Featured Writers

Robbie Burton

 

Robbie Burton lives in a small village in Flintshire where she stares out of windows. As stanza rep for Cross Border Poets, the Poetry Society’s North East Wales stanza, she runs workshops, arranges poetry events and stares at a long stretch of the Clwydian Range out of a Clwyd Theatr Cymru window. Her poems have appeared in several magazines including Poetry Wales, The North and Magma, and in anthologies A Speaking Silence and The Book Of Love And Loss. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Someone Else’s Street, is available from HappenStance Press.

 

Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz

bubbled through Welsh washdays

like hot tarmac in Bad Piano Street.

 

No, that’s not right. Steam

and the quarry-tiled kitchen are true

but any jangly discords or whiffs

of envy were mine.

 

Damn, but my cousin could play. Passion

flew out of the iron-framed piano, shot

through two doorways and found

a route in.

 

For years I felt it

softening me up for love.

I didn’t know iron had flowed in too

waiting for the day.

 

Love Poem

They asked me to write you into a love poem.

I said I couldn’t do it, not knowing enough

about the bend and stretch of your sinews

and why a single hair grew in the middle

of your chest. I wasn’t prepared to tell them

about your irises going fuzzy

or the way your face changed shape that time

you were trapped inside a room with strangers

turning you into someone I’d never met.

 

With you inside a love poem, I said,

music would blast through the words letting out

bus engine rumble and the thud-thud-thud of boats.

Surely they could see that a love poem with you in it

would really be about me.

 

Border

From the other side of the hedge

a sh-shh rustling. It stops

when we stop. Starts

when we start. Hawthorns

grow darker and taller.

Soon there’s nothing

but our urgent feet

and that soft insistent rustling.

 

On her side of the hedge

the cow tugs at long grasses.

She hears nothing

but the sh-shh rustle of supper.

She doesn’t see fear

place stones in our hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image result for dividers and separators clip artCheryl Pearson

 

 

Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, The High Window, Under The Radar, Poetry NorthWest, Crannog and Envoi. She won first prize in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016, and third prize in Bare Fiction Magazine’s national poetry competition in the same year. She has been shortlisted for the York Literature Festival Prize and the Princemere Poetry Prize, and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her first full poetry collection, “Oysterlight”, is available now from Pindrop Press.

Long Grove

 Note: Between 1944 and 1992, at least forty-three female typhoid carrierswere kept in a secure isolation unit at Long Grove Hospital in Surrey.  Despite having recovered from the disease, the women were deemed a public health risk as they still hosted the bacteria, and were kept incarcerated on this basis.

Imagine if you’d known in that first flush of fever

the time you’d endure in centimetres. The geological age

between Christmases. How sick would become monochromatic.

White. All white. Except for the scratched brass, and the green

that rises when they say Make a fist. And the blue eyes

above the white masks. You tell yourself

you cannot lose what you can still name, say yellow in earnest,

yellow, yellow. Later, daughter, into your pillow.

Your body – they repeat this – is now a bomb. You must keep

to paper slippers, a single room. They are afraid of bacteria.

You only of tedium. Once, you found a spider crouched in the sink,

and cried for the exquisite joy of something new.

Sometimes, you think you cannot bear

the weight of one stopped minute more. One single hour.

But then you do. And then you do.

 

Lluvia de Peces

 You’ll speak of it for years:

the day the fish fell, like stars or prayers,

a finned rain filling the sky with silver.

You’ll say phenomenon. Say miracle. Say

fish out of water, which is how you felt

with your two feet sharing the same firmament.

Rainbows carving the air.

You never knew how many plates

held skydrowned bones that night,

could only guess from the smell

that swam through empty streets –

fat and seaspit greased with butter, dressed

with twists of lemon, salt – as though

each asphalt-dented swimmer

had risen from insult on a tide of steam

to breast again that current up

to cloud and star. Glutted with light.

Gravel-scarred. And in the air,

a hundred wakes as bright as comet-tails.

And on your hands, a scattering of scales.

 

The Water Dowser

Running through generations like a river, alongside

the gene for red hair, and the family name: this gift

of summoning the earth’s weather. A humming

 

in the wrists, is how he describes it. I picture his hands,

like knuckles of ginger, thrumming with bees: tiny harbingers

browsing his tributaries, raising the alarm

 

in the hand/arm hinge. In the old days, they called it

witching the water; walked their switch of hazel, switch of willow,

waiting for the dip and twitch that meant they’d struck gold,

 

and clear-running cold would follow. Years ago, a palmist

on a seaside pier winnowed a future from the forks of my hands.

I believed in magic. Now, I stand in a dry field watching

 

a man draw water like doves from his sleeves.

He tells me, Some people don’t trust this, spits, then grins.

I think of moons. Salt lines in the sand. My blood

ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccgoing out,

xxxxxxcoming in.

 

Image result for dividers and separators clip art

Emma Simon

Emma writes:

‘Dragonish is my first publication — the pamphlet is published by The Emma Press (it was published in March this year).

I’ve returned rather later to writing – but kickstarted things by going on an Arvon course for my 40th birthday. It was an amazing experience. I was also lucky get selected for the Jerwood/Arvon mentoring scheme for 2015/16 – where I was mentored by the enthusiastic and endless energetic Caroline Bird. It was a fantastic year – and really helped me focus on my writing.

