Issue 10, Winter 2013

 CONTENTS


Carol Watts and George Szirtes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .FROM 56 

Anna Robinson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . NIGHT LIBRARY 

Patience Agbabi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  JOINED-UP WRITING 

Richard Berengarten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .  . . . . . . . . . THE LOVED ONES

Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  MIDDLEDARK WIND

Terence Dooley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  TOCOLORO 

Alexandra Sashe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . HOMOEOSTASIS 

Antony Johae . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HENS' LIVES (for Ann Keelan) 

Martyn Crucefix essay. . . STIRRINGS, RUMBLINGS AND ROCK FALLS

Osip Emilievich Mandelstam trans. Robert Chandler . . . . . . . . ARMENIA 

Jacqueline Gabbitas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FROM THE BOOK OF GRASS 

Lisa Mansell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . KERNEL-STONE 

Joe Dresner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . THE NEW HUMANISM 

Simon Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .DE UMBRAS IDARUM 

David Andrew . . . . . . . . . . . . ON THE ISLAND with Johannes Bobrowski 

Lucy Sheerman . . . . . . . . . FRAGMENTS SALVAGED FROM HER DIARY

Marvin Thompson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ROCHELLE

Martyn Crucefix. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . THE MAP HOUSE

 

See link above to hear an excerpt from 56 by George Szirtes & Carol Watts, read by George Szirtes & Linda Black at the Issue 10 Cambridge Reading, Fitzwilliam College, Nov 2013

 

POEMS

 

Jaqueline Gabbitas

FROM THE BOOK OF GRASS (Extract)

 

Oxygen

 

As there is sun, there's life.

As God speaks, there's life too.

And I grow,

And trees grow.

And algae has always grown.

 

As there is rain, there's life.

As God weeps, there's life too.

And I breathe,

And trees breathe.

 

But algae is holding its breath,

For as there's a world, there's an end.

As God sees, algae sees too:

A boiling land,

A burning sea.

And the air stripped out and empty.

 

Grass tells the story

 

You will overlay the world, said God,

and afford all flocculence

to the creatures that stagger or run,

protection to the ones that crawl,

and warmth to those that sleep

with their newly formed heads

on your stomach and your back.

 

As He spoke, seeds fell with his words,

and I was birthed.

When He was gladdened, tears

of bliss fell, and I found my thirst

and so quenched it.

He gave me food in my gut,

enough to nourish me, and I grew

and blossomed and He was pleased;

 

so pleased He was that He took my first

fine sprigs and crowned me a circlet

for His antlered head, a banding for His forearm.

Then He stood and surveyed His world

and found a pleasing in the things He saw.

And when He strode, He strode out laughing.

 

Grass examines the nature of green

 

I am the twitch in man's eye.

I am the unluckiest colour.

I am a city, shining.

I am unseasoned.

I am politics.

I am memory untainted.

I am all things unripe.

I am sick of countenance.

I am easy.

I am currency in the pockets of man.

I am part quark.

I am undried, unsmoked, untanned.

I am commencement.

I am simple food.

I am reassurance of happening.

I am park.

I am wound not healing.

I am element.

I am speaking out of ignorance.

 

Welcoming the burrs

 

Let me take the seed that is your heart

and lungs, your promise of continuance,

and protect it from both grub and rat tooth.

 

Let me wear it! Jewel, brown as God's

horns, red as His blood, as the issue of man

in the war fields and deserts.

 

Let the seed be smooth for me and shine

at night like the owls' eyes, never meagre

against the radiance of the moon.

 

Let me bathe it in the earliest dew,

warm it beneath the habit of the sun.

Let me give it to the earthworm's track.

 

Then, let it shrivel to a nub as close

to death as life. Let it wait out frosts,

the promise of snow, the winter droughts,

the uncertainty of if or how it will grow.

 

Grass tackles crow over the turf

 

I'll not lie down for this crow, I won't

stand for it. Where you dig, you shit,

where you dig, you shit in my face.

May you have glass legs, hah!

and your legs be broken. May the bones

in your wings be shattered and you walk

four-and-forty miles from here to home.

May the cat eat you and the Devil eat the cat.

May each worm, each inching grub, fester

still living in your gut. And every barb,

feathered and stiff, every seed you rip

and dig and swallow, may it catch

at the back, crow, the back, of your throat

until you beg me just to let you gag.

 

You go on, crow! Don't disappoint me!

These incisions you make,

re-make, in my side, you enjoy them!

And, while you're at it, listen to your caw -

you thought it was bad before,

now it's grass-threaded!

 

Grass sleeps and dreams of horses

 

The horses come back.

Black. Their mouths are bridled.

Their shins lacerated from my edges.

