London Grip New Poetry – Winter 2019/20

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LONDON GRIP NEW POETRY –  Winter 2019.  This issue features:

* Edmund Prestwich * Kate Noakes * Michael Crowley * Maggie Butt * Emma Lee
*Tom Sommerville *Gordon Wood * Thomas Tyrrell *Anthony Dawson * Robert Nisbet
* Wendy French *Stephen Claughton * Anne Ballard * Jan-An Saab * Sue Rose
* Raymond Miller * Morelle Smith * Alex Josephy * Katherine Gallagher * Hilary Hares
* Rosie Johnston * Rebecca Ball * Gerry Stewart * Andrew Shields * Mark Mansfield
* Madelaine Smith * Philip Dunkerley * Hilary Mellon * Alan Price * Sarah James
* Gianna Sannipoli * Stephen Oliver * Oz Hardwick * Jared Carter *R G Jodah
* Keith Howden * Michael Chang

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 Winter 2019-20

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

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 else included in the message body
Our submission windows are: December-January, March-April, June-July & September-October

Editor’s notes

We have recently begun to wonder if our editor’s notes perform any useful function since they often consist of observations about the contents of the current issue which readers would be able to make for themselves that much sooner if they were not delayed by reading our notes…

… so we turn instead to something that many readers might not easily have found out for themselves.  We are very sad to report the death of Joanna Boulter on September 13th, just a few days after two of her poems appeared in our Autumn posting of new poetry.  Joanna was a fine poet, perhaps best known for her well-received and widely-praised first collection 24 Preludes & Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich (Arc 2006).  But she was also admired as editor and publisher at Arrowhead Press, which she ran with her husband Roger Collett, producing many excellent collections until her illness caused the press to close in 2013.  An eloquent tribute to Joanna’s contributions to poetry is given by Annie Wright at http://www.vanewomen.co.uk/index.html#joanna.

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One further editorial observation that readers might not immediately deduce is that our cover picture comes from the illuminated manuscript the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry and thus accompanies Edmund Prestwich’s seasonal poem which opens this issue. It is our pleasure to wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and many blessings in the new year.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
London Grip poetry editor
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Edmund Prestwich: January
After the Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry

There’s nothing for Christ at this Christmas feast 
The guests wear dazzling colours. Through a noise
of talk and feeding the duke’s hard face
studies a gesturing obsequious priest

No living flower can breathe in this place
but fires ward off cold, there are gold 
and silver flowers embroidered on men’s clothes
and leaves of stone on the capitals of pillars.

Thick walls shut out the bitterness
of foetid hovels on short days
when hunger creeps through snow, and the endless nights
when wolves are loud and children die.

There, the trumpets of the feast are half-heard notes,	
caught on the wind like laughter in the sky.

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Kate Noakes: Good news from Oslo for Trafalgar Square, batteries included
 
We're sorry we haven't wrapped it, again this year,
but, you know, after 70 we didn't think you'd mind.
 
It's a bit awkward with those needles
and graduated  branches, and we didn't want
 
to risk you putting it upside down in the hidden stand.
The guards aren't keen these days either.
 
If we spruced it up, they couldn't keep an eye
and a 20 metre green Viking at customs might look
 
like a missile too soon chipped, composted
and mulched by the bomb squad.

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Michael Crowley: Fire-Bug 

I wasn’t bothered before. 
Wasn’t even sure which way I’d vote, 
I went back and forth. 
Now people have stopped speaking to me, 
they don’t let on when I’m walking the dog
they’re so angry 
you’d think I’d been keeping slaves in the shed. 
Someone stopped me and said they’d been crying -
like a child who’s had his iphone taken 
been given a Nokia instead. 

I remember there was a holiday with the school, 
my parents couldn’t afford to pay for it
but they wouldn’t say. 
They told the school I wouldn’t be going 
because I’d been bad, but I hadn’t. 
I was left behind with the kids from the bottom stream
whose parents didn’t have the money either. 
I took a holiday in the precinct with Peter Whelan,
became his friend, sneaking past his snoring father
to get the matches from the kitchen, 
lighting fires on the dump
waiting for fire engines. 

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Maggie Butt: Past

You aren’t there
anymore
the particular yous
who tight-rope walked 
this mountain ridge track
single file into the distance
the yous who were frozen 
in this photograph
gazing into the camera
the boy leaning forward
under the weight of his bag
the girl with the bobbed-hair
upright and self-contained
the tall man with bare feet
and sacks balanced on his shoulders.

A second
after the shutter clicked
you had shuffled on past
and become the vanished
nobody and nowhere 
and nothing again.


Maggie Butt: Crush

Like people crowded at the rails
rails of emigration ships, waving
waving to loved ones on the quay, peeping
peeping over and between the heads to snatch
snatch a final glimpse of home.
That was in the past of course.

This ship is now. Its people cram at the rails
at the rails and hang from the ladders like mussels 
mussels from a rope, roil in the seas beneath
beneath the ladders, waiting for a hand-hold. 

Are the others looking down to help them
help them, or pushing them off 
off because there’s no more room?
Each one with a breathing heart, a mind
a mind teeming with schemes. Each one
each one a soft machine of hope.

These two poems are from a sequence called Torn, inspired by the work of American painter 
Mary Behrens in her series of distorted and reassembled photographs of refugees.

