Two poems by Jack Little

Swimming Lessons

Hard as stone, Mexico City
I measure you in cruise liners
far from the sea and hands wider
than the whole of Northumberland

grasping at clanking locks, the cats
in bin liners are lost in their own
little world – warm and burly the night
light sea, I swear they dance

and what if the rooftop was not to keep
rain out? But to be bathed on, sun bathed
washed in light, watch the ants swim by
I swear this is an ocean and I am learning to swim
 
(first published in Wasafiri 30th anniversary edition)
 
 
Night sky
for Don Cellini

Beyond my window, the sky swirls night black
shadows, I trace my reflection in the windowpane
before turning hastily to bed. Puzzle pieces, dream
formations, images of the moon at different latitudes:

            Caracas, Buenos Aires, Montevideo,
           Panamá and São Paolo

my mind awaits them all, the visits of feather capped
Gods of heavy ancientness, the smell of other
worlds that cling to my bedclothes: the heat of night
and journeys to far away temples of unknown Sun people…

            I await Bogotá
            I await Lima,
            Barranquilla, Brasilia, Managua, Bucaramanga…

Asunción… and on and on – all memories learnt
from news stories, a crack of light breaking the sky
and reminding me of the classroom globes of childhood.
 
(first published in Myths of the Near Future, Spring 2013)

Jack Little is a British poet and editor based in Mexico City where he has lived for the past six years. He has had poems published in several UK and international magazines and anthologies, including Wasafiri, The Lampeter Review and The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear, 2015). He is the founding editor of The Ofi Press and his first poetry pamphlet will be published by Eyewear in autumn 2015.

Two poems by Jasmine Donahaye

Our Sad Captain

or: Liam Cunningham’s Middle-aged Ladies Admirers Club

 
It’s the parti-coloured beard that does us in,
renders us tender and credulous –
a man we’d go to in a crisis
because he’d look down, frowning with  concern
from his six foot one (yes,
we’ve each checked the online movie database).
 
Alright, I should come clean: not us
but I – I want to calm his nervous hands.
In interviews, they’re never still – holding a mic, a cigarette,
brushing the rough patch on his neck where he forgot to shave,
stroking the parti-coloured beard like the piebald knight
in Parzival’s tall tale
 
and that’s what I want to think him, too – medieval,
honourable – not him, of course, let me explain:
it’s not the man, it’s Liam Cunningham
as priest, as onion knight, as captain of a submarine,
bearded, in uniform, hard as fuck the boy fans claim,
but surely prone to weeping
 
if his daughter smiles at him. No, not the man –
the parts he plays. But it’s his parti-coloured beard
that does me in. I’m not alone like this, tender and credulous,
for here’s a captain we can all rely on to be good,
someone we won’t need to take care of –
at last a man it’s safe for us to love.
 
 
Objectification
 
This tender madness
for a man in jeans,
a man in tight uniform; a man
displaying a delicate line of bicep,
tattoos on a taut muscled forearm,
and the arse – oh, a man’s tight buttocks
in loose jeans as he walks past.
How exquisite they all look from behind.
 
 
 

Jasmine Donahaye’s memoir, Losing Israel, is published by Seren in May 2015. She is the author of two poetry collections: Self-portrait as Ruth (Salt, 2009), and Misappropriations (Parthian, 2006); a biography of the writer Lily Tobias, The Greatest Need (Honno, 2015), and a cultural study, Whose People? Wales, Israel, Palestine (University of Wales Press, 2012). @JasmineDonahaye

Two poems by Stuart Mckenzie

Earplugs

Some mornings  I wake up, find them
pressed into my hair, dangling

like two small clumps of snow
on the ears of a cocker spaniel.

I’d like to ask him upstairs
as he enters his flat,

to please switch off your gristly cough
and mute your feet.

I know silence,
I held it in my hands once:

a one-sided 7” single – so blasphemous
the plant refused to press it.

In place of the song – two minutes of nothing.
I smoothed my fingers across

the empty black grooves,
to the run off  – I knew

from beginning to end
would lead nowhere.

