David Calcutt

 

 

 

Further extracts from

The Old Man in the House of Bone

 

 

There’s someone else in the house of bone, someone

moving in between the silences, slipping through

and around them, stepping over them on tiptoe, trying

not to wake them, someone in some other room

rummaging through the boxes, emptying the cupboards

scattering their contents across the floor

as if searching for something. The old man listens

at the door, afraid to go in, he goes in, there’s no one there

the room’s empty, it’s undisturbed, just as he left it a lifetime ago

but there’s the creak of a floorboard behind him

Who’s there? there’s a shadow at the top of the stairs

Who is it? he feels a hand squeezing his heart

a mouth pressed against his sucking his breath

there are fingers lifting the edges of his face, peeling

them back to look underneath, Who is it? Who’s there?

the old man wants to hide under the bedclothes, he hides

under the bedclothes, Who’s there? Who is it? Who is it?

Who’s there? the house of bone puts its finger to its lips

says nothing, it’s keeping its secret to itself.

*

Let the house of bone be a leaf

clinging to the last branch of the last tree

*

The old man is making a model of the house of bone

using anything he can lay his hands on, old odds and ends

scraps of things found down the sides of the chair, under the settee

at the back of the cupboard, bits and pieces of his life

which is made up itself of the bits and pieces

of other people’s lives, those he may have known once

those passed in the street, vaguely familiar, or complete strangers

all their leftovers and scrapings of themselves

he gathers them in a heap in the middle of the room

and sticks them together, using the glue from his own

melted fleshpile, making a perfect miniature

of the house of bone, which he lifts and places on the table

and switches on the lamp, and peers in

through a small window, where a lamp is lit

and an old man’s standing, peering in through a small window

he goes to his own window, he looks out and up in horror

at the face looking out and down at him in horror.

*

Let the house of bone be a magic mirror

where the world is slowly disappearing

*

Listen, the house of bone is talking to itself

mumbling something, charms and incantations, maybe

fragments of old fairy tales, and the old man’s trying to overhear

straining to catch the drift of those gummy mutterings

but he can’t make it out, his ears are stuffed with dirty rags

everything comes through muffled, and meanwhile

the house of bone goes on talking, as if speaking words

of a dead language, some ancient epic, maybe

or a shopping list, or the secret of the universe.

The old man knows he’s missing something, he feels

the absence of it, like someone’s just walked out of the room

taking half his brain with them, and he listens harder

he shuts his eyes down on himself, he clamps himself fast

to the roots of his ears, he does all the fine tuning, and at last

he hears it, it comes through loud and clear, the dull drone

of his own voice repeating the same meaningless phrase.

*

Let the house of bone be a stone on the ridgetop

shaped by the wind to the shape of the wind

 

 

 

David Calcutt is Writer in Residence at Caldmore Community Garden.  And author of Crowboy, Shadow Bringer and The Map of Marvels: Oxford University Press, and Robin Hood: Barefoot Books http://davidcalcutt.com/about/

Read More

Gerard Sarnat

 

 

 

69th Birthday Transmission

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
    Thoreau

Day two, early early morning group sit,
zendo floor tripodding with potential
great orthopedic cost, I can’t turn off itches or chatter.

Day four, bleary in a chair, contemplative-in-training
grappling with road kill, the lure of a laptop’s
warmth would sure feel good on my knees.

Day six, yogi monkeyminds forbidden
writing paper no less computers,
there’s zip chance for such a simple silent retreat solution.

Day eight, as my washed-out self tosses and turns in the dorm,
a discombobulated surgeon
threatens to perform a personalized snoroplasty.

Day ten, we harvest garden veggies.
At last the creek flows downhill, the pond comes alive.
I can hear my little heart quiver.
 

