New Writing In Various Forms, edited by Michael Blackburn

The Review is now on permanent sabbatical.

Many thanks to those who contributed.

The rest, as the man said, is silence.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Local History - a Poem by John Simons

Driving the A15 at night is like flying over Poland.
You see all the towns glowing on the plain:
Lincoln, Gainsborough, Brigg.
Poznan, Gdansk, Torun, Lodz, Wroclaw.
And then you see the bumps in the fields
And the buried villas and deserted villages of Lincolnshire.
And then you think of the buried names:
Lincoln Lindum Colonia, Brant Broughton Briga,
Kirton Linsdey Inmedio, Broughton Pretorium
Poznan Posen, Gdansk Danzig, Torun Thorn, Lodz Littmannstadt
And for Wroclaw, astonishingly, Breslau
Where the stripey-capped students,
Fraternal, cicatrised and Latinate,
Sat bolt upright in their seats and cheered
When Brahms rolled out Gaudeamus igitur.
And then you think of the buried boys
From Boston Lincolnshire and Boston Massachusetts,
From Lincoln Lincolnshire and Lincoln Queensland,
English, American, Aussies, Poles turning Germany into Poland -
Blacksmiths with mallets made of TNT -
The buried metal waiting for the detectors
In celeriac fields near Horncastle or Banovallum
Or tough grassed dunes near Gydinia or Goteshafen
Where the panzers first crossed the border
And everybody took the boat to Hel.
There was no rejoicing for them while they were young.
And I see them navigating the great plain
And steering by the fires of burning cities.
And in the houses from the Roman ridge
Twenty thousand Poles are fast asleep,
And, smiling, dream of history.

John Simons is Dean of the Faculty of Media, Humanities and Technology at the University of Lincoln. His interests vary from mediaeval history to cricket and animal rights. His publications include a monograph, Animal Rights and the Politics of Literary Representation.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

The Vanishing Trick - Short Story by Neil Grimmett

We picked this quiet, out-of-the-way pub for a drink and a moment to ourselves; maybe also for a final taste of the area. The place is so dark we have to stop and allow our eyes to adjust. It must be the normal thing, because the old lady behind the bar watches the two of us blinking and swaying without stopping drying the glass in her hand or changing her expression of boredom. There are four men and a blonde woman at the bar. The men are seated and do not bother to notice us; the blonde is standing at one end and I catch her look before she turns away. She carries on a loud conversation with the barmaid, which is obviously meant for the men, and now us, as is the short skirt and high boots.

We buy two pints of lager and move to a corner table which at least has a semblance of natural light gracing its cigarette-burned surface. Larry tries to pour some of the beer onto his wound. He looks pathetic. "Is it bad?" I ask.

"Still too numb to tell," he mumbles.

I had to drive him to an emergency dental appointment or we wouldn’t have been passing this dump in the first place. His teeth have been decaying for years. Eat more fruit, I used to tell him. It was what my father always told me. Too late now, I guess, like so many things. Though at least my teeth have stayed strong.

I see one of the men at the bar staring over at us. He is slightly built, with badly cut, short black hair and a mean expression. I imagine he’s noticed the way Larry is performing with the beer - treating it like a mouthwash - and is just curious; or possibly he’s taking offence, spoiling for a fight. The blonde has given up her performance and is lolling against the bar scratching herself as though there is no one else present. The walls have running brown stains and the low ceiling sags and flakes. "Welcome home," I feel like saying. "Welcome fucking back!"

We used to live in this ‘dirty old town’ years ago, though this would never have been one of our haunts. You would not have caught us dead in a place like this; we were the local heroes: the best band in the whole area. If you wanted to find us off stage you had to seek out the ‘hot spot’ - wherever that might have been. Because I seem to recall these locations used to change, mysteriously and suddenly, leaving behind those unwilling to accept that it had occurred. Larry always said that it had something to do with the nearby beach and its treacherous landscape of ever-shifting mudbanks. "The mud dance," he called it, and liked to imagine that we took the lead - always stepping out of the morass before the wallowing began.

