Series Editor - Jim Bennett


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.




Crossing Main Street I passed by Grimes’s

twin shops; the first with wine and pumice

coloured flesh that hung from gooseneck hooks.

Shish of butchers’ blades on a sharpening stone.

Sawdust curled in pigs’ tails


                 from; Our Side by Ray Givans



















Ray Givans was reared in the village of Castlecaulfield, Co.Tyrone. He was a teacher of English for many years in secondary schools in Co.Down. His poetry has been published in four pamphlets and his first full collection, "Tolstoy in Love" was published by Dedalus Press in 2009. In 2010 this collection was shortlisted for the Strong award for best first collection by an Irish poet. The collection was also published in a bilingual English-Italian version by Kolibris, Bologna, 2011.






Dear Doctor Donne, I thought we’d signed
a pact to run if any woman emerged
above the white waters of the bedding sheet
to whimper need of nuptial vows.
Below deck is where we’d won our glory;
plotted a course through dip and mount
caressed by sun’s hot flesh, moon’s pull
and exaltation of stars. I’ll stand for none
of your finger wagging, sonorous berating;
you’re the one who betrayed our faith
accepting the Church of England’s silver pieces,
that by association stained our hands
with blood of tortured martyrs. Yet, worse
your cord to forebears and heritage was undone
for you to scale ambition’s slippery mast.
And then, disastrously, scuppered us upon
matrimonial rocks. That day, Doctor Donne
we stopped from having fun, as if sunlight
threw a noose around our neck, deemed that,
forever, Ann More would be our only love.
Your plan to marry us to wealth and rank
only opened a door to gaol, years of penury.
And you abhor my sin? My sins, if any,
were venial, for I would never turn
away from my true calling to drink from life’s
red-blooded wine, gorge on her voluptuous body.



You dare insinuate I married for gain?
I was the burning sun of my own solar system,
until one day, at Inns of Court, Ann More
flitted across my path, Mazarine Blue,
and I was besotted. Betrothed and wed in secret
I was aware a tempestuous storm would break.
Of course, I never chose a loss of position,
poverty, or to orbit at the rim of society for years.
But that was the highway love had taken.
And you failed to understand, blinded
by cataracts of the fallen. I didn’t need
to be a flea flitting from bed to bed;
one fertile body sustained as if
encompassing a continent of women.

When I looked at luxuriant pasture
where dairy cattle lolled and chewed,
fattened jowls aquiver; and to hills awash
with brush and dust, where undernourished
sheep and goats nuzzled beside a narrow gate,
I knew I must convert to secure our future.
So I will not wear the traitor’s cloth
with which you dress me. I tried to steer
a middle course between opposing rocks:
over the stern I threw the idea
that heaven can be earned by aid of wafer,
acts of penitence and good deeds. And aft,
the idea that the few on board would receive
their special passes from God’s own hand.

I am glad I abandoned you, Jack, on an island
of wanton delights: a shadow from my past.
for I envisaged us, without transformation,
upon our knees come the day of Judgement,
begging of the hills that they would fall
and cover us from the wrath of God.



I slither into the chair, slouch. You instruct
me to sit up straight. Flounce the wrap.

The undercurrent settles on my chest and torso
as you discipline the corners into my collar.

Cold spray squirts my head, stirs from torpor
like a slap across the knuckles. Your hands tousle

the hair into verbs and exclamation marks
before you propose the style of the composition.

You comb the strands of each sentence, abbreviate
with the snip-snip of scissors. Punctuate

new paragraphs through the scribble of pop
from the radio, as I submit to your guiding hands.

‘Don’t you remember me?’ I cut to your double
in the mirror. Under a mask of peroxide

I recognise your flame hair. In parenthesis
I add, ‘Essays always daubed with red biro.’

‘The chance to get your own back.’ Your face
is stern. Fingers correct the line of my neck.



Crossing Main Street I passed by Grimes’s
twin shops; the first with wine and pumice
coloured flesh that hung from gooseneck hooks.
Shish of butchers’ blades on a sharpening stone.
Sawdust curled in pigs’ tails

on a blanched floor. The air ached cold,
yawning cold storage. Their brother confectioner’s
had a spick glass-fronted window, scrubbed
deal counter and balance that gleamed like
a mint Queen’s head on my sixpence or shilling.

