Monthly Archives: October 2010

Abegail Morley’s How to Pour Madness into a Teacup

Abegail Morley

Abegail Morley is a Kent-based poet. She has an MA from Sussex University and a postgraduate diploma in publishing from Exeter Art College. After working in publishing she’s now a librarian/archivist, guest Poetry Editor at The New Writer and a member of the Kent and Sussex Poetry Society.
Her collection How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon Press, 2009) is shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection (2010); the title poem was previously nominated for the Forward Prize Best Single Poem.
Her work appears in several anthologies and a wide range of magazines including: Anon, Assent, the Financial Times, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Other Poetry and The Spectator.

“It has fallen to Abegail Morley to draw aside the veil suspended between the world we know and the unholy of unholies that lies beyond. We are shown the painted veil of everyday life, only to have it slashed with a knife before our eyes, allowing us to glimpse the horror that lies within, sometimes frightening but always lit with a strange visionary beauty. Morley’s poems are daredevil ambassadors to a savage place.”
– Hugo Williams
“These poems are moving, sensitively written, compelling and well worth a read.”
– Sophie Hannah
“It is rare to find a collection that is so hypnotically filled with trapped desire. It is like being inside the head of Munch’s The Scream. It is like nothing else around: the poetry of rejection. That’s what marks it out and makes it so special… This is a brilliantly uncomfortable sequence and you won’t get it out of your head – no matter how hard you wash.”
– Bill Greenwell
How to Pour Madness into a Teacup
She hangs her tears at the front of the house
cuts the rain in half and puts time
in the hot black kettle. She sits in the kitchen
reading the teacup full of small dark tears;
it’s foretold the man in the wood
hovers in the dark rain above the winding path.
The man is talking to her in moons,
she is laughing to hide her tears
and with little time, she secretly
plants the moons in the dark brown bed.
She shivers, thinks the man is watching
as the jokes of the child dance
on the roof of the house. Tidying,
she carefully puts hot rain in the teacup,
sings as she hangs her tears on a string
and watching the dance, thinks herself mad.
Previously published in Orbis #142 (Winter 2007)
and The Spectator (November 2008).
She dances through
the middle of days,
blends memories with oil of lavender, keeps
conversations in scrapbooks.
She papers the walls with anecdotes,
pinches her lips to hoard her thoughts,
and when asked for her opinions
plucks on her mouth like a harpist
playing on gut strings.
She packs her past in a red suitcase,
out of style, gaudy:
“Look at me,” it shouts,
a merchant of insanity.
It circles the terminus
round and round on the conveyor belt
like some terminal illness
waiting to begin.
She didn’t move fast enough,
lost herself to its motion
and the inconsolable past,
unresolved, moves on too.
from How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon Press, 2009).
Order How to Pour Madness into a Teacup.
Visit Abegail’s website.
Read more of Abegail’s poems at poetry p f.
Visit the Kent and Sussex Poetry Society’s website.

Sam Rasnake’s Inside a Broken Clock

Sam Rasnake

Sam Rasnake’s poetry has appeared in OCHO, Shampoo, FRiGG, Poets/Artists, Naugatuck River Review, Press 1, Literal Latté, Istanbul Literary Review, BLIP, Portland Review, Otoliths, MiPOesias, Metazen and BluePrintReview, as well as the anthologies Best of the Web 2009 (Dzanc Books), Deep River Apartments (The Private Press) and BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2. He is the author of one collection, Necessary Motions (Sow’s Ear Press), and two chapbooks, Religions of the Blood (Pudding House) and Lessons in Morphology (GOSS183). A chapbook of poems, Inside a Broken Clock, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Rasnake also edits Blue Fifth Review, an online journal of poetry and art.

