Four poems by David Tait

Talisman

I don’t need an amulet
around my neck, don’t need a jade bracelet

upon my wrist, a twist of string, blessed
around my shin. I don’t need onions

or jasmine above my door, don’t need to live
on the eighth floor of this apartment complex,

could take the fourth bed on any ward
and not fear death. And I don’t need the Lord

Buddha on my dashboard, nor a bible on the table
beside our bed, and I won’t throw blind dice

at 3a.m. to test chance as if chance were a test.
And I don’t need a lucky cat to lure you back

as if my life were a shop and my heart on sale,
as if the others who had rummaged

through the discount rails hadn’t left
dry-washing their hands.

But what I need are your lectures on mess
and you laughing as I panic on flights

and your breath in the small hours
steadying the room, as the passengers above us

begin their descents, the captain requesting
the cabin crew be seated, releasing the aeroplane’s wheels.
 
(from Three Dragon Day, Smith/Doorstop)
 
 
The Stars and the Dragon

A year or so ago we went for a walk in the dark.
The moon hung over the Lakeland fells,
and the noise of wagons was replaced by cattle,
by fairway bells ringing the golf course.
We stood on the aqueduct bridge, looked out
at the cathedral, the castle. And behind us the wind-farm,
the restless M6, and above all that the stars.

Maybe it is because you were raised in the city
that I started to fake constellations.
Look there at the wolf creeping up on the swan,
at that wheelbarrow loaded with diamonds.
Look at the scarecrow with his galactic brooch
and the python trying to strangle the huntsman.

And you laughed and told me about the rabbit
in the moon, and the mooncakes you make
each autumn. And you told me the dragon
has so many parts that you can never
see all of the dragon.
 
(from Self-Portrait with The Happiness, Smith/Doorstop) 
 
 
Constellation #2
Based around the work of Chu Yun

Some nights I gather every extension cable and slowly
assemble star systems around me. The DVD player’s
stand-by bulb, the fan, the TV, a strand of carefully
placed fairy lights, the green tinged glow of my water cooler.

Then lonely, my darkroom brightens like a photo flash.
I light candles into solar systems. A fragile Scorpio
hovers around shelves, an Orion’s belt of tea-lights
is strewn along the coffee table, gently tattooing the walls.
 
(from Suitcase/Earthquake, Erbacce Press)
 
  
Peach Sake (桃太郎)

We drank a bottle
of warm peach sake –
sat on real tatami mats
below real cherry blossom.

You told me about the peach boy –
tipped the liquid through my lips
with a kiss. mo-mo… momotaro…
モモ 桃太郎

Later, lost in a stream of Japanese
you wrapped my arms around your stomach,
leaned back on me, laughing.
Your hair fuzzed my lips like a microphone.

I took another gulp of warm peach sake –
considered a kind way to leave.
 
(new poem)
 
 
 
David Tait‘s work includes Self-Portrait with the Happiness (shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and The Polari Prize) and Three Dragon Day, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. He lives in China where he works as a teacher.

Two poems by Pam Thompson

Her Grown-Up Dress

When she came at last to that row of shops
on the long road, having left behind the dirt track,
railway-line, the sluggish brook and had fastened
round gold slides in her mud brown hair,
pulled plimsolls on her feet so the backs weren’t squashed
she found the shops were boarded up, that the woman
standing there wore a pale green cotton dress

and when the tall young man stepped from shadows
of a sealed-up shop the woman’s face was like a pearl
whose lustre lasted all the time she held his arm
and walked slowly down that long road which trains
hadn’t crossed for years, where the brook was dry,
and the cotton dress was just a stem stripped down,
its milk pale sap evaporating in air,
and the young man a tree it had briefly leaned against.
 
(published in Show Date and Time, 2006, Smith|Doorstop)
 
 
Resurrection

After he’d gone, she thought she’d bring him back
so she scoured the house for traces of his hair,
semen, blood and skin; epithelia scraped from a comb,
from her sheets after the last rite, from underneath her nails.
She ransacked sweat from a shirt he’d left.
Swabbed piss and shit from the toilet rim.

And conjured him on a night when a gibbous moon
stormed in and out of the clouds like a temper—
a man as large as bedlam, like The Angel of the North,
dumb, blank-faced, but without wings.

Flight was never in her plan. She watched him through all weathers,
parked her car a little closer when it rained
to get a better view. She watched time turn its tricks,
how his skin sagged, fell away from bones. And how rooks,
nesting in the cavity where his heart once lay, pecked
at shreds remaining, and, she swears, spat them out.
 
(published in The Japan Quiz, 2008, Redbeck Press (out of print)
 
 
 
Pam Thompson is a poet and university lecturer based in Leicester. Her publications include Show Date and Time (Smith-Doorstop, 2006) and The Japan Quiz, (Redbeck Press, 2009). Pam was selected for The Poetry Business Writing School and is one of the organisers of Word!, a spoken-word, open-mic night at The Y Theatre in Leicester. Read more at her blog Heckle.

‘February’ by Tim Dooley

February

We walked back and forth from the library,
preparing for some high leap: sunlight catching
the tallest spume of the shopping centre fountain.

Something we owe to the past made our elders
stand, kneel and then sit in buildings
warmed by a hope for something better.

That monogrammed leather trunk
we use to keep the dresses
you can’t throw away came ahead of you.

Just so the twisted black
of the ornamental cherry’s bark
breaks out in gluey scars

that papery pink peeps through,
ballooning to the rumoured candy cloud
the street stands still for sight of.

Imported, fitted to this soil
but fruitless, its grace
sustains what reason
could not argue for: its place.
 
 
 
Tim Dooley is reviews and features editor of Poetry London, a tutor for The Poetry School and an arts mentor for the Koestler Trust. The Interrupted Dream, was published by Anvil in 1985, followed by the pamphlets The Secret Ministry (2001) and Tenderness (2004), both winners in the Smith/Doorstop pamphlet competition. Keeping Time (Salt, 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It was followed by Imagined Rooms (Salt, 2010), which collected out-of-print and previously unpublished work.

‘Six Perspectives on Lilian Kjærulff’ by Lisa Kelly

Six Perspectives on Lilian Kjærulff

2 April 1934 – 17 July 2010

 
i second daughter from second marriage

I know why you married so young.
You curtsied to him, offered your gloved hand
with your girlish good manners,
straight off the Esbjerg boat.
Your signature move: that dip.
You were a tall girl; your mother warmed
to see another top you by an inch.
You told me once, if out together,
you walked in the gutter,
so she didn’t feel so small. Nothing
bitchy meant by her remark,
Se, en anden giraf!
That’s why curtseying came so naturally:
maternal inculcation. Of course,
when you made yourself small for him,
he had to fall in love; and you were trained to please.
 
ii first husband

It wasn’t the height gap; it was the age gap
that bothered me: 13 years, I grey, you blonde.
Your accent I found charming,
Wheel for dinner darling?
but then tiring. I was a golfer, not a teacher.
I liked your sportiness. Your height must have helped:
Danish Junior Tennis Champion at 15.
Imagine. You at full stretch
smashing a ball, your dress rising.
When we met, you dropped a bunch of marguerites,
(well, that’s what we told the children)
bent at the same time, bumped heads,
and hearts.
You told me 13 was a lucky number in Denmark.
Sod the age gap:
I wanted you.

iii best friend

I called you Great Dane; you called me She.
Both with two children, both golf widows,
both with frightful mothers-in-law –
yours called you The Hun.
Bound to become friends darling.
Of course I knew. Everything.
You covered for me, I covered for you.
Friends do that. I often brought
my lover to lunch. You served
champagne and Smörgåsbord.
There was that time
you said Dickie tried to kiss you,
but he liked to tickle a lady
with his moustache. Just his way.
Nothing meant by it. All fun and games.
We got over it. Great Dane, such a sport!

iv second husband

Other men’s wives:
neglected, grateful for attention,
but most importantly no bother.
You were different.
He was a drinking pal at the club.
We had handicaps in common,
not much else. Until you.
I want another drink.
Will you dance with my wife?

Of course, I obliged.
The club tolerated affairs,
but it treated divorcees
like the Irish. We had to move.
I never regretted anything.
You were my Lil.
Jeg elsker dig.

v first daughter from first marriage

I was 11; it was a bit of an adventure packing.
I knew you were unhappy,
the last two years sleeping in my room,
making yourself small to fit in the bed,
long summers in Copenghagen.
You left dad a Dear John note.
I understood, but I loved him.
The adventure was soon over:
I missed school, my friends, London.
Buckinghamshire was just leafy. I went home.
He married the barmaid at the club;
she was nice until she took his name.
You phoned him once to tell him
to tell her to stop.
He said, If you hadn’t left
we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

vi mother

You were my only child.
And you left.
I saw you just two weeks every year:
in one house, and then another. Imagine.
Four grandchildren I couldn’t speak to.
I’m not trying to make you feel guilty,
but imagine. You broke my heart.
You could have had anyone, a Danish
anyone. I’m not trying to make you feel
guilty, but imagine what it was like
when I became ill. Your father on his own.
My memory going, repeating myself over
and over. I was so proud of you.
I want you to know that. Imagine how proud:
a champion at 15, beautiful manners.
And so tall.
 
(first published in Ambit)
 
 
 
Lisa Kelly is a half deaf, half Danish freelance journalist living in London. Her pamphlet Bloodhound is published by Hearing Eye. She is a regular host of poetry events at the Torriano Meeting House in London and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She co-edited Magma Issue 63 on the theme of Conversation — and is on the board of Magma.

‘Ship-breaking’ by Hannah Lowe

Ship-breaking

These folks were not the victims of migration…these folks mean to survive – Stuart Hall

I watch old films of ship yards on the Clyde:
cranes ripping ships apart, their metal hides
peeled back by men in goggles wielding fire.
The shock of innards: girders, joists and wires,
a rusted funnel toppling in slow motion.
Those open flanks rain down the cabin’s foreign
detritus of flags and posters, turquoise charts
of distant oceans, photographs of sweethearts –

They tore the Ormonde up in ’52
for scrap. I google what I can. If you
were here, you’d ask me why I care so much.
I’d say it’s what we do these days, Dad – clutch
at history. I find old prints – three orphans
on a deckchair squinting at the sun; a crewman
with an arm around a girl, both smiling, windswept;
a stark compartment where you might have slept

and I recall that old trunk in our attic –
cracked leather, rusted clasps – my box of tricks
you said, you said you’d lost the only key.
Your home, the ship you sailed, those miles of sea
were locked inside. And now my mind replays
a ciné-film: the young man on a gangway –
the trilby tilted, pocket hankie, his smartest gear
and his stride so well-rehearsed – it says I’m here.
 
(first published in Ormonde, Hercules Editions, 2014)
 
 
Hannah Lowe‘s most recent book is a memoir, Long Time No See. Her second poetry collection, Chan, will be published in June 2016.

Two poems by Peter Daniels

Regulars

Tonight we go through to the small back room
hung with wrestling posters, plastic vegetables
and salami. It’s cosy here, warm at least,
away from the street. Nearer the kitchen,
source of heat, food and argument;
nearer the toilets. Catch a lime-scented
disinfectant that sanctifies the smell of drains.
Up there on a ceiling from the surface of the moon,
the humming fluorescent tubes bounce a signal
off the patterned floor, scrubbed bald,
and glare back at us from off the wiped
wood-effect formica tables.
The vinyl menu covers are wearing down
into something opaque, like melted onyx.

We’re ready to order.
We like it here, our little place. We’re regulars.
 
(published in the pamphlet Work & Food, Mulfran Press, 2011 and due to appear in the collection A Season in Eden, Gatehouse, 2016)
 
 
The Expedition

It put you through the boundaries of endurance:
no huskies, no whisky, no sex, and a hole in your sock.

Further into the forest, the way became clearer
and sun shone through, though you couldn’t see the sky.

It was warmer, the wind was broken by trees.
There might be answers, if you could tell what to ask.

Woven into the tree roots, the cross purposes
of everything, the earth and water to push and suck.

Someone had been here before. They didn’t own it, either,
but you thanked them. A debt to pay, a blessing to seek.

New understandings of nature: truths as old
as the hills you were roaming. A walk for its own sake.

Versions of what you’d report to them afterwards.
Your joy on reaching the creek. The bones in your sack.

(previously unpublished)
 
 
 
Peter Daniels has won poetry competitions including the Arvon, Ledbury and TLS, and published a number of pamphlets. His collection Counting Eggs appeared from Mulfran Press in 2012, and Gatehouse will publish a new collection in 2016. His translations of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian (Angel Classics, 2013), have been shortlisted for the Rossica, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Read Russia prizes.

Two poems by Emily Blewitt

This Is Not a Rescue

I want to tell you it will not be as you expect. For years you have hammered in stakes, handed men the rope and said consume me with fire. Most have run – one does not burn a witch lightly. This one is water. He’ll unbind you, take your hands in his and say remember how you love the ocean? Come with me. You’ll go to the beach on a cloudy day, watch foam rise from the sea’s churn until sun appears. In turn you’ll say let’s go in and even though he hesitates, this man will kick off his shoes and wade to his shins. Jellyfish, shot with pink like satin dresses, will dance between you, flash iridescent. His body is all whorls and planes like smoothly sanded planks used to make a boat, his ears are pale shells you hear the waves in, he smells of sandalwood and salt, his eyes are ocean. He’ll spot the pebbles that in secret you have sewn into your skirts and give you his penknife to unpick them. You can’t swim with those. He’ll teach you to skim. The pebbles break the surface like question marks. You’ll throw each last one in.
 
 
We Broke Up

Because my cat
screamed her passion on our lawn

Because bears
don’t wet their ears

Because great white sharks
swim solitary lives

Because blue whales’ tongues
lie heavy

Because barnacles
have no true heart

Because elephants
mourn their dead

Because dogs
love unconditionally

Because tortoises
feel their shells being touched

Because rabbits
breed like rabbits

Because fox sex
hurts

Because ducks
are rapists

Because cows
hold grudges

Because roe deer
lower heads in prayer

Because wild boar
are matriarchal

Because domestic rats
live and die in pairs

Because giant pandas
don’t conceive on camera

Because emperor penguins
clutch eggs between their feet

Because honey bees
die when they love

Because crows
mate for life

Because my heart
made the sound an animal makes

Because of crows, the shadows
of crows
 
 
 
Emily Blewitt has published poetry in Poetry Wales, Ambit, Furies, Cheval, and Hinterland, and has work forthcoming in Prole and The Rialto. She won the 2010 Cadaverine/Unity Day Competition, and was Highly Commended in the 2014 Terry Hetherington Award. Emily also participated in the 2015 Enemies/Gelynion project. Her first collection of poetry will be published by Seren in 2017.

Two poems by Aki Schilz

The Fall

I have clasped your edges so hard
they leave grooves in my palms,
deep as the grooves of horse-reins
beneath the bridges on towpaths
wasted with bracken and buddleia.

These, and mine,
cut across lifelines:
a geometric interruption.

*

I cannot document dropping you
on a sunlit day, startled
by the sudden noise of a narrowboat
any more than I can document
                                                                  losing you

but the fall happens
as if both were inevitable.
The first:
a drowning of lungs,
the plosion of capillaries,
a haemorrhage behind your eyelids
like a summer storm.

The second:
a smaller drowning
though no less significant,
this arcing towards water
of hard edges and palm-deep cuts:
the only photograph I kept of you
after your death.
Did you dive in after it?
she asks me when I tell her
what has happened. I am at a loss
to explain, when I shake my head,
why I didn’t.
It never occurred to me
I might be able to save you
this time.
 
 
Moth (Buffering)

We are constantly approaching the moment
that never arrives:
 
We are
buffering
 
And against the window,
muggy with cooking clouds
and shot through with a single,
glassy smear where a drop
has fattened and fallen –
 
A moth,
 
Pressing its body in short
movements as if it wanted,
to make love to something solid
 
As if waiting,
with delicate urgency,
 
To approach the moment
again and again, wanting to tap but
making no sound because it is too soft
 
For impact. It flutters like the kisses
of nervous lovers, in and out, in and out
of the pooling light and of my vision as I type
 
(I realise suddenly)
to the rhythm of its wing-beats.
 
We are both waiting, I think
for the approaching moment –
 
For the now
to present itself,
to arrive, finally.
 
 
 
Aki Schilz is a writer and editor based in London. She is co-founder of the #LossLit Twitter writing project alongside Kit Caless, and co-editor of LossLit Magazine. Her poetry and fiction have been published both online (Mnemoscape, tNY.Press, The Bohemyth, Cheap Pop Lit, Annexe) and in print (Popshot, The Colour of Saying, Kakania, Best Small Fictions 2015), and she is the winner of the inaugural Visual Verse Prize and the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction. Aki works at The Literary Consultancy, the UK’s first and leading editorial consultancy. She is the Editorial Services Manager for TLC, handling submissions and managing a team of 90 professional editors. She tweets micropoetry at @AkiSchilz.

‘Five Unusual Things’ by Kathy Pimlott

Five Unusual Things

You open the quarter-lights, get out of the car.
‘Five minutes’ you say ‘and while I’m gone,

look for five unusual things’. And I’m alone
on a back street of workshops and offices.

No-one appears. There are no balloons,
no burglaries. Nothing disturbs the street.

Two thirds up the warehouse wall
the brick course swivels ninety degrees,

three fanciful rows and then back
to a sensible horizontal.

I breathe on the window, draw a face
that fades with the clearing mist,

breathe again and it reappears.
Years later, when you’ve been gone forever,

seeing a sign for invisible menders,
I say for you, ‘you don’t see many of those.’
 
(published in The North, Dec 2014)
 
 
 
Kathy Pimlott grew up in Nottingham but has lived in London for the last forty years, most of that time in Seven Dials, where she manages public realm projects. Her poems have appeared in magazines, anthologies and on-line and her pamphlet, Goose Fair Night (Emma Press), is due out in March 2016. She was one of the Poetry Trust’s 2015 Aldeburgh Eight.

‘Stand in the Light’ by Elizabeth Rimmer

Stand in the Light

Stand in the light.
Allow the wild things to creep
out of the shadows.
Welcome them all, the wet
bedraggled things, the ones
all spit and claws, the one
who weeps and hangs its head,
the one who stares, and says ‘Make me.’
Stand in the light. They are yours,
washed and unwashed alike.

Stand in the light, and sing.
Raise your voice as if
there was no fear of darkness.
Listen and you will hear
other voices, other songs,
rough and sweet and dauntless,
blues and canto jondo,
pibroch, nanha, tanakh.
Stand in the light and sing. Their pain
is yours. Allow it to hurt.

Stand in the light. Be still.
Light is what we need. Let it glow,
let it shine into the furthest dark
to find the lost forgotten hopes
and warm them to new life.
Allow it to grow and touch the ruined
homes and hearts and show us
what’s to mend. Stand in the light.
Be still. Become the light.
 
(previously unpublished)
 
 
Elizabeth Rimmer was born and educated in Liverpool and moved to Scotland in 1977. Poet, gardener and river-watcher, her roots are Catholic, radical, feminist and green. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Scotland, Northwords Now, Gutter, Brittle Star and Southlight. Her first full collection, Wherever We Live Now, was published by Red Squirrel in 2011, who also published her second, The Territory of Rain, in 2015. Currently she is working on poems about herbs, social and environmental upheaval, and strategies for responding to hard times.