And Bob, clean-cut, would hiss and wave,
always leaving me indecisive, halting,
slinking to McGurk’s to surrender my trade
to the other side: the front room of a two-
up, two-down terrace with a partitioning

curtain, remnant flock, ruche-flowered,
from where crinkled Florry, in dark clothes
ghosted as if on slow wheels. Behind her
a whispering wireless was tuned to Radio Eireann.
That L-shaped, pokie sweet-shop was homely:

Love-hearts, liquorice and sherbet squabbled
across the scratched counter. With grudging light
straining through her windows, no superfluous
talk was traded, as she kept a suspicious
eye for sweets falling into wrong pockets.

Soon, I ducked and slunk past Grimes’s
on our side, darted a diagonal between
Burrough’s timber yard and Wells’s General Store,
afraid of Bob’s yells over my Protestant shoulder
like ice-wind from off the battlefields of Aughrim.

Battle of Aughrim : A battle at which a Jacobite army containing both Irish and
French troops was defeated by the Protestant William III’s forces.



for many years a nod and hello neighbour,
notable for throw-back-to-the sixties bouffant
blacker than Eskra Lough below an overcoated sky,
luxuriant as the hedge she kept in check each week
oversized shears held in skin-hugging yellow gloves.
She brushed up every leaf and branch,
painstakingly scooped onto a shovel.

Then she failed to show. And for weeks after.
The hedge branches, unbound, randomly jabbed
out forks to spike the unwary.
Indiscreetly, leaves sauntered across her footpath.
Only a sough wind informed the neighbourhood
that, unexpectedly, a dissident growth had taken root.
Its tresses unloosed, a shadow passing over her.



The sky’s dark animal began to angle
its spiteful liquid at the street below.
Intense as migraine each droplet bombed the ground,
rebounded as explosions that frog leapt

and splattered my legs and coat tail, driving
me to shelter under a grocery shop’s awning.
In minutes a stream gushed along the kerb,
water-membranes eddied across the pavement.

Over the street, snug in a café, a clique
nestled against a window, smiled or smirked
as those caught out steamed past, feet slapping
the pavement, dripping like perspiring athletes.

Then pandemonium blazed amongst
the coffee drinkers as waters stormed fault lines
in the windowpane, sloshed around handbags
as a mass of people heaved, sighed towards

the door, quivering at the threshold, dilatory
as suicides at a mountain lip, before
plunging headlong into the fiery waters
of the beast, all smiles subsumed.

Under the lachrymose curtain of cloud
time hung heavy, until an ease in hostilities
enticed me out, feet sloshing, slowed by pools.
And then the intensity of arrows strengthened –

shish of their points pummelled my coat-armour,
so that I ran to shelter from bombardment, only
to be halted by a lough, whose edges splashed
my car’s hubcaps. I waded in, in socks and shoes.

For hours I negotiated main and side
street traffic, choreographed at
funereal speed, bypassing road-river
in spate; depositing spar-glazed pebbles,

and shark-tooth barbs of iron-gratings
jutting above pressurized waters,
until, at last, the open countryside
fanned out and I could plot familiar

landmarks: that white rectangle next
to a perfect furrowed field, the yelping boys
arrowed after a ball, intent in that moment
as if that game would continue forever.



…this is brilliant…move on…over to you, Zo:

In this photo of Nigel – sorry to show
this one Nige – you are caught with no collar on.
It was taken just after your ordination…
in a while we want all our viewers to phone
in about adultery, as you see it today.

I am looking forward to hearing your views,
but before that let’s talk to our guest for today;
a warm welcome Meserra. Your musical roots
are in Afro-Caribbean gospel and mixed
with a spoonful of soul and a peppering of funk.
And I believe some of the lyrics touch on God:
so let’s hear, ‘And I cry when you take me so high.’

Had a caller from Croydon who says, "In this day
and age it’s expecting too much to remain
in a faithful, loving and stable relationship";
a large number of callers are saying the same.
I must say I like Meserra’s blue braids.

