Welcome to the first of two editions for 2022. Allegro has continued to attract a large number of submissions and I'm pleased to welcome newcomers to the journal as well as including familiar names. Allegro will open for submissions on 1st June. Details of the theme will be posted on the Submissions page in due course. In the meantime enjoy reading this edition.
The molecules of heartbreak
Have now been identified. Neuropeptide Y
is the chief offender. In the condition
the left ventricle is stunned
causing unbearable pain.
Science has not yet characterised
that chance meeting at the door
of the Zoology Library. Or that long
late summer queue for a Beethoven Prom,
or that note that half said
you might be half in love with me.
But physiologists know exactly the blow
the phone-call dealt. Not
in the first seconds, learning
you hadn’t suffered, but in the minutes
of not comprehending,
The hours of retelling news not yet real,
the days of confronting absence.
The months of mourning and the years
when it is too long ago
still to be spoken of, that are still years
of neuropeptide Y.
A website: ‘There are some scientifically sound
methods of heartbreak healing
you can try.’ They do not include
obsessively playing over the music
from your funeral. They do not include this poem.
A Place for Poetry
A high light room. Long windows look
Down a heathered hillside to a waterfall.
Behind my chair, tall shelves house every book
On which I might conceivably want to call.
On either side wall, big bevelled mirrors
Reflect books, view, books again.
This is a place lacking all terrors –
Absent listlessness, sorrow, self-disdain.
I write in the mornings, in fountain pen,
Interrupted only by my wife bringing tea,
Or a little silver cat, demanding to know when
I have ever seen anyone as beautiful as she.
At evening, nurtured by much candlelight,
I watch falling water fade into night.
even if one strayed in the still night – blue wood smoke
coiling from your outhouse across a precipitous sky –
and a wrong-headed dog chased the startled flock
till they fell like scattered pearls among the rocks –
even if you were dreaming a woman – face like a peony,
tending hens and a cucumber frame, playing an oak piano –
so didn’t hear the running of the ewes, the regular violence
of their bells ringing on the ridge of the farthest hill –
even if you stumbled to the chalk pit – stood at the summit
where two beech hedges make a V but don’t quite meet –
leaned out and over the trampled banks of winter ivy
(head in your hands, your hat pushed back)
to gaze at dead and dying sheep – even then I would
say Yes – when you look up, here I will be
After Edgar Degas’s 1868 painting
What is her name? Her customer doesn’t care.
She is now mon cheri, or worse, la Lorette – a stitch dropped
from the weave of a Paris street.
How white her chemise, the only pure thing
in this soiled life.
Her corset lies on the floor –
a wing torn off a Common White.
There are closed rose buds stamped upon the wall,
a darkness that the single lamp cannot dissipate,
a narrow white bed, blood on the bed head,
his splayed legs blocking a way out of the room.
In the silence of the painting we must read symbols –
her sweet face - a moon half eclipsed by darkness,
he stands in a shadow, which makes two of him.
At night she remembers her mother’s voice,
soft and dusted with love
calling her Mon biquet, Mon Minou.
Everything has more than one name.
This scene - some call it Intérieur, others Le Viol.
After Edgar Degas’s 1868 painting Intérieur/Le Viol ( The Rape)
Notre-Dame de la Lorette, the setting for the painting, was home to many prostitutes.
Who needs solar farms?
Giant white turbines, still in the blazing sun,
all pointing one way like Easter Island statues
praying to lost wind, sadder than trees
though trees can be lonely too when wind slips between them.
so that not even their tips touch. Only their fallen leaves mingle.
Why take revenge on birds? Boughs snap, destroying nests.
Blades concuss in mid-flight. But everything’s renewable now.
Just wait. Life will take wing again.
