A word on killing
I’ll only say this once. Then I’m going back to writing about home,
journeys, everyday events and minor breakages—even they send
fragments far and wide.
After the murder of my father, who was stationed overseas, I couldn’t
bear that when they found the man who did it—possibly a dad—they
shot him in his bed.
My father was a soldier. This was peacetime. He’d been to the bank, was in
a Morris Minor, ferrying money to his troops. The killer was a criminal,
after easy cash.
When losing was so sharp, I couldn’t see how one more death made sense.
I was spirited at seven, fierce. Wanted justice. But that second bullet was
the first again. Despair.
Those two deaths were not political, defensive, personal or spat out
in the heat of war. They revealed to me, too young, that men—grown men—
are ruled by drives
so primitive they make a child look old. My story’s small. But scale it up
from households to whole peoples and you start to see. What I didn’t know,
while messing up
in later life, was how, through killings, roots get twisted, memories
and moods distorted, needs, compulsions, fears repeated, like they say,
down the generations.
Growing up, I couldn’t see a fictive arrow in a back, a sailor walk the plank
in black and white, spiralling Spitfires, or anything with guns. Still can’t.
I guess it was a sign.
We’re all friends here. We all agree. But what to do? The day my father
died I made a cake. Wonky, sunken in the middle. With a candle.
One small light to shine.
Sarah Wedderburn’s poems have appeared in Poems in Which and The Oxford Magazine. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2013, and in 2011 was a finalist in the Third Annual Poetry Contest run by Narrative Magazine, the online American literary journal. She lives in East Kent.
Because the tree has gone, there is a flood
of light across the floor, there is a view
of roofs and backyard fences shouldering
the weight of whose-is-whose. Because
the tree’s been taken while I wasn’t there –
there was no chainsaw screech, no fluster
and coo of tetchy pigeon, no easy rhyme for
one for sorrow – the tree’s a gap, a lost tooth,
a solitaire unstuck from its old gold claws.
Because the bedroom’s lost its summer
flicker, its winter scratch, is soaked in
daylight/streetlight, unstoppable by drape
or slatted blind. Because there is no memory
of the tree’s going, I cannot, will not sleep.
After she died we stripped the bed,
shook out the sheets and they fell
like rice at an old-fashioned wedding.
They cornered her dressing-gown
pockets – never a core or a stalk –
nothing but apple pips, dulled by
the dark, still holding their centres,
their flavour of almond, of cyanide.
And when we readied the body,
washed what was left of the woman
she’d been, we picked out brown seeds
from between her toes, from under
the claw of her curled toes, and one,
flattened, split to its ivory heart,
stuck fast to the sole of her left foot.
Susan Utting is based in Berkshire and is the author of several poetry collections. Her website is at http://susanutting.co.uk
The Day Neruda Died
Just a few days after the
coup d’état, Poetry died in a house
nestled in the mountains of Santiago.
Twenty years later only,
they buried his body there,
in Isla Negra, according to his last
will and desire, close
to his home harboring
on a dune where blue waves
scour Humboldt’s icy
currents. Surrounded by
all things maritime, ships in
bottles, maps, beloved
figureheads, that he collected
bulimically, a few steps away from
his very bedroom with a
tin-plate roof that reminded him of
his childhood in the Southern town of
Temuco lashed by harsh winds and
rain where he spent endless hours penning lines
enchanted by the falling drops on the tin rooftops
in the arms of the mighty Andes.
The day he died, five-hundred, maybe
six-hundred young men stood there in front of
Pablo’s house despite the hundreds of
Pinochet’s secret agents taking snapshots. When
the coffin left all of them raised their hand to the sky,
singing the Internationale. Everybody knew that
that very evening somebody would have knocked at
their doors, leading them away to Dawson Island as political
prisoners—to never return. This did not prevent them.
Nobody will prevent poetry from living on. Neither regimes
nor politics and, not even Death dancing his last Chilean Totentanz
amid rustling red leaves on an Autumn day of 1973. Pablo es aún vivo.*
*Pablo is still alive
The Birds Have Gone
The birds have all gone.
They gathered to watch
the Nightingale lie
motionless on the
ground and fled to mourn.
The country is so silent now.
I hold you in my hands.
Your cold feathers will be my shield.
Your chant will be my weapon.
This land will always be your land
and I will sing your songs forever.