“Sam Rasnake’s Inside a Broken Clock is rich in poems that show us both his ability to situate himself in the past and present journey of literature and his sharp sense of nature and the human landscape. His poems are precise with things – trout, grackles, moss, steaming bowls of soup – but reflective and strongly self-aware. He never presents himself exactly front and center emoting but is somewhat off to the side, seeing the context as clearly as he sees himself. In some of the work there is a moving sadness and sense of mortality and failure but never self pity.”
– Marge Piercy
“It takes a certain kind of eye to peer into a broken clock and appreciate the beauty of each cog and tooth, the tensions and the precision, all the while knowing this world of inner workings is waiting for repair. The poems in this chapbook are like ‘hidden wave[s] of cicadas in bushes’ as he invokes Bashō, Billy Collins, Flannery O’Connor, and a songbook of other voices as ‘reminders of a deep purpose’. Inside a Broken Clock is a collection you will enjoy, again and again.”
– J.P. Dancing Bear
All My Sins Rising and Other Uncertainties,
after Reading Furious Cooking
All my sins rise like red-winged blackbirds of summer
into the certainty of trees – of maple & cherry
& birch – the wind, a Dorian mode among the leaves’
solitude of thirst. Each branch, a lonely voice for rain,
and there’s been none. The sun will grow fat and purple
the fields again, but what can I say of right or wrong.
And that’s not a question. I’ve locked myself in a room,
watching Black Narcissus over and over – until I feel
the wind or the rain, until I feel the eyes – always
the eyes, determining all truth that’s in the body,
my body, like a fierce star that has no name or number,
unmapped, but burns back the darkness all the same.
What we know doesn’t matter, what we do not know
doesn’t matter. Silence is still silence, and the brick
of my house is eaten away by time in the fester of too many
seasons to count. The fox den at the top of the hill is there
under honeysuckle, walnut leaves, and fence wire,
though the foxes have been gone for years. A congress
of lies comes and goes, singers blurt out their words
to dumb ears, plaids first widen, then shrink – then
swell again, disappear. The pages of a story, so says Aristotle,
will show a beginning, a middle, and an end, though
Godard argues with the order, and we, flicker-shadowed
in our seats, don’t know the difference. All my sins
rise. Think of them as gifts, as ointment for wounds,
as breath that breaks the pond’s surface. What I
would miss most is easy. What is it you most crave?
I’d always feared love’s boldness, but not this moment.
I wear my age like a bruised apple –
the hornet, drunk on the last of my sweetness.
Self-Portrait, Ending with Neruda
The vanishing tribe of the body hates
and loves the body with an ache so tiny
the world dies. They gather
all their things onto backs of animals,
wearied with the need, long column
by long column, for the migrations
into darker regions, worn thin
under footfall, over rivers starved
to rock beds. There used to be wolves
in those parts. And snows, magnificent –
jagged edges of grace under thick skies.
This then is history: the guessing,
no one saying anything, bamboo in a bowl,
bending, the hushed slide of clouds
over mountains and the meadowlark’s throat
calling down autumn. The anthropology
of the moment is shadows across the couch,
photographs and piano, a mirror to end the hall,
footsteps. This is what I carry. This is
what I breathe. When I close my notebook,
the ink dries in secret.
But we hover now, plate to plate.
Exhausted in the doing,
we tongue-to-roof-of-mouth our l’s,
salt and pepper to taste, then eat
the holier portions, such a carnal enterprise.
The cave paintings we leave, though undisturbed,
would tell a story, smoothed over stone,
of those certain dark things beyond music.
Journal of the Plague Year

               — for Ann Richman (1929-2005)
my sickness is this war my sickness is
this death my sickness is this war my death
is this sickness is my war my death is
this sickness is my war my death is my
sickness is my plague is my war is my
death is this war is my death my sickness
is this plague I am sick to death of war
I am sick to death of this war I am
death and hell on a black horse I am sick
I am sick my plague is this death my war
is my sickness my plague my plague my plague
my death my sickness I am death I am
death my war and it is you it is you
lily petals floating in a glass jar
Published in Inside a Broken Clock (Finishing Line Press, 2010).  

Order Inside a Broken Clock.
Visit Inside a Broken Clock’s Facebook page.
Visit Sam’s blog.
Visit Blue Fifth Review.

James Sutherland-Smith: Five Poems

James Sutherland-Smith

James Sutherland-Smith was born in 1948 in Aberdeen, United Kingdom. He is a poet, reviewer and translator from Slovak with his wife, Viera, and with others from Serb, and scrapes a living teaching and examining in Slovakia. His latest collection, Popeye in Belgrade, was published by Carcanet in 2008. He has been working on a second selection of poems by Mila Haugova (Slovak) and a first by Ivana Milankova (Serb) and has just finished a long sequence of poems called ‘Mouth’.
Greenness has come thickly to the eye;
The apple blossom’s pink and white
Almost completely blown away,
Magnolia having shed what could be
Rich purple shells of lizard eggs.
Lime pollen scratches at my throat.
Black junipers creep up the hills
Like conspirators in cloaks.
Just to feel what it was I hoped
Once more sensation by sensation!
It won’t happen. No girl will emerge
From underneath the chestnut tree,
The light turning raindrops to pearls
On a face upturned and demure
Yet saying “Risk everything!”
Clouds disperse, mountains briefly show
Lion shapes as the dark replaces green.
I’ll renew as best as I know how
Watching while stars rise then slip down,
My hand splayed, two leaves lacking green.
Having the Boys Over
Who will tumble from the sky
And be arrested in my garden
Disentangling themselves from a parachute?
Who will thrust up through the soil
And brush crumbs from their heads and shoulders
Staring goggle-eyed waist deep in our cabbage patch?
And who will flit like a bat
Intent on catching moths and midges
Claiming they are between heaven and the earth?
None of my friends, I suspect,
Though some I chose who are outrageous;
Some still love their wives, some still believe in God.
We look up at shooting stars.
The ground beneath our feet is unmoved.
Something dark in the air shies by very fast.
from Mouth
Before dawn so many different pitches
whose rhythms are about the same, but not quite
on repetition; wheezes, rapid trills, catches
rippling over grass curved by the weight of dew
with its silver half-sheen in the half-light.
At midday above the crag a honey buzzard
mews to another as it circles
with hardly a movement of its wings.
Not a leaf stirs or tussock trembles
under its long breve, its fading call.
By evening emptied of all sound
a trick of shadow has made the valley a mouth,
a tongue of fire at the far end.
An almost pure flame, startling as a shout,
trails an incoherence of smoke from its forked tip.
A toad sings in the garden
with a trill like a mobile phone
while the night begins to harden
as a mouth once sweet becomes
a zero someone turned to stone.
No change in the song of the toad,
which is simply calling for a mate,
no change in the eyes that glowed
except when a name is spoken
and a blank look comes alive with hate.
The toad’s mouth doesn’t open.
Its throat pulses each side of its head.
It has revived after rain has fallen.
In the hot summer under a rock
or rotting log it played dead.
So here you have it from the horse’s mouth,
direct, not by word of mouth.
Was he down in the mouth, shooting his mouth off!
Not to mention almost foaming at the mouth;
I almost had my heart in my mouth!
Mind you, he was all mouth and trousers,
never one to put his head in the lion’s mouth
or his money where his mouth was,
always taking the good words out of her mouth
and putting them in some little tart’s mouth.
You should have heard him mouthing off,
that she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth,
that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
Left a nasty taste in my mouth, I can tell you.
Fed up she said “Shut your mouth, arsehole!”
Visit James’s website.
Order At the Skin Resort (Arc Publications, 1999).
Order In the Country of Birds (Carcanet, 2003).
Order Popeye in Belgrade (Carcanet, 2008).
Order Mila Haugová’s Scent of the Unseen (Arc Publications, 2003),
translated by James and Viera Sutherland-Smith.

