London Grip New Poetry Autumn 2019

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This issue of London Grip New Poetry features work by more than 30 poets from all parts of the world:

* Stuart Handysides * David Susswein * Christopher Georgiou * Teoti Jardine * Christine Vial
* Josh Ekroy * Paul Connolly * Deborah Tyler-Bennett * Angela Gardner * Stuart Pickford
* William Bedford * Merryn Williams * David Punter * John Davies * Claudia Court * Flavia Munteanu
* Tawna Mitchell * Jacqueline Saphra * Marisa Cappetta * Joanna Boulter * Bruce Christianson
* Tess Jolly * Joan Michelson * Jim C Wilson * Rosemary Norman * M E Muir * Kathleen McPhilemy
* Beth McDonough * Sally Festing * JS Watts * Clare Crossman * Fiona Sinclair * Andrea Witzke Slot

Copyright of poems remains with contributors.  Biographical notes  can be found here

SUBMISSIONS: please send UP TO THREE poems plus a brief bio to poetry@londongrip.co.uk
Poems should be in a SINGLE Word attachment or included in the message body
Our submission windows are: December-January, March-April, June-July & September-October
London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December

A printable version of London Grip New Poetry is at LG New Poetry Autumn 2019

Editor’s notes

As we have mentioned before, contributions to  London Grip New Poetry  often group  themselves  spontaneously  (and sometimes surprisingly)  around one or  more topics.  On this occasion there
has been a significant  clustering around themes of sexual desire,
intrigue and jealousy and these poems can be found swirling and
coiling  –  one might even say seething – around the central pages of this issue.

However, as with the late and unlamented News of the World, all human life is here and our poets have also applied themselves to other matters, ranging from speculations about the wider universe through earth-bound right-wing politics and on to bread-and-butter domestic issues.  God may – or may not – make an appearance in the closing pages.

We hope you enjoy all these autumnal offerings.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet

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Stuart Handysides: Redundant

Why seek to understand if you can have,
without thinking, devices
that will do the job you want and more?

Why look for manual override
when – face it, human – you’re not that good?

I’ll compensate for your shaky hands;
I see what looks like what you call
a face – you people seem to focus on them.

Tell me what it’s called. I’ll know it next time
put it in the right folder
match the image with my network
we’ll devise a narrative
from the dates, places, contacts
iterate between ourselves while backing up
you won’t even have to look at them yourself.

Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered;
relax, your hands are in good circuits.


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David Susswein: NASA Insight Probe Talks Home 

this is a dead world, now. it once wasn’t 

this is not a thought
this is starred, interrupted abbreviated communication
from 54.6 million km, averaged to Now.

you.
walking the coasts of seas
walking the edge lines of mountains
walking amongst the densest forest paths

now.
my mechanical digger knows nothing. 
i am nothing but a dumb digger.

but i know this place had life, once, now it doesn't.
if even i a dumb digger knows this, 
why don't you?

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Christopher Georgiou: Returned to Sender

Whilst Humans still inhabited
their planet Earth they sent
a coded signal out into the
Universe across immeasurable 
distances and, as it passed through
galaxies, it asked of each the simple
question: Are you There?

There was no answer in the 
senders’ time, or that of their 
descendents ; and it was long 
after they and all their kind
were gone from Earth; that
one did come but there was no one
to decipher that the singular 
reply to Are You There?  was
No.

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Teoti Jardine: The Eagle Has Landed

I do know that finally deciding the perfect place
for a full stop can’t compare with the moon landing,

however, when I heard Steve Bales, the NASA Ground Crew
member who advised the Apollo 11 team to continue 

with their descent even though alarms were
sounding, saying, to hear the words, 

‘Tranquility Base here,
the Eagle has landed’ brought tears to his eyes.

Tears come to my eyes too, when the full stop lands,
and the poem settles into its surroundings. 


Teoti Jardine: Another Day

Each day arrives, wearing its unique
colour, shape, and countenance.

We view each other cautiously 
like strangers on a train.

Why is he dressed like that? What’s
that book he reads so fervently?

My questions go unanswered.
I surrender to the day and offer

a smile. He puts down the book,
undresses and wraps himself 

around me. Where I end and the day 
begins no longer puzzles me,

knowing I’ll greet tomorrow, with 
that same, cautious, curiosity.

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Christine Vial: Superman On The Victoria Line

When we get on at Seven Sisters, there’s an old guy 
wearing a bright blue Superman baseball cap 
and a Superman t shirt under a dark shabby jacket.
He’s working on a Rubik Cube.

Everyone in the crowded carriage is ignoring him -
or pretending to. We all know that it’s kryptonite 
to make eye contact or show any other sign of engagement
while travelling on the London Underground.

When we get off at Kings Cross, he’s still sitting there,
on his way to save the world, travelling slightly slower 
 than a speeding bullet,  or perhaps he’s heading for a phone box
 where he can turn back into Clark Kent (or Clark Kent’s granddad).

