Two poems by Abegail Morley

The Curator’s Obsession

I wake on the edge of forgetting a dream ‒ mice skitter
under sheets, tails in the folds of my grip still warm,
widowed from their bodies. Sun creaks in, an intruder

unshutting night ‒ neat hands untuck bedclothes,
clock’s tick now faint, the man on the radio speaks
in Russian, says he holds a flower to the microphone

and the traffic on the London Orbital stops. I write
down number plates because numbers are important,
they’re hatched chickens. I wonder if I’m awake

or a spine of lightning in a November sky.
When I reach for her, the box is dumbstruck, limbless.
Somewhere in the curve of night she left for good.
 
 
  
Assembling

She borrows her pelt from the cat, lies back,
wallows in its stunted silken threads, the weave

of its stitching, how fur overlaps, silver hair on hair,
hind legs soft, subtle as saplings. She takes her eyes

from the ancients ‒ black rocks, thick set, as if put in place
by a salt gale. She fumbles for lips, hits on a breadth

of red horizon brimming from the window ‒
sculpts her nose from ice found in shattered pools,

melts, shapes like soft wet cloth or tacky clay.
She makes herself every day from lost particles, snippets

of sentences, things hidden from view. One day
she’ll show him all this, undress, exhibit herself

unaware he’s waited for years. Absent words jabber
from the ache of silence, burrow in his foolish head.

Sometimes late at night he’ll hear her after rain,
her raw voice will hang in the air for hours.
 
 
 
  
Abegail Morley’s fourth collection, The Skin Diary is published by Nine Arches Press (2016). Her debut, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection. The above poems are taken from In The Curator’s Hands – a pamphlet forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Two poems by Kathy Pimlott

The Rookery Redux

The rain collects by drains stopped up with fatbergs from the eateries,
in cracks and trips of slabs laid slipshod and craftless. Step carelessly

and soak your shoes. Do you belong here? Do you loop grey nets to foil
the suck and growl of traffic’s heat? Do you open your windows at all?

At night the seven streets pinball each drunk chorus, each deal undone,
each spat. Roused sleepers turn and mutter vows to flee to Harpenden

Peterborough, somewhere normal. Let’s not forget it always was about
money, this star conceived for dosh, more rental by the frontage foot

than squares. Cute schemes, smart ideas leap and crash, leave logos,
hidden eglomise, blind windows. The crack crowd keeps its ground, Soho

to St Giles, between cameras and lights. Watchful, unbranded and urgent,
heads over cupped palm, with sudden limping dashes, they shout, feint,

twist and turn, wry faced and pissen pants, hopeless and eternally hunting
for that one good deal among the pop-ups, the fairy-lit trees, the bunting.
 
 
 
Makeshift

When you’re drowning in blah and good knife skills
so much depends

upon

believing the promised
pops of

a red the greater for being half forgot When the wheel skews
and sweating outweighs the ease

of trundling the barrow

make it a bed for Mara de Bois
a support for those exploding

                                                       cucumbers

for these are makeshift times when every chink’s
needful
                When you’re thrown back on sand

grit and the nous to gouge channels

wipe your glazed eye so you might see to guide rain
to the right place

Water
your stiff heart for though the world’s

beside itself the Middle White’s
still entirely useful except its squeal and

chickens

too of course in all parts
even their gurgle’s balm
 
 
 
 
 
Kathy Pimlott’s pamphlet Goose Fair Night (The Emma Press) was published in 2016. Her poems have appeared widely in magazines, anthologies and on-line. She lives in the Seven Dials corner of Covent Garden.

