*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Bethany W Pope *Maggie Butt *Ruth Bidgood *Helen Kay *Keith Nunes *Robert Ford
*Deborah Tyler-Bennett *Stuart Pickford *Sue Burge *Kerrin P Sharpe *Pam Thompson

*Jean Atkin *Bruce Christianson *Jan Hutchison *Phil Kirby *Stuart Henson *Ben Banyard
*Gareth Culshaw *Barry Smith *Mary Franklin *Laura McKee *Carla Scarano D’Antonio 
*Merryn Williams  
*Richie McCaffery *D A Prince *Lynne Wycherley *Leona Gom *Jane Frank
*Philomena Johnson *Steve Komarnyckyj *Stuart Handysides *
Norbert Hirschhorn

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be found at LG new poetry Winter 2017-8

London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December

Please send submissions to poetry@londongrip.co.uk, enclosing no more than three poems and a brief, 2-3 line, biography

We prefer to get submissions in the following windows: December-January, March-April, June-July and September-October i.e. avoiding the months when we are busy compiling a new issue

 

Editorial

There is a  good chance  that this  selection of new poetry will  be the  1000th posting  on London Grip since Patricia Morris founded the magazine in 2007.  Ensuring that we hit this target exactly is beyond the poetry editor’s pay grade; but it can safely be said that we will be within a fraction of one per cent of that milestone.

Readers  with a head for  figures will  have reckoned  that this  represents a  commendable  average of around 100 postings a year –  mostly reviews of art, books,  dance and theatre  (interspersed with the occasional opinion piece or personal reminiscence).  These postings represent the excellent work of at least fifty volunteer contributors to whom we are hugely grateful.

This issue of  London  Grip  New  Poetry is the  thirtieth since the present  format was  adopted in 2011
(although  London Grip  has been publishing  new poetry since 2007).   A rough estimate suggests  that
we  must  have  featured  work  by at least  300 poets  –  some of  whom  have  appeared  many times.
Enormous  thanks are due to all of them.   All past editions of  LGNP  are still on the website, as are the pre-2011 selections (filed under ‘poetry-archive’).

All  of  the  above  represents  a  small  additional  cause  for  celebration  alongside  the  much  more  significant event   commemorated at this  time of year.   We wish all our readers a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

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

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***

Bethany W Pope: The Dog in the Garden

The landlord never suspected the bones
he found beneath the cobbles. Skeletons,
complete and every piece accounted for,
laid out in neat rows below the fenced-in
beergarden. Once, there was a cathedral
set on the hill beside his thatch-roofed pub.
The nuns were known for tending to lepers,
but the Revolution saw to that. All
he sought was renovation; new tiles,
some patio furniture, a pavilion
with a poured foundation to shelter guests.
What he found was resurrection. The dead
will not lie still forever. They bloom
up like white shoots, nurtured by the bright blades
of shovels or the sharp claws of dogs.
These ghosts had fingers that disease had sucked
to spikes which reminded him of Christmas;
the tongue-polished spurs of a candy cane.
One very tall figure had the hips of
a child, and legs which trailed like a plant grown
spindly, shut off in the dark. Very soon,
his pub was overrun with historians.
Luckily, they drank a lot. At night he
lay (very still) in his bed and dreamed of
the tips of white crocuses, the first shoots
of Hyacinth, tendrils which shore themselves
against fragments, ruins. His brindled dog
(friend to man) twitched his legs in sleep, darting
between a hoard of strangers with missing
noses who sought to stroke him, offering love.

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as ‘poetry as salvation’…..’This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.’ Bethany was born in North Carolina. She has lived in five countries and six American states. She lived in a South Carolina orphanage between the ages of twelve and fifteen. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Trinity, St David’s and a PhD from Aberystwyth University. She has won many literary awards. Her poetry collections include: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012), Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014) , The Rag and Boneyard (Indigo Dreams 2016), and Silage (Indigo Dreams, 2017). Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016.

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***

Maggie Butt: Halloween Ghost Walk, Canterbury

His tone is factual:
of types there is your monk, nun or lady;
of ladies there are blue, grey, white and red;
of smells there is cigar smoke, lily-of-the-valley and sulphur,
other signs are disembodied voices, or drops in temperature.

Headless or faceless ghosts were not beheaded
but apparitions fade with time, like batteries.
There are toilet ghosts and bedside ghosts,
who brush your hair or wrap cold fingers round your throat.
The latest burial in the graveyard
becomes the watcher of the dead.
Most spirits are not malevolent.
Most exorcisms do not work. 

We smirk and avoid catching his penetrating 
gaze, seeking out sceptics
one-sidedly from under his peaked cap.
But at 3am, wide awake in heart-beat dark
I draw the duvet over my head,
not to see, hear or smell, not to feel a drop
in temperature, not to have my hair brushed 
by a nun who smells of sulphur.

