Rob Miles – three poems

The 9.20 to Edale

Among the train’s tugged blocks
of sun
our carriage contains
an inquisitive boy, just
asking, asking
play-knowing, not knowing
ancient views now trickle in
and brim
from where it all began, while all
of passing spring gets up
waving, waving
for this one child; his hair
a hectic nest
of question marks, his pupils wide
but sharpening, his tiny finger
pointing, pointing
about to undo that dam.


A Transparent Order

Concurrent howls. Opposite pressures. Outside,
and bearing out the weather warning: gales.
The house couldn’t be more leaf-lashed, coldly spat
at, wind-bullied if it tried. Inside,

me, taking a moment; the nozzle of the vacuum
lolling over my arm, still sucking, rubber-
necking, freed to gag on nothing.

My vision is a piled, transparent order,
an asthmatic hive. In no time, layers will build
geologically, sedimentarily, as I choose

to move from upholstery to cobwebs then carpets
and back, everything within my power
to be spared, or made pre-history, to decide.


Matters Arising
for Ameena Berkowitz

I am not tired of London. No. But tired
of being told I cannot be tired
of London and, thus, told I am not tired

of life; for if you’re tired of London
you’re tired of living they say. But I am
tired of London today. Just today

I am tired of living in London, but not
tired of life per se. Explaining this
is proving exhausting, actuallay.

I’ll leave it here, let these few words
lie in the sunlight on this desk, or drift
and rise

where my eyes pay the sky
a quick visit… stick that
in your minutes.


Rob Miles is based in Yorkshire. He has published widely in anthologies and magazines such as Ambit, Orbis and Lunar Poetry, online in Nutshells and Nuggets and Morphrog, with poems forthcoming in publications including The Interpreter’s House, Angle and The Anthology of Age (The Emma Press). He’s won several international competitions including the Philip Larkin Society Prize, judged by Don Paterson, and been placed, commended or shortlisted in the Bridport, the Gregory O’Donoghue, Wenlock, York and Ilkley literature festivals, Live Canon, the Carers UK Creative Writing Competition, and three times in the National Poetry Competition. Recently, one of his poems was selected by Honouring the Ancient Dead and will be offered to museums nationally to be used alongside displays of ancestral remains.

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Janet Buck – two poems

Staring at “No Smoking” Signs

I can feel the winding tubes
that link me to machines that burp
but ferry crucial oxygen.
They pour some gunk in a feeding tube,
forced down my throat by dry, gloved hands,
clean up brown volcano spray
that exits out the other end.
I try to say this graciously,
but hell is hell; it’s spelled one way.

My husband goes outside
to suck on menthol cigarettes
until his lips are ocean blue.
His face is pale as wads of Kleenex
plugging up a toilet bowl.
He parks himself under a tree with tiny buds,
since this is Spring,
or maybe that is just a wish.
Weeps and puffs incessantly,
even though the action is illegal here.
Falls asleep for three short seconds
at a time—waking up to feel
a dozen cobra snakes around his neck,
his body tense with helplessness.

He stares at the “NO SMOKING” sign,
without a care for getting caught.
The thought of concrete jail cells
is better news than going home
to visions of our empty house
that’s missing the sound of my voice.


Multiple Choice

“Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” keeps haunting me
beyond so many sober years. I hated the smell of hops,
but drank my share of bitter grapes. Drank my share and so much more.
You call and tell me, “I’m really slugging bourbon down, don’t seem to stop.”
Your head must feel like chicken eggs that shatter on a kitchen floor.
The ones with red that might have scored a decent life.

Lately booze is dinner fodder leading to a fitful sleep.
Don’t take the bait most families serve like sushi on dry cracker rounds.
That stuff is in your liver now; tipsy turns to passing out.
Drunken antics, slobbering was funny in our college days;
you’re over 65 right now and I don’t have the arms and legs
to put a jug of water and two aspirin pills beside your morning coffee cup.

I know how “lonely” lonely feels. It’s all a game of multiple choice.
Pick another dot in squares, find yourself amidst the birch leaves on the ground.
You could fall and not get up; it’s coping by cinching a rope on your neck.
Take a walk because you can, clean out closets, hose the dirty patio,
anything for some escape but putting bottles to your lips.
My fingers, somewhat crippled now, are still inclined to touch what darkness harbors you.
Call me when you’re on the edge.


Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee. Her work has appeared in hundreds of journals worldwide. Janet’s second print collection of poetry, Tickets to a Closing Play, was the winner of the 2002 Gival Press Poetry Award and her third collection, Beckoned By The Reckoning, was released by PoetWorks Press in the spring of 2004. Her most recent work has appeared in The Pedestal Magazine and Offcourse. In 2011, Buck was honored as a Featured Poet of the Editor’s Circle in PoetryMagazine.com. In the spring of 2015, Janet was a featured Poet of the Week for PoetrySuperHighway.com. More of her work is scheduled for publication in various journals this coming year.

