London Grip New Poetry – Spring 2020

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The Spring 2020 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:

* Tanner * Glenn Hubbard * Jock Stein * Tim Cunningham * Joe Balaz * Ben Banyard * Teoti Jardine
* Brian Docherty * Frederick Pollack * Jack Collard * Chris Johnson * Phil Connolly * Jim C Wilson
* Carla Scarano * Andrew Shields * Gordon Wood * Marjory Woodfield * David Cooke * Val Richards
* Ruth Valentine * Alex Josephy * Hilary Hares * James Fountain * Paul Waring * Nicky Phillips
* Paul Stephenson * Norbert Hirschhorn * Carolyn Oulton * Jan Hutchison * Mary Franklin
* Stuart Pickford * Cath Drake * Sue Wallace-Shaddad * Susan Utting *Rosemary Norman
* Elizabeth Smither * Clifford Liles

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

London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December
A printer-friendly version of this issue can be found at
LG new poetry Spring 2020

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

I am drafting these notes on January 31st 2020 as our submission window is about to close. I already have a good idea of the make-up of the magazine which ranges from the ironically dystopian through the reflective to the quietly regretful. Maybe these moods mirror the insecurities of our readers as they look out upon a time of great political change when some are hoping post-Brexit events will be just a little better than they feared while others are beginning to fear they will turn out worse than they had first hoped…

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And now we turn from the political to the personal.  Our last editorial lamented the death of the Darlington poet and editor Joanna Boulter; and in this issue we mourn the loss of four poets with strong London links: Roddy Lumsden, a highly original poet and much-respected tutor and mentor; Hylda Sims, poet musician and tireless organiser of poetry events north and south of the river; Leah Fritz who, 30 years ago, swapped political activism in New York for a new and successful life as a poet in Primrose Hill; and William Oxley, admired not only for his accomplished poetry but also for his role of convivial host over nineteen iterations of the splendid Torbay Poetry Festival.  They are all, in their different ways, irreplaceable and will be greatly missed

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
London Grip poetry editor
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***

Tanner: irony upon irony

you’re just not poetic enough, darling.

the lefty editor 
the pro-working-class lefty editor,
he says it’s not proper poetry, darling,
when you write about the jobcentre
the shop floor
and the rabid public you serve

but how can you write about 
being working class in this country
without mentioning the jobcentre,
the shop floor
or the rabid public? 

your working-class life,
it’s just not poetic enough 
for the leftie editor, darling … 

you’re confused

but then you go to work in a shop
where the self-proclaimed pro-working class
working class public 
threaten you
for running out of houmous 
or being the only one serving 
and you think:

this hypocrisy, 
it’s actually pretty consistent
both in the literary world
and the real one 

pretend to be a lefty
while rejecting your fellow working-class:
that’s the working-class way!

so follow their lead,
carry on writing your unpoetic poems
about the jobcentre 
and the shop floor,
slag off 
the rabid working-class public
you claim to be a part of

then send them off
to be rejected 
by the lefty editor 

and in their rejection 
and yours
you shall belong.

just not enough 
for the lefty editor, darling.  


Tanner: another election in a small town

she wanted refunding 
and when you couldn’t do it
she told you to get 
the manager 
but when you got the manager 
she didn’t say
anything to him 
about the refund policy
but she did tell him
that she thought 
you
were rude and unhelpful.

that’s another write-up. 
2 more and you’re out on your arse. 

you saw her in the street.
she was wearing a red rosette
yelling at people
about unemployment. 
about the death of 
working class solidarity.
about big business.
companies are too powerful!
she cried.
they’re chewing us up
and spitting us out!
she cried.

wonder how that happened. 

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***

Glenn Hubbard: A Volunteer at Calais Refugee Camp Addresses the Local Chief of Police

It's not the same, you say, my burning
down your house and your having 
their tents thrown into bins each morning.

True. You have somewhere else to stay
and you will have had an insurance 
policy on that nice chalet.

Still, it was the best I could do
to remind you of how it feels 
to stare up at the stars through the pissing rain.

Every day they defy you by not going away. 
Much like the bloody-minded citizens 
of Calais. They would not give way, either.

Obstinate buggers, they stuck it out
for a year and Edward thought 
to make them pay.

But he thought again and spared
the brave burghers, moved by the words 
of his wife, Philippa of Hainault.

Maybe your missus could have a go 
next time you decide
to order in the demolition squad.

The town of Calais was besieged by the English for a year following the defeat of the French 
at the Battle of Crecy (1346). When the siege ended, Edward III demanded that six citizens 
present themselves before him to be punished (presumably executed) for the town's obstinacy.

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***

Jock Stein: Firelight

Catch up flickers in the Australian firelight.
From our antipodean back yard, ghosts
come home, convict us all, and stab 
their flaming fingers in our faces, leaving 
climate crushed in a coal-black envelope,
waiting for the seal of history.

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***

Tim Cunningham: Lullaby
(‘God so loved the world. . .’   John 3.16)

God held Earth in the palm of His hand,
Earth whose death rattle
Echoed through the spheres;
Held it as you might hold
A sparrow with a broken wing,
This Earth exhausted of resources,
Its oxygen spent, every wing broken,
Never again to spin around the sun.

