Poems

Adrian Street, The Early Years

I was fighting for my life even before I was born, nearly strangled at birth by my umbilical cord. By four I was re-enacting Little Bighorn, hunting Custer through the hills of Gwent, while Dad was hunted through Singapore by the Japanese. I gathered pieces of downed German bombers to build my own plane and…

Read More

‘Trace’

after a map of the Arabian Peninsula from Al Idrisi’s Kitab Rujar, 1154   I hardly recognise you, naked & nameless, a green path, vital as a vein snaking its way up to ard al iemama.   In early spring, desert thistles align themselves with the stars, a trail of crumbs for a camel caravan….

Read More

‘Sakura, Sakura’

             Aboard a plane before sunrise you find yourself flying over a field of fluff, a hilly country of cumulus clouds, when the alpenglow of March flows in, flooding the cabin, and you’re seven again.              It’s only a week since grandmother died. There’s mud beneath your nails. Your fingertips iridesce with the scales of the goldfish…

Read More

‘Phone Call Home from my Daughter in Chiscani, Christmas Eve 2018’

Why I want to write about the pig’s head hanging from a branch                   in the yard, the cat that was beaten for killing a bird, the man who one night lay down on the track, or the dog you found frozen to death in the snow,                   I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because of our paths:…

Read More

‘river’

The river is a dark bone, a long narrow forearmwith direction which makes an ease of sorts. The river is a soil-dark bone full of the small, the odd,all the names it wasbefore it was river, all the names. Plucky light flips the surface,larvae hold firm, jellied and hard.Mouths open in the reed beds,longest, oldest…

Read More

‘Your sister is a thousand eyes’ by Billie Manning

Your sister is a thousand eyes and she has been looking for you. In the park by the rusting swings, in the burnt grass, she is looking. She sees a thousand things. Chernobyl. Teeth and hair. A dead father. Ugliness. You’ve seen them. The burning buildings, the falling bridges. Children crying in the back of…

Read More

‘The Number You Have Dialled Does Not Exist’ by Fathima Zahra

(After Hyon Gyon’s ‘We Were Ugly’) Your granddaughter – Wild fields of skeletons your Gardening books didn’t teach you about. She writes letters to your dead husband, Loves a boy in secret, But you don’t know that. You know her from a time of closeted Tongues and unaware Grandmothers loved better. There’s only so much…

Read More

’25 minutes on the elliptical’

My body slowed in voluntary, wilful suspended animation / like thought / I am waiting / on the cross-trainer   Window fly in front / you are dead / which is a kind of waiting   Arms and legs snapping towards each other / like rows of teeth in a great big mouth   Do…

Read More

‘Watching the Nestbox’ by Anna Selby — Primers Shortlist 2018

Watching the Nestbox May 22nd to July 19th 2018 To hold a dying bird in your hands is like holding an argument: hot little thudding hot scuffle of feathers all angles and escape a body flooded, bolting. Its feathers peek between your fingers: reptilian tongues. A breath-a breath-abreath. Put it in your mouth like a…

Read More

‘an ill wind’ by Charlotte Baldwin – Primers Shortlist 2018

Charlotte Baldwin works as an arts centre programmer, teaches creative writing and walks dogs.  

Read More

‘Form Up’ by Sally Davis – Primers Shortlist 2018

Form Up One day you wake up and you’re fighting a different war. It’s like every day is drill on the rain-slick barrack square and you’re parading past the brass and every head is turned and every boot comes down, and everything is in its place except your heart. The Padre offers you a ciggie…

Read More

‘You’ by Amelia Loulli – Primers Shortlist 2018

You You came in the night       put your hands around her cheeks and yanked her     from my nipple    or   if You didn’t    You stole all the food     fed Yourself     on the bread I baked that afternoon        grew bigger    or  if not      You hid    in the corners stealing glances   of moments You called mistakes    warned would…

