Monday, 13 August 2018

A poem by Alexis Rhone Fancher

CRUEL CHOICES


When my husband’s two grown daughters are in town, the three of them go to the movies, or play pool. Share dinner every night. Stay out late. I haven’t seen my stepdaughters since my son’s funeral in 2007. When people ask, I say nice things about the girls, as if we had a relationship. When people ask if I have children I change the subject. Or I lie, and say no. Or sometimes I put them on the spot and tell them yes, but he died. They look aghast and want to know what happened. Then I have to tell them about the cancer. Sometimes, when the older daughter, his favorite, is in town, and she and my husband are out together night after night, I wonder what it would be like if that was me, and my boy, if life was fair, and, rather than my husband having two children and I, none, we each had one living child. His choice which one to keep. Lately when people ask, I want to lie and say yes, my son is a basketball coach; he married a beautiful Iranian model with kind eyes, and they live in London with their twin girls who visit every summer; the same twins his girlfriend aborted with my blessing when my son was eighteen, deemed too young for fatherhood, and everyone said there would be all the time in the world.




First published in ASKEW, 2016, Nominated for the Pushcart Prize










Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Verse Daily, Plume, Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, Diode, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, HOBART, Cafe Reader, NZ, Paper and Ink , UK, and elsewhere. She’s the author of four poetry collections; How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), and Junkie Wife, (2018), the twisted tale of her first, doomed marriage. Her photos are published worldwide, including the covers of Witness, Pithead Chapel, and Nerve Cowboy. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com

Thursday, 9 August 2018

A poem by Joanna Nissel

Convalescence


Baby blue blanket: hospital issue,
its loose weave, blend of fabrics, a guarded formula
designed to regulate temperature:
Granddad’s replacement hypothalamus.
It swaddles his wasted shoulders,
empty folds of skin, unsteady heart.

Years later, in my own convalescence,
I learn the map of its folds,
the one frayed corner,
the way it soaks up plasma, pus,
and swallows the stains.

I mummify my legs in its cool release,
attempt school in wheelchair
with open wounds on soles of feet.

I pin ‘helper’ badges, ironically, to friends
who race me down hallways,
crash me into corners.

One leaves me in a disabled parking space
at the school gates
–a great joke till parents arrive
and I pretend I don’t see them thinking:
what is she hiding? Is it catching?












Joanna can’t seem to stop writing about trauma. Its aftereffects, its moments of lightness and poignancy are the subject of her MA nonfiction manuscript and of her poetry. Her work is featured in Irisi, Amaryllis, Clear Poetry, DNA, Glove, Eye Flash, The Ham Free Press, Flash and Cinder, and Riggwelter magazines. She is also the social media editor for Tears in the Fence.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

A poem by Jane Salmons

Dustheads

after Jean-Paul Basquiat

Beneath the great granite legs
of Brooklyn Bridge, a pair
of dustheads are out of their skulls.
The first spins and whirls in a frenzy,
convinced he’s James Brown on stage
at the Apollo. A beam of white neon pours
from his heart straight to the hearts
of his worshipping fans. Arms raised
in triumph, he grins. Now he casts
off his gold cape, drops to his knees
as if a pilgrim at the bridge’s altar
and screeches please god please.
But his friend hears only the jaw-grind
of the city devouring spray cans
garbage, spewing raw veins. Enlarged
their eyes swirl like raging gutters.








Jane Salmons is a teacher living and working in Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Her poems have appeared in various online magazines including Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake, The Ekphrastic Review, Algebra of Owls and Snakeskin. In addition to writing poetry, she enjoys creating handmade photomontage collage.

Monday, 6 August 2018

A poem by Antony Owen

The last thing you dreamt in Hiroshima

“I name this star for your sister”
                                                      Sueko Hada

When I was a child I stuck luminol stars to the artexed nebulae
And my brother and I would share a bed and this universe
I loved him even when I hated him and we dreamt warm.

The night before Hiroshima died in the dragons fiery eye
You named a star for your sister in the cold pink sky
And the last thing you dreamt was born of a lullaby.

You were a spoilt girl who slept in the valley of her parents,
Remember only the blood heat, the thrum of his pulse
Buzzing on your index finger that chaptered memory.

The night before Hiroshima was swallowed by a star
And your neck became hollowed leaking black tar
Did you wait for death like orphans for that streetcar?

Sueko, I name two stars in our shared sky for your sister,
The first one does not burn, and does not blister,
And neither will turn and jewel you in their glister.

Sueko, Hiroshima was a spoilt city that you built with water,
Sjogren’s tears are a flood that came after twenty-five years
That came pure like rain and sure like daughter.

Goodnight Sueko, I name this star for you
Goodnight Hiroshima, I came so far for you,
Goodnight Keiko, my teacher, my first
Both of you are the slake of my thirst.




Notation
Sjogren's (SHOW-grins) syndrome is a disorder of your immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth







Antony Owen writes about issues largely unrepresented in poetry and his latest collection with V. Press The Nagasaki Elder is a timely reminder of the affects of nuclear weapons. He and his wife live in Warwickshire with their masters - two cats.


Thursday, 2 August 2018

A poem by C. M. Donahue

To the Acquaintance Hell-bent on Social Niceties


It happened just the other day in the cereal aisle. Our
carts sideswiped like a dry kiss from a septuagenarian
aunt you’ve only just met. Our eyes locked. A flicker
of recognition flashed between us. I glanced away and 
mumbled something orbiting a weak apology. Is it you?
How have you been? you asked. I let out a sigh. No, I’m 
afraid not. It isn’t me. Your head cocked to the side
as a deep rustling surrounded us. The fluorescent 
lighting seemed to surge and blind. A cascade of cereal 
boxes began tumbling one by one off the shelves 
around us like a riffle of cards. Buffeted by Cheerios
and Life, I lost consciousness briefly and dreamed
of my life as a chameleon. I was almost unseen.
I was almost always there. When I awoke,
I built a fort with the cauliflower and
canned mandarins salvaged from my crumpled cart.
It might take years for you to find me.










C. M. Donahue holds a BFA in Poetry from Emerson College and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Connecticut.

Monday, 30 July 2018

A poem by Susan Richardson

Shackles of Silk and Lace


Caught in the clutches of a magazine,
ankles bound and rib bones cinched,
your thoughts are prisoner to the
machinations of men with slick tongues.
If you pull yourself out of the glossy pages,
I can offer you a box of wooden matches
to burn up the sash that binds a tiny waist.
When you discover your foot doesn’t fit
into the glass slipper, your boot can
smash it to bits, defiance crushing myth
under the weight of steel and leather.
You can stitch yourself into a pencil skirt,
quivering across the room in 6 -inch stilettos,
or climb out of captivity and dance barefoot,
freeing yourself from the shackles of silk and lace.








Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called, Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, The Writing Disorder, Eunoia Review, Riggwelter, and Burning House Press, among others. She was awarded the Sheila – Na – Gig 2017 Winter Poetry Prize, featured in the Literary Juice Q&A Series, and chosen as the Ink Sweat & Tears March 2018 Poet of the Month. She also writes for Morality Park, an Arts and Lit Collective.


Thursday, 26 July 2018

A poem by Daryl Sznyter

Catching My Reflection in a Crucifix


i see more of myself in you
than i’ve ever seen
in any mirror
& my face is a chemical exfoliation
& my face is made of tear gas
my eyes are lined with shrapnel
& i refuse to bathe
god forgive me
for only owning
one decent wine glass
forgive me for the lipstick
embedded on its rim
& please
for licking the bottom clean
when you’re not around
for wishing you
were handsomer to me
wishing you were
the neighbor boy
across the street
always reeking
of moss & lemongrass
always so easy
to worship








Daryl Sznyter is the author of Synonyms for (OTHER) Bodies (New York Quarterly Books). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has been published or is forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Poet Lore, Folio, Gravel, Phoebe, Best American Poetry Blog, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from The New School. She currently resides in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she works as a content writer and SEO Analyst. Contact her directly at darylsznyter.com.

Monday, 23 July 2018

A poem by Joan Mazza

In the Afterlife 


I imagine my mother walking up the final path
laughing with Lucille Ball. They died a day apart,
but surely chatted in those throngs of dead, jostling
their way to the gate I see open for every caste.

When my father took his life at the height
of summer 1987, the husband of Joan Rivers
did the same—one day later. Did they discuss
what drove them to see death as spite?

Did they have regrets? Speculate on the impact
for their children and grands, who might view
this as a model for desperate times? In fact,

I don’t believe in an afterlife in heaven’s stars
or its flaming alternative for all eternity. Childhood
indoctrination left its mark, if not a scar,

so I can sometimes hear my ex-husband, dead
before his parents, welcome their arrival,
offering a beer. His mother, wits re-stitched,
will no doubt say, You’re here first? I heard said

not long after, their other son was dead from cancer.
Too soon! ancestors cry. The temptation’s
strong to have fantasies of reunions, gatherings
in some rosy, great beyond, all questions answered.









Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has twice been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art. www.JoanMazza.com

Thursday, 19 July 2018

A poem by Kitty Coles

Goats

for Stella

The goats always come to us,
sooner or later, if we stand long enough
calling to them. They range themselves
along the fence’s edge and, stony-eyed,
stare out at us and wait. The wires buzz,
waspish. Their horizontal pupils,
on those pale irises, meet ours unblinking.

We have nothing for them.
They realise it slowly and begin to bend
to crop at the grass, or stretch
on hindlegs to tear down
the yellow flowers of the broom and gorse.
Their teeth rip crisply.

Once, we watched two bucks fight,
clashing their horns,
with sounds like dry bone banging
on dry bone,
their curled beards wagging,
hooves tumbling the dust.
The others didn’t raise their heads to look.










Kitty's poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com

Monday, 16 July 2018

A poem by Nick Compton

Portrait: Paige in San Francisco


Take bronze and let it bleed complete. Flood the pupil with hues of copper and marigold to ignite the suns of her eyes. A silver shadow running just below the ball. We had been awake for hours; turtle-shelled with rucksacks and sweet American heat; our adventure doubling to a tour of the cheapest drive-ins and dives; the real American dream. I sip iced tea and drown somewhere between the rose of her lips and sleep-requesting smile. A vein pulses blue from her elbow, maps the interchange of routes from avenue to avenue. I dot-to-dot her freckles.









