Smoke magazine - issue 42  Just a Click away
For my daughter on her seventeenth birthday Richard Hill | Nante Joel Lane | Budgie Margaret J. Cooke | P is for poetSteven Blyth | Fig, 1 Michael Cunningham | Home Again Finnegan Marc Swan | Secret Letter to poets U.V. Ray | St John's Point Paul Finn | Dispossessed G.F. Dutton | Viking Cat in the Dark Helen Dunmore | Did he ever dream Mary Maher | California, Present Day Glyn Wright | Monopoly Jean Sprackland
Smoke magazine - issue 41  below
From Life Lizzy London | At Rest Pam Daniels | Signals John Siddique | In Darkness Margot K Juby | Song of the Ram Nicki Jackowska | The Length of the Dances David H W Grubb | The Question Rus Mickle | after the accident Paul Bavister | Colin Honnan /Gas Victims | Jarrow at War Derek Woodcock | The pig the man the child and her motherEleanor Maxted | Dream Diary Mark Cress | Christmas Eve Isobel Gamble | Kevin answers a couple of questions Cliff Yates | Tala Deborah Lavin | I am not Eve Janet Ormrod
| 40 Something Part 3 Linda McGowan | Quick Quiz Susie Mac
I have a mother
who cares for me
I have a friend
who loves me
I have a job
that feeds me
I have a lover
who likes me
I have a god
that needs me
I'll have death
to save me
He died in the small back bedroom
in the warmth of the spring-time sun,
that smiled through the frosted window
at a hard life's work now done.
Downstairs, his large old bicycle
lolled at leisure in the hall.
The children saw his nakedness
as they peered through the crack in the door.
The big hands, grown calloused and thick-nailed
from gripping his roadsweeper's broom,
now curled like petals, and his head on the pillows
lay like a pearl in its womb.
They saw the sun bless his body,
and said not a word to each other.
They left him alone at his rest
and crept down to wait for their mother.
I talk to my wife
he's on a tv screen.
We talk to the world
we're on their tv screens.
The whole earth fires radio out
Martians are getting down to
Every ship to shore.
is now out there.
Who will they think we are?
I do not know
what you are in the dark.
Your head on the pillow
next to mine
might be the jackal-head of Anubis.
It might be a skull.
I know you only by touch
and skin and hair can be deceiving.
Your sweat feels cold to my finger.
You could be a god, or a corpse.
I lie awake in the dark
and strain to hear the purr of your breathing.
Margot K Juby
Song of the Ram
There are many thresholds; beat of the carriage door
as it labours wide and we lunge at the Beacon's vast
and hump-backed stillness, pricked by the moon's gasp.
White-thrown daisies snatch the tables into light
a threshold not unlike the moment plucked out of night
when you thought your eyes were out, put out for good,
nursery's trickster feeding a child his terrible glamour.
The childhood gift of darkness reeled into a curse
and there was no more music left to make these petals
leap and burn, the way they do when you can hear
the waiting and the scent, and her voice piercing
every daisy's-eye, a high thin needle to your once
upon-a-time and all those caravans that didn't make it
out of deserts and the white dress ribbed with rust.
I'm not afraid, she said, though not with voices.
Not yet completed, she'll admit it, rasping her
blues against a Michaelmas lament, and stop that thing
before love rules us. The frisky landlord plies
his hammer out of time; he can't quite strike it
the note that ends it all, the blackout drop
the final curtain; still she's lending all her sound
to the world's multiplication, stubborn chorals
striking new metal every time that first light sucks
at the folded tissue, sneaks on an undertow beneath
our dreaming lids and dares the tongue to curl around
the knot, that bastard heart of it.
The length of the dances
The length of the dances,
that's what I'd like to imagine.
Suppose it's grandfather; he'd start after breakfast
and go on until an idea for a sermon struck him.
And my father, he would have danced until he had
to stop for a cigarette or another glass of cool milk,
or the dance music became a hymn and not for dancing.
And my mother, oh she'd dance until she saw herself
reflected in the window glass and get embarrassed and consider
it too fanciful;
but she'd keep thinking back. And
Sam Frost, the gardener, he'd put down his scythe, slowly
and deliberately and take up the music where it was and cradle
the idea in his mind and keep moving deeper and deeper into
the notion of the dance, the supreme pleasure of it,
until the house lights went on and the old had gone home
and he had danced down a track with a young woman
and was never ever going to come back. we could hear his
dancing even when we'd lost the sound of the music, even.
