Poem in Which a Visitor Asks After Christie

“Christie? Sure didn’t he drown himself?”

“He’d a fine head on him for drowning,
and the age of him. Come on.
Didn’t he fall into the lake at night, the creature?”

“If he did it was a fierce coincidence.
Maggie said he was lonesome after Nell;
we didn’t see him in the village for a month.
Wasn’t it Maggie herself raised the alarm;
told the oldest Jordan buck to look for him,
went out herself with her torch and wellies.
It was them that found the body. Called the guards.
She’s never told a sinner soul about it.
The Jordan fella either, she made him promise.
No, there was nothing accidental about Christie.”

“I can’t believe that now, that’s shaken me.
And him a fine looking, a sensible man.
He used to help my father with the turf.
You’d have thought he’d have more sense.”

“Sense? And when did sense come into it
when you’re on your own looking into the fire
all winter? Nights is long.
When Nell was alive he didn’t lift a cup.
She had him like a child –he was her child,
as close as she ever came one, anyways.
He took it awful bad. Stopped going to Mass
and everything. Failed shocking in the walk.”

“So he could have fallen in?”

“How’s that?
He’d watch falling in, you mark my words.”

“He left a note then?”

“What? A note for who:
the cow? Cop yourself on now, will you.
It’d take the whole day itself to sign his name.
A note. He left nothing, except a mess.
Some nephew of his in London got the lot;
one of your mob, a cockney, out in Epping.
I’m sure he never called when they were living,
that’s how it goes. I bet he rubbed his hands.”

“Maggie should have got it.”

“Mighty woman,
Maggie. She must be 85 if she’s a day.”

“I always thought she held a flame for Christie.
Well, my father did, I wouldn’t know.”

“She did, I’ll make no bones about it.
They would have married too, only for Nell.
Christie’s father was a snob. Nell’s was a doctor:
He spat into his hand and made the deal.
Christie would have married Hunter’s dog
for an easy life, so of course put up no fight.
Maggie took it well, went to the wedding
but no man went into her house again.
Just the one ever came out, and in a box.”

“Does she still have a night cap after dinner?”

“She does. Her hot little nip of whiskey
and her pipe. But always just the one now.
She’d more than one the night that Christie went.
You heard I’m sure? No one can hold their piss
round here, let alone a bit of gossip.
Fair play now, at least, they let her alone;
we kept the place open for her, the fire on.
When I came down there was ten Euro by her glass.
I’m sure that didn’t cover it
but I’ve never brought it up. Nor has she.
A fat lot of good that talking ever did.

Declan Ryan

Poem in Which My Grandfather is a Unicorn

My drill-bit bonce is a power tool,
pure Black & Decker. I don’t joust,
but bore and cork; laborious blue-
collar spirochete. I gauge, I weigh
and counter-sink. Pallid navvy, I
plot courses, grade curves
and warble loony shanties
under a flimsy, freeloading moon.

In summer my kinked withers steam
as I doss by the flat, brown pond
and champ at my baccy.
There- with any luck- some stringy,
somnolent blonde will fodder me up
bruised apples; smear Deep Heat
on my sweated flanks.
This is what passes for pleasure.

Winter’s worse, and when
that chilly bastard
climbs in at the window
me and my muckers huddle.
In the cold-clammy dark we are a row
of raised middle fingers. We glow, spark
and jar; rare as uranium rods, we are,
and twice as bloody depleted.

Sometimes, the ganger has us gouge
staves in the frozen ground
for come mister tally man, tally me
a coffin. And sometimes
he wants we should lance and spar
and Toro! Toro! while the overseers
spill tinnies and lay bets.

It is bad, but not that bad.
Yous can always nuzzle
with some ruddy bawd,
have her hanky-knot
your Billy-beard; there’s
the cider-squishy tang of her,
lank and gold as dirty straw.

That, or yous can dream. I dream
of earth what didn’t surge or churn
but greened, sweetly, keenly, me
yokeless and shiny, simpleton free.

I dream when we was High Horses,
tilting into groves of gushing sun
to munch at peerless pomegranates.

That was long ago, though. Long ago
and far away and maybe only make-believe.
Pretty fiction’s well and good, but we
are none of us children. This is life, girl,
and in the end I’m glue, you’re glue, like the rest.

Fran Lock

Poem in Which I Respond to Notes Written in the Margins of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Selections

Poems are toys and you’re right: everyone plays with them in their own way.

I did use my pram as a wheelbarrow once, wearing a red hood, toys inside.

I made my garden furniture out of a box too. It was all folds and hinges.

Emblemata is a shit word, yes. Italics sometimes heighten the shit.

There’s a note next to JOKE BEANS I’ll ignore, though I like the line below:

“what does not die; what matters — is that men should believe in History.”

All my life I kept out of seaweed. I stayed away from the sea.

I used to dance all the time but I never inherited any parties.

