The Full Indian Rope Trick by Colette Bryce
There was no secret
murmured down through a long line
of elect; no dark fakir, no flutter
of notes from a pipe,
no proof, no footage of it -
but I did it,
Guildhall Square, noon,
in front of everyone.
There were walls, bells, passers-by;
then a rope, thrown, caught by the sky
and me, young, up and away,
Thin air. First try.
A crowd hushed, squinting eyes
at a full sun. There
on the stones
the slack weight of a rope
coiled in a crate, a braid
eighteen summers long,
I'm long gone,
my one-off trick
unique, unequalled since.
And what would I tell them
given the chance?
It was painful; it took years.
I'm my own witness,
guardian of the fact
that I'm still here.
ABOUT THE POET
Colette Bryce was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 1995 and her first book, The Heel of Bernadette, was awarded the Aldeburgh Prize for best first collection. She is Fellow of Creative Writing at the University of Dundee
The Lazy Maid by James Manlow
chin snug in her palm,
her elbow plugged firmly
in the knobbly joint of her kneecap,
legs a little ajar
beneath her skirts, is sound
asleep upon the stool, dreaming
of her mother teaching her
how to scrape parsnips,
which is how at 11.10pm
the mistress of the house
discovers her, stares at her
a while, sighs, then, as if
almost sensing a stream
of watchers on, looks
up suddenly and comes alive,
flush with wine and mischief,
gifting that wry-wild look
I love this painting for,
saying, it's too late for this,
and, see what I put up with?
How I adore this girl.
She won't change. It's 1655.
It's late. Let the dishes
alone. Let the cat eat the fish.
ABOUT THE POET
James Manlow was born in Hertfordshire in 1978, and was selected as one of the 2003 Arvon / Jerwood Young Poets. His winning poem The Lazy Maid was inspired by the paintings of Nicholaes Maes (1634-1693) that hang in the National Gallery's collection. August sees the publication of his first novel, Attraction (published by John Murray).
Eighteenth by Kate Bingham
There was a craze for fountain pens.
Fat lacquered ones, walnut-effect, gold-nibbed,
unlocked and lifted, two-handed,
from spot-lit glass cabinets and carried over plush
by silent nail-varnished assistants
to the desk where you and your mum or dad
would have been waiting almost eighteen years,
not talking much, you worrying because the pen
you liked best was also the most expensive.
We kept their pass-the-parcel packaging,
treasured for months the slippery, important plastic bag,
the velvety plump moulded to fit our pen alone
room underneath for two free cartridges
and an instruction manual in 14 languages, ours first,
the 12-month guarantee, as if a pen could break down,
when what we liked best was its low-tech simplicity,
that we could want a thing invented centuries before,
that it could symbolise our coming of age.
We scribbled in sepia, wrote everyone cheques
for a million hazelnuts. On birthdays
we'd crowd into the library at lunch
and watch the tip of a new pen touch its first white sheet,
the hand behind solemn and quivering, unsure
whether to doodle or draw or let the nib
try for itself, licking the page in thirsty blue-black stripes
as if it knew this was the end of freedom
and that soon it would have twisted to accommodate
each hesitation, dot and loop, its every molecule
straining with something like love as I leaned in,
imagining a future shaped by neat italics
where whatever I wanted I need only write it down.
ABOUT THE POET
Educated at Oxford and now living in London, Kate Bingham received an Eric Gregory Award in 1996 from the Society of Authors. She is the author of two novels; Mummy's Legs and Slipstream (both Virago) and a poetry collection, Cohabitation (Seren). She has written a screenplay for BBC Films, and was recently commissioned to write another for Contagious Films
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