The man, who has continued staring, slides his way towards us. I see the blonde half wake-up and try to cling to his skinny arm in its shiny, Oxfam jacket as he passes her. She pleads for something and he spills coins onto the bar before shaking her off and whispering a few words that make her straighten and turn to look. He moves to our little table. "I know you two," he says. "My name is Ric; we were at school together. You might not remember, but I do."

I don't recognize him, and feel certain there was never anyone called Ric from back then. Larry’s up before the man has hardly finished speaking.

"I knew it was you,” he says, “as soon as we walked in.” He embraces Ric for too long. "Just been to the dentist," he tells him, opening his mouth and pointing in as though it’s the most important thing in the world.

Ric sits down at our table and keeps grinning at me. "My wife," he says as the blonde shifts herself in front of a fruit-machine close to us and begins to feed in the coins.

"Congratulations," says Larry without noticeably looking over at her. “A real stunner.”

Now it is true that I am not very good at names. And even worse, I sometimes get them wrong and then persist in calling the person what I first chose, often for years. Most people think it's deliberate and done for affect - so I get away with it. Truth is, I have no memory of certain things that have happened in my life. No names, maps, or descriptions that could give colour or adornment to anywhere or anyone. Instead, I have a series of untitled photographic plates of actions locked behind my eyes. Usually slipping or stumbled exits, quick vicious snatchings and blows, the soothing touch brushed away. And I have a mind full of recorded echoes, a whole soundbite library of pleas and tears, beggings and apologies, the crying out for another chance or one more deliberate put-down. What does someone's name or the colour of a sofa cushion matter anyway?

Larry insists that he can remember everyone and everything. But on what level? I always ask myself. And for what gain?

"Ric," he is now spieling, "it must be over twenty years."

"Twenty-five since I last spoke to you," says Ric. "Twenty-five years since we all walked out of the same school. It was another five before you two left here for good. And still everybody talks about you. Now you just stroll in here as if it were only yesterday. I can hardly believe it."

"Look," I interrupt, "were we in the same class or something?" I don't really want to say anything but I can see that Larry is beginning to feel pain because he is now covering his face with both hands and sagging onto the table. "It’s just that I’m having trouble placing you, exactly."

Then Ric's wife hits the jackpot and the machine starts coughing up coins like it’s rehearsing a death scene for the local drama society. Ric leaps out of his chair and goes straight at her and they begin fighting over the prize. He scoops a generous handful of coins out of the opening and she does the same. As they try for more their hands meet. I see her long thin nails claw into him and he crushes her hand - hard and slow - so that hidden within her grasp those gold tokens must indent their congratulations in a fading red calligraphy. She slaps him across the neck and they entangle. The machine rocks to their rhythm and keeps on regurgitating its bounty. The men at the bar continue drinking without bothering to take a look; the barmaid carries on shining the same empty glass as when we entered. I cannot help noticing that the blonde has weals and bruises around the tops of her thighs and she is wearing the brightest yellow knickers.

"What did you go and say that for?" Larry asks me through his fingers as they continue to tango. "You can never allow anyone their dignity, can you? This is our past; this place, these people were all important. Nothing or no one exists without purpose and meaning. You are someone who has never really belonged anywhere. Now you have got them fighting."

"I don’t know who he is," I state truthfully. "Or what the blue fucking yonder you are going on about. Yesterday, you stated that the whole place was a shit hole and everyone in it was drained worse than you remembered." I could go on and say again whose over-ambition created the void we now live in, and that it was only his guilt over something from our past that has brought us back at all. But I know too well where that trail leads and how it never ends, so I let it go. Larry picks up his glass and tries to drink some beer as if it might be the last he ever gets. Instead, the fighting couple crash into his back. The glass thumps against his tingling lips and spills down his front. He groans. For a moment, I see the familiar darkness enter his eyes as he looks around, searching, I imagine, for the usually present road crew that would normally, by now, be dragging this character outside for a good beating. Ric and his wife stop and stare in fear at him.

