*

This issue of London Grip New Poetry features new poems by:

*Tim Youngs *Kerrin P Sharpe *Richie McCaffery *Abegail Morley *Nadine Brummer *Patrick Wright *William Oxley *Tim Love *Peter Daniels *Teoti Jardine *J ‘Ash’ Gamble *Oliver Comins
*Caroline Davies *David Perman *Murray Bodo *Caroline Maldonado *Brian Docherty
*Jane Henderson *Wendy French *Sarah James *Ray Miller *Marilyn Ricci
*Alison Hill *Gareth Culshaw *Deeptesh Sen *Stephen Claughton
*P W Bridgman *Stuart Handysides *George Freek

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry resides at LG new poetry Winter 2015-6

Please send submissions to poetry@londongrip.co.uk (no more than three poems & a brief biography)

From the Editor

Craigie Aitchison – Washing Line at Montecastelli

Craigie Aitchison – Washing Line at Montecastelli

What are we waiting for?

The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight
of the sons of God 
coming into their own – Rom 8:19
J.B. Phillips translation

We regularly celebrate 
the story of an end to waiting
scarcely more than two took part in.
None bar prophets saw it coming.

But what we haven’t settled is who else  	
must visit what fresh Bethlehem; and when
a burst of star-shaped news will overtake
whichever shepherds, kings or tradesmen
happen to be hanging round; 

                                          and why 
on tiptoe is a better way to wait 
than playing with the condiments
in a cheap short-order diner
with all choices on or off the menu
turning bad for lack of salt.
.
.

Themes in this issue of LG New Poetry are mostly rather sombre for what is often termed the festive season; and the above poem (which comes with Christmas greetings from your editor) contains the only Advent/Nativity reference. Other religious associations do occur in the opening few poems but these are of a darker nature. Tim Youngs offers a response to a painting (by an unknown artist) of the martyrdom of St Ursula; and Kerrin P Sharpe’s poem motivates our heading picture which is one of Craigie Aitchison’s understated images of the Cross in the midst of the ordinary. Subsequent poems deal, among other things, with loss, mourning & ghostly reappearances; echoes of war; artists & their colours and small domestic memories. We hope our readers will enjoy the resulting poetic mixture.

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

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-Archers_décochant_leurs_flèchesTim Youngs: Les archers décochant leurs flèches

Huddled at the border of their state
pikes erect, arrows fingered for discharge,
the men stake Ursula and her virgins 
whose fate, beyond the frame, is known to us 
though unseen. This medieval painting’s still 
alive with the presence of the men who kill.

.

Tim Youngs‘s poetry has appeared in, among other places, The Harlequin, Hinterland, The Interpreter’s House, Lighthouse, The Nightwatchman: The Wisden Cricket Quarterly, Prole, Staple, The Stare’s Nest and Ink, Sweat and Tears. He is Professor of English at Nottingham Trent University and the author or editor of several books on Sainte_Ursule_et_ses_compagnes_dans_une_nef;_Archers_décochant_leurs_flèchestravel writing.

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Kerrin P. Sharpe: what was going on was the Cross

at school I drew cross
after finger-spaced cross
and learnt to carry
the places I left

	+

one Good Friday when the Priest
raised the Cross
Jesus walked off

	+

my father was buried
with his rosary
the silver cross hugged
his thin fingers like a lever
the small crosses on his coffin
hid the nails

	+

once my son banged his head
on a cross that like 
a retractor held the wound open
I saw his heart

	+

after the earthquake
a man built 12 crosses
from the wood of dead churches
they moved the wind like hair

 

Kerrin P. Sharpe’s third poetry collection rabbit rabbit will be published by Victoria University Press (NZ) in July 2016. A selection of her work has also appeared in Oxford Poets 2013 (Carcanet). Her first two poetry collections were three days in a wishing well (2012) and there’s a medical name for this (2014).

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Richie McCaffery: Church

As a child I was horrified when my mother
told me God did not exist. She said
in time I would come to understand.

Now I understand only too well,
but on summer days like these I could
almost be cozened back to the flock –

how dark and damp this church is,
yet still the pews are faded by sun. 

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Richie McCaffery: Train to Edinburgh

I sit with a coffee on a pull-out table,
the window reflection doubles everything –
two cups yet you are not here,
double quick my heart-rate and breathing. 

