Sarah Watkinson – three poems

The Means of Production

The mill throbs, at its heart the spinning stone
that shakes the beams and dusts the air with meal.
Gears creak, chains rattle and the flour sacks fill,
in stonework braced to take the stress and strain.

Outside, the quiet river gives no sign
of holding power. Its rippled surface still,
it’s only spared a fraction to the wheel.
Wind breathes in leaves, sheep’s feet tap in the lane.

Before we go we’ll photograph the scene
although, unpeopled, it can’t be the whole.
No horses now drag harvests to this mill,
no little farms send little sacks of grain

and though the ancient heart may falter on
the miller’s local sovereignty is gone.


I Like Insects in the Outdoors

Emerald shield bugs on the oak leaves,
ladybirds, their sudden take-off,
plume moths like the ghosts of cranefly over bindweed in the evening,
bees in all their colourways of black and gold and brown and yellow,
burnet moths in red and charcoal, lacy commas, damselflies.
Why would I use pesticides?
……..Clad in drab and bent on plunder,
cleggs and fleas, ticks and mosquitoes –
these are quite a different matter.
During news on Channel Four,
the dog at hand, I stroke his fur,
detect the tick-shape like a squash-pip
flip it off on to the fire.
Watch it burst without remorse.


Ordnance Survey One-Inch Map of Great Britain. Sheet 90. Wensleydale.

High Greenfield Pasture, Beckermonds, Far Barn
are summer fields, attractors of old trails
from hibernation fug through poached in-bye
to a curlew plateau arched between two dales
where deep-set tarns survey the flying sky.
Such joy to open wide the shippon door
then – one to drive, another hold the gate –
to loose the barging herd on to the moor
and linger on the tops with them till late.

The moor’s deserted, but you’re not alone.
From Ribblesdale to Yockenthwaite and Cray
fell-striding lanes host such a company
of travellers, herdsmen; future and long gone,
footlit by peat moss pools that mirror sun.


Sarah Watkinson is a plant scientist with a 2012 diploma in creative writing from Oxford University. She lives in Oxfordshire, has a site at https://sarahcwatkinson.wordpress.com/ and tweets from @philonotis.

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Simon Williams – three poems

Strong Arms For Armstrong

Swimming can hurt your arms in May,
when the water’s cold and you spend
each 40 minute lesson elbow-locked
on the grab-rail, a toy acrobat
permanently squeezed to the top.

In July, when the sun had warmed
the pool and we splashed like
netted herring in the shallow end,
Miss Armstrong hauled us to the side,
commanded us to swim widths.

Some, with paddles dogs would scorn,
made it to the other rail, most gave out
around the middle of The Great Expanse.
After, as we dried, I boasted it was just
the others splashing stopped me.

‘Go on then, on your own. Get in.’
Arms V-ed back on the rail, a kick
a frog prince could have called his own,
several strokes we’ll call freestyle and
I touched the far side. There was applause.


Cork
after Robert Garnham

There was a young man from Cork,
who decided to write a Cork.
He didn’t know what the format was,
but did the best he could,
wishing all the while he came from Limerick.


Mooney’s Land

They know about the tides,
the bulge of waterfat
I drag around the world.

They know I cover saltmarsh,
fold back rockpools,
change the water regularly.

They also know about
the seasons, that a chance
collision chained me to them,

knocked their globe askew
by just enough to give them
crocusrise, leaffall.

They only don’t know
how life contacted them,
won’t find the answer here.

Look back in the pools,
where the sun that burns us both
shakes out the ribosomes.


Simon Williams has written poetry for 35 years. It ranges widely, from quirky pieces often derived from news items or science and technology, to biographical themes, to the occasional Clerihew. He has five published collections, the latest being A Place Where Odd Animals Stand (Oversteps Books, 2012) and Wastrels (Paper Dart Press, 2015). Simon has a website at simonwilliamspoet.moonfruit.com, was The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded The Broadsheet (www.thebroadsheet.moonfruit.com). He makes a living as a journalist.

James Bruce May – four poems

At Dymock

Hands in coat pockets, watched by
pine-lined hills of the deepest green
at Dymock, I sat on a bench amongst
chimney crows cawing at the church.

Breathing in damp October air,
the thinning light falling fraction
by fraction in front of me, I sat
sucking my tongue into a frown.

The crows fussed on the gutter,
a black squabble in the gloaming
for a bed beneath the spire whilst
below, old stones stood quiescent,

mustard lichen growing slow as erosion.
Dried flowers smouldered in an incinerator
nearby, and across the churchyard the smoke
seemed not to dissipate but to linger, eerie.

I shivered and thought of my car, waiting
close to the hard mud paths and wet cob-
webbed hedges out towards fields where I saw
no trace of the poets once called away to war,

but now when I imagine the village again,
the sad smoke held still by watchful hills,
the calls of crows choked by cold darkening
air, I glimpse that which at first I missed.


