The Deadest – Karen Little (kazvina)

The Deadest

I appreciate truth and new beginnings; I’m happy
to go off the rails. I seldom treat myself
to the hard stuff, but let mundane tasks pile up
while writing or drawing over midday pints
of Long Man, Long Blonde; light golden hops.

I’m in the deadest pub; three pints down. At the next
table she unfurls, stretches towards me; slides onto
the seat opposite mine. I shuffle salt and pepper like an
incompetent magician, consider how long it’s been since
I was seduced by a woman. I want to speed towards

the finish line, but she makes every word a luxury. In my
head glitter balls spin, platform shoes stomp
the night away in an outbreak of seventies
flares and velvet jackets. I never expected love letters,
just letters of resignation and exasperation at my greed.

 

Karen Little (kazvina) has exhibited her art internationally, and is widely published as a writer in the UK and further afield. Her latest publication is the illustrated pamphlet, Dissecting an Artist (2019) with The Black Light Engine Room Press.

Quantum Sheep – Emma Simon

Quantum Sheep

We’re the uncounted ones, grazing
ever expanding fields of dark matter
night after night.

Woolly ruminants. We chew the cud
of dreams, regurgitate all sense and logic
within our various stomachs.

Lozenge-like eyes that slowly blink.
Fleeces nebulous as vapour in a cloud,
our knees are pretty springy.

Sheep merges into sheep, huddled
in sleepless flocks through sleet, through fog.
Always on the verge of being lost.

We follow one another over fences,
wave after wave of us, sub particles
of imagination, waiting to be discovered.

 

Emma Simon’s has written two pamphlets, Dragonish, which was published by The Emma Press in 2017, and The Odds, which will be published by Smith Doorstop in early 2020. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines and she has won both the Prole Laureate and Ver Poets prize.
She can be found @SimpleSimonEmma on Twitter

Curtains – Julian Dobson

Curtains

Come over, William, you should take a gander
at my curtains. Check out their thinning
slightly off the centre; the way they fail
to join up in the middle; their boring grey-green
pattern even duller since they’ve hung there
nigh on twenty years. I know your magic

with the fabric. I’ve seen your curling leaves,
unfurling flowers, your cheeky strawberry thief.
I’ve seen the prices they command. So much
for socialism: I’ve been priced out. But
I can do appreciation. So, comrade – if I may –
could you pop over, sample my sloe gin, bring

some news from nowhere? I’m thinking you can help,
because I want to make this room a place
of wonder. Something a visitor might see
and be transported, but not envious. Stirring
like a banner, but more subtle. Earthier, more rooted.
I’m imagining borlotti beans. Let them inspire you.

 

Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield. His poems have appeared in publications including Magma, Under the Radar, and Acumen, and on a bus in Guernsey.

Leveret – Jonathan Humble

Leveret (after Carolyn Jess-Cooke)

Forty weeks I wondered what would happen.
Bought a tiny cardigan while waiting,
embroidered with some meadow hares in sunshine
and wee blue shoes that you would never wear.

With little witchy hand you grasped my finger,
your body wrapped in heirloom knitted cloth,
each breath I watched and worried in the pauses
and worried as within the sling I held you.

The dandelions spoke your name in secret,
it drifted with the seeds upon a breeze
to leverets that hid among the sweet grass
who saved a place of safety from the foxes.

While in the meadow, hares lay still and quiet,
I walked abroad among a crowd of strangers,
each eye with threat or hidden malice watching,
and as you slept, I’d slay the beasts and dragons.

I walked on broken glass, endured the lightning
and carried you one last time in the autumn,
until with curtains closed amid the silence,
I placed the hares and wee blue shoes in cotton.

 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. His poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and other publications online and in print. A collection of his work, Fledge, will be published by Maytree Press in the summer of 2020

 

 

This is War – Firth of Forth 1942 – Maureen Weldon

This is War – Firth of Forth 1942

They have gone downstairs for dinner.
She peels tiny strips of wallpaper.
Returning they are not pleased.

Tomorrow he must board a waiting troopship,
cannot tell his wife where to.
This is war.

On the train,
her mother cries silent tears
but the child is happy.