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Emma Lee: The Cut of those Cold, Sharp Stars

I don't think it's to do with temperature.
I feel every piece of grit, every puddle, the cold.
There won't be a bus for another hour. 
I'm used to the cold. Used to shiver like a child,
but now I don't even dream of being warm.
It's that dead hour before the supermarkets cut
food prices and suddenly shoppers will swarm
hoping for something easy, filling and hot 
for dinner. No use getting fresh veg: it needs 
time to cook and feeding the meter for a pound's 
worth of telly feels better than feeding it for a pound's 
worth of stew. You need to sit here to understand.
We're not in London, we're not in Europe.
We're the living hand to mouth, scraping together
what we can today. Give us enough rope...
When tomorrow won't be any better,
there's no point thinking about it. Just ignore
those who ignore us. Trouble is, they're the
the people who make the rules, who take our
money from us. Can't afford the cafe, the 
pub's gone, the library's shut. It can't get
worse. It's just getting by. I'll go home bereft.
That's how it feels. Like we have to forget.
We voted leave because we've been left.


Emma Lee: Violet Marked My War  

1916
He called me Violet. I didn't correct him.
I was Dorothy, after an aunt. He said his Violet
was prettier than a flower. No one had spoken
about me like that. I let him talk while I changed
dressings, checked, dispensed. He'd be out of my life
as quickly as he'd come into it. He'd come from
the Somme, hit on the shoulder, torn on barbed
wire and knocked unconscious. His smile, when
he said her name, stopped at his mouth.
He eyes glazed like a film screen. I'd seen 
and would continue to see missing limbs
and mutilation, but never know how it happened.
One day I found a violet for him to press and keep.
I hope she waited. I hope she stayed true.

1986
Our work didn't stop on Armistice Day.
Patients were still arriving. Patch, suture,
prep for surgery: it was drilled into us.
Back in London, I stayed in A&E.
Even after marriage. It was like an addiction,
staying calm in the face of a bloody mess.
There's less sense of urgency. I get to know names.
My diaries from 1916 just have numbers.
When I see a violet, I pause. Just a moment's
reflection. A moment can change a life. For some 
the war never ended. We never had children. 
Those who've never fought will never learn.

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Tom Sommerville: Photo Opportunity
“The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears”
(The Tempest)

Just keep your trousers on, she softly said,
and put your watch and coins in that wee bin.
Here, let me help you get up on the bed.
You must stay still, so I’ll just wedge you in.
You’ll hear some noise, so put these in your ears.
OK? A button pressed, and in I went.
For ninety minutes, lost souls, ghouls, banshees,
off-key sopranos, an avant-garde quartet:
satanic cacophonics filled my head—
a diabolic prom for the insane;
and then, they stopped. Weird silence there instead,
and now they’ve got five pictures of my brain.
What will they see? The scars of guilt and shame
and love? Or things that don’t yet have a name?

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Gordon Wood: Outside the bookshop
 ‘mille volte il di moro’  -  Carlo Gesualdo, Sesto Libro di Madrigale (1611)

Their smiles precisely cut, they are happy
in the choreography of love:
the young man, contours caught in jeans and T-shirt;

his partner, older, sharp in cap and moustache,
takes the photo from the other pavement -
a sunny day in front of ‘Gay’s the Word’.

Are they looking for the moment of confirmation 
hidden in the tomography of time’s 
fast snapping shutter: the icon’s benediction?

Can a shutter parse for them love’s syntax?
Its ambiguities are well concealed 
in the sunlit action of their pavement-theatre.

Now their voices sing a clear polyphony 
purged of dissonance; but, when memories hurt
and smiles are stained with guilt, the madrigal

nails a body to the staves (‘I die 
a thousand times a day’) and dissonance weaves 
its thorns round love. Then, after song has walked

barefoot on the flinty path to resolution, 
voices blend again and pain, throwing back 
its cowl, reveals the embrace of consonance.

With lovers now on-stage, nothing mars 
a T-shirt when the lens devours a torso,   
and love’s putti hover round the … CLICK!

Has the shutter snapped a gilded image,  
set in the sacred geometry of the gaze?
Or is it the slicing thud of a guillotine blade?

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Thomas Tyrrell: Labiomancy On The Blink

Somewhere around my fifth pint comes the point
where my friend’s voices and their mouths
dissociate. Pub hubbub swells
and overwhelms the table where I sit
still trying to resynchronise
the sound and picture, like a man
hunched by a vintage TV, twiddling knobs,
mashing the buttons, torturing
the aerial and throwing up
despairing hands at last. Nothing to do
but keep on drinking till the screen
dissolves in snowy interference.

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Anthony Dawson: Chance Encounter 1990
 
Though I haven't travelled far, 
I stop in el Rocío at a bar
to have a snack.
And there you are,
leaning back in a chair
beneath the awning,
on the terrace.
 
Despite the chill in the air
(it's early spring and mid-morning)
you're lightly clad in chinos 
and a faded red top
that timidly suggests 
your breasts.
 
Your slender arms are bare, 
while your short hair,
tousled and awry,
highlights your youthful face.
 
With eyes half-closed 
against the sun,
you turn away from me.
(Perhaps you're shy
and wish to shun
this stranger's visual embrace.)