Nick Compton is a writer, traveller and poet. He has been published across 3 continents including Canada and Hong Kong, with Alex Culotta PHD describing his style as ‘bold yet unassuming, a refreshing voice in a handful of powerful stanzas.’ In addition to writing for the Huffington Post, he teaches poetry in workshops and lectures and is a member of the Rhyme and Reason Poetry Collective. A musketeer at heart, you can normally spot him with a trusty cup of tea by his side

Thursday, 12 July 2018

A poem by Chella Courington

The Pond Heron


The dead don't write
but my cousin's letter arrives three days

after he's blown away by some kid
in his own platoon.

Maybe another Georgia boy
who's never been so far from home

so scared he shoots at anything
moving in shadows.

The letter feels light
for my cousin's voice.

He speaks of sheer petals rising
out of muddy fields

spreading before the sun.
Of a copper heron in shallow water

who dips his black-tipped beak
to spear his prey.








Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. With a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry, she is the author of six poetry and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry appears in numerous anthologies and journals including Non-Binary Review, Gargoyle, Pirene's Fountain, and The Los Angeles Review. Originally from the Appalachian South, Courington lives in California with another writer and two cats.

Monday, 9 July 2018

A poem by Al Ortolani

Wally Sings Amazing Grace in an Arkansas Cave


The old timers drew
arrows with carbide smoke
to mark their return.
Two caves, they used
to say, one going in,
one going out.

You stop for granola,
raisins, apple slices.
You wander the deep transept,
searching the source
of breeze on your cheek,
hunting new cave, tight
spots, wiggle room.
The darkness becomes
more personal, pressing—
brown bat, albino fish,
blind to sun.
Wally begins Amazing Grace.
The rope of his voice
belayed through the darkness
like a bowline at your waist—
the mist in your lamp,
the scalloped walls
curving on.

When you leave work today,
you walk through snow melt,
your truck parked at the bottom
of the corporate lot. Gray drifts
run in small creeks to the
gutter. At the storm drain,
the water sluices through
concrete to a distant spillway.
This too is cave, piped below
the streets, subterranean,
serene, even rat trod,
it’s a river to the sea.








Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in April of 2018. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

A poem by Richard Biddle

Gone


Spotting a wren
is being let in
on a secret.

She shuttles
hedgerow to hedgerow;
becomes twigs.






Richard Biddle teaches Creative Writing at Chichester College. He has poems forthcoming with @threedropspoems and most recently published with Burning House Press @thearsonista. His work has also appeared in the journals Urthona, Brittle Star and Dream Catcher and in several anthologies. In 2013, his poem ‘Transparency’ won The Big Blake Project’s William Blake Poetry Prize. He tweets as @littledeaths68

Monday, 2 July 2018

A poem by Holly Magill

The zombie apocalypse almost reaches the playnies*


They’re here, a pack of half-formed things jostling
where the Gele bumbles under the footbridge.

Scabby knees and not-quite-hormones-yet,
growth spurt wrists and ankles poke
fists and feet farther out of joggers and tops;
bored little bodies scuffling and hyper.

They zag and weave round dogs and walkers,
uncowed by other species on their patch;
barely two pop-belches from feral,
their gums cling to last bites of milk teeth.

Teachers, parents, would say it’s just a game.
The minds not quite controlling these mutating
creatures know change is possible,
even for The Undead.
One kid bombs the riverbed, screaming:

I’m not a zombie anymore!




*The Playnies - slang for playing fields.











Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in various magazines, including The Interpreter’s House and Bare Fiction, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She co-edits Atrium – www.atriumpoetry.com. Her first pamphlet is forthcoming in 2018 from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

A poem by Lesley Quayle

Grand Climacteric


De-tuned from the sharp, metallic ring
of menarche to this molten pop and bubble,
the sly click of bones,
ears in the wrong key,
eyesight’s descending scales.

My tongue sprouts bent wings,
clatters like dropped knives
or puddles to earth like a broken kite.
Words are snapped strings,
fingernails scraped down a blackboard.

I bring you seagulls tied up in bin bags,
rain on the roof, the smash of glass,
the slippery hollows of hot sighs
and sting of salt-smacked lips,
a whole orchestra of horny dissonance.

My finale almost brings the house down.









Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet and a folk/blues singer. Her work has appeared in The Rialto, The North, Angle, Tears In The Fence, Strix, Riggwelter and The Interpreter’s House, among others, also on BBC Radio 4 and in the Yorkshire Post. She was an editor of Leeds based poetry magazine, Aireings, for almost ten years and now spends her time helping to organise a folk club and music concerts. She has a pamphlet, Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce) and a collection from Indigo Dreams, Sessions.


Monday, 25 June 2018

A poem by Susannah Hart

Steve’s party


Next to the vol-au-vents and sausages
there’s a cluster of pressed flesh and cleavage,
a general squeezing in of belts and bulging
out of bellies. Less hair now on the men,
but where it’s there, it’s slicked back, flattened
to the retiring scalp. Over the golf course the sun’s
doing that thing it does, that melting ice-cream
raspberry ripple stuff that grabs something inside
you, so you want to shout stop stop stop
turn the music off break the windows burst
the balloons. The kids can’t bear to watch
the beerish leering and Pete dancing with Sue
and the dads’ hands on the mums’ posh-frocked
backsides. They think you’re beyond that now,
beyond the sex and the chase, empty seedbeds
grateful just to have got this far. And all at once
you recognise what miracle is, this extraordinary
banal miracle of the body surviving, still here
still singing, raising your dry white wine and
singing unabashed Happy Birthday dear Stephen
as outside unnoticed the sun sulks off to bed









Susannah Hart is a London-based poet who is on the board of Magma and is the co-editor of Magma 70, The Europe Issue. She also works as a brand consultant. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines and online, and her first collection Out of True is due to be published by Live Canon later this year.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

A poem by Marilyn Francis

Visions of Angels at Mornington Crescent

forget not to show love unto strangers for thereby
some have entertained angels… Hebrews 13.2

Norah Wake, The Queen of the World,
now residing at Camden Town, speaks with angels,
sometimes she sings, not angelically, but well enough
for the few coins she ignores, because a Queen
does not use money.

