Philip Rush

 

 

A Dose of Chaminade

At the end of the lawn
as you contemplate the gentle lake
and do your best to translate
the poetry of the crows,
you can hear against a small wind
the drawing-room piano.

It is playing a piece
called L’Ondine,
a piece which wears
an Edwardian bathing costume
and leaves a pool of water
on the parquet floor.

In a moment Nancy
will stand and wave at you
with one of her complicated waves
before she slips away
politely
from the French windows.

 

 

Philip Rush runs Yew Tree Press in Stroud, a small press which focuses on poetry pamphlets.  His own poetry has appeared in UK, US and Irish journals, including, perhaps most recently in Obsessed with Pipework.  He was in Carcanet’s New Poetries IV

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Matthew Tett reviews ‘More than you were’ by Christina Thatcher

 

 

 

 
Losing a parent is hard and when it happens, it’s tough. It brings a glut of unexpected emotions and without a doubt, More than you were, Christina Thatcher’s debut poetry collection, deals with the death of her father in a beautiful, heartfelt way.

Thatcher, an American Ph.D student at Cardiff University, has written More than you were as a response to her father David’s death, in 2013, from a drugs overdose. Not knowing the deceased does not make the collection any less impactful. In fact, the poems deal with Thatcher’s grief in a multitude of ways from constructing her father’s obituary through to cleaning out his apartment.

In the opening poem, ‘First Drafts’, Thatcher explores the process of writing a suitably respectful piece for her father – and how, after she’d ‘read hundreds of them…’ she didn’t want her father ‘to look bad next to the other obituaries’. Further in the past is ‘Day One’ – and the room being ‘like molasses’ is poignant: time takes on a new meaning. It’s not something that can be imagined, or easily understood.

Interspersed throughout are ten ‘lessons’ – learning points, often focusing on what Thatcher learnt from her father, or has realised since he died. In ‘Lesson #3’, David Thatcher told his daughter that ‘some things were never mean to be loved.’ In ‘Lesson #5’, he kills eels, en masse, and explains this as a kind gesture. But learning is not just restricted to the ‘lessons’. In ‘There’, Thatcher realises how much her father was to her – ‘the everything in that room’. The disconnect of the nouns ‘expert, alchemist, front man composing lasagna’ show how much he meant to her – and how much fathers mean to many of us. In ‘Anticipation’, the focus is less positive – waiting for something that never comes. Thatcher was desperate for ‘the taste of cinnamon’ chewing gum but such desire was futile. It is fascinating how the adult memory can hang on to glimpses into the yesteryear of childhood. If only all responsible adults followed through with their promises.

Thatcher’s poems are short, often one-stanza affairs, each one conveying strong emotions that only the bereaved can ever fully understand. ‘Shaking hands at a funeral’ is reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Mid-Term Break’ – the main difference being Thatcher writes about death’s impact on an adult, whereas Heaney wrote as a child. But the fall out (‘death would strip me, leave me barren, like winter’) is the same. The tragedy of getting older, with funeral attendance being the norm, is clear in ‘Multiples’. In ‘Sharing’, a warmer sense is felt – where Thatcher debates where to scatter her father’s ashes, listing beautiful potential locations in her adopted Wales.

What really rings true in this collection is the contrast between what was and what could have been. In ‘Out’, there is a strong element of wondering – with reference to ‘bottles of Bud’. One can’t help feeling empty with the thought of wasted opportunities. But this doesn’t stop Thatcher reminiscing – particularly when it is the anniversary of her father’s birthday in ‘When you sneak up on me’. The longevity of grief’s impact is evident here, as it is in ‘Echo’ with its sense of finality – with ‘Everything being paid up.’ After a loved one dies, there is a lot to organise, alongside the grieving and emotions. Even though such jobs can be unwanted and tempting to ignore, their completion leaves a sense of everything being done.

Towards the end of the collection, Thatcher reflects on the present day. In ‘On learning to help myself’, she uses the analogy of ‘luck’ – and that she doesn’t have to rely on this in order to have a good life. Finality is confronted in ‘Your estate has closed’ – and in ‘Resilience’, accepting the truth (and internalising the loss) is tackled. The concluding poem, ‘Finding You’, sees Thatcher returning to one of her father’s old haunts and the impact a guitar has on her. It is a reminder to us all that the small things in life can cause the strongest emotions.

Having recently lost my own father, albeit in very different circumstances, More than you were hit home. The collection should be read as a whole, such are the effects of grief. Thatcher candidly writes about the myriad ways that a parent’s death can affect a child – and no matter the situation, her writing is beautifully executed and deserves to be absorbed slowly, with consideration and a sense of peace.

 

 

Matthew Tett is a freelance writer and teacher based in the south-west of England. He is Reviews Editor for NAWE’s Writing in Education and writes for various publications, including the Cardiff Review.

 

You can buy your copy of More than you were by Christina Thatcher here: https://www.parthianbooks.com/products/more-than-you-were

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Samuel Wilson-Fletcher

 

 

 

from Wave Diary

Sunday

I would have swallows nesting in my church
and moss on the pews.
I would have the tide wash in
twice a day, to decorate the church
with sacred cuttlefish bones and rosaries of shells.
I would have the walls barnacled up to the knee,
and garlanding the altar, I would have weed.
I would have no door, so wind-blown seeds could lodge
and sprout around the rippled windows:
I would have wildflowers and blackberries and gorse.
My church would be quiet
like a meadow or a hedgerow or a cove.
I would seldom hold services.
In my church, I would have chattering swallows nesting in the rafters
and frogs in the font.

