Jacob Silkstone

 

 

 

Night Train

It seems so long ago, now, that I took the night train across the border
aware only of the fury to flee anywhere,
the numb indifference towards the destination.
Does it matter to you where I started from?
Since then, every journey has seemed somehow
an extension of the first,
only my face in the window grows a little older,
the list of possible stops a little shorter,
a life spent always in motion, never sure
if I wanted to reach that one still point.
And in the blank black space beyond the window
nothing has really changed:
the rain still pastes its strange constellations
across the window’s map of the night sky.

 

 

Jacob Silkstone has worked as an Assistant Managing Editor for Asymptote and a Managing Editor for The Missing Slate (Pakistan) and has taught at international schools in Bangladesh and Norway. He is currently based in Bergen.

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Kitty Coles

 

 

 

Below Zero

The night is freezing, freezing
and thick as velvet, and the little stars
stand out as thin as pins.

The bath is hot and I lower
myself, I sink, beneath the water:
it hurts my skin with its comfort.

I think of how they recommend peeling tomatoes –
I haven’t tried it – dipping
them in boiling water

and I think of my skin peeling
off in great gauzy bundles, revealing
a casing of fat, cool, thick and lardy.

I could take a spoon and pick
and chip and flake and watch the whiteness
fall away in fragments.

Underneath are the nerves and muscles,
dense pulsings of red, like the things
the butcher displays, like those poor flayed corpses.

And underneath, once I unknit, unravel,
those tuberous skeins,
are the clear, clean lines of bone

and housed in those cages are airbags,
a pumping meat-fist,
the mess that I would jettison, cast out.

And it would fly free,
the bird, the breath they call spirit,
fly far above borne up on words of ash.

 

 
Kitty Coles’ poems have been nominated for the Forward Prize and Best of the Net. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com

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Christopher Prewitt

 

 

 

Cowboy Church

After I came out of the coma,
it was explained to me that
I had (repeatedly) tied

cherry stems with my tongue.
Reporters in attendance
of my waking took pictures,

and a few shook my hand.
My girlfriend, who believes mountain lions
sleep on her couch when she’s not

home (or she did prior to my
leave of absence from the world
of the willingly asleep

or awake), was clearly fishing
in her little handbag for mace.
“Who fed him cherries? He’s

allergic to cherries.” The doctor
rebuked her. “No one fed him
cherries. We simply brought him

stems to demonstrate his talent.”
My bed sheets were stained
with moth wings. It looked like sleet

was coming down on the hospital
from my window. My girlfriend’s
fake eyelashes were detaching.

I felt incredible guilt for creating wonder
unsolicited despite the apparent
danger. I squeezed my girlfriend’s

hand. “You have seen the true
me. You have seen how in this
dirty dishwater colored brain

there are mother birds flying
to the wrong nests, feeding their babies
lemon seeds and fire. For my part

I am so sorry, and I love you.”
With that my head dislodged
and floated over my bed.

Looking down at my body,
I couldn’t recall when I had been
bisected.

 

 

Christopher Prewitt‘s collection of poems, Paradise Hammer, won the 2018 James Tate Poetry Prize (SurVision Books, Dublin).

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Nicholas McGaughey

 

 

 

Cold Kitchen

Willow has bred in the cold of our kitchen
like some internal coppice;
where hot cakes and rolls cooled on racks,
we have “Shoppers” and wreaths

and little else between us,
as she grapples stalks with steel fingers,
weaving the bonds that together
nothing can break.

 

 

 

Nicholas McGaughey is part of Literature Wales Mentoring Scheme 2019/20. He has new work in  Prole, Marble  Poetry and Poems About Running (Smith/Doorstop.)

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Laura Potts

 

 

 Swansea Son

He is here in my autumn of age
the riverlight through windowpanes,
the small-hour laughter,
the slim-supple night
and moonlight eyes on the history page.

I remember his name that giggled the stars
when the stage of the world lit its lights for him,
and I, summer’s daughter,
he Swansea’s son
whose words in the plash of the water
we hear in the echoes of hills. Still

the ghost in my arms in the cracked black night,
still in stairwells the old grey light that writes
of the deer shaping the dales, that writes
of bonfire-bright old ale, that writes
of Death in His coat and tails.

You, man of words with the firefly eyes,
who didn’t stay to see the wild spring flowers
riot on the mountainside, who died
like a steeple that cradles its bones,
and whose voice now sleeps beneath Wales’ stones;

you, my lone man with the light, lord of all words,
whether I’m there with you or not, well, that’s alright.
 

