In the Walled Garden by A C Clarke

In The Walled Garden

This afternoon on the cusp of October
each blade of grass still keeps
its glitter-drop memento,
a tiny prism, as if
a glass rainbow had splintered
harmlessly, the way a sky rainbow
breaks light without a wound.

A feather dropped from a pigeon rests
near a litter of shed leaves.
It doesn’t matter,
the way a tumble of windfalls
means not carelessness
but plenty, their bruises
glut for wasps.

Outside, traffic is growling, a plane
thrums overhead. I think
of glass and steel colliding, the sharp
glint of wreckage
flesh crushed purple;
and how bombs, falling, burst
into angry flowers.

In the Walled Garden by A C Clarke was highly commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

Liverpool Bay by Seán Street

Liverpool Bay

The voice of a hand on my
arm. Less of me to answer
now, watching from here, waiting,
your ship rising from morning
towards the sunrise as two
great birds flew out to greet you,
took you with them through dawn light
past a shoreline to a skyline,
from a desert to a pool
of life’s possibilities.

The dialogue of breathing.
Where West pours in on the tide,
the exhale of East answers.
Water swims with memory,
but when I ask, it only
whispers to shingle. Too much
to question an ocean,
too many conversations
murmuring here at once
in mid-flow. Too much to ask.

The dialogue of breathing.
How we come and go, we tides.
It is what seas make us do.
We come and go – breath and tides –
body heat’s ebb under moons,
the convection of spirit.
We’re printed here together
somewhere across all this deep.
Listen for voices, further
out each time the moon rises.

The voice of a hand on my
shoulder, and it’s you again
out there on the morning sea,
forever coming towards
me, and the city reaching
for the ploughed space in water
left by your lost ship’s grey ghost,
past a shoreline to a skyline,
forever coming back home,
coming in on the bay’s tide.

Liverpool Bay by Seán Street was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

Upon a Night by Mary Rozmus-West

Upon a Night

What goes on in the longest night? More
meals for owls, extended predators’ hours?

Who registers additional losses, the nests
now empty, which stomachs full when time
is called by a tiny chirp hesitantly
announcing the shortest day? The sun

stumbles, spilling milky light from behind
wintering clouds. Opalescence bargains
with tenebrous forces, pretends that all is
well, even as the body count mounts.

Everything’s something, deserves at least notice
say the conflicted heroes. Did you really think
that no one would die when you left the injured
bleeding in the darkness? Dolus eventualis.

‘Upon a Night’ by Mary Rozmus-West was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh

The whisper of stars – by Eithne Cullen

The whisper of stars

Chilling, it is below fifty degrees
in an icy tundra- desolate, bare,
the very breath that leaves you starts to freeze
and droplets turn to crystals in the air;

they hang a moment, to the ground they fly…
and shatter, just like little glassy shards,
look down it is like looking at the sky,
they have named it: the whisper of the stars.

At home, a watcher of the skies, in bed,
holds up a smart phone with a special app,
and constellations loom above his head:
the universe unfolds with this sky map.

Spread out like a rug on the earthy floor,
shooting off to the edge of outer space;
or reaching like the pebbles on the shore
the stars and planets’ patterns interlace.

‘The whisper of stars’ by Eithne Cullen was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh

Two poems by Noel Williams


Windfall phrases flutter on the path, dry whisperings,
litter scratching at my boots. As if someone
doesn’t want me hacking through these brambles
to that neglected shed. Someone is me.
But I’m not listening.
Time to cut this to the root.

In it those toys that Oxfam should’ve had –
the microscope with slides of spider-legs
and eye-bright copper sulphate, a bible scribbled through,
bruised Swoppets and the yellow saxophone
with scarlet keys still creased in cellophane
as if a toy-shop window bent and buckled round it.

You knew I’d kept them. But never said. As if
your silent threnody could scour guilt from these things
heaped up and hidden. Forget this pushchair with rust-soiled wheels
once a chariot. Imagine this typewriter
stuffed with your hundred spidered drafts
holds nothing but pages yearning to be trees.

You wished, I know, to become tongueless as oak.
Instead of words we might have a treehouse.
But what’s the point of knowing? I know this billhook,
for example, was your aunt’s, borrowed to slice
the first thick swathe of nettles from this yard
to clear it for that red pedal car. So what?

I know now this Lone Ranger Colt falls from its holster
if you sprint on the road. I’d planned to stitch it.
I know that if I’d cleared all this and dumped it when I should,
we’d have new tools, oiled and gleaming,
mounds of fecund peat, a dozen rows of seedlings,
fingering the trickling sunlight, if I’d unwebbed the window as you asked.
It feels like rain.

Return to Kabul, 1990

Under the carcass of a T72, the greybeard
elbows professional orphans,
spreads a Quran against a pillow of stone.
We face the same way.

We filter rice and cumin with our fingers,
chew kidney beans folded in spinach.
Stained by firelight we laugh about the carpet,
the lost washing machine, the hours
we’d prayed at that fizzing TV.
Who now crouches by its flattery?
Is it kicked in and sightless, like Mazar-al-Sharif?

