SO BELOW Issue 2 March 2019 1
Foreword As above so below, as within so without – everything is interconnected, the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. Welcome to the second issue of As Above So Below. Giving birth a second time can be just as full of joy and tribulations as the first time, but as always, it’s definitely worth it. Thank you all so much for your valued contributions. Where there are two poems published by a single author, you will find one near the start of the anthology and one near the end, in a true symmetry of formatting, reflecting the name and illustration of these anthologies. If you are one of the lucky ones to have three poems accepted, you’ll find your work at the centre of the anthology. I hope you enjoy reading these insightful offerings as much as I’ve enjoyed putting this anthology together. The window for submissions for Issue 3 will open on 8 April, with a view to publishing for the summer solstice on 21st June. th
Cover photo: Coombe Hill Meadows by Susan Cook © Susan Cook, 2019
CONTENTS POEM AUTHOR Walking into Stillness Peace Bleak Mid-winters April 6th The Bay of Quails Instructions for my Funeral Shadow-Dance Sandhya Kal Trees Foraging (Christmas Yew) Samadhi The Hedgehog One Shot Silence is Variously Shaded La Loba Widdershins The Konya Pot Leaving Elizabeth The Well I Left Vigil The Frosty Cliffs The Audition Trust Dec 31st 1999 Yorkshire Illuminations Son Lessons from the Backroads Skeleton Leaf Nicosia Airport, June â€˜62 B Minor Mass Of Earth Twilight Early for Skylarks Dissolution On Walking a Labyrinth Backwards In the Dark At Times Like This or That Murmur Acrobat Taste of Heaven Waving to the Wind Awakening
Alwyn Marriage Geraldine Ward Mark Connors Myra Schneider Chris Hardy Mandy McDonald Rachel Clyne Carol Caffrey Olivia Brookfield Suzanne Iupp Wayne F Burke Penny Blackburn Stella Wulf Annie Wilson Rosalind Weaver Finola Scott Bruce Barnes Denni Turp Adrian McRobb Molly Ann Burnell Hilary Hares Ian Malcolm Parr Rona Fitzgerald Angi Holden Kathy Gee Sarah L Dixon Angi Holden Kathy Gee Sarah L Dixon Angi Holden Kathy Gee Sarah L Dixon Pat Edwards Ian Malcolm Parr Sarah J Bryson Julia McGuinness Adrian McRobb Denni Turp Bruce Barnes Finola Scott Rosalind Weaver Annie Wilson Stella Wulf 3
PAGE 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48
Starsand gods Waiting The Thriplow Daffodils Vriksasana I could have lived in the light Twelve Lines about Time In this world and the next Belonging light bulb Dad Beyond Our Reach Hymn to the Virgin of Cumbrae
Penny Blackburn Wayne F Burke Gordon Yapp Neil Leadbeater Jackie Biggs Rachel Clyne Mandy McDonald Chris Hardy Maggie Mackay Geraint Jones Geraldine Ward Alwyn Marriage Hannah Stone
49 50 51 52 53 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62
WALKING INTO STILLNESS Any Other Business, Date of Next Meeting. At last weâ€™ve nearly finished, but so too has the daylight outside the window where the sun has been beckoning to me all through this so short winter afternoon. Leaving the stuffy overheated room I strike out towards the river, striding fast to stretch limbs that have stiffened, feel myself relax as cool air catches my breath and clears a passage through contracted lungs to drag the last remaining rays of day into my noisy mind. No one is around, the wasted words, controversies and points of order drop gently from my ears without a sound onto the muddy tow path. Mystery rises from the water to meet descending dusk halfway and as the air around me gathers closer my mind begins to empty and I find myself and find myself and find myself at peace.
PEACE Peace is that perfect place Among cottages and countryside, Dogs scouring and birds soaring, Counting out those uninterrupted seconds That cancel out cruel words There are snowdrops and a curfew Among wood pigeons, When the peace has stopped. The rat race that oppresses lives And camouflages lies has disappeared. Peace, the perfect place is here
BLEAK MID-WINTERS I will make peace with the dark on the longest night. I’m tired of being a victim of a phobia my brother made, when ghosting up with white bed sheet, entering my room at 2 am, circa 1976. I’ve slept with curtains open almost every night since then, much to lovers’ consternation. I once shared a room with my uncle, in Ireland. He couldn’t sleep with the slightest hint of light. I woke up to full dark with a full dark scream. I was 31 he was 65. He screamed back. Louder. He’d just lost his brother. I’d just lost my dad. It was no excuse for histrionics. You can’t tolerate a phobia if it thrives on your grief. Tonight, I will shut out all light. I will make peace with the dark.
APRIL 6TH Today the sun’s in full swing, the back garden’s all birdsong and daffodils have raised eager trumpets. I spot a lightweight thing on the terrace wall, hold my breath when all of a sudden it unfolds russet wings which are stamped with four circular eyes. Their cherry reds, sapphire blues, black startles are a work of art. For more than a minute the small being basks in the wall’s heat, easing its muscles. Wild bees are humming in the ragged aubretia patch, winter slips from my shoulders and the sun follows me indoors where I sip green tea which smells of hay. Flopping on a settee I close my eyes, at once see sunflowers’ mathematic seed spirals, honeycomb hexagons and flickerings of a thousand butterflies, each a mystery with meticulously patterned wings.