Science, that could have fed the hungry
And cured the blind, was steered off course,
Its sat-nav speeding towards destruction.
Chemicals poisoned land, air and sea,
Fell like snow on the screaming skin of children.

We were warned.  We had our prophets
But they were mocked as Jeremiahs,
Prophets of doom.

The sea was innocent.
It was not the sea’s fault that it choked 
On plastic and nuclear waste.

The rivers were innocent.
Pollution was not their fault;
Neither was the fishes’ extinction.

The forests too were innocent.
Insatiable logging was not their fault
Nor global warming’s indiscriminate torch,

No more than spiked thorn bushes
Plaited a crown of thorns,
Or a rugged cross and nails
Crucified God’s son.
They too were innocent.

As the last bird’s aria died away,
The last faint echo of Eden,
God cupped Earth in the palm of His hand,
Rocked it gently as if rocking it to sleep,
And sang a lullaby softer than Brahms’,
Like the one Mary sang
In that stable in Bethlehem,
Like the one she sang
At the foot of the cross.

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***

Joe Balaz: Pronto Now

You bettah grab da wheel
and start reversing backwards

cause da tipping point
is right around da bend.


From wun evidentiary standpoint

da projected disastrous weather
dat is beginning to arrive upon da earth

going fully use 
all of dose greenhouse gases

to make everybody feel da heat.


Da petrocapitalists 
are forcing your hand on da griddle

and making you sit
on da red hot coils of wun electric stove.


Moa bettah you scream 
wun scream of protest

rather den wun scream of agony.


Focus on dat corporate fat cat
continually pushing fossil fuels

wit wun big smile from ear to ear.


It’s time
to knock out some oily teeth

and let moa wind
and solar energy

flow through da gaps.

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***

Ben Banyard: Planned Obsolescence

We get through a lot of lightbulbs,
even the ones which the makers claim
will last for 15,000 hours.

Think of all the smartphones we’ve owned,
batteries which lost power with every charge,
screens that cracked, updates too big to download.

Washing machines, kettles, toasters 
that conked out after a couple of years,
cartridges dearer than the printers themselves.

All of it engineered to fail or seem antiquated,
not made to last, heirloomed to the grandchildren
but heaped into landfill, guarded by seagulls.

Much like the planet, it must be said.
We are its rogue components, saboteurs
flaming the ice caps, coughing lumps out of the ozone.

Perhaps everything will fail one day; 
scientists and engineers will smile and shrug,
admit that it was always built to spill.

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***

Teoti Jardine: And No, I Didn’t Ask For Line Maintenance 

The bill arrives, I phone and listen to mind
numbing excuses for music because my
call to my internet provider is, as they keep 
telling me, of the utmost importance

to them, or the Power Company, 
Tax Department, M.S.D., Post Office, 
Bank, Health Centre, or heaven forbid
should I one day call 111.

Then a human or, mind now numbed,
perhaps an interactive human
sounding device, finally answers the
phone call I’d made years ago.

This voice wraps apologies around me
as I give it, my date of birth and 
where it happened, Mother’s 
maiden name, the size of my cock.

Then, my dam of issues flood out
greeted by, ‘I sees, and yes’ and
many more apologies. ‘Thank you
for calling, it’s all sorted, have a good day.’

And I wish he, she or it a good day too, 
astonished at how my feelings of frustration 
have somehow been replaced by a 
post coital sense of intimacy.

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***

Brian Docherty: Distractions
(after Christina Feldman & Jack Kornfeld, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart)

There are too many of those in the world.
Not just things, or music, art or movies.

It is not enough to turn the TV off,
or put our laptops or phones away,

or stop buying newspapers or magazines,
as if not paying attention to events is enough.

If the world changes around us,
and we have not noticed or are indifferent,

what good is that? If you are looking 
for Enlightenment, where will you find it?

If I had that answer, I would ask you 
to buy my book that will tell you how,

but maybe that book, if I have written it,
and not been distracted by Poirot repeats, 

is just another distraction, just a few more
words to add to the mind’s chatter.

If I said All you need is a pure heart 
and an empty mind, would you believe me?

If I said All you need is Love, or All you need
is cash, could you believe both or neither?

To be present in the Now, but remember 
to pay the utility bills, is that a paradox?

To love someone wholeheartedly, but
let them go their own way, can you do that?

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***

Frederick Pollack: Who Was That Masked Man?

The Native American
helps. Grudgingly. He questions whether
his marginal social status
is also ontological.
Do his considerable talents
mean anything outside his ancestral
Lebenswelt? Does he?
He tries to explain to the farmers
and ranchers willy-nilly
involved in an adventure that
eventually both sectors
will be vertically integrated
in immense trusts with many fewer
employees. Before that happens,
small farms will blow away because of
bad practices. They listen to him
as if to wind. He would do much better
rescuing threatened widows
than his principal, but leaves it to him,
alert to racist body-contact prejudice.

The boss mostly drinks.
The Injun reins him in but not by much.
Determined like many drunks
to prove he’s unimpaired,
he’s deadly on the draw;
and although he makes a show
of stern regret and impassivity,
he lives for those blown brains and bloody trunks.

