Category Archives: Poems

Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey – poem by Michael Brown

Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey

To touch a Saxon cross, make your hand
a star and arrange it to each rune with love.
Here was one who felt such slackened
feldspar through that world of stone —
eyes narrowed, intent to the fault line,
a seam of rock. Once it took such time
to score or scratch or deftly nick
these half-familiar marks where now
you strain to place your fingerprint
to fix a dream blade’s dance,
trace the grit and grain — how the will
to rough out lives or interlace
straight lines became.

Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey by Michael Brown was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

Of One Matter – poem by Derek Sellen

Of One Matter

         – after the painting La Sagrada Familia by Josefa de Óbidos.
           in which Joseph holds out a cross to the infant Christ

In Sevilla, in the first years of my life, not yet waist-
height among the crowds, I saw the Virgin borne up
out of candle-lit dark on the shoulders of twenty men,
step by juddering step into the full sun. Trumpets sounded
and a gypsy voice sang the saeta.
                                              The memories came with me
into my father’s country where I studied with the nuns;
for me, those effigies had breath and blood and sinew
more than the convent’s pale life. So when I painted
la Sagrada Familia, I gave Joseph the long-bridged nose
of a wooden saint with its triangle of shadow, Mary
a breast contoured by the run of a grain. My Christ-child
reached to the slender square-cut cross, gazing on it
as if he and it were of one matter, drawn to each other.
I thought of the novice who’d hidden a stillborn in her cell
and of trees that are felled for the supple strength of their heart.


Of One Matter by Derek Sellen was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

A Place to Call Home – poem by Jude Neale

A Place to Call Home
To Nettie Wild

Paint white-silled windows
on the rooms of the homeless.

Fill them with hollyhocks and sky.

Let the honeyed light filter in
flooding the room
like pale cream on milk,
laughter spilling over sorrow.

May they fall into the sweep of stars
glittering their hard-eyed promise
over the lintel and stoop.

There’s a path in front;
it wavers and crosses
a meandering stream,

where it falls and falls again
into gleaming rain bowed glory.

They say build your own house
from dignity and pride.

Yet they know nothing really

of disappearing into innuendo,
or the grey incomplete answer
that swings like twilight
through dusky memory.

Paint an open door to enter through.

For the feral cat
curls round the rug,
she dreams of fire
and the yielding warmth
of your lap,
as you settle deep
in the plain wooden chair.

Paint a small bed,

draw up the covers,

and rest

like a wild salmon
finding her singular way

A Place to Call Home by Jude Neale was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

splendid in its silence by Jude Neale
Splendid in its Silence is Jude Neale’s prizewinning poetry collection published by SPM Publications.

Negotiating slugs – a poem by A C Clarke

Negotiating slugs

I wanted to salt them away,
but couldn’t stomach orange meltdown:
thought I’d cope with poison,
their death in agony under the joists.

And yet …

there was that evening when I switched a light
on three of them, heads down at a saucepan
chummy as rootling hogs. By morning
only a glisten on the worktop
a memory of three grey bodies
hooked over a rim like stubby fingers.

And again…

there were three babies, thin as matchsticks,
not one as long as my little fingernail,
trekking the grownups’ trail in the lee of cupboards
even they couldn’t squeeze into; distracted
from food-quest by a poking paw
(what if the cat became furless and sticky?)
they curled up like kittens. I carried them
into the garden, close to the sorrel they love.

And then …

there were the two I kept in a jar –
lid tight shut, but air enough
though I was vowing pellets next time –
shook out next day behind the dustbins
where they lay still as peelings. I waited.
First one and then the other tendered
a cautious eye-stalk to the light,
muscled its way to shade, the breeze
shuffling a strip of white rag between us.

Negotiating slugs by A C Clarke won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley

Extremities – a poem by Claire Williamson


The explorer on Radio Four describes how men
climb mountains because they can’t give birth

and be mothers, how time and heat
are crucial for Alpine adventurers.

I imagine a scattering of climbers
blurred like birds on a cliffside.

Caught alone in a blizzard
one has lost a leg below the knee,

frost has bitten off another’s fingers and toes
five days trapped in an avalanche.

I want to call them all home.
They shed extremities, while I gain

ten carabiner toes dabbed dry
in a white towel’s snowstorm,

looped arms slung around mine
in the crevasse between sleep and wakefulness,

thighs which gripped my waist in infancy
clamp on five years later

preparing for cols and peaks
on the ropes of my time and my heat.

Extremities by Claire Williamson won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley

Dreamland – a poem by Mary Anne Smith


On Margate seafront, towards the Turner,
there’s a new wall in fake stone and granite,
grey as the sky on this January afternoon.
It looks out of place here at the seaside
where you expect to be leaning on
flakey blue railings, blotched with rust
like cigarette burns, but still as bright
as the memory of the summer skies
in all those glossy deckle-edged postcards,
and parallel lined with striated deckchairs,
puffing up in the wind like a row
of fancy pigeons ready to take off
towards that shelter where Eliot
looked out across the waves
from waste land, trying to find words
to connect nothing and nothing.
Here, you can still find railings – but painted green,
like the Green Shield stamps which we brought
in sticky books to redeem at the old showroom
just across the road, its plate glass still reflecting
the golden sands and a rumpled, eau-de-nil sea.

