10 March, 2016, a new poem by Colin Bancroft
in the Air
was a rupture of Barnacle Geese
the distance, over the Solway Firth,
the sky like ink flecked from a pen,
we watched transfixed from Caerlaverock,
flew like our caps at graduation
Salford, Edge Hill MMU,
we tossed our mortarboards up like buzzsaws
out black squares of sky in photographs.
sky that fizzed with colour,
we would go down to Heaton Park,
bonfire night, watching the fireworks
in the sky like molten flowers
the falling autumn of my clothes
you threw at me down the stairs,
in mid-air, caught in a turbulence
like a body hit by a car.
10 December 2015, two new poems by Jennifer Hockey
you leave by the back way
always a climb, a mustering
for the high-step route through
cabbage, beans; to boundary sheds,
bikes padlocked in
hope, a scatter
of spades; to the sombre nook of a gate
the wall where a privy sat - wrought-iron
where the cistern
hung, a door unhinged
for landfill or fire; the bank beyond
up to a nettled wood, leaf-mould deep
collars tango at dusk
marking a way for owls to glide
plunge, sobbing like prey
if you leave by the back way
am - when it's too late for sleep,
too soon to wake. It means
has come. You're under adrenaline's
thumb as you lean to the slope,
climb moon-whitened grass to
a world off guard, its sentinel cars
that burrowed clouds
grounded now your child has pains
might be the start of her time - or
a voice down the line
suggests you come,
while loosening tubes from somebody close.
streets empty of start-the-week,
everyone in bed. Just stray
of sleep, the slow passage of souls
canny on stairwells and stoops,
just the sound of my soft shoe
over the cobbles' curves; time to travel
to a funeral church
wind once wanted in too late
your perished lungs; wind
as a cat put out.
13 March 2015, a new poem by Ian C. Smith
in the forties, this state ablaze
naysayers' scorn of climate change,
threshed by fierce wind below cloud
with smoke, plumes ten miles from my window,
low pressure change heads my way
the old-time proverbial cavalry, perhaps.
falling, light a hellish yellow,
my gate I see my neighbours on their hill
silhouetted by shifting smoke.
past looking my way oddly, they wave.
watch them disappear, sit under a melaleuca
six charcoal and red galahs
silently just above me, feathers ruffling.
feel almost as helpless as a crushed bird.
leaves, small branches, crunch underfoot.
neighbours return, stop outside my gate.
phone we have been advised to leave.
reluctant, I assure them I will,
of my deserved caste as an old recluse.
wind change hits, favouring my position,
me and galahs but imperilling others.
play the fire warning message, dial loved ones.
city son tells me to get going. Now.
cats, all my books, my cherished journals.
beloved place when soft rain falls.
close windows, doors, take wallet and glasses.
August 2014, a new poem by Stuart Pickford
stand on the rake.
give me a sideways look
we eye up the little job
the assorted tools
dug out of the shed.
the surface, the lily's
getting on being green,
their candle-lit centres.
isn't the garden at Giverny.
haul out yards and yards,
fleshy lump spilling
a beached man of war,
check with you:
get the bugger out.
take five on the bench.
on the stone edge,
turning inside out
the squirming light.
pick them up on leaves:
please your mother.
finish off the lily,
dredge the bottom. You skim
surface with a net.
of stuff comes up
the depths, tentacles
had been growing
the murk for years.
it fills the whole bin.
for now we take ten,
as pigs in sludge,
arms gloved with stench,
the jobs a good one,
out its end.
23 July 2014
John Hartley Williams 1942-2014
would you make of the four drunkards
their cans of beer and plastic bottles
plum brandy, home-distilled, 50% proof,
round a stone cross dedicated
Saint Obscure the Barfly beside a river
has turned from a sidle into a rout
engaged in earnest conversation
a sideshow in a School of Athens canvas
by a minor baroque master,
stressing with excessive emphasis
wrong syllables in complex words,
second listening as though he might
of Socrates, the third stuttering
and the fourth staring away
mouth gaping as if the void possessed him?
nothing, John, though you're no longer here
spare them a glance, scoff or grin in assent.
might point out that the philosophers
to be speaking in a language
new to the human race
it might just be the river growling
yards away from where they discourse.
I should join in and tell them
a friend I never met face to face is gone
that they should look at the river
see how dangerous the floating world can be,
tumbling willow stump, that doll without a head.
might offer me a long hard pull
the darkest-tinted plastic bottle
then I'd speak in unknown tongues, too,
stumbling back home for an early sleep
later to gaze at the speechless stars
they recede from me very fast.
14 March 2014
A poem from: The Way and the Power of Berenice
a new version of the Dao de Ching by Martin Crucefix
Often, you'll hear it loudly pronounced:
what the country needs is a dose of discipline.
Then, as often, in the very next breath:
of course, if you want success-fight dirty.
But influence over anything is achieved
more effectively by letting it alone . . .
The more laws passed, the more evasion
and so the more wasted people become.
And the more glittering of top brass,
the more darkness falls across the nation.
The more cunning skills are devised,
the more frivolous stuff on the market.