Solstice in the Highlands

Drawing the curtains at midnight
we see the sun’s finally departed
and now a timid grey creeps by
outside, its faint light, the after-
glow of an old television screen
just switched off, lingers beneath
the hems across the wooden sill.

By noon the clouds blow blithe
through tall golden June rays
and green gardens glisten
after showers and my tiredness
is all but worn off – yet I remember
the night, deep rather than blank,
a basalt rock-pool filled with clear

distorting water waiting silent
until the diffused dawn slipped
in to cast my doubts in shadow,
What’s going to happen?
What’s going to happen?

– under the noon azure I glimpse
the ground soak up sunlight with the rain.


Try This For Size

I take your friendship as a shirt,
slip it over shoulders, button it up
my chest, roll it up my arms.

It’s snug around my waist
yet loose about my neck, the
way I like friendships best.

I take your secrets over ankles
knees and thighs as underwear
tight around my bum,
a strip visible to everybody
(so they know we’re intimate)
but not enough on show
to give anything away.

I have your temper
as my favourite jeans!
I’ll treasure these forever, patch
and mend them, proud to wear
them whole or in tatters.
There’re quips in the pockets
where I’m forever losing things,
but it’s dear to hear them swish
and rustle as I move along through life.

I use your cares as socks to keep
my toes warm, I tie your worries
as shoes and tread them into the ground.

Every day I walk past the coolest store where
your love is on the hat stand in the window.
I’m sure it’d be the perfect fit
and would look and feel just right.
I dream about one day holding it,
placing it across my brow to shade
my eyes from the glare of the sun.

But access to this store is by invite only.
I dread the day I walk past
to see that it’s gone.


An Argument on Camden High Street

Often at my bedsit above Camden High Street
a busker or a siren or a bottle smashed or a fight
would wake me, and I’d turn on my window pillow
to look down at the road to watch.

This time it was a couple’s argument
rather than a scrap between strangers
that brought me to the orange scene,
and I watched the man flail his arms

and come close to his partner’s face
to shout her shortcomings before turning
to walk away, return, then walk away again
several times. He came back for a last word

but this time the woman walked without
once looking back, his bawled command
Don’t walk away from me, Don’t walk away
from me, chuckled at by passing revellers.


James Bruce May read Creative Writing at Greenwich University and Goldsmiths College in London, where he currently lives with his girlfriend and his guitar. His work appears in journals including The Stare’s NestHARK Magazine, The Treacle Well, Word Bohemia, The Stockholm Review of Literature, The Fat City Review, The Puffin Review, Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal, and Gravel Magazine.

He blogs at http://jamesbrucemay.blogspot.co.uk

Neil Fulwood – three poems

Cork

The anniversary booking left to chance,
the usual late availability websites
yielding nothing within the budget,
we bit the bullet, took what we could get:
a chain hotel near a construction site.
Arc lights; noise. Not to sleep, perchance

to regret not being organised. Sealing
the deal: grubby carpet, walls a cork-
board colour, duvet stained. We opined
the shittiness, then shrugged; opened
our anniversary champagne. The cork
came out in sympathy: scarred the ceiling.


Her Husband, the Poet

He’s like a gannet: he’ll use anything.
The broken dinner set, the overdraft,
an argument. Then he’ll juxtapose it
with the image of a gull’s wing
marking the sky like a surgeon’s knife
over a sea-flecked limb of sandspit.

He knows the difference between
analogy and metaphor. But check
the browsing history when
he finally lets you have the laptop back:
sandspit. Nice image. He Googled it.


The Thought-Crime Fox
(after Ted Hughes)

Picture this midday hound-crazed woodland
where the “hulloo” is less John Peel
than smug satisfaction at the hunting ban repealed,
where a streak of red like dried blood

or rust disappears into the treeline. What
follows is fast and bloody: no time for the delicate
imprint of a paw, a nose attuned to the late
spring air; none of that. Instead, the sudden hot

stink of cordite. The forest resounds
to small arms fire and screaming. A fox
in Kevlar, paws clutching a Heckler & Koch.
The dogs scatter. The huntsmen are down.


Neil Fulwood is the author of film studies book ‘The Films of Sam Peckinpah’. His poetry has appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Morning Star, Art Decades, The Blue Hour, Nib, Full of Crow Poetry and London Grip. He is married and divides his time between the pub and the cinema.

Neil’s blog can be found at misterneil.blogspot.co.uk/

Robert Nisbet – three poems

Her Pink Raincoat, His Brogues

No-one dresses for Starbucks anyway.
She wore, well-piqued by it,
a shiny pink raincoat. He wore his tweeds,
a knitted tie, his brogues, offset against
her crocodile-skin bag.

