The Seventh Day of Christmas

The Goose Moon
 
What are we doing above the poor sea?
Do we dream this bridge of wind
will reach the sour pines of Europe?
Why bother pouring such weather
under the goose moon.
 
Why bring this denying wing down
from all the worst clocks of the night
to reach no eye, no ear, no lovely wake
of punching sea and chance our white flame
in the hall-less journey here.
 
Why were we with the ghost snows
so far in the north, in this empty mind
where air peels and pours
in the saintless interior.
 
And worn out with Jupiter,
beneath our night coal, tip to tip,
we send those scouring messages
for the fat path home, queens of mint air
and the world turns its coarse trim with us
and we are the Christmas sisters
and make the turn and the lit up tide steers us
below the goose moon.
 
No one is free of the feather dream
and the polished waters ride us
all wing whisper when the call comes to turn,
to break and lead, to return one to another
in the European night
uncovering the jarring saviours
and we imagine human,
unmined and working,
warm with all the land’s resistance,
delivered in houses, in taxes,
in the deaf blood of the roads below.



*Chris Emery was born in Manchester and has published two collections: Dr. Mephisto and Radio Nostalgia, both from Arc Publications. A new collection, The Departure, is forthcoming from Salt. He lives in Cromer with his wife and three children.





Searching for Snow

   
Press your nose against the pane,
wish for it. Scan the sky. Listen
for the silence of every living thing
braced against the cold.
 
You want snowmen, snowball contests,
to be snowed in, kept off school.
 
Some hope, except in dreams
of dragging caked mittens from tingling fingers,
sipping hot chocolate, regressing to ‘Watch with Mother’.
 
Snow remakes the world for however long it lasts
until the tension goes out of it. As childish
as innocence before grown-up boots stamp it out.
 



*Angela Topping is a freelance poet and author based in Cheshire. She writes for both children and adults and has four solo collections. 2011 saw four poetry chapbooks released. She is currently working towards a fifth collection.   This poem was first published in Voices for  Kosovo (Stride  1999)

 

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The Sixth Day of Christmas

Yule Tide

The sky burns trotter pink,
bladder blue, a skein
of golden chicken skins
pulled taut by giant needles.

Up on the hill the grass grows
as white as my hair, cold
fistful and clumped. I
stalk alone, muttering.

Ancient witches cartwheel
in energetic fury along
the dry skyline, their shadow bones
finger thin and twisting.

I watch them: layer on layer
of charcoal, grey and silt;
rice paper fine, pirouetting
against the setting sun.


* Charlotte Gann's The Long Woman was published recently by Pighog Press.  She's had work in The Rialto, The North and Magma, among others.



Frost bite

Hidden from ice scabbed windows
I squat by the slats in the fence wrapped
in Christmas paper –
 
a hotchpotch of holly and ivy
rolled, sellotaped, tied with ribbbon.
Under its crackle breath drains
 
my blanched face, Siberian eyes latch shut
to keep out the wind. I want to claw
my way out, see birds swollen with snow

swoop from the coast, hang around houses
in huddles of feathers, trampling on roofs,
gutters, grass; a whole assembly
 
grubbing for worms, stale bread, sultanas.
They’re too loud; I bury my ears in drifts.
If you tear me open I’ll bare, what’s left

is a torn upper lip hoisted like a sail,
its gash all that remains of a smile.
You tell me not to worry; spring will come,
 
fill my body with flames. But the evening
is biting and I’m unwrapping: my ivy wilting
and the holly has hitched up her skirt and is
 
running as fast as she can down the garden.



*Abegail Morley is guest poetry editor at The New Writer. Her collection How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon
2009) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize  Best First Collection
(2010); the title poem was previously nominated for the Best Single
Poem. Her second collection
Snow Child is published by Pindrop Press.

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The Fifth Day of Christmas

When
Angels understand eternity.

Always causes mortals trouble
as they try to grasp the absence
of an afterwards
or believe before has been
emptied of all meaning.

Angels speak to shepherds first.

Shepherds’ long night-watches,
on slowly-changing hillsides
beneath  sky’s starred enormity,
prepare them, more than most,
to be at peace with vast
and heaven-centred wonder;

Angels borrow shepherds to run errands.

Their trade persuades them they can find
whatever they go looking for –
even if it’s wandered off
risking it will lose itself
along a dead-end path.

Angels visit intermittently.

Shepherds simply do not leave:
they keep on pushing through
the crowds, like eager strangers,
full of what they’ve seen, intent
on stretching more imaginations
round the notion of an always
crosswise-intersecting now.

*Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a retired mathematician living in London. He has published several poetry collections, most recently Tradesman’s Exit  (Shoestring
2009). He is poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip and
co-organiser of the Poetry in the Crypt reading series in Islington.