The more crimes inscribed in statute books,
the more crooks and thieves increase.
Yet when Berenice takes a back seat,
those who are ready transform themselves.
As she cleaves to stillness, someone else
discovers the way of their own accord.
Through the deed undone, indirect direction,
people prosper. As much as she refuses
to impose her preconceptions, so they
return to the condition of the uncarved block.
14 March 2014
Two new poems by Robert Etty
Four Bridges Road
There are three bridges on Four Bridges Road.
You drive between one bridge's steel parapets
as you leave the substation behind.
The second's a brick humpback half a mile on,
over a stream they've been clearing.
Soon after this you change down
for the third, a humpback again near the post box,
where bulrushes chafe in the wind. Another,
the fourth, is looked for sometimes
by drivers who think names need explanations
and couldn't rest if they left without one.
Four Bridges Road has a bridge too few -
unless, on a map no one bothered to keep,
a watercourse bridged by the road was marked (Piped)
and it's crossed a hundred times a day by tractors,
lost plumbers, mothers with troubles, and pheasants
indulging a death-wish. That was the other side,
this is this, and neither's been letting on.
It's one of those roads that take you the distance
under false pretences. You count three bridges
over three streams to the sign at the end
that points out you shouldn't be certain.
When mist and sun in their ancient wisdom
draw a veil over what's ahead, it isn't
easy, these midwinter days, to judge
the direction a silhouette's moving in
further along the path: it seems for a time
to be coming your way at the pace someone
might in their weatherproof clothes with a sagging
dog, but then, next minute, you see you were
wrong, that it's gradually decreasing,
becoming less like a plodding figure
and more like a stump or gateless
post. There it goes, separating
you, not slowing to shatter
two solitudes, or face
the problem the
way the other
14 March 2014
A new poem by Ian Seed
I have just discovered that I have a son, now a grown man. While I wait at the station to meet him for the first time, I wonder how vulnerable he must have been growing up without his father.
But my son turns out to be a tall, strong woman. Over coffee she tells me that she makes her living as a priest and as a comedian. 'Everyone is full of such contradictions,' she says, 'but few of us have the joy of living them out.'
She makes me realise I no longer need to hide so much away. So I take my newfound son to my mother's house.
'My God, isn't she beautiful!' my mother says. Then she gives us the news that she herself is pregnant. Soon I will have a baby brother or sister.
9 January 2014
A new poem by Terry Jones
Man Who Could Smell Time
Scented moments most; whose odours bled
like parma violets or strangled daisies;
as if their elements were released to air
so something of their essence floated there,
bud-crushed, breath-like, self-cancelling -
though most were sweet as mayflies or as snow.
Minutes were different, less elaborate and more;
a line of these was seaweed on the shore,
bladderwrack, starfish, a swaying smell,
both young and old, and at the same, combined
with brine and gold so he took a hint of Neptune
fused with horse; wave-like, their scents would wash
and flow as others in a breaking course came by,
presenting newer aspects to his nose: amber, silver,
perfumes redolent and coarse, sea subtle.
Hours detained him in a brandy store;
he sniffed a forest swelled out green and broad,
or lay amongst the roots and dreamed instead
of peat and Pan, of heather, tar and sloes;
but some he knew, though dark, were immature,
and cried their sap or sighed scents undisclosed
as if there were old mirrors in their souls.
Longer times were more than he could say:
the complex compositions of a day
eluded him; he knew how they were nothing like a rose,
and wished he were a fine poet of the nose
better to order them in fugue and song -
Sweet time, run softly, for your scent is long.
6 September 2013
A new poem by James Sutherland-Smith
The songs have little to do with clouds
Although clouds change shape and lurch
Like old women in layers of black skirts
On Sundays clutching their prayer books to church.
Nobody is cloud-struck or looks beyond their nose.
Their gaze is earthwards and they sing shadowed
By years of hunger, drought and flood,
Joy never easy, always to be winnowed,
Johnny home from the wars and coughing blood,
Black-eyed girls sulky with discontent,
Swallows squealing their signals from elsewhere
As the clouds dawdle and fragment.
30 August 2013
A new poem by Rodney Pybus
Capt. Trouble and the Silvery Fish
'Still cursed with sense, their minds remain alone,
And their own voice affrights them when they groan.'
Alexander Pope, The Odyssey
The lacunae were big enough to poke a pencil through.
I can remember the gaps, but whatever came between
(the words all run together as if in Greek so old there were no need
to pause, the lines so graceful they could pace themselves)?
I'm long-jumping decades here - more than three to get me back
to where I'm standing in a concrete library at the end of the world…
all humming electric quietude, and, outside, there's eye-screwing sunlight
our hero would have recognised, and a sea as dark as
navy blue shiraz coasting in to a continent of lotus-eaters,
chewing hard on anxiety as if it were the only wishbone.
The man from Ithaca's come too far south, and real nostalgia's nothing gentle,
believe me, but a poignant pain the homesick get stuck with,
right in the heart. Not for nothing does 'paper' reach back to 'papyrus'.
