Glen Wilson

Glen Wilson lives with his wife and two children in Portadown, Co Armagh.  He works as a civil servant and is Worship Leader at St Mark’s Church of Ireland Portadown.  He studied English and Politics at Queens University Belfast and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism studies from the University of Ulster.

He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book, Foliate Oak, Iota, the Interpreters House, Southword, The Ogham Stone, The Luxembourg Review, RAUM and The Incubator Journal amongst others. In 2014 he won the Poetry Space competition and was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize.  In 2015 he was shortlisted for The Universal Human Rights Student Network (UHRSN) poetry award. He was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and The 2016 Wells Festival of Literature.  He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2017, and in 2018 he was shortlisted for The Mairtin Crawford Poetry Award, Hungry Hill Poets Meet Politics Competition and was highly commended in the iYeats Poetry Competition. He won the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018 , The Trim Poetry competition in 2019 and the 2021 Slipstream Poets Open Poetry competition.  His poetry collection An Experience on the Tongue is out now with Doire Press.

Repeat the trick

Flowers flash from his cuffs, children flinch
from such sudden bloom, others laugh
and look around for communal cinch,
parents if they felt anything, let the feeling pass.
 
We used to fool the adults too, impress them
with slight of hand, a misdirection pose,
tables ringed in cigarette-smoke antebellum
rose in applause at the evenings close.
 
Sawn in sequined two night after night
have the rauks of the saw separated us
once too often under spotlights?
How much, how much is too much trust?
 
I knew how one sword kept another in its sheath,
where the fake sides all fall away,
I’ve caught your bullet between my teeth
long after it has lost velocity, potency.
 
Tired of the torque of wonder in its second coming
kid fingers sugared already by Jazzies and Haribo,
cling to capes and props with random touching
until a woman says ‘Michael it’s time to go.’
 
The curse of magic is the mediocre encore
and clowns are marched in for its old jokes
the flick of your lighter on the back step
fused orange and turned the moment into smoke.

In Shukkien Garden

I remember the family of turtles splashing
all those years ago, ungainly but progressing
I wished we had their shells for what was to come.

We blossomed there like the first ever lotus,
kisses sparkled on our tongues. Your parents 
would have been horrified to discover you like this.

I long to hear the cicadas again, with purpose by your ear,
how your eyes welcomed everything and the streets 
returned your pleasure by gladly shedding its grey.

I was the one who had went off to fight a war
while you were shuffled up to the new frontline,
this, us was lost before we even took the field.

That day the world wanted us to undress,
wear pinks and reds and white rags of surrender,
die were rolled and they came up all orange sixes.

I recall a crackling wireless in the hospital ward
telling me how Mr Enola Gay seared the sky, up there 
all alone, a bitter cupid spitting out scars and stripes. 

I did live another life after you had gone, 
another woman loved, who knew me longer, 
nursed the burned skin back into movement.

We never had children, only a young man
who played amongst the reconstruction
looking for the innocence he never got to wear.

It is a small thing to hope you were in the garden,
watching bees collect pollen from a Night-blooming Cereus
with barely enough time to notice everything end.

I scratch my hair from the crown to the temples,
stop as the itch eases but doesn’t go away,
as it is with memory and you, never far, never close.
 

I Am a Man of Frozen Images

George Mallory 1886-1924

In my hand a keepsake photograph,
Ruth’s gentle beauty catches me 
with her milk white complexion 
—A wedding day, a revelation 
of elegant white, lace dress, 
alabaster skin revealing, 
urged on by the whites of eyes 
—irises alone fighting to not fade into white.
As I fall that sepia rectangle grows wings
and flies off to fetch help.

The camera roll spirals out —
a lesson in school;
a skilful master swings an old axe of thought 
into the new rock of my mind. 
Dense surfaces yield rich jewels, 
which are then passed around 
behind the teachers back. 
In the next scene I am the teacher at the front, 
telling how deep the wound in the rock is. 
I see my boys file out, 
disappearing into the mist. 
I closed the books 
and boarded a boat to France to trace them.
The shells of the enemy, 
the shells of my own
cleaved men to pieces before my eyes 
as if sketches on a canvas scored out. 

Half buried by scree, 
a snow angel in flesh,
lusts exposed to elements, 
skin bleached of mystery 
only to suggest new mystery,
high in the bosom of Everest.
I fed off legend and it fed off me,
this sacred air needed an offering, 
my willing leather, 
crampons find coital foothold 
on this mountain’s holy altar.

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