The Oil Press – a poem by Fraser McDougall

The Oil Press

(Gethsemane)

There were no olives in that press
And yet, the wheel was turning,
No one to witness such distress
Not flames, but passion, burning.

Nobody saw the olive sweat,
Great drops, like blood, descending;
No fruits were crushed that night, and yet
The oil still flows, unending.

 

Fraser McDougall hails from Ayrshire, Burns’ country, and has been writing poetry for four years. He counts Norman MacCaig and Robert Burns himself among his influences, but also reads and enjoys a wide range of modern poetry.
Whilst it is his hope to see more of his works shared via both the printed page and electronic media, he rather more enjoys the immediacy and drama of live recital, since poetry is essentially an art of the spoken word.

To Be A Pilgrim – a poem by Tony Lucas

To Be A Pilgrim

Follow the dreamers, vagabonds,
the tourists and the true believers,
idly curious, always aware
your journey’s end may well
reveal a little less than
you were hoping to discover

– only a smallish hill,
worn stones, the trickling spring
filling a fern-hung basin,
buildings that enshrine
successive failures to contain
the dream in fluted stone.

The girl with Indian plaits
strums a guitar, cross-legged
on the grass. Unshaved,
a man with hungry eyes
gulps down the holy water
from a plastic cup.

You’re there among the families
with impatient children, groups
who sit in the sunshine talking
of money, music, the best place
for lunch. Once more
the grail has been withheld.

Always another destination;
the miracle will not be
any sudden healing at the waters,
or the touch of holy bones;
only persistence of elusive hope,
the appetite for journey.

Tony Lucas lives in London, south of the river. Stride published some of his early work, and he was a regular contributor to Ambit for a good number of years, among other magazines.  His latest collection, Unsettled Accounts, was published by Stairwell Books, two years ago.

Making the Road of Nine Days, Nine Nights – a poem by Rose Flint

Making the Road of Nine Days, Nine Nights
i.m. D.H.

There, beyond the gate
in the deepening cloudy shadows, there –
I am making a road of signs, way-markers

for you to follow, for I am told
there is a labyrinth to negotiate and evening
is fading quickly to blind black.

As the ancestors did five thousand years ago
I’ll bring the stars down to light your road
as white quartz pebbles; you will recognise

these nine small stones
curated from the granite dark, from knowledge
of tumuli and bone. Each names memory.

The first, for an old, trodden field, four-square
and sturdy with winter; the Hunter waits here
more luminous than at home.

The second, silvered with ice, a waterfall
that broke its neck. Three is shaped
by a red kite, wings alight over the blue hills.

Here is a stone to mark a frosted mountain
where even sour turf was glass. Here is another
that kindness has worn to a talisman.

Six is a hollow cup, held in our hands ring
all the stories, wild wine.
No stone for lament, seven sings joy.

The eighth is a far shore, flat and hot,
green rock for bronze; sun burning the sea
so blue it erases our winters.

The last one knows the way back.
It shines faithful as Sirius, on the jetty
where the boat waits with the ebbing tide

and as you row out into the dark, phosphorescence
surrounds you in a nimbus, a radiant blaze
bright as any meteor lighting up the years.

© Rose Flint

 

Rose Flint has worked as a creative writing tutor and was for 10 years Writer in Residence at Salisbury District Hospital, working in all areas of healthcare. She has five collections, including A Prism for the Sun (Oversteps). Awards include the Cardiff Poetry Prize and the Petra Kenney International Prize.

from ‘god is waiting in the world’s yard’ – paired poems by MTC Cronin

THE WORLD’S YARD

 

Right at the back of the world’s yard I am sitting. Happily watching the young woman on the balcony dangling a cigarette and a pink collar. She’s calling her cat who’s conducting a disloyal reconnaissance near a bunch of birds who’ve put down their shovels to have a smoke. Upright, black, in work hats, they swivel their eyes around, questioning the capacity of the clock. The girl yells that birds are ‘so obnoxious’. Hostile buildings shape the grey.

