A cluster of poems that seem to touch on – well, what? How to describe the processes of experience? Our poets do it rather well. Many thanks to Brian Johnstone, Carol McKay, Stephen Mead, Gemma Meek, and to Anne Dunford, whose poem on Apostrophe’s punctuates the week’s batch nicely and cheekily.

   I have decided to leave the American spellings untouched in Stephen Mead’s poem: after all we are international. All these poets have an internet presence: do look them up. And please share, to help us reach readers.

   Instructions for sending poems will be found on our very first post in the August archive. They may be repeated at the beginning of January but they haven’t really changed.


Brian Johnstone

It is as if the thoughts you measure, try to grasp,
the words you think
you have held onto, are not there

but hover somewhere out of reach,
the way those constellations
that your eye can only focus on for seconds

vanish then,
until you catch them unawares
through sidelong glances, furtive snatches at the dark

that gives them back for moments:
as the mind does,
almost without prompting,

chancing on a place as tentative, as unknown
as the night sky that I gaze upon,
proportioned by the moon.

First published in Reactions 3, UEA Press, 2993, then in the chapbook Homing, The Lobby Press, 2004

KPA Brownsbank better

Carol McKay
Visiting Brownsbank, 1 April 2003

“Claude Monet…evolved a method of depicting form by accumulating a mass of brush-strokes which are reconstructed and completed by the spectator to produce the effect he is suggesting. This… was a vital new element in art: the realization that the viewer has to participate, that he has to build his understanding of a painting, just as he ‘reads’ a landscape.”

Bernard Denvir, Impressionism, Thames and Hudson, 1974.

Thank you for this day of blustering rain,
of sunburst plateaux,
oocy sheep and cud-chewing cattle;
sun-blackened boat bottoms, smoky nets of grey
cast to catch me floundering on my way.
For squalls of hail that rail
and fight tooth and nail against my windscreen, and fail.
For velour ochre hillsides;
tai-chi turbines; wildlife hides.
Grey-out conditions, the car tugged side to side,
and the bogeyman blast
as each lorry in this long convoy is passed.
For friendly fire headlights;
foreign numberplates; eyes
off the road towards an iridescent bow
and the way the spectrum bleaches
dark above to pale below.

For always being the bridesmaid, never the bride.
For acceptance that the choice is justified.

For safe arrival at my destination,
switching off the BUSTED compilation
for a bleating lamb and Linda Cracknell’s calm.
For sunshine in a poet’s garden;
a plaque overgrown beneath a rowan.
Oasis in MacDiarmid’s ramshackle shed,
far from the desert sand-grained in my head
or that other one, where
hail is not rain,
blasts are not gales,
convoys are not food.

For a life comprised of evanescent mood;
that form’s not fixed and our voices are not mute.

For the playgroup paint pot brush strokes on the road home:
bright yellow bands composing as I watch
from daffodil dots; God’s pixels in the land.

First published in the Freight anthology ‘The Knuckle End’ in 2004, then in ‘Brownsbank: an anthology of writing inspired by Brownsbank Cottage, the last home of Chris and Valda Grieve’, published by Biggar Museums Trust Brownsbank Committee in 2009.



Anne Dunford

Oh  Apostrophe!
How you offend eyes’
when appearing
Where you should not!
You insinuate yourself
in places’ where you were
best left out. Take care!
You absent yourself
when you should be present.
Thou shouldst repent!
Look around and find
Greengrocers windows’
with tomato’s and potatoes’
writ large in white. Scandal!
Apostrophe you lurk within
pages of print, dis’appear
and appear for us to find again.
Tis’ surely time now to heal
wound’s and restore health to mind’s?
But how can it be thus?
Thou art a curs’ e, a sin of the age.

First published in Fankle 11 in 2012

KPA nettles

Stephen Mead
Eating the Leftovers
(For Dr. Inge Kemp Genefke)

Never candy coated, more nettles
or tumbleweed spokes gnawed center first,
then off to the fringes.  Hard to swallow?
Dream of fruit, apple blossoms, branches
fanned by the mind’s windmill.  Here, here
they are, images drifting between cloud
clusters as though glimpsed from a plane.

Distance is required, the mists of sedation
for, without, memory’s too persistent, the pain,
too much.  How scientific torture haunts the inflicted:
to have witnessed soldiers molest relatives or, to your
crotch, a lobster’s pinchers.  The choice is yours.
Which will you…

No. No.  They’re only joking.  It’s just hallucinogens,
Deprivation’s D.T.s:  a trough of water brought every
other day, excrement-smeared.    How…after that…
can dashed faith, belief blocked, relearn trust like a guitar
player who’s had his knuckles taped for so long they can’t
feel a thing?

Chords well up, rain water vibrations, waves, grueling, the
waves…and, on each, a face paddling to split with the ripples
as though timed…What?…timed by the roll of bells…

Pavlov’s paradox, a counterpart to conditioning survivors must digest daily,
all Nobodys, simply citizens forced into heroism by withstanding
what no soul ever should.  How they’d rather have been left
as peasants or office workers, mere cogs content with gruel, why not?

Yet cruelty too is generous stew.  These are its leftovers:
a crust of bread savored in a dream of normalcy, sunlight, wings
of flight for the woman suddenly herself again after years of being free
of the giant’s gold harp.

This poem originally appeared a few years ago on the online zine Apropos



Gemma Meek
Butterfly Service

There were butterflies
dancing against the light,
the stained glass of Jesus
changing them into shadows.

A coffin and butterflies.

I don’t believe in gods
or souls or eternal life.
I tried not to smother with meaning
the moment that owned its own voice.

First published in the summer 2010 edition of The Linnet’s Wings.