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


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


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.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

A poem by Joanna Nissel


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


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.

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.