Maggie Butt is a London poet, whose fifth poetry collection, Degrees of Twilight, was published by The London Magazine. Maggie is an ex journalist and BBC TV producer, now Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Middlesex University, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow in Kent. http://www.maggiebutt.co.uk

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***

Ruth Bidgood: One Light

Night. Where and when forgotten.
Seen from a shore, black buildings
climb on a starless sky. In one –
the tallest – shines the only light.
What most clearly I recall
is how that mattered, how much
I cared that it should shine –
but the why is lost.
                                  For years
the memory is gone. Then suddenly
some chance, some random sighting,
something heard, read, can wake it –
and with it what I felt, still calling
out of the baffling past, still
dark as that distant night, still
strong as its only light.

Ruth Bidgood was born in South Wales, and returned in middle life, to rural mid-Wales, which became her home and inspired much of her work. Her most recent collection is Land-Music/ Black Mountains (Cinnamon Press), a two-ended book with an essay by Matthew Jarvis, who has written a book about her poetry in the Writers of Wales series (UWP).

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Helen Kay: Petrarch Names the Dark Ages 

He’s up each night translating Cicero 
I saw the line of light below his door.
It’s true that words became his sweetest loves
and in them hides the golden age of Rome.  
He pulled a blanket over centuries 
and then pronounced them Dark,
a rotting corpse of literature and art. 
He hid his own desire in shadows too
by pinning his heart on wedded beauty .
I think he craved the pain so he could write.
He is happier with a laureate than Laura 
and tidies his loss into patterns of rhyme.
I am packing food for our ride to Padua 
I translate our trip to bread and horses
as mother did for us before she died. 
I hear that the plague is spreading  
black years behind, black years ahead.
Only his words preserve the light.  

Helen Kay is sometimes known as the chicken poet because of her debut pamphlet A Poultry Lover’s Guide To Poetry (Indigo Dreams, 2015). She has had poems published in magazines including IS&T, Rialto and Orbis. she was a runner up in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2016 and was shortlisted for the 2017 Paper Swans pamphlet prize

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Keith Nunes: Rowley’s maelstrom of epiphanies
 
Rowley stands up abruptly
clicks into ram-rod straight
 
he rhythmically
displays the fine art
of tying up his long cinnamon hair
 
initially he speaks in tones of the kereru
and then rising to a point 
launches into the string quartet of tui
 
outside the radio-waves of rain
are profiled by the mango street light
 
‘I’ve decided humans are simply
vehicles for a cluster of one-liners’
swallows his 10th cup of coffee
 
‘of course one line is more than enough
for some lives’
 
he scans for detail in his Van Gogh forgery
hanging on the charcoal wall
as he scratches at his lime-green onesy
which sags a little at the bum
 
the chihuahua’s head is buried in the trifle
on the chaotic dining table
his face stippled with fresh cream and custard
 
Rowley’s invention for measuring the weight of air
(with and without the sunlight component)
will be launched tonight
 
‘I plan on exploding some myths about
the disturbing motivation of wind
so please bring your iPhone’
 
one more cup of coffee for the road 
and we climb inside the cyclonic mouth of the night
fame and fortune
just three city blocks away

Keith Nunes lives beside Lake Rotoma where the two of them undertake a great deal of reflecting. He’s had works published around the globe, has placed in competitions and been a Pushcart Prize nominee. His book of poetry/short fiction, catching a ride on a paradox, is sold by the lunatic fringe.

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Robert Ford: Number 44
 
Some river or other was always waiting
to push its wet fists through your house,
to scrape the paper from the walls and
leave their trout-coloured flesh bloodied.
Its waters would rise up, and enter by 
the back door without ever knocking, 
vault the stairs and scour its channel, 
leaving almost nothing be, except 
the drill-square rows of Kilner jars filled with 
dried pulses frowning down tersely from 
safe above the plimsoll line, their shelf
right-angling two walls of your kitchen.
We’d lie on the sofa, facing, bemused, 
just our souls touching, beneath your 
paintings of famous horses winning races, 
and lift our cups from the floor as the waters 
ebbed, searching for an ocean to fill up.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, The Lake, Butcher’s Dog and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com/

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***

Deborah Tyler-Bennett: Boy Acrobat and Footman
Inspired by William Powell-Frith’s Derby Day, 1858


The Boy’s tongue tastes Fuller’s Earth, tastes chalk dust
 drying his Pa’s palms when preparing to negotiate
 a rope above streets never echoing enough applause.

 

That liveried Footman doesn’t glance their way,
 absorbed in theatrics of his own: chinking meat-knives;
 salad-servers; lobster-cutters; tongs.

 ‘See him today, Britannia’s Great Boy Marvel!’
 Pa’s patter grinds far off, then cold-cut menace:
 ‘Show ‘em, Lad!’

 But coral claws, for demolition, thrall,
 then there’s the pie’s crisped ramparts,
 speculation (juices thick within) bubbling.

 ‘See him, alive, Britain’s Wonder Boy,’
 gypsy kids smirk at gaujo pantaloons, know bread-
 rolls can vanish, as carriage-folk get served.

 The Footman glances up.  An acrobat is hissing:
 ‘Look live, Son, shake yer self!’  His Lad still courts
 the pie, yet jellied-walls elude.

