Two poems by Vicki Feaver

 
You are not

You are not in the tulips,
not in their flailing stems
or shrivelled yellow petals
that alive you’d have painted;
not in the pearly wintry sky
or the scarred slopes of the hill
that before your legs failed
you’d have climbed;
not in the spiky firs
or eddies and swirls of the river
or in its still sandy pools
where in your youth
you’d have swum;
not in the beginning drizzle of snow,
or in the deer that hangs
in the larder with black hooves
and long delicate legs,
not in its heart or liver
that we ate last night for supper
and you would have relished.

I don’t know where you are
who loved all the things I love
and who I remember hauling
out of the bath – tugging
on arms that I was afraid
of pulling from their sockets –
then drying and helping to dress
and guiding down slippery stone steps
to watch flycatcher chicks
leaving the nest, hearing
the peep peep peep
of their mother’s warning call.
 
 
The Witches

My sister’s screams
brought Mummy running:
Did you push her?
They drove to the hospital
leaving me alone in the house.

I read a book by the window.
until I couldn’t see the words.
Too scared to turn on the light,
I watched ghostly white roses
disappear into the dark.

Once, in a fever, I’d dreamed
of the witches who lived in the loft
flying through the hatch.
Now they were crouched
behind the wings of my chair.

I tried not to breathe,
pretending to be dead
like the stone girl in the churchyard
or my sister if all the blood
rolled out of her leg.

If she died, people
would think I was sad.
The witches knew the truth –
smelling my wickedness
with huge hooked noses.
 
(both poems from Vicki Feaver’s forthcoming (2015) collection from Cape Poetry, provisionally titled I Want! I Want!)
 
 
Vicki Feaver lives in South Lanarkshire. Her last collection The Book Of Blood was short-listed for the Forward and Costa Prizes.

A poem by Rebecca Bird

 
Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle

Considering the 1 2 3 4 of her digits
and the ziggurat of carpal bones:
all columned cashews and peashells,
pumice-stones and corner-moons,
her hand should not be too hard to hold.

In the morning, it passes me coffee,
points out the Sunday funnies in the paper.
At the beach, her hand cups like a sieve
digs deep for the shells and stones
you only find in the rich grain of cathedrals.

It is later in town, razored by stern looks,
phantom limbs on repeat, when I feel
her hand stiffen. Fingers curl like toes,
curl like that little mouth of mine she loves,
prawn-pink and ossified.
 
(published in English Chicago Review)
 
Rebecca Bird is a 22 year old poet from Devon. She has been published in The Rialto, Envoi and the Interpreter’s House, amongst others. She tweets @thisisthebird

A poem by Imogen Forster

 
Dancer
after ‘Girl Ballerina’ by Yinka Shonibare

I am buttoned, tailored, piped,
the tight fit of the colonist’s clothes
round my slim child’s waist.
Net and frills, my costume’s
a good girl’s party dress.
Am I a welcome guest
or a blackface clown?
I give nothing away.
I am a dancer’s body
in little cotton shoes.

I am a sister to Marie, the wax
and bronze work of M Degas,
shiny, moulded on a framework
of metal pipes and paintbrushes.
Called a monkey, an Aztec,
a medical specimen,
the flower of depravity.
I am ten, to her fourteen, and so,
you could say, innocent.

My neat bodice in these
East India batiks, the bright
stuff of conquest, traded
from Batavia to Benin (our own
weavers long gone) and now
spread out on London stalls,
my Brixton market wardrobe.
My new flags, my hopeful anthems.

My foot extended,
my hands behind my back,
finger on the trigger,
I hold my position.
I cannot speak, but am.
 
(an image of the sculpture Girl Ballerina by Yinka Shonibare MBE here)
 
Imogen Forster is a translator in her working hours, but is giving more and more of them to poetry. She avidly attends workshops, steals ideas and gives them away, and buys far too many books for her own good. @ForsterImogen

Two poems by Rishi Dastidar

 
The anniversary issue

I am forglopned*, struggling to load,
pixelated while walking down Wardour Street.

