Richie McCaffery – three more poems


There are granite curb-stones missing
like the town is under investigation –
evidence for some child grown old
who cannot believe the photographs
of him playing in in the street
and how in the dusk the eyes ceased
to be king, dethroned by the ears,
how somewhere there was one stone
that made him fall, drew blood
but, for once, not a single tear.

The fob-chains of the Corrigans

The men stand starched in their collars
perched on clicked heels of hobnail,
one antler between the lot of them
cut into buttons to keep them decent.

Their paunches draped in fob-chains
of thick silver drooping from waistcoats,
two arcs mirrored in greased handle-bars
below unbreathing broken Roman noses.

The chains tether at the belly-button
a hunter watch and a vesta of matches,
time and the flames still held at bay.
They weed behind chained civic gates.


The skulls of lost sheep
that once grazed these hills
are found with flat teeth,
plated with gold-leaf.

There are traces of gold
in more or less everything –
over the thousands of pages
I’ve dragged my stub nib.

The value seems to be in
the living, not the finding.

Richie McCaffery is a doctoral candidate in the Scottish Literature Department of the University of Glasgow. His articles have appeared in such places as The Dark Horse, Études écossaises, The Scottish Literary Review and The International Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen.

His poetry collections are Spinning Plates (HappenStance Press, 2012), Ballast Flint (2013) and Cairn (Nine Arches Press, 2014).

He recently finished editing Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot (1947-1989) for publication later in 2015 by Kennedy and Boyd.

Summer hols and gratitude

Hi folks,

Firstly, many thanks for all of your support since Clear Poetry was launched in January. I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that so many of you would be so keen and kind, nor that so many excellent writers would gladly furnish me with their brightest and best unpublished work.

Secondly, after tomorrow’s post (three more poems by the marvellous Richie McCaffery) this site will take a well-earned break, returning on Monday 6th July with yet more accessible, approachable and (I daresay) downright astonishing contemporary poetry.

In the mean time, please browse the archives and feel free to get in touch if you’d like to see more by a previously featured poet (or propose someone else whose work might sit well here).

While I’m away, submissions will remain open so please continue to send your work for consideration and I’ll look to respond to everyone by the end of week commencing 6th July.


Ben x

Rick Mitchell – three poems


I thought all this ended long ago,
the handling, I mean, but maybe not.
He is never more than one step away from her
and with his fingers he combs the blond
ringlets flowing along her shoulder
and cinches the belt that tightens
her narrow waist while they parade
in the hallway between classes.

In the seconds before the door closes, I see
him nod to friends and straighten her
direction to the right place. And when she frees
one arm from the Columbia jacket,
exposing half of her plunging neck line,
he leans forward, whispers sharply in her
ear and she quickly slips the arm back.

When class ends, it all starts over,
the grooming, the guiding,
the unmistakable signs of love.

For Your Own Good

“And stay off the wood pile,” he shouted
while tilting away, the invitation so
strong it felt like drops of moonshine
from a copper pipe.
Barefoot from bottom to top
we balanced across the pile,
split pieces formed like a breast,
St. Peter’s on County Route 214.
Upstairs, our evening throbbed blond and gray
splinters, too many and deep for simple
brushing, as we listened through the cold
air return to the rasp of the whetstone
round the tip of Grandpa’s

The Food Channel

After the first bite
even the powered
sweetness of a donut
runs oily and too heavy.

And the next beer always
seems to whisper whip
after whip of movie-red

Savory boarded the last flight
to the sub-continent and now
sits quietly next to the
window and an empty seat.

Over the years, Rick Mitchell has been fortunate enough to find a receptive audience among many editors of magazines across the US. His poems have recently appeared in the Louisville Review, The Pittsburg Quarterly, Skylark and the Cimarron Review. Chiron Review Press published Speaking of Seed and Night, his first book of poetry, and Aldrich Press published Before Every Other Fall in 2014.

Catherine Ayres – five poems

If all else fails

there’s the hollow of my bed
the door edge illuminated like a gospel
a glass sky floating my room in a cul de sac
the sodium of orange stars

What you said doesn’t matter anymore

There’s a tree in my back yard, a hedge.
The birds inside are squeaking;
it’s a sign they’re going to fledge.
You’ll be drinking now the sun’s out,
licking cigarettes with the edge of your tongue.
Burn your coffee in that old tin pan,
hear the chicks, smoke on.


It’s always like this now: I have an apathetic heart, turned in on itself
like the hood of a coat in the playground. A turtle, my son calls it. Yes,
I have a turtle heart, turned in on itself, with a hard shell. It’s peaceful inside
and soft. I love it more than you.

Going Concern

We’ve all set up shop at some point,
dressed a window with curiosities.
I’ve been in business for years
but no one wants a snow globe,
an octopus, or a set of plastic spoons.
This market’s too niche
and I’m sick of taking stock.
It’s time to cut my losses and run.
I’ll hang a sign on the door:
Been ill. Felt sad. Out to lunch.

Sweets for my sweet

All this, and he still wanted the strawberry cream.
I told him he could have the green one,
the caramel, the fucking hazelnut whirl.
But he went on about it, took the piss.
So I hid my last heart in a teacup,
behind the milk at the back of the fridge.
And when I looked he’d eaten it,
nowt left, not one pink squidge.

