Amy Rafferty


Pétursdóttir took a boat all the way to Svalbard.
With a little seed cupped in her little hand.
The seed was her father
and the boat was her love
and Svalbard was the only safe place she could think
to take him.

Pétursdóttir knocked on the door of the doomsday vault
and asked in a little voice from her little mouth,
'Let us in please.'

But the vault was empty.

Nothing stirred.

Not even an icy wind to freeze the tears that came.

Pétursdóttir lay down in the snow
and died where she lay,
with the little seed cupped
in her little hand.
Waiting for the doomsday vault to save them both
and what warmth there was left in her
woke the seed.

*Amy Rafferty is a Glaswegian living in the West Midlands. Her poetry and prose can be found in several anthologies, publications and ezines. Two of her poems were short listed for the international Fish poetry prize in 2010 and in 2009 she received a highly commended mention for her poetry collection, Pétursdóttir and the Land of Tiny Voices. She is currently working on a debut album with her band, The Recovery Club and is studying for her Mlitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University.

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Ken Head reviews Martyn Crucefix's 'Hurt'

Hurt  by Martyn Crucefix Enitharmon Press ISBN:  978-1-904634-97-3 £9.99 114pp

From first to last, Martyn Crucefix’s impressive fifth collection offers writing of quality and worth.  Arranged in three sections, its fifty-one thematically and stylistically varied poems nevertheless achieve a telling unity in both the seriousness of their subject matter and the poet’s exact and detailed observation of it.  In part one, pointedly sub-titled At the cross-hairs, there are, for example, nine poems whose focus is intricate, intimate and personal, together with a single poem in seven substantial parts entitled More than it comes to, as fine and moving a response to the tragically perennial human activity of warfare as I have read.  As the title of the collection suggests, the poems in this section focus less on the comfortable areas of human life, than on those into which, sometimes painfully, sometimes joyously, complex intensities of feeling and experience force their way.  Invocation, the opening poem, makes this challenge immediately clear by placing, … the blood-spill of hurt / that opens flesh and bone immediately alongside, … you wiping love from between your legs and … when old habits, uncertain eyes give out, / when it’s dark wherever they put the light, / … cover him, cover him, cover his face.  

Whereas these first poems are tightly wrought, short-lined, sometimes elliptical and metaphorically complex, the seven poems from the American War which follow (and which bring to mind Walt Whitman’s Leaves Of Grass) are in the long-lined, conversational, vernacular style of a young man writing home from the war to his mother:  I pick’d up my pen & wrote my mother, / That I knew how she suffered with the passing of these days.  As the writer’s narration proceeds through descriptions of horror, … at the foot of the tree a heap of amputated legs & arms & hands, about which war has taught him more than he would choose to know, … Of the two officers, feet pinned to the ground by bayonets, / Of sharp blades stuck through them, they receiv’d twenty thrusts, we come to understand that the use of historical detail from the American Civil War serves as a running metaphor for the wider moral purpose of developing the poet’s indictment of the inhumanity of all war:  And all of those brave men, they also are all boys. / I saw their naked limbs through the scurf of well-worn clothes, / … Such flesh as they had, I thought it glowed through their clothes.  

Alongside the terrible inventory of slaughter in this poem, there is also much balancing witness to compassionate humanity, the superiority of individuals to the political and miltary machines that wreck their lives and of their care for each other in the darkest times:   I staid a long time at the bed-side of the young Baltimorean. / I staid certainly because death had mark’d him and he was quite alone.  The narrator’s voice is so clear, so present in the lines as to be at times overwhelming in its quiet acceptance.  In the poem’s final stanza, for example, with his own death imminent, he writes, for the last time, To his own mother: / It is true, of course, that I am not well these days. / It is most likely hospital poison has penetrated my system. / But do not think of me this way, do not see your boy this way, / Remember me as I was and must surely be again.  Memory, remembrance.  The words make it hard, for me impossible, not to be reminded of Remember, Christina Rossetti’s great sonnet:  Remember me when I am gone away, / Gone far away into the silent land.

