Pam Muller – three poems

A Scarce Decade

Thorny stems claimed my late neighbour’s home.
Grabbed what ground they could, crept under the eaves and pushed in.

The rising path John once walked, now belongs to the hare.

Ivy seals the windows, a tree grows from the chimney.
Winter winds have lifted slates and knocked the leaning shed.

In the slant of sun, slow cattle moved in the bramble field.

Fallen stones lie scattered where the wild goats leaped a wall.
The rusted gate still hinges on twisted wire and twine.

Fuchsia bells droop over the fence his grandchildren climbed.

The hedge he trimmed is tall and wild with purple flowers.
I pause as I pass his door, where he leaned his blackthorn stick.

Been years since a dog came out to join me on my walk.


After All

The calloused grandfather tells us of hard times,
mixing concrete with a shovel, digging foundations by hand.
How he kept joking when he felt like walking away from it all,
drinking the health of another newborn.

The grandmother tells us, we had nothing, we did
the best we could and made soup with the bones.
Children collected berries in jars to make jam.
They played with a skipping rope and stones.

Every year she knitted seven woolen jumpers,
The children chose the colour wool they wanted,
got from the jam money she made with their help.
She crocheted a shawl for the baby with the scraps.

Now her gnarled hands fold rugs, often mended,
loyalties recalled, embroidered in careful stitches.
When they were young they sang, danced and loved.
That is what they had, after all.


Granddad’s Weekend Break

Heart attack
two stents more
that makes four
In Friday
out Monday
good as new
or nearly
How was your
weekend break
Some holiday
he said
the bed
uncomfortable
the food
inedible, no butter
no salt, but
the nurse was
beautiful
I almost lost
my heart


Pam Muller was born in South Africa in 1958 and has been living in the South West of Ireland since 1978. She has been writing poetry since she joined Clan na Farraige,
‘People of the Sea,’ a small writer’s group in Kenmare, Co. Kerry over twenty years ago. She won the Speaking for Scéine Poetry Chapbook 2014 prize and originalwriting.ie poetry prize in 2015. Her early poems appear in Perspectives (Askif Press, 2005), a self-published collection which she shared with her husband Etienne Muller and son Michael Muller.

Charles G Lauder Jr – two poems

The Hideout

Far from the madding crowd you must build
a hideout—treehouse, hawthorn den,
village hovel across the sea, whatever.

Stash there a lifetime of loot, starting with
the Stratocaster and amp, blunt picks as bookmarks
in passages of Lawrence and Hardy you meant

to return some day. Cover the walls with silk
valances from Oman reeking of cinnamon
and men beheaded in Saudi market squares,

Audrey Hepburn’s portrait, and sketches
of past lovers asleep in sunlight. Cut
the doorway low and arduous, crawl in

as if at the end of a seven-year pilgrimage.
Preserve each room with stems of lavender
scattered on sofa and window sill,

sealed with turquoise shutters stitched tight
with cobwebs. Share this place with no one.
Already woodworm bore into Aunt Laura’s

pine sideboard and your love of Dad’s Army,
pigeons desecrate the bed through holes in the roof,
mice make nests out of the half-baked manuscript.


The Search for Sustenance

Lost amidst fourteenth-century city walls
there has been a schism. Steps chipped and marked,
the home of Lady Day parades and bishopric feet
with Cross held high, lead into the papal palace
swept by the sway of rouge robe and censer.
How small and diminished beneath this vaulted
painted sky of cherub couples waltzing
on bowed heads. Mass is still mass
in any language, comforting yet claustrophobic
like the houses’ approach in the older
purer districts, half-shuttered and not speaking
to strangers. The travel guide has been stolen,
petals of letters home pressed inside
have been torn apart and scattered,
half-formed thoughts that will soon perish
in the rain, beneath shoe and tire tread.

There is peach orchard after peach orchard
beyond the gates in the wall. Corpulent
sun-baked flesh dangling from branches
stretched out towards the road, a gift
to be plucked before anyone notices.
The first bite sends rivulets of hot juice
trickling down the chin. Pickers in Speedos
or cut-offs and bikini tops dart
amongst the trees like industrious nymphs.
But each farm says the same: pas de travail.
Ripe with blisters from day-long walking
and no sanctuary to be found
we finish on the riverbank shrouded
in sleeping bags, still not speaking,
feet pointed toward the water,
waiting for the rising tide.


Charles G Lauder Jr was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and has lived in the UK since 2000. His poems have appeared internationally, and his pamphlet Bleeds was published in 2012 by Crystal Clear Creators. Most recently he was highly commended in the 2015 Poetry Society Stanza Competition. He is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.