Foiled again.

Catherine Ayres is a teacher who lives in Northumberland. Her poems have appeared in a number of print and online magazines, including Ink, Sweat and Tears and The Moth. She recently came third in both Ambit magazine’s ‘Under the Influence’ competition and the 2015 Hippocrates Prize.

Some of her poems will be published in pamphlet form by Black Light Engine Room later this year.

Kathy Gee – three poems


Any book with a broken spine
or turned down page – my brother’s
childhood painting of a duck
glue-walking pencil groves.
A gliding kestrel, Kipling,
meadows, sewing thread –
the Pyrex dish Mum never
quite got clean with wire wool.
Unperforated toilet paper,
flimsy stuff Dad hated in Madrid.
Cathedral finials – his metal box
that speaks of manliness.
Exotic shades of blue or pink
that only sisters wear.
A silver coffee spoon bent round
to make a favourite ring.
Self-service petrol pumps
the Ex refused to patronise,
tweed caps on younger men,
the smell of fresh sawn wood.

These fossil eggs nest in my heart
since last time we were family.


You need this word.
In fact, the chances are
you use it when your belly
is too big for distant socks.
You’ll use it even more
when armchairs snuggle
closer to the carpet,
or when wayside cairns
become the best part
of a mountain.
Exhalation tinged
with gratitude and small
achievements. That’s
a bit of an erouff.
You’re welcome.

Check In

She’s ticked an allergy to feathers
so keep her well away from angels.
Gets hay fever in eternal sunshine,
put her on the dark side of the moon.
And kill the sound track, this one’s
painfully tone deaf. No golden harp
in case she wraps it round your neck.
Replace the mist with painted clouds,
we mustn’t give her athletes foot,
uneven ground upsets her knees.
Last column ticked. She’s no objection
to the Pearly Gates in principle,
likes barriers to keep the riff raff out.

Kathy Gee lives in Worcestershire and has a parallel life working for museums and heritage. She has been published in Acumen, Obsessed with Pipework and The Interpreter’s House among many others.

Ray Miller – two poems

Neapolitan Street

I lie about the roof
and the cold-call woman
says I might qualify
for a new solar system.
It’s brown and faces east-west.

A shade of pink colours
the walls below it,
white car and caravan
blocks of vanilla.
It’s always Sunday afternoon.

Out back hammers tap
in the undertakers.
Spilsbury’s smoke
is wreathing the Malverns,
squat and reptilian.

Every other Thursday
the wheelies come out.

Finding Space

Morning we assembled to implore
the Lord’s forgiveness and whenever
he could manage it, Bisseker would puncture
solemnity and silence with a fart.
During All Things Bright and Beautiful
the sun fought through the foliage
and the hands that smothered noses
unsettled shafts of golden dust.

Later, after sums or painting,
we’d drink our milk and orange and return
to be exhorted to find ourselves a space.
God was everywhere, but mostly Bach
and Beethoven hung the bars on which we stretched
our infant arabesques. Bisseker walked
upside down, reckless and invasive,
blowing raspberries with a missionary zeal.

We were entertained one Christmas
by a clown and a juggler; he’d doubtless doubled
up as Santa at the party earlier on.
He let us in on the secret: never
juggle objects of dissimilar weight and shape.
Next term’s assemblies were free of gas entirely
and our branches bore but meagre fruit. By then
Bisseker had perished on a visit to the zoo.

Ray Miller has had stuff published in Antiphon, Snakeskin, Prole, Message in a Bottle, even The British Journal of Psychiatry.

Elizabeth Williamson – four poems

Twinkle Twinkle

Every night time, every nap
since before you had words to ask for it
your hand would make the sign for “twinkle”.
Every bad dream soothed
every midnight fever cooled
by this diamond in the sky.

A few years later
you have learnt
that there are other songs,
different words,
and this is good;
when I tuck your duvet over you
still I wonder what you are.

First Tooth

For two weeks you wobble it
whilst I empty the loft
of baby stuff for donation
to a friend and her bump.

This was the first to erupt
as the weeks of colic blurred
into months of teething
in one long wail.

This was the one that bit me
drawing bloody milk,
and enough love
to carry on feeding you.

This tiny fragment of you
is stolen from under your pillow,
bought with a silver coin,
kept for a charm to remind me

that you are letting go of your babyhood,
and so must I.

If love was enough

Would the hole in your heart mend
if I found the words to darn it?
Would the stones that drag at your shoulders
turn into mist if I hold you tight enough?
Would the tangle in your guts each morning
unravel if I found the end –
Or the beginning?

Would this pass from us
if I could take it from you?

End of the beginning

By then the pain had become my shrinking universe,
immobilised and muted by it,
all my strength was not enough,
I couldn’t find the way to make you leave.

Blessings on the stranger – name forgotten
with his small sharp steel pain
who offered me a way out
and chemical numbness,
I didn’t feel you leaving me.

My power of speech restored
so I could whisper to you

Elizabeth started writing in 2014 after being encouraged to join Jo Bell’s “52” project – “write a poem a week, keep going”. Much to her surprise, she did manage a poem a week, some weeks more than that. This despite a life filled with being a GP, having two small girls, running, morris dancing, knitting and keeping pigs and chickens. Fortunately she doesn’t like being bored.