Two poems by Niall Campbell

The Water-Carrier

I want to be the worst of this profession,
the one who makes it home half-empty, tipping
more air than water from the ringing pot,
and so late back the town’s already dark;

Oh no, they’ll say, that’s not the way of it,
and I’ll know their heaven’s brimful and undrunk,
their lips parched.
                  What do they know of the kiss
on the shoulder of that first spilt drop,

the tuneful drip, drip, drip on the stone path?
Midway home, midway from the source, my dream-sun
bleaching the sky, what could be better than
dry road ahead, my flooded road behind?
 
(previously published in Poetry London, 2014)
 
 
I Started

I started at the furthest point
telling the road it was a lie,
and on I went. I told the wall,
the kissing gate, the swinging sign,

then told the school it was a lie;
the woman and the men that passed
I told; each rock, and word, and door.
And I did not spare my own house.

And then it rained – and I told the rain,
and told the rain that I was cold.
 
 
Niall Campbell is a Scottish poet originally from the island of South Uist, one of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Moontide, his first collection, is published by Bloodaxe, and was named inaugural winner of the £20,000 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award (2014), and received the Saltire First Book of the Year (2014). Moontide was also shortlisted for both The Forward and The Aldeburgh Prizes for Best First Collection, and given a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Two poems by Zelda Chappel

Flesh

It’s the ways our tongues get folded, stealing
away my speech. It’s open mouths writing

letters, lipped words placed softly in ears
precisely. It’s shadows that aren’t what they

used to be and my fetish for transcendence.
It’s easier. These days it’s slipping through

flesh which we know can be done in silence.
It’s knowing this is not how you’ll have

imagined it. It’s not dark except for the door
we’re caught behind and my room’s heavy

curtains hung drawn, sad, apart for more than
mere sunlight. It’s glass making a show

of transparency while I learn the ways to be
opaque. It’s shrinking as you fill the space

I leave between my skin and bone. It’s waiting
for you to cover me, your skin a fine-spun web.
 
(previously published by Bare Fiction, July 2014)
 
 
Girl in the dog-tooth coat

The last of you was seen wandering the hills

a few weeks later, your red hair loose and wild
flung in every direction. I thought you might

be looking for sky. I didn’t tell on you though,
don’t worry, I kept your secrets sewn inside

my ribs for safe keeping. Now when I walk
through slate and bog cotton I know my feet

have found your footprints, that in breathing
this wind, the song of you is almost audible.
 
(previously published by HARK, March 2015)
 
 
Zelda Chappel is published in, among other places, Popshot, Obsessed with Pipework, Lampeter Review, HARK and The Interpreters House. Her debut collection, The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat was published July 16th 2015 by Bare Fiction. @ZeldaChappel

‘Llandudno’ by Kate Wise

Llandudno

The cries of seagulls smell of salmon sandwiches.
Tinned. On white; juice-soggy in their teeth-setting silverfoil.
Plastic bag jellyfish sculled the pier’s shadows.
We sat in the morning’s goosepimples,
park-bench thigh-marked, waiting for you to finish your
coffee-and-a-chocolate-biscuit,
in matching turquoise shorts because it was
the Summer.
Harvey and Hector stumbled us gloomily
over the pebbledashed sands.
A boat bumped the grey to pick up Some Idiots
stranded on the rocks.
There was a big hill that like so much
we couldn’t afford to go up today maybe next time. The Great Orme, from where
Uncle James said he dreamt he saw a great white swan leap
the night before
you know
and we all thought him maudlin, but still,
he never came home.
On our way home,
you stopped at a newsagent and bought us badges,
mother of pearl
esque, our names in gold lettering,
and mine, so rarely, spelled just right.
On the pier I’d bought one of those keyrings
– crab/ tuft of seaweed/ shell –
suspended in a deathly aquarium of Caribbean-blue plastic
to capture Llandudno forever. I gave it to you to say
thank you very much for today though my fingers itched to say no keep it take it back.
I expect I will, though, when you’re gone, from
the drawer you still keep it in
with your church hankies and
holiday cigars.
The smell of salmon sandwiches,
and somewhere in a striped tent
a man beating a woman
who beat a dog
but here there was a crocodile
and it made
no sense.
 
(Commended in the Cafe Writers competition 2014)
 
 
Kate Wise @kwise62 has been published in various magazines in print and online, including StepAway, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Proletarian Poetry. She was commended in the 2013 Cafe Writers and 2014 Manchester Cathedral competitions, and placed third in the 2014 Ware Poets competition. In 2015 her work will appear in two Emma Press anthologies.

‘Something Understood’ by Edward Doegar

Something Understood

Be seated. So much silliness. Go in fear
             of imperatives. Love,
as much as anything else, as little.
             Stop trying to touch
the stained light, it’s not for you. Feel
             the wood instead; use
has polished the grain, this is not good,
             this is not evil. Wood
is also stained. And so on. Deliver us
             from this, from that.
From our petty convictions. Is it true
             that belief makes
something true? If only here? If
             only. Listen: the hinge
of restlessness caught in a pew, a child
             itching to join in. Give
us this day our daily bread. Forgive
             us our trespasses.
How many mouths has this mattered to?
             How many has it fed?
Enough. Find the light, the door. Be sated.
 
