James Coffey

 

 

 

After The Event

The doctor listened sympathetically and told me to maybe take a holiday and to think about my diet and to exercise. She recommended that I take up a hobby. Join a club perhaps.  Maybe I could think about yoga or meditation.  Above all be positive and nurture my inner strength. She recommended I get in touch with old friends and renew family links.  Talk to them, be open, be honest.  Then she took my hand in hers and leaned towards me and said that actually what happens is that people cross the road to avoid you or run into shops when they see you coming because they don’t know what to say. She said that in the end there are certain things we just have to come to terms with. That we have to be resilient because after the event things can never go back to how they were before, they can never be the same again, and there’s always only ever that pain.

 

 

James Coffey is a civil servant who indulges a liking for ideas and words by occasionally writing short stories and less occasionally submitting them to e-zines.

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Julie Egdell

 

 

 

The Road to Vyborg

 

On the road to Vyborg

I try to count the dead

on my hands, but run out

of fingers.

 

The road is dangerous

and this is Russia,

you say.

Over and over again.

 

You took me,

from the smoke

to the white castle.

Where dogs

 

half wolf

greet me like an old friend

and the cave hides a Sadko

turned to stone with age.

 

At your Dacha you have a bear

wrestled and killed

in Murmansk.

 

And nothing is a mystery

as we drink tea and eat biscuits.

I try to reconcile what I have seen

with your tea party.

 

 

Julie Egdell is a writer from Newcastle Upon Tyne with an MA in Creative Writing. She has been published in The Break Out Anthology, Dreamcatcher, The Wilds Anthology, The Cadaverine and many more. To find out more visit http://theadventuresofpenelopenewcastle.weebly.com/

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Noel Williams

 

 

 

 Breather

On the church steps, pink horseshoes hook silver hearts, lift in the wind, petalling grass and graves.
In suits and awkward hats, round the lich-gate strangers whisper. I’ll rest on this uncertain wall, wait for the chain of black cars.
Lichen rubs from the stone to my hand.
A girl who is nothing to do with any of this trundles her pushchair through the wreath of cars.
The edge of the wall shakes under me. I think about shifting. I don’t move.

 

 

 

Noel Williams has published widely in magazines and anthologies in the UK. He is editor of Antiphon and Associate Editor of Orbis. His first collection, Out of Breath, will be published by Cinnamon in 2014.

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Roger Jones

 

 

A Photo from the Fifties

snow globe
shaking up a new maelstrom
watching it settle

Overnight, a snowstorm has claimed our town. The neighbor’s houses and yards are coated.  Snow swallows the old DeSoto.  No one’s outside except my father, sister, and two cousins, all of whom run across the empty lot next door. They’ve taken sides for a snowball fight.  My cousin, father, lean to wad up new snowballs. My sister, dodging a cousin’s throw, is laughing.  In the foreground, aged five or so, I’m just off the porch in my furry ear-muffs. Mouth open, I’m shouting at whoever is taking the picture.

her sudden laughter —
a sheet of ice comes sliding
off the church roof

winter boots by the door
a round puddle
growing on the newspaper

 

 

 

Roger Jones has published haiku, haibun and tanka in various journals over the past few years.  His haibun collection Goodbye, selected as the Snapshot Press e-chapbook award winner for 2012-13, will be published soon.  He teaches writing in Texas, and has published three other collections of poetry.  Twitter: @haibunator

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Chris Guidon

 

 

 

Chris Guidon is a confessional artist and poet from Kidderminster. Like a snake he needs sunshine to live.

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Paul Little

 

 

 

The Narrator Warns

I became bored with the view
of investing shapes with meaning
when the suspicion arose they had none.

A couple on the grass, their story interrupted
by hilltops, interrupted by wasteland,
then finally to here: nothing but shapes.

The time it has taken, the time I will take
to settle on top of the colours
that run off this landscape quickly

a singular, a boorish, a comedic even
We have been right and not right for some time.
This unfortunate clambering together of words

of wielding a marker to the screen
applying a thick part darkness to the story
under the clock tower I use for eyes,

the supermarket as a body, the museum as a nose.
The little amount of grass left to rectify a smile
and the final toughness in them as a beauty spot.

You will find my hand in everything
I push the landscape far as it must go.

 

 


Paul Little lives in South East London, works in Central London and is studying for an MA at Royal Holloway University. He was shortlisted for the 2013 Bridport Poetry Prize and has had a poem recently included in the online anthology Haiku.

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James Naiden Reviews ‘Odessa’ by Patricia Kirkpatrick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Poet’s Journey of Abandonment, Near-Death – and Recovery.