Otherwise, he cares for his horse.
Whitewashed, its body sagebrush,
carefully woven,
plaited with strips of pine
and madrone, eyes turquoise, tail and mane
shreds of a dress;
subtly, obsessively worked in, the star of the Law. 
Vegetable glues. Composed of what it eats,
on a good day it can do three miles.
In his depths, the Ranger too is troubled:
can it be outsider art if he knows it is?

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***

Jack Collard: Double tap X

The great game begins. The loading screen, a blueprint map stained by 
X`s – 1 life left. No resurrections, no pause no time to think or feel or
breathe. We`ve been here before. This won`t be the first or 
last time. But one game`s end is another`s 
beginning. Can`t be long till the next one`s unveiled anyway. 
That`s right, you saw it on the news. Can`t wait.

It`s gonna be great. Your nervous anticipation bleeds into the familiar 
contour of the black plastic placed in your hands, scorched by sweaty finger marks. 
Fingers on triggers, the X buttons, twitching and itching to pinch.
You know the routine like the scars that snake down your back. 
Dance, boy, dance for your life. Show `em what you`re capable of.

And we`re off. With rope wrapped round your body you drop down 
down from the sky into the arena through the confetti 
dust. Once on the gravel you pound the triggers, 
double tap; X X, never considering
 Y. It`s like shooting tin cans of an alley - metallic, soulless, programmed like
 bait, goons. You feel like a vigilante, no capes or kill caps.

Invincible. Next target found, fate, locked, loaded…Bingo - got `em. 
Bragging points gained, just another tally on the kill streak. 
Might reach the highest toll of the week. That`ll show `em.
Headshot – cool.
Isn`t this fun? 

Your Mum`s call for dinner is drowned out, a distant plea. 
But you promised you`d finish the mission before tea.
You promised to come back, 
to the real world. 
You promised you`d unplug.
But you`ve come this far, can`t have broken so many, so much, just to lose
your kill streak.

The sand`s spit and the fireworks of rubble and ruin become an eye sore.
Water leaks from your bloodshot eyes, but you mustn’t flinch or falter.
Your mouth is as dry as the superficial sand on which you play upon. 
You find a house, a shadow, and embrace it. 
But there`s a noise, footsteps. You pivot to the left. 
Nothing. You glance to the right. You blink. You die. You cry

at the TV IT`S NOT FAIR.  You throw your weapon at the floor 
and the battery falls – dead - at your feet. 
It`s not fair. It never is.
Now you`ve lost your kill streak.
It`s all fun and games `till the game plays you.
Missed out on dinner tonight, but you`ve lost your appetite.
Why don`t you just give up the fight?

Double Tap X has, quite ironically, a double meaning. In gun training, a `Double tap` is a shooting 
technique where 2 shots are fired in quick succession at the same target. When playing video console 
games, players must often `double tap` the `X` button on their controller in order for their character 
to fire their weapon. Of course, an `X` also symbolises death, which I feel many modern violent video 
games turn into sport.

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***

Chris Johnson: March

Snowdrops and harebells
are emerging from
rat-infested trenches.

Grateful for winters armistice
bayonets made of frost
ice mortar shells

can no longer harm them.
Sunlight is arguing
with moonlight about

a quota of hours.
Crows strut nonchalantly 
issuing dictatorial demands

but only the sky
pays attention. A hare
rushes behind a bush -

a streak of khaki lightening.
Thistles and nettles –
those bare-knuckle

prize-fighters are flexing
their muscles. Grass
is growing lethargically

as if it can't be bothered.
The dog-winds hackles
have subsided. 

As for February's lockjaw –
resistant to treatment –
a miracle has occurred,

gradually the earth slackens.
And a choir of thrushes 
sings a plangent requiem.

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***

Phil Connolly: Following Mass

Some of the loath-to-leave kneel on. Others throng
the porch, or hang their chat around the yard.
Dad’s mates’ feet are stardust down the seven steps
and out; then blurs across the street dividing church
and froth clinging to the sides of a glass,
following their Tetley’s to the bottom
while they finish on a bull, or clack their dominos
like chuckles over tables in the Three Horse Shoes.

Dad smacks his lips and sighs. Lame afterthought
of years away at war, he has to wheel me home.
Home for the guaranteed Sunday row. Home
to his Just what the hell will the neighbours think
of the steam that steams the kitchen windows up 
and makes him seethe and sulk through Sunday lunch.

Thinking back, a smattering of Physics might have helped.
I could have told him: Dad, the steam’s a must, a fact
of warm meets cold – hot vapour hitting wintry glass.
But I was only eight. And Mum’s teacher fell at Ypres,
and Dad’s at the Somme. A hundred and nine, 
a hundred and ten, I see them now: She’s dishing him 
a silent Yorkshire pud. He’s simmering and boiling like the veg.

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***

Jim C Wilson: Patience

Easter again and Patience Crosbie dons
her suit of muted tweed, double locks
her door and steps out through the Sunday streets.
High tenements loom and there, among black bags,
a fox explores, bedraggled. O God of Bethel,
by whose hand, she hums, as the steepled hulk
of St Stephen’s soars up into view. Her fingers
exercise inside her gloves, safe, protected
from the morning’s chill. She’s saddened by litter
in the churchyard but manages a smile, almost,
on seeing Mr Chalmers. The church is cold;
it echoes as she ascends the steps once more
and seats herself before the organ. Time!
Behind her, voices undulate as she picks
out perfect notes and chords to accompany 
His death, His resurrection. There is a green hill
far away and Patience Crosbie peers 
into her mirror, observes the congregation
singing – mothers, fathers, the old and young.
And soon it’s nearly over. The rustling
of coats and the shuffling of feet on cold
flagstones. So now she pulls out all the stops.
Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music explodes
from every organ pipe: celebration,
vibration, and just a touch of exultation.
Then she closes the lid, clicks off a switch
and quietly descends the steps. Some words of thanks
from Mr Chalmers as she walks down the aisle;
then home, the long way, through the local park.

