Fall/Winter 2016

Nick Pemberton


“Every life is many days, day after day.  We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love.  But always meeting ourselves.”   
from Ulysses by James Joyce

  1. Falling


Two leaves, maybe the year’s first, fall from a tree
and two people –let’s say a boy and a girl-
fall in love at the station –The Citadel-
and in this city where three rivers meet  
they will trust their instincts, follow their feet
through a maze of days and streets that slips 
like sunshine and rain between fingertips

yet they could not be any more alive
than in this moment here on platform five
when he closes her fingers over her palm
on her map of the world -secret and calm-
then parts their hands to take a cup of coffee
he has bought her.   Birds flutter beneath glass eaves.
Our lovers kiss.  Train doors hiss. 
….Goodbye!  Hello!  Long time, no see! 
Hello!  Goodbye! Please write to me
Coins chink.  Glasses clink. Time passes.  
And framed in the window of a Pendolino
a mother watches her child read The Beano
as first station then city slide away. 
We live life looking forward, understand it looking back.

  1. The Names Of Horses


In shadow on a sunlit corner
a man with a tattooed hand stands still
while, caught by the sound of a merry-go-round
as they learn the dance they will become,
our lovers cross the stone flags of a square
where families, nations, generations mix
and the gold horses rise and fall, their names
    -Pixie, Gale, Galaxie, Dream-
painted on their wooden flanks.  Up.  Down.
The music churns.  The carousel turns.
And a child and her grandfather gallop
-one looking forward, one looking back-
in circles through the slowly turning world

while, on the sharp, grey, sunlit corner
the man with the tattooed hand still stands  
captive in the palace of his ruined blood
begging a god he doesn’t believe in
to give him a break and let the horses
   -Desperate Dancer, Highlife Dancer-
real horses he has chosen that are racing far away
   -High Card, Happy Jack, Steel Rain-
to just this once -this effing godblasted once-
let his chosen horses change his day.  But days
(he knows this) are just stories written in dust
and all of them end the way stories must.   

        3 Water Under The Bridge

Our lovers now lie on a river bank
where a bulge of water rides over the stones
of a broken weir.  He lies on his back
sees shapes in the clouds and  the nape of her neck
rests on his chest as her memory pictures
a mother and child drifting past in a boat
without oars.  They smile.  They wave, then disappear
back to the page and place from which they came
-some lines from a poem by Paul Verlaine. 

And the sun sails away beyond the last ridge
and the stream flows in shadows under a bridge
while balanced on the high girders of this long gone line
-engine gone, trucks gone, track gone, bridge still here-
a young man still a kid still his mother’s son
looks down into the dark pooling water
and recalls though he does not wish to recall
the back of his father’s hand and the blue
swallow tattooed between finger and thumb. 

The wind wakens and stirs as if they were leaves
fragments of images stories and dreams
a floodtide of frames from a comic strip
written and drawn in light   …giant horses,
men made of stone, a man and a woman
flying  over city rooftops at night….
…all of it streams –like ghosts- through his sight   

as he balances the wind on his fingertips
balances the breath he holds on his lips
balances the fall he need not break
against the step he still has to take
remembers the stain of the moon tugged tide
spreading over sand at the river’s end
and, like the turning tide, a voice inside
like the tide repeats,  repeats like the tide
We are here.  We are gone. We are here.  We are gone.  We are here.
He does not look forward.  He does not look back.
He looks up.  Then disappears.

Head of Creative Writing at Cumbria Institute of the Arts until 2007, Nick Pemberton runs an open mic in Carlisle Cumbria UK, where he lives. Though he writes mainly poetry, during his writing career he has also written plays, comic and tv strips, teenage romances and newspaper contributions..



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