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In your soaked sheets

you shout for sand buckets, fire

blankets, pails -

draw water from the depths of taps

while the dogs whine at the window slats

their nostrils flared for air.


                 from; The Fire Raisers by Neil Leadbeater






        The Fire Raisers

          Dumbarton Oaks

          The Gresley Pacifics

          Oranges Coming of Age

         The Fragility of Moths

         Malvern Wells


          The Pomme-Grenade

         Vocabularies for the Jewellery Trade

          Still Thinking of Sea Coal



1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Neil Leadbeater


Neil Leadbeater was born in Wolverhampton, England. He currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. His poems, short stories and articles have been published widely in anthologies and journals at home and abroad. Magazine credits include Alba (USA), Critical Survey (UK), Poesis International (Romania), Red y Acción (Columbia),Sur y Sur (Chile),The Red Wheelbarrow (UK) and The Shop (Eire). His first full-length collection of poems, “Hoarding Conkers at Hailes Abbey” was published by Littoral Press in 2010 and a selection of his Latin-American poems, “Librettos for the Black Madonna” was published by White Adder Press in 2011.
He was voted 4th Best UK Small Press Poet in the Purple Patch Poetry Awards for 2011. His work has been translated into Spanish and Romanian.





The Fire Raisers


Your nightmare

is a lit match on dry wood

the odour of paraffin

leaking through the letterbox

a quick flame

on a length of fuse.


In your soaked sheets

you shout for sand buckets, fire

blankets, pails -

draw water from the depths of taps

while the dogs whine at the window slats

their nostrils flared for air.


Heat blisters the rooms into sores

scorching the soot-black wall:

Where is the rain

you ask

hoping to catch its fall.


Fully conscious now

you begin to relax the muscles of the jaw

thankful to find

the house intact

the fast beat of your heart


in the last year of the war.


Dumbarton Oaks


What were you doing, thinking of Beatrix Jones Farrand’s

50-acre plot

in Georgetown, Washington, DC,

when you could have been admiring

the clear sound of the allegretto

where everything assumes a grammar of its own:

the neoclassical paths and hedgerows,

the curb of that hip-roofed gazebo…


As for me, I am back-to-Bach,

hearing a faint echo of the third Brandenburg

escaping from the shrubbery,

its Stravinskian diversion

as unexpected as the blush on your face

that dislocation

which slips out of joint:

fibro cartilage falling between vertebrae…


you could not time it if you tried.


The Gresley Pacifics


On Argo Transacord

the Gresley Pacifics

commute into the living rooms of the

listening world.


At Retford             

on a raw night of fog

Lord Farringdon leaves London

with an evening express from the North.


Woolwinder screams from the tunnel mouth.


I catch the thrill of the journey south

with the squall

unloading its rain.

A shrill whistle shrieks its noise

and I, for once,

am a child again

among my children’s toys.



Oranges Coming of Age



Somehow the whole hesperidium

comes into its own.


It shrugs off that hard exterior;


wears its skin without blemish;


is heavy for its size;


has a thin peel;


exudes scent;


is neither pomelo nor mandarin


but “China’s apple”


a fire-burst of summer segments

squeezed out and citrus-cool:


the juice in the glass beside you.




The Fragility of Moths


Driving home after sundown

you saw the June fliers:

a skein of moths that swung like motes

in and out of the beam.

Thirty or more reeled off the verge.

They came at the car like winding yarn -

and some lived on,

light as lint -

unaware of what it meant

to fly another hour.


And you felt for everything

that was green and vulnerable


those long cadenzas

that come with the dusk

to wind down the day.



Malvern Wells ­



At Malvern Wells we sat and talked about the faraway parts of our lives

and how this coming together had telescoped our thoughts

down the long line of rolling hills

to the quiet valleys below.


Company kept us awake all summer. It brought us back

to all those gifts that had long lain unwrapped.


Seeing them all, with their red ribbons

I thought of acorns, snails under sacks, spangle galls

from the lobes of leaves, the passage of chlorophyl ferried into trees,

the fiery fall of the rose…


all the beauty of autumn chasing down the years.






Each plant demands to be looked at, noticed

for what it is worth. Introductions

are numerous.

Their real name is Smyrnian olustratum,

black lovage in the vernacular,

but they would like you to invent

a tenuous link

to the Emperor.


Their one statement

is that the world is largely YELLOW.


It is a sun-filled, fun-filled thing.


On a practical note, the roots

are good for colic.


After the harvest

their black seeds are sold in shops

as a prophylactic for snake-bite.


Just when you think you are becoming acquainted

they jump into another word

to try to describe

their colour:


lemon, say, or saffron.


Another “take” on yellow.





The Pomme-Grenade


Looking at the pomegranate,

you think of the sun of,

the warmth of, the

heat of

Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan -

the scorch that comes

from a smoking gun

and how this hot-headed,

hard-nosed fruit

yields so easily

from its laden pulp

edible arils of blood.





Vocabularies for the Jewellery Trade



Breaking in was easy.  The window locks

       had rusted off

and half the panes were missing. Inside

we slogged like laggards through the lemel

and grabbed all the tools we could find:

collet blocks, bezel pushers, bick iron,


our pockets bulged with binding wire

and a slew of pan-head screws.


And we ran and we ran, man to man,

the sirens ringing like steel shot

as we swung right over the wall…


-a bellyful of burrs, pin-chucks

       and tweezers -

the swag like blood on our hands

       all day

and not a jewel between us.




Still Thinking of Sea Coal



Still thinking of sea coal, I passed the freightliner depot -

a colour-splash of orange crates

and the huge hoist astride the track

sedentary in the heat.


It slid past but lingered on

as I made a guess, wild as grass, running the gamut

of factory parts, as to what was in the hold…

which was bottle shards, sea-scatter,

timber riddled with shipworm

because my mind was still on the sea

and not on the journey home.



The Fire Raisers - published in Fife Lines (2000)
Dumbarton Oaks - published in Envoi (2007)
The Gresley Pacifics - published in Quantum Leap (2000)
The Fragility of Moths - published in Phoenix New Life Poetry (2010)
Malvern Wells - published in The Dawntreader (2011)
Alexanders - published in The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine (2007)
The Pomme-Grenade - published in Alba (USA) (2011)
Vocabularies for the Jewellery Trade - published in Purple Patch (2007).


4 - Afterword

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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

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