Oliver Comins

 

 
Return Journey

So here we are, dozing on a train
which flounders along, travelling
towards a place we call home.
We know the tide will have turned
before we reach our destination.

The carriage shimmers as it passes
over these tiny, necessary gaps
between rails and brute steel wheels:
such a random choir, sitting here and
listening to deep sprung hydraulics.

How does this work?  A long carriage
vibrating magnificently as it races past
a whole countryside of ploughed fields
and irregular pastures, its soft-seated
upholstery, grey and purple branding.

 

 

 

Oliver Comins lives and works in West London.  Early work collected in a Mandeville Press pamphlet and Anvil New Poets Two.  More recently, poems have appeared in various magazines including The Echo Room, The Rialto, Warwick Review and Yellow Nib.

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Brett Evans

 

 

 

Reading Sean O’Brien in the Bath

On the first floor of an ex-council house
this fat, pink alkie reads O’Brien in the bath.
At his shoulder the pint glass of cider mocks

his sweating face. The cold tap drips – he lifts
his eyes from the book – for how long
it’s dripped he’s not clear. Each drop

a year: he counts through teens and twenties,
stops at mid-thirties, leans and halts the drops
with one twist. I could write a poem, he thinks,

if I could break habits, routines, totter
forward, baby-like and lift a title to work from.
He’s kidding himself of course; a day off the sauce

is a year on a chain gang – the hammer
chipping away. His reverie is smashed
as our hero wakes to the fact

that something is amiss; had he hauled his bulk
out from the tub just to take a piss?

 

 

Brett Evans lives, writes and drinks in his native north Wales. His poems have appeared in various magazines and he was a runner up in the 2012 Cardiff International Poetry Competition. He co-edits Prole.

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Maurice Devitt

 

 

 

Hanging the Mirror

 

I was thinking

that maybe this wasn’t the way:

then you arrived, perfectly-equipped –

inflated hammer and rubber nails –

City and Guilds poking

from the side-pocket of your overalls.

Like a safe-cracker

you tapped the wall for girth

and hidden passages, walked around

the mirror as though skirting a pond,

took off your shoes and stepped in,

cautiously at first, nervous of carp

and knotted reeds. Waded

up to your waist. ‘Come in, it’s lovely’.

Never a swimmer, I demurred,

offered to hold your coat.

You walked until you were out

of your depth and all I could see

was the hammer in an outstretched hand.

Left it a day or so but you never came back.

Eventually, when I hung the mirror

I turned it sideways so you would be

closer to the bank.

 

 

 

Maurice Devitt: After a career in business he completed the Poetry Studies MA at Mater Dei in Dublin. He was recently placed third in The Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition, and short-listed for the Over the Edge New Writer Award, Westport Arts Poetry Competition and The Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. During 2012 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, was runner-up in the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition and short-listed for the Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection Competition.

 

 

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Deborah McClean

 

 

 

Easter 2013

…and off we went to Burnham-on-Sea,
creeping into the first gaze of the new icy sun.

Oh! I held your hand and
kissed your lips through supermarket sandwiches.
Our newborn skin screamed against the minty sky;
blue raincoats wilting under this thin new light.

Our Wotsits were contraband,
crushed as spitfires circled overhead,
screeching their yellow beaked orders;
their silky shadows licked the trodden grey stones and us.

We left the bag half-eaten:
the last day of Easter
but yet
we walk and love like it is the beginning.

 

 

Deborah McClean is an Irish poet living in Bristol. By day, she educates the masses and by night, she weaves her experiences into words. She lives in a house, with a garden and a husband.

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Joseph Horgan

 

 

 

Slievemore, Deserted Village, Achill, 2011

 

It is not a silence

but a removal of words

to be amongst those places

that have been left.

The slabs and stones and roofless.

The ever doorways.

 

There is light

like the movement of water over black soil.

There is light

in dark rooms.

This is our achievement;

finding a shelter from the wind.

 

 

 

Joseph Horgan was born in Birmingham of Irish immigrant parents. He is the author of two collections of poetry and a prose work. He is a past winner of The Patrick Kavanagh Award. He writes a weekly column for The Irish Post.

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Thomas Ország-Land

 

 

 

Peacock:

The Death of the Princess

 A Matriarchal Tale from Transylvania


 

Once upon a time,

the sultan’s lonely daughter

watched the royal peacock

rise up from the seashore,

soaring past her window

to settle in the courtyard,

a sombre prison courtyard

steeped in fearful silence.

 

From his cell, a prisoner

also saw the peacock

and could not help singing:

 

Peacock, peacock, peacock,

blue and silver fire!

Were I but a peacock

sleek in plumed attire,

free as my desire,

I’d rise with the pearly

dawn and set out early.

I’d fly high and higher,

let the light caress me,

wandering people bless me,

no-one to possess me.

I would, as I tire,

seek out secret fountains

and in time would sow my

plumes beyond the mountains.

Someone might discover

flames among the flowers:

Peacock feathers! Peacock!

Blue and silver fire

burning like desire! –

Give them to a lover…

 

Startled by the song,

the royal girl descended

to the prison courtyard,

for the singer’s yearning

made her body tremble.

