I recreated you in sleep.
Not as you were;
A lanky black teenager
with natural hair,
perfect teeth, and scars
which ran the length
of your solid-root body
in raised keloid whorls
that followed the path
of the knife from anus to breasts.
We were children, then,
we’ve become something else.
Your wounds were never visible
in photographs. I knew them
by touch. My white hands
pressed against your hard belly,
clawing your ribs, unable
to shift the weight of you.
I felt those ridges, moist
crevices. I feel them now.
You came again last night,
breathing very hard.
Our adult legs entwined, muscular,
the fig and the palm.
The strangler who feeds on the modified
grass. The trunk bears it up
until the vine consumes the pith
and stands, for a time, alone.
How have you grown,
you dark, twisted girl?
How have you met me here,
in power and force?
I cut you off,
pressed you down.
I sliced you from me, tore
your teeth from my skin.
And still, you come.
Shuddering against me,
which death are you dying,
do you hunger or feed?
My daemon, my ghost,
the twin that I buried, clawing up
from the soil. Keeping their roots,
the palm tree, the fig.
Bethany W Pope is an award winning author of the LBA, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program. Her work has appeared in: Anon, Art Times, Ampersand, Blue Tattoo, De/Tached (Parthian), The Writer’s Hub, New Welsh Review and her work is due to appear in the next issues of Planet, Poetry Review Salzburg, Tears in the Fence and Anon. Her first poetry collection, A Radiance was published by Cultured Llama Press in June. Her second collection, Persephone in the Underworld has been accepted by Rufus Books and shall be released in 2016.Read More
An Audience with Dirk
Home at last from the Riviera, knowing
he must not look back
he walks Knightsbridge in dark chapeau
and shades. The grey light hurts.
At night, rehearsing his own lines -
memoir, novels – he is word
perfect. After the performance
a hushed procession wends
towards him and each advancing celebrant
drops their gaze,
suddenly shy to lay before him
their unread offering. One swift flourish
and he’s marked the pristine page
with a blue-black emblem,
raising his head, briefly, to show those
The people find him gracious; but gods,
when they grow old, crave
adoration. How else are they to know
if there are still believers?
Jill Sharp’s work has appeared in 14, South, Crazy about Pipework, Domestic Cherry and IMPpress and she has a poem in the current edition of Poems in the Waiting Room.Read More
demons and saints
Next I see the town drunk shuffling along the side of the road
in his slippers and old coat and it’s 80 degrees out. And
there’s the damn predictable cigarette dangling from his
unshaven face and he’s got on these ridiculous looking yellow
headphones. Obviously, he’s off in his own little world
with its own special demons and saints, clouds and rivers, shadows
and gusts of wind and I think how this could be me.
Michael Estabrook is Marketing Communications Manager by day and a struggling poet by night who began getting his poetry published in the late 1980s. Over the years he has published 15 poetry chapbooks, his most recent entitled When the Muse Speaks. His interests include history, art, music, theatre, opera, and his wife who just happens to be the most beautiful woman he has ever known.
Crossing the road is imminent.
The moon is high –
The lake is still
And the blob-a-gobs jiggle
and mulch inside and all thoughts
are fat with ‘Pop’
And my back it pipes with nuptial
clamp – that once I loved –
but now I carry
So it’s time to face
again – to cross
my toes and gloss my warts
in the abundance of buckets
and their fluorescent
Nikki Claire Grant grew up in Kent surrounded by a menagerie of beasts. She likes rhubarb and roast parsnips and rabbits (but not to eat!). Her poems have been published in the small press and have also been aired in performance. www.dailymice.co.uk
First I fell from a window and thought
I’d never reach the ground.
A door opened in the fog.
Once inside I closed my eyes and tried to imagine
what it feels like to be dead.
Somehow when I found myself walking the steppe
it wasn’t like opening my eyes. More that
I was slowly woken from the frost
by heavy blinking.
This is when the wind started speaking.
The sky hung like the giant keyhole of a vacant door . I remember
a violet canopy above, an alien shade, a tincture. I remember
women in hospital beds, and coughing. I remember
clicks of antiseptic dispensers, a bedside view over a fuming city.
It’s possible that I remember so that
I don’t lose the language of the dead.
Chris Sakellaridis is an Anglo-Greek poet and teacher of English. His poems have appeared in Fuselit, Cyphers and The Delinquent. He is currently working on a debut collection entitled Ξένον/Xenon, an exploration of hybridity, chemistry and foreignnessRead More
Emer Gillespie’s debut collection feels as if it has been gestating for a long time and has slowly unravelled to reveal itself. The end result is a tight collection that beautifully flows from beginning to end.