She does not need the things of this world
when she can converse with the angels who
float above the chewing-gum and dog-shit
ground. They surround her in perpetual
adoration. So she says.

She won’t say whether they bring messages
from God, or whether they simply amuse her
with gossip from Heaven. I have a feeling that
her angels are all six-winged blokes: Gabriel
Raphael, Uriel, Michael.

Norah will not tell what the angels say
though they occupy her days, and keep
her warm at night on the pavement
outside Mornington Crescent Station
a place that only angels know.







Marilyn Francis lives in the industrial south west of England quite near to Midsomer Norton where murders take place on Saturday nights. She’s been writing poetry for ages and some of it has been published, though most of it hasn’t. She keeps on keeping on. There was a collection, red silk slippers, published by Circaidy Gregory Press, but that was a while ago.

Monday, 18 June 2018

A poem by Jean Atkin

The Ketley Tiger


In rain a tightrope walker leads a boy from Ketley through the tents.
She sways her hips down horselines, says, You want to see the tiger?
In lantern-light the great cat rises, black and orange as paints.
In rain a tightrope walker leads a boy from Ketley through the tents.
He bangs his stick on iron bars. Tiger! he calls. Oh Tiger! Its eyes are stripy flints.
The tiger springs, the cage is smashed. Its spine is snapped. There’s thunder.
In rain a tightrope walker leads a boy from Ketley through the tents.
She sways her hips down horselines, says, You want to see the tiger?

Another year, an urban night, a tired driver in an Astra takes
the roundabout, third exit into Ketley. A full-beam tiger in the headlight
paces its cage on the grass. The driver is afraid he is awake.
Another year, an urban night, a tired driver in an Astra takes
a breath, a tiger in his brain. The foundations of his suburb shake.
He clutches tea, says to his wife, Its stripy eyes were burning bright.
Another year, an urban night, a tired driver in an Astra takes
the roundabout, third exit into Ketley. A full-beam tiger in the headlight.











Jean Atkin has published ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books), five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel. Her poetry has been commissioned for Radio 4, and featured on ‘Best Scottish Poets’ by the Scottish Poetry Library. Her recent work appears in The Interpreter’s House, Magma, Lighthouse, Agenda, Ambit and Poetry Salzburg. She is poet in residence for Hargate Primary School in West Bromwich and works regularly in schools and on community projects in partnership with a wide variety of organisations.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

A poem by Andrea Witzke Slot


What I Saw on the Heath Today,
                       June Fourteenth, Two Thousand Seventeen

                                                            Lines composed the morning of the Grenfell Tower fire,
                      11 days after the London Bridge attack, 23 days after the Manchester Arena bombing
         ____________________________________________________________
 Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.   
       — Martin Luther King, Jr



Consider this a missive to every terrorist, every murderer,
    every person past and present who has visited anguish
    on this teeming, heart-breaking, pulsating city of London
    and on so many of its sister cities throughout the world,
a missive to every hater who has caused innocent people
    to have been injured and slaughtered and slain
    in the communities of so many countries and so many lands,
a missive to every loser who will cause more horror and pain
    before I finish writing these words—
    or before you, reader, can finish reading them—
a missive to those who have been caught, and the many more who haven’t,
a missive to all those who cause suffering by design or neglect,
a missive to all those who don’t give a shit if they cause suffering by design or neglect,
a missive to all those who do give a shit but who fail to act when they know they
    could have and wake to find it’s too late, way too late,
a missive to all those who inflict suffering in myriad, malevolent, ill-advised ways,
a missive to all those who’ve ripped sorrow like bullets through the flesh of the world. 

This is a message to you.

But this is not your poem.

