Cynara scalymus. – Clair Chilvers

Cynara scalymus.

Incongruous in a herbaceous border
an artichoke stands proudly.
The cruel thistle leaves pale green
against the dark, damp, Devon soil
the stem sturdy, woody
the globes with their triangular petals
densely packed.
A cook would say that it had gone to seed.
But no, the purple flower, spiky
as a punk’s haircut,
is a wonder for a day or two
until it darkens and dies back
to a quieter shape.

Too late to pluck these globes to eat.
I imagine boiling them for twenty minutes
dipping each leaf in melted butter
my teeth stripping off the inner softness
Then saving the best ‘til last
cutting out the soft spikes from the heart
to eat the tender flesh.

 

Clair Chilvers started writing poetry after she retired. She was a cancer scientist and latterly a civil servant. She has published a pamphlet – Pilgrimage. Anna Saunders (founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival) describes her work as ‘powerful and moving’.

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Evolution – Hannah Linden

Evolution

There, tears come
but not for the past.

Cry for the future
because what else
are eyes for in this world?

………..We apologise but must interrupt this poem to mine the next couple of
………..stanzas for a poem on climate change. They were the strongest verses
………..and this poem may seem empty as a result but we can only apologise
………..and hope you got your basic needs met. We hope you will agree that
………..poems on climate change must take precedence in these troubled
………..times. Please feel free to insert a couple of verses from a poet of your
………..choice to fill the gap. Please try Google for possible alternatives.

Someone talks on the radio
about a new theory of how
humans developed,
not,

climbing down from the trees
to hunt, but wading into water,
waist-deep, needing to stand
two-footed, tall, dipping down
for molluscs and sea-cucumbers,
needing to shed their fur coats
and maybe,

there was a whoop when all that weight
of the still-full world could lay itself
down and be carried by water.

 

Hannah Linden is published widely, most recently with Magma, Lighthouse, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry and the Humanagerie Anthology, as well as on several online webzines. She is working towards her first collection. Twitter: @hannahl1n

But – S. A. Leavesley

But

The edge isn’t just the bridge, cliff,
embankment, train track, that last…

It’s trying to hindsight the line where
‘going to’ would become gone.

Should I have known, did I miss
the signs, why didn’t I guess?

Each question is a guilted knife
sharp against my mind’s wrist.

Invisible lines cut: he’s on the edge,
but all of us are falling.

 

S.A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, photographer, editor. Her latest books are: ‘How to Grow Matches’ (Against The Grain Press) and ‘plenty-fish’ (Nine Arches Press), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. Her website is at http://www.sarah-james.co.uk.

Rear Facing – Angi Holden

Rear Facing 

In the crowded carriage
I shrink into the window seat,
the sun in my eyes.
There’s standing room only;
passengers sway in the aisles.
I recall travelling as a child,
anxious to look forward,
to see where we were going.
Now I am content
to meet each sudden moment
as it unfurls, becomes clear,
fades to a pinprick.

 

Angi Holden writes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions. Her work explores family history and personal experience. Spools of Thread – winner of the Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize – was published in February 2018.

 

Featured Publication – The Healing Next Time by Roy McFarlane

Our featured publication for December is The Healing Next Time by Roy McFarlane, published by Nine Arches Press.

Roy McFarlane’s second poetry collection, The Healing Next Time, is a timely and unparalleled book of interwoven sequences on institutional racism, deaths in custody and of a life story set against the ever-changing backdrop of Birmingham at the turn of the millennium. Here forms a potent and resolute narrative in lyrical and multidimensional poems which refuse to look the other way or accept the whitewashed version of events.

‘Claudia Rankine’s ‘Citizen’ contains the following key exchange from a visit to the UK: “Will you write about Duggan? The man wants to know. Why don’t you?” Few rose to this challenge but Roy McFarlane’s distinguished new collection The Healing Next Time takes on a whole history of official abuse and killing here with powerful and technically various poetry. McFarlane traces our hostile environment for new citizens, particularly those of colour, into some ugly corners, but it is a book of great love too, even when he’s dancing with ghosts, as he does here in a wonderful poem of that name. I cannot recommend The Healing Next Time enough.’  Ian Duhig

‘The American poet Claudia Rankine has written: ‘poetry has no investment in anything besides openness. It’s notarguing a point. It’s creating an environment.’ Rankine is one of the presiding spirits of Roy McFarlane’s second collection, The Healing Next Time. The environment he creates is one where the lyric thrives, but in audacious and bold forms crucial for a new brand of poetry. McFarlane’s poems celebrate who he is and where he’s from, never forgetting the sorrow and anger that accompanies what it means to be black and British today. Most powerful is a sequence of modern sonnets that track the terrible roll call of wrongful deaths in custody – moving and graceful memorials to ordinary men and women. His ‘openness’, to quote Rankine, comes from his honesty, his love for humanity and his outrage at injustice – this is an essential book for our times.’ Tamar Yoseloff

TheHealingNextTimeCover

 

1999 – Parts of a broken man

………………….the more a man has the more a man wants
……………………………………………………………………– Paul Muldoon

i.
On Sunday, the preacher’s speaking of revelation and repentance,
the end of the world is on the lips of news reporters.
Cults are spreading and in the basement of a computer department
they’re preparing for the invasion of the millennium bug –
…………………………………………we watch for the skies and miss the stones at our feet.

