New World – Elly Farrelly

New World

Those were the nights of quiet stars,
of coffee brewing in the blue enamel pot
and you as always dressed in red,
singing Manisero
The peanut vendor’s song.

All evening I listened
while your friends’ playful fingers
rattled and tapped taut skins,
maracas, bright beads in hollow gourds,
tumbled rain in a cactus stalk. I tried.

But your tricky rhythms
tripped me every time
scraping the guiro,
or awkwardly shaking something
as best I could yet always,
somehow out of sync.

 

Elly Farrelly lives in Glasgow. Her  poems have been published in From Glasgow to SaturnThe Glasgow Review of Books and have  been included in two  anthologies.  As well as writing poetry she is also a songwriter and performing musician. Website www.ellyfarrelly.co.uk

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Return To Mardale – Jonathan Humble

Return To Mardale

Confused, she stands at water’s edge;
a shadow, lost by this unfamiliar lake.
She wonders why the bells are silent.
No church, no school, yet still she listens
for well loved songs and laughter.

An eagle soars, commands ancient heights,
the realms of Harter Fell below his wings.
Her thoughts rise too, catching thermals,
heart leaping over High Raise climbs.

Old Chapel Hill and Bridge return below,
with Dun Bull Inn; dark snug and warm hearth.
Stone cottages now evoked in thoughts
once buried in Westmorland’s fairest valley,
before the flood, before the tears.

Over rutted track, a farmer’s cart rattles,
decked in ribbon, known faces smiling back,
with the echo of a lover’s voice in the air,
as Whitsun bells peel to call the dead.

Confusion gone, she enters Haweswater.
Now content to fade, as under trees in full leaf,
she walks a submerged path in a drowned village.
And singing songs, she meets again with friends
who once had lived in Mardale Green.

 

Note: Where today you’d find Haweswater reservoir in the Lake District, there was once the village of Mardale Green. Back in the 1920s, an Act of Parliament was passed allowing Manchester Corporation to build the reservoir to supply water for the urban areas of the north-west of England. Buildings in the Mardale valley were demolished, families were relocated and by 1935 the new reservoir was established. Occasionally, in periods of drought, the old dry stone walls and bridge make a ghostly reappearance, only to be submerged once water levels rise again. 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. He writes poetry and short stories. His stuff can be found in a number of different publications and on his poetry blogs ( https://jhpoetry.blogspot.co.uk and https://northernjim.wordpress.com ).

The Wolf At The Door – Kitty Coles

The Wolf At The Door

At the full of the moon,
I hear his long nails scratching
against the doorframe,
and his quiet whine,
its syllables
his rough approximation,
his lupine effort,
to pronounce my name.

You think his nails
must be the fingers of trees,
tapping and scraping
at our bricks and mortar.
You think his whine
must be the wind
in their branches
and the yellow beams
that slide between the shutters
must be moonlight,
not the light of his wet eyes.

He is stirring my skin
and setting my blood
on edge. His shadow
creeps on the wall
like Nosferatu.
My tongue lies furred
and still with his silences.

When I open the door,
stars blaze
behind my eyelids.
A rush of dry leaves
blows in, its decrepit odours.
He stands on hind legs,
like a man,
coat thick and bloody.
His jaws drip freely
with their offering.

What is that gift he holds,
where did he find it,
why must I take it in my gooseflesh hands?

 

Kitty Coles is one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in August 2017.  www.kittyrcoles.com

Befriending the Butcher – Anna Saunders

Befriending the Butcher

When my father first walked in to the shop,
the pheasant dangling clumsy from a string like a plumy yo-yo,
and asked the butcher how to prepare it for the pot,
he didn’t expect to hear Mozart playing. Or to talk Kierkegaard

as the feathers were plucked. A Thomas Hardy hero
striding the coast before work,
chin cleft like the rocks at the estuary edge,
we thought he’d mark the whole country with his steps.

He spent his days dressing flesh
preparing Primal Cuts and his nights – carving wood,
reading brick-heavy biographies of Larkin or Keats.

Rude health didn’t last till retirement.
We visited him in a bungalow on the other side
of the tracks, his hand-carved bird tables trembling
on long stalks as the trains thundered past.

There we sat, over-shadowed by Victorian furniture,
none of that blood-bled modern stuff,
just oak, or mahogany,
on chairs as dark and immense as the Wagner
which poured into the room, slowed down

by its own heft. Around us – shelves of Folio editions
fat spines emblazoned gold
row after row of corpulent companions
in brass and buttoned regalia.

No longer able to walk, he scored the floor
with wheel chair marks as if ticking items of a list

and the single bar of the fire was a winter sunset;
a thin scarlet line, blazing with its own heat
as it slipped down silently, into the dark.

