Camera obscura

 

Emily Wilding Davison, June 1913

 

 

The reason for your being here

is out of sight. They can’t be seen –

your Cause’s colours sewn inside

your decent coat: white, violet, green.

 

The camera sees the moment

you began to die:

the jockey, trim in silks, is doll-like

on the grass and seems asleep;

his mount is spraddled on its back;

its useless hooves flail at the sky.

 

Your spinning, flower-trimmed hat

is stopped, distinct, mid-flight;

your hair’s still not come down;

you’re frozen, inches from the ground;

your boots are neatly buttoned,

take small steps on the arrested air.

 

You’re stopped in time. No sound,

no texture, no sour odour

of bruised grass and earth. Just

silence and the alchemy of light.

How did you comprehend

the shock of heat, huge muscle, hair,

in that white moment

when the dark came down?

 

The camera cannot tell;

it’s business neither truth nor lies.

It shows a fallen horse. A woman falling. A crowd

in hats and blazers staring down a long perspective;

the field intent upon the distant fairy icing

grandstand. The waving flags. The finish line.

 

Until the image blurs, dissolves in silver flowers,

it’s there on celluloid in shades of grey;

the camera only says that in that instant

you are dying, and everyone has looked away.

 

 

© John Foggin

Picture 10023249, photograph in the Daily Sketch, June 1913

 

 

John Foggin lives in Ossett, West Yorkshire. His work has appeared in The North, The New Writer, Prole, and The Interpreter’s House, among others, and in anthologies including The Forward Book of Poetry (2015, 2018). He publishes a poetry blog, The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb. His poems have won first prizes in The Plough Poetry (2013, 2014), the Camden/Lumen (2014) and McLellan (2015) competitions respectively. In 2016 he was a winner of the Poetry Business International Pamphlet competition judged by Billy Collins. He has authored four pamphlets/chapbooks: Running out of Space and Backtracks (2014), Larach (Ward Wood Publications, 2014) and Outlaws and fallen angels (Calder Valley Poetry, 2016), and two collections, Much Possessed (smith|doorstop, 2016) and Gap Year, co-authored with Andy Blackford (SMP Publications, 2017). His latest pamphlet, Advice to a Traveller, was published by Indigo Dreams (2018).

 

Blue

 

The colour of sky and sunlight

he acrobats

among the tree tops,

 

with his head on one side

he considers

the abracadabra

 

of the high twigs

where he splits open a seed

or spin-twizzles

 

a caterpillar

like a strand of spaghetti

and as he goblins

 

out of sight, you wonder

how the cobalt of his wings

grew from the yolk of an egg.

 

 

© Rebecca Gethin

Picture 10492970, illustration by Noel Hopking

 

 

Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor in Devon. She has had two pamphlets published in 2017 –  All the Time in the World by Cinnamon Press (who also previously published her full collection and two novels) and A Sprig of Rowan by Three Drops Press.  She has been a Hawthornden Scholar and has had a Pushcart nomination.  She edited A Poetry of Elephants, an anthology of poems to raise  money for DSWT,  an elephant orphanage in Kenya which was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award. She currently runs the Poetry School Seminar in Plymouth every month. Her website is www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com

 

Walt

 

You, with your jaunty smile your hat on one side
that wide brimmed smile blowing you over the Hempsteads.
You, with your blackthorn stick and stride
your billowing voice lamenting the parting of seabirds
You with your arms like happy windmills.
Waving to the sea, the land, the railroads and soldiers.
You, with your laughing beard, baring your chest
as you make your way round the boundaries of oceans.
You, Walt Whitman, of the long line and tumbling somersaults
of tender poetry with your working man’s hands and mystery
in the digging of graves and gardens, the planting of trees here
on your beloved Paumanok, this fishtailed Long Island
buried deep in your heart of lobsters and clams
the King James bible walking with each step you make
as you mark the bounds, smiling as you see someone
you resemble: a woman cradling a child, an old man, a prophet
a hobo, a wanderer. You Walt, pray to the sea and the air as I do
bending your knees to better understand the blades of grass.

