Deborah Harvey – three poems

Wishbone

‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free’
Attrib. Michelangelo

Sometimes I glimpse him in the marble
and in that instant he’s as real as human flesh.
I dream him nightly, long to see him
step from stone as if the lifting wind
might breathe him into flight.

I’ve chipped at this block so long, the mallet
jars my arms, my wrists begin to stiffen,
scapulae furling not like wings
but buckled, hunched beneath the weight
of fossil feathers, my own

limbs hardened, lost to grace
every sinew, bone transmuted into stone.


Snowshill

In a madness of flutes, butter stamps, locks,
narwhal tusks, bone-shakers, spinning wheels, clocks,
figures of laced leather and steel buttress the gloom

There’s something familiar about those masks,
their bellicose calm

Wheeling the pushchair back to the car
I notice my shadow, hunched, clinging
to my shoulder

‘Look over here,’ urges our daughter
pointing at thistles fleeced with seeds,
‘wolves in sheep’s clothing.’

Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds houses the extensive collections of Charles Paget Wade, which include 26 suits of Samurai armour.


The Strid

No one survives The Strid
but here she is, spat out on the bank
battered, lungs burning

The white noise of water was solace once
away from the racket of other lives,
just her, the trees and the ribboning brook
seemingly narrow enough to leap from one side

to the other
She wasn’t from these parts, didn’t know that
upstream the river was more than fifty feet wide,
had turned on its edge to slide through rock
hollowing back underneath it,
cutting a bottomless rift

She could read tea leaves, clouds, stars
but she couldn’t unravel these fast, implacable
currents of nothing

When she dabbled her toes they dragged her in
and what had been silence was fight to the death,
the struggling up to snag a breath
the sucking down

Even now on the brink she hears it call
waiting to haul her back into its
crocodilian dance


The above poems appear in Deborah Harvey’s forthcoming collection, Breadcrumbs (Indigo Dreams, Spring 2016).

Deborah’s writing is rooted in the landscape and folklore of her native West Country. Her previous two collections of poetry, Communion and Map Reading for Beginners, were published by Indigo Dreams in 2011 and 2014 respectively, with her historical novel, Dart, appearing under their Tamar Books imprint in 2013.

Deborah is a trustee of Poetry Can, the poetry development agency for the south-west of England. She enjoys hill-walking with her border collie, Ted.

www.facebook.com/Deborah.Harvey.Writer

deborahharvey.blogspot.co.uk/

S.A. Leavesley – three poems

Pinpointing My Centre of Gravity

Eyes closed and shoulders rested on the pilates ball,
I crab-walk my feet out, then lift one leg, extend it.

Muscles tremble as I tilt with and against my weight.
Wobble. Resist the temptation to peek. Wobble.

I’m not Atlas. It’s just an inflated sphere and I’m only
balancing myself. But, senses alert, body suspended,

I think of him…and the world shifts. I feel myself falling.


The Office Fridge Dreams

It does, you know. I’ve heard it sigh
into the silence of cold early mornings –
as deep a sound as the puff and pant
of compressed lungs on a hot day.

Though butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth,
behind its closed door, it dreams
of wilder things than limp carrots, tears
for spilt milk, its current lack of a six pack…

and yes, someone has eaten all the plums!
Imagine colleagues that aren’t appliances, a salary
not celery, richer treats than cheesecake, a sky
that isn’t white with days mostly dark as night….

in short, a life of more than emptying and filling,
emptying and…the fridge dreams.


Left Behind

His last present to her – a jar of octopus in oil
‘handmade in Devon’ – still guards its kitchen shelf.

Mum’s prized champagne flutes collect dust
and a dead spider that’s shrunken to an artefact.

In a silver photo frame, her grand-daughter’s
dancing: a white pirouette paused behind glass.

A cherub, unpreserved by any glaze, flakes feathers
of dry clay, while the chipped Lladró lady stares down

from the highest shelf, as we sit round the table
passing banter and sharing jokes. As at his wake,

we scatter crumbs and sip the last dregs of red wine,
knowing the empty bottle will hold a fine candle.


S.A. Leavesley’s latest collection is plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015 – published as Sarah James). Winner of the Overton Poetry Prize 2015, a pamphlet Lampshades and Glass Rivers is forthcoming from Loughborough University.

Sarah’s website is at sarah-james.co.uk

Susan Castillo Street – three poems

The Alchemist

Uncle Gerald used to make wine
from mayhaw berries gathered
in Louisiana woods. He went among the trees
to escape Aunt Lola’s nagging tones.

He would decant his brew,
range it in battalions of pop bottles
propped against the window.
It was bilious pink, the shade of Doris Day’s lipstick.

