London Grip New Poetry Summer 2018

*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

* Robert Etty *Mark Young *Rodney Wood *Peter Daniels *Jill Harris *Derek Adams
* Marion McCready *Robert Nisbet *Emma Neale *Pamela Job * Tim Love *Susannah Hart
* Ian C Smith *Gareth Culshaw * Dan Bennett * Anne Ballard * E Wen Wong *Phil Wood *
Lynne Hjelmgaard * Elizabeth Smither * Owen Gallagher * Norton Hodges *Tom Sommerville
* Rosemary Norman * Stephen Bone * Emma Lee *Jane Henderson *Edmund Prestwich
*Eric Nicholson * Michael McCarthy *Teoti Jardine *Jack Crow

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

Biographical notes on contributors can be found here

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be found at  LG New Poetry Summer 2018

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

Please send submissions (up to three poems plus a brief bio) to poetry@londongrip.co.uk
Poems should be either in one Word attachment or included in the message body

Our preferred submission windows are: December-January, March-April,
June-July and September-October

Editor’s notes

This edition of London Grip New Poetry appears almost a full year after the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. This was such a public and shocking event that many of us hoped and believed it would mark a step change for the better in the current climate of unequally-applied austerity and inadequately-regulated outsourcing of public services.   Jack Crow’s long poem “the burning room”, which we publish in this issue, can be seen as a cry of pain and frustration that there is still little evidence of such a change actually taking place.  (There have, of course, been many other similar protests – for instance in the anthology Poems for Grenfell Tower from Onslaught Press and in Ruth Valentine’s chapbook A Grenfell Alphabet.)

To highlight one particular contribution is not of course to detract from the other fine poems in this issue. These include whimsically affectionate character sketches from Robert Etty and Jill Harris, reminiscent narratives by Elizabeth Smither and Michael McCarthy, intriguingly enigmatic items from Rodney Wood and Peter Daniels and a clutch of poems (Tom Sommerville, Rosemary Norman, Stephen Bone & Emma Lee) which explore what discarded clothing might say about its former wearers. With all this – and more – on offer we are sure our readers will find plenty to enjoy.

 Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
 London Grip poetry editor

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Robert Etty: The Sun Shines On Miss Mikkelsen
 
Miss Mikkelsen (whose single prospective Mister
suddenly recalled a distant commitment)
holds queues up practically every day. 
Shoppers who know come back ten minutes later
to give her time to mis-slot a wrong card,
or talk herself through what she wrote on the list
that she didn’t bring in case she lost it.
She enunciates in foul languages
at drivers pulled up at traffic lights
and jabs at the shape the day’s taken so far
with her adjustable walking stick.
 
If you live here you don’t bat an eyelid,
but tend to believe at least one of the stories
most locals can spin a version of,
of her undercover translation role
as a Trans World Airways air hostess,
of chaperoning a princess’s daughter,
PA-ing an elderly country-rock star
and finally abandoning everything
for a caravan and Marmite and eggs. 
 
Sun’s on the town’s red tiles this morning.
The church peregrines are scouting for chick-food.
Miss Mikkelsen’s baseball-capped and sockless,
in Adidas pants to fit someone else,
heading for the Post Office.  The next thing
to do (but opinions will differ) is
praise whatever it is you praise
for the marvellous chance to see her en route,
and even, for some, to queue behind her
and wait as she fumbles two £2 coins
from inside a mitten she needn’t be wearing
and drops one that rolls underneath the pen rack.


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***

Mark Young: The mathematician, when single, is transformed into a retrospective meteorologist

He gets the washing off the line 
noting, as always, the numbers 
of it. Five business shirts, two 
T-shirts, five pairs of socks & 
six pairs of underpants. There 
seems no balance to it; but then 
the meteorologist kicks in. Last 
Saturday was wet, so he / 
washed on Sunday & wore, 
while washing, T-shirt, jeans (which 
get washed at irregular intervals & so 
do not appear in this catalogue) 
& underpants. He went barefoot. 
Monday was hot, so off with 
the business shirt on getting home. 

That takes care of the irregularities. 
The remainder of the week was 
business as usual. It is too soon to 
tell what the weather was like today.

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***

Rodney Wood: Military Sketching And Map Reading

sandwiches over Westminster Bridge / and I pass tourists dressed as birds of prey
I walk with a briefcase containing books / sandwiches over Westminster Bridge
I walk with a briefcase containing books / and I pass tourists dressed as birds of prey

looking at the moon's reflection / twisted by the grey persuasive Thames
I think of Wordsworth leaning over the railings / looking at the moon's reflection
I think of Wordsworth leaning over the railings / twisted by the grey persuasive Thames