Nativity
 
In our West Country town
we raised a Nativity –
it was almost life-size
in the way it’s done here
 
the Joseph and Mary
big-boned types from Chard
attending a manger
its yellow muslin bundle
 
its four turned chair-legs
and the kings no better
the shepherds as tinkers
but the remarkable thing
 
was a piebald mongrel
that visited the stable
each evening for weeks
sometimes to lift a leg
 
but vanishing away . . .
till a day it never came
and the people of this town
as one met the bill
 
to stuff its pelt life-hard
with a fine yellow sawdust
to install a modern saint
in the familiar stable



*Martyn Crucefix’s most recent collection, Hurt, was published by Enitharmon. His translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies
(Enitharmon 2006) was shortlisted for the 2007 Popescu Prize for
European Poetry Translation. His translation of Rilke’s Sonnets to
Orpheus will be published in 2012.

Three French Hens

 


Click here for accompanying singing hen film

*Ira Lightman
makes public art in the North East (the Spennymoor Letters, the Prudhoe
Glade, the Gatesheads) and lately Willenhall and Southampton. He
devises visual poetry forms and then asks local communities to supply
words that will bring them alive. He is a regular on BBC Radio 3′s The Verb.

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The Fourth Day of Christmas

Forecast for 28 December, 2011

This is it: even at noon the fields
can raise a crop of furrow shadow.
Hedges are flailed pension plans for fieldfares,
and rooks spell out in shifting pictograms
what the ivy knows, but isn't telling:
that trees are doomed public sector workers,
and Britain's growth depends on the horizon.

While house martins put flight capital
into sunny tax havens, and swifts scarper
as the schools go back, harlequin ladybirds
over-winter in your curtains, parakeets
are making a go of it, and another egret
arrives at Southampton, pockets empty,
willing to do a gull's work if gulls won't.

An Atlantic depression jostles with a blocking
continental anticyclone. Our sky will try to host
both systems, while the backdoor Gulf Stream
delivers cowrie shells like drowned slaves' teeth
and three degrees of lost imperial heat.
Hunched in their ivy tower the wide-boy rooks
reckon it means more weather either way.      



*Nick MacKinnon teaches Maths and English. His puzzles appear in the Sunday Times, he's been second in the Bridport and Edwin Morgan, and his audiobook Storytelling read by Stephen Campbell Moore and Juliet Stevenson comes out in 2012.




Seasoned Reasons
 
because Bethlehem vanished in a blizzard
of correction fluid, and shoots grown-on
from palms crossed with shekels flowered
 
because what hammers society into iron
was not, and will never be, pederasty — still
quite the hook to hang a captive audience on –
 
because communities burst their rivers
Israel-wide, far beyond, and in his bed,
every receiver grew to meet his giver
 
because astrologers, magicians, qualify
as that day's queers, aroused as they are
by the deviant star's clean Roman coin
 
because the contemporary stage holds
that a roof can bend in the centre like a tent,
not lie flat like a precise law's banknote
 
because the whole Leviticus Code rests
on this: cattle lying prostrate in a stable,
beside the mild current of the Christ-child
 

 
*Mark Burnhope's poems and reviews have appeared in print and online publications including Magma, Horizon Review, Nth Position, Stride and The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt). His debut pamphlet, The Snowboy is available from Salt Publishing.




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The Third Day of Christmas

How It Hits You

Picking up the Christmas post
from the old house,
I unclench my fingers one by one from the steering wheel,
breathe out.
And in the lowering light
against the hills of someone else’s home,
the yellow advent squares of the train
come close to the road we travelled on.



 
*Deborah Alma was born in London and lives in Ludlow. She writes poetry, runs poetry workshops for children and people with dementia and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Keele University. She is also Emergency Poet in her 1960's ambulance.



Christmas Bees
 
Descendants of garden hives
they accrue now in the roof,
the tiles below their ingress
black as char : one Christmas
they sang the Hundredth Psalm to us,
doxology of cisterns and rattle-sash-cords
we crept up into the attics for, my sister and me,
two sets of moon-bare feet following our father
through terrain of leather cases, misted-over mirrors
to a domain where something trembled and hissed
as we drew nearer –
they were singing for us, our father said,
only for us, and held up his finger – sshhhh –
so that black, swarmish choir inflated as one lung,
punctilious, to hold the note, that rising hmmmmmm
behind the flimsy wall. I thought of water’s bursting
roar, a thousand stings to eyes, ears, open throat…
someone must sing the bantling year to life, our father said,
and someone must listen:
I lie in my bed, that rocks as if upon a swell,
still listening.


*Pippa Little's most recent collection is The Snow Globe from Red Squirrel Press.




Ann’s house

The range is lit, and in the kitchen we are talking
about men and things that matter.
Winter in the windows: cherries in a blue dish.

