Maurice Devitt – three poems

A Simple Twist of Fate

And in the nub of time
you will wake to a day
that seems to fit every dream
you have forgotten
and the light, the cautious light,
will seep into a blotting-paper sky.

Maybe then this will all make sense.

How he never told you
about the illness until it was
too late, how her name appeared
from nowhere to claim the house
and how, after the funeral, every call
seemed to be the undertaker
looking to settle his bill.


Homeless

The doors on your street
have become strangers,
the windows no longer smile
and the dogs bark
at your unfamiliar shadow,

as though, when you received
the letter to return the key,
someone secretly erased
the years of carrying messages
from the shop, buggy wheels

finding every crack, and
pretending you had some to spare
when neighbours called
to borrow sugar.

Now you hurry past in the glim
of evening, breath catching
as you hear a child
crying in the empty hall.


One Summer Evening

Only the trees will remember –
the road ribboned in the evening haze,
a car, full to bursting, tacking
the corner of that stingy chicane
and the quiet certainty of a man
puttering home in the outside lane.

A brother, once back-seated
and buoyant, now jostling
for his life. A sister waits,
wishing she could whisper life
into spent breath and ignore
the raven tapping on the glass.


In 2016 Maurice was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and shortlisted for the Listowel Poetry Collection Competition. Winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015, he has been placed or shortlisted in many competitions including the Patrick Kavanagh Award, Over the Edge New Writer Competition, Cuirt New Writing Award, Cork Literary Review and the Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. A guest poet at the ‘Poets in Transylvania’ festival in 2015, he has had poems published in various journals in Ireland, England, Scotland, the US, Mexico, Romania, India and Australia, is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group.

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Robert Nisbet – three poems

The Cusp

I am 18. It is 1963.
Soon I shall sing flowers and San Fran,
wear a Sergeant Pepper jacket,
declare / decree / delight in the fact
that All you need is love.

And yet, history’s squirrel, I shall hoard
the nutshell sights and sounds and smells
of coal fires in cold winters,

of boys released from Latin lessons
to a weekend splurge of leaf and light
in childhood’s fields and hedges,

of walking down ashcan lanes
to cafés and the record shop,

of the men who built sheds and lofts,
knew about football, bowled leg-spin
down the street’s front paths

with a tennis ball and lots of tweak,
said little about the war.


Back Home

She’d been dumped.
There was anxiety to help her,
Violet simpering in the corner shop,
the sonorous elders / olders,
the odd crass blast, The clock is ticking, Helen,

and mantras, platitudes, soliloquies.
So it could hover, the three-year-only marriage,
like an albatross, with misty thoughts
of female cuckoldry.

Work was best, for a while,
the clacketing of the farm shop’s till,
the shoppers, girls from the peninsula,
gracious in ignorance.
Even the greasy charmers.
Nice to be called My dear from time to time.
(Attention short of lechery was fine).

And shop staff, Gloria was good,
a bangle-jangling girl, calling her,
My sweet, my lamb.

Some comfort, much comfort.
Then, closing the shop at five, November,
home, the family waiting.


The Old Library
The County Library, Haverfordwest c 1960

As you went in, on the stone staircase,
there was a snake in a jar, a mean-looking sample
of the taxidermist’s art. Strange fish and fowl
thronged the path to the librarian’s eyrie.

Within, Miss Davies and the rest of them
stamped books, slipped cards into dockets.
As children, we took out those ink-scented yarns,
pottering in shards of sunlight from high windows.

And, as students, in the vac, Emlyn was there,
and John, at folding desks, a little wonky,
squeezed in at the end of aisles,
their essays and ambitions under way.

The scholarship boys. The library
History’s tread.


Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has over 200 publications in Britain and around 50 in the USA. His one chapbook is Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011).

This is Robert’s fifth appearance on Clear Poetry – you can read his other contributions here.

Ivy Schweitzer – three poems

Distant Savannas

I write the word tawny
trying to evoke highlands
downed with autumn grass
savoring the velvety play of vowels

when the word yawns open and
out rushes — you
the almost ghost that troubles
every poem I write and my hand
warms against the nap of your back
I stroked over and over
on nights of elusive sleep.
You would say my hair hurts
meaning, attend to me
true axis of your world,
with all the avowals of motherlove,
heal the hurts little boys should not have.

And I faithfully intoned those ritual words
your tawny back,
as you preened and grew quiet and tiny
even when you overtowered me,
lulled in the stillness
of skin on skin and my authorizing hand
as if birthing you weren’t authoring enough
it had to be those syllables
of bronzed communing
and my touch like does
grazing the savanna of our shared awareness
of how the world rends you.

Emerging from the fog of Haldol and charcoal,
chaperoned by the suicide watch,
you whispered hoarsely
my hair hurts.
I had the illusion I knew what to do.


Playing Free

Oh God have they gone out too far this time?
jamming on the club’s tiny makeshift stage,
a row of cow skulls watching from the wall
with empty eyes
the sparse audience paralyzed
in ranks of cast-off wooden auditorium seats.

The drummer, my son’s childhood friend,
kit wedged in the corner,
tracks rhythms with a lemur’s sense of smell
and someone I don’t know on the upright bass
booms like the sea on Adderall,
backing up my boy
who stalks the edge
……….listening hard
barefoot to feel the vibes
thrumming through floorboards,
guitar prizing like a lever.

They begin with some favorite known in the bone,
Zoller’s “Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody”,
its opening phrases
waves of clamorous pulse,
driving deliriously outward,
delivering us to a bare shoal
of electrified air.

Then a long cascading chord
like a wire in the brain
sweeps them out again
……….and again
…………………….beyond form
oblivious that we cannot
breathe
the thin air of such abandon.

At the end
they barely find the head
to reel them back
and in the stunned silence
he bails
shoves his guitar off like it’s scorching
eyes full and blank
heaves off
heaven or hell
even his mother cannot tell.


Dimming of the Day

After the long trek
to the Point of Sleat
over boggy moor
from the lonely village of Aird
we arrive at Camas Daraich
a perfect cove of white sand
and strip gratefully.
The sun beats down
on frigid water
where jelly fish bloom translucent
as lambsmoke. Two ranges of mountains
clash behind us: the Red Cuillins
soft and rounded
as the heads of newborns,
and the Black Cuillins,
a ring of jagged giant’s teeth.
Still, we dip and dally,
guzzle the sharp salt air.
It’s almost ten o’clock, you say
and still light.

Marvelous then, but impossible now,
I think,
to stave off the dark any longer.


Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Ivy has published poetry in Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont (The Blueline Press, 2012), The Glass Seed Annual, Solidus 3 (with interview), Negative Capability, the last four issues of Bloodroot Literary Magazine, and most recently Antiphon vol 19.

Tom Sastry – four poems

The birds leave

In the alley where I found, once,
a curled human turd; in the alley
by the almshouses, the Man
Who May Not Be Blind, has built
the suggestion of a chapel
from a costermonger’s pallet.

Three students are recording him
gargling his truth.

The birds are leaving, he says.
God knows for where. But they are mustering,
on each gutter and tile.
He has heard them
calling down wires and lobbing news
from gable to gutter; fussing grimly with the project of it,
checking feathers
and reading the wind from rumour.

The birds are churching together
summoning their luck,
sharing the last good scavenging days.
breathing the last of the old smoke.

They have their badges and colours;
they have their drummers,
fluting their tails and beating imperatives
in a bland wrath of worry. They call out
the who and the where and the when –
you cannot call it a song –

before rising like a tent,
rasping the air with their din.
There is a sudden hush and then
a cacophonous beating of wings.
The sky remains lost. There is no light.


Death is coming

Death is coming says the sticker
(black bold on lilac, no picture).

I only saw it because I was on the top deck
thinking about the worst thing I have ever done,
whether it is worse than things people go to prison for,

what it means to be worse
and what it means to be forgiven.

Then I started wondering why
someone would put a sticker like that
eight feet up, on the brow of the bus shelter

and that’s how it got into my head
that I might need to worry.


Voiceover for an advert for modern life

Imagine that exile was the thing you were born for.

Imagine being lonely without shame.

Imagine a world of supermarket cafes staffed by brisk women and beautifully meek young men with fractured smiles.

Imagine ready meals that taste of indulgence; imagine all the time you can eat.

Imagine privacy.

Imagine a bus whose passengers don’t pretend to have anywhere to go.

Imagine a world of sound, with the texture of silence, free from human noise.

Imagine the library hush of a busy office.

Imagine ceiling tiles.

Imagine trees and cars; cars and trees.

Imagine birds, as if for the first time.

Imagine never coming home. Imagine never having left.


Time to care

The doctor is sorry for the wait. She looks like
she has just killed someone. I almost forget
about the importance of masks and ask her
if she needs a moment. She is brisk as rain,
the kind that hurtles down from a sudden dark
sky like a drowned wind. She isn’t asking –
she wants to see the mole, has the gel ready.

