Three Poems by Julian Cason

UHW

I am stowed
with others
for an unsought voyage,
deep
within the hospital
in a windowless
weatherless
orlop.

Cargo
held by wires
and stained
by the seep
of jaundiced bulbs

compelled
to take
bed-bound
a Middle Passage,
where living
is plotted
as the barest sketch of shore.

Soon
lax sheets
begin their billows
and I feel
the rolling sway
of polished
tiles

round my head
relentless electronics
bang,
marking my journey
like slack anchor chains,
as I ride
each
wave-breath.


From a photograph of two figures in mid-winter

Too far away
for me to hear
your drifts of laughter
in the snow,
or to weigh a sky,
that fell in flakes,
to bleach
the hour’s needed shadow.

Not to know
where your umbrella leads,
that tilt of blue,
incongruous,
within the scrub
of famished trees.

And to miss
those later
lazy falls,
prised from branches,
in languid,
clumping
curtain-calls.


Thin Places

That afternoon
of gun-metal
low-slung skies,
I thought of what you said,
of the thin places
smudged with gods
where things not seen
were felt instead.

Cool
square-stoned buildings,
cradling empty spaces
with an air that
bled
a crafted stillness,
over hinged
and expectant faces.

And once
on a gullied hillside,
too exposed
for wooded coyness.
There, between the casual flicks
of a peppercorn rain
something
so nearly present,
yet again.

Where
for those few steepled seconds
each loose flap of wind
became a curtain
beckoning.

 

Julian has two jobs. He works both as a lawyer and as a poet. Within a law firm, he helps the victims of historic asbestos exposure. As a poet he explores the joys, crises and banalities of life. Born and raised in Cardiff. Most recently published in Envoi, edition 177 and Pulp Poets Press.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Centre Stage

She had always wanted to be centre stage
waiting in wings for that grand entrance,
folding back the golden cloth
body enveloped in rich softness,
sweet anticipation of the role ahead.

‘Onwards and upwards’, climb the ladder,
fame illuminating silvery track,
click-and-clack, rattle and sway
a giant escalator eating the ground,
driving around the bend.

Fame, almost within fingertip touch
its path a corrugated steely resolve;
jaws now a magnet, inviting, open,
then closing, a diminishing pinprick
tiny as a tarnished Oscar doll.

 

Kate Young lives in Kent and is passionate about poetry and literature. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in magazines. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

One Poem by Jack O’Donnell

Dreadnought

An empty seat in the mess
Where sat the best
A piece of shrapnel
Scattered his brain
His sanity never questioned again
Ramrod back and meticulous dress
We who knew the folly of derring-do
The comradeship, the partying too
A means to and end for you
We fought out of hell
Ah, in death we dwell
The gentle and the kind
Lost in that trick of time
I’m grateful for bloodless history
Death dying on every street
Not met, not met, not yet
Our security in the dreadnought.

 

Jack O’Donnell has had some of his work published, and even some of it read, but, usually, not. His novel Lily Poole can be found at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-Poole-Jack-ODonnell/dp/1783522356

One Poem by Maryam Barrie

Slippage

I love the snake I disturb in my garden,
but he is not interested in communion.
There are blue salamanders in the woods,
mosses and lichen, beetles, toads and frogs,
and I know they are out there, living out
the small cycles of their lives. The oaks are
crowded here, but they are at ease with the
hickory. I think of thinning the forest
and almost hear the sigh of loss from my
trees. They are happy, though each is striving
for the sunlight. I know there are angels
for the trees, spirits that resonate in
birch, beech, aspen, cedar, pine, fir, hawthorn,
chokecherry, pulsing through the earth and so
it follows that even in bonsai trees
that spirit would have an echo. Does it
hurt to be made so very small? I long
for adventure but live my life in small
circles of routine. There are many ways
to snip the roots, bind with wire, and there
is little slippage from the track of days.
The garter snake hunts for slugs, for frog eggs,
and when he is ready, he sheds his skin.

 

Maryam Barrie, lives in an Oak and Hickory woods outside Dexter, Michigan. She teaches at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To Live in This Dark World is her first chapbook. Her work has appeared in The Huron River Review, Belle Ombre, and The Catamaran Literary Review. Her favorite writers are Lucia Berlin and Jane Kenyon.

Three Poems by Anthony Watts

Prayer

For there has to be a place you go
To hear the word spoken –
Call it the green place under the blue –
Though even here it is seldom heard
Because of what is always too much with us,
Even in the mind, or it is not the true silence.
But pity those who are never alone even in their heads
For the piercing demands of their cellmates
Or the inescapable tinnitus of the times –
Who know nothing of the silent place but seek it blindly
In the unlocked heart of a capsule
Or dissolved in sunlight and booze. Pity us all
Who crouch beneath this tree where no shade is to be had –
Whose only fruits are an unripening despair
And an imperishable hope.
Pity us.


Starlings

On a particular day in November, the leaves
of the tall chestnut tree
turn
into starlings and (in the excitement
of their metamorphosis)

set up a shrill music: a jostling
of old bedsprings,
a recorded multitude
of water-features played at double speed.