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Carla Scarano: Good Friday

 I was surprised to see you at church
on Good Friday,
the day of betrayal and killing,
when we kiss the naked body on the cross
and cry for all our losses.
You were there with your deaf mother,
I was there with mine and her elderly friends.
We quickly caught up fifteen years,
my move to England, the new job,
my son’s wedding, graduations,
my father’s death and my mum living happily.
You were just the same, unmarried,
helping old relatives
organizing their lives and yours,
travelling alone mostly,
your sister pulling out.
Everything looked under control,
neat words ordering a life.

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Andrew Shields: Saint Jerome In His Study
	Antonello da Messina

The peacock and the partridge are
	not on speaking terms.
They both ignore the auguries
	of other passing birds.

The lion waits around a corner
	to be healed again.
From his paw, the blood is ink,
	and the thorn a pen.

My patron saint can trace the words
	of a long-lost age.
My patron saint sees nothing else
	as he turns the page.

He does not see the sunlit arches
	or the aimless birds.
All he can see is his open book
	of miraculous words.

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***

Gordon Wood: In this game
(after Paul Cézanne’s paintings of card players)
For David at eighty

A fall of cards, like Mallarmé’s throw of dice, 
will not abolish chance; but in this game,
when the mistral screams its eldritch song 
from nor’-nor’-west across the hunkered land, 
these clay-pipe chewing, weathered men will sit
like rocks resisting the curling crash of waves
and seek a pattern in the spume of cards.

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Marjory Woodfield: Landscape
After the painting, ‘Cape Cod Morning’, by Edward Hopper, 1950
 
like a bird
she watches long grass
catch the sun
 
among taut shadows
just one arrow
will reach the mark
 
she counts the mornings
remembers
the son who doesn't know his father
 
sleeps in the bed he shaped 
from forest saplings
the horizon draws her eyes.

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David Cooke: Johann Becher (1635 –1682)

Although in his day he was closer than most 
to understanding combustion,
he is known now as a man 
of simple beliefs. One: that the world 
is ruled by fools and two: 
that he had been born to fleece them.

In the wake of a war 
that proved his thesis he ducked
and dived and bluffed his way
across a crazed empire. Soft-soaping 
Electors in Mainz and Bavaria, 
he gained the ear of the Emperor. 

Embroidering truth, his visionary 
logic always tipped the scales 
any time investors required 
the next good thing: his silkworks 
that prospered until he decided to bail, 
abandoning his plans
for the Austro-Dutch Canal,
and a comprehensive grammar
of the lingo he’d invented.

On the move again, he headed north,
where the Hollanders doubted
– all too briefly – that sand 
can change to gold
if it’s primed with silver.

And as they stared, transfixed, 
along their dismal coastline,
they never guessed the cleverest
part of the trick, when the maestro
and their money 
vanished into mist.

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Val Richards: Banned

The  ever youthful soul
Still beats its wings
Yet dare not soar 
To one who
All unknowing calls.
For the world would cry,
‘See that sad old thing 
Mounting her broomstick -
How sick is that?’
Ought  I then abstain,
Shut out my soul’s refrain,
And stick to sweeping floors?
This watered-down self, oh world, 
Is all you’ve seen of me.
But I shall roar such things 
That empty chapel by the sea,
The waves, the gulls, 
The wind singing through the high grass
And 

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***

Ruth Valentine: Toxic Shock

Anaphylaxis is your soul refusing
what the world spikes into it, your throat swelling 
to stop the words getting out, the groan that’s fine,
the whine no problem.  When I say soul I don’t
mean anything immortal, disparaging
the busy lavender.  If you happen to be allergic
to bee-stings maybe you think it’s frivolous
to grab one as metaphor.   If you’ve been forced to take
jeers or cocks or numbing medication,
you’ll know how your skin incinerates, your mind
and all your mouths close.  Above the rose-garden,
the willow shelter, the picnic-bench, the playground,
a house-martin cries like a frightened child, a seagull
dives, almost stabs it, spirals, swoops again.


Ruth Valentine: The Back Wall

Horseshoes in a cleft in the stone wall,
a cliff, a falling away of sense and shelter,
a line of iron outlines, rust and hole,
as if a clatter of animals, a shire,
a Shetland, an Arab stallion, had galloped on
but left a token, a task, to the long-gone
cottagers, for their well to be brimming over.

A hidden wall, among willowherb and fern,
at the back of the house, under bent guttering,
ashamed of its rough-cut ragstone and the course
of plain red brick, the corrugated iron,

though a mirror gives back time and something yellow
falters before it, girl in a sun-worn dress
twirling into the centuries between 
the door and the rock-garden, and a tortoiseshell
butterfly pauses to watch, and warms the steps.

