Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A poem by Robert Nisbet

John at Twelve


He’d gaze for hours at the universe,
the stars, the planets, in his almanac,
loving the pallor, the serenity.

He wouldn’t be bothered with piano lessons,
or Sunday School, that stuff, but liked it
with Jinks and Dan and Murphy,
walking the woods, sitting in dens,
threading conkers, watching the world.

But they’d walk past the tennis courts
and Jinks and Murph were talking now,
of the girls, the legs. He knew
there was an urgency near to arrival

but his girl was a Russian gymnast,
a colour photo in his World Sports magazine,
crystalline in her simplicity.



First published in Constellations (USA), Fall/Winter 2015






Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared widely in Britain and the USA. He was shortlisted for the Wordsworth Trust Prize in 2017.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A poem by Anna De Vaul

Customs/Layover


On the flight to Shanghai I learned
to say thank you, sorry, hello.
We touched down early and I sat
waiting until the aisles were empty,
grabbed my ukulele and stepped out
into the airport. I thought I’d see the city
but instead I saw the insides of my bags
spilled out over a conveyer belt, hands
sifting through, asking me about
the Star Wars bandaids and six books
of poems. Why did I need them?
I couldn’t say; I watched the pages flipped,
took the books back with two hands
like a blessing at last: sorry, thank you, hello.








Anna writes both prose and poetry. Some of her recent work can be found in The Fenland Reed, Under the Radar, The Literateur, and The New European. She is also an editor of the literary journal Lighthouse.

Monday, 24 July 2017

2 poems by Siegfried Baber

A Tiger Skin In Connemara


There are no wild cats on the west coast of Ireland.
Except one, shot dead and skinned,
a full-grown tiger, faded black on amber,
spread-eagle, flying the flag of her own extinction
from your stark, whitewashed walls.
After half a century of cold and damp
her stuffed head has gone sour. Too dumb,
too domesticated, all prehistory now tamed
to a sabre-toothed tapestry, the dulled crush of her eyes
fixed on the front door, she waits for you
to come in and pour a saucer of milk.
Mere decoration. Her body ransacked, jaws jacked-open.
No sound where that paralysing, black-mouthed cry
should be, tearing through your cottage
near the old bog road, scattering sheep and rain.







Siegfried Baber was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1989. Since graduating from Bath Spa University with a degree in Creative Writing, he lives and works in the city as a freelance writer, and as a barman in Bath’s finest pub, The Star Inn.

Siegfried’s poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid is published by Telltale Press, with its title poem nominated for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Follow Siegfried on Twitter: @SiegfriedBaber


------
First published on 20/10/2015

The Melon


I gave you a melon.
Bright yellow, a real beauty –
you took it home,

parading through the streets
like the woman
who'd bagged herself the Sun.

We dismantled the double-bed,
took apart the wardrobe
and cleaned out the kitchen.

I gave a few bits and pieces
to the charity shop down the road.
Then we came back to the melon.

You cradled it in your arms.
There were no knives,
we'd given all our cutlery away,

so I used the puzzle-piece edge
of your spare key
to divide the whole thing

into a pair of half-moons.
Fifty-fifty. Right down the middle.
Yours and mine.






The Melon was first published in the 2013 Templar Poetry Anthology




Sunday, 23 July 2017

A poem by Elosham Vog

Cold Night with Wild Turkey


He sipped at his second-rate malt, temple
bells ringing out across the dark graveyard.

This was it - but this couldn't be, not this
sad imitation of a life of love.

He turned to haiku, built stilted houses
to hold history safe above the flood

of tears and fear, not a single garden
plot free from budding plumeria trees.

The volcano grew. Pickled synapses
snapped the chains of classics - man grown arcane,

ancient flag out of reach on the moon like
pyramids built by aliens on earth.

He’d mistaken the electric toaster
for good fortune, x-rays for intelligence,

hairspray and surfboard resin for happiness -
misinterpretations of maladies

his new literature of modern love.








Elosham is a poet. These poems are taken from a verse novel project entitled Volcano. Other Volcano poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including Lighthouse, The Missing Slate, The Interpreter's House, and The Istanbul Review.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

A poem by Caroline Am Bergris

Potholing Disorder


Eat
inside, a cave
Eat
experienced emptiness
rammed with food,
faster than it can be absorbed
Eat
always hungry
never hungry
Eat
can’t waiting
to drown
in sugar, salt, grease
Eat
a portion of light
reaches down
Replete
groundwater glints
Replete
purple manganese
draped
over iron red popcorn
Replete
milky soda straws
tinged with algae
Replete
experienced fullness
inside, a cathedral
Replete

Replete.
















Caroline Am Bergris' first job was as a church organist at aged 11; she continued with music, also studying philosophy, theology, anthropology and sociology at undergraduate and postgraduate level. She wrote satirical comedy for radio and theatre and worked as a mediator and trainer. She was disabled by an accident at 29, has mental health problems which meant being sectioned and living rough and has also had to flee to a domestic violence refuge. She has been published by various journals, is a loose member of the Pitshanger Poets collective and has been mentored by Cinnamon Press.

