We have caught a spy
from across the border
the kind of traitor
our teacher warned us of
with brazen suitcases
stuffed with unfolded thoughts
tie her up in the basement
with her own plats
our aunt is looking for her
thinks she’s just hiding
from cod-liver oil.
Laila Sumpton performs her poetry and organises events and workshops at universities, festivals, museums and with various NGOs across the country and internationally. She is a member of the Keats House Poets and is published in ‘Over Land, Over Sea- poems for those seeking refuge’ (Five Leaves,2015). She is co-directing refugee and migrant poetry collective Bards Without Borders.Read More
Koba was old and not very handsome. He wore a dark leather coat that would have been expensive, had it not been so tattered. Underneath, his spine was fine and curved. I often heard him wheezing outside my window. Peeking through the blinds, I could see his morning breath, smoky in the cold air. I even caught him looking in my garbage bins. Whenever we passed each other on the street, he pretended not to know me even though he did; he had seen through my translucent green bags and into my recycled routine of empty wrappers, medicine boxes and packs of extra-absorbent winged pads.
One day, he asked if he could sit in my front garden. I said no, but offered him some food. He stepped inside to share the warmth of my heater and as he ate the spoonfuls of chicken and cold gravy, I couldn’t help but stare at his hair. It was black but curly copper at the ends. There were many knots and leaves stuck between the strands. It bothered me that it was so dirty, so I took the liberty of brushing it. Confused and perhaps even a little scared, Koba stopped eating and sat very still while I combed out the knots. Without thinking, I began to smooth his scalp. The skin was crusty there, full of bloody clots, but I didn’t care. I washed my hands after.
‘Don’t you have any family?’ I asked him.
‘They kicked me out.’ His breath was a sewer.
‘What did you do to deserve that?’
I found him sleeping by the laurel tree every morning after that day. Within weeks, the ground where he lay had sunk into a cot of mud and folded grass. I assumed he was preparing his dying nest, that I would find him lying in the same spot one morning and fail to notice he was already stiff. Instead, he simply stopped coming. Like a feeling, I can’t remember when his absence began; I only knew it was absence when the absence was so long as to be noteworthy.
Whenever I smell rotten meat, I think of him.
Months have passed and the space by the laurel tree is still empty, still deep. It is a cup, ready to be filled.
Derwen Morfayel is a writer based in Wales with a degree in Creative Writing. Her recent work appears in issues #4 of literary magazines Severine and Shooter. Follow her on Twitter @DerwenMorfayel and visit her blog: www.derwenmorfayel.com.Read More
My mind is afraid of
deep sleep. So much
it won’t give up control
to the slow waves it makes
It keeps me in the shallows
over what I know already
until I surface
out of a night of
more of the day before
and feeling I haven’t dreamed
Even my words
will you dive deep, and bring
pearls for my eyes again?
Bring me your weird electric fish
your coral trees
your worm-encrusted gold?
Judith Taylor comes from Perthshire and now lives and works in Aberdeen. Her poetry has appeared widely in magazines and she is the author of two pamphlet collections – Earthlight, (Koo Press, 2006), and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010).Read More
‘Emily Wilding Davison. Found hiding in crypt of Westminster Hall’ – Census of England and Wales, 1911
Note the Enumerator’s slip of the wrist
in his legalese. Yes, she is sole occupant
of this space between gold-lacquered
sainthood and ‘School Teacher – Head
of Household – Single.’ They check
St Mary’s Undercroft more for thoroughness
than in expectancy of finding the broom
cupboard occupied. She’s schoolmistress
polite, reasonable: if women don’t count
in the State, why should I be counted?
Logical – like her choice of residence
in an undercroft. Rebellion against tyrants
is obedience to God. She glances up
for royal saints to second her. Like Edward
and his housecarls, she’s set for martyrdom.
Like Edmund, she’d take arrows all over
in tests of faith. Like Margaret, hand outstretched
with a gospel that no brook could smudge,
tonight she testifies to burning conviction
in an illuminated book, a record –––––––
‘This space to be filled up by the Enumerator.’
Alex Shaw is a student at Jesus College, Oxford and former President of Oxford University Poetry Society. He won the Martin Starkie Prize in 2015, and his poems have appeared in The Literateur, The Cadaverine and Ash.Read More
Dark clouds block the light,
bar one entire field on fire
from a single ray of sun.
A minx waits till the trees turn,
then steals through dewy grass
taking a red hen’s companion.
She swells her burnt umber breast,
about to give up eggs and feathers,
attempts to fly on broken wings.
But there is a knowing,
day cannot be night,
and rivers flow one way.
Angela McCabe’s second book was published autumn 2016. Winner – 2016 Listowel Poetry Collection, Thomas McCarthy, judge, commented: ….. wonderful poems, full of adroit observations, technical ease…… fabulous humanity.…… wisdom to accompany the song of life……. beautiful, affirmative poetry. She has won many awards.
Take a final glance back at what we can only summarise as an ‘interesting’ year and make the time to vote for your favourite IS&T poem from December 2016. Our shortlist of six is below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for December 2016’ in the Categories list to your right on the screen) and ranges from the absurd to the unsettling to the poigant, a bit like the year itself!
The works have been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media
Please VOTE HERE. Voting will close at 9pm on Monday 16th January.
The winner each month will be sent a £10 book giftcard or, if preferred, a donation of the same amount will be made to a chosen charity. In the event of the winner being from outside the UK mainland, we will make every effort to provide a reasonable alternative.Read More