The Quilt with 598 Squares – Emma Lee

The Quilt with 598 Squares

Mayurathy Perinpamoorihy, Amandeep Kaur Hothi, Helen Skudder, Anita Harris,
Agnieszka Dziegielewska, Sandra Boakes, Penny Ann Taylor, Raheela Imran,

Sylvia Rowley-Bailey is stitched in pink beads
on Laura Ashley-style fabric. She was sitting
at her computer when found with twenty-three
knife wounds, deemed only worth five years
because she “nagged” her partner and murderer.

Laura Wilson, Kerry Smith, Claire Parrish, Hollie Gazzard, Gail Lucas,
Camille Mathurasingh, Natasha Trevis, Carol French, Rachael Slack, Victoria Rose

A gold crescent moon and stars adorn a navy patch
for a teacher and author, Julie Ann Semper.
Her boyfriend was “too anxious” to attend court.
The judge warned he’d enter
a guilty plea and try him in his absence.

Kayleigh Palmer, Yvonne Davies, Mariam Mohdaqi, Kate McHugh, Karren Martin,
Paula Newman, Annie Beaver, Desirie Thomas, Eystna Blunnie, Sally Harrison

“This was an isolated incident,” say the police.
Neighbours and colleagues say
he “was hard-working, loving dedicated”
and he “should not be remembered
for his actions on that day.”

Nazia Aktar, Taylor Burrows, Sally Cox…
What were their stories?
Cerys Yemm, Farkhanda Younis, Svetlana Zolotovska.
Who speaks for those whose voices were murdered?

 

(The Women’s Quilt, during 2009-2015, 598 women were killed by a current or former
partner. Full list of names available at www.femicidecensus.org.uk)

Emma Lee’s most recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015), reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.

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Flatpack – Neil Elder

Flatpack

My flatpack life has started to take shape,
though it looks nothing like the picture on the box.
The instructions are just diagrams
that make no sense, whichever way I hold the page.
Friends suggest I start again,
rubberneckers laugh.

But it functions, it stands up.
I don’t care if Tab B will not insert;
I’ve learnt the ways to improvise.

 

Neil Elder’s ‘Codes of Conduct’ was published by Cinnamon Press who also bring his debut collection, ‘The Space Between Us’, in 2018.   ‘Being Present’, a chapbook, was published by the Black Light Engine Room Press at the end of 2017.

Neil occasionally blogs at https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @Eldersville

Featured Publication – In the Curator’s Hands by Abegail Morley

Our featured publication for May is In the Curator’s Hands by Abegail Morley, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

In this latest work, Abegail Morley takes on the voices of books, paper, documents, photographs and characters to create and curate a dystopian archive.

I’ve learnt how to undo in perfect order: this exemplary collection is poetry as inventory, played out in rich calibrations of textured and inventive language. Abegail Morley’s poems exist in an exciting tension of stasis and fluidity, as the curator’s paper, objects, artefacts, the body itself seek to unhusk their inner life and liberate their own true inky voices.’ Robert Seatter

‘These are claustrophobic poems about degradation: of matter, the body, relationships, knowledge, and the certainty of words. In the underworld of the archive, Morley aims to ‘complicate the darkness.’  Her poems work as preservation techniques to recall the names of those I’ve hoarded.’ Morley knows how to grip her readers’ attention and destabilise certainties in intriguing ways. In the Curator’s Hands is disturbing, intelligent and absorbing.’ Heidi Williamson

Curator cover image

 

The Depository

At its darkest point, nothing shifts. In this breathless
place we’re foxed-paper, dip-penned letters
scrawling Indian ink, assembled sheet by sheet
next to people camera-stilled in black and white.

We rot in tattered boxes, dusty as lazy Sundays
lost to heat, wine, the slow pull of work.
The curator swears he never catalogued us,
throws up his arms in shock. He can crease us,

snap open our spines, yet leaves us to blindly
drift in a land of locked boxes, slip-cased
in polyester pockets, sealed behind closed doors.
Tonight I wait at the front of the alphabet,

shucking knife rattling like a heartbeat. Hooked
in my other hand his joined-up writing moans,
ruffles the edges of each page as if to stem blood.

 

Boxed in

I’m the girl trapped in the box, stomach
an empty honeycomb,
gold drained,
dull lustre,
tinny when struck
by a raised fist.

My sentence noosed, half-said,
latches to lips,
a parasite with arrhythmic heart.
Dust-mouthed,
I recite a shopping list
of incidentals:
daylight
daylight
a quarter pound of cherries

(I can almost taste their sweetness, but not quite).

 

Inventory

Sometimes I just let air shift,
unscent itself of relics,
open all the drawers in the collection,

recall the names of those I’ve hoarded here,
transpose them on to carbon paper
to print, reprint. Reprint.

