Julia Webb – three poems

After identifying your body

We stagger into the cavernous dark
of a pub, weekday afternoon,
stale with beer and grease.
I watch the smoke curl up
from your mother’s lips,
spiralling into light,
we drink I don’t know what.

If you were here we’d be playing pool,
songs lined up on the jukebox,
drinks lined up on the bar,
the blue dust of cue chalk
powdering our hands.

But this day is slow motion
and even though the sun glosses the grass
on Midsummer Common to a slick green foil
and the Cam shivers,
its dark body pinpricked with light,
I am somewhere else:

I am in the boat with the crew
rowing away from here as fast as I can.
And later I am sleeping
with a dog in a pub doorway
my mouth sewn up with red thread,
your name tattooed across my face.


Maternity Ward

Like a flower when the first frost comes –
she is shut up tight, pressed into herself,

her ears are full of ringing phones
and raised voices: a curtain of sound,

while her own mouth emits
a series of beeps and whistles.

In between meals she watches the baby,
trying hard to understand it,

its arms and legs move jerkily
and its mouth howls open.

She can’t distinguish friendly faces, can’t be sure
if real life exists within the room or outside it,

the bed has wheels –
it drives her away while she is sleeping.


Heart

The first cut lifts a flap of skin above your ribs,
I admire the brightness of your blood,
the intricacies of bone and muscle,
your spaghetti-junction of arteries,
and probing deeper I find organs
snugly nestled against one another,
lift out the squarish bulk of your heart
and lay it on the kitchen table,
then stand back to admire my work,
it is mine now – this bloody prize
that you could never bring yourself to give me,
I fetch some fishing line and a darning needle
and carefully sew you closed.


Julia Webb is a compulsive writer. She has an MA in Poetry from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich where she teaches creative writing in the community and runs Norwich Stanza and a poetry book group. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse Literary Journal. Her first collection Bird Sisters will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.

You can find Julia on Twitter @Julwe1. She blogs at visual-poetics.blogspot.co.uk and her website is at juliawebb.org/blog/

Caroline Maun – three poems

Passenger

I’m on the back of this bike
wrapped around you, trying
not to think about the ground

or the sky, the curb or asphalt
or the summer-weight denim,
the yard or two of skin underneath

I can’t think about falling
or how to be here and not here.

When I look ahead, I see a reflection
of myself in the shining of your helmet,
the center of a blurring world.


Pier

A lone mast, percussive,
rigging insistent, uninflected.
An unsteady skein of geese
crookedly divides the sky.
Impudence of ice:
the lake is chiming
with angles, each point
a yearning for furthest
iteration. A forgotten flag,
padlocked, flies nowhere.

I hear the sibilant breath
marking each downbeat of wings;
I hear the wings rowing air.
Three tundra swans vocalize
their effort in unison,
shouldering into the work.


The Purple Collar of Mother Love

Drunk with pheromones, my cat is no longer neurotic.
She waits patiently for the next can, doesn’t fret if the Shrimp Feast
contains no visible shrimp. She’s comfortable with long stretches
of aloneness during the day. She doesn’t mind if we don’t scoop
shortly after each alluvial deposit. Somewhere, deep in the recesses
of her amygdala, the faucet that drips steady terror has been shut off,
the flow of panic reduced to a trickle. In her mind,
her mother shadows her, ready to groom her
with a big tongue of love, carry her by firmly kissing
the stretchy folds of neck skin, shield her body with her larger body
and allow the beat of her heart to order her world.

I could use such a collar – couldn’t we all? I imagine seeing
the world through this purple mist, synthetic comfort
sanding all the edges round. Turn back the clock
to before we were shaped by danger. I remember the heavy phone
I dialed. Who does an eight year old call?
I remember the sedan and the consistent mother
of another child. What kitten leaves her mother?
I look at the sleeping cat – her fur no longer torn
by her own teeth.


Caroline Maun is an associate professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches creative writing and American literature and is the Director of Graduate Studies. She is the editor of The Collected Poetry of Evelyn Scott (National Poetry Foundation, 2005), and author of Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle (University of South Carolina Press, 2012).

Her poetry publications include the volumes The Sleeping (Marick Press, 2006), What Remains (Main Street Rag, 2013), and two chapbooks, Cures and Poisons (Pudding House Press, 2009) and Caroline Maun: Greatest Hits (Pudding House Press, 2010). Her poetry has appeared in The Bear River Review, Third Wednesday, Peninsula Poets, and Eleven Eleven.

