RUTH VALENTINE has published three full-length collections and six shorter; the latest are Downpour (Smokestack 2015), Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars (Hercules 2017) and A Grenfell Alphabet (self-published in aid of the Grenfell fund, 2017). There’s also a novel, The Jeweller’s Skin (Cybermouse 2013) and various non-fiction. She lives in Tottenham & spend a lot of time campaigning against May’s hostile environment.
OWEN GALLAGHER was born of Irish parents in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. He now lives in London and was a Primary Teacher in Southall. His previous publications are: Sat Guru Snowman, Peterloo Poets. Printed 2001 and reprinted 2004; Tea with the Taliban, Smokestack Books, 2012; and A Good Enough Love, Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2015, which was nominated for the T. S. Eliot award.
A. C. CLARKE is a poet living in Glasgow who has won a number of prizes over the years and been widely published in anthologies and magazines. She has collaborated with Sheila Templeton and Maggie Rabatski on poems in English, Scots and Gaelic, resulting in a pamphlet Owersettin published by Tapsalteerie in 2016. A second collaborative pamphlet will appear next year. Her fifth full collection, A Troubling Woman (Oversteps Books) came out in 2017. She was one of four joint winners in the Cinnamon Press 2017 poetry pamphlet competition with War Baby, which was published in January 2018. She is currently working on a harebrained scheme to translate all of Paul Éluard’s poems (at least 1000) before she dies and on an ever-expanding series of poems about his first wife Gala and the surrealist circle.
Today she is on the beach.
Today she’s brown, sun-brown, a strong colour, the skin of someone often on the beach, or out in the garden, bending over borders.
Today with her friends she’s going into the water, someone gives her a hand to get up, the thing with her feet, but in the water it’s easy, she swims away.
Today the sun is shining, the water warm, the shingle is browner than her, a harder brown, they sit in folding chairs after the swim, sun on her skin, red towel round her shoulders.
Today she is lying down.
Today they’ve drained fluid off her lungs, away from the internal organs, all those spaces, she’s tired, what they’re doing, another scan.
Today her body is all interior, as if there were no skin left, no muscle even, spaces and cells with their own silent life, their own decisions that they’ve never told her.
Today this type, that’s how it is, no symptoms at all until you get a cough, she had a cough, discomfort, and by then not a lot to be done, though maybe chemo, maybe shrink it a bit, a bit more time perhaps, most they can say.
Today she’s not here.
Today she is not alive, can that be true but it’s true, there is a today when she’s not here to say Let’s have a swim, not even say Nothing more to be done, today she is
Today diminished, if there’s skin, still brown, it can’t be her skin if she’s not there, not even sleeping, not coma, a permanent absence, where she once saw herself a presence, a mind, laughter, tough body that stepped into water and struck out.
Thi Unoffishal Toorist Guide Oootside Glesca Central
‘Ah’ll show yoo anuther Glesca, wan wi heid bangers
sportin chibs tae stick in ribs an folk who hiv woke
tae find thair milk n meter munny nicked.
Ir greetid everi Friday wi a q it thi door:
loan sharks, rent arrears men, priests an spivs.
Where stray gulls n cats ir scoffd like Mars Bars
n weans scalps hiv bin mauled by nits.
Don’t bi connd bi cafs n galleries
there’s sods here who wipe thair gobs wi fivers
n widnae think twice o payin someone’s ma
wi lefters an claes unfit fir charity.
Folk here hiv nae mair holes in thair belts tae tighten
tae fit sum right hoorable’s stratigy.
Firget thi toorist hype, ‘Glesca’s great!’
Ah’ll tell yoo aboot thi Clydeside thit made thi English
Government pipe thit thi Revolooshon wid start here
n planked tanks n gangs o strike breakers.
Dae yi want a bleached version o Glesca?
Wan thit’s bin writtin oot o thi history books?
Ah’ve git three weans tae feed. Ah’ll dae it fir a cuple a quid!’
The teacher whose voice rips him to snippets
calls him to the front, rules his buttocks
with thick red lines. He’s sure of it then,
asks to be let off games – a kick could stave
his body in, easy as a circus dog
bursts through a hoop. Soon he’s refusing
to go out in the rain. He’s seen how it melts
crisp newsprint to sludge. Alerted,
he finds that someone has pencilled sketches
on both his palms, inking the backs of his hands.
He develops a morbid fear of pens
and candles, never knows if the crackling he hears
is just the creases as he folds his thinness
into a chair or a match set to his skin.
The barber’s scissors shear his scalp too close.
He grows his hair, refuses to shave.
He tempts a girl at last to turn his pages.
She’s careless: the sharp edges draw blood.
A. C. Clarke
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