This issue of London Grip features new poems by:
*Norbert Hirschhorn *Rosemary Norman *Janet Simon *Nancy Mattson *Sultana Raza *Leah Fritz *Murray Bodo *Haris Adhikari *Kerrin P Sharpe *Bruce Christianson
*Paul Richards *Fiona Sinclair *Ken Champion *Mal Grosch *Merryn Williams
*Robert Nisbet *Frankie McMillan *David R Morgan
*Kamran *Adriana Caudrey *Edward Mycue
A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be obtained at LG new poetry Winter 2012
Many of the poems in this issue have gathered themselves round themes of searching and loss. Between Norbert Hirschhorn’s SF-like quest for Jesus across the universe and Edward Mycue trying to find his way through multiple poetic forms, we meet people hunting for physical sustenance or pursuing lost memories and even lost language.
Apart from the Hirschhorn poem and Janet Simon’s oblique reference to the Song of Simeon, however, readers will not easily find the Christmassy feel one might expect from a magazine launched in December. Instead of the Christmas Star guiding the Wise Men we have a group of moon poems, reinforced by Bianca Hendicot’s delightful cover image. So your editor, taking his cue from a handful of street-scene poems, extends Christmas greetings in the voice of an innkeeper with premises on a street in Bethlehem…
Crowds are good for business. Better
working hard than standing idle
with time to think too much.
Crowds are good for business. Spending
is contagious – bring more wine
and roll the dice again.
Not much mirth in these two. What with
her in her condition and him
with eyes for no-one else.
I should send them packing. Ah! but
someone’s bound to see me do it
and then there’ll be a fuss.
Best to give a little. I’ve found
as life goes on there comes a time
for necessary gestures of goodwill.
Please send submissions for future issues to email@example.com, enclosing no more than three poems and including a brief, 2-3 line, biography. Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors
Norbert Hirschhorn : Chasing after Jesus, AD 3000
A rumour from a far planet, parsecs and parsecs away – Jesus, he heard, had been: born, crucified, resurrected, returned. Had the Christ abandoned Earth, where we insist the mystery first arose? Or, to return only once all other corners of the cosmos were harrowed? So he set out for that remote place. Why yes, Jesus was here, aeons ago.
We too await His return.
If you find Him, tell how we wait.
On: Yes, a few years ago…
and on – Yes! A few months ago…
Ah, you just missed Him.
Without regret: in his pilgrimage for grace he’d had nothing to lose; now at the close, nothing more to gain. And so, humbled, bereft, and bare, he landed at last at the remotest place any could reach, to find rainbows – doubles, trebles, circles, crowns – and fragrance and flames.
Norbert Hirschhorn is a physician commended by President Bill Clinton as an ‘American Health Hero.’ He lives in London and Beirut. His poems appear in three full collections. See www.bertzpoet.com
Rosemary Norman : Sign
When you cannot see this sign the river is underwater – From “The world’s stupidest signs”
…so he rides a year and a day until it’s April and he can hope once again for a sign, not the jutting board or alphabet that leapfrogs when he looks but sky illegibly at work on flat water overcome by what it announces.
Rosemary Norman : For
For the night window to slant above my bed. For my dimensions to be what they are with the cleanliness of a fossil in rock, that is distinct but is nevertheless and also rock. For a foothold in air, the far side of the glass, to admire how I lie.
Rosemary Norman’s second collection, Italics was published by Shoestring Press in autumn 2010. Her work with video artist Stuart Pound is at www.stuartpound.info
Janet Simon : Nunc Dimittis
Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace,
According to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles,
And the glory of thy people Israel.
Song of Simeon Luke 2, 29-32
Grey again. Thin lipped light whispers into the morning. Rain slats and it's no warmer. Bloodless, in back kitchens immigrant women sit at windows. Those who have lived here too long know it's not even a third of the way past winter to spring in spite of the date.
