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This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Caroline Natzler *Paul McLoughlin *Yvonne Green *Sally Long *David Cooke *Chris Hardy
*Thomas Ovans *Neil Fulwood *John Forth *Carolyn Yates *Deborah Mason *Marilyn Hammick
*Sofia Amina *Elizabeth Smither *Christopher Mulrooney *Jean Atkin *Robert Nisbet *Fiona Sinclair
*Keith Nunes *Steve Komarnyckyj *Robert Ferns

Onto-all-golfersCopyright of all poems remains with the contributors

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A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry
can be obtained at LG new poetry Spring 2015

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Please send submissions to poetry@londongrip.co.uk,
enclosing no more than three poems
(in the message body or as a single attachment)
together with a brief, 2-3 line, biography

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Editor’s introduction 

This spring posting begins (a little late, perhaps) by acknowledging the turning of another year and then goes on to embrace a quite diverse range of themes. A small clutch of poems about clothing – alluded to by our main cover picture – exists alongside couple of light romantic interludes and some darker reflections on abuses of power. But the subjects to which contributors in this issue have turned most frequently are the sea and mermaidseafaring. Readers will find themselves on ships, piers and beaches; and as well as meeting sailors and holidaymakers, they can expect to run into more exotic  and elusive aquatic creatures…

We trust that all these journeys and encounters will prove enjoyable.

Hardly a week goes by without our Facebook communications department becoming aware of yet another on-line poetry magazine. While such a multiplying of poetry outlets is on the whole to be welcomed, it is also forces the editorial staff of London Grip New Poetry to keep on its collective toes – or else our readers and contributors may migrate elsewhere. In light of which, we draw attention to the fact that we have made slight changes of layout in the printable version of the magazine. We shall be grateful for any comments on this, or any other aspect of production or content..

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

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

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Caroline Natzler: The old year and the new

I hold life close to my chest
all that has happened is hushed

the only people are faces in the snow

I shuffle through my warm home routines
keep vigil for the year that is going and will remain.

For you, origins are nothing

you want to go dancing, flash into fireworks
kick the dust from your flip-flops and be off.

 

Caroline Natzler’s poetry collections are Design Fault (Flambard Press), Smart Dust (Grenadine Press) and Fold (Hearing Eye). Caroline teaches creative writing at the City Lit in London and also runs private workshops.

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Paul McLoughlin: 2014: Another Year

i.m. John Hartley Williams (& Ken Smith) and Barry Cole (& B.S .Johnson)

There were no floral tributes 
in Jenbacher Weg or Myddleton Square 
from those they didn’t know. Two 
extraordinaries from the ordinary world. 

One saw what was real in the surreal – was 
reassured by those not baffled by it – loved 
a friend he called the proper poet. The other 
loved a novelist till tiring of the gloom. 
Both knew thinking life was money 
was another way of being poor. 

The first, pissed-off, withdrew a piece to find
a house-proud editor’s dumb-friendly ‘Okeydokey’
in an email. The other smiled at a quest 
to trace connections and said thank you 
for support beyond the call of duty,
though I need reminding what I did. 

And we were pleased they wrote and wrote 
so we could read and read. They did more 
than shuffle words around a page. They had 
their champions and that will have to do.

 

Paul McLoughlin’s most recent collection is The Road to Murreigh (2010). He has also edited and written an introduction for Brian Jones: New & Selected Poems (2014). Both from Shoestring Press.

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Yvonne Green: The Poetry of Propaganda

In Memory of Vasily Grossman and Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin

The sound of truth dying
Death made holy
Women and children’s lives
Traded in lachrymosa,
The factioned blood of the terrified
Who aren’t invited to contribute,
Their job is to be afraid,
Quietly,
They’ve been trained,
Mechanised, automated.
Their reflexes honed
While they slept,
Lullabied by slogans, histories,
Promises, threats 
Transported away from themselves,

They learned to call their shadows
Enemy, to stand away from them,
First to let other people kick them senseless
Then to watch the terrified open veins 
Using carvers, 
Parers,
Nail scissors, 
Diaper pins, 

Then there are those among them
Who bring out food, humanity,
They are also guilty.