I know from last time that my sleeves don’t roll
far enough, so I remove my shirt. She looks.
She needs a second opinion. Isn’t that
what we all need? It looks a bit unusual. Isn’t that
how we all look? I want to know whether she
is worried about me or is still thinking
about the last patient, the one she had to kill.

I get up not knowing the colour of her eyes
but in spite of that I decide that she is kind.
She sighs. I wonder how many breaths
she is allowed. She is running hard. She is late.


Tom Sastry lives in Bristol but tries not to gloat about it. In 2015, six of his poems were selected from many thousands for inclusion in the anthology The Very Best of 52 (Nine Arches Press). He was subsequently chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one of the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets and his debut pamphlet Complicity was published by Smith/Doorstop in October 2016.

Kitty Coles – two poems

Dreamt

of rooms where you came through the door,
of marshlands where I stumbled, called your name,
of beds I found you in, where we lay together,
of lies and lying, silence and broken silence,
of broken glass and a line on the throat like red thread,
of the stink of your cigarettes on me as much as on you,
of ash drowned in water, ash lifted on the wind,
of green eyes and dark hair, and darker bruises,
of darkness and light, the halflight of undrawn curtains,
of trains that left and rain on our upturned faces,
of petals like rain, of kisses light as petals,
of kisses between the eyes, the eyes closed tight.

Dreamt that it wasn’t him sleeping beside me
but you, the ghost of you, from an old, lost life.


I Have Never Dissected a Creature

I have never peeled the seven veils of skin
away, sliced through flesh like a gourd or squash,
to reach the musculature, the organ-bags.

You, to gain wisdom, have opened –
or watched open – the human head,
observed its contents, probed its softnesses.

You have seen the heart unarmoured,
dense and tuberous, a grapey purple,
and memorised its functionality.

You know the circuits that make beings move,
the chemicals whose glitches make me sick.
You understand it all. You never found

a soul in anybody, which must prove
no soul exists – or else, that each soul moved
when you came after it and shrank from you.


Kitty has been writing since she was a child and works for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Mslexia, Iota, Obsessed With Pipework, The Interpreter’s House, The Frogmore Papers and Ink Sweat and Tears.

Kitty recently won the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016, and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, is due to be published in August 2017.

Her website is at www.kittyrcoles.com

Marina Sofia – three poems

Moving

Every room a borrowed room.
Every chair tried on for size
Or posture
Stool-crouching
High-backed
Hardwood
And still
Perfection eludes us
Maybe it’s time to sit cross-legged on the floor.
The doors and keys changed year on year
Some had welcome mats
Some scrapers to knock off caked mud
You didn’t even realise clung to you.
The constants we carried from room to room:
The pearl-leafed teacup
The teapot
A spoon


Marketable Skills

Now I am naturalized and marketable
(thanks Maxine Kumin for the hint)
my brain is useful, my forearms strong,
I gleam with squeaky-clean scrubbing
You can forgive my skin the colour
Of midnight plums………..at least temporarily
when I apply gauze to your suppuration
snip cheerily (not to smile is a sin
when you come from the back of beyond)
My scissors not nearly as sharp as your corrections
of my grammarly faults
Tolerated, jostled, kept on
until something better, home-grown,
comes along.


You Are an Anthology

Of dedications, recipes, anecdotes, jokes.
Burnt bridges.
Spectre unwanted, you startle,
you linger
like ghosts in a monotype print.
You echo unbidden
each morning, at night
the rat-tat smart order you invert.

You carry each country inside,
each stage of your journey,
some best forgotten, but still
they reverberate like a tired organ
in an obscure village church
slightly false, straining,
smile a plaster to cover grazed skin.
Wallpapering wounds.

You are a collection
of sinews too stretched
of nerves beaten tender
of bridges not crossed
pathways not followed.
Old habits dying too hard too soon.


Marina Sofia is a global nomad, blogger and writer, currently living just outside London. She is finding it more and more difficult to stick to the narrow confines of her corporate day job, so her escape has been to publish poetry and short fiction in online and print journals, as well as in a couple of poetry anthologies. She is also currently working on a crime novel, but spends far too much time on Twitter @MarinaSofia8 or blogging: https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/

Neil Fulwood – four poems

20 Zone

Dead skin sloughs off me, settles
around the gear lever. A layer
of dust coats the dashboard
in slow-motion. The Jones’s cat
watches me pass but loses interest.

My hair concentrates on the business
of hippie-length growth. I spout
a beard worthy of a Solzhenitsyn emoji.
The kids waiting at the bus stop
pass exams and have kids of their own.