Rowyda Amin: Five Poems

Rowyda Amin

Rowyda Amin was born in Newfoundland, Canada, to parents of Saudi Arabian and Irish origin. She has lived in Riyadh and is now based in London. In 2009, she was awarded the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for poetry. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Wasafiri, Notes from the Underground, Rising, Calabash, The Frogmore Papers, and the anthologies Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, 2009) and Exposure (CinnamonPress, 2010). Rowyda is a PhD candidate at Birkbeck, University of London, where she is completing a thesis on the topic of ‘Identity in Arab Diaspora Fiction’. She has reviewed books for Modern Poetry in Translation and the Poetry Book Society website.
Frost Fair
Slideshow faces flicker from the station.
You’re following the mood to London Bridge
where taxis cruise black as death’s pyjamas.
The Thames you find is glacier silk, shantied
with booths and carousels. Five screaming hens
speed by in a white horse sleigh. Ballad singers
busk their vagrant lines. Alas my love, you do me wrong.
Crowds scoff hotdogs and candyfloss,
cheer as Punch batters Judy with the baby.
Hog roasts spit fat on the ice, children watching
with faces pink and hot. Thy girdle of gold so red.
Falling snow feathers the whipped bear moonwalking in chains.
It looks at you with marshmallow eyes
and you want to take its arms and zip over the ice,
feel fur on your cheeks, skating against the wind to the estuary
where the ice breaks apart, but you smile, hands in pockets,
and turn to the skittles and acrobats,
                                     sugared crepes and hot wine.
And yet thou wouldst not love.
Previously published in Magma, Issue 45, and Ten
(Bloodaxe Books, 2010).
Café Danube
He stayed behind the fridge until he was sure
there was no one left, then stepped through
the litter of glass and abandoned suppers
to the podium with the Yamaha synth.
He righted the stool and played, as he did
most evenings, the themes from Love Story,
Casablanca and Titanic. Rain squalled
through the empty door frames. A dog
entered, shook itself, licked the cream
from a fallen éclair and urinated on the leg
of a waiter, which was sticking out
from behind the bar. The pianist broke
for a whiskey then switched to show tunes.
Water pooled into the centre of the room.
He heard claps, far off but getting louder.
Ex-lover with Seaweed
Is that you on the shore,
           wearing a mask of seaweed
and a wet suit,
           slick and dark green?
It looks slimy and is swarming
           with tiny fleas that hop
up and down
           but never leave your orbit.
You seem to be suffering
           in your kelp suit,
you don’t know
           how you got wrapped into it, tight
as the bandages on a burn victim
           but you lift a corner and pull
to show me it’s not coming off.
           You tug at the mask
but the rubbery green
           is flush with your lips.
The seaweed owns you like a new name.
           I can’t help you, I say
as you hold out
           your palm blistering with airbladders.
Your tongue is a green strand
           swishing from your mouth,
but I can’t stop long.
Previously published in Magma, Issue 45.
Insect Studies
She flinched only as I began
the black frame of the Emerald Swallowtail
poised to land on a blossom of the cherry branch
that bloomed across her back.
When I’d wiped off the rust of blood
and excess colour and padded her latest with gauze,
she slipped her shirt back on
and we drank coffee
while a teenage boy searched through flash sheets
to find the right kanji for his arm.
She showed me pictures of fritillaries
she wanted inked in the spaces
on her lower back and thighs.
The boy settled on ‘death’
and took her place.
See you after payday she said,
but never did except for the night in June
when I woke silver with honeydew
and she stood in the doorway,
her body a flutter of bright little wings
and antennae curling away from her
like cursive script
and the butterflies flew to me,
flattening themselves against my skin,
each eager proboscis
burying deep in the tissues.
Previously published in The Shuffle Anthology (2008 – 2009)
(The Shuffle Press,2009) and Ten (Bloodaxe Books, 2009).
Hunter’s Moon
At forty three, Memmie le Blanc
lives by making artificial flowers,
exhibits herself to the curious
and sells them copies
of Madame Hecquet’s Histoire
d’une Jeune Fille Sauvage Trouvée
dans les Bois à l’âge de dix ans
She stays off the Paris streets,
folds her long tree-climbing fingers
morning and night for prayer.
When she sleeps, windows open
for the breeze, the body she holds
stiff as a nun disappears. Her toes
touch grass and she is the wild girl, quick
as a spring, who chased down a hare
and dropped it, bloody and warm,
at the Queen of Poland’s feet.
Previously published in Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, 2009).
Order Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe, 2010).
Order Coin Opera (Sidekick Books, December 2009).
Order Magma, Issue 45, edited by Clare Pollard.
Visit Rowyda’s website.