Richard Biddle – three poems

The Catch

Our aluminium row-boat full
of beer and ambitions,
we jump in, open a bottle and scull
toward the shallows.

Slugging back, longed-for swallows
we banter;
me an apprentice and him,
the master.

Dumb men, reeling each other in
with words.

Taking regular glugs, our voices
drunkenly mingle
as we watch for signs of struggle.

Woozily floating in the sliding tide
that laps at our lives,
we piss our boozy bliss
over the side.

Our dropped net is hope and the
popped tops of our brews, fizzing time.

We check the haul.
Hand over hand he pulls in as I row
slow oars, wet and steady.

Silver crescents of fish come twisting up.
Dizzy with agony, they gulp
dry-drowning gasps at us.

One by one he untangles their caught bodies
and coshes them with an empty.

In the calm pleasure of this moonlit swell and
clanking lager-brown, glass-rolling symphony,
their scales, hard as fingernails, glint like lenses.

Safely landed, the smell of it lingering on our fingers
and clothes, we drive an empty road home;

victims of the lure.


Remnants

Clutching a bag of just-turned crusts, she steps onto
the shoreline. Before a crumb is cast, they come;

the gulls. Gluttony breaks from beaks as they stab
at the broken host; relentless, ravenous. Screeching,

the flock attacks stale scraps, frenzied peck, after
frenzied peck. She stands amidst this assault, calm

as a corpse; a priestess performing the Eucharist.
Then as now, the space between us, like wings in

air, seems not to exist. Female form, bread and birds
alike, sea, beach, sky, everything entwined. Minutes

later, they have flown, and on they go scouring the
coast for carcases, trash-heaps, other homes – their

mewing calls, a barrage of thought, possessing the
silence that, haunts the vaults of my echoless skull.


Planting Onions

Crouched in drizzle, on loam
studded with flints, I plug the
earth with my obscene dibber.

Dropping sets, into these wet
orifices, is like burying pearls;
each one a treasured offering.

My bulb-bulging pockets make
me a muddy child, thieving
sticky handfuls of pick ‘n’ mix.

Their papery skins flutter away
like sweet wrappers, like moth
wings, like cigarette papers.

Looking skyward, through rain,
I speak a fertility prayer to Cepa,
purple-haired God of Alliums.

Let these seeds; swell with bruised
water, become taut as scrotums,
sweat-sharp and sweeter than lust.

Oh the tears I will cry, as I peel
away the layers and chop, dice,
sauté or fry their caramel hearts.


Richard Biddle won the Big Blake Project 2013 poetry prize for his poem ‘Transparency’

His work is published online, and has appeared in; Urthona, Brittle Star Magazine and Dream Catcher and in the anthologies ‘Transformations’ and ‘The Nine Realms’.

On twitter, as @littledeaths68 he regularly contributes to the experimental writing projects @chimeragroup0 and @echovirus12.

His long, illustrated poem for children, ‘Horizon’, is due to be published this year by Birds Nest Books.

Brett Evans – three poems

Jawbones
for Kate O’Shea

Go hang yourselves, boys,
before you announce some martyr wept
tears for her enough to cause the Liffey
to flood or swell the Irish Sea. Hang yourselves
and your Celtic twilight too.

The sweetness of sonnets is sickly, boys.
No beau wants to choke
on the lady’s vomit. Go hang
yourselves if claiming long lost
Broadway lyrics penned
prematurely ; as if she’d nibble
at your deaf ear Let’s do it.

Best hang yourselves. Insist and I could swipe
a jawbone to take ten thousand down
and raze her city too. But what of that?
In such swift time she’ll have stuffed
your mouths with her sass.


The Monterey Strat

Made up and flaunting my body,
some would say I was asking for it.
The much plainer one he’d been with
all night; caressed her, kissed her, stroked,
fingered and licked her. Those hands
knew what they were doing;
who wouldn’t want a bit of that?
All night he wowed and wooed,
and it was the Summer of Love for Christ’s sake.
Shy, yet mischievous, how I thought him
from the wings. To be in his arms,
my curves tucked into his. The bastard
played a cheap tune on me; even that foreplay
was mocked by the violence to follow. He had me
up against the amp, laid me out, burned me.
Those long, strong fingers around my neck,
he smashed me to the stage; our music distorted.
The witnesses did nothing despite their shock.
It was obvious he’d do it to another.