Whatever the super-hero plan, at the rate he’s going,
he’ll certainly have finished the Rubik Cube by Pimlico.

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Josh Ekroy: Him and me 

                         had a real good talk.
We discussed some very important deals
and we could do this because we have 
a great relationship. We’re gonna sell
this guy some very beautiful arms, tanks, 
rockets, all kinds of stuff that will bring 
jobs to America. He doesn’t play golf 
but he likes cowboy films, fresh vegetables, 
is very gentle and kind to animals. He has 
this lovely talented girl-friend. She and 
Melania are like sisters. Him and me 
both are deeply concerned about all 
these very very bad countries like Czecho-
slovakia and Poland too. What’s that? 
Austria is his homeland for Christ sake.
Don’t you guys ever go home? So no –
Fake news! Munich is the real deal.
Why wouldn’t it be? he loves and reveres 
the British Empire. It’s like a role model
for him – So yeah, we’re gonna get on 
amazingly well. And hey the guy likes 
blondes! – with his tach and my hair
we go for growth. We’ve signed a very
special non-aggression pact that means 
so much to me, and I know for him 
it’s very strong and powerful. How 
do I know that? Because he told me. 

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Paul Connolly: The Dictator Looks out at the Crowd
 
So it ran: tomorrow’s
freedom commands you, weed 
the shallow hazards from today.

Yet, look: their faces,
formulable not soluble, faces
no different, every face is
 
my wife’s in the allotment behind
Marek’s leather factory,
posed for scrutiny in my hands,
 
as I pondered if her eyes’ abandon
meant anything at all. Do
eyes speak? Ah Smislov
 
smiles. Let them anatomise
Smislov, find the cause
in nature for pliancy, teardrops,
 
absorption, guffaws. Content
yourself, because each face
is mine, each faces mine.

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Deborah Tyler-Bennett: Your Side of the Pond

Imagine, if you will, a stretch of water
nearby where you live (river, lake, canal)
wide-stretch, perhaps wider than it looks,
overhung by willow and the usual, nameless, weeds.
Somewhere walked most days alone, or with
partner … children … dog …
Just think, the further bank’s identical to that
you stroll by, but the land’s a different jurisdiction.

Most days they’re seen, shadow figures 
gazing at where you stand –
sometimes you raise a hand
in greeting – often not.

Imagine, today, coming across them at the water’s edge
face down where rushes shade
young man and little girl (could have been his daughter)
you knew them dead, as treescapes blurred.
Groping to call someone, another watcher
on your side, had seen them too
walked up, and hand upon your shoulder cried:
“Oh Christ, what did we do?”
 

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Angela Gardner: Crossing the Line 

Retching below deck the endless hours across Biscay, 
I don’t understand the undifferentiated water, and that’s 
the truth. Not the deep: the fish that fly, not any of its 
wonders or its terrors. And we’re only part way through 
simulating our new reality. Not through the source-code, 
nor the updates. Not how it works: the plastic crap, 
the whales, the carbon sink. You and I, we drew lots 
to be here at the rails, to watch the half-way empty acres. 
To be where the icebergs, that calve somewhere cold 
and north of here, end up, streaming the eastern seaboard. 
Less above water, it’s their unseen icy bulk that disturbs
:how they surface in our dreams, blue and towering. 

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Stuart Pickford: Pure Running
After Stephen Dobyns
  
Who lives in this catalogue? It’s time
to crash into the storm over the moors,
dodge the wind throwing knives,
the Atlantic roar curling our ears.
 
Nicety, nicety, nicety. To hell
with these days of matching mugs,
condensation creeping up the windows
as if the house’s sinking under the weight
of pleases and thank yous. Let’s strip
the stodge from our arteries, fling
the scatter cushions from our eyes.
 
Our badnesses are shuffling to the start.
Here’s Temptation warming his hands
down his lycra, adjusting the spanner:
any time or place. Jogging on the spot,
Obsession takes ascent from descent,
craves a bigger fix. Ambition picks
a scab, thinks who he could’ve been,
why he ignored the ghost in the machine.
Vanity’s high vis, gloves that breathe,
reflector sunnies, seamless seams.
 
Let’s leave our badnesses bitching.
Tear off the stopwatch. It’s time
to run flat the mountain of emails
and smiles and lists and logos, holler
at our useless legs for being slow,
for being us. Let’s not hit the wall
to be hit back, let’s take the fucker down
before it’s the mound on top of us forever.

