Born and raised in Derby in the heart of the English Midlands, Jim Newcombe moved to London in 2006. Since then, he's lived in every quarter of the capital – enjoying an active cultural life of concerts and visits to theatre productions, museums, galleries and taverns. Jim's writing has appeared in numerous publications, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Bridport Prize, as well as for the Pendle Prize for elegies commemorating the First World War.
for Hieronymus Bosch
Between the inward and outward wave upon the shore
a rhythm in feathers that wasn’t here before
called into being its substance and its law.
Between the masculine and feminine,
between the how of her and why of him,
came one with wings who shamed the seraphim.
Out from opposing poles that brought us here
with eyes of sun and moon that knew no tear
a tremulous presence maintained the biosphere.
Between one nation’s customs and the next
a primal entity that left the scholars vexed
denied in its descent the doctrine of each text.
In the skewed trajectories of time and space
it roosted aloof and in the darkest place
rotated the clock of its expressionless face.
The wood has ears, the field has eyes, and dawn
reveals the eyes in every ear of corn
that scans our thoughts, their verdict full of scorn.
It is the decoy to all you think is true,
to everything you ever thought you knew;
the one note in its voice asks Who-are-you?
Both the signal to a secret and a lure,
it hears the silence of a spider on the floor
and sees most clearly when it’s most obscure.
Boundaries were defined
by harsh words
and bolted doors,
yet by night I snuck
past sleeping sentinels,
the dark air pregnant with
the page of each wall
scripted with shadow,
seeming to swell
with pressure, as though
something passed through it.
Rain tapped at each window
where the gloating stars
peered in like patient
voyeurs, the rhubarb
blanched in moonlight
as the clematis
loomed, scaling the house,
I could not fortify.
Spiders were hatched
from cracked corners.
I searched for clues,
listened at keyholes
my memory mapped
with creaking floorboards
that betrayed my presence.
I would spend hours
in prayer and soliloquy
trying to subsume
the guilt I had
inherited. Before they
could be caught or killed
would scuttle back
to their dark dimension,
as though a gash
could suck up its own blood.
Somewhere in hiding
was the eight-legged
mother of them all,
her deftly strung web
a grid of carcasses;
wings, shells, corrupted husks
mauled and festering.
I couldn’t sleep for fear of it.
Sometimes I would try
the cellar door:
deep and forbidding,
that underground lair,
where steps descend
into a darkness
that writhed with
I couldn’t reach the light switch
to dispel my suspicions
which grew like rumours
of a secret sin.
One day I would confront
whatever was down there
and return victorious
(if return at all)
to where another, like me,
would dare to descend
along the cellar’s corpse-cold walls,
dank and mildewed,
the treacherous gloom
now bristling, bristling
and black with all
that is unassumed.
The Moon and The Sea
From A Shake of the Riddle
The moon and the sea – are they in harmony
or at war? The martial marriage of the pale
satellite and the brisk lush rasp of breakers –
their sickly scurf and slosh, the weft and warp
of crawling froth, and the pendulum tide
like a nag gone berserk in its bridle,
while the blind pupil of the milky moon
dumb and vacuous, dimpled with craters,
barren as the soul of an atheist.
Holding dominion over the toiling
water, that wormy, comet-scuffed wafer,
that shrunken bauble of colourless light,
still separate despite its travelled distance,
its clean light of clinical intellect
frozen from shadow, whose oblique brilliance
does not illumine, but only reflect.
Eight Owls for Hieronymus Bosch / The Moon and The Sea:
exclusive first publication by iamb
The House: Eunoia Review