 

 

© Geraldine Green, published in The Other Side of the Bridge, Indigo Dreams, 2012

Picture 10210243, engraving, circa 1855

 

 

Creative writing tutor, poetry editor and associate editor of Poetry Bay, UK poet Geraldine Green has two full collections, The Other Side of the Bridge and Salt Road, both published by Indigo Dreams, and four pamphlet collections. Widely anthologised in the UK, US and Italy, her work has been translated into Bulgarian and Romanian. 2015 saw her celebrating 10 years of poetry tours across America, including readings at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, Long Island; alongside Beat poet Michael McClure in Oakland, San Francisco; Woody Guthrie Festival, Okemah, Oklahoma, and many others events kindly organised by New York poet and colleague George Wallace. In 2011 she gained a PhD in Creative Writing Poetry from Lancaster University titled ‘An Exploration of Identity and Environment through Poetry’. Her new collection, Passing Through, was recently published by Indigo Dreams. Geraldine blogs at Salt Road.

 

The Original Captain Boomerang’s Death-Defying Stunts

 

Ladies and gentlemen:

it’s not the escape which sets me free

but the entire surrender. As always

there is no body double

and no apparatus,

the lumber and chock which keep you rooted there

will vanish, in a trice.

 

Released into that forgetfulness

holding my breath for another count of ten

I work my strategy out.

You see, in practice

when engaged with any airtight fiendish device

it’s no different to the Nailed-In-

Packing-Crate Mystery

or the Upside Down Barrel Plunge.

 

It’s a hard one this time.

Sir, you are amazed

I should survive these incredible feats. Let me tell you

it takes a special kind of person

to become a genuine fake. The simple fact is

I cannot be killed —

the crowd believes it’s impossible

but I know everything is true.

 

We are always conjuring on the edge of death, ladies and gentlemen.

I have studied my subject and I know its ways.

There’s no exit from that sealed casket.

I do not enter this compact lightly

and you have every reason to be afraid,

not on my account

but for yourselves, for wanting to see such blood.

 

You await the wrong turn, the failure

of my dextrous digits,

the mistaken breath that loses me.

Perhaps it will happen tonight and you were there

when the great illusionist never returned

and you yourselves became history.

 

Well, we’ll see.

Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you

as clean as a shelled egg.

There’s nothing up my sleeves.

Let me show you how it’s done:

one

two

three

 

 

© Rennie Parker

Picture 10252718, poster, early 20th century

 

 

Rennie Parker is a poet based in the Midlands, usually published by Shoestring Press. She has performed at open mics and regional festivals for several years now, and her work has appeared in magazines since 1987. Her critical study The Georgian Poets was published by the British Council/Writers and their Work series in 1999, and there is prose fiction available on Kindle. Further details are on poetry pf and Rennie Parker’s Bookstop blog.

 

The Sound of Stillness

 

The good thing about cemeteries

is that there are usually few people around.

Not a soul (is that the right word?)

in the graveyard above St Ives.

Seagulls, and a view across the harbour

and out to sea, with the headstones

noting how many were lost there.

A couple of artists, not surprisingly,

one with a palette and paintbrush to show

that’s what he did when living.

And we were the only people there.

While below, crowds bustled up and down,

and sat outside the Sloop, and ate

fish and chips from greasy bags,

and watched the surfers on the sands.

But the cemetery was quiet and peaceful,

just a lone cat stalking something

unseen by us, and the occasional rustle

as a light breeze stirred the bushes.

 

 

© Jim Burns

Picture 10436087, photograph by John Gay, circa 1960s

 

 

Jim Burns was born in Preston in 1936, and now lives near Stockport. He left school at 16, worked in a cotton mill and elsewhere, and spent three years in the army. He edited Move (1964-1968) and Palantir (1976-1983). He has been a regular contributor to Ambit (1963-2013) and Tribune (1964-1994). Publications include Laying Something Down: Poems 1962-2007 (Shoestring Press, 2010), Streetsinger (Shoestring Press, 2013), Let’s Do It, and Late Poems (Black Light Engine Room Press, forthcoming), as well as eight collections of reviews and essays, the most recent being Paris, Painters, Poets (Penniless Press, 2017).