Sloth on the Dawn Chorus

Sloth is not of the belief
that even music lovers wake up singing.
The birds may be lamenting the early light
and no lie-in. Some screech, some hoot,
some with shoulders back look to seize
the fucking day and all who have disturbed it.
Sloth can’t consider it a chorus
if they are all intent on different tunes.
He feels his late noon yawns
and farts much more symphonic.


Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native north Wales. His debut poetry pamphlet, The Devil’s Tattoo, was published by Indigo Dreams and he is co-editor at Prole.

Guinotte Wise – two poems

Between Wars

The war that split up all the families
Spit up all the grieving heaving
Yeah that scary war with newsreels
goose-steps heil hell and those
others with thick glasses big teeth
in all the comics that even Superman
couldn’t make me feel safe in the
gathering of paper and steel and
then the atomic bomb and then it
all began again. My old man might
have kissed that nurse in Times Square
his sailor hat squared on top
bending her back did she resist
and my stepfather packed the bags
and said goodbye to the Manhattan
Project that so taxed his engineering
nuclear fission nuclear fusion
made a world of smithereens
and I got a Red Ryder pump
to X the eyes of all the commies
tube of BBs road to ruin sure thing
being Mr. Death and more wars
ramping escalating upping ante
never ending notwithstanding
peaceniks beatniks signs in yards
and coexisting bumper stickers


Reno Pete

He drove a Lincoln Zephyr down to Caliente
fled to San Diego with the money in his shoes.
Circled back to Reno, then to Laughlin, Kansas City, danced with all the women on the way
Lost the Lincoln out in Vegas, vowed he’d never marry, off to Louisiana, ended up blacked out by Frisco Bay
The women said he danced and drunk or sober never minded wins or losses
Never minded cuts or bruises never wept nor cast aspersions never slowed his way of going always happy always spending always flashing teeth
and dancing teaching how it’s done his way
They knew he was a boxer, and therein was his dancing grace and spinning moves and laughing and yes he was a ladies’ man but never on the ropes of love and never down for long, much less for ten
Spectator shoes of black and white and moves transcendent lit the night
He danced and fought and gambled and made his weekly comebacks
To delight the whirling women, light up another fight card,
head for Caliente, the money in his shoes.


Guinotte Wise lives on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection Night Train, Cold Beer (Pelican Grove Press, 2013) won publication by a university press and not much acclaim. Two more books since. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it.

Melanie Branton – three poems

Manilla

I wanted to be enveloped by manilla:
strong, secure,
large letter size, recyclable.
I wanted to be bubble-wrapped.

But I found only men who were
lightweight, tear-resistant,
single use only,
self-sealing or
would not bend.
Second class.

They got lost in the post
and, damaged in transit,
my life has remained
stationary.


Kissing With Tongues

We love it, our little mongrel bastard,
spawned when Harold was shafted at Hastings.
A Norman bowman’s battle prick
burst the hymen of his eye,
spuming its load of Romance seed
into our Anglo-Saxon core.

Since then we’ve been kissing with tongues
with our inamorati, our fiancés, with the ombudsman,
at the rendezvous, in the bungalow, at the kindergarten,
for the paparazzi, for the pundits, for the hoi polloi.
We’ve sampled the smorgasbord and
that tutti-frutti macedoine
made our tastebuds sing.


Fused

I exchange polite formalities
with a man I’ve just met
and I notice he’s standing a little taller
and he’s started smoothing down his hair.

Our eyes meet
and it seems to me his pupils widen,
ink drops spreading through blotting paper.

I make discreet enquiries
and it turns out he’s got a girlfriend
(Of course he does. They always do.),

but I still want to thank him for
those few suspended seconds
of possibility

for the way I began to warm up
like a badly wired toaster
that had accidentally been plugged in,
giving off a fierce, but unstable heat
that could burn your house down,
but will probably just
cut out.


Melanie Branton shouts ineffectually at teenagers at an FE college as her day job. She has had poems accepted by journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House and Obsessed With Pipework. She was also the 2015 Bristol Hammer and Tongue regional slam champion. You can follow her blog at https://melaniebranton.wordpress.com/ and her tweets @sapiencedowne

Stuart A. Paterson – three poems

Rainbows

Here, rainbows are cheap,
coming in peely-wally pairs or knock-off
trios watercoloured hurriedly
onto skin-thin greasy sheets
of air. They’re not the thick & dazzling
particles that strut their spumes
of jewel on Skye or down by Lleyn,
laddered auroras seeming to climb
beyond the eye & into space
in that brief gasp of time suspended
overhead. Here, they linger drained
of depth & shade, pale arcs of ghost
drifting on the coat-tails of migratory
sun & scraped off soles of native rain.