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***

Alex Josephy: Post Office, County Cork

Above the counter, flat caps
in a choice of felt or tweed.
Nailed to a rafter, ragged 
round the rims, they look 
defeated, more like trophies 
from some hunt or raid 
on neighbouring homesteads
or that pirate clan from Baltimore.
No, those are not for sale.

Shelves hold fly-blown boxes
whose contents, itemised
in blue felt-tip, speak 
of a quiet transformation
from everyday need
to curation: hair pins, silk hose, 
children’s woollen vests, 
slowly becoming history.

The bar attracts more trade, 
longer-lingering, louder
than the postal business end, 
payments and pensions 
happily getting liquidated.
Will I pour you one?
Beyond the glow of fairylights,
darker shelves. Liver salts.
Bull drench. Guess what these are?
OK, I’ll tell you. Pig ring pincers.
Ha! Not quite what you were thinking?

And tightly crammed into a recess
over the fridge where cans 
of ordinary Coke are cooling,
a carton labelled ‘Habits’.
That’s where he keeps the shrouds.
That was when I suspected blarney
so she fetched them down
to show me: fine black cotton,
tassled, embroidered. Sacred heart 
of Jesus, have mercy on me.

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Hilary Hares: Psalm for the City

A thought for those who live
behind the bars of pinstriped suits.

A curse on those who manufacture
ceiling glass or raise the bar.

A prayer for those whose rise and fall
depends on rise and fall.

May the goalposts never move.  May
the scribes and minute-takers have it all. 

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***

James Fountain: The Catch of Commerce

The leafy cabinets of English scenes
slot together like forgotten dreams.

Slender conifers sway on distant hillsides,
curlews soar, calls rising ever higher.

In the city, people teem from glass blocks
oblivious to the frivolity of financial gain.

Swayed by the rhythm beaten on a drum,
attempting to win to show they know the score.

The land by the shoreline has been bought
already, developers prepare to begin building.

As embattled fishermen land empty-handed,
the roar of cars from the commuter’s road

reminds them of a new catch.

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Paul Waring: Unfinished

A table-top canvas	
	half-eaten dishes   
knives and forks askew	
	lip-prints on glasses
wine no longer breathing	
	a room 
where silence feeds
	inhales   exhales

days when every passing train 
	might be the one 
carrying you
	and elsewhere		
is a place
	out of reach
and what’s left waits
	like Laika in space

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Nicky Phillips: Finsbury Park

Breathless from taking the spiral staircase 
two by two, I struggle onto the platform, 
stop. Night sits around me, weighs me down
as empty seats and bulging bins look on.

November’s wind invades each	
hiding place, drags shreds of paper	
and cast out coffee cups into 
a swirl, leaves no space safe.

Sirens stab the lateness, punctuate	
the background buzz and beat 
of those who never sleep. 
I wonder who’s done what, to whom.

An express races through without 
warning, as the button pusher
of station announcements turns	
in bed, dreams of dandelions and gin.

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***

Paul Stephenson: Banisters						

I began to lose my children 
playing hide-and-seek,
that close August afternoon 
they never found me
or James and his stutter 
inside the sycamore trunk.

And so I went on losing them 
– one boy, one girl, 
getting changed for five-a-side 
and placed in defence,
cornered at the Leavers’ Disco
on the first bars of Lady in Red.

They were verging on lost 
when I lay with Madonna,
Last night I dreamt of San Pedro…
and gone for good
come the Saturday job 
selling wills, assured tenancies.

Years on I find them – almost, 
usually at weekends, 
clinging to banisters 
with just-cleaned teeth, 
growing as they watch me eat, 
in homes of mortgaged friends.

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***

Norbert Hirschhorn: Visitations

...at each beginning of each new beginning – 
school, job, retreat by the sea – he fell in love. 
Always with the same person: solemn, thin,
no makeup, a way of brushing back a strand 
that made him nearly cry with longing.

They’d walk along a corniche holding hands —
something about her hand he could 
detect even in the dark – or through woods,
or through galleries, scarcely speaking.

And then – she vanished.  Gone.  Gone.

He looked for her in all the cherished places.
Perhaps he saw her, or thought he saw her, 
threading the crowd off Piccadilly, or across 
a square in Siena, and he’d wave, or maybe 
tried to wave, and call out her name 
but her name choked in his throat. 

Months later, in the dark, she appeared 
at the foot of his bed. An avatar.
Dear heart, what happened?  I’ll do whatever it takes.
She only smiled, touched his wrist, turned away.   

		Who are you?  he whispered.
		How did I ever come to know you?      

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***

Carolyn Oulton: The Visit

This is a privilege only allowed
to age. Was he good in bed?
(the one so awful
I didn’t stay in touch).

I don’t know why you’re laughing.
You said yourself, you’re 80 plus,
bad knee, and I’ve brought you
up a cliffside in a storm like this.

When I come again
the colour of the sea
will have shifted.
Gulls jumping, chalk whiter.

I want to see my father
as he was that day. 
Some nutter scattering 
luggage down the gangplank. 

The sea is getting dark.
My mother will be waiting
in the car, overplayed the radio 
and run the battery down.

She won’t ask 
where we’ve been.

