Knife Angel, by Isabel Palmer

After the Knife Angel sculpture by Alfie Bradley, currently on display at Coventry Cathedral

His face is a mask of tragedy, open-air,
Dionysos, eater of raw flesh, the wand
or weapon god, only his mother mortal,
the cult that feeds the dead with blood

or Christ, the dying and returning God
of blood and wine: a face stripped to the bone,
a crucifix of nose, eyes, chiselled cheekbones,
saints’ lips that speak only to ghosts.

Hollow, gargoyle eyes and nostrils, doves’ nests
for squabs, the same word for young birds
and their flesh, his eyebrows, knife-slashes, traced
with a priest’s thumb, how children draw birds.

His veins are needle-sharp, threaded beneath the skin,
shoulders, hatchet blades, his chest a cathedral ruin,
its ribbed canopy, Gothic tracery eviscerated, the spire lunging
upwards, Coventry’s cross of knives, St Michael on the baptistery,

the Devil at his feet, the saw-toothed walls of nave
and chancel, saints and angels nesting in their dovecote.
His wings are crow quills with bloody nibs, his hands,
nail-bitten fingerprints, offered to handcuffs, birds

already flown. His voice, if he had one, rusty birdsong,
the witches’ chant of pigeons, the siren in the too-late hours,
the dull blade swallowed waiting for news as words
shred guts, throat, tongue on their way to his lips.

 

Isabel Palmer is co-editor of Flarestack Poets. Her debut pamphlet Ground Signs was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and her first full collection, Atmospherics, with a Foreword by Andrew Motion, was published by Bloodaxe Books in Home Front. Both collections were written in response to her son’s experience of detecting IEDs in Afghanistan. In 2018, she was the overall winner of the National Army Poetry competition and a prize-winner in the Robert Graves Poetry Competition. She was Poet in Residence at the National Army Museum for 100 days leading up to the WW1 Centenary and runs poetry workshops for veterans.

Syrian Poems by Isabel Palmer and Antony Owen

I would like to submit two new, unpublished poems to I Am Not a Silent Poet. The first is my poem about the current crisis in Syria and the second is by Antony Owen, who says his poem was written in response to mine and is happy for me to submit them together. Antony and I are currently working together on a new, collaborative collection about the last hundred years of war.

Kakistocracies, by Isabel Palmer
Noun: Government by the worst people

 This is the house that Trump made,
its drains and gutters over-run, his words
rat-droppings in the night.

This is the child, legs folded under him
like a cat’s: thorns, forgotten
for a hundred years, in its paws.

These are the dogs of war,
off the leash, rolling over
Syria, licking their balls.

This is the girl, cow-eyed
and crumpled under the hose,
bubbles bursting from her mouth.

These are the airways all tattered
and torn, sooty spit dredged
for each breath gone missing.

This is the priest with his Bible,
all shaven and shorn. This,
the cock’s crow three times denied,

cruise missiles pecking
in the dust of cluster bombs,
chlorine and white phosphorous.

This is Big Ben, the scaffold built,
his hands cut off, his tongue removed,
his prison for MPs empty, under lock and key.

:

A Syrian slam poet dies with her mouth open, by Antony Owen

A Syrian slam poet dies with her mouth open
words leave her mouth white as blood-foot ballerinas
like the Moscow symphony at Scene IV when Giselle slips away.

Just weeks ago, a Syrian slam poet screamed her poems under her breath
She knows how Kalashnikovs sound like her Father banging her door,
When once upon a time she French-kissed a forbidden boy.

A Syrian poet lived with her mouth open often,
The first time she read Rumi and he read her back as a bridge
The first time she touched herself into a woman to let the girl go

Just seconds ago she performed her poem to the tomahawk sky,
These are not real tomahawks for they would scalp the top of the world
Remove the brain and see that its swirls are the very fingerprints of God herself.

She screamed to the sky I am woman, a goddess of the shooting star
The trebuchet light that swirls into sycamore to be one with earth
To be (poem burns from left to right then blows into the sky).

..

Isabel Palmer is co-editor of Flarestack Poets. Her debut pamphlet Ground Signs was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and her first full collection, Atmospherics, with a Foreword by Andrew Motion, was published by Bloodaxe Books in Home Front. Both collections were written in response to her son’s experience of detecting IEDs in Afghanistan. In March 2018, she was the overall winner of the National Army Poetry competition, with a second poem runner-up in another category.
Antony Owen is from Coventry, England and is the author of five collections of poetry. His latest poetry collection,The Nagasaki Elder was shortlisted for the 2017 Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry. His poetry has been translated in several languages and in March 2018 was announced a category winner of the British Army Poetry competition for Armistice.