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Contour WPL Poetry Magazine Special Edition â€“ A Tale of Two Cities Transatlantic Poetry Project Worcester UK & Worcester MA, USA Contour ÂŠWorcestershire Poet Laureate 2018 Editor Nina Lewis
Welcome to a Special Edition Contour, the Poet Laureate magazine. I created many poetry projects as Worcestershire Poet Laureate including 4 issues of Contour Poetry Magazine â€“ a digital publication. I had the idea for a Transatlantic Poetry Project before I was appointed, I contacted the Cultural Development team in Worcester Massachusetts with an idea in July 2017. They put me in contact with Bob Gill of the County Poetry Society. I wrote a project bid for the committee which was voted on in the Autumn. In December Bob passed me onto Rodger Martin who masterfully recruited a matching number of poets in America and 'A Tale of Two Cities' (ATOTC) was launched. It has been an immense project both in terms of time and the sheer volume of poets involved. It has been a pleasure and I hope you will enjoy the work in this edition, half of which would not exist without this Call & Response project. ATOTC is based on a pairing of poets, one from Worcester UK and the other Worcester MA.
A huge bundle of gratitude for everyone who gave their time and made this project successful. Special thanks to Bob Gill and Rodger Martin without whom this wouldn't have been possible. Thanks also for the faith of the committee who voted YES. Special thanks also to Steve Mackay, the Lord Mayor of Worcester who agreed to write the Foreword.
Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2017-2018
Sitting in the mid-west of England our beautiful City of Worcester flourishes with its many attractions. Having a population of approximately 100,000, Worcester is relatively small City but one where walking its length and seeing these attractions is quite possible during the course of a day. The people of Worcester themselves have a great generosity of spirit, with so many giving up their time to help others less fortunate than themselves. Similarly the way volunteers provide assistance to the many associations and organisations within the City, all helps to make Worcester fare so well. And the City itself, with its splendid Cathedral containing the tomb of King John (of Magna Carta fame), its parks of which three have received awards and the walkway along the River Severn abutting the Cathedral, all bring the very essence of “what is England,” to those who have never visited our City before. But that is not all, for we also have The Commandery, a building which during the English Civil War, was used as the Headquarters of the Royalist’s army. And it was that war that gave rise to American Presidents Jefferson and Adams visiting us over a hundred years later to recognise our City as the very seat of democracy in England. It can be said, therefore, that Worcester, with its independent shops, a fantastic library which was brought about by a partnership of the City’s University and County Council, is not only a place of culture and heritage but a vibrant, thriving City. With its Arts societies, theatre and being home to the English Symphony Orchestra it does have much to entertain visitors and local people alike. In this short space I hope to have summarised how I feel about Worcester, a City that comes together by the very make up of its people and its features, a City that portrays its British inheritance.
Foreword by Steve Mackay
Mayor of Worcester 2017 -2018 © Courtesy of Worcester City Council/Andy Burton
Appear here in Alphabetical order with the UK poet followed by their USA partner.
Margaret Adkins & Jennifer Freed Charley Barnes & Henry Walters Leena Batchelor & Patricia Fargnoli Amanda Bonnick & Tony Brown Maggie Doyle & Maura MacNeil Kayleigh Fletcher & Karen Elizabeth Sharpe Jenny Hope & Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad Sue Johnson & Cynthia Martell Sarah Leavesley & Susan Roney-O'Brien Nina Lewis & Linda Warren Derek Littlewood & Rodger Martin Fergus McGonigal & Denny Caldwell Matthew Nicholson & Clair Degutis Io Osborn & Kyle Potvin Liz Parkes & Eve Rifkah
Jenna Plewes & Patricia Youngblood Stevie Quick & Claire Mowbray Golding Amy Rainbow & Victor Infante Sue Spawn & R. A. Boucher Tim Stavert & Jennifer Freed Polly Stretton & Susan Elizabeth Sweeney Michael W. Thomas & Gordo Elliot Claire Walker & Paul Szlosek Sue Wood & Pam Bernard
Margaret Adkins & Jennifer Freed There is a Bridge – Margaret Adkins Bridge to Fifteen – Jennifer Freed Small Things – Jennifer Freed Remembering – Margaret Adkins
11 12 13 14
Charley Barnes & Henry Walters Tragedy in tanka sequence – Charley Barnes Are you calling now – Henry Walters
Leena Batchelor & Patricia Fargnoli Sabrina's Grace – Leena Batchelor Night Cry – Patricia Fargnoli Man Alone on a Mountain – Patricia Fargnoli Mist Shine – Leena Batchelor
17 18 19 20
Amanda Bonnick & Tony Brown Blue Trees – Amanda Bonnick Mystery – Tony Brown Cat TV – Tony Brown Owl – Amanda Bonnick
21 22 23 24
Maggie Doyle & Maura MacNeil Sister City – Maggie Doyle Reading a Poem in Winter – Maura MacNeil Within the Restlessness of the World – Maura MacNeil Knowing Who I Am – Maggie Doyle
25 26 27 28
Kayleigh Fletcher & Karen Elizabeth Sharpe True – Kayleigh Fletcher It is Enough – Karen Elizabeth Sharpe Blackberrying on St. Roche Hill – Karen Elizabeth Sharpe Strawberrying in Väddö – Kayleigh Fletcher
29 30 31 32
Jenny Hope & Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad From Wenlock Edge – Jenny Hope Edges Redux – Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad Weather Channeling – Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad Weather Watch – Jenny Hope
33 34 35 36
Sue Johnson & Cynthia Martell Daydream on Friar Street – Sue Johnson Sinners on Friar Street Circa 1618 – Cynthia Martell Dancing in the Dark – Cynthia Martell Extraordinary Passion – Sue Johnson
37 38 39 40
Sarah Leavesley & Susan Roney-O'Brien And the words disappear – Sarah Leavesley We loose our thoughts into the space between us, then wait – Susan Roney-O'Brien Landscape – Susan Roney-O'Brien Skimming Petals – Sarah Leavesley
41 42 43 44
Nina Lewis & Linda Warren Rest – Nina Lewis The Promise of Heaven – Linda Warren Tips on Fly Fishing for Salmon – Linda Warren Salute to the Salmon Run – Nina Lewis
45 46 47 48
Derek Littlewood & Rodger Martin Say Jasper for Wasp – Derek Littlewood Anaphylactic Shock – Rodger Martin Far Below Zero – Rodger Martin In C – Derek Littlewood
49 50 51 52
Fergus McGonigal & Denny Caldwell Upturned Room – Fergus McGonigal Word Jinni – Denny Caldwell Saturday, Late March – Denny Caldwell Season’s Change – Fergus McGonigal
53 54 55 56
Matthew Nicholson & Clair Degutis New Horizons – Matthew Nicholson Beyond a stone’s throw – Clair Degutis In No-Town – Clair Degutis It Was Always A Place In Our Hearts – Matthew Nicholson
57 58 59 60
Io Osborn & Kyle Potvin Leather – Io Osborn Driving By Worcester – Kyle Potvin Old Men at Funerals – Kyle Potvin All Go – Io Osborn
61 62 63 64
Liz Parkes & Eve Rifkah Before the frost set in – Liz Parkes Making New – Eve Rifkah Backyard Murder – Eve Rifkah Carrion Crow – Liz Parkes
65 66 67 68
Jenna Plewes & Patricia Youngblood what stays – Patricia Youngblood Empty Skies – Jenna Plewes
Stevie Quick & Claire Mowbray Golding Siri Says Turn Right in 200 Metres – Stevie Quick A Map of My 21st Year (For Emma) – Claire Mowbray Golding Hanging Laundry – Claire Mowbray Golding Horizon – Stevie Quick
71 72 73 74
Amy Rainbow & Victor Infante They told me on a Tuesday – Amy Rainbow The Rest is Silence – Victor Infante Portrait of Morning in Media Res – Victor Infante Six Hundred Sunsets – Amy Rainbow
75 76 77 78
Sue Spawn & R. A. Boucher Jimmy 5 Legs – Sue Spawn Affirmation – R. A. Boucher Thoughts From A Walk – R. A. Boucher Yardsticks and Milestones – Sue Spawn
79 80 81 82
Tim Stavert & Jennifer Freed Malvern Skies – Tim Stavert A Different World – Jennifer Freed Luck – Jennifer Freed Those Were the Days – Tim Stavert
83 84 85 86
Polly Stretton & Susan Elizabeth Sweeney Letter Writing In The Moonlight – Polly Stretton Letters from the Moon – Susan Elizabeth Sweeney Beginning Riding – Susan Elizabeth Sweeney Pale Horse – Polly Stretton
87 88 89 90
Michael W. Thomas & Gordo Elliot Out past the end of the trees... – Michael W. Thomas Beyond the Small Mounds – Gordo Elliot Drones – Gordo Elliot Estranged – Michael W. Thomas
91 92 93 94
Claire Walker & Paul Szlosek Like a Lover – Claire Walker The Sons and Daughters of Farmers – Paul Szlosek Klutz – Paul Szlosek Collision – Claire Walker
95 96 97 98
Sue Wood & Pam Bernard Thoughts on Solitude – Sue Wood Half-Painted House – Pam Bernard
11 There is a Bridge still spanning the canal in Worcester: spores riddle tissues – more mammalian than quarried and kiln fired. The old humpback is an unflinching stoic. She bears her scars and open sores hoping for the lace-webbed spider to bandage and stuff – with bluish, slubbed yarn. Used and forgotten – her intimate, brick folds erupt with fleshy papilloma and yeasty florid patches. She is infectious in the absence of engineers’ healing and reaches out to hawthorns. On Golgotha, the Cadaver’s forehead bobbled with beads fastened to thorns – black as charred needles – for His crown. Here, lichen ruffles and haws haemorrhage inside the thicket of ancient colours meant for thrushes in flocks, and for Maundy, these May-trees still weep and sigh with the faithful. Beside grey water they shed their winter silvering along the tow path. Down this once-a-main-drag to Birmingham ghosts refuse exorcism. In falling light, heron and water are metalled in bas-relief. The Lock keeper's Cottage creaks under the weight of shadows retreating from a world of lone joggers in their virtual office. Between emails they overlook the comedy of relics.
12 Bridge to Fifteen Ahead of me, you march down the slope, keeping the dog at your side, keeping your pace beyond mine, your feet so quick and sure on the jutting rocks, angry heat flaring off your shoulders. If your backward glance when I trip could wound me more, you would let it. When you were small, you walked with your warm hand in mine to gather acorns, feathers, magic stones. You told me your dreams and demons, dreaded letting me leave your sight. Now you seethe and roil. Now you turn on the far side of a gully, its swirl of rock-strewn water, to glare across the gap at me. And here I am, looking after you, believing I can bridge this space between us. I donâ€™t know how to do it. I donâ€™t know how to give up trying.
13 Small Things At the bottom of our hill, near the pond, a painted turtle plods across our quiet road. I do not help her. She is small as a saucer, and the dog is already salivating, straining towards her. An hour later, my daughter chatters in from school, tells me there’s a painted turtle at the bottom of our hill, near the pond, its shell crushed, head still moving. I get my coat. She frees her hand as we approach, chirps, “See? There’s nothing we can do.” So we do nothing but kneel beside the broken body, the unblinking amber eye.
14 Remembering You were charmed by its loveliness the hold of it – flintier than silk; more chalk than bone, more bone than chalk in your pink pocket until you could hold it no longer and had to show me the spiral of pearl, by the empty gas lamp on our walk home through the alleyway. There we spoke about secrets and why it belonged in the school sandpit. Six years later in Malvern Priory you were celebrating the years at primary school with all the other Leavers, each of you speaking one-by-one. From the pulpit, you chose to tell your story of the stolen shell and how next morning unseen, you secreted the pearled trochus under a mound of sand for sharing once again. For the congregation – you held up an exact replica found by Dad in a shop in Bristol on that day, six years before – just for you.
