Archives for posts with tag: United Kingdom

licensed tosca weijers
Killin
For Anne, David, Kim and James Gray
by Graham Wood

Here the centuries run like seconds, skies of cloud
and countless suns scud in time-lapse overhead.
Long swathes of time etch their histories
on the hillsides, the stones of the river bed…
This valley gouged by ice felt one day
the thaw begin, grew gradually green, inhabited —
and echoes now this summer
with the bleating of black-faced sheep.
When did the last ice melt away and the glacier
leave its footprint here, this small deep loch
holding in silence its complement of brown trout
and the elusive char? Such questions disappear
in the wind at night through Henry’s wood,
or dissolve in the brown water rounding old stones,
the river’s slow revenge on glacial imprisonment.
Here the summer dark is brief and light,
laughter and stories dance together in the Lodge …
but in Winter, if the mood is right,
the ice will reassert itself and whip
the length of glen to gale, from the blind
face of Strone to Garrogie’s spruce towers.
Each winter brings this inkling back of what
once was, a cold hackling in the early dark
of how things were for time beyond remembering.

© Graham Wood

First published in The Scottish Banner, Vol 43 Number 6 (December 2019), an international Scottish newspaper.

PHOTO: Loch Killin in the Scottish Highlands, with Monadhliath Mountains in the background. Photo by Tosca Weijers, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written for good friends after a holiday stay with them near Loch Killin, a small loch in the Monadhliath Mountains of Scotland. It is near the southern end of Loch Ness and not to be confused with another place also named Killin, a village near Loch Tay. The poem celebrates the glacial origins of the glen in which the loch is located, and the fact that on some days in Winter it is impossible to escape the memory of the ice. The poem began in the Summer of the holiday but was completed on return home to Australia. In any season, the glen and the loch display the stark beauty characteristic of the Scottish Highlands.

PHOTO: The poet high up looking down on the glen and river of Killin in the Scottish Highlands.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Graham Wood resides in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, but prefers to live in poetry whenever he can. His poems have been published in a range of Australian and international journals and anthologies. He is currently working on a collection of his poems and looks forward to the day when poets achieve the recognition Shelley gave them as the true “legislators of the world.” One of his poems (“Picking Up the Sun”) is included in the recent Vita Brevis anthology Pain and Renewal (USA, 2019).

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The Walk to St Ninian’s Isle
by Stephen Howarth

Contrary currents and conflicting waves
have marked this place out: Saint Ninian’s sands,
dividing the water from island to island:

a beach that reaches across the sea,
a boyhood playground with multitudes of
memories, to be told another time —

Today, let me walk you to the thistle-bound isle
to show you the remnants of the ancient
chapel in which a Pictish silver hoard was found:

the feasting bowls, the dragon-headed brooches
used to fix the folds of a cloak, the sword-hilts,
the chapes and thimble-shaped mounts,

all buried here for St Ninian’s protection,
twelve hundred years ago in defence against
the horror of the Viking raids – which helped create

Hjaltland, Shetland. An easy walk through
a thousand years of this almost holy island,
this almost heart of Shetland, absorbing

the light, the wind, the bleating of the sheep,
the washing of the sea, and the whispering waves.
In the ebb lie flattened pebbles, stones

shaped for skimming in moments when
the sea is smooth. The waves say
Hush, this calm afternoon, take rest in

