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This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Alison Hill *Bruce Christianson *Fiona Larkin *Chris Stewart *Emma Lee *Ian Humphreys
*Tom McFadden *Rosie Johnston *Robert Nisbet *Katherine Venn *Ruth Bidgood
*Mary Franklin *Clare Crossman *F M Brown  *Keith Nunes *S J Mannion *Peter Daniels
*Rangi Faith *Nancy Mattson *Cathleen Allyn Conway *Sarah James *Wendy French
*Tracey Peterson *Merryn Williams *David Flynn

votes for women poster.

Copyright 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 Autumn 2015

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Please send submissions to poetry@londongrip.co.uk, enclosing
no more than three poems and a brief, 2-3 line, biography
Poems should be in the email body or a single Word attachment

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.Editorial

In summertime, the London Grip poetry editor’s office alternates between one cliché and another: either a hive of activity or deserted as the Marie Celeste with only a few untouched petits fours left on the tea trolley. During June, July and August the staff may be busy entertaining foreign visitors, travelling abroad on fact-finding expeditions or merely relaxing. And yet, thanks to our excellent contributors, this autumn issue of LG New Poetry has still come together on time.

ATA badgeDistinctive features of this edition include some short and enigmatic prose-poems and David Flynn’s haunting long poem The Ends of the Earth. It must be admitted, however, that the art department has been able to do little more than provide cover images. These relate to poems about courageous women: Emma Lee’s #EmilyMatters which reminds us of the suffragette movement; and Alison Hill’s On Such a Day and Washing our Hair from her sequence about the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary.

Looking back to our summer posting it is pleasing to report that the launch reading, hosted by Enfield Poets, was a great success and we hope, from time to time, to celebrate future issues in a similar way.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

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

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Alison Hill: On Such a Day

Our hearts sank when we guessed 
the worst, or dared to let ourselves imagine.

On such a day, we stayed on the ground,
 not wishing to tempt fate.

On such a day we looked upwards, 
almost at the same minute, the same hour.

amyWe couldn’t help ourselves, automatically 
scanning for any signs of life.

On such a day we stretched aching 
muscles, pinching our flesh raw while 

waiting for news that never fully surfaced. 
We knew in our hearts she was gone.


Amy Johnson is not only a loss to aviation: those who knew her have lost the type of friend who cannot be replaced.  Pauline Gower, The Times, January 1941

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Alison Hill: Washing Our Hair

The sky was literally a washout – 
the day had been declared one.

Some despatched to the nearest pub,
others to find a decent meal.

I needed some time alone 
and grounded, with space to think.

Time to enjoy the simple ritual                                             
of washing, rinsing, towelling –

scanning myself in the cracked
mirror above the sink, slick a curl

or two in their place, paint a smile,
feign a shrug before an early night.

Pears soap too, if I was lucky –
Preparing to be a beautiful lady

Not much time to prepare really,
but now and then it did us good

to remember our skin, our hair,
what lay beneath our golden wings.

 

Alison Hill has published two collections, Peppercorn Rent (Flarestack, 2008) and Slate Rising (Indigo Dreams, 2014). She founded the reading series Rhythm & Muse and was Kingston Libraries’ first Poet in Residence (2011/12). Sisters in Spitfires, from which these two poems are taken, is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams. This collection arises from research into the women who flew with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in World War II, focusing on their role in the war and their love of the Spitfire in particular, and is supported by the Arts Council.

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Bruce Christianson: Romantic Novel

in the departure lounge
love sits quietly reading

a girl catches love's eye
they're on the same flight

(the girl doesn't know it but 
love sees all boarding cards)

on the way to the gate
love stops off to buy a hat

as they go down the jetway 
the girl finally smiles back 

& about time too thinks love 
glancing at the safety card 

to memorise the layout 
then leaning back relaxed

                       love enjoys takeoffs
they start to taxi

 

Bruce Christianson is a mathematician from New Zealand who has taught in Hertfordshire for 28 years. Love glared at him recently in an airport women-only bookshop.

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Fiona Larkin: Passport Queue

A spiralling wail
tautens Arrivals,

cordoning
a hydra-headed
crocodile.

Its attention stirs
at each gulping
inhalation,

and its many
sunburnt faces,

grasping pale
watermarked
facsimiles
of themselves,

are tilted
by an infant
puppet master,

whose cries 
tug the strings
of eyebrows, 

corrugate
foreheads,

narrow lips, 

draw hisses
toxic to
his mother.

