You write your name on water
and then you sink.
A wet halo shrinks
around your face
and you sink
why didn’t you float like the others?
Why didn’t you drift downstream with a glut
of Pre-Raphaelite flowers?
I’m terrified that you’ve stopped breathing
or that you gulp the dim, death-gladdening murk,
where everything’s refracted
bending the sticks and searching arms.
For you are not where you seem to be
and your ears are full of sand
and there’s a stone in your soul so big,
I’m not sure if you want me
to lift you up or hold you under.
(from The Nightwork (Telltale Press 2014) first published in Rogue Scholars)
Peter Kenny’s pamphlet The Nightwork is published by Telltale Press. His poems about Guernsey were collected in A Guernsey Double (2010) with Richard Fleming. UK magazine appearances include Acumen, The Frogmore Papers, Ink Sweat &Tears, Poetry London and Other Poetry. He also writes libretti, fiction and comedy plays — and he blogs at peterkenny.co.uk
It’s always when my back is turned. I’m at my desk –
a hollow thump, palm on back, her echoing rib cage.
I turn, grab my son’s arms. I want him to confess.
‘It was an accident,’ he pleads. Always too late.
I drag him down the hall, he’s not yet dressed.
‘I do not want you in my house,’ I rail.
Outside the front door, he peers through the letter box.
‘It doesn’t hurt any more,’ his sister says, peering back.
I think – I’ve done it now. Bare-chested, no socks,
he’ll run away. They whisper, laugh and chat.
While I’m yelling ‘you’re nothing but a bully’
she’s calling his name and posting through the keys.
Kate Hendry‘s poems have been published widely in magazines, such as Agenda, The Rialto and The Manchester Review. Others are forthcoming in various magazines, including The North and Gutter. Her first collection will be published by HappenStance Press next year.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways – E. B. Browning
I’ benedico il loco e ‘l tempo et l’ora – Petrarch
How can I stop myself from loving you?
How many ways can I deny the pleasure?
Could I delete each note, each beat, each measure
until the rhythm of a lie beats true?
There’s not a single day compares to you,
nor gem, nor jewel, nor glint of hidden treasure;
even a season or a life of leisure
curtails what poetry must fail to do.
If I could emulate his love for Laura
that Petrarch could achieve in fourteen lines,
contain it in a sonnet; see it more
a fantasy for love achieved in rhyme,
would I rejoice that day, or yet deplore
a longing for an encore one more time?
J. A. Sutherland has been published in print and online, and has produced three limited edition art-books, including, most recently, Charlotte & The Charlatan – and other Cautionary Tales. For more information, see firstname.lastname@example.org
Two views on intimacy:
every cloud is wet;
the ocean rains dead things.
And still some of us can’t see
even when we’ve plunged under the surface. Romance
is when one has learnt to disappear – like phosphorous
in still waters,
or oxygen from the deep.
This isn’t Hollywood.
We can only guess what’ll happen next.
Yesterday she told me
she knew as much about love
as the tourist understands
the sea they swim in.
A man in a wet suit waded into the mud.
He might have been from the Environment Agency.
Or the power station.
We could hear his squeaky gasps against the cold
shorter, it seemed, the further he went.
We didn’t shout after him, to warn him
of currents, radioactivity, or channels,
just breathed in, and out
the two of us in time.
He was muscular, like a wind-surfer.
I knew what she was thinking,
standing next to me, chewing her flaky nails. Thinking
she can walk away,
keep herself and any man, any thing, separate.
But it’s always too late for that.
Sarah Hymas lives on Morecambe Bay, England. Her writing has appeared in print, multimedia exhibits, site-specific audios, dance videos, lyrics, pyrotechnical installations, on stage and as an improvised opera. The poem Lune was made as a small concertina pamphlet, which was a runner-up in the Saboteur Awards 2013. More details here.
And Other Poems will be back on 17th November.
I’ll be at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival (hope to see some of you there!) and then on retreat with the Aldeburgh Eight Advanced Seminar.
Thanks and best wishes
On a carrier pigeon found dead in a chimney
Time has done its dissections, spread
the jigsaw on the kitchen table.
Some wing bones, hollow radius and carpus,
a fretwork of struts and trusses. Interlocking
ribs around an unsnapped wishbone.
An empty skull, chalky with age, and a tiny
red capsule concealing a cigarette-paper of code:
KLDTS, FQIRU, AOAKN, JRZCQ.
These are the pencilled clues to the pigeon’s lost brains,
how it was tuned to the earth’s magnetic field,
its beak a fixed compass point,
or an unmetalled sextant,
charting the gunfire, rising Verey lights, the parachute flares.
How it sensed sparrowhawks banking
like Messerschmitts, coming up fast;
how it dropped like a stone
and smashed into the treetops,
shaking loose the coordinates of home.
(an earlier version of this poem was published in Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry, Vagabond Voices, Glasgow, 2014, edited by Colin Waters).
Samuel Tongue has published poems in, among other places, Magma, Northwords Now, Gutter and Cordite (Aus.). He held the Callan Gordon Award as part of the 2013 Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Awards and is featured in Be The First to Like This: New Scottish Poetry (2014). He is poetry editor at the Glasgow Review of Books and lectures in Religion, Literature, and Culture at the University of Glasgow. He tweets at @SamuelTongue
The poet in Samos
Here are the things you left behind:
an old bus ticket to a place with an illegible name,
a stack of government files from distinct regimes,
a pile of rocks, a copy of Cavafy, well-thumbed.
