Two poems by Richie McCaffery


The cricket club is a cow-field away
from our house, yet local lore
says a cricket ball knocked so far
for six in the 1950s smashed
one of our bay windows.

I can’t say if the ball was returned,
if it even crossed the players’ minds
that evening in the pub, of someone
far off, bent with brush and pan
at the frayed far end of that arc.
Robin and wren

In the morning we talk of the bird
that woke us twice in the night.
You think it was a robin and I, a wren.

It was high pitched and squeaky,
like the lid being teased off
a Russian-doll, or treen snuff-mull.

The bird calling behind the curtains
was both a robin and a wren
as we laid our heads down again.

Only in argument did it have to be
either/ or and I can well believe
it’s the same for greater unseen things.
Richie McCaffery (b.1986) was a Carnegie scholar in the Scottish Literature Department of the University of Glasgow, earning his PhD in 2015, on the Scottish poets of World War Two. He is the author of two poetry pamphlets – Spinning Plates from HappenStance Press (2012) and Ballast Flint (2013) which was the runner-up in the 2014 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His first book-length collection is Cairn from Nine Arches Press (2014). He is busy editing Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot for publication in 2015 by Kennedy & Boyd.

Three poems by Carole Bromley

Whistling on the in breath

Your forte. Carols, music hall tunes,
even the odd aria. A choir of children
dressed in red with white ruffs
sings in Latin this morning
till the stained glass shivers

but it’s your whistling I hear,
sound track of my childhood.
We brought you with us once,
you fiddled with your hearing aid
‘What’s he saying? Can’t hear a thing.’

Afterwards I got 2 out of ten
because I’d forgotten the sherry
and you worried all through the presents
that you’d not get home in that snow,
the house so hot we had to strip off.

I remembered, walking to church,
the bottle of olive oil I dropped
in my panic about the turkey
the way, however hard I scrubbed
I couldn’t get the grease off the tiles.
Here’s why

I loved you because you acted the goat.
With you I could be a kid again,
not a nanny in sight.

Just your soft coat, your rough beard,
your insatiable appetite
and me ready to taste everything.
Beningbrough Hall

I’d like to know what ‘snippets of tittle tattle’
the laundress tucked in among the goffered shirts,
broderie anglaise petticoats and lace bibs
sent in a box from London.

I wonder if she ever took a swig of the gin
that was meant for removing grease stains
or fought off the advances of the messenger boy
with a swipe of that mangle bat.

I bet they never let her sit in the East Formal garden
with its whites, pinks and blues, its views
of the south lawn, parkland straight out of Watteau,
that haha keeping the black cows out.

Purple is king in the old rose garden
with its salvia, ceonothus, campanula,
the only sounds wind like water in the trees,
footsteps on gravel, an old man’s cough.

In the walled garden, where catmint and lady’s mantle
tumble under arches of espaliered pear, girls in long frocks
and boys in peaked caps play hoop and ball,
the laundry clock strikes one, even the rhubarb knows its place.

(published in The Garden, OWF Press)
Carole Bromley teaches Creative Writing for York University. First collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, published by Smith/Doorstop, 2012. Currently judging the York Literature Festival/ Yorkmix poetry competition. Closing date Saturday 28th February. 1st Prize £400.

Two poems in translation by Lawrence Schimel

The Great Atlas of the Human Body
by Care Santos
translated into English by Lawrence Schimel

The Prefrontal Cortex
is the largest room of the home
we call the brain.
That’s why it’s used as the storeroom
to keep everything:
what is learned, what is sometime thought,
what we are and what we do,
what we sometimes unlearn
about the already known
and also (how difficult it is to imagine)
that which we feel through the skin:
that night in Cordoba
(the name of the hotel is fuzzy),
the infernal noise of the Gran Vía
under our moans,
the unharmonious voices of local seagulls
above the skylights
and that periodic pain of pulling away from you
week after week.
What a shame,
how much space we take up in warehousing worthless
bits of junk.

Any day I’ll get some boxes
and empty the storeroom of useless memories.
I’ll leave them in the street, beside the garbage can
in case they’re of any use to someone.
Any day I’ll see them, my memories,
in the hands of another woman
who knows how to appreciate them.