 

 

 

Samuel Wilson-Fletcher was born in London and now lives in Berlin. Sam has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master’s in physics. He is currently working towards a PhD in geology. He has also worked as a waiter, web designer, electrician and teacher.

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Isabelle Thompson

 

 

 

For Dad

After ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan Williams

When we walk down to the canal,
through the industrial estate with its units
of noise and smell, past the field,
so green I swear I can see every blade
needling its way through the alert earth,
you always stop at the sound of a skylark.

‘See if you can see it,’ you say, the light
hitting your bald lifted head, so soft
suddenly against the snow-blue sky.

I am as impatient as a parent with you,
and hurry us on through early spring’s
late snap of cold, forgetting

that this is your atheist’s prayer –
this spotting of birds, of fish;
the naming of every tree and tiny moss;
the pointing out of every pinprick of miracle
to an unbelieving daughter.

 

 

 

 

Isabelle Thompson is soon to graduate from Bath Spa University with a degree in Creative Writing. She has a place to study for an MA in poetry in September.

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Sofia Varino

 

 

 

 

The Morning They Shot Anavere

Was a morning like any other
dreams were not any thicker
the sun didn’t shine or
unshine, it was the same sun
we always knew,
the same sun

Blinding the day a yellow disc a sting in the sky
the night was the same
black night as any other
black night to sleep through & wake up from
with bloodshot eyes the same
as the bloodshot eyes of every other morning

With the same hours stuck inside clocks
the same minutes ticking away inside watches
stuck to our wrists biting into the seconds
of a day the same as any other day
with its clean morning the same as any other morning
with the same sky the same streets the same walls all the same

The morning the full weight
of her body fell to the ground at the exact same speed
as any other body of the hundreds of thousands of bodies piled high
in ditches and alleys and prison cells across every Great Nation
piled high in ghettos and camps and trailer parks
spilling the same slow blood

As warm as any other blood as salty & sticky
spilling from her pierced liver into her rubber mouth,
a hole for breathing while she stared at the blasting sky
with its glint of metal gold splinters sparkling river
a flood of light on a morning
the same as any other morning

The morning they shot Anavere

 

 

 

Sofia Varino is a writer and ​performer. Her work has appeared in Poetry Internationalbad poetry quarterly, and the anthology Come Hear, among others. Her poetry pamphlet Natural Language was published by Dancing Girl Press (Chicago, USA) in 2017. She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and cultural studies and lectures at Humboldt University in Berlin.

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Allegra Dubus-Brandolini

 

 

Toast

I’ve always been an observer.
Like the moon watched the sun shine across the earth basking in its beauty and everything that gets to feel its gentle kiss.
I observed the buds blooming on our lilac tree in the front yard and as I smelled them, they cradled my little chubby face and said
“Don’t worry, I’m coming.”
I observed seconds becoming minutes, becoming hours, becoming days, becoming months, becoming years.
1
2
3
4
5
6
I observed the ground becoming further away and the ceiling just out of my reach.
I observed you, mom, staring off into the distance, as if you were nearing a black hole and were climbing into its depths, leaving me chasing behind you screaming “Wait, I want to come too!”
I want to come too.
When I let those words escape my mouth, while dad was away, your eyes became big and soft, and suddenly there was no black hole, but a forest, and you and I were traveling hand in hand.
Hand in hand.
I observed the anxious feelings bubbling up when you realized we were on our own, but to me, I felt as if we were astronauts floating from one planet to the other, waiting to find our galaxy.
I observed your tears, when you thought I wasn’t looking
But you should know by now, I’m always looking
I observed your fear, your frustration, your anger.
But mostly, I saw your heart.
This big beautiful bleeding heart that was just pumping and breathing for love.
Now your heart has found its partner.
A place to rest its head when it all becomes too much.
A person to dance with in the kitchen on a normal Monday afternoon.
Someone to make you snort when you laugh.
Before him, I never heard you snort.
You have found your partner.
The king to your queen.
The astronauts have retired. They have finally found their home. It was not a heaven per say, but a safe haven made up of talking over movies, laughing while eating crêpes and jam, and music.
Lots of music.
Mom, we have finally found our galaxy
And I observed it all.

 

 

Allegra Dubus-Brandolini is a senior in high school. When she is not writing, she is busy acting, dancing, and singing. She plans on continuing her study of writing in college.

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Stephen Daniels

 

 

 

 

 

12 ways to show (not tell) someone you love them

 

  1. Silence is often misunderstood for indecision. When I tell you this, you ask me to show don’t tell. And I’m not sure what to do.
  2. Love is a supply of oxygen, a water source, ample food and sunlight.
  3. Your eyes are open – a roofless convertible, your hair as messy as my intent.
  4. We met when sense became a well-fitted kitchen.
  5. I feel the only way to show you I love you is to drink your tea.
  6. When my jeans are too tight you tell me to stop complaining.
  7. It takes approximately 10 days to dehydrate to death.
  8. I continually chant ‘tell her’ in the shower each morning.
  9. When you ask me how I live with myself, all I can taste is copper.
  10. Loneliness can be hidden with sufficient cleaning fluid.
  11. A long walk at dusk across mist-ridden fields, is not the same as passion.
  12. I refuse to breathe until you return.

 

 

Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry. His poetry has been published in numerous magazines and websites. His pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. His second pamphlet will be published by Paper Swans Press in 2018. Find out more at www.stephenkirkdaniels.com

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