THE BAY OF QUAILS The place at the end of the world was as far as we could go. A circle of calm sea ringed by mountains. Sand and pebbles shelving beneath clear water. An oil drum washed up on the beach. A young woman and an old woman who shivered in the sun. The path traced away along the mountainsâ€™ edge. In a small cove stuck with sea urchins an entrance to Hell and a place to find out fate, beside the blue meniscus in the bayâ€™s cupped hand. We have found but cannot keep it. The horizon bars the narrow straight. The sky lifts from the sea, a shining screen.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MY FUNERAL Please don’t wear black. Don’t sing anything solemn; let the music be brilliant, let it coruscate, crackle upwards like fireworks. Let there be champagne, as good as you can buy, and lots of it. Let there be flowers – not lilies, chrysanthemums, white roses, babies’ breath, or any of those dreary death-blooms; get hold of tulips, irises, brazening their colours like flags, big bold swags of pale hydrangea, agapanthus, nerine. Let everyone wear forget-me-not and thyme. Say anything you like about me: I’ll not be there. I have other worlds to explore, shall have joined a consciousness unimaginably large, which I’ll be learning, step by step.
SHADOW-DANCE I spare a thought for those thoughts I won’t let myself think– the self-pitying, venomous ones. I gather them like a coiling seethe of adders – listen to each gripe, each gobbet of envy, wail of rejection. I try to compliment their zigzag markings, dare to stroke their tails and coax them to swallow instead of spit. We sway and weave a dance macabre, decide that lovemaking is preferable to an endless war of attrition. We break into do-si-dos, grapevines, shed skin with each brush-past. And if the world elects to pass us by, it no longer breaks the rhythm of our step.
… a Hindu term for transition, the period that joins darkness to light
A child’s lone sandal capsized on the just-gone-to-bed-still-messy floor, an empty mug of tea left in the sink for morning, the last parting streak of sunlight as it hangs on to the edge of day – then. Then it was you kept your promise and came back to me at last. Then, in that in-between hour where we hold our breath as night unrolls across the earth, the interval where nothing happens but everything might, that moment where wakeful mind surrenders to the grace of sleep - then. You slipped between that sphere and this. Your arms were tangible around me and there was not a particle of space between us as we hugged each other fiercely for so long, so long. I stood within the dream and outside it; knew the dream for dream and actuality, felt the imprint of your face on mine the next day and the next, heard all the words we’d longed to say resounding in the silence.
TREES I wanted to keep the trees clothed in gold and russet; to stop their leaves falling, falling away, like souls loved, - and lost; to capture the transient beauty of the last red admiral, uncurling its tongue into hearts of late blooms. I wanted the summer to linger. as waves do, gathering on the shore. Yet Winter imposed with glistening stars, diamonds on black velvet; with winds of wire, cutting, whipping dead leaves to drift to edges of walls and fields. Winter will always steal the green, but in between those darker days and Spring, my faith is sure; I know the trees will wake, be green again.
FORAGING (CHRISTMAS YEW) I leave the door on the latch take my car key out of my pocket, hide it in the postbox, where i forget it till Monday. The handle of the saw zipped into my coat nudges the base of my throat as I climb. Up past the clothes-line on the brow of the hill overlooking the house; past the hazel junk-yard where my neighbour tosses his rejects, up the steep path coated in wet oak leaves going to loam. Earth underneath is friable, orange-slick clay over shale. This ridge an old monk track, criss-crossing pilgrim hospice and abbeys to the south bandit copse and post-routes here, and to dogged north. I stand in the middle of a sacred grove (not that I know). The tree I pluck is young and graceful, with many other surrounding; the same hue and shape, the route to it downhill, gorse and bramble-heavy so many yellow flowers upturned bills already chiming spring. I lose my footing more than once, but recover. The soft fronds of branches are a hand in mine and when I stoop to start the cut, the saw burbles through, water dropping into a metal pail, drip by drip, a hill spring trickling over my right shoulder, down the trail, to my home, gracing my rooms with a river, slate, straight limbs built for arrows, pliant green needles and everlasting life.
Samadhi when beginning meditation I tried to see into the darkness behind my eye lids; listened for a message from out the ether; sought to learn about my anger, sadness; my whatever... Then discovered there is nothing to see, hear, or learn; there is only bliss, and nothingness which is bliss as bliss is nothingness.
Wayne F Burke
THE HEDGEHOG I kneel on the path to see better the poor creature whose condition we are trying to determine. The woman and her little boy alerted me to it. He calls â€˜edge-eh edge-ehâ€™ repeatedly, until I agree it is indeed a hedgehog. One with no sign of life, spines still, nose dry. But the laddie needs convincing so a hastily rummaged pen and gentle prod bring the required confirmation. We all straighten up, disappointed, agreeing that some local fox may benefit; debate placing it further into the undergrowth. But none of us is gloved and it seems disrespectful to kick it, so we simply depart in different ways. An hour later I see them again, the boy now sleeping deep in the pushchair. The mother and I exchange greetings, momentarily share something in the gaps between raindrops.
ONE SHOT My father’s words echo with the hunter’s pull. Air cracks to wing chords taut as harp strings, a thousand doves plume the gunmetal sky, roll like shiny pellets on a tin tray— billow away to an empty horizon. Such orchestrated movement in a fleeting passage! It’s a concert that plays in my head, rocks the unruly matter of my mind—that fuzzy nest where broods settle. Thought and memory cling to its threshold like fledgling ravens. On white nights, when sleep stands me up, they fly like demons, back and forth, carrying life back to dead days. Fickle companions, they will leave me too, as they left him. It’s all you get, he said. One shot—a drop of warm blood —soft flesh, the timeless, ruffled spiral. My days are peppered with lead.
SILENCE IS VARIOUSLY SHADED* You’re allowed to be silent. Like the ghost of a dream that still clings to the pillow. Like the faded photograph turned face-down on a shelf. Like the abandoned mill you stumble across on a walk, or the barn owl swooping to snatch a vole in the dark. Like the baby you almost had – when you saw in a rosebud the curl of a clenched fist. You’re allowed to be silent, to hear the oceans swell between the lines.
Annie Wilson * Edith Wharton: “Silence may be as variously shaded as speech”
LA LOBA When all was most astray and I neither felt life's colours nor tasted love's sounds, from deep within my person penetrated a soul-pained cry to the bone-woman. Oh Earth Mother, the One Who Knows, you see my hollow parts, their rot, their lifeless branches, snap them where they spoil and build from them a bonfire to warm my apathetic splinters and regenerate this flesh. For I will walk across the desert and wade through the river beneath the river just to knock on your old weathered door and ask you to sing over my bones.