Catherine Smith: Six Poems

Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith’s first short poetry collection, The New Bride (Smith/Doorstop), was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, 2001. Her first full-length collection, The Butcher’s Hands (Smith/Doorstop), was a PBS Recommendation and was short-listed for the Aldeburgh/Jerwood Prize, 2004. In 2004 she was voted one of Mslexia’s ‘Top Ten UK Women Poets’ and included in the PBS/Arts Council ‘Next Generation’ promotion. Her latest collection, Lip (Smith/Doorstop), was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2008.
She also writes short fiction and radio drama and teaches for the University of Sussex, Vardean College in Brighton and the Arvon Foundation. Her first short fiction collection is due out from Speechbubble Books in November 2010. She has adapted three of her short stories for a stage performance, Weight. She is working on her next poetry collection and a novel.

Nobody tells you this – that when
your second baby latches on the nipple,
the womb, lonely and vicious,
clenches itself, again and again,
fists and thumps, or snarls itself
into a cat’s cradle, knots and knits,
a spiteful old crone tugging
and winding wool and the pain
makes you cry out, and want to push
your child away, this innocent
torturer clamped and hungry,
nobody says, the price you pay
for doing things by the book,
for offering your breasts like holy gifts
is a body furious with you,
a womb still sullenly contracting,
nobody tells you this tightening
is the womb’s last gasp,
because the sadness of it
might linger, might cause you to
grieve, leak useless tears
onto your newborn’s scalp,
and you might not understand
or forgive. And you must forgive.
First published in The Rialto.
Sad about my ex-lover
I open a decent bottle of Merlot,
fill a glass almost to the top
and within minutes
he’s up to his knees in a dark red lake
sloshing around comically
wind-milling his arms.
I drink steadily until
he’s waist deep, flailing.
He shouts up to me –
Remember Westminster Bridge,
my hands on your breasts?

The flat in Kennington
where you bit my thumb to the bone?

