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Smoke magazine - issue 44  Just a Click away
No ideas but in things C Watts | Meeting in Mogadishu David HW Grubb | Amen Glyn Wright | Cathars Marian Barnes | Developing Patrick Williamson | Semi-Industrial Landscape Howard Wright | we are come to this great stage sean burn | from Composition XIV Ernie Hilbert | Growing Afraid of the Dark Frank Dullaghan | Coming to terms Joan Poulson |Paper escapes Mike Jenkins | At cwm Pennant Kevin Crossley-Holland | Sand-pit at Smuggler's Pightle Joanna Watson
Smoke magazine - issue 43   below
The Nearly Extinct Bird Liz Atkin | House for Mr. Tiswas Daithidh Mac Eochaidh | Distances #4 (for John Lowery) Martyn J Lowery |Inheritance Owen Gallagher | Post-Modern Love Deborah Lavin | The Tempest Kevin Cadwallender | The Eating of a Unicorn Henry Normal | Slicing Aubergines Pauline Plummer | Upper Hand |Denise Bennett | The Joiner AM Forster
| Last of her generation Moira Duff | Days of 1984 Ron Caldwell | Small Autumn Julian Flanagan |
Unhappy Medium Geoff Tomlinson | Brahms Trish O'Brien | Dark Glasses of Memory Merryn Williams | The Sun In Your Skin Michael Murphy
The Nearly Extinct Bird
Its two most common habitats
had been railway stations and ports,
where it liked to flutter
sucking up salt tears
in the wake of departing trains and boats.
on rare occasions now
there might be a twitching glimpse,
a tissue shadow of its shape,
jesses flapping as hands
quiver aloft: empty gesture
to the farewell handkerchief.
House for Mr. Tiswas
Never liked walking home.
Only safe with the telly on,
wishing Saturday morning would last all week.
down the park, bottle of chored cider
gobful of Mum's distalgesics
feel your head go dead
watch Lenny Henry come from some
nearby bushes, stepping out as
David Bellamy, ho! ho! ho!
And your sister becomes a cock-sure compulsive liar -
never enough money in the house to chore to be a gambler.
And someone is walking round with cracked ribs.
And your mother plaster of Paris-ed
caught flirting again.
And your father's put the windows in.
And your step-dad's screwing some schoolgirl, top of t' street.
And all you care about is who get's flanned.
Maybe, any day, you'll get put into care,
even the dog gone mad biting himself.
And Lenny Henry's pulling some class Ras tricks:
one Tam and one Ooookaaay! smile.
Start collecting scars to wear on your wrist.
Chris Tarrant never had it so good,
but they got to him, took Tiswas off,
far too adult, they said, for us kids:
Trevor McDoughnut read it out on the news -
knew then childhood was finished.
Daithidh Mac Eochaidh
Distances #4 (for John Lowery)
This time I can't find your marker.
Names spill beyond the path,
Uncoded, like some mad
Directory of the dead
That few consult anyhow,
judging by the flowers.
Just here and there a plaque
Clutched at by a rose-stump
That never wholly took
Despite the council's promise
of tendered loving care.
Last visit I made more effort.
Diligently combed the maze
For a thin memorial text
Cemented like an algebra.
And finding it, considered
Words not too far from prayer.
Now the day's over wet, and memory's
A scrambled zodiac. What's left is grit
And the closeness of forgetting.
Besides, the timer's half-past full;
At that, tears squeeze out like stones.
Martyn J Lowery
Those are my father's shoes on his feet,
the style like dad, plain and neat.
The leather, soft and tanned,
lined like the palm of my hand.
The heel steeled with a plate,
an extra sole to take the weight.
After years of `polish `n' shine',
I long to wear what's rightly mine.
"Wait!" the old man would say and so I wait,
chalking his brother's life up on a slate.
Then I'll visit them both on a Sunday stroll,
wearing two pairs of socks and an insole.
"But we'll still be friends?"
