Alison Brackenbury – three poems

Timetables

When she swept first in heartless cars
or steered the slow, heart-thumping bike,
she saw the wet queues waiting, like
children for Christmas. Or a bus.

Now work is gone, though she could drive,
she thought, before sickness or fuss,
she would shun cars. For as a child
she rode hills on a swaying bus.

Now when a queue is tense and hunched
she knows the D is running late,
or notes, with its majestic shrug,
Ninety-Four swings past Ninety-Eight.

Beneath clean, rattled roofs she meets
twins, wheelchairs, pugs. The most off-track?
‘I think he’s had a heart attack.’
She hurries on, through busless streets.


Clean
Dorothy Eliza Barnes, (Dot), my grandmother

Even their daughters could not know
quite how they did it. They had learnt
to brush, beat, polish, for the rich
who picked at toast, yawned at each stitch.
Dot’s own rooms smelled of Coal Tar soap,
cool as sea, brown as petals, burnt.

She stored black notebooks in her drawer
with ‘recipes’ her mother tried.
For feverish children, scoured by food,
rhubarb and ‘laudmum’ were thought good:
a purge. They needed water more,
salts, to revive. They may have died.

Their small ghosts crowded in her mind.
The enemy would not retire.
Floors, kitchen table, sinks were scrubbed
lay acid-pale, unpolished, tough.
(I dab bleach.) Death drubbed, she would find
mud whisper, soot fly from her fire.

My father saw her climb a chair.
Arms, dark as chimney, sluiced each beam.
She never glimpsed my calm dust. Still,
come Christmas, snows of polish fill
her deep black spoons for spices, flour.
Find rags. Rub tarnish. Hold her gleam.


25 Brook Street
(G.F.Handel’s London home)

His narrow house was lined with wood,
shutters, thick as barn doors.
His paintings hid the panels’ grain
above the soft pine floor.
Men blasted duck, or the shy snipe,
a few streets from his door.

How dark the room was where he wrote!
One window’s narrow slit
would show him chimneys, smoke-grazed sky
if he once glanced at it.
Hunched, before carters cursed at day,
while they snored, he would sit.

A painter found him in his room,
in shirt and tawny coat,
round-faced, a young farm labourer,
ink’s music tossed about.
His eyes were lit, clean blue and green.
No stiff lace soured his throat.

By painted pine, in red wool burred
like ours, he lies apart.
Huge, blind, propped on the pillows’ seas
he drifts, wakes with a start
to his last, best, unwritten tune
new-whistled from a cart.


Alison Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire in 1953. Her work has won an Eric Gregory Award and a Cholmondeley Award. Her ninth collection is Skies, published by Carcanet in March 2016. Sample poems can be read at her website: alisonbrackenbury.co.uk

Geoff Hattersley – three poems

uh uh uh Trumpeters: a found poem

Looking around at all of you
you rockin’ rollers and holy rollers

you with the hands that rock the cradle
you all make the world go round

and now our cause is one
he is not a politician – can I get a ‘Hallelujah!’

the main thing the main thing he knows
the main thing he knows the main thing

and he knows how to lead the charge
so troops hang in there help is on the way

better than anyone isn’t he known
for being able to command fire

he builds things big things things that touch the sky
power through strength – O.K. ?

well and then funny haha not funny but now
all these years they don’t want that to end

they’ve been wearing a this
political correctness kind of like a suicide vest

what they’re doing is wailing well Trump
and his uh uh uh Trumpeters

they’re not conservative enough
well then we’re talking about our very existence

so no we’re not going to chill in fact
it’s time to drill baby drill down.

Source: Sarah Palin’s speech endorsing Donald Trump,
Republican primary, Iowa, January 19, 2016.


Knife

Always carry a knife
in case he starts on you,
folk have stabbed him before,
it usually stops him.

Not quite what I wanted
or expected to hear,
my first day on the job,
about to meet the boss.


The Painter

He drank alone, just a couple,
checked his pockets for change,
found it fell short.
He heard the landlord say See you later
for the last time.

A gentle giant, not quite fifty,
striding in the night air, almost home.

He’d spent his life
in streets like these,
spent his life trying to paint them –
not like a photograph
but as he saw them now,

teeming with life
all the way back
to the days of horses and carts –
strange abstract work
he couldn’t sell.

Striding in the night air, almost home,
a gentle giant.

They were in the shadows,
four cheeky lads, asking for fags,
saying come on, Mister.
They’d been drinking, having a laugh,
smoking some skunk.