 

lachrymosa, – vials in which tears are stored

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Yvonne Green’s publications include Selected Poems and Translations(Smith/Doorstop 2015), After Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin (Smith/Doorstop 2011), a Poetry Book Society Commended Translation, Hanisoo Yi (Am Oved 2010), The Assay (Smith/Doorstop 2009), and Boukhara (Smith/Doorstop 2008) ,a Poetry Business Pamphlet Prize winner.
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***

Sally Long: At the Gate of the Commandant’s Garden

Plunged into fire,
metal made malleable
for skilled hands to tap
rose blushing iron into delicate filigree.
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The garden of the Commandant’s house at Auschwitz concentration camp

The garden of the Commandant’s house at Auschwitz concentration camp

You may interpret the pattern as you will.
Some have seen flowers in the fragile tracery, 
fashioned for the one who daily tended these lawns,
the scrolls curling upwards become
the leaves of tulips he planted in the beds. 

Others have noted hearts shattered by
the depravity of the human soul,
cruel acts made concrete by scrolls
that metamorphose into smoke
curling from incinerators
adjacent to gas chambers.

Make of it what you will.
As you pause, 
trying to make up your mind
the gate swings open,
a child stands suspended 
between heaven and hell.

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Sally Long has an MA in Creative Writing from UEL and is a PhD student at Exeter. Her poems have appeared in Agenda, Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Prole and Snakeskin. Sally edits Allegro Poetry Magazine

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David Cooke: Apprentices

???????????????????????????????Grimsby c.1880

Consigned to the hellbound lurching 
of smacks, we were a back street surplus, 
a poorhouse dross with tainted blood. 
Worth less than slaves or cattle
that have to be bought or reared,
we were the spillage of couplings 
in damp infested rooms.

A lost brood of liars and thieves, 
predisposed to mischief, we were damned
from the moment our lungs cleared –
swaddled in filth and howling.
Hollow chested, intractable, we were unfit 
for a uniform or even a grave
on some frittering ledge of the empire.

So fetched up here instead 
in this port of outlaws, signed over
to masters whose pockets jangled coin,
but soon grew intolerant
of stubborn mumblings 
and fumbled attempts at fourteen
to match the skills and muscles of men.

For each God-bothering skipper
there were plenty more who’d bait us
or look the other way when deckies,  
cooks and mates tried to tame us
with ‘good natured ribbing’ 
that always went too far: their mock
‘executions’ and acts that ‘never happened’.

We came in our thousands to learn 
the value of a rudimentary trade, 
with droves absconding to the haven 
we found in Lincoln Gaol: written off, 
released. Others perished hauling lines,
or slipped from the rigging, barely missed,
their details logged in a spindling script.

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David Cooke’s retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing. A new collection, Work Horses, was published by Ward Wood in 2012. His poems and reviews have appeared in the UK, Ireland and beyond in journals such as Agenda, The Bow Wow Shop, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, Magma, The Morning Star The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp & Stand. He has two collections forthcoming: A Murmuration (Two Rivers Press, 2015) and After Hours (Cultured Llama Press 2017).

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Chris Hardy: Laugh – I Nearly Died

In the house with Rose
and Jenny, Alice and Florrie,
noisy girls in the kitchen
at breakfast time, soon off to work
in Jay’s the Milliners, or the basement
under Mrs Lewis’s clothes shop.
They slam the door, leaving the baby
with gentle, unlettered Jane,
who will wash and clean and cook
before they all come home.

On scraps of paper they laugh
and lift their skirts as the waves
touch their bare, white feet.
Or on a bench, skirts pulled up,
legs folded under, they lean against
each other, looking straight into
the camera laughing so
the photographs when they come back 
will show that everything is fine.

Rose sits on a deckchair wearing
her coat and hat. It’s Summer
and a child in a swimming costume
is digging in the sand.
Rose looks through her glasses
and smiles. She keeps
her knees together, her skirt
pulled down and on her lap
she firmly holds
her handbag in two hands.

 

Chris Hardy’s poems have appeared in the Rialto, Poetry Review, the North and many other magazines, anthologies, (eg The Forward Prize), and websites. He has won prizes in the National Poetry Society’s and other competitions. His third collection was published by Graft Poetry www.graftpoetry.co.uk . He plays guitar in the trio LiTTLe MACHiNe (little-machine.com) performing settings of well-known poems

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Thomas Ovans: Transatlantic

Her surging thoughts and memories
are bracketed by breakers striding in 
then stumbling up this English evening beach.

.    Each grey-brown wave’s capricious mix 
.    of molecules and droplets gathers
.    round a hollow arc of air and seconds 
.    as if drawing breath until

.    momentum slumps and deadweight volume
.    spreads to fizz like sherbet 
.    on the shore’s rough tongue.
.    The foamy leading edges creep uphill
.    against the shelving shingle’s friction.

.    Some reach an inch or two beyond the rest:
.    but gravity and undertow, relentless, 
.    put a stop to any scuttling 
.    over shiny pebbles; and subdued, 
.    they sidle back into the shrugging sea.