‘Kyrie’ by Seán Hewitt

Kyrie

Purple blush of sky and lilac drooping
by the greenhouse. The last heat of day
rests in the grass, and from the shadows
under the conifers, there comes a moaning,

a pain riddling from the undergrowth,
a voice caught out after dark. And my mind,
closed off from sight and the body’s reading
of the world, convinces me it is the crying

of a child left out in the yard behind ours.
Naked, its soft fat limbs and wet mouth open
and wailing and helpless. And I stand frozen
by the back door and the quiet house,

trying to listen, receptive and distrusting
my body – the ring of light from the kitchen
over my shoulders making of the garden
a more solid darkness beyond the patio,

like the darkness that lives behind eyelids.
And I swear at first the crying seems to stop
my heart as I think of it, sends my mind
whirring outwards into the night. Trance-like,

I begin to step further from the light
of the window and into the garden, slow enough
for my eyes to reinterpret with each step
the shapes of bushes, the forms of shirts

hanging on the line, but still I can not imagine
the sound as anything but a child cursing
in the pitch-dark conifers, and as I walk closer,
my hands white in the garden air, a sudden

panic breaks in the bushes, a brawling,
and I see the darker shapes of two cats
mating. It is here, by the swaying conifers,
away from the glow of the house,

that I realise I have found myself at a place
so close to life, to its truth of violence,
that my mind has wired out, but even now
I could not say which was the truer thought:

the cats or the lost child; and I think again
of calling home that night from Sweden,
of hearing my mother’s voice and telling her
what you had done (tablets, rum, calling

to say goodbye), and how I made
an animal sound, a noise so primitive
that I felt inhuman, how I cried
like something new-born

because I had found myself
in a world where all abstract things
(death, fear, loss) had been born in my mind,
and what is a parent to a child but a god

who we turn to when we still believe
that everything is fixable, a god
who we weep to as we grow
into the world, as we age into it

and each abstraction comes closer.
And wherever I have found myself now
seems somewhere other than my own body,
and each living thing is a child, and our parents

and gods are only children and again
I am in the garden thinking of standing by the lake
in Sweden and considering all the ways a mind
can uproot itself, of all the short-circuits

left in the world. I am thinking of the shadows
under trees, the lives of animals, the places
where words extinguish themselves and leave
all the things that cannot be fixed or forgotten.

 
 
 
Seán Hewitt won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2016. His poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review and the New Statesman, amongst others. @seanehewitt

Keep reading the poems

And Other Poems is taking a break and will be back in 2017. Thank you to everyone who’s sent poems this year and thank you to Rishi Dastidar for being a wonderful co-editor. I post updates on the News page so it’s worth checking in from time to time. You can read all of the hundreds of poems at And Other Poems by exploring the archive or by clicking on Index. Thank you for reading poems.

Best wishes

Josephine

poinsettia-2016

‘Poem for Oscar with Stars in it’ by Kevin Graham

Poem for Oscar with Stars in it

Hoisted in the high chair of my arm – all bum and elbows
and chocolate ice-cream hands – you point a finger up at the fluid
night sky and say star. We’re on the porch of your uncle’s house,
on one of the year’s fledgling days, a couple of briquettes buzzing
nicely in an old barbeque. Leaning forward, you wet your fist
and try to blow them out from ten feet away, as though they were
birthday candles. The fizzing pylon looming overhead won’t stop
falling in my mind into the tender hub of our after-dinner party.
Sparks fly and catch in the fleeting nightmare, then recede.

Out here, in this Finnish-timber retreat, this otherworldly
stillness, we could be anywhere: Donabate, Tromsø, Chiang Mai.
The sea whispers beyond the bushes, dragging its enormous haul
back and forth between our listening ears. The flowing wine
has purpled my teeth and I must appear to you as a zombie,
you who toss your hair back suddenly and spot Jupiter kindling
in its hard-silvered light, make a purring sound and turn
to face me with all the wonder the world hopes you never lose,
and say again – in a voice that leaves before you know it – star.
 
(first published in The Stinging Fly, Summer 2014)
 
 
 
 
Kevin Graham is from Dublin, Ireland. His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies. He was selected for the 2012 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and was shortlisted for a 2014 Hennessey Literary Award. He was featured poet in the summer 2014 issue of The Stinging Fly and is currently working towards his first collection. A chapbook Traces has been published by Smithereens Press and is available to download. Twitter @kevcgraham

‘Amy, how to write poems’ by Katherine Stansfield

Amy, how to write poems
for Amy McCauley again

in these times of boxes and unlearnt languages
and cats dreaming twitchyleg distress?