Almost home, a gentle giant.

Called him a mean old cunt,
landed a sucker punch,
knocking him off his feet
and out of time, flat out
in the path of a car.

A gentle giant,
gone by the morning.


Geoff Hattersley was born in South Yorkshire in 1956. His many collections of poetry include Port of Entry (Littlewood, 1989), Don’t Worry (Bloodaxe, 1994), Harmonica (Wrecking Ball Press, 2003), Back of Beyond (smith|doorstop, 2006), and Outside the Blue Hebium (smith|doorstop, 2012).

His poems have been broadcast on local and national radio and have been used as part of syllabuses in schools, universities, and with The Open University.

He is an experienced reader of his poetry and has performed and recorded musical arrangements of his poems.

He edited The Wide Skirt Press from 1986 until 1998, publishing more than 300 writers in 30 issues of the magazine and 24 books and pamphlets.

He is an experienced creative writing tutor and has worked as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Liverpool John Moores, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds Trinity universities.

Angela Readman – two poems

The Honey Jar

It squats in a cupboard like a stopwatch –
the apiarist’s last jar of honey, immune to winters.
The cold days we ached for spoonfuls of summer

to glide down our throats. I carry it, fingers
on glass clouding an hour my father stood still,
fitted by the grist for a moving fur coat.

He moved those frames like still lives of himself.
I recall him as I lift the lid, a compass of drips
stuck on one day I saw the man on his knees.

The hive scumbled in static, dead for no reason
we could understand, he brought an orange bucket
and scooped up fistfuls of bees, a sound soft

as chrysanthemums falling off the stem
in the not quite autumn sun. I open my mouth
and let a viscous rain of things I’d forgotten fall.

Knuckles buried in hush, suddenly so small
for a man of his size, pale as china hands
holding on to scraps of August’s dusk.


Against Youth

I am against youth, not yours, not you,
but my own, a bleached scrap hung
on a nail on my door, lilaced by dusk.

Too often it pretends to be a woman
in the dark, snooping for her tall shoes
to attend a dance. I am sick of forgetting

that, in fact, we did not dance, she and I,
or sip cherry cola with a shared straw.
There was no poetry at all, but a snare

in our chests, a pop of music we made
loud enough not to hear our own voices
flinging us off another cliff. I am done

being persuaded to cling to youth.
To hold her hand is to skin myself to fit
into a dress that didn’t suit me to start with.

I see that lady out, draw a blind on her eyes
set on some dusty horizon. Let her run, let me
stay in, paper my walls with any creature

I like. I choose sparrows. I choose
to paint my sunrise all over the bricks
with colours I mixed in my own can.


Angela Readman’s poems have been in various journals and anthologies, and won competitions including The Mslexia Competition. The Essex Poetry Prize, and The Charles Causley. Her collection, The Book of Tides, was published by Nine Arches Press in November 2016. She is also a short story writer.

Daniel Bennett – three poems

Definite

The rain-flecked windows, bright
as lit magnesium. The hearth
of black stone. The russet pips
dripping from the rare blue-green
of winter pines. The asthma
of a church organ uprooted
into the front room. The workshop
with mice teeming across the walls.
The western novels printed
into large type. The cupboard
of preserves stored for disaster.
The painting of abandoned canoes
on a Hawaiian beach. The record player
uncoiling lengths of cut vinyl
like bands of liquorice. The dream
of rain and God’s light. The nights
spent listening for fox paws
on blue gravel. The tomato vines
growing wild, the spines
on their green fur. The Bible bound
in maroon leather. The tin box
of disused electrical equipment.
The strip of beech wood
soaked in the overflow barrel
and bent into a ring. The smell of tar
and creosote. The wars. And
a moment before she died,
when she placed her hand
into mine, her skin swollen
into a white glove, her eyes
focused on mine and we grasped
all the things we would lose.


Spring Break

What happened? Too many drinks
on the way back from Montmartre,
that old guy hexing us
with his cigar? Place de Clichy,
so much more seedy
than you were expecting?
The whole day weirder, more
actual than we anticipated.
Like our time together became
a trip to deserted stately home
with us stalking the rococo halls,
and all we wanted was a glass of water.
In truth it had all been building
for months, and no photo calls, tourist poses
and candlelight was going to put it off.
No discussion on old masters
to save us in this gallery:
as we consider all the little masterpieces
of disappointment we have collected
since, well, whenever…? That one,
with me in the finery
of a fifteenth century nobleman
abandoning you to usury, the plague
a peacock cracking up plumage
to signify loss. Or this one,
with you in a high collared dress
turning your back to me
and holding out your arms wide
to a new future: the sky
red, orange, violet and pink,
a rage of smoky fury, blazing
all the way down to the vanishing point.


The White House

You take elegance where you can
in this town. An ash tree
rubbed out by winter, a blue fence
like paper soaked through
with India ink. And the white house
beyond, a legacy from the thirties.
It’s there again, this evening:
witnessing our chance encounter,
outside the house we shared.
That familiarity we still have
as we talk of family and the news
which has collected. The odd calm
which drives us now: the way
pain dissipates and leaves behind
what exactly? Minor aches
at the shoulders, the knees.
A lick of white at the hairline
where dye grows out. The heart
closes off, crinkles stiffly
as it tries to unfold. Who
are these people, now? I remember
when we first moved here
and someone from the white house
knocked at our door: a small man
old and plaintive, out to defeat
loneliness with his welcome.
It felt like a relationship
I should expect to endure:
chance encounters at the store,
a friend in emergencies, a sense
of belonging and quiet certainty.
I could easily believe in those things.


Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have appeared in a number of places, most recently in Structo and The Literateur. He’s also the author of the novel All the Dogs (Tindal Street, 2008). You can find him on Twitter @Absenceclub

Mark J Mitchell – three poems

Alcatraz Rabbit
For JJ

She had some Alcatraz rabbit in her blood—
Chasing justice or ice or secrets,
she would disappear sometimes.

But, just as the bridge summons fog
and a bay sings to that bridge,
she knows she will return

to where that cool caress
first baptized her, to where beauty
called her beauty by name.

Light seeks light—she seeks brilliant shadows
on this pastel gray city that always
calls her home to me.


After the Chinese Meal

You snap a cookie as a red sun sets
and you forget words you read.
She neglects each word you said.

The paper slips through your fingers. It drops
like a no vote for stopping
your heart. She takes off your ring.


Black and White Afternoon

The chess pieces are put away.
You venture outside. A cool day
opens. Light plays on the sidewalk
like a flute. The afternoon wind
picks up and lost bags swirl like sins
you forgot. Begin to walk

like you did as a child—you saw
each shaft of sun, heard each bird’s caw
from wires while you hauled new toys.
Rook to d-4. Your walk’s broken
by serious play. You note one
move you missed. This joke annoys

you. Now that the game’s lost you see
the false threat. Change course at that tree.
Go home. The c file’s a trap.
No. Stop here. Take this bench. Breathe. Rest.
Watch the world. Don’t stare at her breasts.
Sunlight’s a guest in your lap.


Mark J. Mitchell was born under the sign of Nun of the Above in the Year of the Bewildered. His checkered past has only allowed him to move diagonally along white squares. This has caused a permanent crick in his neck. The filmmaker and documentarian Joan Juster has had his back through all those years and promises to return it one day. Many of his poems contain secret messages and can be found in the anthologies Line Drives (SIU Press, 2002) and Good Poems, American Places (Penguin/Viking, 2012). The key to the code can be had for a nominal fee. His novel, The Magic War (Loose Leaves Publishing) will soon reveal the meaning of his chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press, 2012), Artifacts and Relics (Folded Word Press, 2015) and Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press, 2015) without even being asked.
Here’s as close as he has to a website: https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter

John Foggin – two poems

Father to son

There were fathers, I believed,
who played football with their sons,
or took them fishing, taught them
complicated games with loops of string,
or the names of birds,
or how to draw a horse.

Mine went down into his cellar
with its one red bulb. How he shut
the cellar door, said: don’t open it.
Not for anything. Just don’t.

Down there with his trays
of fixatives, his papers, tweezers,
his enlarger, clothes pegs,
strung lines of contact sheets
and images appearing
like buds unfolding, like skies clearing.

Never a picture of his wife. Or me.
Hilltop trees, streets of milltowns,
streams. Things. I inherit this.
This is what I do.

Unpopulated landscapes. Burned trees.
Still lives. Birds. Bones. Never
a living child. Sometimes
photographs of strangers
caught between before
or after.


