poems from the lighthouse
Selections from recent and forthcoming tall-lighthouse publications.
Thread Angel by Chelsea Cargill
from Shooting the Moon
Have you nowhere on earth?
Don't lose out!
There is someone with the same name as you,
someone walking in front of you,
someone with the same bald thread angel as you
trying not to lose the string
that keeps you walking in a straight line.
They say, always look before you cut out in front
as you might be walking ahead of an angel,
especially the one that belongs to you.
They will ask, have you ever saved anyone?
It only works if you set up camp in their
back garden and refuse to leave.
It's not about asking for help, being helped,
shouting to the empty skies for help.
An angel writes your graffiti name on
walls and pavements and leaves them as
dirty as they found them.
An angel made of thread is unravelled and
put back together as the dawn.
A true angel will pull you back
when you never asked it to.
Honeymoon by Josephine Corcoran
from The Misplaced House
I wouldn’t call it a honeymoon,
those muffled nights in mothballed rooms.
With cake in the boot we pilgrimmed north,
taking a young marriage to old widows,
my father’s brothers dead,
their crucifixes still hanging.
In each house we were given the double bed,
my aunties inviting us to fornicate
on concave mattresses holding dead men’s
seed. Had we come one week before,
you would have been given nothing
but dusty blankets on a downstairs floor,
and I would have sunk, alone and deep,
into the mildewed sponge of a cousin’s bed.
My aunties would have spread
as wide as angels in their marital sheets,
their doors ajar, the solemn whispers
of their night-time prayers beating
as sweet as deathbed love-making.
But our wedding vows were said,
so we sipped tea on upright chairs
still dimpled from Brylcreemed heads,
and rolled like screws in sideways jars
on shelves in locked-up sheds.
one son, one daughter later,
Jesus has been sent to us
(the aunts are gone, their houses stripped.)
His legs are broken (long marriages skipped,
thrown into landfill) and we laugh
when our little children ask about our honeymoon.
I see you dreaming down our garden path
as you hold the broken body in your hands.
He was nailed to the Anaglypta. You are picturing
the twist of wire you’ll use to bind his legs;
the nail, the hammer, the spirit level, the pencil
mark the place he’ll eternally outstare us.
I love the way our daughter sings
as her finger traces our wedding rings.
Monologue I by Matt Haw
Above the asylum the sky is a slick
of spilt milk, of broken-glass stars.
Across the chimney stacks of Saint-Rémy,
the wind moves in laboured breaths.
Tonight, that same wind squalls
round this little suburban garden,
lifting the gate in the alley from its latch,
flinging umber leaves in savage arabesques.
It comes alive where it finds the spaces
between clothing and skin, comes alive
in the hairs on the nape of my neck.
It’s as if you leant one cheek
against the still wet canvas of the world
and sighed – and sighed – and sighed.
The Widow Resolves To Eat Chocolate Forever by Mark Russell
from Pursued By Well-being
How you refuse to moderate the number
of coals you put on the fire nightly
saying you will spend what money you have
on anything you want, like Oreos,
or fish you won’t eat but rather eyeball
on the middle shelf of the cooler—
the way its mouth gapes, about to speak,
but rests, content to smile, scales aglow—
how you stare out the searing night grate
in a child’s game, each of you determined
not to blink first, not to count days, but
to dazzle and be blind to winter.
Sag Harbor Chanty by Alex Green
from Let The West Coast Be Settled
After the model is struck by lightning, she becomes really good at yoga. She teaches classes at the small studio by the harbor and afterwards has long talks in the parking lot with her students. She sees the way they stare at her, like any minute something might happen. And they all ask the same questions; they want to know if the current made her body bend better, or if she can feel things about the future. But all she knows is that she was struck by lightning and then she wasn’t. Sometimes she wishes it had done what it was supposed to do, but she has never said this out loud. Her boyfriend makes jokes at parties about how the television reception is clearer now, or how he’ll stand away from her when they walk in the rain. She doesn’t really like him very much anymore. In horror movie storms, skinny bolts of lightning walk across the sky with the shuddering legs of a yearling, but she knows that’s not how it really is. She remembers how it pushed against the night and lit up the sky’s nervous system before it hit her. She remembers how it singled her out. In class a woman who was attacked by a shark shows her a scar that starts at her calf and gets wider as it winds up her waist. It’s the first map of lightning she has ever seen and she can’t turn away. The frayed fault line is like a fossil of electricity, evidence of a fever. In it she recognizes the turn and rip of the current, the break of a bite from nowhere—
Map Reading by Aoife Mannix
from Cocktails From The Ceiling
Each tree a tiny pin named with a song.
