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CAUGHT IN THE NET 75  -  POETRY  BY
KEN HEAD

Series Editor - Jim Bennett
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Hello.  Welcome to the next in the series of CITN featured poets.  We will be looking at the work of a different poet in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.

 

You can join the CITN mailing list at - http://www.poetrykit.org/pkl/index.htm and following the links for Caught in the Net.
 

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Turned from a piece of venerable oak,

itís a simple bowl, barely four inches

across the middle, as cross-hatched,

grooved and whorled to give the grain

its due as leathery skin, but soft

and warm as summer to the touching hand. 

 

 

                 from; Prosperoís Bowl by Ken Head

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CONTENTS

1 - BIOGRAPHY
2 Ė POETRY
 

 

Hard Look

Prosperoís Bowl

Compliance

G-Cramps

Stepping Off

Tea Ceremony:  Hangzhou

Old Devils

He Remembers Pluscarden

Everywhere & Nowhere

Seeing & Believing

 

3 - AFTERWORD
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1 Ė BIOGRAPHY:  KEN HEAD

 

Ken is presently based in Cambridge, England, although for many years he lived and worked in South-East Asia.  His poems appear regularly in a wide variety of both print and online publications and a number have been anthologized.  He has published two e.chapbooks, Long Shadows (2008) and A Devilís Dozen (2010) and his first full-length collection, Listening For Light, was published in 2009.   Anyone interested in hearing Ken read his own work will find him among the poets recorded online at Poetcasting

His website is at www.kenhead.co.uk.

 

 

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2 - POETRY 

 

 

Hard Look

 

You walk past lines of cars parked nose-to-tail

on both sides of the street, past newish blocks

of low-rise flats and maisonettes, balcony

railings post-box red, wires from Sky dishes

hanging loose down walls stained soapily

by bathroom overflows, the path divides: 

left, to a take-away and the new mosque,

straight on to a fenced-in five-a-side pitch. 

 

A man starting a kick-about with his son

is carefully pushing the ripped-up wings

and carcase of a pigeon out through a hole

in the wire with his foot.  Rats, he explains

to the child, It mustíve been killed by rats,

some time last night while you were fast asleep.

 

 

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Prosperoís Bowl

 

for Peter Hawthorn, woodcarver

 

... it was mine Art ... let thee out.

William Shakespeare:  The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

 

Turned from a piece of venerable oak,

itís a simple bowl, barely four inches

across the middle, as cross-hatched,

grooved and whorled to give the grain

its due as leathery skin, but soft

and warm as summer to the touching hand. 

 

He offers it across his work-bench

on an open palm as a piece we might

afford and silky with a final sheen

of oil, it sits there, rotund, unshowy,

glowing under the dusty anglepoise

like river light before a gathering storm.

 

In the lane, a tractorís grinding uphill

towards one of the farms, two collies bark

from the bed of the cart as it brushes

a tangle of flowering elder

overgrowing the workshop window, fine

grey drizzle begins to settle in.

 

So what do we think?  The bowl sits waiting.

An acorn dropped a thousand years ago

lies doggo, bides its time, finds room to breathe,

stays put during centuries of seasons

while tides roll in and history moves on.

Take me or leave me, Iím not in any hurry.

 

 

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Compliance

 

Your turnís coming, you can see it ahead,

at the other end of the line of cars

stalled by the barrier in driving rain

while troops in hooded capes the same drab green

as the bush slosh through potholes of rust-red

laterite run-off  and point their guns

at the driver next in line for the slow

once-over, the cold-eyed document check.

 

Peering in through your rolled-down windows,

they silence the world with question marks: 

will they let you go?  Back-seat passengers

stay silent.  Youíre waved towards barbed-wire

fencing, a red-and-white-checked metal gate,

heavy machine-guns mounted on tripods

under cover in the backs of jeeps.

A soldier ticks his clipboard, signals you

 

on, grins as you pull obediently

away and the gate drops back into place. 

No one puts his foot down, you drive slowly,

line astern, like undertakers, mindful

of frailty and watchful of the road.

The saturated green landscape melts by

outside, leaves you hungry for tarmac, white

lines, the false security of road signs.

 

 

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G-Cramps

 

In size order, a whole set.  The biggest,

cast iron, four or five foot long,

like wide-jawed, monopod monsters

waiting to be fed, stood propped

against the workshop wall.  The rest,

right down to the smallest, a bare

six inches, hooked underneath a shelf.

 

There were no Allen keys, only throat-catching,

home-made glues brewed patiently

over slow burners for days, to hold together

mortise and tenon joints cut perfectly

(because nearly was never good enough)

by hand.  Then, finally, the G-cramps,

gripping the finished piece from all angles

 

while the glue set, jaws kept away from sleek

sapele, white oak or beech by small, flat

off-cuts saved for the purpose.  Too much

tension twisted the joints, too little left them

loose.  Only my fatherís craftsmanís eye

and hand on cold, indifferent metal

understood the measure of the difference.

 

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Stepping Off

 

Dunster Woods on an afternoon in April.

Fog thick as woodsmoke from a damp bonfire,

clinging, silent, autumnal, the valleys

chock-full, no chance of the sun burning through. 

Early on, a chilly white-out, ghostly ponies

standing sentinel in the mist, straggles

of blurry sheep tempting fate across the road. 

Now, the scrunch of our boots over pine cones

and tree litter the only sound, we follow

our noses past well-intentioned finger-posts

through acres of regimented conifers

too lifeless to call woodland and too thick

with shadow to feel comfortable among:

the easy hikersí track to Bats Castle,

waiting for us up there inside the gloom.