There might still be sunshine. Trees will be enough.
anchored in remote memories
distant sounds wander in waves
dilate in the rising tide
swell balancing on the breakers
ride the sea-foam
disperse and die on the shore
stray prevailing sounds carried away
steer between lull and storm
lose their breath
losing sail and helm
pass in a murmur
overboard swimming off
to reach another horizon
derivations of distinct sounds
losing their footing
plumbing obscure depths
sounds running against the current
taken up in the aspiration
an unexpected magnetic flow
sounds melting into blue-green
songs undulating across
floating fields breaking
in the surf
the sea lifting fragments and refrains
swaying the voluble emersion
in which words pitch and roll
How young he is in this photograph.
No grey in the hair
and a fullness to the face,
not quite the jut of the jaw yet, -
and the eyes still windows
to a mind holding out for all things possible.
This is not the kind of man
to envisage a porch in November,
a slow rocking,
a garden pond
misty with ghosts.
has achieved some things,
will do much more.
And if he could only speak
it wouldn't be in a crotchety voice
complaining of the cold.
No, look at that face –
there are ideas to proffer,
dreams to relate,
people to seduce,
frictions to balm.
The camera rends him speechless.
But it cannot mute the words he has in mind.
as at times before
I breathe hard
upon the embers
of the draft of this poem
where they have concealed
themselves under grey ash
hoping for dull red then
red then orange flame
possibly in the same way
an ancestor in a highland
croft coaxed the frugal
peat hearth into song
only the language
we use has changed
Gaelic to the now not so French
lingua franca of the Saxon
there are moments though still
when the turn of a line
the mention of the smell
of kine in the house in winter
clicks or clacks into place
like lichened stones
around a curlew’s nest
warm stones around a fire
you spoke the one-word cariad
it was a word shaped for lips.
Each syllable held its vowel
like a babe in its father’s arms
spoke of home
and walls and hearth-fires,
with bara brith waiting
on communal plates.
cut the Sunday loaf
as fine as sacrament,
with butter twice as thick,
sweetened with bramble jam
and twinkling eyes.
sat on the piano stool
while your voice trembled
of earthy tunes
and the old clock ticked
the wide Atlantic of the night.
We Know We Will Be Dead
We know we will be dead, who are
But should some element of us survive -
fragment of consciousness or memory -
what value could it have? What should it be
that the whole universe might benefit?
The atom matters – what’s not made of it?
And we’re not large - not like a conscious star
(if time will let us all evolve that far).
You’re not much different in real magnitude
from an ant crushed for going for your food,
a gnat rubbed out, its tiny consciousness
a dot… but does it build the universe?
If that gnat can’t, I don’t see how you can:
there’s not much difference between gnat and man.
Cartography of the Breast
Two red plastic crosses mark the terrain
my surgeon will traverse tomorrow
Territories are marked
Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Hus
on a map on the living room wall.
I am vellum
a venerable map of Northumbria
my father bought before I was born
some distance from Lindisfarne.
Cords draw me to that place
I have never seen
isotopes reveal paths
radiologists mark the Sentinel Node
chart earth and ocean –
the breast’s sudden
I used to like Cox’s Orange Pippins –
shiny, light green, bloodshot –
from the tree in our back garden.
One Friday night – I must have been 9 –
with Eric Jackson and Stenton Withnall
we scrumped from our own tree
like country kids raiding an orchard.
Eric and Stenton ate four or five each.
Next morning in the school football match
against Hurst Undenominational
they were light green, bloodshot, didn’t shine.
This field is like a clover
museum, Isa said, this sage
with five-year-old bones.
That means that this tree
is first a gallery
of crows, so many roosting
that there’s no tree,
only crows in the shape
of a tree. In a moment,
they all lift at once,
& pivot as one
toward the lake,
which the wind has made
into an exhibition
of ripples. Your body
is a museum of blood
& curiosity, your head
a museum of fantasies
& fears. Let us
lean close then closer,
& fog the glass
with our breath.
Let us shatter the glass
& hold the relics
to our tongues.
You were the tenth child, a tithe
for the church. So far
Behind Benedictine walls you turn over
soft earth, plant bulbs in narrow beds.
