Annual summer break

Dear Clear Poetry Readers,

A quick note to let you know that Clear Poetry is taking a well earned rest for the next couple of weeks, and will return with new poems on Monday 14th August.

Feel free to continue to submit your work during that period, but just be aware that you’re unlikely to receive a response from me until week commencing 21st August.

Thanks, as ever, for your wonderful support.

Cheerio!

Ben x

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Bethany Rivers – three poems

No Chime

At the end of the decade
you got to keep the house
both cats, the furniture,
the car, the driving skills,
the river-view, the bookshelves,
the rugs, the blankets, the bed,
the stepped-garden, the
enormous copper-beech
with stately wisdom, the cups
with the origin stories, the framed
photos from the festival, all
the god damn photos, but
the one thing I don’t miss,
the only sound you left
me with, an empty hall
with a lone grandmother
clock, ticking.


When one door closes

How many doors in this kitchen, tell me.
She said. As if it was a trick question.
I looked around, determined to get

the correct answer.

Five doors, I said, one to the living room,
one to the hallway, one to the larder, one
to the office, oh, and the patio.

Nope. She said. Guess again.
Oh, the cupboard doors, that’s another
eleven, that makes sixteen. Nope.

She said. I looked again. The Aga.
That had three doors. The fridge.
The dishwasher. Twenty-one, I

declared, to her consternation. I’ll
give you a clue. She said. I can never
open this one. I racked my brains –

there was the door to the loft, but
that wasn’t in the kitchen. I’ll let you
think about it. She said. As she

walked out the front door.


Just this stile

My dearest friends who love maps
who pore over them
ah-ing and ooh-ing over place names
woodlands and walks to discover
and know how to translate
the two-dimensional into breeze
inscribed fields and trees and paths.

They wonder at my ineptitude to discern
a direction from the lines and coloured
paper in comparison to the grass and
bumps my feet navigate and the circles
of flight of buzzards and kites
my eyes keep retracing in the sky.

I flick through different kinds of maps to find:

the bathroom where my father died
the daily meditation hill of my teenage-hood
the housing estate of dread and knotted stomach
……..hours spent trying not to throw up
the stairs I sat on for midnight phone calls with
……..my best friend where we reassured each other
……..we were not disappearing
the road I drove for a decade with no direction,
……..T-junctions of confusion, never-ending replicated
……..roundabouts where I didn’t know how to exit
the maze of mirrors where laughter ricocheted and it didn’t
……..matter that me and my father were lost
the first sandcastle I ever built, the first dig with a tiny
……..new red spade, the first bucket of water dad brought me
the oak I sat beneath as it revealed my immediate future,
my near past, my temporary purpose
the hidden fairy-tale cottage in an idyllic of woods
……..which was really a prison with bars no-one could see
and the moonlit patch of harbour water as I reclined on a boat
……..in the lapping silence.

If we shortcut that way, we’ll be back in time for tea. Just this stile here, I think,
he says and points a sunny way. I smile and follow, nodding at the
peacock fluttering on the vetch along the way.


Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet, Off the wall, was published last summer by Indigo Dreams Publishing. She loves thunderstorms and curling in front of an open fire with a fabulous book. She mentors the writing of novel, memoir and poetry. www.writingyourvoice.org.uk

Tina Edwards – three poems

Whoever does not love

Strewn across the church doorway pastel coloured
gingham bunting flutters in late summer breeze
half eaten cakes topped with pink fondant icing
lay abandoned on graves

women of the parish teeter in Sunday heels
lips stained blood red with lipstick
children climb over pews ..up yews
use white crisp table cloths to make dens

he smiles at me ..a brief moment of remembrance
politely shakes my hand ..leaves no room for doubt
stands upon a rickety chair ..thanks us for coming
how we have been blessed with the weather

he kissed me once ..behind the altar bathed in warm light
when we were young and grown ups drank red wine
carrying bibles in their hands ..today ..church bells ring
reminds me of the first time


Forget ..me ..Nots

I hesitate ..turn the rusty latch that says Vacant
a stumbling urgency into an imaginary throne
red velvet ..beautiful silk drapes ..gold crested arms
an incense bouquet breathes life from distant lands

I become ..Engaged ..in a dystopian cold room
frequented by hoards ..court to a bastion of illicit encounters
black pen prophesies ..noxious smeared walls
wafts of stale urine ..unite ..yesterday’s news

kelly sucks dick ..I wuz yer ..anarchy in the U.K.
demands to be read over and over ..outside crazy paving
sprouts pretty weeds ..delicate blue flowers ..yellow centres
waiver in the nights cool breeze

if I had the inclination ..a pen ..I would find a space
between the Kelly’s ..Dicks ..draw them in fading light
hand pressed hard against the wall ..hold the memory
hope ..I remember their name ..why I came here tonight


