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Rower, Battersea Lake      by Helena Goddard                                                                                


First, he considers the surface -  lilies,

damsel flies bulbing with cobalt at both ends,

mating and hovering between mating; next


the strangeness beneath – slow puffs of sand,

bulging newts, the ghostly rocking of leaf-mould

undredged for decades; last, the reflected land –


trees rippling but exact as a Magritte,

clouds, the unfilled sky between - a silent place,

shimmering with the animation of shape,


vision. He muses to me that the world

is these three - all given, though hard to hold
simultaneously.  And now how cupped


the black moorhen in his variegated reeds,

red beak tipped with yellow, dipping, feeding.





Dead in the Water      by Graham Burchell                                                                    

after a photograph of a dead SS prison guard floating in a canal,

Dachau, 1945, by Lee Miller


Think of a single note, e flat, reeded on a clarinet just

as night passes and the canal with its hard edge is monochrome.

A corvid cries. The longer blades of apparent grass shiver,

start to glow glaucus green as light builds. The grey water

of Dachau browns, bruises blue. All the fight has gone from it.

It’s proving to be a sunny day, so the aching woodwind fades.


Instead, hear ripples passing over an obstruction;

a sacrifice or something fly-tipped, more than half-submerged.

A mallard, out of frame batters the water, rails against the stillness.

The wave from it slaps a leather arm, fills an ear.

There’s little left to see of the man, the gaoler, tossed in,

dredged up. No-one could swim in such a heavy coat.


With the sun rising over him, wagging a finger, dripping light,

see his soul leaching out, his face just beneath the surface, at peace,

freed from what it witnessed, from stony dispassion, grimace,

snarl – no more a cathedral gargoyle. Not a dark hair

seems out of place. This is a baptism of death, of ridding. Lying

on his left, heart under water, this looks to be his gentlest sleep.


Think of a soprano saxophone introducing jazz riffs as afternoon

wears into evening, as evening loses its grip, as the stuff of ditch

gathers into him, algae, discolouration, the softening of dirty chill.

There are leaps and bounces in the syncopation. A V of geese

passes over. They cry out to the horizon. Think of his family,

packing, scurrying like rabbits-in-headlights through the night.





What will survive of us is . . .     by Ian Royce Chamberlain

(after Philip Larkin: An Arundel Tomb)


But consider: was the great man right –

that all we leave behind that longest night

is merely notional, a concept staged

to fit with words of tenderness like his

in celebrated lines across a page?


Is it not more desirable to strive

for legacy more tangible: a cache

that will outlast the wind-blown ash,

the drift of memory, the tiny span

of a single generation’s short-lived lives?

Ah, hence the tomb itself – a worldly plan.


But note – the poet, he was tongue in cheek,

ironic at the tableau he discovered:

earl and countess laid like lovers,

but in that last verse he boldly writes

of finding little truth in this antique:

alive, theirs was a union less than tight.


Of Philip Larkin, that which still survives

may lack embodiment in stiffened pleats

but lies indelible on flimsier sheets,

memorial to a mind, a man, who knew

how passing is the love in earthly lives:

our almost-instinct, almost true.





Mardale Common    by Erica Bell                                               



I’m not waiting for you

here, in the wild bright sun.

I am leaning on the shoulder of the fell

wrapped in the arms of the wind

and pressed, like a lark, to the breast of Air


but I am not waiting for you.

I am watching the clouds

dragging their dark weight over the hills.

Ahead, on the ridge, cotton-grass dances

like tiny bright kites on the line of sky.


I am not waiting for you.

You see, it is as if your spirit scrambles –

up through the steep glooms of the ghyll

lost to the clatter of battering water

wrestling crystalline gravity, light –


but you are here, watching the clouds

and the cotton grass dancing

along the sky’s line

your arms wrapped around the wind

bearing the weight of the larks’ singing.




My Dawtie       by Jane Burn   


I am gone on the Husvik boat. I will bring back 
combs for your hair, silk for a dress, pearls to swing 
from the lobes of your ears, lace for the pale 
of your heather-bone throat. Fear not. I will return,
come back to you and a small but fertile patch 
of our own – buy stones to build around you. 
Brick you into a home for us. Nothing here but stench 
and snow as cold as your breasts in the byre 
back home, at dawn – I rub my palms 

on wind scoured wood, think of ridges on a ram’s horn,
think of good meat not skrott set adrift – its tissues fed 
to the carrion throng. I hear the wind skirt the oil drums, 
mouth the rivets, lick the paths of salted rust.
So many things made for hacking and flaying, 
so many tools to carve pain, to whittle lard and bone.
I have skill – remember the coggies and spoons I made 
for the sip of your mouth? How I watched with desire 
the curve of your kiss upon morsels. I pare the flesh,

thin as bible leaves and picture you reading out loud,
hope your pages hold comfort – more than I find
in this stinking book of flesh. My bitten hands find heat 
for a while but you cannot warm for long on the dead.
When I return they say there will be such spoil
that we shall burn our cruzie night and day – I think 
I will choose not to snuff it out. I have filled myself 
too many times with chill and dark – I have looked 
into begrutten eyes and put them out.


(notes ed.    DAWTIE = darling    HUSVIK = whaling station in South Atlantic
SKROTT = carcasse or scrap meat COGGIES  = small bowls  CRUZIE = an oil lamp    BEGRUTTEN = swollen with weeping, tear-stained)


Aubade     by Anne Ballard 



Your head is growing heavy on my shoulder,

your slow breath tells me you are sleeping now.

Gently I stroke the damp hair from your brow

and draw the quilt up as the night grows colder.

If only we could lie like this till morning

wrapped in the bliss we made, but soon the light

will creep like an intruder on the night

firing the dawn sky with its angry warning

to drive you from me, to your bitter life

where our concord is seen as treachery,

our harmony the cause of others’ strife.

We are in prison, when we feel most free,

those furtive meetings all that keep us strong:

sleep still my love, this peace does not last long.



Now I must be   by Maggie Butt


both motherandfather   

to myself


scatter wisdom over myownhead

like an upturned bowl of rose-petals


name myself with sprinkled water

offer pie-and-mash advice


remember to lovemyself

pridepuff at my small achievements


love mostfiercely


my flocks of imperfections



The Longest Day  by Roger Elkin 


Not the heroics of John Wayne

spearing across D-Day beaches

while extras get blown to bits.


Not fish-face Robert Mitchum

leaping into the sea and wading ashore,

his rifle carried high to keep it dry.


Not Richard Todd, steel-eyed

and stiff-upper-lipped, revisiting

Pegasus Bridge.


Not even Kenneth More trying to hide

behind a beard as Beach-Master Colin Maud

roaring “Get off this blasted shore”.


But hundreds of fameless men being strafed

in that vastness of sand and cloud

with nothing to hide behind but fear,


two planes raining bullets and noise –

wave after harrying wave –

the menacing, the menaced.


Watching that, you remember

standing stranded, exposed

in slow-motion monochrome


hour after hour and so alone

by your Dad’s hospital bed



your moment’s longest day.

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