Madonna lilies. Seeds of milk thistle, sweet
columbine. You’ve come to understand.
Veiled in each leaf the face of God.
Plantings of oaks pattern the land
one hundred years in growing
one hundred in dying.
The homestead is as old
as the oaks. When the earthquake hit
they stayed upright,
the house toppled.
Beside the folly we overlook bay
and bridle path. Walk past roses,
read names we mean to remember.
Virginia, at Monk’s House
The Fig Tree Garden is brick-paved, you kneel,
scrape weeds with a blunt knife. At night
he takes a lantern, goes outside, collects snails.
Darkness filled with the cracking of shells.
Together you plant for dry shade in the Walled Garden.
White forget-me-not, narcissi, wood anemone.
Wild strawberries scramble between gaps.
You write that L is doing the rhododendrons.
Walk to the Ouse with its steep banks
and fast-flowing water.
Still he waits for your footsteps.
Knows it’s the last page, still
turns it over.
Who could have imagined two paths of flight
would suddenly converge at that one spot
and effortlessly intersect
to occupy the very same moment
in empty sky over Gallipoli?
Alike, but closer inspection reveals
(like a hornet connected to a bee)
the clear differences between the two,
although coupled: one passive, pierced through
by its grooved twin’s tip, bent ninety degrees.
Some think it an impossibility
collisions like this could ever happen,
citing odds of many thousands to one
and postulating complex equations
that pivot around angles, space and time,
the chances of co-obliteration.
But let’s avoid, for a moment, tangents
of trajectory and spatial accident,
marvelling instead at an impact caught
forever, and this tangled miracle
that two such things found each other at all.
If my CAT scan shows my term on earth is short,
I’ll quit my job and fly first class to Paris,
and drink in the cafes in Montparnasse—
Dom Perignon, absinthe, vintage port.
then I’ll board a first class train and sightsee Europe.
(This time I’ll hire a gondola in Venice.)
I’ll cancel my appointment with my dentist,
quit exercising, give cocaine a snort.
But if it turns out that my gut’s okay,
not riddled with metastasizing cancer,
I’ll meet my first class, scheduled for next Monday,
and assign them this discussion question. Please answer:
Is it best to live a brief life full of bliss,
or a tediously long one such as this?
It's As If You're In The Next Room
Why do we always say that?
If you were in the next room
it would sound like you were on
the other side of the world
talking on a landline telephone.
There'd be a pause after we spoke
before you heard what we'd said,
as if the door was shut
between us and the next room
even if we were leaning against it
with a glass to our head
like a telephone earpiece.
What it really sounds like
is that you're in the same room
and it's the same time of day,
not several hours behind, or ahead,
and you're not hundreds
or thousands of miles away.
Peter J Donnelly
Ghosts are not persons.
They’re the haunting echoes
of encounters and confrontations,
of passions and hatreds with those
once close to whom we refuse death,
the reverberations of intense identity
with our lives that we cannot neglect.
We are our own apparitions.
From the Bangor Carnegie Library
I collect a slender book of poetry
entitled History of Rain,
tuck it under my arm and slip back
fifty years to grey, overcast
Walking through a downpour,
my feet carry me to Fourth Street, 1972,
the narrow storefront chapel
of the little brothers of Jesus, their mission
to care for the poor in spirit.
I kneel in muted candlelight and wait
for what is still unseen.
History Of Rain is a poetry collection by Conor O’Callaghan (Gallery Press, 1993)
Bare and beautiful
Yes, they're beautiful
clothed, especially when
the fresh new quivering
leaves first throw
modesty to the winds,
flaunting multiple tones
of green, while other trees
erupt in flashy blossom.
Discreet in summer's
bounty and fecundity,
soaking up sunshine
to store as juice in fruit,
hiding squirrel, bird or cat,
sharing shade or whispering
secrets to the breeze.