I hide in an alcove of the old GLC building / a guard moves me along with a whip
wind attacks with knives and hatpins / I hide in an alcove of the old GLC building
wind attacks with knives and hatpins / a guard moves me along with a whip

who just want to keep their head down / who want to rest after another disastrous day
I walk on in the company of those / who just want to keep their head down
I walk on in the company of those / who want to rest after another disastrous day

showing strong arms outstretched / for those who died in the Spanish Civil War
we end up in Jubilee Garden by the monument / showing strong arms outstretched
we end up in Jubilee Garden by the monument / for those who died in the Spanish Civil War

still I worry about war / its prey / I want to cry / to tear my face and hair
I have no way to set the world aright / still I worry about war / its prey
I have no way to set the world aright / I want to cry / to tear my face and hair

italicised lines from Night In The Pavilion By The River, Tu Fu

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***

Peter Daniels: The New Chapel  

The good fight politely scrambles to a mahogany seat 
          in the new octagonal chapel; 
the gas lamps by the windows are not a success, 
          the heat has cracked the panes. 
The enemy has entered us for combat; hardened 
          with inward and outward armour 
we sit in our varnished cabinets, each facing the minister, 
          ready for wrong and right.  

The born preacher is trying out a new tone of voice, 
          but his throat needs clearing. 
He grinds his teeth at the unconvinced saint, 
          the one in the way of the Lord; 
his mouth is full of the pulpit's corners. But other times 
          his face could be seen to turn 
the sourest wine to the most cordially welcome 
          beverage of righteousness.  

The great adversary turns the other buttock, and we 
          sing our judgement to the gallery. 
The low but mighty in convincement take up 
          a mystic vengeance on sin; 
we begin the long mornings of flattening prayer, 
          the evenings of rising for praise,  
for the power that shall have settled forever 
          the works of the unsatisfactory.

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Jill Harris: Nativity 
In memory of Joy Morgan

A dropped stitch has appeared in Joseph’s beard.
The shepherds wobble on their Velcro dots.
The sheep is oversized, the donkey,
rabbit-like, stands by a fox
head bowed, as if bewildered
by the faces peering into
the hay-lined cardboard box.

The faces light up, one by one, 
like sensors on a drive, or stars
in a dusk sky, breaking into smiles.
Age may have lodged them in 
this nursing home, this wintry afternoon, 
but their time-travelling souls have always known 
the order of events: The journey over miles
to find a refuge in a cattle barn. 
The angels, clambering through the sky, 
dispensing grace. The dazzled shepherds, 
traipsing across fields 
to find the newborn in his milky den,
the baby Jesus, focus of all eyes – 
everyone adored a baby, even then.

The wise men came much later. Here
they stand majestic, boldly clutching 
knitted gifts: a purple box, a bag, a plate of gold.

Our eyes are drawn to this nativity.
The knitted people in their box of hay
light up the room. Their maker stands
and smiles, accepting praise 
as eighty years ago she would endure 
a birthday cake, or Sunday school class prize.   

She did not know it was her final gift –
not just the knitting but acknowledging
her own part in the scene, then letting go –

the months of stitching to remind us how
a greater maker always visits us
in wrappings we provide 
translating cardboard hay and wool
into light and colours like a jewel, 

who asks us to stand up, be seen
and when we least expect it, slip away.

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***

Derek Adams: Like Icarus 

After all that wobbling,
grazed knees and elbows,
do you remember that feeling?

Suddenly everything felt right 
and you took off down the road,
not looking back.


Derek Adams: A Black Hole Where Once There Was the Sun
Abstract Composition (Portrait of Lee Miller) by Roland Penrose (England, 1946)

A heart imploding 
under its own weight,
orbited by disjointed limbs.

Cries from distant 
battlefields 
echo in my head.

Images trapped
in a viewfinder 
the shutter can't release.

The act of capturing light 
now just floods
darkness in

it travels along my veins
those lines of gravity
that stop the dead moon

of my being from floating 
off into the vacuum 
surrounding me.

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Marion McCready: March Snow
for Sorley & Andrew
                   
The road is foreign - the ground hidden,
walls have grown white heads; snow bodies
not children play on the swings.

In the car park, cars are ghostly forms
hunched next to each other
     like armadillos.

A boy in yellow and a boy in blue,
each of them armed with a shovel. They do a snow dance
on the driveway - scooping up the soft inches

and flinging them into the garden. The snow
itself follows its own choreography - fluttering
through the air like a kaleidoscope

of cabbage white butterflies,
oblivious to the coming rain. 

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Robert Nisbet: The Hardy Annuals
 
In the clumps and ridges where I usually look,
the daffodil buds are pushing.
Many days are cold and rainy,
but so many of us will say, in a quiet drone,
that it’s not the cold we mind, it’s the damp
(just as we’ll tell you, in July,
it’s not the heat we mind so much,
it’s the humidity).
 
The one Syrian family will be introduced
and everyone will smile and like them,
but later, in a back bar’s corner
(as with the Japanese students in the College
and the Filipino nurses), several will say,
That’s fine, but we’re a small island.
In April, the showers can give way
to the sunset’s unexpected radiance.
 
Summer will bring hot sport,
turf and trophies. Media. Tears.
We’ll say, it’s character, commitment.
We’ll praise the will to win.
Some days, on Broad Haven’s beach, the air,
the sun and the stillness will coincide
in such a summer rightness that we are left
breathless by the good of it.
 