WIDDERSHINS It is years before I understand. You are gravel grit in skint knees, skelfs in naked flesh. Not just anti-clockwise but against the grain, against my grain. Sandpaper rasps my heart. You were full of wooden-spooned righteousness. The one way, the only way. You were the spurtle chief who policed our daily porridge. Now out of your cold shadow, the boss in my kitchen, I go my own way. I dare the Deil, eager to dance. Careless I flip slap spaghetti at steaming walls to test al dente and cackle long & loud.
(Previously published in Speculative Books with Waterstone's Anthology)
THE KONYA POT I thought him through, dinting at his reflection, hammering out the fear of making himself into a corner, chasing beyond the tall and burnished thing itself, to where he was both the maker and the made, and only he could wriggle in to ask what it was for; not the others, like the man with an appetite stuffing himself in an Ankara window, or the curious, hungry children puddling in a village street near Erzerum. We walked on through Konya’s bazaar to the Mevlâna’s mausoleum, joining the pilgrims shuffling towards Rumi’s tomb; and how they wept into their prayers, tears that dripped like the mirrored fringes of a woman’s headscarf.
LEAVING ELIZABETH There was a bleeding, four-foot Jesus on a cross in the window of the house we’d sold and left three years before. A shock, and even more, old friends and neighbours told us of the way new people there stood at the door and lured local teenagers with sweets and cake to come inside and watch evangelising films. This Jesus and his owners must have come after the TV bird man and his pregnant wife who’d bought the house from us. How long after, we weren’t quite sure, but we remembered taking photos on the day we’d moved away, each room, the stairs, the landing, and the view from out the back. We’d tried to capture everything we loved before we went but when developed, they were strange, the images all changed and charged with orange light that dimmed the details, blurred each one. Of course, we could recall that ten years earlier, when we’d just moved in, repeatedly caught sight of on the stairs by family and friends, each time she’d seemed my youngest, fooled us all. Percy the milkman had sold us his old Escort and shared memories of visiting his grandparents who’d lived there many years before. So rural up there in the hills, a thousand feet above the sea, no shops, just Emily the Post, and that first Christmas we’d shopped away, some thirty miles, Llandudno, the Alice grotto, had Christmas pictures of our children taken there. The photographer had been a boy in our village. He knew the milkman’s family long gone. He named, described the child who had died. And yes, all this is true, but no, I don’t believe in spirits hanging on. I’d told the students so who were filming in the square in town, wanting to know of anyone’s experiences of ghosts. 22
I told them everything I’ve written here except the crazy sense that we’d left someone small and scared alone, a lasting sense of unexpected guilt for what we didn’t do to bring her home.
THE WELL Imagining brick and wet moss thoughts falling into myself the longest fall of all blackness spinning, lights flash and blink this psychic collapse They ask those voices… “can you hear?” I feel the needles poniard and that pulse of plungers push The lights flash faster and faster as the inner skin pins and needles its way into winter, sudden and bleak Squeaking wheels on a polished floor shiny steel on a wooden door and straps my mind is full of broken glass splitting light into shards of unreality which blind my soul, I feel the panic rising trying not to struggle The room, bright, shifts in a peculiar oblong way “Drink me” It says…
I LEFT because Happiness wandered away when grandad fell into an illness hidden in his mind. I tried to follow her home; she wasnâ€™t there. I looked behind the crumb-laced sofa cushions, the cloudy jar of pickled onions and the sprouting potatoes in the fridge. Under the cold quilt covers. The imprint of my body in the sheathed mattress never left.
Molly Ann Burnell
VIGIL Nothing now but the clock and the monitor, the clock hauling its seconds across its face with the weight of a great chain. The monitor an unfathomable read â€“ three lines, red, yellow, blue â€“ breath, heartbeat, hope, breached, stumbling - on, on. Even the words have left. The larch outside the window sways, taps. Given time, a tree will grow again out of its dead self, leaf by leaf.
THE FROSTY CLIFFS I see your warmth and in your love love in my later poetry; not the cold cliffs that were drawn, nor your rocking cradle song. These are not what drive me on. I hear you in the ear of my attentive mind; sincere, a prayer all might be as you would always desire, finding from a wish, not weeping wiping dry your tears.
Ian Malcolm Parr
THE AUDITION I should never have applied, two buses after school final exams only weeks away. The hall is a church. Traces of linseed oil, pollen and a silent hymn sheet on each pew. The manager/conductor, a former diva in a full length gentian dress, points to the top line asks me to sing. â€˜There is no need to bellow, your voice is clear and true take a deep breath, whisper the line.â€™ And I did. On the way home I buy chips, savouring sharp salt on my lips, dry scratchy paper on my moist palms. I walk in busy streets, hearing below the city sounds a sigh from honeysuckle, as rain falls.
TRUST It was summer then and hot, July perhaps – the sky bright and cloudless blue, the tarmac sticky-soft beneath our feet. And I was young, eight or maybe nine, my hair not thick, no, never thick, but densely black and loose about my shoulders. No wonder then, that separated from their queen the sun-dazed bees should be confused and swarming round my head should settle. ‘Be still,’ my father said. ‘Be still and calm and they’ll not sting.’ Even now I feel their tiny feet against my scalp, the motor of their hum, the rhythm of their wings; my father’s fingers firm and sure, gently parting strands of hair and lifting free each bee. Even now I hear the soothing cadence of his voice: ‘Be still and calm. Be still and calm. Be still. Be calm.’
