Roger Elkin is one of the finest poets of our time. His poems come alive with powerful, insightful observations and detail beautifully captured in a soaring language of song, in a way that only a fully matured hand can.
Marking Time is packed with several prize-winning poems that surprise and delight with their range of subjects and the sensitivity with which he tackles them.
We could never really own them,
those glacier-scraped outcrops
their animalness long since recognized
in the naming of one – Lion Stone.
Even in dreams my eight-year old mind
framed them as animal:
fat slugs – huge, ominous -
squatting on skylines – grim silhouettes
black against furnaces of evening suns.
Night after night,
I dreamt they ringed our house,
coming to revenge the guts of brothers
that my Dad had culled,
their thick black tyre-treads,
slow, still, as silent as Gods, and bigger,
patrolling after summer rains;
the slipping silk of mica-grit
their litter trail glistening.
Surely, no-one would want to own them…
And in the surety of mornings
was relieved they were glued still to the land.
And more relieved
when we moved to Nettlebeds
with its sibilance of weeds,
their rippled shiftings,
The Family Has Been Informed
not of the salt-mill of stars
in the bleak night skies
not of the chill mists slipping
from hillsides, and the eerie stillness
that falls over village, over road,
over goat and sheep trail,
the look-out posts
not of the taste of grit dust,
of sand on fear-dry lips,
or the way it clogs nostrils
and places veilings over eyes
so you understand why faces of locals
are swathed in scarves
not of the fact that there is not ever
the slightest chance you’d catch a glance
of a sniper’s profile, only fire flash
barking through darkness
from distant Kalashnikovs
not of the wide open faces of mates
collapsing to caricatures of string-puppets
sliding – slowly, slowly – out of action,
heads lolloping forward,
and limbs slithering
as when bullets bring into flower
their fleshy wounds,
no, not any of this:
all that goes without saying,
is part of the job
but of the fact that last night
on patrol in Helmand Province,
became the one hundredth serviceman
so far this year
Like bruises, she remembers thinking
as she fingered the bulbs, their paper-wafery skins
tinged with the shifting iridescence
she’d last seen on mussel-shells.
That was six weeks to a day before the grim diagnosis.
She’d chanced on them – three firm orbs peeking through
a Woolworth’s bag her husband had stashed at the back
of her utility drawer - a temporary forgetfulness.
Sensing time was running out, and as surprise for him
she’d taken them, firming them in fresh compost,
and recalling his sermoning - Water, then forget them.
Best let the roots put out their filaments - had placed
the crazed porcelain bowl below the dark stair-well.
By the time the X-ray came, their tips had
nippled through, with stems pushing to fulness
the next few months on the kitchen window-sill.
He was thrilled. But, the bruises puddling hungrily
to mulberry down his leg, hadn’t had chance to see,
or smell, or touch the blossoms’ waxy handsomeness.
Now back from the crem under angling sun
and the mist of sherry glasses – her family long gone,
Father Dykes sliding benignly away – she catches
mirror-glimpses of herself finger-tracing their bell-shapes,
their deaths already settling in.
Suddenly shudders at palls of heady fragrances,
and, repelled by their Our-Lady-blueness gaping,
that bruising insolence of living,
confesses she cannot understand
why for the life of her
he so cherished them,
year on year
The poetry collection
by Afam Akeh
The poetry collection
by Mandy Pannett
Poems for the Road
by Nnorom Azuonye
Editors: Unoma Azuah, Amanda Sington-Williams, Nnorom Azuonye.
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