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Openings 20 An anthology of poems by Open University Poets

2003


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Copyright remains with the individual poets. Published 2003 by Open University Poets. ISBN 0-9544852-0-3


CONTENTS Introduction ........................................................................................5 The Horse Charmer. Matthew Macer-Wright.....................................7 4 Matisse Dancing. Patricia Aves...........................................................8 After the Heavy Rain. Jim Lindop......................................................9 Margins. Anthony Stainer ...................................................................10 Planters. Pippa Deacon........................................................................12 The Beast. Beryl Myers .......................................................................13 At the Poetry Bookstall. Adrian Green............................................14 Juliet’s Friends. Rosa Thomas............................................................15 Last Resting Place. Anne Allinson....................................................16 Angharad Park. Mark Bones .............................................................17 Doe. Stewart Earl Emmott..................................................................24 On a Photograph of my Father. Steve Horsfall ..............................26 Orkney. Carol Washer ........................................................................27 Keats and Shelley Revisited. Dave Etchell.......................................28 After Miranda. Ron Dodge.................................................................29 Encounter. Merryn Williams..............................................................31 Only a Poem. Alice Harrison.............................................................32 There is a Joy. Nick Baker ................................................................34 Early Summer Morning. Rodney Wood............................................36 Trenches. Peter Alton.........................................................................37 Despot. David Gildner........................................................................38 Beached. Hazel Warburton ................................................................39 Noises Off. John Starbuck .................................................................40 A Quiet Man. Eileen Ward................................................................42 Up in the Attic. Ian Campbell............................................................43 Christmas Rose. Denise Bennett.........................................................44 Barbados Nights. Linda Dobinson....................................................45 The Cossington Burial. Peter Godfrey...............................................46 Listen. Anita Packwood ......................................................................48 Submission. Daphne Phillips..............................................................49 Come With Me. Evelyn Leite ...........................................................50 Hardy at St Juliot Church. Jenny Hamlett........................................52 The Smallest Angel. Dolly Harmer................................................... 54 Dangerous Minds. J A Bosworth ......................................................55 Some Friendly Advice. Phil Craddock .............................................56 Graham’s Garden. Hilary Mellon .....................................................57 Eleven-Fingered Child. Andrew Pye ................................................58 Relative Values. Julius Smit...............................................................60 Sophie’s Battle. Kathy Bausor............................................................61 The Best of Times is Now. Mary Shiells......................................... 62


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Introduction OU Poets is a Poetry Society open to any student or staff member, past or present, of the Open University. At the time of going to press there are about 120 members from all over the UK, with some in Ireland and in mainland Europe. Members of the society submit poems to a magazine, which is produced 5 times a year, each one having a different voluntary editor. The magazine is not a publication per se and is strictly produced by the members for the members. There is a section for comment and criticism of members’ work. At the end of the year, members are asked to vote for the 20 poems they most appreciated from the 5 magazines produced that year. Those with the most votes, allowing for no more than one poem per poet, appear in the following year’s issue of Openings. The anthology is as broad-based as the society itself and reflects the varied backgrounds, interests and tastes of the members. If you would like more information about OU Poets, please contact the Secretary: Steve Horsfall, 45 Masons Road, Hemel Hempstead, Herts. HP2 4QS or go to http://www.oupoets.org.uk. (opinions on the webpage are not necessarily those of the society).


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Matthew Macer-Wright The Horse Charmer My daughter is with the white horse tonight and her head is filled with sand. It is blowing off the far islands, a fog embracing her, but still she watches. I can feel her stroking his mane. Time and the ravens have left her on the headland, while foam whips up and forgotten creatures howl. My daughter is with the white horse tonight and I hear her heartbeat like humming grass, waiting to be strung. She is laying her hands on his taut underside, laying her hands on the secret places, listening for his snorted chants, his icy breath, his terrifying sighs. My daughter is with the white horse tonight, I caught her padding across the fields in a nightgown, with only the piano lamp, and I wonder she don’t freeze. Bring him back to us, dear girl, make him strong and well, heal him in his bolting. While we, on the inside, wait as the wind whirls round and the sea itself is singing.


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Patricia Aves Matisse Dancing Purple robe and anemones? Zigzags and stripes, curlicues, dots and dashes. It’s enough to give you a headache. The flowers block me out and the dressing gown makes me look like a slob, not dressed properly at four in the afternoon. By the time he’d finished the preliminary sketches, I was fed up and he knew it but he didn’t care, just kept raving about the yellow on the red and how the anemones sang with the fruit. Didn’t even put my name in the title. He could have lain the robe over the back of the sofa and saved me the boredom of sitting there looking like a pinched-mouth prawn. No gold fish to break the monotony either. Henri, I said. Why don’t I dance again? Woman, he replied. Look at the lines, look at the colours. Everything is dancing! And he did a little twirl in front of the canvas. Men! What do they know about dancing?


