Each month the current Anthology Editors select a Poem of the Month, chosen from those submitted at the FSP Open Mic events.
Here are the Poems of the Month for 2017, selected by Ros Schulz and Karl Cameron-Jackson.
February: Dear Poem by Bruce Greenhalgh
March: A Memorable Fancy by Gordon McPherson
April: Sonnet for a Coin-Eyed Fish by Maria Vouis
May: Mother and Daughter Collect Stones by Belinda Broughton
June (a tie): A Modern Father’s Advice by Reginald Thomas / cutting by rob walker
July: Lake Albert Swoons by Karl Cameron-Jackson
August: The Body Mother Made Me by Maria Vouis
September (a tie): Vincent in Waikerie by Gordon McPherson / Welsh Love Spoon by Veronica Cookson
October (a tie): The Handover by Sharon Foulkes / Lorne in B Flat by David Cookson
Dear Poem by Bruce Greenhalgh
There is no good way to do this
so I’ll get straight to it.
I’m leaving you, we’re through.
I want you to know though,
that this isn’t easy for me,
in fact, it’s very painful
because you – we – once held so much promise.
When you first came to me,
when I began to write,
the potential thrilled me.
I thought that you were the one,
that finally I had found a voice,
a way of realising a desire
to reach out and to touch
a void, a nerve, another human being.
But it didn’t work out did it?
those initial words and lines that felt so inspired
and so in touch with some fantastic stream of consciousness
later read like the draining of dishwater.
You suggested no structure, no metre,
the only rhymes that came were laboured.
I tried, I spent time with you,
whole evenings, odd moments.
I lay awake at night thinking about you.
And there were times
when a line
that occurred to me while … riding on a bus,
felt as if it could redeem our venture and save us.
Then my obsession with you
seemed justified and right and true
But I was kidding myself, something, I now rue,
and so … I’m leaving you.
A Memorable Fancy by Gordon McPherson
I’d play poker with Donald Trump.
He could wear his lucky red hat,
and I wouldn’t mind
and I’d bring the Cheezels
and he could sit Ivanka on his knee,
or she on mine and we’d play five card stud
and he’d have a nickname: The Don.
We’d ante up, and shuffle, cut and deal
and so typical, he’d hunch over each card,
eyes like two suspicious moons
but so not looking my way.
He’d show his hand to his minders
then brush them aside and tweet
about his superterrific skill
and Putin would tweet back
and tell him to sit pat.
He’d bet, bulldozing his money
across the table, obviously on a winner,
so I’d pretend to think, finger my chips,
reach for a Cheezel and squirm in doubt,
ask him how many cards he took
and ask him again a minute later
then clean my specs until he’d begun to steam
and after toying with my pile,
I’d see him and raise him
and watch him browbeat
more chips back across the table,
sweetening the pot with the Trump Tower.
And I’d start my performance
all over again, the doubt,
the squirming, the asking
the Cheezels, the specs, until he’d yell out
Call, damn you! Show me what you’ve got!
And I’d throw my hand in.
I’d fold, and he’d stare like a frozen orange,
and his aides would be goggle eyed
by this alternative fact.
After all that build up,
he’d never get to see what I had,
he could never crow
about another conquest,
and even though I’d lost money,
it would be worth it,
knowing the pain I had caused him
with my pokerus interruptus,
pulling out just in time.
The Don would be my bitch.
Sonnet for a Coin Eyed Fish by Maria Vouis
At the mouth of the Onkaparinga River.
In the mornings the new autumn cold
chews the crusts of fading summer,
The wind whines high through the empty hold
of the poo-bag roll in F # minor.
Midday birdsong is free light freight,
The dogs stalk and strain on the halter,
The sun sandwiched tight, early and late
sends trembling veins of light through water.
Through the violet dusk black swans abide,
Feeding from the river’s gilded face,
A hooked fish dies and its gold coin eye
counts the cost of sunlight erased,
It mouths its own wordless eulogy
to the river, flowing blind to sea.