*

The family man is shooting a basketball, graceful
in motion and everybody’s watching the flight of the ball
reaching its zenith, then beginning to fall. All things fall;
summer rain, falling from grace, the fallout
…………………………………………….of a sordid affair; the ball’s falling.

*

Breadfruit, soursap, plantain. A Saturday morning ritual,
roles changed, the son takes his mother to a Caribbean stall
in Bilston market. She’s not as strong as she used to be,
her breathing laboured, but she snaps the heads, digs out the eyes,
……………………………………………….yellow yam, sweet potato, dasheen.

*

A daughter will be born soon, an olive branch
for the family man treading water after storms ceased.

ii.
A nation hears no evil, sees no evil, speaks no evil. A son’s blood,
a father’s sweat and mother’s tears will lead a retired judge,
and three diverse men to inquire in towns and cities
of the racism that kills. And the rocks will hear and rivers speak
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\………………………………of the death of Stephen Lawrence.

*

After hearing of the death of Grover Washington Jr,
the family man’s falling asleep with his Walkman headphones;
between winelight and come morning, memories are awakened,
whirl of cassette tapes beginning the re-wind of illicit love:
…………………………………………….just the two of us building castles in the sky.

*

Late meeting, lips kissing, hands feeling, fingers…
Her halter-neck top has been drawn over her head,
the night air touching her breasts, powdered
with a flurry of goosebumps, he’s sucking greedily
……………………………………………….and it all begins again.

*

A mother’s sharing roast breadfruit, ackee and saltfish
with a warning: please, set your house in order.

iii.
There are no purple skies but the prophet Prince lives
to see his words come alive, as people party like it’s 1999.
We could die any day. James Byrd Jr died the year before;
lynching-by-dragging, hate driving for miles in a pick-up-truck,
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,……………….,……….driving from century to century.

*

He’s speaking at public inquiries, tongue heavy with injustice,
teeth grinding to the sound of another death in custody.
There’s a bitter taste he needs something sweet; later in a private place
her labia moistened by his tongue, she guides his erection deep
……………………………………………..and voices are lost in each other’s mouths.

*

He’s singing gospels, praying repentance into the early morning,
following traditions from sunny islands, avoiding the tears of his wife,
who’s dreaming of impending sorrows. The Millennium arrived
drunk with Hogmanay, midnight mass, Kwanzaa blessings and Prince
………………………………………………alighted from the heavens in a purple robe.

*

A new job, but the more a man has the more a man wants.
He leaves doors unclosed, doors that ache in the wind.

 

 

Their hands

Trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people
All the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations
………………………………………………………………..
For My People – Margaret Walker

Their hands loved and caressed, cajoled the fears out of lonely nights,
………….fed men with hope and washed the indignity off their faces
………….and in the cold morning would unwrap themselves from men
………….who’d venture another day into fogs of uncertainties.

Their hands worked too. Worked in mills and factories,
………….mopped floors, fed people, cut cords of the new born
…………..worked day and night for pay packets that weighed
…………..less than those called Mary and Jane.

Their hands knew change, change in their bodies, seasons
………….of blood that ceased, the beginning of life and in those times
………….found God, lost God, loved God, became gods bringing life
………….into this world and sometimes cried in the twilight of stillbirth.

Their hands have brushed the dust of hate from paths and doorsteps
………….scrubbed hallways clean of the ignorance of others but sometimes
………….bitter blood seeps from outside and anger boils over from generation
………….to generation turning hands into clenched rage on the eve of riots.

Their hands have lost the gloss of youth, are loose with veins like
…………tree roots bursting to the surface, some creaking painfully,
………….some twisted, knuckles thickened, others shaking violently,
………….others holding on to memories in the dirges of dust to dust.

Their hands are the hands of women who loved freedom. Hands
………….that tried to make a new world from patchwork quilts
………….soft enough to lay down and rest on, large enough to cover
………….all the people and strong enough to hold us all together.

 

 

A British thing to do

standing in queues; queues
appear out of nowhere
and disappear; queues
are filled with weathers
and gossip; queues bulge
ahead with best mates
and family; queues will have
the annoying kid screaming
and twisting; queues
will be colored with tuts
and intakes of frustration
and always I’m running late
conversations on mobiles.
Queues are always held up
by the man with change
scattered across the counter
or the woman with a list
of needs and one last
thought to share. Queues
may have the occasional
lovers lost in each other
or the lover walking away
lost in disbelief. Queues
of apologies of I’ll be quick
and the one behind shouting
what the hell is holding up this line?
Queues that begin on Boxing
Day and end on the opening
of New Year Sales; queues
inside and outside buildings,
straight around corners.
And there’s always is this
why we fought two bloody
world wars, to be over-
run by bloody foreigners?