10 Jim Lindop

After the Heavy Rain After the heavy rain, we watched dawn fish smack their flat, black pool quicksilver moonslices: and, on the qui-vive, the drastic heron’s drama of cranked wings, in flagrante delicto. After the heavy rain, we caught the frogs’ panic in the bladdered grass. We sniffed fat fungi rising in the warmed, retted soil, its anguish in that slow sigh sousing the dawn chorus, which breathed it out in song. After the heavy rain, we listened to the Liebestod, toasted long-gone friends: a magpie, close, crackled, in touch with rhythms older than the rattle of the train scarring the distance, scolding the thin, new sun.


Anthony Stainer

Margins 11

The sea swirls around black weeded rocks, into indented shore places, softening the habitats of crabs and other crustaceans – tiny sentinels all, lock keepers, little Praetorian guards of these peripheral spaces. This is marginal land, not sea-deep, not land-locked but borderline. Awash from timeto-time, though open to earthy breezes as well as the swell of the tide, cold at times (frost limed) but also warmed by the sun, and attentive skinny legged kids with buckets and shouts, gleefully searching weeded holes for these inhabitants of a world on the edge, cool and green, full of scents. Full of patience. They are used to long waiting times,


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Pippa Deacon Planters Nicky and I went out for a walk over the fields to the riverside. Each carrying a bagful of bulb-and-stalk from clumps divided at Whitsuntide, and a planting stick and an apple or two. We ate the apples, but the cores we threw in green hedge wild and wide. The years will go and we must depart from fields and river, from the house and hedge. And others will come and admire the art of daffs and narcissi by the edge of riverbank, and look at the bloom that promises apples in hedge’s gloom – though they’ll keep away from the sedge. And they will say, “How good God is, to give us the joy of river and flower; wild apples in bloom, just look at this!” And my mouldering bones will call for the power to shout out loud till it’s heard on high: “The river is God’s, but Nicky and I gave you the bloom and the flower!”


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Beryl Myers The Beast She saw it lying on the floor. All black it was, with legs galore. She screamed, she shrieked, she really freaked. What should she do? She grabbed a shoe to beat the beast. She beat it long. She beat it hard. She walloped it with all her might till she was sure that it was dead. And then she put her glasses on to take a closer look and saw her false eyelashes on the floor.


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Adrian Green At The Poetry Bookstall “Ooh – pottery!” she said, turning away to the lady with the painted slates. “Not quite my thing, I’m into bonsai trees – they’re quieter, more restrained, and give me time to think.” “But see, I know what I like – that Kipling bloke, The Road to Mandelay, and poems that rhyme, you know, proper like.” “I don’t like modern stuff – don’t know what they mean, like piles of bricks at the Tate, there’s someone being conned.” “I wrote a poem once, they put it in the parish magazine – I might have been famous, but started a family, see.” “You wouldn’t think I’m only thirty-three, would you? There’s plenty of time – I’ll write another one soon.”


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Rosa Thomas Juliet’s Friends Juliet likes worms and ants And little things that crawl on plants. “Spiders are clever and frogs are fun, There’s a place for all creatures under the sun.” Says Juliet. Juliet thinks mice are nice, And rabbits have endearing habits. She’s keen on bats And mad about cats. And walking out she stops and greets Everybody’s dog she meets. Juliet’s heart has lots of space But her pony holds a special place, And as for the other horses she knows She’s also very fond of those. If an elephant should leave the zoo And roam about wondering what to do. He could stroll into her yard And Juliet would love him too.


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Anne Allinson Last Resting Place Among the drifted dunes a crooked spire shows where St. Enodoc lies hidden low, its huddled graves protected from the wind by a surrounding hedge of tamarisk. No nodding, black-plumed horses come this way, no solemn carriages, no shining hearse with motorcade of mourners moving on in slow procession to the last farewell. There is no road – only a narrow path across the golf course of Trebetherick where players, dreaming of a hole in one, trundle their trolleys over hallowed turf. From childhood holidays in Daymer Bay and summer cycle rides down country lanes, he carried Cornwall always in his heart and sang its beauty in his poetry. Through wind and driving rain they carried him into the church he loved; he chose to lie with sailors shipwrecked on this rocky coast, the sea his everlasting requiem.


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Mark Bones Angharad Park We pause a while within this velvet dark, uncertain, still, of all it is we’ve planned but vowing fire. This is where we stand! As if our homes were all Angharad Park. The day began at dawn – an early hand or two, padding round the athletic track, yawning gardeners watering rack on rack of flower pots wedged in greenhouse sand; a normal day, if time could be called back? A summer of prayer, our parent and our child, a living routine, as much serene as wild to be savaged now? Under vile attack? Everything harried, all unravelled? Reviled because such sad unfeeling machines seek to drag down everything strange, all that’s unique? Though we are levelled up and gently beguiled? No chance. No earthly way. They’ll find the meek and mild will gather up their power and fight to inherit their earth and well before their light bums out! We’ll turn no other cheek, nor tolerate intolerance ... the right to enjoy this whole of life is sacred ... a mark of health and blessedness, a fleeting spark of the endless flames that set us all alight. Then summer workers followed like the lark to open kiosks, empty bins, unchain the children’s rides and patiently maintain the nerves and sinews ... of Angharad Park ...


