent collection, At the Races, was overall winner of The Poetry Business Competition judged by Michael Longley. This poem is part of a book-length response to a Writing Residency with Stroke and Dementia patients at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin. A new collection The Healing Station is due from The Poetry Business in 2015.

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***

Rodney Wood: Michel – The Nature Of Love

that bum shaped like a bell
                                            muscles polished like a reconditioned engine
it was an affair of the heart with
                                             that bum shaped like a bell
it was an affair of the heart with
                                              muscles polished like a reconditioned engine 

let's take a holiday together
                                              I want to enjoy your excess flesh
the subtle approach was over her head so he said
                                               let's take a holiday together 
the subtle approach was over her head so he said
                                               I want to enjoy your excess flesh

so he booked the wedding
                                               and the future gleamed
on returning it was action time
                                               so he booked the wedding
on returning it was action time
                                                and the future gleamed

he didn't oil her moving parts
                                                and he never took his dentures out
nothing happened
                                                he didn't oil her moving parts 
nothing happened
                                                and he never took his dentures out

 

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough. He was shortlisted in last year’s Poetry School Pamphlet Competition. His poems have been published in over 20 magazines this year. He is currently writing the first draft of a novel.

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***

David Flynn: Woman in a Black Dress

She was so tall.  She was so fast.  She walked past me.
Like an atom.  Like a sub-atomic particle.  Like a soul.
She didn't look at me.  She didn't turn to me.  Black dress.
Up to her crotch.  And say.  Who are you? 
Would you like?  Will you take? 
She didn't speak.  In a voice.  That licked my face. 
That dripped transmission fluid. 
That flew.  Like a trap in trap shooting.  
She just walked.  Past me.

I think I see her back.  I think I see her neck.  
Through the door.  With the white frame.
I think she is sitting.  In a black chair.  In a black dress. 
That reveals.  That scoops.  That contrasts with.  
Her back muscles.  I think she is reading.

I think she is eating.  Maybe crying maybe bored.  
Maybe:  thinking of me.  

I missed my chance.  When she passed. 
Like a blur.  Like a wind.  Like history. 
I sit thinking.  In the arms of.  In the cushions of.  
A green chair.

She was my dream.  The dress my dream.  The skin that shined.
My dream.  I sit dreaming.

 

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 fifty. Among the eight writing residencies he has been awarded are five at the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, NM, and stays in Ireland and Israel. He spent a year in Japan as a member of the Japan Exchange and Teaching program, and recently won the Kintetsu Essay Award. He lives in Nashville, TN, and for three years was president of the Music City Blues Society. He is married and has one daughter. 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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***

Bethany W Pope: Hanging, Among the Oranges

I never thought I’d write this down. Understand,
Not only was I nine years old, limited by context –
Every other kid seemed happy, had a 
Variety of stability – but all 
Early life gave me was gnawing anxiety. The crack
Resulted from my body landing on a
Thin branch. My failed noose pulled tight, my pulse a throb
Haunting my skull. I don’t know why I tried; I was so
Overwhelmed by an unnameable fear. I tell you,
Understand, so you will learn how not to judge that
Girl who tried to die among the orange blossoms, that
Hard-eyed kid who could not tie a hangman’s knot, so turned with
The breeze among the branches until her father, I
Insist you note, cut her down with a knife, with his eyes.

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***

Bethany W Pope: My Mother, Masking

I have seen my mother's face, unhidden
in pain. Her skin hangs from fine model's bones
like raw pizza dough stapled to a twig.
She is grotesque in agony, but then
we all are. It is impossible to
suffer beautifully. I have seen her,
made mindless by the burning brand of nerve-
death, strip the flesh from her legs with her nails,
ruining her manicure. I have seen
her on Sunday morning, getting ready
for church; watched her haul her body through the
shower, take an hour to brush her blond hair. 
Then a light rises in her: she tightens
her skin with her will. She smiles; sings lark-like.

 

Bethany W Pope is an award winning author of the LBA, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards, the Cinnamon Press Novel competition, and the Ink, Sweat and Tears poetry commission and she was commended for the Poetry London competition. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program. She is Assistant Editor at Epignois Quarterly. She has published three poetry collections; A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012), Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), and The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014). Her third full collection Undisturbed Circles is due from Lapwing Press later this year, and her fourth, Persephone in the Underworld, has been accepted by Rufus Books for release in 2016. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including: Anon; Envoi; Poetry London; New Welsh Review; Poetry Review Salzburg; Magma; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Acumen;, The Lampeter Review and Planet. and the anthologies: The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear), Gothic Anthology (Parthian Books), and Raving Beauties (Bloodaxe Books).