Yet your sun-drenched lips,
swollen with a thousand 
unused kisses,
are parted in what seems to me
a knowing smile... 
 
I'm convinced this is an invitation 
to start a conversation, so I try.
You are polite, but distant,
my flight of fantasy
crashing in an instant
as again you turn away.
 
Now, awkward and embarrassed
I don't know what to say.
Meanwhile, at another table 
an old man wearing shades 
is staring.  He can't grasp
the meaning of this scene we're playing —
any more than I can now
after nearly three decades...

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Robert Nisbet: Hands: Father, Mother, Daughter
A Welsh pub, c 1990
 
Their hands are ranged for a moment,
his and hers and hers, along the table
with pint and orange juice and gin.
 
And heigh-ho, lads, it’s Speculation Time.
Let’s read those hands, deduce.
 
Father’s thick, scarred, calloused.
Miner maybe or steelworker. Heavy labour.
Right.
 
Mother’s deeply grained and calloused too.
Welsh Mam of the old school, step scrubbing,
a lust for earnest cleaning?
Right again.
 
She, the daughter, pretty hands, white.
Clearly of a softer new regime.
 
But that’s to miss one thing. Forests.
As she left school, new jobs
in the countryside were burgeoning.
She’d have loved, so loved,
to be a Ranger, part of Forestry, work
with those trees, plant spruce and conifer
on high Welsh hills.
 
But after her father’s accident, the need
to stay close to home, and Mother feeling ..
oh Mother, Mother .. the thing for girls
was office jobs and typewriting .. 
 
Look closely now at the daughter’s hands,
those tiny pads of callous at the fingertips ..

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Wendy French: Geranium Nursery

Once an hour another old Mam-gu opens her front door,
peers and waves in the hope someone will pass,
stop, spend a few coppers on a bag of fresh manure.

She’s alone, has enough coal for a few days but
nothing keeps her warm. A van pulls up
and for a rare moment she is happy.

A child clambers out, pulls down his trousers
by the grass verge and pees in the snow,
leaves a yellow trail.

The van moves on towards Haverfordwest
and the old woman goes inside to persuade her dog
to go out, leave his mark before nightfall.

Mam-gu is the Welsh word for Grandmother

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Stephen Claughton: Ollie’s Geranium

It was a kind thought, Ollie,
to pick that petal up
and try to put it back
where you thought it belonged.

Bright spark to have made
the connection! A shame —
it’s not your fault —
that hotwiring doesn’t work.

Not even your grandpa
with his box of tricks,
his glues and nails and screws,
can mend a bloom that’s blown.

We’ll deadhead them instead,
so the plants will make some more.
Nature, under threat,
thrives on a throwaway culture

and these newly-forming flowers,
already punching the air
with their puny, sepaled fists,
are going to flare out soon.

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Anne Ballard: Dining with Father

The first time afterwards
you ordered a glass of wine
to keep me company.
I knew you hated it,
never would share a bottle
with my mother, who’d minded,
wanting more than one glass,
fearing the waiters
would think her a drunk
if she asked for a refill.

This had never bothered me
but now I felt angry
to have served up, gratis,
what you had not given her.
So the guilt sitting with us already
was fanned by resentment.
Only now, with long hindsight
can I give credit for
your shy, bungled effort
to say sorry to both of us.

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Jan-An Saab: Journey Back in-Time

With my grandparents once more; 
I was little when
they waved goodbye.

At their House, I discovered 
mirrors, ate nuts, dates 
and fig marmalade.

From their balcony I saw characters 
leave and others return, welcomed 
through their garden gate. 

Affection and care, generosity
offered through decent 
inherent compassion, carried over
from the womb until it blossoms.

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Sue Rose: The Ancestors

I’m told they lived in a shtetl 
straight out of Fiddler on the Roof,
except the men were less cheerful 
than Tevye and smacked their hands
down on the good book, railing 
against the goyim, transgressions
against kashrut. They were grocers 
or tailors, their eyes narrowed to assess 
small measurements, thread needles 
to sew hemp or jute. The women 
were dowdy in sepia and didn’t sing 
about love. They pressed floury hands 
to their damp aprons as latkes sizzled 
and boiling gefilte fish filled 
their rooms with the boneless reek 
of obedience. Their cheeks were shiny, 
their bodies chapped under coarse wool. 
They didn't wear bedsheets on their heads 
like veils and make fun of Yente. 
They didn't have time. If lucky, 
they met their match and fell 
in love. If not, they were resigned. 
At Sabbath sundown, candles 
were lighted as darkness clothed
the fields. The family gathered
at the long table to thank the Lord 
for what he gave and what he took, 
asking for no more than they should, 
at least not before the flames guttered
and they were free under the crisp stars 
in the silence, the fiddler gone.

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Raymond Miller: Adopting At Our Age

This poem went places that it shouldn’t have gone
in the beer tent listening to a jazz ensemble,
who came on after the jazz dance band
and are suffering by comparison.
I’m trying to examine the difference between
flute solos and close harmonies,  
between thrown together and tightly knit,
being here for themselves or the audience.
I’m with two of my grown-up daughters
and my wife is with the foster kids
watching Maleficent at the cinema.  
I’m digging the songs my dad used to sing
and thinking of the time that children thieve
and all the things we won’t achieve,
like learn how to jive and lindy hop.
I’m piling up reasons we shouldn’t adopt.