The first weekend, they walked three miles
along the coastal path. He brought two cans
of a light lager, she a survival kit
and the numbers of the emergency services.
He scrambled to a ledge some six feet down
to show her a martin’s nest
(leaving it undisturbed).

The concert was her idea,
Vivaldi, a string quartet. He quite enjoyed it,
took his shoes off in the second half,
finding that restful.

Why they should have separated,
she always wondered. (Friends’ prompting,
What IS she thinking of?) After that week apart,
she, waiting outside the film club’s theatre,
was so relieved to see him striding down,
in his Welsh rugby shirt and jeans.


The Burrow

The sometime train conductor Noel
lives now with wifely, pretty Lily
in Bella Vista, Merlin’s Lane.
Of a morning, he will sniff the air,
collect the milk bottles and the paper,
then scurry velvet-footed back
to his own home hearth.

Paddington once,
four hours there, four back,
the passengers and paperbacks,
the buffet’s beers and coffees
and legs lurching to the feel of the journey,
fragments of talk and sentiment,
the smiles always flickering, flickering.

Now the chesty breathing (both of them),
the almost solid smell of love
on his own home hearth.
But occasionally,
when he will, of a morning, sniff the air,
might he scent diesel and distances,
the traces of his passengers
(you got all sorts, the mavericks, the mysteries),
and the smiles always flickering, flickering?


Elizabeth

Well-nurtured, neat, well-scrubbed,
Elizabeth trained for teaching,
came back neater than ever.
Her pupils ruled lines beneath their headings,
tidied desks, wrote careful lettering,
took the piss. Inspectors patronised her,
to Heads she was part of a steady body
of staffroom stodge. When boys farted,
Elizabeth flushed quite desperately, fretted deep.
When the smut and mutter started,
she wanted to defend her girls, went red,
blustered. Once, on a tearful afternoon,
farted herself. The boys, Apollos, Stud Men all,
derided. The girls, most of them, were coiled
in an adolescent spring. Their laughter twanged.
Save three.
Helena, Wendy, Gail,
who later, in bungalows and flats around the town,
told their children of Miss Reed. Later again, Wendy,
three hundred miles, three decades and a half away,
told her grand-daughter of Elizabeth,
screaming once, in this boy’s face.
She was there, said Wendy. For us.


Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. His poems have appeared in his Prolebooks pamphlet Merlin’s Lane and in magazines like Smiths Knoll, Other Poetry, The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, The Journal, Scintilla, Poetry Wales and (in the USA) in Hobo Camp Review, The Camel Saloon and Main Street Rag. One of his short stories was featured in the recent Parthian anthology, Story II.

Angela Readman – three poems

Woman and Rat

It’s just us amongst nettles serrating
the wind. Me and a rat in the water drum
covered with a lid, floating nose down.

For days I’ve ignored it, a skitter
of death dropped into my lap, fur
the colour of cloud shift, autumn

spraying its name over our heads.
I stare at a rat swollen as a balloon.
Tail flexing scales to the tune of old rain

dripping off the shed into the pool.
It doesn’t look like a creature a woman
should run from now, no more

than a ball, except for its paws,
foxglove pink stuck to its bloat
like an afterthought of suede gloves

left on a bench. The child’s fishing net
I hold is so small, my hands too bare
to grasp a tail. So I stare, nettles

kissing my legs awake, as I flip
the drum lid, fling my shivers
into the river over the fence.


The Half Life of Heidi

Let’s say no one died, I didn’t have to climb
a mountain, hear snow shuffle above me,
an old man clearing rocks from his throat,

if I simply stayed in the city, drifted
like a nightdress losing its line into my life,
a sleepwalker perched on tall windows,

slices of sky curdling over the factories
soft as cheese, mouth watering
at a goat’s milk coloured moon.

I could be skinny, hunger for bites
I never saw on my plate, blunt fingers
stodgy, unversed in tracing streams

onto blind women’s hands, dabbing
on the progress of melting snow.
I’d still be me, almost. And you’d still be

a goat boy, asleep, pillowed by udders.
The eyes of the herd closing, pouring out
the molten glass of an hour you dreamt

of a girl with horns under her corset,
kids rutting the walls of her chest.


Two Hundred Snow Geese

Couldn’t say why she decided right then,
she wouldn’t see in another spring with him.

The day the geese fell into the lake, one,
another, a steel fork of flight rattled out
of air, interlocked as a cutlery drawer.

She folded herself into the log pile,
umbrella useless, birds falling
onto crabgrass, carrying the sound

of a thousand winter trees shaking off
a burden of snow. So soft, they looked,
still, breast plump full of sunrises, pockets

of warm air on other islands. And so loud,
even in death, gun metal wings torpedoes
making shrapnel of the quiet around his house.