Mother and Daughter Collect Stones by Belinda Broughton
In the dry riverbed we collect stones, each a jewel
or a small world — my daughter and I — ambling like cattle.
The wide riverbed is bank-to-bank beauty
of red, white, green stones,
black and yellow, veined and ribbed
quartz and sandstone, basalt and granite,
all tumbled smooth by the long time of the world.
I find a few treasures and my daughter, who is five,
comes and stands under my stoop, pounces
on stones at my feet, her eyes scanning, scanning.
If I move sideways, she moves sideways. If I turn, she turns.
All this space and she stands right here, shadowing
my shadow, seeking treasure at her mother’s feet,
seeing through her mother’s eyes, stealing her mother’s vision.
Well, our children do. It’s what we give the world — their greed
for life — and it’s ok that they look through our eyes for a while.
But Daughter, in that far off story of snow and sadness,
the little match-girl died.
She was fiddling with flames, dreaming of mother
when she could have been collecting wood.
Daughter, I am only a dreamt mother. I can’t save you.
I can’t give you the world, though I’d give you
each stone in this riverbed, I’d give enough beauty
to sustain you in your ever-after life.
But in the end, I’m as impotent as the match-girl’s mother.
And you can steal from me, my eyes, my very breath,
but sooner or later, you will have to find
your own stones to whisper your secrets to.
JUNE (a tie)
A Modern Father’s Advice by Reginald Thomas
If you can take an outright lie and spin it
To seem like Gospel truth in public eyes;
If you can run a race and fail to win it,
Yet fix it so you still procure the prize;
If you can answer each and every question
On TV’s “Meet the Press” or such event
And leave the host with verbal indigestion,
Still wondering just what the hell you meant;
If you can wheel and deal with those around you
And work it so you get the inside track
And don’t permit your ethics to confound you
From taking all and giving nothing back;
If you can deal with triumph and disaster
And, from the former, garner all the fame,
While, with the latter, show that you’re the master
By making sure another takes the blame;
If you would sell advantage to the sinful
And fill your coffers up with crook-ed cash,
Or gather suckers’ votes in by the bin full
With weasel words and offerings of trash;
If you would fill your every waking hour
With promises of good things to be shared,
Then drop them all the moment you’re in power,
Explaining that they’ve merely been deferred;
If you can preach of altruistic service,
While doing what is best for number one
And switch allegiance as it suits your purpose,
Then politics was made for you, my son!
cutting by rob walker
She remembers cutting
her fingertip with the razorblade
she remembers the ease
with which it sliced
she remembers after it healed
her fingerprint whorls no longer aligned
she remembers thinking
that it looked like a contour map’s escarpment
an approaching cold front
disrupting the isobars
Lake Albert Swoons by Karl Cameron-Jackson
The Body Mother Made Me by Maria Vouis
The body mother made me
My lips, her smile stretched across sorrow
and one tooth lost with each child born.
The body she seeded for me
Nine Greek moons to grow, twelve more to suck,
years to wean and teethe and cry.
These breasts she planted as buds
bloom for her,
flower in my veiled night movements,
swell at full moon with her secret musk.
These feet she fashioned for me
danced for her,
in her mountain village square,
stepped the map of her maiden soles.
The hands mother kneaded me
labour for her.
My hands pull wild greens, stir her pot,
my fingers light the lamp of the dead.
This voice she gifted me
keens for her,
Doric modes hummed into my breath,
ocean hymns of leaving but always coming home.
These eyes mother lent light to
look for her.
My eyes leak her tears now,
now that she is dissolved to bone.
SEPTEMBER (a tie)
Vincent in Waikerie by Gordon McPherson
Can you get yourself resurrected,
replenish your bones,
restore your eyes,
clad yourself anew
in the corrupt flesh of fallen man,
sneak round the infernal guard,
trek your way up through the lava tubes,
shove aside that stone, push away the ivy
from your grave, stretch your fingers
to grip with renewed strength
your Japanese brushes of dog hair
and pig bristles,
slink past all those heavenly jingles,
then thumb a ride
from some rip snorting
rebel of an archangel
and make your escape
to the Antipodes?
