There are those who bestow on excuses
the weight of moment,
the stature of circumstance,
the eminence of self-conceit,
but however they embellish them
they remain useless fripperies,
empty packages wrapped up
in a tissue of deceit.
I’ve come to the party empty handed,
not with sorry concoctions,
beribboned fictions, gilded pretexts
of time’s lack and loss,
but because everything material
looks like dross.
Knick-knacks, bibelots, trinkets, tat,
I want to do better than that.
I want to give a gift that endures,
one that’s robust, dependable,
A gift that won’t founder, breakdown,
sit uselessly on the shelf.
So I give you the brace and buttress
of arms, a shoulder’s bolster, a buffer,
when you rub against strife.
I give you myself, unwrapped,
a friend, not just for Christmas,
but guaranteed for life.
Stella’s poems are widely published both in print and online, and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry, and #MeToo. Her pamphlet, After Eden, was published by 4word in May 2018. She has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University.
How Knowledge Happens
They had no idea how bats
moved so certain-winged in the dark,
stalactite ceilings no obstacle
in their cave-roof roosts.
as black-boned smoke
from the cavern mouth;
stark shapes at dusk, each insect prey
Science covered their eyes.
Each bat, undeterred,
flew room-round just as swift.
“Their eyes then, gentlemen,
are not the mark
that these creatures use.”
But in science there must be undoubted
their eyes removed –
just to be sure.
Penny Blackburn lives in the North East of England and is a teacher by profession. As well as writing poetry she enjoys performing it ‘off-page’ as part of local open mic and spoken word events. She also writes short fiction.
The Science of Jumping
Born of birds
I suited the science of jumping.
For years, plimsoll shod I’d leap through the air,
land bottom-up in the midst of a stormy sandpit.
I won medals, courted crowds
who shouted my name with trumpet breath.
I believed in everlasting childhood.
Hated the dull hunched ache of breasts.
They threw me off kilter –
no more hop, skip, jump.
In dreams I’m often perched in trees –
a tribute to that time
when I was born of birds.
Belinda has worked as a psychiatric nurse, lecturer and arts practitioner. Her poems are published in magazines, on-line journals and anthologies. In 2017, she won the Poetry in Motion Competition to turn her poem into a film, since shown Internationally. In April, she supported Gill McEvoy at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
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.