Wednesday, 17 November 2010

3 poems by Matthew Stewart


Ten years on and perfection’s lost
its distant lustre. My accent

seeps away. Every few minutes
I let some vowels tug me back home,

back towards the cadence of who
I am or was or was or am.

Dad On The M25 After Midnight

Even before the front door’s shut,
I’m in first gear – up past Tesco,
third exit from the roundabout
and onto the slip road at last.
I overtake a Polish truck;
it wobbles as the driver shaves.
Tarmac reassuringly growls.

This is where the housework and kids
recede, junction after junction.
I could head west, then north, then east
- all with a millimetric nudge
of the wheel - but I hold a lane,
perfecting this nightly circle.
It closes back in on my name.

San Fairy Ann

Wit amid blood and Belgian mud,
Nan invoked you daily. Your time
on our tongues and in dictionaries
might be running out, but I’ve passed
your syllables on to my son
in return for his slang from school.

Matthew Stewart works in the Spanish wine trade and lives between Extremadura, Spain, and West Sussex, England. His poetry has appeared in many U.K. magazines and Happenstance Press will be bringing out his pamphlet in 2010/2011. He blogs at Roguestrands

Friday, 12 November 2010

5 poems by Todd Swift

Paddington Recreation Grounds

Boys on their field lit like an aquarium
sad to not be alight, like them, with goals
that a foot or hand can win; poetry’s rules
no less old than theirs, but poets
are not only players on green grass, night
and day, also the old-eyed others
edged in the park, who nod at each leap in air,
each attained yelp and elbowed throw,
the muscular panoply of bodied action
folded into hours with an end; slow to
leave, friendless, they once stood on the line,
or blew as referee, their bones now cold
and all trophies pawned. So poems both play

and hold, gravely, as if a mourner stood,
one self under the hood of the ground, the other,
above, head bowed, to pray. We stand and lie,
this way, to make the words hit home.
So ball and word fly untrue until a hand undoes
the flight by taking it down from abstract
to real motion, feeling out the meaning of its gut,
impacted with the lob’s sorrow-start,
the needing thrower’s heart, which is to gain
the art’s accolades, not be cheered in dismal
parades that sow ribbons on winners,
and never lift the anguished fade that flows
across the dark, onto playing grounds.

After Death, What Words?

The true things are where the heart is most hurt,
As beneath the dirt an isolated bulb is roseate;
What we hate to hear or hold, loss without end

Is beautiful for being absolute – pitiless as ice –
Ice that the sun destroys. Death lends itself to us,
The book with the least lies, the longest pages

Which (uncut, we hope, for awhile) reads us our
Lives, to rise like a tree aching for cold light
Through each knife of wind, each night chapter.


Stay, lie with me when I die
and keep me now I am dead.

Married as the sun is warm
let your arm maintain my head.

Move here beside cold love,
while my new body is identified,

different from what living is.
Hold me on what was our bed.

Fold your arms around what stays
when older forms of love have fled.

My Father In Hydra

Father that was,
Night you bother
My sleep, why?

Once you banged things,
Didn’t you come to me
When I was a child, to

Ask where the friends had gone?
I wish you a solid death –
I kiss your red face.

Hume Road, 1980

Ian, grandfather, one morning, winter
Took me down Hume Road (a short lane)
To wait for the train to Montreal. Younger,

He’d wrap oven-red bricks in towels, lay
Them at his feet, to make the car blind
Momentarily, before the arm’s clearance

Opened the windshield to light
Or night’s stations – those intervals
Made by lamps, small homes lit, fires,

Where curtains slip, lives stumble out in pours
Of illumination as drinkers from just-shut taverns;
This round spill of vision makes winter

More clear, in the Eastern Townships –
Chapters of woodland; whole books of trees.
Trees are somewhere to travel into, not past, only.