Friday, 21 July 2017

2 poems by Emma Lee

Back on the Black Track

(Golden Shovel line from "Two Black Cadillacs" Carrie Underwood)

That common sum: one plus one equals two
until a line slashes the equals sign and black
colours everything like the secrecy of cadillacs'
tinted windows. Life becomes like endlessly waiting
in traffic unable to do anything, hoping for
a break, a green light, a sign, even just the
right track on the radio, that says it'll be all right,
it will heal, one plus one will stay two this time.









Emma Lee's most recent collection is "Ghosts in the Desert" (IDP, 2015). She was co-editor for "Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge" (Five Leaves, 2015). She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.


------
First published on 01/12/105

Icon in Red


It started as a span of red cross-stitches,
more for the uprights; suspension wires
in backstitch: an icon on an embroidered map.
It drew the eye and came to dominate the view.

It provided a backdrop for internet searches,
lists of places to see, checking local weather,
lists of things to pack, the endless checking,
parsing unsolicited advice for useful tips.

It became real. The absence of the famous fog
offered panoramic views and I admired,
not the feat of engineering, but the desire
to link communities in careful red stitches.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A poem by James Diaz

Tonight We Go Darkly Or Not At All


bring a little salt for the back roads
drive hazy against winter

battery arsenal of sleep
of turning
the bright frame against the light
since shattering took its place
on the floor
and the sky withholding like a mother

the skin's route
aches
untraveled

fortitude is the gift pain brings
twenty thousand shadows
along the hoof prints of forgetting

where we were
what our love couldn't do
fully formed,
abiding

hung out to dry and highways
with no exit
the angel on the roof is mad
an absence torn

medicated moon
calling us across the empty lot

this is what not forgiving does

words materialized in your other memory
the unnamed place in you

immunity of a mother tongue
a fossilized scar.










James Diaz is the founding editor of the literary arts & music journal Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently in HIV Here & Now, Foliate Oak, Chronogram, and Apricity. His first book of poems, This Someone I Call Stranger, is forthcoming from Indolent Books (2017.)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A poem by Edison Jennings

A Letter to Greta

“…so pitying and yet so distant,” Cecil Beaton

Among my father's posthumous
flotsam recently washed up in my house,
I found a letter, postmarked 1928,
addressed Miss Garbo Hollywood Cal
(Private!), stamped RETURN TO SENDER,
sealed unread and stored for sixty years
inside its author’s desk. Held to light,
the envelope revealed a trace of earnest
cursive written to a star flickered
on a million screens. I set a kettle
on the stove to steam the letter open
and expose the heart of this dead man,
once vestal boy, husband to three wives—
one widow, one dead, one faithless
(also dead)—fighter pilot with cleft chin
and good teeth whose friends had died
from too much war or too much booze,
who, if asked, what happens when you die?
would sip his drink and say, "you rot."
When the envelope at last unglued,
I found a time-fogged photo of a skinny
school-age boy standing contrapposto,
looking straight into my eyes. I slipped
the photo and unread letter back inside
the envelope, taped it shut, and late
that night went outside and burned it all
as offerings to a heaven of Gretas.








Edison Jennings is a part-time teacher living in the southwestern Appalachian region of Virginia. His poetry has appeared in several journals and anthologies. His chapbook, Reckoning, is available at Jacar Press.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A poem by Ali Jones

No Sleep


Put on your cherry reds, and walk out into the rain,
it’s always raining here, watering something in.
How long will he stay? Will it be long enough
to see you in raven robes, priesting under a full moon?

Each weekend, he dies a little, each copper sunset,
each time you show him your books,
and his eyes shine like lit lamps, or when you say goodbye
and he presses snap into your hand.

He has polished your boots, hummed the gleam in
just like his father always did. It happens later,
you’ve been playing mix-tapes from India
and kissing for far too long; wait, you implore,

I have so much to say. You grab his darkening hand,
so quiet, until the room dissolves and you are standing
in a wide field, turned through generations, look,
how time rocks you in a slow dance. You are so young;

terrified of being in this body, while he is going
out of his. He doesn’t remember your name,
only sweet earth and mandolin stings, fingers trace
how long it lasts, what it takes, to remember his stories.










Ali Jones is a teacher, and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Picaroon Poetry, Mother’s Milk Books, The Lake Magazine, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine, and blogs for The Motherload. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016, the runner up for the Mother’s Milk prize for prose in 2016, and has also written for The Guardian.

Monday, 17 July 2017

A poem by Joe Balaz

DERE’S NO SUCH TING AS PERFECT 


Dere’s no such ting as perfect—

It’s moa like adequate or wun close fit
no mattah how wonderful it feels.

Day to day you going find dat out
cause everyting stay in flux.

Wun big ugly ogre
is always waiting around da next corner

to shake up and fill
your pristine little snow globe

wit thick black and choking smoke.

Den da buggah going roll dat ting
down da lane like wun bowling ball

and knock out even moa hope and optimism
waiting deah in da form of standing pins.

So no blame me
if all da stars fall out of da sky

wen dat eventual possibility is even mentioned.

It’s called curbing da enthusiasm
and tempering da steel

cause nutting is certain
and foa sure nutting is perfect.

