New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

5 Poems by Phil Dunkerley

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Phil Dunkerley is active in poetry groups in the South Lincolnshire area of the UK, where he lives and is currently the representative for Stamford Poetry Stanza. His poems have appeared in small-press publications, anthologies and webzines, and his translations of poems from Spanish and Portuguese have appeared in print. He considers that there are many poetries and many publics. He reads a lot, listens and reflects. In writing, he tries to be true to himself. He wishes magazines would publish more controversial poems.





For Maryam Mirzakhani
d. 14/7/2017, aged 40


She seemed not to see me watching
as she took a sharp knife and steel rule
and carefully cut pages from the atlas.

Sitting at the table she folded them
into paper planes of variable geometry,
crisp creases, precise shapes,

and from the balcony, high-up, launched
them, one by one, into the empty air
that spread below and beyond.

And suddenly they were butterflies
—the greens of the flat lands, the browns
of the mountains, the blues of the sea.

They flew away on delicate wings,
each to the place of its own map.




Tracking Device


By the moving black shadow on the white building
he knows there is a black vulture, soaring
somewhere in the blue sky, between the sun
and the moving black shadow on the white building.

And he thinks that knowing that somewhere,
between the moving black shadow and the sun
irradiating the whole city, including the white building,
there is a black vulture, somewhere, soaring,

is existentially satisfying, but actually unimportant.
Still, the fact that a black vulture is able to maintain
itself, accurately and effortlessly, between the sun
and its own black shadow as it moves across

the white building is a surprising feat of skill.
Just one more thing, Horatio, to amaze us.



Devil’s Pavement


Clear light, thin air. I catch my breath.
The ice-capped cone of the volcano
rears itself against a blue sky. Pancho
walks on over the trackless plain,
a devil’s pavement of flat dark stones
that fit together like a carapace.
Winds blowing across this timeless land
have lifted and carried all dust away.

Just as I’m thinking ‘No-one’s ever been
here before’, something catches my eye.
I bend down, pick up a strange black disc
Pancho, in front, suddenly says ‘Look!’
He points. One white bone sticking out
of the surface. He stoops, examines it.
Like a cry for help in that landscape,
a fragment of skull, unmistakably human.

Lost on the edge of space, in silence
we sense our own frailty. The wind
keens. That’s when I open my hand
to show Pancho the blackened coin.
He turns it over, it shines, a dull white.
One silver Peso, the date still visible,
1880. ‘Dios mio’ he says quietly,
fingering it, ‘the War of the Pacific’.



Walking With Walt


Irresistible, the sun in October, shining low through my window.
Leaving what well could be left, I called on Walt to go for a walk.
‘Let’s do it’, he said. And so we set out leaving the town,
passing the meadow where fat cattle graze and into the woods.

Squirrels scampered along, and up and into the oak trees,
disturbed at their work of burying food in the earth.
Dry leaves, forming a carpet of brown covered the path,
and the sun shone, like a blessing, dappling the trees,
shining onto the ribs of the strong trunks,
marking the greens, the yellows, and bronze of the leaves.
Small birds flittered in front of us, bright in the afternoon light.
Bracken stood uncertainly, parts of it green and parts of it gold.
Brambles offered their fruit, willowherb gave up its seed.
Everywhere everything seemed to be ready, fulfilled and content.

Leaving the woods we turned to the right and into the fields.
Rose hips, berries of hawthorn and holly red in the hedges.
Apples hung, plump rosy and green in orchards and paddocks.
And on to where either side were corduroy fields of brown,
as if someone had run their fingers along through the soil,
drilling in seed that soon will show green before winter.
And Walt said how happy he felt to think of the farmers
standing in front of their barns, observing the land
ready in time to produce the food of the year that will come.
And so we came home again, stride matching stride,
we too fulfilled and content.


Translation of the poem ‘Galerías’ by
Antonio Machado (1875-1939) (From Spanish to English)


Yo he visto mi alma en sueños…
En el etéreo espacio
donde los mundos giran,
un astro loco, un raudo
cometa con los rojos
cabellos incendiados…

Yo he visto mi alma en sueños
cual río plateado,
de rizas ondas lentas
que fluyen dormitando…

Yo he visto mi alma en sueños
como un estrecho y largo
corredor tenebroso,
de fondo iluminado…

Acaso mi alma tenga
risueña luz de campo,
y sus aromas lleguen
de allá, del fondo claro…

Yo he visto mi alma en sueños…
Era un desierto llano
y un árbol seco y roto
hacia el camino blanco.



I have seen my soul in dreams…
In the ethereal space
where worlds turn,
a mad star, a swift
comet with its red
hair on fire …

I have seen my soul in dreams
like a silvery river,
of slow rippling waves
that flow drowsily…

I have seen my soul in dreams
like a long, narrow
shadowy corridor,
lighted at the end…

Perhaps my soul has
the laughing light of the fields,
and its fragrances reach
from there, from the bright depth…

I have seen my soul in dreams…
It was a flat emptiness
and a dry broken tree
near the white path.




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