 

Fiona Larkin‘s poems have been published in Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Stare’s Nest, and in print in SOUTH Poetry, The Oxford Magazine and South Bank Poetry. She teaches English in the voluntary sector.

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Chris Stewart: Masterpiece

I like crinkled edges 
creases that vein through the composition;
they make it less pretentious.
The sides of the triptych are like black batwings.
It evokes a dark and mysterious mood.
Twist your head sideways 
you’ll see the genius; it looks good.

I can see a fluid rainbow 
behind the pall of smokey spillage.
Perhaps you can make out the slightest dove 
soaring above the abstract landscape?
That lucky paint leaks a path 
directs our eyes to the smile on our mouths.

If others saw this work, do you think they’d see what we see?
Art snobs and critics might be correct 
to say that any common child could have done it 
with their eyes closed, but
they didn’t, did they? Only one person 
was ever capable of this. 
Would they really look into our daughter’s eyes 
and deny it was a masterpiece?

 

Chris Stewart is a thirty something year old man who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has a lovely long term life partner, a brand new daughter, and participates willingly in domesticated masculinity.

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Emma Lee: #EmilyMatters

Votes-for-Women-ticket-rectoI try and see this through a child’s eyes:
the awkward steps (ramp tucked away at the back),
warped wooden floor, older women sustained 
by coffee flasks and gossip which I interrupt,
the booths with a small shelf and pencil
anchored by twine that’s never long enough
for left-handers. My child’s attention is drawn 
by a vase: green leaves, white daisies and violets.

I tell her of a story about a race at Epsom,
and how a woman tripped in her long skirt, 
her banner trampled by the King’s horse.
Her jacket had blown open revealing 
green, white and violet (hope, purity and dignity);
chromatic acronym for ‘give women votes’.
She lived four days with fatal injuries,
and would never take her dreamed-of daughter
to a polling station to vote.


I give my daughter a badge of pressed flowers.
My little pencilled cross won’t change much,
but my daughter will know of a world
where women couldn’t vote, why Emily matters.

 

Emma Lee’s latest collection Ghosts in the Desert is available from Indigo Dream Publishing. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews.

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Ian Humphreys: Bruised

The bruise mutates. 
Blue bleeds into red. 
Starved of oxygen, 
haemoglobin fortifies flesh 
with iron. She knows 
in a day or two, a jolt of green 
will flood the swelling. 

It will burn its most toxic, 
brand her invisible – 
strangers will turn away. 
She calls it the jade phase, 
a sign the healing process 
is working, her body 
is doing something right.

It will fade to yellow 
after eight days. 
On the tenth day, 
he’ll return with flowers.
Her favourite colours 
in a sling of tissue paper.

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Ian Humphreys: breathless

graffiti shouts insults from walls by the chemist
its colours explode like flung bottles

I stare at the pavement and I’m late for the 8:22 
to Manchester because I should have left home at 7:55

but I had to fix the tap or attempt to and now
if I run I could pratfall like last time and hurt 

my coccyx and rip my trousers and Annie from sales 
will cluck over me at lunch and her breath smells 

of liquorice and I just want to sit quietly at my desk 
and not bother with chit-chat and it’s now 8:17

and there’s no time to order coffee 
from the man who grunts or grab a gloompaper 

for company on the journey and I need something
to occupy my mind because if I don’t it ticks 

like a wind-up alarm clock and prick-prick-pricks 
the inside of my skull

and the train’s pulling in now and I’m queuing politely 
when some idiot pushes past and I smile

and I’m getting on and I’m looking round 
for an empty seat like that exists at rush hour 

and I’m squashed against a woman with a pushchair 
and my head weighs watermelon fat

and who brings a child on a crowded train at this time of day 
and I pretend not to notice her or the kid 

but I see the strap of my bag is caught 
in the wheels of the buggy and my inner-Tannoy says 

they’re getting off at the next stop 
they’re getting off at the next stop

and I brace myself to leave with them to avoid a scene
then jump back onto the next carriage along 

so no one will spot me re-embarking 
as they may determine I’m acting suspiciously 

and use mobile devices to alert the authorities 
and guards at Stockport might actually 

escort me off the train in front of all these people 
and what will Annie think

 

Ian Humphreys lives in West Yorkshire and is studying for a Creative Writing MA at MMU. This year his work has appeared or is forthcoming in anthologies and journals including Ambit, Butcher’s Dog, Ink Sweat & Tears, London Grip, Poetry News, Prole and Shadowtrain. He won the 2013 PENfro Poetry Competition and has been shortlisted three times for the Bridport Prize.

