‘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

‘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

‘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

‘His Heart’ by Raymond Antrobus

His Heart

turned against him in a chicken shop.
He said my heart is falling out

as he slipped into dreams
of his mother in Jamaica.

He came through in hospital, longing
for the woman, dead twenty years.

His son visits and they spend
half an hour holding hands.

There is a needle in his arm
and blood in his colostomy bag.

He asks the nurse if he can go to the post office
to buy his daughter a postcard

but forgiveness does not
have an address.

Madge is the first girl he kissed in Jamaica –
white floral dress, scent of thyme and summer.

She visits his hospital dreams.
Madge is not the nurse who dissolves

painkillers in his water.
He does not drink with his eyes open.

His son turns on the radio,
it is A Rainy Night In Georgia.

His son, a blur
on a wooden chair.
 
 
 
 
Raymond Antrobus is a British-Jamaican poet, performer and educator, born and bred in East London, Hackney. He is co-curator of Chill Pill and Keats House Poets Forum. His poems have been published in The Rialto, Magma Poetry, Oxford Diaspora’s Programme, British Council Literature, Shooter Literary Journal, The Missing Slate, Morning Star, Media Diversified and forthcoming in POETRY magazine, Wasafiri and Ten Anthology, (Bloodaxe). He was selected for The Complete Works 3. Twitter @RaymondAntrobus

‘The remembering business’ by Rishi Dastidar

The remembering business

Today a truth was decided, |                  | Like marching ghosts, we rip
seven centuries ago, that |                 | pages out of ourselves to tell you
bread and wine could be |                 | all is well, that we won’t be the
more than the best of us, |                 | future trapped in these trenches,
the closest we can be to God. |                 | where the mud of ambition,
But we never remember |                  | power, mulches into memory.
blood transforms borders, |                 | Peace has a pulse too,
never our natures. |                 | it is skittering into a silence.

 
 
 
 
Rishi Dastidar’s poetry has been published by the Financial Times, Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre amongst many others, and was most recently in Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014). A fellow of The Complete Works, he was longlisted in the 2016 National Poetry Competition and his debut collection Ticker-tape will be published by Nine Arches Press in March 2017. He is a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, and also serves as a trustee of writing development charity Spread The Word. Twitter @BetaRish

Two poems by Fiona Moore

In our Hearts

By the old hospital the mini-cab drivers still say,
everyone says, though there’s no hospital now
except in the mind, only a high dark blue hoarding
with Homes and Communities Agency stencilled
in white, along with A new heart for East Greenwich.
The demolition’s long finished and the vast space
is closed by double metal gates, where today

an object glints in the sun, stuck into the gap
for the padlock chain, a long cellophane wrapper
protecting something brown and curled up like a creature
preserved at its moment of dying. The flower
wasn’t a rose: maybe a lily, exotic.
There’s a sky blue ribbon and a small card that’s faded
so all you can read through the condensation

is part of a pre-printed, curlicued message,
in our hearts. You can see through the gap here:
first is a concrete block, but what ram-raider
would try to get in, into this rank wasteland
of rubble and last year’s flowers and grasses, where spring
has not arrived? The site is bumpy like a frozen sea
or an unmarked burial ground.
 
(first published in South Bank Poetry, 2011)
 
 
 
Poem for a friend

The wave mills everything to rubble
and floats detritus along its running edge
towards empty streets, a few cars
escaping screen right –
until the focus moves to a road on the outskirts,
a cyclist in a white top, helmeted
head down, riding. It may
be only a matter of time, though there’s hope
while the wave’s out of the picture.
What does it sound like, a roar,
a new kind of thunder?

I’m not even sure he existed, or was filmed
or if he was, that I saw him –
but I see him now and think of you
trying to outride your tsunami, not knowing
how close it is, how fast,
how much you can hope for.

(previously unpublished)
 
 
 
Fiona Moore’s second pamphlet Night Letter was published by HappenStance in 2015. She is assistant editor at The Rialto and blogs at Displacement.

‘A Brock Geology’ by Jean Atkin

A Brock Geology

Night falls & ………………………………………………fills the dingle with badgers
badgers pressing grasses…………………………………………………to bent curves
they feed & drink  ………………………………………………play, they trail their
piebald noses low ……………………………………………..to flow of brook & deep
below, taste all the cold ………………………………………….then warming rocks
red iron beneath their ………………………………………………………paws & pads
they follow glint of mica ………………………………………………….in their skulls
unlock the parish scents ……………………………………………..fling back its soil
behind their claws ……………………………………………………then shoulder one
another on towards …………………………………………………….midnight & have
no questions ……………………………………………………………….for their deaths.

 

 

Jean Atkin lives in Shropshire. Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time is published by Oversteps Books. Her poems have won various prizes and she has also published five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel, The Crow House. She has held various residencies in both England and Scotland, and works on education and community projects.  Twitter @wordsparks

‘The Data Quality Analyst’s Lot’ by Hilaire

The Data Quality Analyst’s Lot

For every if, an else, a then.
For every cursor, a loop that ends.
Each open bracket must be closed;
so single quotes must come in pairs
and double quotes—ditto. Her joy
is found in datasets, in structured queries
and parsed syntax. Wild cards flourish
within her fields, while table by table
she builds her joins on left or right,
eschewing Cartesian product for defined
results. No variables are undeclared.
These are the parameters of her daily grind.
Before the screen her face is blank.
Outside the binary, her life is null.
 
 
 
Hilaire has published short stories and poetry in magazines such as Magma, Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry and Under the Radar, and in several anthologies. Triptych Poets: Issue One (Blemish Books, Australia, 2010) features a selection of her poems. She is currently working on a poetry collection with Joolz Sparkes, London Undercurrents, unearthing women’s voices north and south of the river. Twitter: @Xilaire

‘The Red Shoes’ by Joanne Key

The Red Shoes (for Karen)

Dead on my feet, I watched those shoes
flounce through the churchyard, dance
on your grave, all vamp and platform.
Flashes of red infected the corner of my eye
as they tiptoed over my face. As I tried to sleep,
I heard them clacking away the early hours
like drunks stumbling on the cobbled streets.
With nobody left to stand in their way, they shone
with the light they stole from your eyes.
Now that’s vanity, Karen. That’s pride. And poor,
lifeless ghost-you, wooden feet clomping
in time with mine, haunting the supermarket
looking for polish, every night in the bar
asking strangers for a light, sorrowful face
reflected back at me in the optics – hair knotted
into laces. I cried every time I saw those shoes,
free as larks, their nimble high kicks
splitting the air like knives.

I courted those shoes and they grew used to me,
I drew them closer until they felt they knew me,
and as soon as I could, I inched my feet in
and took off, waltzing them through farmyard
and outhouse, past the kicked-in doors
to run the gauntlet of boots and bruises,
through the sting of fists and blisters,
back to the cottage with the bloodstained floors.
You should’ve seen me go, Karen, through fields
full of old crows and cows, on and on, ignoring
all the doe-eyed lowing, dancing through barbed wire
and bull shit. Damn fool shoes didn’t know the half of it.
Oh I danced them, Karen. Over lambs tangled
in afterbirth, across the skins and rotting bodies
back to the abattoir where those shoes stopped
dead in their tracks like two startled hares.
I pushed them hard, forced them on, right into the hands
of the slaughter man who danced them into a corner,
heels scuffing against the white wall, their red ribbons
unravelling into silent tongues that now follow them everywhere.
 
 
 

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems have appeared in various places, online and in print. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.