Tragedy in tanka sequence A bleed on the brain Surgery, they said, I think, but I can't be sure. They shared much information, but explained very little. It's hard to say when; some time in the last two weeks. Could he have fallen? We look for signs of a bump, and find two cuts that we missed. The hours move too fast. I want to give them more time so they can decide. They might burrow their way in; or wait, it might dissipate. Nan and I drink tea; I make jam sandwiches. It passes the time. We watch The Three Musketeers, half-listening for the phone call. I am panicking, blaming clothes that don't fit right, other that aren't dry. You are having surgery; my panic might be misplaced. "Are you calling now?" I send the same text message every ten minutes. I have to remind myself, brain surgery takes time.
Are you calling now from airy, unearthly heights, bouncing your dark voice, your smoker’s staticky voice, off some timeless satellite? Are you calling from out past the antipodes? The signal dims like starlight, like mutually separating Pleiades. Your daylong whistling between woodpile and workbench, splitting, chiseling, throbbed like Harpo’s, quavered, died, began again, da capo, a Lady-Day tune without the words to guide it, a smoke-ring blown and vanishing, but not so soon as the two lips that blew it. Listening for you now, I hear my own surroundings vividly: nightwork of owl calling out to owl, oaks creaking on neighbor oaks, and always this round opening where the air’s pulse should be signaling. I call you back, recalling that lost aperture of sound.
17 Sabrina’s Grace (inspired by the legend of Sabrina, who lent her name to the River Severn) Let your mind rest, Let your spirit ease. Hear the Severn’s song echo in the leaves. Mud pools swirl and catch the chains of boats Anchored against the rip tide, Swans regally bob and sway, Footsteps paint your bridges and shores as splattered rain pours, Laughter and tears leave indelible journeys on your soul. Who hears your song, laments your passing, misses your beauty? In bronze you stand, in echoes you sing, Through all the seasons tides you swim. Your beauty shimmers on a sunset rainbow, Shines translucent in the moon. A life called to rest before the clouds of adulthood took hold. My river. A peace-giver when troubled, a companion in the blue, The lover for my mind and heart, shared with you. Upon a sunlit seat, I let my mind rest; my spirit is at ease. And every day I hear Sabrina’s song echo in the leaves.
18 Night Cry Behind my apartment, the Farmington River flowed, a narrow slow-moving water between banks of trees, the quiet unbroken except for an occasional motorboat. Beyond the trees on the opposite bankâ€“ a field. One night as I lay near sleep both windows open to summer, the musty smell of the river, a cry came from the field. It stabbed the darkness, a sharp death-cry. Some small hunted creature? What was it? The sound seemed to shatter the world. So many years. I hear it still.
19 Man Alone on a Mountain after 'Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog' By Caspar David Friedrich (c. 1818)
You stand on a black rock pinnacle with your back toward me and look out over a rock-strewn valley which is half-hidden in mist. In your long black coat, knee-boots and walking stick, you seem a stranger from another century. Before you the lower mountains, sharp with black rocks, hover like a flock of petrified sheep that has wandered from the shepherd until they are lost and frozen there. Wind disturbs your red hair. Your balance seems precarious and I wonder what brought you there where the fog obscures so much? How long did you climb and with what difficulty? Why are you alone and what are you looking for? Why does anyone climb to such a place? Once, in winter, driving by myself after a snowstorm, I pulled off the road by the trail that led up Avon Mountain. And, wanting to see if I could do it, I struggled up the slope which was slick with a foot of snow and ice. My breath like sleet in my chest, my leg muscles, unused to such climbing, ached with the strain. A few clumps of snow fell from the pine branches onto the trail. To this day, I donâ€™t know what I was thinking. If I had slipped and fallen no one knew where I was. But you, I wish you well, stranger with the hidden face. You seem self-assured as you stand there sturdy but wholly alone under an uncertain skyâ€“ its diffuse clouds, one taller mountain before you a gray-blue blur in the distance.
20 Mist Shine We are caged by our own fears, Must see beyond the bars And dare to climb, to live. Days are born anew, time ticks stoically on, Yet all movement forward is shrouded in Pastâ€™s tenacious hold And everlasting currents of self-distrust. A precarious hold upon what we hold to be true Scraped away with the artistâ€™s palette knife, Oils layered upon the blemishes of a perfect life. And still I seek to look upwards, my gaze shadowed by the brooding crags That call to the mists and the sun to paint their stories of time upon grey faces; And still I question why the storms of life shatter their glass dreams as I reach, Too afeared to travel to such fragile places Where hope lurks in hidden caves. A fata morgana slides down the mountain side and creeps up my legs, A shimmering shade of myself formed from vagaries of sun-mist and dreams, The bars of my cage bend in the eclipsing of the clouds, And I dare.
21 Blue Trees After a painting 'Blue Light' by Sue Black Two pioneer trees on a muffled land stand at midwinterâ€™s point. Cobalt and ink-blue splintered bark gnarls and curls from their satin trunks. Hardy, upright, silver, in snow-filled light, they are seeing out the cold, white hours. Smudges of footprints puzzle away across the snow.
There are fresh footprints in the pasture disappearing under this new burst of snow. Two people walked out there to stand by two trees, apparently not long ago. They may have stood there, may have walked around the trunks -- two looking at two as if drawn together by the power of pairs -and then they apparently walked back here to the fence and back out to the road where they parked, probably where my car is parked now. That's all I can say, looking at this from all the way over here. Ten minutes more and the prints will be buried and no one will know any of this happened. We already don't know why it happened. I could walk out there myself and ask those two dark sentinels what happened, but I do not think they would tell; I would walk back still puzzled and go on my way and another set of prints would have appeared and disappeared in that pasture where the trees stand as they have for years, never revealing any of what we suspect they know.
Cat TV Suet cakes hang in cages outside the living room windows. The cats hang out on their perches to see what will take the bait. The regulars come right on time: sparrows in bunches and clusters chased away en masse by blue jays and bully starlings who then fuss each other off and on again; later, the pair of woodpeckers, male and female, each upon their own feeder, and always nuthatches on the ground taking the seeds dropped from all that racket above. When the squirrel comes and dangles upside down from the cage, dragging out bits and pieces of fat and corn, I get up and bang on the glass to no avail. The cats watch all this without apparent emotion; I call it Cat TV. Later I hit the couch and turn on Tony TV with the evening news of famine and feast, of crumbs falling from the racket above, where the bullies take and take with little care for the noise from those who seek to drive them off. I like birds better. At least when they're satisfied they fly away. I like squirrels better. They get what they need and go.
24 Owl On a post in a field a ghost-owl sits, shield against night-shadows, fierce, watchful eyes hooded in round plate face. Two toes forward, two back, just right for the branch, the fence. Long hooked bill concealed in soft face feathers. He pulls his pinions and tail feathers through his beak, to smooth the barbs, prepare for soundless flight. In his killing brain sits wisdom, the night, the hunt. The grid of his vision maps out the world.
Sister City Thereâ€™s a special understanding, nothing written, nothing said, a mutual respect that links our lives through our cultures and our heritage, our unique and twinning bond a warm and very cordial friendship thrives. Past the barriers of language we communicate with ease both of us extending open hands, inviting one and other into cities where we dwell, glimpses of our life in different lands. We transcend the world of politics in accepting that we differ, our histories are written, give us pride, we learn from other nations as our future plans are made, let honesty and education be our guide. We maintain a love of Worcester, keep traditions in our hearts, have similarities which each of us hold dear, weâ€™ll share a virtual cup of tea, exchange a verse or two and start our journey through another year.
26 Reading a Poem in Winter I speak to words on a page that arrive from a city where I imagine the same slate-hued skies, the same north wind that surrounds this town where I endure another winter. I listen for the cadence of hope within this deep of seasonâ€” A faith-music to move me into a beyond that offers light, songbirds at the feeder in the yard. For now, winter storms onward, and I hold tight to the light of words that reach out with extended hands.
Within the Restlessness of the World I. You pack up the past and let go of rooms filled with webs and crawling things. You are now who you have become and you are where you are in this restlessness of a world that turns and turns and makes you light as air. It is so easy now to disappear from sight and become something else. Easy to shapeshift your way through this world you no longer own. II. Stars the color of milk, night fills with tattered feathers. You arrive in sleep with the songs of birds you are unable to name. In dream you swallow sweet fern, peony petals. You want oh so badly to memorize their names from the bird guide you left behind, but are quite sure you do not now have the time. Today you think you saw an eagle fly over the house. How unlikely. How likely now this is what you believe.
28 Knowing Who I Am Night stills the world, hints at sleep, sends shadows sifting through memories. Listening for their messages, I wander through the comfort of childhood, smiling at long forgotten friends, see a young me, self-conscious, uncertain, yet feel the inner strength between us that still holds fast. She smiles back, this younger me, face glowing with possibilities for the life ahead, the life I have already lived. Our DNA now floats on foreign winds, drifts with shingle on Adriatic shores, merges with Mediterranean sands. I am more than a memory.
29 True Love is not what they told me it would be – I’ve seen no roses red, or violets blue, no prim proposals lined in filigree or valentines for me to filter through. No rings have I to purl on my left hand, no love of mine has crossed a stormy sea, my window glass no place for stones to land, no name of mine carved in a chestnut tree. Though, I cannot think chivalry is dead; there never was a man to match the tales. I’d rather not be wanting or misled, but hope to find a person on my trails. And if I find a soul, flawed he may be, I hope he can accept the flaws in me.
30 It is Enough I warm the green beans on the stove your frayed blue sweatshirt circles in the dryer. The television is on again with no one in the room and you out in the yard pulling weeds. When a braid falls loose and easy on my neck I feel your touch even when weâ€™re apart. Shared warmth weaves between us in the sheets at night. Your breakfast crumbs litter the table a crescent of cream floats in my mug of coffee. Forgive me for not saying this before or in a way that you would hear.
Karen Elizabeth Sharpe
31 Blackberrying on St. Roche Hill I speak the language: Bramble, heart. piercing claw thorn against wild thorn. The fleshy pith wants me as all plants want to please. I translate myself into thicket like water through a sieve like the purple finch who flits among the berry bouquet. I trust that rough embrace the dark wine. Summerâ€™s sweet stigmata weeping on my palm.
Karen Elizabeth Sharpe
32 Strawberrying in Väddö I know the language, sweet and thick. Small pips pressed into bright red flesh. Frays of green, pinkish flecks entice though, hidden in the thicket. I transform myself, into a forest dweller and shrink to find the most succulent jewel and like a rabbit suckling on a wild red clover I recall that crisp, sun-drenched taste – juice trickling past the sides of my lips as I taste once again, and smile at summer’s timely embrace.
33 From Wenlock Edge White light â€“ your first breath winter-coated. Here the trees are defined late frost-rimmed leaves bunt the cold. In the light-split youâ€™re fleeting. Damp penetrates my skin. The trees release the sky your horizon blurred.
34 Edges Redux Darkness to light— a deceptive tranquility. Baring my soul I arrive to a different edge— no need for a complete rebirth not yet anyhow. Yours is an old place airy-green and gale-cold teeming with even older memories. The echoed cries from yesteryear of that Midland Wonder I hear an ocean away in my seemingly safe Midland Street built on granite where in my maddening mood semi-tamed I dream— nothing is defined all is limpid fluidity—a treacherous mirror into life’s whispered breath crisp-edged frost here and there that’s all— The horizon is blurred now and us still on a narrow ledge.
