Category Archives: Sentinel Champions

Witness

CHRISTINE COLEMAN

The trees are doubly bright and upside down
dangling from the ceiling of the lake
the day they see the swans.

Something unspoken between
them is starting to grow – a mirrored
tilt of head, a certain look, an open palm.

They watch them glide together side by side
into a kind of dance, their necks precisely
matching curve with curve. And now

those thick white ropes are intertwined.
She sees the gesture as a knot of love
and he, a biological imperative –

what they witness next is violence.
She bites her lip to block the words
no wonder myth interprets that as rape.

He slips from her. She doesn’t fly away, or
dip her head to forage in the mud. What
follows now becomes a further truth –

face to face, they rise up from the surface
of the water – their gleaming breasts are
resting on each other’s. Their necks

are craning up towards the sky, and beaks,
upheld like palms in greeting, touch.
It takes a while before they realise

where that deep-throated call
is coming from. Their fingers lock, until
the final echo of the swans’ duet has faded.

‘Witness’ won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017).

Sonnet 142

RICHARD CRAVEN

It’s katabasis for the French school kids,
and he’s the psychopomp, decoding tags
with the chutzpah of Pound libelling yids.
Appropriately lame, his flat feet drag
along the sidewalk, past the gurning drunks
and jaundiced ghosts outside the pharmacy.
The overwhelming reek of Mendip skunk
betrays the junction with Jamaica Street,
where Murakami’s Wave was haply sprayed.
String ties to rail a fleabag Cerberus
under the calvary where Christ’s been made
to spin upon his head. Our Virgil must
now take his leave, for chums of his slouch here
with Stowfords cider and, he hopes, some gear.

‘Sonnet 142’ won Second Prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

Young girl gazelle-eyed

GABRIEL GRIFFIN

When the ten-year old,
packed like a Macdonald’s
take-away, explodes

in chips and nuggets
over the market place
the question coils

in your mind like
a charred wire: just what
did they promise her?

Houris?

‘Young girl gazelle-eyed’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

Every Time I Pack a Case I Cry

TAMSIN COTTIS

I uncouple
from the preparing of my trunk.
I do not get on board
with the choosing of tuck,
the sewing of nametapes,
the stowing of an extra blanket for my bed.
My train set fills the floor.
While you are busy packing
I decide to stage a crash. A landslide
is triggered, derailment follows,
then crossed signals, fractured
lines, lost children.
You fold my pyjamas
and press my ties.
Roll all my socks
into tight grey balls.
To save on space I wear my blazer,
worry at the silk lining

with finger and thumb
in the taxi back to school.
A screen slides shut
inside my head,
a fire is damped.
Home shunts into a siding,

‘Every Time I Pack a Case I Cry’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

Field Mushroom

RICHARD WESTCOTT

Unexpected – this is no plant
but machinery made from flesh
discarded in the grass.
Here’s an air intake from a jet
with several soft fins crumpled.
I turn it over in my hands to see
a scabby disc, rust flakes peeling,
scorched, as if exposed to radiation
one flattened breast excised complete
with areola. I rotate it
heavy on its shaft and flick
the gills which never breathed.

Unexpected – here is life –
seething in the flesh
coggy maggots twist and turn –
little wheels inside an engine
working in their darkness
to transform flesh, recycle scrap,
digest the meat and make new growth –
unseen soaring spores pour forth
out of this rotting fruiting body –
not plant, machine, nor breast, or fish
but mushroom, which you might expect
I could have picked and eaten.

‘Field Mushroom’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

Spider Times

ANGELENA DEMARIA

 

Full grown, and shiny brown as hazelnuts

they’ve slung their skeins of silk between the bushes

and the garden chairs, the leaves and roses.

All the garden glitters with desperation.

 

In their skeletons they feel its coming.

Soft pads taste the ancient bitter tang.

Waking will be harder every morning

and the stone of sleep heavier to carry

as they spin and weave.

 

The greenfly is long gone, the last late bumblebee

blunders through their sticky traps with ease.

Dimmed diamond eyes can only watch

the inedible rose bay seeds bob

in their unwilling captor’s shrouds.

 

The web’s gone, and my spider isn’t hiding,

waiting to spin again. Usually we’d snuggle up together,

he/she more comfortably than me perhaps,

although the spider drew its eight legs in,

its small brown body round as a scarified seed

 

and then I’d think to hold it, almost kill

it with inspection, as it hung webbed up for combat

between the Victorian whorls.

We’d sat together since the start of June

on the black arbour seat

 

sniffing the cool white jasmine,

my nose, its waving feet, tasting

the sweet bright air. But now September’s in.

There’s just one filament of web,

fine on the ironwork like baby hair,

breathing my in/out breath until it breaks.

 

 

‘Spider Times’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

 

 

Two Poems by John Lindley

Inheritance

JOHN LINDLEY

 

Our Aunt left us a cottage.

She didn’t mean to but she did.

Slate it was. Neo-Gothic with chimneys like turrets,

gargoyles in her likeness

and a gash of gate where the fence gave out.

You couldn’t have shifted that place

for love nor money

and there was sod all of either

in its low rooms when we got it.

 

Everything about it was her: its mean light

and narrow views, its fittings that didn’t.

We poured nowt back into it but resentment,

shuttered it up the long winter long,

Havishamed her memory in the gloomiest room

she left us, stuck the Viewing by Appointment pitch

on a sign too big for its boots on an angled pole

in the given up ghost garden.

 

Empty, you’d think you saw smoke

shimmying out of the chimneys

but it’s the light round here plays tricks;

something to do with steam on slow drying slate,

weather fronts and sea air. It’s a mystery to us,

like the way it was left. To us, I mean.

The cottage, I mean. Not like her that.