 

Anna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press) and Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press) and Burne Jones and the Fox ( Indigo Dreams) and the forthcoming Ghosting for Beginners ( Indigo Dreams, Spring 2018). She has received three Arts Council Awards and has been described as ‘a poet who surely can do anything’ by The North  and ‘a poet of quite remarkable gifts’ by Bernard O’Donoghue.

Midnight – Jack Little

Midnight

The white wash, crumbling windows
will not open, dust encased, glistening
and wishful under lampshade-less bulb

midnight and a sky night train passes to my right: I search for stars
all prearranged and ordained against the impossible
redness of Mars, but one shouldn’t mix colours
when the pallet is already a dirty purple, you’ll make a mess

and to the left you lie crumpled, the crinkling sound of graphs
on primary school tracing paper, the scratchy and the delight
in being wasteful – the heating on, the veins pulsating
the ripping off of clothes on the night I close my notebook.

My eyes are itchy and the pebbledash ceiling causes nausea,
and cracks imperceptibly- havoc in a broken yoke. The tiny comets
of the universe, dance beyond reach of the slow grasping hands of babies
wishing you farewell, the paradise of midnight Earth,
the fear of asymmetry

home to a god we so desperately want to believe in.

 

Jack Little (b. 1987) is a British-Mexican poet, editor and translator based in Mexico City. He is the author of ‘Elsewhere’ (Eyewear, 2015) and is the founding editor of The Ofi Press: www.ofipress.com He was the poet in residence at The Heinrich Böll Cottage on Achill Island in Ireland in July 2016.

Featured Publication – Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes by Robert Nisbet

Our featured publication for February is Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes by Robert Nisbet, published by Prolebooks.

The poems collected here are of an age, they are of a place – Wales, The Valleys and Southern peninsula – but their themes, their wit, the emotions they elicit are universal. Amongst the nostalgia, the musical connections, these poems are peopled with unforgettable characters and their stories are told through a poet’s honed craft, and at times, with a wicked humour.

‘Throughout, the people and their stories that populate these pages are vivid and authentic, the emotional force cleanly depicted with concrete imagery and language that rarely disappears into abstraction, and therefore holds your attention closely. I read the whole thing in one sitting and never felt bored. Which is as good as it gets, really.’ Paul Vaughan, Algebra of Owls.

Robson, Fitzgerald and other heroes

 

Epiphanies

Three cars, unwittingly together, drive
off the motorway and into Pembrokeshire.
The BMW has its family, a nucleus,
and Mum sifts notes on a priory hereabouts,
the burial chamber, Iron Age fort. The region
is renowned, she tells them, for spiritual things.

The Fiesta, overtaken earlier, straggles.
The couple here are younger (not that young,
certainly, but eager, newly together).
They stop in a clearing, their embrace takes in
the smell of hawthorn, farmland after rain.

The Astra from Rotherham is pumped full
of little children, iPods, Gameboys, games.
Since the motorway, the kids have vaguely
clocked cows and sheep and stuff, but
now, just past Brynberian, a herd of cows
(a hundred head) crosses their path,
off to milking. The Astra stops and ponders,
but one cow detaches herself, nuzzles
a side window, and Jason, aged nine,
is eyeball to bloodshot eyeball with a
fucking great cow. The cow (and she too
has a name, Jason, she’s Rhiannon
and she’s a Friesian) rubs and bumps
the window with her trumpet of a nose,
and exhales enormously.
Jason, now mistily obliterated,
will remember this moment
for the rest of his bloody life.

 

As You Like It in the Bishop’s Palace
An open-air production in St. David’s
 
A coastal summer and cathedral bells
and the rooks’ hauteur give us this night in Bardic country.
Foreground, romance in a forest.

From the back row of canvas chairs
they watch, they two.
They have not yet adventured.
But the voice of the lovers is reaching them
from the forest, from the palace,
and as eight o’clock deepens to a cooler nine
they draw the blanket more around themselves,
nestle.

Rosalind and Orlando are eighteen, nineteen,
but grown to love’s confidence
in the play’s disguise.
The playwright stakes out his promise:
Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love.
 
The watching two are in thrall.
Their hands, beneath the blanket,
steal together, clasp,
as in the happy ending of a play.

 

A Sudden Summer Sun on St. Bride’s Bay

Towels and Colas gritted by the sand,
more brown than golden sand on a day when
a warm bluster of westerly wind
is the beach’s feature.

She is just shy, gauche really, seventeen.
She just does not want
to walk down the beach on such spindle shanks,
such sad bare legs exposed

She huddles behind the windbreak until
the Mediterranean moment
when the sun rushes out, just as she peels her way
through the spider-written letter
from the boy from France.

……………………………………………………………………..(What do we know of him? Seventeen also.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………Not gauche but not adroit.
………………………………………………………………………………………. Loves languages and music and,
……………………………………………………………………………. in the grace of a reserved adolescence,
…………………………………………………………………………….loves the girl to the point of adoration.)