Lesley Quayle – three poems

One Night Stand

She’s first up.
From the window
she watches the sky
spit in the gutters.

Dishevelled by the night,
with yesterday’s dark glamour
smeared,
she watches.

Stale as old beer and
rank as the crammed ashtray
he emerges.
Yesterday’s head collides with today.

Washes.
Dresses.
Slams the door.

From the window
she watches him
spit in the gutter.


Ceci n’est pas une date

Here was the moment when it came apart,
a judder, scrape of tyres on a gravel lane, crank
of unco-operative gears. Hours parked, the old car
jacked aslant beneath a burst of elder, bramble and
the ancient crones of ash trees, rattling their seeds,
you sweating, grunting, musked by heat and toil,
the wheel-nuts rusted, each wrench and slip of brace
a petite mort. Hope rises
only to fall on its arse.

Hot-blooded in your rage, you threw the brace
I watched it spin over yellow grass,
skim straggled sycamores and split the sky.
You looked like a young god, kneeling, head down,
damp curls tender on the nape of your neck,
shirt sculpted to your body in dark patches.
I lay down beside you, mapped in soil and grit,
silent, unfamiliar then with the lexicon of lust,
unconcerned with rescue plans,
squinting at clouds,
the graffiti of birds.


When the Coo Coughs A Cuddy

Brought up on the ‘Orange’ side
of the Glasgow Road, between the park
and the dirty eddies of the Clyde
seeping down to the dog track,

every Saturday we pressed
our noses to the window panes
to see the gabardines and bunnets process
their skinny, muzzled greyhounds

up the scheme, heard Uncle Dan
slip out the house, his pockets loaded,
as if grandma didn’t know him better than
the back road home – blindfolded.

“He’ll be back the nicht, fu’ o’ drink,
wi nuthin but a hole in his pocket.”
We were being scrubbed-dunked in the sink,
skinned rabbits, wish-bone thin, a dripping racket

of scabby knees and rosy cheeks before the fire,
when we heard the back door scrape, felt the bite
of snell air as he swept on through, a slur
of whisky on his greeting, the cold, smoked night

following behind him through the room
and out into the drafty, unlit lobby,
“Did ye win?” “Naw. Mebbe next time, mebbe soon.”
“Aye, mebbe. Mebbe when the coo coafs a cuddy?”


Lesley Quayle is a poet, author and folk/blues singer, currently living in Dorset. Her poems have appeared in The North, Tears in the Fence, The Spectator, Stares Nest, Yorkshire Post, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Ink Sweat & Tears, Screech Owl, Prole, Black Sheep Journal, Pennine Platform, Second Light and Message in a Bottle (amongst others). She’s the author of a chapbook, Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce, 2009) and a full collection, Sessions (Indigo Dreams, 2013).

Charles Bane, Jr. – three poems

At the Observatory

At the observatory, I can
watch all the water mills
of galaxies. I deny every
injury in me and long to see
not backward but to forward
cliffs. I think the consequence
of you is written into the structures
we cannot know but by candles
in our room. Do you unfurl for
me? No, rather it is starry in your
eyes naturally and I want you
to order all the murdering
unstained from paper histories.
I deny sacredness
not born of your womb,
your hair the thousand
gestures of lovingness that
fall in gravity.

First published in the collection “Love Poems”.


Fire

Fire touches fire and in
the meeting is put out
til morning when we, in bed,
watch it rising from the east.
Such are we and all,
Other, from the ticking of
the first star. And all about
is rounded and curved that
we might find a pathway home.
All is made for but a little time
of light, and the light itself fashioned
by love for blazing kind. Here is
the truth, Other, that I read in my
twin’s eyes: this space is all,
this patch for us between dark
and innocent dark. This waiting bed,
these sheets, this torch I hold. Fire
comes to fire, and mimics first light.

First published in The Boston Poetry Magazine.


All The Men Went

All the men went
to the mines and
my grandfather carried
a canary in a small cage.
When the bird expired he
chose to stay as the others
rushed to air.
At his funeral Mass in
the church he never
entered, a choir sang
Danny Boy that was his
drinking song. No one
understood his choice
to lay beside his pick
and sleep; but I had
spent a night in his home
when I was small and called
down for his company.
He lay beside me
and explained how
the light that reflects
through a prism is a true
division of a miracle and
this was joyous to him to
know and he described
the tracks of carts carrying coal
and the flashing lamps of fellow
gods and he recounted, touching
my hair, the Iliad and Apollo of the sky
on a knee, firing arrows in single
beams.
He was without vice: but when the
elevator ascended from the shaft
in daylight savings time, grand-
mother told me he disappeared to
land for sale and tasted the rich black
soil of Illinois with a spoon. I think,
and write, of ultra violet and infra red
light that vibrates in every kind of
molecule, even cloud drops, in
a music for grandfather and choice
mythology.