THE MARK OF GOD

 

What is a doll like? To a three-and-half year old: “A doll is like an old saggy thing or a new thing.” To a six-year old: “A doll is like a mini person but it doesn’t walk or talk.” To a nine-and-half year old: “A doll is like a girl that’s stunned by the image of something.” A doll is the real mark of God. What we make of ourselves.

 

MTC Cronin has published twenty books (poetry, prose poems and essays). Recent collections include in possession of loss (Shearsman Books, 2014) and The Law of Poetry (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), the latter of which was written over two decades. Contact: emptyseacronin@gmail.com.

Five Annunciations – poems by Rupert Loydell

Five Annunciations

ANGELS AND OTHER STRANGERS

Angels are too good to be true, the devil has all the best tunes, although you are more likely to meet a stranger than an angel.

Someone spoke of divine interventions, of redemption, but we are beyond saving. These days there are not many stories left that I have confidence in.

I can tell I am not greatly interested any more, may be speaking just so I can speak: phonetics meet semantics.

Open your mouth and words come out.

 

THE MOST VISIBLE WOMAN IN HISTORY

Models of appropriate female behaviour, doomed to fall short of their goals, madonnas are often glitzed up and a bit sexy, but all have human needs and wants.

Focus on sensuality and postponing parenthood, excluding women from the inevitable phenomena of nature, in order to represent the variety of ways women live today, confronting the conflicting roles they are expected to play.

 

CAMPSITE ANNUNCIATION

Mary’s living in a bunk house in the woods, open to the elements, hung with flowers and lights. She’s a good girl, puts her shoes in the corner, prays each night, is not surprised when an angel wrapped in a red blanket leans through the window and offers her a lily. Light streams around, from and through him. She is suddenly scared and shy, knows summer is at an end. She kneels beside her bed and tries out the words ‘mother, ‘god’ and ‘son’. Feels the small, square rug beneath her knees, then packs her things and goes to look for Joseph. He’ll know what to do.

 

 

 

META-ANNUNCIATION

‘My icon status is that of the mother. Artemis and many others precede me,
no doubt back to the stone age. The difference with me is passivity and sorrow.’

– Mary the Mother of God, Art Review

 

The art critic invents a voice for Mary the Mother of God and interrogates her about contemporary art and her role in the grand scheme of things. A friend of mine is more concerned that the why is missing, that the annunciation is simply a given and that our protagonist is caught up in something there is no reason for.

Perhaps she doesn’t know either, but doubt, confusion, incredulity are not enough. What is God’s motive? Does he have a convincing rationale? Do the angels never question? Perhaps asking questions of ourselves is enough?
Do not forget that these are poems about paintings, not a philosophical or theological debate.

 

ANGELIC DEPARTURE

‘Even on impossible journeys, we are not alone.’

– David Rothenberg, Sudden Music

The angels are leaving, taking a boat across the water, perhaps to find a country where people still believe.

One has already lost his wings, because they said he was an impossible idea, a religious metaphor for messages from heaven.

Neither angels nor heaven exist, of course. Watch the empty boat drift away from shore.

© Rupert M Loydell 2018

 

Rupert Loydell is a writer, editor and abstract artist. His many books of poetry include Dear Mary (Shearsman, 2017) and The Return of the Man Who Has Everything (Shearsman 2015); and he has edited anthologies such as Yesterday’s Music Today (co-edited with Mike Ferguson, Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2014), and Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: manifestos and unmanifestos (Salt, 2010).

Grail Ride – a poem by Caroline Shaw

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Caroline Shaw began her career as a journalist, later changing to a naturopathic health practitioner. The spiritual and the search for absolute truths have always underpinned her life’s journey. She also has a deep love of words, which she expresses in short stories and poetry. She is part of the thriving Stroud Poets community and is mother to a grown-up daughter.