Whoever you are—reader good and reader evil—come with me. 
I want to show you what I saw on the tree-lined paths of the Heath this morning,
    on this, a sunny June morning as the news of flames and terror and smoke
    filled the screens of our phones and televisions and computers and minds,
    and yes I was running madly, with fury and frustration and tears
    but there is so much to tell you, so much I saw. 
I saw men and women, and women and women, spreading blankets on the grass.
I saw bicycles and runners and walkers and babies in prams streaming past. 
I saw men and women, young and old, swimming in ponds in parallel lanes.
I saw children in shallow pools splashing water at the adults who watched them,
    adults ready to catch these small humans should any harm come their way, 
    and I saw many small hands holding grownup hands.
I saw black mothers laughing with white fathers with many tattoos near playground slides, 
    and I saw children of many colours, running side by side, and I saw men with arms linked   
    and I heard at least three languages and many more accents,
    and I saw a woman in a beautiful red sari, and I saw a group of Chinese students
    observing a patch of flowers near an ancient Oak, and I saw a man in a turban
    listening to music, and I saw a white-bearded man
    with dirty jeans sleeping peacefully on a bench.
I saw a group of young women in hijabs laughing, and blonde girls laughing, 
    and two redheaded boys grinning, and so many people holding hands.
I saw grandparents calling out names gently and small people with fat legs running 
    towards their open arms.
I saw a small black boy pushing his small doll in a miniature pushchair, smiling
    as he headed in the opposite direction to the mother who called to him.
I saw an elderly Indian man holding a toddler’s hand and I saw that boy smiling
    at everyone who passed, his head turning with theirs,
    and then with mine as we both grinned.
I saw dogs swimming and owners calling and dogs shaking their fur wildly and towels rumpled.
I saw dogs rolling together on the ground and I swear those dogs had big smiles on their faces,
    and I saw people carrying loaves of bread and bottles of wine.
I saw people dotted all over open lawns as if in a Renoir painting but with darker colours too,
    many colours, many-coloured faces and clothes and feet without shoes.
I saw a young girl reading a book on a fallen log and I saw a man sitting in weeds 
    painting a watery scene before him, and I saw a scarred man in a wheelchair with legs   
    bandaged chatting in Polish to the woman who pushed him, and I saw two large white
    women sitting on a bench laughing as they smoked cigarettes, sweating even more than me. 

And they too know.

They know flames are rising and ashes are smouldering. 
They know people are missing and families are crying even as brothers and sisters
    and sons and daughters and fathers and mothers and friends and lovers
    continue to weep from the egregious tragedies
    of last week, last month, last year.
And they know people are still recovering in hospitals from bloodied Borough Market   
    knives and that families and friends are still mourning loved ones hit by vans,
    that families and friends are still mourning loved ones who died trying
    to save people they’d never met on London Bridge.
They know Manchester survivors are still hurting and that families are still grieving
    as they watch the news of today’s horror unfold on phones and televisions 
    and computers in homes and in shops and in office blocks
    and in hospitals and clinics and schools and cafés and parks,
    and they know children are still aching, and that teenagers are still in torment
    as they stare up at pictures of Ariana Grande taped on their hospital walls,
    her perfect white teeth shining kindly, and maybe these young people
    are at this very moment tapping their feet to her music, to melodies that play over
    and over in their heads, even as, just hours down the road, families in London
    are fighting fire, crying in pain, screaming out at the impossible distance
    to the earth below, to life as it once was, to life at all,
    and loved ones are standing on the ground looking upwards, helpless,
    powerless to stop the frenzied teeth of flames as it rips into the hearts
    and bodies of so many loved ones, rips to shreds every trace of life as it once was,
    every toy, every photo, every small picture a child once drew for them,
    and soon we will know more of the horror of human loss, 
    the incredible toll, the human cost. And still the flames rise and still the ashes
    are smouldering. And it won’t be long before we know of the phone calls that carry
    the last trace of so many loved ones. So many loved ones. 
Gone, wiped from this earth, rising to the sky in smoky ash. 

And it is not that we forget that people are crying out in anguish elsewhere
    when tragedy unfolds in our own streets and neighbourhoods.  
It just becomes more real, more poignant, more agonizing when so close to home, 
    so damned close to those we love,
    so damned close that we could—and do—reach out to touch it. 

But it is still morning in this poem and the news is still unclear and there is much 
    we will later hear but we know that a building is on fire and that smoke
    is streaming upwards and that people are screaming, and still we carry on,
    and I cry as I write this and yet what lies before me is a blanket spread like a sunny day,
    and so many people are in front of me and beside me and behind me holding hands,
    and I am running home to write this, and here I am sweating and panting and crying
    but I had to run quickly, you see. I had to find pen and paper to write it all down,
    to tell you the news. The incredible, unbelievable news. 

Happy is alive. Despite the pain and evil in the world, Happy is the rebel, the insurgent
    who refuses to hide. Happy is alive and well and full and fat and I saw it with my own eyes
    and I saw how it reached out to slap the face of evil’s ways. It is a tank blasting through
    war-torn fields, a war cry among war cries, and it bulldozes the world’s cruelty and hatred
    with courage and fortitude and might no matter how brutal the times.

Happy is audacious and resilient and a devil-be-damned storm of valour and hope,
    and I swear it’s running around everywhere like those dogs on the Heath 
    who dream nightly of jumping and swimming and splashing and playing 
    in the commons and greens of London, near the Heath’s waters, 
    in and beyond the Heath’s borders, on any number of sunny lawns and parks,
    and I swear it is superhuman, as strong as humanity itself, and maybe it is humanity itself.

And yet Happy is not stupid. It knows heartbreak. It knows heartbreak is everywhere. 

But that does not mean Happy is going anywhere. 

For Happy is as old as the world itself
    and as wise, and as obstinate, and as stalwart and towering as an ancient Oak,
    and as infuriating as an anthill shaken,
    and as relentless as a constant apology—an unremitting act of mercy—
    for all it cannot stop, for all it will continue to blast through and through—

See it? Happy is opening your door, taking you by the hand as you move out
    and along your neighbourhood streets, streaming its warm energy upwards
    along the Thames, pouring its life-blood into every community from the West to the East,  
    from the South to the North, steering its love upwards along the motorways to Manchester 
    and on to other cities, jumping on board quickly-moving trains
    and ferries and ships and planes, travelling onwards and outwards to a thousand
    other towns and homes and parks and schools and nightclubs and malls and calm country  
    lanes and loud city streets, and silent spaces too where people keep dreams,
    where they worship and pray, where they make love and cry and eat and sleep,
    and it is curling up in every place two or more are gathered, and in every place
    one cries alone, squeezing its way into every cavity of this great earth, every crevice
    soaked or not with the blood of humanity’s wounds
    and its great tears of grief.  