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Tom McFadden: Somewhere Different, Out Of Sight

I am still, beneath a bridge of moving vehicles,
a "still life portrait" inside a dormant car
across from the Municipal Court Building,
waiting to join the citizen-renderers
of whatever jury call awaits.
It will be time, then, to assess another's bearing
upon this little square of earth.
But, for now...

I watch through the windshield from the parking lot--
observing a homeless man
emerge from the wall-hugging bushes,
tightly wrapped in a big, white blanket
like a nomad in an urban desert.
Indecisively, he makes his way to the corner,
to the red light, where traffic streams
in all directions through new day,
and does not know, himself, which way to go,
until, at last, he does go –
responding  to a random WALK sign,
going nowhere:
somewhere different, out of sight.

The morning pigeons collect above me,
on a ledge just below the highway top.
For awhile, so high, they suggest a poem
yet, a truck backfires
and this day's poetry flies away.

My tenure of stillness elapsed,
I emerge from where I had slumped unseen,
slipping from my car's dormancy.
But the winds prove cold.
So, I pull at my sweater in random directions
to be more tightly wrapped,
then, still distracted by the cold,
exit the lot to cross at the light when,
without real thought,
I barely notice the sign says WALK.

Inside, in time, we of the jury collect
to sit together on a wooden ledge;
and, for just a little while, we look so high.

 

Tom McFadden is an American poet whose writing has appeared in such venues as Poetry Ireland Review, Voices Israel, Journal Of The American Medical Association, Seattle Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, South Carolina Review, Portland Review & California Quarterly

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Rosie Johnston: Casca’s table

Some of the ancient buildings in Pompeii are named after what was found there. Casca’s House is home to a table bearing Casca’s name though Casca himself was probably never there. He was one of Julius Caesar’s killers and struck the first blow.

Blue pulsing heat. Geckos hide in 
lesions
in the walls of Casca’s House. 

A perfect atrium draws 
heat’s cloak 
from my shoulders. Conjures breezes. 

Pale in the gloaming, a marble table
stands:
three lions’ maws, three paws.

There’s his name, the senator – 
P Casca Long – 
engraved with overt pride. 

Words etched deep, but not as deep as 
Casca’s wary jab
in Caesar’s neck. 

Did this marble come in shame from
Rome
cut-price, humbled by Casca’s name?

Hot-blood war, chill suicide,
the table
keeps its witness to itself. 

I sway: a toga brushed my arm
unseen.
Outdoor torpor revives me. 

 

Rosie Johnston’s three poetry pamphlets are published by Lapwing Publications (Belfast). She is Poet in Residence for the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust.

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Robert Nisbet: The Bus Down

We were talking about you, much of the time,
on the bus down from Aber, due to reach your cottage
at about the time night comes stealing up on afternoon.
And the picture of your cottage up that lane
claimed us: the fox whose bark cracks across your windows
two nights in five; your wealth of bramble,
heavy with berry every August; the tiny summerhouse
with crazy trellis-work, half in use. And your well.
The handle hasn’t worked since just before
the Second War, but it’s your well, rusted maybe
but its depths plumb-green. Yes,
your life in that clearing will please all poetry men.
Say what the world will, you are
our talisman, crop-tending, wood-burning, real.

 

Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. His poems appear in magazines like The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, The Journal, Prole, Scintilla and (in the USA) in The Camel Saloon, Hobo Camp Review and Main Street Rag.

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Katherine Venn: Liturgy for walking in the wind

 	– the desire to have covered this stretch
already, rather than to be outside still walking it
contending with your own animal softness

and a force greater than yourself
unravelling from you
all unnecessary complications

though now it seems to fight you
will strip you of yourself
of even the breath
inside you

– trust that the wind can take your weight
holds you
and know that it turns helper
as it swings to push you home.