There will be exam results,
and grades and shrieks and hugs,
before the descent again to winter
and the abuse of referees.
But we will know that a few times
there will be one of those days
when the cold, the crispness and a winter sun
cohere in the truly crystalline.

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Emma Neale: A Room that Held the Sea
(A ‘2-tina’)

Over cocktails, perhaps, or card games, or at book-club in the shared  day-room
in the small port town retirement home, although on a street with no view of the sea,
a woman told my grandfather of the day she walked into the room
where her mother wept and rocked, as if on a deck on a wind-lashed sea,
half-crazed with disbelief, barely aware she was in her own living-room.
Living-room itself sounded almost crass, as its corners seeped with a red-blind sea
despair's deep tide staining mouth and mind so its curse fixed the image of that room
for good, for worse, in the young girl's memory. Through it she could never again
                                                                                                                                             truly see
this spring-kindled world; five words nailed up their own dank room, 
they rang bitter-clear: 'It should have been you.' Her mother forgivably at sea;
yet cruel — unforgivably. Kinder to have denied entry to that plunging room
where she tried to drag back from shock's current, treacherous as a rip at sea;
back from the news that sucked all light from the room.
One young daughter drowned while swimming in an easy summer's sea.
The other stood, hair still tangle-damp, limbs glittered with tawny sand,  a dozen
                                                                                                                                            rooms
in the wish-castle of self slammed shut: turned dust-patinaed ghost embassy.
Even at 93, once-translator, ex-diplomat's widow, her smile a tern's quick tilt in the 
                                                                                                                              sky's vast room,
she swore her life story was, 'My sister died. My mother wished it was me.' 
Eyes grey as wake on winter seas;
family love a lost Atlantis: anoxic as cold marbled rooms, undersea.

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Pamela Job: Dear Ocean

Dear Ocean, do you remember that girl –
she was a girl, she was so much younger 
than I ever was, in that summer moment 
when the world was blue as the Virgin’s
robe. And gold as her tears. Dear Ocean, 
bring back the girl, foot-free, dressed 
in shells with ravens nesting in her hair.

Dear Ocean, you could have taken her then
in the light that made everything blind-eyed
in the heat that warmed her thoughts until
they fell stunned on the sand – you could
have taken her, but you washed her feet instead, 
blistered, hard-soled from running over rocks.
The ravens have flown, now I am ready, dear Ocean.

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Tim Love: Dark Matter

We know it's there because it slows us down.
Everything clings. It's a missing term
in an old equation, or undiscovered regrets.
Call it love if it helps. Don't bother removing
the metaphors - it'll only become one big metaphor.

Instead, remember how da Vinci bought caged birds
just to release them. In the British Library
I research like a crow eating roadkill,
becoming roadkill before I can free words from silence.
There's a recipe book about roadkill isn't there?

Don't go. You know how bad my memory is.
My past will disappear with you. I'll try
to move my temple stone by numbered stone,
but when one man's left, there's no belief,
just a symbol that people can't let go of.

You understand, don't you. Surely we can
work this out. Ok, let's eat first.

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Susannah Hart: Becoming
 
Boy, you have been leaving for some time now,
slipping out of primary colours into grey and shade.
Yes, you’ve been changing, stretching from
the small and the specific upwards and away.
You are graduating to generalities. Through
the front door’s frosted glass you’re unrecognisable
and your mother looks too low for your face
when she answers the bell, your key forgotten
again. You’re impossible, impossible to hold
back, implausibly agile for one so clumsy,
so deft at departures.  She has tried to pin you into
photographs and school magazines but you wriggle
out of them, casting only a slight reflection.
Boy, there’s a word for what you’re becoming
and your mother is afraid to speak it out loud.

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Ian C Smith: Boomerang Days

Under gums, I faced south, he faced north,
a cotton bud sky, zephyr cool.
We kicked the football back and forth,
prelude to his trip to school.

Water pooled around a pump,
cows watched from steaming yards,
his bag I’d shouldered crowned a stump,
cut lunch, drink bottle, football cards.

I heard a distant tractor start,
no bus sound yet, due half-past.
Odour of grass wrenching the heart,
our kick-to-kick time passed too fast.

We heard the bus’s engine sigh,
driver’s horn-tap, starting to slow.
Kookaburras chorused way up high,
cacophony’s echo, sun still low.

Parting ways I touched his hair
as he skipped aboard sparked by sport.
I bounced his ball home past our mare,
days everlasting, so I thought.   

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Gareth Culshaw: I Had Stayed A Couple Of Nights

I left today. The cottage pie
had settled in me like the evening
sun on a sea. I didn’t know who
to look at and kept my eyes 
away. My rucksack was heavier 
than when I got here. The dog 
sniffed eagerly for the outside
but my hand hadn’t reached 
for the handle. I stood for a moment
like it was the day when I did leave 
When the umbilical was cut by 
a tongue. It was for the best back then. 
But today I stand knowing 
the next step will start to create
a shadow. When something dark
falls away from you and follows
you everywhere. I’m not sure 
I want it trailing behind me anymore. 

