One Poem by Lesley Burt

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Somewhere beyond the rainbow

A horned creature blasts
from the genie’s bottle
dismantled into –

not shadow’s
vague shape made
where shine cannot reach
or its faded former self  –

instead
pure light
reassembled
from split spectrum

to become not quite
its own image –
now that’s the very devil.

 

Lesley Burt has been reading poetry all her life and writing it for a couple of decades. She has been published quite widely in poetry magazines and online.

One Poem by Robert Nisbet

Juniors

It was built as a Board School in 1873, from locally-quarried stone, and it offered high windows, wooden desks and a decent Victorian ambience

to the thirty-two boys who came there in 1948, as what was then called Standard One.

Most were the sons of mothers who no longer worked for pay, save for the four mothers who were cleaners and one who took needlework classes.

There were two boys with tremendous flair for sport, and at least twenty-five who made a joyful loud parade of every game on their wide playing field;

there was one boy who was maybe a little slow, who frequently wet the bed at night and sometimes wet himself in school;

many who later worked their forty, forty-five years diligently, in the Post Office, on the telephone lines, on the dust cart, in the Inland Revenue and in various small firms;

one who was later jailed for false accounting;

fourteen keen draughts players, two who would soon learn the rules of chess and one with a deep fascination for astronomy, the solar system and the distant planets;

one who was a great-great-grandson of the last man publicly hanged in the locality, after a brutal and reckless murder;

one who subsequently became a Scholar of Jesus College, Oxford, and five who won County Major Scholarships to the University of Wales;

two who found a sly lust, on secret woodland Saturdays, in shoving a bicycle pump up a frog’s rectum and pumping until the animal burst;

one who combed his well-greased hair straight back to cover a bald patch where he’d been scalded in babyhood, and who tried hard to keep out of boisterous games;

one boy who used to gaze at the sweep of countryside beyond the playing field and began a lifetime’s painting by composing, in his head, the most prodigious landscapes;

and the teacher, Davo, who carried a wound from the Battle of Tobruk, which left him limping and in constant low-level pain.

 

Robert Nisbet is a poet from West Wales whose work is published quite widely in Britain and the USA. One of his poems appears in the anthology Universal Oneness, from Authorspress of New Delhi.

One Poem by Stephen Kingsnorth

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Mind-Eyes

My poison,
to them just not allowed – the cliché marks the spot.

Pierce horns impale,
they face-shrink ice-pick longsword stab –
call barely drill-scare macula orbit black-holes,
me, my lonely well.

Their wind-torn spume – spray naughty wee,
hoover-duty when they’re gone.

They felt the too-used felt-tip scrub adds vigour, then spilt milk,
as told them would and tell them will,
but blaming still the same.

Only two-bird-time before the cartoon call,
planned practice piece too far.

Anyway, always subjects change, while they build the space,
fears from delights, few keep their place,
though don’t and dirt and pretty things loom loud,
cave paint translates to page.

Crosspatch quilt-drape screens who-knows-what
shade hidden, wraithing wight.

Their lawless itinerant roaming restless floats
grounded in unknown mares,
choker beads, flame tyre torque, pink plastic fun,
string-theory chain, tightening or swing.

Light to dark traversing day, or light awaiting grey?

The zoo, barred place for exactitude;
fingers tell what mind-eyes see.

 

Stephen Kingsnorth, 67, is retired from ministry in the Methodist Church, living in north Wales. (He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease five years ago, and has been writing poetry for some 9 months.)

Two Poems by Kitty Coles

Winter Breath

By the pool, the white hart, unmoving
while mist wraiths his hooves and ankles,
his clean lines hazed by haunts of drifting damp.

And behind him the woods, similarly tulle-draped:
pale swathes of winter breath hang on the hazel.
The cobwebs on the elder drip and trickle.

His eyes meet mine across a meadow’s distance:
two sloes, unsouled, but knowing all the same.
I’ve thought myself a ghost, invisible:

I’m now seen and unseamed, peeled scalp to foot.
There is something there, at the corner of the eye,
beyond the horizon, gathering, massing like clouds.

A key has turned in me. He leaves.
I am opened and this beginning hurts,
a merciless birthing.


Walled Garden

The heat is forcing the herbs to release their perfumes.
They thicken the air as if crushed beneath my fingers.

I keep to the paths. Sweat caresses the small of my back
under layers of cloth that hold down the swell of my flesh.

I am never alone. Three paces behind, they follow,
conversing in small voices, fickle as doves.

I press my palms to the earth as if it could open.
The voices pause, then flutter, resuming their billing.

The dust flicks up like the tongues of little devils
and marks the hem of my skirt with its insolence.

The cage of my ribs is too tight for the wild bird in it.
My heart flaps its wings up, down, up, down. I’m waiting,

these baked and dreary days, for something
to happen; great love, perhaps, or an evil with beak and claws.

 

Kitty Coles lives in Surrey. Her poems have been widely published and have been nominated for the Forward Prize and Best of the Net. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. http://www.kittyrcoles.com

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Waiting to be Astonished

As a child I collected atoms of possibility,
a fluid, golden string of beads
some full of hope, others of fear.

