Further extracts from
The Old Man in the House of Bone
There’s someone else in the house of bone, someone
moving in between the silences, slipping through
and around them, stepping over them on tiptoe, trying
not to wake them, someone in some other room
rummaging through the boxes, emptying the cupboards
scattering their contents across the floor
as if searching for something. The old man listens
at the door, afraid to go in, he goes in, there’s no one there
the room’s empty, it’s undisturbed, just as he left it a lifetime ago
but there’s the creak of a floorboard behind him
Who’s there? there’s a shadow at the top of the stairs
Who is it? he feels a hand squeezing his heart
a mouth pressed against his sucking his breath
there are fingers lifting the edges of his face, peeling
them back to look underneath, Who is it? Who’s there?
the old man wants to hide under the bedclothes, he hides
under the bedclothes, Who’s there? Who is it? Who is it?
Who’s there? the house of bone puts its finger to its lips
says nothing, it’s keeping its secret to itself.
Let the house of bone be a leaf
clinging to the last branch of the last tree
The old man is making a model of the house of bone
using anything he can lay his hands on, old odds and ends
scraps of things found down the sides of the chair, under the settee
at the back of the cupboard, bits and pieces of his life
which is made up itself of the bits and pieces
of other people’s lives, those he may have known once
those passed in the street, vaguely familiar, or complete strangers
all their leftovers and scrapings of themselves
he gathers them in a heap in the middle of the room
and sticks them together, using the glue from his own
melted fleshpile, making a perfect miniature
of the house of bone, which he lifts and places on the table
and switches on the lamp, and peers in
through a small window, where a lamp is lit
and an old man’s standing, peering in through a small window
he goes to his own window, he looks out and up in horror
at the face looking out and down at him in horror.
Let the house of bone be a magic mirror
where the world is slowly disappearing
Listen, the house of bone is talking to itself
mumbling something, charms and incantations, maybe
fragments of old fairy tales, and the old man’s trying to overhear
straining to catch the drift of those gummy mutterings
but he can’t make it out, his ears are stuffed with dirty rags
everything comes through muffled, and meanwhile
the house of bone goes on talking, as if speaking words
of a dead language, some ancient epic, maybe
or a shopping list, or the secret of the universe.
The old man knows he’s missing something, he feels
the absence of it, like someone’s just walked out of the room
taking half his brain with them, and he listens harder
he shuts his eyes down on himself, he clamps himself fast
to the roots of his ears, he does all the fine tuning, and at last
he hears it, it comes through loud and clear, the dull drone
of his own voice repeating the same meaningless phrase.
Let the house of bone be a stone on the ridgetop
shaped by the wind to the shape of the wind
David Calcutt is Writer in Residence at Caldmore Community Garden. And author of Crowboy, Shadow Bringer and The Map of Marvels: Oxford University Press, and Robin Hood: Barefoot Books http://davidcalcutt.com/about/Read More
69th Birthday Transmission
“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
Day two, early early morning group sit,
zendo floor tripodding with potential
great orthopedic cost, I can’t turn off itches or chatter.
Day four, bleary in a chair, contemplative-in-training
grappling with road kill, the lure of a laptop’s
warmth would sure feel good on my knees.
Day six, yogi monkeyminds forbidden
writing paper no less computers,
there’s zip chance for such a simple silent retreat solution.
Day eight, as my washed-out self tosses and turns in the dorm,
a discombobulated surgeon
threatens to perform a personalized snoroplasty.
Day ten, we harvest garden veggies.
At last the creek flows downhill, the pond comes alive.
I can hear my little heart quiver.
Gerard Sarnat authored 2010’s HOMELESS CHRONICLES, 2012’s Disputes, and 2014’s 17s. He’s a physician who’s setup/staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, CEO of healthcare organizations, and a Stanford professor. For Huffington Post reviews, reading dates including Stanford etc.; visit Gerard Sarnat.com
Rosie Brown is a busy artist, writer and grandmother. She has a degree in Fine Art and taken UEA courses in Creative Writing. She has been published in Mslexia.Read More
As the snow is
tidal in the trees,
consider the tracks
and the dark tons
asthmatic with steam,
cold as the moon`s slight,
black as the star`s hide,
perfect as a pulse of wheel;
dead crate of steel
that rests and waits,
then moves by magic
through the ice night.
