she wishes she could sing
and she parts her lips
only to remember
her soul can escape this way
opening each peg
enough to let it close
she sees the crow
and thinks to feed him
even though she has no need
for shiny things
he will press her
with what he unearths
carnelian thumb stone
pearl coloured heart
golf balls for delicious eggs
she wants only to feel
the pinch of his beak
on her breast
and all along
of each outstretched arm
her song released
with each emergent dull ache
Laura McKee’s poems have appeared in various journals in print and online including The Rialto, Crannog, Molly Bloom, And Other Poems, and anthologised by The Emma Press and Smith|Doorstop. She was a winner in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition.
Where the forest narrows to a child’s call
and rubs its flank against St Peter’s churchyard,
I’d hoist you above a father’s fear
and post you into the oak’s dark hollow.
You entered that small woody cave like
you’d lift the door in a pop-up fable,
wide-eyed and hesitant, holding yourself in
until you turned towards me and the sunlight,
then happily scared again when I half-
circled the huge trunk and left you high
among the leaves in your own goosepen,
with only your heart and all that birdsong.
And when I asked Do you trust me?
you knew it was time to close your eyes
and put your hands by your sides,
to feel the still, dreadful moment,
then fall like timber into that nothingness
where I’d always be with arms outstretched.
Phil Vernon bravely takes up the challenge he sets for himself in the title of his first full collection, Poetry After Auschwitz. Here are powerful poems about war and its aftermath of loss and survival, along with poems about a wide range of other political and historic events. Here too are love poems and poems about gardens and the natural world. With its complex rhyme schemes and strong rhythms, Vernon’s work is accomplished and assured. It confronts difficult subjects. It is courageous and rises to the challenge.
– Mara Bergman
Stand, for a moment, cold,
beside the keep,
and the church whose broken walls
the wind blows through.
Look down the cobbled street that falls away
past doors whose shop-bells fail to ring,
to the riverside, where yours is the only car,
and cross the bridge,
to where the geometry of flint and brick and tarmac ends;
and the mystery of who decided where –
so sharply is it etched –
this town would terminate
and the fields be allowed to begin again;
among the tents,
and right and pikes and muskets stacked in stooks,
in meadows bright in angled light,
the men who’d broken half the nave with cannon fire
and made of it a narrative,
then climbed and cleared the same steep street in rows,
to speak a little, low,
addressing wounds against the background hum of busy work,
avoiding one another’s eye, and – from this distance – yours,
and with their prayers cursed
both town and river bank
to never be free until
those rigid stooks no longer stand,
that never rust, nor fall, nor fade.
Marine Biology is Addictive
We bring the net aboard before first light
swinging high above us from the crane,
the deck lights blazing in the inky sky.
Cautiously the bosun hooks the cod-end –
the mesh is finer than a pair of tights.
He trips the trap; a deep-sea bouillabaisse
slops in the waiting box.
These chaps are night-owls; silhouetted
by the photo-floods they cluster curly-headed
round the gimbal table in the vessel’s lab,
poking and peering at the catch.
It’s come a thousand metres up, up
from the black intensive pressure of the deep.
I hope for monsters, new to science….
they point out tiny thrilling rarities,
decapods, and salps and siphes*,
amphipods and ostracods –
and here’s a little angler-fish,
its headlight dimmed, and this
is a batfish, a flakelet of black,
the size of my thumbnail,
flapping its cape. Frilling and flexing
it swims, across the dark pool.
*siphes, or siphonophores such as the Portuguese Man-o-War. Sadly specimens are usually shredded by the net, and can rarely be identified save by their DNA.
Mark Carson was born in Belfast, educated in Dublin and Cambridge, and has made a career in offshore engineering. His poetry has been published in two pamphlets from Wayleave Press, ‘Hove-to is a State of Mind’ (2015) and ‘The Hoopoe’s Eye’ (2019).
Sara’s poems have appeared in South Poetry, New Contexts and Dreich as well as the Roundel anthology Links in the Chain and pamphlet Duncan’s Place. She was joint winner of the Sir Philip Sydney poetry prize 2020, runner up in the Roundel Poetry competition 2016.
This is the case with the casts from Pompeii:
the bent and huddled shapes that cowered in fear
as the ash fell, choking and singeing, trapping them.
So they lay for two thousand years, until
after the uncovering, casts were made
of their body shapes so we could see
their last tortured hours.