Yesterday we counted a blackened mile of buses
lining the pits. My father wouldn’t come back to his cell.
He gave me the hasp of its hacksawed lock, talisman
against its sixty thousand silences.

Between the crazed walls and the minarets
pale pigeons glide like angels.
In the Ziaranth glazed by autumn sky,
a woman in a white burqua kisses the caliph’s tomb.
Those lights rising over the broken stone
are not the beams of any helicopter.

‘Overgrown’ and ‘Return to Kabul, 1990′ by Noel Williams were highly commended and second prize winner respectively in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

SLQ July – September 2016 Print Cover


De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart) by Heather Combe

We have yet to explain, however, in what manner the blood finds its way back to the heart from the extremities by the veins, and how and in what way these are the only vessels that convey the blood from the external to the central parts.
– William Harvey (1578–1657). On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Her slender arm is clasped in his hand.
One finger softly brushes translucent skin,
feeling her fluttering pulse quicken.
Tracing fragile veins, from elbow to wrist.

Part of him longs to take a scalpel,
and part her skin, like stage curtains.
Hungering to explore her circulation;
to reveal the intricacies of her anatomy.

She shudders. Picturing again the animals,
still breathing, splayed in his study.
The mewling cries, the scalpel’s glint;
his notebooks full of precise sketches.

An intense stare and narrowed eyes,
her husband, pathologically curious.
Enslaved to the pursuit of Knowledge,
that most insatiable mistress.

Despite herself, she craves these moments.
The unexpected thrill of his gentle touch,
the novelty of his breath on her neck,
and the subtle warmth of his skin on hers.

Too soon, he will return to his research.
Immersed again, in miniature anatomical worlds.
And with heavy heart she will wait, hopeful,
that one day he will find his way home.

De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart) by Heather Combe was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

Vintage Song by Anne M Carson

St Andrews, Victoria

Grapes move inexorably towards ripeness. Inside the berry,
behind its fleshy walls – the mechanics of veraison. Acid

levels fall, sugars rise, the flesh dehydrates, phenols and
tannins grow fat with flavour. Little factory, humming with

alchemy, broadcasting musky perfume into the autumn
air, wave after waft of sweet enticement. The aromas are

streamers the fruit unfurls into the atmosphere, festooning
the vineyard with the intoxicating odours of harvest. Once,

grapes were blessed before vintage, a priest in regalia
sprinkled holy water over the vines. Vestiges remain of the

blesséd grape; mythic presence, thrum of spirit. Festivities
celebrate the crop – laden tables adorned with grape-leaf

foliage, glasses boasting previous vintages, friends proposing
toasts. Happiness to have the harvest home. Before the feast –

the delicate balance of sugar-levels and picking-friendly
weather. Humans are on hand with measuring devices and

daily readings; instruments and science pick the exact moment.
Birds fly in early with special picking teams, preferring their

grapes on the tart side of sweet. They discern the perfect timing
for their forays with only fragrance to guide them – fine natural

viticulturists, regardless of weather. Scores of Silver Eyes find
tears in the nets, waiting in orderly aerial queues like planes

in airport landing patterns, co-operative and collision-free
without traffic control. Bird after patient bird flies through

holes smaller than a child’s fist, keeping entries separate from
exits. Vociferous local Gang Gangs troupe in for the day,

return home to roost each night. Pied Currawongs become
familiars in daily-ness, arriving en masse to take up temporary

residence. Their vestments are formal. They decorate dusty paths
with brilliant blood-red splats studded with ruby gems; startling

splotches of colour which brighten the dull dun and tan bush.
They announce the season, the readiness of the crop. A single

bird initiates the call, anticipates antiphonal response. It rings
out onomatopoeic; currrawong, currawong, currawong.

Volleys of sound echo the valley; dawn greetings warbled
into pristine cold mornings, chansons chanted into crisp-

skinned days, solos sung into the descending chill of dusk:
beautiful, haunting. Each phrase tapers to eerie vibrato,

finishes with rising intonation. In secular times, the birds
offer the vineyard the simple grace of choral benediction.

Vintage Song by Anne M Carson was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh

Sight Beyond by Audrey Ardern-Jones

I’ve pencil-sketched threads of light
across a black-blue sky
spread from a crack on the horizon
of a restless ocean;

I’ve veined in lit rivulets
across a summer moon
and the intricate splinters of saffron glass
in the eye of a caged eagle;

I’ve mixed cadmium pale yellow
with cerulean for the inside tone
of a portrait, used Windsor lemon
and cobalt violet for filigrees of an iris;

but it’s the blind girl I met in Waitrose
with tinted glasses that I want to paint
her air of something
I could neither touch nor know.

Sight Beyond by Audrey Ardern-Jones was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh

Keats on the Moon by Al McClimens

As he made his way down the ladder,
nervous as a kid on a climbing frame,
he was still rehearsing the lines
in his head. The sun struck sparks
off his spacesuit, tinting the scene with sepia
while up above the command module
skedaddled across the sky like a firefly
as the stars flared and died. Below him
the crescent of home sank in the blackness.
That is all ye know on Earth, he thought,
and all ye need to know.
When his boot
touched the surface his heart burst
and he knew the words he had to say
were useless but he said them anyway.

Keats on the Moon by Al McClimens was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh