On this page we'll be giving you a sneak peek at some of the poems included in our publications:

From 'Not Only the Dark'


This is his first afternoon with Madame
in her flat above the bookshop, the buses
whining through the drizzle along
Islington High Steet. He likes
her colour scheme - bold purple, gold,
everything flickering in the candle-light,
very different from the magnolia anaglypta
and white skirting boards in Theydon Bois
- and the scarlet drapes and Turkish kilim
where a one-eyed ginger cat
regards Madame’s whip phlegmatically
as she trails it across his thigh. He likes
the joss sticks dropping ash
onto the floor like insouciant students
though he’s less keen on the actual pain -
the bite into the flesh; he slips further
from the room, each lash a descent
into darkness, his skin laid open,
vision blurring and that’s when
he realises he’s forgotten the Safe Word.
It’s a place, yes - some northern town
he visited as a child. He remembers
grit-stone houses under a film of rain,
women in beige with bosoms big enough
to offer shelter and the smell of baking,
a wet dog itching its fur against his legs.
He’d said to Marjorie several times
he’d like to retire somewhere like that,
somewhere with hills, real hills, the light
on them blue as the day went. Look,
he whimpers to Madame, do you think
you could stop that now - but no,
she’s in her stride, a real professional,
and he’s so tightly bound, his wrists
chafing on her iron bedstead.
He can feel her breath on his neck, yeasty
and warm as the loaves in the bakery ovens,
swelling and rising to greet the new day.

© Catherine Smith 2006

Imagine thirst without knowing water.
And you ask me what freedom means.
Imagine love without love.

Some things are unthinkable,
until one day the unthinkable is here.
Imagine thirst without knowing water.

Some things we assume just are as they are,
no action is taken to make or sustain them.
Imagine love without love.

It is fear that eats the heart: fear and
endless talk, and not risking a step.
Imagine thirst without knowing water.

Fold away your beautiful thoughts.
Talk away curiosity, chatter away truth.
Imagine love without love.

Imagine believing in the whispers,
the screams and the gossip. Dancing to a tune
with no song to sing inside you.
Imagine love without love.

© John Siddique 2011
From Full Blood (published by SALT)

From 'slantways'

He rolled the carpet into a giant cigar and started to smoke it. The shag pile burned well enough and gave him a pleasant high. He defrosted the fridge freezer and melted it down on a teaspoon. The kitchen table and chairs broke up into powder that went straight up his nose. He drank the three-piece suite. The house finally empty, he started to pick at the walls brick by brick.
Kate L Fox

From 'The Space Beyond'

We don’t leave the light on any more
and we take it slow, tantric.

If you’re measuring pleasure
it’s the fingers these days which give

and take the most as they travel
the rollers and troughs of this

the largest organ.
Sixty-odd years since we two virgins

cast off together, startled and star-struck
by the newness of the other,

its alien complexities, its concaves
where convexities might be, its

unexpected hards and softs.
Now there’s untold solace in tracing

the progress of each sag and crease
when, as if to dope a biplane,

the hand smoothes and varnishes
places where skin fits over bone,

or it animates flesh hanging
folded like the wasted wings of the moa.

No more the fervour of discovery −
it’s the same secret island

only, a simoom is blowing, dry
and dusty, re-forming contours

into a comfortable approximation
of how the land once used to lie.

From 'Did I Tell You?'

(i.m. Helen Penfold, 1961-1999)

Things are looking up. We’ve
found a pub where the landlord,
convinced by my smooth lies, your

proper breasts, will serve us snakebite.
He tips the lip of each pint glass,
froths in lager, pours cider and asks

How much blackcurrant, ladies?
You smile at him, murmur When -
we love how his hands shake

as you take your change.
We gulp like seasoned drinkers,
avoiding the stares of the old gits

with their bitter, their racing pages.
The drink hits the spot and
everything is funny. You nearly

take my eye out playing darts.
And at the Rec on the way home,
full of sugar and gas, we slump

on the swings we dared each other
to leap from as kids, jewelling
our palms and knees with grit.

We lean back under the night sky,
under all the stars we can’t name,
we’re full of how we’ll leave

this dump of a town first chance we get -
how we despise the regular lawns,
the sagging paddling pools, we’re

singing as we approach our road.
Today was hot, like the days,
buckling with laughter, we shoved

each other over on your drive,
the tarmac sucked at our sandals
and the ice-cream van played Lara

from Dr. Zhivago, too slow. Tomorrow
we’ll feel sick as dogs. But tonight,
here, under a bright, full moon,

we’re amazing, and as we hug
on my doorstep, I taste you,
kiss the snakebite off your lips.

Catherine Smith

Make Me Love You

You taught me how to pinch the sky
and let a gap breathe through the crack,
slowly pulling apart our thumbs and fingers
to capture a person at great distance.

We peered from the beach,
saw far out to sea, chose our boats
from those that bobbed just out of reach -
mine a slim-line yacht with sail ready,
yours a motor boat, fast, white.

We loosened our fingers, let the boats leave the bay
and swam out as far as the old fishing trawler.
We swept our hands along its length,
stroking the weed caught on its side;
it was soft, like a child’s hair.
Abegail Morley