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***

Stephen Giles: Bridleway

The girls out Sunday-morning
riding found her beneath a hedge.
It was early enough, and perhaps
they’d been the first to pass this way.

She looked, they said, like any
other TV glimpse, except that she
was real, and so were they.
A working girl, we heard, picked 

up in the city, then dumped far
out here. Not a face to quickly report
missing; nor the sort to turn good 
locals early from their beds,  

in scruffy clothes, to tramp wet ditches 
and scrape with homemade sticks
the moss from prickling hedgerows. 
Neither rider mistook her for sleeping, 

like you’ll sometimes hear folk say: 
She looked just like she was resting. 
No. Dead, they said. No doubt.
That much had hit them right away.

 

Stephen Giles was born in east Yorkshire and now lives in the east Midlands. He has been shortlisted for several poetry awards including the Virginia Warbey and the Plough, and been runner-up for the Troubadour, Ware Festival, and recently the Wirral Festival prizes.

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***

Ruth Bidgood: Over the Downs

‘O who will o’er the downs with me?’
sang my bachelor uncle (not very tunefully),
‘O who will with me ride?’
		That year
my parents had taken him on holiday.
From the gate of our rented house he’d gaze
over the long rise and fall of downland
to a tiny distant road that climbed
and vanished.
                         He’s long dead now, leaving
a smear of sadness, snatch of song (off-key)
and an oddly haunting image in my mind
of sun’s white gleam before the road
dipped past the hilltop, heading out unseen
for undiscovered country.

 

Ruth Bidgood lives in mid-Wales. Her collection Time Being (Seren, 2009) won the Roland Mathias Award 2011. Her most recent one is Above the Forests (Cinnamon Press, 2012). It was jointly launched with Matthew Jarvis’s Ruth Bidgood (UWP, 2012).

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***

Frances Smith: Cold

It’s a cold, cold night, there is no snow
only fragile, brittle ice cracked. No support
for blades of steel to spin and  twirl in
delightful leaps of joy. No triple toe loops;
just brittle ice, cracked.

 

After 30 years studying and working with the healing arts as a holistic health & beauty therapist, Frances Smith-Williams identifies common emotional links between physical ailments and healing. In her poetry and non fiction she conveys these along with an appreciation for the miracle of the human body. She has two books available on Amazon – Healing Poems for Positive Love and Book of Life –and is a regular reader at spoken word events

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***

Phil Wood: Portents

This morning the portents are ovular.
Her spoon cracks the crown
with a deft tap like Debussy
orchestrating the life of possibilities
over a freckled sea; as light flickers
her painted nails begin to peel the shell,
an act that's delicate and clinical:
the albumen is pure, an oval of white.
Her palette knife slices the top off
and yolk spills towards the rim
with a slow promise quickening
to stains and stickiness,
a Hodgkin splodge of illumination
spreading over the frame
papering walls with a summer's day.

 

Phil Wood works in a statistics office. Enjoys working with numbers and words. Previously published work can be found in various online publications: The Centrifugal Eye, Message in a Bottle, Streetcake Magazine, London Grip, The Open Mouse, Sein und Werden, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Recusant.

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***

John Forth: Charlie Cairoli’s Cockatoo

There’s only one Neil Baldwin – From the film ‘Marvellous’ by Peter Bowker

It never said Charlie’s a friend of mine
as I might, knowing him from circus days,
and it didn’t mope or brood as some do – 
but it did have an injured foot which was 
why it had to be retired from the ring.

It didn’t mind the new aviary or waiting 
until I was on hand to see to its needs
and it never behaved like one with secrets
beyond the range of ordinary birds.

But it sang Enjoy yourself – it’s later 
than you think over and over again 
as if it might have been part of the act,
often until the covers went on and I began
to wonder why it was passed to me.

 

John Forth was born in Bethnal Green and has four previous poetry collections. Low Maintenance: Selected & New Poems is due next year from Rockingham. This is but one of his five lavishly illustrated bird poems.

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