 

Guards! Who is to blame

for a song so tender?…

In the sultan’s name,

surrender that offender!

 

Thus the doors were opened.

 

Who are you, who are you,

with those chains that scar you?

 

Poor man, he replied:

 

You can see, a captive

soldier in a trap –

once a cheerful fellow,

now singing in this cell

for a peacock’s sake –

once a man, till taken

on a bloody hillside

by the enemy –

Nobody am I

just a song in irons,

yet the guards are still

accountable for me.

 

Singing soldier, dear,

come away from here.

 

Where to?

 

Come, she said,

to my silken bed.

 

Lonely princess, why

can’t you see my irons?

 

But she bade the guards

to free the captive singer;

and she softly led him

to her own apartment

where she washed his wounds

and brought him food and wine

and dropped her royal veil.

 

Singing soldier, dear,

you are mine alone.

 

Flameplumed lonely princess,

do not be my jailer.

 

Nobody alive

had ever fled the jail.

The sultan would have loathed

a living precedent.

The guards gave their account.

So the singer sang no more,

his broken body buried

gently by the waves.

 

A jealous father battered

down his daughter’s door.

 

Don’t you fear the block,

disloyal royal daughter,

said he with a hiss.

 

Seek death in the water,

or in a serpent’s kiss,

or waste away – Away! –

behind the prison lock.

 

From the singer’s cell,

the castle’s lonely princess

watched the royal peacock

in the prison courtyard,

that sombre, sundrenched courtyard

steeped in fearful silence.

She could not help but sing:

 

Peacock, peacock, peacock,

blue and silver fire!

Were I but a peacock

free as my desire,

I’d fly high and higher,

let the light caress me,

wandering people bless me,

no-one to possess me…

 

So the guards complained

that the singing princess

made their bodies tremble.

 

Now the sultan sent

their prisoner an asp.

 

She received the serpent

in her naked hand,

singing till the killer

slept in harmless coils:

 

I would, as I tire,

seek out secret fountains

and in time would sow my

plumes beyond the mountains…

 

But the singing stopped

when the sultan hurled

his daughter in the sea.

 

And the waves received her

and they gently rocked her

form in timeless motion;

and they merged the tales

of the yearning singers

that will live as long

as someone still remembers

their blazing bird of passion.

 

Someone might discover

flames among the flowers:

Peacock feathers! Peacock!

Blue and silver fire

burning like desire!

 

Give them to a lover.

 

 

Thomas Ország-Land is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent, who writes from London and his native Budapest. His next book: The Survivors (Smokestack, 2014).

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Sarah Tanburn

 

 

 

December: Dusk

The tide is out. Sandbanks bar our way, the channel too shallow now for us to leave before the water returns. We are safe from any sea-storm anchored here behind the saltmarsh. Glistening mud outlines the little pool where we lie, quiet as a toy boat, the still water around us reflecting our blue hull.

Samphire spreads above the tiny cliff marking the edge of the marsh, the flecks of purple lavender almost shocking among its fleshy grey stems. As the goose flies, we are only five miles from one of the biggest ports in the country but we can hear no engines, smell no fuel. All looks much as it must have done when the Vikings first rowed their longships through the river mouth hunting plunder and fertile land.

Dusk is falling. The clouds are an iridescent slow-motion borealis disturbed by contrails from planes too high to see. November’s spring tides have ended and the waxing crescent-moon hangs in bright reflection against the still-blue sky above the horizon. Silt-laden waters mirror vermilion and crimson, gold and gaudy pink, changing as the planet inches its way towards night. You might lick the surface expecting to taste candy floss.

Bird cries echo across the marshes. We smile at the shrill whip-whit of a rare avocet, nod at the high-pitched bark of curlews and the hammering chirp of a redshank. Swans fly low overhead, wings creaking under their own weight. Honking and chattering, Brent geese thump down to the marsh and graze, jerking their beaks upwards to pull tough grasses from the grip of the mud. A quarrel breaks out and the backwaters echo to wing-beats and splashes when they jump on each other and fight in the shallows. As suddenly as the row blew up, they break apart and feed again.

A single ripple rocks the boat, so gently even the anchor chain does not creak. A fish perhaps, big enough to swirl through the water but small enough to creep through the muddy shallows unseen. Maybe even a seal leaving its daytime wallow along the stream, though we have seen none all day. We settle back against our cushions, snug in layers of winter fleece, sipping scotch to warm us through the evening’s show.

The anchor light at the masthead glows against the upper sky, deeper blue spreading above the plum and amber clouds. Stars blink awake, Venus first and brightest. The water is black now, the line between sea and mud invisible. White blobs mark the throats and tails of the geese, their conversation a mysterious, throbbing purr on the night air. Land is far away, beyond creeks and swatchways marked with withies and the occasional flooded barge dumped there when her time was done. Half a dozen distant house lights shine out, sole evidence of other people. A small breeze stirs the marsh and our ensign rustles once. We chink our glasses and toast the dark.

 

 

Sarah Tanburn has published short stories on line and on paper and is finalising her first novel.  Find some of her work at Ether Books and [wherever] travel magazine. She blogs at sarahtanburn.wordpress.com  and is @workthewind on Twitter.

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