Thursday, 20 September 2018

A poem by Sam Payne

This Pear


It’s not a gold one in a glass box
or a painting hung in a gallery.

It’s not the one I sliced in half
with a blunt knife and shared
with a surfer on Fistral beach.

It’s not the one I mashed for my daughter
and watched as her pupils bloomed
when the sweet pulp touched
her tongue for the first time.

This pear, this one right here – once bathed
in sunlight and glazed with light rain - is the last
in the fruit bowl.

A tear drop. A stopped bell.
Ripe and freckled brown.
A soft steady weight in my palm. Old

now and almost past its best but I like how
when I squeeze the flesh, my thumbprint remains.










Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon, UK. Her poems have appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Literary Mama and The Open Mouse. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing with Teesside University through their distance learning programme.

Monday, 17 September 2018

A poem by Noel Williams

A thousand fictions


Scheherazade reclines behind my eyes.
I’m wondering which of me watches her flex
an ankle glazed in the slide of falling silks.
I’ve discovered different sorts of ignorance.

Somewhere between the curious boy
chewing the peak of his cap
and this too solid body now fearing to forget
I find the blindness of knowing my exact desire.

Consider bees in lavender, frantic
in the snack of the moment. They’re sure the next flower
will be it, the one secreting that colour of sky
that pumps the queen, waxes cell-walls to mirrors,
caught in the gauze of her story.









Noel Williams is the author of Out of Breath (Cinnamon, 2014) and Point Me at the Stars (Indigo Dreams, 2017) with poems published in the UK, US and elsewhere. He's co-editor of Antiphon (antiphon.org.uk), Associate Editor for Orbis (www.orbisjournal.com), an occasional writing mentor and reviewer for The North and Envoi.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A poem by Sharon Phillips

Absent Friend

i.m. M.W.

Your letter's so old the paper has yellowed,
its edges the colour of the nicotine stain
on your fingers. It was Rothman’s you smoked;
the ash fell grey and white on your cassock

as we sat in your clergy flat and talked.
You said you were sinful. Morning sun shone
through thin brown curtains you kept drawn,
glanced off red and gold icons on your wall,

the bottle of Russian vodka next to your chair.
You said you loved men. You said it was wrong.
You wrote out your recipe for aubergine salad,
in black ink on paper from your spiral notebook.

Your hand shook as you wrote. One Christmas
you gave me a case of sweet pink Krimsekt
and menthol cigarettes in gold and green packs.
You saw I was lonely. You made me laugh.

The last time we met we ate fish and chips.
I’ve always been celibate, you said. Your face
was sallow. You said you’d stopped drinking.
Keep well and happy, your letter ends.









Sharon is a retired college principal, who lives on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset. She spends her time cooking, reading and writing poems, some of which have been published or are forthcoming in Ink Sweat and Tears, Atrium, The High Window, Amaryllis and Snakeskin, among others.

Monday, 10 September 2018

A poem by Kelli Simpson

Love Culture


This is no place for falling out of love.
Love quotes hang like bunting in the rafters.
"We loved with a love that was more than love"
side by side with "happy ever after."
Pages of love poems paper the walls.
"I Loved You First," "The White Rose," "Flirtation."
Poets scream sonnets in every hall.
The moon murmurs slick, sweet meditations.
Throats are foot thick with love songs and lyrics.
"At Last," "Crazy," "I Will Always Love You."
Louder, louder to drown out the cynics -
"Just Like a Woman." "With or Without You."
Here, you are either Venus or vulture,
lip locked deep in a phony love culture.










Kelli Simpson is a mother and poet living in Norman, Oklahoma. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including The Five-Two, Riggwelter, After the Pause, Glasgow Review of Books, and Eunoia Review. Find more of her work at http://mamaneedsshoes.blogspot.com.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

A poem by Louise Wilford

Jude


You are the palest ring, the one
that nests inside the others,
flawed with at least one spilling knot-hole -
the oldest year, the eye of the wind.
You are within the curve of the wave,
its shielded centre, water curling
over you with blue-green wings.
You are at the hub, the sheltered
pivot around which others spiral.

You are the tender nucleus,
the pips inside the firm chamber
of the apple’s core. And at your heart,
the grown-up, glad-eyed girl still smiles,
a planet harboured by its sparkling circlet,
a tower defended by its crenelated
barricade. You are the hidden metaphor
at the axis of our mystery, the seat
of our success - the crux - the gathering place.

And we shall gather there,
for the time we have left will be finer
for the keeping of you - safe, out of harm’s
hounding. For if you keep us straight
and sound, holding the centre
of the sail in perfect alignment
with the wind that threatens to overspill
us, if you stay at the maze’s midpoint,
we will umbrella you home.










Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 90 poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshots, The Stinging Fly, Acumen, Pushing Out The Boat and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children's fantasy novel.

Monday, 3 September 2018

A poem by Rachael Hershon

To Wake Again


A room the color of light
passing through a beer bottle.
The bar swells with bald men—
fat, with hair on their knuckles.
One hand around a drink, the other
on the hips, love handles, asses
of their women—fake blondes

in cotton sundresses cackling.
I order a fingerprinted glass
of Aztec honey,
watch the bartender
pour tequila. Juan
sits beside me—
black-haired, paunched,

añejo-colored skin.
He is here every time I am.
A regular. Sucks down margaritas
and tall boys of PBR, tries to dance
with waitresses
to the shitty cover band.
“To your parents,”

he turns to me, raising his glass
with a thick, unsteady hand,
“for making such a beautiful daughter.”
We fake love for the night—
hold each other and sway
until the streetlights

turn black. Then, each couple
files out, careful not to trip
down the front step. We shrink
into rusting cars, a rising sun,

go home to bad sex
and sleep until 1 pm,
only to wake again in a place
that once seemed so ugly
so impossible to own.









