The Astronaut’s Return

She looks familiar; yes, she is my wife.
Her hair is longer; it’s been months.
I don’t think she expected to see me again.
She doesn’t talk as much as I remember
and when she does she’s speaking to a child.

I notice how her body moves beneath her clothes
and when she’s naked, in the bath or in bed;
how independent it is, in spite of her.
When she sees me looking she turns away.
When I touch her skin she flinches.

The clothes she says are mine no longer fit.
Eat, she says, please eat, and I love you.
I soothe her as best I can. I tell her that
I’m learning to come back.  But my eyes,
still wide open, sparkle like topaz when I sleep.

by Gregory Leadbetter

Gregory Leadbetter was born in Stourbridge in 1975. He practised as an environmental lawyer for several years before transferring his main interests to writing. Since then he has written for the BBC radio drama series Silver Street, and his poems have been published widely. He is currently completing a PhD on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A pamphlet of his poems, The Body in the Well, is published with HappenStance Press.

Heaventree New Poets, now in its fourth volume, is a series collecting the best new poetry. The collections aspire to Heaventree’s philosophy of providing high quality new modern literature at a relatively low cost. Volume 4 featured Gregory Leadbetter alongside Patrick Gilmore and Jonathan Morley, three poets noted for their bold content and technical precision. To purchase a copy of Heaventree Poets, Volume 4 please visit the Heaventree Press website.

Gags

Up from the descending semis,
Sean’s nan had the forest
in her mouth, bracken
plumbing her tongue.

The strait’s liquids
had changed a child’s sibil-
ance to ancient
occlusive stops.

We called her Gags.
My butty said he could
understand the babble.
I’m not sure.

She was a leaf-
thing, curled in her chair,
waiting for a second
turn to take her off.

by Richard Marggraf Turley

From The Fossil-Box (Cinnamon, 2007).

“I grew up in the Forest of Dean. ‘Gags’ was written as the final section in a longer poem called ‘Vorrest’, which explores the idea of Dean as part of my ‘impending past’. Gags was the nan of my childhood best butty (forest dialect); to our eyes she seemed as old and strange as the forest itself.”

Richard Marggraf Turley won First Prize in the Keats-Shelley Prize, 2007. His poems have appeared in journals and magazines. Richard was born in the Forest of Dean and moved to Wales when he was seven. Richard’s co-authored volume, Whiteout, appeared with Parthian in 2006. His first solo collection, The Fossil-Box, was published by Cinnamon in 2007. He is also the author of two books on the Romantic poets. Recent radio interviews include an appearance on Radio 3’s The Verb, presented by Ian McMillan.

Cinnamon Press is a young, fast-growing small press based in North Wales and publishing writers from Wales, the UK and internationally, as well as the poetry journal Envoi. The list is mainly poetry, but also includes some fiction and cross-genre books.

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I am sure I shouldn’t hate myself for feeling guilty! what can I do! Let me say it was a struggle to give up punctuation but we all have to make sacrifices not everybody has such a lot of punctuation these days better not have any just to be quite fair but there are some things I can’t quite give up it’s wicked I know it’s the apostrophes that get me I could never resist a well-placed apostrophe dinky things when you come to think about it wriggling there like the fish and the hook all in one sometimes I wake up with such a craving for a semicolon they say those are the worst bring you to a halt sooner than anything else and abolish your vitals like a dissolving fire so I just remind myself you’ve got to talk to people at work today no punctuation at all till after six p.m. then you can put your feet up and snuggle on the sofa in an Argos fleece throw with a mug of hot chocolate and a dash or so as a little pressie to yourself and watch The Bill is it wrong to wish sometimes I wish I were back in Europe it was grand that summer over there I would get up with a real thirst hold off till about ten in the morning then sit in that café in the cool with a tall glass of fizzing vitamins and brilliant punctuation there were real people from Europe at that café and you know what they had been at it since breakfast as far as I could tell big dignified people happy as children with crystal and stoneware brackets and suspensions properly placed you could see how they liked it they thought the rules were fun though I am sure they must have had their sacrifices somewhere just like us yet the funny old things weren’t self-conscious at all go figure.

Yes!

by Vahni Capildeo

from Person Animal Figure by Vahni Capildeo
Copyright © Vahni Capildeo

Person Animal Figure is a long poem in three voices, represented by three different kinds of prose poetry. Here, the voice which seems to represent ‘Person’ reflects upon her own unpunctuated thoughts as she sets them down, characteristically drifting off into memories of comfort and pleasure. The ‘Yes!’ that ends the paragraph is perhaps an acknowledgment of a literary ancestor for this shrewd vulgarian: Molly Bloom, whose stream-of-consciousness concludes James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Vahni Capildeo was born in 1973, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. She came to England in 1991. Her first book, No Traveller Returns, was published by Salt in 2003.

Landfill Press was founded in Norwich in 2004 as a publisher of contemporary poetic sequences.

The Third Way

We set out early, riding through the day
on the broad summer roads of Logres,
yet further out from Camelot
the paths grew narrower, & woodland nearer.
Approaching the borders of the other land,
one of us – or sometimes more – would start,
glimpsing some dream-creature among dim trees,
very close now; no more familiar wolf & boar,
but faun or centaur would appear for a moment,
then flick away into the undergrowth, leaving us
uneasily wondering whether to doubt
or to speak. It was difficult here to see birds,
and they seemed changed, and knowing.
We came with falling night
to the place where three ways meet,
the Road against Reason,
the Road without Mercy,
the Road without a Name.

And the third way brought us here,
to the Waste City;
demons that obeyed the enchanter Virgilius,
giants, or worse, must have built the nodding walls,
the vaulted palace and huge towers
whose ruin is our silent home;
we cannot read its inscriptions
or decipher its mosaics;
the images of Emperor & City are distorted
as by a witch’s mirror or pack of cards;
we find no living soul here
but ourselves, who cannot leave.

by Sally Purcell

from Collected Poems
Anvil, 2002
Copyright © Hilary Purcell 2002

Sally Purcell is an unusual poet and it is not easy to choose a single representative poem by her. She published four main collections of poetry and prepared the last of them just before her final illness at the age of 54. This poem, like so many of hers, draws on folklore and mediaeval sources. Her poems have a dramatic tension, are fluid in rhythm and diction, and alive with a sense of the numinous. Anvil published her Collected Poems, edited by Peter Jay and with an introduction by Marina Warner, in 2002.

Sally Purcell was born in Bromsgrove, Worcs in 1944. She studied French and Provençal at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and continued to live and work in Oxford (as typist, barmaid, researcher and, above all, writer) until her death in 1998.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.