This is a second collection of poems by the Iowa-born poet who has lived in St. Paul the last three decades or so. Not just living, it must be emphasized, but surviving ordeals – the collapse of her marriage, her brain surgery to remove a tumor the “size of a baseball” and then learning basics all over again – speaking, walking, driving a motor vehicle, the fundamentals of resuming life as a functioning woman in her late fifties, but always with the filling reservoir of language and poems, her gratitude and astonishment to be still alive.

The central motif of this new collection is putatively “Odessa” – but not the city port at the Black Sea or the town in Texas. Instead, it refers to a small town about three hours west of Minneapolis near the South Dakota border. If one can gauge the chronology accurately, the poet’s visit took place before her medical crisis (actually the dominant theme here). Kirkpatrick’s gift is in her succinct language and bare yet full imagery. Here are central lines from the title poem:

 

I am always afraid of what might show up, suddenly.

What might hide.

At dusk I saw the start of low plateaus, plains

really, even when planted. Almost to the Dakota border

I was struck by the isolation and abiding loneliness

yet somehow thrilled. Alone. Hardly another car on the road

and in town, just a few teenagers

wearing high-school sweatshirts, walking and laughing, on the edge

of a world they don’t know.

Darkness started in as heaviness in the colors

of fields, a tractor, cornstalks, stone.

 

Kirkpatrick’s first book, Century’s Road, appeared in 2004 and was well received but not widely reviewed. She was over fifty, but at least had her first book published, and began looking at her life’s interstices for a second volume. Now a poetry teacher and professor, but not having arrived at poetry until her senior year at the University of Iowa, Kirkpatrick later went through divorce while her two children were not quite on their own. Still, the functions of termination had to be endured, recounted in a sequence titled “The Italo Poems” and borne without rancor in “The Attorney” – as these opening lines attest:

 

Your husband is leaving.

You have to choose.

You have to get an attorney.

Go downtown near the steeple and the derelict pigeons

where the bells alone cost millions.

Walk into corporate heights, crying,

state your name at the desk,

weep at a table longer than your dining room,

decide what to keep and give up.

Smart and tough

without love, the attorney

knows the law, knows the patterns . . .

 

How should one quantify bad luck, or what seems like it at the time? In this book, Kirkpatrick prefers to convert negativity into poems marking her journey’s byways – medical, physical, and emotional. She displays no interest in vengeance or score settling.

What came next, of course, was her brain tumor, recounted first in a thirteen-page sequence of synchronous yet restrained verse both mellifluous and stark. Indeed, “Brain Tumor” is a tumbling but focused recalling of her precipitous dance with mortality: “You stumble because your brain has been pressed / for so long, its tissue is damaged, its current volcanic. // Now you understand the numbed foot, / the jumps, floaters, and tingling. / Now you are seized and perpetually falling . . . .”

The remarkable aspects of this collection resound in the witnessing Kirkpatrick does of herself, those around her, her efforts in recovery, doing her therapy as prescribed, good days and bad, persistence a recurring theme. In an eight-sonnet array, “Time of the Flowers,” she records her observations and includes tiny phrases from contemporary writers (e. g., Carolyn Forché, Paul Gruchow, Laurie Scheck, Peter Sacks, Carol Bly, and others) at the bottom of the pages instead at the top near the title. This leads the reader to concentrate on the poem first, not so much a quote from someone else. Still, these sonnets also weave allusions to Greek mythology, Native American literature, and other voices preceding her lifetime. Her themes flow seamlessly, the images both independent but merging into each other, as in the second sonnet, “Survivor’s Guilt”:

 

How I’ve changed may not be apparent.

I limp. Read and write, make tea, boiling water

as I practiced in rehab. Sometimes, like fire,

a task overwhelms me. I cry for days, shriek

when the phone rings. Like a page pulled from flame,

I’m singed but intact: I don’t burn the house down.

 

Later, cleared to drive, I did outpatient rehab. Others

lost legs or clutched withered minds in their hands.

A man who can’t speak recognized me

and held up his finger, meaning “one year since

your surgery.” Mine. Sixteen since his. Guadalupe

wishes daily to be the one before. Nobody

is that. Like love, the neurons can cross fire.

You don’t get everything back.

 

No, perhaps not, but the poet still has her tools at the ready. This book, most of which was written after Patricia Kirkpatrick’s brain surgery, is testament to the gifts she has always had. Odessa has numerous and recurring themes, metaphors and allusions weaving in and out in surprising ways – the small town with a famous name she visited on the prairie, her personal losses, her desperate but successful efforts at keeping rational perspective when her life was in serious jeopardy, going beyond that to make poems, to reclaim her life and keep on. In so doing, Odessa is a gift to us all.

 

 

Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick is published by Milkweed Editions.  Order your copy here.

 

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