Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Indoors for this ash
is through the bark:
notice its colour – asphalt
or slate in the rain

then go inside, tasting
weather in the tree rings,
scoffing years of drought and storm,
moving as fast as a woodworm

who finds a kick of speed
for burrowing into the core,
for mouthing pith and sap,
until the o my god at the heart. 
By: Jo Shapcott

My Mother's Perfume

Strange how her perfume used to arrive long before she did,
       a jade cloud that sent me hurrying
first to the loo, then to an upstairs window to watch for her taxi.
       I’d prepare myself
by trying to remember her face, without feeling afraid. As she drew
      nearer I’d get braver
until her scent got so strong I could taste the coins in the bottom
       of her handbag.
And here I am forty years on, still half-expecting her. Though now
       I just have to open
the stopper of an expensive French bottle, daring only a whiff of
which Jacques Guerlain created from the vanilla orchid vine.
       Her ghostly face
might shiver like Christ’s on Veronica's veil – a green-gold blossom
       that sends me back
to the first day of the school holidays, the way I used to practise
       kissing her cheek
by kissing the glass. My eyes scanned the long road for a speck
       while the air turned amber.
Even now, the scent of vanilla stings like a cane. But I can also smell
       roses and jasmine
in the bottle’s top notes, my legs wading through the fragrant path,
       to the gloved hand emerging
from a black taxi at the gate of Grandmother’s garden. And for a
       moment I think I am safe.
Then Maman turns to me with a smile like a dropped
       perfume bottle, her essence spilt. 
By: Pascale Petit

Without Me

Once, in the hiatus of a difficult July,
down Eskra’s lorryless roads from sweet fuck all,
we were flinging – such young sophisticates – like a giant frisbee 
this plastic lid of an old rat poison bin.
We were flinging it from you to me, me to you, you to me;
me-you, you-me, me-you, you back again.
And you would have sworn that its flat arc was a pendulum,
compassing Tyrone’s prosey horizon.
And I would have sworn that our throw and catch had such momentum
that its rhythm might survive, somehow, without me.
By: Leontia Flynn 


Who anyone is or I am is nothing to the work. The writer
properly should be the last person that the reader or the listener need think about
yet the poet with her signature stands up trembling, grateful, mortally embarrassed
and especially embarrassing to herself, patting her hair and twittering If, if only
I need not have a physical appearance! To be sheer air, and mousseline!
and as she frets the minute wars scorch on through paranoias of the unreviewed
herded against a cold that drives us in together – then pat me more, Coventry
to fall from Anglo-Catholic clouds of drifting we’s high tones of feeling down
to microscopic horror scans of tiny shiny surfaces rammed up against the nose
cascading on Niagara, bobbed and jostled, racing rusted cans of Joseph Cotten reels
charmed with his decent gleam: once we as incense-shrouded ectoplasm gets blown
fresh drenched and scattered units pull on gloss coats to preen in their own polymer:
still it’s not right to flare and quiver at some fictive ‘worldly boredom of the young’
through middle-aged hormonal pride of Madame, one must bleed; it’s necessary . . .
Mop mop georgette. The only point of holding up my blood is if you’d think So what?
We’ve all got some of that: since then you’d each feel better; less apart. – Hardly:
it’s more for me to know that I have got some, like a textbook sexual anxiety
while the social-worker poet in me would like her revenge for having been born and left.
What forces the lyric person to put itself on trial though it must stay rigorously uninteresting?
Does it count on its dullness to seem human and strongly lovable; a veil for the monomania
which likes to feel itself helpless and touching at times? Or else it backs off to get sassy
since arch isn’t far from desperate: So take me or leave me. No, wait, I didn’t mean leave
me, wait, just don’t – or don’t flick and skim to the foot of a page and then get up to go – 
By: Denise Riley


It started unremarkably,
like many regimes. We sat like children
making quiet things indoors. The rivers

burst their staves and soaked the folds mid-
country; they were schlepping people out in pedalos,
and punting through cathedrals saving cats. One lad

clearing out his granddad’s drain was still caught
when the waters lapped the record set in 1692.
Imagine. News-teams donned their somberer cagoules.

The house had more floors than we knew. In twenty years
we’d never spent so much time in one room. I’d no idea
you had a morbid fear of orange pips, or found French novelists

oppressive. On the seventh day, completely hoarse,
we took to drawing on the walls and staging tableaux.
In delirium all actions feel like role-play –

protein-strands against the ooze, the animals we made –
and rain, a steady broadcast on all wavelengths,
taught us everything we know about the tango. Only

when we grew too thin for metaphors was rain just rain.
We thought about the drowned boy, how he watched
the lid of water seal him in, for all his bright modernity.

Was it a Monday morning when the garden was returned,
tender with slugs, astonished at itself? Our joined hands
were the last toads in the ark. We walked, we needed news.

By: Tiffany Atkinson