London Grip New Poetry Spring 2021

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The Spring 2021 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:

* Stuart Henson * Stella Wulf: * Josh Ekroy * Fiona Sinclair * R M Aguilar * Neil Fulwood
* David Flynn * Colin Pink * Kurt Luchs * Christopher Soden * Rabia Shaheen * Robert Cole
* Mark Totterdell * Jan Hutchison * Mary Mulholland * John Freeman * Christopher M James
* Briege Duffaud * Caroline Maldonado * Murray Bodo * R. Gerry Fabian * Tristan Moss
* Stuart Pickford * Mat Riches * Rachel Burns * Lynne Wycherley * Glenn Hubbard
* Carla Scarano D’Antonio * Raymond Miller * Robert Nisbet * Keith Nunes
* Martin Connolly * John Short * Andrew Shields * Sally Michaelson

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors.
Biographical notes on contributors 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 2021

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
Submission windows are: December-January, March-April, June-July & September-October

Editor’s notes

As we go to press there is much talk of roadmaps and escape from lockdown. Yet we fear the many weeks of restrictions may have caused us all to become over-cautious.  For instance, will our readers feel they only dare to approach the poems in this issue in the order they are presented?   We invite you, therefore, to exploit your freedom to pursue an arbitrary route through the contents rather as you might explore a maze.  A trip from supermarkets via the cinema to a circus is one possible pathAn alternative trajectory runs from the abstractions of chaos theory and quantum physics to the all-too-material chaos of war and its aftermath. Then again, you might tumble into the transcendent and encounter an angel’s eye view of history and accountability, taking in the Garden of Eden and ending who knows where.  All these options and more lie before you …

… but they so easily might not have done.  In February, a glitch at our web-hosting company resulted in a major loss of material and threatened to turn this entire issue into a 20 page erasure poem.  This might have attracted admiration in certain quarters for its daring originality; but we think that most of our readers will be glad that dedicated efforts of our IT department (fortified by Bessie the tea lady and overseen benevolently by Mongolia the office cat) have succeeded in restoring all that had been lost.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs
London Grip poetry editor
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***

David Flynn: And 

A poem that covers everything. 
Here it is: 
 
Now, 
let’s analyze what we have. 
In that white space are atoms. 
If we understood just one atom 
in every aspect, 
every, 
we would understand the universe. 
Not even one whole atom. 
A bit of that atom, 
A muon say. 
Why does it exist? 
What is its purpose? 
What is its relationship to God? 
Is there a God that relates to the muon? 
What happens to the muon after death? 
There are an infinite number of questions about the muon, 
because we don’t know much. 
Then there are the quarks, 
and the antineutrinos, 
and all the detail of physics, 
and all that physics and mathematics think are unknowable, 
and.  
 
So that will be the title of this poem: 
And. 
We don’t know much, 
and what we do know, 
the origin of a dust particle say, 
is questionable and limited. 
There is always an ‘and’ to every statement we make. 
 
I am going to the grocery store. 
And. 
I have a headache. 
And. 
I want to see a movie about murder. 
And. 
Quantum entanglement. 
And. 
Consciousness. 
And. 

Now a sample of some daily ‘And’ questions: 
How do I walk across the room? 
What do I have for lunch? 
Will it rain this afternoon? 
 
Questions.
And if there are answers,
and there might not be answers but possibilities,
then the next statement starts with,
you guessed it,
And.
 
And. 
 
This poem is endless, actually. 
No end to the detail, 
no end to the changes, 
no end to the mistakes 
and corrections 
and mistakes in the corrections. 

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***

Stuart Henson: Superstore

In case you’re in some doubt they’ll make it clear:
what you get here, the signage says, is CHOICE
in abundance, the good old BRITISH
marketplace where people who care
about these things will know it’s FRESH
and wholesome fare prepared with LOVE.

But yet I worry about ‘love’ 
and how its meaning ceases to be clear
when every Tom, Dick & Saatchi wanting to refresh
a tired brand and influence my choice
uses the word I’d sooner keep for those I care
for deeply.  Maybe it’s a British

thing: ‘No Emotions, Please, We’re British!’
We’ve always been a little shy about expressing love,
though none the less we ought to care
when someone tarnishes what should shine clear
in a murky world.  Yes, if I had the choice
I’d call a moratorium and find fresh

ways of saying it; let’s blow a breath of fresh
air in the over-heated space of British
talk and give ourselves the kind of choice
the Inuit are said to have for ‘snow’.  I’d love
our social speech to be more subtle, clear
and unambiguous, so when the board says CARE

I’m puzzled if it’s noun or verb: is it the care
they lavish on the cakes—no additives, fresh
eggs and flour?  Or is it me, buying with a clear
conscience, showing concern for British
farmers and the welfare of the ones I love?
And then of course that blazoned ‘choice’

could be an adjective…  It’s choice
I’m spoiled for all round.  ‘Who cares?’
I hear you say. ‘It’s only words, and love is love
even when language dies.  Your simple ‘fresh’
has amorous overtones, and as for ‘British’
only fools and politicians have that clear.’

British or not, I still set store by words like love.
Take care. You have a choice: to keep them fresh
or let them be REDUCED TO CLEAR.

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***

Stella Wulf: The Key Worker

My checkout is next to the fever door,
its ins and outs bringing seasonal ills 
of burning sweats, and juddering cold. 

I’m the conveyer of people’s needs, 
scanning the codes like a Bletchley girl, 
waiting for a beep of recognition.