They sit around for a bit and then fly off,
squealing and wheeling – while it only remains
for the tree, bereft, to watch their coloured shadows
blink out, one by one, at its muddy feet.


The Rambler’s Prayer

Apollo Agyleus, god of paths, roads
And the network of ways –

Protect these ancient footpaths from neglect
By those charged with their maintenance – the county,
Unitary and metropolitan district councils.
Under your guiding hand,
Let them go forth to make and mend
Stile, bridge and waymark post; and to that end
Suffuse their offices with your enabling grace.

Grant them the resources and resolve
To prosecute all those who flout the law
(Believing that their ownership of land
Absolves them), those who desecrate your ways
With barbed wire fences, padlocks and old iron.
Condemn the owners of incontinent dogs
Who merely stand and watch and then move on.

Confound the farmer who binds fast his gates
With wispy orange string
(For the complexity of his knots would baffle
Even Houdini). Blight the crops he sows
On ploughed-up paths – his regiments of maize,
Impenetrable snares of oilseed rape.

But look with kindlier eye on all who raise
Cattle, sheep and horses – take the sting
Out of their single-strand electric fence
But only where it chances to transect
Your consecrated way (a metre length
Of plastic safety tubing does the trick).

Protect all flowering and non-flowering plants –
Those species, micro-species and varieties
Too numerous to cite but each arrayed
Like Solomon – for they are the jewels
That light your web of ways (much as the dew
Illumines with its pearls the spider’s
Dawn-drawn silk): guard them from killer sprays
And all who make chemical warfare on the earth.

But keep the nettle hence that is unkind
To those who hike in shorts. Oh, yes,
And brambles too with their fierce armoury.

And did I mention thistles?

 

Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for about 40 years. He has won prizes and had poems published in magazines and anthologies. His latest collection is The Shell-Gatherer http://www.overstepsbooks.com/cat/the-shell-gatherer/  His main interests are poetry, music and walking.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

light at the end of the tunnel

you can see footsteps to the light at the tunnel end –
many have trodden before you
in true expectation of being amazed

run out onto a sandy beach suddenly appeared
like a film – this time on a real screen
where everything can be touched

the sea will have that azure of the exotic
clear so the bottom can be seen
its creatures swimming off into a fading infinity

each section of the tunnel is a frame
where images can be stored on return
though the light still has to be reached

wooden steps over wild pebbles only the beginning
of an even wilder experience
some want it full of people on similar quests

though some prefer a beach of white sand
deserted except for sheltering palms and big sun
some want buildings and have a luxury apartment

slip down to the beach and work on a bronze tone
to show off on the return home
the tunnel recognises all these desires

specialises in being the fountain of illusion
all you need to do is make your turn
into the light at the end of the tunnel

 

James Bell is Scottish and now lives in France. He has written and published poetry for twenty years. At present he is at work on his first short story collection.

Three Poems by Jamie Cameron

An Apology

Flat 46 is pressed and a thin, little voice
bristles through the lattice.
The door hums me in and
I stand waiting in the foyer,
rehearsing all the possible angles.

It makes me think of Room 143
at Stamford School: the French oral’s battle-ground.
The tunnel like halls. The waiting. The reciting.
To me the words little more than sounds,
delivered no differently than
the rolling off of the alphabet
years on from Primary School:
a becomes c, becomes l, m, n, o . . .

Now, the lift welcomes me with a moan
and I return to my lines. Before I can realise
I am up some floors, hashing it out,
agreeing to see myself in the way that she does.
“There are some conditions,” she says
and I concede more than I had intended to,
rallied by the feeling of being so close
to the end, regretting having held out
for so long at all.

But still, an apology, that she accepts —

It is hours later, as the commuters
start to shake off their rest,
when I decide to walk home.
As I walk I start to mouth the word
until I have it by heart, by breath,
until it is just a sound;
in French?
“Désolé, désolé, désolé . . .”


Daumenkino (Thumb Cinema)

I’m looking back and stumble upon an anthology of hers:
Several Variants on a Pose (Mostly Out of Focus).
My mind hungers across the space from eye to screen,
to the legions of her face, toying with symmetry,
in the iOS grid. I am noticeably absent
and with every rushed frame and finger-tapped
composition I imagine her sitting upright in my bed,
waiting for me to re-enter the room
so the joke can reach its payoff.

After scrolling down, I see myself come in, half-smiling,
to the corner of the frame. Then it’s blurred:
my hand, her hair, my face, her frown.
I notice (my thumb is beginning to ache)
if I skim through them fast enough
they take on something more —
I stay at it a while longer and make flip books
of myself, some places, some jaunts and her.

Finally, my eyes having cottoned-on to the trick,
I pare myself from the screen and remember
her saying — “You should keep them for posterity.”

Or do I just imagine she said that?


Complimentary Breakfast

The continental buffet is laid out like a board game,
waiting for its players to pick pieces and roll dice.
Food rushed through before on your own stifled mornings
dampens, here, in shallow trays, on a grander scale.

The website teased in racy brackets
something complimentary in the morning (foreign delights?).
For the businessmen, travelling mourners
and father/son budget trips,
promises of no half measures.