Showy in autumn
their leaves resist
the urge to
then, when the fight
weep yellow, red
But now, and for the last
five months, I've traced
their finer lines
and when I pass
in train or car,
the twigs and branches
in the foreground move
to interact with those behind,
creating diverse patterns
of a challenging complexity
that constantly achieve
curious kinetic harmony.
A lone swan bows.
Scouts the river bed
for weeds and worms
as if by an invisible cord
at its crown –
its orange and black bill
the water like drapery;
and within the glassy folds
tip to tip with the first,
another white head
the swan and its watery self
in a vanishing kiss.
In the Silk Market, Bursa
Reaching for a sheaf of colour
to spill across the polished counter
he knows the answer already. Before I speak
he’s spread silk shawls, self-patterned,
and spun their rainbow. Stone walls,
narrow windows concentrate the light
to brilliance, deep pools; outside, enclosed,
a small mosque waits. In this watching space
centuries have handled their traditions
and silk has rippled, flickered, danced.
They warm the room, these shawls; each whispers
a touch-me, take-me pulse of longing.
Only one is the right one, my hand
hovering like a dowser’s wand,
closing at last on this—or this? But, yes;
And though he knew, that moment
my shadow entered, which I’d choose,
he holds his silence. It’s the trader’s skill
bred in the han where the Silk Road ends.
Soft as breath the shawl settles at my throat,
a curl of heat, journeying on.
D A Prince
A prowling climate
of worry and he works
in the clean poverty
of snow. Songbirds
muted and no cats.
He clears the drive
and car, his face
flushed and puzzled.
Don't you see?
his son asks.
Berlin 9 November 1989
I was sleeping
when the wall fell
of the city cracked
over the open scar
just like crossing
no prickle of fear
over Bose Brucke
straight into the east
side it had snowed
in no man’s land
we could taste
on our tongues
like a first visit
raw earth strange
in the cellars
in the churchyards
towards a new
kind of light
After the surface was steam- cleaned
revealing a bronze patina underneath
the green corrosion, then only if you were
up on the plinth or, better still, high
on the scaffolding during restoration
would you be able to view each detail:
how the sculptor had added a rose
to the bridle of one horse, his precise
modelling of artery and sinew, and
the animals’ coats, their combed texture.
You have to step back to see the whole
quadriga, four horses rearing, driven
onwards by a young boy, reins in hand,
and only when you are much further away,
approaching the city maybe, can you see
that what you may take for a monument
to war is a chariot carrying an angel,
her arm raised, holding a wreath of laurel.
After The Quadriga on Wellington Arch (1910) by Adrian Jones
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over three hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of nine review editors.
Jane Angué teaches English Language and Literature in France. She contributes in French and English to print and online journals: Amethyst Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Acumen, Erbacce, morphrog, Poésie/première, Traversées, Mille-feuille and Arpa. A pamphlet, des fleurs pour Bach, was published in 2019 (Encres Vives).
poetry is widely published in journals and anthologies. Her collections
include A Dart of Green and Blue (Arc Publications,
2010), The Bat Detector (Wrecking Ball Press, 2007) and Walking
on Tiptoe (Staple First Editions, 1998). She has been the recipient of
an Arts Council of England Writers Award (2000) and a Northern Writers Award
Tony Beyer writes in Taranaki, New Zealand.
Richard Cecil has published four collections
of poems and has won a Pushcart Prize and a Pushcart "Special
Mention." He teaches at Indiana University.
Stephen Cramer’s first book, Shiva’s Drum, was
selected for the National Poetry Series. Bone Music was
selected for the 2015 Louise Bogan Award. His ninth and most recent book
is The Disintegration Loops. His work has appeared in The
American Poetry Review, African American Review, Yale Review, and Harvard
debut poetry collection The Plumb Line will be published by Hedgehog
Press in February 2022. She was highly commended by the International
Poetry on the Lake competition, and shortlisted for the Wells Poetry
competition, in 2021. She is published in numerous magazines and webzines.