In front rooms their old men argue. The rain will not let up. Stiff, repetitive, grumbling over the same blind quarrels in the same grim, gloom, they cannot get themselves out. There's nowhere else to go. Perhaps they are waiting for something, for a child, or at least some sun, so that they can have done with this endless misremembering of who said what to whom, and why it mattered once.
It's not that they're tired of living, at least it's not that alone. One more failure of sunrise makes little difference at this stage, and a sort of spring will come one day. It always does sooner or later, however briefly. But before the drizzle resettles and with it the old disputations, they linger, still longing in darkness for some total change of weather, a new star, a new sky, a new something, to give them permission at last to depart this place in peace.
Feb 2/ Candlemass/Groundhog Day
Janet Simon : The Pearl
Inside the space which was my mind each writhing cell disintegrates. What was a busy gloss becomes a flat matt vacuum. You ask me questions I don't know the answers to. I knew them once, but pain or pleasure carried them away. Knock on this hollow bowl and you will hear a fruitless thud. Not even echoes of some wisdom that I thought I knew will ring out after me. With this stupidity I make a new beginning. I have had precious thoughts. I called them truth. Some were like yours and some were different. They grew like bubbles, multiplied, became strung out, coloured and crystallised. They made such jewellery I wore them on my tongue. They almost dazzled me. I thought they cut like diamonds, lasted like solid stone, but they were only fake glass beads. Cracked by my straining heart they shattered ... easily . You say that truth is something far too precious to tell every fool who asks for it. I say it all depends on what you mean by fool. There is an irritation underneath this emptiness, cloudy and creamy grey. Although it promises a gentle sheen, as yet, it is not bright. It does not tell me things. All I remember is that someone, somewhere said that where your treasure is there will your heart be also. I don't recall how heads came into it.
Janet Simon is a native Londoner. A previous runner up in the National Poetry Competition, she has two published collections: Victoria Park and Asylum.
Leah Fritz : Get Well Ghazal
My mind is not itself, my heart is dead. I don't know how to live these hours without you. The days are long just sitting by your bed but longer still the nights alone without you. I talk to people far away where time is earlier, forgetting night without you, pretending I see daylight, too, and that I'm by your side; not in this bed without you. Please come home; I don't know what to do; It's selfish but I cannot dream without you.
Since her arrival England in 1985, New York born writer, Leah Fritz, has had four collections of her poems published in Britain. Her latest volume, Whatever Sends the Music into Time: New and Selected Poems, was published by Salmon in 2012.
Murray Bodo : Joy
Ever since I was a boy And first heard the sweet sough of Pine trees at McGaffey Park Ever since I was a teen And first saw “Colored Only” Drinking spouts in St. Louis Ever since I was a man And first tasted the new words Of one who said she loved me Ever since my middle years And first felt the soft flesh of God in a poor wrinkled hand Ever since age took hold and I first smelled the taste of death I’d seen and heard as a boy – The feel of pines stirs me Flesh smells sweet as roses “White Only” tastes of gall Love in pain sings no guile And Holy Fools are waving Guffawing from their coffins
Murray Bodo is a Franciscan Priest who resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. The author of 27 books, including the best selling, Francis: The Journey and the Dream, his poems, stories and articles have appeared in magazines and literary journals. His latest book of poems, Something Like Jasmine, with accompanying CD, was released by Tau Publishing in 2012
Sultana Raza : The Serpentine
I absorb the beauty but dare not look too closely for fear this pretty picture might disappear if looked at too minutely. Were I to sit and stare, like these stone goddesses who take turns to rule over the cycles of their flowering boudoir, would I still hear the meandering of the stream, birds commenting on this cornucopia of green?
Of Indian origin, Sultana Raza has been living in Europe for many years. Her short stories and poems have been published in Ancient Heart Magazine, India Currents, Szirine, Kindred Spirit, Cygnus Review, Arabesque Review and the Literary Gazette.
