Sarah Law

 

Novice

She is just sixteen, and clings
to her pillar of faith,

plump as a duck, or a goose
stuffed with buttery prayers.

Papa delivers fish, wine,
fur-lined boots, to the convent turn

and the sisters question
(after their silent supper) how

such a child could ever learn
the art of suffering on her own.

Mother scolds her when she
drops her cloth, broom, fork –

forgets to drop her gaze,
delights at a play of light

around a statue. Therese
kneels and kisses the floor.

Even now, she’s working
on her heart’s first draft,

her young soul proven
and rising like dough.

 

 

 

Sarah Law has published five poetry collections (the latest, Ink’s Wish, with Gatehouse Press in 2014) and is currently working on another about St Therese of Lisieux. No saint herself, she lives in London and teaches for the Open University and elsewhere.

Read More

Natalie Scott

 

 

D H Lawrence Painted My Bathroom*

I kid you not. He did it for ‘fun’.
Swapped word for image
and went to town
on my blurry window panes:

transcendental doodlings
in primary colours, mostly
with a bit of teal for good measure.
And white. Recondite white.

Diced panels of booming symbols:
a conceptual chicken, an abstract cat,
a cactus (or phallus?) buzzes with zigzag spikes
the ideal of what’s on the other side.

Every day I bathe in stars and stripes
and who else has a totem pole (or phallus?)
at the foot of their tub?
This room is the vista of his years…

…the snap in his dragon
tingling with his mastery, sated by colour.
Ah … yes, D H Lawrence painted my bathroom.
Not many people can say that.
 
*D H Lawrence stayed at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house in 1925

 

 

 

 

Natalie Scott is published by Indigo Dreams, Mudfog and Bradshaw Books. She enjoys telling stories from unusual or marginalised perspectives. Her latest project Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison was awarded a Grant for the Arts to research and write a collection of dramatic monologues. Links: www.nataliescott.co.uk  www.penpower.org.uk

Read More

Phil Dunkerley

 

 

 

Quercus

It had always been there,
standing against the sky as he left the village,
between the field edge and the ditch,
a constant presence in every coming and going.
Now, curiosity draws him towards it.

He shivers as the freshness of morning
chills his small body. The tree towers over him,
huge, branching, buds caught in the act of opening.
The horizon is bright with yellow, green and pale blue;
in wraiths of mist an old man passes along the road.

Circling to the north he faces the tree again,
understanding, for the first time, its maturity.
Vivid lichen tinges the strong ridged bark,
the green canopy spreads wide, and as he looks up
wood pigeons flap out, off to the ripening wheat.

From the path, brown with dry grass and blown leaves,
he can see empty nests high in the branches.
The wan disk of the sun in a layer of thin cloud
fades as it settles behind the woods. He hears
a tractor working the stubble land; someone is busy.

He finds it hard coping with the uneven ground,
and sadly notes the last few lingering leaves.
He watches as the approaching geese head south.
Vapours cling to the frosty earth; he turns away
and, far off, sees a small boy leaving the village.

 

 

 

 

Phil Dunkerley is the Poetry Society representative for the Stamford Stanza, Lincolnshire, and is active in open-mic and other local poetry groups. His poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and he is a reviewer and translator.

Read More

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe

 

 

 

The Toy

I had a toy fire-truck sent to me for Christmas,
the usual shiny red with a ladder on top.
I dressed a doll as a fireman
with a helmet made out of paper,
made him rescue the baby
stranded in the attic of my doll’s house.

I saw the heat reach out towards the paper hat,
curling the edges without touching,
and flames, snaking the bars of the baby’s cot.
Quickly the doll’s house became alive, spitting
and hissing, lighting up the room
better than any nightlight.

Best of all was the way the carpet colour changed
wherever a spark hit. The way flames would come
running towards me, greeting me, encircling me,
compelling the horrid pink carpet to flower into orange.

 

 

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. Her work has appeared in Magma, Curly Mind, Clear Poetry, Lakeview Journal, Interpreter’s House and The Lake. She also enjoys wargaming, painting models and scrapbooking.
 

Read More

John D Robinson

 

 

 

Taking the Piss

‘I hear you’re a tough guy’
Eddie said as we stood at
the urinals;
‘That’s bullshit’
I said grinning
‘I’m the toughest’
Eddie finished and zipped-
up and waited for me,
I finished,
zipped-up
walked over to the basin
washed my hands
looking at Eddie in the
mirror,
he stood still
watching me,
I turned around to face
Eddie
‘You going to wash your
hands Eddie?’
I asked
‘Fuck no’
Eddie said
‘Then don’t ask me for a
dance later’
I said grinning
Eddie laughed
nervously and then
said
‘I don’t dance’
‘Well, fuck-you’
I said
and waited for his move;
he stepped over to the
wash basins and
washed his hands and
said looking at me
‘Maybe later’
‘Maybe’
I said.

 

John D Robinson is a UK poet; his work appears widely in the small press and online literary journals; he has published 2 chapbooks When You Hear The Bell There’s Nowhere To Hide and Cowboy Hats & Railways.

Read More

And the Pick of the Month for July 2017 is ‘Birds’ by Rizwan Akhtar

This one came right down to the wire and at one point we thought it might be a draw but Rizwan Akhtar’s ‘Birds’ just edged ahead to be Pick of the Month for July 2017.* What caught voters’ attention was the imagery, the allusions and the wonderful use of language. And, as one said, ‘Nature breathes in this poem.’

Rizwan works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his PhD in postcolonial literature from the University of Essex, UK in 2013. He has published poems in well-established poetry magazines in the UK, Wales, US, India, Canada, and New Zealand. He has also done a 5 weeks workshop on poetry with Derek Walcott at the University of Essex in 2010.

 

Birds
for you

They scrape and bill for answers
I peck evenings for small words
finches and robins temper tones

They don’t flutter against my desires
Or rise from foggy halos
like sentences blurring intentions

only stare my doubts with little eyes
over ponds of petaled flowers
carrying conviction under feathers

a stripped choir of town’s winter
land on raven craggy earth
sank in scrimped necks

a milky whiteness of nude bodies—
clamp beaks against an urgent silence
of blue, red, and magenta quills

These birds I see cloister you
huddle like expressions
muted by long flights

They drop our histories
tied to footnotes, on vague wings.

 

********

Voters comments included:-

[It] awakens the romantic and philosophic eye of any literalist who has so far been looking at birds as only biological beings. It’s a ‘love at first sight’ experience reading this poem.

Imagery is from day to day examples, easy to understand yet impregnate with deeper contexts.

Fascinating fabrication of words

Because the words are so powerful they strike with intensity and the imagery is also very provocative!

Good control of the language and line length. Surprising imagery.

Fascinating and marvellous piece of writing

Language and style impressed me

The marvelous use of language to communicate the subject

Loved the theme, the message. Wonderful

The poem resounds [with] an intimacy with nature, creatural…

 

*It was such a close thing (one vote!), however, that special mention must go to Andrew Turner and his fine poem ‘The wolves were not invited’; its fairytale quality and unnerving ending appealed to many.

 

 

Read More