I say nothing, pour another glass.
Once he’s fully submerged
and I can no longer hear his screams
I sigh and close my eyes –
finally appreciating the Merlot’s
musty fruit; the full, robust body.
First published in Trespass.
Losing It to David Cassidy
That hot evening, all through our clumsy fuck,
David smiled down at me from the wall. His ironed hair,
American teeth. Eyes on me, his best girl.
And his fingers didn’t smell of smoke, he didn’t
nudge me onto my back, like you did, grunting
as he unzipped my jeans, complaining
You’re so bony, and demanding, Now you do something –
hold it like this
. David took my virginity
in a room filled with white roses, having smoothed
the sheets himself, slotted ‘How Can I Be Sure?’
into the tape machine. And when we were done
he didn’t roll off, zip up and slouch downstairs
to watch the end of Match of the Day with my brother,
oh no, not David. He washed me, patted me dry
with fat blue towels, his eyes brim-full of tears.
All over the city, women in restaurants,
cafes, bars, wait for their fathers. Sometimes
the women sip coffee, or wine, pretend to read.
Some fathers arrive promptly, smiling,
dressed as Policemen, or in flannel pyjamas.
One wears a taffeta dress, fishnets and stilettos,
rubs the stubble under his make-up.
Sometimes the father is a Priest
in a robe stained with candle-wax.
Some have pockets gritty with sand
from Cornish holidays; one father
flourishes a fledgling sparrow, damp
and frightened, from an ironed handkerchief.
They bring spaniels, Shetland ponies, anacondas,
they bring yellowed photographs
whose edges curl like wilting cabbages.
One father has blue ghosts of numbers
inked into his forearm. Some of the fathers
have been dead or absent for so long
the women hardly recognise them, a few
talk rapidly in Polish or Greek and the women
shift on their chairs. Some sign cheques,
others blag a tenner. One smells of wood-shavings
and presents the woman with a dolls’ house.
Some fathers tell the women You’re getting fat
while others say, Put some meat on your bones, girl.
Some women leave arm in arm with their fathers,
huddled against the cold air, and shop
for turquoise sequinned slippers or Angelfish
hanging like jewels in bright tanks. Others
part with a kiss that misses a cheek – lint
left on coats, and buttons done up wrong.
Blue Egg
That first morning, he boils her
an egg the colour of a spring sky,
a baby boy’s first room.
She cups a hand over its heat.
It’s miraculous, this egg,
conjured for her. He says
the colours vary – some
aren’t really blue at all,
they’re green as a winter sea.
Is there a God, she wonders,
whose imagination allows
the creation of eggs like these –
eggs so beautiful, and rare –
nothing a husband would serve his wife,
or a mother her child?
This love must be possible,
as he shears off the lid
and feeds her the first mouthful –
cloud albumen, sun yolk –
when eggs are the colours
of the sky and sea, when she
can kiss the hairs on the back
of his wrist and think of hens
easing blue eggs onto warm straw.
This is his first afternoon with Madame
in her flat above the bookshop, the buses
whining through the drizzle along
Islington High Street. He likes
her colour scheme – bold purple, gold,
everything flickering in the candle-light,
very different from the magnolia anaglypta
and white skirting boards in Theydon Bois
– and the scarlet drapes and Turkish kilim
where a one-eyed ginger cat
regards Madame’s whip phlegmatically
as she trails it across his thigh. He likes
the joss sticks dropping ash
onto the floor like insouciant students
though he’s less keen on the actual pain –
the bite into the flesh; he slips further
from the room, each lash a descent
into darkness, his skin laid open,
vision blurring and that’s when
he realises he’s forgotten the Safe Word.
It’s a place, yes – some northern town
he visited as a child. He remembers
grit-stone houses under a film of rain,
women in beige with bosoms big enough
to offer shelter and the smell of baking,
a wet dog itching its fur against his legs.
He’d said to Marjorie several times
he’d like to retire somewhere like that,
somewhere with hills, real hills, the light
on them blue as the day went. Look,
he whimpers to Madame, do you think
you could stop that now – but no,
she’s in her stride, a real professional,
and he’s so tightly bound, his wrists
chafing on her iron bedstead.
He can feel her breath on his neck, yeasty
and warm as the loaves in the bakery ovens,
swelling and rising to greet the new day.
‘Losing It to David Cassidy’, ‘The Fathers’, ‘Blue Egg’ and
‘Heckmondwike’ were published in Lip (Smith/Doorstop, 2007).
Visit Catherine’s website.
Order Lip (Smith/Doorstop).
Order The Butcher’s Hands (Smith/Doorstop).
Hear Catherine read some of her poems at The Poetry Archive.
Visit Speechbubble Books.

Geoffrey Philp’s Dub Wise

Geoffrey Philp

Geoffrey Philp is the author of ten books of poetry and fiction, including Dub Wise (Peepal Tree Press, 2010). Philp’s poems and short stories have also appeared in Asili, The Mississippi Review, The Caribbean Writer, Gulf Stream, The Apalachee Quarterly, Journal of Caribbean Studies, Florida in Poetry, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, and most recently, Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root. He teaches English and creative writing at Miami Dade College where he is the chairperson of the College Prep. Department. Geoffrey has a popular Caribbean blog:

“Without losing the joy of play or the play of the rhythms, Dub Wise celebrates the burdens and delights of love, friendships and the responsibility of being at home in the world. Geoffrey Philp’s new book is witty, playful, gracious and, yes, wise. An enjoyable read from beginning to end.”
– Olive Senior
“Geoffrey Philp, in multicultural Southern Florida, sensitively explores his complex heritage, alert to the environment he has entered and to his Jamaican roots. Epiphanies in the U.S. and the Caribbean, sensuous love poems to his Colombian wife, poems about family, hurricanes, injustice and other challenges; poems in dialogue with myth, literature, the bible, music – these are some of the many graceful treasures in this book. Give thanks for Dub Wise.”
– Mervyn Morris
“The voice now distinctive, recognizable, the tone clear & clipped & ‘skitter’ [the ‘something like music’], the stanzas running into each separate other, as they shd, like the human voice does. Also a new strong sense of place (Third World Miami and its Spanish – and Kgn of course – esp from Mountain View to the Sea), family & history (welcome the Seminole). Above all, there is the continuing infolding of a ‘Jamaica Tradition’ as being established in the voices of Morris & Dawes, plus also the acknowledgment of McNeill, Baugh, Mikey Smith & Garvey, and the NL of Jean Binta Breeze. And Derek Walcott (where he grounds, in a way, the Morris-Dawes Ja Tradition) in ‘Beyond Mountain View’.
– Kamau Brathwaite
Tallahassee 2005
On those cold mornings when my daughter
shuttled between work and classes, she’d bury
her face in her sweater as her bus heaved a steady
sigh around the circle named for Chief Osceola,
who spent his final hours in a dry cell, dreaming
of the day when his people would remember
old stories that reminded them who they were
before the advent of musket and small pox,
before they learned words like “cannon”
and forgot their own names;
before he was betrayed by his own nobility,
for believing the war could ever end –
seeing friends when he should have counted enemies;
captured under a white flag,
whipped by the wind, like the scarves
of those old black men she saw along side
roads of Tallahassee, bent by work and promises,
like angels in the mist, stumbling home before first light.
Summer Storm
After thunderstorms have cleared the city,
After the homeless have abandoned their cardboard palaces,
Fog older than Tequesta circles, Seminole arrowheads
and Spanish jars, dulls the sawgrass’s razor,
turns away from charted rivers,
slithers over the boulevard I could not cross
when the names Lozano and McDuffie rhymed
with necklaces of burning tires, and away
from churches with broken steeples that grow
more vacant each Sunday because their faithful
folded their arms while balseros floundered, boriquas
drowned, and neg joined their sisters and brothers
on the ocean bed. Yet something like music
rises from the sound of gull’s wings beating a path
over Calle Ocho, Little Haiti, La Sawacera, like bells
that echo over the Freedom Tower, bright as the final
burst of the sunset against billboards, gilding the sea
grapes’ leaves washed clean by evening rain.
A Poem for the Innocents
A killing moon peeks through leaves
of trumpet trees in full bloom
for Lent, their barks crisscrossed
by wild strokes of a machete
when my son tried to help me weed
our garden, overrun with dandelions,
branches, leaves, a bounty of seed
and thorns, side by side, under clusters
of suns bursting through the branches.
Shadows flicker across the wall upstairs,
over Buzz Lightyear’s grin, Mr. Potato
Head’s sigh, and under a map
dotted with cities that fill his dreams.
What promises will I make
when I climb the stairs
before he falls asleep to the noise
of the television with cluster
bombs blooming in the sky
over Baghdad? What comfort
can I give him as I draw the sheets
over his shoulders, kiss his forehead,
when he worries that if he closes his eyes,
his Aunt Batsheva, half a world away,
will not rise from her bed in Gan Yavne,
thirty-seven miles west of Ramah
where Rachel wept for her children
and refused to be comforted.
The map over his bed now frightens
him, and I cannot convince him,
despite the miles and miles of oceans
and deserts, that the machete
under his bed will not make him safer,
any more than the sacrifice of innocents
will save us, for he knows,
he knows, somewhere
between the Tigris and Euphrates,
a wave of steel races toward Babylon.
                                                  March 22, 2003
Summer Love
for Nadia
“And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
– Sonnet XVIII, William Shakespeare
When evening ambles down Flagler
to the tumble of closing cash registers,
mould of faded bills in the back
pocket of his blue, pin-striped suit,
she will go with him only as far
as the river to watch fishing
boats with their tail of terns and pelicans
flashing wings, like silver,
against glass vaults of Brickell.
But when night struts along Biscayne
with the rumble of reggae in his stride,
tabaco and mojitos on his breath,
desire tight around his waist,
she will lead him down the causeway
into cooling waters of the bay,
daily cares sliding off their flesh,
and her dark laughter, like waves,
lapping the sides of the Rickenbacker.
Mule Train: Version
Lawd, me know it wrong,
but, do, doan mek de boots
buss, fa me an de pickney
cyan tek no more. Fay u know
de reason I mek de deal
fe carry dis poison
inna me belly an heart.
Ev’ry mornin’ me an de pickney
wake up from sleeping pon de col’
floor, an me haffi clean dem eye,
wipe way de matta, send dem
go school with jus a prayer
inna me heart
that so fassy-fassy now
is like smady close de door
inna me ches’, an lef me one
fe wall naked in de dus’.
Lawd, do, I know I shud tru’
only you, but dis plastic
is de one t’ing dat stan’
between me and certain deat’
an t’ings not looking
so good wid de acid bubblin’
up me throat an unda me tongue
an I wonderin’ even if I mek it,
how I gwine live?
Beyond Mountain View
As we descend Mountain View Avenue,
past houses that lie prone
beneath Wareika, scarred by hurricanes
and bulldozers, past walls
smeared with graffiti that still divide the city,
I roll up my window from the stench
of the sea at low tide that creeps
into storefronts and rum bars,
into the hair of sisters in floral
prints, shirts of brothers
with spliffs tucked behind their ears,
up the legs of children rolling
spokeless bicycle rims down a lane
still unchanged by my love,
and ready myself for the blinding blue
of the Caribbean Sea that shapes
the palisades of Kingston, shrubbed
by mangroves and sea grapes, round
the bend that in my childhood led
to Harbour View, away from my father’s
anger, as light flashes outside
my window, across my driver’s face
making even the bush beautiful.
Near the roundabout, our car joins
a line of holiday traffic heading
toward the airport, smell of the dead
harbour clinging to my body,
and a man, armed with a rake and machete,
clears debris from the embankments,
branches that block signs for travellers like me
who have forgotten which side of the road leads home.
from Dub Wise (Peepal Tree Press, 2010)
Order Dub Wise.
Visit Geoffrey’s blog.