I do not seem to be so easily cloned, 
hardly made double the man I am, or was.
In fact, I look haunted by myself,
this ghostly mist around my edges. 

 

Richie McCaffery (b.1986) recently completed a Carnegie Trust funded PhD on the Scottish poets of World War Two, at the University of Glasgow. He now lives in Ostend, Belgium. He is the author of Spinning Plates (2012), the 2014 Callum Macdonald Memorial Pamphlet Award runner-up, Ballast Flint and the book-length collection Cairn from Nine Arches Press, 2014. Another pamphlet, provisionally entitled Arris, is forthcoming in 2017. He is also the editor of Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot (Kennedy and Boyd, 2015)

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Abegail Morley: Presence

No one saw the hollow in the bar stool, 
or the breath collapsing on the window 
or felt the shift in the air as you passed – 
a starched whisper hurrying to the door.
 
No one knew how far you walked down 
Western Road, thoughts slack as rope. 
We didn’t know how drunk you were
at St Peter’s Bridge standing on the edge

as if looking at yourself in a long mirror.
No one heard the things you said weeks before,
considered your walks, at night ? alone. 
We were home when you climbed railings,

searched the empty sky, its unspoken words 
smoothed by the wind. When you stepped off 
you didn’t know someone felt your small life 
heat their skin, if only for a moment.

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Abegail Morley: B1077

We spent the afternoon at a watermill outside Easton,
watched it turn for a time, then willed it to stop – like pain, 
noticed how the trees had tipped their branches 
leftwards as if to let the wind through. 

It happened in Cookley. Your voice on the phone 
stretches down the line. I think of an asthma attack,
a hospital, but that isn’t it you say. You insist
it’s a collision on a B road, her 4x4 hit head on,

how a woman had stopped and held her.
At the funeral three weeks from now her mother
will tell me that there wasn’t a mark on her,
how she looked like Princess Diana. But now 

I don’t know that, just know your voice journeys 
through wires to reach me, stutters along cables 
overhead as if you control the skies, the birds 
and the welcome rain that clears the air.

 

Abegail Morley’s debut collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon 2009) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection (2010). Her collections, Snow Child (2011) and Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush (2013) are published by Pindrop Press. Indigo Dreams Publishing brought out her pamphlet, The Memory of Water this year and The Skin Diary is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press (spring 2016). She collaborates with artists on a number of ekphrastic projects including work with the Royal Academy and The British Library and is currently Poet in Residence at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Kent.

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Nadine Brummer: Missing

It’s easy to misrecognise
loved ones, friends, family
dead and gone – our eyes

deceived by turn of head,
a stranger’s body-shape,
or his/her hair parted

just so – in the street
we call a name and are ignored
or else, astonished, meet

incomprehension, a look
that hurts by its unknowing.
The dead do not come back –

not the  cat 
who’d followed us around 
for years, though cat-flap,

unused, rattles now and then
or paws and tail flash by
as if our once companion

is palpably there.
It’s in the thereness
that love inheres,

the presence of another
holding, held, holding on,
relic, perhaps, of mothering, 

parenting that assumes	
a different guise in nurture
of animal or human.

And those off-guard mistakes 
of face or sound are gifts –                                         
there is a hint in double-takes

the dead are everywhere	
like wind, they are the breath
we breathe, they are our atmosphere.

 

Nadine Brummer has had three collections published with Shoestring Press: Half Way To Madrid (2002, PBS Recommendation), Out of the Blue (2006) and Any Particular Day (2013)

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Patrick Wright: Ghost Story

It arrives in strips     torn out of a compendium of dreams. It begins as wisteria
up the walls a boarded-up window     a gable     another window     dark as
an eye-patch. It’s something I’ve meant to write for some time. Each night
another vignette is unveiled.    as if viewing a mural by torchlight. It’s always a
darkness beyond darkness     like once in the attic with a shade no photons could
escape or where such darkness festers     in oubliettes     undercrofts     outside
with rooks and a sense of the venerable. Often it’s a house I’ve once been in
one with a tumble-down facade sheer cliffs on every side. Last night     the
house of a married couple     or mausoleum     its door-turned-tombstone carved
in exotic ciphers. I chucked a grappling hook over the roof to the other side
hoisted myself through a spider-filled frame. All I remember was a presence of
husband and wife     how I kept opening doors to bedrooms or staircases     or
doubling back on myself finding rooms were running out     or floral walls
closing in. Shut in the vestibule I     sought the bustle of the streets. Shrieks out
of a letterbox met with nothing but disinterest.

 

Patrick Wright was born in Manchester in 1979 and completed a PhD in English at the University of Manchester. In 2014 Wright graduated with an MA (Distinction) in poetry from the same university. He has been shortlisted for the 2015 Bridport Prize, and poems from his pamphlet Nullaby have been published in several magazines, including Agenda and Allegro. He is a Lecturer at The Open University and teaches Creative Writing.

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William Oxley: Interlocking Worlds

Light and shade effects rivaling those of the greatest English poets … V. Nabakov.

Noon shifts itself down Keats’ Grove,
comes to rest under historic oaks, chestnuts
by South Hill Ponds.  Sky peers
between floppy-haired trees, sees
its own cloud-gaze in motionless water.

A figure stands in rippling shade.  Young
and nonchalant, his face catches
the passing glitter of up-struck light
from the pond’s surface.  Then watching
a fat mallard disturb its watery patch

he sees the sun’s emissaries
dancing with delicious water nymphs,
feels he has looked right to the edge of things,
glimpsed imagination’s interlocking worlds
that light and shade effects reveal ?
feels he has witnessed oh-so-much.

In fact, he has seen poetry in action
			and inaction:
grasped for a moment the meaning of light
that is the honey of being
and the shade that is its undoing.

 

William Oxley‘s New and Collected Poems was reviewed in London Grip in 2014. A pamphlet, Walking Sequence and other poems, has just appeared from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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Tim Love: Mousetraps

Before you go, we trawl charity shops,
buy all the Mousetrap games and fill the floor
with one long chain of consequences.

We don't need the instructions to part as friends.

Our rule's to keep the small talk rumbling
like a cement lorry or a shark flapping
in its sleep so water's flowing over its gills.
Jaws. Film sequels, how Puzo
based the Godfather on his mother,
the different types of pasta – butterflies,
radiators, flying saucers. 

                                        I'm getting hungry now.
You can find the speed of light by microwaving
a pizza. Trouble is, you have to keep it still
so you can measure between the melted stripes.
The formula's simple but I can't remember it.
Amazing how few parts were missing wasn't it?
Enough though.
Silence.
Points off for silence.

You go to the toilet. I hear the front door slam.
Easier this way. The least I can do
is make some complete sets and take them back,
throw in some spare elastic bands.

 

Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance, 2010) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press, 2012). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Oxford Poetry, Journal of Microliterature, Short Fiction, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/

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Peter Daniels: Greenwich

Stretched up the sky like a heap of scribble,
the rigging can’t surely have kept a ship pushing
on the wind over the waves, but it’s there
and it did. With people who know and tell you 
all the names of the ropes, it’s just as alarming 
and no, you’d never get me up there. Yet I live 
as if I knew one day they’d yank me
out of my tavern seat and give me the whole
world tour, for a very long time – and how
shall I get by, and suppose they take me
somewhere I never come back from?
I don’t suppose I’ll ever get used to it.

I’m sitting in a garden picking my 
smallpox scabs till they bleed, thinking 
of nothing. A messenger arrives
and I’m distracted by his codpiece
but he draws my attention to the letter
that calls me before the king. I wonder
what he wants me for, as I pack my best
which is not very fine but will have to do,
and the messenger is trotting off to visit
the next on the list. I expect
this will be changing my life.
I wonder if I’ll ever get used to it.


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Peter Daniels: The End of the Street

Leave forever, dump the street like an old coat: 
had enough of bent lamp posts, and faded signs 
painted on the sides of old houses. 
Old friends, like cigarette butts that got you through, 
but only till you lit the next. 
Even the buses are old, and don't go where you want to. 
It's been home too long: every brick and paving stone 
says go away, the place has had enough of you, too. 
Put them behind you, take the other end of the street 

wherever it goes. The old district won't ever sit up again. 
It's too old to get through, clutching its cornices, 
its ornamented mantelpieces, never knew different. 
Leave it to mad people, to the hopeless, 
to fanatics for their hideout. 
If you come back, come back to flatten it, build new towers 
for the people who look to the sky. When you're rid 
of the old quaint neighbourhood, why should the future 
even thank you – let it speed away. 