 Night’s living quarters – servitude packed into
 a picnic hamper.  The Footman’s dream 
 accompanies Britannia’s Marvel down black-crust alleys –

 Waking sounds of breaking hearts … of lobster, cracking …  


Deborah Tyler-Bennett is author of seven poetry collections, and three volumes of linked short fictions. Her current collections (both King’s England, 2017) are Mr Bowlly Regrets, poems, and Brand New Beat, short fictions set in the 1960s. She regularly performs her work, and takes workshops and classes in creative writing.

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Stuart Pickford: Elephant Orchids
  
Downstairs, the butler’s understudy
is cutting his toenails
with a vegetable-sink knife
as if peeling a parsnip.
 
He gathers his parings in a pile
like the hoard of ivory
beside the fourth Earl of Harewood
in a portrait by Joshua Reynolds.
 
The understudy raises a sash,
chucks his horned slivers
to all ten corners of the Archery Border,
lush with weeping bottlebrush.
 
Overnight, elephant orchids
push out their trunks,
wrinkled and blinking.
Their tusks catch the moon.
 
When the Dowager Duchess
cuts an armful for the music room,
they stampede to the ornamental lake,
dig into the mud.
 
 

Stuart Pickford works as a teacher in a comprehensive school in Harrogate. His latest book is Swimming with Jellyfish published last year by smith/doorstop.

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Sue Burge: Peckover House – Curiosities

In the Morning Room, the Cabinet of Curiosities begins
with a round brass tin of Jonathan’s hair,
 
two sea-urchin skeletons, a Roman silvered glass phial
in a cardboard box, a letter in copperplate from the vicar,
 
a Venetian latticino swizzle stick,
a diary with handwriting like ant footprints.
 
A long-gone July - the gardener’s boy flicks the pots to see if they ring dry,
scrubs the bark of the Himalayan birch into uncanny whiteness,
 
uses the privy, painted Prussian blue to repel flies,
checks the three three-hundred year old orange trees;
 
maybe he sees the artist on the croquet lawn,
painting a doll’s house mirrorworld,
 
maybe Marmie the cat, most beautiful and loving,
prowling and pawing the grass
 
or Damson, dusty black with tragic eyes and bony back
meowing near the little graves of her ancestors.
                                                                       
There could be the smell of pigeon pie,
the wooden slap of Scotch Hands shaping butter pats,
 
And those men on stilts, harvesting sedge, willow, reeds, turf
from the marshes here in the beforetimes, their ploughed faces,
 
spatuline hands scored with reed-burn,
do their footfalls still shiver below the rosebeds?
 
But for now it is still July, bees spill from the hives
amidst foreign plants, displayed like Rembrandts.
 
Alexandrina’s butler serves tea, scatters arsenic
and strychnine from his silver tray for the foraging birds.

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Sue Burge: Bryce
 
I learn this quilt will contain
a hundred thousand unknown names
 
all forty-two of my facial muscles
try not to cry as I stitch the memory
 
of the day you showed me your arms
bejewelled with sarcoma,
 
how I felt the stutter of your
dancing heartbeat.
 
I re-imagine you flying home
to die in the Australian sun
 
while we mourned among
the cold grey bricks of Rotherhithe.
 
Then the others too were claimed,
one by one, long and slow and cruel
 
as purgatory.  I honour your name
in thread the colour of sunlight,
 
whispering all the news of all the years
you never knew me.

Sue Burge is a freelance film studies and creative writing lecturer based in Norfolk. Her poems have appeared in many publications including Mslexia, Orbis, Brittle Star, The Lampeter Review, The North, Stride and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Sue was longlisted in both the 2016 National Poetry Competition and the Fish Poetry Prize and has been longlisted for the Live Canon Debut Collection Competition. Last year she received an Arts Council grant to write poetry which celebrated Paris’s cinematic legacy.

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Kerrin P Sharpe: from his world call centre

while J works to reconnect
our voices we hear frantic dancing
part-Celtic part genetic
from his world call centre

though he is sorry
for our troubles 
he makes no provision
for daylight saving

his handset recovers
your number in Norwich
while he follows
my New Zealand listing
on his screen

we hear him scramble
to change the settings
and rearrange the slots

just for a minute
our conversation
outmanoeuvres clouds
mountain ranges oceans
where it is day
where it is night

yet when we raise our glasses
we are cut off

and J's voice 
now thin as wire 
is so much louder


Kerrin P Sharpe has published three collections of poetry (all with Victoria University Press): three days in a wishing well (2012); there’s a medical name for this (2014); and rabbit rabbit (2015). Her fourth collection, louder, has just been completed and is in the final editing stages. Kerrin has also had her poems published in a wide range of journals both in New Zealand and overseas including Oxford Poets 13 (Carcanet Press UK).

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Pam Thompson: The Walk - Relleu, Late Spring

If only this bag my daughter bought me
as a present from Thailand, with its blue sequinned 

spirals, its frieze of golden elephants,
had been bigger, I would have brought back 

that turquoise car, the colour of a favourite lost
sweater, and the old woman walking slowly up the hill

on two sticks. I might have included those clouds, 
barely clouds at all, more like sun-etchings,

and the terracotta house, the campanile.
I would have brought back a white snail,

a handful of swifts, the cactus with yellow flowers
which thrives in this dry weather, the mountain

which yesterday afternoon was partially lost
in mist. It’s likely I’d have included the cockerel

whose crow commands the valley, that line of washing,
the Moorish balcony, wild olives, an orange 

orchard, the clock chime, and placed them on a table
in the shade next to the pine cones I’d put there already.