My left breast is Vanessa, the right one,
Morrisons. I ignore the titters when they say,
Have I told you lately? Smile politely.

Lately, I’ve seen through the perspex screen, 
the mask of levity slipping. Some don’t come any more,
some shop online with click and collect,

some have tragedy delivered to their door.
Now, I’m lauded for my lowly, low paid job,
I wear my new status like a hazmat suit,

mask the fear that the fever door is letting in more 
than the weather. What I wouldn’t give to block out 
the strains of this mind-numbing transmission, 

to pass the scanner to the sweeter airs of Van Morrison,
Moondance back to a time before lockdown
when checking out meant see you again soon.

I’m sick of these tallies, this ringing up of loses,
I want to turn the key, roll everything back to zero,
I don’t want to be a hero.


Stella Wulf: The Doorman

When one door opens another door closes.

My life is a cliché. I am by definition an impediment
to life’s flow, a man of limited imagination,
closed as an unread book, open only to indifference.
That is how one sees an invisible man,

yet I am pivotal to the comings and goings
of greater mortals, a portal to their unseen worlds,
an egress from illicit assignation. I jump to the click 
of a lock, the ring of a bell, the push and pull of a handle.

In and out, out and in, the epic tide rolls by.
I am a ripple in the sand, a gathering of sediment
sculpted by an oscillating stream, recording
the patterns of histories.

When one door closes another door opens.

When I hang up my uniform on its common peg,
I’ll go out with a wave, the tide turning in my pocket.
A doorman’s diary is tomorrow’s headlines.
That is how one sees an invisible man.

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***

Josh Ekroy: The Inspectors

At dawn we crossed the dew-dappled common,
our shoes baptised with its tincture,
and approached the purlieus of Clapham South
just as the dilapidated Art Deco portals
of the underground railway were unfurling.
Their iron shout echoed as far
as the playground whose swings hung
like gallows, still and silent: the cries
of undernourished ghost-children,
and the blue faces illuminated by devices
had gone. A whirlwind of newspapers, mingled
with leaves and crisp packets, rose and
subsided in the dust like a sleeper turning over
in some dream; the see-saw waited patiently
chained; a rumpled coke tin muttered on the asphalt.
All the melancholy of this mystery-tormented
place was in that noise, and I carried it
with me long afterwards. Our guide stopped
and limned for us the history of the gyratory system
round whose contours traffic was just beginning
to croon feebly and sporadically. The first
urban cockerel was crowing as we slapped
our oyster cards with a flourish not learnt from natives.
A local indigent was lying by the ticket office,
ill-wrapped in rags and accompanied by a mangy cur.
We gave him £50 - enough for a cup of tea.
He roused himself to express a febrile gratitude
his face stricken with pathetic incredulity.
The escalator was screeching like the squirrel
we had seen eviscerated by street warriors
on Battersea Rise on our first morning. (What an
education our visit has been!) It felt cruel to step
onto the agonised metal mouth. As we descended
into that dark-lit chamber, from which the beckoning
train-rumble of new adventures could be heard
we knew we would not be coming back.


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***

Fiona Sinclair: Covid Summer
 
As the Covid curfew lifts, it’s the kids who first burst
on to The Ridgeway, tearing up the pavements 
on their scooters, bikes and trikes; their chatter challenges
blackbirds’ and thrushes’ territorial Spring songs.
 
Minds sick with gorging on Global Offensive,
their own imaginations begin to stir,
as aliens are fought between parked cars before lunch
and criminals taken down in front gardens before tea.
 
Only animal hunger drives them home for bolted food then
back out into the thick of play, until parents whistle at dusk
and we notice that plump kids who used to puff at pensioner’s pace,
have over the summer, run themselves Lycra lean.
 
Hellos drop like cherry blossom into the front garden as I work,
boys cluster to interrogate as you tinker with the motor- cycle
and news of our green draws posh kids from The Street
to play football or sit on the grass, daisy chain chatting.
 
September school bells toll.  The grass is downgraded once more
to a short cut to the shop which dogs are chivvied to use as a latrine. .
Now I wonder if these threads of play will be picked up at weekends,
or replaced by virtual games again, leaving the green, pied piper silent.

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***

R M Aguilar: Yachting

The mountain goat surveys
a world coated in thin ice 
that can break if disturbed. 
The mountain goat will not disturb,
though close to the

cat focuses on a lonely goat.
Hoofs precariously close to the edge
of the mountain. But a good body,
nice thighs, and enough meat for 
three days

to go until weekend, yachting 
for a change. Away from this city
seen from the fourteenth floor window
just before the one o’clock meeting. So
much to see, people turned to ants
that can be squashed in a split second

the cat runs toward the goat
and that hoof slips before

the meeting a friend of the man 
tells him a well-sourced rumour 
that he has been fired and there’s nothing

the goat can do about it, or the cat
who will go hungry tonight

the man will need to tell his family
that they are not going yachting this weekend.

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***

Neil Fulwood: Chaos Theory

Prime suspect is the butterfly flapping its wings 
in the Amazon, although there have been reports
of a hummingbird docking with columbines and foxgloves,
and a golden eagle riding the bracing thermal currents
somewhere in the Scottish highlands.

Whichever of these dodgy bleeders is the culprit,
the fact remains: the structural damage
to Clifton Bridge wreaked by their look-at-me avionics 
has turned the A52 into a car-park, square-wheeled
most of Nottingham, and left me

behind the wheel of a bus full of ADHD school kids
that has moved, in this last hour, perhaps just further
than a lame snail could manage after two shots
of tequila and half a sleeping pill. And I’m thinking
not of Amazonian jungles or Scotland

or wherever the fuck hummingbirds hang out 
but of the movie Speed and how messily 
it would have ended in this scenario.

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***

Colin Pink: The Angel of History 
(after Walter Benjamin)

The angel of history reports for work; he grabs a coffee
and sits at his desk; there are so many things to record.
He keeps it all in an old ledger nobody bothers to read.
Within it is the slow-mo car crash of the human story.
There is little variation down the centuries; he knows 
what will be is usually what has been and so it unfolds
before him, an avalanche of misery, burying everything
under the cold airless weight of its own blind gravity.
It’s not an easy job and there’s nobody that he can tell.
He needs a break; how much history can one angel take? 
He recalls the random murders, the calculated tortures,
the crying of the mothers; but also the sudden laughter 
of children and the joyous shudder of genuine ecstasy. 
A swirl of stormy weather is caught in his wings, clouds 
gather then break apart again. The angel knows a storm 
is forming, he can feel its pulse trembling in his feathers. 
He beats the air, his quills quiver and he sniffs the scent 
of all that is coming, of all that we, for now, are unaware.

.

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***

Kurt Luchs: Love Poem to My Love Poems
(after “Poem to Some of My Recent Poems” by James Tate)
 
Honestly, most of you are better than what you try so hard
to celebrate. Not that you have given Shakespeare’s bones
any reason to quiver with envy in their dark eternal nest,
but you are manifestly superior to any song by Air Supply.
Somewhere in that amorphous vacant lot 
between immortality and mediocrity
is where you little lichens cling to the cracked stone
that is my life. Some of you are phosphorescent
and glow occasionally, others pulse with a primitive beat
in the blood that is either very bad jazz
or very good rock and roll. One of you repented
and joined a speechless monastery where the only poetry 
allowed is the bell tolling for the noonday meal.
Another decided to become a policeman, who when called
to a domestic dispute automatically shoots to kill
both parties as a matter of general principle.
Justifiable romanticide, they call it.
There are so many ways to go wrong in this world,
so few to go right, it’s a wonder any of you turned out at all.
While I am your only father, you have many mothers,
all of them desirable at one point
and leaving something to be desired at another.
I hope you never lose touch with each other
because aside from your raggedy brothers and sisters
you are completely alone. Nobody cares
about anyone else’s love or the stray
bastard utterance to which it may have given birth.

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***

Christopher Soden: Goodnight, honey

She wasn’t crazy about the insipid
platinum blondes she was asked
to play, sop to buffoons,
a goddess too merciful to see
she could turn them to ashes,
or orangutans with a murmured spell.

Her last film was The Misfits:
written by her husband: a woman
in pigtails and jeans, frank
and naive, blind to the effect
she has on cowboys as lost
as she. She finds them trapping
defiant mustangs, and fights
them off, before they can break

another soul. In The Seven Year Itch
she straddles a subway grate, steam
lifting her skirt like the hot breath
of a Minotaur or drooling neighbor.
In Some Like it Hot she plays ukulele
in a women’s band, crossing paths

with two musicians, disguised as ladies.
She’s done with saxophonists
who squander her money
on the ponies, and other girls.
Sleeping that first night
on the train, the bass player climbs
into the upper bunk, drunk
on enchantment. He wishes her

goodnight. Goodnight, Honey,
she replies, in that whispery
way, softer than moonlight.
For that moment, this
orphan of the world splurges
without caution, warmth impossible

to find. In that astonishing
instant, gone before we know,
genuine care brushes
our cheek, but lingers
as long as we let it.


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***

Rabia Shaheen: Bus Stop

A winter morning
Downpour of rain
Heavy traffic
Roaring voices
Upset minds, burdened lives
Indifferent to beauty
But I stayed
To hear the music
To feel the cold
To loose myself
To find direction.

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***

Robert Cole: Artificial Paradise 
i.m. Charles Baudelaire 

We can plunge to Hell or rise to Heaven 
Or stay ugly as the Earth itself. 
Perfumes turn their arabesques in the evening air. 
My new room on the Ile St. Louis, 
The moist smell of amours clings to it. 
Jean flouts debauchery and flirts with death 
Hitching up her breasts over her corset stays. 
What cruel breath scatters into air, 
Their final flower the interment wreath 
To cull my flower of memory. 
I breathe their incense grain 
And swoon, madness at back of my eyes, 
A mist swirls around the hotel. 
The debauched sleep alone their nebulous shapes 
Become a splendid hearse for my dreams. 
Specious alibis of despair In fragrant paradise 
A sleepwalker avoids the rooftop’s 
Yawning precipice. 
Clean as a razor 
Dawn shivers as it slinks across the Seine. 
I wake to write La Destruction. 
My attic room has not been entirely a mistake, 
The fragrance an enchanting sorcery

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***

Mark Totterdell: Caterpillar

My neighbours’ truths are false, their lies are true.
I know that they know just the same of me,
and so we disagree to disagree.
The whole thing’s hopeless. What is there to do?

Up on the moor, in one lone willow tree,
there sits a puss moth caterpillar who,
arching his saddled back of greenish blue,
displays his clown face for the world to see,
and, flicking his forked rear into a ‘v’,
shoots out twin crimson filaments at me.