Staying On

Summer is eternal & recurring here,
white strands of shell & longitudes of blue
come with the weekly lease & usually
they’ll throw in low tides, unhindered views
of Screel, authentic local beer.

Why try to remember that the cafè’s
only open til September or that
January brings floods that fill the pub,
when bar stools bob around inside
like beach debris, slow golems of Urr mud
inching closer with each sludge of tide?

Hestan’s igneous neb pokes into photos
snapped on soundtracks gushing sun,
children’s laughter, wee dogs yapping
challenges to the world & all the while
David Brown will always falter on
its beach, elude those reaching frantic
hands, be swept away to quietly drown.

There are no holiday snaps of Ian Carruthers
hanging high upon the skerries after
travelling down from Annan, no postcards
of that long gone pasture in the bay
where, fifty years ago, the Purdie brothers
paddled into shallow eternity.

Summer lasts a day, a week, the length
of handpicked memory on film or disk,
departs the moment you do, never follows,
stays forever here. Reminding myself
this isn’t really January, I spool
my eyes back half a year to when
they weren’t watering for them.


Lock-in
Tam O’Shanter Inn, Dumfries

Outside, Dumfries swoons in double
degrees of centigrade, a population
struggles with this upsurge, this assault
upon its northern pigmentation,
take to doorways, huddle under threadbare
trees, devour fags & hanker after times
when weather knew exactly what the fuck
that it was doing. Meanwhile, in the Tam,
there is no climate change, no atmospheric
troughs or peaks or seasons starting early,
ending late, none of that modern pish.
Here it’s always now, time locked in,
unmoving at the bar, expecting
nothing more than the occasional
tectonic yawning of a door.


Stuart A. Paterson was Dumfries & Galloway writer-in-residence from 1996-98. He returned to live in the area in 2012 after 14 years of working in social care in Manchester.

Previously a Gregory Award winner, he received a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship from the Scottish Book Trust in 2014, spending a month in Grez-sur-Loing to complete & compile Border Lines (Indigo Dreams 2015), which won Best Poetry Pamphlet at this year’s Saboteur Awards.

Aye, his first collection in Scots, has just been published by Tapsalteerie Press. Another pamphlet of Galloway poems, Looking South, will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2017.

Grant Tarbard – three poems

Lights Out in the Stroke Ward

The ward’s silence is a canvas stretched to hours.
The wireless plays the sweepstakes of tossing and turning,
a rumpus, a whorehouse of little explosions,
muscles stiff through a brisk day spent ambulating
with an NHS crutch and a collapse.
We all walk a bewitching tightrope
of pain and bottled relief, prisoners of our bodies.
Some are stripped down to their shadow,
machines breathe for them, fed through a tube,
stiff in their animation. We souls who clambered
into life boats mark each others spaces
with piled newspapers left open at the crossword puzzle,
tea cups that visitors have left with lip stick smears around the brim,
furrowed packs of jelly babies and black liquorice
spilled like the guts of a great ship
on the sea of our overhead tables.
The night nurses shine pocket torches about the ward,
unmindful of our eyes, a rapid sweep to check
that none of us have shuffled off into the night.
Cartilage clouts the too short beds, bones crack on taut white sheets
of the gestalt ward, other than the sum of our collected breaths,
spending the change of mortality, gold in the river.
I hear the treetops scrape the roof, like children whispering.
A broadcast churns the room, the old man’s fart recorded
as a gnostic gospel.


Mystery of the New York Skyline

and funfair ginger burning like a mule, hiked across the red milk / and fete geysers frothing off like a latte, ridden like a bull / and the cries of a night of failure / and stink hatred and love hatred / and stove pipe gardens of seagulls / and brick chimney stacks / and madness and madness and madness, the laughter of the balloon inflated and pricked / and the fallen tickled and racked and bloated like the dead of the Thames / and a racket like foxes squabbling over the dead rats in the garden, a seagull garden / and dread garden hanging from trees with limbs rewound, regret the rebrand / and copyright notices and board / and desalination in action, begging the extreme / and begin the beguine, a dance numbed and exotic, a Pacific cruise / and the Titanic Atlantic dragging to be let off the sink, the drain frame / and tonic water / and a explosion of dying, dying hips and dying ends / and dying kissed lips / and dying New York / and dying in state / and eyeing the skyline, to be cautious is to deny life / and song and sex and love / and the big game, versus action verse / and the dying minutes of overlap and vision par excellence / and Italy’s dying minutes / and par electrizat, come one, come all you heaving mass / and burden.

the mystery of it is where you are, where have you gone, / and what have you got? I see you but you’re nowhere fast / and far reaching sound blasts / and defending silence.

run boy run, the mystery of giants, the psychic of a gnat’s wing / and plotting the candle snuffed out.

This poem appears in Grant’s latest collection, Loneliness is the Machine that Drives this World (Platypus Press, 2016).


Leaving the House on Grub Street

The possibility of a troop of grotesques
breathing on me on the old goat bus
into town is unsettling. Do they appraise me
through my paper-thin disguise?

I’m sure that my headphones are screwed in
as the rasping doors open, eyes fixed
to the chewing gum spit on the pavement
as the unrested traffic of hawkers, swindlers,

makeshift leafleters peddling their paths
to God billow around my sickly white feet,
guarded by the sole hounds of Derby, cold
as stone. I hear strolling minstrels rhyme

their temporary poems, disposable
as beauty, needless as a description of sunset,
splendour of ended day. I barter for a poem of dusk
and this exits with me as the day coughs its last.


Grant Tarbard is the author of Yellow Wolf (WK Press, 2014), As I Was Pulled Under the Earth (Lapwing, 2016) and the newly released Loneliness is the Machine that Drives this World (Platypus Press, 2016).

He tweets @GrantTarbard

Rachael Smart – three poems

Holy

I swear on the holy bible
I want to be naked under the grit spreader
beneath its not red but yellow lorry
feel the salt stone my face
go under the wheels with Jesus
and when the sting comes, the treads and all the black stuff
that dead petroleum makes, all the fossils; the resurrected resin.
Then – only then – will you spray me out onto the pavement
rub Psalm 56 in my hair.


01: Pom-pom

‘The problem with cheerleading,’
my mother said, ‘is you need a gap
at the top of your thighs.’
She showed me how to wind wool
around a cardboard ring instead, the mohair
downy once you’d cut the stitching.
My fingernails caught on the gilt comma
of nana’s pinking scissors, a place to rest my thumb
and Dame Edna Everidge’s gob was a black ditch on ITV, another not-quite-woman.
Rah-rah red pom-poms, woolly substitutes on the sheepskin rug,
velour as the first pair of balls
I’d cupped, light in wet hands, my mouth.

I never got to try one of those pleated skirts:
nothing to whoop for.


Field

The cows fed on the top green
when the sun switched sides.
I couldn’t get over the size of them. Black as walls
velour drapes swung loose at their neck.
After, my father said we’d bought it on ourselves
what with kicking a red ball
and mother’s yawping, plus they don’t take kindly
to hairy dogs. He threw us over the stile that day
then jumped himself. I dream of the plush bump
of their noses at the chalet window
how their eyes bulged
when they came for him.


Rachael Smart is a writer from Nottingham with a thing about words. Her fiction and poetry has been published online, in literary journals and placed in writing competitions. She goes wild about poetry on ABCTales.com and is also an Associate Editor for the literary e-zine Cease, Cows. She writes best when her pencil loses its point.

Paul Mortimer – four poems

Empty Spaces

What if there was no-one in your life.
I mean

no-one.

How would you fill those empty spaces
crackling with tension?
Silence that isn’t
because noise is always humming
from sources beyond you.

Then you would realise that a clock
actually ticks somewhere in your house –
a metronome marking every vacant moment
as you sit watching the weather
shapeshift beyond your sash window.


Jackdaws

Harsh chatter cuts through the baking
air seething across our roof tiles.
They are arrogant, ice-eyed, chopping up
a blackbird’s melody that’s been flooding
the river’s beat. Theirs is not birdsong,
just nature’s practical edge.
Functional. A rooting in the ordinary.
Like that faint rocking of traffic.


Wembury Beach

You are down there by rock pools
and the hard-packed muscle of sand.

A gentle surf swishing memories at your feet,
taking them away, bringing them back.

This steady heartbeat
teasing you with the past.


The Fire Has Gone Out

The fire is black as night,
even the ashes give
nothing back. Embers
lie dead on cooling ground.

We sit in quiet while
the spit and crackle
of bark is still alive
in our minds.

I want to hear anything,
but even voices
find no resonance
in this dark silent air.


Paul is a Welshman now living in Devon and a regular performer on the South West circuit. His debut collection, Fault Line, was published last year by Lapwing and is the inspiration behind an exhibition of 40 works of art by four artists which is touring the country throughout this year. https://welshstream.wordpress.com/