Six time zones away, her family 
assembles to remember how
one life achieved what proved to be its peak –
then, over stony months, it drained away.

 

Thomas Ovans is one of London Grip’s regular poetry reviewers but is now attempting to re-ignite the spark of his own creativity.

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Neil Fulwood: Whatever Happened

I can't trust my memories. Last year
is a fuzzy question mark, never mind
the landscape of a decade
without internet or mobile phones.

Someone jammed a breeze block
on the IT accelerator and stunt-dived
out of the '80s, leaving them ploughing
towards the millennium. You've seen

the movie: a disaster epic with a cast
of thousands, most of them uncredited
as collateral damage. A quantum leap
from the '70s that I think I remember

(we didn't have a colour TV till '76
or maybe later) though I can't be sure,
looking back from a plateau
of social media, whether the images

I'm slapping in the face of the present
have been signed off as accurate
or revealed as an identikit collage
of tan leather and Hillman Hunters,

Jack Regan and working men's pubs,
Bob and Terry and beer and birds
and the sense even then of change
in the air. I can't trust my memories.
I strongly suspect the feeling's mutual.

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Neil Fulwood: Ingoldmells, 1970s

Holidays were self-catering,
snapshots an exercise
in composition. Ma never really
had a break. The sun
was always in our eyes.

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Neil Fulwood is the author of film studies book The Films of Sam Peckinpah. His poetry has been featured in The Morning Star, Butcher’s Dog, Prole, Art Decades, The Black Light Engine Room and Ink Sweat & Tears.

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John Forth: The Older Mermaid

I’m down at the pier
dangling my feet over
and throwing stones,
having gambled my last 
coin in a cascade-machine,
when she swims into view.

You won’t remember me
she says, and I agree
although she’s wrong.
She’d said how hard life is 
among fish after flitting 
between the elements.

Not that I’ve much to offer.
She’s called me a listener
and even today with nowhere 
to go but back and nothing 
to watch but sea, says
she can tell me anything.

Maybe I ought to tell her
I never understand a word she says, 
but I hold back as usual,
pondering the swirl of 
water knocking unevenly 
against a broken jetty.

She’s smiling, as they do,
wondering has she said 
too much. I’m slow to respond
and it’s mistaken for tact.
Besides, the sun’s setting.
Why spoil a nice day out?

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John Forth grew up in Bethnal Green and now lives by the sea in North Somerset. Low Maintenance: New & Selected Poems is due in 2015 from Rockingham.

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Carolyn Yates: On The Beach at Gaza

with acknowledgment to Adrian Mitchell

The rubble holds her foot.
Each careful step cradled to the damp packed sand,
tracker footsteps stalking the tidemark edge.
She kneels. Shutter-quick she 
catches the football’s black and white geometry. 
Distant shouts, beached waves, 
the thrum of baked black tarmac 
a soundtrack to infinity.

Out in the border-sea,
the fishing boat a still-life wreck of red and blue, 
a hulk, forever sliding back on her periphery.
Camera ready she prowls, close now to her quarry,
her brain reels in the sudden percussion.
Her practised eye notes the missile’s vapour trail,
the small boy fists saluting their short defiance.
She has her National Geographic moment.

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From 1996 to the outbreak of the second Intifada I was the lead consultant on an education reform project funded by the Department for International Development, working with the Palestinian National Authority. I visited Gaza and the West Bank every three months. I have walked on that Gaza beach where the small boys playing football were blasted by rockets last year. The pictures on TV brought it all back, like a photo. I thought of Adrian Mitchell’s ‘On the Beach…’ as a title for a poem I could not write then. I was in Ramallah when our consultants were evacuated back to UK as the fighting broke out. I stopped doing overseas consultancy work and forged a new career after that. It has taken this long for me to try to distil my experience of alienation with the media coverage of the second intifada, triggered by the recent upsurge of violence in Gaza, this time mediated and communicated via social networks.
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Carolyn Yates works for Wigtown Festival Company and is responsible for regional Literature Development in Dumfries and Galloway. She writes for performance, as well as poetry and non-fiction. As one half of Buskers, she will perform a spoken word show ‘Divine Discontent’ in the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival in May 2015.

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Deborah Mason: With Van Gogh in the olive grove

Gold-flecked thumbs
pressed into her face
imprinting the sun’s whorls.
The sky vibrated.
She fell into the spiky grass
under the olive trees.
Brushwood dug into her back.

van gogh grove (2)The ash blue trees
swirled darkly above her,
lurching feverishly.
The heat shimmered.