35 Weather Channeling My moods are fickle and turn on a dime— a North East kind of thing—a quintessential bully one season dominates with iron ice and howling winds withering bones and trees alike unlike that California kind of thing—the weather there balmy mild with a desert breeze now and then to lend interest to that sun-filled drowsiness chase the monotony the fog clear the mind keep company to the occasional quake or fire or torrential rain obliterating the familiar topography adorning it with mud slime sliding all over the place people slinging it just for fun—sometimes rightly so still things are worsening—at times terrifying—even there here stone-black bleakness gale-force winds deafening ears snow blinding eyes slippery dark roads breaking backs tears dropping pearls then some more sleet confusing the senses suddenly sunshine bright and crisp opening somnolent eyes full of promise nuancing the gray giving hope dashed too soon still in woollen socks we turn our gaze to the weather channel once more oblivious to the other news full of deeper disasters— every horror received more easily in the descending darkness of diminished days—it is the sunlight that is short-lived delusional
36 Weather watch For me it’s the stop-start of gut-blustered winds – blowing themselves inside-out, moaning they meet the slightest resistance – over the trees, free-flowing – that roar of blood in your brain – filling your skin and that gentle tug of your lover’s hands on your hair or perhaps rain? That internal beat of water, that steady pat-pat-pat that replenishes your inner pool? A soothing maternal heart-beat... pat-pat-pat... Or snow? A white landscape shouting – did you know the first words you think of when someone says snow, are how you view sex? cold pure exciting and still those first fat flakes of winter make me want to rush outside and fill myself full of that giddy happy cold-tingle.
37 Daydream on Friar Street Frost glitters on road and pavement. My breath is white. It is early morning on the shortest day of the year. The crescent moon is a chalk drawing on indigo sky. I tune into my latest story as I walk in dove-grey light. The gap between the worlds is thin as a lace curtain. I catch a trace of faded perfume, rustle of silk on cold stone, jingle of spurs and clash of swords from times long past. Black and white buildings edge the narrow street. Their shadows whisper of lost love, treachery and betrayal. I stop to scribble in my notebook. My hands sting with cold. The studded door of The Cardinal’s Hat is firmly closed but through the leaded window I see a panelled room where last night’s candles are melted to shaggy lawyers’ wigs. I catch a whiff of stale beer, hear a muffled giggle close by. I am not sure if it is now or four hundred years ago. At the end of the street a mobile’s staccato ringtone intrudes. It is answered by a voice harsh as a seagull’s cry. On City Walls Road, car tyres hiss on damp tarmac. Cathedral bells strike the hour, chase away the magic. The red ball of the sun rises in an ice blue sky.
38 Sinners on Friar Street Circa 1618 The moon is nearly round, looks bruised by The purple clouds of winter passing o’er it. I barely dare to look up at its golden waxing, For terror the hood of my cloak might slip off, Thus showing me to be a young woman alone. I walk on the Street of Friars and I sense them – I know they partake of their prayer in silence, Perhaps even intuit the presence of this sinner. I pass timidly by their holy place unrepentant, Quietly followed by my old hound, ‘Saint Godric'. I gather my cloak closer as I cautiously slip past ‘The Cardinal’s Hat’ Tavern, where boisterous men Recklessly imbibe to the point of total drunkenness, Trying to muffle their hopeless never-ending misery. Good Saint Godric draws nearer growling protectively. My secret lover awaits at the end of Friar Street. His horse’s hooves prance restlessly against wet Cobblestones that flicker like candle light in wind. Slides smoothly down from his steed, pats Godric, Slips his cold hands beneath my warm wool cloak. The cathedral bells suddenly strike, reminding me Of my dangerous sin and my dear father’s legacy. I escape my lover’s embrace and Godric and I flee – Past The Cardinal’s Hat, past the solemn friars priory, Up the long hill to the Manor House and blessed safety.
Cynthia Sue Martell
39 Dancing in the Dark In loving memory of Jewel and Bob Cookson who could not see, but showed me “how to open my eyes”. They were not extraordinary in appearance, But loved each other in an uncommon way. They met at a formidable ‘Institute for the Blind’, She sang with a wildly sweet wavering soprano, He passionately accompanied her on the piano. With a palpable gentleness they stroked our cats, And adored one of their own named Bella Mea. Strolling arm and arm about our lawns at dusk, There was a breathtaking balance between them, As if they were joined in a slow, ethereal dance. They stayed too long in their once grand Victorian, Clung to a familiar but hopelessly frayed gentility. Wept recalling times past when laughter and music, Mingled in the sheltered glow of neighboring homes, That free-spiritedly stood intimately close together. Alas time careened on cruelly, soon social privilege Became dissolved by the harsh chemistry of diversity. One night, sitting in blackness on their back porch, Thieves crept in to steal precious family heirlooms, While they held hands helplessly in petrified silence.
Cynthia Sue Martell
40 Extraordinary Passion for Jewel and Bob Cookson The dark blooms and sings with a wildly sweet wavering soprano. Go without sight in a slow, ethereal dance recall times past when laughter and music were a breath-taking balance between chemistry and diversity. To know the dark, embrace it. Donâ€™t be afraid to dance close together listen to piano music that stirs the shadows stroll arm and arm to the beat of your own hearts. Or if you prefer, sit in blackness hand in hand beneath a pathway of stars you cannot see tune into the music of the night united in gentleness and love face an uncertain future without fear.
And the words disappear for Chloe I’m skyping my niece’s birthday card. I tap my laptop mousepad and the photo uploads to the chatbox she’ll read when she wakes across the ocean in California. Not a pixel by pixel transference; the whole thing in one go, only it loses its text in the process – top and bottom chopped to fit the standard lay-out. Click on the image; it displays the full picture – complete with happy greeting. And I think this is how it works with all communication: it’s there, but it’s not. We loose our thoughts into the space between us, then wait. When we’re lucky, both sides see almost the same thing – my distant ‘Happy 8th Birthday’ shaped by a desperate hope that it might hold the warmth and love of a real hug...
42 We loose our thoughts into the space between us, then wait We who hope to escape loose tigers, or at least lose our fears for our children, dismiss thoughts for safety, plunge into savannah grasses, thrash to flee the teeth and claws, draw beasts from small bodies. Space razes no bridges; time piles no stones between predator and prey. We hold distance close to us, the word save an incantation, love an amulet, then, when we glance back amazed, we stop, wait. The tigers, having tired, rest and preen.
43 Landscape for Dorothy Magadieu In the foreground, speckled alder, sedge, then the river—a lifeline of watered silk winds between banks past fog-ghosted ancestor trees: birch, spruce almost indiscernible beyond. So much for the order of things in space, in time, the present precise, elderberries’ dark tart spheres, cattails’ brown candles. On the far side, scraggly shrubs blur grey as though vision has let go exactitude. I say distance is kind. Time forgives lines between necessity and desire. Leaves overlap, green to gold, fall brown at the trunk. Branches twine; dandelion seed, milkweed silk float through fog and behind, where bones of all we supposed we had outgrown since arms lost their hold and we slipped from their grip, stand shrouded. Trees, undiminished, remain.
44 Skimming Petals One of my parents’ shrubs wears the past year kindly. Hydrangea petals to wafers
dry of tracing paper –
sky and winter sunlight moth-winged surfaces.
glisten in its
I look at my skin next to Dad’s: freckles like tiny knots in the grain, shared DNA wrinkled differently. Gloved, different patterns take on a sameness – his hand and mine almost a dark-wool match for Mum’s. The warped-star shape of our knobbled knit reminds me of snowflakes their intricacies
to black shadows between lamp and lens… A thousand other ideas might fall from a shaken branch –
skimming the air briefly but never settling – as I try to distance the thought of Mum and Dad’s slowing. I look up at the fluttering petals and my parents’ gaze, brimming wide and deep
with flown skies,
and the warm light
of lived lives –
though this belief reflection of my needs. I close my eyes, listen to their garden’s
may only be a
45 Rest He leaves us with his music. He leaves in silence. A Catholic, however lapsed, knows the promise of heaven. This man, who wanted his ashes to sail the rivers, was consigned to earth. In death he found a place where vibrations do not exist. He went to rest in a private service, not a note of music played. As if the very notion of sound had died with him.
46 The Promises of Heaven sit in their pews, stolid, unexceptionable, exactly what they ought to be, gatekeepers to the garden, shoulders tense, eyes cast down, fingers clenched around the allotted redemptions. Sin is a disease of relapse, they know it; in that dangerous place the tree still stands. The Promises themselves will never be readmitted. They are filthy with knowledge, dare not touch those souls purged to innocence. It is their lot to be embraced by sinners of all variety always outside of Paradise.
47 Tips on Fly Fishing for Salmon Don’t hook yourself on a backcast. Don’t hook your guide, either. Don’t hook a rock, which will snap off the fly, and you will never find it again, no matter how much you look in the place where you know it was snapped off. If you don’t want an audience watching you cast, bring your dog with you; she will provide a distraction. Don’t hook the dog. Try not to catch your boot on a submerged rock while hollering at the dog, and fall into the river. If you fall into the river, try to make it be in July. Try to make it be not in a fast current. Try not to curse at the slippery rocks, or the treacherous current. If you feel inclined to pray, pray for the river. You might as well back a winner. There will be a span of time when you are casting into the current and the sun is setting behind you and the surface of the river turns to molten gold. Memorize this. If you are inclined to pray, pray for memory. When you flub a cast, and the fly lands ten feet in front of you In a tangle of line, leader, and hook, Do not curse the line, the wind, the rod or the luck of the caster. Cursing is acceptable, however, when you lose a fish formerly attached to your hook. Particularly when the fish is the largest salmon you have hooked all week, and shakes off the hook after one spectacular jump. When your guide says, wisely, that you can’t land them all, try not to whine that you didn’t want to land all of them, only THIS one. If you are inclined to pray, consider postponing until you are in a more reverent state of mind. Forgive the dog for wandering off while you were cursing. Forgive yourself for losing track of her. If you hook a salmon and manage to keep it hooked through leaps, and runs, and headshakes and swirls, and you bring it to the net, and grasp it in front of the strong and muscular tail, aim the fish upriver, and release it, and it coils and darts away from you, bless it on the rest of its journey upriver to spawn. When the full moon rises over the river, shining a shattered reflection on the restless water, watch it rise.
48 Salute to the Salmon Run Don’t mourn the loss of your silver scales. Don’t think about the jump at the waterfall or dam. Don’t beach yourself on a rock. Find the gentle water behind, take a rest, this journey has been long. You will have an audience. People come from miles to watch you bite your way upriver. Try not to see your red scales as they pull away, lost to the current. You are still swimming, tattered fish. If you spot a trout, swim faster, he will feast on your eggs. Try not to flinch at the sight of a bear, she needs her winter fat, there are thousands of you, you could be lucky. Pray and swim, pray and swim. There will be no winner. You will all die in the end. There will be a time when the water turns red and the surface of the river foams white. This is the final journey, enjoy it. This, your cycle of sacrifice. You a creature of seven lives, you made it this far, survived the lost ocean and everything between. Do not curse the sea memories, the water or the river bed. Cursing is acceptable, however, when you get bitten. The males love a good dogfight. The spawning channel is a gauntlet, swim the stream well. Muster strength in fin and muscle to make your line of nests in gravel. The male will stop fighting long enough to protect your eggs, long enough to watch you rake shingle with your tail. Forgive the creator for making you a Salmon, a parent who will never see her children. As you sink to the bed, see your male watching over you humpbacked and hook-jawed. Feel the release of coming home. Bless him as he will be quick to follow. Your olfactory memory brought you here, the odours tracked you back. Once you thrived in salt water. Your bodies will decompose, feed the next generation as they begin the journey. In time they will find the ocean.
49 Say Jasper for Wasp Back in the day, when err see first jasper ov spring rest on playground, err stamp with Start-rite en draw err initials with uz crushed body. Revenge iz sweet. Uz wasp-shaman on the cusp, uz chavs, uz feral uz malignant. Uz vespa whisper violence. Uz indifferent to your speciez. Uz jaspers are all drawn to heat, to warm uz bodies in the sun, uz jammed inside Vanessaâ€™s car - an az err drove away - uz fly direct towardz err honied mouth. Err scream and lash err arms across. Uz jaspers go psychotic. Vanessa drove into a van as hot flux burned err flailing hand. Uz Vespula vulgaris, common wasp, uz mizunderstood, uz burn for sugar-jag. Uz social bodies, uz queenz stinger, uz dronez, juz whine. Uz yellow-jacket Modz en Lamberettaz, cranked over on blind bend at full throttle. Uz az English az sconez en cream, az hyper az shaken lemonade, az remorseless az rain. Az bloody minded az your empire.