David H.W. Grubb
Breezy, she said. The grass
flattened its ears and howled. Trees
cracked and hauled branches. Leaves
clattered off their moorings in mobs,
heeled over with the wind,
snapped headlong northwards steeply.
he agreed. You're used to it, no doubt.
You could say that, she said. The house
hunched and listed. Windlowers and brambles
buffered the orchard wall. Bundles
stumbled from the dovecot, snatched open.
It suits you,
he offered. You look like a gypsy.
Gulls scattered past like wedding rice.
Sheep scudded in handfuls over the wheatfield.
Tufts of cloud tore out of the sky.
a new headscarf, she replied. Stones
creamed into wind. Streams champed and stalled.
Rain skittered, fretted. Drumlins
weighed anchor and eddied away. Tell me,
he asked, do you have problems
with the garden? A hedge shredded round them.
A touch of late frost,
she said. We're fairly mild.
The world stripped off and blew in tatters.
I notice you grow quinces, he observed.
After the accident
tried to talk about it
but a few words had gone
important ones -
did tests in asoundproof room
listened through headphones -
when sounds matched the screen
pressed buttons -
a link between letters had gone -
they didn't have pills for that -
sat watching TV for a year -
slowly the adverts made sense
Look into their faces
coarsely creased by fatigue
with that polished swollen look
punctured by wars; swollen-ballooned.
peace-light bleached khaki and men
pressed like steers on barbed wire
shelters of unfolded cloth or worse.
You can see what Nobel was up to of course;
guilt makes you endow great literary prizes
and gas-hospitals and surgery
have always triumphed on the back of arms.
It's progress of a sort; peace has them by the throat
and what Vickers tried to sell them has been bought
by youths sprawled bleeding on the black asphalt
all day long feeding the endless belt.
Jarrow at War
Suddenly the Heinkel killed the light,
a monster scaled with black crosses
growled, gnawed the rooftops.
My father, his father, his brother, collapsed
in a heap, a picture faded by the years
as old ground became a skyline,
another fly-over blocking the sun,
scrawled swastikas still hidden in the shadows.
The Pig The Man The Child and Her Mother
Though she moved from place to place
she could never lose it:
would come across it without warning
in locked drawers
or hidden rooms, and find
the colours were as red, as white
as on that far off day
when trailing home from a music lesson
one sandal on the kerb
one on the street
she looked down a side road by the butcher's
and forever after had the picture
of a pig, taut as a pink balloon.
running down the tailboard of a lorry
its face turned up towards a man
in a white and red coat
who grabbed it by the tail.
She never saw the knife
only long scarlet streamers:
always heard the screams
above her own
as she ran home to find her mother
who was cutting up ham sandwiches
for afternoon tea; placing them deftly
on a white paper doily, garnishing them
with lemon and parsley, and who told her
not to be so silly.
Selections from my dream diary
I am at the top of Nelson's Column. Some teenagers are doing precarious stunts, hanging on with one hand, pretending to fall.
The whole scene petrifies me. The wind picks up and below me I can see London crumbling, bit by bit, everything cleared away by the wind. One by one the daredevil
teenagers are sucked off and carried away. About to lose my grip I fling my arms around Nelson's large stoney head. He turns round
and kisses me and when I look down there is nothing but sea.
Somewhere in the Antarctic my Dad turns to me.
"This is where we sink." He points to a bomb, just a tiny dot, falling towards us out of the sky. There is a huge explosion
and we start going down immediately. The whole crew are now in a state of panic and we watch them jump into the freezing water.
"Him, him and him," says Dad, "They are the dead."
Swimming through the ice to a lifeboat he tells me which foot I might have amputated.
"They snap off quite easily," he says.
We catch a seagull and eat it raw while he tells me about the time he met Orson Welles.
We don't seem to be going anywhere until, eight days later, we catch sight of Nelson's Column, the top of it just poking out
above the waves. Dad salutes Nelson as we drift past then he tells me about Orson Welles again
and I think of the lions, somewhere beneath us, silently guarding the ocean floor, covered in barnacles.