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whose arms guide us through the autumn rain and the spring winds, the peaks of summer heat and the depths of winter cold – the year’s complete and spared from any rash demands for gain, or crude parades of engineered conceit, or misused power. The world’s outer storm may not be allowed to intrude upon this warm sustaining nest! Just think of all the sweet delight it holds ... then scouts from the swarm appeared, on children’s feet, to find and report the richest flowers of fun! And suddenly caught, some early chapel-goers scenting reform of straight and narrower paths a while, were brought here, rapt and smiling, in danger of being late for steadier orders of service. Next a spate of earnest half-clothed pilgrims to sport abruptly pounded balls at a rapid rate to use the early tennis slots to best advantage; and football heroes bent to test the health of hams and hangovers. A group of eight tai-chi statues slowly swayed on the crest of a skyline knoll. Their slightly exotic show made a cluster of questing children slow to smirking whispers when they fell from a nest of bushes – they squealed away to the trees below in search of favourite dens and dammable streams with yet another colour to add to their dreams of adventure. And who knows all the hues that flow within this light and shade? The sun’s beams painted a sudden multicoloured arc across a shiver of passing showers. A band of dark rainclouds troubled the plans of opposing teams. For where is the sea that exists without its shark?


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And here we know our villains and they their place, and here they must preserve at least some grace – all human life is here in Angharad Park ... and life rolled up in eager floods as the face of the day recovered its early summer heat. A laager of funfair rides spread out to greet its gleeful patrons, boys beginning to race from rink to tent to booth, crazy to beat each other to favourite spills! To be the first! And sometimes older kids of fifty nursed their nerves on a helter-skelter or sneaked a treat of candy-floss while sterner elders immersed themselves in the deepest rhythms of bowls. Oars and paddles ploughed the boating lakes. Applause ringed the bandstand as soon as the players rehearsed their opening chords ... then after a pregnant pause, the creamiest tones of brass flowed; the growl of rock would rule in the afternoon. The prowl of a pair of friendly bobbies threaded its cause of harmony through the crowds. The wiser owl, old Vince – who knew us all, and was well-known if not quite welcome to all – was trying to hone a sidekick’s greenhorn skills. But where were the foul felons, the dastardly crimes? Ben was shown a burned-out car, left the previous night behind the trees at the gate. This place is bright but can’t be closed, let no-one speak of a lone fantasy held apart from the world: the blight of the world invades us, when it can, yet still we thrive. For think of the manifold gifts that fill this fountain of goodness – how some enjoy the light


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of public awards! Acknowledged deeds! The shrill of committees! But others keep their labours dark, content to watch their efforts disembark on quieter shores. But countless kinds of skill are freely given when they are asked – this ark, that bears us over the floods of life, will need to be carried by us or dull expedient greed will grind us down, and out of Angharad Park. The day was halfway old. The crowd look heed of hunger but came back vaster than before. A clear, glorious sun began to draw the most reluctant players – too hot to bleed the brakes; or grapple with awkward duvets; or score repeated victories over their cyber-foes or talk their bosom buddies through the throes of romance, again. Summer promised more, and here was the starting-place! The town rose as one, to fill the paths and walks; and buy the chips and drinks and silly hats; and fly the model planes; and meter the light and pose for pictures; and eat whole blowsy picnics or try the tops of hills for kites or play some game in naked feet, or debate the baby’s name. The lonely turned to cider ... or to sigh, at length, on mobile phones, then sport the same lovelorn frowns. The band arrived to strut its stuff. It polarised the crowd – some cut and ran! Others screamed as all who came here sought a sunny space of their own to shut aside the day – or wallow in it. Near


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the noise – or far enough apart to clear the head and soul, somewhere free from the rut of existence where any change is a kind of cheer. Life is afire, right from the first spark to the last within these acres. Parents mark their children’s earliest steps without a fear for their failing amid the gentle grass. The stark ends of life can mean more complex games for sweating stretcher-men ... but some make claims of having been conceived in Angharad Park! Did anybody succumb to the beat and the flames of love today, there in the lovely shade of the tangled slopes? Were any new lives made to the music? For if each future nostalgia blames the sun and the rhythm, the legend will be remade to live, forever. Amen. The afternoon passed its glorious way until it was spent. The fastfood stalls began to fail. All of the strayed children were claimed. The sleepers awoke at last as cooler breezes stirred at a lobster back or belly. Batsmen felt they’d taken the smack of leather on fingers enough in the nets, and cast their minds to ale – for concentration grew slack at thoughts of willowy girls up high on stools in shadowy country bars, amid circling schools of scandalous rivals. And little Jill and Jack wore bruises and stings and cuts and mud from pools aplenty to show their bed-bound granny that they were Bigger Now – and able to run away from parents prone to wonder if they are fools


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to let them roam so young. But where better to play outside their concrete flats? The wage of a clerk – still less the dole – could never hope to embark on costlier sports and treats. At least this way they give their time and love, beyond the mark. And hope that this is enough in a world to be feared, for this is the day the notice boards appeared! The time had come to fight for Angharad Park A few observant souls were puzzled. They peered at plastic-covered papers pinned to trees, or wired to gates and posts. These dry decrees declared our park was being commandeered! For redevelopment work! And should we please to comment we have to go and scramble through their triplicate hoops, and soon! Could it be true? How? And why? What kind of madmen were these? And would we comment? Do fish swim? Who, or what had even dared to propose and dispose of us and ours? What tinpot godlings chose not to consult, and not to inform and threw us aside like soiled clothes? And yet they pose as benefactors, they claim to work and speak for the common good – and yet how rarely they seek the opinions of others! Always beware of those who strive to deceive themselves the better to wreak some tarnished truth elsewhere. Brutally spurred we crowded close and promised to spread the word, and wondered how to channel our rising pique into furious deeds. And before a night-time bird had sung, or the bats had flown, or the urban fox has raided the bins ... or the warmest cardboard box