She waited, plotting her path through
snow banks of bird, pictured the mainland,
the size of the steps she’d have to take.


Angela Readman’s poetry has won The Mslexia Poetry Competition, The Charles Causley, and The Essex Poetry Prize. She also writes stories, and has won The Costa Short Story Award, and The National Flash Fiction Day Competition.  Her short story collection Don’t Try This at Home, which was published in May 2015 by And Other Stories, won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection.

Beth Somerford – three poems

Coastguard’s Cottage

the pattern of light through the second-hand nets,
the self-checked squares of sheer on sheer,
the chequered days of walks and work,
my scribbled notes, your fingered chords,
the scramble of our sheets

the room where the boards are eighteen inches
wide and dark and move like cantilevers
where the bellied wall is swaddled
in lime from the cliffs, furnaced only
half a mile from here


Near Blackstone Bay

An old ghost forest, river thick with fish,
a lake of copper turquoise; here we meet.
We feel the earth and weather still, the ice;
the quakes that emptied lakes and drowned the birch.

Our history in the whittled totem wood;
in rings of lumbered trees, and pumice ash.
The morning clouds are also stacked, in reams;
like family, generations hunkered down.

Beneath the snow’s white shadow silence made
sweet tar we traded for our native schools
and medicines for our children’s children’s children;
‘til mountains grind to dust and rivers dry.

I heard my sister’s man went out to try
the lower 48. He didn’t stay.


Dartmouth

Glistening May.
Across the river
a tapestry of houses
melts in the sun.
Wax crayon shavings,
colours blurred.

The queuing cars
edge towards the crossing.
The children run alongside,
skinnily, playing dare.
Laughing, languid – slip into
the back seat just in time.

When the ferry starts,
we move without moving –
shifting against scenery flats.
We share the sense
of weightlessness,
like falling, slow; like love.


Beth Somerford lives in Brighton with her composer husband and has four grown up children. She acts and directs, and also runs a small pottery. Her poems have featured in a number of publications and she was first runner up in the Frogmore Prize in 2014. Beth’s alter ego, Sam Chittenden, is Director of the creative training company Different Development, and author of Rhyme & Reason: The Poetry of Leadership, available via differentdevelopment.bigcartel.com. She tweets at @Different_Dev, has a website at www.bethsomerford.com and is on Facebook here.

Emma Lee – four poems

This funeral won’t be Televised
(unknown badger 26/3/15)

I find vertebrae in the shape of a sine wave,
although this curved spine belonged to a small badger
and was found picked clean under a shrub.
I dig a shallow trench alongside,
not wanting to disturb rhubarb roots.
My voice is not good enough to sing a Psalm.
You’ll be buried where you fell
with no horse-drawn journey from battlefield
to resting place. I ease your bones into their grave,
noticing you were missing a hind leg,
part of a front paw and a lower jaw
and it’s only Leicestershire soil that joins your remains.
There’s no Academy-award nominated actor
to read this poem. Merely a reassurance
your presence was noted and won’t be forgotten.


The Typist on the Thames
(after “The Wasteland III The Fire Sermon” – T.S. Eliot)

The sky turns violet as she retrieves
and folds her laundry. I wanted
something more for her
than a sales clerk full of himself
after the idea of a wife
to bolster his career, support him.
I didn’t want her to settle
into a half-lived life, fearful
of claiming something for herself
or turning into a thirty-something
divorcee with two children,
moaning about a useless ex,
swapping a work suit for PJs
as soon as she was home,
flitting from soap to Facebook to twitter,
waiting for an invite, an interruption
and not getting on with life in the meantime.


A Dance in a White Dress

A silence would be just as intrusive
as a babble about bus routes from three friends
in a waiting room they shouldn’t be in.
I focus on the spearmint-coloured mat
and the calm of the carpeted corridor
that leads to the muted clack of keyboard
after I explain he died where he was born.

That room was a pale green too.
I resisted the proposed move to a white hospice,
that was further away, through road works
that would have robbed us of time.
I didn’t cry, merely held the weight of memories.
It was later, watching the smooth control
and perfect placement of a dance
that stole my breath and brought tears.


An Abandoned Football

A passing cyclist says “thank you.”
as I pick up yet another cigarette butt.
It joins the drinks cans, sweet wrappers,
cellophane, lottery tickets. No treasure here.
Just a desire to tidy, to feel
as if something’s been achieved.
At least until the tide of litter returns.
I leave the football, abandoned
in a ditch but now revealed.
It’s intact but a little deflated.


Emma Lee’s “Ghosts in the Desert” is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing (2015). Her previous publications are “Mimicking a Snowdrop” (Thynks Publications 2014) and “Yellow Torchlight and the Blues” (Original Plus, 2013).

She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for The Journal, Sabotage and London Grip.