Freedom: Maggie Mackay, Bethany W Pope, Richard Biddle for National Poetry Day

 

 

 

What Every Rusholme Housemaid Wants

Sarah, get yourself to the boating lake. They take a turn each day.

Granted an afternoon’s relief from dust and grates,
Cook wheeshes me out the basement door to Platt Fields
where the lake is an ocean of rowing boat bob
and a brass band is playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.

Soft smiling Miss Esther Roper, grave Miss Eva Gore-Booth,
my secret crush, I blush at the thought,
of a glimpse, the couple arm-in-arm,
pinch-waisted, faces moon-framed by spectacles.

Ah, see them now,
by purple lavender, lily of the valley snow,
lime trees fanning in the breeze.
I catch their conversation,
snatch words, ‘rights’ ‘flower sellers’ ‘suffrage’.

Mother’s always telling me to mind my ways.
 

Maggie Mackay has an MA in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University with work in a range of poetry magazines. She is a co-editor of Word Bohemia. (www.wordbohemia.co.uk)

 

 

 

Small Heaven
 
First, you ask the manager to open
the store room. The company won’t provide
a trolley to carry your supplies, but
someone nicked a wheely-basket from
the Matalan next door and you can use
that to carry two twenty-kilo bags
of kernels and raw sugar. If you’re strong,
you can sling the three-gallon oil cannister
under your armpit to save yourself a trip.
The white-plastic bag of popping corn is stamped
‘America!’ across the side in large
red, white, and blue letters. The brown paper
sugar-sack is discreetly marked ‘product
of Britain’ in a small square on the bottom
left corner. The oil is bought from the lowest
seller and every week the container
is different. The kettles look like a pair
of Kentucky stills, the ones your uncle
hid inside a tree stump. Those burnt corn, too,
but the product was different. They’re mounted
high up on a metal platform, behind
the retail counter. The popcorn you serve
is always a few days old, but the smell
of the fresh stuff never fails to boost sales
and people like to watch you work. Fill the drums
beneath the kettles, switch on the rotor,
the heat, and the pump. Add a scoop of corn
and a full cup of sugar, and write your name
and the date on thirty blue, ten-gallon
storage bags while the oil heats up. Do not
forget to wear your goggles. Sometimes hot,
greasy seeds shoot out from under the rims
of the kettles. The next seven hours are
free and just a little magical, filled
as they are with rhythmic, hypnotizing
sound, a hot, white flurry, and the sweet smell
of the kind of fairs you never visited
when you lived at home. Spend the time scooping
shovelfuls of someone else’s happiness
into bags you stack beside the ice-machine.
Let your eyes unfocus, just a little,
while you work. There are whole worlds, hidden here,
behind your heavy eyelids, stories, just
waiting, for you to come and explore.
You’ll stop, an hour or so before quitting
time. It takes about that long to clean up.
 

Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program, and her MA from the University of Wales Trinity St David. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns,(Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles(Lapwing, 2014). Her collection The Rag and Boneyard was published last year by Indigo Dreams and her chapbook Among The White Roots was released by Three Drops Press this autumn. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren last June.

 

 

 

Acceptance

I’m letting the spiders hold sway above my bed.
Their fine webs foreshadowing the grey hairs
that have already begun to age my dull skull.

Past times, I would have cupped them or sucked
them into a vacuum. No more. I’m letting their
eggs, hanging loose in spooled buds, hatch.

They are my teachers, my eight-legged gurus,
my no-self. I am becoming intimate with
their weaves, their watchfulness, their ways.

Asleep, my ceiling glitters minutely with the
black stars of their pinhead bodies. Awake,
I welcome these arachnid broods as friends.

As fantasy, they spin me a suit of silken yarn, in
which I lucidly mummify while they gratefully
gorge on the slow minerals of my stopped blood.

Now, as I slip into a deep, deep sleep where
this woven tapestry unravels, stitch by stitch,
I return once again to a single, seamless thread.

 

 

 

Richard Biddle teaches Creative Writing at Chichester College. His poetry has been published online and in the journals Urthona, Brittle Star and Dream Catcher. It has also appeared in several anthologies. In 2013, his poem ‘Transparency’ won The Big Blake Project’s William Blake Poetry Prize. He tweets as @littledeaths68.

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Penelope Shuttle

 

 

On the Quayside at Portsea an Old Salt Button-holes a Passer-by

…there‘s no one style of pirate ship, pal, sloop or ship-of-the-line,
we use any vessel we can get our hands on.
It must be fast though. The pirate code forbids me to tell you more.

Years spent in jail gave me a high regard for iron.
It is a master of power, structure, suspension, brutality.
An iron shirt never needs ironing.