 

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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Teoti Jardine : Moving

The room is open, warm and sunny,
glass doors display the garden clearly.
Amie’s kennel looks at home there,
and my writing room is just next door.

Glass doors display the garden clearly,
I’m hoping we’ll be happy here.
My writing room is just next door,
the window sees the sea breeze blowing.

I’m hoping we’ll be happy here,
our third move, in as many months.
The window sees the sea breeze blowing,
through the dunes along the beach.

Our third move in as many months,
yet, this one feels like coming home.
Through the dunes, along the beach, 
she chases, while I walk on waves. 

Now I feel I’ve found my home here,
his handshake warm and welcoming.
She’s chases while we’re walking waves
that seek to settle in the sand. 

Handshake warm and welcoming
his stories ride the waves ashore.
They whisper as they find their
settling, telling me to look no more.

The room is open, warm and sunny,
sheltered by the garden’s wall, 
Amie’s kennel looks at home there, 
my longing place has found me.

 

Teoti Jardine is of Maori, Irish and Scottish decent. His tribal affiliations are: Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu. He attended the Hagley Writers School in 2011. His poetry has been published in the Christchurch Press, London Grip, Te Karaka, Ora Nui, Catalyst, and JAAM. He has short stories published in Flash Frontier, and Te Karak. He reads at Catalyst ‘Open Mic’ sessions. He is member of the Canterbury Poets Collective Committee, and reads at their Springtime Sessions. He is member of the Kai Tahu Writers Whanau. He and his dog Amie live in a beautiful old house in the Linwood suburb of Christchurch.

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J ‘Ash’ Gamble: Routines

there are carved ruts
for us called routines so
that we do not forget
what we are about, 
hell, we could die and not
stop this routine until
at least two days later

 

J ‘Ash’ Gamble is a late in life poet from Florida. His poetry currently appears in Dead Snakes, The Poet Community, and Ancient Hearts Magazine

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Oliver Comins: Fishponds (3rd Hole, 185 yards)

Distance is not the problem.
Something else is.  It begins
with tension, created by a pond
on each side and a monstrous bunker
gaping behind the green.

How the wind blows can amplify
the effect, while pin position
varies the degree of threat
to the well-being of your shot – 
between very high risk of calamity
and inevitable disaster.

Finally, there is the moment
your routine starts –
the flex and grip, you turn
your hips and hands in tight unison,
followed by a splash.
The sound of something entering
water or leaving it behind.

 

Oliver Comins lives and works in West London. A short collection (Yes to Everything) published in February has been followed by a slightly longer collection, Staying in Touch, which won a Templar Pamphlet Award and was published in November.

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Caroline Davies: What Louis Doffman knows

What Louis Doffman knows

That his father is foreign.
That being sent to the front
is a strange kind of homecoming

That he loves being with the rest of the lads
who have him figured out as one of them,
have shortened his surname to Monty.

That he chose Mountford
for its English ring.
That he has lied in his letters home. 

That he is afraid. That he can sense his blood 
and it thuds in his ears
as the artillery booms.

That he has no faith in the advancing barrage
going ahead across open ground
to destroy the enemy.

That he does not know how he will kill
when he gets into the German lines.
That he hopes they will all surrender.

That his company must advance towards the sunken road, 
they’ve nicknamed Gloucester Street.
That there are lots of enemy machine guns.

That as he climbs out of the trench
with the rest of the lads
he feels lifted up as if by angels.

 

In memory of the 228 men, including Louis Doffman (who served as Lewis Mountford) of the Second Battalion, Worcester Regiment, killed in Pigeon Ravine, 29th September 1918

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Caroline Davies: One of the Honeybills

It must have been taken in 1917.
The photographer has chosen a mottled background
reminiscent of rain and clouds.
Nothing detracts from your white sergeant’s stripes.
Your eyes are like my grandfather’s and you have his way
of gazing past the photographer as if
you can see into the future.