Parts two and three of the collection are equally emotionally charged, equally serious both in subject matter and tone.  The introspective, even metaphysical, titles used throughout part two, Essays in island logic, titles such as, he considers the passage of time, he considers what the young have to teach and he considers the longevity of love, all suggest as much, despite their marked contrast with the direct, graphic, contemporary titles used in part three, Riders on the storm:  Tenby church acquarium, Emergency services, Scraps and Calling in the dark.  This last is a poem about the poet’s elderly parents and, by implication, therefore, about the inevitability for all of us of becoming old.  In some ways a simple description of the poet’s mother’s struggle with her mobile ’phone which, … buried in her bag, manages somehow to ring his number and so allows him to listen in on his mother’s irritable tone as she speaks to his father, it expresses also the universally understood sorrow of a son who, looking on as his parents edge towards death, hopes to be solicitous to the last, but recognizes his helplessness:  It’s painful to listen … Enough.  I end the call.  I cannot bear to pry / on what is coming closer / and will carry them away.  

Hurt investigates important questions, some merely difficult, others imponderable.  In part one of Wilderness, for example, the meditative poem which, in seven sections, closes the book, Crucefix suggests, perhaps puzzlingly, that the right and proper end / of all questioning is a cumulative sense of well-being, that coming to grips with life’s complexity rather than ignoring it, is, paradoxically, the means to being well.  A difficult idea for societies dedicated to pleasurable amnesia, a life spent floating.  Later, in part six, though, he uses the day-to-day changes in the appearance of the surface of a lake to enlarge the point.  Some days, he says, the murk / seems unfathomable, / a thing of gleams / and flashes / … of nothing that is clear at all, while at other times,  it seems so beautiful / it leads us to hope / that it might allow us / no reason to flinch, / nor bully, nor brawl / but shift in the wind, / with the flood:  try not / to hold on but let go.  And we begin to understand.

©2011:  Ken Head

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Susannah Pickering


Shades of earth & sky
with me between them
on a blue morning
your red ticket stub
in the cold lined pocket
slipping through fingers
leaving me wanting

*Susannah Pickering is a poet, playwright and knitter with poems previously published in the likes of Mslexia, Other Poetry and Smoke. Her first pamphlet is due out next year.

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Iain Britton

through the halo burnt mirror …

autumn leaves crackle

brown dust skids off paths

    and an assortment of hibiscus

    dangles raggedly


the lady in my bedroom

puts herself together every morning
after a hard night of dismantling herself
in the presence of others

I study the performance of reconstruction

I turn on my fiction       add

    magic to my agenda

    to the long tall efforts

    of ballooning upwards

and through the halo burnt mirror       I reach

    the scorched-high peaks

    of ripening – where rainbows

are part of the hydroponics mix

where skies experimental

               swap a humpbacked crowdedness


the lady in the bedroom

drinks coffee        eats biscuits

complains she is still too fat

still too restricted by the company she keeps


I open my roof     like a tin lid

            for the hot air to get out

            the birds to get in

a jacaranda shatters the windows
and paints the daylight         purple

today the intention

        is to visit the lake

to visit the red house on the corner
where I’m the only customer


after the sun has dropped off the tourist map / the shelf / the clock

the lady sniffs out her bedroom

        nothing shows

the darkness

gropes about

for its rightful place in the queue        

*Iain Britton's third collection was published in 2009 by Oystercatcher Press  Kilmog Press (NZ) his 4th in 2010. The Red Ceilings Press published an ebook 10 Poems earlier this year. Forthcoming collection with Lapwing Publications due out in January.


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Outside Emma Morgan's Bookshop

Outside my bookshop

I have spent the afternoon dreamily reading
‘Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’
I am still thinking of Buddhist camshafts
When the shoplifter who has done over the children’s section
And has several copies of Dr. Zeus under each arm
Brandishes a knife at me
Except that it’s a Swiss Army penknife
And he can’t decide which blade to get out
He’s stuck in indecision between the saw
Which is almost impossible to get out without removing your fingers
And the thing for cleaning horses’ hooves which nobody ever uses
And I’m incapable of being frightened
Because I’ve started to think
Here in the sunshine on the white stone steps
Amongst the city glitter
And the passing trade
About whether if I only ever use one blade
There’s any point to all the rest

*Emma Morgan lives in Guernsey, not because she is a tax exile, but because she comes from there. She has a blog where she puts the too many thoughts she has in her head.