 

Maureen Weldon represented Wales at Ukraine’s 2014 Terra Poetica. Publications include, Crannog, Poetry Scotland, Ink Sweat & Tears, Vsesvit, Open Mouse. 2017 her poem Midnight Robin, featured by Second Light Live. 2020 Red Squirrel Press to publisher her a pamphlet.

Floris Candle – Pippa Little

Floris Candle
 
The Christmas before she leaves home
I appear in the hall baring my single drop of light,
dissolve in warm oils from the south.
I disturb the cold, still air of that house
with my almost imperceptible breathing:
rosy, with undertones of musk, oud, chypre.
Though I am afraid of the dark I prefer it,
soft pressure I can push against, resist.
I rouse in her strange worlds half-formed
but the word I frame for her, in ripples
around the wick, is go. She doesn’t know yet
how to be womanly: she will learn.
Time is falling away fine as snow.
In three winters her grandmother will be gone.

 

Pippa Little is a poet, mentor and workshop facilitator. Overwintering (Carcanet) came
out in 2012 , Twist (Arc) in 2018: a third collection is forthcoming. She works for The Royal Literary Fund at Newcastle University and lives in Northumberland.

Haulm and Shaw – Imogen Forster

Haulm and Shaw

Words I have known since I was
a child, since whenever it was
that we ceased to be country people, lost
our skin-sense of times for planting,
our almanac of daylight and weather.

But grubbing up with my bare
fingers my small crop of potatoes
I claim ownership, the right to eat
and to use what else will rot down
to give us another year’s nourishment.

Now the bed’s turned, raked, friable
earth ready again for seeding, ripe
with worm-life. It could be a grave,
tidy, carefully tended, hospitable
to generation, to generations.

 

Imogen Forster went back to writing poems seven years ago, after being a prose-writer. A couple of years ago she completed the MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University. She lives in Edinburgh and tweets as @ForsterImogen.

Broken – Sarah J Bryson

Broken

I stop as I feel the phone vibrate in my pocket
release my left hand from its glove by biting
the finger tip. I walk slowly towards
the Institute of Mathematics. Underfoot
the Penrose Paving glints with frost.

The sun is low and there is a ghostly moon –
it floats, paper thin, as if lit from behind.
Clouds gather in the fading sky.
It may yet snow, I think.
It may yet snow.

My reflection in the glass ahead is multi-edged.
My breath turns to vapour, white, about my head.
The text message is brief: tells me
get home, soon.

At the foot of the double doors in front of me
a brown feathered bird. Beautiful.
Not moving.

 

Sarah is a writer of poetry and prose, a nurse and a keen amateur photographer. She is interested in words, words for well being, people and nature and the connections between these aspects of her life.

Featured Publication – A Man’s House Catches Fire by Tom Sastry

Our featured publication for March is A Man’s House Catches Fire by Tom Sastry, published by Nine Arches Press.

What to do when everything goes up in flames? Summon up A Man’s House Catches Fire, Tom Sastry’s debut collection of poetry with all its satirical and hurt-quenching power; here are nightmares and fairytales, museums full of regret, misenchantments and magic for dark times.

Whilst the accelerants of complicity and violence seep from these exacting poems Sastry’s wit and stoicism slake the bonfire of modern troubles. They defiantly ask us: why do “the great marquees of England” stand empty? How old is your heart? Why aren’t we listening to the sea and what it has to say? Funny, marvellously frank and often courageous, A Man’s House Catches Fire urges us to take a long hard look into the flames and avert the disasters of the heart, home and nations that threaten to befall us all.

Tom Sastry is a magician of deadpan. He’s kind of like if the Atlantic Ocean had a laugh track. Terrifying and hypnotic but also desperately funny. This collection is generous in both its clarity and mystery. Sastry’s lines about boredom and despair have the same counter-intuitive lightness and warmth as Berryman. His poems contradict each other, line by line. They have humour, vulnerability and anger in all the wrong places. His writing is so good it doesn’t even sound like it’s been written at all, and if you don’t think that’s a compliment, you’re trying too hard. And who doesn’t love a burning house?‘ Hera Lindsay Bird

AMCHF cover

 

A man’s house catches fire

I was suddenly uncomfortably hot
but I have always had these surges, and at first
I thought the smell of smoke
was just me going off my head

which I have learnt to expect.
I closed the curtains, undressed
turned the heating off and lay
in the last of my stillness

watching the shadow of a flame
playing on the wall
until the shadow reddened
and I could see no way out.