Leslie Philibert is a social worker and poet living in Bavaria.Born in London, he studied English in Ireland. He has translated some work for German theatre groups and has had poetry published in magazines.Read More
Writers of reviews often know more about an author than can be adduced directly from the book. This is often due to the author’s known oevre and career, or to previous discussions that have taken place in the literary arena. But sometimes one’s knowledge has been less widely shared. Discussing a book in relation to its author has been epitomised dismissively as “what the artist had for breakfast,” but certainly most reading will benefit from some additional knowledge about the circumstances surrounding a book.
Abiding Chemistry for me comes into this category. I, and many others (though not the poetry establishment), know a good deal about the background to these poems. We remember the author as the first woman Professor of English Literature at Glasgow University, as the poet of her first poetry book The Candlewoman’s Trade (2003). We recognise her as a scholar of Southern American literature who has travelled the world as professor, examiner, speaker, and as an American lady who has very much settled in England and Europe.
It is from her poems that we know of her Louisiana childhood, her extraordinary and at times traumatic family (here shown compactly in a few poems on pages 13-20), and in them that we read through these expertly sequenced poems, her memorial and tribute to her husband, who died unexpectedly at their newly acquired Sussex country home, less than three years after their relationship began.
This story too is already in the public (though not literary) domain. In an amazingly open, intense and moving blog, The News on the Street, followed by many people all over the world, Susan Castillo Street wrote of the crisis when her husband fell in their home and suffered a head injury, and of the weeks of uncertainty while he remained in a coma. That blog came to its end and Susan writes a new blog now, but it is all still available.
Abiding Chemistry is a book about recovery. The voice of these poems is independent, charting a deep and important relationship and looking round to the world of family and place, before and after these events.
The poems are not limited by national traditions. They are not in either the current English or American style. Though she now lives in the south of England and has made contact with poetry groups there, and the author seems to regard Sussex as her home, her previous academic stint in Glasgow brought her into contact with Philip Hobsbaum and major Scottish poets. Where does an international writer fit in?
The voice is intellectual and often catches parable-like conclusions. In the first and title poem:
Perhaps love is its other name,
this abiding chemistry
that binds the fragments close.
and in Question:
I point up at the sky.
“The Big Dipper” I tell my child.
“A question mark,” she says.
There is droll humour elsewhere:
the rope gravediggers use
south of the Mason-Dixon line
is springy bungee cord.
up the shadows burst once more
in showers of dark soil
You always used to steal the duvet.
One day when we lie together
deep in Sussex soil, you’ll be up
to your old tricks.
and daring in some:
They say that at the moment an atomic bomb explodes
outlines shimmer, colours radiate out
shadows of what was imprinted on the walls
time slows, stops, crystallised
in all its fractures.
Moving from an awareness of her early family at the start of the book, to closeness with her granddaughter in the last poem, the poet places the three year love affair in the context of her adventurous life with success and dignity, in a clear poetry that smiles out from every line.
The actual publication is American in style, and the project has been completed with alacrity and practicality, presenting as it does an essentially memorial volume, while also being worthy of an academic and a poet.
Order your copy of Abiding Chemistry by Susan Castillo Street, published by Aldrich Press here
Speak, because your lips are free
Speak, because you have a tongue
Because your golden body belongs only to you
Because you are still alive
See how in the blacksmith’s shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.
Speak, for this moment is long enough
Before the death of the body and the tongue
Speak, because the truth lives yet
Speak, say what you have to
Rehan Qayoom is a poet, editor and translator educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work at international venues. He has published 2 books of poetry.Read More
You don’t remember this point?
A stone cottage balanced on a cliff.
It was spring, the previous guests left
thrift in an egg cup on the shelf.
You don’t remember the subterfuges -
changing history as easy as making tea.
White foam wore down stones
the bread tasted sugary.
You strolled down to the beech
along the paths of sheep
thought you saw a grey seal
beyond the place the wreakers used.
You swore you would never return -
seaweed wrote warnings on the sand.
But now you can’t recall
who was spared and who drowned.
Danielle Hope is a poet and doctor, originally from Lancashire, now living in London. She founded and edited Zenos, a British and international poetry magazine, worked for Survivors’ poetry, and is currently advisory editor for Acumen Literary Magazine. Her work has been published widely in magazines, anthologies and on the London Underground. She has published 4 collections with Rockingham press. Website www.daniellehope.org Twitter @Danielle_PoetRead More