I see you, Percy Honeybill, but you could never imagine
someone would come a century on 
to send your grandson into the attic 
where he will find your diary and the jotted notes in the back.
Joined up Dec 1st 1916
Sent to Prees Dec 11th 1916
and the careful details during 1917 
of promotion
to lance corporal 
to lance sergeant.
There are no entries after September 1918.

So much is missing; the rest of your life
and even your body.
But in this photograph you do look happy. 


 

Caroline DaviesVoices from Stone and Bronze will be forthcoming from Cinnamon Press in 2016. Her first collection, Convoy, based on the experiences of her merchant seaman grandfather was published in 2013. She blogs occasionally atadvancingpoetry.blogspot.com

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David Perman: The Skylark

It might as well have had no body
like Shelley’s blithe spirit, for as 
a child I never saw or heard a skylark.
They did not chirrup above the London traffic
or hover over our soot-sown park.

I first heard one on a firing range
where we aimed at plywood men
with unwieldy bren or stuttering sten
and there it was in the lull – of guns and 
sergeant’s shouts – a trill as high as cirrus.

Vaughan Williams too was thinking of guns
as he watched soldiers leave for France
and sketched as the theme of The Lark 
Ascending, the spirit of its agitated call 
without the endless repetition – of bird or guns. 

Now it’s only you that hears one:
“There’s a lark up there somewhere.”
I strain eyes along your extended arm – 
in vain. But bless you, VW, for the compensation
of your music for the bird now to me silent.

 

David Perman was born in Islington but now lives in Ware. He has had three collections published, the latest Scrap-Iron Words (2014) from Acumen Publications. He is the publisher of Rockingham Press.

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Murray Bodo: Skirl of the World

The shooter then shoots himself
These quick kills so many – my
country why don’t you hear their
cry, skirl of the world of guns
 
The theater I loved as
a child cave noir but safe
Now rank blood scuds into
my fading celluloid dreams
 
A flurry of talking heads
who could have stilled the easy
staccato of what they said
was defending their country
 
Instead a gothic film squall
suddenly lights up the screen
A turbulent tide’s loud with
skirls of more than many gulls

 

Murray Bodo is a Franciscan Priest and Poet. His most recent book of poetry is Autumn Train, 2015. 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.” He is presently working on a memoir, Gathering Shards: A Franciscan Life.

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Caroline Maldonado: After the cease-fire

What can I say to Kostya
when he comes to paint my kitchen,
his son living in Debaltseve
right near the border,
third child on the way
and their neighbours
loading carts ready for flight?
 
All night the leaders met together.
They may have reached an accord
though soldiers and rebels
still shell homes to rubble.
Once they start it’s hard to stop.
 
The leaders’ eyes are blood-shot, 
can a cease-fire hold?
Black’s a colour to go with red.

 

Caroline Maldonado’s pamphlet What they say in Avenale has been published by Indigo Dreams Publishing (2014). She co-translated, together with Allen Prowle, poems by the Southern Italian poet, Rocco Scotellaro, in Your call keeps us awake published by Smokestack Books (2013).

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Brian Docherty: How Love Comes Out Of Our Pens

It comes out thick & black
like our heart’s blood after
our mouth has dried up at last

or a blue of the state flower 
in a country we have never visited
and seen only occasionally on TV

or the purple of a sunset
where Clark Gable is always young
and the music is Art Deco

but if it flows thick & green
that might be a fine madness
or our lizard brain waking up

and a fine yellow line is not
something we would put our name to
unless we were a visiting alien

while brown is that old Country
favourite,  faded love, something   
that was black or blue, but still true;

now red, a strong, unbroken line 
of scarlet; we know what that is,
we are all Robert Burns for a day

and while we can hold a pen and hold
our thought, love comes out, if true,
without hesitation, repetition or deviation.


 

Brian Docherty was born in Glasgow, now lives in north London; 4 books published, including Independence Day, ( Penniless Press, 2015).

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Jane Henderson: Portrait of Francis Bacon at Reece Mews

Shot in his own studio
an expression of mild surprise
he presides among the debris
sleeves rolled up as if fresh from combat
exposing the meat of his forearms.
Stilled in this cadmium aftermath
just the ticking of his wristwatch
over-rides the turpentine silence.
Visibly he is unscarred:
eyes like flints in that avian head,
hair slicked back with forelock.
Behind him the tainted mirror
never reflects an undistorted image.