Pam Thompson is based in Leicester. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from De Montfort University and is one of the organisers of Word!, the longest running spoken-word, open-mic night in the Midlands which takes place at the Y Theatre. Her second collection, Strange Fashion, is forthcoming from Pindrop Press at the end of the year

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Jean Atkin: Six stories

The Story of the Door
Each time it closes, the door
makes other worlds imaginable.
When it opens, through you go
without thinking.

.                                                                The Story of the Coat
.                                                                The coat recalls its owner’s arms
.                                                                and spine.  On the hook
.                                                                it languishes.

The Story of the Flame
Wavering, and must be watched.
Draws moths, like people.
Double-edged, like a sword.

.                                                               The Story of the Deer
.                                                               When the deer run through the wood
.                                                               they leave tracks.  When they are seen, 
.                                                               they are last seen leaping –

The Story of the Stone Dog
Under a blanket of snow the dog
is unmoved, loyal in crises.
Stroke his ears and strain 
your own to hear him.

.                                                               The Story of The Cup
.                                                               Holder of all things.
.                                                               Curved to fit the palm.  
.                                                               Like a heart, warm, easy to break. 
 

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Jean Atkin: Saturday night in the north

channelling off-kilter grace of young giraffes
.          the girls are on stacked heels & on the town
legs bare & long & orange

they dash on water under streetlights, in tiny dresses
.          shrunk to bums by midnight’s rain
they totter hip to giggle 

&  each has raised surreal wet arms to hold
.          a carrier bag as puffball on her head
sheltering each hair & eyelash 
 
they trot towards 
the clubs, shiny, decapitated  
architects of carnival


Jean Atkin has published Not Lost Since Last Time (Oversteps Books) also pamphlets and a novel. Her recent work appears in Magma, Agenda, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Earthlines and The Moth. She has held many residencies in both England and Scotland, and works as a poet on education and community projects. www.jeanatkin.com @wordsparks

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Bruce Christianson: Girls' Night Out

temperance is on the lash

she sits beside the fountain
toes dabbling in the water
& watches prudence climb
the ornamental lion

temperance pretends
the water is champagne
drinks some from her shoe
& wishes she hadn't

prudence astride the statue
leans at an alarming angle
as she tries to fit her head
into the lion’s mouth

you know says temperance
it’s important to celebrate
our disasters just as much
as we do our triumphs

yeah chaz does that bollocks
constantly replies prudence
sounding hollow. temperance
looks round carefully but

chastity is nowhere to be seen



Bruce Christianson is a New Zealand mathematician who has spent the last thirty years teaching in Hertfordshire. Sometimes he and Chastity hold hands under the table at the all night café.

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Jan Hutchison: Flight on a Wednesday Afternoon

But Grandmother had vanished –
mid-thought, mid-dash.
Gone her brisk voice
gone the map folded like a duster
over her arm.  So Grandfather
looked up and down the stairs
and on the landing with its mistakes
and hasty judgements.
Then he napped on her winged chair
that at night would eavesdrop
on conversations of migrating birds.
Finally, Grandfather came across her
as she stood at her looking-glass.
She was fumbling at the back of her dress
with a pearl button that wouldn't
quite settle in its hole.  She who from
the start of his wanderings
knew his hands would come back
to where they were most wanted.


Jan Hutchison lives in Christchurch, N.Z. Her 4th poetry collection is A Kind of Hunger and was published by Steele Roberts, Wellington in August, 2017. Jan is curious about many things, including the secret lives of trees.

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Phil Kirby: The Bird Man

It’s not the boy in Sunday best –
fresh white shirt and khaki shorts –
posed beside a trophy-laden table
on some unremembered afternoon;
nor his grandfather, never a man
given to displays of anything extreme –
emotion, wealth when he had it –
though the cups and rosettes somehow
contradict that version of the past.

It’s more the aviary-shed,
the preep and chitter of a hundred birds;
how entering meant breathing in
its scent of millet grain and husk,
the dry and dusty feathered air
which parched the throat; and how
the coloured ringlets’ numbered code,
the strange and chalk-white cuttlefish
and pristine boxes just for shows, 
seemed like the secrets of a breeder’s art.
And everywhere the weightless moult
of yellows, greens; of greys and cobalt blue…

And then it’s something else:
not just the questions of where it all went, 
who had the birds and when it all stopped –
that nurturing from egg to ‘First Prize’ winner –
but the grandmother taken too early;
the empty shed; the garden falling silent.


Phil Kirby spent most of his working life as an English teacher. His collection, Watermarks (Arrowhead) is now officially ‘sold out’ but the last remaining copies are available by contact through www.waldeanpress.co.uk/page7.html. Hopefully, a second collection is coming soon.

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Stuart Henson: The Shed 

Step in it’s a tardis: vortex of smells
distilled a century – of  pre-war 
timber, earth-floor, and the gold decay 
of sawdust, linseed, two-stroke oil.

