Daniel Bennett – two poems

Oh

I know the moment you were born
or can at least offer one of them
because all of us are ideas
before we ever breathe
and the idea of us is what remains
whenever we slip away.
It happened on the Tube, a place
I would find myself in those days
in that it was no place at all.
When I did read, I slept
and when I didn’t sleep I thought
of ways out of that situation.
(Do you see what I mean about ideas?)
On the opposite seat, I saw a man
and at first I only noticed
the warning signs from my teenage years:
the swallow tattoo on his jugular,
his knuckles pipping out
Morse code rage. A shaved head
and sideburns, Doc Martens
bulging in their leather glossiness,
and I remembered the men
who would scrawl graffiti runes
on park benches and bus stops,
their china blue stares and knives
bound in electrician tape, their promises
of violence which always held
an ambivalent geniality. This man sat
with his smaller version:
a boy in jeans with rolled cuffs,
boots not reaching the carriage floor
and as I watched him cup a hand
to the whorl of a buzz cut
and a voice I had never heard
spoke one little word.


Distance Badge

Swimming. She grows stronger,
more incredible. Head first
into deep water, strokes matched
to the instructor’s demands. Water
is never given a chance to seal,
the lane markings distorted
into chains. When she won her last badge
I returned her home through winter dark
before my journey back to the city,
the gravity always pulling at me
in these moments, the distance.
She asked questions, and countered
with opinions about the world
which have the fluid logic of dreams.
The sky and its curve, the moon
and its high longing for the seas.
And when we talked about the stars,
and how long light takes to reach us
both of us experienced the wonder:
that these far-flung spheres
– arranged into a hunter’s belt
a lions paw, fish shimmering
in a school – are all oblivious
to the patterns we make for them
and are really so far away.


Daniel was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been widely published, most recently in Structo and The Literateur, and he has work forthcoming in Under The Radar. Daniel is also the author of the novel, All the Dogs (Tindal Street, 2008).

Danny Earl Simmons – two poems

Subtracting Forty-Seven
while reading the obituary page, February 23

Mr. Anderson, 93.
Jackson would be 46,
Alisha would be 76.
The grandkids, unborn
now, grown by then,
won’t miss my phlegmy
coughing, my spots, wrinkles,
nursing home smell.
Maybe those grandkids will love
their Nana Isha enough
to mow the lawn, trim
the tall trees we planted
just last year. It says
Mr. Anderson had a smile
when they found him.

Mr. Gibbs, 53.
Jackson would be six,
young enough to love
a different Daddy.
Would he run to the window
smiling and watch him walk in
from work? Would Alisha
join him there? What if
they’re not smiling?
Son of a bitch!
Mr. Gibbs chose cremation.
Mrs. Morgan, 83.
Church deacon, bridge club,
investment club. In lieu of flowers,
donate to the Humane Society.
Jackson would be 36 –
wife, kids, getting along.
The grands still young enough
to love baking cookies with Alisha.
Mrs. Morgan’s husband died
20-years ago.

Mr. Gregg, 63.
My greatest fear.
Jackson would be 16
and hard on Alisha.
Her weeping
would be all for him.
Mr. Gregg ran marathons.

Andrew, 3.
I was wrong
about my greatest fear.


Barely Platonic

They head straight for the highest point,
run up the stairs, floor after floor,

until they reach the top, spin around
on the flat black roof, enjoy the dizzy rush

of height. They hold hands and pull
each other this way, then that. Their eyes

wide open, they take everything in
and laugh at each other’s laughter.

Eventually, things get serious.
Their grip gets tight, they head for the edge.

They look down, look at each other,
leap. The ground closes-in, hearts thump.

Their hands slide apart, fingertips cling,
release. Chutes pop and drag.


Danny Earl Simmons currently resides in Lebanon, Oregon and is a member of the Lebanon Arts Council.. He is also a friend of the Linn-Benton Community College Poetry Club and serves on the school’s Poetry Advisory Committee. His poetry chapbook is entitled The Allness of Everything (Maverick Duck Press, 2016).

Mandy Macdonald – three poems

Grimes Graves

we went there decades ago
walked the pockmarked heath
in the long slanting shadows of afternoon

no visitor centre then, nor guidebook
to tell us we were looking at flint mines, not graves at all
just the inside-out tumuli, the
shallow shell-holes in dimpled grass
threaded with pathways traced out
five thousand years ago

around our careful feet
grayling and skipper quartered eyebright, wild thyme
stripes of heather
light grazed the pit rims, skimming
the grassy quincunx of circles

straight up above, skylarks
doing their damnedest to untune the sky

in the air around us, time pleated, shimmered aurora-like
it seemed things were happening just out of sight or hearing
flicking away
swift, brown things, and the faintest pure ringing
of flint on flint

to avoid discussing our failing marriage
we talked of earthworks, godstruck neolithics
that ‘Venus’ statuette they’d found probably a hoax

and four decades on
on the telly
another story

of farmers turned miners, industrial minds
knowing that the finest flint, the best for shaping
the most precious
waited for them underground

of young ones chosen to enter the earth
like lovers
climb down out of childhood
claw out warrens
forty feet deep
with stone, antler and jawbone
unimaginably slow
and then bring up with triumph
from those cold chalk-white shafts
the music of the flint


it was when she fell

in the laundry downstairs
with a sound that might have been a shout
but floated up to me
whiteish, fluting, a wounded butterfly
or a lovesong carried faintly on the wind
from several streets away

that i noticed
the egg-slicer
still in the kitchen sink
unwashed
though it was well past
lunchtime


no goodbyes

that year, in the spring,
it rained for weeks –
you remember it, surely –

that was the year we saw the last of him

surely you remember
his coming in, ramshackle, slicking
rain on the sittingroom rug

climbing the stairs, silently
before anyone could say a word –
you remember, you looked at me,
eyebrow quirked, as though
I might have a clue

then, front door clicking
quiet
brief crescendo of rainwhoosh, sharply
snicked into silence

and we never saw him again

never knew how
he could have come downstairs and past us
without our catching a rustle of him

don’t you remember?


Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer and musician living in Aberdeen and trying to make sense of the 21st – and earlier – centuries. She returned to poetry after many years via Jo Bell’s path-breaking ‘52’ project. You can find her in excellent company in A Bee’s Breakfast, Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry (Luath Press, 2016), Poetry Scotland, The Fat Damsel, Triadae, Rat’s Ass Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing, she sings, sometimes while gardening.

Rebecca Villineau – three poems

I Go To The Back

Because this is where the yard speaks
It doesn’t do this in the front
By the road and the sewer

Across from the neighbors
And their bland rhododendrons
The tulips and crusted daffodils now
Past season

The world never speaks out there
It rumbles
Mumbles under its breath
Like a grandmother angry at the mess
Straightening the pillows

Out front the puddles give no reflections
They sit murk and dirt
There’s always cigarette butts
By the lamp post

I go to the back because at least there
The pine is renewing itself
Pushing spring green
Softness from its fingers
Growing up past the electrical wires this year

Reaching to the bathroom windows on the second floor
This gives me hope
The way the one blackberry
Branch survived the winter
The way the raspberry bush pops up in

Baby stalks below the porch
Aside the cherry tree
In its late spring blooms now falling
The aphids are coming I tell myself
But I’ll wait it out

I’ve learned to do this
Not consider the worse of things
The goodbyes that took too long or not long enough

The way we die never knowing
If these things mean something

I come back here because this is where I’ve buried some
Of my bones
The old ones
The ones I will come back to
The ones I’m saving for the right day
And the right time
When the earth
Will open


Hard Times

I have fallen
On hard times

There are envelopes
Beneath the lip of my door

Demanding the rent
Now late

There is but a little
Coffee

And no milk
I have fallen on hard times

This love for you
Sweet as lemon

Drop Cooke
Or the radio

Swaying in
The background

Of this picture
Framed and placed

In a slice
Of setting sun


I’ve heard it said

One could walk to Charles Island at low tide
The ocean floor of the Atlantic rises
And the water goes no further than your stomach for over a mile

I always walked just twenty feet
From the ending of the sand bar
Leaving for a moment
A bucket of hermit crabs

Only to turn around
After contemplating the distance
And doubting the depth
Returning to the safety of cousins
Folding chairs
And sandy towels
Returning to the warm oiled
Arms of my mother

Telling me to be careful
Settling me on her knee to rest against her
And feel the tide pull in


Rebecca Villineau resides in New Bedford, Massachusetts with her husband, two children and a hound dog.

Marc Woodward – three poems

Beeches

Before he fucked off for good with his tart,
his wife dug in a thin row of saplings
along the paddock edge to slice the wind.
Driving past this November afternoon
I saw their leaves shiver orange and gold
against a low dissolution of cloud.
Beeches. Slow growing and platinum barked:
sentinels lancing the uncaring air.

Others might have planted ash for the fire;
or a timber crop, spruce perhaps or fir?
Fruit trees? Apples, plums, pears: all could grow there.
Instead, she bunched her hair and planted beech,
that tall, proud and pretty tree which despite
the winter frost still wears its golden leaves.


Oystercatchers

Stabbing orange beaks into kelp and wrack
they collect dark weed to cover a child
lying naked where the tide licks the land.

The baby is dead but the birds can’t tell,
compelled by a biblical instinct
to hide her from some unseen pursuer.

No one knows the mother’s name, how she came,
why she strapped such a cross of pain to herself,
leaving her baby on a cockling sack.

The small corpse, layered with weed, might be just
a washed up jellyfish, a salt bleached stump.
The birds scatter to sand spars and rocks.

Long ago they concealed a different child,
cowering under a coat of seaweed
and the count of time itself was altered.

Black flags emblazoned with white crosses
tip in the cold breeze. The Mussel Pickers,
the Sea Pies, whine like a winded klaxon.


Halcyon

A sleight of blue across a clouded pool,
carp concealing, overhung by catkins.
Maybe where an antique river curls through
hoof-poached meadows past the vapoury end
of an oxbow moon? Or hung on a cord,
imprisoned in a House of Blown Glass
diving forever at goldfish jigsaws?

I would take you to see her, watch her fly.
The bright azure would quicken your heart,
the orange warm the palette of your eye.
But I dreamed my fabled halcyon
over sleeping waters I haven’t known.
Kingfishers mostly live in dreams.
I’m sure one night you’ll find your own.


Marc Woodward is a musician and poet living in rural Devon. This line is the one with something pithy or enigmatic. Oh well.

Anyway, his chapbook A Fright Of Jays is available from Maquette Press and he’d be happy if you liked his page on Facebook.

Susan L Leary – three poems

The Visitors

It would have been nice had someone talked about it
when the world declared its second war.
For all the women, the headline might have read:
Truman will drop an atomic bomb so that more men
may drop in on doorsteps.
And they will drop in:
in the morning, in the evening, in the afternoon,
tomorrow and for decades—
to visit the grieving wives and mothers
who have words for God but no words for all the suicides
by strangulation,
the exhaust pipes shimmied through windows,
nor the pills, scattered like bullets, on nightstands.
It will be the right thing,
the Nazis might have said, for men to stop by for a warm meal
made by the hands of a self-composing woman
who will take their coats and hats and hang them
properly in the closet,
before showing them where to go.
In the kitchen, she will get out the good china
and the good glasses
for a brandy, or a coffee, or a whiskey sour.
So that it’s not much unlike how it was before:
because sitting in a distant room,
in the good chair, is one more man—looking around,
waiting for his peas and carrots and slice of pork
chop—who won’t ever talk about it.


Another Cup of Water

It is an incredible fiction made by the feet of fathers
who walk unendedly into night’s open
mouth. From the sink to the bed and back to the sink,
for their daughters: they have agreed to another
cup of water.
The floorboards quiet and creak.
The tap rushes on and off.
Every sound is sacred—so girls, who cannot bear
to fall asleep,
can plot and scheme with the changing silhouettes of men.
The stars: they too are sacred—playful they are,
pretending to be peeved.
The stars: they make girls feel close to God.
Never, then, can there be a last one: because one day,
we will all be going to bed.
So daughters remind themselves to drink slow,
to drink into the morning,
to make the water last—and they do:
because a good father understands what his daughter
doesn’t know she means
when she says that, still, she is thirsty.


Before She Died

It’s grown more difficult to place her in my mind
……in her own house,
where she sits—with knowledge,
……or maybe not that
but thought itself,
……and how it gets away and just is,
and might, in fact, be more like inhabiting a mood
……or an act of becoming.
So then, the rocker,
……the one at the foot of her bed,
or maybe she is in the kitchen,
……at the table, where the air conditioner sticks out
from the window too near her head,
……or the lawn chair, yes—a few feet out from the garage,
the kind that is actually a chair and not low
……to the ground,
because she has just pruned the bushes
……and cleaned out the poison ivy,
but no—she is too old for that.
……So I’m thinking she is tucked into the couch,
exactly where the arm meets the back,
……feet propped,
slippers strewn beside the stool,
……half-overturned so you can’t fully see the satin,
but you know it’s there,
……the ones, that, in Filene’s we’d find them,
hanging,
……in maybe August or September
but for Christmas,
……and pick from the back the one in the best box.
And how she looks sitting,
……that I know:
the image, to describe it—it’s so severe, almost
……brutal—the first jut
of the knuckles,
……and then the roll of her fist,
like a track within the gear, pushed hard
……though it goes along its path,
and into the side of her face,
……how unforgiving the knuckles are,
right away and after a while, against the cheek bone,
……such a dull ache,
and how she keeps it there
……so aware of her gums in her mouth,
not moving,
……and how it’s somewhat self-persuaded,
but also a little innate, so that a few days before it happens,
……with:
Karyl, You don’t know how hard my life has been—
……That, just that,
is what she means,
……and just that,
…………is saying something.


Susan L. Leary is a Lecturer in English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL, where she lives with her husband, Sean, and their sweet wheaten terrier, Ellie. Her most recent creative work appears or is forthcoming in Steel Toe Review, The Copperfield Review, Cold Creek Review, The Big Windows Review, Dying Dahlia Review, Lady Blue Literary Arts Journal, and After the Pause.

Sumia Jaama – two poems

Remember

Carpet burns on your tongue.
Remember, how you swallowed back every confession.
Your throat
Now resembles
Scorched hallways.
Show me where she hurt you.
Build a refuge here.
Bleach the memories so you never revisit them.
Furnish your mind with something other than empty.
Pick the scabs so you never forget.
Heal/
Let it teach you.
Cook your wounds by the window.
Let them not mistake this tenderness for a cookout.
Marinate your meat so well she never wakes up.
Wait for sunset to cremate her bones.
Bedsheets of your skin now mingle with the incense of her memory.
Shedding is a prayer I cannot afford to neglect.
Remember, how your voice stopped wearing her name.
I’ll rewrite this poem so it feels less like mourning.
I’ll rewrite this poem so it feels less like mourning.
Remember, how your voice stopped wearing her name.
Shedding is a prayer I cannot afford to neglect.
Bedsheets of your skin now mingle with the incense of her memory.
Wait for sunset to cremate her bones.
Marinate your meat so well she never wakes up.
Let them not mistake this tenderness for a cookout.
Cook your wounds by the window.
Let it teach you.
Heal/
Pick the scabs so you never forget.
Furnish your mind with something other than empty.
Bleach the memories so you never revisit them.
Build a refuge here.
Show me where she hurt you.
Scroched hallways
Now resemble
Your throat.
Remember, how you swallowed back every confession.
Carpet burns on your tongue.


Between her bellybutton and her breast

Waris stood there. Adorning her face is a wet
forest of ghasil. Her shash gathers the bouquet
of tight curls sitting in congregation. Listening, to
the sweet silence of Sagal resting on her back.

Who wants to lie with a woman stained
with scars? with stretch marks?
I’ve got to get rid of these scars.

She lifted her baati. Showed me a garden of seeds
blossoming between her bellybutton and her breast.
Seeds whose sadness remain rooted in her eyes.
Echoing Sentiments of roots before her.

Llike Hooyo’s and Ayeeyo’s. Gardens of women
convinced that their branches are weeds. Scrubbing
cocoa butter and oils, as though convictions would erase them.

She told me of the blessing she carried on
her back. Sagal, meant morning rays of the sun
visiting during a rainy season. Her eyes are
heavens that have not stopped weeping.


Sumia uses poetry as a mirror to reflect her subconscious and uncover some of the conversations we may not have otherwise. She’s interested in how poetry can be used to not only capture moments but in documenting a lived experience, one that reflects an honest and authentic individual cultural identity. As a result, she uses poetry to figure out who she is as an individual, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a lover. A semi-finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 2017, Sumia will be graduating this summer with a BA (Hons) in Arabic and English Literature and is currently facilitating poetry workshops with Keats House for high school students.

Miki Byrne – three poems

Heaven’s Gut

The sky is thin as paper here.
I could scrape my nail along
a blue seam and open a gap,
a mouth that could swallow me.
Gulp me down to where
new dimensions
throw different shadows
and other languages dance
on the edge of hearing.
I could slide into heavens gut,
see if it too
holds stuff it doesn’t need,
people it doesn’t want
and become part
of a peristaltic movement.
Squeezed out into a different time,
ready to brush myself off
and start again.


Assessing Jade-rock

Silent William walks round the boulder,
steps lightly for a big man.
Touches the rock as if blind, finger tickling,
stroking it like a cat’s back.
Takes time for texture, thought, his skin’s salt
to open mouths in the boulders gritty surface,
let it suck his calloused fingers.
As he pictures pale seams, a hidden heart.
Feels flaws, protrusions of crystal or fossil
that would take his blood if he let them.
He knows stone as another would know
their garden, a much-loved horse,
the contours of a lover’s spine.
He whispers thanks to his ancestors,
asks permission to lay his blade and guidance
for his hand.
His mind spirals now, probes deep, teases out
the rock’s truth from lies, finds the place
it wanted kept secret.
Lapis eyes view ‘til every contour is known,
a map formed.
Satisfied, he knows now where to place
his first cut.