A bit of mummy-wrapper, pinned under glass, has barely
a dozen moth-eaten lines, but they can take me right back to
the age of gas-fires hissing blue murder, and wooden desks
with deep scars and inkwells soggy with missiles.
That little patch of sedge-pith shows me a fragment
of the finest stuff we've ever made in telling tales.
The crafty one, who pulled fast ones over Cyclops and Circe,
might have thought up a plan or two to fill in the holes
that each ten-year trip can introduce among those texts
we call our memories. They get more tatterdemalion than
'the rigging on a Homeric ship' (there's a picture here
in my Merry 1948 school edition of his odyssey).
He never never forgot his Penelope, just as his old flea-ridden Argos
never forgot him: after twenty years, he gave a wag of the tail, and died.
I can't bear to open a book now and find words I learned at twelve
not making so much sense, their lovely combinations wasted by
visitors who never seem to get enough of us, the silverfish minutes.
19 July 2013
A new poem by John Hartley Williams
Tonight you will be spied on.
Don't tell us this is news to you.
Be not vexed. We are your friend.
Spotless as our desk tops, we never
soil our tea cups, or salt
the smallest talk with wit
for we are flavourless, immaculate.
and stringing innocent mendacities
into a guilty mesh is what we do.
With what loving brio
do we capture ill-judged sentences
and stitch them up to form
your limitless incarceration!
Don't pretend you didn't know.
We have new names for all that
confidential gush you whisper in our ears:
Illimitable Outflow, Untold Ooze, Eternal Spate,
Everlasting Spout, Interminable Trickle, Unsurpassable Effusion.
Although we have no friends, you are our friend.
What need of trust when we are here?
Trust does not exist. Trust us instead!
The world belongs to those who know its secrets
and we encourage you, the people, to betray your own.
We note that corner of the bed sheet
where you scrawled LIES! LIES! LIES!
We like the triple emphasis.
Without conceding for a single democratic moment
your right to vain opinion,
we must ensure it rises in this bee hive of our work:
a glittering rotunda of alp-defying size
harvesting your breathed secretions
to make a perfect model of your whispers
like your mad aunt's strung-out knitted jumper fitting
no one but the many-armed, Shiva, the
execrable one, your double.
Ah, what frank exchange of views
shall litter our negotiations!
Of course we must betray you.
That's our pastoral role.
By all means feel this insult on your spine.
Let it feed a pride in so-called singularity,
encourage you to recklessness.
This will help us to record
your poverty, its dates, its names, its goals.
Tell anyone about us,
10 July 2013
Three lyrics from 'An Orange Tree - Poems from the Greek
Mountains' by Sebastian Barker
The dark storm provokes the buttercups
To close their golden bowls
All night long, through its ups
And downs, as its inquisition rolls.
A rock falls from the certainty
Of where it was, to be
A stone on the road
Leading us to heaven
Like a sturdy chair to which
No human thought has been given.
The Hornet and The Elephant
There's a hornet in my eye
Teaching an elephant to fly.
He hovers like a hummingbird.
Was ever teacher so prepared?
His sharp proboscis is the wand
He points in one direction, and
Then another, turning round
A gyroscope above the ground.
The elephant, of course, is unimpressed.
For long ago his soul was dressed
In all that raiment Hebrew kings
Would not exchange for waxy wings.
27 June 2013
A dramatic monologue by Philip Morre
I love this hour of the morning, neither early nor late:
Pietro has taken the girls to school, he'll be at the gate
in an hour. I adjust my tie; it will be tugged straight
by Tanya again at the door - but for now all's aligned,
in its place, and right. Thanks to Bettino, the malign
whisper, but if true it's only the way things combined.
If not he then another. God knows, I've my own
little leeches. I stayed loyal longer than most: alone,
the shit round my ankles and rising . . . Then Marylebone,
a decade of quarantine in London, buying and selling,
not to make money, though I did, but patiently expelling
the taint. Here and there I made myself useful, helping
the elect with their offshore accounts. Until the call came:
this Special Initiative 'tidying' toxic waste. The arcane
technicalities are challenging and I relish the game
of keeping a tithe at least of my budget for purpose.
But the minister's new to money. His greed is dangerous.
'Enough' was omitted at birth from his lexicon. Those
of us who intend to prosper, or at least, survive
will need to see him queen, and soon, of some other hive.
It's like the motorways: however soberly you drive
- and Pietro's as safe as they come - you can't curb the idiots
kissing tails in the fast lane. Of course I have regrets:
the leukaemia, the researcher we had to . . . deflect.
I'm not a monster. On my side of the coin, the children,
the leeches and theirs, Pietro's ever-ramifying kin,
His Fatness's twins (one assumes innocent). And then
Father Mark's trecento tastes. An analogium he wants now
- with luck an agreeable day at the Basel Show:
a change from creative accounting. What continues to flow
from the East! I've garnered exquisite things for myself, while
feeding the father's aesthetic. I'm not so without guile
as to confess to him: he must know it's no straight mile
from waste to a lectern. Are we damned? With curiosity
I study my double. He sighs: the Lord must lack pity.
Were it otherwise, He'd not have created toxicity.