A further taste of what we missed…

…in March – Three poets from Cinnamon Press:

Heartbreak Hotel

You’re cold and tired and grubby
and struggling to know how to be
when you check into the Heartbreak lobby
to pick up the Heartbreak key.

It’s down on Lonely Street
inside a crowded quarter
your past is packed and folded neat
then handed to a porter.

The walls and carpets flash their logo,
sheets, and boxes of matches:
deeply its square tattoo
brands you with its H’s.

Straight away you are healing
when that pillow marks your head,
so where there was that feeling
there’s a corporate sign instead.

You broach the Heartbreak minibar
to chase away your distress,
peering through a glass of beer
at the Heartbreak trouser-press.

You check out but discover
it’s a chain,
you thought you’d erased your lover,
but now you’re checking in again:

the vistas diverge and climb
but you wear your brand on your sleeve,
where you can check out any time,
but you can never leave.

Ian Gregson


Heartbeat

Clutch and release, grasp, clinch and let-go
In a small part of this curving parcel of life,
Black and thorough in the frame of the machine

Needling an eye through the seamless pouring
Of love twined by two—I sing my first and my
Final song, a lyric I hear on a harp without strings.

All my nightmares have led to the dream of you;
All the lived, the viscid horrors, turn at the beauty
Of one who cannot be anything as yet, but true

As nightfall and sunrise, the light at its seam,
The bright corner where all things are enough, this choir
Of one violin, and a drum and a pea-small sound

Like the gabbling of gold from a golden halo. Half-
Moon, beloved nut—never was anything so round
As you, who walk down the leaf-strewn avenue of

The daft and singular cleverness of your mother
And I; the womb of your sturdiest ground, the bard
Quick to lose his tune, poor before the price of words.

Omar Sabbagh


Poem After Catullus

I live in luxury.
The water cooler vibrates cold.
Noodle-laced bowls

steam daily upon a table
I did not build. A bottle
of wine waits uncorked

whilst the clinic
obediently holds the line
as I consult

the colourful,
cascading blocks
of a digital calendar.

I live in luxury:
like a partially lit room
where anything could happen.

For a week I have lived
without poetry
and return to it now

with all the passion
of a lover begging
forgiveness finally.

So that one understands
not the misery of others
—none other understands—

but the luxury of the poem
inviting its way
into the daylight sun.

Where the word sunlight
matches the sunlight
upon the floor.

Where the word forgiveness
matches the forgiving
air of a partially lit room

where
any thing
could happen.

I am in the giving vein:
a choice among others,
having taken so much

from the world,
this world
I have not built.

Even the punctuation
has an impressed quality:
like moments of breathing.

And in that generosity
there has risen
a lungful of poetry.

And if we breathe,
carefully, may find
a heartful, a stomach even:

the strength of walking words
and the hips, thighs
and calves of the poem

whose kisses we have craved
not a hundred times
but a thousand more.

They may decry this poem
of poetry. They may.
Muddling the dissatisfaction

of a verse falling
from a ledge with any poem
of outward resemblance:

the surely remarkable
difference between suicide
and high climber.

But look to the last line
with its eyes staring like a tiger’s
blinking calmly in the daylight sun.

Edward Ragg


… in May

The Unseen Life of Trees.

for Esther and Jess

When the fraying skeins of silver birch
sway in the wind they think of
lulling water in the floating harbour,

the dried out plants on a deck,
the bespoke barge door cut to close
on a trapezium.

A sparse beech globe of yellow
holds an afternoon with two young friends,
who will walk through their vivid lives

beyond the end of mine.
A ball of mistletoe hangs
way up in spindle branches balancing

a trowel, a ginger cake,
and a framed copy of Jessop’s 1802
‘Design for Improving the Harbour of Bristol’.

Umber banks of oak climb the hillside
dragging children by the hand.
‘There will be time,’ they whisper,

canopy to canopy.
‘There will be time, before
all our leaves stretch out across the frosted ground.’

Chrissie Gittins
The poem is from her new collection Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams), available from the publisher and Amazon.


Keshite uchi wasurenai

I’d call you and you’d answer in grunts,
huh, uh, um,

and your step-father would despair
money wasted on French exchanges

our reward back home was huh, aw, gawn.
That was when landlines carried messages

but now on visits home you speak to colleagues
from a tiny phone in Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese,

And we have come to places to visit you.
We thought the door was closed on your past

but you left it ajar – on your bedroom walls
are photographs of haystacks, a farmhouse,

you in a rock pool with your brother,
the old oak that overlooks our house and

one of me with you, tiny, in my arms
taken with a polaroid and fading.

Keshite uchi wasurenai Japanese I’ll never forget home

Wendy French
To be published in ‘Bread Without Butter‘ from Rockingham Press later this year 2020.


Events

Sadly, all the events below have been cancelled and my hope is that it will be possible to reschedule them to new dates in the autumn and winter. I am leaving them where they are for the moment to whet your appetite… and I will post a few of the poems we will have missed for you to enjoy, starting with two poems from Two Girls and a Beehive by Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell.

All the very best to you all. Stay safe and sane!

April 28

West Greenwich Library
146 Greenwich High Rd
London SE10 8NN

TWO GIRLS AND A BEEHIVE
Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell will launch Two Girls and a Beehive, their collaborative collection of poems, due to be published by Two Rivers Press (Reading) earlier that month. The poems follow the life and explore much of the work of visionary artist Stanley Spencer, as well as giving voice to his complex personal life and the relative invisibility of artist Hilda Carline, his first wife. With projected images of the artist’s works.

Door opens at 7 for a 7.30 start. All welcome

May 12

West Greenwich Library
146 Greenwich High Rd
London SE10 8NN

Readings by the wonderful Chrissie Gittins and Wendy French

Door opens at 7 for a 7.30 start. All welcome

June 23

West Greenwich Library
146 Greenwich High Rd
London SE10 8NN

NIGHT WATCHED
Celebrating the Solstice with Graham High‘s poetic look at the Astronomers Royal, the inimitable voices of NJ Hynes and Simon Barraclough plus music by Alexis Bennett.

Door opens at 7 for a 7.30 start. All welcome