Haris Adhikari : Buried
A lamp-post in the dark gleaming for no one— no one was there in the dead silence of the night— the cold was too harsh and the vision blurred in the fog— dogs were barking far away some changing of shapes— for fear perhaps I was so thankful to the light— but soon I realized how dark the way was stretched and buried.
Haris Adhikari is from Nepal. He holds an MA in English and American literature from Tribhuvan University. He is a lecturer of English and edits Misty Mountain Review, an online journal of short poetry. His first poetry anthology, Flowing with a River, was published by The Society of Nepali Writers in English (NWEN). Currently, he is working on That Distant Lane, a chapbook of children’s poetry. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Red Fez Journal, Buddhist Poetry Review, Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, The Citron Review, The Rusty Nail Magazine, Mad Swirl, Red Box Kite, Of Nepalese Clay, The Kathmandu Post, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Message in a Bottle, Lyrical Passion Poetry, Essence Poetry & Yes, Poetry.
Kerrin P Sharpe : it takes the revolution of snow to get the tsar talking
I am little father of the babushka dolls olga maria tatania
at every train station I am the old order asleep in the icons of Russian Orthodox prayer I remember my palaces as mirrors of candles that nourished Russia long before darkness now all my years freeze behind me like knives they say blood is the comrade of snow my bones agree with Windsor the haemophilia of loss marches well beyond the forest
Kerrin P. Sharpe lives in Christchurch, New Zealand where she is a poet and a teacher of creative writing. She has published in NZ, Australia and England. Her first collection Three Days in a Wishing Well, published by Victoria University Press was launched at the Christchurch Writers’ Festival in September 2012.
Bruce Christianson : Silence Please
death waits his turn at the self-service issue desk there is a queue but it's a marked improvement over when the books were chained death returns tuberous begonias
checks out a tourist guide to bruges his next client is in the line behind him death takes his time & doesn't hurry
Bruce Christianson is a mathematician from Whangarei, New Zealand, who moved to Hertfordshire twenty-five years ago. He lives with death in an open relationship
Paul Richards : Studying in a foreign land
On station concourse Shoe shine guy between shoe shines Reads dictionary
Paul Richards : The Interlopers
Forever Neither here Nor there Blocking utterly the doorway Of a pokey bookshop On a summer Saturday morning Densely packed in winter coat Pondering the latest PD James Or just captured in the monochrome shades Of a family photograph Leaning off-centre on the edge of a sideboard All but obscured By a magisterial uncle They always need a lift to some station In the back of beyond And their plastic bags know no bounds - It’s a toss-up Whose car they’ll squeeze in to And whether their train Runs on a Sunday or not Then when they start on the fags again Having sworn blind They’d really packed it in this time And end up calling you In wheezing despair From the ashen plastic chair Of a heaving waiting room We can but mutter To our significant other - Hand muffling receiver - “He’s his own worst enemy” Contact denied Denied contact In the dead of night They shuffle down to the garden borders Barely described by the party lights Tracing the territory We forget or fear to explore - Sniffer dogs Put out to grass They ache by the sides of rivers And zigzag Down hotel corridors In search of their rooms Forever Filling uneasily, The holes in our prayers.
Paul Richards, reached his half-century this year, and – apart from writing poetry (and playing the piano) – runs his own computer support business. Although very much a North London homeboy he now finds himself residing in South-West London and is loving it, particularly the green and posh bits. His first “proper” poem, written at the age of 9, was a rendition of the nativity in Tim Rice style pop lyrics.
Fiona Sinclair : Mother’s girl
Leaving a litter of lies behind him, my father would siphon petrol from a neighbour’s car like sucking venom from snake bite, and disappear in his mini pick -up into the orchards and fields that were his office. Mother was determined to expel the sins of my father from me: when caught stealing chocolate biscuits I received slaps like wasps stings; detected lying about lost PE kit I was invisible for the rest of the day. But when cancer caged my father; she and I kept vigil either side of his cadaverous body, praying he would give up. After his death, a nightly tap on my bedroom door, “Can I sleep in here tonight?” And when she brushed my childhood aside to explain the facts of our life – the ramshackle house un-saleable after father’s cut-and-shut renovations, savings that rattled like a near-empty piggy bank – I inwardly strutted with pride.