(Previously published in her debut pamphlet Spools of Thread by Mother’s Milk Books)
DEC 31st 1999 We were single people then, no families, and yet we all did strange and tribal things: processed with candles, sang in church and silently decided whether we could â€˜dedicate the next Millenniumâ€™ to a God we didnâ€™t all believe in. We shared a table tomb, drank chilled champagne as midnight rang. The tears welled up as each one wandered off, alone, to feel.
YORKSHIRE ILLUMINATIONS She sought a complete darkness. She found it in Huddersfield let dawn light explore her curves Took the light in and Huddersfield was left in darkness for a week. Until, gorged on stolen sun, her veins lined with light, she was full.
Sarah L Dixon
(First published in Obsessed with Pipework and also in The Sky is Cracked, Half Moon Books, 2017)
SON He unwinds his adult arms from my neck, steps away with a childlike grin and wave. The woman peers over Polarised lenses, sips her glass of wine, turns to me, asks ‘What’s the matter with him?’ The summer’s day drifts into slow motion: boats float past, a Red Admiral settles on buddleia, water continues to cascade over the weir. Outside the pub, a man stumbles as he carries a tray, steadies himself, not a drop spilled. ‘I’m a professional,’ she says. ‘Special needs.’ as if to explain the directness of the question. His kiss burns my cheek like a touch of sun as I grope for an appropriate answer somewhere along the autistic spectrum.
(Previously published in her debut pamphlet Spools of Thread by Mother’s Milk Books)
LESSONS FROM THE BACK ROADS (County Kerry)
Where potholes just mean ‘drive more slowly’, a damaged bridge festooned with tape assumes that we will not drive through, and even the gentle road sign ‘yield’ is more suggestion than an order. So, when the centre grass grows high and tyre tracks shrink past Derrylicka we aren’t surprised when a wayside god seduces, calls and draws us on: “You see how it is, decide for yourself but I can lead you to barren wastes with haunting echoes of empty reed song the ochre drone of wind through dry stone walls. And I will show you ogham stones by ancient forts in lough-side hay fields. Adventure calls. How can you resist?” And so we drive where no map claims it possible. It’s only our suspension after all.
SKELETON LEAF You remember unfurling towards the sun, stretching three ways into a scarlet autumn. You shrivelled behind a shed, under ivy. A webbed imitation of your former self. Your life is ghosted, sketched lightly within a skeleton outline of veins and edges. You whisper of spiders and a slow decline.
Sarah L Dixon
(First published in The Sky is Cracked, Half Moon Books, 2017)
NICOSIA AIRPORT, JUNE ‘62 Tarmac softens, sticking to the soles of my best sandals. An announcer’s voice apologises for the delay. Mother settles in the square of shade, shakes out her lace handkerchief, dabs her top lip. A blush of powder blooms on white cotton a scarlet kiss caught on the border. Father rattles towards us with a tray of tall glasses, ice bouncing in the bubbles. Not long now, he says. And I stare through the mirage into middle distance, hold my breath, listen for the rumble of jet engines. My sister is coming home for the holidays. You remember it differently, of course. The cramped aircraft cabin, the hours folded into scratchy seats. A parcel despatched from an overcast June afternoon, with the promise of rain. An airmail delivery, BFPO 53. A summer feeling like a guest in your own home, sunburn and prickly heat and expectations piled up like the books left beside your dormitory bed, the empty windows gazing across Essex fields.
(Previously published in her debut pamphlet Spools of Thread by Mother’s Milk Books)
B MINOR MASS A flock of scores like seagull wings stand curving into light. The countertenor has a voice which should belong to Crested Grebe that dance with looping necks like tall crescendos, cutting through a comfort coo of turtle doves. Sopranos swoop in murmuration, swirling clouds of semibreves. The baritone spreads eagle wings with pinions fanned to ride the thermal. Waves of sound repeat and surge, weave under, up and back, ascending. All the birds of field and forest pause. A fluting curlew brings us hope beyond the storm. In Agnus Dei, peace.
(Previously published in the collection, Book of Bones from Valley Press, 2016)
OF EARTH She left the lido, didn't ripple the water moved like an extra element, like she was air, her eyes were looking down. Be glad of this as her fire is fierce and her glance burns. She is going to find the soil to heap earth upon her curves until only her mouth and nose are visible. She will cover these with a plant-pot and grow and breathe and be real This is all she needs to be nourished by soil and sea.
Sarah L Dixon
(First published in Adding Wax Patterns to Wednesday, Three Drops Press, 2018)
TWILIGHT I love this Welsh place, fond familiarity of lanes, sheep tracks scored like lines on my worn face. Eye-lashed hedgerows in mascara, blink black against the rim of peach on the distant hillside. I am crunching my way through patchwork snow, green creeping between icy white trying to thaw. Light is escaping like the slow puncture in a tyre, evening air is crisp cold brush against my cheeks. This is the between time, neither day nor night, frost on the brink, twilight walk all but complete.
EARLY FOR SKYLARKS Snowdropped ledges are blessings come early early for skylarks a first green fragile blush tells sheep mute as a single breezeless tree sweet vanilla emerging gorse has something to say Listen! that’s his breath you feel here where you venture close to Hopkins’ tracks voices of new season’s birdsong to lift the atmosphere with in-stress scales those prolonged sighs which make a magic harp.
Ian Malcolm Parr
DISSOLUTION It's dusk: the hills are layered in mist, like stage scenery. As the light fades the dipped headlights illuminate just the small patch of road in front. Full beam makes a wall of white as the clouds close in. I slow the car, drive on full alert eyes stretched open, trying to avoid potholes, wary as the mist drifts in patches. I'm off the main route now. I drive down the country lane, with no white lines, no cats eyes to guide me. The road falls to ditch on either side, lined by hedges, then on the verge a shape, tall and still and next to it a smaller shadowed form. A doe and her fawn. I find that I am holding my breath. Like waking from a partly remembered dream â€“ there's a sense of significance which evades me.