Dear neighbour, this evening
I  remove you from my playlist.

(first appeared in The Interpreters House Issue 54)
 
 
The Dead Weight of Beauty
 
The last hours were spent cosying up
to the likes of Kate, Linda, Naomi –

the spines of a hundred vintage 80’s
– 90’s Vogues. His nose now sniffed

at the best parties of bygone eras
sandwiched between Live Aid Chic

and How to Go Boho on a Budget.
His heart was back where it once belonged –
 
its dull thud petered out below pages
of reportage: a Westwood Retrospective –

super elevated moc croc ghillies that
brought down a Supermodel, bummy skirts,

cosages and corsellettes, bloused and housed
cleavages whispering Vigée Le Brun

Frans Hals and Boucher – a detail
from Daphnis and Chloe: Shepherd

Watching a Sleeping Shepherdess. Now,
his last scene – a Magazine Death Riddle.

Toppled by the Dead Weight of Beauty
 
(first appeared in Magma Issue 56)
 
 
Stuart Mckenzie is a freelance illustrator living and working in London. His poems have appeared in various magazines and are featured in the recently published Sounds of the Front Bell anthology by ‘The Group’ featuring poems from John Stammers writing group. He is also author of Creative Fashion Illustration published by Bloomsbury.

‘Prodigals': Four sonnets by Martin Malone

Prodigals

Friday Night: 9:30

The cancelled train of last week’s lost high
now behind us, we ease deep into chairs,
each snugging the glove of shared hunger.
Our deferred pleasure in escape declares
itself open for business with a glass
of good wine and a glance that reads
my returning gaze. We let minutes pass
in this way, just us looking, here in Leeds
in a hotel with its booked double room.

Then have to laugh and for no real reason, how
people do who’ve been long-parted. How it is
sometimes, when you finally make it home.
So let us bring home the gift of days. Now
teach me exile, show me lost hearths.
 
Saturday Morning: 7AM

Sunlight solders the morning into place
mote-by-mote; lasered almost to portrait:

you as Still Life, you as Reclining Nude.
Yes, let us play this game and go there:

trace the stages and versions that led us
to now and this man watching you sleep.

Armed only with guesswork, he stands
in the early light, drawing together

some sense of a life before you met;
sketching outline and general form,

exercising the privilege of transposition:
one year moved to the next, connectedness

given to isolated stones, lone trees granted
hillsides. Inkling shades of the unknown.
 
Sunday Morning: 10AM

Saturday night wakes up on the bathroom scales;
weighs out its carnage in mermaids’ tails,
bra, lube, seraphim, the keys to a stolen car.
Blinking, we survey this Sunday church bazaar;
wondering what to do with it all now,
knowing we will buy the lot anyhow.
We pay over the odds for something gone so fast,
hand over hard cash to save this from the past,
making up for our sense of lost time:
our darndest struggle to make all this rhyme.

Outside our hotel room what passes for a spire
lifts from a neighbouring church, the day tires
before 10AM and we go back to bed secure
in what we know will last, what we hope endures.
 
Monday Morning: 8:30 AM

And all there was between them then was rain.
And all there is between us now, this train
and my copy of The Mersey Beat, lying spent
across the guilty pleasure of your novel.
Our legs touch beneath the table, still caught
in the mad-mangled crocodile of the past
forty-eight hours. We chaperone the space
above, make Monday love in the negative.

Next stop is yours and we’re cutting it fine
for that connection. You know what, let’s not.
Let’s not make it; neither yours nor mine. Just
turn around and do it all again and keep on
doing it until we change weeks, months, years
into this weekend. We can do that, right?
 
 
Martin Malone is a UK based poet whose recent prizes include the 2011 Straid Poetry Award for new collections, the 2012 Mirehouse and the 2011 Wivenhoe Poetry Prizes. His collection The Waiting Hillside is published by Templar Poetry. Currently working on his second collection, Martin is undertaking practice-led research for a Ph.D in Poetry at Sheffield University. He is editor of The Interpreter’s House poetry journal.