Is this what happens, then?  All falls
in place as you’re sucked down     
through boards and beams, the sun’s migraine
toward some backward ebb of space 
 
by webs of rope-slack, amber panes
that seem to stain long afternoons
left there alone, lost to make sense
of time’s great centrifuge, its huge mistake.

Now while you shrink to half your size
bemused by beetle-sift, hammocks of flies  
you marvel at the fat bench vice
haunched like a Buddha on its height –

that and the square-tanked Velocette
you scramble on and don scuffed
gauntlets, goggles, Biggles-eyed,
throat-rev the throttle, ease the brake…

Behind, dry wallflowers and trellises, 
tall shadows reaching to embrace… 
Kick down my canny lad. Accelerate. 
Back to the future and its great escape. 


Stuart Henson‘s Feast of Fools was reviewed by D A Prince in London Grip. The Way You Know It is due from Shoestring in 2018.

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Ben Banyard: Extension 

The garage is gone, making way
for this mound of rubble and mud.
A metre-deep trench frowns from the ground,
expecting a gush of concrete.

I throw a coin in for luck,
greet the builder with his white with two.
He’ll spend three months here;
blockwork, timbers, eating my biscuits.

On top of this he will build
new segments of our lives,
places to work, write, play,
to wash days from ourselves.

We bury our hearts in the foundation,
sealing in this morning’s rainfall,
a stiff westerly breeze from the estuary,
all that we are now and ever will be.


Ben Banyard lives and writes in Portishead, near Bristol. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in February 2016, and a full collection, We Are All Lucky, is due out from the same press in 2018. Ben blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com.

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Gareth Culshaw: Perps
 
The perps were our line
the joint between bricks, that 
buttering of two faces, softening
 
the wall. Making us believe
things were not as hard as they seemed.
Flemish Bond, English Bond, Stretcher
 
Bond, some bricks halved, others
in wait like a waiting foot. The weight
of it all, building before us. 
 
Those years when time is of no height.
And walls had no point, other than
something to clamber over. 
 
We ignored the perps, seeing them 
as a weakness. A scoop with a trowel,
tap with the butt end, dink with the edge,
 
not realising that for every brick we laid
corners came into our lives, and shadows
and shadows, and shadows.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen. He has been published in various places across the UK and USA.

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***

Barry Smith: Home Front

When we cleared my grandmother’s belongings,
I was taken for one last look, blinking
through the dust that smeared the worn surfaces
where she lived out her final widowed years
in a blurry grey haze of Woodbine smoke,
sixty a day curling over the gold
taffeta bedspread and walnut commode,
crumpled plaid blanket draped over her knees
vainly counteracting the chill that crept
through her tight, rattling lungs and thinning blood.

There was nothing we wanted to take home
from that dour room which had choked her days.
Upstairs, I was startled by the blackened
bronze equine statuettes, hooves rearing high
over sturdy youths struggling with the reins
of fire-cast beasts from a classical age.
And on the dresser, astride a dark horse,
clothed in khaki and leather, gun in belt,
gleaming boots plunged into firm-flanked stirrups,
my grandfather gazed steadfastly ahead.

As children we used to wonder about
the one-armed man who heaved bags of sugar
in the corner-shop where we clutched hot coins
for humbugs; it was the war, some whispered,
the one before the last which brought the broken
men home: my grandfather was one of those.
Wounded at Passchandaele, crawling to cut
the coiled barbed wire, given a glass-eyed semblance
of sight, Walter never settled but strung
a loop in the kitchen and stepped into space. 

Barry Smith is director of Chichester Poetry and co-ordinator of the Festival of Chichester. He presents the Poetry & Jazz Café each summer as part of the festival as well as running Open Mic Poetry each month. His work has appeared online, on youtube and in magazines, including Acumen, Stony Thursday Book and London Grip. He was runner up in a BBC Proms Poetry competition. Barry is editor of Poetry & All That Jazz magazine. Recent readings include the South Downs Poetry Festival.  http://www.chichesterpoetry.simplesite.com

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***

Mary Franklin: Red Chairs
20th anniversary – April 6, 2012
 
We watch from our flat window
above the high street in Sarajevo
as officials lay out in rows
more than 12,000 red chairs,
one for every Sarajevan
killed by Bosnian Serb forces
during the four-year siege.

My husband’s eyes wander 
to the bureau and the photo
of our young daughter,
then return to stare
at one of the small chairs
where he has placed
flowers and a teddy bear. 

Mary Franklin’s poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Ink Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Message in a Bottle, The Open Mouse and Three Drops from a Cauldron, as well as in several anthologies by Three Drops Press. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Laura McKee: this is my face before my parents were born

finding itself waiting 
without any idea of the time

in stone signs over entrances 
to Catford boys Catford girls 

in waters of the River Quaggy 
the River Cray

in my great aunt's hare lip short lived life 
that stayed in nanny Maude's eyes

my eyes have not yet decided which way to look
have not been confused by dominance 
and wandered into the fleck greens of hazel

my nose is not shaped by a fight 
between button and Roman

has no scent memory
Je Reviens Old Spice Ambre Solaire 

doesn't know how to find the way home 
by following itself

my ears never hear 
the cries of mum and dad's arrivals

or recognise my own first cry 
in a shock of black hair

in a sharp intake of breath 
I hear twice again when they leave me


Laura McKee‘s poems have appeared in various journals including The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, The Rialto, anthologies including Mildly Erotic Verse (Emma Press), on a bus in Guernsey, in the library for refugees at the Calais ‘Jungle’, and one will soon appear on a friend’s patio, only when it rains.