(first published in the anthology Ten: The New Wave (ed. Karen McCarthy Woolf; Bloodaxe 2014).
 
 
Edward Doegar’s poems have appeared in various magazines including The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto and Poetry Ireland Review. He is a Complete Works fellow and six of his poems appear in the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: The New Wave.
@edwarddoegar

‘Not turning the light on’ by Emma Lee

Not turning the light on

As I wake in the dark,
the neighbour’s son returns with his girlfriend
before spending what’s left of the night in her arms.

I’ve not forgotten teenage insomnia, day-dreaming words
into poems not daring to switch on a light to write them
but silently reciting them to memory.

It’s your absence that keeps me awake now
and I still don’t turn the light on. I like the dark:
light shows dust gathering, brings obligations.
In the dark, I can imagine the bedroom door open.
 
(previously published in Under the Radar)
 
 

Emma Lee’s Ghosts in the Desert is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing available here. She blogs at emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for Sabotage Reviews, The Journal and London Grip.

Two poems by Leah Umansky

I Heard the Sparrows Aging

I heard the sparrows aging
a devouring call
a broken spring, there, turning.

a sputtering of what sounds like keys
the lost just within a-reach
Tenants of the past nearly a-hold

Oh, the horse and the rapture;
The horsefly and the rupture.

               to a sleepy pungent
               a beautied terror
               a backward giving
               and the rain coughing…

Let the gutter turn operatic.
I will sing of the heart
 
(previously published in Forklift, Ohio, Spring 2015)
 
 
It’s Nice To Be Understood, Right?

Cheapo,
            we would sing,
in moments odd and
unhandled,

I discouraged the fear
I faced the thrilled heartless

that hop
            that rise
that stranger faring fine

I gloss for you; I do,
and I, too, please the remnants.

Remnant A
Remnant B
            See, all my remnant loves.

I want to kiss this freely.
Scent it into shape.

What faint?
            What clap?
What tangle of eternal?

leave me to wiggle in it

cold
scold
scant
 
 
Leah Umansky is a poet, collagist and teacher in New York City. She is the author of the Mad-Men inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream and the full-length collection Domestic Uncertainties. She is the curator of the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as POETRY, Thrush Poetry Journal, and MAGMA. Her Game of Thrones inspired poems have recently been translated into Norwegian by Beijing Trondheim. @lady_bronte

Two poems by Michael Brown

Water lilies

We are watching the sun’s slow dive
into the Wirral. You want to touch
the water-stars of its last light.
Soon it will be time for us
to separate .

Outside this frame of hush
that weightless walk back
from the Tate —
where I had wanted to fall
inside the green water lilies
that lay like time
or surface tension.
Do you remember them
caught in paint,
their lawlessness of oil ?

And here a ferry from Ireland
skulks home to Birkenhead,
its gentle wake of damage
some force fetched to land.

Welcome to Liverpool

I want you to stay
like this. In the time
that remains before the train —
I must hold, hold this.
 
(placed third in the York Poetry Competition, 2015, judged by Carole Bromley).
 
 
The Exhibits at Helmsley Castle

Arrowheads that pierced an armoured man in 1644.
A bodkin tooled to perforate a civil creature’s heart.
Ochred iron earths (thunderballs) lobbed into the heat
of a siege and then there’s these —
monstrous keys for unremembered Keeps
their cleft teeth outlandishly unique
and unfeasible.

Ludicrous, then, that I think of you here.
Your soft turmoil in this green dead world —
that smile that has locked me in its strange history —
Just what are you looking at now?
 
(published in the Live From Worktown 2015 Anthology )
 
 
Michael Brown’s work is widely published. In 2014 he won the Untold London Brazen Valentine Competition. Recently he has collaborated with Maria Isakova Bennett and The Walker Gallery in Liverpool for Light Night. His pamphlet, Undersong (published in 2014) is available from Eyewear Publishing. @Mike_Brown65

Two poems by Maria Isakova Bennett

Adrift

It’s November and half way through the Our Father
when Richie lifts his head and slurs ‘Halloween

be thy name.’ We serve plates of food –
little rescue rafts on an uncertain sea.

Even the homeless centre reminds me of you:
the way you talked to the man on the street in Dublin,

bought him a meal in The Bleeding Horse and told him
you’d just lost God. I didn’t know who was helping who.

Richie shovels bolognese, his head hits the table.
Coaxed into standing, he slides

backwards and forwards in unlaced shoes,
‘Come on lad! Come on mate!’

A bruise for a face. He falls and rises, slips
and staggers away between unsteady men.

The chairs are wiped, the floor is brushed,
we wash our hands, and the room steadies.