And though I know there’s no way that it’s true,
I fancy that his message just might be
to hell with you, to hell with all of you!


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***

Jan Hutchison: The Whitehead
 
There was a virus in the middle of a stream
with malice on its tongue
some people retreated to the shallows
one woman set her left eye on it
a few of us lay on our backs
and bargained with a tree
 
there was a virus in the middle of a stream
and nothing good was said about it.
It was a time when we forgot the forest
forgot how to love a scape of sand
forgot how the whitehead
flies between branches of our lives
 

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***

Mary Mulholland: Kaieteur

Thunder drowns the sound of swifts
and golden frogs in tinnitus silence.
Over the sandstone shelf the Potaro drops 
two hundred and twenty-six metres
to grand applause as it forms a bridal gown. 

Last week a girl of twenty wore that dress.
She flew like a bird without wings. 
And no one, nothing could stop that marriage. 

Did her life flash before her with its commas 
and colons, did she hold her breath?

In the flash of her leap thirty babies were born, 
two hundred thousand people had orgasms, 
and twelve people died. One of them her. 

And she will become one of my moments 
alongside things I’d like to be rid of, 
yet keep –  as if there's safety in holding on
to the bad bits, even if they take me to the edge,

where I stand imagining my last seven seconds  
perhaps chanting my name three times in prayer
or asking my mother why she hid the family past.

They say washing in these waters can make us whole.
I'm not brave enough to jump, or maybe see hope
in pools of orin-weed waving like mermaid hair.

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***

John Freeman: To Die For

Who thinks Josh in accounts is to die for, 
the loud girl at the other table said, 
in the intimate space of the restaurant 
where there were just her group and ours, in shock, 
having convened at the family home 
for the first time since its last survivor 
had been found lying on the kitchen floor. 
We’d had more than a week to come to terms 
with a reality we couldn’t grasp,
each of us in our separate towns and countries. 
Now we’d come face to grey, bewildered face 
in the cold house where she would have fed us.
We thought that going out for a hot meal 
would be some relief, and it might have let us 
start to relax and talk of other subjects, 
if it hadn’t been for that empty vessel 
trying to liven up her office party 
which sounded almost as funereal 
as we were by calling out a dozen times
about the various absent colleagues
she fancied, with emphasis on the key word,  
who thinks Martin is to die for? I thought, 
of course, as she went on repeating it, 
to go and ask discreetly, would she mind 
putting her question in some other manner, 
trying, myself, to find the words to tell her
why our table would appreciate it, 
but that would only have made matters worse.
Our food was disappointing anyway,
not even warm. We ate it without pleasure, 
waiting for the next to die for, and the next. 


John Freeman: A Conversation

Next we have Haydn’s G Minor Quartet. 
It’s the dialogue in the slow movement
between the cello and the violin 
that sets something inside me echoing, 
and for a few uncharted, eerie minutes  
is the absolute justification 
for coming out to hear this music live. 
It is like two human souls or essences 
having an exchange, deep answering deep. 

When I was in my twenties I spent a night – 
I honestly forget how this happened –
sleeping in a large room with three women, 
each of us in separate beds, no sex
then or at any other time, but we four 
had been talking eagerly all evening. 
In the morning two of them said that I 
and the other woman had been speaking 
in our sleep in French – she was going to France
for the first time, where I’d been quite often –
her voice anxious and mine reassuring. 
Neither of us believed them to begin with. 
It comes back to mind tonight while hearing, 
in the adagio, deep call to deep.   

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Christopher M James: Just

Just one night, before the coach to Istanbul, 
in the flat of a friend of a guy. Brief decipher 

pulling us to and sheets keeping us sealed in, 
the young mother with a scar to show, 

a birthmark in the hollow of her back
and breasts travelling light. Just a room 

at a corridor’s end in Goldhawk Road, 
half-orange as the times and the bean bag.

In a corner a plush, yellowing polar bear, 		
slouched like a question mark between girlhood	     

and a destiny. Next day, just a coach window
to cushion the thoughts, and steps

to pile down with crocked legs at each
watering hole. Head-on lights near Graz		

were our thrown-together eyes once more, 
across a night. In a back pocket, a note

written neatly for a paper trail, proof 
we had laid down, would not meet again,

a simple password of xxx’s and hearts, 		
before a million codes waiting to be cracked.

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***

Briege Duffaud: In Hyde Park

last summer, walking under scented limes, I told my grown-up children this:
‘I slept one night among tall trees in Nuenen.’ (Parents, old, recount 
these anecdotes, pre-empting future pieties: dead saintly mum etcetera.)

I told them how, a day in June, I took the 321 from Eindhoven, 
expecting exhibitions, house open for my visit. Years too soon: 
‘We don’t make much of Vincent here,’ they told me in the café-bar, 

directing me along the Berg to prim unfriendly 26, then to the closed 
unpriested Church. Bored, I wandered off along a meadow black and white
with Friesian cows, found a small plantation of high thin trees breathless

in the Brabant afternoon. Not a bird or bee or butterfly, a silent cool among
those skinny trunks. Tranquil in the loamy undergrowth I ate a Mars bar,
rolled a joint, read Steppenwolf until light emptied from the sky.

High above, a hundred treetops swayed and creaked and sighed,
a mad moon winked and hid and reappeared, stars jumped about between
the leaping clouds. I dreamed into the whirling sky and slept.

