Keeping Company With Time
Staring out of the photograph is the face of a ninety-one-year-old former railway worker who’s spent three decades caring for a clock. Not the family-heirloom, wedding-present kind that ticked away in pride of place on mantelpieces long before the world went digital, but the massive, ten-foot, monster of a dial with gold-leaf ornamentation, cast-iron hands and Roman numbers cut from best Welsh slate that hung for a hundred years in St. Pancras station. Immaculate against the gable-end of a barn, his clock dwarfs the man whose skills brought it back from the dead, but who stands stony-eyed, grim-faced, not looking at his masterwork, amid the tangle of bramble that long ago buried his garden. Behind him, paint on a row of stable doors has flaked to exhausted grey. Creeper chokes the roof, lassoes loose tiles, its tendrils worming through space-time towards the region of two o’clock.
When Even The Sundials Have Crumbled To Dust
Oceans of lost lives
pebbles along the shoreline
one or two we keep
Almost no one comes here these days, just beach bums and refugees holed up behind the dunes in hopes of staying forgotten. Met some religious folk once, from a colony down the coast where the sea’s already turned to dust, a hard place, let me tell you, to wait for your new messiah to appear with a second shot at paradise. Hot as hell and no water. Ran into a couple of sun-crazed poets, too, before my eyes began to fail. Lookin’ for inspiration in the music of the dunes, they said. But that was a while ago and they haven’t been around again or I’d ’ve spotted their tracks. In daylight anyway. At night you wouldn’t believe the dark since the towns along the coast were all switched off. Even the engineers who’ve survived don’t make the trip any more. Why bother to maintain expensive plant when nobody uses it? Like I say, the place is pretty much dead, has been since before the tour buses gave up trying to keep it alive. No diesel, I guess, leastways, not for pleasure. A tough drive, too, with the roads so broken up or buried under sand. All the old resorts are ghost towns now, almost nowhere left with water in its tanks or a drop of fuel to drive the gennies. I’ve been lucky so far, though, stayed comfortable, kept myself out of the way of the army gunships that come lookin’. It’s easy if you listen for the rotors … like Vietnam. I moved to a higher floor a while ago to stay above the sand. Not that it matters. Don’t think much about problems, damage to my eyes and skin. Makes more sense not to. Sun’s warm all year, there’s peace and quiet to ease me through however many days’re left and watching sunset shadow the world to sleep is always special.
We come and we go
must it always be so
ask the universe
• Ken Head lives in Cambridge, England. He was an invited reader, alongside Pascale Petit and Mimi Khalvati, at the London Poetry School’s 2007 fund-raiser.
IN HIS BEARD A COLLECTION OF SWEET BREAD
On the emergency room
table a bearded man
being examined was
found with ants in his beard.
Each ant carried crumbs of sweet
bread, which they could not
enjoy because the nurse
who cleaned the man's white beard,
swept the ants away, some with
she pinched the ants between
her little god fingers.
I was accused
of chasing or
I was told I
did something wrong
and that is a
lie. All I know
was that I was
on the street. I
was hungry and
now I am here.
I don’t know where
my green card is.
They took it from
me. I don’t know
where it is and
I don’t see what
business it is
of yours to ask
me such things. I
don’t have to speak
to you. I was
• Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal works in the mental health field in Los Angeles, California. Recently his poetry has appeared in Beat the Dust, Munyori Poetry Journal, and Kendra Steiner Editions.
• This is Deborah Gordon's first appearance on IS&T. She says “I began writing at the age of seven and since then have never really stopped. I like to experiment with all different styles and mediums and the concept of movement: To make the words leap from the page or dance their way into a verse. I live in the South Coast of England with my husband and 2 feisty cats!”
we should all be cynics
I'm surrounded by
cynical is the only
way to be.
Mom says she
saying, “I love you.”
I told her
don't miss it,
they're always lying
she laughed her optimism
I keep a basket of oranges in the car.
every time I see a really hot girl
I mean disgustingly hot
the kind that makes you involuntarily moan,
I throw one at her
• Ralph-Michael Chiaia is an experimental poet. Find out more at http://formonksonly.blogspot.com including how to purchase Chiaia's new chapbook from Coatlism Press. IS&T will be carrying a review of this in the near future.
They said she was a witch –
The old woman at number forty-nine,
So we never played ball near her house
Or chased her cat.
The crowd outside the chip shop
Moved when she appeared,
She never said “excuse me”
Like everyone else.
When I fell over, running past her house
She heard my scream.
I shivered when I saw her
And dreaded the torture that
She was bound to give me.
I couldn’t run and couldn’t shout.
“That’s foot’s broken,” she said.
She helped me inside, sat me down
And gave me her phone.
Whilst I phoned my mother
She put a bag of frozen peas on my foot
And stuck a lollipop in my mouth.
“Don’t tell anyone I was nice to you, mind,” she said.
“People think I’m evil and I like the peace and quiet.”
Now, as I try in vain to finish my script,
Kids running up and down the street
Shouting, spitting and swearing,
I’m half tempted to start a rumour
Just like old Agnes did.
Then maybe they’d fuck off.
I’ve never found my G-spot
Or a diet that works
Or exercise that isn’t hard work
Or a work/life balance
Or wrinkle cream that works
Or a car that drives like a dream
That you could park on a stamp.
I’ve never had a stress-free Christmas
Or a worry-free holiday
Or interest-free credit
Or a hassle-free loan
Or a boredom-free job.
Or diet food that doesn’t taste like shit
Or tablets that are easy to swallow
Or tampons that make me feel sporty
Or shower gel that invigorates
Or a comfortable bra
Or underwear that’s slimming
Or ladder-resist tights
Or chip-free nail varnish
Or waterproof mascara
That can be removed without diesel.
Or watched a film which changed my life
Or listened to music which changed my life
Or read a book which changed my life
Or taken a flight without patronising cabin crew.
And if you have, you’re a lucky bastard.
Amanda Weeks lives in Pontypridd, South Wales with husband Carlos,
four-year-old son Travis and a cat called Rita. She began writing eight
years ago when, at 27, she decided to pack in her job as a collector,
invent a pile of A levels and study creative writing and drama at
university. She has had several short stories published in anthologies.
She has written for several music magazines. Her Welsh-language
screenplay Catastroffi was
broadcast on S4C in 2006, and she's had a further two screenplays
optioned to Tornado Films. She recently came third in the Welsh Poetry
Competition. She is currently writing a novel, and is adding to her
poetry and short story collections. She is currently working as a
supply teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni. Previously, she's worked as a
drama tutor and as an actress.
1. The Ferry
The child on his father’s lap
reaches out, touches the water.
He trails a finger, sucks it.
It tastes of old rain, he says.
It tastes of not the sea, deep,
slowness, town scouts fingers.
Cold water cures many ills,
to the pitch of an Arctic char.
Shafts of femur and tibia,
the curved chassis of ribs
record the speed of decay.
Note it is less than
three hundred miles per hour.
A clutch of teeth,
the flip of a shell,
the pace of a glacier.
3. Ruskin’s Ice House Overlooking the Lake
A cell carved from the cliff’s flank,
he could sit here to cool his head,
as a world races to melting point.
There is a comfort in dark days,
the ease of keeping what is.
He prefers winter; he knows
that a mountain can hold ice,
can school water in stillness,
can reflect the nature of cold.
* Coniston is the glacially formed lake where Donald Campbell died attempting the world speed record on water. Ruskin the well known nineteenth century art critic and social theorist moved to live in a house overlooking the lake. He suffered all his life from severe bouts of depression.
• Andrea Porter is a member of the poetry performance group Joy of Six
that has performed in Britain and New York. She has been published in a
number of poetry magazines (both paper and online) in the UK , Canada ,
Australia and USA . Her narrative sequence of poems Bubble
was adapted for Radio 4 as a drama by the RSC playwrite Fraser Grace.
She received an Escalator Award from the British Arts Council (East)
and The New Writing Partnership in 2006 to complete a novel. She sleeps
either too little or too much. www.joyofsix.co.uk
tides pulled by sentience
parted as if beginning
or receiving touch
a song plays
across the empty fields
breaks like brookings
on the way to fullness
And the waters swim me
without knowing me
envelop me with arms
that smell of perfume
I am fine with that.
More than fine.
When it's quiet
and things haven't happened yet,
all I can hear is sunlight
alone in the hum of ringing.
Thoughts of what will be,
failure and choice,
preoccupy my energy and plans
but inaction solves
all of this,
repose murders the demon.
• Poet, composer of music (Max Able/Abel, Rawls & Hayes) and spoken-word performer (Scapeweavel), L. Ward Abel lives in rural Georgia, USA and has been widely published in the US, Europe and Asia. His chapbook Peach Box and Verge has been published by Little Poem Press (2003). Twenty of his poems are featured, along with an interview, in a recent print issue of erbacce (UK). His new book of poems Jonesing For Byzantium has recently been published at UK Authors Press (London, 2006).