Fiona Sinclair’s work has appeared in numerous magazines. Her second pamphlet A Game of Hide and Seek was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. She is the editor of the on line poetry magazine Message in a Bottle
Nancy Mattson : An Old
Once upon he was my charming, his black kind. When I opened I couldn’t speak, my heavy. When he drew came pouring in, every covered in thick I blinked forced out weak moved my slow and stiff. His careful under my across the wide I think, recognised one by one but what to call how to ask gone, a hundred I needed my dry my empty Still, I draw with I want I paint every as always
Nancy Mattson : Ode To A 1953 Buick Skylark
sleeker than apples your chrome brighter than brilliantine your paint rounder than vowels your wheels quicker than Grace’s cricket ball yet your motor purrs more sweetly than honeybees heading home from lavender
Nancy Mattson moved from the Canadian prairies to London, England, in 1990. She has three full-length poetry collections: Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead Press, 2012), Writing with Mercury (Flambard Press, 2006) and Maria Breaks Her Silence (Coteau Books, 1989).
Ken Champion : Street Games
Flinging the ball at the pennies – tanners if you’re flush – on the paving slab against the end house wall, and mum shouting down the street for your tea, and you run past the parlour to the kitchen, stir the washing in the boiler with the bleached broom handle while she salts greens, squeal of fork inside a saucepan, hand wiping a brow; and you want to run to the park through the sandpit, round the bandstand, on to the Flats, jump the stream between houses, lean on a fluted lamppost and sate yourself on mind flicks of skinny Iris at number two or the misty silken space inside the thighs of principal boys your dad takes you to see at Lyceum pantos, but knowing you’re only going to the coins again that no-one ever seems to hit.
Ken Champion is an Internationally published poet and writer whose work has appeared in many magazines. He has two pamphlets and a collection, But Black And White Is Better (Tall Lighthouse, 2008, reprinted 2010); and his fiction has been published in literary journals in the UK and USA.
Mal Grosch : Villiers Street
Villiers Street’s seen better days – Beneath the footbridge, grubby, lays Twin claims: as part of Tourist Land And a dustbin for the Strand. A pub too proud to just sell ale Must boast it’s on the ‘Dickens trail’ A plaque says Kipling once lived here; Subtract the dates: yes, for three years. I take myself around the corner With cash from my guitar – I pawned her. I meander on and by some ploy Reach the Coal Hole by Savoy Then my poor soul, still bruised by failure Receives the balm of Timothy Taylors A genuine pub with genuine beer: Mal Grosch, they’ll say, he once drank here!
Mal Grosch (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a poet based in East London at Victoria Park. He has just completed an anthology called The Surrey Hills. All his poems are available as ebooks. He is also a musician and folk dance caller.
Merryn Williams : Gissing’s Streets
I lost my chance that day in the students’ cloakroom, a grey morning, thick dust on the radiator. So many times they’ve asked me, why did you do it? I am good with words, but can’t explain. I remember how I slid my hand into the pockets of my fellow students, I thought I could hide behind those heavy coats, shield myself from the January weather. I lost so many things that day: the isles of Greece, Oxford, the Senior Common Room, civilised discussions of the Latin poets of the Silver Age, over sherry. Do I spend my last few coins on that second-hand book which I covet, or buy a sandwich? There’s grit on this wind. Here’s your erstwhile star pupil, draped round his neck, his curriculum vitae.
George Gissing was expelled from Owens College, Manchester for stealing money from other students, in order to keep a girl he had fallen in love with, off the streets.
Merryn Williams’ latest book is Effie: A Victorian Scandal: From Ruskin’s Wife to Millais’ Muse .