They may not remember that I told them this.
                                                                  
If they ever visit Nuenen they will find all the things I hoped for: Tourist Centre,
Van Gogh trail, cycle path to lead them to those trees, and maybe sense a ghost’s 
nostalgia for the old uncaring town, neat glum Parsonage, Youth’s possibilities. 

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***

Caroline Maldonado: On our way

We’ve taken this path 
for twenty years 
and always stopped 

by the old house, now nearly
hidden by the fig tree,
to admire its mellowed stone,

the traces left, a torn curtain 
in a window frame, 
a fork and hoe, troughs 

for the beasts below.
The roof’s fallen in
and you can see through

one part-shuttered frame 
to another in the back wall
and on out to the fields 

of dying sunflowers
and down across the hills 
to the Adriatic sea. 

In those twenty years, Anna’s 
gone, and Pacì and Maria, 
and Franco has lost his way.

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Murray Bodo: The One Who is to Come
	
I keep trying to keep you
from dying before I do

It’s why I keep going to
the ocean to check on you

who might be riding dawn light
of waves born of the night

No matter how black the night
first light sets dark waves alight

I so want you to appear 
there where dark and light cohere

But would I see you if you
did and would you be flash-to-

steady as you rode the swells
till they broke in crystal shells

and disappeared in the sand
forever over the land

or would you be what I see
every morning at the sea

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***

R. Gerry Fabian: Sometime

Sometime, after winter has begun
when the hours stretch into late cigarette smoke
and the holiday spell has all but dried –
when an evening ice gale topples garbage pails
so blacktop automobiles huddle helplessly-
when the late shows offer only escape
and eyes are wide beyond possible sleep -
when the winds whistle against the clouds
and the fire is reduced to cinders and ashes;
if you would just search through your wallet
for an old phone number friend,
and if that number is almost faded,
then you’ll know that sometime soon
if you don’t retrace those numerals
you’ll lose a scrap,
another segment of
sometime.

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***

Tristan Moss: Proximity 

To recall my loss would hurt too much;
instead I keep a stem of wheat 
so that when I hear the number dead
it’s more than just a field of stubble. 


Tristan Moss: love’s topology

the tube map
is not a precise 
representation
but the best way 
of showing how 
places relate
when there is nothing
to block our way

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***

Stuart Pickford: Painting the Front Door
  
In trackie bottoms and a purple fleece,
each morning, he performs for the street
a one act play, Theatre of the Absurd.
Brushes in size order, he dreams
the world is made from expanding foam.
 
Entrances: the bride coming up the ramp
in her wheelchair, police with helmets
tucked under their arms, Miss Jones
from number 10, adding even to odd.
He stirs the undercoat with a finger.
 
Exits: all the warmth and the heating on,
the baker who hung himself in the cellar,
Lennie who took the king’s shilling
for the West Yorks, garden gate
to Menin Gate, injuries to die for.
 
Despite Polyfilla, he can read the clues:
the letterbox chopped out with an axe,
the joker who screwed the 6 for a 9,
the woman who knew enough was enough
and rehinged the door on the other side.  

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***

Mat Riches: Rabbits
For the Bunny

We render the walls uselessly, 
and watch the freshly-filled hole 
freefall 
back to earth. 

Our jaws
follow it down in unison,
as it performs a nose dive
to form a perfect splash
on the recently carpeted floor.

A test match burbles away in the background
while we cover the walls with tester pots
and something close to glory,
Freddie Flintoff overseeing
a whitewash by the Aussies. 

The clean up begins
over cold beers
as our wives-to-be come back in
to stop play
and show us what work really looks like.

Their gentle sledging
- about bits we missed -
is the closest we’ll get to praise
before we call our dads.

Before we’re called dads.

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***

Rachel Burns: The Thatcher

He towered above us at mealtimes
thatching the roof in the sky
as our mother laid the table
placed the speckled brown teapot
on the mat, sliced the bread
put out the butter dish.

I imagine my grandfather
standing outside the house
in Vernon Dene
with a palette of colours
his brushes and the smell of turpentine
leaning into the canvass
painting the man at work,
up on the roof, leaning against the sloping ladder. 

My grandfather painting the blue cloth cap
the workmen’s overalls and boots
the bulging veins in the man’s arms
the strong hands stapling spars
of twisted hazel sticks to bundles of yelms
thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack.

My grandfather wiping his brushes on the rag, 
wiping the sweat from his brow.
One man’s sweat another man’s meat.

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***

Lynne Wycherley: Feathers from the Moor    
From a sequence  Brooksong & Shadows: Otterton & the First World War

He’s Wesleyan, he walks to The Green.
Quartzite stones, a chapel.   

There’s news from Princetown.  
The prison’s full of Conchies, 
cushy blimmers! 

Conscientious Objectors.            
Hissed in towns, 
riled in print, torn down.   

Methodists, Quaker’s sons.                              
In France, some will be strung from wire, 
court-martialled.                                                  

How can they house                                                   
their tiger-grief at war? It mourns, burns;  
its vexed heart beats the bars. 
                                            
To question war’s to hazard 
or to hide; village-divide.    
I’d rather be shot than shoot, dear God!  

By Otter Leat, he’ll question, mute.            
His feelings rise              
in scatterings of lapwings and curlews.  

 .                    Princetown – Dartmoor; blimmers – ‘beggars’ (Devon dialect)   


Lynne Wycherley: Prima materia      
From a sequence  Brooksong & Shadows: Otterton & the First World War

Along the Line, snatched sleep.    
Furled in greatcoats, bat-vanes,                      
each one a winter leaf.                                        

Here’s Gilbert and the engineers, 
poor sappers. This water-mud’s 
pre-human, evolution 
run into reverse.     

