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Poetry from Issue One
pockets of feathers, pockets of air, light-night comfort,
a liquid cushion born of high-flying migrating geese,
the swish of thermals, of winged window blinds at bedtime,
opening at dawn to a sky of patterned cloud and birdsong,
downy clusters like dandelion heads, puffs of warmth,
cloaks of plump, sumptuous acrobats, flight feathers at rest,
a skein of dreams, moulting luminal thoughts, prayers
whispered softly under a wrap of breath and sanctuary.
Maggie Mackay loves family history, winding it into lyrical poems published in print and online journals. In 2018 her pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ was published by Picaroon Poetry and her full collection ‘A West Coast Psalter’, Kelsay Books in the New Year, 2021. She is a MA poetry graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University and a reviewer for https://www.sphinxreview.co.uk/. Daydreaming with a dram is a perfect combo. Her Twitter handle is @bonniedreamer.
COTTAGE James McDermott returning to Lincolnshire to Fishtoft to unharvested fields unpicked tulips to dirt tracks trudged down at thirteen aching for the sun to come out nothing has changed the same old chocolate box cottages except for one the park toilet where age fourteen one dusky Sunday I unlatch a black cubicle door to a four legged monster made of two men’s writhing bodies I knew didn’t know what was happening I escaped to my room in their cottage where I fell to my knees to pray for him to show me his light to give me his love
James McDermott is a queer writer based in East Anglia. His plays published by Samuel French include Rubber Ring and Time and Tide. His poetry collection Manatomy is published by Burning Eye. James’s poems have been published in various magazines including The Gay and Lesbian Review, The Cardiff Review, Popshot Quarterly,Confluence and Dawntreader. James was shortlisted for Outspoken’s Performance Poetry Prize 2020 and Commended in The Winchester Poetry Prize 2020 judged by Andrew McMillan.
Creative Non Fiction from issue One
Postcard from Narrowboat Ookpik
On the riverbank at dusk I repack my shopping, stuffing my boots with tangerines and ground-coffee, and putting them, along with milk and bread and cereal-bars into a waterproof bag. There is not space for my clothes, so I add my phone and wallet to the bag, seal it, and then wade out into the Thames fully dressed. It is July and light rain has started to fall. Reaching deeper water I strike out for home, swimming amid the raindrop splashes, my eyes fixed on the white narrowboat at anchor against the wide willows a hundred yards upstream.
This is not the usual way to get home. I would normally have found a place to moor, a length of riverbank where I could hammer-in three galvanised mooring-spikes and tie the ropes of the boat to them, a place where I could step from boat to bank without difficulty. But here there was nowhere to moor, and I was in a mood for solitude. Instead, I have dropped two anchors, front and rear, and the boat is suspended between them, hanging in the water.
I reach the boat, swing the grocery-bag onto the back deck and then scramble up after it. The water here is deep, deeper than a ten-foot bargepole can reach down. It feels deep too, and inside the boat I sense its depth beneath me. Six feet at least from the steel baseplate to the silt of the riverbed: a fathom or more. It feels like being at sea.
At night I feel the boat rock above these depths, as gusts of wind catch and pull and anchors hold firm. The boat is alive with the water. In the morning, the wakes of Caversham Lady, Cheetah and African Queen of London make it nod in the water. Every few hours I check the anchorlines, to see if the rise of the river needs me to loosen the knots.
When I first stopped here I dived down towards the anchor, to pull the rope and check that it had held. I half-remembered a poem, a haunting image of a ship appearing in the air, and an anchor dropped from an upper world into our own. The anchor catches, and an airy crewman scrambles down the rope to disentangle it. I think of the fathom below me, alive with the silvery fish that rise at night to torchlight, the pike that steal them from the fishermen’s hooks, and below that, the millennia of lost things settling in the silt. It is a world in which I have no place.
On the opposite bank, a barn owl is hunting. She is quartering the field, I think, before realising that I do not fully know what ‘quartering’ means. I say it aloud and am sure that it is the right word for her searching flight. She lands again on the gatepost on the opposite bank, and waits again to ruffle herself and launch into the wind.
It is a routine that has formed quickly: the owl’s perch on the gatepost, the half-blind Canada goose who visits each dusk in search of food, and the spider who, each night, anchors a vast new web across the airy ocean of my open window and feasts on the mosquitoes drawn in by my breath and heat. We have settled, in these few days, into a routine of our sunsets and our searches. And tomorrow I will be gone, downstream to watch new skies over other hills
Jack Pritchard grew up in the part of Dorset that Thomas Hardy called ‘the Vale of the Little Dairies’. After living in Oxford and West Yorkshire, he now spends much of his time meandering along the canals, rivers and footpaths of southern England, on foot or aboard a very slow narrowboat. He fills notebooks with words and scribbles, and his writing has been published in anthologies, zines, blogs and as part of other creative projects.