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was found by our local tramp ... we’d already conferred in park-side homes, or anointed this worst of shocks in pub-side gardens. And what would we do to ram the venom of our message home? We’d spam the developers’ intemet sites! We’d hurl our rocks in the local media! We’d gather up funds to cram their public meetings with experts, and treble the cost of proceedings – and make our politicians feel the frost of their broken vows – and use each ruse and scam from all the books we knew. A line has been crossed! A die is cast! Even our dogs bark on sensing the mood, the choice is plain and stark! We work together ... or all this beauty is lost. So now we pause within the velvet dark ... uncertain still of all the things we’ve planned, but vowing war! This is where we stand! As if our lives were all Angharad Park.


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Stewart Earl Emmott Doe When I went down to the shallow stream To carry some water back up to the farm I saw a doe with her fawn. So I was careful to hide myself from her, In the long grass and the ferns Of the roadside path Where silently I watched her As she took her time to drink. She held herself so well, Sure of her own frailty, Her tail flickering quickly from side to side, Like some very nervous small gazelle. The fawn fell down in the grass From the heat of the sun And kept ever so still. The doe looked around her worriedly. She was aware of some fresh danger Approaching She became aroused – alert. Suddenly from out of the air I heard the voices of men calling to me – The labourers from the farm. Their cries roused fear in the beating hearts Of the doe and her fawn, And she fled with a spring Into the woods around


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Leaving her fawn alone to hide In the camouflage of her kind. I too sprang out of the ferns And called to the men I was near For I had decided not to tell them of the deer. So we carried the water back up to the farm, And I kept this sighting to myself, For it was given to me alone. I looked back over my shoulder As we climbed our way up the hill. I looked to the glistening stream below, And I saw the doe coming back timidly To fetch her charge. And then in an instant they moved away Their tails flickering anxiously as they left.


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Steve Horsfall On a Photograph of my Father Grasping the signal lever with one hand, He glances left, waiting for the moment To move the signal, and alert his colleague In the next box down the line. He was Younger than my older son is now. So much responsibility, so young! He glances left, carefully ignoring The person with the camera trained on him; And me, his son, old enough for his father, Six feet and more than sixty years away. I, still unborn, watch him, still unmarried, There on the innocent side of World War Two. He glances left, but I don’t catch his eye.


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Carol Washer Orkney The terns are captured under glass, pale hieroglyphs impossibly fixed in paint. Faint, angled white against an airless, too blue sky, they are fading with inactivity. I have watched their dance of lands of ice, lands of spice. Seen their silver soar as they catch the sun. I have heard their song of matchless feats of flight. It is said in a lifetime they may travel as far as the moon. Here, silenced, they strain towards the picture’s edge. I break the glass.


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Dave Etchell Keats and Shelley Revisited Almost too painful are these memories I read of autumn’s idyll, beautied long ago. Soft winnowed words conspire the soul to feed for youthful dreams in deathless streams still flow. I stand beside a ruined cider-press its oaken frame sucked dry by wistful years; those last oozings long, long ago were fresh as were those wonders my bright spirit shared. There was a time, Oh there was a time when like the wild west wind I seemed so free; so brief that season, magical, sublime; yet only leased to each by destiny. Now my heart aches and drowsy numbness pains for I have drunk the hemlock of the years, of blushful Hippocrene a little yet remains before my glass is washed out by death’s tears.


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Ron Dodge After Miranda Sparkles of dew spot the roses, the scent of cut grass fills the air: yet this stink of deceit is the single receipt at the end of our foolish affair. These birds are singing the wrong songs, all clouds have divorced from the sky. And this intrusive sun that’s so much overdone is perfection that’s living a lie. We came here when we were so happy, we laughed and we hadn’t a care: the warmth of those mornings hid all signs of warnings and I’d never a hint of despair. And now it’s the place where we once came where ‘escape’ had a positive ring. Summer’s turbulent lease allows no sense of peace: the birds may, but I cannot sing. Why now should I come here without you; since We were not Us, turn the knife? I don’t have the heart for you took it apart and left me no shred of a life.


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Barbara Cumbers The Owl who was Flowers I am sharpness, I am shadow, I am eyes searching the moonlight for movement, piercing it where I can. I hunt in silence on wings as soft as petals. I move in air when I would grow in grass, sunlight drawing me upwards, a slow spear rising, pushing peat aside until heads could open to reflect the sun. I was meadowsweet of the marshes, tall and fragrant. I was broom of the heathland that scattered dew and raindrops in the breeze. I was speedwell and may, a woman made from flowers, perfumed, brushed by bees and open to a husband’s warmth. I was heartsease. They say that I betrayed him that my owlness is a punishment for adultery. They do not know what he did to me – cut me from my roots, made me walk on hard stone and withered me in the skylessness of houses. I rest on a post. It is my stem. My face is a flower that shines in darkness, turning and turning, bereft of the sun. Can he feel my eyes?