Later, as the winter sun slips to its descent,
it glows like a portal to some peripheral world,
and the pink clouds vanish just as quickly
as the candy floss always did,
at Dreamland.

Note: Dreamland is a recently-revived amusement park in the recently-revived seaside town of Margate.

Dreamland by Mary Anne Smith won First Prize, Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

How to translate


She was invisible

opinions left to the roadside

eyes on the fritz

she danced

to the tunes she was taught

side-step this way side-step back

sure, she eventually waltzed like a pro

though quick whirl-a-round turns

left her dizzy.

What the hell

she was dancing, wasn’t she?


It turns out

dancing isn’t her forte

now she’s into the shuffle

into the one step

music once loud in her ears

veiled background

finally eyes wide open

she regrets not burying

her head in the sand

when she had the chance.


Instead she’s left with mayhem

here there everywhere

her opinions getting louder

escaping unedited

look at what’s going on

she asks what world is this

I’m dying to leave

can’t translate now

into what she assumed

past tensed

all those years of expectation

proven wrong

even if she danced backwards

there’s no looking back

and those words never voiced

relinquish the way

things are supposed to be

I’m ready to leave she says

you take care of it

you dance.

The Lazy Gondolier



Rumour has it you’ve cast your lot

with one lazy gondolier, a melodious jerk

who barcarolles with the very best of them,

but isn’t worth a crap when it comes

to finding treasure in the Lido’s squooshy turf

at daytime’s lowest tide. Oh, he can expertly

steady his boat into wasp-waisted slips

and rough-sea piers, but give your guy a shovel —

even show him exactly where to dig or scoop —

and damned if he’ll ever turn over one ducat,

much less something feminine and personal

like a corroded or encrusted bracelet. Moreover,

everybody sees he never breaks a sweat,

never pants like a strung-out greyhound

from genuine exertion, which is why I rush

to call him lazy. But now confide in me,

pretty-pretty please: is he the selfsame way

when he’s practically all by himself? (You know,

when he’s with no one except the likes of you?)



Tonight, my lover promised we would go places:
edge of the sun or rim of a lunar crater,
circle the burst of stars in our patch of sky,
hitch a ride on a spinning asteroid
and feel how space invades the distance
straddling two electric bodies.

Here was our house, next to Moscow
and the frost that permeates its empty squares.
Every morning, we woke to bells ringing
from the onion domes of St. Basil’s,
sounds we imagined mailed to our window
by melting snow, the hurtling wind.

My lover believed in all things real and imagined,
and I, the rest that hover in between.

In the place where they sell coffins,
I first saw her, looking from beneath the glass
reflecting the whites of her eyes, her body
a lazy shadow supine in its polished casing.
I took her, there and then, on a trip around the globe,
painting portraits of ruins and walls, hillside
trees, a field of wildflower, mountains.
She devoured the sights, the moving pictures,
down to the final shred of celluloid.

Stop—Touch this acre of soft earth.
Here was the place for the invention of promise:
bend of the harsh ray of light
and spark of the first gleam of life.
Notice how everything collapses to its core,
how nothing seems able to withstand
the pull of gravity. This is also a place
for broken things, and for things to be broken.
Shards of glass collect on the bleeding feet,
wounds refusing to close with every washing.
Here was where we landed last night:
not in Zurich or Oslo, balmy Barcelona,
the lofty heights of Denver or swampy New Orleans,
but a house of stone and fog, both solid and wisp,
like whispers inhabiting the space between our mouths.
Here, our words are nothing but air.



The lemon tree makes a curious shape
in the way it bends to the sky: stooped,
slight dent along the delicate stem,
as if praying to heaven or asking

what shape the rain takes as it plummets
in a raging storm. To be old and still bear
fruit—yellow, flock of children navigating
an empty museum at daytime; sour,

the aftertaste of troubled marriages—
is quite enviable. It means the capacity
to create is still intact, like looking
beyond the window and asking the glass

what shape the moon takes at midnight,
hoping to imitate its spectral glow, the curve
where darkness meets the light.
This morning, the lemon tree travelled

one inch farther from its mound of earth,
but also, nearer to when it shall finally stop
trying to outgrow the rest of the garden—
the nonstop pendulum of bamboo stalks,

the roses blossoming in summer—
and learn to let go of the one perfect fruit
hanging from the one perfect branch,
the shape of sadness trapped in the bubble

of tears, when a father’s face has turned
away after his daughter’s wedding.
Tonight, the lemon tree stands content
with the geometry of its place—the triangle

of leaves moist with dewdrops, the parallel
branches bearing weight of the future fruit,
the shape of the unborn seed in its watery
womb, where even strangers tend to its needs,

and an old man’s need to see circles and squares
take the form of boisterous grandchildren,
like saplings breaking through the soil
for the first time.

After Larry Ypil.

Vincen Gregory Yu obtained his Doctor of Medicine from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital in 2016. His poems have appeared internationally in Pedestal Magazine, Stone Telling, Bacopa Literary Review, Popshot Magazine, and Diverse Voices Quarterly. He is also a theater reviewer for Philippine Daily Inquirer, and was a fellow for Fiction in the 56th Silliman University National Writers Workshop, the longest-running creative writing workshop in Asia.