Sarah J Bryson
ON WALKING A LABYRINTH BACKWARDS The part of the body furthest from the brain my heels, today are honoured, take the lead in this shuffle of tread and turn. I hear them press gravel, nudge against raised brick. I must be out of my mind. Eyes assess the pathâ€™s unfolding pattern: an unexpected spread of hindsight. The past is before them, the future behind. Feet, no retainers of routes, hold to the present, explore only the next step. Stray walkers stroll along the hillside, pace the way ahead, unfaltering. Their legs take the ground at a gulp. I feel exposed, eccentric tortoise outrun by hares. But unloop the film, run the reel in reverse. Is this not how we all walk, unravelling the blueprint as we go? I yield to this move into Mystery, back into Love.
IN THE DARK We flick our powerful tails and dive deep into the dark I feel their bodies slipping past mine safety in numbers, we swim deeper and make our circles away from the light away from the danger Later... as I swim near the surface, light catches me in a monocular vortex, picks me out from the others, I try to dive but that voice draws me in “He’s dilated!” I flip over and down while its distracted “Ten cc’s of Atropine” An echo…as I find the others and hide in our circle we feel safe in the dark from the voices always whispering, always insisting “Come back-come back”
AT TIMES LIKE THIS OR THAT It always seems to take me up, my gaze, I mean, into the view from any window close at hand to see high hills, birds wheeling, clouds. Each time I’m in this situation, down doesn’t draw me— strange as I’ve never held with all that he’s up there looking down at you that people say at times like that. Or this. I’d feverishly craved the peaks around the hospital where I had sat for hours and looked out from that last room where my mother lay in wakeless sleep. Today and now is the funeral of an old friend, this time, this time of half-past three exactly, and exactly then the phone rings and I’m told my glossy girl, wet-nosed, long-eared and black, has this awful thing— they have the biopsy result, and they explain that though can’t say why. After the call, I sit and mull the choices over, and through my hazing eyes watch all the tall trees wave, the seagulls bend the sky.
MURMUR No clouds. A stony sky receives a line or two. The scribbles become graceful sweeps, a switch is thrown, and these shapes begin to utter waves which break upon a copse of pines. I wait on one more rattling descent or another twirl and spin. I shiver with the outline of the wood, while previous wonders freeze over, but I stay on, my bitter self arguing with the cold, feeling the sum of too many settle into the metallic sheen of one starling, downy flanked, warm bodied, and calling: I fly the new ploughed field that divides bird and man, to land inside a world of noise; of course, it must stink, but they shift up, their mirror images leave a warming perch.
I teeter downhill nearly head over heels tipped by your tumbling weight. No safety net, Glasgow spreads below. The lollipop lady opens arms wide. The steep streetâ€™s a tight-rope, two hearts dance on this high wire, my blood a memory in your veins. Upright uptight I fight gravityâ€™s pull, coiled, you wrestle the waxing moon. On tiptoe I balance our hopes and let love steady our way.
(An earlier version was published in Oct '11 Shorelines , the Anthology of The Federation of Writers.)
TASTE OF HEAVEN Don't kid yourself, this barely ruffled my feathers, my faith belongs to the way the wind strokes between my open wings with nerves left trembling, but sometimes even wild things rest for a while and still the world has ample love to go around. All creatures adapt to the changing seasons and these sharp claws would be constrained by an existence in captivity, a birdâ€™s eye view is only bestowed to those blessed to be free and I was born an untamed spirit touching everything and nobody.
WAVING TO THE WIND It’s a clear-sighted, green-light morning, headstrong clouds chase across the sky, my mother’s favourite frock dances a polka on the washing line. Pulled from the depths of a cupboard with a flutter of dusty memories, time to let go of these ghosts. Its print of red and yellow lupins glows as the full skirt flirts with the wind, I want to bury my face in its folds, a child hiding from the world. But I’d be wrapped in your absence, as I was when I reached out long ago. I hear the click of your heels, smell a waft of Chanel No 5, again you wave goodbye.
AWAKENING You pry open the shutters, intruding on a house where time long ago threw up its hands, surrendered to solitude. Raggedy bats string the beams - frayed charms of bombazine. Startled by the brazen trespass of day, they cast off, reel away like dropped stitches, the pattern of their lives unravelling. A feverish vent d’autan wheezes through crannies, skitters up husks, sighs over small carcasses, the bone-dry litter of a spent era. Disturbed, the scurf of the dead rises, circulates through its old haunts. The house yawns, timbers flex, venerable joints creak and crack. Outside, somewhere, a chainsaw gripes at oak’s grain, a plane grumbles over blotted sky, a tractor chunters at clay. Closer, the shock of a flesh and blood snore, something lurks behind the outhouse door, the privy where once hunkered the buttocks of les ouvriers, toiling to relieve their lot. Lifting the latch, peering in, you are hit by the scent of hay, lustily overlaid with corporeal musk, a bludgeon to your senses. Oblivious to his den’s past movements, Badger, ball-curled, sleeps in snouting soundness. Nature’s child, you snub fate, thumb your nose at unworldly lore, but in the rise and fall of substance, the steady rhythm of a body’s core— in this crystal-clear moment, you read your future.
Stella Wulf 48
STARSAND In the outer reaches of our galaxy an un-notable star (one of two hundred and fifty billion â€“ give or take a hundred and fifty billion) spun itself and scattered a dance of dust which spanned across twenty-five thousand light years to fall as Starsand on the waiting strand of a populated planet. It should have burned a blaze across a night sky already a gift for the ones who watched. Instead it falls as gentle creatures â€“ sand stars splashdown in the welcoming sea.
gods a gull dull gray like the sky under which I sit to pray at the fountain the new Kaaba in the mini-park beside China Town Restaurant, the living waters rippling over granite like clock work, a metronome, moo goo guy pan my prayer to Allah and all other gods known and unknown.
Wayne F Burke
WAITING A violin hides in the woods, wind plays over the strings, imitating an Aeolian harp. Hidden ancestors are listening, an audience of trees and wildlife, ghosts wait preparing to dance. It's all about waiting The wind waits for the violin We wait for the movement to begin.
THE THRIPLOW DAFFODILS They are Europeâ€™s floral headdress. Asphodels in Elysian fields. Traps for Persephone. Opening up on Ash Wednesday and dying back at the end of Lent to a round underground bulb. Flowers conspicuous by corona trumpets, bellshaped, bowl-shaped daffa-down dillies with linear, strap-shaped leaves. Paper-white jonquils in figure-of-eight lanes that haste away too soon; that die of their own dear loveliness; that are full-throated and bid the year be bold. Incredible seas of white and yellow having the time of their lives. Shelley throwing caution to the wind.
VRIKSASANA My feet sink into ground earth crumbles between my toes dark and warm mineral scents rise as I soil-delve beneath forest floor where itâ€™s earthy, not earthly. How beautifully slow our growth, gradual as we lumber our days intertwine roots forage among foundations. We measure seasons here not days or hours. My body extends in spring lifts through the mid-line centred and steady in the core where energy moves up my long spine and branches lengthen as hands reach towards light leaves tremble fresh green flutter in morning air. Fruits swell in summer days as flesh ripens
roots plunge deeper until the rains come and we relax sap-slacken into lingering time. We are steadfast in westerly gales durable in north easterlies as unhurried leaves become russets and auburns they rustle, fall, fly and our cells rest into the dark days in the still of coldness the unseen sleep.
I COULD HAVE LIVED IN THE LIGHT in its angular glare, with squeaky-clean kids, husband, Putney. I could have worn the coy skirt of his status, lain in the crook of his arm. But I had owl-feet, longed to fly. Locked in my rib-cage, my life was a desert-mouth, devouring its days. I no longer slept for howling. The only way out was in. I mole-burrowed, woodlouse-scrabbled, bruised myself to bone. Crawled through griefâ€™s dank chill, to bedrock. There I lay, until I felt the faint flutter of that scrawny, unfledged thing I tried to hide. Found pity for the runt of me, offered her my breath. I brought her back and watched her ignite with liquid-fire, with ebony grace, as she danced me out of the dark, onto the moonlit path.
TWELVE LINES ABOUT TIME Three score years and ten, as good a spot as any to stop, turn, and peer down the long avenues of our lives. Just so, we look into the night sky, intercept bulletins from countless years ago. The light from that nebula you see there – the Rosette – set off towards us before Rome was even a scattering of crofts. Our lives are constellations too, their moments bright as diamonds sown along bland furrows: some pulsate faintly, far out on the shores of time, some flare, flash, and wink out like supernovas. Between, beyond memory, the immeasurable dark
(First published in Writers’ Café 4, January 2018)
IN THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT As I am considering how the sea lies in its bed like a mother with her new-born son music falls down the stairs from an upper room as a radio comes on, a hymn of thanks from the Anglican repertoire, Who from our motherâ€™s arms Has blessed us on our way. We are preparing to greet my father, who comes here limping, swaying in the sun and breeze, to remember, maybe celebrate his ninety years today. Though we will see him, hold his hand, he is already waiting somewhere else, a witness to his memories. Heâ€™s stepped away, still near, a visible cloud hovering in a shaft of warm light through a window into a room, in which someone has just drawn back the curtains and now stands beside a silent cradle.
Chris Hardy 57
BELONGING When my time comes, folk will find it among the bits and bobs, toffee hammer, dice, harmonica, penny whistle, Dinky car. That last March day when they came to clear the villa, I slipped the key into my bag cast iron, Victorian, rusted, familiar from childhood, solid as our family life. Just holding its weight, I am their daughter, home. I hear the turn, ker-clunk and the house sleeps. I hear the ker-clunk, the day begins.
light bulb dew duw drop
Geraint Jones (duw: Welsh word for God)
DAD Your wet face. Licked, lined and crumpled. Beside your blue jumper, where the cat lay. A dove messaged me too swiftly. Left a feather on a pillow where I slept. Told me to have courage when I had none. Many winters since the day he passed. Hearing his voice among the feathers.
Beyond our reach In countryside and town, church towers appear on which clergy or trumpeters can stand like muezzins on mosques to paint the evening air with sound, and spires on top of which there's footroom only for cockerels or angels. After centuries of aspiring to the heavens, it seems that we're still deaf to divine messages, blind to inspiring hints of holiness. So perhaps, instead of reaching skywards, we should look around at what surrounds us here below.
HYMN TO THE VIRGIN OF CUMBRAE Meadowsweet honies the air, bees and butterflies tag one another round the royal crowns of thistles uplifted gratefully to the noontide sun. A grasshopper frets his limbs against the dried blade; a heron stands guard over dinner, poised in silhouette then swift as a guillotine. Hush, whisper the waves, hush and be still. Across the wrinkled satin of the bay the hanging valley of Arran is draped like a Madonna’s lap sharing azure with sea and sky. In hallowed space girdled by stone and wood one voice, then two, then a reed recruit the warm air in praise of the wild mountain thyme and the bonny highland heather – will you go, lassie, go? Hush, whisper the waves, hush and be still. Is it she, our lassie, our Lady who stands in gentle silence on the quay beside the stony saints, stretching the hand of welcome to the iron fist of the ferry relaxing its cargo of pilgrims in cars? Curlews calling, calling a benison down from heaven; at dusk the owls crooning their lullaby – Hush, whisper the waves, hush, hush. Hush, be still and know that I am God. Hush. Hush.