Love Child

Father spoke of a time before me ..when it was you and him
who strolled through the park ..lay on an old picnic blanket
devoured crab sandwiches washed down with weak tea
like cats piss with sugar ..he said ..just the way you liked it

he held your hand at the duck pond as rain filled your sandals
the red ones with yellow flowers ..you carried in both hands
you laughed ..ran ..with the wind ..arms held high
a wild child ..while others huddled under umbrellas

it was him who sat on the kitchen floor ..watched you undress
poured Champagne into whiskey glasses ..wrote I Love You
in pink glitter lipstick on the empty bottle ..kept the cork
in a wooden box

he kissed you goodnight ..embraced insatiable hunger
held you tight ..until shadows took shape on the bedroom wall
and tears stopped falling with the rain ..when you told him
it was me ..you truly loved

who held your hand ..walked with you through the park
paddled with ducks ..fed them crusts from toast he made you
as you slept late into the mornings ..holding me close exhausted
snatching dreams ..he said it was me ..who tore you both apart


Tina Edwards lives in the rural and coastal county of North Somerset. A keen walker and keeper of ducks she is a new poet recently published in Reach Poetry by Indigo Dreams Publishing and Flowers in the Machine, a free e-anthology of science poems published by Poetry Kit. She has also been published online in the USA by Poetry Super Highway for the 19th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day Poetry Issue with her poem ‘Deep in the Forest’. She can be found here: tinaphotosandpoetry.wordpress.com

Laura Hoffman – three poems

Cotton Ghosts

we were more loaded
than cotton gins
on that airless
southern night
beside a fire
in a wheelbarrow

he forgot where
I was visiting from
but this time I didn’t
even give a shit

off the dirt road
in a thin bed
of pine needles
pale lips twitched
eyes found mine

he staggered off
to vomit in the woods

leaving me empty on my back

pine needles sticking
to my legs
I was still

thinking about cotton


The Wasp

your big
Roman nose
always
touched me first
before your lips
and your Marlboro Red tongue

its suntanned tip
pinioned my cheek
with all the frenzy
of the wasp that watched us-
buzzing

from between
glass & blind
escaped love


Stone Fruit

the flesh of our marriage
is rotting away;
a forgotten plum
that has come to reek
in defiant, purple fury.

I’ve already opened
my soft legs
for sweeter harvest,
but still
the plum sits
in a Pyrex bowl
by the stove

so I wait,

for the decaying pulp to part
and give its pit away


Laura Hoffman is a United States Marine Corps veteran currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in English at The University of North Florida. Hoffman’s work is forthcoming or appears in: Bop Dead City, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, and The Bangalore Review. When she is not studying or writing, Hoffman enjoys spending time with her son Nathan, and performing improvised comedy.

Chris Hemingway – three poems

How it Starts

as a prompt,
a current,
mis-spelt glances
borrowed words.
Like a spot of dust,
surrounding itself with ice.
Which will melt,
unless chilled to paper.

But writing “a snowflake”
isn’t easy.
“It’s like this” you say,
tracing honeycomb webs with your fingers.
And hail is harder still,
attention-seeking.
tapping at the tightwound windows,

So you document the flakes and stones,
and hope to be discovered,
stored and catalogued,
in a prestigious freezer.


5.45 pm, The Cross

Neustift Goats have gone.
Now it’s more tumbleweed
than artisan cheese.

Terry lifts up his collar
to keep out the rain.
Thinks about Susan, and the evening ahead,
the Early Bird Special at the Korma Chameleon.

Each passer-by is darkened by the dusk,
he tries to find the middle ground
between alertness and eye contact.
Cashpoint vigilance.

He glances down
at the rainbow streaks in the gutter.
And wonders what a diesel spill
is doing in a pedestrian zone.


The Twist

“Ok,” he said,
“we could dream of childhood homes.
Till some miserable vicar
bashes on the cell door
with a bible and breakfast.

We could hide from shadows
in misty mansions,
or oddly-magnetised islands.
More haunted than haunting.

I could be a giant statue
buried in the sand .
As you approach
with a horse and loincloth.”

“Steady on mate,”
she said,
“I was only asking you for a dance.
It goes like this.”


Chris Hemingway is a poet and songwriter from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He has self-published two collections on lulu.com: The Future, a prose collection, and Cigarettes and Daffodils, a compilation of song lyrics and poetry.

He is on the organising Board for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and co-runs the Squiffy Gnu blog and Facebook poetry prompt group.

