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New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

Featured Poet. Anne McMaster

About Anne

Anne McMaster is a poet and professional playwright who lives on an old farm in rural mid-Ulster. She was a finalist in the FSNI Poetry Competition in 2015 and shortlisted for the 2016 Bangor Poetry Competition. Her work has been published in 19,751 Words: an Anthology, in Paper Plane Pilots, The Honest Ulsterman and in The Poetry Marathon Anthology (2014 and 2016).

A theatre director and former lecturer in both English Literature and Performing Arts, Anne now runs a theatre company which specialises in original devised work. She is happiest writing or out in the garden with her cats trying not to kill plants.

 

 

 

 


 

End of Year

 

From here, you can see the fabric of the year

scuffed raw and worn thin

around a grey horizon’s fine and unforgiving rim.

Today the sun is light and empty; nothing more.

Sudden gusts of desolate, bitter wind

busy themselves along the weakening edges of the moment

delving in – seeking to loosen – then to pry

all that holds them from the remnants of the day.

The desiccated husks of time

are borne up – gossamer-thin, translucent –

rising loose in tattered fragments

towards an abandoned sky.

 

 

Corncrake

 

No living bird, this,

but the shadowed fragment of a slate-like song

caught deep within a slight, half-span of honeyed wood.

One side carved in rolling curves, red hieroglyphs marking their ebb and flow –

the other, a broad straight edge,

pressed smoothly warm into my father’s palm.

Stepping through my soft-edged memory, now, he moves –

bright-eyed, muscled, smiling, round the corner of the byre –

a jagged memory of that small, lost bird

borne carefully in his large, cupped hands

as he carries his gopen-ful of sound.

He touches the wood gently with a shining metal arc

bright and cool as a sickle-sharp winter moon

And the rasping cry of a corncrake leaps between his fingers, sharpening our air.

Can you hear it? His eyes meet mine and his smile is sweet. Can you hear it?

This rough call echoed once around the fields

as men, long-ago, scythed grass then forked the hay;

as horses, straining with each fragrant load

hauled sweet summer harvest to the shed

as hedges rippled slowly in a lush kaleidoscope of green

and a lonely dog barked in the yard.

I hold this slip of wood and think of fields cropped warm and stubble-bare;

tilly lamps hissing in a clean, cool room

as men greet the woman of the house and lay their caps aside,

chairs pulled in to a table heavy with food and bread and tea.

Small children – my father and his sister – quiet as shadows as voices flow

a bisom and a patient cat standing silent at the door;

behind the house, the flint-like echo of a corncrake in the empty field.

Then my father’s smile, so soft and clear in his aged, sun-browned face

as he gently offers the singing wood for me to try

to give the corncrake voice again.

Can you hear it?

 

 

A Question of Grief

 

How is it that I carry grief so well, you want to know?

Do I draw it up, like water,

fine drops spilling loose before me in careful, holy palms?

Or do I clutch, perhaps, at something yet unformed;

pull it close in to my hollow chest

where grief beats out a slow low echo

from a stone-weary heart?

Do I heft it, in bulk, across my shoulder

letting it bow me low with steps that drive me down?

Or do I carry it now in some more nebulous form –

a thin, fine layer cracked just beneath the skin?

Pain refracted within me,

muscle-deep, to my very core?

 

 

River Song

 

Ice had formed when they found her.

No thickened, opaque crust

but a delicate rime along the river’s edge.

Moving gently in the bitter water

tendrils of long dark hair marked the paleness from her skin

and stone shadows filled her cheeks with shade.

“Come with me,” she seemed to sing to those who found her, lonely, there.

“The biting water is nothing to the coldness of the world.”

 

 

This Page

 

No boundaries mark this open page.

Yet on the broad-horizoned land,

fields, mended hedges, broken walls

mark exactly where I may not go.

 

A page – this page – is open to the sky.

 

Times past, on snowy winter days

three small girls

slid, shrieking, down a frosted hill.

Boundaries were a whispered dare

a looming thrill.

Only a final curve – a tipping point

moments before disaster –

drove us deep into the snow

not pinioned on leafless briars

behind the cold barbed wire.

 

We raced through crop-filled summer fields

picked raspberries and blackberries,

sweetening our lips and nights

tasting summer and autumn on our tongue.

 

Later we found ourselves

drawn to the edge of things

moving towards the boundaries of the day.

 

Keep the book. Open the page.

This page – this page – is open to the sky.

 

 

 

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