He gave me a case. I stashed it in the cellar.
At night, the bottles would explode, one by one,
bayou fusillade. Finally I decided
things had gone far enough,

poured the last one down the drain.
The sink was stippled with rust-coloured stains
but when the mayhaw wine hit them,
they smoked, went fizzzzz, melted straight into air.

Poor Lola died quite suddenly
one evening after dinner
Nobody was surprised.


Captive

When we were taken, my sister and I,
they made us march for days through canyons
parched with thirst. My face was branded,
tattooed with blue, Mojave palimpsest.

One man found me pretty.
We had a child. I began to breathe
the desert light, embrace the stars,
gallop naked from the waist up,

feel warm air upon my breasts.
But prisoners were exchanged
and I went back, lied, said
I had not undergone

The Fate Worse Than Death.
In the mirror till the day I died,
my face was strewn with blue star lines.

 

Note: Olive Oatman and her sister were captured by an unknown Native American tribe in 1851 who later sold them to the Mojave. You can read more about her here.


Personal

Executive, 40s. Likes country walks,
Maseratis. Seeks thin, bubbly blonde, 20-29.

Midlife crisis. Delete.

Sussex man, 85, own hair, own teeth,
WLTM decent woman, 45-60, for LTR.

Looking for a carer. Delete.

Successful estate agent, Slough. Separated, tactile,
seeks warm-blooded lady. Anywhere.

Lech. Delete.

Assertive accountant, into discipline,
seeks submissive F.

Suburban would-be Shades of Gray. Delete.

Writer. Widower. Faithful to one woman for many years.
WLTM articulate, intelligent woman.

If telling the truth (highly unlikely)
perhaps a runner. Click.


Susan Castillo Street is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emeritus, King’s College London. She has published two poetry collections, The Candlewoman’s Trade (Diehard Press, 2003) and Abiding Chemistry (Aldrich Press, 2015). Her pamphlet Constellations will be published next week by Three Drops Press.

Julian Dobson – three poems

Back from school, 4.30pm

New school, last day of term. He hauls its weight
home in a duffel bag, daydreams clear its spikes
shortcutting through the grey park. The tinselled town
is selling hard. He doodles in its margins.

Same redbrick cul-de-sac, same parked cars,
bedsit lightbulbs, sodium streetlamps where
Salvation Army bands blast lonely hymns.
The laurel by the gatepost holds his arm.

No lights. Outside her room he breathes, eases the door.
Cheering messages line the wall, old prayer books,
her bed for wrestling cancers neat,
and vacant. Handbags sagging from their hooks.


Flood tourists, Sheffield, March 1864

the flotsam was still scumming from the dam-burst
when we piled onto the special train
for a day out at the scene of the disaster

found a spot where we could finger stone and timber
wrap our palms around half-bricks left on half-houses
show our most flattering sides to the photographer

and prod our feet into soft earth
where someone’s baby was hurled from its cot
and mills from their foundations

forty-three of them, the papers said
though we lost count of the wheels
and grinding stones, and filthy things

that might have been a mother’s Sunday bonnet
or even (you said almost with a giggle)
when you touched them

felt like bits of people


Leaving Lorgill

On land, the huge sea strikes the senses most.
Its expanse, true. But more the million years
of war against the cliffs. A shattered coast,
caves, detritus, wrack. White-tailed eagles steer
a line above the zig-zags, smooth away
jagged edges. Ahead, a rarity:
a fertile slope, heaps of bleached stones too high
to be natural. This place is empty.

Not empty. Emptied. The day’s forced march, bairns
screeching like buzzards, the cattle left,
the food eked out. The swell and swish of brine
and bilge. Always waves, churn and plunge and lift.
They said we would have land. We only saw
the sea, the sea, the leviathan sea.


Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield, where men call each other ‘duck’. His poems have appeared in publications including Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Morning Star and The Stare’s Nest (and also on Clear Poetry on 23/03/15 and 01/10/15).

Holly Magill – three poems

Sense of Selfie

She dollies herself acceptable:
pencil-edged lips won’t mumble,
awkwardness glossed over.

Pore-free skin won’t blush;
smooth as an enamel washbasin,
no cracks.

The magic wand elongates
a lie of lashes in on-trend purple.
Waterproof insurance,
no more tears.

Powder seals her in for the night.
Firm-hold hairspray, freeze
and shine.

She duck-faces the camera,
posts to prove she is real.


Life-Saving

He leans, his back to the pumps;
a casual elbow belying his care
to not blot into others’ spillages.