"Sorry, mate," says Ric. "I'll get you another. And one for Kenny," looking at me and getting my name right. He stands there for a second watching his wife who is now crawling around on all fours picking up the spilled coins. I can read it in his eyes that he would just love to kick her tight, skinny, little yellow butt right out of sight. He fetches drinks, including one for her, and sits down.

"I heard that you were still living in America," he says. “Though there hasn’t been a record for a time.”

"We are," I say.

"There is one due shortly," Larry says. “It will be something different and we know our fans will think it’s been worth waiting for.”

They could have knocked the rest of his teeth out and he’d still have managed to spit that bit of bullshit out with the fragments.

I ignore him. "We just came over for a funeral," I tell Ric. "One of our oldest friends passed away…" and before I get the chance to say his name or anymore, Ric blurts it out.

"Paul," he says. "Poor Paul; so young."

Larry raises his glass and both of them drink a bitter and slow toast to the memory.

"I didn't see you at the funeral," I say. "I know it was crowded but I'd definitely have spotted you and your wife."

Paul's funeral had lined and stretched along the gray streets towards the dismal seafront where even the clouds seemed unusually sombre. There had only been a handful of close friends and family allowed in the church, but outside in the cemetery every morbid eye had been glaring. Mostly, I felt, at us. I had looked into their blank hungry faces as we’d trailed the pallbearers. I might have seen every one of them before, or never.

"We were stood just outside the church wall," Ric says. "It was as close as we could get. I said to Judith," he nods at his wife still hoovering up the floor, " That’s Larry and Kenny who used to be in the group with Paul."

"That's right," Larry has to add. "The Three Musketeers: all for one and one for all..."

Judith gets to her feet and joins us at the table, shoving and shifting until she is virtually on top of Larry. She has a tatty black handbag stuffed full of her prize and is clutching it between her perky little breasts as Larry ogles her.

"You two are famous," she says after draining her glass and shoving it to Ric for refilling. “We have all your records. You are really great.”

Larry never gets tired of this stuff. And it does not matter who comes out with it any longer, if it ever did. Everyone is equally qualified so long as they know the shibboleth (Larry’s name) and keep intoning it. In return, they will be granted the comfort of never hearing a contradiction or one syllable of fact about anything that may damage their dreams. Anyway, he could no more utter a truth like that than grow another tooth for the one he's just had yanked out.

"Famous," Larry agrees, "but not so rich as you today." He fondles her bag of money with a genuine affection. She is smiling in triumph at her husband; he is smiling in some sort of misguided pride at Larry's attention. I have seen this sort of thing so many times before, dressed up in every mask, that it hardly registers. I can tell by his claw-like hand and hooded eyes that if his mouth were up to it he would have her out in the car and spend a good hour shagging himself limp, while I made small talk with her husband. And she is fully aware of the fact.

"Are all those stories I've heard about you true?" she teases. "Were you really that bad?"

"Worse," Larry exclaims, and a blast of anesthetic settles over the table.

"And I have only told you the half of it," says Ric. "Some of the things that these two used to get up to I still wouldn't dare tell."

"With you and Paul," she questions. "You’ve said lots of times that you and Paul were part of it."

Ric looks awkward and guilty and they are both silent waiting for Larry to confirm or deny. He’s lost interest and is probing inside his mouth with one of his fingers, which he then withdraws to stare at and sniff before having another go.

"So what do you do nowadays, Ric?" I ask, trying at least to divert them from watching Larry’s disgusting display too closely.

"He's a magician," says Judith.

"Part-time," Ric adds. "Just setting out really; a new start. You have to learn to adapt these days if you want to survive. Well, you know that I was always the one for doing tricks, so I decided to go for it."

"So much talent," says Larry. "That's what I always recognized. Everyone of us had so much to offer. You, Paul, all of us winners in our own way."

