#109 – Poetry

New poetry by William Crawford, Si Philbrook, Tasnim Qutalt, Benjamin Rathbone, Felino Soriano, and Denis Sheehan.

Denis Sheehan

I found you there
Not knowing who you were
A ten year old boy
Tussling for Playboys
Between the paneling and
My uncle’s bed, while he was away
Reeled up The Basketball Diaries, paperback
That tore me from the naked pages
Like a clenched fist pulling at my shirt’s collar
Suburbanite eyes devoured a city life of
Sex, drugs, alcohol, addiction
Thirty years since
Your clenched fist never stopped
And this memory never died





Felino Soriano
Painters’ Exhalations 621
—after Eddie Durrett’s Adolescence

Adolescence wears
maturation logos on
self-gilded guidance

attire brand of understanding
space.  Future
shows the body of relevance
naked, the body of this

awaiting specialized, manufactured thought,
the thought of knowing
the mind captures

the spotted wings
wear same-as

relative to the bodies
walking toward their





—after Oscar Barsuto’s Ecstasy

Painters’ Exhalations 622


center of compositional hands
center of vision advancing
curious occupations.

Eyes centered
closed in context to an unopened earth,
relaying images on eyelids
hanging onto cliff-edged
incessant blink.

Brink of reenactment,
history of movement mends
remake of revised intentions,
solace of clothed invention
emerges in a walk of
angled reinterpretation.





Si Philbrook
(These poems are from a series entitled “The Beautiful Octopus Club”)
A Conversation with Kenneth

You know you’re batting on a losing wicket
when the notes say…
“high functioning Asperger’s with challenging behaviour”
all thoughts of being soft are wavered.

Kenneth rang rings round me
he seemed to understand the rules
but in the end
was too cool to succumb,

It is a hard lesson for staff
but laughingly well learned
“Learning Disability”
does not mean dumb.

Kenneth’s logic was irrefutable
unmutable in its simplicity…

“I want to go to Chessington World of Adventures.
I can’t so I am unhappy.
I am unhappy so I will…
cut all the power leads
turn on all the taps
flood all the rooms
and deflate all the tyres
on the staff’s cars.”

None of this was malice
just the odd logic-magic that can be autism.

He won, of course,
not blackmail, but a “managing of situations”
if the autism had allowed him humour
he would have laughed.

I smiled
for him and for myself
as we took the turning
marked “Chessington”.

If you are going to talk,
walk that dodgy road,
be aware
that you are not
the most intelligent person
in a conversation
with Kenneth.





Mud on a Sunday Morning

You don’t know how good mud feels
till you are sat in it
exhausted from laughter
on Boxing Day morning
in Crystal Palace Park,

Jumpers as goalposts
Bernie in goal at one end
Hester at the other
Only two rules…
staff are not allowed to score
and anyone showing too much skill
has a penalty against them,

No-one could stay on their feet
and no-one could remember the score
in the pub by mid afternoon.

Ten years later
I am sat in a meeting
with social workers who have never even met
the service user they are reviewing,
I am speaking fluently
in the language of a Registered Care Home Manager,
and I wonder
where all the mud went.





Tasnim Qutalt

fled the country
a running figure that just
gave the slip to the grasping shadow
that was the homeland

then shipped oars and anchored
temporarily somewhere
planning a pension
and an anthology of poetry

words that would scream
defiance and restore
everything, symbolically

talking about the weather
is comforting now

when you’ve run away
from too many people who know too much
anonymous people
are a blessing

they have blank eyes
like teddybear buttons
and stitched smiles
and they say the most banal things

the mental voiceover goes away
snippets of overheard conversations substitute
and the anthology is left at a lonely sentence
about forgetting

(iraq 2007)

how not to be unidentified

as old as the olive tree
reads the text on the body
fished out of the river
in the blue light before dawn
the line decipherable
body still a cypher
but now the word is out

in the beginning the word
the riddle, the clue
poetic self-effacing small tattoo
waits for a face and a name
to replace the figures
on the anonymous stiff blank sheet

as the man at the morgue
numbers the nameless
in dingy dimlit rooms
nothing is white anymore
even at the height of noon

dark corners untouched
by sunlight, streaming
through bulletholes in metal doors
through the eye of a needle
silver needle retracing
new blue greivances
not snakes, tigerheads or proud flags
no bold these colours don’t run

but first name, last name, tribal name
diligently picked out
by a fine arts graduate, raw tattoist
tattoing over and over
a rollcall of death

a thin woman with corrugated skin
and her own blue-green tattoo on her chin
brought in her great grand-daughter
last of the line, moon faced,
red-chipped polish on bitten nails
plaited hair and red ribbons
orphaned and cast back
two generations

there’s a waiting list:
the dull-eyed, drained
of imagination
prozac zombie nation
the bitter, counting off their dead
on accusing fingers
the rosary-clicking crowd
agrees to anything
on the one condition
of positive identification

but the younger generation
wears pragmaticism
like a raincoat
get a tattoo in case you die
make it look good in case you live

no guarantees,
the self-made tattoist says
he turns his palms up,
they are even as the scales
of justice, blue 18
and 81 filling in the lines
no promises, no refunds

they discuss what part of the body
is most likely
to survive unscathed

and the neighbours children wear
themselves to school everyday
name, D.O.B, address,
denomination, (digitally
altered to protect their identity)





Benjamin Rathbone
the good graces of the good men

my candle cuffs are
wearing down what it means
to slide in on a
quick rubber day
posing to be bouncing
from point to point
when its
stationary. cold costing
to be clumped rosters
of a perfect team set
low in the scheme
of shackled fantastic
their beards longer than
their chairs and their
cares divided by the
lack of





William Crawford
Learning to Push Air

for now
it’s her face in a frame
a monarch under glass
wings so still
she sleeps on stone
somehow keeps her shape
and it seems her bones –
once forged by fire –
in that certain furnace
of affliction
have ceased to hum
all the ballads
both relevant and sincere
these bones now threaten
to burst through skin
only to shatter themselves –
the sound almost beautiful –
in stillbirth, in ruins

so hang this portrait
when it’s finished
where you found her
and know this wasn’t
a place where she last knew rest

you cannot see for miles
though you see this in the distance
inside this vast bell of heat
she sometimes appears
as a bruise
or a crude
grounded constellation
drawn by child’s hand
with crayon too bright
she glitters the way
errors often do
sometimes trembles
straining feathers
on a bird of paradise lost –
no, disowned –
her plumage of crystal
sounds like locust
on this breeze
one you can’t believe in
so stop

deep set in the eyes of this
where paintings seem to hang themselves
still wet and not quite realized
there’s a line of peacocks
turning to ash
or maybe it’s snow
a row of skulls on the periphery
the air seems heavier here
charged, nearly solid
in this howling now
this empty present
lungs pop and collapse
create new voids
new abysses to stare into

everywhere a swirl of sad eyes
waiting for a camera
to freeze this
end this motion
this sickness
in a flash
not spectacular but final
and all the things
this silence expresses and suggests
surely tell us
this is no place of rest

the sense of loss
in this heavy air

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