Sentinel Literary Quarterly

Vol.2 No.4, July 2009. ISSN 1753-6499 (Online).

The Magazine of World Literature

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Miles Cain is the Writer and Presenter, Next Week's News, BBC Radio York. He is a Freelance writer, researcher, storyteller, musician and Winner, 2008 Slipstream Poets Competition. These two poems by Miles Cain; "Coffee" and "Enemy Funeral" won the First and Second Prizes respectively in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2009) - a total of £160.00 in Prize Money.

Miles Cain




Lip to neck and arse by thigh,

we almost choked on each other,

our breath ferocious in a war

to stay human.

I was starving for home.


The smells stayed immobile 

in groaning air. Human debris

and the reek of coffee.


We murmured in darkness,

creaked with the timbers, 

craved a hard breeze.

When they let us on deck

we filled it like flies

at the eye of a horse.

Tongues swollen,

eyes shrunk,

the waves were tempting.


After docking,

we were shoved, bossed,

dressed up, starched.


Groomed for parlours,

we stood in shadowed rooms,

kept tight in cuffs and collars.

I waited near tables,

poured coffee

into pale cups and thought

of skin and coins. 


I served it with silver spoons to

giggling ladies

with small and pretty eyes.    

I saw the floor,

remembered my fine brother,

his bold face. His big hands.

I thought of winds twitching at the shore,  

the heat in the plantation,

the sun on bare leaves.

The distance between

covered truth and blinding sorrow.

Who fetches coffee

and who drinks it.



Enemy Funeral


After the planes had gone,

and the supply trucks skidded north

towards the city,

we arrived and gathered what remained

amongst the charcoal and ash,

cradled them in our arms,

and pushed them into a neat pile.


The sergeant swamped fixed mouths

and bleached navels

with gasoline,

spat and flipped his lighter.


We shuffled back a little

as eyeballs clicked and bones boomed.

Otherwise, they kept quiet.          


We were grateful for the pure heat

of the desert afternoon.

With some of the ashes that remained

the sergeant brewed coffee

and we passed a cup around. 


We licked our lips

and looked at the horizon.

There were piles like this one in the distance –

bent spirals of smoke

marking a border of a kind.



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The Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2009) is now open for entries.

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Sentinel Literary Quarterly

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