 

Itís a greenwood trail suffering ugly times,

muddy, puddled, tractor-rutted,

the only oak trees still putting up a fight

no more than parodies of themselves. 

We keep an eye out for whatever might

be moving, pigeons, squirrels, a wide-winged

owl flapping tetchily out of our way,

a family of dark-brindled deer

stepping light as legend across the path.

Thereís nothing, though, even when we reach the moor,

that wilderness of yellow-flowering gorse

and heather snared in mist, where earthed-up

remnants of wall and the song of absence

in the air tell us people lived here once,

found their way in fog, like blind men, searching.  

 

But to have begun here, pushing against life

and feeling it push back, struggling to work out

whatís ahead, as a hunter does from tracks

in fresh snow, might not have seemed so hard

on sunny days, with skylarks, green valleys

and the ocean a morningís downhill walk

away through young forest.  Making and mending,

hauling supplies, turning backbreaking

labour into food, must all have been grist

to the mill in the battle against failure

of belief, a deal with the gods that might make

the world more knowable, less pitilessly

harsh.  Around the fire at night, hearts tuned

for signals from the dark, itís easy

to understand theyíd put their faith in dreams.

 

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Tea Ceremony:  Hangzhou

 

for Shiao Wei

 

After twenty years, my mislaid past

falls unexpected from a book.

The photo of you says it all:  still lovely,

self-possessed and elegantly young.

 

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Old Devils

 

Never mind the black-clad priests striding by

preoccupied, enduring their integrity like crowns

of thorn, this is the place to be on a fiery afternoon,

strolling in the shade of a colonnade as the sun-soaked

city sashays past like the brassy old vamp she is. 

 

In air-con bars, the bling-bling young hang out, eye

one another up, sip long, cool drinks and dandle

mobile Ďphones while they wait for the day to be cool. 

 

A barefoot beggar with two skinny dogs but precious

little else makes camp in a doorway.  Like a doctor

checking a wound, he rolls back his trousers

to show the sores on his legs to elderly ladies

with parchment faces whoíve been to Mass

and so may feel a need to drop coins in his cup. 

 

Pigeons hustle for crusts among take-away trash

and in upstairs rooms, behind blistered shutters,

half-naked girls in stiletto heels haggle impatiently

with sweaty men over change from tens and fifties 

because, as they say, the body is special. 

 

Every fifteen minutes or so, bells in nearby churches

chime another alarm call for the soul, but when evening

finally forces the sun to its knees and shadowed

faÁades turn briefly topaz-gold, the flights of bright

green parakeets that squawk away to roost 

donít sound as if they give a tuppenny damn.

 

 

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 He Remembers Pluscarden

 

He stands among rows of wooden grave markers,

each with a brotherís name, his date of  birth

and death, nothing more, on a fine September afternoon.

Looking through trees along the valley, the abbey

is monks barrowing compost in a vegetable garden,

orchards of plum and apple trees laden with fruit,

unused beehives stacked against a wall and the sound

of one bell chiming.  He feels time falling away. 

At his back, no taller than a man, an effigy of pain

in chiselled oak tilts sideways in dry earth, a Calvary:

Christ crucified overseeing deathís quiet corner.

 

They overwhelm him, these places of the soul,

make him feel, although he knows he must be wrong,

like grass that withers in the presence of a god.

 

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Everywhere & Nowhere

 

Our taxi ducks and dives through the daily

mayhem, the lines of honking cars and crowded

buses, trucks so overloaded their cargoes

sway as they sluice through sections of flooded

carriageway still awash after early rain.

Nothing to worry for you! the driver

shouts back at us, one nonchalant hand

flicking the wheel, the other waving, priestly,

regal, over his shoulder.  This city

taxi drivers best in whole world!  You see!

 

The expressway he takes us in by, so new

it isnít finished, cuts a wide swathe

around the cityís dirty-grey haze

and lets him put his foot down, shake the airport

gridlock out of his system, start clawing

back the time heís convinced himself weíve lost

with one or two hair-raising, gut-wrenching

lurches from lane to lane that set the circlet

of worry beads swinging from his mirror

clicking and clacking like clockwork false teeth.

 

We follow the line of a riverbed, a crust

of dried-up laterite dust and scrub

festooned with shreds of faded plastic rubbish

left dangling like forgotten prayer-flags. 

Mile after mile bulldozed, orchards, farmland,

whole villages gone, the earth scraped bare. 

Hump-backed tankers dripping concrete,

being directed by men in hard-hats, queue

down tracks marked out, like the safe path

through a minefield, with stakes and coloured tape. 

 

On towers not much wider than a manís

shoulders, above it all, cranes shoot the breeze

around the skins of new-born buildings. 

From that high up, the ground-plan must make sense,

seem designed to offer images of place

that look familiar, graft unknown futures

on to demolished pasts.  Our friendsí new flat,

in a first-phase block on the fifteenth floor,

is light and airy.  From its balcony,

they point out where their old home used to be.

 

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Seeing & Believing

 

There are fish in the water here, we say,

pointing down over the iron rail

and wondering whether itís sunlight

or natureís magic that colours them pale

gold beneath a net of seaweed so bright

and fine it has the look of filigree.

Like glittering torpedos, they move fast,

sensing our shadows and flitting away,

long, slim bodies more difficult to see

than half-remembered faces from our past.

Wind gently ruffles the silvered surface,

not much, but enough to confuse our eyes

and leave us staring at an empty space,

almost convinced that our senses tell lies.


 

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3 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think.  We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

Thank you for taking the time to read Caught in the Net.  Our other magazine s are Transparent Words ands Poetry Kit Magazine, which are webzines on the Poetry Kit site and this can be found at -
http://www.poetrykit.org/    

 

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