Can you come up,
from the horrors of eternity,
and bring some girls and music,
wine and bread and olives,
and your portrait linen
stretched on its frame,
and bring your colours,
Vandyke brown and chrome orange
for the warm earth,
viridian for the leaves
and zinc yellow
to catch our vibrant sun?
Can you come up,
to this allegro landscape,
beneath a pizzicato of clouds,
set your easel in place
and pull down some of that
Can you come up,
and wield that lead white
and cobalt blue,
and lay on with your impasto
and paint your plainsong
into our immortal sky?
Can you come up,
Welsh Love Spoon by Veronica Cookson
From: ‘In Passing’ by Brian Harris
To be born in Wales
not with silver spoon in your mouth
but with music in your blood
and with poetry in your soul
is a privilege indeed.
Her fingers traced the spoon
he had poured his soul into
hand-carved from a single piece of Welsh oak,
decorated it with Celtic symbols,
wood-grained hearts, chains, padlock __
pledging love, faithfulness, security;
a twisted stem signifying his hope they
would always be entwined likewise.
No every-day wooden spoon this
with furred edges from over use
made to stir oatmeal or lamb cawl,
but a Love Spoon, to be cherished.
Sealed, polished with natural beeswax,
shiny as her mother’s silver tablespoon,
it will hold pride of place in their kitchen
outlast rusty racks of trophy teaspoons.
She will give him the answer he yearns
imagining cold nights together in bed –
OCTOBER (a tie)
The Handover by Sharon Foulkes
Friday at sunset,
and the junction diner churns with the weekend influx.
grabbing a snack for bribing the kids into silence, and
steeling themselves for the dazzle and blur that’s ahead.
breathing relief at temporary escape from the concrete, and
filling the fidgeting horde in the hope that they’ll sleep.
But, at a clean corner table,
a woman sits alone.
headlights are streaks in the darkening glass.
football’s a silent dance on the screen.
She stiffens and shifts in her chair,
and standing there, a man in shirt and tie
hands her a bundle of pink pyjamas
and a floral back-pack.
“Tell her you’ve had some special chips.”
Best be done with it quick –
up this close, the chasm yawns between them,
and deep within, the heat begins to roil and spit –
So the week’s events are dropped unshared
(the delight in the puddles, solo flight on the swing).
They fall soft as white ash, as he turns.
The bundle stirs and whimpers, unfurls awake.
Although she’s mothered in welcoming arms,
her heart’s too full of the grief of leaving.
Rock and soothe,
Wipe a tear,
Smooth the brow,
Mum is here –
How long before the hurt’s too deep to reach?
It’s getting cold – they have to go
(judging eyes, suspicious looks).
Her mother gathers all her things,
and takes her wavering hand –
now comfortably encumbered, guides her on.
She is the never-there-yet, the empty-away.
Lorne in B Flat by David Cookson
In the town curled below rain forest
street lights tint rags of mist.
I am the only patron
in a bistro narrow gutted
as an eel
where mine host
in iced-white chef’s hat
has jazz on the stereo.
A brass barnacled J
his saxophone perches in a corner
and when I guess Coltrane on the CD
he must practise Lesson 3 for me,
while from the kitchen
my cannelloni seduces with garlic.
Fork as baton, I beat time for a lullaby
blurred by false starts and apologies.
Unbidden, he pours more wine.
I surrender to pasta perfect as Bach,
as we discuss other jazz greats.
The CD stops;
distant surf a counterpoint
to the sudden quiet.
‘Ah, one day,’ he muses,
fingers already straying to the keys.
He waves away payment,
starts lesson 3 again.
I walk home, the lullaby an echo,
watch the moon chase clouds