‘Tracking the wolf’ by Wendy Klein

Tracking the wolf
after Cormac McCarthy

the boy     his brother    their father
             (not yet awake)    the horse
the dog behind the gate watching him go

the she-wolf    the    snow    the blood    the gun
              the traps       the calves
aborted before term

pale    unborn    still warm    milk blue
near translucent (like beings miscarried
              from another planet)

the boy will follow her all day    find signs
              grass pressed down
still warm from the sun    or from her body

a heifer lying on its side in the shadow
of the woods where she had killed it
              begun to feed on it (eaten the liver
dragged the intestines
              over the snow)

he will find her already in the trap    her paw
              crushed pad     white matchsticks
                                          of splintered bone
              poetry of manhood
blood-marred
          the bone    the boy    the poet
who against reason
will take the wolf’s side
                       not knowing
what everyone must surely know

that no one can ever
save the wolf
that the poor wolf cannot be saved
 
 
(Winner of the Cinnamon Press Single Poem Competition 2014)
 
 
Wendy Klein was born in New York, left the U.S. in 1964 to live in Sweden, and on from there on to France and Germany. She has lived most of her adult life in England, a retired psychotherapist, she is published in many magazines and anthologies and has two collections from Cinnamon Press: Cuba in the Blood (2009) and Anything in Turquoise (2013).

Three poems by Patrick Deeley

Precursor

Tetrapod hardly covers it, old boy or girl coming out
of the sea. Tetrapod, four-foot, accurate
but basic as the mud in my mind’s eye you’re treading.
Amphibian then, since you take a fresh element,
the shelf of land, cumbersomely on, all to do
in your warty green skin. Newt might fit, or giant newt,
as you lay down a track-way of footprints
that – fossilised – will size you up, one metre in length
from snout to tip of frill-fringed tail. Behind you
the sound of breaking waves we may – even
at this remove – construe as lonesome,
or attempt pathos by describing how they overwhelm
residual drag-marks of the tail itself, but you
in your stolid progression are busy still, flicking the air
with your tongue, tasting its potential.
Then you’ve gone, wisps of dust covering all trace, slow
petrifaction come to pass, tectonic plates
shifting until there’s us today boarding the ferry
to Valentia Island and the naming of you as precursor,
first land animal, your little fossilised amble
ended abruptly where a cleft in rock strikes water
and we dance and dabble our feet in a shallow streamlet
sliding shallowly across, linking and fructifying everything.

(previously published in The Lighter Craft: A Festschrift for Peter Denman)

 
 
“But Still It Moves.”

Still it moves, Galileo, the world, the universe, the million “>million
million million million miles of observational space;
still expanding, Ed Hubble says, and still
we imagine we are the life and soul, the one sentient hub
of the place. Still we look up, look anew –
of a day to read the weather, of a night to lose ourselves
in the hush that spreads over us, call it
wonderment waiting to be met. A giant tortoise serving
as a griddle for the flat plate of the earth –
not even as children did we fancy there was that.
But Ptolemy we could picture – in our gripping of stars
and planets each to its approved spot
on classroom walls with blue-tack, or in the hoodwink
of the heavens as undeviating before we learned
how Copernicus had run all those circles
in orderly courses about the sun. You, then, never allowed
out again because you dared to let unwelcome truths
in, still Jupiter juggles its moons just as you
saw them, still the dance continues after you’ve gone,
after Newton’s apple hasn’t clocked him
on the head, merely occasioned his notions about gravity,
after Einstein has theorised on what ‘speed’
can mean and ‘spacetime’ do, after Hawking and co
envisage tying together the job lot, huge
with miniscule, while stirring string theory
into the cosmological pot. Meanwhile, for me, this night
waits to be taken to bed – maybe I’ll dream
the twelve-ton ‘Leviathan of Parsonstown’ I saw today
and whose cooped pine boards painted black
set me thinking of a barrel to beat all barrels, our very own
island’s once-upon-a-time world’s biggest telescope,
how it bulges at the middle as though
it’s gulped a deep draught of space; either way the heavens
shift – admittedly no longer reflected
through our redundant Leviathan’s speculum metal eye –
the sky adheres to its constantly changing order
and that faraway look we feel we inherit or are given to
holds us fervent, tranquil while the weight
of the world and its troubles in our watching seems to lift.

