Chris Tracy is at the beach at dusk


Dusk, high summer,
the sky streaked caramel.

Muffled shouts and dog barks
sweep the shoreline like radar;
the sand is strewn with jellyfish.

I thread back, reeled in through
marram and half-submerged lolly-sticks
till snagged in a sudden hollow.

Below, a young couple, their faces lit:
her smooth back curves into him like a shell.

* Having failed as a scrapyard worker, a handyman and a trainee teacher, Chris Tracy is hoping for better luck as a poet.  He lives in Norwich.

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Alison Brackenbury wants the sun

My daughter could not bring the sun from Greece.
So she arrived, swinging a carrier bag,
Light blue, bristling with Ks, and crammed with sweets.
First, there was nougat, which I knew from slabs
Buried in chocolate, stale black card, as logs
Sulked into Christmas.  Later I would taste
French nougat, cream as lace, whose nuts lay crisp,
Wrapped in stiff cellophane, one tiny block.
Nothing prepared me for the look of this:
Greek nougat is as round as sun, a disc
Of pure rice paper, quick as snow on lips.
It breaks and crumbles with a lizard’s kiss,
To nougat thin as petal, subtle honey,
Hazelnuts, as brown as mole.  Did manna
Brush each tongue to silk, caress like money?
Music, I thought, lights heaven.  This unlocks
A further sun. There is another box.

Alison Brackenbury’s seventh collection is Singing in the Dark, Carcanet. She has recently produced a chapbook of animal poems, Shadow. New poems can be read at her website:

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Paul Handley is caught up in tough love

Love Cliché


Rebekah believed in the power of the healing heart
Hearing her say this didn’t crush his heart,
But a part crumbled to the floor.
Another time she actually said the words,
One following the other, “mission statement”.
Never settle,”
Patently ridiculous.
Everyone settles.
Should I not settle for my parents and get new ones?
Should I wait in a downpour for a cleaner taxi?
Should I quit school until I feel a universal oneness
precipitating a religious permutation
of all my classmates and teachers?
Time is the most precious thing to me,”
Another of Rebekah’s dividends.
If you never settle, how much time are you wasting?
Every day is special”.
She professed understanding and sweetness
– which she definitely was –
but also vindictive, callous and a formidable enemy.
When he was in the wrong,
she would bear down on him.
I want to be happy all the time.”
After pondering, he said,
I think I would miss it, being sad,
if I was happy all the time.
She gave him a look.
Knowledge is power.
If you get an A on your physiognomy test,
I will make you lunch this Saturday.
It’s a slippery slope
from pouring hot wax on nipples to removing a vital organ,
he thought as he tongued a cube
of cantaloupe in his left cheek.
Since he was slowly losing his mind
and didn’t like being tugged
around by the short hairs of his crew cut,
he would occasionally lash out,
but quickly beg forgiveness.
Tough love,”
she told him once.
After each incident she measured out
punishment with greater severity.
Time is the most precious thing to me.”
Forgetting that she had mentioned it earlier
or trying to imprint the message through repetitiveness,
Rebekah told him after an incident
where he had strained to hurt her,
I do not want to be with someone
who hurts me that way.”
The cornerstone of a good relationship
is being comfortably off balance.

* Paul Handley has driven a cab and sold meat door-to-door.  Links to his work are at

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Penelope Shuttle talks of light's journey


Light likes to travel at his own speed,
making up stories about kingdoms and good deeds,
unfolding  – eh voila! –
a tiny vulnerable brand-new street café –
then resting for a while on any sesame portal,
or in the vicinity of a closing-down sale,
turning his makeshift face here and there.
How swift and gentle is Light’s hand
inscribing his ten commandments on the air,
how fearless his countenance at dawn,
like an Inuit confronting a wasp for the first time,
how bravely he runs the gauntlet between my heart and yours,
racing towards the moon with an eclipse tucked under his arm.

* Penelope Shuttle's
last collection Redgrove’s Wife
(Bloodaxe Books,
2006), was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and T.S. Eliot Prize.
Her latest collection is Sandgrain and
(Bloodaxe Books,

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Bobby Parker is eating alphabet soup

Alphabet Soup


Posing in the mirror with a knife.  
Stealing from my mother’s purse.
Stealing my dad’s cigarettes.