Robert Nisbet : A Study in Scarlet Women
That’s all they’ll do, they’ll flirt, wink, tart themselves up it’ll be boys, boys, boys
Nowadays it’s little groups on mobile phones one time it was phone boxes another time Conti’s juke box and they’d flirt, wink, tart
The same in the assembly rooms, say 1815-ish they’d arrive in carriages, with Mama flirt, wink, tart themselves up (much easier with fans)
Likewise, temperance halls, the picture palaces Sunday schools, band of hope dame schools, grammar schools it was all boys, boys, boys
Must have been bloody wearing for the senior mistresses, prefects, counsellors the Mamas in the assembly rooms the Sunday school teachers
It was all boys, boys, boys and all for Elvis lookalikes Fitzwilliam Haughty Roy of the Rovers, the curate Jason So after all that counselling (bad buggers, those boys, boys, boys) it would be back to the staff room stiffish whiskies, loosen tights report back to the Head, the Beak the counsellor-in-chief, the chief exec and oh surely not flirt, wink, tart?
Robert Nisbet published 100 short stories between 1973 and 2006, and his work will feature in the forthcoming Library of Wales anthology of the Welsh short story, 1900-2010 (Parthian, 2013). Poems he’s written more recently have appeared in Smiths Knoll, Orbis, Other Poetry, The Interpreter’s House and other magazines
Frankie McMillan : Meeting the train with a wheelbarrow
I soon learn to speak like my sister a foreign accent (a touch of Russian) and much hand waving she shows me the shop in the courtyard where the boys buy their smokes, shows me a ball room for Friday night dances they wouldn’t mind, she says, if I stayed I could do the twist with her she shows me a room of sewing machines half made baskets of cane there are lots of men who love her, she says the doctor and her plan to run away they’re thinking of Hawaii once she stops smoking I soon learn to speak like my sister foreign accent, much hand waving she meets me in the courtyard the boys jostle under the hanging tree their dark eyes never leave her they wouldn’t mind if I stayed I could do the twist, some of the boys were actually quite handsome
Frankie McMillan is a short story writer and poet from New Zealand. She is the author of The Bag Lady’s Picnic and other stories and a poetry collection, Dressing for the Cannibals. Recent poetry has appeared in Turbine, Sport, JAAM, Snorkel, Trout, The Cincinnati Review and Shenandoah.
David R Morgan : Le Dejeuner Sur l’ herbe
The teacher wants to join the ghosts of his parents, fluid colours on grass, picnicking in his mind – but the door of the past is too brittle to open, conflicting with the Monet print here, when the lights in the classroom dim and he sits on a corner stool and reads in the paper about that girl gone missing, lost ten long days. There’s a door locked that won’t let her through. Murdered? Fled? The teacher thinks of his own daughter grown so away from him now, lost in another reality where her husband, the salesman, shifts laptops and Kindles in Luton’s Mall; and of her daughter, too awkward to eat her lunch properly, too autistic to account for herself beyond the prison of personal space. His smile half regret, half reproach, he puts down the paper, strolls his classroom over to where, in the shadowy light, the Monet releases its subtleties, seeming to mirror back the eye’s own searching Into what? Not re-assessment, but something better, softer, some set matrix of located colour, which opening all doors invites the lost ones back, to luncheon on the lawn.
David R Morgan : The Moon was huge
The Moon was huge, as he had said it would be. It sat cleanly on his wheelbarrow, and filled the wild fields with reflected light. Because he had said it would be beautiful, it was. Or because it was beautiful, he said it would be. I was aware of him behind me, in the twilight, and in the night in front; and above me in the sky, filling all things. I froze when his shadow fell across the page, I was writing this on.
David R Morgan has been an arts worker, literature officer, festival organiser and writer-in-residence for education authorities, Littlehay Prison and Fairfield Psychiatric Hospital. He has had two plays screened on ITV and his poems have been widely published. His latest collections are Beneath The Dreaming Tree (Poetry Space Ltd 2011) and Lightbulbs In The Sea (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press 2011). He has also written many books for children.