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Jan Hutchison: Five Ways of Parting

Also the bee frozen to the stalk of fennel
was midway on a journey
                         *
 the morning when you left
the click of your shoes down the path
was ahead of the sound of yourself
                          *
 in a cathedral of memories
each braid of your honey-coloured hair
is a flying buttress
                          *
 slippery ground in the backyard
corners tighten on the sheets
I clipped astringency to the clothes-line
                           *
 today the wind blows through the grapevine 
and lifts stems off the fence
their leaves are rough-toothed platters
 

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***

Mary Franklin: Ross

The English language grants us words
to mask emotions, I say.
I cannot find a way 
to alleviate her anxiety
as she struggles to describe 
the vacuum of dread that engulfs her
now her husband is dead.

Gone is her usual joie de vivre
though a quiet dignity remains.
Life isn’t fair and Ross was only thirty-six,
she says in the house with many windows
through which thick evergreens peer,
the house they shared together
these last two years.

I sense him everywhere here – 
his spirit pervades the atmosphere.
He wanders out to the garage 
to check his two motorbikes.
They stand soundless and still,   
engines and gears in mourning 
under their covers of grey.

The English language grants us words
to mask emotions, I say once more.
I am at a loss to explain
why he suffered so much pain
or why he died so young
while the tulips he planted
bloom beside the back door.

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***

Stuart Pickford: Guillotine

I bump into Jane sorting worksheets,
ask how she’s doing. For a second, nothing.
Then she slices sheets in two. The bell
is about to go. As if losing my brother
wasn’t bad enough, Dad’s got Alzheimer’s.
 
Another worksheet identical to the last.
Thing is—she lines up the paper—our dad
doesn’t remember Pete’s dead. The cut
is perfect. Each time we said, he grieved
afresh so the doctor advised us to lie.
 
When he asks, we make up holidays
for Pete, his cricket scores, the walk
up Snowdon on his thirtieth. We’ve created
a fine dead life. And Dad’s happy.
Her eyes fill until there are only tears.
 
Jane taps and stacks the sheets into a pad,
monologues to practise for the mock exam.
She brushes herself down, rigs a smile
and sets off to teach, starting each lesson
with Write the date in the top corner.
  

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Cath Drake: A Respectable Life 

It's not easy these days in a fully-functioning modern flat. 
Back when we were students, there was a crumbling hole 
right through the lounge room wall into the kitchen where 
random notes were left from a mysterious guy called Alan, 
a sensitive serial apologist with an intense anger problem. 

It's not easy in the quiet: just me, the radio, the clock.
No Vince with his excessive coat-tails, pockets of poetry
and noisy Ramones obsession, or Rach with her husky howl
and strapped-on beaten-up guitar, or Joe’s gravelly ramble
telling bogus stories on late night talk-back radio. 

No Brownlow brothers with a philosophical dilemma 
and a pile of tinnies appearing in the lounge, or Lizzie's ex, 
who was never really her ex, face pressed to her window
singing vodka versions of Eternal Flame at three in the morning.
It's not easy always being able to buy what you need 

without interruption or subterfuge, days flowing like milk.
No anticipation of the end-of-week market specials stew, 
Vince in Rach's polka dot bikini stirring, while she arranges 
the bottle top collection blu-tacked to the wall and muses on
which hangovers are at The Pig & Hound sharing special chips. 

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Sue Wallace-Shaddad: The Kiss

A virgin in Paris, she met the lovers
for the first time that afternoon
in the Musée de l’Orangerie.

Stone cold white, curved marble
approximation of flesh,
two heads fused into one

the frisson of their embrace 
astounded
her sixteen year-old self.

She viewed the couple
from every direction, noting
the book set aside

the muscled torso
the sweep
of skin.

She could not imagine
being so impassioned –
clothes shed –

and wondered
at the intimacy
of their gesture

Fifty years later
she saw the lovers again
still beguiling

just the same – 
she sat down
to catch her breath.

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Susan Utting: Subjunctive Mood, Venice

Were I to go back to the city alone, 
take it back to my own heart, I would stop 
in a square by late-night moonshine, listen 
to the waiters going home, their full throttle 
vibrato harmonies. And one of them would 
kiss the air with his fingertips, bellissima!
and I would answer quietly, with conviction 
bravo, bravo, beautiful! And I would turn 

and go, harmonising in my head, humming 
myself down side street after square and alley
till I saw a lighted window that was strange
to me, but that I knew was where I’d find
what I was there for, this time, on my own;
that this was where I’d stay. 


Susan Utting: Transitional Object

The tin of grips has a shiny black lid
with a pattern of tiny red dots at one end
and Sally in red at its centre. I love 
the tin of grips because of its slippery
slide-open lid, it makes me think of
a school pencil box with a lid that slides
open, and shuts to a seamless flat surface.
A first school, double pencil box that
swings its opened-up top to an underneath
hollow for more pencils or crayons, but not
for ballpoint pens, which haven’t been
invented yet, and when they are will
not be allowed. 
		 The tin of grips is not
a double anything: not a double-decker
bus, double-breasted suit, not a double
choc chip ice-cream; it is single, flat,
shiny, easy-open easy-close, just as
perfect as it should be, with its neatly
packed grips inside, cushion tips laid
top to tail, snug as sardines in a tin,
this tin that sweetly slides open
without need of a ring-pull or key.