Caroline’s website is at carolinemaun.com.

Announcing the Clear Poetry Anthology 2015 – free!

It’s been an incredible year on Clear Poetry, and a few weeks ago I decided to mark the end of the blog’s first twelve months with something special. Call it an early Christmas present.

I’ve created an e-anthology – and it’s FREE! *

The book includes at least one poem by each contributor but it’s sequenced more like a mixtape, rather than in the order in which the work was originally published. Hopefully this will mean that everyone will find something new which they might have missed the first time around.

* Now, before you get too excited, although there is nothing to stop you merrily grabbing these files without paying a penny, I thought it would be nice to invite every reader, and indeed anyone who’s enjoyed the blog over the course of 2015, to donate a sum of their choosing to their favourite charity. Failing that, and especially if times are hard, a random act of kindness will suffice. Either way, give. Please.*

OK, so the files:

Firstly, here’s a version on issuu.com, which you can read on screen.

 

PDF version – downloadable from WordPress here

MOBI version (for Kindle) – downloadable here

AZW3 version (for Kindle DX, Fire etc) – downloadable here

EPUB version (for Kobo, Nook etc) – downloadable here

Or if you like, download a zip folder containing all formats from here

For each of the ebook formats (MOBI, AZW3 and EPUB) you should just be able to download the file to your PC or laptop and then transfer it to your Kindle, Fire, Nook, Kobo etc once the device is connected via USB. Generally you can simply drag the file from your ‘Downloads’ folder straight into the device (often the ‘Documents’ folder), although check online support documentation if you’re unsure.

I hope you enjoy reading it, and do please let me know what you think!

I’d like to thank all of the contributors for allowing me to include their work, and of course for helping to keep this project secret! Thanks also to the New York City Municipal Archives, who kindly agreed to my non-commercial use of the lovely cover image free of charge.

Thanks again to all of our readers for supporting Clear Poetry this year – and here’s to a happy and peaceful 2016.

Kymm Coveney – three poems

Lifeline

Loose lips are not the only thing to sink
ships. No misstep, no slip inconsequential –
nowhere to lean except into the wind.

New rules drilled, tattooed, carved
in stone. Knots tied with precision
on lines weighted with purpose, tossed
with careful aim from a practiced stance:
knees bent, feet splayed, back straight;
arms in extended swing, easy finger grip.

Coils neat and smooth to unravel, travel
freely across the deck, follow the arc,
abrupt thrust of strong arms heaving-ho.

Aim high and far,
eyes sharp and steady
no matter the storm-pricked tears.
The line will reach
as far as need be
never worse for the wear or repair.


Like a Milking Stool with One Leg Missing

I seem to have lost my balance, the ability to roll
my eyes when I hear Silvio Rodriguez croon.

Star gazer, mushroom gatherer, dessert finisher
Barbacuer, handshaker, lightbulb changer
Mosquito search-and-destroy unit.

I’ve been limping for so long.

Ball tosser, lullaby singer, battle diffuser.
Bike rider, trail hiker, me-in-the-dark holder.
Evener of shoelaces.

The opportunity to learn to love Silvio
was an occasion I apparently let slip by.


Seaglass
for Pep

She watches them tumble for her, blue
splash of incoming tide. Blue. A blue one.

Wash up wash down, soothing sound, never
alone; never without this breezed

keening, damp and mossy in her ear.
Prickly hum the color of kelp. A rose

so light it vanishes in the wet.
Guinnesses and Heinekens, colas,

lemon-limes. Blending artifice in nature. Olive
motorcycle seat, pink pig snout, milky triangle

curving like a heart. Teardrop. Pale teal.
She has searched for the perfect blue oval

all her life. Watching the roll of pebbles ride
the tide in, escort it out. She is still there, fist

clutching her treasure. The sky bursts in fiery
sunset, settles into purple dusk. She breathes

bluegreen air. He should be standing in his towel
by the wall, shaking out grit from a sandal.


Born in Boston (Massachusetts) but living in Spain since the 1982 football World Cup, Kymm Coveney returned to poetry (and English!) as part of Jo Bell’s 52 Poetry group. Her latest publications are with 101Fiction (flash fiction), The Glasgow Review of Books (poem translation) and The Interpreter’s House #60 (poem).