Busker

It’s a lot of strum for throwaway coins
and the lug of gear on a chilly day.
Fingers stiffen, wind moans
over greasy tiles in a damp subway.
Acoustics govern choice of place
catches sound, keeps him out of the rain.
A smile hangs on his cold face,
in the pluck of songs, lie love and pain.
Washed like a log to a streams bank
a walking river keeps him pinned.
Coins in the hat glisten and clank,
his jeans hems are wetly rimmed.
Cold, hungry, a back that aches,
he pack his guitar in a battered case.
Counts the pittance his songs made,
trudges to crash at a mates place.
One day, there will be a band,
guitar, vocals, bass and drums.
He sits in a pub, beer in hand,
marks time, till that fine day comes.


Miki is inspired by nature and by the complexity of the human condition.
She lived on a narrow boat for many years and is the author of three poetry collections. She has had work included in over 170 respected poetry magazines and anthologies, has read on both radio and TV and was a finalist for Gloucester Poet Laureate. Miki founded and runs In Your Own Words poetry at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury. She feels that writing is as necessary as breathing and that the pen is indeed, mightier than the sword. She began reading her work in a bikers club in Birmingham and now lives back on the land in Gloucestershire.

Ahrend Torrey – two poems

You Know

You know the way it goes —
you’re sitting at work and a coworker comes to you,
or you are at the start of a reception,
or even a party (if you go to parties),

and while sipping a glass of chardonnay, or merlot,
or while drinking a bottle of beer,
a random person starts a conversation
that you seem to enjoy at first,
until they take over the wheel

and veer you right into the wall of a theater,
and start talking about a movie
they think is hilarious, with actors
you can’t even pronounce, that they
assume you’ve watched a thousand times over.

And as we all have,
you stand stuck in the middle of a conversation,
about a movie you’ve never seen,
that you couldn’t care less about —

cramped in a corner like a clueless ape,
you nod and laugh: “Ha ha!” “Yep, yep!” “I know!”


My Partner’s Mother

for Ms. Susan

is from the Philippines —
Manila to be exact. She loves giving us snacks
from Hong Kong Food Market, shrimp chips,
siopao from Dong Phuong Bakery, and the occasional
bag of leftover donuts. She’s not able to visit much,
but when she does it’s always a treat — sometimes
the sweetest oranges of the season. Other times
a half eaten tangerine.


Ahrend Torrey is a poet and painter. He is a creative writing graduate from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. When he is not writing or teaching English in New Orleans, he enjoys the simple things in life, like walking around Bayou St. John with his partner, Jonathan, and their two rat terriers Dichter and Dova.

Annie Fisher – three poems

Paper Girl

I never spoke about the naked man in Castle Street (number 32).
I’d only seen him through the door’s thick-frosted glass, but still I knew
he knew that I knew he was willingly and wittingly undressed.
His was the last house on my round. He took the Western Daily Press.
In the quiet half-light of a school day dawn, my black-inked hands
would slip each morning’s tidings through the gilded slot to land
at his imperial pink feet. Only someone posh could be so rude.
No-one from Hamble Close would fetch their paper in the nude.


Spreathed

Not ‘chapped’
for that infers
a rougher splitting
of the skin.
‘Raw’ is closer
but not right.
What I mean is
‘spreathed’
which blows its
icy kisses still
on winter days
reminding me
of walks to school
that patch of skin
on inner thigh
between short skirt
and knee-high sock—
a crimson, coarse-grade agony
a throbbing shade of pain
my grandchildren
one in leggings
one in jogging bottoms
cannot understand.


Ghost

She’s weighed herself again.
She’s six stone three and finds this
satisfactory. Tonight she’ll have
two eggs (hardboiled),
one orange and a cup of tea.

Midsummer and she’s sitting on
the college lawn, a notepad on her knee.
He’s told them to: Enjoy the sun.
Write anything. Come back at four.
But she can’t write at all.

The page gapes like an empty plate.
She tries to calculate the calories in birdsong,
the fat and carbohydrate in a flower.
She watches as her shadow on the ground
grows more obese with every passing hour.


Annie Fisher is a storyteller and a member of Taunton’s Fire River Poets. Her pamphlet Infinite in All Perfections was published by HappenStance in November 2016.