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1916

A bed is a light bulb in the night sky

Balance Sheet

For a Change

I don’t want to write ‘war’

More

Perception as a Furry Thing

Still Water, Orange, Apple, Tea

Take my Hand

There is no bread in the house

main poem at poetry p f

four more at poetry p f

 

1916

    August, U.S.A. The press reports that watermelons have proved to be
    the bane of existence for army officials and have been banned by military
    brass in El Passo. Evidently, the offending melons have rinds which
    cannot be burned or properly disposed of…
 
 
Talk of watermelons takes the day
in Europe’s trenches. Something fresh and juicy
to take away the taste of lavender from nearby fields
and, closer to, the stench of crusted blood and severed limbs.
 
‘Bloody watermelons, Jimmy. Christ,
what’s a watermelon anyway?’
 
‘Water, Mikey – have you never had a great juicy slice?
Bite in and slabber that running mouth of yours,
wet your whistle all right. I had it first in the 4th at Mons.
God knows where they came from. Some old codger
tramping through the backstreets with a great cart of them,
filled to the brim.
 
Tough and green, they were, big as a rugby ball.
Geoff over there, he was with us – and Frank,
gone now with the rest of them at Ypres –
but Let’s have ’em shouts Geoff and belts out
after the old man. Came back with three.
Someone, forget who now, had got hold of a machete,
split the lot and we dug in. Crunchy flesh they’ve got.
Don’t taste of much but water…
all that fruity water like a long cold lemonade.
Lost most of it down our chins. That…’
and Jimmy frowns as he says ‘That was a good day.’
 
And Mikey tells him ‘It says here they can’t burn it.
And the flies,’ he says ‘thousands of them,
a plague’ it says. ‘Christ’ he says
as the chatter falls away.
 
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

in collection Only Here till Friday bilingual (Eng/Rom, 2015 & Eng/Sp 2016; Bibliotheca Universalis, Bucharest). More at Only Here till Friday

 

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A bed is a light bulb in the night sky


See how it tugs itself off and on    off and on.
See it suck in the stars    swelling its brightness
exhale them in uneven spatters of light in the sky.
 
A bed is a light bulb that tugs you to half-sleep
disjointedly dreaming impossible circles
impossible circles in search of solutions
 
that tugs you to half-wake    afraid of the night
of impossible circles stalking the morning
the light at the crack of the creak of a door.
 
A bed is a light bulb lit by a mind of its own.
See how it clings to the night sky above you
too high to permit you to harry it down.
 
See it as scowler growling and clawing its litter
of clouds. See how it prowls in impossible circles
settles its score for you tethering it to the ground.
 
A bed is a light bulb in the night sky    vengeful
determined. You must sew up your eyes    know
that the meter must run out of shillings sometime.
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

in collection Only Here till Friday bilingual (Eng/Rom, 2015 & Eng/Sp 2016; Bibliotheca Universalis, Bucharest). More at Only Here till Friday;
in anthology Poets in Person: At The Glassblower, ed. Aprilia Zank, 2014 Indigo Dreams Publishing, ISBN 978-1-909357-41-9. Also available from poetry p f online shop
first published in ARTEMISpoetry Issue 9, November 2012, ISSN 2045-4686, available from the poetry p f online shop: UK     Eur/ROW

 

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Balance Sheet

The phone rings halfway through my omelette.
Dad must have said it was a quickie because my man
tells him he thinks I can squeeze him in mid-chip.
What’s a balance sheet? he asks me. It seems
an odd question, with nothing to relate it to, but hey,
he’s my dad – anything he wants from me, he’ll get.
 
I tell him it’s a setting out of a company’s worth
at a stated time, but there’s something vaguely odd
about his silence, so I flesh it out a bit, wondering
how much detail he might want, and I’m mad to ask
(knowing him so well and that he’s capable of anything)
what does he want it for? Is he starting up a business?
 
