Brian Johnstone

 

Pledge

What to do? You sign it,
as they all do, sign it in your childish hand,
descenders and ascenders imperfectly described,

a name, its capitals, its lower case
presented in the ink that’s drying even
as you gaze at it, drying as you think yourself

committed, pledge what future
you are able to conceive of to an absence,
disavowal (though you do not know these words)

and cannot see beyond the demon
conjured up before your eyes, you wish
in all your being to avoid. You will. You swear to it

right here. But cannot know
what liquor in a glass is waiting on a table,
what bottle, sweating in the heat of some back room,

has the word upon its label
that will draw you in, make a mockery
of this, its scrolls and curlicues, the fake solemnity

induced by those who should
know better, playing on a child’s mind,
its addiction only to a vow, a campaign, to a faith.

 

 

Brian Johnstone’s latest collection is Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014). His work has appeared throughout Scotland and in the UK, America and Europe. He is a co-founder of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival and was Festival Director from 2001-2010. His  poems appear on The Poetry Archive.  www.brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk

 

 

Note:  this poem first published in Antiphon

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Nick Cooke

 

 

 

Remorse

Struck by an ice-cream vendor at age nineteen!
What a bumptious little prick I must have been
to order a cone and then refuse to pay
on grounds of cost, and in a simpering way
watch as vanilla dribbled down his wrist.
Without reflecting he drew back his free fist
and slammed it in my ribs like a cricket ball,
a response I did not think I’d earned at all –

Today I’m not so sure. My eyes retrace
but seldom his livid loganberry face,
nor do I hear his panicked apology
when I threatened to fetch the constabulary
(a bluff I never meant him to believe).
Instead I see the liquid on his sleeve
and venture to compute the irritation.
It is a sad and shameful calculation.

 

 

Nick Cooke has had poems published in a range of magazines, from Agenda to Dream Catcher, as well as on sundry websites. He is currently working on his first collection.

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Seth Jani

 

 

 

Leavening

Forgiveness like leavening bread
In the dark heart of summer.

Like following the way down
To where the columbine eats

A bed of roses.
Water knows this work:
Slow moistening, the alchemy

Of rubbing stones, smoothing surfaces
Until they catch light reflections.
I want to be better than myself.

Want the easy open arms
Of the birch in winter.

How it holds the snow
Like someone chandeliering
Someone else’s dangerous blue dream.
How it’s not afraid of ice,
Of the eventual frost breaking
Through its bones,

Of death with his chilled
Deliberate eyes.
The salamander beneath the slick

Multiplicity of stones is also like this.

More than disregard, he forgives my intrusions,
Lets me lay down in the grass

To count the stars,

Even whispers the names of constellations,

Of bodies I’ve forgot.

He lets me leave while the wick of morning
Begins its fuse,
While the spilled riches of the sky
Cover the Cascades, almost burn my hands
With light.
The miracle is that everything keeps on singing,
Quietly, beneath the mower’s head.
That there’s still a place for the buzzing fields,
For tiny doors through which the wind
Slips small meanings,
For the purity of coming night
Settling over the horizon
Like a sheet of shining mica.

 

 

 

 

Seth Jani resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress (www.sevencirclepress.com).
His own work has been published in such places as The Coe Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review and Gravel.

Visit him at www.sethjani.com.

 

 

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Ivor Murrell

 

Deleting Footnotes

You can never prepare for this task.
It demands no passion in the wrecking,
just obliterating all signals of existence
throughout your dead parents’ house.

Discovering now what you never knew,
finding parts of what you came to be.
Eventually appearing in your first school report
folded neatly under your first baby shoes.

There are always secrets, some small,
six hoarded packs of sugar, several tins of spam
a forgotten habit, triggered by War memories
only recently remembered and re-lived.

Some findings can confuse or bite,
a carefully hidden photo of an unknown,
a small suitcase with letters of exchanged love
an intensity that shocks, and must be burnt.

If you are lucky there can be humour
a desk drawer full of jumbled keys
brass and steel, but only one labelled
‘This was the back door key- before the lock was changed’

How will you be unmasked when the clearers come?
Have you already left the footnote for your life?

 

 

 

Ivor Murrell has written poetry for over 40 years, but could only give it the time it demanded when he took early retirement, which also allowed him to build his website www.versifier.co.uk to share his writing.

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Chris Hardy

 

 

 

Kennel

A long night wrestling
in the narrow bed,

constrained and willing
under the snuffed-out bulb.

Breeze-block wall, tin sink,
a locked door

to the neon lit
unshadowed corridor.

We slept and woke,
took it up again

then you turned away.
The uncurtained window

let in a mist of light
from the dawn outside,

enough to see
extended, swollen

across the floor
a black dog

lying where
you’d need to tread

if you were ever
to get out.

 

 

 

 

Chris Hardy’s poems have been published widely and have won prizes. His third collection was published by Graft Poetry. Chris is in LiTTLe MACHiNe: The most brilliant music and poetry band in the world! Carol Ann Duffy

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Ness Owen

 

 

 

A Potion to Leave the Past Behind

 

Take
yoga breaths, pins, pressure points
camomile, beta-blockers, diazepam
fill the void with Jesus, Mars Bars and vodka
fill it with l-o-v-e, hate and oxygen

(Sing)
You can’t turn back
Only walk forward

Blink
trust your instincts
run!

catch a fleeting moment
dal dy dir*
stay in

forgive everyone
give up, give in
let go

and write and
write and dance
and write and dance

repeat

 

 

 

 

 

Ness Owen lives on an island where she writes poems and poetry in between lecturing and farming. Her work has appeared in Poetry Wales and Red Poets.

*stand your ground

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Ian Humphreys

 

 

 

 

breathless

graffiti shouts insults from walls by the chemist
its colours explode like flung bottles

I stare at the pavement and I’m late for the 8:22
to Manchester because I should have left home at 7:55

but I had to fix the tap or attempt to and now
if I run I could pratfall like last time and hurt

my coccyx and rip my trousers and Annie from sales
will cluck over me at lunch and her breath smells

of liquorice and I just want to sit quietly at my desk
and not bother with chit-chat and it’s now 8:17

and there’s no time to order coffee
from the man who grunts or grab a gloompaper

for company on the journey and I need something
to occupy my mind because if I don’t it ticks

like a wind-up alarm clock and prick-prick-pricks
the inside of my skull

and the train’s pulling in now and I’m queuing politely
when some idiot pushes past and I smile

and I’m getting on and I’m looking round
for an empty seat like that exists at rush hour

and I’m squashed against a woman with a pushchair
and my head weighs watermelon fat

and who brings a child on a crowded train at this time of day
and I pretend not to notice her or the kid

but I see the strap of my bag is caught
in the wheels of the buggy and my inner-Tannoy says

they’re getting off at the next stop
they’re getting off at the next stop

and I brace myself to leave with them to avoid a scene
then jump back onto the next carriage along

so no one will spot me re-embarking
as they may determine I’m acting suspiciously

and use mobile devices to alert the authorities
and guards at Stockport might actually

escort me off the train in front of all these people
and what will Annie think

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Humphreys is studying for a Creative Writing MA at MMU. His work has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Butcher’s Dog, Poetry News and Prole. He is currently putting together his first pamphlet.

 

Note: first published in London Grip, Autumn 2015.

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