On the Sixth Day of Christmas we bring you David Van-Cauter, Seth Crook and Laura McKee

 

 

 

Snowgrip

The snow has come
my car wedged in

its inches of icing
pockmarked with bird tracks

Under blanket and dressing gown
I watch others graft

with shovels
enabling my escape

They scrape away cold scraps
hack at raw earth

I feel friction in the window pane
and through the net

I and my cats assess
the pickings of the day

Above us, countless flakes
breathe in a holding shape

until slowly
they release their brakes

 

 

David Van-Cauter is a personal tutor and editor from Hitchin, Herts.In 2017 he was runner-up in the Bradford on Avon festival competition and highly commended in the Bare Fiction competition. He was shortlisted for the last IS&T Cafe Writers Commission.

 

 

 

THE WINTER HERONS OF LOCH SCRIDAIN
DON’T BELIEVE IN GOODWILL TO ALL MEN
OR WOMEN (OR NON-BINARIES OR WHATEVER)

Like deft officials of some secret order working on The Bigger Plan.
As if all will be revealed, but only on the final Boxing Day,
when the loch drains away, seals flop, crabs scuttle, moored boats

drown in the dry; when their majesties stretch out into true form;
when we glimpse, at last, the point of the beaky plot–shout
“Oh God, No!”, look for holes of hope in their mesh, flap like sprats.

 

 

Seth Crook loves puffins, has taught philosophy at various universities, rarely leaves Mull. His poems have most recently appeared this autumn in The Rialto, Envoi, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Scotland, in the Noble Dissent (Beautiful Dragons) and Landfall (Federation of Scottish Writers) anthologies.

 

 

 

battery dead watching the snow

thinking how I was missing out
on a slomo film

three days before
I had found out I could do this

and turned a wave
into a slow waggle of fingers

anyway I tried
to just slow it down with my eyes

 

 

Laura McKee has some serious boots for the snow. Her poems can be found in journals including Under the Radar, Prole, The Rialto, Molly Bloom, and Pouch. You can contact her on Twitter: @Estlinin.

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Freedom: Seth Crook, Penelope Shuttle, Cliff Forshaw for National Poetry Day

 

 

What Greater Map of Liberty
Than One Marked Out by Things Themselves

Prints on sand, made
by beach party feet;
by the yellow-boot soles

of a fisherman, stood
beside two smaller feet
far away from the mass

the beach remembers
only as a scuffed blur.
See their toes almost touch.

 

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry, though he likes cod, poetry and philosophy. His poems recently appeared in such places as Gutter, New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland, Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Prole and Lunar Poetry. One was selected as one of the Best Scottish Poems of 2014.

(A version first published in the Glasgow Review of Books)

 

 

On the Quayside at Portsea an Old Salt Button-holes a Passer-by

…there‘s no one style of pirate ship, pal, sloop or ship-of-the-line,
we use any vessel we can get our hands on.
It must be fast though. The pirate code forbids me to tell you more.

Years spent in jail gave me a high regard for iron.
It is a master of power, structure, suspension, brutality.
An iron shirt never needs ironing.

Nowadays I like the air better… salty up-draughts and thermals,
clouds like sky-cloaked widow-women carrying harps of hornbeam and brass,
busy with their beautiful Acts of Pardon and Acts of Grace.

My fine ship The Monkey’s Fist has a compass for all weathers,
she’s been blessed by a famous painter, she’s goose-winged and trim.
Paso a bordo, amigo.  Out of harbour we’ll hoist the jolly blood-red flag,
I’ll read aloud from the bible to comfort you as we speed the flashing brine.

 

 

 

Penelope Shuttle lives in Cornwall.  Her most recent publication is Will You Walk A Little Faster? (Bloodaxe Books), May 2017. www.penelopeshuttle.co.uk

 

 

Owl

i

Walking through woods along the Contoocook,
you pointed him out, big as an upturned leg of lamb:
totem, top of a trunk. Later googled, then looked him up
in your Granddad’s old mildewed leather-bound book.

Great Grey Owl: Strix nebulosa? Yellow eyes?
Ear tufts? Two white marks like a dress bow tie?
You kept going back, but couldn’t definitively say
just exactly what it was we saw that day.