8AM: the corridor leading to reception
carries only vaguely the air of possibility
and after your first trip up, plate in hand,
you find it trapped there in the cold, fleshy eggs and croissant flakes.

Close your eyes. Imagine a different place:
away from the hum of the A15, the conference calls and
the shared single room.
You lather yourself with luxury shampoo in a luxury shower,
water beating down — admire yourself in the mirror —
breakfast awaits . . .

 

Jamie Cameron is a Welsh writer, journalist and freelance anything living in the Midlands for a year as he prepares for post-graduate study. He focuses on writing about the commonplace, the contemporary and the casual discoveries of everyday life. He has only recently started submitting his own work but all his pre-existing poetry, fiction and reviews can be found at his website jamiepetercameron.com

Three Poems by Susan Surette

Disenfranchised

               Crusty disheveled solitary soul
                    clothed in days-old
                    sweat and soil
               Tanned careworn cheeks
                    lay beneath bristled salt and peppered whiskers

               Baggy cotton pants
                    seated upon narrow wooden plank
                    ride up displaying skinny pallid shins
                    above black rumpled socks
               Desultory gap-toothed mouth
                    remains fixed in a long
                    lopsided grimace

               Bony shoulders hunch forward
                    Dirty wrinkled-sleeved arms
                    rest upon knobby knees
                    Oil-stained fingers
                    loosely grasp remains of a sandwich
                    now squished and forgotten
         
                    Dazed, cloudy irises cast downward
                    blind to dirt and gravel
                    beneath shoddy booted feet below
          
                    A potent fragrance of hopeless resignation
                    permeates the sultry summer air around him


Dirty Hands

Arms with tension
the powerful swing of a pick axe
resounding thud,
separating stubborn, crusted soil.

A hoe
drags dusty clumps forward
into submission.

Tilled reticent hard pan
now wed
to fragile fertile seed;
honest occupation lies
beneath the minister’s
earth-filled finger nails.

Dark gritty water swirls,
rinsing away day’s hard labor,
leaving a respectful porcelain ring.


Musings

Thoughts mercurial as a New England morn
Thoughts rooted in soil like trees absorbing life
Thoughts galvanized like an upstream run.

Sun warms,
invigorates like supple fingers of a masseuse.
Skies dazzle,
infinitely blue
like an ocean siphoned
then released overhead.
Air exudes a heady fragrance
as winter’s stale breath dissipates
the barest of breezes whispering past.

Life rhythms heighten,
carried along on vibrant awakened vitality.
Body and soul welcome relief
from days of cold, numbing mediocrity.
Deep earthy aromas
permeate freshly-turned loam
rich in worms, soil’s decay.
Soft virgin essence
emanates from unfurling blossoms,
shyly emerging flora.

Ospreys reign
over deep fish-filled kettle ponds,
salty shorelines.
Intricately spun spider silk
of glistening spindled knots
hang like fragile art
between dew-washed blades of grass.

Twilight lazily arrives,
colored like melted sherbet
trailing across the sky.

Continue reading “Three Poems by Susan Surette”

Three Poems by Iain Twiddy

Chest

I guess it makes sense,
given even one evening
of sun filling the channel,
the poplars loftily washing,

the mousy wind breezing
through the full-up barley
like the wake of an unroped boat,
and the wood pigeon somewhere

echoing itself, like a pebble
– as if to tell the depth –
rippling a pool,
and the light miles to go before home,

I guess it makes sense
I should find my skull
so flush with that first ever river,
it feels like the richest

of all the night-blooming jewels
in this lidless chest,
the whole static black
ocean of Tōkyō.


The Volume of Rain

Why should the gentle rain
make the streets so loud –
make the traffic crash and shatter,
blam patchily on, make wave

after wave fizz and slash
rabidly as if at a shingle strand,
smack all day back and forth
off the flanking concrete?

Is it that water
even so shallow amplifies?
Shouldn’t it swamp the sound,
pull it under, drown it out?

I can’t explain it, clearly,
nor anything deeper;
like the way when memory streams,
it wipes everything out

but its own traffic,
which savagely magnifies
the fact of the world
more intimately now without.


Raven

Is that how it feels,
people in love,
like the raven
streaked by the cold of high cloud;

or is that the distance
between me
and how I perceive
it might be;

like you know the way
Vikings knew they were close
if the raven didn’t return

could have equally been
– the bird still breasting the wet –
no way of telling for sure.

 

Iain Twiddy studied literature at university, and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poems have been published in The Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The London Magazine, The Moth and elsewhere.

One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Sight of The Poor

Good King Wenceslas
Found a poor man cowering
By a stack of wood.
“Put it back,” he said.
“I’ll overlook it today
As it’s Boxing Day.”

“But I’ll tell you what:
Have some of my left overs.
I’ll bring them myself,
To show that I’m good,
And you can tell your children
Stories about me.”

pace TP

 

Edward is a lecturer and writer, mostly on business and politics. He often posts twittaku (double haiku in 140 characters) on Twitter, plus the occasional political limerick.