Sandbags, stakes: make good.            
Parados or paradise?  
Doppelgänger, dirty word. Or worse.                              
.          
Pass the baccy, Tickler’s jam.  
Cram in foxhole, rat cell, sett.               
Budge up there! I’m finis-kaput.      

And then they’ll hear it, distal – 
the kick and buck 
of eighteen-pounders                  

where tracers zing,  
aut vincere sing,  red hail,  
aut mori...The after-lull is eerie.                                                                                                          

Tinnitus; thoughts snared.
Somewhere a groan 
in the grey-gilled air.         


.                    Gilbert – Gilbert Follett (Otterton) d. 1917;   parados – rear rim of trench ;   
.                    aut vincere aut mori – ‘victory or death’, shamefully still used

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***

Glenn Hubbard: Reinsertion

He just couldn’t make a go of it. 
Why? I’m not sure I know.
He lost two good friends. I know that.
He's with them in this photo.
They were strafed on the beach 
when they were waiting. 
Times it seemed he’d lost the power of speech.
Said nothing for days. You couldn’t reach him.
I think he might have been in love with this one.
Wasn’t he lovely? ...
It wasn’t that he was lonely after.
Well, I suppose he only had me and Mum, really.
You know he was at Monte Cassino? 
I think it affected his hearing.
But he told us next to nothing. 
Contadiiiiino. 
He taught me that word.
He liked the Italians. Said they were good people.
I remember one day he was sat crying. 
Left the Daily Herald lying open at the page.
How these Moroccans had raped Italian women.
The marocchinate, they called it, or something.
That film with Sophia Loren. It happens to them.
Now and again he’d have a good day.
Treat us to lunch at Lyons or 
arrive home with chocolates and nylons.
He’d talk about plans for a photography business.
Portraits. Weddings and christenings.
I loved listening to him when he was like that.
Next day he’d be sat there by the grate, listless,
just staring, the radio blaring or 
making that awful whistling noise.
I don’t think he’d even been listening to it.
Or I'd find him lying in bed.
Or hear him crying.
"Have you been crying?" I'd ask.
He'd say no. But I knew.
He was no good at lying.
Then one day …
Mum spent eight years looking for him,
specially when she knew she was dying.
He just couldn’t make a go of it.

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***

Carla Scarano D’Antonio: My father, back home

I prepared myself for your coming back in the evening
hungry and irritated
after a full day of work at Casal Bertone
with its dilapidated buildings and worn out people.

Your steps hit the marble floor resolute and implacable.
You had some home visits until late
your demanding patients always complaining,
taking their own advice, doing it their way.

Then something triggered your anger,
it fell on us hot and volatile,
unforeseeable like hail on a summer day.
Now I realise that it was only a phase

an interruption that did not exclude love.
But back then, your shouts pieced my guts.
I learned to forge an armour around my stomach
and keep still while the storm raged.


Carla Scarano D’Antonio: In the beginning
 
the rivers were of milk, wine, and honey
flowing and cascading,
and the lilies of the field didn’t bother
about spinning and clothing, or the birds
about sowing and gathering.
We added our work
toiling, growing and reaping,
accumulating, thriving and investing.
We produce and create incessantly,
get used to new things and think of other things –
insatiable, demanding visions of novelty.
Fields of wheat and corn stretch to the horizon,
toxic holes and quarries wound the land.
 

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***

Raymond Miller: Sowing and Reaping  
 
I’d turn right at the end of our garden path  
and hopscotch around bus stops and shops; 
the familiar world of numbered houses,    
a thousand makeshift football pitches  
and The Pillar of Fire Sunday School 
where I studied the science of sowing and reaping.  
Worcestershire was to the left, and on the crest  
of Egg Hill, a cluster of beeches, planted  
by Quakers, like a misshapen rodent balefully  
squinting at Balaam’s Wood, Frogmill Farm 
 
and next door to our fence, the field where I fed  
Jersey cows and watched one day as old man Harris  
shovelled cow-shit into a rusty barrow 
to ladle upon his vegetable patches;  
saw the farmer and tractor snake up the bushes,  
nostrils flaring with indignation,  
demanding the thief replace each cowpat 
or cough up appropriate compensation.  
Harris bent, broke, had some sort of stroke, 
his bucket and spade days were finished. 
 
The farmer retraced his tracks hard by the hedges, 
scowled at the newly built  motorway stretching 
between his farmhouse and the water-butt;  
heard the faint but regular whoosh and whoosh, 
the blur of vehicles North and South.  
Saw the scaffolds climb up, three eight-storey flats  
that painted long shadows over his pastures, 
so every morning the sun was in hiding 
behind Seaton, Taunton and Pershore Towers,  
each evening their windows omniscient gods.  
 
Cows no longer grazed and shat; the tractor sat idle,  
mechanical diggers gouged and spat  
the earth beaten and flat; concrete and tarmac grew 
in the aftermath, erasing the farmhouse and water-butt. 
It was hard to tell in the clamour and dust 
if the farmer escaped or if he’s still shut  
in that labyrinth of identical hutches,  
where uprooted families are carelessly planted,  
heedless of season, adaptation or climate 
and nobody bothers to pick up the dog-shit.  

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Robert Nisbet: The Garden 

This is our garden, and how glorious it is.
Broad Haven beach, the bay,
the turquoise drench of salt and water,
the sand’s grained gold.
Through North, to St. David’s, are the coves,
the yellow of the gorse, the birdcall.