Yes, Happy survives and thrives and has claws and fangs, too.
It is there and it is here and it will be there and here tomorrow.
And it will be there and here the day after and the day after again. 
And Happy has a thousand faces, and sometimes it is not so loud, sometimes
     it is as subtle and quiet as the sun on an outstretched palm,
     an apple tree’s pink blossom,
     a bus pulling up in winter’s rain.

Go now. Quickly. Stand on any street or park in any town. You will see it! 
People shaking hands. Saying How do you do. They really are saying I love you. 
And you might just smile through your tears, through all the damned news, 
    through the smouldering ashes, through the great sorrow and despair,
    and you might just hear the words of the beautiful stranger we’d later hear
    on the news, This has shown how much people care,
    and still the ashes are smouldering, and still people are crying,
    and still there is so much pain,
    rivers of hurt and streams of tears, and yes the heartrending despair
    will continue and remain, walking and living and breathing among us
    for weeks and years and centuries to come, but Happy digs its roots
    into the soil of our souls even as it reaches its great arms outwards
    and pulls the sky towards its great chest, and Happy knows the pain will not go away 
    but Happy refuses to abandon us, no matter how much this world takes
    and destroys and breaks and hates,
    and Happy is children and friendship and kindness and madness, and
    it is stubborn, and it is power and delight, fury and fright. Despite every loss,
    every murder, every human life cut short, every act of hatred and rage and evil,
    however large or small, however near or far, Happy is by god the dragon
    with feathers and is the Olympus with a million trees that burst into a billion leaves
    that crown the rebirth of buds that release their dust-like pollen
    to blow outwards like tiny parachutes, like hope, like stardust in the summer wind,
    floating along the very streets in which we breathe and die and flourish and fail
    and do you hear what it is saying? Do you hear what it is saying
    over and over and over again?  

It is a message that spites every terrorist, murderer, man and woman of evil and hate.
It is saying, I love you. It is saying, I love you. It is saying, love as I do. 
And it is not saying it is a panacea or a final cure,
    but it is saying, love others too, for love feeds change and change feeds truth.
And it is saying, others might or might not love you. 
And it is saying, it matters not whether they don’t or if they do. 
It is saying, I love you. It is saying, I love you and you and you and you and you,
     and you, reader, you, reader, you, and you.








Influenced by trees and a lifetime of vivid synesthetic dreams, Andrea Witzke Slot is author of To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012), a mixed-genre poetry collection inspired by H.D. in title and form, while her second book of poetry was shortlisted for Eyewear Press's Beverly Prize. She’s won prizes with Fiction International and Able Muse, and recent work can be found in such UK and US journals as Ambit, Acumen, American Literary Review, Meridian, Mid-American Review, Southeast Review, and Under the Radar, among many others. An American expat and permanent resident of the UK, Andrea lives in London but visits Chicago regularly. Her website is www.andreawitzkeslot.com.

Monday, 11 June 2018

A poem by Rebecca Irene

Dodo Show


Sailors spit out gristly dodo meat, smashed one-egged
nests, cut down dodo legs mid-lazy-dodo-waddle,

yet in the sky above the earthly one, dodos finally love their ugly
heads and eat no more meals of iron and stones.

Dodos titter and tut over butterflies for breakfast. Excitement mounts
over larvae for lunch. Finally, across onyx heavens, the movie’s blaze.

The dodo show begins as it always begins— on Mauritius,
long before ships arrived. Food— plentiful, comfort— plentiful,

predators— few. Wings were long and lovely. Dodos shriek
delight at scenes of morning dodo mating in the sand.

Groans resound as time-lapse footage reveals night after night
of slumber, wings winging away, feather by gold-green dodo feather.

Cinema lengthens, time lengthens.
Understand— the reedits never end with dodo extinction.

Past the Indian Ocean, the sailors’ descendants wake: plump-bellied,
curly-haired, wide-eyed, waddling babes. Human food— plentiful,

human comfort— plentiful, predators— few. Conversations long
and lovely. The dodos clack, sob, stomp their dodo claws.

Dodos who recognize the ease and greed of evolution. Dusk after dusk,
they watch our children grow: TV, tests, twitter, texts.

How they mock us: our complacency, our years of minute subtractions.




An earlier version of this poem appeared in Stanza, Summer 2015











Rebecca Irene is a graduate of Swarthmore College, and recently received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work can be found in Sixfold, and elsewhere. She lives in Portland, Maine, where she supports her word-addiction by waitressing.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

A poem by Dipo Baruwa-Etti

My Beige Scarf 


My beige scarf has become an Etti.
It shapeshifts through the autumn, winter, and spring,
contorts sans any mourning aches
and morphs into a pavise
then looks beyond the dust-clad window
only to observe the zealot
June
climbing up the stairs with nakedness.

My beige scarf quakes.











Dipo Baruwa-Etti is a London-based playwright and poet, whose work has been showcased at venues including Arcola Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, and Old Vic Workrooms.