our music, we will play as you play. In this country,
this is unique, a sea-crossing sand, and we,
we are the eternal beach-makers.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo shows St Ninian’s sands, looking from St Ninian’s Isle to Mainland and the village of Bigton. Mainland is the name of the main island of the Shetland archipelago. Bigton was pretty much my Shetland family’s home there when I was a boy, with another vital set on the island of Bressay. I still have one aunt living there in Bigton, a Scrabble fanatic, whom I hope to see and play against in September. She is 88 and will probably win. Photo by Stephen Howarth (August 2019). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am English by birth but only 3/8 English by blood: for the rest, I’m 1/8 Scottish and half Shetland. Shetland (the most northerly part of Britain) is officially Scottish, but geographically and emotionally the archipelago is as close to Norway as it is to mainland Britain. I am positively internationalist. I call myself British, identifying as European, and have active treasured friends in many countries – not least the USA, literally from coast to coast. In pre-lockdown years I loved to travel widely and hope to do so again. Meanwhile, I invite you to a tiny taste of Shetland.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Howarth has been an independent professional author of history all his working life. He served in the Royal Naval Reserves both on the lower deck and as an officer and wrote the official centenary history of the RNR – for which he was appointed an honorary Commander by HM the Queen. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Life Member of the US Naval Institute and The 1805 Club. He earned a Master’s degree (with Distinction) in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University.

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My Shoes Have Scarred the Walk I’ve Taken
     after John Ashbery
by Jonathan Yungkans

—steps I take again, feeling a stone column’s weight
my one full day alone in England. I went to Coventry

to take in the apocalypse of the place—the cathedral

blitzed into ruin and the new building built alongside,
all brick and long rectangles of stained glass. Only now,

40 years later, can I appreciate the quiet there, as water

taking so long to percolate into a baked soil not unlike
the old building’s floor, a fire-polished mirror. A spire

pointed a Gothic finger to where the Luftwaffe brought

hell, in a war long burnt away. Another struggle roiled
inside me, the lack of words to express it like the town’s

water mains, bomb shattered, as flames spun a vacuum

that sucked away thought and oxygen. An askew cross,
charred beams, graced a heat-bleached altar. Behind it,

the words Father Forgive. I had no idea how to ask it

for myself. And I still don’t. How do you ask yourself
to erase how you were born—blaze and ashes framed

by fissured walls, cracked traceries? It doesn’t fall away,

like the statue of Saint Michael standing over the devil,
spear in hand and wings full spread. It’s another statue,

one of reconciliation, at a corner of the ruin—a man

and woman on their knees, hugging one another tight,
holding for all it’s worth—for all the steps and scars—

PHOTO: The spires and arches of the ruins of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry, United Kingdom by Nicola Pulham, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I visited Coventry Cathedral during a month-long trip as an undergraduate. I had been intrigued by the wartime history of the place—it was leveled during the Battle of Britain—along with new sanctuary built alongside it and the site’s rebirth as a symbol of hope and reconciliation. There was a lot going on inside myself, as well. Shy and awkward, I felt isolated from most of the group. I was also going through a number of emotional ups and downs, the reason for which I learned only many years later. Writing this poem, I weighed carefully the question, “Did the physical landmark in some way represent a landmark in your life?” In retrospect, I really think it was. At the time, it was something more sensed than realized. It took walking back through the place mentally, placing myself inside its space, to put words to its import for me. ¶ The John Ashbery line that titles this piece (from the poem “Token Resistance” in his collection And the Stars Were Shining) also helped me focus this piece more narrowly. As for the statues mentioned, “St. Michael’s Victory over the Devil” by Jacob Epstein is on the wall of the porch that connects the old and new cathedral structures. “Reconciliation” by Josefina de Vasconsellos was originally titled “Reunion” and was presented to the University of Bradford. Bronze copies were cast to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. One copy sits in the old cathedral ruins. Another is in the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan.

PHOTO: “Reconciliation,” sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos (1977); photo by Martinvl, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Panoply, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is slated for release by Tebor Bach Publishing in 2020.

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On the tourist trail into England’s past
by Rose Mary Boehm

The entry looks forbidding and dark,
waiting for the bridge to be drawn.

We walk through intimate spaces
that were once peopled by family and children.
Gaping at bathrooms whose walls
are covered in flaking blue, the baths
adorned with fake gold taps.
There are badly made beds,
and in Art Nouveau wardrobes
dressing up clothes in various sizes
for those of us who want to play ghost.
Several real furs to drape over
silk-clad shoulders.
We catch glimpses of our tourist faces
in mirrors framed by twisting shapes
of dark wood.

