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Forty-Five Square Poetry Journal
Forty-Five Square Poetry Journal

Forty-Five Square Poetry is a journal compiled by fourth year BA Creative Writing students at Birkbeck with a Foreword by Liane Strauss. The poems are contributed by students across all four years of the degree and the book is available to download as a pdf for free from the Forty-Five Square website. 

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Forty-Five Square Poetry

Some Things I Did Over the Course of Some Time
by Steven Sobolewski

I waged wars on the plush
carpeted fields of night, vanquished
insectoid overlords under blue
cathode snow. I ruled as emperor
of all bedtime until dark shadows
broke and augured that the hour
approached. The rule of the
progenitors, the age of sleep.

I rolled teeth like dice
to bare them to a friend,
wagered on their worth
in a fairy’s hand, swallowed
them whole to keep their
playground value to myself
when threats were made
and children’s knuckles flew.

I declared myself the big hand,
crushed a whole day into four
minutes just by ticking
clockwise around the round
cul-de-sac on a scuffed black
BMX. I wouldn’t stop pedalling
when both days converged
and ended in a cool, spring evening.

I removed the Queen’s face
with time and a nail file,
kept her under my bed
to work on her at night.
It soured my efforts when
behind her visage, no copper
glow, but low, gunmetal grey.
I left her feathered tails on.

I dismantled the console,
ray-tube-portal to platform-worlds.
The circuits: streams and canals
of electrons and escape, etched
onto shallow, green firmament.
No maps could guide me through
the conductive rivers, so I rebuilt
reality with a rusted screwdriver.

I found, alone, an emerald
saffron-flecked bird that fluttered
between the headstones, over
the graveyard path, caught
in freedom’s panic. I plucked her
from the air. I took her, kept her
in a donated cage. Trapped, with
a dried-out cuttlefish, a tiny mirror.

I rifled through the paper left
by my sleeping companion’s feet.
Everything was black and white
in the cryptic checkerboards. Not so
the stories that framed them.
I parsed the clues, broke literal
codes and let the world worry
in blurry copy and greyscale shapes.

Peace Scarf
by Felicity Stephen

What do you say
when you meet the Dalai Lama?
‘It’s nice to meet again - in this lifetime.’
Or, ‘You look just the same in real life,
perhaps a little larger.’

Tell him the joke about the pizza,
‘One with everything’?
But someone thought of that before,
and wished the floor would open
(least, he should’ve if he didnae).

One could always compliment him
on his dress sense,
that one-armed-sleeveless number.
But I don’t believe any of that’s correct.
We Scots can think of something better.

I’ve only been star-struck on a few occasions.
We’re all of us stardust.
Once, I encountered that lovely man
who mingles with mountain gorillas, sometimes penguins
(some lifetime’s incarnation!).

It was in the Albert Hall, the only wildlife
stampeding for the interval bar.
I almost crashed into him in a blushing stumble,
then stalked him
to a private function, hot on his heels.

Sir David turned.
He smiled,
I smiled.
Smiling still, a wee bit foolish,
I backtracked.

I vow I’ll not be doing that to His Holiness.
Instead, I’ll ‘Namaste’ respect,
admire his Peace Scarf, tartan (brilliant!),
and leaving, blessed, will walk away
on pavements, cloud-like.

The Old Factory
by Nydia Hetherington

Broken, it peered over the back wall,
and watched us grow, snarling at our
scraped knees and tears before bedtime.
I see it when I sleep, still and massive,
echoing its strange silences. We played
amongst broken glass and brick, found treasure
between hurtling trains and the monstrous corpse of industry.

In summer, we picked the desperate weeds
that pushed through concrete cracks,
and grew with the strength of giants.
We roller-skated on patches of unbroken ground.
Rust-coloured puddles clogged our wheels,
spoiled our fun in the shadow of the barren beast,
purring behind its wire fence.

We never climbed or burrowed through.
Once a holding tank browning with neglect,
the great iron gallows blocked thoughts of adventure.
I imagined I heard them strain at night,
metal manacles groaning under the weight of time
as they sensed their erosion and death,
crying outside my bedroom window.


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