Monday, 4 June 2018

A poem by Lisa Kelly

‘When I Lose This Tooth, I’ll Age Twenty Years in Half an Hour’


Why do I laugh? At the truth about her tooth,
and immediately I know I will put it in a poem,
but am cautious about rhyming tooth with truth.
Should I extract truth? And immediately
I am cautious about punning. And look at
how far the truth has stretched from the tooth –
how this woman's remaining front tooth
is somehow a precarious totem for her youth
(I am less cautious about rhyming tooth with youth)
which hangs by a thread, and immediately I am cautious
about cliché (but I do like totem) And later, I read
malocclusion in a poem by another poet, and plan
to include, and immediately I am cautious
about plagiarism. And I think back to the inspiration
for the idea of a poem over a dinner of pizza
with a stone-baked crust, which she could not eat,
and how the inspiration immediately took me away
from the immediacy of the brilliance of her line,
When I lose this tooth, I’ll age twenty years in half an hour.
And immediately, I am bored of that line, and perhaps
not immediately (who can ever say when?) I think,
Why half an hour? When I re-write this line, it will read,
When I lose this tooth, I’ll age twenty years in half a second.
And immediately I am cautious that in the future,
just as there will be no tooth, there will be no poem.










Lisa Kelly is half Danish and half deaf. She is Chair of Magma Poetry and co-edited ‘The Conversation Issue’ and ‘The Deaf Issue’. She hosts poetry evenings at the Torriano Meeting House, London. Her pamphlet Bloodhound is published by Hearing Eye and work has appeared in PN Review, Ambit, Antiphon, The Spectator, South Bank Poetry, The Rialto, Prole, Urthona, Brittle Star and Tears in the Fence. Anthologies include Asterism; and Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back. A selection of poems feature in Carcanet’s New Poetries VII. Her pamphlet, Philip Levine’s Good Ear (Stonewood Press) is forthcoming 2018.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

A poem by Peter Kenny

Commuted


En garde, I whisper, lunging onto the train,
my elbows dexterous in their micro-aggressions.
We're all on the same line, and I re-read
the same line, until a well-Wellingtoned woman

treads on the tail of my eye. She follows a red setter
carving through cow parsley into an open field.
He sprints, I sprint, into the priceless possibility
of a place with no station and nothing to stab for.










Peter Kenny is a poet and playwright and a freelance creative director working with health and humanity clients. His poetry publications include ‘The Boy Who Fell Upwards’ part of A Guernsey Double (2010) Guernsey Arts Commission and the pamphlet The Nightwork published by Telltale Press in 2014. Also Acumen, And Other Poems, E.Ratio, The Frogmore Papers, Other Poetry, Poetry London, Island Review, Under the Radar and more. He blogs at peterkenny.co.uk

Monday, 28 May 2018

A poem by Becky Bicks

exfoliant


The other day I almost panicked when I realized that
every piece of skin you’d ever touched on me
would someday leave my body.

Someday there would be a me
that had never been touched
by a you.

I tried to take stock of the things I still hold onto:
your birthday, favorite font (Garamond),
the nickname from the boyfriend you had before me (Freckles);
the way your mother taught you to never sleep in underwear (your body needs to breathe),
your favorite Christmas movie (Miracle on 34th Street, the 1994 remake),
the way you told me in the end that
even though it took awhile you were glad
you'd had the chance to teach me
to be a good kisser
(I’ll appreciate it later).

I realized, also, there are things I’m now forgetting:
what number Chanel you wore (5? 19?),
the way you liked to eat your wings (with blue cheese or ranch, or did you even like wings);
how you knew, when it was two girls
which one should hold the umbrella
(should you just hold your own)
and whether it even counted as sex
if you only ever used your hands.

I think I’m maybe also starting to forget
that thing that you said at the end
(I almost believed it)
about romantic and platonic love – they’re fluid;
how what we had here wasn’t an ending
just a shifting of form,
a reconceptualization (your word),
something easy.
You said, also, then
that sex was just another thing
you can do with people
you like to do things with.
So isn’t it simply nice
to have had the opportunity
to get to know another side of someone so well?
(Imagine how bonded we’ll be
in this next phase
of friendship).

Recently, I’ve contemplated sleeping again
in a t-shirt and underwear,
since I don’t actually mind feeling protected,
and I’ve also been wondering
if it could really possibly be true
that a remake is anywhere near
as good as an original.

This morning I read an article in a newsletter
(from Women’s Health Daily).
It was called,
“Why it’s Important to Remove Dead Skin.”












Becky is a writer, photographer, and designer currently living in Beacon, NY. Her work has appeared previously in The Wilderness House Literary Review, Eunoia Review, and decomP Magazine. She was born and raised in Memphis, TN.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A poem by Ceinwen Haydon

Lena Love


Lena’s off to church one final time.
Sweating, and shaking,
she shuffles off
down her garden path.

She sits in a pew at the back.
Incense fumes smoke roses
from the chasuble.
They catch her throat.

Dimly, she remembers Harry.
They’d wed in all their finery,
later he’d scarpered, for good.

He’s left her lonely, holding
only one keepsake. Love.
His surname Love.









Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in web magazines and print anthologies. These include Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Alliterati, Stepaway, Poets Speak (whilst they still can), Three Drops from the Cauldron, Snakeskin, Obsessed with Pipework, The Linnet’s Wing, Blue Nib, Picaroon, Amaryllis, Algebra of Owls, Write to be Counted, The Lake, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Riggwelter with work coming up in Prole, Poetry Shed, The Curlew and Atrium. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in December 2017.

Monday, 21 May 2018

A poem by Jeremy Decker

Going


Where does all the going go —
and does it ever went?
I’ve heard the gray men whisper snow —
and seen the red invent

new weather for the coming time —
in blue — in green — in yellow —
construct the dappled paradigm —
four walls where go can go.

And round the square the going goes —
to sniff at every corner —
til gray men hang her with a rose —
til red men try to mourn her —

“Where has all the going gone?”
That’s all I hear and see —
But dead men know what’s done is done —
The red — the gray — and me.










Jeremy Decker is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet from Mountain View, CA. His poetry has appeared in Old Red Kimono, The Road Not Taken, Stepping Stones Literary Magazine, and others.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A poem by Jean Taylor

Kerbside


The edge of the high street
after dark

orange shadows
stretch over concrete

the stink of beer-breath hangs
in the air          you are touched

by the otherness of strangers
the thin crush of their  bodies.

Hold your head gentle
simulate indifference.

Fuck fuck knuckles bark
against bus shelter

two drunk men now
trainers jeans hooded jackets

a drunk girl aggravating,
scraping at the edge of anger.

They grapple on the pavement
topple over the kerb, flailing

onto the edge of the high street
after dark.








Jean Taylor belongs to Words on Canvas – a group of writers who work in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland. Her poetry has been published in a range of publications including Orbis, Northwords Now, Freak Circus and Poetry Scotland. She writes poems to explore what she is thinking or feeling, to express outrage or sorrow, or just for the pleasure of playing with words.

Monday, 14 May 2018

A poem by Julie Sampson

Piano lesson


struggles
to Keep time
she struggles
to time Keep
time
her ticking piano
teacher says
you keep running with the quavers you
Must Not
rush your Bach
the crotchets
need a steady beat
keeping time, the pulse

is like a walking man along the regular street
beat beat Beat









Julie Sampson's poetry has recently appeared in a variety of magazines, including, Shearsman, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Journal, The Algebra of Owls, Molly Bloom, The Poetry Shed, The Lake, Poetry Space and Amethyst Review. Shearsman published her edition of Mary Lady Chudleigh; Selected Poems, in 2009 and her full collection, Tessitura, in 2014. A non-fiction manuscript on the subject of Devon Women Writers was short-listed for The Impress Prize, in 2015 and a pamphlet, It Was When It Was When It Was has recently been published by Dempsey and Windle.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

A poem by Maureen Cullen

Strawberry Tarts and Swan Vestas


Rickety smile under the Ramsay beak.
Eagle… hawk… chatterbox bird,

ma clerty, ma flower, they chanty-wrastlers.

Clink of dimpled glass in a horseshoe bar,
brass rim holds up the camaraderie of strangers.

Sulphur scratch of a match, putter puff of pipe in palm,
coppers pinched from pockets for a garrison of grandweans.

Cap on tight for an early start in Clydeside smirr, trousers
braced to breastbone, wide enough for two city bakers.

For my first Holy Communion, though priest and penance shy,
best spread in the hall. Chocolate boats, strawberries in sweet liquor.









Maureen Cullen writes poetry and short fiction. In 2016, she was published along with three other poets in Primers 1, a collaboration between Nine Arches Press and the Poetry School. She has poems published in Prole, The Lake, The Interpreter’s House, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Reach Poetry and Salopeot.

Monday, 7 May 2018

A poem by Wanda Deglane

They Tell You It Gets Easier


How do I ease your worried mind?

My father, he tells me I’m okay now.
He says, It’s been years. He says,
What more could you possibly get out
of these pills? Of endless therapy?

But my mother is persistent now. Every day
without fail, she asks me, Did you take
your medication?
When visiting family,
she says, She’s just been sick, that’s all.
She’s getting better.
And my aunts and
uncles ask, Oh, sick with what? My parents
glance at one another with tight, thin lips,
and take another drink.

How do I soothe your worry lines?

My father scours my room with
extinguished eyes. He finds clothes strewn
about the floor, my sleeping body littered
on my bed for the past few days now. How
do you live like this?
he screams, almost in pain.
Are you some kind of pig? Aren’t you ashamed?
And his poor pig daughter, I sit up, bleary-eyed,
confused and stare at him until he finally, finally
gives up on me.

How can I make everything alright again?
How do I stop you from looking at me
like I’m withering away, from searching for me
like I’m already dead?

My mother, she calls me one afternoon in
the middle of the week, and nearly chokes on her
own relief when I answer the phone. Oh, oh, gracias
a Dios, gracias a Dios, she cries. What is it, Mom?
What happened? Are you okay?
She’s sobbing
into the phone now, says, Nothing, hijita, everything is fine.
I just had a feeling, the worst feeling, I was so scared.
But everything is okay now.
I hang up minutes later,
and step back from the open window. My mother
wipes away her tears and wonders to herself
if it is finally time to stop hiding the kitchen knives.

She decides against it, locks them away yet another night.










Wanda Deglane is a psychology/family & human development student at Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming on Dodging the Rain, Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. She writes to survive. Wanda is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and lives with her giant family and beloved dog, Princess Leia, in Glendale, Arizona.