Newton, Stone and Jeffers
Welcome to Eritrea
by CRISTINA NEWTON
To Helen Berhane and other prisoners of conscience still held in shipping containers in Eritrea.
This is where they’ve packed me up.
Time says nothing. Clamped and gagged,
it lets my pulse come back with a rusty jerk,
the taste of alloy. Here is here
and here, a caulked tin ventricle,
where I clog the arteries of my country.
This is where I cocoon in my own filth.
I slowly cook during the day, and go
straight from the oven to the freezer
in one dish. This metal container
is no metaphor. I have been preserved.
I am being shipped without moving,
a crouched rat rotting in cargo sweat.
I hear the knuckling down,
the stiff fouling: there are other rats,
my neighbours, my incommunicado kin;
dragged out to the latrines once a day,
then shoved back into their airtight cans,
or butted under ground.
Welcome to the compound, you dissident.
It’s time out until each one denies
or dies, as we cringe, trussed-up,
each in our shrunk dimension.
How to manage our disfigured oxygen,
how to fold and wait like foetuses,
learn to breathe with the mind of a beetle.
This blind tank amplifies the swearing,
all the bloody clang of pow. A new beat
on your metronome: it drums your brain
like live surgery. Their slogans teach you
what comes next, tattooing it into your mettle.
Soon you will not recognise yourself.
What do we want eyes for in this night-lock cramp,
this waste of moons, of noons, of half-dawns.
Hear us crack, brittle branches of drought.
Darkness drinks up the darkness of our hair
until we glow with orange haloes, toothless.
We, good for a pulp.
We would have to lose the string of days
to loosen ourselves from this raw drag.
Outside we stood purposeful and wonderfully made;
we developed in brightness, and our souls
responded to increments of light.
The embryo goes to the ground.
We’re ripening for history.
And the day outside days.
Spanish-born Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton has published two collections, La Frontera and Rutas de Largo Recorrido, in her native language, with work also included in several anthologies. She now lives in Britain, where some of her English poems have appeared in journals – most recently in PN Review – and been short-listed at the Strokestown, Gregory O’Donoghue and Nottingham Poetry Society competitions. Her poem “Edison Peña Runs the Six Miles” won the Poetry London Competition 2011. Cry Wolf is her first full collection in English.
by WILL STONE
Lamb cries, their rough tongues
and all the hopeful gazing
through hot goose grass
the frisking, the jaunty muzzles,
new lives that will never know
the hawk’s slyly opening blade
above the scrabbling thump of burrows,
the raven showing his young how
to slice through the sky’s soft wood
and again over dark ringmaster rocks,
where the thigh blood of a beaten swimmer
is left as an Indian mark,
like bear rock’s shadow squatting
on the school group foundered,
horribly felt for,
bandaged alive by the tide.
But one scaled the shale
crouched and bleeding, determined
with bare hands to beat
on death’s rising snout,
determined to baptize them
the huddled forms, with the moment
of safety longed for, to share out
the confectionary of a possible
A man streaked with dirt
thrown forward by the explosion
of nature’s strange psychosis,
pounds the salty door
of a still lit coastguard cottage.
The winch steel holds,
the last is fished out
hauled up like a monkey
felled by a dart.
How carefully they unhooked
the wind’s ice barbs
and with guile they smoked
this near death out
only to preserved it, a foul
twitching brain pressed against
the remainder of their lives,
but safe from them
behind security glass.
Will Stone, born 1966, is a poet living in Suffolk. In November 2008 his first collection Glaciation, published by Salt, won the international Glen Dimplex Award for poetry. His published translations include To The Silenced: selected poems of Georg Trakl (Arc Publications, 2005). Arc will also publish two further collections of translations of long neglected Belgian poets Emile Verhaeren and Georges Rodenbach in 2010. A first English translation of Stefan Zweig’s travel writings will also appear in 2010 from Hesperus Press.
by Robinson Jeffers
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
Robinson Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Most of Jeffers’ poetry was written in classic narrative and epic form, but today he is also known for his short verse, and considered an icon of the environmental movement.
Bethany W Pope is an award winning author of the LBA, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards. She was a runner up for the Cinnamon Press Novel Competition. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program. She was an assistant editor to Stanley Moss at Sheep Meadow Press. Her first poetry collection, A Radiance was published by Cultured Llama Press last June. Her second collection, Crown of Thorns, was published by Oneiros press this August. Her third collection The Ancient of Days will be released in 2014. Her fourth collection, Persephone in the Underworld has been accepted by Rufus Books and shall be released in 2016. Her first chapbook The Gospel of Flies has been accepted by Writing Knights Press and will be released in 2014.
I selected these poems because all three of them are both brutal and true. This is what empathy looks like in practice, not a soft, pitying coo that heals nothing, but a muscular acceptance of pain and the determination to understand the minutiae of suffering. These poems are works of bravery, plunging into dark waters to seek out neglected aspects of humanity. These poets think about the things that most people would rather never speak of, but which we ignore at our peril- stories that can be redeemed through contemplation, but which grow claws and bright teeth if left alone in the dark.
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