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***

Carla Scarano D'Antonio: Volcano

Crickets fill the lap of night,
walls sweat the heat of day.

On the balcony she mumbles,
words bubble up from inside
boiling phrases she couldn’t say
to her late husband
(the bastard who squandered on his tart)
and to her daughter
(the bitch who calls me crazy hag).

She rubs her head with trembling hands,
squints into darkness below:
the shadow of the other man who came last night – 
every night – 
begs her to join him;
but it’s too late,
he’s back in America now.

The city sinks into torrid August.
Sounds brood within,
murmurs beneath closed lips.
She is a sealed volcano.


Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and is working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood at the university of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/

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***

Merryn Williams: The Silent Treatment

Silence is powerful, remember that.
Clamp teeth, keep lips tight locked, do not retort.
Meet each and all assaults with perfect silence.

They’ll come, the loud-mouthed and impertinent
like Egypt’s seven plagues, but let them rant,
keep mum, stay dumb, ignore the verbal violence.

God knows, I said too much when I was young,
and half a waste of breath, so bite your tongue
until their din subsides.  The rest is silence.


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***

Merryn Williams: The Death Zone

It’s not like going down but going up;
the oxygen runs thinly, near the top.

And now it’s hard to lift your feet.  You go
with difficulty, through the deepest snow.

Above the shale, that strip of sky is beckoning;
at length, you touch the peak, and then there’s nothing.


Merryn Williams was the founding editor of The Interpreter’s House. Her latest collection is Letter To My Rival (2014) and she edited Poems For Jeremy Corbyn (2015), both from Shoestring.

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Richie McCaffery: Dead letter

You’ve been trying to contact me again –

I hear the letter box flap 
but when I get to the door 
all I find are a few brown leaves blown in. 

It must be hard trying to write 
and speak all over again 
but this time without eyes or hands, 
a mouth or ears, 

with only the wind in the street 
and fallen leaves to make do.


Richie McCaffery grew up in Warkworth, Northumberland and now divides his time between Ghent, Belgium and Scotland. He is the author of two poetry pamphlets as well as a book-length collection entitled Cairn from Nine Arches Press (2014). His third pamphlet collection is due out in October 2017, from Red Squirrel Press.

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***

D A Prince: Spoiler

He dies in the end, of course he does; dead,
all the debt, all those dread deeds paid off,
that coin tucked in his mouth, done for,
over. And did you expect it different?
– a deus ex machina dropping down 
delivering death a taste of its own, 
a defeat, just for him? He dies: 
enough, end of. No dodging, 
no What-if? no Dare-he?
 Dropped over the edge 
at last. The late. Isn’t
that what we all do:
die?

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***

D A Prince: The Shipping Forecast

The backing track to leaving home
whatever the sky says or the weather,
playing its salt notes along Midlands roads,
telling the time in its own measure

better than any clock. Gales in Cromarty, Forth
drum at the traffic lights: you up the volume,
catching Dogger, Fisher as the lights turn green.
Foot down, across the M1, hearing Humber

veering northerly. On time: the road ahead
as empty as a winter sea. Swing past
the hospital as Dover, Wight prepare
for thundery showers.  Blue lights at A&E

and at the roundabout Biscay’s becoming rough  -
the roundabout, landmark, and where you, as ever,
remind yourself Sole isn’t where you thought,
till here’s a parking spot, the journey over,

the General Synopsis, 0500 hours,
losing its identity. The day’s map drawn
for them, for us; landlocked, a key code and ID
opens the gate, as forecast, as routine.

D A Prince lives in Leicestershire and London. She has two full-lengths collections with HappenStance Press, the second of which – Common Ground, 2014 – won the East Midlands Book Award 2015.

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Lynne Wycherley: extracts from The Testimony of the Trees
In 2016, scientists uncovered relentless damage to trees from mobile phone-masts’ pulsing microwaves 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27552133. Added to other risks, how it speaks to our times.

The Strangers

Bleak, aloof, 
they needled among us.
Grey lightning-streaks through the living.

Phone masts, cell-towers, WiMax.
Verticals, a cold-edged gleam.  

.        Marching steel-steel-steel

Cadres on rooftops, 
microwaves pulsing through stucco,
bone: nano-hailstones.

The strangers. Ghosts to feed 
the screen-addicted ghosts.

.        Marching steel...

We are hallowmas-in-summer,
rust-tinged leaves 

strange, someone says, there’s been 
no drought, tap-tap-text
data-fix

while daylight dips unseen 
trailing saris, Indian dyes
                                                        
      in gloriam Dei.           

The Fire Jugglers   

        Touch-screens, weevil-bloom.
        Channels, channels, consumers consumed.
                                         
Here come the corporate fire-jugglers.
Bored with tobacco? Beat this!
Microwaves, millimetre waves.
Delicate risks to body, skin.
.        Not content with 1 in 3 cancer?
.        Boost your chances 
         with the latest upgrade!

