Silver Branch series

Angela Graham

Angela Graham is from Belfast. She turned to writing full time in 2017 following a career in Wales as a film maker and screenwriter, in both English and Welsh. Her poetry has appeared in The North, The Honest Ulsterman, Poetry Wales, The Ogham Stone, The Open Ear, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House, CAP 2020 Anthology, Black Bough Poetry, The Blue Nib, Heartland, Places of Poetry, The Stony Thursday Book and elsewhere.

Angela’s short story collection 'A City Burning' (Seren Books, 2020) has been warmly received. It was completed with a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales.

angelagraham.org  Twitter: @AngelaGraham8

Thaw                                              

What you murmur, I drink.

I thirst, you pour.

You have divined me under rock.

Beneath your snow I sensed a spring.

A hard passage and, at the issue,

A narrow way.

Be it a needle’s eye our loves flow through,

So long as they conjoin, I’ll not complain.

A vein subverts the rock, unbinds the ice.

Winter has gone away.

Published in Black Bough - Deep Time (volume 2)

Quite All Right, Thank You                                         

I take you through the forest’s entanglements

till it releases us into this glade.

Silence enough for a bird’s voice to reach us

from one of the forest’s other rooms.

Palisades of pewter-coloured trees rise around,

stand without moving their heads, but they are

looking down, at your features, holding, in the pool

till I smash them to rocking chaos. Uneasy,

you move away, though I’ve done nothing untoward

− merely uncreated you without a word.

Published in Black Bough - Deep Time (volume 2)

Freedom

The platter of water we came across

beside a back road through the hushed fields

outside Caledon, its surface glassy.

Expecting stillness,

a shock − to feel a pulse

beating beneath that skin.

Among the emptied-out

–  relinquished farms, decayed estates –

I found the capacity to be

full of deep-rooted power.

Forthcoming in Black Bough's 'Freedom/ Rapture' edition (2021)

Trust

Journaling heart, I read your steady record

Not as a pledge of permanence but a wry reminder

That you’ll let me down one day, your ink run dry.

Unfazed, you tell me your account will stand, now

And in eternity where I, suffused with story,

Will swim in narrative – each life that ever lived

An open book: beginning, middle, and an end

That buds unendingly. Isn’t heaven this –

To know and to be known? I’d best be about my work,

You chide me, for what’s the point of all these days

If not to build a house of love, underway

Here, and there roofed with an answered “Why?”

Cactus Flower

By imperceptible degrees, a chaste star

rising above stones.   

                                           

I knew you loved me.                                                                 

Something in me spoke to your buried youth. 

Your weathered asperity                                   

was shouldered aside                                                              

by imperceptible degrees…                                                   

Bruiseable again, you looked into me;          

saw yourself,

tenderly.         

Skin-Song

I am the rune-bearer sent to a blind queen.

I cannot speak; she cannot see

So I run her fingers over each notch and whorl,

Willing her to take the message in.

She merely laughs, bids me return with something tellable.

But I am charged.

I string my hips with cameos

And fasten anklets of impressive symmetry,

With subtle intaglios grace each elbow

And in the hollows of my back and knees

I set a lover’s token, feelable.

I climb into her lap. Am spurned.

I take her to an earldom

Pitted with lava lakes

Where, in the sulphurous, pressured air,

She grasps

Something.

Will she intuit our exhausted State

Or send me back

To the fate of every thwarted messenger?

To the Mapper of Holy Wells and Springs

The question that running water asks

         −       pools hold its gaze, reflecting, and rocks,

                   under the frost’s advice, consider

                      its crystallizing, night after winter night      –

you are right to believe it must be listened for;

right to condemn our mania for dogma.

Expert attendant, steady yourself.

Brim. Hear. Say, ‘Yes’.

 

           

Craft

The blackbird is sewing in the rockery,

his yellow treadle-needle beak

at work precisely in the gravel.             

I am embroidering −

pierce, pull through, then up

and down again across this lawn.

Both of us are seeding

but he is stitching Spring.

Moon, Landing (20th July 1969 )     

I was moon-hungry, ten years old,

So I set a mirror on the beach

And lay in wait that night.

Moon landed there, looked up

And was a child! Like me, an only child,

Tentative and curious, hoping to play.

