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Alison Lock

The Blessing

After you were born, we planted a tree
– a sapling pear.

The glint of a spade in the afternoon sun; a signal
for the soil to nourish with tenderness

a ritual renewed by the sound of a new born’s snuffle.
In time, the blossom is as white as your flesh

is pink.  Fragile heads flicker in the breeze.
A salutation to Hera.

Then come the fruits, kernels of creation.
Each one a single drop of tear.

Time waits for the flight of an angel’s wing;
as our abundant crop hails his first cry, our blessing

and so you were born
– a slow motion memory of pear parting tree.

 

The Blessing was originally published in A Slither of Air (2011) Indigo Dreams Publishing

Alison Lock is a poet and author of six publications – three poetry collections, two collections of short stories, and a fantasy novella. Her stories have won prizes in The London Magazine Competition 2015, The Sentinel Quarterly Review, and The 14th Conference for the Short Story in English at Shanghai.

 

 

 

Ian Harker

Lovesong of a Wily Old Pike

Pike from the tips of my grinning lips
to the ends of my tail, children running riot
over the open fields, drunks lurching home
from the Fisherman’s Arms talk about me with awe.
They say I am mostly scar. The way they talk you’d think
grown men had been dragged to their deaths over the ditch
across the lane into my dark, bright, stinging water
singing with blowflies and midges and water boatmen.

But no one bothers me. Never has.
I loom in the gloom and make the best of it,
threshing up silt into clouds around me
and settling in with the stillness.

Why do they call me wily if I have never
bitten off more than I could chew?
If me and the silt are one and the same?
I tell you I’m a cunning old devil
for picking a pond in a field near a lane
next to a road leading to a village where everyone
leaves everything around them alone.
People who know the land is bigger than they are,
water deeper, stone colder,  people who know
that pikes have their place. I’m a wily old pike it’s true.

 

Ian Harker was a winner of Templar Poetry’s Book and Pamphlet competition in 2017, and his pamphlet The End of the Sky was followed by his fist full collection Rules of Survival. His work has appeared in a variety of competitions and magazines, and he’s co-founder of Strix.

 

 

Roy Marshall

Seeing the Entomologist

He doesn’t know that a bee, drinking salt
from the pores on his wrist, is called
a Sweat Bee. Nor that a butterfly, fluttering by,
has memories of caterpillar life.

He rolls onto his stomach, shades his eyes,
says, ‘now you’re making it up.’ She laughs, her hair
a spill on the grass, counters,
‘google it if you like.’

He learns how a raft spider can submerge
for an hour, that Hawk moths have ears
on their mouths. She doesn’t know
that the lake remembers

every pebble you throw, and that
if a loved one dies, a body can fill
with grief, the way a water barrel
fills with sky.

 

Roy Marshall’s first pamphlet Gopagilla (2012) received favourable reviews in the TLS and elsewhere. His first full collection The Sun Bathers was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Award, and a second collection The Great Animator (Shoestring Press) appeared in 2017. Previously a nurse, Roy now works in adult education.

You can follow Roy’s blog here: Roy Marshall

 

 

Ken Evans

Waiting at Manchester Piccadilly

Platform 3 under Arrivals: the digital board
slides down a blazing candle-wick of all
the stations on the Trans-Pennine line:
Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury, Huddersfield.

A grandchild cranes to see Nana through
tall legs, orbited by a crowd; a couple greet
for a first time; a group of lads go for beer
and curry and always, there is later.

Prosecco-fired hens from Stoke blow
into an inflatable man-doll; Nana appears
at the gate, her metal of news bent
inward, pendolino-style.

 

 

Ken Evans – Ken won Battered Moons and was runner-up in Poets & Players in 2016.
‘The Opposite of Defeat’ (Eyewear) featured work shortlisted in Bare Fiction’s pamphlet competition. A collection is due this summer. His poems feature in Envoi, Under the Radar, Lighthouse Literary Journal, The High Window, Obsessed with Pipework, and Interpreter’s House.

 

Jo Haslam – Two Poems

 

Today we are delighted to feature two poems from Jo Haslam’s brand new collection, Fetch, published by Templar Poetry. The book will be launched with a special reading at Keats House on the 29 March. The collection draws on urban and rural landscapes, the world of painting, and experiences of displacement and loss to explore the evolving ties between family, culture and language.

 

Hoar Frost 

Whatever was lost to the open sky
is replaced by these drops of ghost water,
ice in its dreamstate blown from the mouth
of winter asleep, spreading its network
of furred spikes of moss and blanched fern.
What would it take to freeze each pearl
or fretted grass blade or touch them awake
to a world of rain? We look to the sky
laden with frost and cloud to release
its cold breath as whisper or iron word

 

 

Fritillary

What’s the meaning of this flower
that folds and opens in an hour
between showers
 

and sun, between the months
of March and April?
I push the bulbs eight inches down
 

to work with other hidden things
under earth and dark and stone
then take my paper and my pen
 

much as any gardener does
note the barely there green stem
the dangled fretwork of its head


as from the rain black ground
comes leper lily, meleagris
fritillus
, with its snakeskin on.

 

 

Jo Haslam – Jo is a Marsden based poet whose first collection Light from the Upper Left was published by Smith/Doorstop after winning the Poetry Business competition in 1994. This was followed by her collection The Sign for Water and a pamphlet Lunar Moths. Her work has appeared in poetry magazines and received recognition in major poetry competitions, including the 2010 National Poetry Competition where her poem ‘Wish’ won joint second prize. He third collection, Fetch, published by Templar Poetry is available now.

 

Sarah Dixon

Our new house from the ale trail train

I spot it.
Know about over-dwellings
and this means we only own it
from the first floor.

Our attic window is open
and I see you wave.
You must be on a stool to do this.
Precarious.

I can’t always be there
to hold you
to warn you
not to reach up
as high as you can.

With a wobble of legs
I watch you grip the rim
and imagine you topple
and
fall

h
a
r
d

and
heavy.

I hear the impact of the earth.
Know you would not survive this.

I will you back in,
your bruised shins,
your dimpled bum,
your fingernails with an under-dwelling of soil
gathered by mud pie break-times
with new friends I can’t yet name.

I know what the front of our house looks like,
anyone who has travelled on the 184
and looked out at the right moment
on Manchester Road could know
the Yorkshire stone,
but only I can identify
our home from the back.
I know it is two along
from the one with the conservatory
loud with toys
and bright with wind-chimes.

I know it is fourth from the end
and we watch the trains
from the breakfast bar,
make notes of the times,
tick off journeys.

We bash Colne Valley mud
from our boots.
Each walk adds a layer
to our exploration,
each return means
a night of good sleep,
held down by the weight of fresh air
and Yorkshire expanse
that makes us drunk.

Our legs muscle
as we get used to hills.

We do not walk there
on autopilot yet.
We are remembering
each time we return
that our number is changed,
that this white stone front
is ours.

The click of the black cast iron gate,
instead of the clunk
of the wooden green one
back in Manchester.

 

 

Sarah L Dixon is based in Linthwaite near Huddersfield and tours as The Quiet Compere. She has been most recently published in Confluence. Her first book, ‘The sky is cracked’, was released by Half Moon Press in November 2017. Sarah’s inspiration comes from being close to water and adventures with her son, Frank (7).

 

http://thequietcompere.co.uk/

 

Neil Clarkson

Manure

The dry air
had turned damp;
the cool stealth
of autumn.

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.