I do what the advice books say and write every day
but lately o lately my poems are just lists for leaving:

buy new cat carriers, microchip the cats,
tell the cats about THE MOVE.

The flats behind ours have been knocked down
yet no one will come for the rubble, the rusty washing

line poles. This could be an analogy for something
significant if I could remember what ‘analogy’

means and you know it’s hard to find anything
close to conceptualisation with all this aching

business of marks on the page – o – and what’s
the sodding point of poems anyway?

The cats wake up and I lie about the future.
They smell deceit, and because I can’t bear

their moans of betrayal I head into town,
into my regrets, where people are chalking

death on the hoardings of the unbuilt Tesco
and the wind wants to drag the best laid plans

out to sea. Plus ça Tuesday. I slalom
scaffolding to find you in the Italian deli

but lack lingo wherewithal to order your latte. Mi
dispiace
! Me, 100% linguistic black hole, and you,

expanding galaxy of words, you who are song,
guess piccolo is probably small – si! Prego. Bingo.

We discuss the Muses who never come round mine.
For all I know they’re in the ruin of the old flats

or haunting the cats’ dreams. For all I know
I know nothing. Not a coffee bean. Nada yada nada.

On the way out we talk cat stress when moving.
The good news is that your cat has recovered

from her trips on the train to Manchester
and when I get home I find half a shrew

on the stairs so I end the day thinking, bach,
things might be OK. In Italian this will be bene.
 
 
 
 

Katherine Stansfield’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, Magma, Planet, The Lonely Crowd, The Lighthouse, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Interpreter’s House, and her poem ‘Canada’ was Poem of the Week in The Guardian online. Her first collection, Playing House, was published by Seren in 2014, and last year she was awarded a writer’s bursary from Literature Wales to complete her second collection. After many years living on the west coast of Wales, which included a stint as a university lecturer, Katherine is currently travelling in North America until she runs out of cash (sadly imminent). Twitter: @K_Stansfield

Séance by Zoe Mitchell

Séance

If anyone here can talk to the dead,
please tell my Dad the news of his daughters
that would bring him the most peace.

Tell him of the dreams we made real,
and the grandchildren who laugh in his image.
Tell him we miss him and we know

he always loved us. List the achievements
he would most want to brag about to whoever
his pals are in the afterlife. Tell him

we’re happy, please – or if you must
catalogue the trials we’ve faced since he left us,
tell him we conquered every one

or tell him that we’re going to
if he doesn’t beat you to it. He always was fast
to find faith in us, I imagine he still is.

You’d better not tell him about all the books
he’s missed out on, or the way the world is going –
anger is bad for his heart and you can’t

be too careful. Who knows if we take
our weaknesses with us when we go? I think so
because in my version of heaven

he’d be wearing his glasses; his face
wouldn’t be his own without those constant frames.
Tell him I know I wasted this page,

I don’t believe anyone talks to the dead,
or at least I don’t believe they can listen. He’s gone.
There are no more updates or back tracks;

I have to lean close to my heart to hear
what his answers might be. He would advise
telling it all to the living, while you can.
 
 
 
Zoe Mitchell is a writer living and working on the South Coast. She has been published in a range of magazines including The Rialto and The London Magazine. Her work also appeared in the Chalk Poets Anthology, a collection inspired by the landscape, history and mythology of the South Downs commissioned by Winchester Poetry Festival 2016, where she also performed her poetry. Twitter: @writingbyzoe

Two poems by Jessica Mookherjee

The Liar

I never believed in Father Christmas
as I crawled out of the chimney, soot-stained,
ingrained dust in the whorls of my skin.

I never feared the dark, crawled under my bed,
talking to dust, moulding it into imaginary friends.
We sang together to the soil.

Suspicious of prayers to invisible gods, I stared
at vicars and asked them who would go to hell,
whether they worshipped thunder.

I found runes in churches and muttered spells
in graveyards, climbed into yew trees,
licking insects from bark.

I saw adults spin, catching flies, never saw bogey-men
lurking in woods or under bridges.
I crawled from moss-damp ponds dripping with slime.

No-one believed me when I told them
where I went at night, under those trees,
inside badger holes, curled up with fox cubs.