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Merryn Williams Encounter I never go to Oxford station without remembering how I stood one September afternoon outside the glass doors, deep in talk with a man my age – whom I’d not seen for years, bumped into at a day-school, just about recalled – caught up with each other’s news, in the ten minutes between my taxi and his train; went home, forgot, then saw his name in the obituary section of a certain magazine. No suggestion he was ill – that was a surprise. And still crowds press through that station, kids with mobiles, backpacks, shrieking, kissing, linger, buy a cappuccino, and then it empties. There endure no footprints on the marble floor. Days draw in, and all get back to whatever they were doing; no echoes now disturb the air. But I (although I hardly knew him) am never quite at ease, when there.


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Alice Harrison Only a Poem It’s only a poem, I said as a fellow-student wondered how Sylvia Plath could generate so much hate for a Daddy dead when she was eight. I had volunteered to read it aloud and felt possessed by the charged delivery I remembered from a record. Nerves gave me that breathless note of hysteria. I aped that rush and drawl of American vowels. Ich, ich, ich, I spat. When I was through, trembling a little, did I expect applause? Certainly I resented the carpingly literal remarks of the woman, bristled as the man with the neat moustache cleared his one-note throat. Meaning to dismiss them did I dismiss Plath and her hectic poem? Did I diminish poetry with that diminishing only? I should have said simply or uniquely: a poem may capture the fleeting imagined emotion, must not be made to bear too much biographical weight.


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What I really meant was I could imagine I hated my father and write a poem about it or I could pretend I loved him and write a poem about that.


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Nick Baker There is a Joy There is a joy In the rising of the sun And the setting. And the heat of noonday, Smiting in its heat. And the darkness of night And its tranquillity. There is a joy In the heat of summer And the coldness of the dark season. And the season of many greens And the time of gold. And then the wind Roaring in bare branches. There is a joy In the hills of the north Of sheep and stone walls Of high Crag And high, waving heather, The grey clouds and rain. And snow on the fells. There is a joy In the coasts of the west. Of high waves breaking On granite shore and headland. Of hot sun on white sand And a warm, bracken-scented walk


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To a cream tea. There is a joy In those south lands Of heat-shimmered cornfield And hard, sintered clay. The friendly, clutching hand Of a warm dawn Ahead a day of city heat. There is a joy On a calm and quiet even. A Blackbird calls in the wood. The sunset is red and frosty. The wood fire crackles. A whiskey in the hand. Your poem is read - and mine.


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Rodney Wood Early Summer Morning Clouds doff their hats when they see me rise from my bed of dreams. Sodium streetlamps burn like stars on the polished chrome of cars. A slow train pulses with its cargo of commuters reading the FT index. Dew like drops of oil on the yellow petals nodding to the pasture. Spider webs wait to catch the praises of the dawn chorus that sing like shafts of light.


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Peter Alton Trenches Sitting in the trenches listening to the gun. Waiting in the darkness. This was never going to be much fun. It wasn’t what I wanted sitting in this place. Knee deep in water. Fighting an enemy that doesn’t have a face. I am only just a boy scared beyond belief Fighting for my country. Stepping on the bodies, no time to feel no grief Soaking wet I close my eyes, and say a prayer. Thinking of better days. And hoping there is someone left to care. Standing on the frontline deafened by the roar. Praying for forgiveness. Hiding in the shadows crouched upon the floor. Searching for a reason to kill my fellow man. Fixing on my bayonet. I hope one day you all will understand. I didn’t want to come, but I didn’t have a voice. I am waiting for a bullet, that’s come to make my choice.


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David Gildner Despot He stands accused of having poems of mass destruction and of hiding them from the United Nations Poetry Police, of being uncooperative, of playing games like kiss me if you catch me, putting the neighbourhood at risk with his dangerous unstable stanzas capable of reaching the widow at number 53. Portrayed as a despot, a serpent’s egg, a mountebank, a pettifogging poodle faker, a lounge lizard, the double-meaning prophesising word abuser, a goal hanger. So they say it’s just a matter of time, for now he’s acquired poems with rhythm is now seeking poems that rhyme.


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Hazel Warburton Beached Dead crabs lie scattered on the wet sand; dried foam marks the limits of last night’s storm. The debris fascinates you: tossing scraps of driftwood back where they came from, you dart in and out of the whitecaps, bring me an eel as long as your arm, a single Doc Marten, bladderwrack and shells. The years that divide us fall away like sand through fingers outstretched to the sea.