Nowadays I like the air better… salty up-draughts and thermals,
clouds like sky-cloaked widow-women carrying harps of hornbeam and brass,
busy with their beautiful Acts of Pardon and Acts of Grace.

My fine ship The Monkey’s Fist has a compass for all weathers,
she’s been blessed by a famous painter, she’s goose-winged and trim.
Paso a bordo, amigo.  Out of harbour we’ll hoist the jolly blood-red flag,
I’ll read aloud from the bible to comfort you as we speed the flashing brine.

 

 

 

Penelope Shuttle lives in Cornwall.  Her most recent publication is Will You Walk A Little Faster? (Bloodaxe Books), May 2017. www.penelopeshuttle.co.uk

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Freedom: Seth Crook, Penelope Shuttle, Cliff Forshaw for National Poetry Day

 

 

What Greater Map of Liberty
Than One Marked Out by Things Themselves

Prints on sand, made
by beach party feet;
by the yellow-boot soles

of a fisherman, stood
beside two smaller feet
far away from the mass

the beach remembers
only as a scuffed blur.
See their toes almost touch.

 

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry, though he likes cod, poetry and philosophy. His poems recently appeared in such places as Gutter, New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland, Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Prole and Lunar Poetry. One was selected as one of the Best Scottish Poems of 2014.

(A version first published in the Glasgow Review of Books)

 

 

On the Quayside at Portsea an Old Salt Button-holes a Passer-by

…there‘s no one style of pirate ship, pal, sloop or ship-of-the-line,
we use any vessel we can get our hands on.
It must be fast though. The pirate code forbids me to tell you more.

Years spent in jail gave me a high regard for iron.
It is a master of power, structure, suspension, brutality.
An iron shirt never needs ironing.

Nowadays I like the air better… salty up-draughts and thermals,
clouds like sky-cloaked widow-women carrying harps of hornbeam and brass,
busy with their beautiful Acts of Pardon and Acts of Grace.

My fine ship The Monkey’s Fist has a compass for all weathers,
she’s been blessed by a famous painter, she’s goose-winged and trim.
Paso a bordo, amigo.  Out of harbour we’ll hoist the jolly blood-red flag,
I’ll read aloud from the bible to comfort you as we speed the flashing brine.

 

 

 

Penelope Shuttle lives in Cornwall.  Her most recent publication is Will You Walk A Little Faster? (Bloodaxe Books), May 2017. www.penelopeshuttle.co.uk

 

 

Owl

i

Walking through woods along the Contoocook,
you pointed him out, big as an upturned leg of lamb:
totem, top of a trunk. Later googled, then looked him up
in your Granddad’s old mildewed leather-bound book.

Great Grey Owl: Strix nebulosa? Yellow eyes?
Ear tufts? Two white marks like a dress bow tie?
You kept going back, but couldn’t definitively say
just exactly what it was we saw that day.

Heard you’d had an owl as a Norfolk boy: tiny lives
you tried to trap; the best laid plans caught mostly night;
then mice brought back from pet-shops across the OS map;
black pellets – coughed-up, the furred and bony point

to the exclamation mark of hot white shit
shat right down your Grateful Dead T–shirt.

ii

Driving, had seen this other fly-guy: face
goggled like a dusty Ace of Hearts,
winging it low, twice across this same twist
of nowhere – towards Withernsea in broad daylight.

Then, walking, saw the white undercarriage
metamorphose to gymnast’s legswing, lithe
against where you feel the downbeat of wing to wing.
Dusk. Eyes knew it before I knew it, tune to night.

Stand still, feet heavy with Holderness clay;
notice a hornbeam has usurped the unsuitable beech.
Somewhere an engine dies. Look to the hedge,
the dimming estuary, the darkened east.

Then think again, of you, of voles, of mice.
Eroding coasts. Owls. That distant screech?

 

 

Cliff Forshaw has been a writer-in-residence in California, France, Tasmania and Romania, twice a Hawthornden Writing Fellow, and appeared at the International Poetry Festival in Nicaragua. Collections include Vandemonian (Arc, 2013),  Pilgrim Tongues (Wrecking Ball, 2015), Satyr (Shoestring, 2017). www.cliff-forshaw.co.uk

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Freedom: Brian Johnstone, Frank Dullughan, Marcelle Olivier for National Poetry Day

 

 

The Branded Hand

This Daguerreotype was taken Aug. 1845. It is a copy of Captain Jonathan Walker’s hand as branded by the U.S. Marshall of the Dist. of Florida for having helped 7 men to obtain ‘Life Liberty, and Happiness.’ SS Slave Saviour Northern Dist. SS Slave Stealer Southern Dist.         Inscription on reverse of photographic plate.