Dat no mean you no can smile for miles
and dig da moment foa all dat it holds—

It’s just dat you gaddah watch out
foa da vampire teeth in da shadows

and da shifting and changing ground
dats always moving undah your toes.











Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai'i Creole English) and in American-English.
He edited Ho'omanoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature. Some of his
recent Pidgin writing has appeared in Rattle, Juked, Otoliths, and Hawai'i Review, among others.
Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian Islands Pidgin writing in the expanding context of
World Literature. He presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.



Sunday, 16 July 2017

A poem by Olivia Tuck

Wrong Place, Wrong Time


A total strobe eclipse rolls across
everyone. Blossom-skinned teens
in our little shorts.
A poppy field of iPhones. Cameras
fluoresce like spit of sparklers, fallen
amongst the petals.

Click. Flash. Selfie. Snapchat. Whoop.
Your face is golden rain.

Before we pack away the night, I will
leak the truth.
That you are all the universes

that may or may not exist,
with their nanoscopic alien life
forms, looking down at us,
thinking, “They're the real thing.”

Is this the right place? Right time?

I open my mouth. End up yelling
over the speakers to ask if
you reckon Ariana is fitter than me.

House lights. Evening sunrise
against your cheek.
I think of you, newborn. How weird
it is that somehow we both sprouted
into adolescence,

and you put your perfect hand
in your pocket;
bought us each a gig ticket
because you don’t want to be
my friend.

We should go:
Dad’s texted, he’s waiting.

I am a SIM card
away from you, if that.
There is nothing to hide
from in this whole gorgeous world.

Nothing to fear.

I love-










Olivia Tuck lives in Wiltshire with her parents, her sisters and her dotty Cocker Spaniel. She entered and won her first writing competition when she was six and hasn’t stopped scribbling since, creating flash fiction, short stories and poetry. Olivia has been a ‘Wicked’ Young Writers’ Award finalist, and has recently had a piece published in the web journal 'Three Drops from a Cauldron'. She intends to start reading English and Creative Writing at university in 2018, and is so grateful for the support she's had from crazily brilliant people she’s come across at the Richard Jefferies Museum in Swindon.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

A poem by JC Reilly

Ghazal for My Father


The whooping crane has a right to orange koi.
It gobbles up your (black and white and) orange koi.

For a month, the crane lands at the pond to eat.
Fish disappear—you think it’s a blight on orange koi.

The morning you see the crane at breakfast, you toss
a mossy rock at it, and miss—a fright to orange koi.

You chase it off—it takes to the sky, all fierce feathers
and frolic. In its mouth, the flight of orange koi.

Once you set the sprinklers to coincide with its stop;
the crane does not mind, takes a bite of orange koi.

Next you build a fence, and then you tie some net,
but the shade begins to smite the orange koi.

The net and fence come down; the crane comes back,
a victory whoop and the pond grows slight of orange koi.

Dwindling fish upset you more than the crane’s tenacity,
but you retreat, give up the fight for orange koi.

Or so I think. You buy more fish to stock the pond;
your daughter Justine writes the song of crane and orange koi.









JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work. She serves as the Managing Editor of the Atlanta Review and has pieces published or forthcoming in POEM, The Absurdist, Picaroon Poetry, broken solace, Hawai'i Pacific Review, Imperfect Fiction, the Arkansas Review, and Rabbit: a Journal of Nonfiction Poetry. When she isn't writing, she plays tennis or works on improving her Italian.

Friday, 14 July 2017

A poem by Aden Thomas

The Woman in Accounts Payable


The woman in Accounts Payable
gets cancer of the stomach.
She shows up at the office
one afternoon,
hugs those near her cubicle.
She tells them it feels                                                                                                                                                                        like an anchor, like walking
with an anchor.

Then she’s gone three weeks
for chemotherapy.
We all sign a card
for her to get well
soon,
but we all know
better.

They ask a month later
for us to donate
some vacation days
to help her keep
her sick
leave.
So we do.

Six months passes.
We work our office hours,
days swimming into
nights swimming
into mornings
drowning in dark lakes
of meetings.
We live to drown.

Then one morning another woman,
a younger woman,
sits in the empty cubicle
in Accounts Payable.
They introduce you
to her but you forget
her name.  

She seems like
another team player
who works with integrity and pride,
with sufficient ambition
and just the right amount of drive
to swim awhile
or keep from sinking
until another swimmer
comes along.







Aden Thomas grew up on the high plains of Wyoming. His work has been featured in numerous literary journals. His first book of poetry, What Those Light Years Carry, was published by Kelsay books in 2017. More of his work can be found at: www.adenthomas.com.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A poem by Victoria Nordlund

How To Write Poetry  

Maceration is a form of controlled putrefaction, a stage of decomposition in which the proteins of the body's cells are broken down and consumed by bacteria in anaerobic conditions.


I
To prepare for this decomposition
peel off the skin,
expose the muscle and fat,
and separate the organs from the body.
Don’t worry, this does not need to be neat.
You will still have excess tissue affixed to the carcass.

II
Remove eyeballs and ears
because some structures are brittle.
Store severed parts in nylon panty hose for easy identification.
Remember to keep the tongue in place.