 

Jane Henderson is a gardener and sculptor. She is a regular reader of her poetry at venues in Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds

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***

Wendy French: Cancer Speaks of Painting a Garden

Teenage and Young People’s Centre, Macmillan

time then to escape to the garden                 
where palette colours change the season       
on this huge expanse of paper

but I remain fairly constant 
don’t always like what I do, the pain
I cause, Shit, the young girl says

as she throws down her brush –
a heron painted,
ready for flight, and the girl sketched

reading her book never turns a page.
Stories emerge in the head of the girl
yelling Shit, shit and more of it

the ornate gate opens and closes
in between blood tests, weight checks 
but I’m there, hovering over this garden

for it promises some certainty. 
Uncertainty. It’s never night here
stars are blind, they wait

children make their own light, mix paints 
the fern stays yellow 
my colours change with intensity

I have no place in this garden
minnows swim round and round
In between blood tests and appointments 

another colour’s added to the garden, 
a haiku written, a text received and sent, 
while parents sit, clutch letters. 

In this expansive painting 
with the hint of grey, stickle-backs 
swim and the swan’s neck stretches

I want to be a wall in that garden. 
Strong, dry, stone. Stone upon stone. 
A wall that won’t crack in the cold.

Borders wander through 
children’s medication.
One path leads to another 

through toxic pollen lilies.
A felted blackbird
with a bright orange eye. 

 

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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***

Sarah James: Thick-skinned, Thin-fleshed

on diabetes type 1

 In the old young days: piss
	on diastix, and a glass syringe
twice the length of her palm.

On the children’s ward, she practised
	on thick oranges. Pushing a needle
through the fruit’s peel was so

unlike the ice-cold sting
	of pressing it through her own
thin-fleshed skin, the weight

of glass in her hand, pushing
	the plunger home. This sterilised
in her Mum’s special saucepan,

while she played houses, and childhood.
	Later, lighter plastic for injections,
then a cannula and pump.

Blood tests now, for precision. 
	Fingertips pricked to a scarred
numbness. For thirty-five years,

the red of life with a glint of steel.
	Each needle’s slither etches
her mind; her body’s rubbed hard

by time. She carries the disease’s 
	sharp sweetness in her blood;
its other daily stabs as invisible

as genetics. Look! She shows me 
	her fingers’ scabby black braille,
soaked in manmade insulin.

Her wet dependence is survival.

 

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 the Overton 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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***

Ray Miller: Looking After You

The stabilisers are squeaking and your head is still 
too tiny for your helmet. We’re taking aim
at August and the cycle turns as clockwork
as a comet. Your new parents have got previous
experience of death, disease and sickness;
but they haven’t got dogs, frogs in a pond
or slow-worms on the top of the compost.
I’m looking after you – to when I’m stationed
at the wrong end of a spyglass, when the shed
is cleared of a pink car and scooters,
and Cinderella hasn’t left behind her slippers;
when the time strikes for writing rhyme and rhythm,
not dwelling on the dreams of orphaned children;
to when I stare at all this empty space and wonder
if it’s appropriate to watch Rastamouse alone.

 

Ray Miller has had poems published in many magazines. He won the Inter Board Poetry Contest in September 2013 and finished 3rd in the 100 metres sprint at Trescott Junior School in 1965. These days he can only walk as far as the bookies and back.

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***

Marilyn Ricci: Night Rider

The steady shush of his bicycle wheel
with its mudguard bent a little too close;
I push back the duvet, look out to see
in flickering streetlamp my father coast
by, flap of his raincoat, framed eyes squint,
pushed along by an unearthly wind, 
bike clips glint, like he’s in an old movie
and when I wave he salutes his trilby.
There’s that ghost of a smile as he pedals
away, not looking back, determined, grim.
Thirty years dead I wish he would settle,
be at peace with himself, make that old frame
stop dead in its tracks, sins forgiven,
let blessed mortality finally reign.

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***

Marilyn Ricci: The Way Things Often Go

Six a.m. and he’s sweeping up after the night shift,
thinking of his finger tracing high cheekbones, warm lips,
hands running through her brown curls
at the bus stop next to the Palais de Danse.

