Gillie Robic

 

 

 

The Opposite of Pygmalion

She’s breaching the limits
climbing the scaffolding
hauling herself up poles
rolling over the lip of the kick-board.

My hands race like a card sharp
trying to confuse the eye
not wanting to let her off the plinth.

I don’t want to release
this unlovely construct into the world
slithering over edges and ladders
filling space with clammy earth.

As fast as I squeeze her
between my fingers
she gobbles air
grows out of my reach.

I try stuffing what I can
back under the cloth or into the bin
but she stretches

breaks away like over-rolled dough
till I sit in a litter of ripped tarpaulin and gobbets of clay
coated to the elbows in grit-pitted fleshly slip,
cold with guilt for the future.

 

 

Gillie Robic was born in India and lives in London.  Her first collection, Swimming Through Marble, was shortlisted and published in 2016 by Live Canon, who also published her second collection, Lightfalls, in October 2019.

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Brian China

 

 

 

Gift

Dark from four, because of the rawness
I buy plain chicken and some chocolate,
turn back the way I’ve come
to the pavement shrine of himself
beside an alcove where drunks piss,
fumble the sandwich handing it to him,
“Here, have this.”

One week on, do the same thing again
because I can’t clean the oceans
or give glaciers back their tongues,
can’t give him chicken and chocolate
every time he’s there when I walk past,
camouflaged for the wrong jungle.
“All right, pal?” he asks.

 

 

Brian China lives in Leicester. You can follow him @brianachina on Twitter.

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Louise Warren reviews ‘Daylight of Seagulls’ by Alice Allen

 

Daylight of Seagulls

 

Alice Allen’s first collection Daylight of Seagulls takes the occupation of Jersey during WW2 as its subject, but she weaves so much more.

In her vivid introduction she tells us that she grew up there in the 70’s and 80’s.

‘ we weren’t taught about the occupation at school, apart from  perhaps a passing mention of food shortages and ingenious ways of making coffee out of parsnips. The more extreme traumas were not mentioned, the brutal treatment of the forced labourers, the fate of the Jewish population, and the islanders who defended or resisted the Nazis’

She sets out to put the record straight.

Children, mothers, fishermen, soldiers, beekeepers, divers, ordinary people. A whole island is here, and the poems swirl around the jagged coastline, haunt the lanes like sea fog.

She lays out their names for us to see. She raises them to our ears like shells that we might hear them. Like this extract from the poem Sylvie in which our narrator describes a drowned soldier. Who was he? Her lover? We never find out.

the water unwraps him
hangs up his coat
unhooks his tunic
how bright his blond skin
now his shut is undone

Allen only gives us the fragments that have been left behind, like the story of Dorothy Weber who hid a Jewish woman Hedwig Bercu in her house between 1943 and 1945 and inspired the poem Hedy and Dorothea:

a pile of Hedy’s clothes
folded neatly on the sand
to fake her suicide;

night-time forays
to the beach for food;

a pig slaughtered in the bathroom,
every edible piece consumed.

A typist of no nationality
stated the Wanted notice
in the evening paper

The house  where the two lived returns in the next poem.  7 West Park Avenue:

The house is a bell, a shell snapped shut
Is a box with a lid and the lid locked up

Is a pocket, is a pouch with the cord pulled tight
is a well with steps treading down from the light.

She gives voice to those without names also. A German Soldier guarding the Atlantic Wall. A mother sweeping the cobbles, and this extract from Foreign Worker:

This is his cap
made from a sack.

This is his shirt
a blanket.

This is his belt,
clothes- hanger wire.

This is his kin,
stiff with cement

and swollen over the bones
of his tumbling face.

These are his eyes.
Meet them.

Words rhyme and ring against each other, with snatches and echoes of Jerriasis, a mixture of French/Norse/Breton and Medieval Latin. Like in the opening poem  GERS  EY:

Geirr’s Island
Norse man, naming this land his own.
From L’Etacq to Le Hocq the coastline
is a fan, a flame of brandished rock
doubling at low tide. Each rock names-
etchierviethe, marmotchiethe, sablionniethe-
the language of rock prodding and poking
the coast over time- from Ick Hoc
to Hygge Hogge, to Hic Hoc, to Icho Isle
with an imprint of witch

Allen also writes exquisitely about the potency of objects.  Cold potatoes, Victorian glass, shoes, wireless sets,teapots, prams, biscuit tins, soap. This is an extract from Soap Hoard:

‘from lemon, wrapped in waxy tissue paper, pleated like a pouffe,
to the cloudy lens of occupation soap’.