She panted, dazed.
The bearded man stared, 
wild-eyed, appalled. 
Passion spurted 
from his fingertips 
as he hurried away. 

She clutched her ear, dazzled.

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Deborah Mason is a member of the Back Room Poets in Oxford. Her poems have been published in various journals and anthologies, most recently in The Book of Love and Loss edited by R.V. Bailey and June Hall.

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Marilyn Hammick: The Uninvited Cell

You arrive without warning, with nothing to show 
you’re not part of the normal tissue crowd
where coming and going happen all the time. 

You thrive on my hospitality, breed on my sustenance. 
and for a while you act like the regulars
- the cells lengthening my nails, lining my gut, 

until I spot slippage from your red wrap
and one small scrape reveals your identity.
Time to say goodbye, when I wake up, you’ll be gone.

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Marilyn Hammick writes at home in England and France, and can also be found stitching, walking or on her yoga mat. Her poems have appeared in Prole, The Linnet’s Wings, The Interpreter’s House and in other print and online journals.

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Sofia Amina: No U-Turn Allowed

I begin once again
running up this ancient hill
wearing my shoes 
the wrong way around
my jumper is inside out
and my hair
falling out 
and ten baby hedgehogs
scurrying away
from me and my shadow

I look around and my shadow has gone
she is running away 
with the spoon and fork in her hands

I turn away from this path
the path I have always taken
and run through the overgrown forest 

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Sofia lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she eats toast, drinks tea and writes Her work has recently appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears and she was also a guest poet at Beattie & Scratchmann’s 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Get Put Down’

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Elizabeth Smither: Wearing fur

My coat of honey-coloured rabbit fur
incites two black Labradors to sniff and nip.
I hang it on a hatstand out of reach.

It breathes softly from my restaurant chair
an ordinary woman eating dal makhani
until I stand and someone stares.

Someone bold, flamboyantly dressed
and hogging the conversation. Silence falls
as I shrug it about my shoulders

and saunter down the aisle to pay.
Who can pay for soft atmosphere
and flesh that carries its own candles

like Caravaggio, under a chin
seeking the shape and obliterating it
by beautiful light and warmth?

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Elizabeth Smither’s most recent publication is a little suite of poems for her granddaughter, Ruby Duby Du, (Cold Hub Press, 2014). She has just been awarded the Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature.

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Onto-all-golfersChristopher Mulrooney: argument

have you cuffs on old boy
what you mean cuffs
you know curled ends
I don’t think so have a look
have done that’s why I ask
must have then so what
nothing old man cuffs I mean
they catch the pips I spit out

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Christopher Mulrooney is the author of Grimaldi (Fowlpox Press)

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Jean Atkin: Button

If she hadn’t seen him then, by the power-assisted 
door of the Library, look down, his fingers exploring
the rumples in his coat.  If she had missed the humour
in him, as he discovered his mis-buttoning.

If he hadn’t acknowledged his public error by looking
swiftly up and catching her eye and smiling,
so self-deprecating, so oddly
intimate.  If he hadn’t been middle-aged.
 
If he hadn’t smiled at her, like that, in only
seconds she would have walked on past him 
through the door and everything 
would have been otherwise. 

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Jean Atkin works as a poet and educator, and lives in Shropshire. Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time is published by Oversteps Books, and she has also published four pamphlets. She is currently Poet in Residence at Wenlock Poetry Festival 2015 and Reader in Residence for Southwater Library in Telford. www.jeanatkin.com

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Robert Nisbet: Bedroom

A few nights now in each other’s company
and they wake to the mean mew of peacocks.
But the open window also brings them
the smell of farm (eggs dug from dung and straw,
the fainter hay). The noise of car and bus,
a furlong’s reach away, is muted.
Within, the cutlery sounds of B&B.
A clock chimes from a distant room.
 
They gaze for a while at the eight o’clock ceiling,
read runes. The light is mottling, changing,
but when, so readily, it brightens,
the leaf-lines are waving, breeze-shifted,
moving with September morning,
and its generous wafer of summer left.

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Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at TrinityCollege, Carmarthen. His short stories appear in his collection Downtrain (Parthian, 2004) and in the anthology Story II (Parthian, 2014), his poems in magazines like The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, The Journal and Prole, and in his collection Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011)

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Fiona Sinclair: Absent Friends

In M&S, her Look at this, Look at this, Look at this,
curtails again my own attempts to browse.
I teeter on the edge of slapping her,
cool off in the men’s department.
Repentant, bear half her packages to Costa Coffee
buy cappuccino and cake, because she did the driving love.

