‘Dissociation’, a poem by Helena Durham

Dissociation by Helena Durham
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014

dis·so·ci·a·tion, n. The state of being disconnected; a short-term defence mechanism against trauma; a debilitating post-survival disorder.

to pack seaside t-shirts, pullover fleeces and unread books
to abandon the scent of pillow, the softness of rabbit’s ear
to be doing this grown-up thing

to take the train
to feel it pick up the heart beat
to lose a city, become blind to its name on the route map

to inhale salted air
to exhale six hours of accumulated nothing

to see an estuary mouth, to consider its width, its tides
to fear its swallow and the lack of land
to rub the right hand on white wash, the left on pastel stucco
to fish for the name of this village

to remember in moments of being here
     where there is
to wish the flip-flops had not been forgotten
to take photos of Pinky Murphy’s
with its knitting-for-all basket, its clotted cream tea
to say this is the warmest place in Fowey in July
to make a transient discovery: memory is a flickering light bulb

to plunge into darkness
to be fog over the sea

to trust this is the day to leave
to read the ticket’s destination, to follow instructions
     saying change, change, change

to wash up at some station, unable to make sense
     of the next reservation

to have sufficient presence to ring
to hear her voice saying
     New Street? Then you’re in Birmingham.
     Look for the train to Nottingham.
     Platform 11? One foot, then the other.

     Breathe, breathe gently.
     Ring once you’re home.

to be conveyed
to compare steam from the cooling towers with clouds
     over the bay on Wednesday
to stroke the pebble pocketed for its smoothness on Thursday

to rummage for the door key, to be tickled by beach sand
     from the paddle on Friday
to be familiar with the click of the door
     in the warmth of red brick

to sip hot chocolate from a favourite mug
to snuggle up with pillow, to stroke rabbit’s ear
to close down

to wake up, to check the calendar
to wonder why a line was drawn through last week

to shrug
to shop, because the milk has gone off


Helena Durham is an undergraduate studying for a BA (Hons) in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Nottingham. A former nurse, and a trauma survivor, she is interested in how writing and mindfulness can encourage personal and community well-being.

‘Blood Libel’, a poem by Tracey S. Rosenber

Blood Libel by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014.

You loved my body
all the lecks and nicks and scabs of me,
the lumps you brushed with your stubby ingers
as you argued away possible malignancies.
You shrugged when I explained
the disorders of my great-great-grandmother,
dirty inbred cells churning through the shtetl
and riding her bloodstream till they latched
so deeply in her uterus she couldn’t give life
without passing them on.

It’s a mystery.
It’s a long, long story.

Of course, I in my own personal diaspora
never opened my suburban front door to ind
a baby’s drained corpse speared to the welcome mat.
I would never call myself a martyr to religion.

You, on the other hand, would have been smarter
to learn from history. Remember the ones who couldn’t
get the hell out of Europe? Who didn’t know
what was coming,
or assumed such things don’t happen nowadays,
not when we’re so modern,
not so Jewish anymore?

I’m sorry, love, to have kept from you
how many ways you’d be burdened
not simply with me
vomiting in the car, handles in the shower –
but generations of my cancer-riddled family.
I thought I’d assimilated enough.


Tracey S. Rosenberg is the author of the historical novel The Girl in the Bunker (2011) and a poetry pamphlet, Lipstick is Always a Plus (2012). Her poems have been published in a variety of journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.

‘After the Rainbow’, a story by Mark Radcliffe

After the Rainbow by Mark Radcliffe
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014

I have no poetry left in me. I manage to dress, to eat, sometimes to wash. I manage to work, but Anna can tell there is something wrong. She says I mumble to myself and I ask her too many questions.

This feeling can cut into my lungs like cold air on a hot day. I have been grieving. I understand this, I think about it. I tell Anna that I am mourning the loss of knowing.

She says that sounds like crap words in a bad song.

I tell her it is the truth. Certainty belongs to the very young and the easily pleased, and I am neither. She says:
“Shut up. You sound like a hippie.”
I say that my self-knowledge imbues me with a certain wisdom and I have stumbled across a fundamental truth; it concerns the ignorance of the human spirit, and not very many people could know about that. Anna laughs at me.
“Lunatic.”
She doesn’t know. There is something rising up inside me, between my throat and my chest and I keep swallowing to keep it down.

