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August:

Andy Blackford:  Flitwing

 

Padmaloka June 2016

 

Flitwing Pipistrelle careers into the thickening dark

crazy, restless

lancing boils of dancing flies that burst

in swirls of black confetti

 

The river dawdles in dementia

lost in reedy mazes

gravid, oleaginous

 

In the meadow by the bridge

a bullock moans the old complaint

solitary, stubborn

mist brimming to his matted haunch

 

Flitwing, come and corkscrew with me

through the midgy dimness

We’ll swoop and dart and loop the loop

and tease the glaring owl

our talons plucking oily wrinkles

on the moonstruck fen

and we the manic navigators of the night.

 

 

 

Julia Deakin:  Checkpoint

 

We come from hell. A history of short measures, rough justice,

public executions. Rules of thumb. From backs bent in fields,

mines and furnaces, we walked miles in rags through becks

clogged with debris, hitching lifts on carts down rutted tracks

or shut for days in cramped, smoky carriages on splintered slats

with cocky strangers leering legally,

to cities ruled by horses

in the hands of drunks, the sound of klaxons, screeching,

oaths and tolling bells obscuring backstreet screams of birth,

crude amputations, barber dentists, TB wheezing up the stairs,

spit and spittoons everywhere, cataracts and goitres rampant,

fingers green with nicotine and ink, the tang of coins fished

from gutters, rivers heaving with the dead. Rain and slime

between our toes came with us into dim rooms close with soot

and sulphur, clogging nostrils picked for smuts flicked into rugs

thick with grit, chairs with dust and hair oil, privies cold

and wet or fetid, just vacated, hands from here unwashed

to hack food with a penknife used for fingernails and hooves

in kitchens home to cats, dogs, beetles, maggots, grubs in fruit

and slugs in greens at tables wiped with cloths boiled with kerchiefs,

bandages and nappies brought from bedrooms shared with mice,

bedbugs, nitcombs, pisspots, plaster peeling onto damp bolsters,

clammy sheets and memories of leeches, layings-out and wakes,

clothes seamed with sweat heaped souring in moth-filled closets

next to pictures over mould and trapped birds in chimney breasts

and hard soap scum in aluminium tubs of cooling water

fanned by draughts from grey net at the streaming windows,

springtails in the rotten frames and in the attic, books and papers

pulverised, riddled rafters, wasps’ nests, pigeon lime.

 

We’re here now. Gated, lighted. Vaccinated, regulated.

Vacuumed, smokeless, enzyme clean. It’s been

so long, like centuries.

 

Everything stank. Tanneries and pits and breath.

This is the past. Do not turn us back.

 

chagall 2

 

 

Mark Hinchcliffe:    Pieta

 A fox slowly swayed

down the middle of Cowlersley Lane,

eyes glassy and dazed.

 

People ran out of their houses

to look

and you brought a bowl of milk.

 

Dressed in a pink tutu and purple glittery wig,

you knelt beside it as it lay down

in the gateway to a garden.

 

The people peered into

the darkness of its eyes

as if they looked into a stable

or a volcano slowly burning out,

holding up their hands

to catch the sparks

from its glowing tail.

 

September:

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Roy Cockcroft:   Ninety-three

 

No one knows exactly where the river ends

And the sea begins,

But there are signs

that things have changed –

 

After the comfortable dialects

Of dapple and glide,

The river finds new voices –

Herons shuffling around

On smeared branches, coughing

Or going hysterical,

Dredging their vowels

From sluice-gates –

And there’s the slow grinding of rock

In the bed’s unstoppable machinery

And the guarded whisperings of sedge.

 

And features change –

Boats hang skewed on cable,

Or stretched out,

Exposing their keels on a wet slab;

Fences of reed split water

Into shallow lakes;

Banks are uncertain;

Every day the tide invents a new channel;

And later, when the fog clears,

We notice the wading of submerged roots,

A twist of wire fishing for its own reflection,

Low branches watching for hours

Before they stab.

 

And now the river has a new name.

And new colours –

Traces of black –

A suspicion of red –

Browns, purples and yellows leaking from ancient storms.

 

Levelling out, the greasy current slows,

Dithering in blocked drains,

Smelling of salt and ammonia,

Going backwards,

Muttering to itself,

Revisiting the same places.

 

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Tom Cleary:  War Photo

 

Policemen in black and helmets squat on their haunches.

One sits on his bottom, legs spread, staring through a Perspex face shield.

They look like small boys in costume playing jackstones on the road,

skidding lumps of broken paving over the tarmac.

 

Beyond them there’s a woman in a striped sweater,

a man in a shirt as white as an advert,

figures with blank Os for heads,

like mannequins in a field to frighten birds.

A screen of metal with a mesh of gauze

hides a delicate blur that might be a child.

And Michael may have been hunched for hours, nursing his camera,

stepping back and sideways to avoid the bricks,

steaming cups of tea between the heels of his mittens.

 

Then these two women promenaded through holding hands.

One, her face fat with flush,

bundled her raincoat with her handbag under one arm,

and pressed the older woman’s hand to her thigh.

The companion blinked through the flash of her glasses

and surrendered her hand as if it was no longer hers.

It almost looks staged, back-projected from a comfortable suburb

where people had more time to talk

about supermarket bargains and boozy nights out,

Grania’s wedding and a June flight to the Canaries.

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