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Rosemary Norman: Objets Trouvés 

Objects are not lost in Lille
but found, most often 

on trains, and are collected
under a sign that means

art work in English, maybe
it’s a wine rack or urinal

but it’s certainly umbrellas
if the weather improves,

left to themselves in sharp
light to unroll the work

that waits in them, a ballet
of skirts on spokes flung

in the air over Flandres and
Europe stations, passing

in and out of Belgium until
anyone who saw all this

is shaken off and only then
they rest back on a seat.

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Elizabeth Smither:  Skeleton, shop mannequin

I’d like to have one of each:
the plastic skeleton I shook
hands with when the surgeon left the room
a mannequin carried fireman’s hoist through the street.

I’d have them both in the same room
the white plaster mannequin with feet
fastened to a base, the skeleton
since it can dance, dangling

by the open window whose net curtain
threatens to clothe it in the lightest bandage.
I’d dress the mannequin differently for each season
and for the skeleton I’d buy a hat

and a black bow tie with polka dots.
One wired and flexible hand could hold a cane.
Where would they go for a date
for the skeleton to play Grand Guignol

the mannequin to sip a martini
wearing yards of scarves and furs, opera
gloves and a jewelled cigarette holder?
At the end of the evening they would embrace

as he saw her into a taxi and got in
himself, into the back seat. ‘I don’t
take bones,’ the taxi driver would say.
‘You need flesh first,’ the mannequin would say.

Elizabeth Smither writes: I am very fond of shop mannequins and skeletons such as you see in a doctor’s 
consulting room. We had a skeleton in our science class who lived inside a cupboard; I can’t remember 
her name, but she seemed part of the class.

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Clifford Liles: A Seamstress Considers Her Options

The trap awaits outside. Its horse, a bay,
jangling its traces by dank stone walls.
With her income gone, life has spun away 
like moon-bright shillings dropped down a well.

Before a mirror and peonies, red
as her nightmares, she begins her theatre
of poisons: gathers her powdered white lead;
and black moon-shaped patches of taffeta.

She mouths a humid oath then covers her scars;
touches rouge to her lips, feeling the pink sting.
There. Ready, she thinks (but her shaking marks
the proximity of panic and skin),
for the lamp-lit stage; the candle-lit trysts.
For the age-old trap that men can’t resist

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Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English).His poetry has appeared in such magazines as Stand Journal, The Lake,Otoliths Magazine, and Hawai’i Review, among others.  He is also the author of Pidgin Eye, a book of poetry.  Balaz lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, where he writes poetry and short fiction. His first two collections Communing (2016) and We Are All Lucky (2018), are published by Indigo Dreams, while a third, Hi-Viz, is due out in 2020. He founded and edited the Clear Poetry webzine between 2015-2017.  Ben blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com and Tweets @bbanyard

Jack Collard  is a First Year A-Levels student at Bridgwater and Taunton College, Somerset. He is studying English Literature and is interested in looking at the ordinary as extraordinary, and how life`s subtleties can be substantial.

Phil Connolly is married and lives near York. He taught for many years in North Africa and the Middle East. He was shortlisted in the Wordsworth Trust Competition and has been published in several anthologies and magazines including The North and Dream Catcher.

 David Cooke’s poems and reviews have been widely published in the UK, Ireland and beyond. He has published six collections of poetry, the most recent being Reel to Reel ( Dempsey & Windle. 2019). Staring at a Hoopoe, his seventh, will also be published by Dempsey & Windle early next year. He is the founding editor of The High Window, a quarterly online journal of poetry and translations

Tim Cunningham has had seven collections of poetry published since 2001;  his eighth, Passports, is due out in April 2020 with Revival Press.  Tim has recently returned to live in Ireland, having previously worked in education in London, Delaware and Essex.  He was awarded a Patrick Kavanagh fellowship in 2012.

Brian Docherty is part of a growing community of writers, artists and musicians in East Sussex.  He has published six collections, most recently Only in St. Leonards: A Year on the Marina.

Cath Drake, an Australian from Perth who lives in London, has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in UK, Australia and US, and performs her work widely. She has been short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Prize, and was second in the 2017 Resurgence Poetry School eco-poetry prize (now called Ginkgo) and highly commended in 2019. Sleeping with Rivers won a Mslexia/Seren poetry pamphlet prize and was a Poetry Book Society choice. The Shaking City, her first full collection, is out in 2020 with Seren Books. Her work has included environmental writing, award-winning journalism and teaching mindfulness. http://cathdrake.com/

James Fountain was born 1979 in Hartlepool and has had two pamphlets accepted for publication so far – Glaciation (Poetry International, 2010) and The Last Stop (original plus press, 2018, Runner-Up at Ilkley Literature Festival Pamphlet Competition 2018). Has had individual poems published in The Journal, The Recusant and Dream Catcher. Wrote the first PhD on Scottish modernist poem Joseph Macleod (1903-84, University of Glasgow 2010). He is based in Leeds and teaches English in Saudi Arabia.

Mary Franklin’s poems have appeared in numerous print and online magazines and anthologies including Bonnie’s Crew, Ink Sweat and Tears, Iota, London Grip, Nine Muses Poetry, The Stare’s Nest and Three Drops from a Cauldron.  She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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.