* * *

My father was always leaving. Even when he wasn’t there, he managed to leave. It’s not that he went anywhere special, just away, and maybe he’d come back. Once, he and my mum went in to the kitchen and talked with the door closed. I sneaked into the hallway and put the catch down on the front door. When they came back, I stood in front of him to keep him from going again. And he did stay – for about two weeks.

He never came back properly again.

A little while after my father left, a judge said that he could take me out on Saturdays. I knew that I had to look after my father – even if I didn’t want to. A judge had said. I played football with my friends on Saturdays – Martin, Paul, my big friend Robert – and I was the best. But when my father came to get me, we would stop playing, and the other boys would stand and watch. No-one ever said anything.

On these Saturdays, we never went very far; mostly to the pub. I would sit outside in the car and pretend to drive away. He would sit in the pub and pretend to take me out.

One Saturday, when it was hot, he took me to the beach afterwards. I didn’t have any swimming trunks, but he told me I could go in the water in my pants. He said no-one would notice. But they did. One boy, swinging a red bucket piled high with crabs, looked me up and down. Then he looked at my dad – with his purple face, a coat on despite this summer heat – and I think he understood.

Once my father drove me round the coast. The road cut from the cliffs; brown and pink rock hanging over us. His car – as all his cars – was small, old, ridiculous. He’d buy them for ten or thirty pounds when everyone else had given up on them. When they gave up on him, he’d buy another.

We stopped in a place where we could see the sea. He pointed to the clouds and he told me that once, when he was sitting right in this spot, he saw William the Conqueror flying over in his plane with lots of his soldiers. William tried to bomb him – he had to dive for cover. When the bombs stopped, my dad rushed to London to warn the Prime Minister that William the Conqueror was coming. The Prime Minister gave him a medal.

He was old, then; he had a small face, tired but handsome. And he always wore a green hat, with a black band round it and a brown feather stuck through it. He never took it off.

Sometimes my mum would come out with us. On the way home, we’d stop at the chip shop. My mum would queue for fish and chips, and my father would tell me stories: stories from his childhood, or about what stars were. They were proper stories. He had nowhere else to go, and the yellow lights seemed to make him still.

One night, we sat there for hours. He told me the facts of life: men and women and nature. I was nine and a quarter.

Normally when grown-ups talked for a long time, I needed pictures in my head to understand. I’d get bored and colour in the pictures of what they said while they talked. But that time in the car, I only listened.

Even later, when I worried he had made up the things about willies and girls just as he had William the Conqueror, his speech made sense. He only really made up stuff when my mum was not there, and being inside the chi shop counted as not being there.

I had only been away from home for a week when my mum told me that my father had died. When she told me I was sitting on the big bed, her bed, and I cried. I cried because dead means there is nothing you can do to make it OK, because I should have been looking after him, especially on Saturdays; because I would never see him again and that was worst of all.

When I looked up from my hands, the colours – all the colours – were gone. They never came back.

After that, I went away to sing. In church, they said God punished people for their sins. That sins were bad things you do, but not all bad things were sins. That some bad things were necessary. I thought it sounded like making things up.

I sang in church. Not because of God – but because there was nowhere else.

I had always thought he would have been better at being a dad if he had just practised.

* * *

After Anna tells me she’s pregnant, I don’t contact her for a few days. It’s not that I want to make her sweat. I know, absolutely, that there was no possibility of her sweating. That look on her face – cold, almost spiteful – when she told me.

I wait because I hope that she’ll stop being so angry. I’m waiting for a route back into this affair – an affair that used to be mine.

But if I’m to be a dad – if that child is mine – then anything is possible. I can’t not know.

Eventually, I call Anna and leave a message. Something cool, but not too cool.

“Hi, it’s me. It would be good to talk, hope you’re OK, I’ll be in all evening. Don’t worry if it’s late – I’ll be up, I’ve got lots to do.”