 

Earthwash

 

The family is coming through this green,

light from a copper moon, it bathes the woman,

who bends a little, watchful of the boy,

her face attentive, sensuous; she knows him

already. He’s still small, but won’t be held,

even by her, in earthy ways his maker.

 

This comes so beautifully from its maker

to me; I notice firstly all that green,

for which a poplar fell. Buonarroti held

a brush freighted with soot, to trace this woman

whose youth, intelligence, leap to us from him.

The man, much fainter, bends to restrain the boy.

 

But she has him, and John, the elder boy,

gripped by the wrist, watching the troublemaker,

perhaps a bit jealous – “I can’t be like him.”

He too, though, growing fast – not really green

in any sense – he shares with the young woman

care, pride – responsibility dearly held.

 

What sense in this quick sketch is so well held?

Must we all surrender to this tiny boy?

I keep returning to the tall sweet woman

who holds it all, no everyday homemaker,

dressed as in smoke, in Venus’s colour, green  –

she is the key, through her people pour to him.

 

Is that what the painter meant, that we reach him

through looking at these marks, an illusion held?

Was there a reason why you selected green,

this earth wash, emphasizing the brand new boy

whose energy promised a new kind of maker?

Yet whose earth pattern came straight from a woman?

 

I look at her and love her, sexy woman

and serious, funny too, firm holding him.

He must have known her well, this picture’s maker,

to make her so radically, dearly held

as human, powerful, strong enough for this boy,

painted with woodsmoke on poplar wood, all green.

 

The family group in green, around this woman

follows the straining boy, all focused on him,

because he held the world, really its maker.

 

 

© Louise Larchbourne

Picture 10500877, The Holy Family with St John the Baptist, attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti

 

 

Louise Larchbourne graduated from Birmingham University with a degree in English, then became an actor and ‘local poet’, performing regularly in Birmingham. Some of her poems appeared in a Birmingham Arts Lab collection of four women poets in 1972. She wrote less while bringing up a son as a single parent. She is a member of Oxford Backroom Poets and Stanza 2. She is interested in performance art, which she sees potentially as 3D kinetic poetry. She also does freelance publishing work. She has given readings of her own and others’ poetry in residential homes. She organizes Ekphrasis Poetry, with regular sessions at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, with poets invited to write on a theme and a museum exhibit. Among her favourite poets are John Donne, Kayo Chingonyi and Wallace Stevens. She is edging towards a collection.

 

Signposts through Wonderland

 

Treasure your holidays

in Llandudno, Alice.

 

Skip along the promenade,

play tag on the beach

and when it’s time for bed

wave goodnight to the sea

as it drinks the sunset.

 

Go boating on the Thames.

Paddle your fingers.

Listen to stories, doze.

 

Chase a talking white rabbit

sporting white kid gloves.

 

Take tea with a dormouse,

play croquet with a Queen:

 

this isn’t your dream

but makes you smile.

 

Don’t wish too hard

for womanhood,

it arrives soon enough.

 

You’ll be feted, adored,

posed as holy Agnes,

noble Alethea.

 

Then, with dreaming eyes of wonder                 

discover Alice

through your own looking-glass.

 

 

© Sheila Jacob

Picture 10222601, photograph by C L Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), circa 1862

 

 

Sheila Jacob was born and raised in Birmingham, and lives with her husband in North Wales. She has three children and five grandchildren. She resumed writing poetry in 2013 after a long absence and considers herself to be an old new poet. She’s had poems published in Sarasvati, The Dawntreader, The Cannon’s Mouth, Clear Poetry, The Poetry Shed and on The Poetry School Blog.

 

Wood Pigeon Rat-a-tat Tat

 

enthralled I watched

with wonder through

the kitchen window

feet stuck to

the floor transfixed!