You are looking relaxed, reclining on that couch,
just at ease like a Sunday morning, there, Rog.
A number of viewers enjoyed your last poem.
Would be cool to make use of that cathedral
and get fans in a joyous mood for the Cup:
‘Abide With Us’….’God Save Our Gracious Team.’

On our next programme we want calls about coveting.
Do you envy your neighbour’s ox or his/her Porsche?
Why not get on that phone and give us your views.

Many thanks there Tone, and for dangling the toes
in a paradise pool in Eilat. Well, can you
Adam and Eve it, the Garden is just an allegory…
for the price of a pint we’ll send a bible fun-pack.

Thanks too, Nige, Zo. So tune in again – find out more
about God, the universe and…ah…everything.



An oak’s umbilical cords snare my boot,
snake the undergrowth through decomposing leaves
and lichen. Under the weeping canopy, my greatcoat
(trailing thirty-four years of memories)
drags me back to my first birth cries at Polyana.
Ahead, at the edge of Zaseka Forest ,
sunlight slides through the thinned umbrella,
plays ribbons on the bare shoulder of Sofya Andreyevna.
She wears a white dress with the simplicity and purity
of the youthful stream that washes over her feet.
Palivanov approaches, in cadet uniform,
his military buttons glistening with stalks of light.
He sweeps you into a waltz, so light and fluid
you could dance on the backs of the swaying cornfields.
And I must watch, rest my head against
the oak’s wrinkled brows, protest I am too old to dance.
In a murky pool I reflect my silhouette, my ugliness.
I am, I am that Prince Dublitzsky of your novel.

Yet, an angel at my shoulder battles with my demons
pushes me forward into the sunlight. “Sonya!”
Light as wafted seed from a dandelion clock
she flies to me. I hold her hands. Her body,
aromatic, decants pomander and cinnamon.
She trembles like a wounded bird, blushes as if rouge
were applied to her cheeks. Is it too much to hope
to be made beautiful by a young woman’s love?



Mr Cowper displayed some traits of Melancholia.
Cognisant of his suicidal attempts
(Dear Lord please forgive him) I interviewed
his brother to try to ascertain possible roots
of his present madness - Change of eating habits?
Perturbation by fluctuating temperature?
Sustaining a chill or fever?
To his knowledge the gentleman did not think so.
I noted: explore underlying bodily processes.

At approximately 2 am there was a caterwaul
from the top of the house, so I roused the helpers.
Mr. Cowper was in a delirium, bumping his head
against the veneered cabinet. He was restrained
and put in a prone position. I uncoiled the bed straps
and bound the gentleman to his mattress.
Added ‘Raving’ to the classification
and administered a sedative: a small dose of cocaine.

During the first three weeks Cowper was force-fed,
mostly with bread sop and a gruel mixture,
comprising millet, oats and goat’s milk.
He was bed-bound, except twice daily, two assistants
aided with his toilet regimen. (Poor man, safe
to say, would not have weathered the vicissitudes
of a Bethlehem ). He made occasional responses;

mostly outbursts in the form of self accusations,
“I am damned.”

As snow slowly thawed and first buds pushed
through, Mr Cowper began to display
initial signs of renewal. He was calmer and partook
of produce of the garden and fruit of the orchard.
I administered a mild herbal remedy
of my devising: a pick-me-up with ginseng infusion.
A bloom radiated across his once pallid face.

In my garden, as cherry blossom gave way
to tea-roses, Mr. John Cowper returned.
On seeing William he showed some consternation
I felt. His expectations for recovery were, perhaps,
over-inflated, although in four months
William had travelled continents. It would take longer
to move mountains.
Later, whilst removing
leeches from a patient, I heard the voice
of John Cowper ( from the seat beneath
the Crab Apple, I believe) ranting at his brother.

That evening, William confided, “My brother
urges me to believe that my despair is all a delusion.
If this is true, am I the happiest of men!”



Note:   Bethlehem = Bethlehem Hospital (Insane Asylum, sometimes known as, ’Bedlam’)




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

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