First published in The Good Men Project.


Charles Bane, Jr. is the author of The Chapbook (Curbside Splendor), Love Poems (Aldrich Press), and Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall (Collection of Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project, and is a current nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida.
http://charlesbanejr.com

A C Clarke – three poems

Illusionist

Too young to take his measure, I learned early
to disappear, when he wore his ogre mask

to yell through. My mother long ago
had seen through his charms. He enchanted me

with the Ark he carved, the three sons of Noah,
yellow, red, blue with peg-top heads,

eyes black as currants. When he came home
from whatever it was, he’d bring me a book.

That was magic too, and his snatches of song
Oh little brown jug, a wandering minstrel I,

as he stirred his special soup – three days
to get it right. Master of ceremonies

at all our festivals, his rules were never
questioned. He knew how to do things,

didn’t he? I remember him standing
square at a trestle, driving a saw

through sheets of asbestos, the dust
snowing round him. Quiet, drawn into

the rhythm of the task. An August day.
Wasps were licking the sweet brown rot

of windfalls. There would have been
words that morning. I’d have hidden myself

as usual in a story. Now, as the saw
rasped back and forth in heartbeat time

and lupins shook out their pepper scent,
for a few moments I saw him lifesize.


On New Year’s Day

The sky has cried itself out, though the trees
still wring their branches like a Greek chorus.

The world is asleep. A bevy of pigeons wheels
suddenly away, returns bird by bird.

A whirr of wings then silence, not even
a low pigeon purr. They’ve blended

their sooty wings into the crevices
of chimneystacks, folded their pink-beaked heads

down over their throats, hiding that one
dash of colour, petrol in dingy water,

which would give them away. I imagine them
praying in silence to the great Pigeon God.

I see her leaning from a sky many-greyed
as her wings, clutching a clawful of eggs

which she tucks into a nest with infinite
tenderness, leaving no feather.


Life Companion

I look at my body in the mirror: my friend.
We’ve seen seven decades together, grown
into each other. The body is simple to write on,
logs everything, from seamed temple
to crooked toe. I look out from its mended
eyes. They look back.
Here you are they say, here is your truth.

Body, you have been kind to me, but
you tie me to your needs. I want to go AWOL.
I want to be freer than the freest particle
to be in the world and out of it
at the same time. I want to be unwritten.

For I too am scribbled with scars.
They are not like yours
with their clear beginning, their definite end.
I cannot say, on this date or that
a vein of trust was gashed, a bone of contention
snapped. The injuries infect each other,
harden to keloid tissue, break afresh.

Some days I am all pain, while you flash
your dental history to answering smiles.
Some days I draw on a wellspring
which has nothing to do
with your fluid intake and excretion,
cannot be read
from the lines mapping your forehead

Body, let me go, this once.
Let me know lightness beyond place or time.
I’ll be back.
We’ve a tryst we both have to keep.


A C Clarke is a poet living in Glasgow and a member of Scottish PEN. She was longlisted in this year’s National Poetry Competition, which had 13,000 entries.

Her latest collections are A Natural Curiosity, (New Voices Press), shortlisted for the 2012 Callum Macdonald Award, and Fr Meslier’s Confession (Oversteps Books).

She was one of seventeen poets commissioned to write a poem for the Mirrorball Commonwealth Poetry Anthology The Laws of the Game and her fourth collection, In The Margin, is due out from Cinnamon Press in November.

Angela Topping – two poems

Conspiracy Theory

She’s nicely spoken, neatly dressed,
intelligent blue eyes. She engages us
in conversation, but soon her story
leaks out in hints and covert glances.

She’s being hunted down, has left her home,
can’t stay long in one place, they are bound
to find her wherever she goes, no passport,
diminishing savings, no future plans.

We want to help, but every practical idea
is brushed aside like cobwebs. Her story
of doctors and lawyers, lies and deceits,
murder and conspiracy, thickens like gravy.

She smiles as she tells us she’s lost,
technically homeless, does not know
where she will sleep tomorrow night
yet offers to buy drinks, willing to spend.

She slips through the holes in her tale,
moves on to other listeners, takes
her constructs away in her small luggage,
shoes laced up tight to hold her secrets.