The old telephone with letters and numbers,
a white marble portrait of the love
of his live in the large window,
it says so in the catalogue we peruse
on our way to the knightly hall
displaying the colours of princely houses
who once furnished kings.
Henry VIII vos ‘ere.

English tea and scones on the green lawns
of this green land, weeping willows,
fat carp in a muddy pond.
A grey cat waits at its border.

PHOTO: Eltham Palace in springtime by Truecapture, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The place is Eltham Palace, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in South East London, England. The house consists of the medieval great hall to which an Art Deco extension was added in the 1930s, as well as absolutely gorgeous gardens. I try to see my children once a year (this year I couldn’t travel, of course), and in the summer of 2015 we visited this amazing place. I couldn’t resist a poem.

PHOTO: Eltham Palace, Art Deco bathroom by Chris Moncrieff, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and three poetry collections, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals. Her latest full-length poetry manuscript, The Rain Girl, was accepted for publication in June 2020 by Chaffinch Press. Visit her at rosemaryboehm.weebly.com.

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle
by Frances Daggar Roberts

There was a spirit of excitement and of fear
as we climbed to the ancient site.
I was the first to crest the hill
and stood transfixed
by the 360-degree view across the fells
through golden and green light.
Threads of pink and white striped the sky
above bright grass and huge and ancient
glowering standing stones.
Captured by magic
even our youngsters stared in silence
as though bewitched.
There was no one to rescue us it seemed,
as if the old ones were alive again
inside our breath,
under our feet…
There was no sound at all
but within the huge stone circle
we could see a slender shine of water.
We stood there together
like figures in an ancient play
4,500 years ago.
It seemed we could neither go nor stay
until, carrying the baby, we began to walk the circle
through a time beyond meaning in this ancient space.
One arm and the face of our five-year-old daughter
was just visible, like a spirit child,
behind the furthermost standing stone on the left.
The clouds had begun to move above us
both with us and beyond us
in our small drizzle of earthly time.

PHOTO: Castlerigg Stone Circle Kewsick looking towards Helvellyn by Graham Moore, used by permission. The stone circle at Castlerigg is situated near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany, it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages. Learn more at english-heritage.org.uk.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My encounter with the Castlerigg Stone Circle made a huge impact on me as a result of the way it swept the truly ancient world into my understanding of human existence. Time itself acquired a different meaning because of the presence of my young family and the beautiful reality of the ancient place on which we stood. It was truly an encounter with a “landmark.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frances Daggar Roberts is an Australian poet who grew up in a remote area where she began to write poetry to capture the love she felt for plants, animals, and landscape.  She now lives in a bushland setting close to Sydney and works as a psychologist treating significant anxiety and depression. Compassion for those who struggle with such issues has led to the frequent exploration in her more recent poetry of human need, sorrow, and resilience.

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The Greatest Generation
by Alan Walowitz

      Thousands of protesters from the
      Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (C.N.D.)

      converged on the Berkshire village of Aldermaston yesterday to
      commemorate the birth of Britain’s anti-nuclear movement.

My father didn’t need to go anywhere
since he’d done the continent all-expenses-paid—
they even gave him grenade and gun.
But why not visit Aldermaston, son?
and see the castle there–
this a place he’d spent a week or so
before being tossed in the fog,
through France, Belgium, and on to Remagen,
then deeper in the dark, where,
having being trapped so long,
he hoped I might see
any place he’d actually been.

I took a shot with my Canon
through the ornate iron gates,
which masked the steel supports behind
sunk meters deep
and reinforced up top with ribbons of razor wire.
Then a man in uniform emerged from the manor
marching smartly in my direction.
He figured I was CND
and out to case the joint,
or start a riot then and there
and get my mug in the dailies.