Watches her head bob,
a life buoy in the pub-tide;
if he could reach out
to clasp it.

For now, he holds timidity
under the waves of his next pint,
sluices his tongue to talk
like another man’s,

someone normal, approachable;
waits for it to be her round.

She’ll stand, head still bobbing,
squirm the crush to the bar,
effortless breaststroke –
under his arm and he’s lifesaving
her friends’ double vodka-cokes.

Hopes she’ll see him, washed
cleaner than he ever could be,
float him to safety.


Eating Out

The oven has cooled down now:
I hold a knife smeary with ganache;
it’s not overly sharp and this cake
I’ve made here in our kitchen
is not overly sweet. You had a bit
somewhere else this afternoon,
because you get so hungry.

Another time, wash your hands.


Holly Magill is a poet from Worcestershire. She has a BA in Creative Writing from University Of Birmingham and has had poems in various publications, including The Stare’s Nest, three drops from a cauldron and the expanded second edition of The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse (The Emma Press, 2016). She is fond of cats and strong tea above most things.

Siegfried Baber – two poems

Christmas In Saigon

It takes almost eight hours to burn
a million dollars, and
in the courtyard a gang of Marines
hacks down a tamarind tree
to the sound of Bing Crosby crooning
over the embassy PA.
The stylus crackles like a jungle
in flames. A child waiting
by the checkpoint
wraps and unwraps her hands
in the hem of her dress, and smiles
at her mother, smiling back,
as the blades of a Huey
dice the air in a blizzard of ash
and smoke and rain.
On crowded rooftops, sons
and fathers lift ladders to a dirty sky,
waving, calling, or singing
along to sleigh bells and strings.
There’s a man swimming
through the grim steel
of the South China Sea,
now a lake in Nebraska frozen solid,
fringed with frost,
and he’s wearing all the clothes
he owns, despite
the temperature rising
above a hundred and five degrees.


The After Life

You blame the weather or the government,
I lament the decline of popular music,
and we know this must be the place.
The sun is rising, but never quite makes it.
It’s been that way since we arrived here
all those weeks or months ago.
We stay up late and drink coffee
with sour milk. This room is whitewashed
in the current fashion, like a skull stripped of skin,
and when you return with a fresh pot
we wave to the couple across the street.
They could be us (don’t you think?)
huddled together in that blank apartment
waiting for the day to break.
It’s the same everywhere in this grubby town,
men and women looking out
from half-opened windows, untangling hair
and yawning, clutching expensive cafetières.
Or hunched over the kitchen sink
scrubbing spoons, quietly weeping,
where the sediment from a thousand cups
forms an endless dark watermark.


Siegfried Baber was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1989. Since graduating from Bath Spa University with a degree in Creative Writing, he lives and works in the city as a freelance writer, and as a barman in Bath’s finest pub, The Star Inn.

Siegfried’s poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid is published by Telltale Press, with its title poem nominated for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Follow Siegfried on Twitter: @SiegfriedBaber

Stella Wulf – three poems

Culaccino

Your place next to mine, warmly impressed by you.
Close, but not touching.

A stray hair curled into the nest of your pillow,
the duvet humped in a clever spoof.

And there is your thumb in the toothpaste tube,
above mine, naturally.

I slip into the shell of your shirt,
nestle like a Russian doll,

close, but not touching.
My feet fit inside your prints in the snow,

heel to toe, backtracking.
I place two glasses, lip to lip,

we sip together, culaccino leaving
two perfect rings – close but not touching.

Note: Culaccino – an Italian word to describe the marks left on a table by a moist glass


Colour Theory

‘Truth is simple,’ you said, ‘black and white,’
as fundamental as day and night.
You wooed me with brilliance, Kandinsky
explosions of vibrancy and light,

a pointillist impression of dreams,
riots of violets, deep seas of greens,
expressions of mauves, fantasies of Fauves.
You shade in crimson, ultramarine,

subsume me into your Rembrandt gloom,
me and everything else that you spun
on your ivory palm, eclipsing sky,
blue moons and buttercup yellow suns.

You took everything that I gave back,
consumed my radiance with a lack
of attention, devoid of reflection,
laid me down flat with slathers of black.


West Side Story

Spool back the years
light up the face of a spellbound girl
as she freezes the star-crossed lovers

in the frame of her fanciful mind.
Cue the music
but soft
as a prayer on the parting of lips
turn it up to the endless day
send it soaring over the envious moon
etch her heart with the score.
Somewhere
someday
she’ll write her own moving script
step out of a bit-part role in a one act play
and shiver the stars to tears.


