Issue 3

“Alone, the rejected walk a straight path, they enter a straight gate, they see in their dreams what no one else can see — an end to all confusion, and end to all suffering, an elysian mist of eternally good vapor.” Mary Ruefle

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A Spinster Who Kept Up Her French
Catherine McLoughlin

I remember my penfriend’s mother
in Galeries Lafayette, trying the prams
with a phrase I didn’t initially understand.
J’ai la manie des landaus, she said,
sad she hadn’t been able to have more babies.
I was about the same age
as the teenage daughter I don’t have.

“I’m obsessed with prams.”

______________________________

I see
Vicky Morley

The eyes have one language everywhere-George Herbert

I’ve seen glaciers grinding to the sea,
flamingos’ wings paling to white,
crated back through London docks.

The eye’s not a deity, but cells seeking light,
riddle of the concrete Pantheon lit my mind,
oculis suspended in time.

Now my thoughts are clear,
my mouth’s a crevasse in frost beard,
tickling the microscope at Down House.

Captain Fitzroy claimed slavery was ordained.
Such faith and no love for fellow man,
hard to forgive in a friend. I went ashore.

Finches flittered across Pacific isles.
My compass needle set to questioning,
drove Adam and Eve back to a fairy tale.

Slow plod of giant tortoises, mysterious
lava flow, sticky sundew’s clutch before
leaking viscous juice on insects’ struggle.

Criss-crossing between the tropics,
my sketches drew heat, fanned a spark,
that flamed and consumed me.

Still I held my counsel, until strange thoughts
birthed theory, a seismic shift in nature,
defying convention and clergy.

Readers hurrying to see the word.
Evolution. They enjoy a frisson.
No carillon of bells rang in the new.

I await my grandchildren after lunch.
We’ll play loud music to the lawn,
opera to test worms’ deafness.

And then I’ll need to take a walk
along my thinking path,
my footsteps will help to sort the proof.

 

Vicki Morley used to work at GCHQ, Cheltenham, in Russian intelligence, then ran two comprehensive schools as head, now writes poetry. She has read her work at Falmouth, Marazion and Penzance’s Literary Festivals. Her ambition is to keep the local independent bookshop open by buying from their poetry selection.

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His Father
JA Sutherland

meditating upon John Bellany’s portrait of his father at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art

My Father, who is now in Heaven,
how we hallowed your name.
Your kingdom was the seas, but you
drifted into dry dock.  Earthed, your
cigarette incense lifted up like prayer.

Our Mother baked our daily bread
while you dredged manna
from the unforgiving oceans, fed
five thousand hungry mouths, then
trespassed upon those depths

no more. Weren’t you ever tempted
to return? Your uxorious duty led
You to ink a blue tattoo; anchor your
devotion in a permanent inscription,
while you sat, marooned – Regal, yet

stripped of your omnipotent rigging –
to glory in a love that isn’t puffed up:
reflecting what you were, and all that He
instructed us to do; who sits at your right
hand on high and fished for all humanity.

 

J.A. Sutherland was commended in the Scottish National Galleries annual competition on three occasions, but never for the above poem – which also failed to fit a magazine titled ‘Trespassers.’ 

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Rejection Season
Leslie McGrath

In January I brew Darjeeling and read for pleasure
the classics (Catullus, Spenser, Melville)
I skipped over in college and now assign myself
in order to round out an education I supposedly completed
thirty-odd years ago but this afternoon I set aside
to watch how the winter river grinds itself down
like a Ticonderoga pencil in a desk-mounted
sharpener, ice heaving down and down and downstream
a logjam of the sloughed, the shell casings of
a Hellful of editors who use this margin of the year
to send volleys of stiffly written rejections
thank you for letting us have a look to email addresses
like poetjanedoe@hotmail and johndoenovelist@yahoo
and my own awkward lastname.firstname@gmail
thereby crushing yet another year’s accretion
of wobbily built-up confidence that I’ve written
the unrejectable, the great leap forward, the poem
that will pry open the clamped hearts of the citizenry
to the foul suffering and injustice we paddle in
all the while thinking I could swim out of this
if I wanted to because I’ve read that to not be taken
by a rip current you must swim parallel to shore
and then I remember there are no rip currents
in rivers, just layers of currents and the forgotten
submerged, the water’s own unconscious
you could call it: each squashed soda can
skipped rock, stolen bike and every sodden
paper boat folded, named, launched, and sunk
after we’ve had a look, after we’ve all had a look.

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Little Jenny Wren
Beth Somerford

“Come up and love me!
Come up and love me!
It’s a beautiful day.”
As if an acorn cup
of notes and a peck
of wishful thinking,
could make her a mate.

She is broken, diminutive;
wears a little buff jacket.
She worries.
She worries; has
a persuasive nest
of snowberries;
inside each,
a phantom. She darts
about the garden

shuttling, zig, then zag;
tatting to and fro to
gather offcuts; snippets
of cotton, old vine, a tiny
tassel. She sews
minute dresses
and hats, like a doll
making clothes for a doll’s doll;

making sleep. She dreams
fitfully. “When you come
we will feast, my love,
upon skewers of meat;
only the skewers mind,
the meat is off.” She wakes
to find a pyracantha needle;
loose ends. Sings to herself:
“Come up and be dead!
Come up and be dead!”