"Of course. The sort of friends
that do not write and never meet
and if, by chance, they see each other,
at a party, or in the street
will not rush to greet
each other, but turn away. You'll see
that's the sort of friends we'll be
as we were the sort of lovers
that did not love, but wined and dined
all so arty and refined,
who kept a cat they overfed
and shared, while it suited them, a bed
For if we hadn't been together
we'd have been with someone else instead."
the worse for twenty years of drink,
really believes that this barmaid
who's heard it all before is the one for him.
Lurches up and orders one for the road,
gabbles some perfunctory remark
before slipping out top the take-away
and the usual clamy hand under the duvet.
And love is a forlorn hope in
this grubby little world,
and why hope for romance
when you're too old to dance.
catches a taxi to her mother's ideal home,
lies awake thinking of all the flotsam floating
on the head of a gallon of drink,
tells herself that amongst the drips who gather
around the drip trays there must be one
who is special.
Closes her eyes, thinking about
a jacket in Dorothy Perkins' window.
And love is a mystery to itself,
it is unable to contemplate how
low it has fallen.
And like every precious commodity
depreciates in the passing of days.
books a bucket seat
to some god-forsaken island.
The Eating of a Unicorn
So I'm eating this unicorn and I'm thinking this isn't right.
But you've got to eat haven't you?
So you tell yourself it's ok everone eats them
But you know that's not strictly true.
So you look for some justification, some strand of logic,
some attitude, some philosophy, however slim
But you know it still isn't right
So you think about minimising the damage
But you know you can't simply throw up and piece the whole
business back together
So you say what is done is done and you have to live with it
But you still wish you hadn't eaten the bloody thing
and wonder how you could have ever felt that hungry
or thought it a good idea
So you try to pretend it never happened,
that you knew nothing about it
and that besides you thought it was just a horse made up
But now you have to dispose of the body and in case it's
discovered you have to hide the wings and the horn seperate
So there you are breaking off the wings and horn
from a half-eaten unicorn at dead of night
We have never stood as close.
I turn my eyes from scouring
Your arms as we stir the simmering pots;
Better to concentrate on slicing aubergines
dark and plump as bull's balls.
It's safer to pare the crocodile skin from a cucumber
Dicing the pale green flesh
Till my hands run wet with its sharp juice
Than imagine the suck of your blasphemous tongue.
I peel the crisp skins of an onion
Like unbuttoning a freshly ironed shirt
Pulling it over the shoulders.
As you chop melon
The fruit pulp sweats stains in the crook of your thumb
But I must not attempt to lick it clean
And must also resist the temptation to dip fingers
In the thick flux of coconut milk
And rub thenm along the enamel of your teeth.
Slumped in the shop doorway
she silently busked for bread.
In the shop window
a trump card -
`Do not feed the beggars.' it said
`The council collects, distributes ....
we are aware of those without... '
Dropping a handful of change
to the woman -
I gave the benefit of the doubt.
Remaining in the doorway,
One calloused hand absently caressed
The carefully restored frame,
The other gingerly held the headed paper.
His dry smile was a dam,
Holding back prickling grief.
A resigned shrug. "The way it goes.
Bad timing, with the baby due.
And this time, almost through the gate.
The slight security of two years service."
As often before, the customer asked why
He doesn't go it alone.
The answer is crafted
Precisely as the polished homage to the past.
"The tools of the trade are expensive.
The pattern of work is threadbare."
But the truth is, business is a complex game
And his desires are simple.
He stood straight, stealing a final glance
At his work, before he disappeared.
Last of her generation
In satin silence.
Cold austere side room.
The minister says And Godda.
lifts his heels
holds thumb. cups fingers
as if to display a tennis ball,
Paul said For principalities.
Noo if he disnae hae a suit
or if he's drunk
he's nae tae hae a cord.
matter of fact
scoops a handful of earth.
When tennis ball and rising heels
says Dust to dust
the undertaker knows his cue
and chucks it on the box.
Days of 1984
I held you in my hand
and abandoned all hope
of making you poetical. You became
the iridescent quality of cotton at dawn.