Advice from a Singer Sewing Machine Manual from 1949

ct-singer-sewing-advice-2

She catches herself sighing. Reproves herself.
Finds herself momentarily lackadaisical.
Tells herself quite sternly this won’t do.
Reminds herself about the consequences
of indifference. She has cleaned the house:
reddled up the oven, beaten all the rugs;
mirrors rubbed with vinegar, with soft cloths.
The silver and the brasses softly gleam;
the washing up is done. The china and the glass
are all a-sparkle. The bed is freshly made-up
with crisp clean linen and a hint of lavender.
She has carefully picked out a favourite dress.
A bottle green. It goes with her red hair
and her pale skin. She has allowed herself
a touch of rouge. She bites her bottom lip
to make it full, and red. She is anxious
that her visitor may not arrive. Her husband
is away, on business. In her mirror
she admires herself. She believes she looks
neatly put together. The sewing is a touch
she likes. He’ll like that, too. He likes demure.
At first.


John Foggin lives in West Yorkshire. He writes a weekly (ish) poetry blog the great fogginzo’s cobweb, and jointly organises and comperes the Puzzle Poets Live, in Sowerby Bridge.

His work has appeared in The North, The New Writer, Prole and The Interpreters House, among others.

His poems have won first prizes in competitions including The Plough (2013, 2014), and The McLellan (2015). In 2016 he was a winner of the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.

He has authored four pamphlets: his latest is Outlaws and fallen Angels (Calder Valley Poetry, 2016).

His first collection, Much Possessed, was published by smith/doorstop in October 2016 and is available either from the publisher or via John’s website.

Reuben Woolley – four poems

hieronymus bosch in the anthropocene

not sure of
when i am now
& how to return

…………i’ll slice
down
a mountain
looking for paths
…………a way
to build
on shadows
a confusion of days
……………………stu
……………………tte
……………………ring
a lack of /
failure of
earthen delight

i’m digging
in my garden of horrors
looking for home


45 in the shade & rising

when
………..time
is fever.hear them

…………….howling
through the clay

…………….are pale
in currents.see
the land…………flow

………………..wave
breaks dark
& even the graves

are hiding.sing me
an open
gate
in all this ash.i’m given
today
……..no bread
……..& no green pasture.listen
………………..to them talk

can’t leave what they never had.& i
……………haven’t forgotten
………………..enough

……………………..not yet

it’s a strange day we live in
& this
……..is my soft voice

……………..oh yes


pavement cracks & brown bears

when the bus
…….stops

…………elsewhere

is a foreign land.i know
the different rules so
intimately

…………there’s time
for connecting……….spaces
& empty
…….see me
………….reading
………….white
on white & all the places in
…………………..between
where holes
are simply

………….deeper


organic leasehold

this body
is not my own.it reached
a cell agreement & holds
………..the bones
in shape

………i will not flow
easy
in blood a scattered abstract
on canvas & frame
a moment a particular
………..figured
for distraction

caught
a personal time.it’s fixed
like moths & pinned
for recognition.who sees
a story
………..a skin agenda
for silent
………..elegies.the dead
& the dying

are waiting &
this body
was just coincidence


Reuben has been published in various print and online magazines among which are Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Goose. He has had three books published: the king is dead (Oneiros Books, 2014), dying notes (Erbacce Press, 2015), and skins (Hesterglock Press, 2016). Runner-up in the Erbacce Poetry Prize, 2015 and The Overton Poetry Pamphlet Prize, 2015. He pretends to be busy editing two online magazines, I am not a silent poet, and The Curly Mind.

Marc Woodward – three poems

Alexander Bluegrass

I paid a jerkined biker
for a pint of local beer,
and occupied a plastic seat,
with the open door quite near.
A cowpoke girl called Lisa,
an Alexander teacher,
showed me her technique
– tipped my head right back
and straightened up my feet-
as her friend Teri,
sitting watching me,
smiled and passed
small tips –
said I must
take some
..time
and
..feel
the
line
desce
..nding
down
from
head
.to
hips…

All around the banjos rang
fret and drum, wood and wire,
as outside the bikers
threw more softwood
pallets on the fire.
Twin fiddles scraped
an old Kentucky tune
while mandolins and gittars
joined the banjos in the room.
Later I swerved out to crash
the boot of a hatchback car
as the final fiddles
slurred down to
slumber
softly
under
neath
the fire’s
floating
stars.

Next day no fill of standing straight
could ease my cramped up spine
so I did bacon and strong coffee,
and forgot to think about “my line”.

A guy called Thor,
I’d never
met before,
sat with me
and sang softly:
country songs of
whisky paramours,
boxcars,
cheap bars,
coal mines,
good times.
I picked upon
my old red
Gibson
(she’s 93 this year)
as we journeyed
to sobriety
and played away
the beer.


Scattered

Just tumbleweed
in this world
of human seeds
forsaken and hurled,
she was deposited
with little grace
in an unwelcoming
council estate
……..never knowing why.