 

Beth Somerford is (co)author of ‘Rhyme and Reason: The Poetry of Leadership’, and lives in Brighton. Some of her other poems have been published, and even won prizes.  www.bethsomerford.com

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Leeds (without)
Barry Fentiman Hall

Blind mills stand clichéd
With broken glasses
Paying black treacle obsequies
In coats of burnt sugar
A satanic repose, still smoking
Just, but all the devil left them
Long since, sagging arms
Tattooed with the names of
Long forgotten nightshift visitors
Offer no threat to the innocent
In this long damned city where
Sad hope dashed god boxes
Hang out their grey nets
Fishing for needy souls
Passing as they always have
But not stopping now to
Tip their caps to prayers
That never spoke to lost
Hearts in Chapeltown and Adle
Gone dust they go unblessed
Whispering to th’ighrise
Mandys “remember me?”
Eyes come from without
Digging up the dirt,
Disturbing memories of the
Places he did it deep in
The waste grounds found
In sorry Sheepscar backs
And documentary photographs
Of top trump side-burns,
Eye shadow mugshots,
Bleach jobs bled white
The tourists haven’t finished yet
Keeping score in Leeds (without)
The things it lacks
The things it needs
The things it can’t forget

Barry Fentiman Hall (BFH) is a Medway based poet of place and people and things that happen there. He is the editor of Confluence Magazine and has a collection he punts around called “The Unbearable Sheerness Of Being”. 

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Book of Numbers
Philip Gross

for GMH, 1925-2003

Imagine you
without the age you were
that night or any other –
no less and no more

that nearly-80 than the 5
of the Pear’s Soap miss,
plump teasy always-younger
sister in difficult curls…

or the 20 of the nurse
whose head was turned
by uniforms, the Canadian airman,

the fireman, the Royal Marine –
turned just in time to catch
the man inside them flown…

or the 40 of the one white face
in Kwara State Hospital chivvying
a hundred nurselings to a faith
in scrubbing-up, with just a trace

of Cornish in their English ever after…
or the 60 of the shabby hand of grace
for the dozen least lovable cats
in Plymouth, or the 70… No,

but imagine you all
of these ages and all at once
equally. Or none,

with every tissue that made up
that look or that pause – so
that way of commanding a story, gone

to dates and labels, like the stuff we cleared
from your cupboards (who could need
such wild amounts of Coffee-mate,
such squirrellings in every drawer of sweets

you of all people knew you shouldn’t?)
– the leavings… And perhaps it’s as
the leaving, a style
of not being there, as in the space

where a small town carnival with floats
and many homemade guises and a glad
noise just passed through

that (now your days will not
be numbered) Georgie, I
imagine you.

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The Same Poem, Moving Backwards Through Time

James Womack

We were talking about childhood punishment:
‘I only remember being spanked once,’
I recalled. ‘We were going to the Botanic Gardens,
and I hid under the bed when we were about to leave.’
James Brydon interrupted: ‘Who the fuck are you? Marcel Proust?’
Small coloured birds move active through the undergrowth.

Small coloured birds move active through the undergrowth.
We were discussing childhood punishments.
and James Brydon scoffed—‘Who are you, Algernon Swinburne?’—
when I remembered only being birched once:
‘I hid under the ottoman when we were about to leave;
I recall that we were going to the Vauxhall Gardens.’

I remember we were headed for the Marylebone Gardens—
Small coloured birds moved active through the undergrowth—
I had tried, unsuccessfully, to hide under the commode.
We were conversing upon the chastisements of youth:
I said: ‘I was only ever horsewhipped once.’
James Brydon ridiculed me: ‘D—n your eyes! Are you Dr Johnson?’

James Brydon laughed: ‘God’s teeth! Art thou Lord Bacon?’
We were footing slow towards Finsbury Field,
and I had said that my sire beat me but once.
Small coloured birds move active through the undergrowth.
We discussed childhood, its punishments:
ere we embarked on our journey I had hidden in the clothes-press.

It befell that I did try to hide me in the rafters.
Quod Isaac Brydon: ‘Thou clod, art thou Boethius?’
We talked of youth and its villainous bane,
as we did wend in pilgrimage to Canterbury.
Small coloured birds moved active through the undergrowth.
I suffered but once at my father’s hand.

Only once did he raise his hand against me in anger,
for that I hid myself away in the coffin.
Small coloured birds moved active through the undergrowth.
Jakob Brydon said: ‘Fool! Are you the sagawriter?
We took our way towards the Hangman’s Rock,
and talked of the cruelty of childhood.

Is this a punishment; am I being chastised?
I am going to the Lawstone; I will hide there.
‘Am I the Elohist?’ I ask the small, coloured birds.

James Womack is a translator and editor who lives in Madrid. He has published one collection of poems, Misprint (2012), and a full-length selection of translations from Vladimir Mayakovsky (2016)

 

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