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John Starbuck Noises Off The whispering of secrets badly kept; The pattering whence bulky insects crept; The rushing of a torrent in full spate; The slumbering of a heavy-breathing mate; The waving of a bamboo to and fro: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus would go. The swishing rings along a curtain-pole; The spinning whisk against a mixing-bowl; The violin as played by Sherlock Holmes; The surreptitious talk of garden gnomes; The far pulsation of a church parade: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus would fade. The sigh of taxi tyres late at night; The tuneless milkman’s whistling at first light; The rustling of small mammals in the grass; The rasping of a fingernail on glass; The gears of lorries going round a bend: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus would end. The singing of the striplights in the Tube; The squashing of a beachball in a cube; The growling of a sudden threatened dog; The twittering of birdsong in thick fog; The muttered guns of Middle Eastern peace: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus would cease. The whining of a powersaw through green wood; The crying of a child told to be good;


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The whittering of mobile telephones; The gossiping of office undertones; The bleeping of the tills throughout the shop: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus would stop. The whirring of computer cooling fans; The chittering of other folks’ Walkmans; The blabbering of radio DJs; The grumbling of old people’s better days; The buzzing of a pane-bedazzled fly: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus would die. The soughing of the wind across the hills; The fading in and out of dentists’ drills; The sussuration of the falling surf; The disappointed tickets of the Turf; The roar of bikers trying for the ton: Oh, how I wish my tinnitus was done.


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Eileen Ward A Quiet Man He always smoked his pipe out of doors, A quiet man, Gentle, Unassuming, With fiery undertones And wild dreams, Of distant lands, Exotic isles, daring deeds, Forever out of reach, Imprisoned by beloved wife and children, Job, Friends. But at sunset, In the cool of evening, Listening to sweet blackbird’s song, He always smoked his pipe out of doors And dreamed his dreams, While tending runner beans, Sweet peas, lettuce, cabbage; A quiet man, Gentle, Unassuming, With fiery undertones And wild dreams.


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Ian Campbell Up in the Attic There are boxes in the attic in each corner of the loft, where the dust lies like a snow fall and would make an angel cough, where the light is scant and softly falls on rafters, joists and rough brick walls, it hovers, floats and gliding, falls and peace there is, perfect peace for troubled souls. In these boxes in the attic there are books of every kind, different covers, different authors, different sexes, different minds, and the past there is within our reach, righteous crowd/deserted beach, christening or funeral, and peace there is, perfect peace for troubled souls. And the letters that you sent to me are bundled, boxed and put away, and the letters that I sent to you are tied together much the same, snoring in their cardboard beds they sleep like us, above our heads.


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Denise Bennett Christmas Rose 30 December 2001, 3.00pm

That afternoon when I stood hugging gooseflesh under warm winter wool; when the sky was slashed into crimson ribbons; the orange sun hung at half mast, tall ships silent in the bay – that afternoon when I stood dreaming of hot tea and flaming fires I did not think to see a winter bride in an open car – but she came like a Christmas rose her white petaled skirts spreading. Under the lace veil, her face radiant as shining frost.


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Linda Dobinson Barbados Nights A full moon shines in the starry sky Picking out highlights on the breakers. Accra’s powder sand sifts through my toes And the surf laps around my ankles. This is the time you come to me When the beach belongs to us alone. This is the time our laughter rides the waves As we dance to the calypso beat. This is the time the trade wind fans the flickering fire And Mount Gay rum makes us glow. This is the time we draw entwined hearts in the sand And wish on a shooting star. This is a time that exists for us alone When I call to you and you come to me.


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Peter Godfrey The Cossington Burial Four thousand years ago A grave assembly For a boy aged only eight. Some simple goods, Companions for His soul’s dark trip Some earthenware To hold his foods, A hafted axe, A bowl of stone... And a little pot. Ah, the little pot. What was it for? Sweet herbs or flowers His mother laid To brighten her son’s Journey to the other place? No doubt, as now, That age bestowed its tears For unexpected loss. A debit to a family So long ago that Even iron was yet To be invented. Now I am part Of their remembering. I replicate those pots. A new display to show To living eight year olds A time they do not comprehend,


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But are, as are we all, Cobwebbed and stranded In this net of Time And shall, themselves, Lie bonely cold Four thousand years to come When some may dig And wonder who they were And what they did So long ago that such and such, Now commonplace, Had yet to be invented.


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Anita Packwood Listen Listen: hear the clock ticking, (a rarity to hear these days). Fridge bubbling like a cauldron of seasonal juices. Leaves chased by the wind; sounds of a distant sea-shore, surf serenading the sands. Almost, but not entirely, soundless. Sky is silent too; ashen greyness, offering no solace. Sun concealed in the depths, where no pathway leads. Summer greenness has lost its lustre; mingling with blank, inert grey of an English autumn day.


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Daphne Phillips Submission I had the perfect cast-iron excuse For not getting a computer – I couldn’t afford it. Sorted. But a kind daughter gave me Keyboard, tower, monitor, And a mouse, now nicknamed Mercy. “They were throwing them out at work.” Then a generous friend added Sound card, speakers, modem and mousemat – “I’ve had them around for ages”, – Making a very impressive package, Now nicknamed Stupid Thing. So here I sit, Sweating blood over “Windows 98 For Dummies”. Hmm. It is obviously intended For a totally different type of dummy ... I’m off for a walk in the park, Where borders will have flowers in, Mice will have ears and whiskers, And nothing will get my backup.