Nearby, a middle aged woman huddles over her Kindle,
carrier bags as cover in case stood up,
a second woman stoops to search her features for girlish traces, 
speaks her name with question mark.
Their embrace brings a friendship back from the dead,
then chaotic questioning as they sit with beaming emoticon faces.

A thickening in my throat as I remember:
the man whose weekly calls bi- polar swung between suicide strategy
and stomach cramping wit, who no longer phones me,
the woman whose getaway van I drove beyond
the reach of a husband’s fists who has Facebook defriended me,
because my slot machine life suddenly paid out the windfall of a husband …

These two women never quite trashed 
youthful remembrance of hennaed hair and flares,
whereas I am an amnesiac memory that no prompts 
of Dickens, handbags, Paris will revive. 
So I wrestle with yawns as a screed of texts sent to a lover 
are read to me once more by a rebound friend. 

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Fiona Sinclair’s first full collection Ladies who Lunch was published in 2015 by Lapwing Press, Belfast. She is the editor of the on-line poetry magazine Message in a Bottle,

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Keith Nunes: plain thinking

out on the treed plains of a cluttered mind
swerving to miss
skeletal remains of cupboard fears,
bouncing
off grief-encrusted choices,
slapping leathered legs
and she rumbles into the scene:
"you can't come back baby,
once too many" 
you gracefully careen through the windscreen

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Keith Nunes is a former “this” and a current “that”. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and widely published in NZ and increasingly in the US and the UK with flashes of fiction and poems.

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Steve Komarnyckyj: nowhere

 there are times you just want to drive or walk
nowhere – the place that everyone has been to
but is marked on no maps      and starting 
the car or stepping out of the door
you follow your intuition to the end of the road
taking a right or a left
 pausing to admire a cloudscape
the movement of light on the river

and these events cohere into a narrative
that does not differ from the story
you were telling yourself anyway
even in the silence when you looked in the mirror
at the face you have worn
which at that moment you are most alone
feels alien but familial a stranger
you have grown comfortable with

walking with you in footsteps not your own
or driving past 
industrial estates at the edge of town
or stepping into the forest
offering the illusion of paths
a Gordian knot of infinitely looped possibilities
among flattened grass
snapped twigs

but only now you realise
the only way to arrive at nowhere
is to forget that you are travelling
and it happens suddenly
the steps coming to a halt
the bicycle slanted on the five bar gate
the car pulled over in a layby
a car park    grass    hills      tree

the derelict factory
or church      the house 
whose door you open
the stile where you sit
the car with the engine cooling
the darkness where you settle
knowing that whatever you look at
nowhere is as beautiful

as nowhere

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Steve Komarnyckyj‘s literary translations and poems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, The North, and Modern Poetry in Translation. His book of translations from the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2011. His translation of Vasyl Shkliar’s Ukrainian novel Raven was published in April 2013. His last book of translated poetry, A Flight Over the Black Sea was the recipient of an English PEN award in 2014. He has recently appeared in the Transatlantic Poetry Series of on air readings in an event hosted by Fjords Review. He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie and three domestic cats.

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Robert Ferns: The Shooting Gallery

 The shooting gallery
Stands by the Madhouse
In the Looney Toons
Asylum Headquarters.
It sways in the wind,
Changes its face
In every direction,
Fluttering like
A deck of cards.

In the hall of mirrors
Choices are reflected
Like shreds of gherkin:
Each scrap a piece
By itself,
But coming from,
A single seed.

As I approach the
Building I see past
Myself and into the
Glass. My eyes are
Soon deafened by news
Of equity loans,
Overcrowding and
Divorce separation legislation.
If I could see their
True motive then maybe
I might understand what
It is that I don’t.

These helical tops
And glacial structures
Provide transparency
To passers-by.
Each floor has
A glass ceiling;
Each level
Recedes to a
Pyramid point.
A clearer hierarchy
Cannot be seen
Throughout the land.

As suits push numbers,
Ties choke people
To Silence. The shard
Of glass reaches
The clouds. On each
Floor there is less air
To breathe and more wealth
To swallow.
I can only build
This because I am
Here and not up there.
I built this.
I build it to knock
It down again.

.

Robert Ferns is a poet from the Highlands of Scotland. His work contains the influence of his father, cycling and going between places he calls ‘home’. He is also a passionate cyclist and has climbed Alpe d’huez twice. You can find some of his other poems in The Muse: An International Journal of Poetry, streetcake, The Lake and Ancient Heart Magazine.

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