Inspired by the photographs of Dutch photographer Niki Feijen
An Unfinished Story
What dreams died here beyond this threshold
where nature is carried by circumstance?
A full moon lights the skillet on the stove,
its crusted pancake of droppings,
waiting to be tossed.
The moon tells us they left without coats.
They hang in the cupboard like tattered bats,
an intrigue for spiders, a safe house for mice,
empty shells for silver fish.
Mildew soils the children’s clothes,
runs amok in their vests and socks,
grows out of their shoes, foxes
their games and books.
In the bedroom the moon is a nightlight
for the mind’s incredulous eye.
Moss pads soft over rugs,
creeps onto the unmade beds,
smothers the absence with a velvet pillow.
Ivy clings to the bars of the cot.
Nature squats in this dereliction, possessed
with the spirit of a wild child, it’s her haunt now.
At home with ruin, desertion, mystery,
she scrawls over the unfinished story,
writing her own gripping chapters,
a ghost writer filling the gaps in the plot.
Stella Wulf’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 forth coming in #MeToo. She Lives in S W France and has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University.
ACTIVELY LIKE A SPARROW, SO MANY SONGS SUNG
Sparrows sit uncomfortably in shallow nests of straw;
one nest, several sparrows. I can delineate
their lives. One sparrow, two; I count just two.
They are tiny and fragile. Making noises, so I
noticed them; I think they’re kind of cute.
Brown, huddling at the sides of the nest, they
sit abreast the threat of snow. They have
a touch of black, actually. One step, two,
the sparrows uncurl and hope to move about;
their little legs arise and form a military
march. Around the circle they go, panting
like we would, and most of all, never leaving home.
Breslin White is a poet of Irish and Japanese heritage. Breslin can be found sharing the books he likes to read on Goodreads. He has published a poetry book called Lily Thrust.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
What’s the meaning of this flower
that folds and opens in an hour
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.