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Evelyn Leite Come With Me Come with me on vapour wings above, let thoughts entwine in liquid harmony like violin strings in tune with ivory keys as vistas rise to meet our silent gaze of wonderment, and reason reticent yields to the lure of nature, manifesting her divine tranquillity, hold fast, absorb the essence of her charm. Come gather words as every newborn leaf awaits the golden presence to emerge, unfurl and specify its state, call it maple, ivy, what you will; if wind-tossed on the topmost branch or sheltered in a grove, make haste to note its space in time, its vibrant green ... for life triumphant breathes upon its face. Come listen to the mistle-thrush in song and tune our minds to perpetrate his call, a single phrase repeatedly performed in dulcet tones, in highs and lows, varied as the echoes he receives, his own, not hers, as he declares to all the world his time and territory, his power of love his joy of life. She, in silence, waits. Come lift the shadow-curtains in the skies and watch elusive sunbeams hide-and-seek among the hills, circle halcyon moments


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when they come, erase the transient terror-clouds and thunderbolts, quicksilver arrows piercing the night, they do not last, be still and hear dawn’s whispered promise in the rising gold.


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Jenny Hamlett Hardy at St Juliot Church He returns to a kingdom of rooks whose squawks cut into his iced-up past whose nests are growths solid as the coil of guilt in his throat – yet precarious at the branches’ tips. He returns after her death, after the sweltering memories of diaries he has burned. He returns to where hair of green ivy clings and thickens to the gravestones and where fingers of grey lichen hang from the church windows’ stone tracery as if she could still touch him. Then like a change of wind to a westerly that brings the sea only a map-inch away


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he begins to turn her ghost in his throat to a poem that shifts midwinter into spring and leaves a spray of words like celandines – small splashes of spilled sun on the frozen grass.


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Dolly Harmer The Smallest Angel When God decreed to send his Son to Earth The question was “Where should be the birth?” He sent his messengers around the planet To seek a place just right for the event. Except the little Angel, thought too small Who stayed behind in God’s great hall. Soon small Angel, bored, set off alone To seek a haven for the child to come. And soon got lost, confused among Earth’s babel Then wandered unannounced into a stable. There to rest. Later the Angels told God where they’d been They told of wondrous places they had seen And thought they’d found the best right place How choose between them? This was not the case. Smallest Angel came, a tale to tell “I was tired and cold, lonely as well. When I wandered into stable bare Mary and Joseph welcomed me with care.” “That is the place” said God, “For my Son’s birth Where love abounds, my Son shall visit Earth. There to rest.”


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J A Bosworth Dangerous Minds “...the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” W B Yeats: The Second Coming

Zealots are dangerous. Their minds are closed About their sole enthusiastic cause: Their bright eyes blind to contra-evidence, Their keen ears deaf to counter-arguments. Facts, logic, reason: these are all opposed With energumen bigotry because Such might discredit partisan appeal In those they would subvert to their ideal. Zealots are narrow-minded, obstinate, Insolent activists who daren’t allow Rational thought to moderate the spate Of their obsessed intensity. They know Nothing of tolerance, of compromise, of sense: Cynic determination their chief competence.


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Phil Craddock Some Friendly Advice Just because she forsook her boyfriend to go out with you some evenings Just because she caught her breath, as you did, whenever you met Just because she invited you round to her place, alone, to have dinner, which she made Just because she bought you a pullover for your birthday, then a shirt, and a pair of pyjamas Just because she asked you to go with her on a two-week holiday in Thailand Just because she kept booking you both into a double room wherever you stopped Just because she and you for the whole two weeks never ever ran out of conversation Just because next birthday she invited you round to her place for dinner, which she made, and a bottle of wine, and another bottle of wine, and another bottle of wine, and a shag ...doesn’t mean she loves you but you’ll know it when it happens.


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Hilary Mellon Graham’s Garden Come – it is summer Let us go – let us wander with all the other travellers along the roads of cyber space We can hide our insecurities behind our new identities and send them out – like avatars out into the hissing dark out into the gaps between the stars out into the crackle of galactic noise into a new and interactive adventure And we will feel nothing and everything Your mouth virtually against mine for a nanosecond of history Come – it is summer Let us walk here together Let us talk in this garden This is Graham’s garden and our friends will be calling us through the static of cyber space Listen – there is music and laughter and words stammering out from the stars And we exist everywhere and nowhere except for here – in this safe and pixelled place where we can feel younger for a time There is wine – there is poetry and your mouth virtually against mine for a nanosecond of history


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Andrew Pye Eleven-Fingered Child Turn off the machine please, grandma, or I shall die alone. I think I’m going deaf now – the engine’s endless drone. Take off my blindfold, grandma, you know I cannot see. I know the gears are grinding, for the gears are grinding me. Switch off the machine please, grandma, you know it hurts me so. Unwrap the ropes that choke me, and please now let me go. I suffer here in darkness – did I really act so bad? Bound to a bed in the basement – how did I make you mad? Turn off the machine please, grandma, you know it makes me weep. Untruss the twine that ties me, and please Lord let me sleep. I sense the driveshaft turning – I think you’ve crossed the line. I smell my skin is burning – you know I’m only nine. I feel the sparks are pricking, I feel them prick my face. Ungag the rags that gag me, and free me from this place. I smell the sump oil heating – how did I make you sad? I taste my tears so searing – does this truly make you glad? Shorn and bruised and bleeding, my head it throbs a lot. Unknot the noose that necks me, and release me from this cot. I sense the pistons pumping – why do you hate me such? Unloose the leash that lashes, and pains my frame so much. Switch off the machine please, grandma, and send me on my way. Uncuff the cords that chain me – or I will die today. Does the Baby Jesus love me? I’m sure I’ve wet the bed. Unstring the straps that grip me – before I end up dead.