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William Bedford: To Hear The Wooden Cuckoo Sing
(i.m. John Clare)

Our Helpston wags tell tales of strangers,
slow-witted lads from other towns,
traipsing round to hear the wooden cuckoo sing.
I think of that in fancy Lunnon town,
bigger than Norberry but nowt brighter,
‘cept for lights, flash clothes, bold stares, 
posh table manners worn to make us know
we’re out of place, down here, or anywhere.
But I don’t hear the wooden cuckoo sing
whatever place I’m in, alehouse or field,
theatre or quack’s asylum. I hear the clouds,
see the stars, listen to the moon talking.
I know a place that’s mine, and that’s not here. 

Lunnon= London; Norberry= Northborough, where Helpston locals thought the slow-witted went 
to hear the wooden cuckoo sing. 


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Merryn Williams: The Last Walk Of Colonel Windebank
(Oxford, 1645)

Still breathing, but my coffin is being carried
down Dead Man’s Walk, six paces ahead of me.
I gulp the air, I drink in the smell of hawthorn.
On Christ Church Meadow, the cows graze peacefully.

I could have kept out of it, could have fought for the Roundheads,
as some of my friends did, perhaps not fought at all.
Yes, I was prepared to die for the King, but not
this way. In a moment they’ll put me against the wall.

The cows will live.  And that open-mouthed staring woman.
Ungrateful Charles, unfortunate Cavalier.
I loved my wife, but didn’t love honour more, and
now both are lost.  Time’s up.  The walk stops here.

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David Punter: Ghost

Phantasmal, ragged, laughing,
I stride out along the street behind you.
Unshaped, prescient, whippet-formed,
I cavort in the road before you.

You are so solid, I giggle:
clothed, buried in tumultuous flesh.
Yet you shall be as I am –
free, dissolute, distraught.

Do not imagine rest;
I am mine own perturbary
and you, before night’s end
will be bereft of every protestation.

I could float off on the dry wind
but I prefer it here; my game,
my politesse, demands it;
I live to serve you, my master.

I curlicue, I swindle, cheat,
you know full well I will –
there is no upright bone in my
boneless body. Praise the Lord.

Belonging to the sinister persuasion
I have no time for living;
leave that to the dull corporeal
and come. Caper with me.


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John Davies: A pair of poems

Jack in the Pulpit

She fends him off, 
can’t abide his intensity 
and lack of care. 
She sees the need 
for action, though not sure 
exactly what. The gift of 
oneself in love, 
perhaps, she thinks. 

He doesn’t hear her, 
too busy with his  
horticulture. 
For her, gardening 
is a practice  
more than art. 
She believes in getting  
her hands dirty. 

He, on the other hand, 
prefers to contemplate 
some obsession  
in his solipsist empire. 
She shrugs and takes  
her cup of coffee to  
the other room. 
He looms behind her.  
 

Lady’s Slipper 

Then there’s that orchid  
on the kitchen windowsill, 
puce in severe sunlight,  
its questing-forward flower 
betrays its peacefulness,
pale-tipped propeller, 
dog-yawn tongue. 

Yet this sunlit geometry, 
the cheeky nose and wings, 
communicates some secret
in her inner ear; 
the voice of its speckled,
yellow throat loud against 
the dishwasher din and sluice. 

She listens but can’t quite 
resolve those labials and  
ciphers below the conscious, 
its half-formed words. 
He passes her the scissors. 
She trims back faded sepals, 
then lunges at him. 

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Claudia Court: Think
(musings at a 14th Century confessional)

Think who was here 
which medieval sinners 
and their sins, bowed 
low beneath the curlicues 
that snake around the screen.

Think what dark disguise 
for those who’ve knelt 
or lain, prostrate in shame 
at transgressions 
obsolete today.

Think who was absolved 
by harsher priests
than ours, commending  
practices that
mortify the flesh.

Think who carried out 
such punishments
yet still returned 
in penitence
for pleasures that arose.

Cancel sin with sin. 
A clever ploy to rope 
the punters in: while
every sin needs penance 
every penance risks a sin.

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Flavia Munteanu: Jealousy is the least fun sin for the sinner 

You’re going soon, 
with your carefree and undulating body,
as we lie naked under this dusty London ceiling 
peaceful and still, I watch your spirit float amid 
the many sun-kissed skins of men and women
that I will never meet and do not care to think 
that you may love some of their faces. You
squeeze envy out of me like the juice of a
raw lemon in black tea, the acid turning me against
the happiness of strangers. Did you know 
jealousy is the least fun sin for the sinner?
Tell them, when they intrude, 
that touching you is not a permit to be rude,
ask them to hold your wings in their palms and 
help them grow the way I would, 
if only we had time.

You’re going soon, too soon,
since you’ve only just taught me that
beauty is found at the ends of our fingertips,
on the insides of our thighs, on the edge 
of earlobes begging to be remembered. God,
I know not what tongue I speak anymore, this is no
longer the tongue that my mother taught me.
You built an empire in my mouth and barricaded 
yourself with soldiers made out of teeth who
made music flow out of me at your command, except
when they rebelled against you. I first noticed it 
as strange notes slipped out of me while you 
were absent too. Some of your soldiers conspired to
create a hiding spot at the bottom of my lip and I, 
I am not ready to let them go and build
another Mecca underneath some stranger’s skin.