Come Spring we think we hear the eaves dropping

the way she would through the bedroom floor;

open the windows wide the way her heart wouldn’t.

 

 

The God of Dogs

JOHN LINDLEY

 

The God of Dogs knew a thing or two about design;

knew how to make the rolling shoulder’s plates

attractive whatever the pace,

how to fuel the head with purpose,

the Dunlop snout with scents unsniffed by us;

 

knew how to pattern a paw and patent it

so the copycat cat would stop dead in its tracks

and require those tracks made new

copyright of the God of Cats.

 

The God of Dogs flopped ears or perked them,

lathered His work in fur,

hinged the cocking leg to perfection,

metronomed tails.

 

To Him goes credit for the wolf cousin and fox

but most for the eyes, the blessed bright eyes

of dogs where the dog lovers melt,

where the world reflects a more finished glow.

To Him give thanks for the warm-scented saints

who walk by and amongst us.

 

We, dizzy with dyslexia, praise the Son of Dog

for deliverance and he has made a home for us

on the plain of his lolling tongue.

To Him we owe the music of claw tap on wood block,

the complex calligraphy of hair in the shag pile.

 

Dogs with their valves and varieties

pumped or puffed into being by that God of the air

who fastened those fluid flanks and haunches –

here, the one who punches above his weight;

here, the one who gentles down to size.

 

God of Dogs, who lies down with the lion and lamb

and outshines them both, what a clever hound you are,

drilled yet disobedient, dropping your depth charge dogs

into a sea of troubles, letting their newly-blown shapes

muscle and fawn and make sense of it all,

make sense of us all.

 

 

‘Inheritance’ and ‘The God of Dogs’ were commended and received a Special Mention respectively in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

Progress

CHRIS BARRETT

 

April 2013

 

Evening comes to the spring sky

we can see jaggedly through

cold grey buildings, tied down with pipes.

A bird flies past into the sun we cannot see.

‘Ruskin Park is just round the corner’.

My father knows Ruskin Park,

knows Denmark Hill,

knows all the routes and roundabouts

that lead away from here.

Yet his pale blue eyes show

he cannot take them, cannot go now.

His swollen legs would not carry him round Ruskin Park,

would not let him see the living green trees,

the allotments full of vigour and the same old hope.

His breath is short and weak.

The nurse comes and does little for his dignity.

A catheter, a backless robe.

He looks into the beautiful evening sky

and says little of meaning.

 

2007

 

Our bean poles stand firmly planted,

the seeds to come.

Years have passed since we played here,

treading down the soft-turned earth that fed

the green-crunch runner beans.

Now, under trains running rattling at the back,

I start to grow vegetables again.

In the late spring sun,

my father ties the poles together,

Remembering as he goes.

Midway through he stumbles, and falls.

A long second’s struggling,

but he can’t get up.

I offer him my open hand, silently.

We make no more of it,

and bury the coming future for another day.

 

1980s

 

It wasn’t until later, when my parents had more money,

that my father bought a two-volume dictionary,

sent from Oxford, the thinnest paper, tiny type.

Even then he used the other, older one,

the one he’d taught us how to use.

A torn dustcover, faded from the sun,

finger prints had left their marks

from constant use.

I’d thank my father, if I still could,

for not telling me the answers,

for sending me alone

wandering across the old pages,

in search of one thing, then another and another,

infrequent illustrations if I was lucky.

This book, having outlived him,

carries this delicate memory

of a beginning for me.

 

‘Progress‘ received a Special Mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

 

Lazarus’ Lament

DAVID CANNING

 

I thought it would be like passing through a doorway;

it’s more like entering a corridor lined with locked doors.

 

I feared it could be a void, black, a hole down which to fall;

really it’s white like snow beneath your feet, melting.

 

I believed it might be like setting out on a journey;

it’s actually like missing your last train home.

 

I hoped I would meet up with friends and loved-ones;

it’s more like arriving at a party after everyone has gone.

 

It’s not a land awaiting discovery, but an overcrowded track,

rutted and chewed by the dog-weary feet of travellers.

 

We call it the closing of a chapter, the turning of a page,

but it’s a book in which the last words are missing, unwritten.

 

It’s coming back to a house occupied by clocks,

where there’s still washing up to be done, memories

 

lie unswept on the mantle, ash gathers in the grate

and the edge of your cup still wears the red lips of your smile.

 

 

‘Lazarus’ lament’ received a Special Mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

A Souq in Damascus

David Canning

 

Take a good look around, feel the quality,

it’s the best I have but it all must go,

I need two thousand dollars for the journey:

I’ll try for Berlin, it’s easier there,

I have family, my cousin is a doctor;

yes, I’m willing to talk about the prices.

 

There are some bone china plates with a fine, gold rim

that would add a little glitz to any formal affair,

and a book of insightful dinner party questionnaires

as used by Ivanka Trump, an elegant tray

adorned with flowers and hummingbirds

on which you could serve coffee, dark and sweet;

 

there’s a fruit bowl in Italian marble,

blemished just a little from where something went bad,

four pillows tasselled with the finest gold braid,

bearing only the slightest of burns, my wife’s

dining table with the splintered leg

from where the ceiling caved in;

 

this rug is Persian, it belonged to my mother,

I removed most of the stains,

a full-length mirror in which to admire oneself,

frame of sterling silver, broken below the neck,

an executive chair and ottoman in kid skin,

just a few small holes in its back.

 

Please take a look around, feel the quality,

it’s all I have and it all must go,

I need two thousand dollars for the journey:

I like the idea of London, they say it’s better there,

I have family, my wife’s cousin is a teacher,

yes, I’m willing to talk about prices.

 

A Souq in Damascus” won the first prize, Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)