III
This process generates a strong stench.
Therefore, use a closed container in a ventilated area.
Maintain a constant temperature for optimal results.
Wear a respirator when you switch out
maceration baths and pull out tough material.

IV
Sometimes the degradation of tissue will stall
for even those well-versed in this preparation.

Be patient.
Proper incubation is required.

V
Cut any additional flesh.
Make sure to use gloves
and handle the cartilage with care.
It is likely some bits of vertebrae
may still be attached.
Soak until your water is clear.

VI
Gather the bones and let them dry.
Resist the urge to boil or bleach.
It will damage the remains.










Victoria Nordlund teaches creative writing at Rockville High School in Vernon, CT. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut. Her work is currently published in the Fall/Winter issue of Pank Magazine. She is the 2016 NEATE New England Poet of the Year and took first place in the CWP’s poetry contest. Her work has been published in the Connecticut English Journal and The Leaflet. Victoria is part of a wonderful writing group,The Wordsong Poets.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

4 poems by Gareth Culshaw

Nefyn


The sea is lost within
itself. Dawdling in timeless
thought, we walk a broken
coastline. No direction up ahead.

Gold clings to the gorse
like pollen on bees’ legs.
Our words are forced back down
our throats by one of the winds
that holds a tissue against its nose.

There’s movement, sweeping
the air, flying out of the banks.
Their pushed-back wings
show a fishing ledger body.

The sea that surrounds our lives
has compassed a visitor, to ignite
our feet, make us stride together.

We watch the sand martins chase
the wind, as if it has pinched their shadows
and they want to take them back.
We walk along the eroding coast
not sure when we will fall away.







Gareth is a published poet with his first collection by futurecycle out in 2018. 


------
First published 19/01/2017

Empty Headed


The box sat on his neck
is the coffin of his father.
His eyes have not woken
since that last turn of spade.

He is vacant of the world
like a hand in a glove.
He walks the aisles as if in a
procession.

The different voices that come
from his grave gut. Sometimes
make you wonder if he knows
what he’s saying.

When will the door be opened
to allow him to leave I do not know.
But we are all dead to him
just like cattle awaiting the hook. 



------

First published on 18th August 2016.

Passing Trees


I see old friends like passing trees
their lives spreading maps and rings.

One, for all his strength, stare and growl
was struck by a storm that brought him down.

Some sprouted branches like sea anemone
gasping for air, gasping to be seen.

Another has left behind a skeleton of himself
having been and gone, life too short.

I see old friends today as I pass by and by.




------

First published on 9th February 2016.

Tryfan


Once there was life upon you,
growing up, growing strong.

Until you came to a stop
setting out your figure amongst the rest.

Today your shadow weakens
as you erode back to the earth:


As a child I came to you for support
to build my cartilage and bone.

Your rock face in morning light
deep in slumber, ravaged by weather.

For years we have walked all over you
pushing you deeper, further away.

One day you will be gone
then we will walk in silence, grieving.




Tuesday, 11 July 2017

A poem by Aine McAllister

The Bluebird Song in You


I sent you Bukowski’s Bluebird from Hyde Park.
Ten steps from the Serpentine Gallery
and a dishevelled arts journalist,
turned care manager who practises Buddhism,
fan of Macca and Marxism.
He told me The Four Truths while I thought about you.

In 2016 I didn’t date anyone. Well, once, in October,
I pretend it didn’t happen; lead singer in a band
that’s up and coming. When he placed
his little bag of two pound coins on the restaurant table,
I laughed; he called me a condescending little bitch.
June 2017, back on it; ‘50 ways to leave your lover behind’.

Were you my lover? If you spend hours
running your fingers over the body of another,
feel electricity on skin you’ve longed for
for months move through your body
like sheet lightning moves across night sky;
Is that other your lover?

If you fall apart, lose your reason
invert in isolation, grow the pelt
of a she-wolf in shadow, silver grey
until finally he comes to you again,
finally, you sleep joined still;
is that other your lover?

I’ve been to the V&A. I disorientated
a management consultant with long fingers
with my gauche enthusiasm for a wardrobe
from the Ming Dynasty, forgot myself and slapped it
as if it were my beautiful nephew’s broad back.
A girl can pass a morning in the sun in the city,

with a Belgian app designer; firm believer
in enlightened despotism, doesn’t think much
of the way the Greeks operate in the EU.
Not sure his foreign-exchange app is up to much,
said it was like Blah Blah Car for money,
left him with an Ali G impersonation.

Four truths; life is suffering,
suffering comes from desire,
suffering can end,
you’ve gone before I know enough
to write the poem that waits in me;
for the bluebird song in you.











Aine McAllister is a poet from the North of Ireland, based in London. Her work is previously published in The Cuirt Annual, West 47, The Muse and in Crossing Lines on www.poetryonthelake.org. She was awarded the Raftery Prize for Poetry and her work has been set to music and performed as part of #choirsagainstracism. Aine also has work forthcoming in Contemporary Poetry: An Anthology of Present Day Best Poems, Vol 4.

Monday, 10 July 2017

2 poems by Anna Saunders

The Naturalist On Valentine’s Day


The rose stands in the thin vase,
its stem is like a amputated tail
cocooned
in a fluid reserve.