Rethabile Masilo’s Tribute to Geoffrey Philp

Rethabile Masilo

Rethabile Masilo is a poet and editor from Lesotho. He lives in France with his wife and two children, aged 12 and 10. Rethabile is hanging onto (and working on) a poetry manuscript that he hopes will become a book soon. His poems have appeared in Orbis, Ouroboros Review, Bolts of Silk, The Mom Egg and Ascent Aspirations. He blogs at Poefrika.
The Writer as a Man
for Geoffrey Philp
Go into the jungle of my mind, god,
and send forth from a temple there
just like during a storm the force you’ll find,
the dark sound of slaves in a hold where
a black, no-longer-dormant sea builds to a swirl,
hurting with rage: send it with a south-to-north angle,
please, this grudge of ages. Grant freedom to those who
know your name and go to it, god of a great many people.
As for me, Red-Stripe and jerk make me who I am
and fill me with thought, I’m uninhabited and free.
I’m me. Bastard with new chromosomes to give.
Yes, this is my song. On the banks of the Orange river
a full life I have lived, after coming here as a giver
of tokens and karma. Yes, they brought me here
against my will, but this island is my home,
I wear my mask across it like a Dogon sun.
The face I wear is mine. I wear it and on a palette
mix it with spit and the verb of my tongue
to paint into a final version the things I see,
to woo all who in the past have thought
that your wonders, god, were for nought.
Visit Rethabile’s blog.
Visit Geoffrey’s blog.

Matt Merritt: Three Poems

Matt Merritt

Matt Merritt was born in Leicester in 1969. He studied history at Newcastle University, and has worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist in Cardiff, Leicester and Peterborough. He currently works for Bird Watching magazine, and lives near Leicester. His chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, was published by HappenStance Press in October 2005, his first full collection, Troy Town, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2008 and a new collection, Hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press in November 2010.
Gabble Ratchet
Corpse hounds, he calls them,
each one the soul of a child
taken too soon to be baptised,
or gabble ratchets, with all that suggests
of infernal machines, devices
of a consciousness that bedevils
our gentle swoop into sleep, dying only
in the first confusion of new light.
Wader Flock, Thornham Harbour
Grounded, they give themselves up reluctantly,
bleached to first-glance uniformity
by the brilliant, cold sun. But when they fly,
they separate by species. First the redshanks,
flutters of raw nerve, skimmed inland by the wind.
Curlews, tailing away down the deep curves
of their calls. Godwits, oystercatchers, dunlin,
gone, until all that’s left is a scatter of grey plovers.
Cranky old bachelors, almost content with their own
reflections, finally trying to outfly their shadows,
mourning themselves in a thin diminuendo.
The sea at Ashby de la Zouch
is every artist’s dream. The muted blues
of distant Charnwood are (just ask
Sir Walter Scott) as nothing
to its azure depths, the mescaline
textures of its shifting surface a gift
to all who ever flirted with the muse.
Civic-minded townsfolk work to maintain
the beached hulk of the castle
as a serviceable metaphor, while the littoral
is a rich seam of inspiration, where present
and future mingle to lap against
the petrified forests of the past.
Along the front the pubs are full
and in The Lamb two youths
beat themselves up over the words to the old song
but draw only a glance from the landlord,
a character, who spent his best years
working the treacherous coast of Bohemia
and still can’t believe he ran aground here.
Visit Matt’s blog, Polyolbion.
Visit HappenStance Press.
Visit Arrowhead Press.
Visit Nine Arches Press.

Mir Mahfuz Ali: Two Poems

Mir Mahfuz Ali

Mir Mahfuz Ali was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He studied at Essex University. He dances, acts, has worked as a male model and a tandoori chef. He has given readings and performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and other theatres in Britain and beyond. His poems have appeared in London Magazine, Poetry London, Ambit and PN Review
Mahfuz was shortlisted for the New Writing Ventures Awards 2007. His poetry has been published in the anthology Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe Books, 2010), edited by Bernadine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra.
My Salma
Forgive me badho, my camelia bush,
when you are full of yourself and blooming,
you may ask why, having spent so many years
comfortably in your breasts I still dream of Salma’s,
just as I did when I was a hungry boy in shorts,
her perfect fullness amongst chestnut leaves.
The long grass broke as I ran, leaving
its pollen on my bare legs.
When the soldiers came, even the wind
at my heels began to worship Salma’s beauty.
A soldier kicked me in the ribs. I fell
to the ground wailing.
They brought Salma into the yard,
asked me to watch how they would explode
a bullet into her. But I turned my head away
as they ripped her begooni blouse,
exposing her startled flesh. The young soldier
held my head, twisting it back towards her,
urging me to spit at a woman
as I might spit a melon seed into the olive dirt.
The soldier decorated with two silver bars
and two half-inch stripes was the first to drop his
ironed khaki trousers and dive on top of Salma.
His back arched as she fought for the last leaf
of her dignity. He laughed as he pumped
his rifle-blue buttocks in the Hemonti sun.
Then covered in Bengal’s soft soil, he offered
her to the next soldier in line.
They all had their share of her,
dragged her away out of the yard.
I went in search of Salma,
amongst the firewood in the jungle.
Stood in the middle of a boot-bruised field,
working out how the wind might lead me to her.
Then I saw against the deepening sky
a thin mangy bitch, tearing at a body with no head,
breasts cut off in a fine lament,
I knew then who she was, and kicked
the bitch in the ribs, the same way
that I had been booted in the chest.
My First Shock at School
Muktar was his name – his tongue
still white with his mother’s milk,
and he sucked his thumb in the classroom.
Monsoon music drowned the light of day.
Our Lakeside School was surrounded by black waters.
Water-hyacinth, rice-grass and lotus covered the lake.
Tiffin time. Playground muddy.
We had nowhere to go at break, but watched
how the rain-mist dusted our eyes – a white darkness.
He led me to the back of our school.
We stood at the water’s edge.
He took his fleshy shoot out of his pouch.
It was small as a young gherkin,
a yellow flower still attached to its head.
I laughed. He took my hand, pulled it
and asked me to touch, as if to take the flower
with the ant that hid in its pollen.
I snatched my hand away.
He wanted to slide mine out of my blue shorts,
measure it against his.
I refused. He insisted again,
said it was tiny and soft as a leech.
I reached out into the darkness of my pants.
His eyes sparkled as if he’d just seen a spikenard bloom.
First published in Ten: New poets from Spread the Word,
edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra (Bloodaxe, 2010)
Order Ten here or here.
Read more of Mir Mahfuz Ali’s poetry at the
Poetry International Web.
Read ‘Fellowship of the exiles: a tale of writers’ resilience’ in
The Christian Science Monitor.

