Kathy (Sanderson) Zwick taught history, literature, and creative writing in international schools in Brussels, Tehran, and London for over 30 years. However, she did not really spend time on her own writing until after she retired. In 2006 she submitted one of her first poems to a competition sponsored by a UK national bookstore and, to her surprise, won. Again, to her surprise, the prize was a collection of poetry books featuring the newly restored edition of Ariel, with a foreword by Frieda Hughes. Since then, she has had poems published in several UK anthologies including a sonnet anthology, Hand Luggage Only, the new Brownsbank Anthology, and The Hippocrates Prize. Many of her poems play with ideas stemming from the quirks and ironies of history.


 

 

 


 


 

Judith Berke

 

Veneer

Eleven,
old enough to fret over my complexion.
A burning field of Great War poppies,
a rivulet of gritty red hot lava rampaging
round my newly emerging adolescent body. 
The flaking body-suit of simmering, itching fear.
Rough, scratchy sheets, my spinning bedroom,
smarting eyes - the fiercest summer in years.
Perpetually swinging over heads - Fiery Measles –
The Damocles Sword of Childhood.

And then, flirting with the spinning bedroom,
another whirling, swinging, spinning sensation. 
My father has quietly installed a spider’s web,
a jungle gym of string, a precious memory
from his own boyhood, a gyroscope road track.
It leans, persists, survives.  It maintains itself upright,
it climbs.  These stunts astound, defying gravity.
So patiently he explains the basic tricks of physics.

And surprise again, a vivarium and two guests,
slithering snakes, for me to name and watch and grow
to love.  With subtle lessons of rippling muscles,
cloudy eyes, shedding skin, and then renewal.  

What did I learn then, and what do I remember now
of nutation, axial tilt, and torque-induced precession?  
Of dermatology, cells, and skin growth,
and the body’s restoration?

Through the veneer of each tough science lesson,
the homemade viv, and my new pets sloughing off
last month’s old skin, I swallowed the best medicine -
a hint of his genuine, shy, unspoken love.

 


Published in THE HIPPOCRATES PRIZE, 2010,
in association with Top Edge Press, UK