Walking Through My Family
Solitude here in the winter forest, a single crow
making bare branches aware of my presence,
collie gliding over emerald moss, silent pads,
the hollow where we’ve stopped free from sounds.
I love it here, it’s where many daily walks end,
absorbing the spirit and inhaling the essence,
before returning on a different track, home
of magpies and jays, cackling life we know well.
This is a place to walk through my family,
I absorb their bodies and we travel a while.
My father standing with his son, watching our football team,
gravy from meat pies warming and staining our hands.
My mother making car parts with fingers made for knitting,
finding late happiness alone when back in her south-west.
My sister cycling to a friend on her Pink Witch bike; ready
for her first dance, and now happy alone in her south-west.
I watch my daughter walking from nervous first school
to novice mother; seven-years experienced and still growing.
I walk past a chair that prematurely emptied a couple
of Januarys ago. A son who let go of my hand too soon.
The pale sun is burning fire along the bracken path.
I walk through this fire and listen to the crackle from my boots,
through the gate and home. I’ve had good company, alone, today.
Now I’ll wait for my lady to return, tell her what she’s missed.
Ronnie, with partner Dawn, runs the successful Indigo Dreams Publishing and together they won The Ted Slade Award for Services to Poetry. He has six solo collections to his name and is Poet-in-Residence for the League Against Cruel Sports. Ronnie lives with Dawn and rescue collie Mist in an ex-forester’s house in rural southwest England
Rolling away the clod reveals
a trinity of newts, curled like commas,
tiny heraldic beasts,
rhymes for the pale dead roots around them.
Last year, I chucked this hunk of earth
and made, by chance, their thin winter world.
May I set this against
my felling of the frogs’ safe groves of grass,
each careless wormchop, each act
of blue murder on the simple slugs?
Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018, http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/mark-totterdell/4594336680)
A crocodile – a giant, lumbering jaw
Made of rock – stuck its black stone eyes
Above the water and snorted, irritated
By a cameraman on his belly on the shore,
Squinting into a digicam, dressed in sandy
Safari shorts and a t-shirt, his red elbows
Dipping the water. The crocodile, millions of years older
Than the cameraman, with an ancient, silent brain,
Watched this fidgeting miracle of inventive consciousness
With ignorance, deep calm and a killer instinct.
It did not know that it was awe-inspiring.
But it sensed that the cameraman was trivial
In a way it could never achieve,
That the cameraman’s busyness and lack of
Elemental presence, his silliness, stemmed from having been struck
By a mysterious lightning that it had escaped.
It looked at the cameraman with irritation and bemusement.
It thought about killing and eating him.
But instead it sank away, slowly and
Matthew Barrow is originally from Gloucester but now lives in London. His poems have previously appeared in The North, The Rialto and South Bank Poetry.
A twinge of autumn this morning —
first slit in the stag’s running belly,
first ease in balloon-head pressure,
like the whisper how you will miss
this two-month, headbanging prison
when the winter drags six below,
the squirrely question again
how can you keep heat to eke out,
to let easefully out now and then,
so that the cold is a blessing,
a treasure equal in its spending.
Where can you store it —
childhood delight in adulthood,
trace of tenderness through love,
bare candle flame through the inner night.
Iain Twiddy studied literature at university, and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poems have been published in The Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The London Magazine and elsewhere.
There was no wind ‘til we got on the sands,
By then it was too late to turn back to the car,
Not that we would have done that anyway.
The sky was clear and we used the binoculars
To look out across the water at Inner Farne
And its salt cellar lighthouse. We clambered
Up the dunes, sand slipping beneath our feet
So that we had to crawl up the last few metres
On our hands and knees, clutching at clumps
Of Marram grass for leverage like schoolgirls
In a fight. From the top Bamburgh shimmered
In the distance, blurred by the heat of the afternoon.
We traversed the hair parting paths for a while,
Stopping to look at the flowers and plants,
Checking them in the Seashore book we bought
At Beaumaris, Beeston or somewhere else.
We snapped shots in the pillbox above the beach
And on the way back down we found an old bunker
Silted up with sand and Fosters cans.
We carried on towards the castle, kicking a bouncy
Ball between us, a planet orbiting our galaxy
Until that dog came and snatched it up,
Much to our amusement. When we reached
The castle we climbed once again to the top
Of the dunes and stood for a moment
Looking at its dark, craggy form, built,
We didn’t know then, on Whin Sill,
That stretches back along the route we had driven
That morning to the other side of the Pennines.
For us it went back even further, to those days
At Housesteads when we walked along the wall,
Staring out at the Cheviots and Scotland beyond,
And further back still to that frozen January
At High Force, when we walked through the snow
To the waterfall and the river that flowed to this sea,
As though each day that we had spent had been traced
Through the land, the water and our hands,
Two concordant coastlines banded together by love.
Colin Bancroft is currently living in exile in the North Pennines where he is finishing off his PhD on an ecocritical reading of Robert Frost.
Of course you were born in the Year of the Dragon –
I feel a thrill of satisfaction, but also a chill of cold fire.
These things scare me slightly in their perfection. If you
were not a Dragon, who would be? Your generation all
must be, in their way, but you – you are made of flames.
I was convinced as a kid I could breed a dragon one day
from a lizard and a bat. I dreamt of flying on giant ones,
naming them after Norse gods in my head: Freya, Odin.
My friend asked me recently why I was so into dragons,
and I had no answer. There is just something about them.
And that is you, my glowing, soaring human. You are my
hero because you are a genius and honest and hardworking
and yet there is something more to it, which I doubt I will
ever pin down. Your fingers on the guitar are your wings.
In your words the truth flickers. You show me what is real.
Elizabeth Gibson was announced as a New North Poet at the 2017 Northern Writers’ Awards. Her writing has appeared in Antiphon, Cake, The Cardiff Review, The Compass, Creative Review, Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Poetry Shed. She edits Foxglove Journal and the Word Life section of Now Then Manchester.
At a restaurant
between its kitchen and fine-dining area,
near the billing counter, between the bar
that had a Buddha head between bottles
of brandy, I wrote this
on the back of a duplicate invoice
of a takeaway order (one Veg Rogan Josh
Lamb Goat Biryani ),
the distance between a lamb and a goat
being collapsible space made up of time.
I scribbled it after the last customer
(a lazy brown man in a Tuxedo, farting
his way out to the car park) left.
To my right, unkempt dinner tables –
a bohemian battleground of forks and knives –
beside which lay a graveyard of glasses,
the bar-deck. Guinness, Pedigree…
glasses, but in posterity empty obelisks –
each representing a moment of that day.
Under every glass a mark: a shape
of its own bottom, the instant
of a beer-spill. A mark that said
I happened here. I used an odorous rag
to erase them, before I tallied the day’s
business into profit and pretence.
Shriram Sivaramakrishnan is a proud alumnus of Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. His poems have recently appeared in Allegro, Coast to Coast to Coast, among others. His debut pamphlet, Let the Light In, was published by Ghost City Press this June.