Neil Leadbeater is an editor, author and poet living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His poems and short stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines and journals both at home and abroad. 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. Recent work has been published in Sur y Sur (Chile); Red y Acción (Colombia); Challenger International (Canada); The Seventh Quarry -Swansea Poetry Magazine (UK); Cyclamens and Swords (Israel) and Orizont Literar Contemporan (Romania). Some of his work has been translated into Spanish and Romanian.
Featured Poetry of Neil Leadbeater
Any dictionary worth its salt describes them as
“one of a phylum of radially symmetrical marine animals
such as the brittlestar or the sea urchin,”
and then, almost as an afterthought,
“also known as the sea gherkin.”
Your shock when they coughed up their guts under threat.
The string of thread ejected from the mouth –
white fibre flying off the reel.
Strip them down to the chassis and you will see them
in the raw –
or maybe not, as the case may be,
since they’re hard to spot, obscure to see, holed-up in
hide-outs, starting-holes, lairs;
a lurking-place for living in; lumber under stairs.
Tides will blow their cover. They will make you privy
to every place they hide in
which is the hard edge of harbours, pilings, piers;
caves where the waves wash in food –
a meal of tidal plankton.
But it was the way they forced out water that took you
Back home, you did your best to imitate their kind:
it started with the soda syphon, your elder sister’s
aerosol cans, mosquito repellent –
whatever your five-year-old hands could find
until you were comfortable with the fact of brine
shooting from the gut.
Sacrifice of the Cork Oak
If someone came to rip off your skin
would you run away or stand still
rooted to the spot?
Would you get used to it over time?
To have your cells pared off
like the zest of a lemon
and then to feel the outside air
raw on the inner wound.
How vulnerable you must feel;
reaching out for your
hard exterior; your disembodied bark
in the shell of the ear for love.
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;
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.
Montesinho, behind the mountains,
-a remote and exiled outback, the last outpost
is the cold land of independent spirit;
the inaccessible region
where the long-distance loneliness
of the Rabaçal river
holds a passage of snook and bass;
is the last refuge of the Iberian wolf;
the prized domain of the golden eagle.
Its scented scrub
the home of the rock bunting and the
wild boars, otters, cats;
this habitat of light.
Each plant demands to be looked at, noticed
for what it is worth. Introductions
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
lemon, say, or saffron.
Another “take” on yellow.
was the axis of all things electrical –
old wind-up gramophones,
the home of broadcaster sapphire needles
that would play
The Laughing Policeman
5,000 times without replacement
priced six shillings and sixpence
Days like this
we’d cross the street
with our brightly coloured towels and trunks
rolled into cylinders of equal lengths
headed for the baths.
The air was electric. Sparks flew
with the thrill of who could do the crawl
or dive from the highest board.
No-one there could
pull the plug on our lives.
Knowing where we were going
we felt the hum of danger
singing down the wires –
it broke inside us like sheet lightning
and lit us up for miles.
Days when the Schools were Closed
Days when the schools were closed
we never gave a thought for the levellers, the green-fingered
conjurors with their heavy-duty boots;
men who came in the name of Grounds Maintenance
majestic through the gates –
or guessed how the sod-cutters with their ride-on mowers
gave the pitch a run for its money
top-dressing for games
or how when the posts were up on their feet
the men were suddenly scoring goals
against imagined sides.
Copyright © 2012 Neil Leadbeater