Heard you’d had an owl as a Norfolk boy: tiny lives
you tried to trap; the best laid plans caught mostly night;
then mice brought back from pet-shops across the OS map;
black pellets – coughed-up, the furred and bony point

to the exclamation mark of hot white shit
shat right down your Grateful Dead T–shirt.

ii

Driving, had seen this other fly-guy: face
goggled like a dusty Ace of Hearts,
winging it low, twice across this same twist
of nowhere – towards Withernsea in broad daylight.

Then, walking, saw the white undercarriage
metamorphose to gymnast’s legswing, lithe
against where you feel the downbeat of wing to wing.
Dusk. Eyes knew it before I knew it, tune to night.

Stand still, feet heavy with Holderness clay;
notice a hornbeam has usurped the unsuitable beech.
Somewhere an engine dies. Look to the hedge,
the dimming estuary, the darkened east.

Then think again, of you, of voles, of mice.
Eroding coasts. Owls. That distant screech?

 

 

Cliff Forshaw has been a writer-in-residence in California, France, Tasmania and Romania, twice a Hawthornden Writing Fellow, and appeared at the International Poetry Festival in Nicaragua. Collections include Vandemonian (Arc, 2013),  Pilgrim Tongues (Wrecking Ball, 2015), Satyr (Shoestring, 2017). www.cliff-forshaw.co.uk

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Seth Crook

 

 

 

Three Years

The night seems friendly,
almost kind.
Is it because you’re here,
I wonder,
standing on the edge of things,
your pretty toes
firmly present?

You do not speak.
But I do. I confess my love
over and over.
Everything I do confesses my love
over and over. But now
it doesn’t seem so tragic –
seems only to be the pattern:
the order of rectitude;
a set state of things,

sometimes as welcome
as a warm Hebridean night.
I am here; you
in apparition,
not as a ghost or critic,
but as a warmth that says nothing.
Though enough.

 

 

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry, though he likes cod, poetry and philosophy. His poems recently appeared in such places as Gutter, New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland, Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Prole and Lunar Poetry. One was selected as one of the Best Scottish Poems of 2014.

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The Second Day of Christmas – Grant Tarbard, Katy Evans-Bush and Seth Crook

 

 

 

Nikolaos the Wonderworker

Asthmatic pipe smoker, gift giver,
you wear a crown of holly fixed

on your Medusa strands,
beard of clouds stuck fast on top of wire.

A pile off of the tinker’s cart in the crook of your arm
resting on your cauldron belly,

a painted rocking horse, a wooden doll,
a Union belt, a pocket watch stuck on 6.20,

pouches of tobacco and a cutlass sheathed.
You started as a pore and grew,

leaving dead Christmas trees
in your wake. Secretly you crept

like a pantomime villain placing
a coin in shoes left for tomorrow’s feet.

 

 

Grant Tarbard has worked as a computer games journalist, a contributor to football fanzines, an editor, a reviewer and an interviewer. He is now the editor of The Screech Owl. His work can be seen in such magazines as The Rialto, The Journal, Southlight, Sarasvati, Earth Love, Mood Swing, Puff Puff Prose Poetry & Prose, Postcards Poetry and Prose, Playerist 2, Lake City Lights, The Open Mouse, Miracle, Poetry Cornwall, I-70, South Florida Review, Zymbol and Decanto.

 

 

 

The Bay Sleigh

Green as the present, green as presents, green as old St Nick,
the leaves tumble out of their branch, curved as a sleigh –
and at its back, a little broken bit where it was torn from the tree,
which any sleigh must be, if it’s to fly. The pulsing sap
has given over to the power of metaphor and the curving leaf
that sits among the others, in the middle of the sleigh,
as if it’s leaning back, but really it’s bellying
forward into the sky and into the timeless night
of Christmas, the night of the year when the sky’s most spangled with stars,
and the air is clear and remembers when the earth stopped spinning beneath it,
inside it, and just for a tiny moment stood still. Still, all over the world
little branches like this one are growing – small conveyances –
and old St Nick sits in the bushes, laughing and hiding.