Hannah Stone 62
Biographies CHRIS HARDY has have been widely published in magazines, anthologies and online. He is a musician, in LiTTLe MACHiNe www.little-machine.com performing settings of well known poems. Chris’s fourth collection 'Sunshine at the end of the world' was published August 2017 by Indigo Dreams Publications http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/chrishardy/4593968553 ‘A guitarist as well as a poet Chris Hardy consistently hits the right note, never hits a false note". Roger McGough. For more information, poems and links see http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/chrishardypage.shtml HANNAH STONE has published two collections: Lodestone (Stairwell Books, 2016); Missing Miles (Indigo Dreams, 2017). Her work is frequently found online, in print journals and anthologies. She convenes the poets/composers forum for Leeds Lieder, and helps host Wordspace, a spoken word event in Horsforth. She recently collaborated with a composer to commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day, which premiered in October 2018 (see Penthos.uk). Spiritually, she sees herself as a post-Christian, sensitive to the numinous. CAROL CAFFREY is an Irish writer and actor who lives in Shropshire. Her work has been published by or is forthcoming in Poetry Ireland Review, The Ogham Stone, Bare Fiction, the Fish Anthology, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Lunch Ticket and POTB (Pushing Out The Boat).. She performs the play Music For Dogs by Paula Meehan, which earned four-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe which is available for bookings. http://musicfordogs.weebly.com ADRIAN MCROBB has been writing for 30 years. He is a performance poet who attends open mics (where ever they’ll have him), mostly in Morpeth and Newcastle. He is published in various publications, newspapers, magazines. He is a past holder of the Lowford Trophy and also a founder member of Cramlington Writers Group. WAYNE F. BURKE has published 5 full-length poetry collections and 2 chapbooks. He lives in the central Vermont area (USA). SARAH J BRYSON is a poet, hospice nurse, photographer and amateur gardener.Her poetry has been placed in competitions, published in anthologies, in journals and on line. FINOLA SCOTT is widely published including in Gutter, The Ofi Press, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Firth, Coast to Coast. A performance poet she has read in Rosslyn Chapel, EIBF, St Giles Cathedral the Scottish Parliament. Finola enjoys Poetry Tourism, reading at far-flung launches, making new pals. When not writing, Mahjong, eating chocolate, playing with her wee grand-girls keeps her sane. Her friends disagree.
RACHAEL CLYNE lives in Glastonbury. Her poetry collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, (pub. Indigo Dreams). concerns our relationship with nature. Recent anthologies: #MeToo, Play. Journals incl: Tears in the Fence, The Rialto, Under the Radar, Shearsman, Lighthouse, The Interpreters House. Her new pamphlet, Girl Golem, about family, migrant heritage and sense of being ’other’, is published by 4Word Press. ANGI HOLDEN is a retired Creative Writing lecturer. Her poetry and short-fictions, widely published online and in print, explore family history and personal experience. The poems printed here are taken from her debut pamphlet Spools of Thread, published by Mother’s Milk Books, which won the inaugural MMB Pamphlet Prize and was nominated in the 2018 Saboteur Awards. BRUCE BARNES lives in Bradford, and having retired, is fulfilling his lifetime ambition to write more. He’s active in a couple of poetry groups, has recently had work in the Leeds magazine Strix, and the pamphlet Israel/Palestine was published by Otley Word Feast Press in 2016. Out of his struggles an interpretation of the poems of the Japanese Socialist poet Kosuke Shirasu, was published in collaboration with Jun Shirasu, by the Utistugu Press in 2016. STELLA WULF is widely published and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry, NILVX A Book Of Magic, and #MeToo. Her pamphlet, After Eden, was published by 4word in May 2018. She has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. JULIA MCGUINNESS lives in Cheshire. She writes, counsels and runs writing workshops. She belongs to Lapidus International, the network of writing for well-being practitioners. Her poems have appeared online at Ink, Sweat and Tears, Clear Poetry, Nutshells and Nuggets, Silver Birch Press among others, commended in poetry competitions with Poetry Space and Wirral Festival of Firsts, and in her collection, Chester City Walls (Poetry Space 2015). Find her at www.creativeconnectionscheshire.co.uk. DENNI TURP lives in north Wales with the latest of her two rescue dogs, though she also likes trees and owls as well as books and art and poetry and music. She is a graduate and post-graduate of the University of Wales, Bangor, and recently retired from work with Disability Arts Cymru. Her poems have been published in a number of magazines and webzines in the UK. HILARY HARES has an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work has appeared in anthologies and magazines including Amaryllis, Antiphon, Bare Fiction, First Time, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Magma, Obsessed with Pipework, Orbis, Poems in the Waiting Room, South, The Beacon, The Interpreter’s House, The Fat Damsel, The New Writer, Under the Radar. She was shortlisted for the Grey Hen and Paragram-Paradox Prizes 2016 and won the Christchurch Writers Competition 2013. 65
RONA FITZGERALD has poems in UK, Scottish, Irish and US publications, in print and online. Highlights include featured poet in the Stinging Fly 2011, Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry 2016, Oxford Poetry XVI.iii Winter 2016-17. Ten poems in Resurrection of a Sunflower, Pski’s Porch 2017. Recent publications are Poems for Grenfell Tower, Onslaught Press 2018 and #Me Too, Fair Acre Press, 2018. JACKIE BIGGS has had her poetry published on websites and in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, The Spaces in Between, was published in September 2015 by Pinewood Press. Her second is forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Publishing in Autumn 2019. Some of her poetry (and other work) appears on her blog: http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk KATHY GEE had a career in heritage. Her poetry collection was published by V. Press http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/book-of-bones.html and she wrote the spoken word elements for http://suiteforthefallensoldier.com/. Her next small collection of duologues – Checkout, with narrative set in a corner shop – is published in March 2019. http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/bookshop.html PAT EDWARDS is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has appeared in Magma, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, Atrium and others. Pat hosts Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. SUZANNE IUPPA is a poet, community worker and conservationist living in Snowdonia, North Wales. She was raised in America, in an Italian immigrant family, and came to the UK in the 1980’s to study British poetry. She went on to