When she had
the temerity to cry
her mother just replied
“That’s the way it goes, Love.”

So she got a tattoo on her thigh:
Random is as Random does


Miss Lemon’s first class after the difficult episode

Good morning Class.
Today I want to discuss ‘Break’ with you all.
The verb of course – not the morning interval.
To break hearts, promises,

confidences, dreams,
words, vows, wrists, plates.
engagements, schemes…
What else can you break?

Yes David, you can
apply the brakes
– but that’s different,
though seldom a mistake
and often a very good idea.

You can make a break for it.
You can break down in tears.

You can break someone’s sleep
calling them at night on repeat.

You can break out in a sweat
(thinking of things you regret?)

You can break down a door,
break a window, break the law.

You can have a break down
You can be broken.
Down.
Broken
like an old dry stick,
into tiny splinters,
fragments you can’t remake…

Hold on please, I need a bit…

Class dismissed – take a break.


Marc Woodward is a musician and poet living (a term applied loosely) in sleepy Devon.
Unsure whether he’s destined for Heaven or Trago Mills when he dies he’s aiming for Purgatory where he hopes to finally get a chance to watch the whole series of Game of Thrones (which his son insists is good) and possibly finish Moby Dick. Apparently they all die in the end. So how come Ishmael’s telling the story? Huh?

Paul Brookes – three poems

Jack

what bling do you bring,
to adorn our nest,

a nose stud, an anklet
to set against our darkness?

Remember when we lobbed twigs
down chimneys, and the home

owner’s rage at the block
in their flue, as smoke billowed

into their front room, so they coughed
and spluttered and cursed or, Jack, in March

when you flew high to find
a forest perch and escaped

falcon’s sharp talons.
What bling do you bring, Jack?


We Are Travellers

When we arrive it is fresh life,
winter coldly begins to shut
its door on us.

Gregarious, shy, nervous, brave,
noisy on the pull, chuckle, chatter
over fermenting windfall apples,
forage. Tell each other we borrow
this gravedark earth.

And when lowerworld cold mist rises
icy from the sod, we go on, return
earth, for a warmer earth, a fresh life.

Work our way up wind. Each one of us
pauses, now and again, stands upright,
gazes around. We respect others’
space, expect ours to be respected.

When alarmed, by those who would buy
this sod, we scoot off down wind,
gather elsewhere.

When we leave, it’s spring
warm and welcoming.


Blackbird

hedge poet
soil mariner
tells a tale
in measured tones
and measured phrases
fruity and fluid
English berries and worms,

lyrical, invent words,
as I turn brown
to black, pause
for those juicy tubes

I haul and yank
a ship’s rope
release the anchor
of my hunger
from dark earth
to feed my black sails

a migrant from cold Germany


Paul Brookes has been published in many magazines in the south west of England. He performed as a member of the poetry in performance group “Rats for Love” and his work was included in their 1990 publication Rats for Love: The Book.

His first chapbook was The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley (Dearne Community Arts, 1993).

His website is thewombwellrainbow.wordpress.com

Jinny Fisher – four poems

Camouflage

She is seventeen, her hair deep purple,
hanging in dreads, some fake, some real.
She wears studded boots, layered black velvet
down over her wrists.

At twenty-one, her hair flows luminous green—
lighting the path she seeks through campus.
Her blouse, a flourish of saffron messaline,
covers her arms.

Now twenty-five, her hair Rosetti auburn—
she becomes Ophelia, La Pia, Beata Beatrix,
with russet stains inside her sleeves.


Rondo

I turn to my mother’s piano
in the living-room corner
and ask

…..“When will you leave?”

Always… or maybe
never.

…..“Will you play for me?”

Never… or possibly
always.


Grave for a Family Cat

She still remembers where he lies, feels the jolt
of her spade as it hacked the frozen earth
by the wild blackberries.

She lowered the cardboard box, extemporised
a sketchy ritual, rallied her kids enough
to say goodbye.

She stamped down a stone to keep his bones
from breaking through, but now it heaves
for want of words, of flowers.


Ritual

Every night
she would wait
to wince at the curse
that burst through
the partition wall,
as her brother
hit his head
on the sloping ceiling
in his sliver
of the attic room
they shared.


Jinny Fisher lives in Somerset and is a member of Taunton’s Juncture 25 and Wells Fountain Poets. Her poems have been published in print and online including in The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Prole and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She likes to push around The Poetry Pram and hopes to get a book out one day.