Fiction blog: BetterLies; tweets: @KymmInBarcelona

Sharon Larkin – three poems

Mismatch

I didn’t want to
but you enticed me out,
found me waterproofs
with a hood, wellingtons
only one size too big.

You even warmed me
an oversize cardigan
and ski socks
on the radiator,
to wear underneath,
located gloves,
and a woolly hat
for me to put on
under the hood.

I’d be snug as well as dry.
You thought of everything.
You always did.

Halfway up the hill,
we leaned on a farm gate
to consider the hazy view –
the town spread out
below low cloud,
blurred further by rainlines
drawn aslant
and fat raindrops that plopped
from headgear and lashes.

Your face was wet,
as was mine.
You had a clean handkerchief
and wanted to dry my cheeks with it.

I did not want that,
turned away from your last kind,
proprietorial act.


Summer Evening Sounds

The sting had gone from the sun.
Reddened flesh tightened in the shadows,
a meagre breeze ruffled the willows overhead,
a blackbird at the mill
sang in its local accent.
Her young-girl scent
mingled with his sweat
in the thickening air.
The parish clock struck nine.
There would be thunder later.
Across the brook, a sheep bleat,
nearby, a gnat whine,
and here, a smart slap of a cheek,
one set of footprints
in the gathering dew.


Shaggy Inkcaps

Yesterday they were intact,
a quartet of upstanding apostles,
all white, under the tree as you turn

into the lane. Coprinus comatus,
apparently. They looked clean,
like boys-next-door are supposed to be.

I meant to go out with a camera,
forgot, and find them now, shrunken
to half their height, greying old men

in widowers’ weeds like damp blokes
in sour macs who spent too long
in libraries, when we had such things.

But down the path from the deliquescence
I spot a new torpedo rising from a silo,
on its way to pristine cylinderisation.

I snap it, perfect, then turn back
to the seen-better-days ones,

caps awry, spores afly, dirty beggars.


Sharon Larkin has been published online, in magazines and in anthologies including Cinnamon and Indigo Dreams. She regularly performs at poetry cafés and open mics and held the chair of her local poetry society for four years. She has a Creative Writing MA and a passion for Welsh language and literature. Her blog, Coming up with the Words, is at sharonlarkinjones.wordpress.com.

Anne Britting Oleson – three poems

The Downside

Too cool to drive with the windows open, really,
though today—perhaps the first fine day this spring—
the sky is ablaze with the endless blue
of summer promises, and the radio plays
Roy Orbison too loudly to be contained.
In the rolling Exeter hills, you come around
a curve and see, first, the spreader truck,
grime caked over green; then next you notice
the stubbly fields, stretching away
from the road on either side, painted black
with the sludge which makes them look oiled,
which will, in a few months, cause
the corn to grow straight and tall
with a rattle like sabers in the wind,
and which now makes you grateful,
so grateful that you left the glass rolled up.


Garden of Stars

Sundown, and the western sky
wears a momentary bloom
of yellow. Across the firmament,
the evening star crops up,
hangs low over the mountain.
You turn your eyes skyward,
your brow furrowed,
fingers unfurling, and
more stars leaf out, scattering
like seeds across the deepening dark,
fluttering to rest in constellations.
You sow hunters and bears,
kings and princesses,
lions and dragons and twins,
and last, the sickle moon,
the curve ripening like your smile.


Haunt

Dusk, and you hear,
coming slowly up behind,
the steady hollow beats
of a horse’s hooves
in the lane where the trees
knit themselves overhead.
The air is still,
awaiting a rain,
heavy with honeysuckle,
leaves holding their breath.
Only you, walking,
listening to a horse
which draws closer
but never appears,
and you don’t pause
in your amble,
don’t look over your shoulder,
because you know well,
from years’ experience,
that you and the rider—a man
in long coat and high boots—
share this road,
but not this time,
and while you are together
in this sweet evening of summer,
you have never met,
and you will never meet.


Anne Britting Oleson has been published widely on four continents. She earned her MFA at the Stonecoast program of USM. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (Moon Pie Press, 2007) and The Beauty of It (Sheltering Pines Press, 2010). A third chapbook, Planes and Trains and Automobiles, has just been published by Portent Press, and a novel, The Book of the Mandolin Player, is forthcoming from B Ink Publishing (April 2016).

Anne’s blog can be found at anneboleson.wordpress.com

Colin Will – three poems

Annual report

Another year spins round
and who knows what the next will bring?