Teachers and parents told me to tell the truth,
scrubbed the earth from under my nails with wire,
called me a liar, washed my mouth with soap.

(published in Prole – Autumn 2015)
 
 
 
The Milk

There are no daffodils in Bengal,
so my mother had no idea why I wore one,
it was the ladies that fed me welsh cakes
who told me why
I wore a black hat on
St David’s Day.
Dewi Sant, I wasn’t sure
who he was, but
I thought I heard him in the
waves off the Mumbles head.

I had no grandmothers here,
just the mamgus on the bus.
Those crinkled Bridget’s were my wet-nurses,
feeding me chewing gum, peppermints and
their native tongue.

Those old ladies fed me stories
of frost covered forests
and Bendigeidfran.
They were my milk.
It’s comin’ in, see
they said – with an eye on the wind,
come pray with us…
I went to their chapel, where the wood is worshiped
and where they had me believe
that the desert Bible lands were in the mountains
of North Wales.
 
(published in Tears in the Fence, 2016)
 
 
 
Jessica Mookherjee is a poet with Bengali heritage, who grew up in Swansea and now lives in Kent. She has a background in Biological Anthropology and works in Public Health. She has had poetry recently published in Under the Radar, Tears in the Fence, The High Windows, South, The Interpreter’s House, Prole among many others. She has been selected to be in the Templar anthology 2016 and Eyewear’s Anthology of Best New British and Irish Poets 2017. Her pamphlet The Swell is published by Telltale Press. Twitter @jessmkrjy

‘Hazel’ by Aled Thomas

Hazel

Swedish and new and steel
it would take his thumb as keenly
and cleanly as the shoots off
the hazel canes he’s shaving and
stacking against the wall.

The wound would be the same, for a bit –
the colour of cream and smooth as an ice cube
on a zinc bar.

The other wood – that stuff that comes on a truck –
has been transformed from a pile,
where it was drinking up the rain
and serried for the winter.
Two ranks, where it exhales the scent
of the forest, and he steps out every hour,
bends to it and breathes deep.

The sun has some real heat now
and he’s having to squint
trying to follow a fat tadpole,
its frogness bulging at its skin.

As the pigeons call like field hands
and a robin marks his patch like a drunk
offering to fight the whole pub,
he can hear his own blood in his ears,
and doesn’t know if that should worry him.
 
 
 
 
Aled Thomas lives in Gloucestershire, where he works as a journalist. He is a graduate of the Guardian/UEA writing masterclasses. He has performed at the Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the Winchcombe Festival of Music and Arts. He is currently working on his first pamphlet with Frosted Fire Press. He blogs (occasionally) at aledthomas-writing.blogspot.co.uk and is on Twitter more frequently at @AledThomas99

‘Rose Petal Jelly’ by Angela Readman

Rose Petal Jelly

The apples drip slow as September
dabbing sun to the rain, juice
slips over the glazed lip of a jug.

Outside, a resilience of roses hold
in the wind. We feel petals open, jagged
caruncles in the corners of our eyes.

One nod and I shin a fence, grab
a second flush in blushing fists.
Mother snips off the bitter white tips

and grins. Some women don’t deserve
roses, or know how to use them, she says.

The kitchen smells like a honeymoon.
Only love letters open as slowly
as she lifts the lid, nosing in at the roses

someone’s wife didn’t pick, all ours,
donating their rubies to our pan.
She holds a sunset, lets it fall

through her sieve. Briefly, the windows
fill with a rosetint. Our used jars
become churches we smash with a spoon.

Caruncle: the red prominence in the inner corner of the eye.
 
 
(from The Book of Tides, Nine Arches Press, 2016)
 
 
 
 
Angela Readman’s poetry has won The Mslexia Poetry Competition, The Essex Poetry Prize, and The Charles Causley Poetry Competition. Her work has been widely published in various journals including Ambit, The Rialto, Magma, Popshot, Bare Fiction, and Envoi. She also writes stories, her story book Don’t Try This at Home (2015) was shortlisted in The Edgehill Prize. Her latest poetry collection, The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in November 2016. Twitter @angelreadman