They printed this in Florida,
a slave state still in forty-five,
its marshal with the power
to mark a man for life. Yet,

he can’t have lived for long
till someone in New England
passed comment on his scars,
desired that he submit again

to steel that clamped the arm
lest movement spoil a plate
and new technology distort
the marks that he displayed,

his palm extended, opened
to their lens. As it had been
to coals, to branding irons,
the double S that found him,

in The South, slave stealer,
thief of someone’s property
he only saw as fellow men
in need. But, in The North,

a saviour offering the chance
for freedom crossing borders
meant to those who’d borne
the scars or more themselves

in multitudes, unrecorded,
never photographed, but
fixed, as is this single print,
in time, a record of its hand.

 

 

Brian Johnstone’s work has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014), and his work appears on The Poetry Archive website. His memoir Double Exposure was published by Saraband in February 2017. brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk

*First published in Liberty Tales (Arachne Press, 2016)

 

 

Daughter

When a bomb un-housed us,
I gave what money I had
to a man with a boat.

Her life will be large in Germany, he said.
My sister will keep to her side.
My travel must wait until there is more money.

This chance was my daughter-gift.
I sent her into the dark,
watched the bob of the boat become water.

She fell off the edge
of my heart. I go each day to the sea,
watch in vain for a note from her future.

Sometimes I go down at night
when the far shore is closer.
My neighbour’s child was taken by soldiers.

We live now on broken streets.
My daughter is becoming a woman.
At night, I can feel her

looking over her shoulder.
I went with the chance of a chance
when I sent her. There are no gifts left

that do not hold a hurt.
Daughter, do not look back.
I sent her to the dark of the far shore

from this place of death.
I gave her to the living world,
paid the ferryman.

 

 

Frank Dullaghan, widely published internationally, lives in Dubai. His 4th collection Lifting the Latch is due out from Cinnamon Press in May 2018.

 

 

phantasy

this miscellany is a herd of blushing
puku rusting out life

on the banks of a grim and sandy river.
embarrassed for running

when the time comes, still just wanting
to be near water.

 

 

marcelle olivier is poet and archaeologist living in Cambridge. She has published regularly in both her native South Africa and in the UK and you can read some of her translations of contemporary South African poetry in the edited collection in a burning sea (Protea, 2015).

 

 

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M-T Taylor

 

 

 

 

 M-T Taylor’s poems and short stories have appeared in Northwords Now, The Glasgow Review of Books, Nutshells and Nuggets, Snare’s Nest, and printed anthologies from The Glasgow Women’s Library, The Federation of Writers Scotland, and others.

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Eadbhard Schmidt-Zorner

 

 

 

Farmland

Before my eyes the work of the farmers who have taken much hardship on themselves for each individual grain.

When the crops and the grass stand in full splendour on the fields, autumn is close at hand, fast approaching and leading a straight line to Samhain.

Lughnasa with warm weather is quickly gone and the September and October, the months of harvest open the door to the Otherworld.

The full harvest moon, nearest the autumnal equinox in September, is bright as a polished disc on the black sky.

I breathe in the cold, crisp air. Mist swirls above the ground creating a grey velvet like carpet. A perfect night in autumn, full of the magic and mystery that fills the air of this town land.

Only the cry of a late bird is heard and the bark of a fox.

a signpost was us
a man with a pitchfork on his back
in an autumn field

 

 

 

Eadbhard Schmidt-Zorner was a Sales Manager and is now artist and writer and multilingual translator of literature. Member of 5 writer groups in Ireland, he has lived in County Kerry, Ireland for  25 years and is an Irish citizen.

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Catherine Eunson

 

 

The Virtuous Man

He was wise, there is no doubt,
and he was seaworthy
but equally buoyant was his life-giving wife.

Together they captained a commendable crew,
everybody knew theirs was a kind ship, well run,
and of its like there were few.

Then he died (it’s coming to us all)
his funeral was on Saturday, and in the church
we sat sadly, surrounded by reminders;

the paintings on each wall, the form of every statue,
all images depicted there were bearded, earnest and upright,
they could have been his brothers.

His obituary was fulsome, a respectful chronicle
of  achievement, and his wife was mentioned too,
who was more than his anchor,

more than seasoned timbers, more vital to the voyage
than all the precious cargo,
she held to the horizon and kept their bearings true.

So was it just churlish, before that last hymn,
to note that her send off is not
likely to be quite so well referenced?

 

 

 

Catherine Eunson lived in Benbecula for some time, where she had various music and arts related jobs. She composed music for Pauline Prior-Pitt’s ‘North Uist Sea Poems’ (see catherineeunson.net), as well as having had poetry published.

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