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Dan Bennett: R's Story

She wakes from the afternoon,
into amnesia's logic. A thin light,
from some distant window, 
her eyelids beating movement
into the quiet. And each step
is a stealthy trip into what 
she no longer knows. A radio offers 
to return her to the ordinary
but any dream has more sense 
than this cold awakening
as she teeters in the space 
between words and their things.
The strangeness of a home
without family amazes her, the feel
of woodgrain beneath her touch,
that precise colour of grey paint. 
A mirror faces her with level accuracy
the deadpan response of an old friend. 
Those seconds will remain 
as the past resumes its dialogue 
like a glass breaking in the night, 
like a dream told in passing
like the neighbour yesterday 
who brought news of death with him
and she had so much sadness
that she wanted to cross the street. 


Dan Bennett: Booksellers

In those days, I learned to read the look 
in booksellers' eyes: daring, forbidding
but desperate for me, really. 
In their expressions I saw the gaze

of dolorous taxi drivers, protecting
knowledge like a rare rooftop bird,
the women fronting clip joints
in Old Compton St. I'll be honest: 

I never knew what a clip joint was, 
but people said to avoid them, how they
put a price on lust and loneliness
monetised the pitiable. The booksellers, too,

priced me up as I pinged their bells, 
smelling desperation in my browsing, 
the amateur theatre of my enquiries.
Their eyelids sliced away at me: 

I'll show him death on credit, I'll show him 
gunslinger I'll show him hunger, 
I'll show him a la recherche de temps perdu. 
They knew what I tried to prove,

but where else could I go
and who else did they have? We faced off 
divided by our patient temporality,
our permanently arrested escapes.

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Anne Ballard: A Long Drive in January

Pewter and lead today’s colours:
puddles bulge, oily,
sluggish as mercury.
Sky lours, crushes the land,
exhaust fumes foul drenched air.
No dawn today.

Car headlamps,
brightest things in the world.
Street lights and signs 
cast long reflections 
of colours that screech
down soaked asphalt.

Slanting rain, splattered
by gusts of wind; metronome
beat of windscreen wipers
front and rear.
Hooded figures stoop 
into the face of the rain.

I drive in a tunnel of light
through no man’s land, alone
to the edge of the world.

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E Wen Wong: A Moment in the Castle

You walk into emptiness.
Across the surface,
puddles form
in the dips in concrete.
The smell of old leaves
resonates through the air
they are rusting,
well past autumn.

Ahead, a castle,
one you believe
to be abandoned.
It appears dark and gloomy
like the stickmen trees
which stand before it,
a signal to tell you
that you are unwelcome.

I am a soul bound
in the smallest crevice
of the castle,
the one surrounded
by ominous fragmented clouds.
It is abandoned,
the peaks piercing
through the skin of the sky.

Statues line the entrance:
the markers which precede
the pathway  towards my soul.
The grass, a dull green,
malnourished,
yet a spark against the castle’s
black and white theme.

I am embodied by darkness.
I am darkness.
The shadows hide
deep within the castle,
beckoning for anyone to enter,
to sweep beyond my exterior.

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Phil Wood: Bubble

Her leg
stretches above
the foam, slowly turning
the hot water tap
with her toes.
It is performance.
A ballet in mirrors, a moist
adagio for solitude.
She opens her book and reads.

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Lynne Hjelmgaard: It was the day they put the clocks back
 (Torbay Station)
 Time was away and somewhere else. -  Louis MacNiece
  
Minutes were not wasted with you dear Poet,
who called himself a Welshman and a Jew –
 
whose elder charm and youthful spirit rose
in the excitement of the rush.
 
We drank our builder’s tea at the platform café
busy speaking of our past lives
 
when the waitress removed the clock…
In the train back to London
 
we sat shoulder to shoulder, poem to poem.
The girl in the seat across the aisle
 
watched us intently, her gaze and smile
lingered longer on yours.
 
I hardly knew you, yet had pangs of jealousy and
still in grief for my own lost spouse, later wrote:
 
give me him young or give me him old,
is he writing me now as I write of him?

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Elizabeth Smither: The man who wanted to stroke my hair

The St Kilda tram. Bright summer air. Breeze
through the window gap, stirring
all manner of motes, tendrils of  hair
lifting their traces on my neck. Fine hairs
of a different sort, underneath. Antennae
not needed for action on a tram.

A hand touches my shoulder, gently.
A confidant’s hand, a psychiatrist
or alternative therapist: The Role of Hair
just accepted as a learnèd paper. ‘May
I stroke your hair?’ the whisper in my ear.