 

 

Gerard Sarnat authored 2010’s HOMELESS CHRONICLES, 2012’s Disputes, and 2014’s 17s. He’s a physician who’s setup/staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, CEO of healthcare organizations, and a Stanford professor. For Huffington Post reviews, reading dates including Stanford etc.; visit Gerard Sarnat.com 

 

Read More

Rosie Brown

 

 

 

fragment

winter is
dead clouds
break and
a sliver
of sun
from a
chink in
the brittle
sky falls
on a
tellin cracked
eggshell white
and a
tiny star
of chionodoxa
blue as
the blue
on a
chinese teacup
heralding Spring

the ladies
chat over
a cup
of tea
as She
foretells new
life

 

 

Rosie Brown is a busy artist, writer and grandmother. She has a degree in Fine Art and taken UEA courses in Creative Writing. She has been published in Mslexia.

Read More

Leslie Philibert

 

 

 

Snow Train

As the snow is
tidal in the trees,
consider the tracks

and the dark tons
asthmatic with steam,
cold as the moon`s slight,

black as the star`s hide,
perfect as a pulse of wheel;
dead crate of steel

that rests and waits,
then moves by magic
through the ice night.

 

 

Leslie Philibert is a social worker and poet living in Bavaria.Born in London, he studied English in Ireland.  He has translated some work for German theatre groups and has had poetry published in magazines.

Read More

Sally Evans reviews ‘Abiding Chemistry’ by Susan Castillo Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Writers of reviews often know more about an author than can be adduced directly from the book. This is often due to the author’s known oevre and career, or to previous discussions that have taken place in the literary arena. But sometimes one’s knowledge has been less widely shared. Discussing a book in relation to its author has been epitomised dismissively as “what the artist had for breakfast,” but certainly most reading will benefit from some additional knowledge about the circumstances surrounding a book.

 Abiding Chemistry for me comes into this category. I, and many others (though not the poetry establishment), know a good deal about the background to these poems. We remember the author as the first woman Professor of English Literature at Glasgow University, as the poet of her first poetry book The Candlewoman’s Trade (2003). We recognise her as a scholar of Southern American literature who has travelled the world as professor, examiner, speaker, and as an American lady who has very much settled in England and Europe.

It is from her poems that we know of her Louisiana childhood, her extraordinary and at times traumatic family (here shown compactly in a few poems on pages 13-20), and in them that we read through these expertly sequenced poems, her memorial and tribute to her husband, who died unexpectedly at their newly acquired Sussex country home, less than three years after their relationship began.

This story too is already in the public (though not literary) domain. In an amazingly open, intense and moving blog, The News on the Street, followed by many people all over the world, Susan Castillo Street wrote of the crisis when her husband fell in their home and suffered a head injury, and of the weeks of uncertainty while he remained in a coma. That blog came to its end and Susan writes a new blog now, but it is all still available.
Abiding Chemistry is a book about recovery. The voice of these poems is independent, charting a deep and important relationship and looking round to the world of family and place, before and after these events.

The poems are not limited by national traditions. They are not in either the current English or American style. Though she now lives in the south of England and has made contact with poetry groups there, and the author seems to regard Sussex as her home, her previous academic stint in Glasgow brought her into contact with Philip Hobsbaum and major Scottish poets. Where does an international writer fit in?

The voice is intellectual and often catches parable-like conclusions. In the first and title poem:

Perhaps love is its other name,
this abiding chemistry
that binds the fragments close.

and in Question:

I point up at the sky.
“The Big Dipper” I tell my child.
“A question mark,” she says.

There is droll humour elsewhere:

the rope gravediggers use
south of the Mason-Dixon line
is springy bungee cord.
up the shadows burst once more
in showers of dark soil

and:

You always used to steal the duvet.
One day when we lie together
deep in Sussex soil, you’ll be up
to your old tricks.

and daring in some:

They say that at the moment an atomic bomb explodes
outlines shimmer, colours radiate out
shadows of what was imprinted on the walls
time slows, stops, crystallised
in all its fractures.

Moving from an awareness of her early family at the start of the book, to closeness with her granddaughter in the last poem, the poet places the three year love affair in the context of her adventurous life with success and dignity, in a clear poetry that smiles out from every line.
The actual publication is American in style, and the project has been completed with alacrity and practicality, presenting as it does an essentially memorial volume, while also being worthy of an academic and a poet.

 

 

Order your copy of Abiding Chemistry by Susan Castillo Street, published by Aldrich Press here

 

Read More