 

Katherine Venn was born in London, and grew up somewhere between there, the United States, Liverpool and Kent, before studying English Literature and Language at Oxford and then returning to London to work in publishing. In 2009/10 she took a year out to take the poetry strand of the creative writing MA at UEA, She currently works part-time at Hodder & Stoughton as a commissioning editor, and until 2014 she coordinated the literature programme for Greenbelt arts festival. She has been published in the Duino International Poetry Competition’s anthology, Roads; in the UEA anthology Eight Poets: 2009; and her work has appeared on-line in Caught by the River and London Grip as well as in Magma and Third Way print magazines. She has won scholarships to study and write at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, and was poet in residence at the Diocese of Norfolk’s Pentecost Festival in 2012.

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Ruth Bidgood: Now

Waking from a muddle of dreams
to a fogbound search
for meaning, one may find 
forming , beyond the murk
of an unpropitious day, a blur of sun.

Sensations proclaim themselves –
drizzle whisking by
as a wind gets up: drift 
of small leaves;
clunk, settling of poles
on a timber-lorry passing;
click and whoosh of an opening door.

There’s a jangle of notes, off-key,
unbeautiful but live; tap of a pencil
dropped on wood; rattle of rings
as a window is bared,
and sun’s rays reach at last
through misted panes to light
the undeniable  now. 

 

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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Mary Franklin: The time of no time

It was the time of no time
before the white men came with clocks
that measured everything.

We lived by seasons here and now:
woke from winter’s sacred time of healing
when spring’s wrists were wreathed in lilacs,
caught summer salmon swimming upriver to spawn
and dried them with berries in autumn bonfires.

Always we followed the buffalo
our teepees strapped to travois
pulled by dogs and horses.
White men watched with empty eyes.
They asked no questions. 

It was the time of no time 
before the covered wagon brought
the white man with red spots:
my people died like ants under a bear’s paw.
The white men did not die.  Why?

Tick tock tick tock ticks the white man’s clock.
The time of no time has passed and gone.
It will not come again.

 

Mary Franklin has had poems published in Iota, The Open Mouse, Ink Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Message in a Bottle, The Stare’s Nest, three drops from a cauldron and various anthologies. Her tanka have appeared in poetry journals in Australia, Canada, UK and USA. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Clare Crossman: Suddenly

(For Anna)

Owls have come to sit in our fir trees:
they don’t often leave the wood by the river,
I dislike their return.

I have seen their wings as they drop,
catching mice on the bright fell, 
carrying them skyward, screeching.

Like omens, they have arrived
just as you are suddenly gone.
Dark eyed and serious, twenty and dead.

What you were, who you might be
snuffed out to be, ash, owl-pellets
strewn on the lawn. 

I can’t ask you what it is like to be fixed
in one time and place; this date in mid-summer. 
Vanished, to be perpetually a bright shooting star. 

Become a girl who hunts across heaven, 
with a golden bow and arrow, 
and comets for a crown.

Enough to say we are dumb.
Hooting one note like these birds 
with the wing-span of angels.

Older. Diminished.
We blink in the July dark. 
Unable to conjure you home.

 

Clare Crossman lives near Cambridge. Vanishing Point, a second collection of poem,s was recently published by Shoestring Press. She runs poetry readings and workshops in association with the Cambridge Art Salon.

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F M Brown: The Way Things Were?

Oh, Mike, yes, he’s been away a long time now.

Nerves, is it? Repressed emotion I expect. You know he never really got over Lad, his red setter, dying. I remember his mother saying to me, “He’s only shed a couple of tears. He hasn’t grieved properly.”

The very same thing happened to another friend of mine. His dog had to be put down. Lovely golden Rinty. He did Love that dog. I was the one who had to break it to him. We were very close, me and him. He howled like a dog himself when I told him.

That was me. Rinty was mine. It wasn’t you that told me.

Well, I remember I had something to do with it. I know, You were away working that summer in Finland and I heard about Rinty before you did. Your mother said I hadn’t to mention it in my letters to you.

Incidentally, now I come to think about it, Mike’s dog was A square cocker spaniel called Bridget. Lad was altogether another more modern tragedy. He wasn’t even a red setter.

 

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

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Keith Nunes: pitiless sky

honestly, it looks like the same sky I left behind in my twenties, all mottled and angry and full of seriousness, I swear it wants me dead and it’ll get its way one day, the same sky hanging hungrily as I’m buried and me wondering how it has such staying power

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Keith Nunes: the blender is faulty

he kept trying to make it right with his wife, quietly achieving with implements and applications; and through the rooms where water ran, he accepted the blends of bitter and sweet while driving yabbering facial expressions up and down roads of stutters; but the tones of voices and the tones of skin put him in his unholy place – at the end of a barge pole with a pain so intense his soul was becoming an anarchist

 

Keith Nunes (Tauranga, New Zealand) was a newspaper sub-editor for more than 20 years but he now writes to stay sane. He’s been published around NZ and increasingly in the UK (London Grip, Prole, Iota) and US, was highly commended in the 2014 NZ Poetry Society international poetry competition and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. He lives with artist Talulah Belle and a coterie of nutters.