The sheep / the dog / the sheep / the dog. I remember woollen lovers

and I believe a ghost wrote these notes: Everything in waves.

I would  have noted ONLOOKER / SENDS FOR LEAF / BOAT


Chrissy Williams

Poem in Which We Journey Through the Brain of a Nightingale

In practice this nightingale’s words swerve, herded into home video
air-stuffled foreground wall sound, the wind that wears at altitude
the aural cavities of avian hearing in peace from the birch
where peace is an adverb of weatherfront heard while circling
the circuit of hand-me-down hunting grounds, microscoping
the Medway-soaked plantain for what itches in the ultraviolet,
signals aeronautic, arcs synaptic across the hindbrain, midbrain,
forebrain, hover-held, a fulgurite voice-print following-fit phrase
memorised in the buffered bee-mind reckoning the rote intones
the thatch calyx of nest and the skull-vaulted song in air sacs
stacks the socketing of gases that surge-electric, sublate,
regulated by the lungs, the heart, the stomach, the stomach,
heart and lungs, the carrier wave of pulse is gyroscopic
through curves, curves of the skin-thick crown coast-magnetic,
less dead cert, but surfs a gut feeling for North, Norfolk, Shaker’s Wood,
next crests hemispheres, never blackening out, dips to pitch and downs
the tent of its wings, falls with the grain of the wind, a skiff skirting
the transparent cerebella of high canopies, weighing sail-search with why,
whichever perch works to see what kill comes if it comes to kill first
and shudders bursts of nerved stuttering, the head
saccading for the sake of the eye, the sinuses hum
in syrinx territory calls chiaroscoro, resonant, stridulating
lift ululatations, Senegambian, the wind changes —
you hear it; the nightingale, a female singing in nervous laughter,
a musical birthday card addressed to the dead,
a holiday-maker’s car alarm – loud and long and penetrating
and worrying between wanting attention and warning,
breaking off into an uneasy peace.

Harry Man

Poem in Which Stimuli Wreck Me

The kill and the white chevrons
on the M4 are my crutch
and I use them
The sun crap and diffuse and the cows scattered
are romantic and I use them
I use the brown and the white-spotted
bathing blobs in the fields to feel
as the road grows
The gleamy double bus is a trigger I use
What wrecks me is the slogan
which can’t sway me cause I tried it
I’m so suggestible and deaf
I try to not see the Welsh
And I use the wooden fork to provoke me
in the peas which are exotic
I mean the stick with a slit of tongue
a fork has a tine
to distress me
I use the white wind energy to feel
what an alien feels, an unpracticed marvel
on this tilt of island which is settled
And I use the idea of an alien
to feel pretty human relatively
and to emphasize my humanity which is also true
And I use the alien to feel close to you
my quiet blind earthling fellow
Check my body

Emily Toder

Poem in which a Parasite Lives

flooding the host with the wrong chemicals
so a gammarid races to surfaces instead of sin
king through mud seeing sunlight for darkness
its brain corrupted by the worm that must fin
d its way into the belly of a bird to be born

The past is her parasite, invading her cells
replicating doubt doubt doubt man
ipulating hijacking issuing commands:
Climb high, don’t stop, return, remorse

It wants to live forever and so she, ghoul
ish spider builds the most unsuitable we
b in which the wasp of her dread will be born
the past has made a zombie of her

When the power to decide is taken a
way she knows she is no longer hum
an but a cockroach stung nothing there
but an empty shell from which noth
ing can be born

Sampurna Chattarji

A Poem in Which I View the Moon with Sewn-Shut Eyes

Where one thread clings to the eye of the needle;
two lids brought together in a parody of sleep,
Or death. Careful, don’t touch my blister eye, don’t
puncture it. 
It could bleed out everything I have ever seen.

My sewn-shut eyes trap everything.
Except the moon
is where it has always been,
itself a bloated corpse eye.
It watches me, shows me your face, its glow piercing my lids.

Charlotte Chappell

Poem in Which We Break Up

You broke up with me via a detailed diagram
illustrating the peaks and troughs of our relationship,
alongside the general and projected trajectory,
– a romantic parabola, you said –
indicating that while there had recently begun
what appeared a promising sort of climb
from a really bad place (linked on your diagram
to a small image of me refusing to go snorkelling)
we had in fact plateaued
You also typed a useful list for me to keep
highlighting examples from among our friendship group
eg Emily and Vince both enjoy fun runs on Sundays
Luke and Sarah wash their sheets three times a week
Amy and Nathan leave gratitude post-its in cereal boxes
and schedule their love making

Petra Kamula

Poem in Which I Wrestle a Bear

& though it hasn’t gone very well I am afraid
if I go out my tail will freeze in pre-penicillin
wars with crows cawing in the forests of bukovina
were this the past () the rump of austro-hungary
where the male version of mamiko is mamikon
& the not born children should elicit sympathy
sad I am to not remember that perfect line
for this poem that I had dreamed oh well
on with the end of the german language basics

S J Fowler