My psychologist makes me draw
pictures of screaming people.

I don’t feel anything, I am a dragonfly
butting the walls in a seizure
of supposed self-punishment.     

I am always in trouble
riding my bike in the rain.


I would give my best day  
back to the sky to remember
that trick where the Ace of Hearts
appears under a chair on the
other side of the room – to be  
“That magic kid down the street.”


My best friend is teaching me
the names of his favourite fighter planes.
I saw his dad strangle him
my friend made a sound that made me
think of the time our dog Bruno
choked on a sliver of balsa wood.

My best friend’s bedroom is full of model
planes and ships. Obsessive. Reassuring.
The world at war is very real to him.
When he punches me on the arm
I remind him that his mother
ran off with the Italian down the road.


My first drink – a pint of cider
through a speckled straw, my mother
cusses my old man in the kitchen.

Upstairs my bed is travelling
full steam across the Atlantic.

When I get to wherever it is I am going
I imagine first I’ll be sick and then
I’ll fall asleep and in the morning I will
have my first pubic hairs.


Burning my stuff in the garden.
Burning anything that burns.  
I am fire because I miss my grandparents
I am fire because I can’t do maths
I am fire because everything is so boring
so flammable I’m willing to oblige.
                     Her name is Ashling
she doesn’t even look me in the eyes.


From here eighteen is a long way off,
mum says I can do what I want
when I am eighteen. I make a list.

My dad’s dad died. He woke me
up in the night and he hugged me
and cried like a lost child. I thought
I dreamed it but this morning
his blue jumper was still
damp around the shoulder.

Eighteen. I say it to myself and it joins
other fantastic words: sex, grownup, sex,
freedom, sex, money – until it arrives
I occupy myself with mourning.


Last night was amazing
but I thought I would feel different
like I’d be given some kind of superpower
or know things I didn’t know before.

I don’t think I’ll see her again.
My dad took one look at my face and said
“You got some last night didn’t you?”
Well, she took something from me
and I wanted her to have it but now
I kinda want it back.

Next week the career officer is going
to tell me to decide
what I’m going to do with the rest of my life

* Bobby Parker's debut collection Pictures of Screaming People is avaible now from Erbacce Press “These poems are heartbreakingly honest moments of loss and survival, full of fine rhythms, surprising humour, and ambitious imagery. A powerful new voice.” …Joanna Ezekiel

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Ivor Murrell hears songs of light and darkness

Songs of Light and Dark
Human Voices concert at Halesworth, December 13th 2009

It was started as a murmur
a memory rising from the cave dark.
Welele, Welele, Welele
the ululation progressed, so did the singers
passing through the listeners
weaving them into place, locked
in a racial weft of half forgotten fear.
A need to placate the unknown grew,
welling from unglimpsed depths
came reminders of impermanence
stripping suppression’s civilised  mask.
Each listener gripped by the circle of sound,
struggling for emotional control, shaken
at the stir of the animal within.
Welele, Welele, Welele.

In the interval, in the well lit foyer,
speech was not readily regained.

* Ivor Murrell writes “this piece arose from a concert of unaccompanied singing by Human Voices led by Helen Chadwick at The Cut in Halesworth last December.  An unexpected and powerful experience. I don’t know what ‘Welele’ means, it was the name of the piece, and I have not tried to get an interpretation in case it turns out to be something mundane! Since I last contacted you I have been enjoying the vibrancy of poetry in Suffolk, and have more recently launched my own site to share my poetry with the images linked to it, please give it a visit.

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Mark McDonnell considers the nature of pain

Electric Baton

In the pause beneath
a bare light bulb which has been
sun and moon for weeks
(with rice cooking not a mile away
children coming in from school)
the soldier’s eyes slide
from the electric baton
to your wet body
what he will do
will be done attentively                     
it will require imagination 
a kind of empathy
some feeling for its meaning to you
The discharges will jump a gap
too difficult to look at
weld for unbearable seconds
two pains together

Bones III

The doctor’s pen
traces the length
of her back-lit bones
on the light box
circles the fracture
with care
                the break
an opened gate      

* Poet and business man, “settled farmer” and “marauding Viking”, religious spirit who does not believe in God, vegetarian who sometimes needs a steak – Mark McDonnell's poetry attempts to face his contradictions and look behind the curtain of this world.

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