And here, behind glass in the hot sun
lie those ancient shapes, while in the corner
a small sparrow, hopping in for a curious moment
could find no escape for himself
so shares their tomb;
the same that baked him alive
keeps the dead safe.
Last Year: Tree Surgery
Suddenly it was cloudless
an eternal Sunday morning
no breakfast rush
no school rush
no rush hour.
These were times
of familiar faces
after a commute
to another room
many stood by to zoom
as the old routines
Some were made safe,
Your working life over
you took refuge
in your chair
facing the screen
with a view through the window
on a tree-lined street,
the only disturbance
the splintering sounds
and chainsaw buzz
of council business.
Those trees now stand
in a silent parade
of knotted fists.
On the roadside,
a bric-a-brac array
next to a skip
and passers-by browse
to take their pick
of a bowl, a trinket or photo frame.
Inside, not even
a shiver of light
behind the frosted glass
of the empty hall.
I see paperbacks subsiding
on the window sill;
the ghost of a mirror
marking the wall.
Anne Bonny and Mary Read, 18th century pirates
We will birth girls,
astride the waves,
in the swing of a hull,
to the keen of gull,
and rattle of black fingered reef.
I’ll teach them to bind their breasts,
while you sew pouches for blood,
they’ll straddle rigging,
tilt with the tide,
while all through the night,
boat beds rock them with salt star
dreams of tarnished moons and flying fish.
When we dock in a harbour,
houses will scare them
for how can the world be made of stone,
when breathing is motion,
life is curves,
and living means
finding your feet
on uncertain ground.
Sue Watling lives near the River Humber in the UK, where she has an allotment and keeps honeybees. Sue has had work published in a range of journals including The Adriatic, Seaborne Magazine, Tide Rises, Amethyst Review, DawnTreader, Saravasti, Green Ink Poetry, ASP Literary Journal, and Dream Catcher.
Based in Tonbridge, Kent, Roundel was formed in 2012. We meet twice monthly, on a Wednesday morning and a Saturday afternoon, to develop our skills, and critique our work. In September 2021, Abegail led a workshop for us exploring the epistolatory form. Some of the poems here are the product of that session.
Letter to an absent father from his daughter (unsent)
Where do I start after all this time?
Quality of paper is important, and the ink.
Did you know there’s a brand called ‘Distress’ –
better skip that one, you wouldn’t understand.
I’ll stick to ‘Diplomat’ – though less my style.
I prefer ‘Troublemaker’. I want to fill my pen
with oxblood, dragons napalm –
set the page alight with Rome burning.
I could choose caroube de chypre –
the colour of her eyes, or tenebris pupuratum
for those years you hid away, and her heart
was clothed in purple darkness. I’ll settle
instead for myosotis bleu, her favourite
flower: forget-me-not – or scorpion grass.
Margaret is widely published in magazines, the author of two collections and a pamphlet. She is the founder of Roundel http://www.roundelpoetrytonbridge.wordpress.com
A Letter to my Poet
You sit, brow furrowed,
while I, a silver ink-stained
nib, am poised.
With force we hit the paper,
letters, commas, full stops;
stanzas fill the void.
You, read the poem through,
mutter to yourself.
I, hope you’re satisfied,
wonder if this poem
will ever end, try
to stop the flow.
But you’ve become
accustomed to my ploy,
simply sigh then shake,
shake me until, exhausted,
I bleed black across the page.
When dawn begins to
creep around the curtain
your words weaken, cease…
After many years in television production, Jinny retrained and worked as a counsellor for 20 years. Now, in a new phase of her life, she is enjoying writing poems, short stories and flash fiction.
My window looks out
on a bacchanal of October colours
their shades impossible to count,
waspish winds speed through branches
releasing a thousand yellow butterflies
that spiral and float weightless as astronauts.
On my radio, the elated cheers of NASA
as spaceship – target asteroid –
lands in Nightingale Crevice –
where not one bird will sing.
A telescopic foot stirs up dry dust –
primordial storytellers sealed in filters
to unravel a little more beauty
uplift our vision.
Rockets burn. Engines reverse.
No celestial mansions here, no borders, no gods,
a solitary gliding in spiralling circles of
black silence, graceful colours thrown up
from the dark side of the moon,
a sun floats in blackness.
The wonderment of a language
yet to emerge from this deep solitude.
A long re-entry before sliding back
………..into the richness of our flimsy earth.
Val has been published in Orbis, Ingenue, the Poetry Shed online poetry site, as well as in several anthologies. Her poems have appeared in collaborative exhibitions and anthologies with Roundel and a local art group.