God knows it’s been a hard walk against the wind 
since that first shy meeting: sucking a mint to hide beery 
breath, holding open the door, the apple smell of her perfume 
as she high-heels onto red carpet covered in dead ends, 
plaster cupids looking down on them.

Later, he wants another drink, she’s a little edgy. 
The last bus still half an hour away they linger 
in the smell of frying chips, joke with the old man 
behind the counter, stroll towards the stop, sharing
the chips, the vinegar soaking the paper apart.  
He goes to kiss her. She flashes: Not yet. Pushes him.

It’s an old story, he thinks: early whiffs of fatal flaws – 
his drinking, her temper – the inevitable cracks, split.  
But it wasn’t like that.

He has loved her and, he thinks, she has loved him and that endured
through the kids, the arguing, his drinking, her temper, the lack
of jobs, the constant worry about paying the rent.  
  
It’s an old story about dead ends, plaster cupids, chips, vinegar and love.
An old story about the way things often go.

 

Marilyn Ricci lives in Leicestershire. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and many magazines including Magma, The Rialto and Modern Poetry In Translation. Her pamphlet: Rebuilding a Number 39 was published by Happenstance Press.

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***

Alison Hill: Brooklands Swing

They’re in the mood – swirling 
the dance floor, hands skimming 
hips, scarlet lipstick glossing, all
eye-linered nylons & vintage chic.

They’re hovering at the stalls, 
clustering rails, rummaging 
period pieces, yellowing maps
offering up roads still to travel.

From the clubhouse balcony 
classic cars slip into easy mono, 
as Diana wafts by, Lettice strides 
the other way, ready for the sky.

Spring sunlight dances back into 
Brooklands, crowds lap nostalgia, 
the glitz & glamour of bygone days
cheering races, applauding flights.

 

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 this poem is taken, was published in October by 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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***

Gareth Culshaw: Dress

She is making a dress, shaping fabric
around herself. The snip snip of scissors
snapping the threads of a sheet.

A coloured sheet that will envelop her
body. A curve under each arm, a straight
down each side. Under stitching and
using a machine. The chugging tap, tap, tap

of getting the stitching right, straight.
She is making a dress, using inches,
pin and fit to keep things together.

Seams tidied to give a finished look
she is also making herself look new
knowing what fingertips have touched
the inner parts. Chugging tap, tap, tap

snip snip of scissors. Occasional ironing out
pins sit in a small pillow on the table
coloured heads, sharp points, waiting to
swim under a piece of fabric and lie in wait. 

 

Gareth Culshaw is an aspiring writer who has had poems published in various magazines and online journals. He hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen. He lives in North Wales

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***

Deeptesh Sen: Scrambled eggs

hair tied up
you were cooking scrambled eggs
for dinner

your wrinkled face
buried in solitude
threw up the ghosts on arched windows

past continuous
as the yolk sizzling in oil
spluttered out

and you stood
sucking your thumb

there are no ghosts,
you had told me once
only accidents that stop short of being a miracle

the persistence of your body
rising, falling
with breath
was a miracle back then

the casual glance of accidental unease
caught me off-guard
and left a winding trail

now the heat receding
winter having shrunk in,
there are no more accidents

unpaid kerosene bills and metacin tablets
jostle for space with noisy children

even the old photos
cling to the wall like strangers
dissipating rheumatic memory

don’t tell me death is better
not even the moth that dances on fire
can afford such a brittle supposition

the spluttering of the yolk now
opens up a dangerous precipice —

the brittle skin of the night
flaking off
into a mechanical lump of flesh

some nights are beautiful
when we don’t make love

 

Deeptesh Sen is currently pursuing his M.Phil. in English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. His poetry has been published in The Statesman, Kolkata, the Journal of Poetry Society, India, Aaina Nagar, the Stare’s Nest and Crab Fat Literary Magazine. He blogs at www.deeptesh.net

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***

Stephen Claughton: In the Restaurant

If Dad were here now,
he’d be flirting with the staff,
archly raising one eyebrow
to indicate mild surprise,

the mimed equivalent
of some corny chat-up line,
beginning perhaps with:
“What’s a dish like you...?”