"Especially Paul," I say, taking this chance to remind him.

"I could never understand Paul not staying with you," says Ric. "He was so lost and lonely after you went - walking up and down the street with his guitar case like he was always going somewhere himself. It was a bit of a joke, really. Even though he had the one hit."

Larry doesn't even flinch. "Tell them," I want to say, "how you sacked him. Or rather, as usual, how you got me to do it; me, breaking the news to him that he would not be coming with us after all."

"We never lost touch," says Larry. "We wrote most months. I was always listening out for him. I actually helped him on that song."

That much is true. Larry never lets go of anything or anyone. 'You can't win a prize if you don't buy a few tickets,' one of his great philosophies. It was me that Paul decided never to speak to again and blamed for abandoning him. The one who’d refused to dress up the truth in a load of flowery promises, letting him know instead the real reasons behind his being cut out of the group: mainly, the fact he was never going to become the ‘yes’ man Larry wanted and that his refusal to accept compromises were not part of the great future.

"He did a couple of shows with his new band," Ric tells us, "in the old club where you used to play. Hardly anyone bothered to turn up. It was quite sad. We thought he sounded great, though, and told him so."

Larry manages to look heartbroken for a second then begins to gargle again.

"I am going to be his assistant," says Judith. "I've got a little purple dress covered in sequins. I'm going to wear black fishnets and gold boots."

"Stunning," Larry exclaims, glad for the chance to re-inter Paul. "I would sure love to see you in that." Then, looking at Ric, "And your show, of course: rabbits out of thin air, sawing the lovely Jude in half, vanishing up your rope trick and all those magical illusions."

"It's mostly card tricks and sleight-of-hand," Ric explains.

"He rips up a lot of paper," Judith adds.

"Actually," says Ric, "I’m doing a show tonight, a short spot at the local British Legion Club."

"You could come," says Judith. "And see me in my outfit."

I see her shoulder move and know that her little hand is getting busy under the table.

"We'd love to," says Larry. "We’ll be a fair but critical audience, won’t we, Kenny?"

I give them my famous ‘coat hanger’ smile.

Ric looks stunned. I can see his mind working faster than his wife's boney and coin-stained fingers.

"I would really appreciate that," Ric says, it would mean so much to hear what you had to say; how far you think I could go. If there was any chance of...well, you know."

"Sure," Larry gasps.

Judith rushes off to the ladies keeping her back to her husband and almost skipping.

"She's pleased," I say. "Gone to slip into her stage gear, perhaps, and give us all a sneak preview. Or maybe she spilled her drink."

Ric looks at me as if he has suddenly remembered something nasty about me that he’d been hoping to forget. Larry looks as if he’s in pain again. He finishes the last of his beer with a slow swirl in his mouth. Ric immediately offers to fetch him another.

"No," says Larry. "We have to get going now. We'll have one tonight before the show. That is a promise."

Ric shakes my hand, "See you later," he says formally, then throws his arms around Larry. The men at the bar carry on sipping the flat-looking murk in their glasses and the barmaid has turned the empty one into a diamond that fills her eyes with its gleam.

As we are halfway across the car park the door to the pub swings open and Judith stands looking out. She has been putting on some make- up and tidying her hair. Her disappointment is clear. I see the smile fade and her mouth open as if trying to find something to offer. Ric comes out and, as I watch in the car mirror, he tries to place a hand on her shoulder. She shrugs him off, flicks her hair and fills the mirror with her form. I can see that she knows what is going to happen but stays proud and defiant, dismissing us as we truly deserve. Larry keeps his head down and dabs away with the huge wad of cotton-wool the dentist gave him.

Then he begins flicking away with his tongue into a space that is unfamiliar and his mind still insists is full of tooth. A bit like, I guess, trying to scratch a limb after it has been amputated, or praying that the dead hear regrets, or that ghosts would turn up to see you perform magic.