In a drawer, facedown, your photo lies,
with tiny pinpricks in the corners.
Do you still hear the breaking waves?
Or the passing cars?
Love in Paris and you
that thankful pious boy
sleeping long in the evening
while I was out collecting
praise and blame. I hold you
now and ask repeatedly
whether the morning
will take you away again
tonight or one uncertain
day, years hence. And you respond,
eyes closed, with a faint groan.
I hear you, can feel
the centre of you,
imagine you at rest
in an hour, five minutes,
a year or now. I took you
and you came willingly
under my power or behest:
you will admire the faded
glassware the red-brown
curtains the chenille spread
or the tiresome pictures
anchored around us. I met
you in those places and we slept.
Our bedroom skylight
looks up at the plane tree lines
of a communal garden.
The leaves stepped down in crowds,
cautious as court shoes,
then long, tip-to-toe strides.
The gardener raked their thin,
into a harvest of pyres.
Tenants walked shoe-box dogs
through gates of the smoke
or watched it break on branches.
Sweet mines of it sank
from glass lips of skylight
onto our hardy, perennial bed.
Once, briefly, he drank philosophy, first draughts
of Locke and Hume and Kant and all the dead
opinionated Greeks. And Economics
he read for maybe a month, and kept on buying
uneconomic books. Psychology also
he turned his mind to, till it turned his mind,
knowing he hadn't the heart or intellect
for proud extremes. A happy medium, he.
Still, following Plato, he pursued the body,
stood in the starting-blocks once or twice, but then
took on resonsibilities, grew sluggish
and, long before his time, admitted defeat.
And, to be honest, didn't much care, time being
expendable on one thing much as another.
If the pies are off you order sausage and beans.
But love is proving different. Every day
he cares. Can't take it philosophically.
And, having so long neglected body and mind
he's up against the wall, believing in both.
Not strong enough, not bright enough, not what
a man consumed with passion ought to be
but stuck in the middle of somewhere, out on a limb.
'Cello, baby, I don't know what's the matter
with me, I can't settle tonight.
I'm not in the mood to watch the box,
too much sax and violins. Alright,
I'm missing you, your suite staccato laugh
and your teasing love in the morning.
Wait a minuet, how did you first
a choir the keys to my heart?
Oh yes, I remember, it was on that
P an' O line cruise, and I spotted you
in that breve bikini and that was it.
Instant harmony. Fiddlesticks, it was pure Liszt.
I'm trying to stave off these feelings,
but thoughts of you bring out my bass instincts.
I adore the way you quaver and treble
when I touch you. Going to view A flat
tomorrow, trying to organise myself more,
so you won't be all crotchety.
I won't harp on about being left alone, so
I'm off to the bar now. I can't get pzzicato
or spend much lute, as I've only a tenor,
B sharp babes, but always B natural,
and when you return, I'll give you
a cymbal of our love.
Dark Glasses of Memory
The white daisies turn purple as I look back
into the dark tunnel deeper below the surface.
I've been there before, an unhappy stranger,
frittering away the `best years of my life.'
The students and schoolboys stream out, wan faces over uniforms,
and white anorexic girls from hours hunched at their desks.
Coughing all night, they see illumined letters spin through darkness
as on computer screens.
I go back to that time in dreams, forsaking husband and children,
wander in and outdoors to avoid my vacant room.
Those streets lie in glaring sun or methane darkness,
the last twenty-five years have been blacked out.
Back to the sixties before light changed all the colours.
There they are, the innocent-looking young, in their best years.
Their flower-like faces as they swear undying loyalty,
small, deep cracks in their emerald.
The Sun In Your Skin
As the sun goes down, the sun in your skin
comes up. day begins again -
a pebble's hissing comet
spinning from your hand, dazzling
before entering the waves deep quiet.
w I've said it, which is the stone
and which the weight it leaves behind?
Night falls. The stars cool,
Breathe on them, love. Breathe.
Copyright in these poems is © the individual poets 1998