50 Anaphylactic Shock Pharisees, eager retributors, stones in grip, adulteress in the other, drag her to the courtyard. Yellow jackets, red coats, black ties, hordes of locusts too—all want off on one who gives what they’d not got. Should’ve worked like paladins, like IM, like Fox News, except there sat Christ finger writing on the ground. He rose, stared them down—eye-to-eyes—those emperors minus clothes. Give credit, they walked away naked, more quiet swarm than left the hive. Too many times. She spoke, “No man condemned me.” He replied, “Nor I.” Again he wrote, Aramaic calligraphy, dust for dust and a woman who read. What did he say? For whom? Did he too remember an ancient sin?
51 Far Below Zero Stillness reigns, gelidity deep below; snow squeaks underneath the heel of boot. Stove and furnace chug to keep up, the glow from ice-rimed windows just warmth’s illusion. The moon casts stark shadows on a white face. A sole star trembles on the horizon. For the troubled, sleep’s a fable; they pace in silence, the urge to let go, let it spiral to blackness too hard to ignore. The planet is not well despite prime-suit Puffery: Humpty on the wall. Should it Fall─huffers popping like cheap balloons─all the royal terabytes, all the hard core bluffery won’t stitch Peter, won’t save Paul.
52 In C We call this canal → a cut incised into the land → wheelbarrowing over a sheep field to our holiday let in unseasonal December: all the lights are on → but no-one is at home → we reach this landlocked cottage just four miles ago. C tenderly sutured after a wide local excision → two hundred years away. Kitchen range, no coal or carbolic, a table and chairs within. Three locks on each isolated door, outside water splashes within the lock → we float before her course of radiation → too close to home → lymph nodes clear. Three days → without wi-fi → no fake news → we spend time → burning logs on an open fire → reading ghost stories, conjuring throws of the cards → assembling jigsaws with missing pieces → dissociation in this lock-keeper’s cottage without a road → unpixelated → no apps in C → poised between land and water. Morning sun → a pale circle in a watery sky: our own island of retreat → huffing a balloon of hope towards the continent. → no snow → no fog → but a fugue in ‘C’.
Upturned Room You walk into an upturned room: an armchair on the ceiling, plants at forty-five degrees to horizontal, the pictures from the wall piled-up into a Jenga tower, leaning towards the light of an open window, in which the fireplace is stuck. The dining-table stands upright, its surface pressed against a wall, whose nakedness has been revealed by stripped wallpaper, hanging from a standard lamp (no longer standard). The dust has coalesced to form the words I Am No Longer Dust. You set about the task of putting things back in their place, with one exception: the books, suspended in mid-air, their covers open, pages half-turned, words lined up to jump off the page.
54 Word Jinni She had come here only to apologize then leave with her own brokenness but was the only one to return after this happened, the only one left who knew and loved this room, ceiling now littered with armchair-droppings, grit, broken chatkes, cushions heaped askew. She could never relive what she once found here or retrieve what she had lost, yet she hoped a remnant of that time could still be found. With no authority to take up the task, nonetheless she begins triage: The plants will figure it out without me... When she flew near, images fled from the picture frames, out the window, into the night toward the street lamp that flared up, then went black. To Hell with the pictures, they would put me out of business... From the far corner of the room came a glow from within a gaggle of hovering books on the verge of blanknesstheir stories gone, words dripping toward a dictionary below, some missing their mark becoming hyphens while others simply vanish... Some of them ought to die anyway... She springs toward the swarm, aims for a red-covered volume in the center, words falling like winterâ€™s diamond dust from its pages. She swipes at it with her hand as she passes by, snatches the last question mark-tiny gem, keepsake of stubborn curiosityand alights on the empty bookshelf. She secures her trinket to a charm necklace, looks about for more to salvage. Among the debris discovers the signature
left just as she had written it long agonow petrified, brittle with age, -it too, seeking to be freed.
55 Saturday, Late March The day begins with deep fogâ€Ś then later drizzle, rain, ice. For lunch, heavy snow from late winter clouds that struggle to endure but a rift of blue appears then another, rays of sunlight reach down to all who await spring. By the time the sun disappears behind the mountain the trees have shed their coats of ice, the fallen snow has melted. Clouds like long, gray whales drift eastward into the night, swim away and vanish leaving only the stars, like nothing ever happened.
56 Seasonâ€™s Change Today, our thoughts are hidden by a cloud which carries all our weather in its vastness. We stand outside and wait for warmth to burn away the listless fog, to let us live the day, but all we see is indistinct; a world without the contours; shapeless grey. Our hearts are winter, freezing water flows inside our veins, and all those thoughts seem ice-bound. Time raises mountains, levels them to plains. Dense forests dance in stop-frame motion. New continents evolve, erode; become a memory not witnessed but felt. A breath of light is caught at last. This waiting ends. Our thoughts become Spring.
57 New Horizons Worcester is a stones throw from my doorstep but it feels too close to home relocating there coincided with a greater need to roam to unseen parts of England to see the horizon stretch much wider determined to avoid repeating the patterns of being an isolated insider after three years spent within one room seeing the same four walls at home I leaped several hundreds of miles outside my comfort zone my passion for adventure grows with a desire to interact I can finally see the signs of getting some of my old self back.
58 Beyond a stoneâ€™s throw Down by ragged wild Atlantic shore it would be simple to slip in shimmer with these gathering stones not thrown but washed tumbled by tide and lore born in fire annealed in ice feldspar mica granite-gneiss choose an oval turn it round heft its weight in your palm smooth the shape between curl of fingers rub of thumb arm up straight cock of wrist give this wing-less bird some spin let it fly create its own path across expanse of sea and sky.
59 In No-Town No-One longer lives. Stone hollows where No-Houses once were built. Metal pail rusts on maple limb. Catches No-Sap. No-Syrup to sweeten a porridge. No-Wire fence to surround No-Fields. No-Walls will keep No-Animals out-or-in. No-Soil too poor for beast or man. No-Tracts of land to parcel out -A soldierâ€™s pay -- No-French and Indian War was waged. No-Gifts from Grand Proprietorsâ€™ pens. They scribed No-Maps to mark land given. No-School. No-Church. No-Town Hall. No-Public paths. No-Roads to follow. No-Travelers walk from No-Here to No-Where. Glacial scrape. Forest scape. A forgotten place. No-Town.
60 It Was Always A Place In Our Hearts Little imagination was used by decision makers in fancy suits for land offered and rejected by people of various races. A bold landscape filled with beauty which stood unwanted. Between places. No claim was ever made and somehow we preferred it that way as children we played in a land without a proper title. It was magical to us as we transported to other worlds. We told ourselves we could be anywhere. Imagination the only barrier. Gone for hours. Exploring finding tracks between rows of trees escaping from the path. On our return home parents would ask where we had been. We would always say no place at all and though in part this was always true it was no town a mysterious no place but in our hearts and minds it was a pathway to excitement and adventure and the pleasures of play. Until we became older and all that remained was a road between places which we called No-Town
61 Leather My suitcase is making me cry; the smell of leather... Leather once smelt like that Anna at the station while the clouds dispersed and the world walked by. Leather, green I remember, when green was the colour and all the world was leather.
62 Driving by Worcester The highway is littered. A wooden bowl. A book. A leather bag. With half my life behind me this strategy makes sense: It's as if someone decided, on the drive north, to discard her belongings one by one. Yet last night I shattered my motherâ€™s champagne flute, celebrating a cancer-free friend. Like breaking a glass at a Jewish wedding, I wanted this to mean something. Ahead on the asphalt, bits of glass, small as rice, glisten. A pickup is overturned, top flattened. I don't see the driver but the back is empty.
Old Men at Funerals stand straight as chimney stacks in this industrial town, rose-brown floodwaters rising against them.
64 All go Disembodied breathy words made on ice cold mornings before dawn. All go Driving over bridges crossing below waters rising, boats untethered on reckless rivers. All go. Rust-red chimney stacks stand stupidly watching rose-brown water slop through doors. All go. Asphalt longs for asphalt freedom the reassuring swish of road triangles half drowned loom below wintered crowns on a roulette wheel of tortured twigs. All go. Severing bonds, sloppy wavelets lap and dull Muscular Christianity, like an embryo in dusty laboratory jars weighted down by feathered platoon commanders. All go.
65 Before the frost set in weâ€™ll build a garden wall, you said, add value in just a few days. I kept the cement dry until we split the sacks with the edge of a spade; we shovelled buckets of sharp-sand from heaps on the floor legs straddled against the strain of the lift. Inured to the mixerâ€™s nagging grumble, we built cross-hatched towers of bricks you buttered the depression, laid them in Common Bond, pulled the guide-line straight, its tension singing like a cat gut string; set in weep holes to relieve the pressures, the unrelenting weight of wet soil. You sealed in butterfly ties, wings cemented to bridge the cavity, their twisted hearts down to channel the seep. We struggled on until, exhausted and numb, all done, we sat alone with our thoughts watched shadows lengthen and the sun slide red below our roof.
66 Making New In the old house walls held together by horsehair and crumble one room in layers from faded green with pink flowers to beige and blue all floral they wanted gardens on their walls. She soaks and scrapes and steams. Bits of sog stick to skin and clothes. She cuts through years, their dead blooms. Learns to skim coat slip of plaster rub with cloth after spraying make smooth or try to always a ridge unseen until dry. Paint is the easy part pour into tray the roller soaks up the creamy whiteness the light to come within the walls of this house their house now. With brush, she edges to mahogany baseboards doors, windows cuts paint to neat lines goes over again second third coat. When done she seals the paint. Washes brushes, rollers, folds the tarps, puts away. Moves the bookcases back against the walls, all the books breathe again tell their stories anew. She curls with cup of tea, a biscuit pulls a book from the shelf gazes around the room the walls smooth and clear a lightness in her heart.
67 Backyard Murder though he knows he wants to fly see the world from the sky the pinpricks of life below no, it’s the way they call to each other the voices the leader going ahead watches for those to follow making sure the rest keep up and the kids the yearlings the babysitters learn how it’s done the maintenance of the young he calls to the murder in the backyard with the plastic caller but doesn’t know the words precise the dialect of this particular family or understand the answering caws corvid crow magpie raven jay black and blues oh it is the blues he feels now the hint of blue flash in the coal black the light glint on feathers even though he wears black stretches his arms swears he can thinks corvine but not enough to pass to lift from gravity to fly away to call the others to him spies himself in the mirror abashed slumps away he knows two legs his fate yet the cat’s ears twitch one day a crow in the maple out front dropped a feather he watched its back and forth descent to the sidewalk now the feather in a small blue jar
68 Carrion Crow Paris. November 2015 Heads down, we walked through the park to the headline hungry news stand, the dry throated wind leafing through our clothes, whipped tears from our eyes. We saw it, undertaker of the aves, a limp carrion crow, a storm-wrecked umbrella, the fanned spokes of its flight broken; the throat ripped out, its harsh caw stolen from the pick axe beak twisted to one side. Lifeless, the dulled head, the strutting self, denied lost to the murder of crows. A soiled black flag oiled rags corrupted.
69 what stays it was the bluest sky you ever saw color so striking I still wonder if I remember it right. bluer than the sky in any photo of fiery autumn, families in orchards smiling up at the perfect apples they will take away but not the fallen ones. strange, what falls from the sky, what lands or leaves. the brilliant, improbable blue lasted for days, minus clouds, minus the usual disintegrating contrails, fading drone of planes flying out of boston, nothing imposed itself on the splendid sky. the absence was not bearable but we bore it, waited too quietly for whatever was next, what new and ashen forms silence might assume, the unspoken danger of dissent, how quickly it came out of nowhere.
