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.
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.
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.
Someone arrives uninvited to tell you
what you couldn’t begin to believe:
how an uneventful life might change
in an hour or with a phrase.
Receive this with grace.
Feel how the ordinary word
coils like song in the spiral of the ear;
dream’s pitch, yet half-heard,
how physical, near. You can’t place
that felt note, known all along,
come to earth.
Michael’s work has been published widely including The Rialto, Butchers Dog, Crannog, The Moth and The North. He was selected by Clare Pollard for a Northern Writers’ Award (New North Poets) last year. The pamphlet, Undersong (2014) is available from Eyewear. His most recent pamphlet, Locations for a Soul appeared in 2016 from Templar Publishing.