Flowers are not meant to bloom in winter.
It looked different in December
when the dark days served to blinker us
and we fought our tiny Christmas tree corner.
It was sisters skipping arm in arm  
in the absence of a sibling assessment.
It was the Solomons presiding at Social Services,
their swords discreetly kept from sight, their smiles
that ricochet off shiny surfaces; a repertoire
of condescension and unanswered questions.
 
Now summer shines a bulb in our faces
and mine has started to crack.
It’s when the social worker asked
if we think we’ll ever harbour some resentment.
It’s the sports day when the Downs’ Syndrome
trailed in a long last and was clapped

all the way up the finishing straight,
while I kept my hands firmly in my pocket,  
like refusing to stand for the National Anthem.
It’s the medical when the doctor found
there’s something not quite right with my heart.
Next week they’re investigating further.
I felt a little lightening, the hint of a reprieve,
but probably it’s no more than a murmur.

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Morelle Smith:  Bicycle Man

Tight as wire. 

Muscular, lean,
talkative, light, 
fluid in motion – 

Hard-edged 
taut as rubber
polished as paint -
matt – not shiny -

Survives all weather
and never cracks

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Alex Josephy: Marsh Men

The blinkered bridge at Rainham 
shields me like a nervous horse, as I scuttle 
across the tracks. Beyond, it’s open acres;
blank white sky reaches for the corners 
of a flat earth, pinned by pylon after pylon, 
deranged squadrons on the march 
from one grey-green battleground to the next.
Two men trudge past in hoodies, wheeling bikes
while I’m reading the sign: Three Crowns,
The Concrete Barges. On a concrete sea?
A skylark starts up, all the more brimful
in this place that lies level, makes a virtue 
of monotony. Without a backward glance
the bike blokes ride off over the edge of the world.


Alex Josephy: Afterlife   

The cats of Castelvecchio
sit out on tea towels
spread to dry on the warm cobbles
of the least damaged street.

The Vigili del Fuoco 
have left their sign on the belltower
they shored up with planks
and steel pins, after the aftershocks.

Women still lay bottles of water 
on their sides across the locked 
church threshold; they say
it prevents the cats from pissing there.

Outside the town gate, prefab huts 
crouch close to the earth’s
provisional horizontals.
Someone’s planted strawberries

in a broken gutter; lush red fruit 
spills onto the road. A wall 
is half-rendered. Everything 
is perhaps. Perhaps it always was. 

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Katherine Gallagher: Resonances

                          I
This time, approaching from Orleans,
we didn’t see the cathedral looming 

against the wheatlands of La Beauce,
but felt its pull, a sacred place

saved to witness and to carry tidings.
We memorise the faces etched in stone – a tryst

with eternity, and more.

                         II
In the long dusk, light pierces
stained-glass –

Chartres radiating candle-glow
as a singer enters

asking fabled questions
where each note, each word 

is joined to all
that has gone before – the openness

of prayer and beauty gifting
travellers, their pilgrim souls,

as finally the cathedral resounds,
spills huge applause. 


Katherine Gallagher: Early Morning, Lake Monte Generoso

No one is swimming in the clear lake. All is still
except where a fisherman throws in his line.
He winds back the reel again, again; 
a fish leaps behind him as if it were a game.
And now the day scoops out its usual place
as sun’s first shifts slip over the mountain:
flushed, clearing, fresh.

I’m in love with the lake and this calm
that I cannot pocket, take with me,
as engines rev up, the first campers leave,
and a steam-train pulls around the lake’s rim;
smoke-coils lift over the road
that runs alongside houses – burnished, doubled
on the water’s fine skin.

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Hilary Hares: The pond in winter

Your body light as a child’s, I pushed your chair
to the edge and a toddler ran up on unsteady legs 
with a bag of crusts for the frenzy of ducks.

I watched your eyes spark and you threw out
your wasted arms, scattering bread, 
on the water, from your empty hands.  

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Rosie Johnston: Palm Tree Victory 
For my beloved Auntie Jean and her County Down school house which has, 
unusually, a palm tree in the front garden.

The doll knew – her eyes swung shut as I laid her flat on my pyjamas 
beside the toothbrush. Closed the lid. 
‘We’re going to the palm tree,’ 
I whispered.

Those little catches on the suitcase, I still feel victory 
in my thumbs, the way I jiggled that lid, 
nursed the metallic welcome, 
pressed hard 
shut. 

I felt the doll’s smile as we drove, the lot of us, 
	through the Dark Hedges, 
round the Cave Hill, south 
through Saintfield and Crossgar, 
to the lee of the Mournes, 

in drizzle. All the way, suitcase on my lap, 
doll smiling, silent. 

Beside our car, sunshine slants its goodbyes from Donard’s peak. 
‘We’re away now,’ goes my mother.
	‘I’ve got my things,’ I say, 
always the good wee girl. 
The suitcase swings arm’s length. 

‘I’m staying here,’ I say, loud. 
‘For ever.’ 

Mayhem. 

One brother weeps in the car, hiding. 
The other – opportunist – takes flying kicks at my 
shins. 

I stand my ground. Ignore them, me and the doll smiling. 
My mother: ‘In the car, now!’
	Cracks her knuckles. 

My father’s lower tones with Jean. 