I was also part of Jo Bell’s 52 – another formative poetry experience. Quite a few of the poems in Dragonish did start life there.

I’m interested in writing about myths and stories – and how these filter everyday experiences. I also have a bit of a soft-spot for dramatic monologues – so there are a few of them in Dragonish.

I live on the outskirts of London. I juggle writing with working part-time as a copywriter and freelance journalist. I’ve two kids, a husband and a large and demanding cat.

I wish I had some interesting hobbies — like keeping bees or restoring vintage motorbikes. But my time seems to be filled with all of the above. When I get a chance I like walking or cycling in Epping Forest which is nearby.

I’ve been published in various magazines and anthology – most recently I’ve been in the Writing Motherhood anthology by Seren, and have had poems in The Rialto, Under The Radar and The Interpreter’s House (I think it was at their launch there I met you Becky! At Albion Bookshop – you were telling me about the Hawthornden Fellowship).

I’ve also won the Prole Laureate Competition (2013), was second in Cannon Poet’s Sonnet or Not Competition (2014) and was commended in the Battered Moons competition (2015).’

Here’s link to pamphlet online: https://theemmapress.com/books/the-emma-press-poetry-pamphlets/dragonish/)

Penknife 

It was a double-page colour spread:

the man, the rock, the penknife

used in the desert to sever his own arm.

I worried at phrases:

‘torn edge’, ‘widening wound’

like a tongue prodding an ulcer.

He had to break the bone before he could

slice through. I rolled this fact

around my mouth for hours.

At that point I didn’t know which way

I would be split: hip to hip or vaginal tearing,

both unimaginable

unlike the man and his bluntish penknife,

the Utah sun, a body heat of rock,

sick smell of seeping cactus,

the yellow marrow cradling the bone,

the sand rust red, the scree, the sweat, the dust

and hour after hour after hour, sawing.

London Plane

 

“Being a non-native hybrid there is no mythology or folklore associated with the London Plane…

despite being the capitals most common tree.” The Woodland Trust

They grow in dark spaces between street lights,

root through concrete, creating heart-stress egg cracks

that unsettle suburban homes. Camouflage bark,

it peels like banknotes, mulch for bluebells

blooming in the shade amid the dogshit.

When the pollen count’s thirteen and a sickle moon

pokes through the clouds of diesel fumes

dryads emerge, hesitant at first, dizzy

as Blitz-bombed housewives or wayward clubbers,

shaking out limbs that ache from holding.

They tiptoe past statues stood at park gates

to dance havoc in streets drained of the day’s worries.

Some nights you’ll hear their laugh: gurgle

of sap rising, riot of leaves

calling beneath the traffic drone, like dreams

of elsewhere you can’t quite shift next morning.

The slow-worm to work. Look up! Look up!

Finger-tipped avenues are closing above.

The End Of The End Of The Pier Show

Call it the Titanic Spirit: tonight

we have a show to end all shows,

kicked off by our teenage xylophonist

performing ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ blindfold.

Be dazzled as El Niño, East Anglia’s premier

flamenco troop, perform their showstopper routine —

testament to our unshaken belief

in Victorian riveting, balustrades and glitter balls.

Yes, we have stood by, watched struts

that held up Yarmouth’s ice-cream shops erode,

waved goodbye to penny-slot telescopes

sloshed away in last year’s high spring tide.

But your tears are now no longer enough

to resalinate the oceans — so tonight

let’s raise the roof of the Cromer Pavillon:

Resist the Great Storm Surge!

It may be too late for the Andaman Islands,

but money raised from ticket sales

will help those forced to flee bungalows

on the English Riviera.

And if we become unmoored midway,

drift out on this boardwalk ark to darker seas,

don’t panic, ladies & gentlemen,

our Michael Barrymore tribute act is first aid trained.

Enjoy our award-winning stage hypnotist.

The house band — the King Canuters —

will play loud and long into the night,

as we sail on, towards uncertain morning.

The Parts Of Ourselves We Leave With Former Lovers

Hush, hush my little sunflower, such noise
at such an hour, I thought — well, never mind
now what I thought — be soothed. The other ladies
of the house are sleeping, you do not want them
trampling down here in their bare faces before noon.
But what’s this package at your feet, the one that seeps
like oil? An ear! There, there, it is a shock I know,
but not the worst we’ve seen. You give them locks of hair,
the illusion of desire, but some, perhaps those who cannot
pay in full — or see the world through strange shadows —
have this urge to give much more. Severine received a finger
once. The fat signet ring attached like a tourniquet.
The smeared gold, we said, reminded us of summer sunsets
over Arles. And Babette, she swears she could string
charm bracelets from hearts proffered on plates. Then Marie,
remember the English gentleman, the one with the cane,
the shriek she gave when she found his —
But look, you are upset again. Let’s wrap it back up
in the cloth — carefully — not to disturb the perfect whorl,
or pattern of the blood stippled on the lobe.
Look at the raggedness of this edge. It’s not just eyes
that let us peep into the thoughts of men. Take it upstairs
to the cabinet — the Wunderkammer  —
that is beside my bed. We keep such trinkets
in the drawers. It was moved from Claudine’s room —
the sound of souls tapping against the wood,
like palsied bluebottles she said, kept her awake
and disturbed the night-time callers.

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