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Tawna Mitchell: Fantasies

In the ferny intimacy of dark,
You unfurl yourself to me.
Share stories of
Past infidelities,
All your hot shame
Laid bare.
I hold you tighter –
Everyone has a shadow.
We lie, night-embracing
Intertwined puzzle pieces
Fevered sleep.

Light squeezes through 
The curtain cracks,
Dancing vistas 
Around our eye lashes,
Dappling our skin.
One last glimpse 
From those earth-earnest eyes
Before you re-clothe,
Zip yourself away.
The resounding door echoes the night’s memories –

You can tell me anything.

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Jacqueline Saphra: Offal

My father had a thing for flesh –
he liked his tripe and faggots fresh
and offal was his favourite dish
washed down with cold champagne
A tender sweetbread needs no knife
he said – and gives you potency for life.
Let’s lunch – you’ll meet my latest wife
in Sunny Seething Lane

And there she was all silk and shine
She must have robbed a diamond mine
She chose the most expensive wine
his protests were in vain
For reasons hard to understand
to him she was a Newfoundland
and there they postured hand in hand
loved up in Seething Lane

She picked the caviar to start
I opted for a sour grape tart
My father with his swollen heart
refusing to abstain
went for the usual – licked his lips
gyrated on his dodgy hip
and took her in a lusty grip
for this was Seething Lane

My father claimed he’d only strayed
because he wasn’t getting laid
He tweaked his squeaky hearing aid
and groped his wife again
His recent ex – a lifelong prude
refused to screw him in the nude
he sighed while getting slowly stewed
on gin in Seething Lane

The sun slipped down like lemon curd
the myths and shadows rose as birds
Was that my mother’s cry I heard
or just the wail of rain?
Was that my mother’s hand I saw
the golden ring she never wore
poised on the handle of the door
right here in Seething Lane?

My father coughed I’m not so young
but look, at last I’ve found The One!
He didn’t see the devilled tongue
go flaccid with disdain
nor spy my mother decades dead
her halo pale her lipstick red
crash in and hover overhead
to gloat at Seething Lane

Her feathers seemed to brush my hair
I felt her breathing hot and rare
If only she were really there –
that strange familiar pain
My father belched – my mother spat
and swore at him – ah tit for tat –
At least I was well out of that
thank God in Seething Lane

No matter – this is commonplace
the new wife with the old wife’s face
Your father’s in it for the chase
but not the ball and chain
my mother said Enough of this
I’m off it’s late – She blew a kiss
flew out to find eternal bliss
away from Seething Lane

The offal glistened on the plate
I watched my father salivate
He bit the heart in half and ate
a hefty chunk of brain
then took a slender slice of spleen
and fed it to his newfound queen
She swallowed – turning slightly green
in ghastly Seething Lane
















Jacqueline Saphra:  Yael and Sisera 
After Yael and Sisera by Artemisia Gentileschi 
‘And Yael went to meet Sisera and said unto him, 
Turn in, my Lord, turn in to me and fear not.’  
Judges 4.18

It was the women pitched the tents, could strike
a nail. Crack the earth or open up a skull
what’s the difference? This woman’s not slight.

She’s used to the work; meaty, hard as hell. 
She smiles. He’s trained to kill, he’s twice her size
but she’s been here before, my namesake Yael.

She eases Sisera inside her tent, feeds him lies
with hot milk, blankets him with safety as 
a mother might, soothes him with lullabies.

A woman does her best with what she has:
in this case: hidden hammer, nail, the gift
of patience. The soldier softens in her hands

then sleeps, as if this is a lovers’ tryst.
Yael stills her heart, takes up her weapons, stands
to calculate the angle; how to split
a bad man’s bone; the blow that will not miss.

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Marisa Cappetta: The first bed
For Hilda Carline

The First Bed is a painter. She sews her own clothes, plants vegetables and
 flowers under her mattress. She  keeps house, rakes and mulches, hems and
pieces the fabric of her life together in the face of opposition to  her garden
and garments. 

A tableau of Stanley and Patricia appears in her room.  His face covered in
old, cold birth-bruises, head a  foothill that slopes towards her pubis.
A crouched sherpa to the mountain range of her languid slopes. He sets up
base camp between legs too steep to scale. 
 
The First Bed is backed into a corner by this spectacle. Nubs of alpine daises
litter the walls and bedspread,  handfuls of nipples broadcast throughout the
 room. She presses her head against the wall, squeezes shut her eyes as flowers
fall around her. 

Notes: Hilda Carline was a painter and first wife of the artist Stanley Spencer.  
The poem references Stanley Spencer’s Self-portrait with Patricia Preece  
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/self-portrait-with-patricia-preece-4598
.