Neil Grimmett has had over fifty short stories published in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, India, and the USA, where he has appeared in Fiction, The Yale Review, DoubleTake, and The Southern Review. He has appeared online in Blackbird, Tatlin's Tower, Web Del Sol, In Posse Review, m.a.g., Word Riot, Blue Moon Review, 3AM, Gangway, segue, Eclectica and others, and he has made the storySouth Million Writers Notable Short Story list for the last two years. In addition, he has won the Write On poetry award, the Oppenheim John Downes Award three times, and two major British Arts Council bursaries. He is a member of the US branch of PEN, and his first novel, The Bestowing Sun, came out last year to strong reviews

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

* Donald Hall talks about wanting to become a poet. My wife wouldn't let me out looking like that.

* I'm not normally a fan of performance poetry these days, but I like this rough vid of Murray Lachlan Young doing a park-based rendition of Simply Everyone's Taking Cocaine.

* Obits: two poets died very recently - Lydia Tomkiw, a US poet; read Sharon Mesmer's tribute. I first heard about this on Martin Stannard's excellent ezine, Exultations and Difficulties. Lincoln hosted one of the gigs that Lydia was on with Martin and Paul Violi. I have photos. I may dig them out.

The other poet was Bill Griffiths.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

A Poem by David Lightfoot

Two Down

2. Liz hears me, disturbed
by this condition (10)

We'd have it done,
I used to boast,
and found it fun
before the toast

had cooled much. I
did clues across
while she would try
the downs. We'd toss

a coin to name
which half was whose
in this shared game
neither could lose.

I used black ink
and she chose blue:
bruised interlink
between us two.

But now it's not
the same: she sits;
I do the lot.
Without her wits

it takes me hours
but I don't mind -
with all these flowers
and Nurse so kind.

David Lightfoot is a retired Deputy Head and a former founder/editor of Seam magazine. His most recent collection of poems is Wounds Heal (Rockingham).

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Two Poems by Robert Etty

Raymond's Mother's Engagement Ring

Prising the nugget of mud off a tine
of the fork he was double-digging with
to set leeks in the plot that belonged to him now,
he didn’t dream her ring might be in it,

a marriage and more since it slipped her knuckle
while (she said later) she’d been pulling peas
for the dinner she’d fallen behindhand preparing,
when they both had to hurry to catch a bus.

He broke up its cast on the clay it was
made of, scratched off caked soil with his nail and pushed
a stick through where she’d pushed her third finger,
tilting her head, perhaps, as they kissed.

Then he folded a plastic bag around it
and carried it in his pocket home to soak
in warm water and Fairy Liquid
and watch mud float off its setting and shank.

It hung on a hook with some twine and his keys
until summer passed, and with summer its shine,
and he slipped it into a box in a drawer
for somebody with their own story to find.

The Afternoon Raymond's Mother Died

The moment it happened, his black old cat woke
in the kitchen and stepped to the doorway
of where she was lying in white cotton sheets
she’d been too still for days to crease very much.

It started to wail from deep in its throat,
with its jaws half parted and whiskers splayed.
He opened a window and dropped it outside
and telephoned Alice from down the lane to come

over and take things in hand. Then he put on
his jacket and walked to the gate at the top
of the track that led through the fields
where blackberries were that they’d picked together,

and milkers Keith would round up before long,
to the sewage farm near the trees at the end.
He poked along hedges where hips and haws
signalled that this was the end of a season

it seemed they’d rehearsed the end of each year
since she’d moved her bed down to the sitting room,
where the sunshine beamed in on a summer day
and she read Woman’s Weekly and slept.

Alice was finishing off at the house
and the cat scraped its claws down the jamb when he came.
As he let it inside, it howled, sudden and loud,
as if no one had howled yet, and somebody should.

Robert Etty's latest collection is Half A Field's Distance, published by Shoestring Press. Rob lives in Lincolnshire.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Three Poems by Helen Kitson

Red on Yellow

When I get out of here I'll never wear yellow.
That's the colour of the dress they made me sew.
Make it loose, they said, it's got to last.
The idiots and imbeciles wear anything -
Only the unmarried mothers wear yellow.