 

wood pigeons

breasted dusty pink

fat fratching scratching pair

of peanut pilfering pugilists

perched opposite ends of wooden trellis

atop back garden fence

battle line drawn

before taking turns

trading rap tap slaps

 

wings wildly flapping as they

flopped hopped stropped alternately

backwards and forwards

edging closer or edging apart

 

not the bang boom bonks

or the clank clatter clinks

of cold steel swords

on chainmail links in

medieval free-style combat

or the blood-and-guts of

bare-knuckle boxing

 

more the silent slapdash

slapstick spat

of a Laurel and Hardy

rat-a-tat tat!

 

 

© Rowland Hill

Picture 10137284, illustration by Harrison Weir, 1877

 

 

Rowland Hill is a retired charity accountant. For many years he has written lyrical verse to celebrate birthdays, weddings, etc of family, colleagues and friends. Occasionally he has attempted to write more serious poetry, much more so since he began attending “Poetry with Friends” events run by Gail Curry and Elaine Cusack, and the Happy Planet Creative Arts of which they are Directors. He is very interested in the works of Ted Hughes. Recently published items can be found at rowlandpaulhill.wordpress.com

 

Sychbant-Uchaf

 

Here in this ruined cottage in the wood

Might some great-grandchild see the broken hearth,

Still stained with smoke that fifty years of rain

Have not washed clean. Two rafters, green with moss,

Crumble between the fallen blocks of stone

That later roots have lifted and thrown down.

Encroaching trees scarce let the ruins breathe.

All will go under, yet beneath the earth

A thousand years from now, one still could show

The fixed foundations of this family home,

Dig up memorials to love and life.

We’d envy such a child her certain proofs.

Our lives are lived in homes of other men,

Our love, proscribed, can neither build nor breed.

So since we cannot hallow one such place,

Let all like places everywhere be ours.

 

 

© Jeni Braund

Picture 10187815, unattributed photograph, 1950s

 

 

Jeni Braund has been writing autobiographical poems since her childhood in the West Country during the 1940s and 1950s, with early titles including ‘Westward Ho!’ and ‘Child of the Sea’. Her childhood was free of modern-day restrictions, her playground being the cliffs, rocks, and beach that bordered her North Devon village home. Nursing, marriage, family life and a growing faith have also shaped her work, as have her Open University studies in Psychology and Comparative Religion. Her 40-year career in nursing began at the age of 17; during this period death and dying became a specialist subject following a six-week residential course at St Christopher’s Hospice studying under Dame Cicely Saunders. Here Jeni found her teaching vocation, developing courses for professional nurses. Her collection of poems, Heartlands, was published in 2016; all proceeds from the book go to the Anthony Nolan blood cancer charity for their lifesaving work.

 

The Second Colour of the Rainbow

 

but the last on my list –

the unloved plastic camping plates,

stupid ice-pop stains around boys’ lips,

the bridesmaid’s dress that wasn’t blue

like the bigger girls’,

a beach ball I couldn’t catch.

Years later, I skipped

the sacral chakra in yoga meditations,

turned from trees studded with fruit

like lightbulbs in that square in Portugal.

But then, when I said yes to one final trip,

I saw it through the bedroom window –

where the sun had risen that day,

a vast harvest moon now hauled itself

from the sea’s dark, pushed

through heavy air, forced that colour

up into a sky that thought it was over.

I called you from your shower to see.

‘Look!’ I said, one hand a gesture

to the view, the other held out to you.

My lips opened on it.

Orange.

 

 

© Dawn Gorman

Picture 10421761, illustration by Florence Mary Anderson, circa 1920

 

 

Dawn Gorman’s pamphlet This Meeting of Tracks was published in the Pushcart Prize-nominated four-poet Mend & Hone (Toadlily Press, 2013). She devises and runs community arts events in the UK, including the reading series Words & Ears, which takes place monthly in Bradford on Avon, and periodically elsewhere, including the Edinburgh Fringe – where she was also a poet in residence in 2015 and 2016. Her work has appeared in journals including Iota, Magma, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House and Under the Radar, and numerous anthologies. She collaborates widely – the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and 250 schoolchildren wrote a symphony based on her poem ‘Replenishment’, and the overture, devised as a film poem, appeared at the Cannes Short Film Festival. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.