Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Joe Williams

Owl & Pussycat v.62
(after Edward Lear)

The owl and the pussycat climbed a tree
(well, the owl didn’t climb, it flew).
By then, of course, they were close to divorce –
inevitable, as we knew.
The owl, being wise, saw a chance to devise
an experiment on nature’s laws.
She called out Twit-woo as she proved it untrue
that a cat always lands on its paws, its paws,
that a cat always lands on its paws.

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. His latest book is ‘This is Virus’, a sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. His verse novella ‘An Otley Run’, was shortlisted for Best Novella at the 2019 Saboteur Awards.

Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Marion Oxley

The Escapologist
 i.m. Ken Allen, 1971-2000, Bornean Orangutan, San Diego Zoo.

 This is not a lush rainforest. The forest is gone.
 This is not Ken Allen the Wall Street trader.
 Ken Allen is gone. This is not Ken Willingham
 or Ben Allen the zoo keepers. Ken Allen is gone.
                This is not Ken Allen the orangutan.
                         The orangutan is gone.

 I watch from five thousand miles away.
 You sit in a rope hammock halfway up a metal tree.
 The picture blurs, shifts, breaks up. Colours crash,
 become grey, ashen, peel away.
                  Hunched over. The ragged flame of an arm
                              reaches from beneath the sackcloth, holds it aloft 

 like a banner. Hands, pink palmed, long fingers, artistic they told me,
 pull the cloth over a head, wrap it across a face half-hidden. I glimpse
 deep-set eyes. The camera without warning zooms in. I’m told
 I can capture you, send a postcard image, home.
                  A silent click or so I think. Is there a noise, a light?
                              You turn, look at me, seem to sigh. Caught. I wave.

 A slight movement, a twig of an arm appears, a small hand tugs
 a thread, frayed edge. White teeth, a grin. Your hand strokes a head
 gently, I click. Four eyes blink back. I remember how he use to listen,
 for two years how he listened. Then that last time.
                  How he knew, when the hum was gone.
                               The electric fence turned off, when to go.

 How he watched and learnt. Knew when a keeper changed a shirt.
 Knew to undo screws at night, put them back by daylight.
 And the females brought to him, co-conspirators they became.
 Taught to use sticks as crowbars,
                  that was not part of the sexual liaison game.
                               Now daughter, granddaughter sit, watch, listen,

 never miss a trick. This time no loose rocks around to hurl
 at that irritating school girl behind the glass. No walls to climb,
 moat to cross. Adopt a keeper maybe that’s the key to our 97%
 shared DNA and animality.
                  He’ll soon learn to swing from ropes,
                               forget ringtones, TV, the remote.

Marion Oxley is originally from Manchester but has lived in the Calder Valley for many years. Her poems have been published in a variety of poetry magazines and anthologies. She was recently shortlisted for the Cheltenham Festival’s ‘Wild’ Poetry Competition and the Erbacce Poetry Prize. 
Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Rachel Burns

Wild Orchids

Orchis Laxiflora.
I think of you, as I walk the dog
at the end of day, sun setting.
The trees lit up, burnt orange.
An owl calls
Kee-wit. Kee-wit.

The yellow digger is parked
at the edge of the clearing,
surrounded by felled trees
torn from the roots.
Half the habitat cleared,
nesting birds disturbed,
wildflowers gone.

Orchis Purpurea.
I think of you.
Your love for wildflowers.
You spent your life in the dark,
mining coal seams,
on your hands and knees.

Orchis Morio.
The orchids have survived this.
How will I survive this?
As if in answer, a tawny owl soars up
from the long rye grass.
Kee-wit. Kee-wit.
Wings outstretched.

Rachel Burns is widely published in journals and anthologies. She was runner-up in the BBC Poetry Proms 2019 competition and her poem broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Her debut poetry pamphlet, ‘A Girl in a Blue Dress’ is published by Vane Women Press.

Rachel Burns @RachelLBurnsme  twitter

Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Nigel King

The Good Friday Sheep

The nave echoed with bleating.
Sheep crammed into pews;
shaggy Wensleydales, tidy Suffolks,
Blue Texels, Portlands, Border Leicesters.

The air was thick with lanolin
and fresh droppings.
Ryeland wethers nibbled on the hassocks,
a Herdwick Ram scrambled up
to drink from the font.

The sheep looked around
in semi-darkness, saw statues
of bearded elders clutching crooks,
a mural of a younger man
cradling a lamb.

They spotted more lambs,
carved on pillars, headstones,
painted high in the sky
above the multitude, radiant as the sun.

This was their place, built in their honour,
kept from them for centuries
until this day, when they found
the paths and precincts empty,
the great doors swung open.

Neither man nor dog
can take it from them now.

Nigel King lives in Almondbury, Huddersfield. His poetry is shaped by family memories, myth, history and science fiction (amongst other things). His pamphlet, What I Love About Daleks, was published by Calder Valley Poetry (2017). In his day job he is Professor in Applied Psychology at the University of Huddersfield.

Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Carol Casey

Toad Medicine

toad changes Earth changes
as she moves across Her belly
like a lover,
like mother and child
like kindness.

Frumpy, lumpy sack of blood,
bones, heart, intelligence,
graceful airborne,
jelly bag landing,
pay attention

to small, vulnerable, never-made-
much-of black eyes
that penetrate; the breathing
in your hand that
whispers secrets.

Love the earth, love the secret
that cradles you here, be
the kindness that moves
you. Set me free.
Wash your hands.

Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in publications including The Leaf, The Prairie Journal, Synaeresis and a number of anthologies, most recently, Much Madness, Divinest Sense, Tending the Fire and i am what becomes of broken branch.