NO, came the answer before I considered it
then odd thoughts,  like running nits (not
that I had those, even at school). Then
How many times?’ and ‘Where would you begin?’
Obviously from the crown; the hand would settle
and then begin its slide. My hair was thick, golden
(my aunts all had it, with a natural wave
as it descended, almost a Marcel, no
salon needed). The tram stopped. I looked
ahead. The man got off, the breeze
caressed crown and neck all the way home.   


Elizabeth Smither: The girl with the dog made of cigarettes

Making a tower of leaning cards
turning cigarette packets into a dog
a girl in a velvet jacket and pleated skirt
carries in the street. Above her head

hangs her mother’s handbag. The Pall Mall dog
looks up and down the street. Air flows
through its body, the gap-spaced teeth,
nonetheless it guards the girl who holds it

sometimes by a rear leg, sometimes its torso
like a clutch purse. An accessory for the well-
dressed girl shopping with her mother. On a shop
counter the cigarette dog sneaks a rest as if

smoke from old cigarettes and stubbed-out butts
escapes through its slits. Smoking helps
you relax and gives the hands something other
than a fumble. The little girl who wears red

boots to match the cigarette packets knows to
hold something is halfway to confidence. ‘A dog!’
someone exclaims as she thrusts its muzzle forward.
‘How cute, how darling. But don’t start smoking yet.’

Toy dogs made of cigarette packets were popular in the heavy-smoking decades of the 1940s and 1950s  
Check out ‘cigarette packet dog’ on google

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Owen Gallagher: Where Trees Didn’t Leaf
South Side Sawmills, Glasgow

Sawdust fell when passers-by shook their heads,
dossers scooped it up to skin with tobacco,
birds dived, and soared with curly shavings.

Hardwood and softwood trunks, from Borneo
to Brazil, shipped to the sawmills, were laid out 
like handmade cigars and left to season in yards 

for cladding, clothes pegs and coffins. Workers 
debated the origins of trees by smell and touch,
feared fingers sawn off, backs snapped.

I swept up sacks of sawdust, heaved them onto 
trucks to line the nation’s pet cages, and for barmen 
and school janitors to scatter over vomit.

The old hands told stories of gangsters driven here 
by rivals at night, reduced to slices of meat sold 
from a dodgy butcher’s van. I eased my nerves 

with Bounty bars longing for the whining 
and grinding of saws to cease as I stepped between
creaking log piles dreading the scream: ‘Timber!’


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Norton Hodges: I Remember BHS

It was a cut above Woolworths but cheaper than Marks.
Now I walk down the High Street and BHS is boarded up
so that the pillaged inside is invisible.
People worked here. Shoppers looked for the Winceyette and the Crimplene
they couldn’t find elsewhere.
The men’s department tried hard to be trendy.
In the café, lunchtime diners enjoyed fish and chips
or shepherd’s pie with a nice cup of tea.
It was part of a safe and regular life.

Except that behind the scenes 
money moved into pockets
and certain people got richer, bought yachts,
financed their children’s schooling and their wine cellars,
Behind the façade of the façade there were puppet masters,
there was shadow play,

and the ordinary people they saw as units,
as ants, as footfall, as bodies per square metre,
had to go elsewhere for their sleeveless pullovers
and warm vests,

shunted out of the everyday,
they were suddenly aware of a wider world,
a world that was bottomless, unfathomable,

without locality, stolen by hucksters through sleight of hand,

while the abandoned shops now,

if only we could see inside,

would be echoing, cavernous,

empty except for some ripped packaging

and the bones of dead coat hangers.

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***

Tom Sommerville: Clearing Out 

My clothes hang meekly on the wardrobe rail
and form a bunch of snaps of what I was:
the striped ties of my formal days of toil;
the flowered number, like a long lost cause
from when black hair cascaded down my neck;
the suits now kept for funerals and weddings;
some antique shirts would better deck
a case in a museum. All need shredding.
What do they tell me now about my life,
these dumb participants? They seem a thin
memento of an average of grief,
a mean of happiness; of mediocre sin.
My wife is startled as I think, out loud,
That flasher’s raincoat might do me for a shroud.

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***

Rosemary Norman: Dimensions Variable

Put it on.

Off the hook
your shoulders hold it

square
and the sleeves

grow complex and
co-operative, no mere

dangle but full
of potential. Let it
 
have a wearer
or at least

the semblance of one.
Let it not slump

into those shapes
that give a mortal look

to logs or bin-bags.
Otherwise let it hang

up on its hook, all
symmetry and rectitude.

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***

Stephen Bone: Glove

It lay in the pub's doorway,
an elegant, boneless hand.

Palm upwards
in a gesture of supplication,

fingers reaching out, useless
on its own.

Or perhaps

an iron fist,
now rid of its velvet glove.

Enough is enough. The gauntlet
thrown down.

