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I once crashed a dented bat-mobile
of my father’s into his tweed slippers,
envisioning them as some chevron ramp
as I corkscrewed
the vehicle through the air,
always landing on the wheels.


from In the Grace of Haynes Manuals  by Glen Wilson 













1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Glen Wilson


Glen Wilson is a multi-award winning Poet from Portadown. He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing  (2017), the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award (2018), the Trim Poetry competition (2019), and Slipstream Open Poetry competition (2021). He was runner up in the 2022 Ulster Scots writing Competition. His collection An Experience on the Tongue is available now.

Twitter @glenhswilson




 Beachcomber on Bunce Island

My feet disturb sand-flies on the surface,
they spin out in circles round my ankles,

behind me the arches of revenant buildings,
behind me the remnant timbers of watchtowers

that look out to the future and ebb back to the past,
with eyes of their time and conscience,

all built by some crown-chartered company
that foreshadowed suffering but also profit.

The bloodwork and building of new worlds
veined from these rivers, an ocean of choice

and no choice harnessed to the wind
of the Saharan season of Harmattan,

to be lost or found in the triangles of history,
in harbours of mercantile reasoning.

A Coca-Cola can pokes its gaping mouth
through a wreath of seaweed, its vibrant red

acne-pink in the Atlantic glare, how many stories
have screamed and continue to scream outwards.

Further down the beach a man gets excited
as his metal detector sings a shrill one-note song,

he dusts off two rusted links of a chain,
seals them in a clear evidence bag

while I dip my worn wrists in the saltwater
to cool them before making my way to the boat.

NB Situated in Freetown Harbour, Sierra Leone, Bunce Island housed a castle built by the Royal Africa Company in 1670. 

Tens of thousands of Africans were shipped from here to South Carolina and Georgia to be forced into slavery, and are the ancestors of many African Americans of the United States.

In the grace of Haynes manuals
is where I find my father's father,
who passed away when I was so young
that all I remember is playing
with matchbox cars at his feet,
racing on a rug so thick it could double
as a place to sleep.
The manuals were lined up on a bookcase,
row upon row of the inner workings
of various cars in used order,
the spines creased but unbroken.
I would imitate him scanning the pages,
not knowing what I was searching for.

I once crashed a dented bat-mobile
of my father’s into his tweed slippers,
envisioning them as some chevron ramp
as I corkscrewed
the vehicle through the air,
always landing on the wheels.
His gentle laughter was a gift
as he watched me test the limits
between imagination and reality,
for he was a chief engineer
at the Tavanagh factory,
just over the bridge,

and so knew the physics of what could
or couldn't be fixed.

Independence Square, Kyiv

Trails of smoke dissipate like poor rumours
as the sirens cease for the night,

and the statue of Berehynia
holds her flowers out,

not aloft to be unreachable
but high for all to see

its promises, as they halo
down to the Maidan.

For there is a gold that always
sits above the verdigris,

there is a sky no slogan can stain,
no matter what dark words loiter,

there are voices yet to form vowels
that already know how to sing.

The ghosts of old heroes brush shoulders
with the bruised awkward young,

catching breath behind the sandbags
across an empty market street,

the dust fans out wings in the beams
breaking curfew,

sunflowers rise from their prayers
to face the dawn.

Kalinka on a stroviol

He performs outside my office, a violin with a trumpet horn
resonates, cuts through the din of all the passing people,

he grins in spite of the February chill, the music
percolates through the gaps in his teeth.

The themes from Titantic and Game of Thrones are played
to captivate the tourists and those not yet wearied by the past

but he comes into his own when he plays Kalinka,
he couldn’t play it badly if he tried,

his joy circulates as if on some mobius strip,
his good cheer nodding to the eyes that can’t look away.

Inured to his short set I can, most days, tune it out
but I notice when he stops, for lunch, conversation,

to turn his pegs to get his strings back in harmony,
or just to gather himself, to breathe without song.

In that comparable silence the smile fatigues
as if thoughts that had been kept in some foreign place

wash in and drag ellipses of his self out again.
His eyes look at the silver pieces in his fur-lined case

and he starts off again from a bright G note,
hoping to get further away with each verse.

Morning, gold with possibility
Friesians bowed in green prayer,
in fields hedged out until they reach
the stanchion of mackerel sky and ocean.
A fulmar finds itself inland, perhaps lost,
still majestic in hapless wandering,
or maybe he is pronouncing
absolution to the gathered herd.
They receive it aware or not.

All this is a punt into the unknown
except when we give it purpose,
give it context, history, stick pins into a map.
Before the rest of my family wakes
- each will bring their frames-
I begin to count the many ways to see.


Tall grass will cover it soon,
the loose soil shaped like a kidney,
the shape the lamb folded to.

You lean on the shovel
so the edge cuts shallow,
our depth is equal to the weight.

“Aye the mother had given up on it”
You explain to me,
convincing yourself.

So Spartan, the thinking, you never said
if you read much history but then
knowledge can be a stranger to repetition.

“There was no chance for it then?” I ask.
And for a moment the possibility
breaks the grammar of your judgement.

“No, no…no, not at all”

Ukrainian soldier cradles a Russian blue
This used to be a school, I can tell
only by the hopscotch markings in the yard
the building all uneven blocks
no one has got round to sorting, whole rows
of them right to the town limits. Everything
is grey, signage is veiled in dust,
as if the town was spiderwebbed entire,
catching thoughts and flies.
Our boots kick and crunch stones and suddenly
a yowl comes from our left.
The cat’s call comes clearer as we move cracked slabs,
She shivers herself out of the rubble
Her back leg lame, her belly thin
She hesitates but moves towards us.
I take off my gloves and lift her,
pick the dust from her coat,
stroke her back until she purrs,
despite the sound of distant artillery.

I whisper to something that shouts

and chase its awkwardness with bleach,
before the mask it made us wear

muffles the curses I want to say,
opinions taste sodden on your chin,

when you watch lovers say goodbye
through signal static, plexiglass and gauze.

I figure-eight the floors as people
move around each other on chess squares

a dance un-choreographed, the scores are still
coming through, the judges are shielding.

When I go home my family ask how it is
and it’s hard to lie and bottle the little traumas

in a sigh, at night I turn it up to eleven and sing
alto in the choir of the scalding shower.

I remember a teacher in school
saying I’d never amount to anything

yet here I am wiping the algebra
of disaster away tile by gleaming tile.

I try not to think of the last stories
spoken on the floor as the fronds of my mop

move from bedside to bedside, genuflect
down every corridor, I pray more. I have to.

It keeps me returning here to winch up
from the well, kindness for the unknown

as it bends me like a bow that can’t go loose
and can’t yet sing. Soon, soon,

soon all the songs will break.

The Glass Blower
I turn the pipe and force words
down towards the bulbous orange,
holding it so the orb holds,
burnishing my lustrous reflection.

I make new stories in the bends,
revising curves until it is a shape,
that catches, that steals the light
from the eyes that glance upon it.

Viscous is the gather of material,
vicious is the made truth, made
from jagged fragments in the furnace,
nothing clings to my scorched smock.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to finish,
for the conspiracies to cool in water,
for I have apprentices,
trained without their knowing,

to keep turning, turning and widening
the great maw of my creation.

Charles Lamb renders the River Bann
Brushes shed the previous days
inspiration and labour in a jar
of white spirit, its pungent odour
strange in the aroma of gorse and heather,
despite its stringent cleansing, flecks
of yesterday will carry into tomorrow.
The easel legs, thin for this task,
that pierce the earth
are all that moor me
to this place, this time,
everything else is drawn back
for the eye of imagination.
The tall reeds collude
with the wind and whisper
for others to take their position,
I lift a sucked fingertip
and test the air’s direction
fooling myself with an answer
for it will change,
it always changes.
As the river does at each juncture,
eroding one story, flooding
another with more clear detail,
as if a greater hand bends
the course to the left or right, snaking
in and out to catch every eye.
I mix the colours on my palette,
alchemy of perception,
experience and interpretation,
paint thick enough to show the depth,
a faint touch to hold it in front of me,
art is an escape in process.
A leash of hawks leave distant trees,
hunters must keep moving
or else model themselves as prey.
I can only capture them
at a distance, in a hasty stroke
at the edge of the canvas.



Beachcomber on Bunce Island was commended in the Leeds Peace Poetry Competition 2022

In the grace of Haynes was highly commended in the Goldsmith Poetry Festival Competition 2022

Independence Square, Kyiv was shortlisted in the Bangor Poetry Competition 2022

Kalinka on a Stroviol was commended in the Maria Edgeworth Poetry Competition 2022

Morning, gold with possibility was commended in the Francis Ledwidge Poetry Competition 2022

Reprieve was highly commended in the Edward Thomas Poetry Competition 2023

Ukrainian soldier cradles a Russian blue was highly commended in the Lord Whiskey poetry competition 2023

I whisper to something that shouts was longlisted in the Poetry for Good competition 2021

The Glass blower was published in Re-Side 2021

Charles Lamb renders the River Bann was commended in the Cathalbui Poetry Competition 2021

 Author Photo : Joanne Symington


4 - Afterword

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