The palm tree catches a southerly off 
Commedagh, loosens one long
sword-leaf, khaki, curled at the hilt, 
twirls it in a flicker-pirouette to tarmac at my feet.

Jean smiles: ‘That settles it.’ My father 
laughs, ‘This once, just once she stays.’

No words. I turn, stride into 
	Auntie Jean’s house and mount her green stairs.  
	
Thumbs pulsing. 

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Rebecca Ball: Branches

We cut down the tree today
scaled its trunk
pulled its branches
like veins from the sky

As soon as they hit the ground
they shattered
like the dry iced flowers
smashed into benches
by our science teachers
petals stamens stems
in shards on the lab floor

We picked up the broken branches
white with lichen
so light it was hard to tell
if we were holding anything 

We put them on the fire
a hiss of breath
a flare of white
then gone

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Gerry Stewart: Signs

The snow wears the stains
of what settles on tree barks, 
the faces of flowers
and in our lungs,
a black glaze of carbonised petrol 
and toxic chemicals. 

Rainbow glints in the harbour
catch the light, kaleidoscopes 
of diesel not enough to ward off 
fish and diving seabirds.

A haze of particulates brightens
the sunset over the city,
brings tears to our eyes,
but the car saves us time. 

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Andrew Shields: Sidewalk

I avoid the lines
and the cracks and the leaves
wet with last night's rain.

I avoid the cigarette butts,
the pieces of gum, the receipts 
stuck to the damp pavement.

I avoid the plastic wrappers,
the lottery tickets, the passers-by
I keep passing by.

I can't see where I'm going
or where I've been, just my feet
and the ground beneath.

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Mark Mansfield: Lost and Found
 
I found it lying on the ground.
And took it home and ran an ad,
          but no one called.
That was summer.    By that fall,
some nights it began to make a sound—
some times like a whisper, or the wind
when the snow first comes,
          or the steady thrum
of an old vane that bends.
 
And what it shared I knew I heard,
but there was no way I could say
          just what it meant.
Eventually, its sounds all went
away without a single word—
all but a murmur like the breeze
when spring first wakes,
          or how love aches
with a sigh that’s lost to me.
 

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***

Madelaine Smith: Seeing the Light
after Josef Sudek

To capture the sunlight
as it fell on cobbles
you took a dustsheet from the house 
shook it at just the right moment
then slipped behind the camera,
fixed shafts in place.

You always knew precisely
when everything in the universe
would fall into place, even if
you needed dust particles
to show the world
you held it in your hand.

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Philip Dunkerley: Monochrome

They hang, like little windows, black and white
with multiple surrounds and clean, sharp lines
that meet but never cross, displaying views
of a different place, a different country;
art does that, picks out what’s different.

He’ll be asleep right now, the artist,
Juan Torre Barca. The pictures – he chose
to render them in monochrome – are of
Valparaiso, Chile. They all have names

and each name is a palimpsest, 
a deeper memory of the place itself.
‘Ascensor Espiritu Santo’ 
is my favourite. The old funicular, 
a great diagonal cutting across 
a slope of other structures, running to
a cupola that stands above the town.
The slant within the frame reminds me of
a pyramid, everything floating up
towards the sky. I wonder if that’s why
it got its name — ‘the Holy Spirit Lift’.

I remember you Valparaiso.
You burn, you sigh, you sweat, you stink of life,
of fish, of diesel, coffee, beer and pee.
You have a taste, assail the ear with noise,
the eye with vibrancy — blue sea, blue sky,
neglected houses, orange, purple, green.

But Juan, your monochrome, it works for me;
and though you sleep, I’m there, I hear, I see.

Juan Torre Barca was the author of a guide to the funicular lifts / elevators of Valparaiso, 
of which there were about 30 at one stage. Inaugurated in 1911, the “Espíritu Santo” elevator 
was named after the former church that was located in front of Victoria Square. 

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Hilary Mellon: One Night In March

beyond this window the sky is a white sheet
indistinguishable
from the steep slope

                                                   of the snow
                                                 covered roof
                                             lying beneath it

and night
having fallen
has been hushed and soothed

                                    then gently bandaged
                                                and put to bed
                                             on hospital linen

where perfect corners
are lightly starched
and creased to a knife edge

                                                      but fragile
                                                 as Galanthus
                         opening on a harsh morning

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Alan Price: THE LADY VANISHES (1938) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
 
Where did the lady vanish to, Alfred?  They searched
high and low on the train – even inside an illusionist’s
prop where pigeons flew out, white rabbits peered and
the magician Doppo menaced with his knife. Margaret
Lockwood’s bang on the head, from a dropped flowerpot,
became my bang on the head as I struggled to make
the governess materialise. A dual concussion: the feeling
I was going mad; Miss Froy never existed and Margaret
and I needed a doctor. Then her name written on the
compartment window; the train psychiatrist turning out
to be a spy and the lady returned, bandaged on a stretcher.
Your box of Alfred tricks conjured them up. Though a nun
wearing high heels; the death of a lawyer and a final gun
-fight still conspired up your sleeve. Miss Froy, Miss Froy
I’ll hum you a tune containing the secret code. English wit
and international intrigue shall not grow old. Many ladies
vanished in many films yet to come (some I found, others
not.) Yet only one, with welcoming arms, came back to
the Foreign Office. After the film I rushed to the toilet and
hit my head on its low lying ceiling. Dazed, wanting to go
and lie down: re-live your perfectly fluid dream – in spite
of its test match ruined by a flood.

