Daphne Gloag is a longstanding member of Pitshanger Poets and has had many poems published in magazines and anthologies and in two collections; the second, A Compression of Distances, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2009. Prize winning poems include The Radio Clock, which was awarded First Prize in a Scintilla short poem competition and was published in Scintilla 14.The Radio Clock The radio clock on our bedroom mantelpiece believed in time: one second followed another like a confident decision. The accuracy is praiseworthy, we said, contemplating the loss or gain of one second every million years. It thought time would last for ever. We too were fond of time, the flow of time, its arrow pointing to the future. We held the future like presents we couldn’t yet open; there were stars and trees, silver and blue and gold, on the paper. We did not think about lost presents, or a time when presents stopped. Outside the snow fell… it did not melt. We had the exuberance of snow. * So emphatic a conjunction. The dent of our bodies on the bed as they merged like minute merging into minute became their dent in the fabric of space-time. We were comfortable living in time; the melting of snow did not yet threaten us. Our landscape was snow, shining and crisp; holding our days it seemed to sweep into the distance. * I said Is there a way to predict avalanches?- that helter skelter of minutes rushing towards destruction, shifting the soft snow, as when the hands of the radio clock raced round to catch up with a new time. The clock had no answers, knew nothing of the loss of days. ‘To catch up with a new time’ – namely the beginning and end of British Summer Time. A radio clock automatically synchronises itself using a signal broadcast from a highly accurate atomic clock.
Category Archives: Favourites from our members
James is the chair of The Pitshanger Poets. He is active on the live poetry circuit and his performances add an extra dimension to his work.
Seeking Parental Consent
We read your letter, everything
You said was right and important,
Full of your warmth and honesty.
We’ve thought about it endlessly
But we’re young, change is what we want;
We like space, this move is a future
Claire and I can plan for and picture.
There are a million miles of unknowns
And I admit we’re apprehensive
But we have each other, it’s not as if
This is Knox Johnson sailing off alone
Avoiding scurvy and arctic typhoons.
No, it is, and like “man on the moon”
It’s our generation’s claim to be first
To pull back a frontier, a paradigm,
To change the way the world imagines
Itself, ourselves, for this is a new birth.
It’s not like nineteenth century Australia
All our ties severed forever,
To the left, Lord’s privileged spring-fed turf assaults and assuages the eye: nursery-ground, main pitch, (a well-kept secret behind ranked stands,) and the Media Centre – a tall, flattened spaceship
facing a stilted framework of arc-lights. Let loose as if in midsummer, we all cool our heels, fleeing dried-out air booming through curtains from neon-lit corridors.
A Saudi-Arabian sheikh in neutral-grey robes, flapping headdress and all-exclusive shades pads rapidly, silently past – but we’re in England, in April:
already we’re losing the sun, though its colours crowd on, seen through thousands of eyes lodged in every conceivable face – until only the cotton-wool clouds still float before pin-pricked stars, blinking distant in space.
Alan Chambers is a longstanding member of Pitshanger Poets and a much-loved poet in his own right. He has had many poems published in magazines and anthologies and in two collections; Ordered Lines and Present Position. Alan’s enigmatic, rhythmic poems frequently draw on his love of landscape, riddles and in this hypnotic example, narrowboats.
Leaving behind the lock’s bustle
we nervously head the boat
through a cutting shaded with green,
birds singing a brave tune for us,
until we see the gloomy hole
gaping between brick portals,
inviting us into the dark.
Dark for two miles, to be endured,
just our dim lamp shone on rough walls,
shadowy, imprecise edges
where the lapping water meets the stone,
damp smells and dark drips. A grey light
looms up then a deluge of rain
as we creep beneath an air shaft.
We shiver for the dark resumes
while the boat moves on, relentless.
In the distance a faint gleam glows,
flashing and dipping through the murk
it gradually grows brighter
filling the cavern with gold coin
dazzling on the crumpled surface
till it explodes, a blinding eye –
how to find the watery way
between the remorseless walls
and the advancing dragon light?
There’s a rush, a swirl of water,
an unintelligible greeting
and they’re gone, just a white light
receding, a whiff of diesel
and then another brief cascade.
Still we move on watching once more
a possible prelude to light,
yet more dragons to devour us?
But as it grows the shape is round
and welcoming, the way is clear,
the walls draw back, the boat breaks through
into the liberating light.
Angela received ‘Highly Commended’ in the Ealing Arts and Leisure Competition 2009, judged by Kit Wright
The Favourite GuestYours is the empty chair beside my table, Yours is my best Darjeeling, laid away For golden afternoons when you are able To spend sweet, short hours here, and make my day. Yours are the books, the sewing, the thank-you letter, The art discussed, performances compared, My poems, (you said my scansion’s ‘getting better’)… The birthday cards, the chocolate ginger – shared; And this is how I indulge in ‘multi-tasking’ Details, like words and notes within a song Which I would sing to you, each moment asking For your return: don’t stay away too long, Since mine is the waiting-time when you’re not with me, Like night, when patience stretches through hours so small Until our next occasion – when you can give by me Your time – and make of ours, the best of all. Angela Arratoon
Daphne Gloag is a long-standing member of the group, a published poet and former editor. This poem illustrates her ability to bring contrasting strands together in an effortlessly coherent narrative.A Completion of Seasons Here plants go their own way, like children at play. Take the fennel: it was used by Roman gladiators, you told me, to increase stamina; here it prises apart the concrete paving stones, and its thousand seeds give it the victory in contests of survival. But bury your face in the soft feathers of its leaves, remembering Elba, where fennel grew right down to our magic picnic beach, playground of the dog Titi, who watched, politely, our every mouthful and never learnt the futility of chasing gulls. And what of the sage bush, dominating the border in its serious-minded way? We could not touch that – it supports spiders’ webs: light travels up and down the vertical threads as if they were lift shafts, and at the centre the commanding spiders wait like fat Buddhas. Then there’s the glowing foam of the autumn stonecrop; each year it spreads a little further – but not so fast as the peppermint and lemon balm, those steady colonisers of cracks and crevices, or Michaelmas daisies (thugs, someone called them) commandeering space like skilled tacticians; those retiring, innocent looking mauve flowers belie their nature: flowers of Michaelmas, feast of St Michael, celebration of that cataclysmic hurtling of evil into the abyss. The days were punctuated by small events, like a snatch of the robin’s autumn muted song, or the flap and clap of wood pigeons flying in for lunch. You liked September best of all: the achievement of fruit (the year’s rich takings), a completion of seasons, an achieved peace. But wildness still lurked, like some untamed corner of ourselves. The unquelled light flowed through low trees. All things converged.