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S J Mannion: Orzo

I stand by the cooker watching water, waiting for it to come to a rolling boil. I love that particular pairing of words. I love the way they feel on my tongue as I say them out loud and I love the way, though they are words about heat and hotness, they caress the inside of my head like cool glass marbles. After a while the watched pot boils and I throw in handfuls of pasta. Hotly splashing and then sinking. Like so many tiny slippers or even little toenails. This in turn reminds me of something. Something I have held in my mind for some time. I read of it and it took root. This is the trouble with words. Dangerous, damaging, descriptive things. I cannot rid myself of this image. Children’s shoes indiscriminately heaped and piled up outside the gas chambers of Belsen.

 

S J Mannion writes: “I am an Irish writer living in Christchurch, being middle aged, married-with-three, doing domesticity. When I can I write, when I can’t I read.”

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Peter Daniels: Slow News

For the slow burning stories, the old time newsman 
gives thanks. Their rumours rustling the undergrowth, 
their stupid perpetrators happy in their burrows. 
Cultivating every piece of fact, a good contact  
made safe and useful. The lull 
in the story, weeks, months, years even of space 
but the track continues. Dead ends will start 
to grow. The dormant grudges get their
motivation. Some moment, maybe a distant car horn, 
and it breaks. You’re the one with the twanging string 
and the trembling arrow in a tree trunk. 
They like it, back at the desk. You can 
write it into headlines fat as sausages in lard.  
Breakfast with the paper,  
all the trimmings. 

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Peter Daniels: Forget

The earth moves me. It gives me my sustenance:  
the place I can't escape or understand, beyond  
handling roots in the dust, if I remember  
to wait on what’s down there, underneath me.   

They’re playing music in the cemetery ruins. 
Time loosens the bodies from the strong hold  
of the chiselled epitaphs. Under the overgrowth,  
earth waits in its ivy and mud-caked pathways   

ready to receive us, soldiers marching into the hill,  
mariners back to our harbour, stuffed relics  
of animals lost in the glass-case forest. 
The earth will forget. It owns us, nonetheless. 
 

 

Peter Daniels has won several competitions including the Arvon, Ledbury and TLS. He has published pamphlets including the obscene historical Ballad of Captain Rigby, the full collection Counting Eggs (2012), and translations of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian (2013).

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Rangi Faith: Tomb-sweeping day

Now I understand this:

the generosity of a river 
beside hallowed ground –

how the waters 
carry the pain –

and this:
the spirit living 
in each slab of marble,
each cross
each unlikely offering;

and

how one man’s sweeping
is his gift,
his link
to the people
of the past.

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Rangi Faith: Rakaia Gorge Wind

May 2015

Below the gorge
from bridge to braid
it’s eye-watering stuff:

this nor’wester is hellbent
on cooking up a storm 

filleting the river 
clear off the bone
 
laying the ribs
of the battered bedrock bare

lifting grit & pinbones 
into the floury sky
& skinning the greywacke clean

wind slices through water
like the fins of big salmon

sifted air
powders the surface
with schools of small, frightened fish.

 

Rangi Faith is a poet, editor and critic who has been widely published throughout New Zealand and overseas. Poetry books include Spoonbill 101 (Puriri Press, Auckland, 2014), Conversation With A Moahunter (Steele Roberts, Wellington, 2005) and Rivers Without Eels (Huia Press, Wellington, 2001). A retired teacher, he has also edited poetry books for students including Dangerous Landscapes (Longman Paul, 1994) an anthology of poetry for secondary students.