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***

Sarah James: the glass impressionist

The carriage is a half-empty box
of plastic and metal, light and reflections.
In the window’s dreamscape glass,
passing buildings concrete and brick my face.
Almost-wild grass thickens my fringe.
Potted flowers freckle me, butterfly bright.

Like this, how free I might feel
as my body sways with, and against,
the train’s tree-less motion.
On this day, in this light, I’m a quiet ghost
of my weekday/workday self. The window
doesn't know if I’m smiling or frowning.

It doesn’t know the me that lives beyond
the small seat-space claimed here. A flicker
outside, this me presses her leafy face,
raindrop eyes and twig lips
into the window’s metal frame; she stares at me,
laughs hysterically, then howls.

Twenty years she’s cried out,
twenty years she won’t give up,
twenty years I refuse to let her in
 – I fear she might uproot this potted life.

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Gianna Sannipoli: No Mercy

Love looks a lot like war
if you go in with a desired goal
and no mercy for the other side.

The birds hit the windows 
like soldiers fallen chasing dreams.
I loved one so I became one. 

Light still cascades 
through those casements,
like tears 
down his mother’s face.
Sometimes I wonder 
if I’m the only one who can see it.

To think that there are some 
so distracted by the darkness
that their minds block out the light
is a war crime punishment
inconceivable to me.

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Stephen Oliver: The Common Good

Reassurances are little more than well-meant falsehoods. ‘I do not apologise for the war and subsequent 
genocide. I did my duty,’ wrote the general in his unpublished memoir, marked: EMBARGOED: 50 YEARS. Combat 
medals and citations were testament to his fealty. He had served his country with unfaltering distinction, fiercely 
defended its corporate, global interests. 
The general wanted to be remembered as the bright star who rode high in the saddle. Inter-Generational 
Conflict. Mutual Destruction. The End Game. These represented key chapter headings under the section marked 
‘Trade Craft’. A tribe is defined by those who oppose it. He argued that this may be strategically interpreted as 
meaning, ‘The military under his command did not condone ownership in the traditional, cultural sense of first 
nation peoples, but did with impunity lay claim to another’s territory in the interests of the Common Good.’ Non-
Negotiable. ‘History, right there,’ he said.
The expediency of a pre-emptive, surgical strike negated calls for restraint or any subordinate opposition to 
massacre. ‘Women and children first. Spare no one,’ joked the General in the company of fellow officers. He 
scrawled across the ‘manifesto-cum-memoir’, THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS. He is Everyman. Axis mundi. 
Earthbound Colossus and Empire Builder. Dream of the Rood. Tree/Cross Incarnate. Redemption and torture. 
Equalizer in the devil’s DNA. Already become monument without a tomb. 

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Oz Hardwick: Lonely Planet

In the capital city, people speak in capitals, exclaiming, declaiming, vying for attention that you don’t have to spare: 
HEY! ENGLISH! ENGLISH? HEY! AMERICAN? They want to sell you – no, give you – good luck: YOU TAKE IT! YOU TAKE 
IT! FROM ME! I HAVE FAMILY! We all have families of one kind or another, and maybe yours is waiting at a café 
found by a location scout for an American director: a café that shouts EUROPE! all over the world. Or maybe they’re 
on a bridge, watching tourist boats nudge each other down a grey river, waiting to be cropped from the edges of a 
hundred or more selfies that spark across Instagram, screaming WE ARE HERE IN THE CENTRE OF EVERYTHING AND 
WE ARE SO UNBELIEVABLY HAPPY! But you can’t be sure, and your texts go unanswered, and your Google searches 
draw blank after blank, and HEY! ENGLISH! ENGLISH? HEY! AMERICAN? and you want to release the shift key, listen 
to the river’s quiet experience, press space    space          space               space

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Jared Carter: Reaper

Always expected, he appears
          unannounced – not
In that voluminous cloak, years
          out of date, shot

Through with holes – but always on time.
          No vows to say,
No haste, no tragedy to mime,
          no quick replay.

I've come at last, he says. But you
          cannot reply, 
Transfixed already by the view
          of that strange sky.

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R G Jodah: Princess

Her pockets full of fists,
heavy, hard as cannon balls,
she stares past the horizon at her feet.

The roar of bellows, deafening,
hot iron hammers on her tongue
where vitriol has etched a bloody scream.

Arms locked tight, drawbridge straight,
shoulders round as bastions,
battlements of a castle under siege.

Her skin, a curtain wall of glass,
cuts too quick, a poor defence
against all of this world's artillery.

Alone, she stands, not yet a ruin,
reserves remain in her possession,
marshalled, that she might yet defend the keep.

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Keith Howden: Faugh’s Delph

You are a learned woman?  
I was never schooled. Some things
I have knowledge of. The herbs?
They have surprising powers.
And this, you told the Court
was where you met him? Yes,
I told you, in Faugh’s Delph.
Why there? I have no answer.
And what was his appearance?
He had no appearance. What form 
did he take? What shape of
familiar did he adopt? Was it 
as a cat, a dog or perhaps 
even a goat? Was he tailed? 
None of those. I have said
he was a presence, one that
I understood.  What name
did he have or give? He had
no name. He has, as well you know,
a million names and they
are all the same. And that
you believe? That I believe.
I have no reason to lie.
His mere presence was in the form
of its own explanation. 
An explanation of what?
His presence was the world
as it is the world, the world
continually and consistently 
as we meet and endure it.
And that, you believe? I do.
I hold no evidence to tell me other.
You will be hanged. I will
be hanged. He told me so.