And which of us have grieved
and which wept tears of joy?
Too many of one, and not enough
of the other, as in most years.

But this year had a whiff
of something new in it,
a shared struggle.
Some skateboarded through,
hurtled with kickflips and ollies.
Others took more gnarly routes,
finding Beckett’s cruel dictum,
‘Fail again, fail better,’ didn’t
cover the half of it – it was hard.

At times we look for finality,
like the closing of a book,
but it’s hard to accept that,
mostly, life just continues.

There’s a kind of jumpy balance
maintained in moving forward,
but it’s not neat; no, it’s never neat.


Incomer

They say we move eight times
in our lives, but which of these
are homes, and which just postcodes?
I still visit my birth city, but it’s not comfy –
no city is – and I’m no longer connected
to the places where we lived
in our middling years, bringing up
the kids. The past
is a locked front door.

Some windy nights the waves roar,
and there’s the prickle of salt spray
in the noisy air; that still excites.
The sights and smells are different
every day, distinctive, sea-seasoned,
as the people are, and I know so many.
Here I’m acknowledged or ignored,
a hermit crab in a busy rockpool,
settled in a Goldilocks seashell.


Asymmetric

We stood on the pink edge
of a footbridge, by the side
of a fast ford, under the trees
which overhung the variable river.

It was summer – remember that –
and the rain fell steadily
from a sky stubbornly grey,
and the spent flower parts

of the rowans dusted down,
wetted, and whirled away,
or swept into cream streaks
in the eddies at the sides.

Not, you said, the best place
and time to say goodbye,
but it had to be said,
just as we’d agreed.

Some other day, I wanted to say,
but your eyes were hidden,
downcast. So it was time,
and this autumn, far from here,

I won’t see birds in the trees.
What else will be missed?
You, a definite, no question;
me? I’m not so sure.


Colin Will is an Edinburgh-born poet with a background in botany and geology. His eighth book, The Book of Ways, a collection of poems in the Japanese haibun form, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2014. He chairs the Board of StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival. Colin’s website is at www.colinwill.co.uk

John Foggin – three poems

Above all: Mallory on Everest

How did we get here, starved of air
in a skitter of blown ice,
in the dazzle, in a rare thin sky?

If I could, I’d kneel, I’d want
to touch the wind-cured vellum
of your shoulder, to trace
the tent of your ribs,
the sharp jut of your jaw,
your dry empty eyes.

I’d want to gather up
your scattered threads,
parched wallet, buttons,
and I’d like to tell you
that I can’t forgive you;
not for the way you chose
cold and altitude,
for the way you would love
this death more than children, wife.

When I think of this I cannot think
however I might come down.


Sic transit

Dropped off from the juddering cab of an Albion,
say, or a plasterer’s van, or a salesman’s Vauxhall,
or the frightening souped-up Mini and the pilled-up
driver and his pissed-up mates, out onto the sodium
roundabouts of anywhere, where everywhere
is somewhere in the Midlands, where there is nothing
but fields, and dwindling roads, airbrake hiss, tyre squeal,
diesel, huge uncontainable silences and road hum,
and the blue lights of Services, and truckstops
like the Red Brick Cafe, where they said a fried egg
stayed for weeks on the floor under a red plastic chair,
and no-one swept it up, or maybe it was too fused
to budge, or maybe it stayed no time at all, because
this is where the clocks are stopped at ten past one,
where no-one ever plays the jukebox or the slots,
and the radio behind the counter makes no sense
of local radio phone-ins of the sleepless and obsessed,
where everything smells of tea and ancient bacon,
burned onions and biscuits. Not in transit, even. Stalled.


Lutenist

Twenty four taut strings to tune
to odd diminished minor keys,
he fingers three-hundred-year-old
ghosts of runs and chords, spins
thin and melancholy tunes
to mesh the shades of courtiers
who dream of intrigue, poisonings,
of powdered courtesans, corrupt
fops with mercury- blackened teeth,
the whimperings of Berwick witches,
the smell and reek of their burning;
the wet whisper of a flenser’s blade,
amber oil brimming the huge cask
of a blue- whale’s head; the white
shadows of a hunting owl;
a room of phantoms, minor chords.


John Foggin lives in Ossett, West Yorkshire.