24:7, a toxic tisane,
smart-homes drilled by smart-chips.
.       All-wireless, hurry!
Strip away the vines, 
the safe connections: fibre to screen.
Strip away clematis, 
honeysuckle, clean.    
    
       Electro-blight. Creeping headaches, 
       hollow nights; Jenny Fry. 
       
Bury the warnings; spike the sky.  
.       Hurry! Make way.
Expunge the ‘not-spots’,    
the oases. Eden-dots

sanctum sanctorum.  
World-smoke.                       
 

Jenny Fry was a child badly affected by WiFi; she eventually took her own life For more details see https://vimeo.com/131798243

Lynne Wycherley’s Listening to Light: new & selected poems was published by Shoestring Press (2014).. Based in Devon, she also writes on wireless health issues for The Ecologist
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988521/krakows_bold_step_to_curb_electromagnetic_pollution_reflects_growing_evidence_of_harm.html, 

http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2988970/smart_meter_radiation_and_health_why_are_we_neglecting_nontoxic_alternatives.html

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***

Leona Gom: Light

"Pix it or it didn’t happen":
a modern mantra for an age
that has no time for time,
believes the unrecorded life
is not worth living,
believes experience is only real
if posted publicly,
a new ontology dependent not
on obsolete I-think-and-therefore-am
but I-am-seen-and-therefore-am,
a generation educated to
believe that it is quantum,
photons that are waves
until observed,
only then becoming particles,
reflecting light,
visible,
real.

But it is a dangerous world,
the quantum one,
always a new understanding
one subatomic charm away,
one new double-slit experiment
to see light in a different light,
and suddenly
we are neither wave nor particle

nor both at once, but
something so unformed,
so absent of weight,
so insubstantial that
neutrino particles pass
through us by the billions
every second
as though we are nothing
but empty
space.


Leona Gom is a Canadian writer from the west coast. She has published 14 books of poetry and fiction and won awards in both genres. Five of her novels have been translated into other languages.

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***

Jane Frank: If I Hadn’t
 
If I hadn’t worked in a bookshop
I wouldn’t have been wearing
the Jack Kerouac shirt
at the hotel tennis courts
and the man in dark glasses
wouldn’t have asked me a question
that led to a love affair
where I became suspicious
of the beauty of camellias
and learnt that there would be
no reward for learning to cook moussaka
but that pain grows poems
and gold doesn’t float.
I’ve sometimes wished since
that I’d worked in a petrol station.


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***

Jane Frank: Not Being with Hemingway
 
We pretend not to look for you in Bar Marsella.
It does not cross our minds you must have sat here
Where we do, or at the table next, where an old
Man is curled like a shell, a dog heaped at his feet.
 
When we strolled the hot and knotted streets
From the London Bar, we did not listen for your tired
Steps or look for your reflection in the faded mirror
Of the gantry as we walked in, and we did not make
 
It obvious that we were peeling back our own layers,
Dreaming ourselves as expats, shaking off the soil
Of home like characters you would write, or necklacing
Ourselves in dust and cobwebs like chandeliers
 
That only dimly flicker. You wouldn’t notice us smile
At the dissolving labels on the absinthe and carajillo bottles
That may not have changed in the 78 years that we
Haven’t counted. We make only a brief mental note that
 
It is a winter night in Spain, that we are in the company
Of locals, maybe poets. Each time the door opens we only
Glance nonchalantly across. We don’t expect. The film
Crew laughing at the bar don’t really dampen
Our chances of not seeing you at all. 


Jane Frank’s chapbook Milky Way of Words was published with Ginninderra Press in 2016. Her work has appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Antiphon, Takahe, Poetry Salzburg Review and elsewhere. She lectures in Humanities at Griffith University in south east Queensland, Australia.

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***

Philomena Johnson : The Day You Died

I found a dead sparrow
striped sun and shadow
by the slatted garden seat –
your granddaughter

her seven years packed tight
in the spring of her spine,
cartwheeled past daffodils
and pansies – danced joy
deep into her bones
and the gardener,

trailing winter's daphne,
wheeled his barrow
across the carefully tended lawn.


Philomena Johnson completed her studies at The Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2017 and continues to work on her first poetry collection. She has previously had poems exhibited in On Islands Eramboo in Sydney, Australia and will be published online in The Quick Brown Dog in November 2017. She lives in Christchurch, NewZealand.

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***

Steve Komarnyckyj: Yorkshire Scarecrows

Sacking heads with marker penned faces,
Tilly Hats or baseball caps, the scarecrows
Face acres of oilseed rape or wheat,
Waves of gold or saffron or green surf
Breaking or sighing at their feet.
They do not give an inch,
However the wind stampedes
The nearby trees in a fir plantation,
Or makes the zither of telegraph wires sing
Or a magpie paddle the sky backwards,
Across the Gordian knot of A roads around Leeds.

The scarecrows bear the weight
Of Yorkshire's skies uncomplainingly.
They know a scarecrow never dies.
They swivel on the roof of the Pennines
Grinning above peat and Lancashire,
Yearning to join hands and dance
Over the Irish Sea and Moher
To plant both feet firmly in the air,
And geolocate  their straw hearts
Lost like ours in the middle of nowhere.