 

Laura Potts, twice-recipient of the Foyle Young Poets Award, became one of the BBC’s New Voices last year. She received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018 and was nominated for The Forward Prize in 2019. Website: https://laurapottspoetry.com/

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Holly Magill

 

Tuesdays she is a cat

Sadly it never happens Fridays;
there would be more chance of fish.
Even in this she is fated
to be left wanting.

No loved one to present mouse heads to,
she crunches the lot herself –
calcium beneficial to ageing bones,

stalks the village, aloof,
darting away from human attention,
tail up, claws ready.

She is still very much herself.

Late afternoons, stretched in a sunspot
behind an abandoned bungalow,
she licks her paws, draws them back
soft over her skull to wash silken ears.

Dawn Wednesday always the end of it,
so night is to be savoured,
green eyes watchful for the shop’s delivery of milk.

 

 

 

Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, and Under The Radar, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She co-edits Atrium – www.atriumpoetry.com. Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/holly-magill/4594330527

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Melissa Todd reviews ‘On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea’ by Maggie Harris

 

On Watching cover

 

I had the luck to watch Maggie Harris launch this collection at Tongue Punch, the Tom Thumb theatre’s monthly poetry night in Margate. The lilting cadences of her not-quite-placeable accent gave a glide and a swoop to her words, sending them soaring breathless over the storm-dark seas she refers to over and over in this collection. I fretted the work might not jump off the page with quite so much energy when I read it alone. But I fretted needlessly: her words are quite capable of standing without assistance. It’s perhaps vulgar to mention this of a poetry collection, but heavens, she gives you plenty of words for your wad – 66 solid poems, count em, none that can safely be skipped over, each a delight that deserves to be properly pondered.

The collection is divided by geography, the places that have informed and proved crucial to her life and work – Wales, England, Guyana, Ireland and Elsewhere. Landscape drives her lines, and also informs her identity: the poet seems as divided and torn by place as do her creations. In ‘Not Home’, part of the Wales section, we see her strung out between her various locations, one by birth, one by choice. Wales, in spite of the rugged, aggressive beauty which “flings itself in my face”, she decides she cannot call home.

The soil, the trees, the wind-hewn rocks, are all constant characters in this collection. “These staggered rocks”, “Budding heads of unnamed weeds”; “The wind is cutting and we’re keening after the thrill of watching the land slip away with a sigh.” No sight nor smell of her adopted terrain passes her pen by.

In the opening four part title poem, she spies a lemon bobbing, blowing across the sea, washed to Wales from – who knows where? Instantly we are transported to Maggie’s Guyana childhood, and the lemonade, “sprinkled with Demerara”, which her mother made. Before we say goodbye to the “self-contained cargo ship” at the end of part four, she has summoned plantations  – “I do not remember lemons, but limes”; her aunt – “arms thin as bamboo”; the “split-bellied” “slack-jawed fish” for whom a lemon might be destined. Instead, solitary,  lost between lands, incongruous and purposeless, it sits waiting. “But I/unsure of your heritage/refused you.”

In part two she describes setting the lemon free, “fresh and sharp as a sun-bright wind-cut winter’s day”, charting the waves crash and roar, cascading over the page with a fierce, insistent sensuality that leaves you tasting the salt on your tongue. At last the lemon rolls away on the tide, lost to view.  Instead Harris takes up its journey round the globe, through the landscapes that have sheltered and formed her. And that same sense of incongruity, of being found purposeless, in the wrong place, identity and geography at constant odds, goes with her.

The family members which geographical features unite or divide are also critical to this collection. Harris has the ability to tease out the tiny moments that mean the most: the sound of her mother’s voice “in our home rhythms”, her husband, “full with the love of birds”; “children braving the boundless waves”. Beautiful, touching observations which flavour her images like aromatic herbs. She returns to the sea over and over, her rhythmic, lyrical poetry equally brutal, relentless and awe-inspiring.

In this collection Harris has created a work which endlessly reflects upon itself, not discursively, but within its very fabric. It’s a meditation on the redeeming role of language to those without identity, and makes the crisis of an uncertain sense of self into its central core.

 

 

Melissa Todd is a writer and performer from East Kent and the director of Hags Ahoy Theatre Company. She is currently writing a book with award winning poet Matt Chamberlain.

 

Maggie Harris‘s On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea is published by Cane Arrow Press and available here: http://www.canearrowpress.com/books.htm

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