Go and apologise to the trees
for what we have done.
Lopped them down for lumber
crushed their pulp for cards.

When you reach into the split bark
there is a faint pulse.

This one must be a hundred years old
it wears a heavy necklace of stalky green.

That one looks like Ted Hughes
impossibly lofty, swarthy,
with thick arms.

Later, lying in bed alone
you hear the rasping screech of the owl

the scream of something
that flies all night, exhilarated
by the dark, yet terrified
of its own appetite.









Anna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press), Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press), Burne Jones and the Fox (Indigo Dreams).

Anna has had poems published in journals and anthologies which include Ambit, The North, Amaryllis, Iota, Caduceus, Envoi, New Walk Magazine, The Interpreters House, The Wenlock Anthology 2014, The Museum of Light, Accente magazine and the forthcoming Diamond Cutters Anthology ( Random House),

Anna holds a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing from The University of Gloucestershire and is the CEO and founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival.




-----
First published 08/01/2014


After Dinner

Someone switches on the light
and we float like life buoys
in the black lake of the glass.

How ebullient we are
with sugar rush,

bone plucked by indolence
jelly fish blooms
quivering on the floor.

You are slick as a host
your liniment smooth hand
flush with mine.
Your voice planed to a polish.

Stories ascend from your lips
of Tina, who came home to a husband
crotch bulging in Victoria's Secret

and Mary
waiting to have her sister
removed from her womb.

30 years old with her sister
hidden inside her
like a layer of a Russian Doll.

Inert and stunted,
only 8 inches long.

Replete with hair and teeth
Adult Teeth.

Another guest snorts,
Hairy Mary he says,
Bucks his teeth out,
makes like a rabbit.

We are still laughing
as Mary enters the room.
Imagine if that were your sister,
she says.

I look away.
In the black glass
my reflection bobs
like a bloated corpse.




Sunday, 9 July 2017

A poem by Sergio Ortiz

Piece of My Heart


Ms. Joplin
your voice rips apart
my face, my tie― the mark
of all hanged men.

My remains roll on the ground
and the edge of your voice
blows my Monday into pieces.

I have the hunger of the employee
staring with contempt at the image
of his face in the glass door.

My hunger, a factory of anxieties,
its certainties, is convinced
that nothing will improve,
that this flagship raised during youth
will also sink. My last refuge
will have to be the skin
or the solitary bottle of whisky.

Janis, your voice is a knife
vibrating in the throat of pain.

But now
silence.

I have come to the place where
little masters live
and I hurry to annihilate the desire
of damning all to hell.






Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Bitterzeot Magazine, Moko, and The Paragon Journal.  He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

2 poems by Sharon Phillips

Skins


Remember those shaven-headed lads
who loitered by bus stops or outside chip shops
and hollered at girls as they scuttled past?

Those boys who smelled of Brut or Hai Karate,
who had home-made tattoos that swaggered
blue-black across their necks and knuckles?

They were cocks of the walk, back then, in DMs
and Harrington jackets; though they're builders
or accountants now, on match days they flaunt

fine feathers again: bellies overtop drainpipe jeans;
blurred tattoos and tumid veins twine round necks
swollen wide as heads. They barge through crowds
and holler at women younger than their daughters.





Sharon is retired and lives in Dorset. Her poems have been published online by sites including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis and Snakeskin.




------

First published on 22/05/17


What you learn from baking sourdough bread


It takes you six weeks to grow
your starter which is a long time to
wait for a loaf of bread but you think
you will learn how to be patient.

One day you notice that your starter
smells of vomit but no-one has told
you this could happen so you scour
the internet for advice and think
about the absurdity of the metaphor.

You use your starter when it smells
of a satsuma fermented under the sofa
for a week, when its bubbles remind
you of your stomach when you fret.
You prefer not to think about this.

When you pour the starter from its jar,
it reminds you of the spittoon joke.
Although this thought is unpleasant, you
enjoy the tingle of mild transgression.
You decide to buy some gel to spike
your hair but you don’t get around to it.

When you taste the tang of your bread,
you remember being abroad
so you eat it with gherkins
and Black Forest ham.

You read Elizabeth David, learn that
mediaeval bakers called yeast
“godisgoode” and wonder which deity
is responsible for sourdough cultures.
You congratulate yourself on the thought.

In February you find your starter in the fridge
where it has been since December,
behind blocks of special offer cheddar.
You throw it away and buy some yeast.
You still don’t buy hair gel.



Friday, 7 July 2017

A poem by Claire Sexton

Sensitivity plus


Sensitivity plus, all the things you would not want. Belting down on you like frazzled rain. Tearing chunks out of you like frightened primates. Teeth and claw, incisors, jaws. Annihilating season. Secret daggers and pieces of sharp flint. Neolithic tools for gutting and carving. Kubrick's classic moment re-enacted.

Fragments of sadness all around you. Love battered and grabbed. Greed in all its ugly fashions. Violations and fouled meat. Judgment, like a beacon, inside the young and old. Dangerous over-consumption. Savage interactions. The sense of losing grace. And never being able to help enough.