Anne Stewart’s The Janus Hour

Anne Stewart

Anne Stewart is the founder of poetry p f and her ‘day job’ is providing technical services to poets and poetry organisations on a freelance basis.
She created and runs the Second Light Network website, is Administrator for the network, and was co-editor with Dilys Wood of ARTEMISpoetry (Second Light Publications) Issues 1 to 4. She assists at the Enitharmon Press/Enitharmon Editions publishing house (London), is the Kent North West Stanza Rep for the UK’s Poetry Society, Vice President of the Shortlands Poetry Circle, a poetry appreciation group founded in 1911, and UK Language Consultant for the online ‘Translation Café’ (English/Romanian) run by Prof Dr Lidia Vianu in Bucharest.
In 2003, she was awarded an MA (Dist.) in Creative Writing by Sheffield Hallam University (tutors Sean O’Brien and EA Markham) and was selected in 2005 as one of the graduate poets in the Ten Hallam Poets anthology (Mews Press, eds. Sean O’Brien, Steven Earnshaw and EA Markham). The anthology attracted high praise from top-calibre poets, Don Paterson, Julia Darling and Helen Dunmore. In 2008, she won the Bridport Prize for her sonnet, ‘Still Water, Orange, Apple, Tea’.
Her first collection, The Janus Hour, was published by Oversteps Books in 2010.

Cover Image: 'Opening' by Martin Parker (Silbercow)

Take my Hand
I’ll take you to an island, any
Greek island town with winding
uphill paths, and as we reach
the highest, steepest bend,
steady yourself. Catch your breath
and turn, be careful of your footing, the stones
are loosening in the crumbling earth,
and there it is:
the line of trees,
the simple line of trees
I want to show you.
So small, so far, you hardly know
what shape they are, though these nearby
amongst those terraces perhaps you recognise
as olives? The green of these is soft,
exquisite to the touch and eye, if eyes
could feel the things they see.
I holiday much less these days.
But that isn’t what I miss you for,
those little Englands, lazy Autumn evenings
in the Spanish islands.
You never could have tried these paths
― never would have chosen to ―
left tired by all your own old steepnesses;
but the far trees, see, before the dark light falls,
how they glisten like sapphires
setting off the world.
I wish … That is …
I just wanted to show you
something beautiful.
Young Girl Waking
He was the sort of man she might
have loved she thought after another night
conveyored into bed
with the careless threat
of a man-less night by a dreamless man
seeking refuge in that dead place of her own;
that dark not used to choice or given to refusing
but beginning to wonder if such a losing
would be so bad a thing.
Cold enough for out on a limb
You are the kind of man she told him,
and he listened, and was never seen again.
First published in Ten Hallam Poets (Mews Press, 2005).
One day, when my breasts were still thinking about it,
and I woke my older sister in the morning,
I asked her but where do you put them at night?
She told me Don’t worry. They sort themselves out.
I imagined them ducking her upper arms as she tossed and turned
and, when she rolled over, levering themselves out from
                                                        under her sides.
Soon I was carrying mine behind a shield, I thought,
                                                                of folded arms,
turning their whispers into a shout.
What exciting lives they’ve led!
Hers have four children between them. Her twin
has four daughters and they have six children between them.
So many breasts and kisses! Such kisses.
All the love, and the years flown and I still don’t know …
How they keep safe? Where they go?
First published in The Interpreter’s House, Issue 34 (2007).
from The Janus Hour (Oversteps Books, 2010),
ISBN 978-1-906856-16-8
Cover Image: ‘Opening’ by Martin Parker (Silbercow)
Author Photo: from original by Elena Nistor (Bucharest)
Order The Janus Hour.
Visit Anne’s website.