(first published in Dissection by Care Santos (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014).

by Jordi Doce
translated into English by Lawrence Schimel

You live in a city where the map of the side streets dangerously resembles that of your heart. A city where the stains and chips in the walls are windows that follow your steps, doors that no one dares to enter. Where the hung laundry sends coded messages and the glassy eyes of fish exchange glances of recognition with the copper coins of the servants. A city of towers and minarets that change location every day, of carpets that fly inside one’s eyes, of lamps that hide their own light. A city where at nightfall groups of young and old men gather atop the walls to look over the flood plain, the melted nugget of the sun illuminating the fertile land, cornstalks trembling at the slightest breath.

(published in STRUCTO 12)

Care Santos (Mataró, 1970) is one of Spain’s most versatile and prolific writers. Writing in both Catalan and Spanish, she is the author of over 40 books in different genres, including novels, short story collections, young adult and children’s books, poetry, etc. (@CareSantos) Jordi Doce (Gijón, 1967) is a poet, critic, and translator. He holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield, and has taught at both there and at Oxford. (@JordiDoce) Lawrence Schimel(New York, 1971) writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 books in many different genres, for both adults and children. He is the publisher of the independent poetry press A Midsummer Night’s Press. He lives in Madrid, Spain where he works as a Spanish->English translator. (@lawrenceschimel)

Two poems by Jacquelyn Pope

You can’t live in a trap
    but you do, in a trick,
you’re trumped, stumped,
    spun to the side.

Meant to be gone, you
    persist, by nettle
and scratch, worked
    out of whim or words.

Time is a tick, a stop,
    a slur, a blind bit
of balance. You can’t
    live on what’s elapsed

but you have, run up
    in homespun, made up
in lists, hard by the wish
    that holds you snared.
In the dream you are a dark shape,
a shadow turning, silent but still alive.
With a wave of your hands you show me
suffering is simple misunderstanding:
mine, repeated like a riddle chasing
after its answer, indifferent to grief.

Day intervenes. The dream dissolves
and with it you are gone again,
for now you cannot stop vanishing.
Still the rage of it hangs in the air
stinging and dirty and burnt, a pyre
heaped around your orphaned heart,
your widowed line, your life, like ash
that sifts through any dream of sleep.
Jacquelyn Pope is a poet and translator. Her first collection, Watermark, is published by Marsh Hawk Press (New York). Hungerpots, her translations of poems by the Dutch poet Hester Knibbe, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing in October 2015. More work here.

Three poems by Martyn Crucefix

Three poems from the Daodejing
Scorched earth
chapter 30

The government—teaches Berenice—
should oppose conquest by force of arms.

Such methods swiftly rebound.
Thorns and brambles where troops assemble;

armies raised to the future’s scorched earth.
Rather, the leader pursues his purpose

then halts—will not overstep advantage.
Achieves his aims but does not glory in them.

Does not boast, admire, decorate himself.
Pursues his mission if it can’t be avoided,

yet secures it not through use of force.
Vigour of that kind swiftly sinks to decay.

Violence—it is not the way . . .
What runs contrary to the way does not last.
Red right hand
chapter 31

Every weapon is
a thing of ill-omen—
no matter how smart
or surgical the strike.

Recall the old days,
in times of peace,
the left hand had
the honourable position.

In war, it’s the other,
the red right hand.
Even in conquest,
don’t admire weapons.

To admire them is
to delight in their power.
To delight in them is
to smile on their purpose

which is the slaughter
of many men . . .
He who smiles on that
will never succeed.

The man who’s ended
a life even once
is surrounded
by grief and mourning.

One who rides home
from battle victorious
must always be
welcomed in that way.
Hardest wood
chapter 76

At his moment of birth, man is soft and weak.
In death, he grows stiff and hard.

Plants and trees, the ten thousand things,
while alive are soft and supple—

yet in death they are dry and brittle.
The hard and dry are companions of death.

The soft and weak are companions of life.
Our long dependence on the power of weapons

fails eventually as must ancient trees
with hardest wood—they come tumbling down.