 

Field becomes desert.

I am under here, three, four fathoms

of sand. And the horses come back.

 

Desert becomes ice-desert.

I am seed and chaff in the melted core,

and man, face like a horse, looks down.

 

Ice-desert becomes town.

I am on the brow of a hill. A horse walks.

Her head hangs limply from her neck.

 

Armour

 

It would take the lens of a raindrop to see my armour -

and who would get that close? And who would think to?

Call it teeth, call it battleaxe, call it blade. When you bite me,

beware - I've seen the mouths of ancient horses bleeding.

I've worn blood like you wear a coat. It nourished me.

I've been eaten and shat out - battleaxe, blade and all.

Reptiles, mammals. They ate for months and died en masse,

their guts too infant, teeth too sharp to be useful.

I wept, then strengthened my armour. And waited

for the creatures who grew long hind teeth and stone ones.

 

Grass laments the loss of light

 

All that is eaten is diminished.

All that is loss is vast.

 

Sun is vast yet diminished.

The days grow long and short.

 

They have always done. Even so,

they deceive us more than ever.

 

Man says everything's diminished,

nothing is lost. But where's the light?

 

A stripped field darkens before time.

A stone on a beach cools before time.

 

Fish swim deeper and evolve.

Mosquitoes live in tunnels. Evolve.

 

I am eaten. Sun is eaten.

We are both of us diminished.

 

Neither has the strength to speak.

And, robbed of its luminescence,

 

even the plankton of the rivers

and of the seas shrivels.

 

Ground breaks for the coming of spring

 

My eyes are blind.

Everything, all beasts and birds,

all things that prey, are preyed on,

know how blind my eyes are, how

I find sun and sky by inheritance.

This they knew when they came to be.

 

I am passing through earth, passing

the souls of animals who nod

when my eyes (like a newborn worm)

seek them out for guidance.

 

My world has been glacial

and all I had was the roar of God,

then the small click of ice breaking.

My world has been burning,

and all I had was heat and carbon: light

surrounding. Until the ash.

I have known all states of things.

 

And each year I break through blind

to open my eyes for the sun, sky,

and the bridge of leaves above trees,

the creatures sleeping newly beneath them.

 

Grass answers Mountain about her time of dying

 

Trees, shrubs, ferns, grass: we stood

as neighbours and watched your birth

in fire, in molten mass. Convulsion!

 

We each of us agreed you were glory,

even as we saw in you our endings;

the burgeoning and diminishing of cells,

 

the struggle for breath with no hope

of medicines but the small evolutionary

changes we could grab back from our fibres.

 

In His heaven above the withering trees,

God looked across and marvelled

at your new-born stone, stone of sediment

 

and the carcass of the sea and the ocean;

it sucked the very carbon from the air,

and He whispered in my ear, grass

 

you must evolve; look to the stars, imitate

the blackest hole and draw in all life.

Mutate, grass, mutate to survive.

 

Grass honours the low cloud

 

With seed and blade,

with root and rhizome,

with ears and eyes,

I lie down as you ascend;

a gathering of water,

a blanket warm

and barely penetrable.

 

 

 

Robert Chandler

ARMENIA Osip Emilievich Mandelstam translated by Robert Chandler

Here labour is understood
as an awesome, six-winged bull;i
and, swollen with venous blood,
pre-winter roses bloom.
 

1

You rock the rose of Hafez
and dandle your wild-beast children;
your lungs are the octahedral shoulders
of peasant bull churches.ii
Coloured in raucous ochre,
you lie far beyond the Mountain;
here we have only a painting,
a water transfer peeled from a saucer.
 

2

Oh, I can't see a thing and my poor ear's gone deaf,
and there are no colours left but red lead and this raucous ochre.
And somehow I found myself dreaming of an Armenian morning,
I felt like seeing how a tomtit gets by in Yerevan,
How a baker plays at blindman's buff with the bread,
stooping to scoop the moist warm hides from the oven…
Oh, Yerevan, Yerevan! Were you sketched by a bird?
Or did a lion colour you in, like a child with a box of crayons?
Oh, Yerevan, Yerevan! More a roast nut than a city,
how I love the Babels and Babylons of your big-mouthed streets.
I've fingered and mauled my life, like a mullah his Koran,
I have frozen my time, never spilt hot blood.
Oh, Yerevan, Yerevan! There's nothing I need -
I don't want your frozen grapes!
 