He said he’d hold the camera
but I should feel free to walk the grounds–
outside the perimeter–
and notify the sentry when I was done.
An hour later, the camera was returned, but film gone,
and, at the only pub in town, I bought
a fine picture postcard of the castle,
taken from inside the gates one fine May day–
with lays of lilies aground,
festive balloons in air
and battlements festooned with flags of all nations.

When I returned, I offered that postcard
with the pride of a man
who has accomplished much
in the face of great adversity.
Dad studied and agreed, That’s the place.
I told him, The picture’s for you to keep.
He tossed it back as if
it had been brought by a dangerous stranger,
and exploded in my hands with a—
What would I want with that?

Originally appeared in the D-Day 70th Anniversary Anthology (mgv2>publishing).

PHOTO: “Aldermaston Manor” by Malcolm Gould (2009), used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like my father before me, I’m not much of a traveler. I wasn’t one even before the pandemic. When I visited England in the mid 1970s, however, my father seemed pleased that I’d visit the “castle” in the village of Aldermaston, where he had been stationed during World War II. He didn’t know that in the years since the end of the war, the village—and the castle, itself—had become a center for nuclear development in England, and was the focus of many anti-nuclear protests. PHOTO: The author’s passport photo (1974).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz is finally retired from his second career as a professor of education. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry.  His books are Exactly Like Love (Osedax Press) and The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems (Truth Serum Press). A forthcoming chapbook, In the Muddle of the Night, co-written with Betsy Mars, will be published by Arroyo Seco Press.

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The New Front Door
by Lynn White

This house used to be two.
Two tiny houses
made one
a long time ago.
I painted the front door blue.
It looked good, made a smart entrance
open all hours to all but the largest of people.

Yes, it was rather narrow
but with 3-foot-thick walls each side
what could I do,
even the window had to come out
temporarily
to let the new furniture in.
That was quite a nuisance
temporarily.

And so it stayed
until a few years ago
when the blue door became
a little shabby with age.
And a shiny new plastic door
was custom made to fit the space
at no little expense.

It was then that the builder discovered
the doorway had been modified,
blocked by broken bricks
a long time ago
and plastered to match the walls.
The original doorway was six inches wider
than the doors,
both of the doors
the old and the new.

But the discovery came too late.
The new door was ready
made at great expense
and so it was fitted
and it looks fine
shiny and white
and remaining open
to all but the largest of people.

The old furniture also looks fine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal, and So It Goes. Find Lynn at lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and on Facebook.

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Front Doors
by Kim Whysall-Hammond

I met so many people
painting our first front door
but it wasn’t just painting
it never is.
First chipping away rotten wood
and then an artful working of filler
to recreate the simple mouldings
a grey undercoat that smooths
before, finally
a loving coat of shiny navy blue.

It took all of a long day
on a very busy street
first the postman gave advice
then the guy delivering newspapers
to the shop three doors away
commented on how few women
paint front doors
our roofer stopped to say hello
and discuss the precarious roof
a new neighbour introduced themselves
complimented my work
offered friendship
finally my parents arrived
unexpectedly
and made tea.

I remember this, as I hide behind
another front door in another house.
We wipe its UPVC surface with alcohol
to remove virus, and
don’t touch the mail until it’s a day old
no live virus on it then.
This front door isn’t elderly wood
but hidden steel within shiny white
when we lock it, nine bolts
shoot from its interior
into the strengthened frame.
In its centre a double glazed
stained glass window
made from a drawing of mine
a Red Kite wheeling in sky
looking for the windpath
my bird of prey guarding me.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am in isolation, as my eldest son came home with the unwelcome present of coronavirus. Our front door is now both our guard and, at times, a symbol of imprisonment. In writing this poem, I thought about the other doors I have lived behind. I have told of the two that I have made my own.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Whysall-Hammond is a Londoner who has been published by Total Eclipse,  Fourth and Sycamore, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Amaryllis, London Grip New Poetry and Crannóg. An expert in obsolete telecommunications arcana, Kim believes, against all evidence, that she is a good dancer.  She shares poetry on her blog, thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com.