The truth is: the hard, the high, the mighty fall.
The weak, the soft arise.
Martyn Crucefix’s recent original collections include Hurt (Enitharmon, 2010), The Time We Turned (Shearsman, 2014), A Hatfield Mass (Worple Press, 2014) and Things Difficult to Love (due 2015). He has also translated Rilke’s Duino Elegies (Enitharmon, 2006) – shortlisted for the 2007 Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation – and Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus (Enitharmon, 2012). Twitter @mcrucefix

           

Two poems by Rebecca Goss


They came for us as we breathed – unified and quivering
on blond gymnasium ash. Eager elbows of antennae

in a dark, tremulous lace as fourteen pregnant women
lay beached on Pilates mats. A midwife’s sudden alarm

at the trembling, advancing line but her panic was rebuffed
in a sports hall of barn proportions. We simply moved our mats

to start again, sprawled ourselves like snails. You stirred at this,
a prod of confirmation and I held my belly like a ready pear.

Opening an eye, I glimpsed the odd brave stray, its glossy nodes defined,
now free of the pack. I was squeezing my pelvic floor when they muscled

their way under and with one collective heave lifted me, inches
from the ground. Hard to believe I didn’t smash their shiny backs

as they marched me one triumphant lap, past the cracked heels
of tired, expectant women. As we headed for the door, I’m sure

I heard you laughing, felt you leap in me like mischief,
your mother superbly weightless, on a sheet of shivering black.
(published in The North, Autumn 2014 & in Her Wings of Glass, Second Light 2014).
The Woman, A Coat And Her Behaviour

I spot her trying on the coat from the far end
of the shop. She’s doing what normal women do –
turning a little this way, a little that way, in a swing
of black ribbon and felt. Her slim wrists slide
into pockets and her head tilts back to catch
her husband’s smile. She laughs at her own behaviour.

If customers knew she had a son wasting in a hospital,
would they approve of this coquettish dance? Parents
of the almost-dead cannot always be bed-side, reverent
and mute. This small act affirms what they had,
when a telephone call from their son was enough.
Let her arms fill the sleeves of a beautiful coat
before she delivers clean pyjamas, leans to kiss
a dumb mouth and carousels his life, from baby to boy.
Rebecca Goss has published The Anatomy of Structures Flambard, 2010 and Her Birth, Carcanet, shortlisted for The 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection. In 2014 Rebecca Goss was selected as a Next Generation Poet.

Two poems by Mona Arshi

The Daughters

My daughters have lost
two hundred and thirty-six teeth
and counting.
They possess so many skills: they can
craft sophisticated weaponry such as blow-pipes,
lances and slings and know what the sharp end
of a peacock’s feather is for.
Last month they constructed a canoe
and saved the Purdu Mephistopheles from extinction.
They may not know that a bird in the hand
is worth noting but have learned
never to bleed on any of the auspicious days
and are aware that pleasure
is a point on a continuum.
I fear they will never make good brides,
they are too fond of elliptical constructions
and are prone to lying in the dirt reading
paragraphs in the clouds.
Their shadows are long.
They know many things, my girls;
when they are older I will teach them
that abundance and vulcanisation
are bad words.
When they sleep, they sleep heavy;
I go into their rooms and check their teeth.
Cousin Migrant

She came from the skies, and tells tales of a black sun.
They say she’s been with child for 14 months,
so we’re to stop feeding her the tamarind extract,
guava juice and powder from Dr Nirmal’s.
She’s essentially a home-body.
I’ve taught her draughts and the metaphysics of presence;
she’ll stay as long as she needs.
Her arms are as thin as margins yet she can lift my children
with ease and do fly-fly with them in the garden.
She’s unpersuaded by science, my anatomy lessons
are just crude drawings
and she thinks our Doctors have terrible hands.
She believes in butter for burns, that flat stones never lie
and replaces everything with ginger.
The boys on the market stall love her. Her dupatta never slips.
She covers her mouth when she laughs, though her teeth
are perfect white pegs (more perfect than mine).
Someone long ago taught her to listen but not with her ears.
She is the sum of all her parts. Her face is moon:
there are plantings everywhere.
Each night she reassembles herself.
She holds court, cross-legged on the kitchen floor.
She can define emptiness for me in less than 10 syllables.
She says everything should be simmered to a thick reduction.
Girls like you are a storm in a tea-cup.
(‘The Daughters’ and ‘Cousin Migrant’ were first published in The Rialto, Spring 2014)