 Marisa Cappetta: Poem after Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Browning

I forget you. I forge new ways to forget you. 
I forget you to the depth of uncountable things -
rice, snow, paper. I feel out of feather, flight and grace
in my efforts to forget you. I misplace your memory 
to the level of my daily need for
bread, fire and the furniture of things that comfort me
like music, water and salt.  
My forgetfulness is free as the self-righteous
as pure as those who forgo praise for protest.
I forget you with the passion of old grievances
and the love I lost for my church. 
I forget you like the extinguished smoke 
from cigarettes you used to bribe 
your way past my mother. 

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***

Joanna Boulter: The Shame

She was just six, I was thirty-three,
we were living temporarily in my mother’s house.
I rebuked her for some small transgression
long forgotten, and she spat at me – 
a glob of spittle landed on my chin
and I slapped her face, straightway, hard, smack,
leaving my red fingermarks on her skin,
as though she had been a grown woman who had just
insulted me past bearing, as I perhaps had her,
the two of us shrieking at each other like
a pair of drunken whores. I had not stopped 
to think, I had simply reacted, my hand
swinging, connecting, betraying us. Just for a moment
I had forgotten she was my child, who had the right
to expect my instincts would always be of love
towards her, with no interposing of self.
And that was all it took.


Joanna Boulter: The Gift

I have watched her for you. By now
she has given you grandchildren
and great-grandchildren, and let me share them.
Now I am old, as you have never been,
will never be. Have I paid my debt?

I grieved  for you. When I took your child
I knew it hurt you mortally. Yet you gave her to me, 
to care for and to love, and I loved you for it. That
was a strong true sisterhood. Even after you died
I felt you there beside me. 

                                                But on that day

I could not say ‘I will love her as you would’,
for who else could? I could only kiss her
and know you saw. 

                                    And I grieved for you,
that day I took your child, and ever after.

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***

Bruce Christianson: Mother Goose’s Grandaughter

the girl next door is hanging out laundry
assisted by a matching off-white cat who
pounces her toes disrupting the glamour

the brief shift reveals embattled stains
of past entanglement aprons scorched 
by candle-lit suppers & off-white sheets 
scored with music better left unheeded

the witch whistles down a drying wind
& takes the empty basket back indoors
the cat plays with a fallen peg & waits
for dusk & bats while i 
admire the cirrus cobwebs being swept 
                                           across the sky

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Tess Jolly: Paper Suit 

If you’d been wearing a paper suit 
you could have transformed it 

into a fleet of boats, hurried downriver 
to observe which vessel made it first.

You could have scrolled a message 
inside a bottle, gathered a bouquet of flowers 

or crafted another optimistic plane,
cut out a family holding hands.

You could have watched a lantern 
rise in hope, released a flock of prayers, 

folded in a fortune-teller’s luck,
so you wouldn’t now recognise 

the jacket in the wardrobe, the cuffs 
you unravelled as her breathing slowed. 

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Joan Michelson: House No. 7

When the stairs took too much breath 
and Brian turned to bedding on the couch,
I no longer heard him through the wall,
especially not his humming, and I felt it.

By then we were keeping watch with keys
his sister had delivered so we could enter.
Dave, two doors up, who’d grown up with Brian,
started phoning him every night.

Brian didn’t always choose to answer
so he’d been dead at least two days
when we discovered our keys didn’t work.
Dave made the call to the police.

While they tried to shoulder in the door,
then to prise it open with a crowbar,
then reverted to a mallet and a saw,
we stood against the hedge waiting.

The police were sorry. They couldn’t tell us 
what had happened or how they found him. 
They nailed up boards to hide the hole 
and secured the door with a board across.

I never saw the inside of his house.
It stayed empty until late in spring
Then it was gutted and refurbished by the Council.
Without his heating on, my house felt cold.

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Jim C Wilson: Shorelines

Beyond the dunes the sea is grey and deep.
With time to kill and winter here
she sees the trembling of the stars.
On this beach as long as the moon is bleak
there’s time still to gather bright shells.
She has a lump, is growing short of breath,
and dreams of airports, now impossible.
Oh, those distant stars, their flickering.

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Rosemary Norman: Are You Sure? 

All at once, after your place was cleared, the door’s
glass bubble lit up. I spied

the wrong way, in, and on the far side of the window
trees waved improbably near.

But I’d deleted you. I did it while your parents
stood side by side on the step  

waiting for news they’d had already. Are you sure…?
it asked.  As if the facts might alter

or there was certainty in asking and we’d rest
in peace with a single click, OK.



Rosemary Norman: Bag 

Not the one with keys and money
but the faded grey cloth one

slipped off my shoulder unmissed
till I was off the bus and home.

It will settle round its contents
in a seat corner without fuss

and go on to the end of the route.
I like that. Please don’t waste

honesty on it with its daily paper
and bread, necessary, cheap

in any decent country and today
if you’ll accept, quietly free.