A longer silence, and he speaks again. Oh. I say, and now
the question makes more sense. It’s a bottom sheet
I tell him, that hangs over the edge in a frilly border
and then, To the floor, I guess about a foot. Or I would
have said about a foot, but my man’s laughing and
I laugh at how it was for him, just getting the one side.
 
And I keep seeing my dad’s face, just as the company
balance sheet snaps into focus before the valance sheet
comes floating down. The omelette’s lost to me now.
I laugh and laugh, until I wonder if my heart can take it,
and when I stop, the farce replays, surreal, with all
our puzzled faces and I start again, until I’m blinded;
 
until I can’t tell whether he’s still on the line or not.
When it subsides, I remember how my mother
could always make me laugh like this. My sisters,
all the women in our family, are the same,
cracking each other up at the slightest thing.
And now she’s here. It’s good to laugh again.
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

winner of the Southport Poetry Competiton, 2009;
published in collection, The Janus Hour;
included in anthology, Poetry South East 2010, eds Jeremy Page & Catherine Smith,
The Frogmore Press, ISBN 978-0-9531383-5-7

 

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For a Change

something innocent this way comes.
 
No learned cynicism, no imminent threat.
 
See it as some long-haired girl not tanned yet
looking to do some good in the world.
 
Maybe she wants to be a paramedic.
Bike it in fast to where only a bike can get.
 
She wants to save a body at least
if not a soul.
 
Let it be catching. Let it come to us all
like an infection.
 
Let it be this Local
this Determined
Unstoppable
 
as the saints and angels
of our every day.
 
We are the cells it needs
to go viral.
 
                    © Anne Stewart

published in Let It Come to Us All bilingual (Eng/Rom, Integral, Bucharest, 2017). More at Let It Come to Us All
first published in anthology Poems for a Liminal Age, Sentinel, 2015

 

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I don’t want to write ‘war’

In this world-web it makes no sense.
We are too eager. Too many.
We overspill, encroach, take.
 
Watch us take the moral high ground.
Watch us kill in pursuit of peace.
See how we inherit the spoils.
 
Watch us Nippon a society,
flatten a working cockroach,
label it Defence.
 
Darwin’s ichneumon is kind, in light
of what a man cooks up by way
of smarter routes to blood.
 
We are too few, our shouts ignored –
our shouts against kill and take
in the name of our Security.
 
I don’t want to write ‘war’ – can’t
be comforted by local luxury, peace
as occasional interlude.
 
How should we label us? Mobocracy?
I don’t want to write ‘morality’.
It makes no sense in this economy.
 
 
 
‘Nippon’: tradename, ant-killing poison  
 
                    © Anne Stewart

published in Let It Come to Us All bilingual (Eng/Rom, Integral, Bucharest, 2017). More at Let It Come to Us All

 

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More


You learned to read, long before you were aware
those signs that said you should shut down and listen –
only for a sigh, a tut; a warning to avoid the Sykesean glare
that held you guilty, traitorous and unforgiven.
 
She was deliberate, trying always to be fair,
judging your successes with a measure of suspicion;
good behaviour warranting good fortune being rare
with you so wilful – so arrogant and self-permitting.
 
You came to recognize the rustle of a collar under hair;
to know that pursed lips can have no thought of kissing.
How fear of losing tries to trip each step you dare
along the rope and timber bridge of what is missing.
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

first published in Ten Hallam Poets anthology (ed Steven Earnshaw, E A Markham & Sean O’Brien),
2005, Mews Press, ISBN 978-1-8438712-3-1, available from poetry p f online shop;
also in collection The Janus Hour

 

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Perception as a Furry Thing


Why must men sit so suggestively on trains?
This one is big and heavy. Aging new man,
a campaign of clean, oozing the cleverness of gym.
Legs wide apart and buttocks hunkered in,
of course, where else to slant his bottle down
but bang-slap-centre close up in between?
I toss about the he-does-he-doesn’t-know of it;
appreciate the chunky awkwardness proclaiming,
in ebullient tone, that “It’s a comfort thing”.
 