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You’ve taken off the blindfold – I see my flesh is black. The motor is white hot now – I’m roasting on this rack. My tummy hurts from hunger, my tongue it swells from thirst. I need both food and drink now, but please release me first. The engine’s getting close now, the metal’s sharp and clean. My ragged flesh, my ribboned skin, reflected in the sheen. I taste the tang of blood now – my throat is very dry. The bleeding is a flood now – but no more tears to cry. Turn off the machine please, grandma, make sure that I’m alright. Unpick the locks that link me – let me loose into the night. Put back the blindfold, grandma – I cannot bear to see. Unwind the bonds that bind me, and please God set me free.


60

Julius Smit Relative Values This is how I remember it: dawn rain glancing on quayside cobbles; salt air and cigar smoke colliding with rancid oil pools and rust on rails, the announcer rasping with curt efficiency: Amsterdam, Utrecht and Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk and Moscow. I am fragile from night ferry sleep, propped on the patched upholstered seat. I watch the family opposite: father huddled in Die Welt, young daughter, wary as a stranger, and mother, attentive to rolls and fruit – ja, ja, die Mauer, she whispers, rubbing the apple for reassurance. This is how I remember them: the searching lighthouse blink informing their divided light, and the tannoy barking, barking, barking.


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Kathy Bausor Sophie’s Battle Grief grafting giant I bow bend before Your yoke of choking pain I heart heave my way Through folk who pity peer And shake their high heads low Ah! not me? Please let it not be me To die so soon and leave my home! Please let it not be me, so soon. Cruel cancerous chorus Sing slow your dirge I spoke through selfish gain, All yammering years must sway And let friends know – the student cheer Can only bitter tears set flow. Ah! What me? Please let it now be so To die so soon and reach my other home Please let it be – and soon.


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Mary Shiells The Best of Times is Now I shout – I believe in me. My work lies squeezed and dusty cramped into folders, put aside. So many poems, charting my life starting with the pains of a hidden friendship … even now I am reminded of thirteen Christmas mornings poisoned by my secret looks at the phone hooked to the wall – its silences fermenting my misery. Or, deep breathing – before stretching out my hand to ring. Then the freedom poems and celebrations, poems of content; and love poems mixed throughout in every shape and size. Sometimes I read the best of them. It matters not they have no great acclaim, often uncertain they lie distinctive clear edged at times, or blurred. It would be nice, Yes Nice, In this short breathing space between the rising Yorkshires in the oven


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and the running feet of Eve and Jack along the path and the celebration of Sunday dinner – it would be nice, Yes Nice, to capture not so much the perfect poem – but that bursting bubbling need to drop the lines onto the page – and that secret glow of self-praise This is Good.


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INDEX ALLINSON, Anne ..................................................................16 ALTON, Peter..........................................................................37 AVES, Patricia ............................................................................8 BAKER, Nick...........................................................................34 BAUSOR, Kathy ......................................................................61 BENNETT, Denise.................................................................44 BONES, Mark ..........................................................................17 BOSWORTH, J A....................................................................55 CAMPBELL, Ian .....................................................................43 CRADDOCK, Phil..................................................................56 CUMBERS, Barbara ................................................................30 DEACON, Pippa.....................................................................12 DOBINSON, Linda ................................................................45 DODGE, Ron ..........................................................................29 EMMOTT, Stewart Earl.........................................................24 ETCHELL, Dave.....................................................................28 GILDNER, David ...................................................................38 GODFREY, Peter ...................................................................46 GREEN, Adrian.......................................................................14 HAMLETT, Jenny ...................................................................52 HARMER, Dolly......................................................................54 HARRISON, Alice ..................................................................32 HORSFALL, Steve ..................................................................26 LEITE, Evelyn .........................................................................50 LINDOP, Jim .............................................................................9 MACER-WRIGHT, Matthew .................................................7 MELLON, Hilary.....................................................................57 MYERS, Beryl...........................................................................13 PACKWOOD, Anita ..............................................................48 PHILLIPS, Daphne .................................................................49 PYE, Andrew ............................................................................58 SHIELLS, Mary........................................................................62 SMIT, Julius...............................................................................60 STAINER, Anthony................................................................10 STARBUCK, John...................................................................40 THOMAS, Rosa .......................................................................15 WARBURTON, Hazel ...........................................................39 WARD, Eileen ..........................................................................42 WASHER, Carol ......................................................................27 WILLIAMS, Merryn................................................................31 WOOD, Rodney ......................................................................36


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Copyright: the poets Cover photograph by Alistair Scott

ISBN 0-9544852-0-3 978 095 448 520 7

ÂŁ3.50


Openings 20 - 2003