Mona Arshi was joint winner of the Manchester Creative Writing Poetry Prize in 2014. Her debut collection ‘Small Hands’ will be published by Pavilion Poetry, part of Liverpool University Press, in Spring 2015.

Three poems by Yvonne Green

(I.M. of Czesław Miłosz)

We’re neither poems for you to fetishise
Nor emblems of the murdered of the twentieth century,
We don’t hold all possibilities in our Talmudic minds
Live burdened with the grief you want us to.
We’re not the monsters of the Middle East,
The devils of the diaspora, nor do we know
The selves we recognise in one another.
We’re in danger in your midst
And where you don’t know us,
A barometer of your pasts and futures
That you never consult,
And yet we ourselves live
By the tremble of mercury
Which we always ask ourselves to shape,
For which we’re quoted against ourselves.
There’s no monopoly of suffering,
What did the first victims know
Whose parents sent them with wobbly legs,
Gaped mouths, vacant grins, rage? The evidence
Of the trial they were to heart, hands, purse;
Yes, look I’m a Jew and I’ve said purse,
Judge me if you want; the first victims
Were piped away like Hamlyn’s children,
Only before the rats and other vermin.
(published in The North No: 53 Autumn 2014)
Our Food

The smell of rice cooking is the smell of my childhood
and a house devoid of cooking smells is no home.
Sometimes I visited other houses which smelled like our house
heavy with the steaming of mint or dill
and tiny cubes of seared liver all seeping into rice,
which would become green and which was called bachsh.

We felt foreign, shy of our differentness
unable to explain the sweetness of brown rice called osh sevo,
where prunes and cinnamon and shin meat had baked slowly
melting into the grains of rice which never lost their form.
Our eggs, called tchumi osh sevo, were placed in water
with an onion skin and left to coddle overnight
so that their shells looked like dark caramel
their flesh like café au lait.

Our salad was chopped,
a woman appraised her refinement by how fast
and how finely she could chop cucumbers, onions, parsley,
coriander and trickiest of all tomatoes ‘no collapsed tomatoes’
a young girl would be scolded if she tried to get her efforts
into the large bowl that she and her mother
(and the other women, if there were a party) were filling.

The knife scraped across the raised chopping board,
always away from the body in a sweeping gesture.
The combination of ingredients never measured
other than by eye. Salt, pepper and lemon, vinegar
or Sabbath wine added at the last moment
so that this slota should not be asalak – mushy.
(published in Areté Issue 10/Winter 2002)
My Father’s Room

My father had an attic room where he did his books
when he wasn’t there I used to go and look.
There were scraps of paper torn off spiral pads;
auction house catalogues, text circled, pages dog eared,
reserve prices marked in code; a hard folding chair;
a splintered trestle table and always the smell of him.

Next to his room was a room full of books and bookcases;
books in them, on them and on the floor (my dictionary
a tiny Larousse covered in brown paper was my father’s
from prison camp).

I never sat in the book room when my father was there
I was afraid of him and anyway we weren’t allowed
when he was concentrating. He hated doing his books
but I think he liked being alone. I’d visit after he’d gone
as a way to be near him. Then I went to the book room
where so many abandoned stories gathered dust
until I opened them, powdering the tips of my fingers.
(from The Assay Smith/Doorstop 2010)
Yvonne Green’s poems ‎will be featured ‎in Haaretz on 27/1/15, Holocaust Memorial Day and she’ll read at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road NW3 6ET on 10/2/15 at 7.30 pm. (Tickets £10, £6 concessions). To reserve a place or apply to read from the floor please write to Yvonne Green’s work is included in the new Penguin Book of Russian Poets (February 2015).