Greying personalities with media hair
pass me, talking about intertextuality

and Paul Morley, while I pretend
to be Eustace Tilley, the way you do

with the anniversary issue.
The queues queuing to get pancakes.

beseech me instead to contemplate
the fact that DFW would have been 50

today, and that he and I will never
write the Great American Novel,

so my green card will forever be
a redundant bookmark. If only

there was a dummies’ guide to help me,
like the one I am currently following

to write this New York School poem.
I don’t mention any of this to the ex

I meet, merely contenting myself
with the standard envy at the sunny

contentment. I am left to discover
I have missed the LRB with the best verse

ever in it. I settle, to await my move
to an emirate, knowing that resident there

is a metaphor involving a lemon, a butterfly,
a monocle and the rest of my life.

*overwhelmed with astonishment

 

The last neon sign maker in Hong Kong

His hands flutter by the five tongues of flame,
joints articulating at 800 degrees Celsius,
lips blowing commercial wishes down glass tubes,
speaking of honest scripts for certain characters:
light-heads, bending, swirling, inflating.
Thousand layer paper slides in to protect
the messages, before chicken intestines
shake hands with neon breath and iron hearts
for a brighter light: “without displays of prosperity
my city is a ghost town.” If you’re feeling blue
the answer is argon, he says, but best
is daylight red. A door above an air con
unit glows rainbow ready, the past slipping out.
He inhales the town gas one last time.

(Inspired by: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsIo57pH-pA)
 
Rishi Dastidar works as a copywriter in London. A graduate of the Faber Academy and a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he was a runner-up in the 2011 Cardiff International Poetry Competition, and featured in the 2012 anthologies Lung Jazz (Cinnamon Press/Eyewear Publishing) and Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins). He is also currently part of The Complete Works II programme.

A poem by Hugh Dunkerley

 
The Eel
after Montale

Eel, siren of cold oceans,
quitting the Baltic for our seas,
our estuaries, our rivers,
coming up from the deeps,
nosing under the downstream surge
from tributary to tributary,
stream to stream,
wanting to get back inside,
to get to the heart of rock,
infiltrating rills of mud, until one day
light glancing off chestnuts
ignites her fuse in stagnant puddles,
in ravines cascading
from Appenine flanks to the Romagna;
eel, torch, whip,
arrow of Love on earth,
only our gullies,
our parched alpine streams
lead back
to the paradise of insemination;
green soul seeking life
where there is only drought and desolation,
the scintilla that says
everything begins again
when all seems burnt through,
reduced to a buried stump;
quick iridescence,
refracted now in unclouded eyes.
Sons of man, immersed in your mud,
can you not see she is your sister?
 
(first published in The Echo Room. Read L’anguilla by Eugenio Montale, here)
 
Hugh Dunkerley’s latest collection is Hare (Cinnamon Press). He lives in Brighton and teaches at The University of Chichester. He also writes short fiction, as well as academic essays on contemporary poetry and the environment. Twitter @Hughdunkerley1

Two poems by Penelope Shuttle

 
Langspiel

New lamps for old
sang the harp

prepare for sorrow
and snow

for sleeping
on a bare floor

New lamps for old
sang the harp,

be glad to eat alone
in the cold kitchen

to walk by the golden cliff
along the sunlit tide line

Get used to the hard work
of it
sang the harp

silver spoon
in time’s mouth

mote
in your eye

New lamps for old
new lamps

for old
sang the harp
 
 
Along the great moon

Along the great moon
comes brassbold dog-tired day
looking for a fight
driven and drifting
by the great everything-is-mine moon
what the eye remembers
is a tear is it?
what the ear recalls
the hand that stung it?
what the street remembers
isn’t true?
(that’s true)
along the great moon
comes the bus brandishing
its red tongue
the river standing for nonsense
The Shard
lovely lovely loverly Shard
goal of all urban climbers
(Alain Robert’s nabbed from the building
before he…)
The Shard
glass mast of tallest sailing ship
steeple-singer
jumped-up one
vertical thinker
multi-use Shangri-la
moon’s bitch
 
(published in In The Snowy Air, Templar, June 2014)
 
 
Penelope Shuttle lives in Cornwall. Her most recent publications are UNSENT: New and Selected Poems 1980-2012 (Bloodaxe Books) and In The Snowy Air, an Iota/shots pamphlet (Templar) 2014.

A poem by Adam Horovitz

 
Fire-voices

What is religion?
A shared dream of landscape
fenced with simple rules

by which to live a life of listening
for the quivering fire-voice of hope;
            some spark of kindness
in the desert’s inward creep.

*

Does it still the hand
that wields a knife? No,
not always, but it is built to do so;

at least until some chancer learns
how easy it can be to throw
their voice into the fire.
Thereafter, watch the fences burn
and as they burn, watch
how the gentler truths they held mutate
into a cancer-rush of fright;

how people begin listening
to any siren song that panders to their fears,
in a flame that someone else has set.
New fences (ten feet tall and charged
with panic by the lightning bolt) will soon spring up
and then there’s nothing left except
to be livestock in someone else’s bonfire,

screamed at till you cannot wake,
until all that’s left of thought
is the desire to fight.

*

What is faith? The tending
of empty places where structures
fail to find a foothold.

The act of reaching out
for a quivering fire-voice of hope;
            some spark of kindness
in the desert’s inward creep.
 
(A link to related poems, published on Open Democracy   here).
 
Adam Horovitz is a writer based in Gloucestershire. His first collection of poems, Turning, was published by Headland in 2011 and his poetry-driven memoir, A Thousand Laurie Lees, about growing up in Slad, was published by The History Press in June 2014.

A poem by Kevin Reid

 
They Said It Would Change

School bus fare was a three penny piece,
or as grown-ups would say, a thrupny bit.

Kathy, the school bus conductress, the familiar
bundles of brass coins in her verdigris hands.

School rulers were wooden with black lines. Mrs. McCourt
had a thing about pencil’s being sharp when used with a ruler.
I couldn’t decide which side of the line was the true measure.

With a folding ruler, and a pencil behind his ear,
my dad questioned me in feet and inches. I didn’t
understand eighths and sixteenths till my late teens.

At school, it was a kilogram and a litre,
at home, a bag of sugar, a pint of milk.

These days, road signs still read miles-per-hour,
and it’s ok to say I’m five foot seven inches tall.

Brass became copper, the portcullis remained and
piggy banks are not the same; some not even pigs.
 
 
Kevin Reid lives in Scotland. His poetry has appeared in various online and printed journals, such as Pushing Out the Boat, Ink Sweat and Tears, Amaryllis, The Interpreters House, The Open Mouse. He is the founding creator of the >erasure and >erasure ii projects, and Nutshells and Nuggets.

A poem by Niall Firth

 
A remarkable life

Once they’d hoiked out her irradiated
heart it powered
steam turbines to keep us warm.
Her titanium sternum, dripping
in parsley green, was lowered carefully
into a cove off Dubai
where scuba divers dart in between
her curving ribs like tropical fish
and pause to take photos
wrapped in her chest cavity.
Her glorious mouth, now safely de-barbed,
was mounted on a plinth
in Hartlepool. Birds nest where those icicle
teeth once glinted.
Now and then, we throw her voice to scare the kids.
We tell them it’s thunder.
 
 
Niall Firth is a journalist with New Scientist and lives with his wife and daughter in Walthamstow. His poetry has appeared in The Reader and Ink, Sweat and Tears among others. @niallfirth.

A poem by David O’Hanlon

 
Cusp

It was taken by James that first summer.
The angle’s pretty low
but you can still see the river:
that thin dark crack through the background.
We’re both sat cross-legged -
me knotting grass, you saluting the sun -
our knees almost touch
like God’s hand and Adam’s…

I use it as a bookmark (for now
it marks my whereabouts in Fournier’s
Lost Estate) because with each look,
each dose of it, my tolerance increases.
It has a few nicks, a few folds.
It’s about to begin to fade.
 
David O’Hanlon is a writer based in Northumberland with recent work in The Ofi Press, Ink Sweat & Tears and Material, and forthcoming from Dream Catcher and an anthology from Appletree Writers.