The dry air
had turned damp;
the cool stealth
We went to a friends
to collect the muck
the horse looked
on like we were
about to take its foal.
We shovelled fast in the cold;
the benevolence of steam
the comfort of straw.
Both of us pissed in it
to seal the goodness.
We spread it freely
then tarped the rest,
preserving nutrients from
leeching winter rain.
We didn’t yet have that
language of what
you take out
you must put back.
Neil Clarkson is a long-standing member of the Albert Poets, published in magazines including Pennine Platform, The Black Horse and Obsessed by Pipework. He has won prizes in numerous competitions. His debut collection, Build You Again from Wood, was published in February 2017 by Calder Valley Poetry.
It was a Sunday Night and the Hospital was Short Staffed
Hooked to a drip,
she abandons her father’s mizpah ring
into my hand,
falls back onto a pillow
and labours whispers that make no sense.
At midnight, a priest scurries to her bed.
I sit, stand, sit, until a nurse guides me
to a visitor’s room. In darkness,
at two in the morning hot tears slide to my ears,
while an on call surgeon gives her one last chance.
I shiver in the heat of June
and she’s out of it in morphine.
After thirty years of daily offerings,
when I need God, prayers come cold and rote,
pleas remain in my mouth.
A steady voice asks about next of kin,
a pen draws a line across a page
and I taxi home to my daughters.
Sometimes I sit with her possessions:
folded paper with one stitch of ribbon
marks her twenty first birthday in 1943,
a card signed from family whose names
are as obsolete as themselves:
Cissy, Gertie and Albert.
On special occasions, I wear
a blue silk jacket,
handmade for her the year I was born.
Maria Isakova Bennett
Maria, from Liverpool, is widely published and has won and been placed in several international competitions. Last summer Maria was awarded a Northern Writers’ Award by Clare Pollard and launched a limited edition stitched poetry journal, Coast to Coast to Coast. Her pamphlet, All of the Spaces is published by Eyewear.
The Night I Did
When I first made the night, I did
The moonlight sloshed in jars
I pulled the blackness overhead
And pinned it there with stars
I spilled the moon a puddle
Like a ghost it rose aloft
I wove a gentle breeze, I did
A whisper in the trees, I hid
A lullaby to ease the lid
In silence, butter soft
I revelled in the night, I did
The shadow cast for me
I edged the world in silhouette
With silver filigree
I danced among the hollow trunks
And faded far from view
A tingle to the east, I spy
The purple glow of morning sky
A caution that the dawn is nigh
And I am overdue
Ben Jones lives in Leeds with his partner, children and dog. He has been writing poetry to pass the time for many years and, subsequently, doesn’t have many friends. He likes cakes too.
Oh Mr Oystercatcher, with your orange-red bill
and long scarlet legs; you make your way along
the shoreline, piping your call as you go.
Is it because this is your land, your territory?
Because you have young, safe in their nests?
Or because this wide stretch of cling film water
is yours, is yours to wade in, to fly over, to hunt from?
What right have I, in longing to stay in this place?
Today’s a new day, time to move on, discover, rest, reflect.
As a small parcel of seaweed floats north with the tide,
and you, Mr Oystercatcher, resume your wading, feeding,
I thank God for this special place and offer it to Him,
… and to you, Mr Oystercatcher!
Hilary is a North Yorkshire-based writer and poet whose passions are: faith, family, linguistics and language, landscape, people watching and travel; her writing is infused with these.
‘Hit the Ground Running’ was published in 2013. She has co-written/contributed to other collections. Her new book, ‘GASP’ is released later this year.
We’re maybe half a mile away, returning
home from shopping, and there dancing in
the middle of the road – a random, manic
but clearly enthusiastic and self-amusing
caper – the bin-man is wearing a crushed, tan
straw hat as he carries a recycling bag
back to the house from where he had jigged
it to his lorry, the hat once her’s and earlier
this morning in our own big green sack. And
even though she is sitting next to me I know
she’ll not want to see as I always somehow
have to that here is a moment’s illumination
of a different life being lived as it could be.
Mike Ferguson’s most recent poetry collection is the sonnets chapbook Precarious Real [Maquette Press, 2016]. A retired English teacher, he co-authored the education text Writing Workshops [Cambridge University Press, 2015].
THE BEAUTIFUL DOGS
The town has many fine historic buildings,
an elegant Victorian park
and plenty to entice the discerning shopper,
though surely its most striking feature
is the profusion of Beautiful Dogs.
Take a stroll along the Regency high street
or the quiet banks of the river
– you’ll see them everywhere:
the Black Labrador whose coat shines
like coal fresh-cut from the seam,
the Basset with just the right look
of droll melancholy.
Watch the Saluki sashay
past designer boutiques,
the immaculate Spaniel toss her head
like a supermodel,
the Greyhound cock a geometric leg
on the statue of the Queen-Empress.
The owners themselves are not beautiful.
Some have dressed hastily, in odd socks,
some have a small crust of dried egg
on the corner of the mouth.
Their faces tell of unpaid bills,
long waits for the morning bus,
a Ready-Meal for one.
But when they meet they raise their eyes,
permit themselves the briefest of smiles
as hands reach down to rest
on the warm flank
of their own Beautiful Dog.
Nigel King grew up in Essex, studied in Kent, but then came to his senses and headed north. His poetry is influence by, amongst other things, science fiction, travel and Great Aunts. His first collection, What I Love About Daleks, was published in 2017 by Calder Valley Poetry.
I know it’s constant
the ins and outs of flotsam
driftwood, plastic bottles,
neon fishing lines,
all coming at you
day after day
gagging sea turtles and angel fish,
night after night
garbage for a mermaid’s ritual,
the concrete groynes
piling up on the sand
a beachcomber’s Mona Lisa.
I know it’s constant
wave after wave
all coming at you
beating thunder to shingle,
but everything shifts
with this constancy,
a paper origami boat
lost at sea
white cliffs beaten
cat fish and molluscs
every rock pool surrenders
to the mighty
that inevitable drag
water will always find its way.
Penny has been writing poetry for over 15 years, she has just completed her MA in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. Penny has had several poems published in magazines such as The Interpreters House, Obsessed with Pipework, Beautiful Dragons, Outburst, Picaroon, Poetry Quarterly and others. She is an artist and photographer and complimentary therapist. Penny has taken part in many poetry residential courses with Arvon and Ty Newydd and is a member of several poetry groups.