Pushcart Nomination

Black MariahIt’s a tremendous honour to have had my poem “Harry” nominated for this year’s Pushcart Prize by the lovely folks at Sleet Magazine.

I’m very grateful to Susan Solomon, Todd Pederson, Jamie Buehner and everyone else at Sleet for their support. The Harry in question in this poem was one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet, so this nomination is particularly touching, and feels – for me, at least – like the perfect tribute to him.

(If you click on the link to the poem, please be aware that there are five stanzas, not just the three that initially appear. You’ll need to do a little scrolling down!)

Image: Black Mariah by FM.

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House of two trees

House

 

House of two trees

 

I see it every day through a car window.

It ghosts alongside like a stalled memory,

age uncertain, between drawn curtains

of teenaged birch, once autumn’s first gale

has shaved away their weak, buttery leaves.

Only its gable ends remain, a pair of

house-shaped symbols of wet, mossy stone,

linked by a low skirt of rubble, no sign of

a doorway or chimney-breast from this distance.

In each of what would’ve been its two rooms,

opportunist sycamores reach up beyond

the level of the eaves, and must form

a roof of sorts in full, late-summer leafspread,

but now join the hunched cluster of skeletons.

Sometimes there are rooks, crows, neither.

I return eventually to our home, twelve years young,

and backgrounded by those half-dozen acres

of pine, poplar, oak – their own sycamores too,

whose diaspora of seeds choke our garden

and gutters with saplings every spring.

And I can’t help wondering about time, the Earth,

the waiting game they’re playing with us,

the winning hands they’re inevitably holding.

 

first published in Liminality, issue 11, 2017

Aftermath of a minor collision

Aftermath


Aftermath of a minor collision

 
The damage is inconsequential, mere molecular exchange

that it’s not worth bothering to get fixed. Those fanned striations

to metal and polycarbonate. The cracked plate remains legible.

 

But then the talking begins, and you gate-crash the narrative

with your machined hair, your plastic-coated name badge, all its

accompanying officiousness, its way that things have to be done.

 

Oblivious to the audience, you circle, fucking vulture, hungry for

the programme to kick in. You don’t get it, do you? This journey

of ours through the asteroids? You have no idea what’s coming next.

 

 

first published in Thirteen Myna Birds, 2017

Three poems up at Stickman Review

Anthony Brown, editor of Stickman Review, has been kind enough to include three of my poems – “Driving around town, 2 a.m.”, “Eddie’s” and “In which you are still leaving” – in Volume 17, Number 1, which has just been released online.

Big thanks to Anthony for finding space for these three amongst some very fine poems indeed. I’d particularly recommend checking out David Lohrey’s “Saturday, the 19th or the 20th”.

 

Errands

Errands

 

Errands

 

When things were good and I still believed in us,

even the mundane obligations sang like whales,

and taking the wiry road down the hamstrings

of the island to its full-stop, on those bastard mornings,

a single cassette on the stereo to numb the losses,

always made unquestioned sense. Sometimes in

light hushed with pearls, sometimes with the blade

of the wind knifing clear to the marrow, I’d time each

arrival against the tide, sifting it for treasure, perform

the errands, light the fires. Then return to you, the road

now huddled into a spool of knees and elbows, the

mountain a tight wedge tripping over its own steps before

falling like a tantrum into the kettle-grey ocean below.

 

first published in San Pedro River Review, Spring 2017

Traffic report

Road ahead closed

Traffic report

From here you can see the future
– a free-market version of it –
but not exactly where it ends;
only where the blinking red eyes
of its tail-lights disappear, inching
like hope into the underpass.
Bunched in its sneering wake,
we are all indignant but resigned,
each rehearsing their part in a
symphony of rage. We’ve evolved
to breathe in nitrogen oxides,
metabolize particulate matter.
Somehow, none of us is where
we think we really should be.

first published in Thirteen Myna Birds, 2017

Going Home

Going Home

Going Home

Falling asleep on our journey back tonight,
you didn’t see how the sky was starred with a thousand geese,
spearing off in confused fragments to all directions;
some the usual south, others west, others even north-west.

Your eyelids flickered at the horizon instead, painting yourself a brief dream,
far away from the violent uncertainty of these last three days,
the astonished air still bruised with unspent cloud, above the washed earth,
the rivers of angry traffic still fighting their way home.

 

First published in Allegro Poetry Magazine, issue 13, 2017

Call me a bit slow, but…

Eggplant

Call me a bit slow, but…

 

…it was almost exactly two of those
old-fashioned, pre-decimal years later,
on the other side of the world, and I was
nursing a rusted old dragon of a truck
down a red road you could see streaking by
through the lacy floor of the cab. And it was
just after midday, because the shadows
were mean and riveted on, and I don’t
know why, but all of a sudden I realised
you’d actually meant what you’d said,
that they hadn’t been just giddy, disposable,
2 a.m. words you might say to almost anyone
at all, to be laughed off the next day, like dust
from a mirror. It was possible that if I eased
further off the gas, I wouldn’t get back until
everything was already picked and safely in
the chiller. And I wondered if those brahmans,
drawn and incongruously skeletal in such a
fleshy, civilised country, would be nosing
around in their paddock again, grazing on
fresh air, amazing me that they survived.

First published in San Pedro River Review, Spring 2017

 

Two poems at Allegro Poetry Magazine

Bird graffiti underpass

Issue 13 of Allegro Poetry Magazine has just been posted online, and includes two of my poems, both of which have bird elements to them, coincidentally. Many thanks to editor Sally Long for choosing to publish Going Home and Empty nest in this issue.

You can find both poems by clicking here and scrolling down to just before halfway (or alternatively, read them all – there’s some really great stuff there!).