Ian guided us in, some ice-still mornings,
To look, crouching, at where a cougar had made
A bed in snow, then rose up to carry on hunting;

Fear then, and a sense of things continuing farther
Onto where branches forded each other, bridging
Bridges of themselves, overgrowth, undergrowth,

The loosely spilling green-brown grass
Of a child’s thinking, a leap to where a lion
Built a round room in the ice, danger, hot brick –

Burning into his ankle, Ian bit awake.
Our car avoiding, on downswerve, the logs
Carried to be timbered, sawdust, shelved to books –

The rail bridge written like escape, Richmond
Expecting the Montreal train in about an hour,
Never wanting to be late when a fellow could be on time.

Todd Swift is a lecturer at Kingston University in English Literature and Creative Writing and a tutor for The Poetry School. His most recent collections are Seaway: New and Selected Poems (Salmon, 2008) and Mainstream Love Hotel (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), and a free-to-download ebook from Argotist, Experimental Sex Hospital. Todd has edited or co-edited many international anthologies, including Poetry Nation, 100 Poets Against The War, and (with Evan Jones) Modern Canadian Poets (Carcanet, 2010). His poems have appeared widely, in places such as Poetry London, and Poetry Review. He has been Oxfam GB Poet-in-residence, and runs the London-based Oxfam Poetry Series. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and is currently conducting doctoral research. He lives in London. He blogs at Eyewear.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

2 poems by Michelle McGrane

Lunar Postcards

I. Moondust

Two hours ago, we docked
at Crater Plaskett's northern rim.
Plumes of spent gunpowder
eructed from the landing strip
spinning into galaxies and starfields.
It clings to our helmet visors,
sifts into our spacesuits,
fine jagged particles
infiltrating hinges and joints,
scratching equipment,
shrouding instrument dials
with an electrostatic film.

II. Hadley Rille
I am writing from a lava tube
at Hadley Rille, near the Sea of Rains.
We spent the day gathering
silica-rich soil, shattered rocks,
glassy fist-sized specimens
sampled from the basalt crust.
The Lunar Roving Vehicle
has exceeded all expectations.
Jack and his crew will be pleased.
I look forward to your news.

III. Space Gourmet

We season freeze-dried macaroni
with liquid salt and pepper.
Water is distilled, recycled
from our breath and sweat.
After a week of granola bars,
nuts and bitter orange juice,
the Commander's arm
begins to look tasty.

IV. Counting Clusters

At night,
the lunar module
ticks and hums.
I shift restlessly
in my stellar nursery,
trace the constellations
of your freckles,
striving to sail
these light years
home to you.

The Escape Artist

In our three month acquaintance, Faolán was known throughout circus rings as the Lord of the Fleas. Faolán means 'little wolf'. He was a hairy wee beastie. Agile, a born entertainer and ambitious to boot. Nothing short of global domination would satisfy the Lilliputian star. From tenth generation Saratov Circus stock on his paternal side, his mother was Muirne Mac Nessa, the Irish siphonaptera racing champion. People journeyed from as far as Argentina and the Macau Peninsula to marvel at his mesmerising chariot act, dazzling tightrope performance, virtuoso cannon routine and death-defying fire dance.

There was no one to blame but myself when he ran off with the Ringmaster's silver weimaraner. I should have suspected something was amiss. He stopped feeding when the laughing long-haired bitch sashayed past his trailer, refused to turn cartwheels as I greeted him from behind the magnifying glass. Now, I'm training aerial silk artistes. Of course, it's not the same. My heart's no longer in the hyperbole. Does he miss the good times, the spotlight, the smell of roast chestnuts and candyfloss, the cheering crowds? I sleep with his gold-trimmed tophat and tails, his diminutive whip, in a snuffbox beside my bed.

(Previously published in Magma 46)

Michelle McGrane lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and blogs at Peony Moon. Her collection, The Suitable Girl, is forthcoming in 2010.

4 poems from Helen Ivory's 'The Breakfast Machine'

The Dolls House

The trees that grow
from the nursery walls
do not rustle in the breeze
of an open window.

The jaws of the wardrobe
do not snap shut
when a crane-fly bumbles
into their waiting smile.

But there is a shifting of furniture
in the dolls house tonight,
a slow dragging of objects
across candle-lit rooms.

The kitchen windows steam up
and the unmistakable smell
of melting plastic
drifts from the chimney.

You will notice tomorrow
your new doll is gone.
You will find her blonde hair
lines a mouse nest in spring.

The Reckless Sleeper

All night he has been inventing a vocabulary –
a mythology of cities built like a circuit board;
a skeletal picture of where he’d like to belong.

He is wrapped in a blanket of grey paint,
and sometimes an apple will roll to the surface,
sometimes a mirror, or an apple in the mirror.

Sometimes a lion will lift a lazy paw
and pull the blanket from the other side of the bed;
leaving him exposed to the dark of the room.

He walks on the surface of heaven,
he holds his own heart in the palm of his hand,
his eye is a metronome; candle, bird, candle, bird.


In this, the dawn of the apocalypse
the cowboys have itchy fingers
as they ride into the centre of town.

Not a squeak can be heard
from the people that live here,
though a dog howls, chained up in a yard.

A game of cards sits unplayed
on a kitchen table. The winner
hides under a bed, unsure of his hand.

After Hours

At night the mannequins
come alive in the basement

and the ones in the window
unhitch all their clothes.

In their new state
they are unshod and sexless

and when the conductor
(a demiurge in spangled jacket)

taps his baton
they all sing with one voice.

Helen Ivory was born in Luton in 1969 and has a degree from Norwich Art School. Recipient of a 1999 Eric Gregory Award, she has three collections of poetry with Bloodaxe Books, the most recent being The Breakfast Machine(2010). She is currently working towards a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at UEA, is an Editor for The Poetry Archiveand Deputy Editor for the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

3 poems by Maureen Jivani

Open Heart

I had a heart in my hands once.
It shivered like an injured bird.
I had to stop those fibrillations
to steady that pale heart,
cooled, in its cage of bone.
Such an enormous task,
it took all the long afternoon.

But we had opera, laughter
and a tunnel of light
in that dungeon-cold room.
And sometimes it leapt,
that insensible heart, like a flying fish
or one left behind when the tide
goes out. Poor heart to be stranded
like this, a fist of blubber, in my small hands.

Going Under

Here, waiters are tall and carry silver salvers:
the dead on a plate, cabinet doors open and close
of their own accord. Venetian crystal sparkles
like a new love. The hostess grins while flaming Sambucas.

Faces float
masks accumulating dust.
A woman breezes past
wearing gold shoes and a décolletage to die for.

In the mirror, an elderly man
removes his gloves; one slips in silence to the floor.
The grandfather clock chimes the hour.

I sigh in an effort of remembrance.

An upstairs bedroom, a drab light spools through shutters,
spills across a bedraggled bed, a white glove resting
on a bedside table.

I turn, expecting a kiss I once knew.

In that Country

You did not kiss me
in a hotel room,

one with blistering paintwork
and an over-night ensemble

laid out on a single bed.
Nor did we talk about this later

in a conference room
between the keynote speaker’s

brave attempt at, ‘The Trouble with Words’
and the delegates’ response.

At coffee, we never lingered
over those last half-inches in our cups,

nor noticed the changing rhythms
in our breath, the finger-tips of space

between our hands. So at the close,
we did not dawdle in the court-yard,

fumbling for car keys, our heads spinning.
And you did not say, ‘I’ll miss you’

while a west wind skittered the gravel
at our feet and the green-eyed stray

wailed its lament
by the white-washed wall.

Maureen Jivani has been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, America, New Zealand and Australia and has won awards for her poetry. She has a pamphlet of poems: My Shinji Noon, and a full collection: Insensible Heart, published by Mulfran Press. Insensible Heart was shortlisted for the London Festival Fringe Award 2010. She is currently working on a second collection of poetry and a book of short stories.

Maureen at peonymoon and Mulfran.