He could pull their necks - it
Wasn't everybody could do it -
Hang them downside up,
Baler twine around their legs
And foriegn feet; a body tremor
As the head lurched towards his feet,
Clouded eyes, silent beak.
My mother would stand up to her oxters
By the jaw tub, her hand lost in its throat,
Swilling intestines and guts into a bucket -
Water snakes. A glimpse at the puckered skin
Skewered with pens and I would
Creep to the living room, nauseous at the smell,
Stick my nose into abook,
Maybe help with the vegetables later -
Giblets were good for soup.
They coped well with blood on their hands
And celebrated the day after.
didn't respect me
or the truth - never
whole never naked
for even in the nude
he wore a toupee
fooling nobody but me
till the day i made
him tug his forelock
From The Pool Poems
(.. a three-headed bloke lives in the pond. He comes out at night
and sits there, singing... from Socks by Ian Macmillan.)
Kevin Answers a Couple of Questions
Disguise? On the streets I wear a raincoat
even in summer; two heads tucked inside,
sunglasses on the third and I walk by the kerb.
Dangers? i nearly suffocated once, shoulder to shoulder
at Villa Park during extra time. And there's head colds.
I'm in HMV say, thumbing through the albums.
suddenly I sneeze in stereo ... lovely girl
behind the counter can't make me out,
coughing and hawking from the head in use,
sweating like mad and heading for the door.
I was a gardener once for the National Trust.
The best bit was shifting the bees, all piled up
and drunk on nectar. I'd shovel them in a wheelbarrow
and tip them around the corner out of the way.
It was the best corner in the whole place.
If no one was around I'd slip out the other heads
and sit in the sun, just me and a few hundred bees
nodding off among the rhododendrums ...
They couldn't believe how well I cleaned out the pond.
That's how I lost the job; one afternoon
they thought I'd drowned, started looking.
I was a fortune-teller after that. Don't laugh,
I was brilliant; Happy Familiies cards,
nice big shawl over two heads; great. I got
a reputation as a medium after muttering in 2 heads
at once; they just couldn't work it out; voices,
out of my armpits! I told one lovely old lady
on a zimmer frame that she was pregnant.
"I think you're wrong there dear," she said,
"We put the tools away years ago." The chemist
down the road sold more Clear Blue pregnancy testers
those few days than all year round;
if they'd agreed to give me commission
I wouldn't be here now.
Her face, El Greco green
as death was coming to her, hard, unclean
A turbulent life compressed to this
needled and tubed from every thin,
parched limb and orifice
a terror, icy to come near
!Ayudame! screamed the savage, silent eyes
but no help came, or could; just the lies
"You will get better, you will see Spring again"
But you will not,
the implacable monitors beat out the final truth
old age itself, passes like youth
Dios te bendiga, y adios, unwise and troublesome old lady
full of such, too late regret
watched by paid strangers, in a strange speaking country
May the God you did not believe in, receive you yet
I am not Eve
You came scrumping across the garden wall
Whooping with delight at the naughtiness of it all
Carelessly took the sweet forbidden fruit
Wiped the sticky juice on your pinstripe business suit
Left without a word as the violet bruises flowered
Far beneath the skin the unripe fruit was soured.
40 Something Part 3
is music now
over the muesli.
giro happy 3pm
have stolen me
turned me into
jeans ad heaven
just a product
packaged, canned, bland, safe .... marketable.
1) What do you do when the spark has gone?
a) Plan an affair, or
b) Pull out your hair
2) What do you do when the magic fades?
a) Pack all your bags. or
b) Smoke all the fags
you can find
3) What do you do when the hugs disappear?
a) Look for the nearest man, or
b) Down the last can
4) What do you do when he doesn't notice you're there?
a) Jump around the room in the nude or
b) Act disgustingly rude
for a change
5) What do you do when the partnership's dead?
a) Buy a big mad hat, or
b) Don't care that `that's that'
for you both!
6) What do you do when the melody's gone?
a) Write a new tune to the words. or
b) Sing along with the birds
as they fly
7) What do you do when your heart doesn't flutter?
a) Make up a new beat. or
b) Keep stamping your feet
to the old one.
Copyright in these poems is © the individual poets 1998