The paths of birds in flight traced in red,
more minor routes, such as the holiday plans
of crickets, a fainter yellow. Spots of interest,
for instance where caterpillars spun their cocoons,
are marked with tiny blue stars.
There’s a code down one side
explaining the scale is set
to midnight and changes with
the weather or occasionally the moon.
There is no north, south, east or west.
Just my father sitting cross legged
by the side of a highway pouring over
his poor sense of direction as my mother
takes a photograph (unusual for her
as she’s never believed in cameras).
She writes on the back
‘on the road to God knows where’,
as if she knows the point of buried treasure
is that we’ll never find this place again -
time has a very poor sense of direction.
telesue by Harry Man
n. one of the hundreds of people who look like Sue from far away,
but are in fact strangers.
Cottoning on too late, the Herne Hill train sparking slow
away into the sleet, that you are not you, but a telesue
coming in from the wings of the platform to play a cameo,
and I remember the background buzz of a fancy dress shop
as past tense as your maiden name, the pop and slup
of trying on fancy dress masks of cow heads, stormtroopers
and elven faces – shrieks as the elastics stripped our hair, stooped
almost kissing as I freed you and you freed me, and lost touch.
Now you’re just a Yahoo email address and a year, a smudge
of a photo from that Halloween party, you and your Carlsberg
leaning focusless into the frame, and here in the sleet the telesue
lips a favourite-coloured scarf against the wind, but Sue, real Sue
there are days I don’t believe in doubles or daydreams,
when you’re behind every windscreen of every car coming the other way.
At Meadowhall Station My Mother
Rests in the Awakened Heart by John Barron
from the nail forge
My mother sits waiting for the train to Brid.
Twenty minutes, she doesn’t read or speak.
She sits indoors. Outside the rain falls.
My mum was once a 4lb baby,
born in the thirties on the bare-arsed Wolds:
a chapel, whins and barley, Tye Howe hill.
The rain scores a bull’s eye every time.
I watch the merging of its concentric rings.
At Meadowhall my mum and I, we sit.
Cinema of the Drowned by Ben Parker
from the escape artists
Suspended behind the swollen screen
and held in place by a horizontal trick
of surface tension, bodies shift
in the creak and groan of the straining deep:
limbs curved in careless abandon as though
subsiding at the apex of a jump,
hair swept by the flex of the current.
Once again you pass the hidden entrance,
walk on, change your mind, turn back and enter,
picking your way through the empty seats
in the mute dark far from the crest
and trough of the waves. Sit back and bathe
in the cold glow of sea-filtered moonlight,
the grey saturated flesh of the dead.
The seat is warm from your last visit,
listen: you still cannot fathom the drag.
The Metronome by Jodie Hollander
from the humane society
She set the metronome ticking,
her children the pendulum, rocking
back and forth from Mother to Father,
Father back to Mother. Then she’d twist
the knob to Father-Mother, Mother-Father,
or call out Allegro!, and they’d speed up:
FatherMother, MotherFather, FatherMother.
Her children walked sideways, their eyes
shifted horizontally, they looked dizzy, even
possessed—missing the cars zooming in front
of them, but somehow they always heard
Mother’s tempo, and passed from this
lover to that lover, from that lover to this.
Trucker's Mate by Liz Berry
The A1 is the loneliest. Four hundred
and nine miles down the spine of the country,
only the firefly of a fag tip to keep you steady.
A man needs some company,
an eye on the map, a hand on the radio.
Ten four, hammer down, breaker breaker.
He made a man of me, rubbed me
smooth with engine grease, taught me how
to pull a flatbed, take an unsigned route,
draw the curtains against the prying eyes
of headlights. As other lorries trundle home,
we push onwards, the road a romance.
I was a kid that first night. Birmingham
to Folkestone. The junctions looping
and racing above us, his hand on my leg.
In the woods beside the layby, I pressed my tongue
into the sap of a pine tree as I pissed,
already half in love with him.
Now belly to back in the cab, his vertebrae
like cat’s eyes guiding me down,
I think of the M6 Toll, lined with two million
pulped Mills and Boons; how love is buried
in unlooked for places, kept secret like us.
In the darkness his breath hums like an engine.