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Michael Chang: did you kill those people

did you kill those people		i ask			concerned for her mental state

she stares back at me		i could tell you		but then i’d have to kill you

noting my face			she says			maybe i shouldn’t have said that	

she wipes grime off her ostrich booties			karl lagerfeld for dsw

i’ll have the skate in truffle and porcini broth		she says

why does it smell like a pet shop in here

is there not a bottle of pellegrino around		she complains

crossing 	then uncrossing 	her toned legs

you look like an idiot on the cusp of not-getting-fucked

pyongyang looks just like that town in friday night lights 	she asserts

in any case i will have a stoli and cranberry			she bats her lashes and

gently positions her card case on the interrogation table	hermes	matte black alligator

you have the right to an attorney	i remind her	then present the evidence

1 one serrated blade recovered from the scene with her lip gloss on it

2 she was overheard saying	quote	do you even know the difference between manet and monet you filth	close quote

3 our lab confirms that the rosé poured over the victims’ wounds is her preferred vintage	

4 she is totally drenched in blood right now

aghast	she raises a hand	clutches her pearls in protest

listen	my weapons of choice are devastating quips and succulent booty pics	

and i would have buried them in the bogs	red berries sour and glistening

apologetic	i say 		sorry but we are all out of the coconut shrimp

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Contributors’ biographical notes

 

Jan-Ann Saab is a trilingual Fine Arts graduate. She has 2 kids and has worked at various embassies while pursuing further studies into cranial osteopathy. She is now working at Health Clinic of Chelsea Harbour Club. Her first collection of poetry was published online. She reads at venues such as The Troubadour’s Coffee House Poetry.

Rebecca Ball is an English teacher based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has written poems and articles for English in Aotearoa and a narrative study guide, BA: An Insider’s Guide, with Auckland University Press.

Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Magma, Orbis, The Blue Nib and several anthologies. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competition 2015 and 2018. Her pamphlet Family Division was published in 2015.

Maggie Butt is an ex-journalist and BBC television producer turned poet and novelist. Her fifth poetry collection was Degrees of Twilight (The London Magazine 2015). A novel, The Prisoner’s Wife, is forthcoming in a number of countries world-wide from May 2020. Maggie is an Associate Professor at Middlesex University and an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund. She has judged the 2019 Ware, Segora and Barnet poetry competitions. www.maggiebutt.co.uk

Jared Carter‘s most recent book of poems, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia.  Carter lives in Indiana.

Michael Chang hopes to win the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant one day.  Michael strongly suspects that they were born in the wrong decade.  A recovering vegan, their favorite ice cream flavor was almost renamed due to scandal.

Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared widely in magazines in print and online. His first pamphlet, The War with Hannibal, was published by Poetry Salzburg in October 2019. A second pamphlet, The 3-D Clock, containing poems about his late mother’s dementia, is due out from Dempsey & Windle in February 2020.

Michael Crowley is a writer and dramatist who has written for page, stage and radio. His debut collection of poetry, First Fleet – on the1788 penal settlement at Sydney Cove – was published on 2016 and his second collection, The Battle of Heptonstall will be published next year.

Tony Dawson retired early from public sector higher education (Coventry and Liverpool) in 1989 to take up a post at the University of Seville where he worked for 18 years. He still lives in Seville and has been writing for pleasure for a number of years.

Phil Dunkerley lives in South Lincolnshire where he runs the Stamford Poetry Stanza and a local U3A Poetry Group. He takes part in open mic and other sessions whenever he gets the chance. A number of his poems have made it past incautious editors into their magazines, webzines and anthologies – MagmaOrbisDream CatcherInk, Sweat and Tears, and Poems for Peace, among others. He reviews for Orbis and has translated poems from both Spanish and Portuguese.

Wendy French has had four books published to date, the last two by Hippocrates Press. She is now trying to write a poem again!

Katherine Gallagher is a North London poet and translator. She has six full books of poetry, including most recently, Acres of Light (Arc Publications, 2016) and Carnival-Edge: New & Selected Poems 2010) also from Arc.

Oz Hardwick is a York-based poet, photographer, and occasional musician, who has published eight poetry collections. His prose poetry chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: Recent Work/IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery Book Award.. Most recently he has co-edited (with Anne Caldwell, The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the creative Writing Programmes.

Hilary Hares’ poems have found homes online, in print and in anthologies. She has a Poetry MA from MMU and has achieved success in a number of competitions. Her collection, A Butterfly Lands on the Moon supports Loose Muse, Winchester and Red Queen is forthcoming from Marble Poetry in 2020.

Keith Howden lectured on modern European fiction at Nottingham Trent. Earlier collections (1978 -84) were published by Peterloo: later collections (2012 to the present) by Smokestack, Post Romantic Empire (Rome) and Penniless Press

Sarah James/Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her most recent poetry titles are How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Poetry Press, 2018) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Award. Her website is at http://sarah-james.co.uk.

