Issue 1

Arithmetic
Katrina Naomi

After a prime number of cocktails on Xmas Eve,
I think I could make a go of maths;

simultaneous equations might dissolve
in my hands as day turns to dusk;

there would be an equalisation of x and y
– the curly, italicised x – not the hard kiss

I’ve grown up with. All of this could shift into place,
like other things that have happened at once:

my father leaving, my changing school.
I couldn’t follow maths after that;

chose other topics: emotions
and how they might be withheld, or

like a matrix, bracketed off and put to one side.
I want this to add up – like one part Cointreau

to one part gin – yet find myself slurring
as I take one away or carry one

over. How many new dads does it take?
I work hard on this, breaking the phrase

into fractions, one figure placed over another,
before attempting the new of decimals.

Now the point jumps back and forth,
numbers fizz like lemonade.

I can’t substitute.
I too was meant to move on,

leave the chewed pencil of sums
for arithmetic’s careful biro.

I do my best in this exercise book –
the Campari-red of the cover, marked

with its circle of leaves,
the gap at the top.

 

Katrina Naomi is currently writer-in-residence at the Arnolfini. Her latest collection is ‘The Way the Crocodile Taught Me’ (Seren, 2016). She is a post-doctoral researcher at Goldsmiths.


…………………………………..twenty-seven essences

……………………………………………..orange

……………………………………………….civet

……………………………………………….rose

………………………………………camphor .. birch tar

…………………………………… lemongrass   sassafras

……………………………..jasmine ..hyacinth.. lavender..lilac

……………………………cedarwood   sandalwood  cardamom

…………………………castor bean   tonka bean    frankincense

………………………………lilial..vanilla..fennel..oakmoss

…………………………….ambergris   patchouli   galbanum

…………………………………………..labdanum

………………………………………….ylang-ylang

…………………………………………bitter almond.
…………………………………
(better known as cyanide)

by Norbert Hirschhorn

The poet’s rearrangement of the odor installation, “Babylon,” by Christian Skeel and Morten Skiver, 1997; showing at Kiasma – The Museum of Contemporary Art – Helsinki, 2005.

 

Norbert Hirschhorn is an international public health physician (retired), and a poet with four collections to his credit.  See www.bertzpoet.com.


Ice House
Jacqueline Saphra

After the storm, winter; down came the mist
and hung between our faces till our lips
turned blue, mangled the words and lost the kiss.
Home grew numb. Snow began to drift
through shattered panes. We let the stalagmites
rise up like fairy tales and block the light.
Now we prowl our labyrinth of endless nights
and sleep apart in towers made of ice.
But still I dream your heat, and still I long
to catch the rapture of a sudden sun
and hold you in its glow, my only one.
Here, in this quiet bed when I’m alone,
I thaw your words, I breathe your baritone
and melt your frozen name against my tongue.

 

Jacqueline Saphra’s ‘The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions’ was nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. ‘All My Mad Mothers’, her second full collection will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2017.


Honey from the Strawberry Tree
Fiona Moore

Amaro was the word I didn’t see, stamped on the label.
There were crystals forming like a suspension of ice
in the gold. I felt the cylinder’s cold weight
and bought us the crush of sugar against our tongues, stinging
………our lips, sweet grit in our teeth,

our holiday in a jar – on the shelf at home
….until you pierced the lid, tore the paper tab and released
………..the smell: heady, underpinned with astringency
straight from the hidden valley we’d walked down
….for hours. We tasted the honey and it was bitter

like biting raw leaves, olive or laurel leaves from that valley,
…..amaro, the troubles that swarm up at judgement day –
day of anger, day heavy with bitterness,
….a day whose potency is that it hasn’t happened yet
……….and we don’t know when it will.

The strawberry tree is called Arbutus
unedo meaning eat-once, which is what you did. You left
………..the honey, you couldn’t stomach it,
I am still eating it,
…..relishing the sweet aftertaste.


In an Irish Country Lane
Anne Ballard

Remember that day:

our hired Morris Minor treading a green maze:
golden light, heavy-laden with pollen
and a haze of small dancing insects,
the car almost filling the narrow lane?
We rounded a bend and met,
head on, a flock of sheep.

Nothing happened.

The dogs made the most of it:
lay down to rest; the shepherds lit up, leant
on their crooks, gossiping;
the sheep milled, a white, black-foamed ocean.
You, having of course stopped the car,
started it, gently, inched forward
between parting waves of unconcerned animals.
The flock was enormous:
we had time for the giggles, smothered
when the men greeted us gravely.
On the further shore a bus disgorged passengers:
grown-ups who waited in line like good children.
At last, passing with the tail of the flock
they too acknowledged us,
thanked our good herding, commenting:
It’s a grand day.

We drove on, laughing.

You could have lived there,
grown old nourished by dogs and windflowers
not withered into cold age
starved among skyscrapers.

 

Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her pamphlet ‘Family Division’ was published in 2015. Her poems have been loved but refused by many magazines and even sometimes accepted, mainly by ‘Acumen’.

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