Night wakes on the hills, goes hunting on the moors,
breathes death to little things.
The snow is wild, close by, but leaves us be.

The fairy lights come on.
We leave the old year littering the hillside,
head out half-drunk for the Maynard Arms
sipping wine-dark words, and singing poetry.



*Jo Bell works across the UK on poetry projects including National Poetry Day, which she directs. She writes about 'the important things: boats, archaeology and sex' but some poems, like this one, fail to address these issues. She is currently preparing a second book to follow Navigation (Cheshire, 2008)

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The Second Day of Christmas

A Christmas Universe

For Charlotte

This year you’ve grown too old for anagrams,

that devil’s name within a Santa hat.

You tell me that you have no need of things

or wishes that you’ll later learn to curse:

the Midas touch, the genii trickster’s lamp

are all behind you.

Oranges, or nuts that you can crack,

chocolate in a stocking by the fire

that you can race to eat before it melts,

that you can suck before the juice runs dry,

that you can squeeze to crack, to break the shell.

A tiny space, a place before the fire,

to have in any order you desire.

It’s all you ask.

We sit here, Boxing Day, pyjama clad,

honour silence, nurse a Christmas cold.

Inside our hamlet there’s a universe,

a tardis world that grows in cottage walls

where dreams are birthsongs dancing out a flame,

licking coal to life.

You sit squashed up with Tigger on a seat,

read ‘Lord of the Rings’ time and again.

And in his head your Tigger softly says,

‘At fifteen years my friend still loves to bounce.

She springs from tale to tale, from spring

to spring.’

I’m curled up in an armchair with this book

writing out a story for myself, feeling like the Pooh-bear

with no brain. Wondering how P-branes intersect to form black holes.

My thoughts are Christmas ribbons tied in knots, discarded labels

from the day before, hiding in a black bag by the door.

I tap, unwrap a chocolate from its box,

so we can suck each segment

and not speak.

We wonder why the gentle snowflake falls,

solves, dissolves its secrets on our tongues:

Put a mirror in the middle of the water in the walls,

the Christmas birth canal is much too thin a line to carry us.

Some nuts, it seems, are much too tough to crack

in the small time we are lent in holidays.



Julie Boden, Poet in Residence at THSH (2005- date and a former Birmingham Laureate has written many commissioned pieces for the page, stage, radio, live mixed arts events and for film – she can’t believe she’s written so many Christmas poems !  This poem is published in Cut on the Bias  collection.



I took my son to see

I.



I took my son to see

the illuminations. I

showed him Latin uncials

black after a millennium.

He jabbed at the convolutions

of leafery, hoping

to pull an initial through

the page, the case, the glass,

the initial he wanted

his hand to dishevel:

this initial

I.



*Claire Crowther's poems have been published widely and she has two collections out from Shearsman plus two recent pamphlets, Mollicle (Nine Arches) and Incense (Flarestack).


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The First Day of Christmas

The Expat and the Angel Come to Lunch

I had high hopes. I have prepared mutabel
and labneh, Arabic bread, salad leaves
from Saudi, fresh conversation. My English

neighbour shares her views on lazy maids,
her husband's job in small drill bits, the cost
of water, whisky, gardeners on the take,

manicures, pork scratchings, bikinis.
The hour is long. Windborne sand coats
the table, insinuates itself between our teeth.

It's getting hard to speak or chew. At last
she rises to her feet and clears her throat:
She’s a bit of a whizz she says finally,

blinking desert from her eyes, at crafts,
so, just in time for Christmas, here's a piece
of home. She hopes we can be friends.

When she's gone, I unwrap the gift:
a wooden spoon festooned with tinsel,
wire for wings, and bits of mop for hair.

Day after day, the muezzin's call fragments
across the wilderness of dust and cranes
and minarets. The angel moults her glitter

in the heat. I string her up inside the porch
where I can be sure my friend will see her
hanging when she takes her morning run.



*Jacqueline Saphra has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma was published by Flarestack in 2008. Her first full collection, The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye) was developed with the support of the Arts Council of England and nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2011.


Mary (& Me)  

No longer a Catholic, I abandon my search
for the nativity in Antwerp Cathedral –
we’re all virgins at birth. I cross the cobbles

to the chipped votives of the Kathedraal Bar
and consider Mary over a De Konicke.
One December, I’d played her in church,
 
clasped Jesus’ plastic head to my bosom;
he wept down my flat blue chest.
Incense clings to my leopard print fur.



*Katrina Naomi's first full collection 'The Girl with the Cactus Handshake' was shortlisted for the 2010 London New Poetry Award. Her most recent is 'Charlotte Bronte's Corset', published by the Bronte Society, after she was writer-in-residence at the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Katrina is from Margate and lives in south London.

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