Claire Sexton is a forty-something Welsh poet and writer, who has lived in London for many years. She suffers with depression and complex PTSD, but finds solace and comfort in the act of writing and sharing her work. She has previously been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Stare's Nest, Hedgerow, Peeking Cat Poetry, and Light - a journal of photography & poetry. She is currently out of work but trying to use the time productively and creatively. She shares her home with a large black and white cat called Jools.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A poem by Gram Joel Davies

Westcountry Backwater


and the untruth of the suddengone
is pictured by homefolk
with boldface headline mouths;
in flashclips of settlements, wetlying.

It was all sawcoming.

Suchlike
as I foretold
an earthsink oncoming

when she cast me from kidhome
into a longschooling;
it was the dread-end arc
of her mother flounder

and I was thirteen aging.

Her lastgiven lesson
was to wordpour straight sentences
unlined; that, and the hyphen-
trick of wrapping runoff
round.

I have now a blindmaid
for ink on rugfloor practice,
bedroom rain watching;
for her parentword, rising.

But its foreshadow still becomes.

Three decades done;
in some former thousand,
my teacher taught worldstop
science; ozone lens fear;
a hero's caring.

Had me flood mapbottom
contours in blue pencil,
prophesying archipelagos
of leftying country crumbs.

And sure, as level home
under wave happens,
forebelieving is forgotten.
The looksee
hearsay warning lost
like the backnowing

of a child underswept.




(Westcountry Backwater was originally published in Gram's debut collection 'Bolt Down This Earth', published by V. Press)





Gram Joel Davies lives in the South West of England. He has been published widely in UK and international journals, including Magma, Envoi, Lighthouse, Under the Radar and The Interpreter’s House.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A poem by Erin Brady

Reflection

after Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror

pale lashes
in want of ink

spiralled ears
& twisted tongue

eyes not
containing oceans

freckles pasted
by the sun

lips too dry
and chapped to taste

                                               teeth of yellowed
                                               stone

roughened skin
& memory

papier-mâché
on bone









Erin Brady grew up between the UK and the US, and moved back to Europe after university. She currently lives in Barcelona, where she works as a freelance translator and runs a poetry appreciation group in her spare time.


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

2 poems by Simon Kirwin

Treed

with acknowledgement to Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

In breaks from the wood workshop
Where dis- and abled rubbed shoulders,
I’d stare out the back wood
With coffee and a rollie
Listening to nothing but the trees shifting,
Pine and spruce oiling air like a sharpener.

I was far from a siren from the dock.
I was far from the smoky Salford wind.

Joshing together, or so it seemed.
The wind through them like a stream
- I’d go looking for that stream,
And get laughed at every time -
Bird-call like uncorking a bottle of red
I’d dream of another night, fire-fronted.

I’ll chop you down, like an old dead tree.

I imagined them friendly enough.
So if I cut one down to size with an axe,
They’d all reach out, slowly branching,
Pumping ions for the crippled,
Bolstering with stories from the wars they’d seen,
Of boundary changes, supplying spears, bows, arrows.

But with the lengths of two smokes,
I’d feel an uncomfortableness of trees.
Always restless, hiding cuckoos two-toning,
Over and over and over,
From a distance, all swayed together.
But looking closely

Some would sway one by one.
Some would suddenly swipe another.
Some stood judging straight.
Some wouldn’t sway at all.

In truth, the beech were bullies.
The Douglas firs and spruce
Stuck with their own. Birches wrestled others
To make space for their crown.

Some pretended protection
Before lashing out in the wind.
Some were bluff neighbours, carefully tolerant, while
Their branches shot sideways glances.

Only the willow stood apart, avoiding,
Staring out across the lake.
And the oak was silent, solid (its roots ran deep),
Knowing that roots, and their root networks
Travelled far, but petered out in the end.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A poem by Michelle Diaz

What time is the Sunrise?


In this darkness it is hard to breathe
No sun, no warmth
Only a suffocating mantle
Stars all gone
Just a dumb black sky
Staring

Once
I saw my dreams
Written in sunlight
Daubed on the cheeks
Of unborn children.
I danced inside

Where is the colour?

I even fell in love with clouds
Watched them take shape
Loved their freedom
How they sang to their own tune
Made their own way

But I cannot find
The hopes I grew inside me

I'm tired
And the night no longer cossets me
She is stern, disapproving
Sends me out, naked
Unfed, wailing









Michelle Diaz is a Supply teacher in Somerset and runs a monthly poetry group. She had two poems published by Live Canon Poets in 2009.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A poem by Adrian Slonaker

The Monterey


This morning we're slouching
in the same lemon-colored boxy booth seats
that registered our butt imprints back in 1996.
Fingering the raisins scattered over a cinnamon roll,
the way moles are scattered over your forearm,
I scan the diner where
I conspired to win the world
like Alexander the Great or Homer Simpson.
Now my granite eyes have been stalked by by crow's-feet;
my innocence has been nixed;
my world remains unwon,
but still I take your hand under that table.