I don’t know how many meals you ate here,
by the seaward window. I don’t know
whether the shutter kept you awake at night
as it banged unheeded on the wall, or whether
as you claimed, it was a kind of comfort.
Reading Parentheses, I see once more how
the world became an adjunct to your poems,
your poems an adjunct to the world.
Here are the things that you invented, even
as they, in turn, invented you. Nothing was inanimate.
You turned each movement of the head,
each falling leaf or bicycle into the fragment of a story.
You told us that you hid behind simple things
and if we could not find you, we’d find the things instead.
Author’s note: The reference to Parentheses refers to an early book by the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos. The final two lines of the poem refer to the opening lines of a poem in that collection, called ‘The Meaning of Simplicity’: in Edmund Keeley’s translation: ‘I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me;/ if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things.’
Richard Gwyn is a poet, novelist and translator. His last book, The Vagabond’s Breakfast, won a Wales Book of the Year Award in 2012. His next book, an anthology of contemporary Latin American poetry, will be published by Seren in 2016. He writes a blog here.
The War Reporter Paul Watson and the Room across the Hall
It’s like they’re still in college. Mattresses
on the floor. Empty soda bottles filled
with water. Chicken bones and French fry stubs
in clamshell cardboard. Toilet rolls along
electric radiators. One laptop
like a fire in the cave mouth at night. Cords
suckling at working sockets. A tissue
box for unmentionables. Mugs and Moleskine
diaries. Backpacks, blankets. A feather
duster in a pressure cooker. Kevlar
vests and helmets, bullets, Kalashnikovs
and concussion grenades. I caught a glimpse
whenever they came or went. Jawboning
behind their door like they were debating
the death of God or Freud. And once I heard
English barked in a Brooklyn accent but
covered my ears for fear. Spat my toothpaste
into a kidney dish. Sank to my couch
cushion on the floor. In my solitary
room across the hall. Kevlar vest, camera
in my helmet. A pillar of sunrise
through Venetian blinds. While the muezzin
rouses Aleppo: Hurry to prayer,
hurry to success! They dragged a mattress
through my door, loaded with a newish corpse,
or so I thought at first. Black hair like moss
growing over a bullet scar. Breathing
miraculously. His midnight tracksuit
with Adidas stripes. Sharp cheeks, rusty beard
sculpted handsomely by his friends. Bare feet
smelling of urine. While they were mopping
their room across the hall, the living corpse
watched me. As if smiling. As if sharing
his faith: Hurry to prayer, hurry to
(Originally published in Ambit Issue 218, Autumn 2014)
Dan O’Brien is a poet and playwright in Los Angeles. He is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Drama and Performance Art. His War Reporter received the 2013 Fenton Aldeburgh Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Foundation’s Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. Scarsdale (2014) is O’Brien’s second collection, and New Life, his third, was published 13 October 2015; all three books are published by CB Editions in London.
Lifting the lid, you’d tell me:
once the fork is struck,
the initial blade of overtones
quieten to one note
composed of vibrations
undetectable by the human
eye, almost silent to the ear.
I always loved the bit
about the shattered tooth,
the thrill when you lifted
the steel close to my cheek
so that I could almost feel,
as you explained it, sound waves
from each prong of the fork
cancelling each other out.
I remember our voices, raised
against each other, amplified
by the walls of this house, recall
the function of the resonator,
as simple as a table top, to which
the handle of the fork is pressed,
or a hollow wooden box.
(winning poem in the 2010 Sheffield Hallam University competition ‘Words on the Wall’.)
Ruby Robinson lives in Sheffield, where she completed her MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. Her debut collection is to be published by Pavilion Poetry (Liverpool University Press) in 2016.
Renny – 1961
Even then, I knew my performance as a primrose
wouldn’t impress. But as soon as the bell clanged
we played wild animals. We’d be at it on the floor,
some crawling on all fours, others writhing,
all of us snarling or growling. I guessed
he’d notice my sabre-tooth-tiger impression:
I knew how to act long fangs, had the prowl off to a tee.
I’d studied the picture and practised. Anyone would guess.
He stood watching me for a while, hands on hips,
smiled at me. But all he wanted to do was to rough up Bert
and I can’t remember now what animal he was.
(published in Lighthouse)
the fields are bolts of cloth
wrinkling with birds
until a stray thread is pulled
and half of the flock
folds itself over the other
to crease and quarter
while trees on the margin
are thick with their singing
till out of nowhere
of a thousand wings takes off
in one beat
not one stitch
a spindle of starlings
rise up in their thousands
a hank of black thread
drawn from the weave
(published in Moor Poets anthology vol 3)
Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor. Her second poetry collection, A Handful of Water was published in 2013 by Cinnamon Press who also published her two novels, Liar Dice and What the horses heard. New poems have recently appeared in various magazines and also in anthologies, notably Her Wings of Glass, (Second Light) and The Very Best of 52 (Nine Arches Press). She works as a gardener, runs a portable children’s bookshop and runs poetry workshops from time to time.