Featured Poet, Nicola Harrison

PSALM 1985

she would light candles in every church for him

and skywards send a million orisons

to silt stone sills | and alabaster wings

with luminary pleas made manifest

in smudge and soot | thus would she pester | a pitiless God,

kneel in chapels until her poor knees | split |

cast pebbles on tombs | speak the golden names

of seraphim | she has invoked them all

Gabriel, Raphael | Uriel, Behemiol

and in one desperate moment | Lucifer | who hummed

the tune of Angel Eyes with changed words;

‘Lady, your soul cannot be thrown into the ring’

cloisters echo | with whispered sibilance | and sighs like fires

Lord’s Prayer and Creeds | her chest crossed hourly

by unfailing hand | and still nothing | Nada;

the son is not healed | rosaries are just strung beads

the incarnation | another waiting sorrow.

Beyond the house of God | the universe

the sensuous nappe | of midnight on her skin.

Incense of comet trails | moon’s splendour falls

with unspeakable grace | irradiation of archangels

pointing skywards | the rustle of the stars deafening

the fierce cantata of the planets | it’s all about love, they sing

love | let love be your spaceship.



My Lover is a Slug

      The tracks you leave upon me

    shine silver in starlight

   tracing the flowerbed of my body

    with a longing for dahlias.

My Lover is a Scorpion

        Curled in the elegant toe of my shoe

      you await the tender dawn

       with dark, trembling want.

My Lover is a Spider

   Darling, as I sleep   

    you weave endless odysseys

     of dreams dark and tensile

      with your devouring ecstasy.



What time is 6/ 8 in? | six quavers to the bar!

yeah, but it doesn’t feel like that…

Feel it in 2, feel it in 3

you may do | but how does 6/8 feel?

How does anything feel | how does empathy feel

if it comes from you – and not me?

you love my music, my feel |but what is that feel?

and what’s the fricking point of any feel –

if I can’t feel love for you?

And on the lonely road | you feel

the bumps of worn tyres in potholes | you feel

60 miles in every hour | you feel

the rattle of worn brakes in 4/4 | you feel

the emptiness of advent windows full of laughter

of Christmas scintillating down Regent Street

past Santa Claus to bright applause

standing ovation | motorway service station.

Dawn crawls into dirty bed | there’s tinsel in your hair

from some nameless girl | and you still smell of her.

The 12 sighs of Christmas | well that’s in compound time

earned by carving the endless turkey of night

on dark roads void of infant joy’s delight

lonely cadenza | playing life in 6/8 | you can sing Noel

But it’s not real | so how in hell | does 6/8 feel?

About the contributor

Lecturer in Singing & Interpretation of song at Pembroke College, Oxford, Nicola is a vocal teacher, a professional singer, writer and performer. She has had work published widely, including: BBC History, British Music and Classical Music Magazines, the Oxford Magazine, and many more. She has also written story columns for BBC Radio 4. Nicola’s directorial work focuses on the interface of poetry & music and her innovative shows of poetry, music and song are performed at prestigious venues with award-winning musicians. Her critically acclaimed books are: The Wordsmith’s Guide in 2 volumes and an anatomy book for singers (2016 and 2019, Compton). She also had two small poetry pamphlets published in 2018 (The Becoming, Winetown).

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