Something to listen to as you read work by Jill Munro, Bill Greenwell, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Graham Burchell, Pat Buik and Leigh Spiers…
Long ago, before I fell in love with Sting,
heard him sing
Fields of Gold,
I’d written a sweet
Golden Wheat in the Meadow Neat.
Simplistically, a farmer came,
scythed down my fields of barley.
Far off days before I lay
in fields entwining molten hearts
as eighteen carat coloured hair
spread across grounding earth
and nature’s own ore joined me.
Golden globe drifted across my jealous sky,
distant ripples of the west winds
moved – and I remembered him.
We double-deckered along to Poultry
from Victoria’s hotly heaving throng
boarded a glass lift, all bold steel and shine,
travelled way, way up to Coq D’Argent
with a view to a rooftop view across
London’s spine – the Shard, half-made Cheese Grater −
seeking a sunlit hazy, lazy June,
but were met with a windy, dove grey sky.
Would high hopes of a balmy garden lunch
be unfilled as chilled in unjumpered sleeves,
we’d be cold-forced indoors? No, without care for global warmth
heaters ramped on full blast, scarlet a-glow
summer reproduced for hungry diners
and far above the hard bitten city
where bankers smashed through ceilings, down through floors,
we chewed on the bones of Poultry
with a hope our oil would not run dry.
Jill Munro has had her childhood interest in poetry re-ignited during Creative Writing modules of an Open University English Literature degree. She has appeared on the Weakest Link and her uncle wrote Desperate Dan. She has two poems forthcoming in the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society’s Folio.
Dunstanburgh in sunlight
Where does the walk start? you said.
At the harbour in Craster, I replied, unpeeling
the car-park’s sweaty sticker on to the windscreen.
Ah, you said, The Harbour Inn, Craster. You can’t
read maps, but an almanac of pubs
would see you right. Correcting you was a pity.
The castle has fallen apart
with far greater style than its original earl, commissioning it
as a sort of holiday home, could ever have
imagined. He started in 1313. Unlucky for some:
he was beheaded before he’d even had the chance
to distribute invites.
It greets its visitors with a lower jaw,
a set of badly-sculpted teeth more spectacular
than you’d find on an X-ray
at a Whitby convention. It’s like half a half-smile
resting, insouciant, I’d say,
on well-heathered stretch of gum:
you can almost sense the missing upper lip.
And yes it was hot, despite the clouds:
even the soft waft of the sea-air was warm.
The golfers scratched their scalps but kept their hats
in case of cancer. And there was you,
a mirage as ever, smiling wryly
over the dunes beyond the ruin, your palm
heating in mine, the words
like camera-shutters – occasional, sudden, particular –
as we walked through the sun-stretched dunes,
six miles to the start, our heartbeats
measured implausibly on your pedometer.
Some think you don’t catch a snifter
of sunshine up here, not a glimpse of it, no:
which is why we could stroll, the day steaming
like a fish-kettle, from harbour-cobbles
to harbour-cobbles. Fine by us.
Our sky is always secretly on fire.
Bill was New Statesman’s weekly satirical poet from 1994 to 2002. His Impossible Objects (2006) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection. His second collection, Ringers, was published in 2011. Both are published by Cinnamon.
among the production lines of dappled summer,
I look up through lampshade leaves
and bulb green apples to become a dreamer, one
who begins by asking why a tree-scar is painted blue;
one severing ringed by a healing, blessed with moss.
I see more, on another tree, and another beyond;
waist-height eyes unblinking, figuring, content
with silence, with nothing more happening
than the sway of grasses
and the scatty plays of gnats.
Dragon’s trees morph into beautiful monsters
with belly-button eyes and armpit mistletoe.
It’s a blue trail to follow; a zig-zag
across the rows until I’m snagged
by one that’s black. Deliberately burned? A curse?
Why do wanderings always end like this for me?
Graham Burchell has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. His collection Vermeer’s Corner was published by Foothills Publishing in the United States in 2008. His latest collection, The Chongololo Club is published by Pindrop Press.
Sundown by the Abattoir
We are falling down, it’s summer; we are falling through time
worn thin. Summer is wasted, is pale and screwed up
in the clouds above our childhood town
and our dizzy heads.
Nobody trusts a blue sky.
I am too good to be true and you are too good to be true.
(Last night I dreamt I fell in love all over again
and when he kissed me I woke with a start.)
I feel there is nothing more intact than your mind.
Mine is lost. Things up there are loose.
I walked down by the abattoir with the kids-
I said, kids, this is where they kill the cows and lambs
and chop them into meat, mince.
One didn’t believe me and the other didn’t care.
The sun was sagging in the sky,
we held hands to cross the roads.
They’ve dismantled the phone box by the abattoir
on Park Lane, the one I used to ring you on with stolen
20 p coins, your mother’s house just around the corner,
making sure she wasn’t home
when sometimes you just hung on the line.
The sadness was exquisite, like a razor nick brought to your mouth.
You would lie in bed, half-asleep, drowning in it.
I don’t know why I needed you, I never knew.
I worked early mornings at the abattoir one winter,
its stainless steel chambers, the meat hanging-
the boys and girls who would skin you alive for a twenty.
I never let anyone make me cry. You’d have been proud of me.
The sun’s going down now darling- there’s a rare pink sky;
I have just read your email
about the Indian boy you got drunk, about buying Scandinavian furniture
and how you’d like to be there for me now.
I have your number programmed into my phone,
just in case anything bad happens. The sun is going down,
in this beaten, pitiless sky. You console me; I need you to know
the dark that rushes in after the dusk has a hold on me.
.First published in Hearing Voices
Melissa Lee-Houghton is a poet & writer of short fiction and is based in North West England. Her first collection of poems, A Body Made of You was published by Penned in the Margins (April 2011). Her new collection, Beautiful Girls is forthcoming.
as I walk east
down Darling Street
a full moon swells
as day fades
across its gleaming sphere
The Sea of …
memory fails me
like mist dispersing
as each day fades
yet in the peace
this Summer evening
as I stroll east
it comes to me
Leigh Spiers, after decades of working for hospital patients, then museum and gallery visitors, is devoting most of her time to art, literature and the increasing number of children to whom she is related.
This is a garden at peace with itself, perennial
for generations of children and labradors
and wise owners called Wendy and Bill,
who let its grasses romp with crêches of daisies
and honeysuckle climb the apple trees.
What is wild restores the status quo
brings childhood scampering from long ago.
The old brick house is mellow and warm
as an elderly nurse. There are patterns of slanting shade
and windows are open. Cream roses frame
the panama-hatted back view of Ted
in his blue shirt, leaning on weathered wood
of the picnic table, writing in concentration.
Wendy scribbles, in half-lotus position.
A bicycle leans, pressing the ivy hedge.
Jeanne writes, perched on the lower swing.
A bosom of pink roses blouses the edge
of the philadelphus wall, and a birch is drooping
affected by drought, beyond. Blackbirds sing
and the air is a still-room of summer perfumes.
On the studio step, Frances considers poems.
There are dog bowls, and planted patches of camomile
grass in the lawn, where rugs and cushions and Gay
lie, she on her stomach propping a thoughtful
cheek while her biro catches the odd ray
of light. The herbaceous border’s bright and cottagey –
poppies, campanulas, ox-eye daisies,
and most of the pansies have benevolent faces.
.First published in The Frogmore Papers