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***

Emma Lee: These were someone's shoes
After a photograph, photographer unknown

Red shoes evoke dance but these are strapless stilettos,
left on a railway sleeper as if their wearer, a cross 
between Victoria Page and Cinderella, had danced off
with impatience after the train had failed to show,
long after the audience of commuters had left
an empty station as a stage and silence as a score.
Not that silence would have mattered, a dancer
carries music: an echo of rehearsal, an earworm
from the earlier party, the rhythm of an expected train,
to which aching, shoe-pinched feet were compelled
to respond, forcing their wearer to place her shoes
here and move off, gliding along the rails, tapping
over sleepers to avoid splinters, journeying home
as the shoes stay, empty and evocative and red.

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***

Jane Henderson: gone

when I come in from work there is a note on the kitchen table
in your hand. I perceive the word ‘gone’; small word in lower
case. you’re good at gone/it is familiar. why bother even to 
write it when we both know it like a dog nudging our sides.
I wonder how cold the night will be with me in the bed alone.
you will be moving past green fields, probably too quickly to
see where they are divided. the lines blur. and I’m here at the 
curtain with the same view.

you didn’t take your watch and it pips on the hour. the clocks 
have moved on and you think you’ll have more light. here in 
the house there’s gloom but still I find a fish scale on the tiled
floor and can’t dispose of it when it adheres to my hand. 
driving on the carriageway you’ll cover more distance in spite
of the slant rain. probably you won’t wear your glasses and
you’ll neglect to indicate. at some point you might find what
I wrote but it won’t hit home.

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***

Michael McCarthy: Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil

Whenever mud was found on the stairs, or a handle 
Knocked off of a cup. Or the gate of the haggard 
Not closed and the cows getting into the spuds. 
Or the hen house door left open all night for the fox. 

How in-the-name-a-God did the horse get into the loft?
Who was it drove the wrong sow into the farrowing pin? 
Who ate a hole out of the bottom of the Christmas cake 
Before it was cut? Come now, tell the truth and shame the devil.
 
			*

He bought them out of half-a-crown Peter Brien gave him. 
I saw the bulge in his pocket where he hung his coat. 
My hand brushed against it by accident, I heard a rustle. 
I was trying to find out what it was when a toffee fell out. 
I was trying to put it back when it slipped into my mouth. 
It tasted like honey from the combs my uncle found 
In the cornfield, where the scythe had cut off the top. 
I tried another to see if it tasted the same, and it did. 
So I tried one more, and then one more after that. 

It wasn’t stealing. I gave some to my other brother 
To see what he made of them. He said they were nice. 
So I couldn’t have been stealing, and I didn’t tell a lie.
I examined my tongue in the looking glass and there was 
No sign of a black spot. I told the truth and shamed the devil. 
But my brother said the only devil I shamed was myself.

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***

Edmund Prestwich: Dante In The Garden
“These wretches, who were never alive”, Dante, Inferno III

Frost on the grass, shrill birds, 
another jet climbing slowly
through dawn-pink cloud. I imagined
the man whose book I’d been reading
in a scarlet gown sitting
under our leafless pear.
Four more months till April
covered it with flowers	
and children spread soft toys
on a warm rug. His face
was hollow, bone
pushing out through the skin.
I tried to speak but he
looked through me. Maybe all
he saw, even now, 
was the hell he couldn’t leave
or I imagine, my mind shying
from the damned souls crawling
out of the earth, labouring
through blind tunnels, pushing
the maimed on trolleys, praying
to see the stars again, 
to stand up, blinded by light,
as if this cold fenced garden
were paradise. Perhaps 
to him I was one of those 
he’d seen by the first river;
the dead who were never alive, 
chasing a blank banner,
despised by heaven and hell.

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***

Eric Nicholson: The Judge's Skin

I enjoyed the feel of hot sun when
moisture would evaporate 
and leave tangy salt behind.
Scant hair stood to attention in cool breezes,
rain ran in rivulets downwards.
I thought he was comfortable in me.

I'd keep sin out and enemies at bay.
I was a part of him, a living organ.
I always accommodated his deathly sentences,
I had no say when I stretched around yellow teeth.
As I cushioned his snapping jaws I crawled.

When I was sliced away from him
I fell on the floor in slack strips.
Someone collected my flayed bits
and carried them across the room.
They saw fit to shape me into a chair.
They told his son to sit on me. Not under.
I did all I could to accommodate his weight.
I felt a heaviness I'd not felt before.

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***

Teoti Jardine: I Hear the Crying 

as I look around my writing room.

This is my Grandfather’s oak roll top desk with its
high curved back chair we children spun on.

On the desk sits photographs of my Mum and Dad. He holds the reins of 
his horse beneath its chin, a look of respect and admiration upon his face.

The horse standing securely in its strength looks past him
towards the camera where in sepia tones this moment is captured.

My Mother in a Photographers Studio wears a dress that gives her eyes
a twinkle, letting the whole world know she shyly knows she’s beautiful.

Above the desk a painting commissioned by the Community. A farewell gift
when Dad sold the farm and we moved down South.

It shows the Stable, the Shearers Quarters, the peaks of the mountain range.
This view Mum saw as she waved goodbye to Dad, to us kids off to the school bus

My ever growing collection of books line the walls and above them are more
photographs, posters, artworks and Aboriginal paintings.