Adrian Slonaker lives and works as a copy editor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, with interests that include vegetarian cooking, Slavonic languages, Victorian horror fiction, wrestling, and 1960s pop music. Adrian's work has appeared in Better Than Starbucks, CC&D, Dodging the Rain, and Three Line Poetry, with publication in Ginosko Literary Journal and Eunoia Review forthcoming.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

A poem by Ricky Ray

Tolerance


We preach tolerance
but beware
the hardenings of exposure:

enough opium to kill a man
would barely
put me to sleep—

impossible to remove
the scars, restore
the veins,

steel wire
that barbs the history
of my hand:

I killed for money
and mercy,
died more than a little each time

but show me the choking weeds
and I will yank
them from their sockets,

show me
the cat's work
in the half-gutted shrew

and I will bring the shovel
down to crush
the egg of its skull again.









Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar, Matador Review, Fugue, Concis, One and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Fortnight Poetry Prize, the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic's Cormac McCarthy Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a Labradetter; their bed, like any good home of the heart, is frequently overcrowded.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

2 poems by Carrie Etter

Heartcase


I find the heart’s bone carapace during a desert walk, pick it up. In this world, the heart isn’t a cute symbol; it’s like the skull, stark hollow white receptacle, the anatomist’s paperweight, a cardiologist’s memento. In one culture, the dead’s heartcase rests on an altar while all his relations pass and place a single hair inside to accompany him to the afterlife. Another culture collects the hearts of horses; the bone remainder gives swift luck. The case in my hand is a child’s, though no town or house is in sight, let alone the bones of her father’s hand.




"Heartcase" first appeared in The North. Her most recent publication is the chapbook, Scar (Shearsman, 2016), a long poem exploring the effects of climate change on her home state of Illinois.


------
First published 30 September 2013

His Pantoum


This is the West Country: if it rains, it rains all day,
winds as fierce as anywhere
sweeping hair into my eyes at every crossing.
When did my father get old?

The prairie winds were as fierce as anywhere
when he cycled thirty miles a day.
When did he get old?
This is his twelfth day in intensive care.

When he cycled thirty miles a day,
I went on with my life, unfearing.
This is his twelfth day in intensive care,
my sixth year abroad,

going on with my life, unfearing.
Sweeping hair into my eyes at every crossing
in my sixth year abroad,
the West Country, where it rains and it rains and it rains.








“His Pantoum,” first published in The Times Literary Supplement.

Monday, 26 June 2017

2 poems by Jonathan Butcher

Back Then


Those crisp mornings we would
move at our own pace; no need
for alarms drilled into our temples.
The newspapers skip-read at
our leisure, the hangovers almost
welcome.

We would drift from each
room with perfect calm. Those tranquil
notes from raindrops and the tick of the
unfed electric meter, like a malfunctioning
metronome that would keep our boredom
in time with it's beat.

The evening was our only commitment,
our choice of business mixed only with
pleasure, our only hardship was planning over
glasses and ashtrays how to exit this glorious mess.






Jonathan Butcher is a poet based in Sheffield, England. He has had poetry appear in various print and online Journals including: Popshot, Ink, Sweat&Tears, Elbow Room, Your One Phone Call, Mad Swirl, The Transnational and others. His second chapbook 'Broken Slates' was published by Flutter Press.


-------
First published 30 June 2016

Night Shift


We would walk through those narrow grey
streets each evening, oblivious to the
inconvenience of our presence. The houses
like sandcastles ripe for kicking, which when
unlit seemed to lose their purpose.

We could almost hear the twitch of eyelids
flicker, their faces at intervals plastered to
those pristine windows; we convinced
ourselves their heads slept in comas,
whilst we continued to scrape our heels.

Each one bound in holy matrimony; entrenched
foundations built with broken bricks. The premature
lines that danced across each face, filled with
blackened waters like neglected canals, in which
I would never dare (nor care) to swim.

That breeze passes slowly, indicative of these
streets, as we unbound those memories from
their corroded chains. As our feet sink into
our own foundations, we slowly peel our
smirking faces from our windows.



Thursday, 22 June 2017

A poem by Ceinwen Haydon

My Daughter


It’s a strange thing,
I’d die for you
yet I can’t find the words
to tell you what flawed place
I came from.
And you don’t have the patience
to listen to my reasons
for being less than the mother
you wanted back then: less
than the mother I wanted to be,
wanted to be so badly
I thought I’d die of love.








About Ceinwen Haydon

I have lived in the North East of England since 2001. My work is mainly short fiction and poetry. My prose has been published on the 'Fiction on the Web' and 'Literally Stories', 'Stepaway' and in 'Alliterati', Newcastle University’s literature and arts magazine. My poems have been published by 'Fat Damsel', 'Writers Against Prejudice' and 'I am not a Silent Poet'. I am currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. After graduation I hope to facilitate creating writing projects with hard to reach groups and initiate participatory arts projects within my local community.

Monday, 19 June 2017

A poem by Jennie Farley

The Clasp


Is she human, that one?
Those brawny blokes
with inked forearms
and bruised knuckles
can’t look her in the eye,
that lass with purple hair.
She’s felled Big Mack
in two minutes flat.
No one offers her a drink.