Cheryl Pearson – four poems

Struck

For weeks, you work knee-deep with pans
and water. Pour and shake. You know
the silt like a lover, have undressed
every particle twice. First fingertips, then eyes.
Once, you read that every atom of every
Thing was fired in a star. The wet metals
of your long body. The gold the water works
so hard to save. When finally you see
that shock of light through muck, it’s like
you found your own heart after a lifetime
away. Your whole body beats with
recognition. The flush of your wrists,
your throat going like a hummingbird –
and see how your palm has the sun in it,
now, how the light blesses you. How you hold
it, up, shining: the rest of your life.


Snowdrop

The way a shadow, falling from a birdwing,
moves winter along: this is how
the small bells ring in the coming light
as they follow the white violets into spring.

One foot in Winter, one on the turning
carousel of seasons: the Christmas hymns
are still fading; the daffodils
are tuning up underground.

Break a snowdrop at the waist, and the cap
will tip its simple scent to your wrist.
A flush of sweetness with each tick
of your pulse. And the white heart ticks

like the wood’s clock. The geese are back.
Listen as they split the clouds
with their sound, as the flowers count
towards long light, towards equinox.


Hardangervidda

In August 2016, a herd of over 300 reindeer were killed by a single lightning strike in Hardangervidda, Norway. Scientists explained that this was likely caused by the fact that reindeer tend to group together when spooked, and the close proximity of their bodies would have allowed the lightning strike to travel. through the herd unobstructed.

Lichen under tongues, still;
it was that quick. The boiled world split,
and caught the spooked group
in its lights.

Perhaps they found brief shelter under
the marvellous branches of their antlers. The way
a girl in a dress finds a tree in the rain
before she surrenders to translucence.

The lightning cut its teeth on a forest of blood.

Imagine the sound of their bodies
as they fell. A sigh as they peeled
out of formation. A pop and a spit as their fat
cooked where they stood.

A tangle of crowns in a brown field. A drift of smoke.

The metal lick of light that kissed
the metal in them; particles, perhaps,
from the same original star, an inevitable return
to lips and teeth. So that this, the collapse, is not a death,
but only those two old lovers meeting –

Here you are. After all these years.
And they leave, together. Not in the scavenging mouths
of foxes. Not in boxes in the scientists’ cars.


The Calf
(from the longer sequence, “A Selkie’s Tale”)

Three babies he put into me;
not one of them took. They went out
like small flames I tried to cup
but snuffed to smoke instead. He thought
they were stones to weight my bones
to his house. They never were.

This night, I wrestle the landling creature
from the glove of its mother,
place the slick and intimate slip
on the straw before her. An offering.
She licks and fusses it up to a stumble – a bit
of a thing, all eyes and bewilder.

Imagine my fires, if they had burned.
My two sons. My daughter.
They’d have split the world along its fault,
like the line
between sky and water.


Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, The High Window, Under The Radar, Poetry NorthWest, Crannog and Envoi. She won first prize in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016, and third prize in Bare Fiction Magazine’s national poetry competition in the same year. She has been shortlisted for the York Literature Festival Prize and the Princemere Poetry Prize, and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her first full poetry collection, Oysterlight, was published by Pindrop Press in March 2017.

Gareth Culshaw – two poems

Mixing Things Up

We would stand there waiting, hoping,
our grip on a wooden handle, ‘T’ shaped,
with the other hand on the mid life,

ready to lift something weighty
off the mind, not that we knew it back
then. A mix of sand, water, cement.

Tumbling along, moaning, groaning, as
you tilted the shovel plate, hearing the
sloppy sigh of release from the turn of things,

Ticking by with every mouth load, kneed
the mix. Then wait for the chance to
bond, build from what it gave you.

Before a shoulder lift and fill,
grip the handle, raise the hope along
with every bump of the one tyre wheelbarrow


Field Skittles

The sun has taken enough light
for the streetlights to pop open.

There is commotion in the field
two men try to gather sheep

like catching marbles on a hill.
One of them does star jumps

but only with his hands. The other
whacks his leg with a flat cap

like he has a hiccup in the muscle
and he wants it to go away.

The sheep scatter, tumble along.
They are evading the metal

trailer that waits like a suitcase
on the last day of a holiday.

I watch the streetlights dink
while the farmer and son

keep the moon at bay
and sheep break like skittles

unsure of the meaning of flock.


Gareth is an aspiring writer who hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen. He has been published in The Reader, Limestone, Magma and Dreamcatcher plus others.