Steve Komarnyckyj is a poet and PEN award winning literary translator whose work has featured in Index on Censorship, The Guardian and Modern Poetry in Translation. He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie in between looking after five cats and a dog.

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Stuart Handysides: Welcome

Before you come to call
I release the multi-point
lock on the front door
so just a twist of my wrist
will let you in.

Not for you to be kept waiting,
to hear keys fumbled,
the clicks of a mortice,
screwed withdrawal of dog bolts,
the rattle of a chain.

Not for me to peer through the spyhole at
a bulbous nose and receding chin.


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Stuart Handysides: Winter

Season of fallen gloves
trodden into tarmac,
picking up damp and dirt,
lucky ones cosying fence posts,
garnishing garden walls,
placed by optimists, who picture
careful owners retracing steps
in torchlight, and pouncing with delight
(as if they would have have lost them)


Stuart Handysides’ poems have appeared in Presence, London Grip New Poetry, Pennine Platform and South. He has run the Ware Poets competition for several years.

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Norbert Hirschhorn: London Winter Blues

Long walk in the night  Sirens howl in two-pitch vibrato + a little child
cannot stop crying   Dirty-diesel buses growl past  honking to get me
out of  the way    Someone behind me keeps coughing    Home again
Cold night air   sent out to shop at the 24-hour mini-market  for milk
Pakistani night shift workers   sleepy-eyed  scan my stuff   don't help
pack  I smile   what else

Rainy night  not much going on at home  walk to local mall to suss out
the bookshop  Closed   at 7pm   But the cinema is thriving  bang-bang-
shoot-em-up  movies   +   lots  lots  of  places to e at   +   eat:   Nandos
Rossopomodoro      Shikumen     Wagamama    Yo!  Sushi    Yoo Moo
Yoghurt  + at the cinema all the popcorn/candy/supersize soda pop to
last a long  long   bang-bang-shoot-em-up    My  wife says s he wishes
she'd never got married   to anyone

On  BBC  website   black  cloud  icons  every  day  for  the  next  five  +
counting  In Hawaii sunny  68°F + the surf is up  Midnight here  a dirty
mist descending  1°C  even birds are coughing    My winter bronchitis
has returned  +  I was escorted from a British Library reading room
when people complained 

Hardly better in the morning  Worse  When I grew up in WWII the pea-
soupers  so t hick you  couldn’t see your  hands    People  walked  with
canes  tapping  the  pavement     If  you  followed  the  tail lights of  an
intrepid vehicle you  could end up in the driver’s garage  I survived  air
raids  buzz  bombs   ambulance  klaxons   bunkers   all-clears   smoke +
fire

It continues dark + cold +  drizzly  Outside the  supermarket  the  young
homeless man with a scraggly beard sits on a  bit of  newspaper  barely
out  of  the  rain  under  the overhang  whingeing for  money to be  put
into a wrinkled styrofoam cup  On a piece of cardboard is the sentence
neatly  drawn by magic marker reading   Please  help I’m hungry   What
a time to be indifferent   I am indifferent

Dark +  overcast out   Cold   A few  desultory flakes land  +  die   Snow
goddamyou  man up   Then I think of  Aleppo   But it doesn't help   A
stone in my shoe

False  dawn   walk  in  my  local  park   I  watch  various  breeds of  dogs
running free + various breeds of humans throwing balls from their 'dog
ball  throwing  stick’   Jack Russell  terriers  are best   out in an instant  +
caught on one bounce    A  pair  of l ong-nosed  cadaverous  dogs  on  a
single  l eash  saunter  by    muzzles  grey  dark  coats     they  make  me
shiver  Whippets I ask  Yes + aren't they beauties   Well  ya  sure + I give
them wide berth   Lap dogs   Pekes + Pugs looking like  yes here  comes
the cliché  like their elderly women owners    The  women  walk  slowly
chatting  in  a  neighbourly  fashion   the  dogs  chatting  in  their  own
neighbourly  fashion   nose  to backside   Come here often

Snow drops + a single crocus returning  like Persephone sticking a toe
outside  even if the sky is cold + grey + still dark at 6:30 am  I  distrust
spring  a  deceitful  lover   demanding  I be  joyful   promising  beauty
immortality   It's winter I trust  when things are honestly dead  Cough
Cough   The crocuses don't care  they just do their thing 

Middle  of  the  night  ruminations    Up  in  a  clear  sky  hangs Jupiter
watchman of the night zircon bright  Spica in Virgo accompanying him
over  these  past  few  months   On  these  last days  of February   the
morning sky is scandalously blue  mocking me for still  thinking  dark
grey thoughts  Never mind   life is


Norbert Hirschhorn is a public health physician, commended by President Bill Clinton as an “American Health Hero.” He lives in London. He has published four collections, the most recent, To Sing Away the Darkest Days. Poems Re-imagined from Yiddish Folksongs (Holland Park Press, London, 2013). His poems have appeared in numerous US/UK publications, several as prize-winning. See his website, www.bertzpoet.com.

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