Through to the East and onwards,
are the Brecon Beacons, the red kites soaring,
then Worcester’s orchards 
and the russet of the apple trees. 

Outside the garden gates, 
in more sulphurous regions,
are the serpents, shaping the product.
Girl’s hand on hip, the mood of half-consent.
The image, lens, suggestion.

Young Adam from the cricket club,
back in Broad Haven café, sees the girl,
the mannequin’s tempting pose.

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***

Keith Nunes: The model for a smile

The nude model stares out the window
At the young man who is coming for her
Her gushing smile is like the tide rushing into a bay  
The amateur artists remonstrate with her
‘We can’t have a smile’
‘No, no, no smile’

Her sweeping blue eyes graze them
Unsettle them  
They feel a slight crushing of ego
They paint on
Paint on a smile

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Martin Connolly: Ape
 
You gave me a picture of an ape, and told me
it was drawn from memory after a childhood toy but
when I looked at the ape it sat sad, sick, sick and blue,
like it knew the world would hurt its owner.
 
Days later you were in an ambulance on Albert Street, telling the crew
to take off your watches (you wore two) and give them to me
to keep safe, and they sit at my bedside, tick, tick,
and tick where no harm can come to them.
 
You are probably lying in your hospital bed in the Royal Free,
nurses at your blue and metal bed as you look at the ceiling,
thinking of Camden, of places, of people,
of home, of faces, drawn from memory.

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John Short: The Company Of Birds 

In those times
I committed many sins
now I don’t know
for which, to be exact, 
I’m accountable
but didn’t rate myself 
important enough 
to cause heartbreak.
I recall your face
as you emerged
from the old paper mill
in a mountain town
a breath from the border.
You’d meet me
when the church bells
clanged freedom
for our needle-carpet
alpine forest picnic
but today I walk alone
with this solitude
and the company of birds.
 

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Andrew Shields: The Cost of the Carpet

The molecules want to have free will, 
so they pretend they want 
what gravity wants.

My father used to say that I put too much
butter on my toast, so every time
I make toast, I think of him.

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***

Sally Michaelson: Righteous Amongst Nations

Adolf doesn’t like to be told what to do 
least of all, by the Gestapo.

In his circus, race and religion 
are smoke and mirrors –

When a tightrope walker 
asks why he is hiding Jews

he gives him a tongue lashing 
and sends him packing.

After the war, at a lavish ceremony 
he receives a gold medal

rom the Israeli Ambassador 
but doesn’t like to be told

to make a speech on the podium 
it seems a bit of a circus.

The Lorch Family ran a respected Jewish circus which flourished in Germany
until the rise of National Socialism. Irene Danner, an acrobat from the Lorch
family, was hidden in plain sight by circus owner Adolf Althoff. He allowed her
to perform with the Bento Clowns. Thanks to the bravery of Adolf Althoff and
Mohamed Sahraoui, Irene and her family survived the Holocaust. Their story
inspired me to write a sequence of poems about the Lorch Family. They can
be found on my website at Sallymichaelson.com

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***

R M Aguilar is a London-based poet whose work has featured in South Bank Poetry Magazine

Murray Bodo is an American Franciscan Friar.  He has published eight volumes of poetry, the latest of which is Teaching the Soul to Speak, Tau Publishing, 2020.  In May, 2021, Franciscan Media will release his new book, Nourishing Love: A Franciscan Celebration of Mary

Rachel Burns’ debut pamphlet, A Girl in a Blue Dress, is published by Vane Women Press.  She is recently published in Butcher’s Dog, Fragmented Voices, The Poetry Village and The Blue Nib. Her poem, Pegs was selected for The Poetry Archive, Wordview, 2020.

Robert Cole was born in London & has lived in India, Mexico & France. His poetry is published in literary magazines & journals the UK & USA, including Ambit, Gargoyle, New Statesman, London Magazine & The Observer. His work has been anthologised in the PBS anthology 2 (edited by Anne Stevenson); Klaonica (Bloodaxe), Veins of Gold (University of Salzburg), March Hares’(Fine Madness), Beyond Bedlam (Anvil), Spoils (Smith’s Doorstop), as day begins’(Wivenhoe Books), New Poetry 2018 (edited by Aria Ligi). Robert has seven collections and has read at Lauderdale House, French House in Soho & Shakespeare & Company in Paris. He edited Chimera for ten years.

Martin Oliver Connolly is a consultant, writer and governor with the Royal Free Hospital in London. He is from Ireland but was made in Taiwan, where he lived with his dog Brandy from 2008 to 2011, before they returned to Ireland, changed utterly.

Carla Scarano D’Antonio lives in Surrey with her family. She obtained her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in various magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020. She is currently working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading.
http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/  http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/

Briege Duffaud is Northern Irish but has spent most of her life in France and England. She has written novels and short stories and has had poetry in The Spectator, Poetry Ireland Review, French Literary Review, Acumen, Orbis and London Grip

Josh Ekroy lives in London. His collection Ways To Build A Roadblock is published by Nine Arches Press. His poems have appeared in Best of British Poetry (Salt) and The forward Anthology. 

 Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. As a poet and novelist, he has been publishing his writing since 1972 in various literary magazines.
His web page is https://rgerryfabian.wordpress.com 

 David Flynn was born in the textile mill company town of Bemis, TN.  His jobs have included newspaper reporter, magazine editor and university teacher.  He has five degrees and is both a Fulbright Senior Scholar and a Fulbright Senior Specialist with a recent grant in Indonesia.  His literary publications total more than two hundred.  He lives in Nashville, TN, and currently teaches at Tennessee State University. 

John Freeman’s most recent books are Strata Smith and the Anthropocene (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press) and What Possessed Me (Worple Press) which won the Roland Mathias Award in 2017. He won the Bridport prize in 2018.

Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, England, where he still lives and works. He co-edited the Alan Sillitoe tribute anthology More Raw Material (Lucifer Press) and has published two collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with a third due for publication later this year. 

 a Post Card to‘, a collaboration between Stuart Henson and John Greening is published this month by Red Squirrel Press.stuarthenson.co.uk

Glenn Hubbard lives in Madrid and has been writing poetry since 2013. This year he won the 40 Word Poem Competition in the Bangor Literary Journal. He owes a great deal to the late R.F.Langley and loves to listen to W.S. Graham’s The Nightfishing

Jan Hutchison is a New Zealand poet and has written four collections including ‘Kinds of Hunger’. She lives in Auckland close to kauri and native forests.

Christopher M James is a British/French poet and a retired HR professional who lives near Paris. He has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, and has won a number of prizes (Sentinel, Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Wirral, Maria Edgeworth, Earlyworks …). He is also a musician, a translator, and some would say, a failed journalist

Kurt Luchs (kurtluchs.com) has poems published or forthcming in Antiphon, Into the Void, and La Piccioletta Barca. He won the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest, and has written humor for the New Yorker, the Onion and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. His books include a humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny), and a poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other. His first full-length poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up, is forthcoming from Sagging Meniscus Press.

Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator living in the UK and Italy. Publications of her poetry and recent translations from Italian include Isabella (2019); Liminal (2020) both by Smokestack Books, What they say in Avenale, (IDP 2014); and forthcoming The Creek Men (Knives, Forks & Spoons 2020/21).

Sally Michaelson is a retired conference interpreter in Brussels. Her poems have been published in The High Window, The Lake, IS&T; Algebra of Owls, Squawk Back, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Seventh Quarry, Lighthouse, and Hevria.

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

Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two youngish children. He has recently had poems published in Ink Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin and Obsessed with Pipework.  

Mary Mulholland’s poem have been featured in many journals and anthologies, most recently, Ambit, Finished Creatures, Under the Radar, and her poems have been mentioned in many prizes,. Most recently commended in Winchester Prize, Artylst, a winner of the Poetry Society Members’ Competitions ‘Vision’, shortlisted in Trim, Buzzwords and Aesthetica. She founded Red Door Poets and is an editor of The Alchemy Spoon. www.marymulholland.co.uk  @marymulhol

 Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely in Britain and the USA, where he has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Keith Nunes (Aotearoa/New Zealand) was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2019 and the Pushcart Prize, and he won the 2017 Flash Frontier Short Fiction Award. He’s had poetry, fiction, haiku and visuals published around the globe. He creates to stay sane.

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

 Colin Pink’s poems have appeared in a wide range of literary magazines such as Poetry Ireland Review, Acumen, South Bank Poetry, Magma, Under the Radar and Poetry News and online at The High Window, Ink Sweat & Tears, Blue Nib, and Ekphrastic Review. He has published two poetry collections: Acrobats of Sound, 2016 from Poetry Salzburg Press and The Ventriloquist Dummy’s Lament, 2019 from Against the Grain Press

Mat Riches is ITV’s poet-in-residence (They don’t know this). His work’s been in Dream Catcher, Firth, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg, Under The Radar, South, Orbis, Finished Creatures, Dreich, Fenland Poetry Journal, Wild Court, And Other Poems and Obsessed With Pipework.  He co-runs the Rogue Strands poetry evenings and has a pamphlet due out from Red Squirrel Press in 2023.

 Rabia Shaheen is from Lahore, Pakistan and was born in 1997. Currently, she is completing an M.Phil. degree in English Literature from University of the Punjab. 

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

 John Short lives near Liverpool and is a member of Liver Bards. His poetry has appeared in magazines around the world in Spain, France, Austria, Singapore, Nigeria, Ireland, the USA, Canada and Britain. His pamphlet Unknown Territory (Black Light Engine Room) and full collection Those Ghosts (Beaten Track Publishing) came out in 2020.

Fiona Sinclair’s new collection Greedy Cow will be published by Smokestack in August 2021

 Christopher Stephen Soden received his MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2005. His collection: Closer was released by Rebel Satori – QueerMojo in June of 2011. He teaches literature, genre, craft, and coordinates poetry workshops. He writes drama and critiques local theatre for his column at sharpcritic.com. His work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Rattle, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Sentence, Glitterwolf, Collective Brightness, A Face to Meet the Faces, The Texas Observer and Windy City Review. 

 Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won prizes. His collections are This Patter of Traces (Oversteps Books, 2014) and Mapping (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).

 Stella Wulf has a deep love of the natural world and a passion for politics, and the human condition—themes that she explores in her poetry. Her first pamphlet, After Eden, was published in 2018, and A Spell In The Woods, an illustrated chapbook, is forthcoming with Fair Acre Press in February 2021

Lynne Wycherley lives in a shifting landscape in the West Country and has long been inspired by the interplay of land, light, history, and our souls. Her  new collection Brooksong and Shadows is due from Shoestring Press in early summer.