A photograph of the Pandora II a research vessel I’d sailed on up the Davis Strait
past ice bergs where we looked South to see the Northern Lights playing.

The front cover of the Kumara Vine shows the dead Humpback Whale 
washed up on Pareora beach with my poem honouring it.

Every room in my house displays memories made manifest. They have become 
my Korowai, my Cloak that wraps itself around me and allows me to

hear the crying. The crying of the dead, the dying, the starving, the refugees. 
The mountains, the rivers, the land and seas lend their voices too.

My korowai allows me to hear, and turn towards the crying.

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***

Jack Crow: Extracts from “the burning room”
For the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire
 
turn back    to the flats
turn back    to the fire
turn back    to the nightmare
there
 
climb the burning stairs
to where the moon and stars
are near
 
climb the sky to the 23rd floor
to the door
of those about to die
 
go in
 
wait
in the blazing heat
in the blazing grief

sit
with those about to lose their lives
those soon to die
in pain in pain
in pain and fear
right now and here
          
 
take me back    to the tower
take me back    to the fire
take me back    to my neighbour
 
take me to your room
your living room
your burning room...

with books and a blazer   a sofa and a freezer
 
take me to the window
where
you look down to the ground
and at the impossible drop
below
and you scream    to the earth below
so soft so cool
like ice cream

as every way
away from here
like stairs or lifts or sheets tied together 
or anything that hope can bring
is burnt away
till now there is nothing
now
but suffering
this is where you   burn
where your skin     blister
where you cough and choke
let me sit with you my sister
as the smoke rise and the slow fire
close us down

let me stay beside you
as you burn…
 
and
 
those feet
that in ancient times
walked on England's mountains green
and
that holy lamb of God
that was in England's pastures
seen
be here and now
please
be here and now
 
 
it's love
it’s love
it's only ever
love
that can
face death
that can
transform
the face of death
as every breath defends our right to love
as every grain of every bone that stands for love
is made of love
 
love as real
as wood
as fierce as steel
as binding as our ligaments
 
let me sit with you my sister as you die
let me stay beside you past the pain
let me stay  

till at last
from your burning bones
your soul can emerge
at last
can turn    to a bird
can fly        away
 
and at the window now
i count you out
the people of the tower
my sisters, brothers, cousins,
each and every one
I count you out
into the night
the silent night
 
 
and in the morning
the smoking tower
is joining
earth and sky
 
and in the morning
on the streets around
the have’s
who have
and go on
having
are joining
the have nots
who have not
 
 
and the door  between
the rich and poor
is just
a bit
ajar
 

and all of us who saw the fire that came to claim our neighbours
will remember
 
and in the morning
and as we sort through the wreckage
looking for the cause
as we gather the facts
the answer is simple
 
it's tax
 
tax is a river
it flows from the mountains
it flows down the slopes
where the rich grow
it flows through the fertile
valleys below
 
it flows down
to the dry and desert plains
to water there
the hope
of all the people there
 
so
if your money from your ancient family
or made
by your own amazing industry
by your individual brilliance
or just by the sweat of your brow
is too precious to share
with the poor
of here
and now
 
then maybe today
if not everyday
i will rise like a corpse
i will say
it is better
that you had never
been born...
 
take me back
to the flats
take me back
to the fire
 

take me back
every night
to the tower
on fire
 
take me back   to the flats
take me back   to the fire
take me back   every night
to the tower on fire
to watch again the souls of those
who lose their lives
go    to the skies
go again to heaven   or the stars
or all the places where the dead they go

watch them go   like birds
and weep   and sob
and let light shine on them
 
may the fire   of the poor
in the burning tower
change the world for ever
 
 and in the morning
we wait for the morning   when
in spring
the birds will come back to the flats and will bring

rain
and song
and green

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***
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Derek Adams is a professional photographer. Originally from London, he now lives in Suffolk. He has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths and his poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and abroad including Rialto, Magma, Smiths Knoll and London Grip. He has a collection Everyday Objects, Chance Remarks (Littoral, 2005) and pamphlets Postcards to Olympus and unconcerned but not indifferent: the life of Man Ray.

Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Magma, The Interpreter’s House and elsewhere. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competition 2015. Her pamphlet Family Division was published by in 2015.

Dan Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been published in numerous places, including Atrium, Eyeflash, Prole, and Under The Radar. His chapbook Arboreal Days is published by Red Ceilings Press.

Stephen Bone‘s work has appeared in magazines in the U.K. and U.S. and in various anthologies.First collection, In The Cinema ( Playdead Press ) 2014 and Plainsong ( Indigo Dreams Publishing ) 2018.

Jack Crow has spent a lot of years trying to find a “voice”. Maybe three years ago he found a voice and now it doesn’t seem to want to shut up. Among many things Jack works as a van driver to make money.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. His first collection is published by futurecycle. he hopes to achieve something special with the pen

Peter Daniels has two poetry collections, Counting Eggs (Mulfran Press, 2012) and A Season in Eden (Gatehouse Press, 2016). His translations of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian appeared from Angel Classics in 2013.