The waitresses, well trained
and used to that sort of thing,
didn’t seem to care.
I’d be the one going red,

digging my heels in hard
under the restaurant table,
sticking my head in the menu
and mumbling my order to them.

When it came to getting the bill,
Dad would crook an eyebrow again
and give the lop-sided grin
he called  ‘a winning smile’.

It seemed to work for him.
Maybe he had the knack,
unless the knowing girls
just humoured him for tips.

I stick with the standard gesture,
miming – I’m not sure which –
their writing me the ‘check’,
or my signing a cheque to them.

In practice, we do neither.
Perhaps I’m just drawing a line,
a limit to everything:
the meal, the evening, Dad.

 

Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared in print in Agenda, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Other Poetry, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Warwick Review and on line at Agenda Supplement, Ink Sweat & Tears, London Grip and The Poetry Shed.

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***

P W Bridgman: The Nobility In That, Or Not

 Helen, a twelfth grader, would have done it with him, 
    an eleventh grader,
        but his best friend advised against it.
            (Not fair to Pam.)

Pam, his Pam, wouldn’t have.
     (No need even to ask.)

Helen would have,
    but he thought he shouldn’t
        because, in truth,
            though he won’t admit it,
                he feared he couldn’t.

There’s no nobility in that.

For greater certainty:
Helen would have, as might he,
    but they didn’t,
        because he wouldn’t
            out of a fear he couldn’t.

Then came Pam’s change of heart: she would.

He still feared he couldn’t,
    still thought they shouldn’t,
        but as it happens,
            he could,
                and they did,
                    and straightaway he wished they hadn’t.

By then, Helen wouldn’t.
And while his Pam would,
    and though he knew they could,
        he wouldn’t,
            because she wasn’t … you know … Helen.

Ever since, though he could have,
   and with many,
        he hasn’t.
            And he won’t.

And he thinks there’s nobility in that. 

 

P.W. Bridgman writes short fiction and poetry from Vancouver, Canada. His work has appeared in numerous literary magazines and in anthologies that have been published (or are soon to be published) in Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and India. His first book of fiction, entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age, was published by Libros Libertad in 2013. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website at www.pwbridgman.ca.

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***

Stuart Handysides: All an act

This is a rehearsal; I am rehearsing,
like changing vehicles on the way to my funeral.
The actor pauses to corpse.

Perhaps too early in the piece’s evolution
to call it rehearsal, too much yet to do –
build character, develop text, block moves.

This is workshopping, storming the brain,
creeping up on it to see what’s going on,
where it’s got to, where it’s going, if it knows.

This is a rehearsal. Don’t believe those
who say life isn’t, because it is.
The best you could say is, ‘work in progress’.

Make no mistake, your performance,
if you insist on calling it that,
leaves a lot to be desired.

Perhaps that is what keeps you going – 
inserting, deleting, transposing, scribbling,
rehearsing, trying out new lines.

Are they sound? How do they sound?
I’m taking soundings. These words are foundlings – 
sent out naked, defenceless, on trial.

So yes, this is a rehearsal.
No you don’t get your money back.
Preview, press night, the run – all rehearsal.

A new inflection, a look that comes
because this audience got that joke,
because I got the joke.

Now, perhaps, I can tell it with conviction,
get the timing right, know what it means,
what I mean, as far as I know, so far.

Try to improve every night or go stale – 
either way the final curtain falls
and the corpse is hearsed.

 

Stuart Handysides has worked as a general practitioner and medical editor. He has published haiku in Presence magazine and short stories in anthologies. He has run the Ware Poets competition for the past three years.

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***

George Freek: Weak Wine

After Su Tung Po

The weaker the wine,
the more you can drink.
An ugly wife is better
than an empty house.

One hundred years 
seems a long time,
but eventually it ends.

A rich corpse is no happier
than a poor one.
Every corpse is blind. 

Poetry is its own reward.
Witty lines last a long time,
when complemented
by a clever rhyme.

When I look at the abyss,
of all things in this world, 
it’s wine and poetry
that I will miss.

 

George Freek is a poet/playwright living in Illinois. His poetry has recently appeared in The Missing Slate; Off Course Literary Journal; Mud Season; The Chiron Review; The Tower Journal; and The Samizdat Literary Journal.

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