INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2021
Fokkina McDonnell was born in the Netherlands and has lived in the UK for most of her adult life.
Her poems have been broadcast, widely anthologised and published on-line as well as in magazines, including Orbis, Magma, The North, Poetry News, The Frogmore Papers, The Journal, Strix.
Competition successes include winning the 2012 RedPage Sonnet Prize. She has a special interest in haiku and tanka.
Her debut collection 'Another life' was published by Oversteps Books (2016). Fokkina blogs at www.acaciapublications.co.uk.
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
Nothing serious, nothing dangerous
“The strength of Fokkina McDonnell's second collection lies in her command of an idiom sufficiently fluid and flexible for her to explore widely without any sense of strain: and her awareness of the ambiguities of language can accommodate the mildly surreal as easily as the acutely observed and felt.
She weaves a pattern of recurring threads – family and other relationships, a feeling for the natural world (a whole aviary, the sea, land creatures, a cornucopia of fruit) and locations from East Anglia and Manchester to Holland and China go alongside a keen appreciation of artists, with paintings triggering a number of the poems.
Hers is a voice of light tones, but also measured utterance: gratifyingly, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.” Lawrence Sail
Two people sit at a table by an oblong picture window.
Sun lights up their hands which are curled round coffee cups.
The window is made of safety glass. There have been
announcements: location of lifebelts, life rafts, long
and short blast of a horn.
While words are hidden at the obscure side of imagination,
other people are queuing for lunch or buying alcohol
in the shop.
The folded hands are the back of playing cards, The Queen of Spades, operas, novellas, the shortest of short stories.
It’s not strange to see these cards turn into sea gulls.
A white ferry is a city where nothing is permanent.
One of these days I am going to forget
the tins of Dulux (Pashmina, Shade of Pashmina,
Sail White) that I left in that cellar.
I am going to forget the garden shed
that was once part of a purpose-built
animal compound or so the agent said.
One of these days, but it won’t be soon,
I am going to forget the foxes, two parents
stretched out by the pond to catch the sun,
three cubs playing close to the den
that Mike-next-door would fill in again and again.
Memories are tadpoles. Soon enough
the frogs come up from under the duckweed.
Their dark, unblinking eyes.
On discovering that their house had turned on them
crawling through the night, slippery snail,
he kept saying the word okapi
again, and again, a small mantra,
an electrical storm in his brain.
Okapi, the cousin or neighbour
of the Rothschild giraffe,
only sixteen hundred left in the wild.
An okapi would have kicked off
against the metal bars,
but he warmed milk,
buttered a slice of bread.
At least he still had his greenhouse.
Leaving Czechoslovakia, 1964
When we reached the border
in her small red Trabant
our cases were lighter: the pleated dresses,
jeans we’d given to aunts and nieces;
our footsteps behind us on the mountain
where we walked with her family
up towards the border with Poland,
our plimsolls wet, our hair lank from drizzle;
sweet and savoury Knedlicky we’d eaten;
songs we’d sung, drunk on vodka,
already flown, small skittering birds;
the yellow Objizdka sign in Prague diverting us
into the path of a funeral, black plumed horses.
The border guards with their guns gather
around us as we try again to open the boot,
our stiff smiles telling us not to think
of the airmail letters for America
hidden under the back seat.
The twins have set up a tattoo parlour
Some say it was self-inflicted;
he was tired of his demanding job.
Cosmas says he lost the right arm
in an accident at sea. He asks
me to sign a short disclaimer.
Damian is upstairs doing admin.
Cosmas pulls out a handful
of small beetles, insects, dragonflies
from the pockets on his legs.
I find it hard to choose among
swirling grey wings, shuttling black.
I thought a swift or starling?
Cosmas looks doubtful. He can
do a crow from memory. Yellow
eyes, curved beak, he says,
plucky legs. I can only nod.
An angel chooses a chocolate
The chalky terracotta wall with mildew patches
has bled into her long, shapeless dress.
This woman mothered too many sons,
this would-be Saint of Obesity.
The single chocolate rests in her right hand,
shielded from the sun by the other hand.
Her neighbour in the blue dress offers
the square box to the angel, sitting
to her left on a wooden stool.
This woman has short hair, stocky feet,
late-afternoon ginger shadows on her chin.
She is the Madonna of Reassignment.
Stiff wings point forward like sails,
the angel’s nose is the beak of a hawk.
His wings and gown have turned
blue-grey. A long dusty road,
but he carries these shadows lightly
and points politely, with a bent finger.
Cover image "The Departure" by Graham Kingsley Brown, reproduced with kind permission of Elizabeth G. Brown © Copyright 2011, all rights reserved.