He helps to organise The Puzzle Hall Poets in Sowerby Bridge, and writes a weekly poetry blog: the great fogginzo’s cobweb

John’s poems have won first prizes in The Plough Poetry (2013, 2014), the Camden/Lumen (2014), the McClellan (2015) and Ilkley Literary Festival (2015) Competitions. One poem, Camera Obscura, was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize awards, and appears in The Forward Book of Poetry 2015.
His poems (and reviews) have appeared in Prole, The Interpreter’s House, The North and Under the Radar, among others.

His first two pamphlets, Running Out of Space and Backtracks, were published in early 2014, and a chapbook, Larach, was published by WardWood in December 2014; it was recently reviewed by the Poetry Book Society. All three can be purchased directly from John via his blog: https://johnfoggin.wordpress.com/my-books/

A new pamphlet, Outlaws and Fallen Angels, will be published in December 2015.

Dominic Fisher – three poems

The car in front of us

What in heaven’s name are they up to?
The red car in front of us, you say,
is only going fifteen miles an hour.
The steering’s pretty wobbly as well.
There are two in front and one on the back,
all bundled up in hats coats and scarves.
They speed up then slow down again,
peering out to the left and right.
There’s a set of rosary beads
swinging off their rear-view mirror.
Below it, they’ve got a satnav on.
Of course, that explains everything.
These are dead people looking for Purgatory.
They’ll drive round the centre on old roads
among the new lights and roundabouts
until the accounts are settled.


Shoelaces

Charlie Chaplin was eating his shoe.
I was too young to call it a boot
or know that his speechless relish
of food that was and was not there
neatly pointed out a brutal truth:
when you’re on your uppers you’re stuffed.

I just remember him twizzling the laces
then slurping them down like spaghetti.
Even things that were funny then
were inexplicable and unexplained.

Today a pair of shoes needs laces.
As I walk somewhere that sells them
I will consider my feet and how each
is fortunate in its functioning shoe.
I will consider myself wealthy
for having vacant shoes at home,

will consider how much I still don’t know
or understand – such as how this can be,
and whether or not it’s still funny
many years later and so much further on.

Finally, if I don’t meet anyone
to distract me, I will consider
the shoes my feet aren’t in
back in the cupboard, with empty eyelets,
inedible but also uneaten.


Colour-changing boy decides his future
Sample with thanks to The Horrors

I’ve come up with various super-hero names for myself:
Chameleo, Chromo-Boy, Prismo, Rainbow Lad.
But Colour-Changing Boy is the one that sticks.

As super-powers go, it’s not the greatest when you think about it.
I mean, what do you do in an air-crash scenario? Go cherry red?

I could become an Art hero:
the orange man goes pink, goes gold, and back to ultramarine
on a plinth, in a tank.

No luck so far, though. My agent gets me a bit of fashion work,
some posing for life classes, that kind of thing.

Also, I’m the wrong shape for a porn star, apparently.
And in any case, while I guess the idea of sex
with a completely purple man would turn some people on,
cameras make me nervous, and the cinema makes me queasy.

Someone once suggested politics, maybe as a joke,
but I don’t have any strongly-held views.

I could fake it, join a church, illustrate redemption
or join an avant-garde band, and go down
in multi-coloured flames at the end of the show.

But in truth I prefer to hide in bookshops,
where I can be the colour of paper.
I’m toffee-coloured in sweetshops, mint in ice-cream parlours,
and scarlet in the ambulance.

At the beach I don’t just get sandy, I turn beige.
If I use your bathroom, I become avocado or magnolia.
And when people ask have you thought of tattoos
I say don’t even go there.

I haven’t got a favourite colour,
and when people ask what I was at birth,
I just have to say I don’t know –
though my mother screamed, she told me.

At school the black and white kids called me Ginger,
though I wasn’t of course, and I’d catch the teachers
looking at me sideways.
So at night I lie there, pale blue, with no-one watching,
contemplating the day when, like everyone else,
I go down into the dark for good –
but eyes, bones, skin ash-white.

Still, all that has given me another power,
even if it’s one they don’t want you to use:
I can see through you. I can see through you.
So yes, it is. Maybe it’s politics after all.


Dominic Fisher is from the Bath/Bristol area. After studying in Wales in the 70s he taught English in Turkey and Spain. He returned to Bristol and was published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies in the 80s and 90s. English language teaching eclipsed poetry for some years, but he is now submitting for publication and in competitions again, with some recent success. He is married with one son.