(previously published in The Lighter Craft: A Festschrift for Peter Denman)
 
 
The Trails They Leave

The wasp, the honeybee, investigators of leaves
and flower heads, all riffle and proboscis,
translating everything they take into their own
sustenance, are prescribed in this, survival
an instinct, not a concern, but the trails they leave,
the flightlines they weave, make for ghosts
we would trace, if we could, back through the air,
much as we would trace the calls of birds
and beasts, the growths of trees, the sunbeams,
evaporations of rivers and seas, the world
in its raptures and griefs, the spirals it perpetuates –
as so many spins, so many wheels, spooled
back to us through the twists and turns
of the thoughts by which we find them sensible.
 
 
Patrick Deeley is a native of County Galway in the west of Ireland. His poems have appeared widely in literary outlets over many years and been translated to French, Italian and other languages. His most recent awards include The Dermot Healy International Poetry Award. Groundswell: New and Selected Poems, the latest of his six collections with Dedalus Press, was published in 2013. He has also written fiction for younger readers, and his memoir, The Hurley-Maker’s Son, is due for publication next year.

Two poems by Natalya Anderson

Dinner Party

Father Clarke and Father Dempsey are wearing
matching hats. I’m on door duty. I pat Kitters
through a dark gap to the basement so he doesn’t rub
his mouth on people’s legs. He scratches; his paw
shakes the bottom corner of the door until he bursts
through. Reverend Pollock is here – she’s out of breath
because she had to park near the school. ‘Are your wretched
neighbours at it again?’ she wants to know, wiping her giant
chest with a hanky that Father Clarke takes from his shiny
pocket. Father Bidgood arrives laughing: ‘Why doesn’t your
mother let you grow your hair, for God’s sake?’ I have tied
Mom’s peach negligee around my head because it swings
like Jennifer’s yellow ponytail, which I fling with my pencil
during math class. Mom shouts, ‘She’ll get over it,’ from
the kitchen, where Baxter barks for ten minutes straight while
lobsters are in slow motion on the counter. Kitters whips his tail,
bats at the blue-banded claws until he’s elbowed off. Father Godfrey
throws a Triscuit in his mouth, says soon I’ll go cross-eyed, turns
the TV off. ‘Don’t tell your mother,’ he winks, slides a glossy
packet next to my knee. ‘I heard that; we’ll see if she eats her
dinner,’ Mom calls. When we’re done grace, soups, salads,
and I’m scraping shells into the garbage, I get a big laugh
when I say ‘I hate her new album!’ and they say ‘Not that Madonna.’
 
(shortlisted in the 2015 Bristol Poetry Prize)
 
 
The Woman In Clericals

In the hollow of my mother’s bed,
on flannel sheets she sprinkled with freesia-
scented talc, she rolls onto her side, leaves

an impression of warmth. I burrow
into her dented cocoon, reach out for her
body, listening for the rasp

of St Francis of Assisi carved with heavenly
creatures, dragging along her thick silver chain.
It stops, wedges between her breasts

to announce that she is rising. I follow,
disciplined by the sudden cold; fold
the sheets back over her creases. All day

I wait, thinking about her warm palms
underneath my toes, thumbs and fingers
wrapped around to meet each other.
 
 
Natalya Anderson is a writer and former ballet dancer from Toronto, Canada, currently based in Cambridge. She won first place at the 2014 Bridport Prize for her poem, ‘Clear Recent History.’ She is married to a very tall Irish man, and they have a three-year-old son. Twitter @AndersonNatalya

‘Afterthought’ by Marie Naughton

Afterthought

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

Kith

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.
 
 
Given

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.