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honourable mentions - 2014

In his image by Clifford Hughes

Who can explain
this strange thing we do,
like hunting the stag,
like capturing bison
on a deep, dark rock face
with chewed twigs?

In the cinematic flicker
of melted tallow,
muscles twitch, white eyes stare
from rock that will grow like a thick-stemmed vine.

At the Cathedral by Seamus Harrington

They flood from the coaches
onto the monumental stairway
jam-up the side doors
dam the porches and passageways.

Crooked Pilgrims with long staffs
and over-sized back-packs
festooned with laundry
are forced to yield.

We muster on the left
line up for our Hosts
with the patience of Job
form a bottle-neck at the turn

by the nave. An elderly soul
with an orphaned sock,
glasses dark as the apostle’s grave
baulks at the bodily crush

next to an incensed usher
his semaphore arms,
veins bulge on his forehead
the colour of a pillar of jasper

a snap of his fingers
summons fresh reinforcements
his skill takes our breath away,
– a Canon and Curate

pressed into service
Chalices at the ready and full.
We peer in awe through the scent
at the thurible height

of groin vaulted hymns
flashbulbs fire –
as anchor-manly monks take up
the strain on the marvellous line.

A Relationship Survey by Lucienne Flavell

Across the table
you sink your teeth
into the purplish skin
of your past.

You found his profile
on plenty of fish
offering the pull of his lips;
your shoes in the background.

A row about the earring
you discovered in his car.

He held his head in his hands
and left his key on your dresser.

You turned over the mattress.

Your baby will never know
who her dad is.

Summer Holidays by Marilyn Francis

Hanging round the house all day
just waiting for something to happen
or for one of us to think of something
and all the time, time smothered us
like an overcoat in July.

And in that imaginary overcoat’s pocket
we found a tea-stained map that warned
of sharks and pirates and places where
there be dragons.

And in that un-ticking time we fashioned
a vessel, fitted it out with Smith’s crisps
and lemonade, cast-off across waves of grass
sailed salt-green seas of leaves to where
the map said ‘dig’.

We found a green saucer and a blue glass bottle
a small bird’s skull and a watch that had stopped.

San Martino di Griante by Rachel Davies

Imagine seeing that chapel from the Lake, clinging to the edge
of the mountain like a goat, how precarious it will look but it’s held
its nerve for centuries, since the Virgin ordained that this would be
the site of Her chapel, how the ancients knew the soul kiss of faith
to take on that brief, how all those centuries ago the builders sang
as they hauled stones up that track on the backs of mules, laid them
one by one to build the chapel, how they made the mule-track
a Via Crucis lined with shrines to the life of Christ, how one August day
I’ll decide to walk that track, visit San Martino of the Dizzying Heights,
how I’ll climb the steep path through olive grove and deer sanctuary,
past chapels, sun-bleached icons, the drying hay of wreaths until I reach
the last hundred yards, how the chapel will beckon me across a ledge
as narrow as a woman, a sheer fall right, a sheer wall left, how I’ll sit
trying to nail my courage, in the end turning my cowardice back
down the Via Crucis, where each of its shrines is an admonition,
how I’ll hear the derision of builders echoing down the centuries,
how your voice will be in their laughter, how I’ll come back tomorrow
determined to do it, how I’ll buy a peach as big as Venus as a reward
for touching the stones of San Martino of the Derisive Sneer, how I’ll sit
for aeons at the start of that ledge, talking myself into taking those steps,
how the chapel will tell me I can do it, how I’ll want to believe it, how
that peach will call out to me but I won’t break my promise not to taste
until I reach San Martino of the Forbidden Fruit, how relieved I’ll be
when two strangers will climb that mule-track, see me there dejected,
how they won’t mock but they’ll help me cross the ledge, take my hand,
stand one in front, one behind, walk me one step at a time till I reach
San Martino of the Blessed Achievement, how elated I’ll feel as I touch
its walls, admire its frescos, gaze at the lake below, how I’ll pick out
the trattoria in Bellagio where last night I dined at a table for one,
how Bellagio will shimmer in the midday heat, how at last I’ll answer
that peach, its juice sweeter than the fruit of Paradise, how one day
I’ll consign you to history like the peach stone I’ll throw away.