(for Pete Seeger)
In Che’s Heavy-Duty Boots
I did dream of you Latin America,
unknown land of my spirit,
as I follow the trail that Poderosa –
the Mighty One – left along your
backbone: St. Martín, Bariloche,
the pampas and the deserts.
I want to tread your soil and your
soul penniless, a motorcycle in
my heart wearing Che’s unlaced heavy-
duty boots. The taste of brewed
yerba mate in the mouth will last long,
as the poverty of people filling my eyes.
There is Chile. I’ll pass by as a busy
pilgrim along Neruda’s door. I
won’t knock but I will carry his
words in my backpack. And, I too will
spend some days in leper-hospitals
to recall that poets and revolutionaries
must always put their fingers in the wounds
to be able to learn how to be sufferers.
Walking along Udristei
someone shoves into my ribs.
Straightaway a pocket-check:
passport, wallet, phone, okay.
Ahead, the suspect pivots;
shouts in Romanian, his arms
outstretched with palms upturned.
The fault is mine. I misjudged.
Tim Youngs’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Staple, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Hinterland, and Ink, Sweat and Tears, among other places. He lives in Nottingham and is the author or editor of several books on travel writing.
Gifts from my Son
under the gallows
of a Belgian battlefield
he picks a relic
a dagger of wood
laying in its grave so long
a certainty, all
he had to do was prize it
from the bank of soil
wrestle the husk from
the uncertain gale of time’s
under the rock crown
of a Tintagel grotto
lies the magics source
weeping turquoise tears
of departing smoke vapours
sorcery in an
unmarked grave. The cave
was flooded when he went there
he had his knights quest
to bring me back a
piece of Arthur, of Merlin
of Britain itself
for the boy I knew has gone
into the kettle
into the vapour
into the fog banks with two
shakes of a lamb’s tail
His work can be seen in such magazines as The Rialto, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Bone Orchard Poetry, BLAZE, The Journal, Southlight, Sarasvati, Earth Love, Mood Swing, Puff Puff Prose Poetry & Prose, Postcards Poetry and Prose, Playerist 2, Lake City Lights, The Open Mouse, Miracle, Poetry Cornwall, I-70, South Florida Review, Zymbol and Decanto.
No matter which way he turns her
or folds her limbs, she is supple as a cat,
elastic and elegant with a faint smile
imprinted on her lips. Serene, effortless,
compliant: no hint of claws or teeth,
no trickle of seduction, none
of the messiness of real encounters,
almost as though it doesn’t matter
one way or the other, as though
it could be him or whoever or no-one.
Her lack of resistance folds him
down into a box. He tucks himself
away, a mannikin, unable to explain.
Sue Millard lives in Cumbria. Her website, http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk/ showcases her published output of novels and non-fiction which tend to feature horses, carriage-driving, romance, rural life, history and artistic but inept dragons. Her poems have been published by, e.g., The Interpreter’s House, Pennine Platform, Pirene’s Fountain, Butcher’s Dog, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and Prole. Her recent collection, ASH TREE, is published by Prole, http://www.prolebooks.co.uk
The broken twig snaps,
Splintering all but my bitter soul upon the ground.
A coldness creeps upon me,
So beautiful, the falling leaves of Autumn,
The crescent moon within the sky.
I hate that I should see when you do not,
That I should feel what you cannot.
Forgive me for the life I breathe,
I breathe with laboured guilt.
The broken twig snaps,
Upon your grave.
An incident on the Heads of the Valleys Road
What song was playing when the windscreen crazed?
In that interminable instant
when the block’s edge struck the glass
did you breathe before the sirens formed a descant?
Who were you anyway? Just a taxi driver
making ends meet, taking scabs to work.
That was enough. We’d lived on soup and favours
far too long. Our patience had to break.
We were drowning, breath by breath.
The mood was foul, but not ferocious as it looked,
those boys not half as mad as folk believed.
They only meant to warn you, just to shake
you up a bit. And after that our lights
snuffed too. The way the shoppers glared
– or didn’t – when we ventured on the streets.
‘Dig deep!’ we called, into our beards,
our seams well nigh exhausted. We talked
of pride, but listlessly, like long forgotten
lovers. We spoke of fighting, but baulked
even at the prospect of retreat. We battened
down. Our women cursed our lack of spirit.
Our hope fell slack, lung-shrunk as emphysema.
All history now. The hills are so much greener.
So much more empty air to uninhabit.
Biog: Julian is an apprentice poet and lives in Sheffield. http://52poemsinayear.wordpress.com