3

You longed for a dash of colour -
so a lion who could draw
made a long paw
and snatched five or six crayons from a box.iii
Country of blazing dies
and dead earthenware plains,
amid your stones and clays
you endured sultans and sardars.iv
Far from anchors and tridents,
where a continent withers to rest,
you put up with those ever-so-potent
potentates who loved executions.
Simple as a child's drawing,
not stirring my blood,
your women pass by, bestowing
gifts of their splendid lionhood.
How I love your ominous tongue,
your young coffins,
where each letter's a blacksmith's tong
and each word a cramp-iron.

4

Covering your mouth like a moist rose,
octahedral honeycombs in your hands,v
all the dawn of days you stood
on a world's edge, swallowing your tears.
You turned away in shame and sorrow
from the bearded cities of the East -
and now you lie amid clays and dies
as they take your death mask.
 

5

Wrap your hand in a kerchief
and plunge it, through the celluloid thorns,
into the heart of the wreath-bearing briar.
Snap.
Who needs scissors?
But mind it doesn't just fall apart -
scraps of pink, confetti, a petal of Solomon,
a wildling without oil or scent,
no use even for sherbert.
 

6

Realm of clamouring stones -
Armenia, Armenia!
summoning the raucous mountains to arms -
Armenia, Armenia!
Soaring forever towards the silver trumpets of Asia -
Armenia, Armenia!
Lavishly flinging down the Persian coins of the sun -
Armenia, Armenia!
 

7

No, not ruins but what remains of a round and mighty forest,
anchor-stumps of felled oaks from a Christianity of beasts and fables,
capitals bearing rolls of stone cloth, like loot from a heathen market place,
grapes each the size of a pigeon's egg, scrolls of eddying rams' horns,
and ruffled eagles with the wings of owls, still undefiled by Byzantium.vi

The rose is cold in the snow:
which lies three fathom deep on Sevan…
The mountain fisherman has made off with his azure
sledge
and the whiskered snouts of stout trout
police the lime-covered lake bed.
While in Yerevan and Echmiadzin
the vast mountain has drunk all the air.
I need to entice it with an ocarina,
tame it with a pipe
till the snow melts in my mouth.
Snow, snow, snow on rice paper,
the mountain swims towards my lips.
I'm cold. I'm glad… vii
 

9

Clip clop against purple granite,
a peasant's horse stumbles
as it mounts the bald plinth
of the realm's sovereign stone,
while some breathless Kurds run behind
with bundles of cheese wrapped in cloth -
peacemakers between God and the Devil
and backers of both.viii

10.

What luxury in an indigent village -
The thread-like music of the water!
What is it? Someone spinning? Fate? An omen?
Don't come too close. There's trouble on the way.
And the maze of the moist tune
conceals something dark, stifling, whirring -
as if a water nymph were paying a visit
to a subterranean watchsmith.
 

11

Clay and azure… azure, clay…
What more do you want? Just squint,
like a myopic shah over a turquoise ring,
over a book of ringing clays, a bookish earth,
a festering text, a precious clay,
that hurts us like music,
like the word.

12

I shall never see you again,
myopic Armenian sky;
never again screw up my eyes
at Mount Ararat's nomad tent;
and in the library of earthenware authors
I shall never again open
the hollow volume of a splendid land
that primed the first people.
                     Tbilisi, 16 October - 5 November 1930
 

i The image of a six-winged bull is uncommon. Mandelstam may have borrowed it from chapter 4 of the Apocalypse of St John, where a bull is one of four six-winged creatures surrounding God's throne. The scholar Georgy Kubatian paraphrases these four lines as follows: 'Labour seems gigantic and awesome, like a bull - yet also six-winged like a seraphim. It is inspired by the idea of the spiritual and crowned with the beauty of roses in blossom. ['Ot slova do slova', in Vorovanny vozdukh (Yerevan, 2005)].                      

ii Many old Armenian churches are built on hilltops, on the sites of former Zoroastrian temples. Most are simple and squat constructions, thecentral cupola often resting on an octagon, which in turn rests on four central pillars.                                                                                                                                                                

iii Nadezhda Mandelstam remembers her husband, during their time in Armenia, noticing a pencil case with a lion depicted on the lid. And there are carved lions on the walls of several old Armenian churches.

iv i.e. the Persian governors who administered much of Armenia during the 17th and 18th centuries.                      

v Several mediaeval Armenian churches have a small model of the church carved high on the outside of the East wall. Typically two humanfigures (the donors responsible for building the church) stand side by side, holding the model between them.                                                                                                                        

vi This poem accurately describes what remains of the great seventh-century church of Zvartnots, a three-storey building destroyed in an earthquake. Mandelstam thought of Byzantine culture as sterile.              

vii As if in a dream, Mandelstam imagines enticing Mount Ararat back into Armenian territory                    

viii Most Kurds are Muslim, but some are Christian and some practice the Yazid religion - which is often, mistakenly, thought to be dualistic.