Robert Etty’s latest collection, Passing the Story Down the Line (Shoestring Press), was reviewed in London Grip in 2017.

Owen Gallagher was born of Irish parents in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. He now lives in London and was a Primary Teacher in Southall. His previous publications are: Sat Guru Snowman, Peterloo Poets, Tea with the Taliban, Smokestack Books, and A Good Enough Love, Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2015, which was nominated for the T.S.Eliot award.

Jill Harris lives and works in Bristol, and has been scribbling from an early age.

Susannah Hart is a London-based poet who is on the board of Magma and is the co-editor of Magma 70 on the theme of Europe. She also works as a brand consultant. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines and online, and her first collection Out of True is due to be published by Live Canon later this year.

Jane Henderson is a gardener and sculptor. She is a member of Suffolk Poetry Society.

Lynne Hjelmgaard‘s third collection A Boat Called Annalise was published with Seren in 2016. She is working on a new mss called A Second Whisper

Norton Hodges is a poet, translator and editor. His poems have been widely published in the UK. His recent collection Bare Bone (the High Window Press, 2018) represents 20 years work. He lives in Lincoln.

Teoti Jardine is of Maori, Irish and Scottish descent. His tribal affiliations are Waitaha, Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu. He completed the Hagley Writers Course 2011 and has had poetry published in The Press, London Grip, JAAM, Ora Nui, Te Karaka, Aotearotica, and short stories with Flash Frontier. He was guest editor for the Pasifika Issue of Flash Frontier March 2018. He lives with his dog Amie in a lovely old house in Linwood, Chirstchurch.

Pamela Job has been writing poetry for 10 years and has helped run Poetry Wivenhoe, a live poetry event, for most of that time. She has won various awards, the Crabbe Memorial Prize twice and, most recently, second prize in the Magma magazine competition. She is published in magazines and anthologies and is involved in a four year Project inspired by the Wilfred Owen Memorial in northern France. She finds poets and poetry very exciting.

Emma Lee‘s most recent collection is Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015), she co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves, 2015), reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com

Tim Love lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Short Fiction, New Walk, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/

Michael Mc Carthy is an Irish born poet living in Yorkshire. A winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Award, his most recent book The Healing Station, was chosen by Hilary Mantel as her Guardian Book of the year. A new collection, The Bright Room and Other Poems, is due from The Poetry Business in October 2018.

Marion McCready lives in Dunoon, Argyll. She is the author of two poetry collections – Tree Language (Eyewear Publishing, 2014) and Madame Ecosse (2017).

Emma Neale lives in Dunedin and is the current editor of Landfall. Her fifth poetry collection, Tender Machines, was long-listed in the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and her most recent novel, Billy Bird, is long-listed in the International Dublin Literary Awards.

Eric Nicholson is retired and lives in the NE of England. He is published online and by Sydney Samizdat Press, Sydney, Australia, and also has a manuscript about Blake & Buddhism awaiting a publisher. He blogs at https://ericleo.wordpress.com

Robert Nisbet is a Pembrokeshire poet who doesn’t see himself as unduly competitive, but who has recently won the Prole Pamphlet Competition. His winning collection, Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes is published by Prolebooks.

Rosemary Norman was born in London and has worked mainly as a librarian. Shoestring Press published her third collection, For example, in 2016. With video artist Stuart Pound, she makes films with poems as image, soundtrack and sometimes both. See them on Vimeo

Edmund Prestwich has published two collections, Through the Window with Rockingham Press and Their Mountain Mother with Hearing Eye. He grew up in South Africa, but finished his education in England and has spent his working life teaching English at the Manchester Grammar School.

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Antipodes, Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Prole, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two-Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.

Elizabeth Smither’s latest collection of poetry, Night Horse was published by Auckland University Press in 2016.

Tom Sommerville lives in Edinburgh where, before retirement, he taught English and Scottish Literature. Writing poems is his attempt to record things in his life that seem to be worth saving often, but not always, employing the discipline of established verse forms. Attendance at a university poetry writing course encourages regular production which might otherwise fall victim to procrastination.

E Wen Wong is fifteen years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She began writing poetry and prose from a young age and, since then, has had her work featured in Printable Reality, Rattle and Brief Anthologies, among others. She is also on the committee of the New Zealand Poetry Society.

Phil Wood works in a statistics office. He enjoys working with numbers and words. His writing can be found in various publications, including: Allegro, The Open Mouse, Nutshells and Nuggets, London Grip, Ink Sweat and Tears.

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough, is retired and runs monthly music/poetry nights in Aldershot. He has recently been published in Magma, Amaryllis, Morphrog and Envoi. Last year he published a pamphlet, Dante Called You Beatrice, which The Journal described as “simple artistry: a remarkable achievement”.

Mark Young is the author of over forty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are random salamanders, a Wanton Text Production, & Circus economies, from Gradient books of Finland.
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