Gillespie makes a bold decision to begin this collection with an extended sequence, Demeter. I say bold because it’s not an easy place for a reader to start, but Gillespie does it with ease, and directness. It is totally accessible and because of this, striking, and it is fitting to have her presiding over a collection that fosuses on love and death. Demeter loves and loses Persephone: “I thought I heard her call out / but every mother knows that lie, / imagined fears that pierce the heart”. Demeter speaks for every mother, for ours, for Gillespie’s and for Gillespie’s children, poetic or real.
In spite of the range of poems gathered here, Gillespie has the knack of creating a collection that interlocks poems; each one doffs its cap to the one before. Key themes come together. There is recognition of love, its concreteness, its illusiveness and its means of escape. The fluidity of birth to loss spills through the collection. In The Quiet Kind there is the start of love:
“Take you and me. There was the joy of course,
and sleepless nights, but there were decisions,
promises made, like ‘never to divorce’
nor say the kind of words you can’t take back.
Our love’s the quiet kind, no worse for that”.
There is a feeling of measured logic, the head ruling the heart. Yet earlier, in Accident of Birth it is the heart that bleeds, not the head:
“I tried to hold on to you, thought you were
a part of us. There was a photograph
of me in Lisbon, squinting in the sun,
my belly already rounding with the shape of you,
the buttons undone on my everyday clothes”.
The reader knows from the outset that all is not well. “I tried to hold on to you” sets an ominous tone and the reader knows from the lines, “He said at twelve weeks / there was nothing anyone could do” that love doesn’t always play ball, no matter how much the poet wants it to. In The Invisible Eye Gillespie asks us, “Whose loss brings darkness?” and in Tails, she articulates how love itself is intangible and cannot be governed by the individual, “It’s not that love itself has gone away, / it’s more that life keeps getting in the way.” In Equinox she further explores the human condition, “I thought Time’s gaze was elsewhere but / he was here all along, ticking off his hours and days.”
In Me and You she takes it one step further:
“I can’t write a poem
for where would I start
For so long now
we start and stop,
begin and end
in the same place,
who first chose to sleep where,
who chose the paper
or the car –
the tally is blurred.”
Yet, in these poems there no hint of what Ian Milner calls in his foreword to Miroslav Holub’s collection, (Poems Before and After, Bloodaxe) the “cul-de-sac of nothingness”. Neither Gillespie nor Holub present this in their writing. There is much beauty here, hope and at times resolution. The poet shows us how life is, but also, how life can be. In Words, “When I held them up / to the sun, they sparkled” and in For Elly she reminds us that when spring comes the seeds will “push up towards the sun again and bloom”.
We slide easily into the more humourous side of Gillespie’s world with Eve:
“I wanted to know.
To be honest I’d grown
bored with Paradise,
knew the place
like the back of my hand”.
When we slide out again, we reach stumble across Because, a clever poem that relies on repetition to lead the reader thorough a series of reasons, until at the close it reveals its hand, “because you suspected nothing, you didn’t see the knife”.
The collection ends with a burial, but one that transcends the body and returns to the earth. We end on an encouraging note.
“Plant me underneath this tree
when you think I am dead.
Don’t bury me standing, or flat in a box.
Instead, place me straight into the ground,
on my side.
I want to become this tree,
feel it become me.
By then I’ll be tired of rushing,
it will do me good to lie still for a while,
wrap myself around the roots,
seep into the sap, enjoy the calm solidity
of its slow beating heart.
When my flesh has gone, fed the earth
I lie in, leaving only bones behind –
I’ll take a branch line to the sun.”
It’s a brave and honest collection that intelligently mixes myth with reality in all its guises. This is a book that lays life bare, lets us pick over its bones and still find the warm heart beating inside. “Let’s part just as we started – with a kiss”.
Abegail Morley’s first collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup was shortlisted for The Forward Prize Best First Collection, her second, Snow Child is published by Pindrop Press. Her chapbook, Eva and George: sketches in pen and brush, is forthcoming. Visit her site: The Poetry Shed: http://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/
Artist in Residence
Every Sunday, your soap opera’s weekly omnibus ;
winning the council flat,
battling the filth left by a procession of slatternly tenants
like exorcizing a stubborn demon.
So my telephone imagination
expects a plain face to a tuneless voice,
but beside the front door geraniums and herbs cling
to the upper story’s cliff face,
inside your rooms wear a bespoke suit’s grey and white chic,
finished with baroque flourishes.
Now I understand your niggling pain,
that this home’s tenancy might be withdrawn
like a Greek god’s favour.
Fiona Sinclair reviews for numerous poetry magazines including IS&T and Happenstance. She is the editor of the online poetry magazine Message in a Bottle. Hew second pamphlet A Game of Hide and Seek is out now from Indigo Dreams.Read More