It’s been a month now
with the fire still raging
and me not dead
and no help coming

so today I stepped outside
smelling more than ever of myself.
My oldest friend was passing.
She said Is it that time?
 
Are the houses of men burning too?
I said You’re mistaken.
Nothing is burning.
and I stepped back into my house.
 
Commended in 2018 Bristol Poetry Prize and previously published on the Poetry Can website.

 

Thirty-two lines on loss

Everywhere, they are selling:
the sun in orange juice; the sex
in perfume; thirty pence from a box
of fishfingers, tasting of sea. I lost

my glasses. I left them on the table
in the café because I was tired of looking
at billboards and wanted some thoughts
of my own and because I liked the fog of it

but when I went to leave, they were gone.
It was Sunday and the opticians
were closed. I soon realised the world
is full of monsters travelling too fast.

One of these is time. I spent a lot of time sitting that day.
I drank a lot of coffee because that is what I do
when I sit. Perhaps I drank too much.
I did a lot of thinking

and I wanted it to last longer. But the sun set
and the sun rose and I called in sick
and got some new glasses. They filmed me
in the frames. I looked like a total dick

staring straight ahead like the world’s
toothiest convict. You always do.
You accept it. They said it would take an hour
to make them up, so I went out

into the fog and found a café. I just killed time
and checked my phone. When I went to go
I couldn’t get up. My body was a sandbag.
I cried like a doll. I must have really hated the idea

of functioning again. I hated it so much.
I hated it so much that for a moment
the surprise of how much I hated it
stopped everything, even the hate.
 
First published in the pamphlet Complicity (smith/doorstop, 2016)

 

Without the knowledge of her superiors

The bird, stiff, pinched between finger and thumb
drops into the food waste.

Somewhere, in the parliament of your conscience
a spokesman for a party

which denies direct links to your cat
calls it A tragedy.

At the next blink, you remember the eye,
tilted to meet yours by the neck’s unfortunate curve.

It was yellow-green, the colour of young wine.
Not beady, just a bead.

The feathers you sweep deny gravity.
They ride on a carpet of your breath

and settle in the unreachable corners of your day.
At the foot of the stairs, where she left the spoil,

the culprit waits. You call her by name.
She howls like a bereaved lover. You are loyal.

Whatever is said, you will not give her up.
At least this is nature, not death

machined into a packet. You tell her
to lie low for a few days. She yawns,

showing the depths of her appetite,
her boastful teeth. She remains capable.
  
Previously published in Prole

 

In Spring we open, like terrifying flowers

I want wild light without people.
I want to escape the places roads pass through.

I want to wake in a forgetful stupor
and fill my empty head with new and reckless thoughts.

When I return to the city
I want people to see me and call my name, ask where I’ve been.

I am writing this in the bathroom because I can’t face saying
that my love is hungrier than I ever told you
in case you say the same
and I am smaller than the ambition of your year.

 

Tom Sastry was chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one of the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets. His resulting pamphlet Complicity was a Poetry School Book of the Year and a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. He is the co-editor with Suzannah Evans of Everything That Can Happen, a poetry anthology about the future published by The Emma Press. This is his first full collection.  An accomplished reader and performer, Tom has a growing reputation as a spoken word artist. A book of his performance poems will be published by Burning Eye Books in 2020.

A Man’s House Catches Fire is available from the Nine Arches Press website.

 

 

The making of gritstone – Julian Dobson

The making of gritstone

What is this rock but sand? Stuff
that escapes from fingers, is only held
in handfuls. See it shift as slow tides
wash and swish through centuries.

Get a grip. You try. Wet, it clods, then
crumbles. Dry, it runs as water.
Leave it be. Let it rest, let weight
of earth compress it. Wait.

Return. Inland, it rises, scarps, nudges
you to edges. A place to stand. Its surface
clings your palms, your toes, your elbows
feel its friction. Find a fold, a kink,

a space to claw at. The certainty
of weathered sediment, of patience.
Trust the way it scours and scores
the skin: your hold, your faith, your rock.

 

Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield. His poems have appeared in publications including Magma, Under the Radar, and Acumen, and on a bus in Guernsey.