I remember O’Shea on the steps of The Merrion Hotel –
clean-shaven, his hand out for money, his soft voice.

I gave him five euros just to listen to his story
and wondered if he knew you:

the Good Samaritan from Fermanagh
clutching National Geographic shouting

‘There is nothing. Only this.’

(‘Adrift’ won first prize in the 2014 Ver Open Poetry Competition judged by Clare Pollard, and is published in Maria’s first pamphlet Caveat)
 
 
Loch Súilí

with its palm open
holds an island of folded red flowers,
bowed heads a halo. The shore is an edge,

a border between, water set low
in the landscape –
every reflection a prisoner

between bars of birch. Red flames
are forced out of shape
by a waft of breeze. I lost the way,

but a candle remains –
a solitary flare, a call for help,
a lone whisper faltering.

I try to return: to the path tasting of salt,
to a wood full of laughter after tears,
to the genesis of light.

Note:
Loch Súilí: Lough Swilly.
Lough pronounced, ‘Loch’. Translation: Lake of Shadows

(‘Loch Súilí’ was published in 2015 by Abridged 0_38, The Never Never Issue)

Maria Isakova Bennett is an artist and poet living in Liverpool. During 2014 Maria was highly commended in the Gregory O’ Donoghue Poetry Competition, and was awarded first prize in the Ver Open Poetry Competition. Earlier this year, Maria’s debut pamphlet Caveat, was published by Poetry Bus Press in Ireland. @MariaIzaB

‘We Prayed for a Man Without a Beard’ by Judy Brown

We Prayed for a Man Without a Beard

‘My Tooth broke today. They will soon be gone. Let that pass I shall be beloved—I want no more’ (Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere Journal, Monday 31st June 1802)

As the hygienist scrimshaws round my gum
I stretch my small mouth wide as horror.
She learned on a metal skull with white teeth
painted with a black stain to be scraped clean.

When she grew exact, they covered the head
with a rubber sheath – lipped, eared, with hair –
which hugged the mouth’s airy cathedral,
its cloisters full of the breath of winter.

For months a hand scaler was all she held.
In the exams they were tested on people:
We prayed for a person with a big mouth
and small teeth; we prayed for a man without a beard.

I feel my face grow tight, and sickening
as a mask on my skull’s frame. After death
rot will strip it down to show the teeth I held,
coddled by the hygienist’s intricate decades.

Then the cool breezes off the fells will blow
over the roots. My phantom head smiles:
free at last of the pornography of skin.
I pray for a man to kiss me, while I live.
 
(published in One of the Summer People (Wordsworth Trust, 2013)
 
 
Judy Brown‘s first collection Loudness (Seren) was shortlisted for both the Forward and Fenton Aldeburgh best first collection prizes. Her second collection, Crowd Sensations will be published by Seren in early 2016. Judy was Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust during 2013, and a Gladstone’s Library Writer-in-Residence in 2014. She has won the Manchester Poetry Prize and the Poetry London competition, and her first pamphlet was a winner in the Templar Pamphlet Competition. Judy’s work has been anthologised in Hallelujah for 50ft Women (2015) and Identity Parade (2010), both from Bloodaxe. She lives in a churchyard in Derbyshire, and gives Poetry Surgeries in Derby for the Poetry Society.

Two poems by Sheenagh Pugh

Different Corridors

A moment ago, while you still slept,
they were all in the same story:
the ship, your mother, that job you left.
Now, as the room comes back, they are beginning
to unravel: you catch at a fact, a face,
but they slip by, each diminishing down
a different corridor, calling round corners
like children playing chase in some old house.

And your mind cannot help but go
to the author who is losing the plot,
who stood on the rostrum staring down
at the page where his words had come loose
from their meanings, had freed themselves so far
as to become not even patterns but penstrokes;
he liked the curly ones best, but how to turn them
back into ideas was beyond him.

It is an old house; some rooms we have not seen
in years, and the time is coming
when the way home, old friends, names of things
we have always known, our own children,
will be off down different corridors,
laughing round corners while we stand puzzled.
How random are these dreams, that seemed to fit
so well together, while we were sleeping.
 
 
Letter to Dr Johnson

Dear Dr Johnson, I am writing this note,
if you’ll excuse a stranger’s approach,

beside the statue of your cat Hodge,
whose eyes are fixed on your old front door

as if you might come out with an oyster
or two. That odd thought of yours

won’t leave me: we shall receive no letters
in the grave
, however companionable

we be, however desperate for people
and their news, their voices. I shall seal this

and slip it under your door, just in case
on the other side, disembodied but portly,

a dishevelled ghost is waiting daily
for a letter to land on the mat.
 
(previously published in PN Review)
 
 
Sheenagh Pugh now lives in Shetland but lived for many years in Wales and still publishes with Seren. Her latest collection is Short Days, Long Shadows (Seren 2014). She likes writing about northern landscapes and odd corners of history. She blogs here.
@sheenaghpugh