 

Previous publication credits are Somewhere to keep the rain (Winchester Poetry Festival 2017) Freedom in the City National Poetry Day (Writing West Midlands 2017) and Why Poetry? Lunar Poetry Podcast (Verve Poetry Press 2018), respectively

 

 

Roy McFarlane was born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage and has spent most of his years living in Wolverhampton. He has held the role of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate and Starbucks’ Poet in Residence, and is presently the Birmingham & Midland Institute’s Poet in Residence. Roy’s writing has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe, 2012), Filigree (Peepal Tree, 2018) and he is the editor of Celebrate Wha? Ten Black British Poets from the Midlands (Smokestack, 2011). His first full collection of poems, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.

The Healing Next Time is available to purchase from the Nine Arches Press website.

Neighbourhood Watch – Paul Waring

Neighbourhood Watch

I’m not sure I should be telling you
but the man opposite comes and goes
at unsocial hours. Heavy-set, head-down
in hoodie and trainers, our eyes never
meet. And I’ve yet to see him in company
of elderly mother, girl or boyfriend.

Possibly a loner who doesn’t prefer a kill
to a kiss; isn’t a blood-mad butcher
on abattoir streets. For all I know
on-call electrician or night shift carer
who happens to drive a white van —
one I’ve had no opportunity to inspect

for tell-tale signs: knife, rope, tape or
DNA-trace mattress. And should it turn out
he has no dark side, I’d hate to be labelled
warped — Neighbourhood Watch peddler
of malicious gossip. Until I know more,
maybe best kept between ourselves.

 

 

Paul Waring, a clinical psychologist, once designed menswear and sang in Liverpool bands. Hispoems have appeared or are forthcoming at Prole, Clear Poetry, Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, Ofi Press, High Window, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Riggwelter and others.
Twitter: @drpaulwaring
Blog: https://waringwords.wordpress.com

When all the children left – Michelle Diaz

When all the children left

it was a hungry house.

In its stomach, a mother,
with red eyes and a bottle.

Once it was a full house,
a Woman who Lived in a Shoe house,
sides achy with shrieks and guffaws.

Then it became a sad house,
A Mum lies dead on the sofa house.

And all the King’s horses
and all the starched policemen

could not find words
to break it to the children.

 

Michelle Diaz has been published in many magazines, both in print and online, including Prole, Strix, Picaroon, Amaryllis and Here Comes Everyone. She lives in the wonderfully whacky town of Glastonbury. Without poetry her soul would be very hungry.

In flight – Fiona Cartwright

In flight

My dad pushes thumb and forefinger
into the sides of the cat’s jaws,

squeezes them open. Feathers fall.
Briefly, he admires the stealth of it;

the cat’s open-mouthed leap
into a constellation of swifts

that never earths
onto unbalanced feet –

one bird caught from all those
hurtling through the air like thrown stars –

then he opens the nest of his hands,
empties the bird into the dark

where its own gravity pulls it upwards.
My dad does not tell me

that he is a god to birds, their resurrector
until years later

and even then
he treats it as inconsequential.

 

Fiona Cartwright’s poetry has appeared in various places, including MslexiaEnvoi, Interpreter’s House and Under the Radar. She lives near London with her husband and daughters, and works as a ecological researcher.

If These Walls Could Talk This Is What They Would Say. – Kathryn Metcalfe

If These Walls Could Talk This Is What They Would Say.

This tower house. You will dream
of this tower house. Medieval
and gothic at the same time,
built from the reddest sandstone
tinged and mellowed by centuries
of sunsets.

So old it remembers
courtly love.
Woo it from a distance,
walk past fields of corn, rippling
blonde in the breeze while sunlight
stipples the metalled road beneath
your feet,
peer through the gap
the trees have left,
spy a rose hued wall, a crow stepped
gable, chimney stacks.

Places can haunt people.
The curve of banister beneath
your hand,
breathe in the odour of bees wax
polish on old wood and you’re
back there.

This tower house. You will return
to this tower house, when sleep
proving stubborn, will not come.
Standing tall in your memory
it waits at the end of each drive way
you walk along.

 

Kathryn Metcalfe is a published poet from Renfrewshire. She is one of the Mill Girl Poets who wrote and performed their stage show ‘Mill Girls on Tour’ about the heritage and lives of Paisley thread mill workers. She runs a monthly open mic for local poets.

Goshute Peak – Myfanwy Fox

Goshute Peak

Lie beside me in this wild darkness;
kiss and wish upon each shooting star,
each meteoric icy speck flaring
touch against our thermosphere.

We’re a mile above that sagebrush
saltpan desert. Bonneville’s
scorpion-skittered flats seem further
than the Milky Way’s gauze spiral;
further even than those most distant
supernovae whose photons set out
before eyes evolved.

Somewhere down in sweating
Salt Lake City DNA is exchanged
for cash beneath brazen signs
exciting rare and noble gases
spilled by the Big Bang.
Here, high constellations arc
across love’s momentary infinite.

 

Myfanwy Fox is a writer based in Malvern. In a previous existence she was a biologist. Her poems have been published in many journals and anthologies and enjoys performance as well as page poetry.

https://myfanwyfox.wordpress.com/