Kamran : The White Bread
A translation from the Urdu by the author with Roshan Ara Dilber & MBB
There was once a family down in the slums living off garbage and eating from dumps. They’d never seen a three-course meal: too poor to buy one– but too proud to steal. One moonlit evening their excited small son saw something amazing. He came at a run to look for his mother; and when he’d called her along narrow alleys and pathways he hauled her. Holding tight to her hand, the little boy said "Look mother, I’ve got you some lovely white bread. Call brother and sister, we'll each have a bite – no sleeping on empty stomachs tonight!” At this, the boy’s mother burst into tears. She knew what he’d seen was only a clear full-moon reflection on his metal plate. A loaf of white bread wasn’t part of their fate. Kissing him gently on his puzzled head, "Hold it to up your face" the boy’s mother said, "This is how life is." This truth that she told taught him the lesson that truth can be cold. Yet although he heard he did not understand till he turned the plate over onto his hand, shook his head, dropped his eyes and with hope turned to stone set out with his mother, still hungry, for home.
Kamran hails from Andaman, India and is an avid reader and writer of English, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali literature. He has published many articles, essays and poems in different languages. He is currently pursuing a degree in civil engineering
Adriana Caudrey : Moon
… of many faces, pale mother, anxious child, glow ball in night sky. Once a month you are perfect whole, shedding light from your womb. They say you are pock-marked with imperfections. Your only fault is when you are eaten away with jealousy – a tiny bite out of your side. So we would be perfect, if whole and rounded, like the moon full. We are damaged children’s faces and our task to find the child undamaged; ingenuous and full, through having stared for years from the dark sky of the soul. The full moon is rich and giving, shedding a beam so strong at midnight, that it stripes with brilliant light and shadow, all the country lanes.
Adriana Caudrey : The Cat
The Cat has wisdom of unrestrained expression, passing through padded paws, purring harmoniously, his legs like hands in gloves, or the dancer’s continual mime, stroke the air, sending its waves in spirals caressing. The Dancer, the Singer, the Rain-maker, have woven a circle about them of music that flows from within; the Dancer fashions his pattern about him with every movement he makes like a ribbon or a sparkler that slices or lightens the air. The Conductor waving this baton entrances the entire concert hall, the lonely child by the coast shifting the shingle and wetting the dusky pebbles, always stooping, gathering relics, in a language he must decipher – though a shock of coral will call without a name. He stores his finds shoring the Castle from waves, till time when coral can be strung, the notes can be sung, the man is the mime, and reaches out a hand to reach another hand to form a line, to dance.
Adriana Caudrey read English at Oxford having won a scholarship to St Hughes. From 1979 she was a journalist with a special interest in health and education and was frequently read in the national press. Two years running she won the young woman journalist of the year award. From her teenage years and throughout this time she quietly wrote poetry. Adriana ceased her journalism once her first child was born but continued with her poetry. Sadly she died in 2005.
Edward Mycue : Word Kittens Are Echoing
By now so many movements and -isms Have blown through my word kitchen That the kitten in my mind’s corner, In the basket under the old gas stove, Is bouncing from surreal- to symbolism Now the post avant garde is a canker Maybe I mean a cantankerous jungle- Jingler with yens for villanelles and rime Or maybe rondos with deep koans inside. Once I had a dream that I’d memorized A lot of sacred books from the Koran, Bible, old & new, the Book of the Dead, Kalevala, I Ching (if it is a sacred book). It all came to seem like hitting speed-bumps That smelled of another pheromone breakdown. Life is a riddle leaving paw-prints on parchment
Edward Mycue lives in San Francisco and is the author of many books – most recently: Mindwalking, New and Selected Poems (2008) and Song of San Francisco (2012) published in the U.K. by Spectacular Diseases Press