But, then, that’s men. “Men come pre-validated”
according to the Stewart Theory of Easy Successful Men
(i.e. the ones who don’t spend much time wondering what,
of anything they’ve ever done, they could do better than).
He stretches toes at me, looks me in the eye and grins,
fingers tightening on the bottle in his lap. I’m thinking
Cheek of him and Well, no mistake there then
when I spot the hat. Bang-slap-centre, the black
and softly furry hat I’m always cradling in mine.
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

in collection Only Here till Friday bilingual (Eng/Rom, 2015 & Eng/Sp 2016; Bibliotheca Universalis, Bucharest). More at Only Here till Friday;
in anthology Poets in Person: At The Glassblower, ed. Aprilia Zank, 2014 Indigo Dreams Publishing, ISBN 978-1-909357-41-9. Also available from poetry p f online shop
2009: published in various Romanian versions at Translation Café
2008: included in Eng/Rom broadcast ‘Anne Stewart, translated by Alena Arma’ National Broadcasting Corporation, Romania listen to the broadcast

 

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Still Water, Orange, Apple, Tea

Weekdays, it’s him. Up and down and brings
the morning in a glass as though it’s his.
This is the only time he chooses fizz
and sparkle, and I pass. My morning wings
are folded still. I shift. I pull some strings
and chance an arm on risk-free promises,
the simple generosity of this;
his gift of water and awakenings.
 
Weekends, it’s me, cherry-pink and fast,
so much to do, so let him sleep, so what?
My turn: two kinds of everything I touch
(I’m reconciled to differences at last,
becoming glad he’s everything I’m not).
The tray is full and nothing is too much.
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

Published in the Bridport Prize 2008 anthology, ISBN 978-1-906593-18-6;
Listen to poem;
also in collection The Janus Hour

 

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Take my Hand

I’ll take you to an island, any
Greek island town with winding
uphill paths, and as we reach
the highest, steepest bend,
steady yourself. Catch your breath
and turn, be careful of your footing, the stones
are loosening in the crumbling earth,
and there it is:
the line of trees,
the simple line of trees
I want to show you.
 
So small, so far, you hardly know
what shape they are, though these nearby
amongst those terraces perhaps you recognise
as olives? The green of these is soft,
exquisite to the touch and eye, if eyes
could feel the things they see.
 
I holiday much less these days.
But that isn’t what I miss you for,
those little Englands, lazy Autumn evenings
in the Spanish islands.
 
You never could have tried these paths
– never would have chosen to –
left tired by all your own old steepnesses;
but the far trees, see, before the dark light falls,
how they glisten like sapphires
setting off the world.
I wish …  That is …
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

published in collection The Janus Hour

 

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There is no bread in the house

Head full of Antjie Krog after reading
and reading without breakfast, suddenly
I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been, suddenly my head
is a hive of returning bees, an aria, a bulging larder filled
with everything that I might reach for;
                                                          bread,
the bees are shouting for, for tiger loaf cut thickly
and spread thickly with butter and honey or dripping egg yolk,
a mound of ripened brie, but I know
here in this house today there is no bread,
there is only compromise and cereal which,
if I must eat, is what I must eat – but still
the frantic opera of the bees crowding loaded
into the hive, I reach for the big dinner plate,
perfect for cutting on, and the broad flat knife
that feels good in the hand, and I reach into
the small bread bin for the big box of cereal.
                                                                   My hands
are empty, confused, breadless.
                                                  They stand back from each other
and stare and when they identify the problem, recognise
the expanse of wanting, they whisper
to each other, unpleasant things about me, about
why I do not fill the house with it, hustle the thrill
of fresh-baked bread into every room, reach and take it
whenever I want to. They don’t talk about you.
 
 
                    © Anne Stewart

first published in Genius Floored anthology (ed Ruth O’Callaghan), 2009,
Soaring Penguin Press, ISBN 978-0-9552871-6-9;
also in collection The Janus Hour

 

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