I'm no use with a needle but I made my dress.
Put shame in every stitch, they said.
Every time I did a seam I longed to tear it,
Fling it at the smug bitch in charge.
Not so pretty now, she said, when they cut off my hair.

They pester me with questions.
Was he married, and if not where was he? Had I tried
To abort this baby or any other?
I didn't tell them how I'd fallen downstairs
And how mam had found me, and how we cried together.

I broke her heart and I still don't want this baby
But I won't be ashamed of it, even when they sneer
At the gap where a father should be.
When mam comes to see me I try to hide my belly
And she never hugs me when she leaves.

My waters break when I'm chopping onions.
I ignore the pool I'm stood in. Maybe if I pay no heed
It'll go away. My hands shake so much I cut myself,
A gash across the top of my thumb.
Knives clatter to the floor. The blood won't stop.

I'm every woman, it's all in me

Her eyes are hidden behind sunglasses,
Her hair beneath a black chiffon scarf.

She wears gold hoops in her ears
And she dances barefoot in a circle.

In the mirror she leaves no reflection.
A trail of gold-dust marks where she's been.

In a puff of smoke she disappears.
Mirror mirror...oh yes, she is the fairest

But is she real? Was Marilyn a size sixteen?
Is every blonde born that way?

I have been into the forest for Snow White's heart.
I am not a man - her tears don't melt me.

Into the casket goes her still-pumping heart.
Not so pretty any more, is she?

But in the mirror, it's her face that stares me out,
Laughing at me. Born again, from ashes,

From glitter and sequins and mud.
She leaves lipstick kisses on the glass.


The sun catches the glass and spills into the room.
Dust motes flicker before my eyes.
We fall together on the old-gold eiderdown,
Coughing from the billowing dust. Ancient bed -
A deathbed. You put your hand over my mouth
To muffle my obscene giggles. No place for this.
And me, mock-sorrowful, but the sun's persistent,
It makes the eiderdown flame, it glints like metal,
Yet feels soft, welcoming as a nest, a feathered bed.
Your eyes on me, mine stray to a painting of my great-
Grandmother. Dusty hair in a bun. Jet earrings.
Her fingers like sausages. Whoever painted it
Couldn't draw. Her eyes avoid mine.
She smiles and looks away, leaving us alone,
Offering no comment, no judgement. No love,
After all, no recognition. You trace the shape
Of my face. Is it like hers? Can you see her in me?
You tip my head so that light falls on my throat.
You drop a kiss. I shut my eyes, but I see her hands,
Thick, with one ring, the wedding one. I hold
Your fingers, and kiss them; light falls, through the dust.

Helen Kitson lives in Worcester. Her most recent poetry collection,
Tesserae, was published by Oversteps in 2003. Currently seeking a
publisher for a collection of poems with a genealogical theme. More on Helen at

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Four Poems by David Crystal

The Outing, Part Two

On the bus to Prestbury Park
I took a photo of my Dad’s right ear.
The ear looked like Yasser Arafat’s lips.
He didn’t like the likeness and drank harder
from the half-full hip flask; horses picked
in a list he kept to himself, the wrong grey
in the wrong ground, too old and ring weary
for the Irish banker, 6 lengths too good
in a weak race for favourite backers.
Talisker, Lagavulin, Highland Park
Yasser's lips hearing all the wrong whispers
in the silver ring, the sun and rain man on Cleeve Hill
fading with the light and our horse’s chance
pulled up lame before the second last.

After The Penalty Shoot Out

I watched a parakeet dart over the elder
heavy with flower and feeding pigeons
my feet in a carrier bag of crushed Stella cans.

You’ll never catch a trout in an oxbow lake
and a ptarmigan is far prettier in real life
than the much loved photogenic grouse.

