Pamela Uschuk




A Siberian Cold Front Takes

Over the Last Week of April


Siberia, I do not need your clouds today,

impaling me like a fork in a cheek.

Not that you don’t feel free to crowd my life with ancestors,

memories of bear paws and shrill white distances

cracking the civilized seams of my brain.

Today, Siberia, my head aches with your steel humidity,

cold as a slug’s mucous skirts,

slick as the stone pipe of a shamanka.

I’d like to refuse your telegram.

I am not the she-bear taken as wife by a man.

I will not give birth to the bear boy hero

who’ll save the tribe.

Take back your message

to the grandmothers who poke at the ashes

of my end-of-the-century thoughts.

Tell them to pack their travois of Arctic wind

and haul away the dull gray blades of these clouds.

Hurry on. Skip my generation of stars.

At the lip of spring

chapped by your kisses,

the numb thud of your heart stunning wisteria, tulips,

the bulging red buds of peonies,

time is short.

I fall daily in love with impossibilities- -

the screech owl flying in front of the new moon,

the rufous hummingbird who puffs his throat

like a lung of electric carnelian

through the window,

the man shaped like a grizzly bear

but I know that

just as I feel my womb contract

troops are massing on the other side of the globe

for another war

too quick for even their long talons to stop.



from  the drunken  boat





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Nessa O'Mahony





Day Trip to Warham


for Henry Cleverly

A chalk hillside, carved centuries ago

so men could watch the sun

and plot destinies by its angle.

I watch it now, my head filling,

the world narrowing

to an acute.  

You are beside me.

I sense the human need

to turn and look but

am rivetted by light,

by an effort too great

to face you.

There's a distant fear;

a shape-shift to something

twitching my tail.  

Voices turn inside out,

an empty glass clutched

to breaking point.  

The light is too great

for filtering through semi-circles

of chalky grass.

Somewhere, miles away,

there's me, clamouring

for the dark.





24, rue de Cotte


for Finola O'Mahony

You depart in a whirl

of last minuting -

reminders of what to do,

of where to put myself.

Then you're gone, leaving me

to climb the four flights,

the ancient wood curving into itself,

held intact by two centuries of footfalls.

My feet must make adjustments,

to the climb,

to the six-sided floor tiles

in your apartment.

I'm still slipping,

and though you're not here

to pick me up,

I feel you in the mint walls;

the four roses drooping

after a night on the town;

the champagne stock-piled;

the sibilant hiss of the stereo

tuning into jazz.

And in that family shot -

we stare straight ahead,

you, the only one

not looking at the camera -

keeping a benign eye

sur la petite soeur.





A writer's life


I get to the Ferlinghetti part

but my eye keeps

from the print to the tiled floor,

to the powder crystalised around a cigarette-butt,

to the large madame checking the séchoir,

rippling the air as she shakes out sheets

she folds into huge squares.

To my left, the thumping swirl,

a constant spin of towels and underwear.

A black sock becomes for an instant

an agonised L pinned against glass,  

then disappears into the vortex.







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Tobias Hill

Tobias Hill





London Pastoral


I want to tell you something:

for three nights now a bird has sung

in the road trees. A water song.

The neighbours are complaining; no one

knows what species the bird is. No one

even sees it. Pools coupons

titter against chain-links. Chip cartons

scuttle past time-delayed,

time-locked shopfronts. Then the bird

starts to sing.

You'll hear it with the window open,

even when the first rain gathers

to a downpour, hallways sweet

with the residue of road-tar.

Then you can grin, or watch me grin

at woodpigeons in wet weather

sat in the road trees, suffering

damp white collars. Like divorcees,

not looking at one another.


From Midnightin the City of Clocks

Carcanet (OxfordPoets) £6.95





Sean Street





The Sacrifice


i.m. Andrei Tarkovsky

"There is no remembrance of former things. Neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after." - Ecclesiastes

"Nato planes have accidentally bombed a hospital." - News broadcast, May 1999



In spite of ourselves we return to the same place

simply because we cannot recall ourselves

ever to have been there before. If we did

we would not come back again.

It is why things always end in the same way.



I blow a speck of dust from my hand.

I watch it drift, tiny - so tiny - up.

It seems to hang for a moment then gently

it falls, slowly, softly through the late night

onto the table. Silent. Infinitely delicate.

At the same instant somewhere brute bombs

blast into bone and blood through stone and tin.

Surgical air-strikes. Surgical. Missiles

like space-ships into children.

Why are they hurting me? Have I not been good?



Listen. Nothing. It is only the night

beating in my ears. I had thought for a moment

I heard crying. I thought I heard

something strange above me coming closer.

It is nothing. Only the house around me.

Only my children sleeping.



Bombs into blood and bone. What a way

to celebrate Christ. What a way

to cross a threshold, to mark a millennium,

to close or open a door, to punctuate time.

But then again, why not?



Cancer and I are old friends.

He has spoken to me often through the eyes

of the people who made me. An old friend.

He's welcome, but like all guests

there's an etiquette to be observed; to be polite

he should know his time. Mostly he does, he understands.

And given that, he's a gentleman. He leaves time

to organise things. He's civilised.

He's not a bomb.



Thank you god of future times for the gift

of forgetfulness. Why would I want to remember this?



What is a gift if it is not a sacrifice?

If a gift has not entailed a sacrifice

how can it be a gift?

   What is it worth?





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