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***

Nancy Mattson: Scale, Skin, Hair

Braids have purposes, they know 
from the scalp, their source
that they will end 

in flimsiness, a tail-swish 
as hair gives way 
                         to air 
           
                         Gulping salmon 
                         beckoned through scale and skin
                         by a wish as strong 
                         as mother-love 

                                return to their natal rivers 
                                scale rapids and waterfalls 
                                to reach gravel-bedded riffles 
                                                 spawn and die 
                       
I remember my mother 
braiding my hair, the ritual 
of scoring my scalp with a steel 
			                         rat-tail 

I did not squirm
                  Skull and roots hurt
                            Each hair, root to tip
                            had to learn its place

This tarnished mirror remembers bright
fat plaits that narrowed
dwindled 
faded
                          like feather tips
                          or wisps of whale baleen
                          for sifting krill 

                         like the skirt of a worn-out 
                         dancer, her ragged hems sodden 
                         as she waded into the sea

 

Nancy Mattson was born near the Red River in Winnipeg, raised near the North Saskatchewan in Edmonton, and now lives near the Thames in London. Her third full-length collection is Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead Press, 2012). She co-organizes Poetry in the Crypt in Islington.

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***

Cathleen Allyn Conway: Letting Go

I make paper boats,
coat them in paraffin
to make them watertight.
I place a paper doll
on each stern
and a votive in the hold.
I release them onto the river,
a flickering flotilla of white petals,
each launching into oblivion
the girl who..., 
            the girl who...,
                        the girl who...,

 

Cathleen Allyn Conway is a PhD student at Goldsmiths College, University of London, researching the poetry of Sylvia Plath. She is co-editor of Plath Profiles, a peer-reviewed academic journal, and poetry editor for Blotterature literary magazine. Her pamphlet Static Cling was published in 2012 by Dancing Girl Press. She can be found on Twitter at @mllekitty.

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***

Sarah James: Black Market

on the 30th anniversary of perestroika

All Eva’s dolls have Russian names.
Their hollow faces hide in or behind
the others’, disown fault and blame.

Political matryoshka, they impose fear
like real presidents – scowling down
with black smiles, and ears that don’t hear.

Beneath the gloss of wooden-shell suits 
a nested space of secrets – perfect 
for hiding notes when bartering for food.

Dollar bills still rub like gritty hunger
against unvarnished splinters inside.
She keeps the layered stash unplundered

to remind herself of survival’s price.

 

Sarah James’ latest collections are The Magnetic Diaries (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press), a narrative in poems, and plenty-fish from Nine Arches Press. The Oxford University modern languages graduate was winner of theOverton Poetry Prize 2015 and a poem from The Magnetic Diaries was highly commended in this year’s Forward Prizes. Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk and she runs the small poetry imprint, V. Press.

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***

Wendy French: The Tower

It causes him to be sent to the Tower. Absent for a time. 
Re-appears. Another operation, more chemo. 

Doors locked against visitors and night.
He’s hated locked doors since a child – once playing

in his grandmother’s house he climbed to the attic,
turned the key, smothered his hands in a trunk of wigs.

The view, through an isolated room, is of London
and sky. There’s not a sunflower or staircase in sight.

So what is it about locked doors that make him write 
letters he knows will never be sent?  

He re-enters his grandmother’s room and searches 
for mannequin wigs to wear when doors open freely.  

He’ll walk sideways along corridors 
into rooms full of paraphernalia. 

 

The Tower is the nuclear-medicine department of University College London Hospital (UCLH) where treatment and research exist.

Wendy French has just finished a Poet in Residency at the Macmillan Cancer Centre, UCLH. She is currently working on poems to reflect on this residency and the vulnerability of us all.
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***

Tracey Peterson : Sweeping The Porch

Like her herbaceous border the bridal store window dresses
always catch her eye.  As the light turns green they say it has to
be love that makes people want to be together.  Nothing else.

Home now.  She sweeps the porch.  Readies for their arrival.  

The wardrobe door opens on a mirror of memory and disregard. 
Tastes and preferences. The detail everything.

Cutting, the page-boy-deflation.  Blatant, sharp-edged.  No it’s
definitely not a page-boy.  She hates page-boys. 

So able to recognize it now.  What matters.  What doesn’t.  
Him hanging-up on her in front of them.  Her trying to hide it.

The writer’s workshop advises not to make the theme too obvious.
That’s the problem.  All of this.  So obvious, it’s glaring.


 

Tracey Peterson is a New Zealand based writer and lover of poetry, completely passionate about it, having read, written and performed it from a young age and in her adult years having taught it to children from 5 to 16 years. She is a graduate of Canterbury University having studied English, Linguistics and Education, and is currently working on what she hopes will be her first publishable collection of poetry.