Colin Will – Six garden incidentals

These notes were found in the desk of our former garden writer Colin Will some time after he stepped down as our regular columnist here at The Trendy Garden. Unfortunately the flowers he describes do not bear any scientific names which would help to identify them more precisely. Dr Will has not responded to our enquiries on the subject, but we thought you, our loyal readers, might like to see if any of them are growing in your gardens at home.
Thomas Culpepper, Editor, The Trendy Garden


Bummerty

Bummerty’s one of those flowers
that always brings out a smile.
Their wee blue and yellow petals
are like faces, with black eyes
and a jammy mouth.
You have to hunker down
really close to see them.
Most of the time you come across
a Swedish carpet of them
in a woodland clearing.
See – you’re smiling. Knew you would.


Purple Anstruther

Purple Anstruther, as the name suggests,
is a seashore weed, thriving beside
those tidal streams that run both ways,
pumping smelly water up and down
from farmland to saltmarsh,
in and out to sea. It’s tall,
as it has to be, for when Moon,
Sun and Earth are in alignment
their stems are submerged. Some years
storm surges wash them all away.
Pity. They’re bonny things.


Lesser Musket

Often confused with Common Musket,
this hedgerow plant likes full sun
and a well-drained soil.
A metre tall in favourable spots,
the flowers are mauve, not the deep purple
of the Common kind. Ripe seed-pods
burst open with a sound like gunshots.
Not Kalashnikov or automatic pistol,
maybe a small-bore Mauser, more a crack
than a bang. But loud enough
to startle blackbirds, frighten wrens.


Lady’s Fankle

Rambling, spreading, giving good
ground cover, this can be thuggish
in the suburban garden.
The stems are wiry, tough
and knotted. As the name suggests
it can catch the careless foot
on a summer walk, but this releases
such a sweet scent it’s almost worth it.
Pink flowers in delicate panicles
rise above the clumps, soft candles
on a green birthday cake.


Sunbristle

A plant of sunlit uplands, mountain moorland,
the sunbristle nestles in the lea
of tough tussock grass. It’s carnivorous,
specifically arachnivorous, preferring spiders
to any other food source.
Ground-hunting spiders, seeking height
from which to launch an ambush,
climb its long red bristle where,
at the tip, a sticky droplet,
more tenacious than superglue,
leads to remorseless digestion.


Herb Snoddy

Opinions are divided on the plant’s benefits.
The old herbals pronounce only
that it wards off serpents
and may cure whimsy, but
no medical effects have been proved.
Dr Snoddy, in his apothecary shops,
sold a tincture, an alcohol extract,
for treatment of the scruples.
Crushed stems release the smell
of vigorous sex – one trusts
between consenting adults.


Colin is a poet, short story writer and saxophonist from Dunbar in East Lothian. His new book of poems, The Night I Danced With Maya, will be published by Red Squirrel Press on 22nd July, his 75th birthday. www.colinwill.co.uk

Finola Scott – three poems

Black Guillemot, Uria Grylle, ZE023

Sun cracks shadows where coffined cases crouch. Layer upon layer, in drawer
after sectioned drawer, eggs burrow from light, safe in cardboard, cotton-wool
protects their fingerprint patterns. The curious prise the cabinets’ handles. Heat
will never hatch these, sucked and blown dry. Collectors with mutton-chop
whiskers, peer through pince-nez, arrange their spoils with precision. English,
Latin, reference number. Death reduced to copperplate details scribed on each
label, on each egg, in each compartment, in each stack.


Book marked

He creeps round, in about stalls, ignores
sweated lino, beer odoured mats, hunts down
man-handled pages, inky. Fingers labels, rough-strokes
chocolatey chapters, thumbs words. Overloaded
nostrils tremble and quiver type. He grubs
Garamond, eschews Times Roman. Perfumed
palms slide beneath flaunting jackets to caress. He craves
floppy picture books, sucks their lollypop tales. Inhales
baby powder, exhales jam-sweet memory. Acid-clean
toilets stink-block his path. He swithers waddly, rubs
aniseedy hankie over wide-open pores. Rustles
for curd scones dark deep in secret pockets. Mid aisle, he
hesitates, loose laced leather soles squeak. He catches
a whiff of Foolscap or is it Imperial? Woody
paperbacks waft to his left, sticky annuals behind.
Brain swivels, pulled by poetry’s perfume.


Lead

The weight of rock
between head and larks.
The hole in the clog
to set drip-water free.
The tease of sparkle
along ebony faults.
The wrench of oxide
from miser stone.
The chill of geology
scraping at skin.
The stench of tallow
crowding the space.
The scramble when short
straw is pulled.
The laughter at bait,
the suck on clay pipe.
The bargains we strike
with bosses, pals and God.


Slam winning granny Finola Scott’s poems are published in The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework, The Lake, And Other Poems as well as many anthologies. She was mentored by Liz Lochead on Scotland’s Clydebuilt Scheme.