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Kim Farleigh's 'Vast Present'

A Vast Present

Two men in black T-shirts and black boots boarded the bus.  One stretched out on a seat and closed his eyes.  The other sat facing the first one.

“I love fucking fat women!” the second one said.  “What a line!  And what a fantastic, big arse she had as well!”   

The stretched-out man leant his head on his seat’s backrest and closed his eyes.  

The long-haired talker continued: “I bet you couldn’t get your face out of those tits of hers as well?  They were flesh footballs!”    

A mother and daughter were staring out a window.  Old things new in a skeletal-bough world of returning buds coloured the world.       

An Englishman was on a back seat.  The sneering talker said: “Look at that guiri.  That bone-white skin isn’t natural.  It’s like a disease.”

The stretched-out man folded his arms and smiled weakly.  

“Look at those freckles on that white pastiness,” the talker said.  “That’s disgusting.”

Thorny, spiky cactus arms, like tentacles with sharp points, rose from the cactus’s crown-like base that was studded into a green bank, like a tumour.  Speckled daisies in winter green, like emblems of bright possibilities, surrounded the plant.         

“He’s a crab,” the talker grinned.

The sleepy man didn’t look.  No one wanted to look at anyone else except the talker.  The talker loved looking at other people.   

“He’s oblivious,” the talker smiled.  “He doesn’t understand anything!”

Easily thrilled, the Englishman thought, by anything except real opportunities.

“How can anyone have hair that colour?” the talker grimaced.  “That’s not natural.  What a pasty-faced guiri git; and he’s oblivious!”

The bus whined away from traffic lights.  An ambulance’s siren wailed.  A motorcycle’s roar rose then disappeared.       

“He doesn’t understand anything,” the smiling talker repeated.

Frustrated drivers were blowing horns.  The talker’s excited smile didn’t elicit any enthusiasm from the sleepy man who shut his eyes.    

“That hair,” the talker said, “looks like fairy floss.”

The sleepy man didn’t respond.  The talker screwed his face up, disgusted.  

The bus stopped beside some road workers who were up to their necks in a hole.  A pile driver started making a din.  The road workers put on headphones.        

“He’s oblivious!” the talker said.

A man was pushing a trolley down a footpath.  A woman was selecting fruit from a fruit-and-vegetable shop, her baby in a pram beside her.  

The mother and daughter left the bus and went into a post office.  A waiter was taking an order in an outdoor café.  People were minding their own business.  They had business to mind.  

“He looks like a snowflake,” the grinning talker continued, “sprayed with shit.”

The talker’s frog mouth resembled parallel rubber rings.  The sleepy man didn’t respond.  

The Englishman stared out the window, happy that the talker thought that he couldn’t understand Spanish.               

“He’s oblivious,” the talker repeated.

An amazed smile split the rubber rings apart.        

He acts, the Englishman thought, as if his desired future has already arrived.  But his truth is the present – and he has no idea that that’s true.    

The two men got off.  The talker waved at the Englishman who looked away.  The grinning talker’s waving arm described an arm’s-length circle.       

“He’s oblivious,” the talker repeated, smiling.

The talker’s futureless present was so vast that every tiny thing in it was enormous.

*Kim Farleigh has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Iraq, Palestine and Kosovo.  He takes risks to get the experience required for writing.  His stories have been accepted by 41 different magazines.  

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Daniel Adey's 'The Auspices'

The Auspices


You underestimate yourself
when you open your mouth I listen
these offerings, your mere crumbs
if I told you how they fill me up

It's spring and the geese are coming in to land

I love the clumsy way they hit the water
just how do they get here
so hungry and astonished?
Imagine it, three thousand miles or more travelled

And I swore I’d never write

another out-fishing poem
but this is what I'm doing…
up to my waist in water and
wishing I had the skill to let you see it

Open your mouth

if you say the word bruised
then that's how gudgeon might taste
if they were big enough to eat

I see you picking bones from your teeth

or grabbing a handsome book from your shelf
everything is moving

in its intended direction
and yes – you underestimate yourself



*Daniel Adey lives in Birmingham, England. When he is not busy tending to robots he is out amongst trees, with his family.  Occasionally he might write a poem or two.

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