Stella Wulf lives in South West France and is currently studying towards an MA in Creative Writing with Lancaster University. Her work has been widely published and has been included in several anthologies including The Very Best of 52 (Nine Arches Press, 2015), three drops from a cauldron Lughnasadh 2015, and the Clear Poetry Anthology 2015. A retired Interior designer, she now spends her time up to her oxsters in paint and plaster.

Dawn Leas – three poems

Day Job

Hanging on the back of a tired truck,
he exhales streams of vapor at 7 a.m.
still wearing yesterday’s skinny jeans
and red Chuck Taylors, the required
fluorescent vest pulled over his hoodie.
He rubs the night from his eyes
then pulls gloves from back pocket.

He plays nights into these mornings
at all the local places,
floors sticky with beer,
tables crowded with college kids
spending their minimum wages
on dollar drafts and jukebox memories,
filled with waitresses carrying long hours of trays,
looking for tips big enough
to take them away from here, someday.
He plays his guitar, electric and blue,
until last call, walks the blocks he works
in daylight home to a garage apartment
to catch three hours of sleep.

Jumping down, he takes time walking to the curb,
swings over-stuffed green bags
into the belly of the truck,
pushes a button to crush and compact.
He repeats block after block.
At the end of the run, he climbs back onto his ride,
spits last night’s stale taste into the gutter.
He tightens his grip when the truck lumbers
around a corner, its pipes coughing black smoke,
motor whining against the frosty morning.


Last Sunday in August

Her fingers find his hair despite the humidity
and sting of last week’s argument now a vague
itch she absently scratches.
He lounges on the front stoop, hair below shoulders,
steel-toe boots. His hands rest
on her hips, head against her stomach.
It’s a standard NEPA neighborhood –
houses shoulder to shoulder,
shared driveways, pot-holed street, metal porch awning,
a heap of bikes in the front yard, howl of kids in backyard.
She wears faded Levi’s and a white t-shirt. Her back to the traffic,
she’s bare-footed and staring
through the screen door into a dark front room –
maybe beyond – straight out the back door to something lost,
or forgotten,
at the edge of the river after Friday night games, two reunions removed
from the present. The heat won’t let go, won’t give in.
Her blonde hair tangoes with the wind.
Tomorrow she will climb a ladder
to the detached garage’s loft, unpack Fall’s cleaner air, hint
of a colder season from stacked cardboard boxes.


Sinew

If I knew you would sprint across the tracks,
jump the crumbling stone wall,
run through the Victorian’s weed-punctuated yard,
climb the rusted fire escape,
push up my bedroom window,
its aging panes rattled by freight-train rumble,
just enough to slide in your runner’s body,
and tuck me under you by light of the midnight moon,
then I wouldn’t have had to cry
so many years over my fall from grace.


Dawn Leas’s work has appeared in Literary Mama, San Pedro River Review, Connecticut River Review, The Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. Her chapbook, I Know When to Keep Quiet, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010). A collection of her poems can be found in Everyday Escape Poems, an anthology released by Swan Dive Publishing (2014) and her first full-length collection is forthcoming in 2016 from Winter Goose Publishing. She is the assistant to the president at Wilkes University and a contributing editor at Poets’ Quarterly and TheThePoetry. Her website is dawnleas.com

Meg Cox – three poems

Baba Ganoush

Of a weekend you can see her dancing,
in clubs and pubs with a bit of space.
Always in her own exotic world
of garish clothes bought
from charity shops – mirrored Moroccan red
and blue – and it’s not really belly-dancing,
just her own idea of who she is,
her untamed breasts and wild dark hair,
silver bells on her ankles,
and sand between her toes.
We call her Baba Ganoush;
round here she’s a legend.


Sometimes It’s a Quiet Poem

like the sweep
of the willow in the wind
beyond the hedge

or the movement
of the tail of my dog
when I smile

it could be
a petal falling from the jug
of yellow tulips

or the snow
on the window after dark
rain on a pond

the ember
that falls in the log burner
behind the glass

it might be
the last sight of him at the corner
when he didn’t look back

or a cloud covering the sun.


Second Person Personal

It must have been around dusk
when you were strolling home
the last half mile from the tube
along empty Willesden streets
the Plane trees glowing green
with a blackbird mistaking
the street lights for day
and singing loudly above you
that you think
you are being followed
and you pick up speed
but when the stalker shuffles his feet
too close behind you
you swing round and shout at him
you should know better
and how dare you
and I know where you live
you bastard!


Meg Cox lives in Herefordshire and mostly reads and writes poetry. She has been published in several magazines and reads her work at open mics. In 2014 she had a chapbook published, Looking Over My Shoulder at Sodom, by Grey Hen Press.