To have him as my friend, I saw

I’d have to let him go

And come at will. Chastened, I prayed

That all the astronauts would lose their appetites.

Published in Black Bough - Issue 2 (Apollo 11 edition)

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Angela's new prose collection with Seren Books

Image credit Wikipedia

Triptych

Inspired by the central panel of Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece (1510 – 1515) painted for a hospital ward for sufferers from a disfiguring skin disease which is mirrored in the depiction of Christ.

The painter took my neighbour from his bed and nailed him to the wall, hammering his left hand, then his right, far apart on a wide crossbeam, pleating his feet, pinning them with a single blow − the body, hooked on its own bones, a sack of pain, sagging. The painter turned. His gaze raked our rows of beds. His finger pointed to the hanging man: This is your God.

At night I hear my neighbour, in his bed beside me, whimpering, or cursing. Sometimes he tears his suppurating flesh, screaming, “I hate you!” and the sisters have to bind his hands above his head. Then there are two men: one in the bed; one on the wall: This is your God.

I watch the morning light approach them. Neither sleeps. The one beside me stinks. The other twists against a blackness set to swallow him. His skin is greenish, every pore a mouth eating itself. He mirrors me: This is your God.

 

Am I, then, God? And is God me? I am that tortured one? The sisters retch when they tend me but they hold my eyes in theirs – as the painter did through those long days when he sat and watched us all; when he came and put his finger to my pulse and, for some reason, knelt beside me, suddenly.

Photo credit: Phil Cope 2020 (see end of feature for biography)

Three Stones

 

Inspired by three photographs of lichen on stones in the Garw Valley by Phil Cope, (Nov. 2020)

 

The message, when it comes, can’t be mis-taken:

three stones, half-sunk in Cwm Garw sod:

a perfect triangle, two suns,

in white, in black − Here is your God.

 

My triptych: a nova, a black hole,

at the right hand and the left of the perfect Three

in lichen and in mottled reddish stone.

I am its shrine, my mind its sanctuary.

I used to try so hard to turn to stone   

− I would at least out-last my torturers –

but, so I’d opt for flesh, God

became stone and met me where I was

− he always will − summoning me out

into the human self. O lichen

cosmos, O Trinity forever at my feet,

un-shutter me so that my gaze can listen. 

"Poetry offers an intensity of focus and the discipline of form. These combat laziness in perception or expression. I tell myself, ‘Do the work. See. Say. Listen.’ I try to produce a poem that has the beauty appropriate to its nature, a poem that allows the reader and me to share a world. A good poem is a Silver Branch, both key and door"

                                                                   (Angela Graham)

The poet, Glen Wilson mentored Angela towards the completion of her debut collection of poetry which is being considered for publication.

 

She is working on a collection of poetry on the theme of Sanctuary. This will be partly collaborative. Glen is Angela’s mentor and she is writing one poem with each of four poets. Two of these will be either asylum seekers or refugees; the others are poet and migration activist, Viviana Fiorentino and writer and photographer, Phil Cope. Angela has received a S.I.A.P. Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in support of this project.

 

An earlier S.I.A.P. Award helped Angela complete the first draft of her novel, Thorn about conflict over language and identity in Northern Ireland.

Phil Cope (photographer of 'Three Stones')

 

Cardiff-born Phil Cope is a photographer, writer, and exhibition and book designer. These images come from the book he’s currently working on which will be published by Seren in June 2021. It’s entitled The Golden Valley, a visual biography of the Garw (where he lives)

Previous books of his include Altarations: New Photographs of Vodou Altars (Ffotogallery, 2000); Let Paul Robeson Sing! a Celebration of the Life of Paul Robeson and His Relationship with Wales (Paul Robeson Cymru, 2001); Wise and Foolish Dreamers: Wales and The Spanish Civil War (Welsh Centre for International Affairs, 2007); Holy Wells Cornwall (Seren, 2010); Holy Wells Scotland (Seren, 2015); and The Living Wells of Wales: New Photographs and Old Tales of Our Sacred Springs, Holy Wells and Spas (Seren, 2019).

 

You can contact Phil Cope at phil.cope66@gmail.com.

Phil Cope, by Gordon Farmer

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