 

 

Katy Evans-Bush‘s two collections are Me and the Dead and Egg Printing Explained (both from Salt). She writes the blog baroqueinhackney.com  and reviews widely. A collection of her essays will be published in 2015.

 

 

 

The least accessible place

It’s what the reindeer talk about
in Spring, when he’s still sleeping,
after his labours, the genial old boy,
the super athlete who breaks all
human records in one night. Marvel,

they marvel, at how he leaps from
continent to continent, remember
how he accidentally dropped a package
in Hong Kong, so then leapt back
to pick it up from far Peru. But when

he squeezes into toothpaste tubes
just to make the gift of paste all red
and white. How they roar. Bravo.
Still the best, Sir. Still the ace.

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before deciding to move to the Hebrides. His poems appear in recent editions of Magma, The Rialto, Envoi, Gutter, Southlight, The Journal, Prole, New Writing Scotland, and on have appeared on-line in Antiphon, Snakeskin and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

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On the sixth day of Christmas…Jeff Phelps and Seth Crook

 

 

 

Round Robin.

 

(delete as appropriate)

 

 

Dear: Uncle/ Cousin/ Nephew/ distant friend ,

How are you?  Where’s this year gone?  Already at its end

and Christmas upon us.  Please excuse the lateness of this note

I’ve had a bad: shock/ memory/ dream/ bank balance/ throat.

Doesn’t time fly?  Next year I promise I’ll write

and arrange to meet up.  How about: Wetherspoon’s/ Tesco’s/ The Isle of Wight ?

Jason/ Kevin/ Tara/ Kate did the GCSE’s this summer,

got: twelve/ six/ none/ other.  Well done to him/ her! / What a bummer!

Family hols. were in: Tenerife/ Tenby/ the Transit/ Korea.

We: swam/ golfed/ argued , got: lucky/ arrested/ lost/ diarrhoea.

Peter/ Alice/ Richard/ Jill says she/he loved/despised it there

so we’re: suing the company/ emigrating/ buying timeshare.

Mother is still: living/ grumbling/ snoring in her: chair/ attic/ retirement gîte,

but I suppose none of us are getting any: younger/ older/ nookie/ vegetables/ meat.

That’s all from me here at home.  I’m ready to send

from your loving: nephew/ niece/ cousin/ uncle/ auntie/ friend

wishes for a Christmas that’s: joyous/ fantastic/ festive/ neat,

and stuffed with seasonal: love/ love/ love  (no need to delete)

 

 

 

 

Jeff Phelps has recently co-edited The Poetry of Shropshire for Offa’s Press .  His novels, Painter Man and Box of Tricks, are published by Tindal Street Press.  His poems and stories are widely published.  He lives in Bridgnorth.  This is his website.

 

 

 

Compulsive of December

He tries to stop, never succeeds.
Always red, with a white trim.
Relations reason with him, friends hint

huge expense,
all his free air miles used up,
but every year he does it,
same day, same suit.

Even when the kids are grown
he’ll be flying through the night,
stumbling on the roofs, breaking tiles

getting caught in chimneys,
still asking “If not me, then who?”
Won’t even consider wearing blue.

 

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry. But he does like cod, poetry and philosophy.

 

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Seth Crook

 

 

 

Even

 

all the flowers

sent by all the world’s hungover

and so apologetic men,

 

accumulated,

wrapped in one big bow,

(not bought at the last garage,

at the last minute)

 

and ferried, with a tune,

by all the best dressed pipers

of the Lords of the Isles,

 

won’t quite do. Not today.

I’ll go to the shed, I think,

contemplate the life of mice,

 

creep to bed

when the light is out.

Keep to my side.

 

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry. But he does like cod, poetry and philosophy.

 

This poem has previously appeared in Gutter.

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Seth Crook

 

 

 

November Skye

Cut the bracken for bedding.
If the frost comes first
it crumbles, but
the cattle still have rushes.

These are the best days,
work, not of necessity.

I have the scythe,
she has the fork.
We always do this together,
as if the bed’s our own.

 

 

Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry. But he does like cod, poetry and philosophy.

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