70 Empty Skies Today is a white page pulpy as blotting paper no gulls scribble laughter-lines no contrails blur into wishing no cloud phantoms melt into pillow-talk the blank sheet hangs motionless numb to the prickle of branches I long for a gale to tear a hole let in armfuls of sunlight, send shadows sprawling across the fields shake leaves like washing on the line to feel something.
71 Siri Says Turn Right in 200 Metres Siri says turn right in 200 metres. Just that; go right. But in those 200 steps people walked, moving to find food and water shooing cattle to market carrying children, carrying cares. Siri says take the B332. Just that; not the road to Adlestrop or Little Gidding. But either side of the B332 are contours, soft hills I would explore and landscapes I would travel through wandering in lines not yet drawn. Siri says go from A to B.The fastest way; the straightest way Theletsgethereandthenwedrinkaway. But I look at the patterns on the map of lives and places and I swim in the wash of colours going instead from A to Z and all letters in between. Siri says; you say Why waste the time We leave: We arrive. But I see landscapes on a sheet: And I would explore your contours, get lost with you, draw new lines on a map with you adding our footsteps to where we turn right in 200 steps. Siri says turn right in 200 metres.
72 A Map of My 21st Year (For Emma) You don’t need the parallels. For you my early life’s a calculated wake on tea-stained parchment: blurry girl leaves southern farm, arrives Oxford, reads books, finds boy, then exits on a firmly-dotted path any schoolchild could decipher, a Roman road of finely-plotted days. So let me draw it fresh for you in gray, and green, and frequent blue: legend crammed with adolescent signs, cartouche crossed out, retitled, doodled on, compass rose unpetalled by the wind. Here’s Manchester in Cotswold golds, walled and gated, convent-like, and no one meant to tread upon the grass; here’s servants who will make our beds and toast, a dinner gong, and gowns to wear— here’s strangeness of a sort I never learned in all the English books I’d read. Here’s Broad Street with its ashy heads on posts, and Blackwell’s, full of Penguins, Turl Street, the Covered Market smelling of cold pig and russets, freesias, and the wet; here’s High Street red with buses, Carfax where bright men with hammers pound the hour, then disappear. Here’s sherry before dinner, coffee in my tutor’s sitting room, cream poured like gravy from a plump white jug. Here’s insult dressed like inquiry, polite contempt, warm song, old stone, a river barnacled with punts. It’s all there if you look, or ask, or listen: boundaries straight as laughter, serpentine as sleep, folding, unfolding, endless, edgeless, washing me to now.
Claire Mowbray Golding
73 Hanging Laundry Exaltation isn’t what I’m after when I lug the week outside but somehow I find it anyway, or something like it: swelling choruses of sun, the night-anointed grass, a Sunday peace of phoebes, bees, the swish of dragonfly chiffon, a neighbor’s lonely goat, whiffs of soap and phlox, the damp draped sheets that breathe and billow, shirttails joining hands beneath the pins. It’s all out here: whatever spilled or dropped seeped or oozed through skin, off plates from plant or cup or membrane now is suddenly absolved, forgiven, vanished, vanquished, healed, and bleached clean by the light. There’s blue above and green below these supplicating costumes, and there they’ll hang, upside-down the whole day long, flapping in the space between last week and next, reaching for the earth with all their limbs, while I drift skyward, warm, contented, morning still ahead, as close to heaven as I’ll ever hope to be.
Claire Mowbray Golding
74 Horizon She stands before the mast and stares skyward. The damp draped sheets billow and curtsey in the wind and watches as they sweep up the sky, her vision flashing between blue and white, white and blue, feels the wind in her hair as she begins to set sail, calling orders to ship anchor, degrees to starboard; she is gone from port and now captains her own ship. Latitude and longitude, charting passage crossing oceans, circling globes, sailing, dancing over seas, pirating, and porting. Horizon-led to new worlds. All this is to come. For now she is standing in the garden blinking at the washing on the line as she waits for mum to call her in for tea. When she will drop anchor relieve her crew, sheathe her cutlass And set her charts anew.
75 They told me on a Tuesday They told me on a Tuesday. Hepatitis, they explained, as if that made a difference to your not being there. They replaced you with another teacher. They replaced you. But you put people before rules, you let me off when I was late, you knew my work by the smell of my raspberry ink, you brought Newton and Einstein to life, spoke like weights and moments and forces were the most exciting concepts in the universe. And they were. Because physics explained everything. There is no such thing as centrifugal force. You made the complicated so clear. But then, after, I refused to understand, I couldn’t grasp the simplest notions when everyone else could. I couldn’t learn from anyone else’s words. Because physics explained nothing. So I walked away. I took up French, eager to explore existentialism, negate Sartre’s negativity, praying that philosophy with all its fluffiness would explain life to me where physics had failed. But all I needed was for someone, somehow, to acknowledge my anger that not even science made sense, that I didn’t want physics without the man who made me love it, that I didn’t want you to die.
76 The Rest is Silence For John Gardiner
Ghost stories should end in silence, but I've been haunted by your spirit and it is noisy, I've heard less bellowing from soccer hooligans in England than I do in the timbre of your voice echoing spectral in the flickering daylight. Your ghost wants me to smash all the lights, to shatter glass to fill the offensive silence that's crept forward to replace your voice. I can hear your spirit all the way here in New England â€“ the distance from California seeming less than the Great Divide and 3,000 miles, less impossible to overcome. Your light was there before I left for England, when I was a teenager breaking silence. I was inspired by your spirit â€“ your poems helped me find my voice. It owes an unpayable debt, this voice, and now I hear it less and less amid the din of spirits for whom my failures wither in the light. Our friendship and our quarrels ended in a silence that has its own diction, more expressive than English. But we shared a love of the Bard of England, and I wish to conjure Shakespeare's voice to make a measure of this silence, to give shape to my brain's cacophony and bless the past and present and all the lights now dimmed in the absence of your spirit: The potent poison quite o'ercrows my spirit. I cannot live to hear the news from England. But I do prophesy the election lights On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice. So tell him, with th' occurrents, more and less, Which have solicited. The rest is silence. But does a spirit like yours recede into silence, or does it boom from California or England, less trick of the light or ghost than echoing, unquenchable voice?
Victor D. Infante (Hamlet 5.2 350-356)
77 Portrait of Morning in Media Res Brewing a second pot of coffee this morning. I should go do yoga, find some elasticity in aging muscles, unknot my shoulders, perhaps, reduce my waistline. I've put myself on a diet of albatross and grief – a little watercress, a dash of salt – palatable as morning. This sunrise tastes of everything I've ever lost. I see dawn too often. Its glow is reminiscent of flame. I have surrendered so much to the fire already, that I no longer know how much of me is skin, how much is ash. When the coffee is scalding I will sip it carefully as I read the news, by which I mean Tweets – these arrows shot randomly into the battlefield, indiscriminate carnage, murder by law of averages. It is the loudest silence I have ever known. Louder than the grave, sometimes. Louder than sunrise. This morning is the absence of echo, the dissolution of Narcissus. I am staring into mirrors, but nothing is reflected. Only know I'm here because the coffee is too hot, because my shoulders are still too sore from lifting boxes with unidentified contents. The shipping label tells me they are mine, but I don't remember packing, no longer remember what I've crated or abandoned. When I finish my coffee, I may exercise, or shower, or disappear to sea with a bird around my neck. I can translate silence into any language, can navigate by cartography of vernacular and solar positioning – vanished when the night descends, when I send letters into the darkness, to illegible addresses, friends whose faces are vanishing from memory. They are faded in photographs left too long in the sun. I am vanishing into constellations of unnamed stars. The coffee is making my insides shake. I am unclean and shivering by morning light, starving myself on absence and other bitter liquids – this communication breakdown, where you discover what the body trades for the catechism when you learn to swallow the earthquake whole.
Victor D. Infante
78 Six hundred sunsets wiser, no coffee for me now. Under the five hundredth sunset I buried my albatross at sea. We were fine companions at first – he reminded me daily of all I didn’t deserve, helped me keep happiness at bay. When friends floated closer he would hiss them away, whisper into my ear, update me on my failings, his breath fragrant with curses, assuring me we were better off alone. We dropped the yoga early on, made the other gym users feel awkward, we were told. It felt futile just the two of us at home and it was tricky finding time for exercise when I had knots to cultivate, a waistline to grow. As the name on the packing labels faded I could no longer be sure whose the belongings were so we’d huddle by a burning box each night, flames devouring the memories inside. What use a past, when we had so much suffering to keep us busy? For a while I used my skills as a translator, helping strangers online to grasp their lives’ futility. I gained qualifications in realigning any glint of positivity; it was good to feel needed. But slowly my conviction waned. The bird’s cord dug deep into my neck, I craved space where once I had savoured his company, his wingspan which had at first impressed now crowded my apartment. His long bill scraped raw the flesh on my chest; an accident, he’d say. I reminded him that his name had once been Alcatraz. We didn’t speak for days. After I’d cut him loose I sailed home, pouring salt water onto ribboned skin, adding fruit to my diet, then vegetables and sun. I did not miss him as I’d supposed I would. I thought I saw him once, beside me, as I glanced in the hallway mirror. But no. Too gold for albatross – a trick of the light perhaps or the flash of a feather of a phoenix. Amy Rainbow
79 Jimmy 5 Legs The spider in the middle of the outside kitchen window Only has 5 legs He's slower than the others who occupy the corners but still, He repairs his web Checks the threads most patiently Plucks strings for tensile strength Took him from breakfast until supper Then he waited like the rest. Next day to my surprise Didn't see him in his web, But wrapped in a silken duvet In another spider's bed
80 Affirmation A simple glance through the window. Noticing spiders and naming one Jimmy 5 legs. Territory marked by a web in the center and others In the corners. An observation of each, during the meanderings of an ordinary day, comforting in its own way… Going about one’s business While they go about theirs. All of us – creatures with jobs to do. A purpose to serve. One morning Jimmy’s life had come to an end in another spider’s bed. His life and death an affirmation. An affirmation of the cyclical continuum of life, of seasons, our seasons, and the bigger world. That which we are all a part of… Like the brilliance of orange cupped daffodils signaling the end of winter – but then turning ugly, fading at the end of their time. Only to return the next year. Like the leaves born in spring moving into their lushness in late summer readying to become splashes of color, floating to the ground before the winter snow. Jimmy had his time, reminding us of ours in the cyclical continuum.
R. A. Boucher
81 Thoughts From A Walk On any average summer afternoon, The child runs to find her mom. She sees her bent over the butter lettuce. By her side a strainer with the warm green leaves. In the folds of her shirt, Large tomatoes, Perfectly red and round. Both to go with supper sandwiches. Looking about this garden space protected by wooded areas, The child realizes the smallness of herself and her mother. Observing her mom, she sees her at peace here. In the afternoons when they look for her â€“ It is here they always find her. On any given day, out with the dogs, I walk and stop. Many times. Always a new treasure to inspect. Always a new thought to mull. Simple things triggering memories. Aspen or birch leaves. Their color, their daintiness, their flutter. Huge chocolate colored acorns. Their deep rich color, their simple but wondrous shape, the silkiness of the shell. A grey tree frog. Glimpses of bluebirds, juncos, nuthatches. The swish of evergreen needles. Stopping to listen to the red winged blackbird With its calls by the water, The poor dogs are ever patient when the stopping becomes Staying in one place. I record the sights, the smells, the feel of the breeze on my skin, the sounds â€“ those close by, and those in the distance. As I stop to regard a fern My momâ€™s image while in the garden comes to me. We strive to be our own person. We strive to move forward. Our past and our present commingle.