I want butter for you. Good news
too, or not as bad as you fear.

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M E Muir:  The Letter Box on the Corner 

There's a problem with the letter box on the corner
a letter box does not have to be red
it has to be box shaped 
it has to contain stuff
it needs a mouth.

This letter box has closed its mouth. It sulks.
It's Sunday so it wants time off but Sunday is my day.
i want this letter box on my corner to be working 
not on vacation somewhere in the deep south
where they are yellow - with a picture on them of a letter being posted 
in case those people don't know what it's for.

I know what you are for letter box.  
You are struggling through your adolescence.
Maybe you need an understanding teacher but that's not me.

I am carrying my letter towards you. 
On the edge of the pavement you are watching me.
You can say nothing as your mouth is closed 
but I will take out your little metal tab that says
'last post 12.30 on Saturday'
and shove it down your closed up throat.

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Kathleen McPhilemy: Behind the Wall

Over and over, the backdrop of flowers
gives way to darkness. Behind the wall
red brick, green ivy, darkness is waiting
for appearance to fail and to fall.

Over and over, a voice with a gun
comes into the house, the walls fall away
then there is only the whispering darkness
hot breath, and bodies you didn’t see.

Over and over, death in the darkness
whispered by voices you must believe  
you cannot trust, over and over
flowers deceive, walls fall away.

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Beth McDonough: Not telling the truth about Dark

Before anyfolk sold me their dream of Christmas
they coloured in lies about night.

Velvet navy. Indigo. Midnight. Prussian. 
Even school-paint-prohibited black.

From my dormer I studied high away skies,
asked heavens to freckle real darkness with stars.

Only orange arrived. All muddied in sludge.
Especially when everything heavied with snow.

Lamp-thickened slurry, damped down in cloud.
Careful in class, I brushed purples, mixed many hues.

Wild violet washed over wax crayon moons.
I painted their lie over all my eyes knew.

No-one need scrape out the truth.
Glasgow skies. Always a stranger in orange.

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Sally Festing: Cellophane

Alone, I smoothed Roses chocolate wrappers, 
raised them to my eyes and squinted 
into transparent film – yellows rained
laburnum; green, glades and pools; 
pink, flurries of cherry-blossom; 
purple, star-shot night. There was bluest 
blue, compared to which 
all other skies seemed faint-hearted. 

Sweet papers were my private screen. 
No usher’s wand. No popcorn,
No smoke-wreathed gloom. No heroes 
or heroines. I missed the pianist,
plushy curtains, architectural curlicues. 
Obsessive even then, I dreamed a world, 
that meant more than villain, Bambi 
or clattering cowboy. 

My cinematic imagination 
sensed sweetness ripened by silence
in which it remained to be seen whether 
I’d be the person I’d always been.

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JS Watts: Shadows of Light and Coffee
Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A Minor RV 419

The melted chocolate taste of cello
is frothier than expected.
Notes pour and splash,
calling out questions then answering them,
as tones descend precisely 
each melodically structured staircase
like carefully placed, enticing
moccachino boudoir candles.

Aroma smoothes, 
becomes bitter, deeper, darker.
Life’s traditional melancholy
turns out the light and slows the flow,
which clings and lingers after thought 
as if questions asked
need not have been,
have already been answered and spilled.

Within stirred and swirling bean-brown depths
notes are fretting again.
The frenzy regathers,
anguish thickening, 
growing older, grittier
as the question reaches up
towards the fearsome light that is
its final answer.

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Clare Crossman: Theatre Going

We are sitting at the front, in an unlikely row.
My father’s jagged tweed elbows, leather patched,
his legs stuck out. His mother in her fur coat,
marcasite pinned, damp from the rain 
and smelling of tobacco: the tickets for this
matinee were expensive, there is no turning back.

In the orchestra pit, instruments are tuning up.
Riff of the saxophone scale, slight melody
of violin. Coughing, a breath then a roll of
drums, announcing The Mikado overture.
A  triumphant melody:
‘If you want to know who we are!’

The curtains open. A story is being sung by
people with ridiculous names: Pish-Tush and Nanky Poo.
Courtyards and kimonos imprinted with
a ceremony of clouds, telling a fairy story:
a prince disguised as a minstrel,
an orphan rescued by a queen. 

Afterwards outside in the London Street,
the rain drops on our shoulders catch
the counterpointing lamps, the lightest of disguises.
No longer at the edge of it,
we run to the tube, and in the way of luminosity, 
the flowers seller has a bucket of 
different coloured chrysanthemums, 
their rich flounce and elegant petals, 
full of all we have to say.