Two poems by Jacqueline Saphra

Hampstead 1979

He says he’s a Gemini too,
always wears white linen
to parties and is a recreational

heroin user in an open
relationship. He whispers
lunch and writes his number

on a £1 note and yes
on a rainy Friday he buys me
real champagne at Sheekey’s,

feeds me oysters with his fingers
pays with the dregs
of his overdraft.

All night he toys with me limply
but lovingly on the floor of
my childhood room

and when The Girlfriend
arrives to pick him up
the next morning as arranged

but two hours early and his tongue
is confusingly in my ear
it falls to my early-rising mother

to open the door and offer tea
and conversation to The Girlfriend
who admires my mother’s

easy way with the I Ching
and spider plants, falls in love with
her collection of African beads

and new alfalfa sprouter and
(my mother tells me later) is slimmer
than I am, with longer hair.
(first published in Ambit)
Getting into Trouble

Mr Giles said he didn’t want the school used as a political jousting ground and made me take the pro-abortion poster down, although I explained patiently that the ancient Romans didn’t mind it, that the church was okay with it in the 13th Century until quickening (when, they said, the soul enters the body), and the statute books condoned it.

Michelle, who was a Born Again, insisted life was ensouled even before conception; Clare believed that once the foetus was viable it had a right to exist, my mother said she didn’t believe in the primacy of the unborn, and I sat in biology wondering if I had a soul, and if I did, where it was. I daydreamed of knitting needles, coat hangers and permanganate.

After my mother came back from hospital – unharmed, grateful and political, only to find that my stepfather had spent her emergency money on canvasses and Carlsberg and dinner with that woman in Portobello Road, she sent me straight to the doctor to get myself a Dutch cap.

My boyfriend who was stupid but useful told all his friends I was a virgin and forced me to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind three times and listen to nothing but Genesis, which I preferred to The Sex Pistols, because I never believed there was No Future, not when my mother was, at least for now, empty-wombed and full of soul, as she stirred a pot of her famous lentil soup, not yet tied by blood to the man she loved.
(first published in Poetry Review)
Jacqueline Saphra teaches at The Poetry School. Her first full collection, The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions, (flipped eye) was nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. An illustrated book of prose poems, If I Lay On My Back I Saw Nothing But Naked Women, was recently published by The Emma Press.

Two poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa


I am custodian of this exhibition of erasures, curator of loss.
I watch over pages of scribbles, deletions, obliterations,
in a museum that preserves not what is left, but what is lost.

Where arteries are unblocked, I keep the missing clots.
I collect all the lasered tattoos that let skin start again.
In this exhibition of erasures, I am curator of loss.

See the unraveled wool that was once a soldier’s socks,
shredded documents, untied shoestring
knots — my museum protects not what is left, but what is lost.

I keep deleted jpegs of strangers with eyes crossed,
and the circle of pale skin where you removed your wedding ring.
I recall all the names you ever forgot. I am curator of loss.

Here, the forgotten need for the flint and steel of a tinderbox,
and there, a barber’s pile of scissored hair. I attend
not what is left, but what is lost.

I keep shrapnel pulled from wounds where children were shot,
confession sins, abortions, wildflowers lost in cement.
I am custodian of erasures. I am curator of loss
in this museum that protects not what is left, but what is lost.

(first published in The SHOp, Winter 2014)
Frozen Food

In the frozen foods aisle, I think of him
when I shiver among shelves of green flecked
garlic breads and chunks of frozen fish.
I touch the cold door until my thumbs numb.

Strangers unpacked his body in a lab
and thawed his hand, watched long-frozen fingers
unfurl one by one, until his fist finally opened,
let go, and from his grasp rolled
a single sloe,
ice-black with a purple-blue waxy bloom.

                        Inside the sloe,
                        a blackthorn stone.
                        Inside the stone,
                        a seed.

Standing in the supermarket aisle,
I watch my breath freeze.

(First published in Cyphers, Summer 2014)
Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual poet based in Ireland. She was recently awarded the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary by Paula Meehan. A first collection of poems in English is forthcoming from Dedalus Press (available to pre-order here). Twitter @DoireannNiG