Song for the Beloved – a poem by Thor Bacon

Song for the Beloved

I remember leaves above my cradle in the April sun.
It took all these years to find again the simple door
inside the light. I don’t expect to be understood.

Like Moses we were entrusted to the current
at an early age. I hope sapphire coffers await
any friend I’ve ever disappointed.

A luthier cuts outside the line, working inward.
A scared armadillo can outrun a man. They’re drilling
in Alaska! I cried and the Buddha kept smiling.

Arjuna the Archer takes aim and answers,
“I see the eye of the bird.” And what color, my son,
are the feathers? I see only the eye of the bird.

Singing your name on my drive home I saw
a doe nosing stubble corn; when I stopped she flashed away.
The grass grows warm where she beds in the grove.

Oh, Thor, why weep at another failed poem?
The Teacher says there’s no way to describe the ocean –
only sighing waves, and this taste of salt.

 

A native to Minnesota, Thor Bacon works as a goldsmith in his adoptive home of Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared, or will, in St. Katherine Review, The Aurorean, Scintilla, International Times, and elsewhere. His chapbook Making the Shore is forthcoming from Red Dragonfly Press, April 2018.

www.thorbacon.com

Shoreline Song – a poem by Mark S. Burrows

Shoreline Song

There’s a song the grasses know but never
sing, holding it in the secrecy of silence

on calmer days; it awakens only when
the winds stir up from the distances where

they wait and begin to rehearse again
the promises they keep. The sands know

of this, too, and the gulls, each murmuring
in their way while on and on the stealthy

dunes crawl, moving imperceptibly as they
drift slowly along the edges of the sea.

 

Mark S. Burrows is a theologian, poet, and translator. A longtime resident of New England, he currently teaches religion and literature at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Bochum (Germany). His recent publications include Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart. Meditations for the Restless Soul, with Jon M. Sweeney (2017); a new book of his poems, The Chance of Home, will be published in March, 2018. http://www.msburrows.com

The Car at 3 am – a poem by David Chorlton

The Car at 3 am

The three o’clock darkness is thick
enough to stir. Interrupted dreams
fly up to roost
in the attics of houses
along the street where a car
feels its way slowly to the point
at which it must turn back
into the land of wakefulness.
The animals who descend

from the mountain after dusk
are threading their way
between our sleeping lives.
They are ancient
in a city edging toward the future
without knowing which god
to follow. There are so many

books, and a different answer
in each one; the driver
cannot know which direction to take
as the headlights burn
holes in the silence. The unsolved

mysteries surround him. He is
undecided. The GPS system
doesn’t apply to Heaven or Hell.
But it’s beautiful here; waiting
for the desert slopes to rise
into the light at dawn; listening for
the first bird to call out
that he is still alive.

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and reflect his affection for the natural world. His newest book publication is Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

 

19. March – a poem by John Gimblett

  1. March

This eclipse, I remembered later, reminded me that night
of a jackal I watched skulking at the roadside late evening
in Diu. It fell into my frame with its stiff straight legs and
blurred fur, whispering into a hedgerow. In another place,
on another day, reedbeds played with another light; each
reed bent and bright pulled down Spring sunshine. Made
some trickling of shadows stutter like pale lace in the weft

with straws cross-hatching. There was a haze on the estuary;
no discernible meeting of water and sky, the whole maze
of seascape had become endless. And fine threads of silver
chalked flat lines that the sun caught, lifted them clear from
the mud flats and salt marsh, harsh spears suspended then
laid on their sides. When the moon passed away from the
sun the blackbird in the oak tree lost its darkness; the sun

became what it should be: buttery, freed from the cloak.

John Gimblett lives in Wales, UK, and is primarily a poet and novelist whose work has been published widely. He has read at the Hay Festival (‘The Woodstock of the mind’ – Bill Clinton) and elsewhere. His novels are crime/thrillers set mainly in my home city. #NewportNoir @johngimblett