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Moving to the U.K.
by Shreerupa Basu Das

Post marriage, I had to shift to a different continent. I was apprehensive, as it meant leaving behind a life that I was so used to…Little did I know this would be a life-changing decision for me.

The first step in this direction was to get my spouse visa . This was easy, and we got it within five days of applying . This brought in another dilemma. it meant I could fly immediately with my husband. I remember the night before we flew, both our mums were busy packing for us while I just sat teary-eyed in a corner. The goodbyes at the airport were even more difficult.

I remember the aeroplane touching down at Heathrow Airport and the long queues at the passport desk . It made me feel a bit lost but the view of the Thames as we crossed it gave me new hope.

The next most important thing was to adapt to the weather. I had arrived on a cold December night. But the best part was our new home on the seafront at Swansea. Then came the difficult part, setting up a home and getting used to the ways here. Each incident added to my experience, helping me settle down a bit more. We made new friends here–a the most common link was that we had all moved away from home. And then there were times when I missed my family a lot and my new friends would cheer me up.

When I look back I realise the move has helped me not only to discover myself but has also changed my outlook . And as rightly put across by my six-year-old: “Ma if the Earth is constantly moving then we are also moving, aren’t we!”

PHOTO: The author with her parents and family standing before the Tower Bridge,  London, England.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shreerupa Basu Das is from Kolkata, India, where she worked as a qualified chartered accountant. A resident of the UK for the last eight years, she is a mum of two and works as a mortgage consultant. She loves to cook and travel, and writes occasionally, taking inspiration from her life experiences.

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Safe Harbour
by Abigail Ottley Wyatt

In chill November, stoutly, you and I,
bent-backed and booted, turned into the wind.

Sinking in the slow, red mud, we walked;
I tracked your giant steps;

heard in their clink and tumbling crush,
the singing of the stones;

saw rocks like teeth in the sea’s stark mouth
slow drawn by time’s far edge;

and cockle shells, bleached pale
as death, spill secrets in dark sands.

But then we found our progress barred:
across some river’s tiny roar,

you taught me how the faulted earth
might fall in stern and folded crags

and how it still might quake and split
to break the breaking, bounded shore

There tigers prowled, their bloodstone eyes
as abstract as their welted stripes,

and monsters moved among the stones,
stirred up the bones of the tasty dead.

And so we crossed the Alps to find
a land of snakes and stars;

a single tree, still rooted,
kept its vigil by the shore.

PHOTOGRAPH:Blue Anchor Bay,” West Somerset, United Kingdom, by Geof Sheppard.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about a very unlikely “perfect vacation.” The year was 2012 when, around the middle of November, my current partner and I packed our then still separate bags for the first “week away” of our newly established relationship. We were, of course, an older couple and we had both been quite badly hurt in the still quite recent past. Beyond all question it was a big thing for both of us but we each put on a brave face and kept our misgivings to ourselves. Our destination was only a three hour drive away, a place called, most descriptively, I thought, Blue Anchor Bay. In fact, once there, we found our holiday was just perfect and that, despite the chilly weather, there was an abundance of sunshine. I drafted this poem lying on the carpet in front of our beautiful and cosy wood-burning stove and finished it over the course of the evening of the day it describes. As I wrote, David, my partner, examined the many photographs he had taken and sipped at a very decent whiskey. Not surprisingly, I suppose, even three years later, “Safe Harbour” remains his favourite among my poems.

Author photo by David Rowland. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abigail Ottley Wyatt is a former teacher of English turned writer of poetry and short fiction. She lives with her singer/songwriter partner, David Rowland, and her Jack Russell, Percy, in the shadow of Carn Brea near Redruth in Cornwall. Over the past eight years her work has appeared in more than a hundred magazines, anthologies and journals. She is grateful to the editors of every single one of them and she hopes to be published in many more.