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***

Merryn Williams: It’s Happened

Over the leagues, through the December darkness,
from two old friends, unuttered words are blown.
You’re in the north, the ship canal is freezing;
I’m here.   I don’t, you don’t pick up the phone.

Mistletoe tosses in the naked branches
we view through glass; this year there’ll be no kiss.
Ahead, the solstice looms, our days diminish.
I can’t, you can’t believe it’s come to this.

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***

Merryn Williams: Do Not Disturb

Some days I switch off telephones, the iPad,
radio, the ubiquitous TV,
muffle the doorbell too, block out the jangling
voices of all who wish to get at me,

and ring you up, tell you (my lips just moving)
the family news.  Although the real phone’s dead
and someone else has got your number, I can
still activate the line inside my head.

Another old friend gone.  And two more married.
The words are mouthed.  If you were here, you’d know.
The baby was a girl.  No doubt some people
would think me mad.  I tell you, even so.

 

Merryn Williams was the founding editor of The Interpreter’s House. Her third collection, The First Wife’s Tale, was long-listed for the Welsh Book of the Year; a fourth collection is expected this winter. Her biography, Effie: A Victorian Scandal: From Ruskin’s Wife to Millais’ Muse, was turned into a Random House audiobook this year

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***

David Flynn: The Ends of the Earth

 jian zhenThe Jian Zhen
          plowed
                   the dark jade water
of the East China Sea
          between Kobe and Shanghai,
          between you and me.
Rusted
and slow 
          it paces
          back and forth
          between Kobe and Shanghai
          as we do not.
Year after year
          we do not see
          the other's face,
          nor touch
          the other's coat,
          nor embrace
          the other's body.
Now we live                                                                          a thousand miles apart.

But on the Jian Zhen
          plowing
                   the dark jade water
of the East China Sea 
          between Kobe and Shanghai,
          between you and me,
we stood
          on the same deck.
I watched you
          in motion,
          braced against the winter wind
          that white-capped the sea.

Later, lost 
           – a backstreet of Shanghai –
          we touched
          coats.
Striding,
          arms around the physical waists,
          you and I
          shouted Christmas carols
          to Chinese walls.
We let go
          on the sidewalk
                   in front of
                   the Peace Hotel.
          Meaning: 
          a rain of spirit
          wet the inside of me.                                            
         The center of my body
sagged.
         You
          too
          were water flowing by.
          A radio that failed. 
          A house that burnt down. 
         You
          too 
          were water flowing by.
We embraced 
          coats, 
          a statue,
          stones in a Chinese current,
          hugging 
          on the sidewalk
                   in front of
                   the Peace Hotel.

I felt you feel
          a second of being dead
          too.

But you and I turned lovers
flooded with touch.
          Millions of words
          from the visible lips.
Night after night
          the radiation of your skin
          made red the chill of Japanese spring.
Together:  
          Cherry blossoms on the Uji River
          and a cup of green tea.
Together:
          A pilgrimage to Shodoshima,
                   an island 
                   of the Inland Sea,
          where
          we saw the priest's face flickering in red candlelight;
          we heard monkeys chattering on the temple roof;
          we felt the wooden gate smoothed by seven centuries of hands.

At nights
          on Shodoshima,
                   an island
                   of the inland sea,
          we lay on the tatami.
          My skin and your skin,
                                                real,
          pushed to their soft limits,
          while our spirits,
                                     ghosts,
          continued in
          toward merger.
That summer you moved
          to your American city.
And I moved
          to my American city.
Now we live                                                                          a thousand miles apart.         
         Year after year
         we talk
          by telephone:
                   the news that lifts nothing.
It is not enough.
          Your voice and your spirit
          arrive at my receiver.
But they are not enough.
          Earth  air  water  fire
          eyes  fingers  lips
          movement when you are not speaking
         expression  reaction
         wasted time  
         everything
         is what I                    need of you.
         Is what I desperately need of you.
 
jian zhenThe Jian Zhen
          plows
                   the dark jade water
of the East China Sea
          between Kobe and Shanghai,
          between you and me.
Rusted
and slow
          it paces
          back and forth
          between Kobe and Shanghai
          as we wait by
          telephones
          in the alternative hemisphere.

 

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 seventy. David Flynn’s writing blog, where he posts a new story and poem every month, is at http://writing-flynn.blogspot.com/. His web site is at http://www.davidflynnbooks.com .

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