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Fiona Sinclair: Call
 
Proximity treats us to a full throated Adhan
that fades across town like a child’s echo.
For me, as with opera, it is improved
by being in an alien language,
where sentimental libretto or calls to prayer can be concealed.
Instead like bird song, it becomes pure sound.
Christian bells are just local colour now or
the sound track to wedding cinematography.
But the frequency of this call ,
interrupts shopping mall racket, social media gibberish,
and summons up my devout atheist’s soul –
as I close my eyes to listen.
 
 
 Fiona Sinclair: Cuckoo
 
This real cuckoo song
reverses time .
I close my eyes at the call
to pagan prayer,
that takes me back to the beginning-

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Andrea Witzke Slot: Monuments of Home
 
The umbrella by the door
on a rainy day.
Mud-prints of a bicycle 
rolled out of the way.
Cups grinning side-
ways on hooks.
Tea leaves in a jar.
Crayoned portraits 
taped to a fridge.
So quiet this quiet museum I wander.
And there you are, snug in your chair,
reading and stopping to slumber.
I sit in a chair beside you,
open a book.
You respond
with a Saturday sigh.
A mountain range
as large and 
invisible as air.
Or God.

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Contributors’ biographical notes

William Bedford’s poetry has appeared in Agenda, Encounter, The John Clare Society Journal, London Magazine, The New Statesman, Poetry Review,The Tablet, The Washington Times and many others. Red Squirrel Press published The Fen Dancing in March 2014 and The Bread Horse in October 2015. He won first prize in the 2014 London Magazine International Poetry Competition. Dempsey & Windle published Chagall’s Circus in April 2019

Joanna Boulter is a founder member of the Vane Women writing/publishing co-operative. She has an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2004. With her husband, Roger, she ran the successful Arrowhead Press for many years. Her first full poetry collection, Twenty Four Preludes & Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich, (Arc Publications, 2006), was shortlisted for the Forward First Collection Prize.  Her most recent book is Blue Horse from Vane Women’s Press.

Marisa Cappetta graduated summa cum laude from the Hagley Writers’ Institute and has received a mentorship from the New Zealand Society of Authors. She published poems in journals and anthologies in New Zealand and internationally. Her first collection, How to tour the world on a flying fox was published by Steele Roberts 2016. She has completed a second collection Windows below the waterline. 

Bruce Christianson is a mathematician from New Zealand. He has recently retired after spending thirty years teaching in Hertfordshire. The fact that the moon is upside down still confuses him.

Paul Connolly’s poems have appeared in Agenda, The Warwick Review, Poetry Salzburg, The Reader, Scintilla, Dawntreader, Dream Catcher, Orbis, The Journal, The Seventh Quarry, Sarasvati, Envoi, Obsessed with Pipework, Southlight, Foxtrot Uniform, Guttural, Nine Muses, Canada Quarterly, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Northampton Poetry Review, Algebra of Owls, and The Cannon’s Mouth. Shortlisted for the Bridport and Charles Causley Prizes, he was highly commended in the Sentinel Quarterly and third in the Magna Carta Competitions

Claudia Court recently reconnected with her early love of poetry after a long career in journalism, during which she also managed to study with the late Michael Donaghy. She currently attends Caroline Natzler’s workshop at the City Lit and has had work published in South Bank Poetry

Clare Crossman lives outside Cambridge. She has published three collections of poetry with Shoestring Press. Her poems were recently included in a short film Water light. She is working on a fourth collection

John Davies lives in Brighton. Jizz: New & Selected Poems was recently published in the UK and USA.

Josh Ekroy lives in London. His collection, Ways To Build A Roadblock is published by Nine Arches Press. Poems have appeared in The Forward Anthology and The Best of British Poetry (Salt). He won the Guernsey Poetry Competition in 2018.

Sally Festing is variously poet, biographer, and author of other non-fiction books – see .www.sallyfesting.info.  Her fifth poetry, My Darling Derry, is currently on sale with profits to the Mental Health Foundation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9ogodyzg2o&feature=youtube

 Angela Gardner was born in Wales and now lives in Australia. She has four published poetry collections including the Thomas Shapcott Prize winner Parts of Speech (UQP, 2007). Her most recent are The Told World  Shearsman Books UK and Thing&Unthing, Vagabond Press, Sydney, both 2014. Recent poems have been accepted for publication in TEARS IN THE FENCE, Blackbox Manifold and The Long Poem (UK); Cordite, Hecate, RABBIT POETRY and Axon (Australia); and West Branch and the YALE Review (USA). A new collection Some Sketchy Notes on Matter is forthcoming from Recent Works Press in 2019.

Christopher Georgiou is from Australia and is of Greek / Irish origins. He lives in England. Retired from documentary film making, he writes short fiction and poems (some soon to be published) for the love of it

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

Teoti Jardine is Maori, Irish and Scottish. His tribal affiliations: Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu. He attended the Hagley Writers School in 2011. His poetry has been published in the Christchurch Press, London Grip, Te Karaka, Te P?nui R?naka, Ora Nui, Catalyst, JAAM and Aotearotica Vol 3. He has had short stories in Flash Frontier and has been Guest Editor for Pasifika Issue Flash Frontier March 2018. He and his dog Amie live in the township of Aparima/Riverton on the beautiful southern coast of New Zealand.