She conjures up the smells and sounds of this island. The scavenging of food, the delicious aroma of eel soup flavoured with marigold petals, the ‘delicate and tasty’ tang of fog and the stink of cordite.

And everywhere the flora and fauna bursts out of the pages, bright green moss, wildflowers, birds. Yet always in the shadow of war. Like in the poem Emptying the egg of its Song:

‘Curfew  the word itself was like a bird
bringing the night in its beak
Sometimes we’d hear the soldiers
firing in the moonlight’

Allen leaves us with five photographs. Faded Registration Cards, giving faces to some of the poems. They look out at us hauntingly.

I am haunted still, by this remarkable and beautiful collection.

 

 

Louise Warren lives in London and has one collection and pamphlet published by Cinnamon Press. Her latest pamphlet John Dust is published by V.Press.

 

Daylight of Seagulls by Alice Allen is published by The High Window Press, and available here: The High Window Press

 

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Paul Waring

 

 

 

Bus Stop Etiquette

We roll up piecemeal, shuffled rush-hour
pack in all weathers; fix envious glares
into underoccupied kerbcrawl cars
blaring rock, pop, classical, duh-duh-duh
dance and dumbass ads. It’s Britain

so we queue; eyecontactless, heads bowed
into mobiles like bibles among eavesdroppers
alert for you’ll never guess news; so I turned
round & said braggadocio, grandparent
gloats, death and health-obsessed drama.

One eye out for the 432, the other on gatecrashers
lurking to gazump our too-shocked-to-say
chorus line; its well-rehearsed lean to the left,
arms outstretched in synchrony, body language
as one chanting thou shalt not pass.
 

 

 

Paul Waring’s poems have been published in print journals, anthologies and webzines. He was runner-up in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. His debut pamphlet ‘Quotidian’ is published by Yaffle Press. WordPress site: https://waringwords.blog

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Sarah Doyle

 

 

 

Snowdrift

From solitude to servitude
I went: a stepmother’s bane,
to maid-of-all-work for
grubby curmudgeons.

dust     sweep     scrub     sleep

How the chores call to me,
a broom-brush song that bristles
at my hearing’s edge. How
grudgingly I dance the steps.

dust     sweep     scrub     sleep

Sanctuary is overrated. I am
the apple of no-one’s eye:
captive of the castle’s keep
turned kept woman, a pet.

dust     sweep     scrub     sleep

See me, all scour and wash,
high-born-sunk-low, the sour
taste of charity on my tongue,
a gratitude for subterfuge.

dust     sweep     scrub     sleep

Don’t answer the door, don’t
answer the door. A bodice, a
comb, a fruit – how strange
that danger erupts like a flower.

dust     sweep     scrub     sleep

Ghosting to translucence, I am
drift and dream, I am brittle
and bottled, the stillness of
death a respite from

dust     sweep     scrub     sleep

How reluctant the fruit – flesh,
skin, pips – to leave my lips.
Shaken awake to another rescue,
I rise, and am bitter to the core.

 

 

Sarah Doyle is widely placed and published. In 2019 she won the WoLF poetry competition and Holland Park Press’s Brexit in Poetry, and was runner-up in the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize. She was highly commended in the Forward Prizes 2018. Sarah is currently researching a PhD in the poetics of meteorology at Birmingham City University.

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Moyra Donaldson

 

 

 

A Sudden Shaft of Light

My demented mother
who doesn’t know me anymore,
looks up as I come into the room.
Ach – there’s my wee darling Moyra
she says, such love in her voice

that everything falls away but love.
The slate is clean,

and I, new born again and perfect,
know myself beloved daughter
before the darkness closes in again.
 

 

Moyra Donaldson from Co Down has published eight collections of poetry, most recently Carnivorous, Doire Press, 2019, and is a recipient of a Major Individual Artist award from Arts Council Northern Ireland.

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