KOSOVO by John Gallas
‘a pennyworth of liver does not require a silver plate’ – Serbian proverb

The tanks rolled in, and so did winter. Ash
and snow surround what’s left of town. And we,
the quiet Brokers left to oversee
Regeneration, sit and watch the splash
of endless rain against the vacant glass
of some Opportunista’s villa. Lunch.
We take our satin seats and smile. A bunch
of china tulips ; chilly silver ; brass,
Belief and broken glasses ; drapes and NATO
dixies ; oils of Uncles ; chandeliers
and Turkish rugs. We could be here for years.
The tray arrives : we share a hard potato.

No one comes but Spring. The fields turn green :
unasked, unmoved, unsown, unsung, unseen.

- - - - - - - - - - *

Father by Samantha Weaver

Tottenham Hotspurs 2 Aston Villa 3
Rochdale City 1 Crystal Palace 2

The wireless always told me where you were—
weeding the beds below the conker trees,
behind the chicken shed scooping compost,
rising and falling,
raspberry bushes scratching
red dashes on your summer skin.
Those rough hands nurtured harvest in,
rested softly on your lap at dusk.

On other days the dial of the wireless
hovered between stations

a block of unfathomable noise
catching fragments

of poised conversations
as slugs slimed over the wavelengths.

Illness set in.
I no longer listened for you outside.
Watching cricket on repeat as repetitive as your
restless legs back and forth against the chair
as repetitive as your pacing in the hallway—
I could never really tell if you were there.

Left clambering for clarity, sunlight,
pockets of nostalgia
between the white noise
when you remembered I am your daughter I am your daughter.

The garden grew entangled as you shifted further and further
through your life,

pausing in childhood
and finally

at rest with the earthworms close to the
garden you planted,
it is here I listen to memory crackle
the berries and weeds.

Spider Spider by Samantha Weaver

I wake mid-sleep.
In the bathroom darkness and a
dark thing creeping.

Black fat spider swells up and down the bath tub
a gut bulbing with flies, juicy as a rotten glut of blackberries.

I am hypnotised as you heave, slip-climb the white expanse,
legs pronged for grip, scrunch up with each drip.

I would clasp shut all sight if only you didn’t
consume me
like a cobra to music.

You move,
I am frozen.
I move,
you freeze—
wired by our difference.

Then spiders in the south sun mending dawn away
spin survival rigging between
lavender, cat’s mint, forget me not.

One contortions about mid-air bowelling out
perfect circles one inside the other inside the other—
a thread ripple as weightless as sound
if you could picture a bell ringing.

And the allotment jump-starters jittering fast like ink
latent with elastic tension,
grass a springboard for summer’s cache—
midge swarms, aphids frantic for sacrifice to the

Arachnid Kingdom—
that works to threaten the darkness
in my head
with the ever-catching of light
in each web.

PETITION SITE by Mandy Pannett
‘The feel of not to feel’ (Keats)

Why do you post these messages
that say my help is needed
when all I do is click on ‘Send’
and hope it stops the bleed –

What makes you think my name’s a dove
that might bring down a hawk
or shower the torturer’s horse with wreaths
to halt the Death Row walk.

What kind of friend do you think I am
to those who are forgotten
for how can I share the plight of man
if I don’t face what’s rotten

as tragedy becomes a blur
of data that’s unreal
while an on/off button’s close at hand
and it’s easier not to feel.

Appeasement by Clifford Hughes

In the first frozen minutes of a new year,
back when I was seven years old,
I remember warming my hands over a heap of holly and mistletoe,
fresh from the parlour,
hissing and crackling in the yard,
and watching the man who would one day become my father-in-law
hold a wriggling rabbit in one hand,
while the other slit its throat, letting blood drip
on moonlit ploughshares.
To make sure it’s a good ’un was all he’d say. And his wheezy laugh
billowed out like smoke
to catch the stars.

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