do a further degree in Countryside Management and worked as a ranger for many years. She regards her poetry as a problemsolving activity; much the same as taking a long walk in the landscape. SARAH L DIXON is based in Huddersfield and sometimes tours as The Quiet Compere. She has been most recently published on the Mind the Gap podcasts. Her first book, ‘The sky is cracked’, was released by Half Moon Press in November 2017 and her book ‘Adding wax patterns to Wednesday’ was released by Three Drops Press in November 2018. Sarah’s inspiration comes from being close to water and adventures with her son, Frank (8). http://thequietcompere.co.uk/ MARK CONNORS is a poet and novelist from Leeds. He has been widely published in magazines, webzines and anthologies in the UK and overseas. His two novels, Stickleback (2016) and Tom Tit and the Maniacs (2018) were published by Armley Press. His debut poetry collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken, was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. He is a managing editor at Yaffle. For more info visit www.markconnors.co.uk Twitter: @markeconnors2 66
GORDON YAPP, Printmaker, writer and illustrator - senior member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. A maker of 'Artists-books' on water and bird themes and has designed and illustrated 15 pamphlets for other poets. Illustrations and poems in two publications by Fair Acre Press. Also has had several short pieces published in The Friend Magazine. ANNIE WILSON started out writing for Holiday Which?, various women's magazines and travel guidebooks. She moved from London to the Welsh Borders 30 years ago. Reading, writing and listening to poetry have lit up her life over the last 10 years. She belongs to a writing group, and has occasionally read at Shrewsbury Poetry. This is the first time she has submitted a poem to a magazine. ROSALIND WEAVER is a poet and spoken word performer from the North of England. She has been published in a number of journals and zines, including most recently with Yellow Arrow Journal, Paper and Ink, and Dear Damsels, as well as in three anthologies. In 2018, her work was displayed at the annual Rape Crisis UK Conference, as well being displayed and performed at two further exhibitions in London – ‘The Sunlight Project’ and ‘Testimony’. GERAINT JONES lives in the Welsh borders with one - and sometimes two - dogs, having returned to his native land after more than 30 years in Birmingham and London. While he has written poetry sporadically for much of his life, the last three years in Wales have proved the most prolific. He enjoys the rich cultural life of the Marches and especially the riches of its landscape. IAN MALCOLM PARR was born in Bolton Lancashire and educated in Manchester. He worked as an engineer in the Chemical Industry but always writing songs, poems, plays, anything that sought to understand the world he found. His Mother who read and recited poems to him from babyhood and songs his Father sang, maybe wrote some, were early influences augmented later by English Folk Song. Ian was also long-listed in the National Poetry Competition. MYRA SCHNEIDER had her tenth collection, Lifting the Sky, published by Ward Wood (2018). Her other full collections are mainly from Enitharmon, most recently, The Door to Colour (2014)). Also recent is the pamphlet Persephone in Finsbury Park, (SLP 2016) Other publications include books about personal writing. She’s consultant to the Second Light Network of women poets. She tutors for the Poetry School in London and was shortlisted for a Forward Prize in 2007. PENNY BLACKBURN lives in the North East of England and writes poetry and short fiction. Her online publication includes pieces in Writers’ Café, Bangor Literary Journal and Marsden Poetry Village and she has appeared in print anthologies by Batley Poets and Paper Swans Press. 67
NEIL LEADBEATER is an author, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His work has been published widely in anthologies and journals at home and abroad. His latest publications are Finding the River Horse (Littoral Press, 2018) and Punching Cork Stoppers (Original Plus, 2018). OLIVIA BROOKFIELD is still writing in the hope of producing something wonderful, whilst keeping many other plates spinning in her happy retirement. She has taken up Yoga and wonders why she didn't do it sooner, alongside photography in the beautiful countryside where she lives in Shropshire, and continuing with French Conversation classes. Even so, the family always comes first, and has been an inspiration for some of her poetry, whether they realise it or not... MOLLY ANN BURNELL is an aspiring writer from the Northamptonshire countryside and is currently a student of Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire. After a prolonged and debilitating illness, writing became a creative outlet for her ideas, passions and worldly concerns. Published in her first year of study in The Dawntreader, she is building her portfolio of published work and hopes to bring environmental issues to light and provide a voice for the voiceless. GERALDINE WARD is a writer and author from Kent. She has had work published in ‘Writers Cafe Magazine’, ‘The Blue Nib’ and ‘I am not a silent poet’ to name a few. Aside from writing, her hobbies include songwriting, playing piano and learning ukulele. MANDY MACDONALD is an Australian writer and musician living in Aberdeen. Her work has appeared in Noon (Arachne, 2019), Vaster Than Empires (Grey Hen, 2018), Multiverse (Shoreline of Infinity, 2019),and other anthologies, and in many print and online journals, most recently Coast to Coast to Coast (issue 5), Firth (issue 2), and The Curlew (Spring 2019). When not writing, she makes music in Intuitive Music Aberdeen and other ensembles and choirs. MAGGIE MACKAY, an MA graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University, has a fascination for family history. One of her poems is included in the award-winning #MeToo anthology while others have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and for the Pushcart Prize. Another was commended in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her debut pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ is published by Picaroon Poetry. ALWYN MARRIAGE has ten books including poetry, fiction and non-fiction; and she is very widely published in magazines, anthologies and on-line. Formerly a university philosophy lecturer, chief executive of two literacy and literature NGOs, editor of a journal and an environmental consultant, she is currently managing editor of the poetry publishing house, Oversteps Books, and a research fellow at Surrey University. She gives regular poetry 68
readings and workshops in Britain and abroad. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn <http://www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn> BETHANY RIVERS is editor of As Above So Below. She has a pamphlet from Indigo Dreams called Off the wall, (2016). She has a forthcoming collection, the sea refuses no river, from Fly on the Wall Press, due out in June 2019. Also forthcoming this spring is Fountain of Creativity: Ways to Nourish your Writing, from Victorina Press.
Spiritual Poetry Magazine - edited by Bethany Rivers