Maggie Butt

 

 

 

Witch

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

A witch was bottled, and stoppered with wax
in this ribbed and silvered scent-bottle.

The hand-written ticket does not explain how
she was captured, but says an old lady warned:
 
if  you let her out there’ll be a pack of trouble.
Now cramped in this wasp-waisted glass

for more than a century, trouble a-brewing,
her anger has matured, grown both expansive

and precise. If she escaped, her wrath would tempest
through this tip-toed museum. Displays

of apple-corers, wart-cures, mole’s fore-feet
would spin and shatter, curiosities whirl in a typhoon.

She would howl like winds from the lands which offered
up the reindeer skin knickers and raincoats

of seal intestine embroidered with caribou hair,
trash their hard-won, unexpected beauty.

A small girl asks her father if it’s true, says she thinks
the bottle is too small to hold a real witch.

He hurries her past the shrunken heads; murdered
toddlers’ skulls; tiny, silken Chinese shoes to hide

the mutilated, putrifying feet of other daughters,
and doesn’t say what spells he’d be prepared to cast

so she could never be contained and labelled.
He doesn’t say that furies roam the world, screeching

through the night, twisting the minds of men to unspeakable
acts; or that he knows his love for her looks small

and breakable as the witch-bottle, stretches wide and helpless
as the sky at evening; and how little he could do

if the witch began to twist the fire-sticks in their sockets
till the whole world was ablaze with tongues of rage.

 

 

 

Maggie Butt’s fifth poetry collection was Degrees of Twilight (The London Magazine) 2015. Maggie is an ex-journalist and TV producer, who supervises Creative Writing PhDs at Middlesex University, and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow in Kent. http://www.maggiebutt.co.uk

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Joan Mazza

 

 

 

Magician

Master of misdirection, distraction, illusion,
able to grab your attention, to hypnotize
and amaze you with outrageous stunts,

he points to respected figures while
he does what he accuses others of. He grabs
you when and where you least expect it,

turns your attention elsewhere as he picks
your pocket, steals your wallet, pilfers
the treasury. Watch him do exactly

what he said he wouldn’t do. He promises
he can fix anything, levitate, has received honors,
made billions, can win over any enemy.

Shine a light to reveal his strings. Who’s
the puppet, who the puppeteer? In court, let his
accomplices take their public bows.

He swears to produce something from nothing,
coal jobs will return, all hardships disappear.
Soon, watch him vanish into warmer air.

 

 

 

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and has taught workshops nationally with a focus on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared widely, including  Rattle, The MacGuffin, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia. www.JoanMazza.com

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Steph Morris

 

 

Early stages

The ferns look happy, healthy
and green in the damp gloom.
The birches have grown strong stems
to rise to the light, above the roofs.

They must have craved nurture at the start.
And those acanthus will have needed
protection from the bully-boy slugs
till they got their footing.

Now they’re established, fending for themselves.
Some input in the early years is all it takes,
till a root structure is in place, enough
to secure the nourishment surely there.

No-one would uproot plants,
turf them out of a pot they’ve filled
all their lives, and expect them
to survive alone in open ground.

These have settled in.
They have found the light,
those that seek it.
The others their shady corner.

 

 

Steph Morris is a writer, translator, artist, gardener and cyclist, graduate of the Poetry School / Newcastle MA in Writing Poetry. He lived in Berlin for many years, now based in London where he was poet in residence at Bonnington Square and House of St Barnabas with the Poetry School’s ‘Mixed Borders’ project. twitter: @herr_morris

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Clive Donovan

 

 

 

Dragonfly

For five lively years it exists as a nymph,
Reigning in the murderous rot of a pond,
A terror to tadpoles and minnows it consumes,
Fattening, quickening, gathering fuel,

To hatch to an old-fashioned aeroplane
With four gauzy wings
That can hover or spring
To attack in a six-fold directional swoop.

I watch one ace pilot in easy command
Cruising the latticed sun and shadow of his patch.
We both breathe the damp air of river and bank;
A rich interface filled with dainties.

His species more ancient than mine:
So skilled and dangerous his evolved control
In the brief iridescent passing
Flash of a million year old summer.

 

 

Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon. He has had many poems published in poetry magazines including Agenda, Envoi, Salzburg Review, Ink Sweat and Tears and Pennine Platform.

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Nicholas McGaughey

 

 

 

The Slip

This is the bay
Where you walked into
The sea. Today

We bring a dog,
Collared in a blue
Silk bow, to get some air.

I see you out there,
A silver kite, trailing
Seagulls. Almost waving.

 

 

 

Nicholas McGaughey is an actor. Recent work has been published in London Grip, Poetry Scotland and Lampeter Review.

 

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Paul Attwell

 

 

 

Blade

A vacuum between school and college.
Mournful of a lack of cash, I negotiated
A chore. To stagger a scythe amongst
Forestial grass, The iron ripping
Vegetation. I was a pioneer.

The birds saw a dyspraxic wielding a
Rusty weapon liberated from the
Musty shed. I confronted the mission
In succinct bursts, the limits of my
Attention span. Powered by tea.

First, in imagined segments, I hewed the
Stalks and grass midway. I raked the unwanted
To a ‘barrow then delivered to the
Compost mountain. Bent low, I hacked to an
Inch or two above the arid earth.

After tidying, I mowed the grass to
A common height. Now I could see proud soldiers
Ready for battle against the singeing
Afternoon. Later, I received pound notes.

 

 

 

Paul Attwell lives in Richmond, London, with his partner Alis and cats, Pudsey and Tequila. He holds a BA in Humanities with Creative Writing, from the Open University. Paul’s experiences of depression and ADHD help shape his work.

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Maxine Rose Munro

 

 

Word Child 

The child who has never seen trees
won’t trust words because there’s never
not another, better way to say it.

She thinks word lovers are like over-eager
victorian collectors pinning down butterflies
and beetles in glass coffins.

As if alive could be found in dead things.
As if to capture a thing wouldn’t constrain it.
As if all it was was all that could be seen.

Or mattered.

And those poetic, specific words of her birth tongue –
lönabrak, brimtud, affrug, shoormal –
beautiful fetters that trap the thing.

As if the thing could ever be uttered, as if life
could be told so easily. As if the role of poetry
wasn’t to exquisitely fail

to show us wonders we never can speak of.
 

 

 

Lönabrak – swell & surge breaking on the shore 
Brimtud – sound of breaking on the shore 
Affrug – reflux of waves after having broken on the shore 
Shoormal – high water mark; the water’s edge

 

Maxine Rose Munro is widely published in print and online, including Ink, Sweat and Tears. She also publishes poetry in her native Shetlandic Scots, some of which can be found in Poetry Scotland and Three Drops from a Cauldron. www.maxinerosemunro.com

 

 

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