She reads his civilities, pleased, and then the phrase,
If I cannot become to see you this August,
my summer, he will be ruined 

and she flowers, and walks,
on nicely-rounded spindle legs,
to the water, in the sun,
feeling herself a mademoiselle,
a mannequin, a belle.

 

Previous publication credits are Smiths Knoll, Scintilla, and Snakeskin/Shortlist for the Wordsworth Trust Prize 2017, respectively. 

Robert Nisbet is from Pembrokeshire, teaches creative writing to a range of classes and has been publishing poetry widely in Britain and the USA for 12 years. In 2017 he was shortlisted for the Wordsworth Trust Prize and his short collection, Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, was published as the winner of the Prole Pamphlet competition.

Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes is available to buy from www.prolebooks.co.uk

Bent Over Geography – John Short

Bent Over Geography

When off school sick,
dad would bring me toast
before he went to work
then leave me crumbed up
in a world of dreams,
ear stuck to a transistor
as the day went on its way
beyond closed curtains
in the blind distance
of car horns and shouting
over garden fences.
I’d suck mints if boredom
and loneliness crept in
or season permitting
pop downstairs barefoot
to catch the horse racing
with an inner happiness
that pals were pushing
pens, bent over geography
or maths, just aching
for the bell’s release.

 

John Short lives in Merseyside after some years in Spain and Greece. He writes stories and poems and reads at venues around Liverpool. Work has appeared in magazines including Obsessed with Pipework, Ink Sweat and Tears, Frogmore Papers and Barcelona Ink.

Tone Deaf – Rachel Bower

Tone Deaf

Before you were born I was tone deaf
silently mouthing songs at funerals
afraid of voicing my breath.

But you love my singing
clapping along with starfish hands
smiling and laughing out loud.

I began to sing out loud.
Of the sea and cornflower blue,
of clotted cream and clouds.

Of mustard and saffron
of cherries and heat
of sage and olives and mint.

I began to sing out loud
of tears and crystal dew
of chocolate daisies and silt.

Of molasses and honey
of blossom and rose
of charcoal and ash and soot.

I began to sing out loud.
Of the sea and cornflower blue,
of clotted cream and clouds.

Of milk and pudding
of fairies and mice
and now I sing out loud.

 

Rachel Bower is a poet and research fellow at the University of Leeds. Her pamphlet, Moon Milk, will be published with Valley Press in May 2018. She is currently co-editing an anthology with Helen Mort entitled Verse Matters, out with Valley Press in November 2017. Her book, Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in August 2017. Rachel publishes and performs her poetry widely, and is the founder of Verse Matters, a feminist arts collective in Sheffield.

Website: https://rachelbowerwrites.wordpress.com

Twitter: @rachelebower

On missing dolphins, again – Mandy Macdonald

On missing dolphins, again

You’d think they knew in advance
that I’d be below in the cabin when they surfaced,
ten of them at once,
and played with the ship
for a whole quarter of an hour.

Yannis the cook called them
in their own language, late last night,
and told them to show up this morning, or else.

He’s falling in love
with one of the Cool Girls, the feisty blonde one
– excellent choice – and he thought
the dolphins would be an unbeatable present.

Ten at once! a really prodigious effort,
bounding along the ship’s sides, teasing her flanks
then slicing away into the silver blue,
but I had to be in my cabin, didn’t I,
doing some dumbfuck thing with sunscreen and hats,
so by the time I’d tumbled up on deck
they were gone.

Now I’m wedged tight in the bow, another figurehead,
speckled with spray, scanning the sea-heavens,
where constellations of sunborn scintillae
punctuate the wavetops,
waiting,
waiting for them to come back.

 

Mandy Macdonald’s poems appear in print and online, in Poetry Scotland,  The Fat Damsel, Clear Poetry, and elsewhere, most recently in the anthologies A Bee’s Breakfast and Aiblins: New Scottish Political Writing. The rest of the time, she sings.

Tea Towels – Simon Williams

Tea Towels

After she had rejected the brushes,
cleaning agents and non-stick bakeware,
he got around to the tea towels
depicting Australian shearing techniques
and pandas in their bamboo glades.

These were much harder to ignore,
as you can never have too many
drying cloths. He gave the full spiel
about tea chests and cotton covers
laid on to protect the dried leaves.

With this fascinating history, my mother
knew she had something to say
at dinner parties, a conversation
starter, when guests offered
dutifully to do the washing up.

She took two of each design, a dozen
in all, washed them in the twin tub before use
to make them more pliable, dried them
in front of the storage heater in the lounge.
She wrapped tea pots in them, when she left.

 

Simon Williams has seven published collections. His latest pamphlet, Spotting Capybaras in the Work of Marc Chagall http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/simon-williams/4592093628, launched in April 2016 and his latest full collection, Inti http://www.overstepsbooks.com/poets/simon-williams/ was published in July. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet.