‘Afterthought’ by Marie Naughton


And what if –– go on, you’ve seen those films ––
what if on one particular January morning this man
no, this boy, what if, when this boy approaches the main road
and reaches in his pocket for his phone he remembers
fuckit, the fiver to cover the cost of his DaySaver
still on the kitchen table where three hours earlier
she’d positioned it carefully under the toast rack.

What if he ambles back to the house, sticks the key in the lock,
that small ritual like a reflex, on hold all these months
while he’s been teaching football to twelve-year-olds
in the States, and lets himself in, to that unmistakable
smell of home –– clean clothes on an airer, fresh sawdust
in the hamster’s cage, the vase of stargazer lilies
splitting into bloom on the sunny windowsill.

While he’s sliding the note in his wallet, what if she arrives
in the hall, back for an early lunch, hopeful
to catch her eldest before he sets off on the job-hunt,
and presses him to have a cuppa simply so she can savour
the pleasure of seeing him in her kitchen again, before
he pulls on the pale blue hoody that by teatime tomorrow
everyone in the district will recognise, and zips it up to his chin

laughing out loud as she hugs him like she won’t let go,
breathing in the lambswool warmth
of his newly-tanned neck, then volunteering
to give him a lift to the bus-stop, and they drive past
all the landmarks like they used to on the school run ––
the library where young mums still push buggies into the playgroup,
the swimming pool where he started his collection of badges.

Slowing, to let him jump out at the bus shelter
which you’d not imagine wreathed in blue and white tape,
what if she mutters dammit, things are quiet
in the office, I’ll drop you in town
and changing up to third, slides back into the line
of cars that file past the CCTV camera
perched like a sparrowhawk above the Tesco Express.

And at that interview, what if the boy lands the job
flipping burgers and before taking up the place
at Nottingham Trent, puts enough money in the bank
to spend the last five weeks of his gap year
on an adventure with a mate from college
hitching from beach to beach up the Capricorn Coast
and snorkelling on the reefs off Australia’s eastern seaboard.
(published in The Dark Horse 31 Autumn/Winter 2013).

Marie Naughton’s poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, The Dark Horse, Southword, Lines Underwater and Her Wings of Glass. Others have been placed in competitions and she won the Cafe Writers competition in 2012. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the Centre for New Writing at Manchester University. She is a psychotherapist and a counsellor in a high school. She lives in Manchester. Read more poems by Marie Naughton here and here.

Two poems by Mary Noonan

The Moths

The artist is sitting, perfectly still,
by his mulberry tree, watching
it. He has been in that pose all day.

The white moths have flown
through my open window,
drawn by the light of a bedside lamp.

They are everywhere – cloaking
the walls, sleeping in the folds of sheets,
crawling over the shoes on the floor.

I try to flatten some with newspaper
but they are too many, and I lie down
among them. Soon, they cover me,

their anaemic wings lining the creases
of my eyelids, lashes thrumming
to the sound of a thousand tiny wings

flicking. In the bed, I rustle. Moths are
spinning from hairs, slinking over the skin
of my scalp and pubis. I lie in a rictus.

In the morning, I walk on a flittered
bridal veil of wings, from bed to bathroom.
I pass the artist. He is sitting

by the fish tank, watching his black
piranha slip through cool water,
behind glass. Has he been there all night?
(published in Poetry Ireland Review 114 (2015)
Into the Night

You fling yourself out the door into the wind
and start to row yourself down the steep hill
with your standard issue steel stick, working it
along the dark path, clickety-click, clickety-click.
It’s a path you would know with your eyes closed,
the old Richmond Hill you cycled up and down
as a boy, in all weathers, coming and going from
the house perched on top. You shuttle along at first,
taking full advantage of your exit velocity, clickety-
click, clickety- flop against the rail, breathe heavily,
rattle on. At the bottom, you tilt into Patrick Street
and fluorescent lighting, poke at the white rounds
winking on the ground, checking for coins, finding
gum. You have forgotten
your glasses, and so your vision is that of a small
subterranean animal, tunnelling with its fore-paws.
Staggering now, you keel against walls, your flittered
left hip giving way. A passer-by gives you a second
glance, wonders. Your cap is pulled tightly over
the bald eyebrows you shave off every other day,
along with cheek bristle. You propel yourself on,
slashing the wind, and the dark. You don’t know
where you are going, or why.
(published in The Spectator , 6 December 2014)
Mary Noonan lives in Cork, where she lectures in French literature at University College Cork. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including The Dark Horse, Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, The Spectator, Wasafiri, The North, Tears in the Fence and The Threepenny Review. She won the Listowel Poetry Collection Prize in 2010. Her first collection – The Fado House (Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2012) – was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and the Strong/Shine Award. In 2014, she was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland Literature Bursary, and she was selected as one of a group of eight to take part in the Aldeburgh Eight Advanced Seminar. Mary Noonan audio archive at From the Fishouse.

Two poems by Jo Bell


A word made scant by frequent use.
I like it for its urgency and spit, for its
necessity. I like it for its oldness,
for its slingshot certainty.

I like it for its plainness; for belonging
to the Northern tongue behind my teeth.
I like it for its fighting talk.
The known. The tribe.

Something I can recognise:
something that recognises me.
I am not who I think I am
but who you know me to be.

A dark man gave me this, and it was everything:
a cabin twelve by six, and Severn rising limitless.
No romance, no quarter; little rest.

In his coffin bunk, our skins, the channels of my wrist
were specks of engine oil and wine, small piracies of self.
We made a travellers’ pact to go wherever water let us pass,
together until each stood in the other’s way.

His second gift was a clean parting. Love passes,
water stays. Inconstant: always borrowed, never spent.
A better woman would be sorry now.
Jo Bell is a boat-dweller, archaeologist and internaut whose projects include the mass overhearing event Bugged and global workshopping group 52. Formerly the director of National Poetry Day, she is now the Canal Laureate for the UK, appointed by the Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust. Her book Kith can be ordered here.

Three poems by Victoria Kennefick


I have visited your grave many times expecting to find you
tending your plot, maybe with a shovel or a strimmer,
turning your handsomely-lined face towards the sun.

In Kilmahon cemetery, wild garlic excretes a heavy smell.
White bonnets bob at your wooden cross,
embarrassed to show their faces, roots grown so deep.

Reflected in the bronze plaque, my borrowed face,
my something blue. Your name, that date
engraved above pebbles surfaced, shyly, in the wake.

I see through soil and rotting wood to what remains of you,
with bare hands I’ll dig, scavenge your grave goods.
Count, collect, wash your bones, knit them together,

taste dirt under my fingernails, earth that reeks of ramsons.
The whole empty, swallowed, to fill with rainwater
and white feathers. Wild garlic lingers,

a confusion of scents and sense. You pull your weeds,
in your element. Heaviness tugs at me, you do too.
A corset I wear made of your ribs, my rib that made you.

(from the pamphlet White Whale , Southword 2015)

A bloated calf floated downriver
you turned me away;
I looked over your shoulder
at the off-white belly, curly-haired
in the city’s storm-swollen water.

I wanted to wade in, drag it
dripping onto the pavement, slit
the distended belly down the middle.
Its guts would plop out, shock concrete.
In the packed entrails maybe there’d be a clue.

The calf watched me back with cataract eyes.
Impotent seers, we tried to divine
the meaning of this, still holding hands.
There was no liver to dissect, no blood.
All the same, it did not augur well.

(Winner of the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize 2013)

They say that when they laid his bloated body
in her open arms she tried to dry him
with her long red hair; her tears
threatened to drown him all over again.

They say that when she finally let go,
her fingers were puckered;
in the morning her hair was pure white.
She never left the corner house again.

They say she fell away to nothing.
Her bones barely held up pale skin,
sail-taut against the storm of winds
that prevailed night after night.

They say she haunted windows,
watched the water, her face a perfect sphere.
And the crews, sailing the rising sea,
often mistook her for the moon.

(Highly Commended in the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition 2014)
Victoria Kennefick (@VKennefick) is a native of Shanagarry, Co. Cork. A Fulbright scholar, her poems have been published in The Stinging Fly, New Irish Writing, Bare Fiction, The Penny Dreadful, and elsewhere. In 2013 she won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Emily Berry. Her chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Competition and was launched at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015. It is available for purchase online here.

Two poems by Anthony Wilson

Poem Beginning With a Line by Eve Merriam

I am telling my hands
to be still. They do not want
to be still. My hands are grey,
they are not clean,
they long to be grey again.
There is much they have seen
and cannot speak of.
I have told them
they are beautiful
but they will not listen.
Fidgeting towards silence
is their gift, picking up objects
and placing them back again.
They will not sit
still, joined by hope or nothing
on the dials of old radios, cuttings
from newspapers, pencil-shavings
in a desk-drawer.
My hands gaze up at me with love.
I cannot look at them.
They tell me they are proud
of what I have done.
Do not be afraid, they say,
let us explain to you the truth
of your life: you are loved,
you are more than your hands.
In Oregon
for Ann Gray

When I am on my deathbed
recalling life-changing art
this is the reading I will keep.
One filthy night in Cornwall:
the soddenness in our bones,
rain on the slates and teacups,
as Anthony spoke about Melville
and Matthew suicide and fire.
We did not ‘wait five more minutes’;
the car park did not burst
with a coach trip. We were there,
we can say it, to hear Anthony pull
Berryman from memory,
their warmth and mutual respect
both blanket and shield to the elements,
two voices and hail on the roof,
the bookstall groaning behind them.
When Matthew invited us to stay with him,
he explained we were already in Oregon,
I mean it, I would love it, you and all your dogs.
Anthony Wilson is a poet, writing tutor, blogger and Senior Lecturer at the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. His most recent books are Riddance (Worple Press, 2012) and a prose memoir of cancer, Love for Now (Impress Books, 2012). He is the editor of the forthcoming Lifesaving Poems (Bloodaxe, 2015), based on his blog of the same name. A researcher in the field of poetry in education, he is co-editor of Making Poetry Matter (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Making Poetry Happen (Bloomsbury, 2015). He blogs at www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com

Deathflake by Paul Stephenson


(Deathflake was previously published in Under the Radar magazine).

Paul Stephenson was one of the winners of the 2014/15 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet competition. His first pamphlet will be published by Smith Doorstop in May. He was previously a Jerwood/Arvon mentee in 2013/14, and in 2012 won second prize in the Troubadour International poetry competition. Originally from Cambridge, he currently lives in Paris where he is a university teacher/researcher in European Studies. He has a diary/blog at paulstep.com

Three poems by Geraldine Clarkson

The Dancers on Graves

gather at dawn, 21st June, by the large yew;
limber up, leaning on the back ends of monuments
and tombs; adjust bandeaux and legwarmers;
yodel a little, do scales to loosen the chi.

The relevant areas are corralled with ribbon,
beginning with John Henry Frayn, father of three, down to
Dawn Mary Highgate, a friend to all.
The usual routines, salsa, merengue, rain-dance,

always come out altered on grass, especially
if the going is soft. Some were children when they
started; they say the day fits seamless
into their year. And a lady of 90 (who never forgot

the man who wronged her at seventeen)
resplendent in furs, performs a perfect foxtrot.
The Mercy Brigade sitting to one side, allocate
marks for flirtatiousness, precision, grace.

(First published in The Rialto No. 80, Spring/Summer 2014, and soon to be featured in The Emma Press Anthology of Dance).

Pretty winked and drew in her murmuring skirts of lemon and lime broderie anglaise. Oh how we grieve, the skirts murmured, until gradually her bottom squashed the breath out of them, tangling their threads and stopping their mouths. Oh how we hurt. Her tangerine top span in the sunlight and her hat chattered freely to passers-by. Her tanned legs whistled. Her silk bloomers bloomed. An Arabian gentleman raced to bring her a gift of dove-grey slippers, the Statue of Liberty stitched into their suede soles, silver tacks hammered in rows. A fine old bear with mahogany fur sat on a cushion of moss, cuffed himself, and boxed his shadow; tied the box with nylon ribbon and left her a note which said Pretty is as Pretty does.

(First published in Tears in the Fence, No.55, Summer 2012).
Breaking her fast
after Rosemary Tonks

My spirit broke her fast on you,
rubbed morsels to numb lips
that day we met; sipped at glances
shared at sundown, that first day.

When we stumbled into private smiles,
she nibbled them like haws
till juice dribbled on my chin.

When you called me by a pet-name
of my own, she savoured its aroma,
tongued its vowels; made it me.

Your accidental touch made her crest mountains
to cool her craving; shun tundra
where you were not.

And when our shapes pressed one against the other—
bonding in a public place—
not even the milk moon, streaming,
could slake the cracking Africa of her desire.

You only kissed me once —and that
in fond farewell—but my spirit
grapples manfully with the memory, still;

takes it bloody to a corner, pulps
its gristle in her teeth; finds the quick.

(First published in Iota, No. 92, June 2013)
Geraldine Clarkson has had poems published in various UK and international magazines and anthologies, including The Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt, 2014), Furies (For Books’ Sake, 2014), and (forthcoming) The Emma Press Anthology of Dance (Emma Press, 2015), and The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear, 2015)

Poem in translation by Conor Kelly

The Point of Flame

All his long life
he loved to read
by candle light.
He often passed

his hand through flame
to show himself
he was alive.
He was alive.

Now, since he died,
he lies beside
a candle flame
but hides his hands.

(Originally published at The Honest Ulsterman. Pointe de flamme by Jules Supervielle in its original French here)
Conor Kelly has had poems published in Irish, British and American magazines. He now lives in rural France. He has a twitter account @poemtoday in which he posts a brief poem daily and a tumblr blog (Poem Today) in which he highlights one classic or one contemporary poem on a daily basis.

Three poems by Marion McCready

Degas’ The Tub
           for Vicki Feaver

It’s the way she lies abandoned,
Jezebel, to her liquid bronze bath; hair
dripping over the lip of the tub,
as if recovering from a marathon
or from giving birth.
Like the post-natal bath I had
in the shock-white hospital –
blood streaking the water,
even the gleaming metal taps.

Her slim body bathes in the shallow
pool – sponge in hand resting against
the edge; hips wide, breasts lolling,
a forearm reaching out
seemingly unconnected to her shoulder.
He has made a map out of her skin –
carved the shapes of countries into her
like scar tissue on the split bark of a tree.

Every time I give birth it’s as if my body
is snapped in two, stitched back together
and handed a bundle, another mouth to satisfy.
But she has no such cares;
lost in the waves of her hair,
eyes shut as she absentmindedly holds
her foot. One leg raised, bent across the other,
the straight of her shin following the line
of her outstretched arm, meeting
together in the crux of a triangle.

You simply cannot imagine
that one day soon the dogs
will have her. Leaving only skull,
hand-bone and foot.
September is Not the Birth of Things

September is a stripped trunk of bay laurel,
a valley of rhubarb wands, sky
reflecting the shale rocks
           with layered tongues –
quartz clouds breaking through slate.

September is a haul of brambles
           rotting on a claw
of branches, pulp of bracken fronds
browning at the edges,
crimson wings of fuchsia –
dripping Chinese lanterns.

September is not the birth of things
though it was the month
she was born in.
                      The month
when evergreens become
the muscle of the wind’s song.
The month they turn
into a pack of howling dogs –
           birth pangs of winter
in the chill dawn.

That September I huddled
in my room – for three long weeks
not another soul came near.
My heart leapt into my mouth
when she slipped out
                     quiet as a doll.

Then her call rang through me –
collared doves
in the grey September air.

The Firth is as calm as the waters
that no longer fill my belly;
clouds – pale as my blood-drained,
           child-drained skin.
They pierced me with a witch’s nail;
they unplugged me.

I want to sink into the Clyde –
sink into its amniotic fluids.
The doctors and nurses rise out of my feet
like the hills of Gourock –
solid and unmoving.

The faint crescent of a daylight moon
is my baby’s heartbeat –
a half heart stilled in the sky,
           It hovers above us all –
above my Firth of Clyde belly,
above the surgical hills,
above the whole earth
like Dali’s Christ.

I want to push the moon back inside
of me and let it grow
and grow whole, round and full.

Then I want to feel it fall
from between my legs; hold it
           fresh and sticky,
beating between my breasts.
(Poems from Our Real Red Selves, anthology forthcoming from Vagabond Voices )
Marion McCready lives in Argyll. She has had poems published in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Poetry (Chicago) and The Glasgow Herald. Her first full-length collection, Tree Language, was published by Eyewear Publishing (2014). Marion blogs at http://sorlily.blogspot.co.uk.

Keep reading the poems

There’s going to be a short break while I catch up on a long list of unfinished tasks. More poems will be posted in April, so not long to wait. In the meantime, do browse through the many, many poems on this site. Here are just a few that you might enjoy:

‘Half the Story’ by Ian Duhig – a poem from his eagerly awaited new collection, coming soon from Picador.

Two poems by Anja Konig from her pamphlet ‘Advice for an Only Child’ – selected by the Poetry Book Society as a recent Pamphlet Choice.

Two poems by Rebecca Goss – Rebecca was named in 2014 as one of the Next Generation Poets.

Two poems by Mona Arshi – Mona was a joint winner of the Manchester Poetry Prize in 2014 and has a debut collection forthcoming from Pavillion Poetry.

Three poems by Carrie Etter. Carrie has been shortlisted for this year’s Ted Hughes Prize for New Work in Poetry and is one of the judges for this year’s Forward Prize.

‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ by Kim Moore. A poem from Kim’s forthcoming debut collection from Seren. Since I posted it on March 8th, this sestina has been shared over 500 times on Twitter and Facebook.

‘March’ by Boris Pasternak translated by Sasha Dugdale. I’m always delighted to be able to feature hard-working editors on this site. Modern Poetry in Translation editor Sasha has also given us Pasternak’s ‘February’ but I’ll leave you to find that one for yourself.

Enjoy the poems and see you in April.