One Poem by Viv Parks

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Set Aside

Those tufts of grass at the edge of the field
grow thickly undisturbed.
They are the lucky ones.

Weed killer sprays have passed them by.
Their growth has not been stunted
by insecticides.

The combine harvester did not behead them
nor were they crushed under heavy machinery.
Spared to seed and regenerate.

Growing strongly they interweave.
Tough Sedges tangled with Rye Grass
alongside odd heads of escaped golden corn.

Strong grasses intermingle with delicate wild flowers.
Red Cuckoo Spittle clash against pink Ragged Robin.
Chickweed so blue all these create a wonderful view.

This delicate understory shaded by tall Cow Parsley
swaying among majestic towers of Thistles.
Dark and thorny they contrast the lower paler soft Cow Thistle.

Morning summer dews reveal glistening cobwebs.
In winter they’ll be covered with diamonds of sparkling frost.
Both beautifully disguising their deadly purpose.

Dried tufts will become raw materials
as birds flock to build nests deep within the hedge.
Home until their young are strong enough to fledge.

Spring and summer nectars feed the bees
so essential for the survival of crops.
Crops needed to feed the human race.

Autumn seed heads will stand proud.
Invite birds to feed and scatter close around.
Once ingested then upon the wing deposit again on distant ground.

Deep within the hummocks tiny dormice feed and play.
Then curl up to hibernate, avoid cold winter days.
Sleep safely protected from the deepest freeze.

These precious Set-Asides are all that remain for nature’s retreat.
Now framing the fields of yellow sterile Rape.
So many many acres stolen from the ancient meadows.

 

Having retired Viv Parks is enjoying time nurturing her garden and now writes prolifically. She is very proud that several of her poems have recently been accepted for inclusion in three anthologies.

One Poem by Ava Drake

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Green Haven

Light and water, they don’t ask for much.
Perfectly in sync with the rhythm
Of mother nature, flowers flourish
In simplicity, adorned with love,
The little patch, of my creation.
I stand in awe, every morning
As the coffee hits my tongue,
My toes sink into the fresh grass,
I am at peace,
For now.

 

Ava Drake is a poetess from London, UK. She started writing poetry at a young age and has recently rediscovered her passion for writing. She is currently working on her first poetry collection.

One Poem by B S Dixon

Naked

a sky glows marigold—
burning a lake’s surface
and bleeding from the veins
of dark, naked trees.
I wonder—
will she remember her true face
once the sunset embers fade
and her mask of clouds
dissolves to reveal
a sparkling void?

perhaps the flock
of horizon-bound birds
will whisper her
a reminder
before she succumbs
to despair.

 

B. S. Dixon is a writer and social worker from Boston, MA whose work is inspired by the spirit and will power exemplified by the homeless population with whom he has the privilege to work with. His writing has most recently been printed in The Red Eft Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Eunoia Review and The Mindful Word, and will be published in the upcoming spring issues of the Unbroken Journal and the Front Porch Review.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Tuft, c. 1514

All that’s left is
leaf. (And petal,
reaching/dipping
stem, a green blade,
white and deeper
green, under-cast
of joint shadow,
plant life in the
early sixteen-
hundreds, just as
Albrecht Dürer
painted it). So:
not much, really.

 

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

One Poem by Andrew C Brown

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Naturally ordered configuration

What seems disparate collection
is a binding stronger than any
political alliance. Symmetry
of flora and fauna reliant
on each other for nutrition.
Retaining individuality while
being part of community. Five
centuries on nature still instructs.

 

Andrew C Brown – ex-prisoner, recovering addict, achieved Koestler Award and community regeneration award. Published on 3 continents. Nothing pleases him more than performing spoken word, sharing his life journey hoping at least one word resonates with a kindred spirit.

Two Poems by Cathy Mellett

The Birth Mothers

You knew you could tell me your story:
how you were your own child’s Solomon.
We cracked grief like eggs
over a bowl of solitude.
We made a pie with our pain and served it
to each other a slice at a time
until our hands were stained with sorrow,
and the old smell of sadness
rose like a sweet loaf,
ready to be devoured.
Was it your reflection in my eyes
that opened door upon door to a hallway
where you recognized
my heartache as your own.
Like a baptism, like a naming.


The Quiet

The cardinal at the feeder
red-feathered in his flight
and the one who came after
spitting the seed, hull husk blond
and narrow silver sliver.
The rabbit who came to see.
Ripple of wave in the grass,
ripple of sun that followed.
Sooty milkweed pod
with its threaded silken beard.
How they all appear, as if I’m not here,
so effortless and so quiet.

 

Cathy Mellett’s poetry has appeared in California Quarterly, Calliope, The Ledge, The MacGuffin, and more. The lovely but now-defunct press, Poetry New York, published her chapbook, “Saturday Afternoon in My Kitchen.”

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Blade of Grass

And Jasmine played in meadow grass,
speedwell tangled, yarrow creeping,
tongues curled on back of question:
who survives the quest for life?

It was always the grass, even in drought
tufts of it sprouting, inviting her back
to play with its blades like older kids,
games adopted as her own.

Pick a blade, place to lips, blow clean and even,
the aim to cut the summer air with tiny lacerations,
sound so clear a passing bird might hear,
return its mother’s call.

At times the blade’s edge, too sharp,
split her lip, blood trickling down chin
to thumbs dropping lament on new lawns,
her swollen sigh weeping to be heard.

