Issue 4

1. A walk on the South Downs.
Annemarie Cooper

Through the green barley the white track glares.
The wind is soothing the whiskery heads
as the sun begins to bake them.

The land is telling the young crop its story.
“I was once the bed of an ocean, fathoms
upon fathoms of water above me,
before that I was innumerable,
cocolithophores mainly, the plankton
that lived on the ocean’s surface,
there was more of me than all your ears.

In the beginning
when the one great mass broke apart,
a magma plume spurted from the core.
The heat it made –a worldwide shrimp broil –
and these creatures smaller than flour grains after milling –”

“What is milling?”Asks the barley.
“A process,” whispers the wind ruffling the young whiskers.

“And these creatures,” repeats the land, “ too small for any eye
but each other’s, their skeletons –their nano skeletons –
fell like fine rain down to the new ocean floor
where the heat was enough to melt the ice at the poles.
The weight of these massed cocolithophores
turned them all to chalk, my whiteness…

And that’s not all,” the land persists for the barley
is growing restive under the wind’s attentions.
“Africa shoved Europe and up came the Alps
and I’m about as far as that shove could go,
my hills or in the Saxon tongue, my downs.”

“Did this happen in the winter?” asks the barley.

“It happened thirty million years ago,” replies the land testily.
Then the wind who has a lot of time for the barley
says “ I can live for less than a day. Birth
and death just keep happening to me.”

“What is death?” asks the barley.

 

Annemarie Cooper Has had two Pamphlets published; Seeds by Flarestack and The Flight of Birds by Soaring Penguin.

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CERTIFICATE OF EXEMPTION
Chris Hardy

Three six-inch planks nailed into a frame
for a lid, four slices of timber for the sides,
the whole thing finished in dark gloss,
and cheap, so it would do
for storing, out of the way,
the clutter we lived amongst:
clothes, books, letters, bills.
Later I stripped off the paint
and varnished the wood so it glowed
like auburn hair.
When first opened the box was empty
except for a small, brown document titled,
‘Certificate of Exemption’ and stating,
‘This is to certify that
William Ernest Prothero,
of Vowchurch, Hereford,
aged 26, Wagoner and Shepherd,
is exempted from the provisions
of the Military Services Acts 1916.
Temporary to 1st October.
Date, 21st May, 1917.’

A few late Spring, Summer, Autumn weeks
in the fields and hills along the border.
Plenty of rain but when the sun shines,
bringing out the colour in the grass,
encouraging the larks
to scatter music across the fields
from a fixed speck high up
between white, fair-weather clouds,
the best country in the world.

Haigh planned to drive the Germans
off the hills around Ypres,
and break out to the coast.
But then it rained, like August in Radnor.
The men said the guns had done it,
shaking the sky,
and so another scheme
had to be arrived at,
requiring, perhaps, William Prothero
to go to Passchendaele.

Leaving his box under the bed,
to keep his underclothes, shirts,
cord trousers and leather gloves dry,
for when he’d need them
in the sheep-folds on early Spring nights,
back in his own life,
which the postman couldn’t threaten,
where the news was overheard.
Forgotten at the bottom of the pile,
his trusted, paper talisman.

 

‘This has been rejected by some substantial players – the North, Poetry Review and others.
I am very attached to it, perhaps because of the poignant, enigmatic nature of the little brown document I found in the bottom of the box – both of which I still have. The date of 1917 is of course exactly 100 years ago and this year will be the anniversary of Arras, where Edward Thomas was killed on April 9th, and Passchendaele.
I have done some research – there are Protheros still living around Vowchurch in the beautiful, secluded countryside of Herefordshire.’
Biog:
My poems have been widely published. A fourth collection will appear this year. I am in LiTTLe MACHiNe. We set poetry to music, and are currently working with Roger McGough.

———————————————————-


The Seal
Hilda Sheehan

…….Sometimes
the seal from next door borrows my bathtub
to loll in cool waters. He says, there’s nowhere left
to get wet an lets himself n with the key I leave
in a dried up sea under broken corrugated coral.

…….When I get home
I close the mouth of the loo; sit and watch
him swish this way and that; his fat, wet behind
rises up and down like a bran island in a storm
sending waves to me –

…….the kind that make you want to club the wicket

……………….or throw a fish.

Later
when only his head can be seen
we talk in ripples that circle him
silence our lost worlds.

I don’t know why he comes, it’s not as if we’re lovers.

He’s a seal, and I just live here.

 

‘X once asked me to read it at her book launch but said, could you read it but please chop off the last to lines, which I thought was very funny. I offered up another poem but refused to chop off the final lines. These lines are what cause its difficulty and are part of its charm. Many of my poems create this challenge I feel, they misbehave in public and don’t often fit the type of poems taken in magazines. That’s ok.’
———————————–

A Viewing
Phil Kirby

Let us begin with the newspaper swords,
triangular hats – a pirate world
of swash and buckle conjured from
The Daily Sketch; the moment-lasting wonder
till the clash of blades un-metalled them.