Norbert Hirschhorn is a public health physician, commended by President Bill Clinton as an “American Health Hero,” and proud to follow in the tradition of physician-poets.  He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He has published five collections, the most recent, Stone. Bread. Salt. He is a co-translator with Syrian physician-poet Fouad M. Fouad of the latter’s poems.. A bilingual collection will be launched later in 2020.  See his website, www.bertzpoet.com.

 Glenn Hubbard has lived in Madrid since 1987. He began writing in 2012 and some years later was delighted to discover that people seemed to enjoy his work. He has had over sixty poems published in magazines. To be able to write poetry is a blessing

Jan Hutchison  is a New Zealander and now lives in Auckland.  Her most recent collection of poems is Kinds of Hunger.  Her interests include forests and bio-diversity and learning the Maori language.

 Teoti Jardine of M?ori, Irish, and Scottish bones, lives with his dog Amie in Aparima/ Riverton, on beautiful southern coast of New Zealand. His poetry has often found a home with London Grip. This poem was previously published in Catalyst Volume 16, 2019.

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.

Chris Johnson has poems published or forthcoming in Orbis, Other Poetry, Interpreter’s House, The Journal, Agenda and Acumen.  He is a regular visitor to the Reading Poetry Cafe

Clifford Liles was twice Highly Commended at Winchester Writers’ Festival, won the Sandwich Arts Week Local Poet and Canterbury Art in the Underpass competitions. He has been shortlisted at the Canterbury Festival. His works appear in The Cannon’s Mouth, Reach Poetry, Writers’ Forum and Canterbury Festival and Sandwich Arts Week anthologies.

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

Carolyn Oulton’s previous publications include: Acumen, Artemis, Dream Catcher, The Frogmore Papers, Ink Sweat & Tears, Orbis, The Poetry Village, The Moth and Seventh Quarry. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press.

Nicky Phillips has had poems published in Eunoia Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Picaroon, Snakeskin, SOUTH, South Bank Poetry, The Cannon’s Mouth and elsewhere. Her pamphlet Jam in Aisle 3 was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018.

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

 Frederick Pollack is author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986; to be reissued by Red Hen Press) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), Armarolla, December, and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), Misfit, and elsewhere.

Val Richards (1935 – 2019), was a teacher, psychoanalyst, artist and poet, who resided in North London. She deeply touched the lives of many with her entirely individual ways of seeing, her compassion, her welcoming smile, her warmth, her intuition, her loving gentleness and her wisdom. As well as writing poetry , she wrote a book (first published in 2005) on the subject of playing and interpretation in psychotherapy and theatre: The Who You Dream Yourself

 Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, and is working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood at the University of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/ http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/

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. Twitter: @ShieldsAndrew  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewshieldspoems/

Elizabeth Smither’s latest poetry collection, Night Horse, won the Ockham poetry prize in 2018. She also writes short stories and novels; her latest novel, Loving Sylvie was published by Allen & Unwin in 2019

 Jock Stein is a piper and preacher from East Lothian. He knows how ‘joined up’ the world is, and suggests that the Australian bush fires remind us of our past links with the continent as well as indicating climate change. Most of his books are available at https://buy.sanctusmedia.com/store/collections/handsel-press-store.

 Paul Stephenson has published three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016) and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He co-curated Poetry in Aldeburgh in 2018-19 and interviews poets at paulstep.com.

 Tanner’s new collection Shop Talk: Poems For Shop Workers was published by Penniless Press this Halloween. Of himself he says “Tanner congealed in Liverpool tomorrow. He’s been hounding lit mags for donkeys. His star sign is Libido. Hobbies include pillage and colouring in.”

 Susan Utting’s poems have been published in The Times, TLS, Forward Book of Poetry, The Poetry Review, Poems on the Underground, and broadcast at London’s South Bank Centre for Poetry International. Her fourth, latest poetry collection is Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems,(Two Rivers Press).

 Ruth Valentine’s recent publications include A Grenfell Alphabet (self-published in aid of the Grenfell Tower fund) and Downpour (Smokestack).  She lives in Tottenham, North London.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad has had poems published by London Grip, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Poetry Space, Brittle Star,The French Literary Review as well as featuring in several anthologies. Sue is studying the MA in Writing Poetry (Newcastle University/Poetry School, London) and is Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society.

 Paul Waring’s poems have been published in many journals and online magazines. He was awarded second place in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. Quotidian’ his debut pamphlet, is published by Yaffle Press.

 Jim C Wilson’s writing has been widely published for nearly 40 years. His most recent poetry collection is Come Close and Listen (Greenwich Exchange). After teaching his Poetry in Practice classes at Edinburgh University since 1994, he is continuing to  do so at the Scottish Poetry Library. More information at  www.jimcwilson.com

 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 completed a sequence of poems on John Dowland – it has not cheered him up

Marjory Woodfield has appeared in Raven ChroniclesMudlark, Flash Frontier, takah? and others. She won the 2018/19 Dunedin Burns Poetry Competition, and was commended in the 2019 Hippocrates Poetry Award and Proverse Poetry Prize. She has been anthologised in in Pale Fire (Frogmore Press, 2019), Best Small Fictions 2019, (Sonder Press) and with one eye on the cows (Bath Flash Fiction Volume Four). Much of the inspiration for her writing comes from living in the Middle East.