Jasmine’s breath is lost in grass,
mixed with grubby soil, uprooted weed,
while mother, adoptive father stand
accused of cropping lilies.

 

(Jasmine Beckford died July 1984, aged 4 years.)

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.

Three Poems by Julie Sampson

Lych-Way

Sheep are praying
on the brow of the hill
high on the moor above
and behind us

as the soaring buzzards lament,
Autumn’s weft of webs
weave a way through the passes of our dismantled dead.
Ancestors are grumbling underground –

how they keen in moorland winds,
cackle, plead with us.
How could you lose our words,
how, they howl,
how on earth
let them ebb away?

We make to walk away from the Lych-Way path
but under the foul of their breath they remonstrate,
whilst gorse’s once honeyed spikes
littering peat’s bed
quiver,
like the hiding pixies –
as though imminently terror struck.


Moor Mother

You clamber over her,
lambs on the exhausted ewe,
she tries to feed you with the last of milk’s dregs.

The year before, her rivers began to run dry.

We splash in her streams, hurl water onto her rocks.
We park in her hidden curves and fume her out.
We scale her heights, giggle as her granite crumbles beneath our agile bones.
We zoom along her criss-crossing artery-maze.
We dispose our fag-ends in her secret crevice.

Her pulse is dangerously raised.
She cannot bear your weight.

She gasps for air

and with that blast of Chinook terror her larks are soaring higher
blueing distance into quintessence.

Are those archetypal meadow-pipits
skimming bushes,
hopping
stones because of us –

those fescue grasses on Moordown’s edge
brushing wind’s prevailing flow –
warning?
Us?


Dundrennan Abbey

Ash-buds arrow rooks’ black nests
criss-crossing a skeletal moss-shaded stone shell
and above the branched roof-tracery of stygian thorns
ivy’s wreathing the tree.

That black jet on exercise is
a warring dart of fate.

We are in its cage.

Was there ever a boat lapping out
in the estuary over the green-
hill to the south and
behind again
slopes layering green chunks of time?

Once they’ve had
their fill of carrion and carcass
those seabirds
chalk a sign,
make a white pact with lambing ewes
to return to the blood of the old sagas.

The lady stands proud at the bow,
wind in the sails of her white-chalk cheeks
not knowing the unknowing
of future and hour-time
will keep writing her riding the Solway waves
and that in a moment
she, silhouette
will stand sentinel
on the prow of historical futurity,
her forever fate sealed.

This funeral will continue
rooks will raucous over
and over
from their hanging gallery in the skies.

Below the castle
sea’s dungeon,
waves preying from that last night.

 

Note: Mary, Queen of Scots spent her last night on Scottish soil, at Dundrennan Abbey, on 15th May 1568. She left the following day to cross the Solway Firth to England.

Julie Sampson is a widely published poet. She edited Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman) and has two poetry collections: Tessitura, (Shearsman, 2014); and It Was When It Was When It Was, (Dempsey and Windle), 2018. She was highly commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, 2019.

One Poem by Sheree Mack

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Duplex (you grow from every mistake you have ever made)

After Jericho Brown and Steve McQueen

There’s a weight on your chest, on your back.
Tufts of meadow grass, plantain, yarrow.

Tufts of meadow grass, plantain, yarrow,
creeping bent that reaches to the sun.

Creeping and bent, you reach for the sun.
Showing what they look like matters now.

What matters is showing what they look like, right?
The intimate physicality?

The intimate physicality
distracts from what’s going on inside.

Inside, beneath the soil roots detach.
Shame’s blanket thickens around past wounds.

Shame thickens like a blanket around past wounds.
It’s a weight on your chest, on your back.

 

Sheree Mack is a Creatrix living on the North East Coast of England. She facilitates visual journaling workshops, nationally and internationally, supporting women in their exploration of their authentic voices. She is currently writing about traveling and working in Iceland as well as the next instalment of her creative non-fiction memoir.

Two Poems by Laura Stringfellow

Mural

for Virgina Petty

When her mother died, she painted
the walls blue and green, colors
that are supposed to liquify
death like the sea.

Up close, they are brush strokes,
a delirious combination of tints.
At a distance, one recognizes
these vertical and horizontal lines—

One wall is a sea,
another a mountain and a lake—
All are surrounded by a splashing,
furious display of grass.

I tell her it is beautiful,
but she laughs in the way
that women will when
they disbelieve their own talent.

I believe, though,
that it would be enough
to lie here on the porch
in my godmother’s hammock,

watching the snowy egret
on one side, and the creation
of her hands on the other,
with all the waters stretched out around me.


Alatus

Lately, I have thought
of the death of poetry.
The books lean left,
irregular, into the folded
spine of shelf.

I think of the night,
how the hard eye of the sun
gradually closes,

what the stars must see
with their enormous eyes,
the way birds touch their feet
to the ground after flight.

I know that I could live
for these two things—
bleeding horizon,
and the sudden blooming of birds,

breathing the pink of dusk
into my body, feeling the warm
wings of birds on my veined hand.

 

Laura Stringfellow writes both verse and prose poetry and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Recent publications have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various journals including Amethyst ReviewDéraciné, Eunoia Review, and Muddy River Poetry Review. She is from the very humid Southern US and enjoys strolling beneath the oak trees when it’s not too hot.