Read More

‘To be fifteen’ by Victoria Richards – Primers Shortlist 2018

To be fifteen and after the third can of Super Strongbow cider, to throw up all over the embossed wallpaper belonging to that girl in the year above, the one with the bra straps and dirty jokes. She breathes in smoke without coughing, says, “alright?” to the most beautiful boy at school, the most beautiful…

Read More

‘After Adlestrop (for Helen Thomas)’ by Valerie Bence – Primers Shortlist 2018

After Adlestrop (for Helen Thomas) As usual, it is not widely known that you were there beside him in that carriage, at that station, suffused in sunlight and birdsong when someone cleared their throat as no-one left and no-one came. As usual, you are invisible — the hidden framework, an underpinning without which he would crumble,…

Read More

‘Catholic Girl Ghazal’ by Rachel Burns – Primers Shortlist 2018

Catholic Girl Ghazal Gotta love us Catholic girls, worshipping Madonna, singing Madonna mimicking her dress, the crop short sexy tops, just like Madonna. We are good Catholic girls, dare to bare our navel girls, chewing Wrigley’s gum hoops in our ears, crucifixes swinging from our necks, sexy like Madonna. Look, now we’re meeting up with…

Read More

‘Last eclipse’ by Nina Powles – Primers Shortlist 2018

    _________________________________________________________________________________________   .

Read More

’17 Forensic Ways I Know You’

D18S51, There is no-one like you. There is a 1 in a quintillion chance of there being someone like you, but still not you. I would know, with every sense I would know D21S11, I could pick the bouquet of your sweaty t-shirt from a line-up of sweaty t-shirts D3S1358, Who else would naturally select…

Read More

‘The Specular City’

The city caught me in strings of orange light. I left behind those still and airless years in which counting each slow hour of suburban dark I sat, wanting my life to take new shape. And so many silences, and the glances of strangers – cold weights on the skin I struggled beneath. Neons, night…

Read More

‘How to go home’

Drive back to the house where you were born. Open her old cookbook, press your fingers onto her pen’s scrawl. Take tweezers: tease a hair from your old doll’s clothes. Play a hymn, its melody clear as light

Read More

‘Being a true account of the voyage of Vincenzo Lunardi’

Fire Late September morning, and a chill in the Edinburgh air, but the gathering crowds are warm with wonder, and the ladies feverish for the hot-blooded adventurer – the man who knows how to fly. Thirty bottles of oil of vitriol into a vat of iron filings, and the limp sack of silk expands and…

Read More

‘Fairy Tales and Stepmonsters’

I wish I’d held your hand more often. it would have been easy. I wish I’d worried less and made a nest of my fingers for it to curl inside, it used to slip into mine anyway. Do you remember the models we made out of cardboard and paper? Rockets and market stalls and castles…

Read More

‘Emma’s Attitudes’

“She is better than anything in Nature. In her particular way she is finer than anything that is to be found in antique art.” Sir William Hamilton   Arachne Nursemaid, barmaid, perched on the Flintshire front stoop, weaving Bacchante Dancing at the Temple of Health and Hymen; atop Sir Harry’s table, deliciously displayed Circe John…

Read More

‘The Emptiness of Things’

I pour you into notebooks, stacking them on my nightstand next to the clock, candle, matches– hoping the emptiness of things will rub off on you. Ripping out pages, I burn them one by one, only to discover you’ve settled in corners and on dishes and found your way into the spines of books. Across…

Read More

‘The Park’

In matching green anoraks, rain or shine, they walk here every morning, she a little taller than he, leaning on his arm, three times clockwise round the park, keeping themselves to themselves,   keeping to the path by the railings where once they saw a gang of young offenders plant daffodils; admire the clumps of…

Read More

‘Ice Storm’

Shuffling to the bus stop with the boyfriend who’d cut his visit short, cracked plastic wheels of his cheap suitcase juddering on the ice, I clutched at his coat sleeve and missed. Chin grazed, that deep-freeze smell up my nose, gloveless hands stinging. Close up: thousands of bubbles, suspended in ice. Beneath the cloudy layers,…

Read More