Then he strides in, a stranger.
Gives a wink, pulls out a chair,
rolls up his sleeves. She crosses
black skull-patterned legs, offers
up her rubbed-raw elbow. He places
his thumb around her grip.

Then there’s this moment.
She meets his hard blue gaze.
She can sense his muscled arm,
she wants to lick the raised
blue vein throbbing in his neck.
Roll that wrist, pull backwards,
close in
, she tells herself.

She lets her elbow slip.








Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in many magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Prole. Her latest collection My Grandmother Skating is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016. Jennie founded and runs NewBohemians@CharltonKings providing regular events of poetry, performance and music at deepspaceworks art centre. She lives in Cheltenham.


Thursday, 15 June 2017

2 poems by Ryan Warren

Morning Business, In the Rain


Though I grumbled
into my jacket

and out to the dark morning
though it took some time

for an investigatory nose
to uncover the right

square inch to anoint
with the business of the body

as sheets of grey sky
thrummed my hood

wind whipped my jacket
fur quickly flattened

and I tugged irritably
on the damp lead

•••

life takes the time that it takes
and all the while

what a wonder it is about water
that it can fall from the sky

that a thirsting Earth
can swell to receive it

yet still hide scents
to beguile low noses

what a wonder it is about dogs
to be as happy

in the sheeting rain
as any day of mildest blue

my impatience
is my business

not the dog's
nor the rain’s

nor the wind's
nor my socks’

which will always
eventually, dry.



------
First published on 02/06/16

The Ravens of Japan


The ravens of Japan
speak with a different accent—
deeper, more rich and throaty
than the high-pitched caw
of their American cousins.

Or perhaps, even
a language of their own, where
in sonorous raven Japanese
while circling the blossoming
peonies and plum trees
of Hama-rikyu Gardens,
or alighting atop the pungent eves
of Tsukiji Fish Market,
they dictate their commentary
on the civility of the humans
peopling the earth below:

crisp and ordered as folded linens,
elegantly dressed,
salting each day
with a thousand thank-yous
and quick, generous little bows,
the value of harmony
laid deep in their bones,
the knowledge that
courtesy shown to others
reflects honor back to you.

Of course the vigilant ravens of Japan
from above the sculpted trees
also spy the hidden currents beneath—
the inequality, the stricture,
the regard given to surface things.

Certainly. Certainly the ravens know
from their watchful perches,
but I cannot tell you
how I would have found this
as a younger man
when I loved bold, high-pitched words
and exhausting honesty
so much more than today.

Today, when I find that I thirst
for even a sip of courtesy,
that I've flown halfway around my life
to at last discover the cartography of restraint.
How we treat each other,
in even the smallest things
is everything, it seems.

A point as dark and fine as the ravens,
slowly circling the painted Japanese horizon.






Ryan Warren lives with his family by the sea. His poetry has previously appeared in numerous journals, including California Quarterly, Wilderness House Literary Review, Amaryllis, Poetry Breakfast and Your Daily Poem. Find more at facebook.com/ryanwarrenpoetry.

Monday, 12 June 2017

2 poems by Maggie Mackay

The Sand Settles and Unsettles my Pulse


The desert sand nestles in the cracks between my toes,
rests in the grooves of my nails. It blasts
the intricate geometry of the Persian rug you gifted me,
smudges, tramples me through the pores
of skirting boards which sandbag ground in the face of flood.
My dream castle lists beneath my feet.

Sand sifts into my books, blue, red, flecked with gold fire.
As their spines line up like sentries, I am a dustcover
wrapped by dunes pressing my shoulders to my toes.
Dream castles float in the damp tide-lap.
This intruder waits, deep store-darkened in the camphor chest,
column-stacked against my bedroom wall,
graining the white picture frame.

Imp-sand flows under the door like a river in spate,
splashes mesmerising patterns of an underground spring
fathoms deep in the earth’s crust that merge on window and sill,
washing your persistent voice from the stale air,
out of waves which wiped dream castles to nothing.
.
My heart is a sandpit.




-----
First published on 31/10/16

How to Distil a Guid Scotch Malt

Separate the Gross from the Subtle
                                             
Hieronymus Brunschwig

Wrap yourself in Mum’s dressing gown, its envelope-hug,
pour a dram of uisage beatha, sip peppery Talisker peat.

Hear the barley grain grind in the mill, conjure a mash in the steel tun,
a flow into the wash, stroked by hushes and baloo baleerie.

Gloamings on salty coastlines, sweet kiln smoke, skin oil grams,
cloud the floor of the tumbler, climb the sides, pull you into the cask.

Acids blend with ethanol, transform into esters, fruity and aromatic.
A Hebridean sunset copper-pots your tongue, biscuit-beaches rise in your throat.

There’s a nip in the air, a lifetime of goodnights fermenting in a kipper fire.
Her arm entwines in yours. She comes home, full flavoured.

Task begun, the heart of the run is now, my middle years of fear and longing.






Maggie Mackay, a retired additional support needs teacher and lover of jazz and whisky, lives on the east coast of Scotland and is enjoying life as a final year Masters Creative Writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University where she is currently working on her poetry portfolio.

She has work in various print and online publications, including Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Indigo Dreams Publishing and in several Three Drops Press anthologies.