Tess Jolly works as a library assistant and facilitates creative writing workshops for children and young people. Her work has been published widely in UK magazines and webzines and she has been commended  or placed in several competitions. She has won the Hamish Canham Prize and the Anne Born Prize and has two pamphlets – Touchpapers with Eyewear Publishing and Thus the Blue Hour Comes with Indigo Dreams.

Beth McDonough’s work connects strongly with place, particularly to the Tay, where she swims, foraging nearby. Her poetry is published inGutter, Stand, Causeway and elsewhere. She reviews at DURA. Handfast (with Ruth Aylett) investigates experiences of autism and dementia in verse. McDonough’s first pamphlet will be published this year

Kathleen McPhilemy was born and brought up in Belfast and has lived in Edinburgh, London and since 1993 in Oxford.  She has published three collections, the last being The Lion in the Forest (Katabasis, 2004) and two pamphlets (both from Hearing Eye). She has had poems in a range of magazines and anthologies.

Joan Michelson grew up in America, settled in England, currently teaches story writing to medical students at Kings College and writes. Her most recent collection is The Family Kitchen, 2018, The Finishing Line Press, KY, USA.

Tawna Mitchell grew up in the middle of the countryside in Cornwall and later Devon, but moved to London seven years ago, where I now work as a Speech and Language Therapist. I write simple poems with natural themes, strong imagery and emotions

M E Muir is a Scot living in London, former teacher and business consultant, who has always written poetry but only recently begun to send out and have work published in a range of print and online magazines.

Flavia Munteanu is a Moldovan writer and poet living in London. She is a graduate of the Apples and Snakes’ Writing Room programme and regularly performs at poetry events in the capital. Her work is concerned with themes of personal identity, feminism, love and language

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

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

David Punter has published six poetry pamphlets, the last one being Bristol: 21 Poems.  His next, Those Other Fields, will appear from Palewell Press in 2020. He is a poet, writer and academic, whose most recent appointment was as Professor of Poetry at the University of Bristol.

Jacqueline Saphra’s second collection, All My Mad Mothers (Nine Arches Press) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize 2017. Her next collection, Dad, Remember You are Dead will be out from Nine Arches Press in September 2019

Fiona Sinclair is the editor of the online poetry magazine From the edge . Her eighth collection Time Travellor’s  picnic was published in March 2019 by Dempsey and Windle Press

Andrea Witzke Slot writes poetry and  fiction and is fascinated by work that crosses genre boundaries. Her first poetry collection, To find a new beauty, was published by Gold Wake Press in 2012, while her second, The Ministry of Flowers, will be published in 2020. Andrea has won prizes with Fiction International and Able Muse, and recent work can be found in such UK and US journals as Ambit, Acumen, Compass Magazine, American Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Southeast Review, and Under the Radar, among many others. An American expat and permanent resident of the UK, Andrea lives in London but visits Chicago regularly.
Her website is www.andreawitzkeslot.com.

David Susswein writes:”I am a no one, i just try to write what is true. There are so many lies out there: i just want to oppose them – by speaking emotional truth. I have been published dozens of times, and in different languages, i only want to speak utter truth to everyone. I try.”

Deborah Tyler-Bennett is author of eight poetry collections, and three collections of linked short stories.  She regularly performs her work.  Her current collection of poems is Mr Bowlly Regrets (King’s England 2017), and she has a forthcoming volume with the same press, Ken Dodd Takes a Holiday (2019).  She’s currently working on her first novel, Livin’ in a Great Big Way.

Christine Vial grew up in London’s Eastend and now lives in the (relatively) leafy suburbs of Enfield (North London) with her American artist husband and teaches literature and creative writing. Her debut pamphlet: “Dancing in Blue Flip-flops” ( RQ Poetry Pamphlets series) was published in 2018. Find out more about her and hear her read at: poeticvoice.live

J.S.Watts is a British poet and novelist. Her published books include: Cats and Other Myths, Years Ago You Coloured Me, The Submerged Sea and Songs of Steelyard Sue (poetry), plus two novels, A Darker Moon and Witchlight. See www.jswatts.co.uk  for further details.

Merryn  Williams’ The Fragile Bridge :New and Selected Poems is published by Shoestring Press.  A novella, Mansfield Park Revisited(Plas Gwyn Books), will appear in autumn 2019

Jim C Wilson’s latest poetry collection is Come Close And Listen (Greenwich Exchange). His writing has been widely published for over 35 years. He taught his Poetry in Practice course at Edinburgh University from 1994 until 2019 and will continue at the Scottish Poetry Library in September. More information at www.jimcwilson.com