The Swede has the eyes of a jackdaw and the breath of a carrion crow.
Let’s puts the bird on the barbecue, and drink until twilight.
At midnight a three legged fox will prowl for scraps.

The Man in the White Suit

staggers out of Café Pacifico, wind catching his hat
one hand high like a rodeo cowboy. Masks, shells, feathers,

stones, now without the travellers tall tale
faces in a blue smoke language, vodka till birdsong.

All a blur at Christmas drinks puddings first and fuck the soup.
Still drinking with the dead Mexican Rico?

The Merlot Mix
im Barry MacSweeney


Lapwing, curlew

poets of the moor
poets of the lonely song

A hen harrier swoops
catching nothing
but wind
ghost songs
only the swift


Stone skimming at Wylam
one just inches short
startling egg hungry stoat
stalking a moorhen nest

Bunting, Bewick, not a whisper
on home ground just a Burberry lad
cider daft bashing an eel to bits

sprayed on a home made flag
staked outside his home made tent


Arrested for killing and roasting a swan in Henley-on-Thames
A boy from Crow Wood is detained for psychiatric assessment.


The man in black on suicide bridge
owl feather for cider punk with pet fox
off to Camden, snout hot for Dylan bootlegs
no kingfisher or rare blue moth
just words for the notebook Odes
work in progress left
and found again in The Dublin Castle
a poem written in air on Primrose Hill
for workers, lovers, for grass arena ghosts
for anyone walking the line.

David Crystal was born in Prudhoe, Northumberland in 1963. He has worked as literary editor of DOG, a magazine of new writing and had his work featured in the Body and Soul exhibition at the ICA. Just Like Frank, his second collection is available from Two Rivers Press, brilliantly illustrated by Ian Pollock.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Three Poems by Judi Benson

Annie’s Swimming Lesson

She says she taught me to swim,
though teaching never came into it.
Plonk in the deep end,
relying on my need to breathe to bring me to the surface.
Did she count? Up to what?
Did she lose count,
get distracted by the hunky Life Guard,
leaving me to grow gills
on the aquamarine bottom of the pool.
Depths became my natural habitat,
while she skimmed the surface:
Oh look at the sails on that ship, whooshing past.
Still, I thank her for her rough handling of me,
inadvertently teaching me,
not to swim
but how to survive her,
find my own depths and keep breathing.

Love’s Logic

That first winter
I thought of digging you up,
couldn’t bear you down there shivering.
I was too mean in the end
to bury the blanket that I’d made.
Something from home, you’d said.
I’d get a spade and just….
What did I expect to find?

I’ve thought about that too
and what if it’s not you,
some other body or a box full of rocks –
not box, bamboo, a basket,
as if you were a Moses baby
afloat in some state of drifting
down a slow ribbon of water,
in another world we can’t see,
sunshine, leafy shade, shadows,
ribbles of wind, just there.


Twenty-five photographs
and not a single sound or word for it.
Some bird twittering.
White geese in a green field.
How to capture the blankness of sky,
what to do with it.
Not a single break in the foggy mist.
I stride along the path
beneath the bower of leaves, my gait
smooth as that duck’s glide on the glassy-eyed Nith.

And so, the green blinds me
refusing to name itself.
The Galloway hills roll and roll
trying to rise above the mist,
and the river runs its reflections of spectacular trees,
each a tangle of branches with leaves stuck on,
all competing to be the brightest ones.
Light, air, flocks of geese
struggling towards an alphabet that only sky can read.
Yes, my eyes are assaulted with all this, and pine too,
but what’s it matter without you.
I’d say, look at the smoky mist,
and you’d say, I’m part of that mist now.

Judi's poems have appeared in many magazines, anthologies and collections and for a number of years she edited Foolscap magazine. Her latest book is The Thin Places, published by Rockingham Press. Until recently she was a Writer in Residence at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary. Despite being Miss Di Nosaur when it comes to the internet, she actually has a podcast of some of her poems (and a fuller biography on that site as well). She lives in London.