I’ve even planned the tone: placating, warm, good intonation. She used to say I had a sexy voice.
She doesn’t call back.
I call again. And again.
I wake up from a dream like ink filling my lungs. It weighed me down, pinned me to the bed. And sitting on my bed, wearing a car coat and his green feathered hat, is my father.

He won’t leave me alone. When he speaks – which he does often, especially when I want a little peace – his voice is not inside my head but on the radio, during Newsnight on the television, on my shoulder and whispering in my ear. He tells me things about me, things about Anna. He tells me that life is what you live with, how you live with it.

He tells me to go see Anna.

And I do. I want to make the effort – practise at being a good dad. I go alone and I take my dad.


Mark A. Radcliffe is a Senior Lecturer in Nursing at The University of Brighton, a novelist (Gabriel’s Angel, Bluemoose, 2010) and long time columnist with The Nursing Times. His second novel, Stranger Than Kindness, will be published in October 2013. It is a whimsical, hopeful tale about bruised and damaged nurses.

‘Old Anatomical Theatre, Tartu’, a poem by Samuel Tongue

Old Anatomical Theatre, Tartu by Samuel Tongue
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014

She’s hard to see, sun blazing of the glass
but if I strain and squint
into this museum’s dark cabinet,
I can see her sepia photograph.

She lies back, arm behind her head, supine,
an artist’s survey of his reclining muse,
back arched just slightly for a better view,
the warm sweep of her breast circled with fine

shadow, her lazy hand drawing lines of sight
to a belly lattened by her pose, legs arranged
to keep the gaze insinuated, bewitched.
I read her browning caption, typed

in English, Estonian and Russian:
‘woman on a slab—killed by her lover, unknown’:
not posing but thrown, those dark strokes not shadow
but slashes, opened by steel, again and again;

some drunken, vicious, night-sharpened rage,
her mouth fallen open, suggesting a scream
stopped tight in her chest. Her open eyes gleam.
I blunt my gaze and look away.


Samuel Tongue was part of the 2010 Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship scheme, mentored by Liz Lochhead. He currently holds the Callan Gordon Award, part of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Scottish Writer Awards for 2013-2014, and as recently shortlisted in Magma’s Ten Line Poems Competition.

‘Mole Removal’, a poem by Helen Addy

Mole Removal by Helen Addy
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1,  2014.

When the doctor says procedure,
you think long needles,
insufficient anaesthetic,
an apple corer digging deep
for the dark one’s roots.
Instead, her gentle hands
indicate a small injection,
a freeze as familiar
as recent weather,
incisions faint as brackets:
surgery’s precise grammar
replacing the rogue full stop.


Helen Addy is from Forres. She has been previously published in BUGGED, Snakeskin, From Glasgow to Saturn, Shetland Libraries’ Bards in the Bog project and has a poem forthcoming in the Indigo Dreams’ Macmillan Cancer anthology, Heart Shoots. She is currently working on a first pamphlet.

Review: Obsession and Psychosis in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Picture: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Photo credit: Julien Jourdes
Picture: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Photo credit: Julien Jourdes

Concert Performance
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
Berlioz: Lélio

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
National Youth Choir of Scotland
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor.
13 August 2015 at the Usher Hall.
Part of the Edinburgh International Festival

Reviewed by Vivek Santayana Continue reading

‘Touch’, a poem by Tracey S. Rosenberg

Touch by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014.

He loved stroking her body awake in the giddy dawn.
His fingers wandered her stretch marks,
the freckles she despised, her generous breasts,
belly, thick sticky hair
he never delved into without trembling –
she might find him intrusive, jig her smooth hips
to spill him back onto the sheets.
When she murmured, turned towards him,
marking his shoulder blades with her fingers,
she always reshaped her body
to allow him in.

The doctors’ fleshy hands are gloved. Through latex
they adjust her skin by inches.
The surgeon’s finger stands in for the blade:
it will remove her, just here.

He keeps his helpless hands still.
This is not his body.


Tracey S. Rosenberg is the author of the historical novel The Girl in the Bunker (2011) and a poetry pamphlet, Lipstick is Always a Plus (2012). Her poems have been published in a variety of journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.