Or the surprise of those skeleton trucks
he’d drive home from work, the girdered steel
and sheen of chassis black as ink,
my awe-struck clamber up to scents of rexine
and new dash, to dreams of travelling.

Next, from a book, comes the boat made of ply
(mahogany grain in thumbprint whorls,
the varnish golden, syrup-thick)
with oars of yellow pine; its new hull slupping
on the father-mastered sea-waters.

Then all we thought of as useless things, like
the paratroop roll when landfall comes
or how a boxer guards his chin
against horizons slewing up to greet him
when the knock-out blow has found its mark.

What else beyond things he crafted or taught?
A taciturn strength, perhaps; a sense
of sureness in his grist and bone
that steadied childhood, held it true and level
within lines now used to gauge ourselves.

Lastly the weight of those blue velvet drapes,
their heaviness parting, showing how
they’d laid him out in white, his brow
untroubled, cold as polished alabaster –
and the whirling stone floor beckoning.

 

Phil Kirby’s ‘Watermarks’ (Arrowhead) is sold out – the last few copies are available from him. Poems since in numerous magazines/journals. A second collection isn’t too far away…

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A TALE FROM ‘THE TROUBLES’
(John 15:13)
Norbert Hirschhorn

Work crew coming off shift, in a minivan,
a dozen Protestants and one Catholic, stopped
at a checkpoint by armed men in balaclavas.
‘Out, out, line up!’ Then,

‘Any Catholics among you, step out here.’
He was about to, when the mate to his right
grabbed his hand and whispered,
‘They needn’t know, we’ll not betray you.’

Caught between dread and witness, knowing
he’d put his mates in danger if found out, he
came forward…roughly pushed aside…the others
gunned down. Provisional IRA, it was.

 

(Based on a story told by Seamus Heaney at his Nobel Prize lecture.)

———————————————

Man of Dust
Brian Johnstone

A lifetime of it so what men called you
was scavenger, ferret, collector of bits

others had done with, cast over for all
that was spanking new and would fail

like as not that bit sooner. In your day,
the bins were all hefted shoulder high,

life’s detritus poured out like a song.
A knack is what the boys said, an eye

for the always expected, never there
when you were not hot on the trail.

How did you hit on those pickings,
the prizes you eked from the stoor?

Some native resource? Books in need
of a quick dust off, old letters, albums,

lost photographs: that whole family
acquired on a morning’s shift. Stuff

meant so much: the rejected, the lost.
The booty of back streets made you

the man that you were: hawk-eyed,
a hero, a hand on the tail of the van.

 

Brian Johnstone has published six collections, lately Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014). His work appears on The Poetry Archive. His memoir Double Exposure (Saraband) was published in February 2017. brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk

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Imp
Graham Buchan

Little impish earworm
beguile them with your trickster tune
little pixie, goblin
set their tank tracks straight
east, north of east
lead them your merry dance
their diesel growl
to Moscow, Leningrad
pied piper, fiddler,
shimmy shimmy, tippy tappy
little troll
little sprite
lead them
lead them
lead them
and let them freeze
between
Mother Russia’s frozen thighs.

 

Graham Buchan has published four books and a pamphlet of poetry and has read his work in Iraq, New York, Austin, Vancouver, London and southern England.
————————————————————-
fishing
Catherine Edmunds

Albert stands at the end of the pier
watches the waters
smells
briny-ocean-sea-swell-fish-smell
dead starfish, lobsters and mermaids

next day he’s back with his baited dreams
and there, beneath razor clam skies
he lands his catch
takes her home
puts her in a tin bath
pours poisoned water across her breasts

she shrivels, he chuckles,
donates her to the British Museum
who take her on an off day
to hide away in a darkened corner
called ‘Enlightenment’

Albert returns to the pier
smells oil, remembers the Torrey Canyon
baits his hook, sinks a tanker

tonight – long fish for tea

 

Catherine Edmunds’ publications include a poetry collection, four novels and a Holocaust memoir. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and three times shortlisted in the Bridport


Weather Vein

Linda Rose Parks

 

… a Texan accent to distract myself

………………………it’s a mighty fine wind yes sirree

……………………………….it sure is a mighty fine wind.

 

Benches on the promenade loosened

………………………………………………….. their hinges,

…………………………………………………………..the tide ripped

…………………………………………….. chunks out of the seawall.

 

Today –– the roof’s been fixed, a mending thought

………………………………..carries me on

…………………………………………….until the next sunder

 

and the trees return me to

…………………………….my first language. their airy vowels

…………………………………………………………. and flowing cadences

 

cross such distance through the heart’s

……………………………………………………………creaking, swaying

……………………………………………….. far-flung omens.

 

When I die I want to be with them.

………………………………………………. I want their roots to drink up

……………………………………………………. all my silt, my ghost a leafy shadow

 

on a bough,

…………………. will breeze its way out of almost anything.

 

Linda Rose Parkes was born in the Channel Islands and has published three collections of poetry with Hearing eye.
She is also a painter and lyricist.

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