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Jim Newcombe



the poet

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.

the poems

Eight Owls
for Hieronymus Bosch

00:00 / 01:43


                        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.

The House

00:00 / 02:16

                                    Boundaries were defined

                                    by harsh words

                                    and bolted doors,

                                    yet by night I snuck

                                    past sleeping sentinels,

                                    the dark air pregnant with

                                    unanswered prayers,

                                    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,

                                    rending foundations

                                    I could not fortify.

                                    Spiders were hatched

                                    from cracked corners.

                                    I searched for clues,

                                    listened at keyholes

                                    for conspiracies,

                                    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

                                    the spiders

                                    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

00:00 / 01:00


                        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.

Publishing credits

Eight Owls for Hieronymus Bosch / The Moon and The Sea:

  exclusive first publication by iamb

The House: Eunoia Review


S h a r e

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