My Granny gathered pebbles from beaches,
urged me to transfer fear to stone
safely stored in glass stoppered bottles

as if containment could make dread disappear,
the underside of gritty sand rubbed smooth,
erasing sharp chins of chance from rock.

She was full of superstition and liquor,
my Granny, preferring to stash omens
swirling like amber grain in her brain

the decanter slowly shifting, floor tilting
until the bottle toppled from table edge
releasing a scatter of thoughts with a glug,

fears spilling in an arc, shuffled
at random as cards from the Tarot
re-arranging the patterns of fate.

Myself, I prefer to think of hope,
its round vowels an open mouth
waiting to be astonished.

 

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 internationally and in Great Britain. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

One Poem by Sheila Lockhart

Riace Warrior

Shoulders braced in readiness he stands,
bronze-hardened limbs echoing Attic cries;
his veins swell pitiless across death-dealing hands.
Beneath dark curls his sightless calcite eyes
cast over mortal lives their deathly calm,
a soundless warning parts his coppered lips;
I feel the cold hard life beneath my palm,
with quaking finger trace round curving hips
the blue-green web that maps on burnished skin
lost centuries dreamed beneath the wine-dark sea,
an ageless longing surging deep within –
his beauty sears my mind, enraptures me;
I touch his beard in ancient supplication:
I am enslaved – I want no liberation.

 

Sheila Lockhart is a retired social worker and lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands with her partner and two Icelandic ponies, tending her garden and writing poetry. She has been published in Northwords Now.

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The German Pincher Growled To See Such Fun

I frolicked over furniture
sofas, settees, high chairs.
I marked my presence on rugs
from Dalaman and east Devon.
I ascended stair alps to creep
through massed yesterdays under beds.
I rummaged inside wardrobes.
Did they ever wear those?
I swam in the closet.
I surfed round the sink.
I abluted in the shower
not leaving too many stains.
I ran up fine velvets
of swallows and geometric shapes
encrusted with serifs
abstract in extreme.
I ran amok hence knocked
ornaments and polished brass.
Avoided millefiori treasures from Murano.
Some but not all.

I espy the German Pincher growl
over my misadventures of youth
from a shadow cast upon
the ochre paint, I spilt
as I alpha-male a glass top table
like the essence of my genus
front hooves hovering on the rim
disturbing a flirtation of flies.

When I become a stag
will life cease to be this fun?

 

Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges.

Two Poems by Gareth Writer-Davies

To a Bronze Statue of the Duke of Wellington

Written in the nearest pub; Brecon/Aberhonddu

what is he doing
up there upon a pedestal

blown
out of all proportion

green now
the hollow bronze

has a glorious view from Brecon to the border
O England

you don’t learn do you
imposing the metal Duke upon market square

later
I found that the statue was erected

by a gallant admirer
Evan Thomas by name (a local man)

which showed me
that opinion is often ignorance in translation

somebody buy me a drink
I can’t stand it


St Simon & St Jude

Llanddeusant, in the shadow of the Black Mountain

they make a singular team
the zealot and the saint of lost causes

Simon being one of the vaguer apostles
and Jude no better

than one who hangs around with the boys
for his own (obscure) reasons

like many odd couples
there’s a whimsical symmetry to their histories

of death by tools
and dearth of miracles precursing

like a reminder that human
even the most unsung of lives is worthy of canon

 

Gareth Writer-Davies is from Brecon, Wales. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017). Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition (2015). Prole Laureate for 2017. Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition (2015). Highly Commended in 2017. His first collection “The Lover’s Pinch” (Arenig Press) was published June, 2018.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

A Startle

A startle
of errant molecules
leaps this bottle

that, rated X,
has laced the air
with like effects,

crossing some birds,
bringing to light
those quadrupeds –

greyhound-ribbed, dark –
who shyly stalk
our no man’s land.

Two full horned eyes
observe such errancy
sideways.

 

Michael Caines lives in London, and has had poems published by Allegro Poetry, the New European and Visual Verse.

Two Poems by Roddy Williams

I am made to stop

Sometimes I am stunned to numb
by this rush of men unleashed upon the street
from the dogmatic pound
I am made to stop
while the world revolves about me
pedalled by their raw paw force

I am made to growl
with a longing for belonging
that owes nothing to
our words and letters
our caged meanings
the weak printed definitions of things

And I am made to weep
for the loss of my animal grace
that my hands
are not those real scarred
bringers of bliss or death
that pass me in the whirl
clicking and waving in the storm
like branches from the old woods


The Moth

I wonder who
is listening to Radio Three apart from me?

Cuban laments and Bach’s solo cello this afternoon
I am focused on the wings beating panic
at the pane of glass width away from rain
I raise the window a little
make the decision his

His memory stays fluttering like a nag at something
in time with the Cubans
hurting itself leaving dust
imaginary soft percussion added by
single raindrops missing each other
on a window

I wonder whether I should
leave the window open

just in case

but am distracted by the cello
the wordless pain
keening its curiosity as to who
is listening to Radio Three

apart from me

 

Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams now lives in London. His poetry has appeared in ‘The North’, ‘The Frogmore Papers’, ‘Magma’, ‘The Rialto’, ‘Envoi’, ‘Stand’ and other magazines and anthologies. He is also a keen surrealist photographer, printmaker and painter.