Peter J Donnelly lives in York where he works as a hospital secretary. He has a degree in English Literature and a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales Lampeter.
He has been published in various magazines and anthologies including Dreich and Writer's Egg, and recently won second prize in the Ripon Poetry Festival Competition.
Tim Dwyer’s poems have most recently appeared in The High Window, Live Encounters and the Dedalus Press anthology, Local Wonders. His chapbook is Smithy Of Our Longing (Lapwing). Originally from Brooklyn, he now lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, Leaves On Pages, Memory Outside The Head, and Guest Of Myself are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.
poems, largely formal, have been published in the Alabama Literary Review,
Allegro, Ambit, Amsterdam Quarterly, and other international magazines. He
is Series Editor for Sampson Low's Potcake Chapbooks - Form in Formless
Times, and blogs at formalverse.com from his hometown of
Governor's Harbour in the Bahamas.
Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry has appeared in Magma, Rialto, Stand, High Window, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/
is a poet and translator with four poetry translations from Italian published
by Smokestack Books, most recently poems by Laura Fusco in Nadir (2022)
Her own poems can be found in What they say in Avenale, (IDP
2014) and Faultlines (Vole
Alwyn Marriage's fourteen books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction, – recently Rapeseed and The Elder Race (novels), and Pandora's pandemic and Possibly a Pomegranate (poetry). Formerly a university philosophy lecturer and CEO of two international literacy and literature NGOs, she's Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and research fellow at Surrey University. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn
Mullen is a poet and
writer living in Hertfordshire. She spent her working life in a library and has
a love of reading, she also sings and attempts yoga. She has recently completed
an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University and has work published
D A Prince lives in Leicestershire and
London. Her third collection, The Bigger Picture, will be
published by HappenStance Press later this year.
Gareth Roberts' poetry has appeared in various publications, including: Orbis, Acumen, South, Envoi. He was awarded joint first place in the Torbay Open Poetry Competition (2009); and has published a collection, What’s Not Wasted (Tawny Owl Press, 2016). His website https://garethalunrobertspoetry.weebly.com/ features examples of other poems and publications.
Anna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press) Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press), Burne Jones and the Fox (Indigo Dreams), Ghosting for Beginners (Indigo Dreams) and Feverfew (Indigo Dreams). Anna is the CEO and founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival. Anna’s forthcoming book is called
Jane Simpson, a New Zealand-based poet and historian, has two full-length collections, A world without maps (2016) and Tuning Wordsworth’s Piano (2019), and a world-first liturgy, The Farewelling of a Home. Her poems have appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, London Grip and in leading journals in New Zealand and Australia.
Simon Smith is a teacher, poet, nature writer and angling writer living on the Welsh coast. The author of two books of angling essays and verse, his poetry has appeared in journals such as The Dawntreader and The Journal, as well as online in places such as Creative Countryside.
Christopher Southgate lives on Dartmoor. He has published four collections with Shoestring Press, a verse biography of TS Eliot A Love and its Sounding, and a ‘new and selected’ Rain Falling by the River. He has been commended in the National Poetry Competition. He teaches at the University of Exeter.
Rod Whitworth has had work published in, amongst others, The North, Magma, Poetry Salzburg Review, Fenland Poetry Review, The Journal, Pennine Platform, and some anthologies. He has had some success in competitions. He lives in the Garden City (aka Oldham) and is still tyrannised by commas.
Phil Wood lives in Wales. He studied English Literature at Aberystwyth University. He has worked in statistics, education, shipping, and a biscuit factory. His writing can be found in various publications, including: The Wild Word, Abergavenny Small Press, and a collaboration with photographer John Winder at Fevers of the Mind.
Marjory Woodfield is a New Zealand writer and teacher, who has lived in the Middle East. Recent work has appeared in Meniscus, Orbis, Pennine Platform, A Fine Line and takahē. Awards include first prize in The New Zealand Robert Burns Competition, and placements in Hippocrates, Yeovil, Ver and John McGivering writing competitions.