There’s a General Election. A handful
of celebrities die and a few others
are caught doing things they shouldn’t.
Donna Tartt publishes a new novel.
A small galaxy winks out of existence.

I reach the end of the estate; indicate left.


Team Meeting

We talk about what we have to do
and the importance of it and the need
to prioritise, and time folds in on itself
and pulls a plug, and nobody considers

the ratio of time depleting to time required.


Disciplinary Meeting

Distil into this moment all of your learning;
be as the tree frog – still and almost invisible.
Their flabby threats are rainfall on granite,
a thousand years short of the slightest erosion.


Flowering

The violence of the subject should be cloaked
in something beautiful: a poem about death
and the profit of politicians and industrialists
is a poem of lilies and chrysanthemums.

Flowers shame the brutality of steel; rust
is a poor substitute for the fine dust of pollen.


Neil Fulwood is the author of media studies book The Films of Sam Peckinpah and co-editor, with David Sillitoe, of the anthology More Raw Material: work inspired by Alan Sillitoe (Lucifer Press, 2015). His debut poetry collection, No Avoiding It, is forthcoming from Shoestring Press in 2017. He hasn’t done any of the eclectic and interesting jobs that most people list in their biogs, but he met Quentin Tarantino once and is still dining out on the story.

Anthology 2016

2016 was a great year for Clear Poetry, and once again I’ve decided to mark another successful twelve months by putting together a free e-anthology. It features one poem from each contributor.

clear-poetry-anthology-2016-cover

It’s free to download but I would ask that you consider donating whatever you can afford to a charity of your choice. Failing that a simple act of kindness will suffice.

To access the anthology, you can click on the cover image above, or navigate to its page on the site here.

Matthew Stewart – four poems

Gran Reserva

I dozed in his cellar. He pulled me out
at a dinner once, and waited for her
while his taut fingers smudged my dusty neck.
He couldn’t bear to keep me after that.

You saved me from the local merchant’s shelf.
A whole decanterful of crispy air,
and I was born for this: a pair of mouths
to roll me across their tongues and share me.


Esperar (v)

It begins as Expect
before becoming Wait
and ending up as Hope.

Language stamps on
language
till nothing else
is left.


Shopping

Your last list has escaped from my pocket.
Neat, capitalised, divided up
by aisle in case I lost my way,
it reminds me of the one
I made last night: scruffy,
illegible, packed
with all the news
I’ll never
tell you
now.


Como una miel oscura

“…como una miel oscura,
te siento…”
…..— Antonio Gamoneda

I grew in your lips.
Their sudden absence
lies over my mouth,
shadowing my words
like a dark honey.


Matthew Stewart works in the Spanish wine trade and lives between Extremadura and West Sussex. He has published two pamphlets with HappenStance Press, both of which are now sold out, and his full collection is forthcoming in 2017 with Eyewear Publishing. He blogs at Rogue Strands.

Helen Kay – two poems

The Five Year Sentence

Different has twin fs.
He pictures them as wasps, special, not loved,
ripe for stinging the weekly spelling test.

Jam stains his word list.
Get Back. He loves Rock n Roll songs with toast.
He’s humming I Feel Fine in perfect pitch.

Time for departures.
His bag’s Nike logo ticks him ready.
Teachers’ dice will rattle and shake his day.

Panicked, he packs in
every book, the more for less forgetting.
Zips gag on letters home, unfinished work,

mushy banana.
A reek of sports shirt leaks neglect. The door
spits us out, my long-lashed camel, my float,

my Siamese fear.
In the street he stutters on the kerb’s teeth,
crosses. The pavement dribbles him from me.

The day’s uphill roll
ends. Mouth stuffed with words, the rucksack blocks
the hall. He curls behind the couch, lips sealed.


Rhos Colyn

She used to live in a valley
but now she is drawn to edges,
the coughing Holyhead coast
whose gruff bays retire from sea.
Pitted rocks grow old in purple
below the bearded grey sky.

Outside she loves the taunt of wind
its thrash, its rush, its breakaway.
Inside, in the space of time left,
she decorates rooms, refreshes
an old house with clean, clear lines,
stripped pine and aqua tones.

In her studio she tears shorelines
of magazines to sculpt hares,
cuts a curve of waves into lino.
She tames glass beads, that lost
angry corners, found a stroke
of self in the smoothing sea.


Helen’s work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies . Her debut pamphlet, A Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2015. Her five chickens were happy about this.