(Some rockpools for R.)



Medusae – babes

in the wood, with milky domes

and faint fontanelles;


constellations that

someone shook into the sea,

orphan circlet of


fangs, spasming, a

mussed map of heavens, thimbles

on the tide, all thumbs.



Across the rockpool’s frilled theatre,

a limpet budges

a devastating millimetre


Nature Study

Salted tapwater – she knits it

with puzzled antennae;

and from her shell


unpacks a banana bunch of claws,

her googly haversack of roe,

and last – fascination and woe –


a trailing corkscrew quiff of tail,

a soft nought –

her kernel.


Jen Hadfield



Critical Mass

That night, facing the sky, both of us still salty
From the body that crashed softly in next to us,
We were reading God’s Braille.
Grasping for dippers, handles on meaning
And you consoled me –
That we were really just connecting dots to make nothing:
So many seem to be burning but have really died years ago.
We were watching the ghostly remains of butterflies
Flutter their wings at the fiery eye of the lamppost,
And I said, Like so many others I know… they’re just straining towards
The thing that could kill them.

Because, I believe, when speaking of lures such as love
All understanding, like turn-of-the-century water,
Must be tossed out the window –
There’s just no place for it in the house
Of the soul.

And then, you confessed you were no less
Than another astute believer in the domino effect,
That celestial bodies have no weight unless coupled with proper timing –
As if our minds were strict metronomes we could set
To discipline the weak inner-strings of our hearts…

My heart – that I find as incalculable and as graceless
As the fall of a meteorite,
Razing the rosebush in the garden, leveling the apples on the tree –
Smoldering, I have nothing left to give you.

For each of our words, when offered to the other, leaves us empty and cold
As the water poured on the crippled soldier
In the desert. One day, too long after,
He unpeels the slits of his sandbaked eyes, enough to reveal:
The wet, longawaited body of another mirage.

And stops straining, for a moment, to lie on his back – like we’re doing now,
And continue dreaming.

Marlo Bester-Sproul

Hum (noun)

Twilight; gloaming;
To walk blind
Against the wind;

To be abject; lick snot
And rain from the top lip
Like a sick calf.

To be blinded by rain
From the north.
To be blinded
By westerly rain.

To walk uphill
In a tarry peat cut
And bluster a deal
With the trowes.

To cross the bull’s field
In the dark.

To pass in the dark
A gate of hollow bars
Inside which the wind is broaling.

To pass in the dark
A byre like a rotten walnut.
To not know the gate
Until you run up against it.

Jen Hadfield

Two alternative Westminster Bridge Sonnets



Earth hasn’t anything to show more fair,

so pay attention.   Flick back the curtains.

slip back the duvet, contemplate my nakedness,

my open mouth, the precincts of my temple.

Still time to study my exquisite indifference,

my eyeballs twitching beneath the lids

in rapid variations indecipherable

as an ascending diver’s spume of bubbles.

This is the beauty spot, the gentle sniper’s nest,

the view from the bridge between sleeping and waking,

and this is the moment to play the immortal.

An hour from now I’ll be occupied.  Occupied?

Hell, roads will be jammed across the capital.

Ringtones, Drivetime, A-Zs.  Wakey Wakey.


Michael Donaghy

(note how each thought-phrase bleeds and alters the next, so personal busy-ness becomes a city militarily occupied, then re-transformed into quotidian noise. The poem is located deep in zen territory)