Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett

Hello.  Welcome to a new series of CITN.  We will be looking at the work of individual poets 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.


CITN 45. This  edition features the poetry of PETER KENNEALLY.


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There was a lifetime of school dinners curry once a week  the colour

of jaundiced skin and the strawberry jam  as a stigmata on the rice pudding:


                                                             From Aberfan by Peter Kenneally








            MEMENTO MORI (sequence)


                        Melancholy Flower

                        If there's anything we can do…


                        Last rites


            A cup of tea and a little pill





Peter was born in England in 1957. He has lived in Melbourne since 1985.He has only been back once. He has had work published in various entities including    The Australian, Island, Ambit, Southerly, Siglo, Tinfish, Southern Review ,Antithesis, Redoubt, Scarp, Salt,  Going Down Swinging and the Newcastle poetry prize anthology 2005. He was commended in the New Media Section of the Newcastle Poetry prize in 2007.   He can be found  at: http://bettyslocombe.wordpress.com  or http://www.impactisnotaverb.com/





we are forever sweeping / and

the things we sweep out of the

front door / blow in again at

the back / directly. We know

but always forget the way we

 have enclosed improved and

drained / everything / so that

everything is chaff / around

our ears. We were great

winnowers / and always

looking forward but / not far

enough forward to see this and

we / are abandoning the fields

or they are abandoning us

because / when we saw the sea

flow over the fields / we had

spades and faith and clever

Dutchmen / but seeing the

 fields blow over the sea / we

believe only our eyes / and they

see dust everywhere so / for us

there is only sanding and

polishing / we are forever

sweeping / and we have

stripped back and sanded

and stained every parish. We

are forever sweeping / the

floorboards / we can see our

reflections in them / safe and

sound beneath eight layers of







MEMENTO MORI  (sequence)



The last time I stood

in this amphitheatre / with

the people ranged around us

the sun beating down,

you stood before me.

To each word I recited

you responded in kind / and I

in my turn and we / kissed

at some length and

joined together then / in the general

conversation as it

walked along the riverbank.

Your smile is still there

in the video.


The last time I stood

in that amphitheatre / with

the people ranged around me

the sun limply through the trees;


My words rang out / there was

no reply / the carefully chosen music

was faint and tinny / you were

behind me in a frame / smiling still.

I walked along the riverbank / clutching

a cornflower /I’ve been told there is a video:

you aren't in it.


Blue cornflowers float

mindlessly, congregating

like the mourners / the ducks

swim among them / at a loss

like the mourners.

A hand falls on my shoulder

another another there are

too many hands and as

I walk away the general conversation

starts up again without us / it is

in full swing when I return.

I walk through not catching its eye it has

a lot to say about you / that it only met you

a few times / or once / but you were this

or you seemed that what are you doing on the weekend

do you need a lift it just isn't fair so young I'm going overseas in May

and my job is giving me the shits

oh Pete we're so sorry.




Melancholy Flower (Life is but a)


A man lost his mother in the middle

of the Depression and his wife

in the middle

of the swinging sixties:

a boy lost his mother in the middle

of the swinging sixties

and his wife in the middle

of a depression.

The fearful symmetry is

all out of kilter / there is nothing

to admire / nothing to fear / nothing

in the forests of the night

except: a fading ember / a striped

carcass / a hand cold and stiff

and an eye fixed and staring.

A man finds his wife still and restless on the floor

at lunchtime: in 1967:

the lunch goes cold in the oven.

A man finds his wife (who was born

in 1967) just as cold on the floor

at breakfast time: in 1999.

The breakfast goes unmade / the son

and the daughter are all

unawares / one at school / one in her cot.

Is this man's father / is this man's son? /is

this a riddle? / or my life?

father husband wife

The sphinx is eating my heart first

as an appetiser


If there's anything we can do to help or if you need to talk about anything

don't hesitate to call: (we have social workers available),

the nurse from the coroner's office says.

She is all soft English estuarine

understanding she tells me that

she has the “results”: having insulted your memory at their leisure

they have discovered after eight weeks that

your heart was too big and may

have killed you : thankyou Nicole for ringing

but I could have told you that eight weeks ago why didn't

you just ask me?


Nicole says apologetically that

they have discovered having covered every angle

that there were amphetamines

in your system, and that you had also taken

legally prescribed drug a and legally prescribed drugs c d and e

but within the therapeutic range / she has no idea

what you were doing taking speed and has the good grace not to ask me

being all soft English estuarine understanding

she tactfully skirts around the idea

because of course she doesn't really have a clue

that you were in a hurry to get away from us or

from somebody or something or that you ran

your spirit to a standstill or that if I were to wax

then you had to wane / and I respecting her position

just say say mmm and thankyou and even

because I am English too

I understand





what does she know?

how is she doing?

what did she do?

She looked at you

with that smile / she has

a new smile now / an older

wiser smile / she reached

for your breast where your mother

smile lay / at her command


you and she swam at bathtime softly

while I stood usefully / patient

at your behest cradling a white towel

warm from the radiator / in my hand


what does she know now?

how is she doing now?

what shall we do now?

she looks at me

unquestioningly / she

does not expect an answer.


 Last rites

No one is in black / everyone

drifts around slightly bowed beneath

the weight of their everyday clothes

all cheek by jowl in each cluttered room.


The porch is cluttered with flowers

the bedroom is cluttered with your clothes

the kitchen is cluttered with

the food they keep bringing

the garden is cluttered with

fag ends from the wake

the parlour is cluttered with photographs

of you with me / with our daughter / with

your brother / alone

the mantelpiece is cluttered with incense

Frida Kahlo / candles / Andy Warhol /

Madonnas and christ childs / and a book

of improving quotations propped open at

the last scene from 'The Tempest' / that

fucking Auden poem / more flowers / cards

rosaries / beads / tarot cards

and we are choosing your grave goods


It is not cluttered here / everything

is fluorescently simple at Tobin Brothers.

You lie in a stark comfortless room

in a stark cardboard coffin on a trestle

draped with your grave goods draining the colour

from them all / you offer me a cold

kiss and a cold embrace you

do not need these grave goods you

have gone on ahead taking their

colour with you / you are not

here so why am I?

I turn around and look at

the door / it is

a thousand miles away

and I haven’t got to it yet





A cup of tea and a little pill


every morning before school

always and always grateful

white plastic wired to pink plastic

in a glass by the cup

school holidays

overcast and threatening

the tea too strong or the wrong pill

a sudden apparition

shining faced stick doll

grinning and groaning

wet-faced clenched juddering

the howl of five around the house

the gravity of ten demanding silence

this happened in our presence

this happened in our absence

white plastic wired to pink plastic

the wet face of fifteen

dripping on the dry face of ten

afterwards no cup of tea and no little pill

the floor not fit to have a fit on

and never any breakfast

and sticking to the bed perhaps

(a bit of cheap self-analysis)

unwilling to face the day

without a cup of tea

and a little pill






There was the dawn we never saw and  the dusk we were born into:

there was the egg marketing board  a little  lion a glass of Mackeson

Trebor mints the icons of the age the dull sliding of the QEII down

the slipway the sudden sliding of coal over children the same age as us

in their classroom and then  over me.


There was the  strip of whalebone a throbbing palm a compass

in the back  the raw pagan knuckles on the head the chinese

burn the dead leg the cross country run the snowball down

the shirt all barely visible under inches of dust in which

we wrote our initials and various insults.


There was a dirty river with  wreaths of fishing line  swirling past a sign

 Thames Conservancy Board no fishing  no swimming or us slipping down  the

 weir coated  in green slime or fumbling with a bra strap on the bank 

while the water police shone their light on us: you can't do that there they said

like every other jobsworth.


There was the bus stop the rubber johnny frozen in a puddle and along came

the bus it was the 131  the conductors were all characters and on it we sat  in

our blazers  the sacred heart upon the breast  gingerly on a yellow cross  there

were the hordes of Holy Cross girls green and shrieking

and sometimes divinely


there was  brown skin  dark eyes short black skirt long black socks.

Tarted up wog slag said a blazer  /  slag was the stuff that slid down on those

children we are older than them now and we always will be

I said as the bus inched along  the bus took forever  because the dirty

river had burst its banks.


There was a parting of ways a parting of waters  rushing waters

everywhere the famous flood  of '68  the paper thin  Dunkirk spirit the army

handing out vast platefuls of school dinners from field kitchens  the tv crews

we jumped up and down in front of  them and then watched the news

we were on it we existed.


There was  the coal hole out there in the dark but by and by

the gas heater was like a miracle to fall asleep in front of it was like Christmas

day every night with the telly snowing across our silent field, the Captain 

Bird's Eye Findus haddock cod in batter faggots Mr Kipling landscape and

shining on the boxes and the tinfoil piled in drifts.


There was the plate on the knee radio to ear softly softly there was

the news  an hysterical eighteen year old  Czech screaming  at a stony faced

eighteen year old Russian  in a tank Arthur Scargill's sideburns or a cat up a

tree  there was study and its  thin rewards.

The bus was the only private place.


There was a lifetime of school dinners curry once a week  the colour

of jaundiced skin and the strawberry jam  as a stigmata on the rice pudding:

there was the guitar at the back of the chapel /  he was the lord of the dance

said he while at the front of the chapel his heart still burned / we put our left

legs in and out, and shook them all about.


There was the dull sliding of Anne and Mark down the slipway

we huddled in the dark outside the chip shop all the streetlights were out

our underage drinking was done by candlelight we had no power

the three day week  was more than long enough and nowadays

in the warmly flickering candlelight.


at dinner the conversation turns in a faltering moment from television

to schooldays,  and  I  find I am saying more  about it and more bitterly

and at greater length  than the conversation requires

 still the same age  as those other children 

and still under the mountain.



4 - 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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