R. A. Boucher
82 Yardsticks & Milestones Hound & iPod keep company when walking fields mending meaning. Sing. Birds don't mind off key they see & hear escaped endorphins fly from brain to sky, chipper by osmosis falling leaves applauding, die. Scuffle through the cattle crop as superhuman wind kicks up a fuss. Hear howl & folklore craft from underground rare perspective's found. Drizzle mist, like snowflakes, only tougher, changes fur from blonde to ginger, matching Autumns colour. Sheltered screen of catch weed wishes hair of seaweed, bramble bushes, wrapped in warm blood, bonfire berries, dog spawn & mud splashes. The streets are not as clean! Chase squirrel heartbeats to Chestnut trees graffitied with schoolboy mockeries. Certainly, from small acorns grow mighty profanities. Head North, but course, I must back-track wave goodbye to timber limbs cut through gorse to start anew, tread lightly through furze teeth as crows caw goose grass always grows whether or no your heart is sore. Self-trepanation, whole in the head braced crocodile smiles, losses licked, rotten regards put to bed. This land holds no resentments works its magic, lets the chips fall where they rest. These are the yardsticks, milestones gained in country miles, blood, tears & sweat.
83 Malvern Skies I walk along this rugged ridge towards the setting sun, as clouds line the horizon. A dark blue sky a tint of golden haze, I see nature's fine splendour. A hovering buzzard looking out for prey, echoes screech across the hills. An expansive wingspan so gracefully it glides, such a wonderful view. This experience of a lifetime high in the Malvern skies.
84 A Different World Within a day of landing, we fled the red blare of London with our knapsacks, our sturdy shoes. We were nineteen. We had never known a green so deep and wide, had never seen beyond our new-world England, our roads and yards enclosed by maple, pine, oak. We were new to shadows of clouds sliding over open land, lifting our breath away We hiked as long as light allowed, fueled ourselves on time-smoothed hills and castle ruins, on dark bread heavy with memory of soil and seed, nothing to hold us still but sleep, no need to plan beyond the sky, the next youth hostel, the length of our stride. No one we loved had died. No one needed us to pay for heat or buy milk. No child had yet softened our hearts, or wounded with cutting silence. We walked this earth as we pleased, our days all open doors.
85 Luck Into the moonlight I wake, heart pounding, taking a moment to know this is the real life, and you are safely asleep down the hall. Yet the tremors gallop onward, and I still ache with dreaming you are lost and I, unable to save you. In the shadows of your room I find your face amidst the jumble of stuffed rabbits, and I kiss your soft girl cheek, inhale your scent, quiet as oatmeal, milk. How easily this could be the dream.
86 Those Were the Days I was twenty six, she was twenty when we met one night at the local inn. We promised to meet for a drink the next day, I asked myself, could this be the one? How would she feel tomorrow? Would she feel I was the one for her? We sat and talked, as the calm river flowed under a weeping willow. Every day through the spring, sheltering under the hot summer sun, until Autumn came and the rains fell. Laughter brought us love, until the occasional rift became frequent Doubts grew. Tears flowed. We parted for a while, but soon met again, knowing we were meant for each other. We soon married and time passed so fast, her hair turned grey, mine fell out long ago. We look back smiling, thinking of our younger years, when we would lie under the willow. She in my arms, looking at the sun shining through like diamonds glistening. Yes I remember well and say as we now watch young lovers, 'Those were the days.' Laughter brought us love,
87 Letter Writing In The Moonlight Beneath the apple tree all is still. Night, as dark as her lover, veils the lush grass; bramble and thistle scratch, inscribe the ground. A mist hovers, loathe to leave the river, low down in the depths of the garden where mud oozes and the odour of damp settles. The bench is warm, as graffitied as her heart. Love holds her like the mistâ€”all pervasiveâ€” toads and crickets mock, 'Write'. A moonbeam strikes through cloud. Clouds steal onwards and soon the lawn is shown in a puddle of silver light. She puts pen to paper.
88 Letters from the Moon for my sister, after twenty-two years Three in the morning. Below my cold window the snow has laid its latest sheet of paper. Already January comes again. Another year has fled since your last letter and now you are as distant as the moon: always away from us, yet never gone. No postcards from Pompeii. No get-well wishes. No thank-you notes. No news about your children, not since that other blank-faced January when you wrote your last letter to the world. Not one more message in that careful script signed with the small brave smile of your initials. No way to let you know you are forgiven, or that I still judge tenderly of you. Instead, the silver light of January is postmarked every year. Another snow will blankly wait below our windowsills, another page on which a word from you will not appear. But even though youâ€™re now no closer than the moon, you still are there. No letters, yet my mind can write to me whatever you would say. The moon might drift alone in space, thousands of miles from home, turning without returning, even slipping each year a few inches farther away . . . and yet sheâ€™s here. Her light touches my hand.
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Beginning Riding At eight, at summer camp, I won a ribbon for horseback riding. Not really a ribbon: a cardboard circle, bordered with red ruffles. And not for riding but “dressage,” which rhymed not with message but massage. And still not for riding but sitting still, back straight, heels down, fingers tight on Rosie’s reins as a counselor led her around the dusty circuit encircled by rails. I was good at sitting still, not riding— and not much better after six more summers, two weeks a year, three hours a week, guiding Popcorn or Starfire or Major Tom around that circle, but not really riding. It’s late winter, some forty years later, when I climb on again. I am still good at sitting still, not riding—and even better at thinking I should be better. I repeat my teacher’s words: Heels down. Head up. Look where you’re going. I listen for the beat. I try to keep my seat. I think: Back straight. To turn around, look where you want to be. And now, as I glance right, my right hip glides along his back, my left leg presses to his side, he shifts and then it’s not that I am riding, but that we are rising and falling together, we are turning, the whole world swinging with us, smooth and shiny as the apple I will bring next time.
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
90 Pale Horse Heels down. Head up. Look where you're going. Go to a place where you can hear your heart; listen to the beat, forget the drub of a thousand pale hooves and the horsemen of the apocalypse. We rise and fall together. Grandma had a penny to remember you, a bronze memory she Brassoed weekly, cast in physical prowess, spiritual power, in devotion to the triumph of good, Britannia faces left, holds a laurel wreath, there's a box beneath, holding your name in raised relief, and you, a man of miracles. We rise and fall together. A circular coin made whole, inscribed: 'He died for freedom and honour'. You are a man who has gone, yet nonetheless lives. Your Penelope still waits. Put the littered marshy slew behind you, put it behind you. We will start again. Go to a place where you can hear your heart; listen to the beat. No pale horse snickers, no harbinger rides quicker, no more horseshoes, trench fever, heat. We sleep. We rise and fall together.
91 Out past the end of the trees… Out past the end of the trees is white ground neither snow nor mist with more trees flecked onto the middle distance to make small hills and a wood where a collared dove looks after the silence staring at all of that walking a way towards it I can be what I am I can be nothing or something or more I can be say a quiver of air behind a comfort-store at a service station off a roundabout where a road cuts through the country I can blow briefly about a short meadow whose lie of grass is filled with whispers of a blue-smoke town nearby whose birds find twigs that can barely allow them and face away to their pick of unearthly roads one breath later wings up they break the low haze which doesn’t feel them and wouldn’t say if it did.
Michael W. Thomas
92 Beyond the Small Mounds Beyond the small mounds the smell of fresh new fir, concolor fir, hemlock, spruce permeate the air Nearing the trees a few aspens noisily chat among themselves burning odors float above the chimney of a white English bungalow this afternoon a line of clothes drying in the breeze A red fox chases the rabbit scurries to hide young deer crash through the plantings grandma skunk with long white tail comes out to work Sun turns reddish rain smell coils in clouds soon leaves its hometown umbrella decide to stay home I still live as I want Eternity stretches before me
93 Drones Like computers will shrink in size increase mobility hover in midair As minituation continues more sophistication and power adds to the drone's ability such as delivering packages survey damage from flood. fire Soon drones smaller than the bumblebees all will have one our own personal defense item to protect our homes watch our children Drones will be able to lock windows and doors immobilize intruders alert authorities In ten years drones will be able to do these and much more they are our future
94 Estranged The day turns. I hardly see how the shadows mob the soft corners of the house. I can’t remember when I picked up the phone except that it was hours back in the high broad light and colour worth shaking a stick at. My brother’s words catch in echo about the dusk of the hall, settle in the well of drape-folds across the front door. Our father gone. So we all move up a space, so he is gifted to the hazards of memory, the box of snaps and clippings I’ve never not been meaning to file. All at once I try to hear his voice but the dusk in its thickening has only a squat little buzz: the neighbour-boy spinning his drone a new mission, like every day this year. Father slips my grasp. When I call out his answer is nothing only a bee estranged from high summer that butts against a window at noon, knowing there’s a vase of enchantment to be had, despairing of a world that is open and shut together like a circle of air untroubled by hope’s embrace.
Michael W. Thomas
95 Like a Lover They come home smelling of her, hold her name on their breath. They eat late at stone tables, sullen for missing the bold arc of her sway. She calls to them like a lover and they go, running, barefoot across hot shingle. Every time, they go. At night, she nestles in their heads, whispers in waves. In dreams they wade, nets wide, arms wider. She pools around their bodies, works their ring fingers free of knots. They leave all heaviness behind. With her, they float weightless.
96 The Sons and Daughters of Farmers Perhaps feel the pull of the earth more than most, having spent their early lives on hands and knees pulling weeds and planting seedlings in fields of upturned dirt, as the scent of fresh loam lodged in their nostrils, their lungs inhaling almost as much fine silt as air. Dark clay continuously coated their faces and fingers, embedding itself in palms and soles of bare feet, from which no amount of scrubbing could erase its traces. Their loose hair, dead skin mixed with the humus, decomposing, becoming part of the land, while the land became part of them. Some thrive and stay rooted to the farm, but others (finding the bond too binding) flee to the city or even the sea, yet still knowing, at the end of their days, their bodies will return to the soil, as if heeding the voice of an insistent lover calling them back to a cold bed.
97 Klutz He could barely conceal his astonishment when his mom revealed his birth was the result of planned parenting, always figuring his origin was an accident like the rest of his life. In grade school, the child no one wanted to babysit, not because he was a mean-spirited hellacious brat but the source of potential lawsuits, hapless victim of habitual broken bones and bloody noses. In high school, voted “Class Klutz: Most Likely to Be the Epicenter of a Disaster of Global Proportions”. Avoided by others in hallways, invisible clouds of chaos swirling around him as he stumbled through corridors. In the science lab, the forces of entropy flowing through his fingertips, the glue between molecules disintegrating, shatterproof beakers shattering with his touch. Have you ever witnessed such grace as a clumsy boy slipping on a patch of black ice? Arms flailing, fingers fumbling, books and balance lost and caught, caught and lost. His untied sneakers continuously slapping the ground In a choreography of precision awkwardbatics. The one lesson life taught him? To keep his distance, to be careful to never get too close to glass or people (and other breakables), feeling, fearing that when he leaves this plane of existence, he’ll take a small chunk of the surrounding universe out with him...
Collision In this, the beginning of our new start, we tip-toe around our broken boat, washed up for us to reach for splintered oars. We won’t deny this evidence, this collision with the sea wall. We circle slowly, no grip left on our boots, nervous of slipping on jagged rocks. Neither of us mentions our clumsiness when we reach for each other in the dark; when we can’t meet each other’s eyes in the stumble of morning. Something in us admires the wreck; the completeness of the way we’ve run aground. This coastline looks almost pretty in its salt and grit.
99 Thoughts on Solitude Solitude, like solitaire is a game played by one. In this desperate world of noise, we often cry out for solitude. And yet, we fear it, as if going into a long, dark tunnel we may never emerge from. The truth is, treasure lives here. In the solitude of our breath, we begin to appreciate our place in the landscape of life. We truly feel the emotional context, a body relieved of working expecting fearing neglecting forcing judging disrespecting Until, emerging into the light of our nature We find the love, the peace, eluding us all along.
100 Half-Painted House Hard to say which color is meant to cover which—the light but fervid purple or the canary yellow, but for a decade it has sat forlornly unfinished—a thought lost, a lone shoe on the interstate. Once I reckoned yellow had crept onto the front gable since last I’d passed the house, but when returning from wherever it was I’d gone, it looked as if it had always been yellow, no hope for movement, for some indication of life. I’ve never seen anyone for whom this house is a home, no spotted dog in the yard, no lawn mower left mid-mow. Someone once told a friend that a woman, she thought, lived there alone, her husband long dead, the house left in ill-repair. I began to conjure her up on a ladder high enough to reach that gable, but worried her footing might falter, or a gust of wind come. So I brought her down from that height to put away her paints, and leave the house a shocking sight, step inside and shut the door behind her, closing off the outside world for want of nothing it offered. Perhaps on this dreary afternoon she takes tea in a small room that ells off from the main house, its one window facing purple, where, in the hum of dailiness she’ll rise to her books, cardigan draped over her shoulders luffing wing-like at her sides.
Margaret Adkins Margaret Adkins is a final year student at Worcester University studying for a degree in Creative Writing & English Literature. In 2017 her poems featured in The Fat Damsel, Algebra of Owls, Contour (Place), Atrium and three anthologies: This Is Not Your Final Form (Emma Press) A Bee's Breakfast (Beautiful Dragons Press) and Physic Garden (Palewell Press). She had a poem commended in the Welshpool Poetry Competition.
Charley Barnes Charley Barnes is a Worcester-based writer who has recently gained her Doctorate in Creative Writing. Charley's short story collection, The Women You Were Warned About, was published in May 2017, and her dĂŠbut poetry pamphlet, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache, is forthcoming with V. Press.
Leena Batchelor Leena Batchelor, mum of 4 and recent grandmother, often finds thought-hamsters clogging up the wheels of her brain while trying to work in her day job as PA to Headteacher for a large secondary school and when trying to find the elusive sleep fairy in the small hours. She has two books published on Amazon, and frequently takes part in spoken word events in her home town of Worcester, occasionally travelling further afield when time allows. Leena also has an on-line blog www.pixiemuse.wordpress.com which showcases a variety of her work. In 2017, she was part of two events combining the work of poets and artists, inspiring a new project of her own to illustrate her own work. Leena loves travelling and history, and uses these passions to inspire her writing.
Pam Bernard Pam Bernard, a poet, painter, editor, and adjunct professor, received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Graduate Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and BA from Harvard University. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, two Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowships, and the Grolier and the Pablo Neruda Prizes in Poetry. She has published three full-length collections of poetry, and most recently a verse novel entitled Esther, published by CavanKerry Press. She lives in Walpole, New Hampshire, and teaches creative writing at Franklin Pierce University and also conducts private workshops.
Amanda Bonnick Amanda Bonnick is a poet, actor and theatre producer living in Worcester, UK. Amanda enjoys being part of Worcesterâ€™s spoken word scene and enjoys the local community of writers. She loves the walk by the river Severn and spends a lot of time in the beautiful Cathedral.
Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad Sylva Boyadjian-Haddad, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Emerita, is a poet, writer, editor, and translator. She was born in Beirut, Lebanon of Armenian parents. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Entelechy International/A Journal of Contemporary Ideas. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. She has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. Her collection of poems Salt was released in 2011, and received the Third Honorable Mention for the New Womenâ€™s Voices Prize in 2010. Currently she is finishing a new collection of poetry and working on a multi-genre novel. She resides in Concord, NH.
R. A. Boucher Robin is a long time reader and diarist but newer to poetry writing. Kunitz, Oliver, and Longfellow are poets that draw her into their worlds. Contemporary New England poets are inspiring, providing a new-found world to explore and learn from, as does this Tale of Two Cities Project! Literacy, family, and nature are close to her heart. Robin's goal is to capture and share the essence of her observations and reflections that others may enjoy them.
Tony Brown Tony Brown has been writing poetry for close to 50 years. His work has appeared in anthologies including A Generation Defining Itself, from MPW Press; From Page To Stage, The Wordsmith Press; Knocking At The Door, Birch Bench Press (all US); 100 Poets Against the War, from Salt Publishing (UK); Best Indie Literature In New England anthology’s first volume; “Drunk In A Midnight Choir Vol. 1, The New Hallelujah; and “Again I Wait For This To Fall Apart,” from FreezeRay Press. His most recent chapbook is "In The Embers" from Tired Hearts Press. He lives in Worcester MA.
Denny Caldwell Denny Caldwell retired from a career as a pilot in 2006. Born and raised in southeastern Michigan he lived and worked all over the United States before finally coming to his heart’s home in 1987 when Eastern Airlines assigned him to the Boston base. Denny has been a lifelong activist in social causes including voter registration in Alabama, veterans’ protests against the Vietnam war, and encouragement of peaceful solutions to conflict. He has done technical writing, and currently writes personal memoirs, aviation history, fiction, and poetry. Denny lives in New Hampshire with his wife Deborah.
Clair Degutis Clair Degutis lives in the hill town of Princeton, Massachusetts. Clair is a member of the 4 x 4 poetartist collaborative group. Her poetry is included in the collaborative’s recent publication Echo & Spark. She also participates in the annual Monadnock Pastoral Poetry Retreat. She loves to hike the trails on Wachusett Mountain and woodland paths of New England. As a natural history guide at Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, she introduces children to nature and helps others appreciate the wonders of our local environment. Her poems draw on her close observations, experiences, and relationships to the natural world.
Maggie Doyle Maggie Doyle is the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus – poet laureate for Worcester for life! She runs Licensed to Rhyme, a monthly poetry event, with co-host Giovanni “Spoz” Esposito; is a third of the Decadent Poetry Divas; a founder member of the Worcester Pub Theatre Company, and has a monthly slot – now in her fifth year – with BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester. Her work has featured in several anthologies but her favourite occupation is nanny to her five grandchildren.
Gordo Elliot Gordo Elliott lives in Worcester, MA and has been writing part time in Santa Fe, NM and Worcester, MA. Poem published in NM and an also in an anthology from Writing Conferences at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM. He has 3 children, 4 grand children and 4 great grandchildren. For someone who is approaching 86, he is an active person.
Patricia Fargnoli Patricia Fargnoli began studying poetry earnestly in her mid-thirties. Her first book, Necessary Light, Utah State University Press was published when she was 62. Since then she’s published four additional books and three chapbooks. Her latest book is Hallowed: New and Selected Poems, Tupelo Press, 2017. Winter, Hobblebush Books, 2013 was the runner-up for the Jacar Book Press. Then, Something, Tupelo Press, 2005 won the ForeWord Magazine Silver Poetry Book of the Year Award, co-won the New Hampshire Poetry Club’s Sheila Mooton Prize and was an Honorable Mention for the Erik Hoffer Awards.
Kayleigh Fletcher Kayleigh Fletcher is a twenty-two-year-old writer, poet and illustrator. She was born in Upplands Väsby, Sweden, grew up in Northamptonshire and then moved to Worcester in 2016 to study at University; falling in love with the city she now calls home. She currently has an artwork displayed at the Worcester Museum & Art Gallery and has worked with the endometriosis coalition with her writing and painting to spread awareness for the condition she lives with. When she’s not writing or drawing she likes to watch murder-mysteries, play video games and the ukulele as well as bake cakes.
Jennifer Freed In another lifetime (before husband, before children), Jennifer L Freed taught English in China, and then in Prague soon after the fall of the communist government. Her recent poetry appears in The Worcester Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, Zone 3, and others. A chapbook, These Hands Still Holding (2014) was a finalist in the New Women’s Voices contest. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart prize. She now writes, teaches, and raises her daughters in Holden, Massachusetts (USA).
Jenny Hope Jenny Hope is a writer, poet, editor, creative workshop leader and facilitator. She started writing when she was six, and had fallen in love with books and all their possibilities. Her poetry has appeared in Envoi, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreterâ€™s House, Obsessed by Pipework, and The Rialto. Her collection, Petrolhead, was published in January 2010 by Oversteps Books, Devon. She delivers creative writing workshops, for schools, festivals, communities and care homes.
Victor Infante Victor D. Infante is the Entertainment Editor for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the editor-inchief of Radius and the author of City of Insomnia from Write Bloody Publishing. His poems and stories have appeared in dozens of periodicals, including The Chiron Review, The Collagist, Barrelhouse, Pearl, Spillway, The Nervous Breakdownand Word Riot, as well as in anthologies such as Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, Spoken Word Revolution Redux, The Last American Valentine: Poems to Seduce and Destroy, Aim For the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry, The Incredible Sestina Anthology and Murder Ink: 13 Tales of Newsroom Crime. He lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, and harbors deep-seated opinions about politics, literature and pop music, not necessarily in that order.
Sue Johnson Sue Johnson is a poet, short story writer and novelist. She also creates books aimed at helping other writers and enjoys running workshops. Her work is inspired by the river and woodland near her home in Evesham, Worcestershire, by eavesdropping in cafes and by reading anything she can get her hands on. When she isn't writing, Sue enjoys walking, yoga and cooking. Further information about her work can be found at www.writers-toolkit.co.uk
Sarah Leavesley S. A. Leavesley (aka Sarah James) is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor based in Worcestershire, U.K.. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she is author of four poetry collections, two pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and two novellas. Her latest poetry collections are plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) and The Magnetic Diaries (KFS, highly commended in the Forward Prize). A new pamphlet, How to Grow Matches, featuring the pressures of modern society, strong women and female role-models is out with Against The Grain Press in 2018. Sarah's poetry has also been published by the Financial Times and the Guardian, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. She runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers' Award 2017. Website: www.sarah-james.co.uk
Nina Lewis Nina Lewis is the Worcestershire Poet Laureate, she returned to the world of poetry in 2013 after a 15 year break. She facilitates an annual online writing retreat, INKSPILL with National and International Guests. Her poetry is published in a range of anthologies including Paper Swans Press, Fair Acre Press, Three Drops From a Cauldron, Paragram and Shabda Press in magazines including Abridged, Under the Radar and Here Comes Everyone and online in I am Not a Silent Poet, Nutshells & Nuggets, Hobo Camp Review, Fat Damsel Take Ten and Zoomoozophone Review. Nina's début pamphlet 'Fragile Houses' was published by V. Press in 2016. She has worked as a Reader in Residence for West Midlands Readers' Network and works as a Lead Writer for Spark Young Writer group with Writing West Midlands.
Derek Littlewood Derek Littlewood has lived in Stoke Prior, Worcestershire for twenty years. He teaches literature and creative writing at Birmingham City University. His poem ‘Say Jasper for Wasp’ was longlisted in the National Poetry Competition in 2016. He has a forthcoming poem ‘Kernowek Stone’ in The Emma Press’s Poems about Britain which will be published in October. He is an amateur naturalist. He is married to Caroline and they have two teenage children. Some of his published poetry can be seen at www.dereklittlewood.com
Maura MacNeil Maura MacNeil is the author of the poetry collections Lost Houses and A History of Water. She is the founder and editor of Off the Margins (www.offthemargins.com), a website that features writing and reflection on the lives of women artists. She is currently a professor of creative writing and also serves as the director of the MA in Professional Writing program at New England College in Henniker, NH. She lives in Deering, New Hampshire with her husband, Roger.
Cynthia Martell Cynthia Sue Martell lives in a log home on the “back-forty” acres of Sunnyfield Farm in Peterborough, NH, USA. For nearly thirty years Cynthia and her husband, Garrison, raised Jersey and Hereford Cattle at Sunnyfield along with countless barn cats and other “adopted” critters. The gift of solitude and natural beauty this location provides is creative nourishment for Cynthia’s poems, short stories and essays.
Rodger Martin Rodger Martin received an Appalachia poetry award, and fellowships with N.H. Council Arts Fiction, Kellner/Monadnock, The National Endowment for Humanities. He represented the U.S. at Hangzhou, China’s annual international cultural festival (2012). His poem “The Anchor” was etched in stone at a reflecting pool Shanghai University for International Business and Economics (2017). From his three volumes of poetry. SPR selected The Blue Moon Series (Hobblebush), as a bi-monthly pick of the year. A translation, On The Monadnock, was published in 2006. A new book of poetry in translation: For All The Tea in Zhōngguó is scheduled for 2018.
Fergus McGonigal Fergus McGonigal is a former Worcestershire Poet Laureate who has two collections published by Burning Eye Books, "The Failed Idealist's Guide to the Tatty Truth" and "Everyone Is Now Unhappy". He is currently working in a third collection exploring the issues surrounding adoption.
Claire Mowbray Golding Claire Mowbray Golding grew up in Maryland on a farm that her father made into a vineyard. A poet early on (like most bookish girls), she rediscovered her love of poetry in 1998, and won the Worcester County Poetry Association’s Frank O’Hara Prize in 2003. She has spent most of her professional life as an editor and writer of educational materials, including, most recently, several dozen nonfiction books for an elementary reading program. She also self-published a chapbook, Poems and Other Offerings 1998-2009 (Lulu, 2010). She’s lived in the small, high, central Massachusetts town of Princeton for 24 years.
Matthew Nicholson Matthew Nicholson is an honest, straight talking, rhyming bearded Northerner originally from Leeds. He is piecing himself back together after difficult circumstances led to him having a break down. He has been published online in Not A Silent Poet and Junkyard Procession. He aims to start running poetry workshops, release a poetry collection and his first spoken word album in the near future. He is developing a theatre piece aiming to bring together a collection of poems to tell the story of of the challenges and inequalities faced by a working class family in modern Britain.
Io Osborn Io has written poetry for most of her life and started performing at venues in the Midlands UK about 8 years ago. She is a member of Coachouse Writers and Worcester Writers Circle. Her poetry has been published in Coachlines. Io also writes short stories and is presently writing a quasi memoir of her childhood in Spain.
Liz Parkes Liz Parkes lives in Stourbridge, West Midlands. A former teacher, she is a member of Cucumber, a play writing group based at Birmingham Rep. She writes plays, short stories for a blog (prompted tales) and both page and performance poetry. She has had work published in anthologies and writer’s magazines.
Jenna Plewes Jenna Plewes studied English at Durham University, then changed course and did Social Studies at Edinburgh University. She trained in Medical Social Work, then psychotherapy, working in Hospital and then in General Practice. She feels she has come full circle, returning to the writing she side-lined while working and bringing up her family. Her poems have been published in magazines in the UK and Canada and in several anthologies. She has published 2 collections with IDP. A collection of contemplative poetry, ‘Gifts’ is available on Amazon. She and her husband live in Worcestershire. They have two children and four grandchildren.
Kyle Potvin Kyle Potvin’s chapbook, Sound Travels on Water (Finishing Line Press), won the 2014 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. She was a past finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Her poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Measure, JAMA, and others. She is an advisor to Frost Farm Poetry in Derry, NH, and helps produce the New Hampshire Poetry Festival (USA).
Stevie Quick Stevie Quick: writer, performer, photographer: From a quirky, humorous, sometimes angry viewpoint he has worked with aspiring writers from Stranraer to Pembroke. He performs regularly in Worcester and reads his work across the country. (And as with every other writer he has just finished a novel!…) As Artistic Director of Theatre 910 he bought Shakespeare to unusual spaces and has worked at several places all over from Scotland to Wales to England and Northern Ireland. Stevie worked at Young Offenders Institute, Brinsford for five years as a tutor (not an inmate…) and whilst there wrote and worked with the prisoners on their own poetry and writing.
Amy Rainbow Amy Rainbow – novelist, poet, flash fictioneer, and co-host of ConFab Cabaret – was born in Worcester, England, and lives on the western slopes of The Malvern Hills. Her novel, Jasmine Somers Makes Amends, was lauded by Worcestershire’s Laureate Emeritus Maggie Doyle as ‘a delight’. Poems of the Unrequited tells tall tales of life’s eternal dilemmas involving love and loss, drunken unicycling, and beards. Amy is never short of inspiration, but often short of time. She has performed alongside the splendid John Hegley, Ian McMillan, Attila the Stockbroker and John Cooper Clarke. Amy is a qualified philosopher, but no longer remembers why.
Eve Rifkah Eve Rifkah was co-founder of Poetry Oasis, Inc. (1998-2012), a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets. Founder of DINER, a literary magazine with a seven year run. She is author of three books of historical poetry. “Dear Suzanne”, a novel in verse about the artist, Suzanne Valadon; “Outcasts the Penikese Leper Hospital 1905-1921” and a chapbook “Scar Tissue”. She has a MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. A retired adjunct professor made little, worked a lot. Now lives with husband and cat in Worcester.
photo credit: Betty Jenewin
Susan Roney-O'Brien Susan Roney-O’Brien lives in Princeton, MA, works with international students and young writers, curates a monthly poetry venue, and is part of 4 X 4, a group of visual artists and poets. She is the Summer Writing Series coordinator for The Stanley Kunitz Boyhood Home. Her poetry has been published widely and has been translated into Braille and Mandarin. Publications include two chapbooks: Farmwife, the winner of the William and Kingman Page Poetry Book Award, and Earthpublished by Cat Rock Press. WordTech published Legacy of the Last World in 2016. Her work has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes.
Karen Elizabeth Sharpe Karen Elizabeth Sharpe is from Sterling, Massachusetts. Karen’s work has appeared in the Art with Poetry Exhibition, Worcester, MA, Verse Virtual, Columbia Journal of Arts & Literature, Canary: The Journal of the Environmental Crisis, Silkworm, The Worcester Review, the Sprinkler Factory, Triple Moon Arts, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Poetpourri, The Comstock Review, the Ledge, Yankee Magazine. She is a first place winner of the Worcester Review’s annual poetry contest, the Frank O’Hara Prize (judged by Hugh Ogden) and the Prentiss Cheney Hoyt contest at Clark University. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Karen was selected for the sixth annual Marge Piercy Juried Poetry Intensive in June 2015, and the inaugural Marge Piercy Returning Poets group in October 2016. She is a member of the PoemWorks workshop group in Newton, MA. Karen is the Assistant Vice President of Development and University Advancement at Worcester State University.
Sue Spawn As well as enjoying working at B&Q, Sue Spawn is a mixed media artist inspired mainly by nature and mostly by everything else. Sue has created all sorts, from backdrops, book covers, logo's, murals to pet portraits; some as commissions, some for charities and some for fun. Three of Sue's illustrations are included in the Urban Birds Project, 'Diversifly'. The book of poems and accompanying artworks was supported by Arts Council England and released this January, 2018 by Fair Acre Press. Sue is also interested in poetry and writing. Her poems have been included in a couple of locally published anthologies. Facebook @suespawnart
Tim Stavert Timothy P Stavert has been writing for over 27 years and has been performing his written work since 2012, when he was one of the finalist for the Worcestershire Poet Laureate competition. He has been so inspired by the Worcestershire Literary Festivals, he performs regularly at both 'SpeakEasy', '42 Worcester' and other venues with his own material. He published his own book of poetry in 2013 "My Wildlife of Poetry" on Amazon Kindle and has been in published in a few anthologies. Tim enjoys using photos to inspire his material and enjoys combining poetry with his stories with prose, sonnets with a few limericks to add some humour.
Polly Stretton Polly Stretton writes for both page and performance, her work has been widely published in anthologies; she is a Croome Poet and the Chair of the Open University Poetry Society. Her first collection of poetry, Girl’s Got Rhythm was reprinted by Black Pear Press (2016) https://blackpear.net, who also published her series of poems in a pamphlet, Chatterton, (2014). Polly attends a variety of Worcestershire writing groups and events and has a website: https://journalread.com
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney Susan Elizabeth Sweeney’s poems have appeared in Diner, The Worcester Review, The Journal of Irish Literature, and elsewhere, and have won an Academy of Poets Prize, the Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize, and other awards. She has served as president of the Worcester County Poetry Association, as coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at the College of the Holy Cross, and as founder of an intercollegiate poetry competition that is now in its tenth year. Her chapbook, Hand Me Down (Finishing Line Press, 2013), was a semifinalist in the 2012 New Women’s Voices Competition. Beth is now writing a series of poems about her namesake, Mad Sweeney—a king, poet, and madman in Irish folklore—and his wife.
Paul Szlosek Paul Szlosek was born a farmer’s son in Southbridge, Massachusetts, but currently resides in the nearby metropolis of Worcester. He was co-founder and host of the long-running Poet’s Parlor poetry reading in Southbridge and Sturbridge, as well as a past recipient of the Jacob Knight Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in various local publications including the Worcester Review, Worcester Magazine, Sahara, Concrete Wolf, and Diner. He’s probably best known in the Worcester poetry community for his fanatical obsession with obscure poetry forms, and has invented his own including the ziggurat, the streetbeatina, and (most recently) the hodgenelle.
Michael W. Thomas Michael W. Thomas’s most recent novel is Pilgrims at the White Horizon. His poetry collections include Batman’s Hill, South Staffs (Flipped Eye, 2013) and Come to Pass (Oversteps, 2015). His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Critical Survey, The London Magazine and the TLS. In 2015, his novella, ‘Esp’, was shortlisted for the UK Novella Award. His latest titles are Early and Late (with Ted Eames: poems and artwork) and The Portswick Imp: Collected Stories, 2001-2016. www.michaelwthomas.co.uk
Claire Walker Claire Walker’s poetry has appeared in magazines and on websites including The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Ink Sweat and Tears, And Other Poems, Clear Poetry, Obsessed with Pipework, The Poetry Shed and Amaryllis, and in anthologies such as The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press). She is a Poetry Reader for Three Drops from a Cauldron seasonal anthologies, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry webzine. She is the author of two poetry pamphlets, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile (2015) and Somewhere Between Rose and Black (2017), both published by V. Press.
Henry Walters Henry Walters is a poet, naturalist, teacher, and falconer. Raised in the Midwest, he studied Latin and Greek at Harvard University, worked as a beekeeper in Sicily, a falconer in Ireland, and is now writer-in-residence at the Dublin School in Dublin, New Hampshire. His first book of poems, Field Guide A Tempo, was a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He lives in a 240-squarefoot house he designed and built himself.
Photo credit: Madeleine Bruce
Linda Warren Linda Warren wrote 12 novels for Berkley, Harlequin, and Bantam before becoming addicted to poetry in 2000, after going to a few readings, thinking she could stop any time. She believes poetry is dangerous stuff.
Sue Wood Susan Wood is a Kidderminster poet who has run a mini-art festival, poetry booths and has poetry published in several pamphlets. Sheâ€™s keen to make poetry accessible to the community and organises regular events with Bewdley Bards. She enjoys the colours of nature, the resilience and diversity of people and co-creating with them. She currently volunteers at Bodenham Arboretum, spending a year exploring poetry in nature and through the seasons.
Patricia Youngblood Patricia Youngblood is a published Worcester poet. She is a past winner of the Worcester Magazine poetry contest; and a two-time finalist in the annual Worcester County Poetry Association contest. Patty has workshopped with many outstanding New England poets at The Frost Place Festival Workshop in New Hampshire, Truro Center for Arts, Worcester Art Museum and annual Monadnock Mountain Poets gatherings. She is a member of 4 x 4, a working collaborative of four poets and four visual artists who just closed a month-long exhibition of paired poems and art.
To find out more about the project please visit https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/
Worcester UK, ©Metro
Worcester USA ©Wikipedia
This has been a tale of two cities, a 10 month Transatlantic Poet Laureate Project.
Worcestershire Poet Laureate Magazine Issue 3 A Tale of Two Cities Special Edition
The 3rd issue of Contour the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Magazine is a Special Edition celebrating a Transatlantic Poetry Project utilising...
Published on May 20, 2018
The 3rd issue of Contour the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Magazine is a Special Edition celebrating a Transatlantic Poetry Project utilising...