Rachael Hershon's work has appeared in Bop Dead City. A Massachusetts native, Rachael currently teaches English Language Arts at a middle school just outside of Boston. Her work largely revolves around the themes of family, sexuality, and her hometown.


Thursday, 30 August 2018

A poem by Robert Nisbet

Found Elements 


Hopkins, the shy man next door,
would shrink back in, on bad mornings,
from the black dog he imagined in the street.

Jim, my other neighbour, says he would like,
if he should ever be re-born,
to return as a Labrador, golden and kind-hearted.











Robert Nisbet teaches classes on creative writing in his native Pembrokeshire, having previously been an associate lecturer at Trinity College, Carmarthen. He has two pamphlets with Prolebooks, Merlin’s Lane (2011) and Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes (2017).

Monday, 27 August 2018

A poem by Jennie Farley

The Lighthouse


was a room behind a door at the top
of a dark staircase, where those with
itchy pink spots, bad coughs, unstoppable
sobbing (and a girl called Muriel
who tipped a chamber pot
over her head) were taken.
I can’t remember why I was there,
but I remember feeling quite serene,
in a narrow bed with metal bars
and rough blankets, beneath a window
with no view except for the occasional bird
and clouds. No pictures, no books, no pencils.
Damp patches on the ceiling showed a camel,
a lacrosse stick, Jesus walking on the water.
I made a rabbit out of my hankie. I picked
at the scabs on my knees. I counted my sins.
I was a voice on the radio. Here is an important
announcement. At midnight the world will end.












Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Prole and online journals. She has performed her work at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Swindon Poetry Festival, Bristol Poetry Revue, Cheltenham Everyman Theatre and local venues. She runs workshops at the Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery, and founded and runs NewBohemians@CharltonKings providing regular events of music, performance, poetry and workshops. Her collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Press) was published in 2016. Her new collection Hex (IDP) comes out in 2018.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

A poem by Chanel Brenner

El Día de los Muertos 


Was Riley’s favorite holiday.
He loved smelling the sugar skulls,
didn’t mind that he couldn’t eat them.
My husband asks, Who wants a dead kid’s bike?,
then places Riley’s in the alley for someone to take.
Some believe the dead are insulted by sorrow.
My husband rummages through boxes in our garage
like we are having a fire sale.
He finds my dead father’s rare coins in a sock,
a card from my dead grandmother.
In Riley’s closet, I absorb the silent, airless church of his clothes,
and realize sugar skulls have space on the forehead for a name.
My husband runs outside to retrieve Riley’s bike.









Chanel Brenner is the author of Vanilla Milk: a memoir told in poems, (Silver Birch Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the 2016 Independent Book Awards and honorable mention in the 2014 Eric Hoffer awards. Her poems have appeared in New Ohio Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, Muzzle Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Spry Literary Journal, Barrow Street, Salamander, and others. Her poem, “July 28th, 2012” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest, judged by Ellen Bass. In 2014, she was nominated for a Best of the Net award and a Pushcart Prize.

Monday, 20 August 2018

A poem by Olivia Tuck

Year Seven


When I wake up on Monday, I’ve grown too much to dance without a lad. I see Matt from Year Eight outside the girls’ toilets and he gives me a gobstopper - does that mean we’re in love? I can’t message him to check ‘cause Mum’s kidnapped my phone. She wouldn’t let me have the red bra I liked when we were shopping; it was too sexy, and I’m not allowed to miss dinner even though I’m fat. In maths, Lily stabs herself with a compass on purpose. Becky says Lily is an attention seeker so we can’t talk to her. Lily cries 'til she dehydrates. Tough. Life aches. I want the jigsaws and poster paints of last year, and the book corner. I want Miss Maynard’s candyfloss breath; her satin hand to hold. I have to stop: get Lil-Lets. I need Feminax, but the cow on the till says I’m too young to buy painkillers. I hate her – she’s ancient, and she’s clearly forgotten how it feels. Apparently having an actual baby hurts more: more than crucifixion or whatever. You wish the midwife would shove a spear in your side and end everything. You can get pregnant if there’s sperm on the toilet seat, Becky told me. Becky says: you have to be careful, me and you could both get up the duff now. We are the moon but unpredictable – adults bang on about phases, besides, our months start like the moon’s months: in the dark. Only the moon is graceful about it. No blood. And I doubt there’d be The Hurt – it hurts like your kidneys are brinjals from being kicked in, it hurts like thumbscrews crushing your squealing ovaries – out in the vacuum of space. Speaking of vacuums, Grandma reckons I should do housework. On top of all my homework. I am becoming a woman, see.












Olivia Tuck has had pieces published in literary journals and webzines including The Interpreter's House, Lighthouse, Amaryllis (where she was thrilled to be nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem) and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her work also featured in Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, the Fly on the Wall Poetry charity anthology on the subject of mental health, and she has been Highly Commended and shortlisted in one or two short story competitions. She starts at Bath Spa University this autumn, to study for a BA in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites

Thursday, 16 August 2018

A poem by Ceinwen Haydon

Briclafare


My feudpyred friend
haltcorked her tears.
Duck swore perverse,
whipped fate doxpara
y spun-flitted, gob-treasured
secritudes y myrracurves.
Nay. Nay. Bank-tellers
writ conflagratious lies
hell-boxed im culpritude.
Yeck, harky, harky all.
Y womanbroad ist raed
y soothed in dancélot
dris dramas y each thaun
bratlivist mordauncy.









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, Prole, Poetry Shed, The Curlew and Atrium. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in December 2017.

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.