I risk my touch on them,
wonder why I didn’t let them leave
this autumnal storehouse, knowing their boxes

unhusk themselves each night, inky voices
clamour in an eternal darkness grazing
walls and ceilings in their bid to escape.

 

Occupied (in B&W)

I’m beginning to like strangers for their hollowness,
the way there’s no knowing what’s inside them
no matter how close you stand. You can check out
the lining of their coats for a giveaway shimmer

or search the home-sewn seams of a woman
two seats ahead on the Grimsby bus, note how
she hangs her head as if listening to something far off –
an accordion humming by the Seine,

a French Resistance radio cluttering airwaves:
Ici Londres ! Les Français parlent aux Français.
She has needle-thin lips, a cloud of knitting on her lap,
stains from last night’s supper on her jumper.

I wonder if she sent coded messages after songs –
there’s a flood at the telephone exchange,
a detour on the road to Cleethorpes, a wedding
to rearrange somewhere south of Waltham.

I get off before her, pass her knuckled-down body,
scavenge for a hint, a scent, a secret past.
The doors shudder open – I pour myself out,
hard water in sullen rain, hear the click-click

of the bus sign flicking: Laceby, Healing, Harbrough,
know my stranger will lose herself on Roman roads
and not know how to ask her way home:
Ici Londres ! Les Français parlent aux Français.

 

Abegail Morley’s recent collection is The Skin Diary (Nine Arches). Her debut, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. In the Curator’s Hands is new from IDP. She’s “One of the Five British Poets to Watch in 2017” (Huffington Post), blogs at The Poetry Shed (https://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/) and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

In The Curator’s Hands (Indigo Dreams Publishing) may be purchased from: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/abegail-morley-curator/4593997535

The Old Soldier – Ali Jones

The Old Soldier

He has a hut in the woods, well-concealed;
bounded by ash and thorn, linteled in ivy,
where he hides a Falkirk kettle and finds
a tin tea caddy stashed safely with the horseshoe
trivet and well-worn pan. It is not so small,
a familiar path of bird song leads him on
to dress in blackbird colours and sing of rain
while he works by the stream. A young buck
at his side asks who owns the forest?

He has no reply, only beckons, come and see;
the bounty of trees heavy with apples, a crop of nuts
netted with the fingers, a spring dancing
to offer a cup of water, the abundance
of berries and birds to pick them.

Tame a man and lie him down,
make him peaceful in crowds and muddy trenches;
at home he is quiet as a fox and prefers
the rowan tree and blackthorn’s sloe arms
to other company. He finds a clutch of mushrooms,
the honey of the wild bees, a patch of wild strawberries,
enjoyed with a wash of tea and a drift of briar roses.

The summer hides him until autumn swells
her belly and skeins the sky with wild geese.
He is a nimble singer of the spinning wheel,
friend to the wren and woodpecker, despiser
of his own children, his wife has given up on him.

At night he hangs his hood with the fair white
birds, the voice of the wind harps twigs,
and the steam’s cascade is night music to his
swan song, He lays down with no quarrel,
a hermit in his little hut, and gives thanks.

 

Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Green Parent magazine and The Guardian. Her pamphlets Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Press in 2018.

Growth – Hannah Brockbank

Growth

This is how a shell grows
I say,
holding the pink scallop
and running a finger
over its ribbed top.
Every wrinkle
a year’s growth,
spreading and fattening,

traces of its former self
found in dark scars,
blotches and cracks
at crenulated ends.
Look how the swelling tide
has eroded its shape.
This is how I’ve grown,
I think.

 

Hannah Brockbank is published in a variety of journals, magazines and anthologies including: When Women Waken journal, The London MagazineEnvoi, and Raving Beauties (ed.) Hallelujah for 50ft Women anthology. Her debut pamphlet, Bloodlines is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

www.hannahbrockbank.com

@hannahbrockbank

http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/hannah-brockbank/4594114544

 

Water’s edge – Jay Whittaker

Water’s edge

Every path has two lives:
one without you. Beyond furrowed fields
the farm’s spine leans against sky.

As talisman, I choose a twig
the length of my hand, every knot
and twist of bark alive with moss.

How much more I see in silence:
a seam of carmine leaves
tracing the contours of the bank;

the steel of a heron’s wing lifting
into air, as though it understood
being blown back on course.