R.G. Jodah lives in London, enjoying metropolitan anonymity.  His work has appeared in: The Lampeter Review, Typishly, Dream Catcher, Southlight, LightenUp Online. London Grip, Three Drops from a Cauldron, PORT (Dunlin Press), Dawntreader.

Rosie Johnston’s four poetry books are published by Lapwing Publications in Belfast where she was born. She has been anthologised by Live Canon and had her poems published and featured in several magazines. She runs Words On Waves, a monthly reading event (prose and poetry) in Whitstable’s Harbour Books, and facilitates writing groups in Cambridge and Canterbury.  https://rosiejohnstonwrites.com/

Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. Her pamphlet Other Blackbirds was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 and her collection White Roads by Paekakariki Press in 2018. Her poems have won awards such as the McLellan Prize and the Battered Moons Prize, and have appeared in magazines and anthologies in England and Italy. She is currently working on a second collection.

Emma Lee’s publications include Ghosts in the Desert (IDP,2015). The Significance of a Dress is forthcoming from Arachne. She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea, (Five Leaves, 2015) and is Poetry Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib. She reviews for magazines and blogs at  http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.?

Mark Mansfield is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Strangers Like You (2008, revised 2018, Chester River Press) and Soul Barker (2017, Chester River Press). His poems have appeared in The Adirondack Review, Anthropocene Poetry, Bayou, Blue Mesa Review, Fourteen Hills, Iota, Magma Poetry, Measure, Salt Hill Journal, Staple, Unsplendid, and elsewhere. He holds an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins and was a recent Pushcart Prize nominee. Currently, he lives in upstate New York.

Hilary Mellon has been involved in the poetry scene for many years, read at venues all around the country and judged several poetry competitions.  Her work has been published in over ninety different magazines and anthologies, four pamphlet books and one full length collection.  She runs writing workshops in Norwich.

Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has seen nearly 400 of his poems appear, in Britain and the USA, over the past 15 years, with two pamphlet collections, the more recent being Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, the winner of the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017.

Kate Noakes lives in London where she acts as a trustee for Spread the Word and writes poetry reviews. Her most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet (Parthian 2019)

Stephen Oliver – Australasian poet/voice artist and author of 19 volumes of poetry. Lived in Australia for 20 years. Currently NZ. Published widely in international literary journals and anthologies. Regular contributor of creative nonfiction and poems to Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature. Poems translated into German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. Stephen Oliver’s latest poetry collection is Luxumboug, Greywacke Press, Canberra 2018. greywackepress@gmail.com  “Ballad of Miss Goodbar”, from his collection, Gone, is in a video read by the author at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzfHYU1Jj08

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

Alan Price’s poetry collection Wardrobe Blues for a Japanese Lady was  published in 2018 by The High Window Press. His latest book is the 2019  The Illiterate Ghost (Eboinvale Press) a chapbook of short fiction

Sue Rose’s third collection from Cinnamon Press, Scion, is due out in 2020. She is also the author of Heart Archives, a chapbook of sonnets paired with her own photos (Hercules Editions, 2014) and Tonewood, a book of poems written to photos of trees by Lawrence Impey (Eaglesfield Editions, 2019).

Gianna Sannipoli is a student at Masaryk University. Her work has been published in Gold Dust MagazineOne Sentence PoemsPanoplyThe Wild Word, and is forthcoming in Edify Fiction and Dodging The Rain. She is a reader for San Antonio Review, living in Brno, Czech Republic.

Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human Shields released the album Somebody’s Hometown” in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016.

Madelaine Smith has had poems published on Ink, Sweat & Tears, Paper Swans anthologies (Print and online), Reach Poetry, The South, Northampton Poetry Review, Wellington Street Review and in several local anthologies. In a drawer she has three unpublished novels. Twitter: @MadelaineCSmith

Morelle Smith writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She has worked in the Balkans as English teacher and aid worker and lives in the UK. Her awards include –  Audience Award for her poetry, (Ukraine, 2014) and Autumn Voices prize for her prose (UK, 2017). Her most recent books are Shaping the Water Path (poetry collection, diehard, UK, 2017) and   (bi-lingual novella, Biblioteca Universalis, Bucharest, 2018). She blogs at https://rivertrain.blogspot.co.uk

Tom Sommerville writes “Having taught poetry, English, Scots and American for more than fifty years I now spend some of my time trying to write it: sometimes in free verse but more often I like to use forms such as the sonnet, ottava rima and others.  If you should publish Photo Opportunity, I feel I should say I was in the scanner for a research project.”

Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. In 2019 she won the Selected or Neglected Collection Competition with Hedgehog Poetry Press for her collection Totems. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.

Thomas Tyrrell has recently moved from Cardiff to Birmingham. He is a two-time winner of the poetry prize at the Terry Hetherington Young Writer Awards. His poem ‘Breaking Up With The Bookshelves’ appeared in the Spring 2019 issue, and other recent poetry appeared in Black Bough, Spectral Realms and Three Drops From A Cauldron.

Gordon Wood is a retired  teacher of German and lecturer at a College of Education. Now lives near Edinburgh. Enjoyed fourteen years as a freelance contributor to the BBC German Service. Has spent recent years trying to make sense of Ancient Egyptian and then Sumerian. Is working at the moment on a sequence of poems on John Dowland – just to cheer himself up!

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