 

Edinburgh-based Jay Whittaker’s debut poetry collection, Wristwatch, was published by Cinnamon Press in October 2017.  She writes about transition, resilience, grief, breast cancer, and LGBT+ lives (including her own). Her poems have been published in a wide range of magazines. www.jaywhittaker.uk

Grace – Robert Nisbet

Grace
 
“There’s nothing more inspiring or – beautiful than
the sight of a mare and a new colt”
(Biff Loman, in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman)

And you, Biff Loman, right out there
on prairie, in open air, we all of us
see and share your moment’s grace. But we
who’ve taught in schools, a pasty-faced kind
of livelihood alongside your Texas ranch:
a tough guys’ register would rank us
pretty low. We are seen as indoor men.

And Biff, I notice too you hesitate,
you check before the simple beautiful.
Biff, in all those years I taught
in classrooms, nothing, nothing at all
(not learning outcomes, grades, initiatives)
was ever as inspiring or
………………………………………..beautiful
as the simple sight, in a Silent Reading class,
of a child, a pupil, twelve maybe, thirteen,
quite, quite absorbed in a book.
Witches, midnight gardens, winds in trees.
The page would turn, rustling (the child
unaware), so very, very slowly.

 

Previously published in Roundyhouse

Robert Nisbet is a poet from Pembrokeshire who does not see himself as unduly competitive, but who has recently won the Prole Pamphlet Competition. His entry, Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, appeared last year from Prolebooks.

Oystercatchers – Jean Atkin

Oystercatchers

So, I squat down by his still-perfect stripes. Lift him, warm and limp
…………..and the vehicle has wrecked the other side of his head.
…………..Try not to look in his ruined eye.

A robin and a blackbird sing, a tractor grumbles half a mile
…………..away. Already I am in Wood Field, planning a shovel
…………..and thinking what words can take his place.

After school he’s stiff and fully gone. The children white
……………with shock, they’ve not yet seen the death
……………of something young. We stand in Wood Field round a grave.

The nights are drawing in, it’s getting late. I lay him good eye up.
…………..Their sobs stream on and on over the hills, and shudder
…………..off the trunks of trees. The distant village listens to their grief.

Up there the clouds are dark and racing. Here, we are in this day.
…………..For keeps, in all our heads, the sobbing and
…………..the oystercatchers whistling.

 

Jean Atkin has published ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books) also pamphlets and a novel.   Her recent work appears in Magma, Agenda, Ambit, Envoi, The North, Earthlines and The Moth.  She works as a poet in education and community projects.  www.jeanatkin.com  @wordsparks

On having enough messages from the dead – Abegail Morley

On having enough messages from the dead

Your name is paperweighted to my tongue.
Each time I try to lift it, it bangs to the floor
of my mouth, heavy as a sandbag,
or an iron girder from that old advert.
Your name trundles on wheels, heavy
in its criss-crossing skids, but like a glass
memory is always reflecting something else.

I decide to pin your name to the notice board,
stick another to the fridge with a magnet,
to loosen you from me. This morning I find
they’ve slipped off, parachuted down
and are hissing on an unwashed floor ‒
paper sun-torn, unbearable to touch.
I watch ink vacate itself from the present,
silently bleeding as it disappears.

 

Abegail Morley’s recent collection is The Skin Diary (Nine Arches). Her debut, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. In the Curator’s Hands is new from IDP. She’s “One of the Five British Poets to Watch in 2017” (Huffington Post), blogs at The Poetry Shed and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

I used to think if I ate an apple core, a tree would grow in my belly – Stephen Daniels

I used to think if I ate an apple core, a tree would grow in my belly

Day 1
A pip nestles in my stomach,
finds a fertile space to settle.

Day 2
Sprouts appear,
show signs of growth.
I send down much needed water.

Day 5
It craves sunbeams
and other apple saplings –
at what point does it become a tree?
They say an apple tree can take 20 years to grow full size.

Day 274
I have these lines
and blemishes on my face.
Lemon trees can develop needing
only a little light. An apple tree cannot mature without
sunlight. My body obliges. As I fall asleep, I feel the bark forming.

Day 4,222
I can feel the branches
rustling around my lungs.
I coughed yesterday: a leaf appeared.
The roots irritate my knees; I woke this morning
and moved too quickly leaving a crick in my neck –
I could hear my twigs snapping. Appetite slows as more apples fruit.

Day 7,300
My skin feels thicker,
rougher. Teenagers often visit,
spend their afternoons kissing under
my cover, carve their initials into my torso
before they depart. My head feels hazy, I struggle
to peer through the blossom in my eyes. I will keep them
closed today. They say apple trees can live for over 100 years – 36,500 days.

 

Stephen Daniels is editor of Amaryllis Poetry. His poetry is published in numerous magazines and websites. His debut pamphlet ‘Tell mistakes I love them’ (V. Press) was published in 2017, his second pamphlet will be published in 2018 (Paper Swans Press).www.stephenkirkdaniels.com