Dressing Up

These are not their clothes: the sensible shoes,
baggy food-stained nylon. They are only playing
at being old, whooping over hearing aids
dragged from the battered toybox.
Their crumpled shorts and Clarks sandals,
cotton frocks and hair-bows, lie jumbled
on playroom floor. Tired of the Wendy House,
they find a new game. Out come the wigs,
grey and white, make-up to draw on wrinkles.
They must practise bent backs and sore joints,
line up with zimmer frames and walking sticks,
ready for slow races down care home corridors,
protesting all the while that they are not old,
that they want their mothers, that it isn’t bedtime.


Angela Topping is an escaped teacher. She has been a published poet since the age of 19 and has seven full collections and three chapbooks to her name. She works as a poet-in-schools, jobbing poet and educational consultant.

She has collaborated with artist Maria Walker, and the resulting exhibition has been on show in the North West of England, in Scotland at StAnza and in Llandudno.

Angela’s collaboration with Sarah James, the poetry pamphlet ‘Hearth’, was published in April 2015 by Mother’s Milk Books.

Bridget Khursheed – three poems

Plough competition from the A91

the field is cut as if for drain laying
or an archaeological trench
the strips rigging out of each squat tractor
corduroy samplers
edible loam turned back like the earth’s skin
the good stuff beneath
the Masseys – this is a vintage rally
a word of mouth thing – there is no sign
for spectators – a lonely burger van
is uncustomer-ed in the corner of the field
there are a lot of men here
recreating the past and measuring it
and then a neat row of new 4x4s into Cupar.


Football supporters’ social club funerals

sometimes you think
it could be a wedding
the groups of people are the same
bursts of laughter, hats, taxis,
the new baby to be complimented
ah huvnae seen ye fur a lang time.

They stand on the cobbles
black suits and cigarettes
and eventually the mood changes
still it could be a wedding
too much heavy
he war a big man, nae,
gentle pushing becomes
a cry of pain, the fast scuffle
makes a maudlin shuffle home

it’s all the dancing tonight but the woman
with the baby is hooking up
with someone new in the late sun
smoke-shaped heart
next time it will be a wedding
the only thing missing now
is the music


Web monkeys

We move together, hunching
down at the coffee break, eating
biscuits we don’t want,
remembering a colleague left
gameplay upset
and what was last night’s boxset.

Immutable truths are repeated:
the sanctity of the Mac,
and XML object reuse,
the law of usability,
while our hands twitch at the thought
of the latest app:
Vector’s last stand,
or being fluffy and blowing
hard shapes back to kingdom come.

11 o’clock and someone makes the move
starting all of us on the long
detours that take us back to our desks
and keyboards that jump together
eventually into some kind of sequence
representing education
that they’ll say is good enough.


Bridget Khursheed is a poet and geek based in the Scottish Borders. She is a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award winner for poetry and has been published in anthologies and journals including New Writing Poetry, The Rialto and The London Magazine.

Her pamphlet ‘Roads to Yair’ (Twinlaw Publishing) came out on 1st May 2015.

Find her at www.poetandgeek.com and @khursheb

Julia D McGuinness – three poems

Chocolate for an Old Man

A slab of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk
glued to the roof of his mouth, his tongue
nudged it into sweet lava flow, slowly
lapped the tablet to the size of a pea.
An afternoon’s work. But no rush for one
who would now eat nothing but chocolate.
Cannot the dying dine as they please?

Acolytes bore chocolate tributes to his bed:
Soft-brown coins and creamy ingots;
mint-crisped, honey-combed, cocoa-bean created
oranges, cherries, leaves, bunnies, kittens. Hearts.
Crackling plastic trays stacked chocolates
that rolled like marbles in the hand,
warmed to matt, smudging bleached sheets.

In his dreams, Toblerone mountains coat-hangered the sky;
chocolate plantations stretched to the edge of the earth.
He grazed, gorged, no ration save time’s wrapper
round a body light as Aero, heavy with pain.

They gave him two days in August.
He died in December, legs Matchmaker thin,
taste of heaven already on his lips.


Doing Magic

Three stamps – strawberry, green, chocolate,
behind matching Italian nobles’ heads
tilted under hats tall as dustbins.
I shuffled them on a tray, snooty faces up,
crowned them with a plastic cup,
swirled them dizzy, yelled ‘Abracadabra! ‘
like the magician on the telly,
swept up my cup with a flourish.
The pink stamp really vanished once.

A grey-voiced newsman at a desk
read stories about gorilla warfare
and all the sweet, sticky people
held in custardy.
Then the Ajax Tornado zoomed
round a black-and-white room
and everything sparkled clean.
I begged Mum to buy one,
but she just smiled, watched
all summer at the kitchen window
as I played by the old tree-stump.
I jumped off it again and again,
flapping my arms, desperate to fly.


Mother at the Edge of Care

A war-time child, you heard ‘Walls have ears!’
but now it seems they have eyes that leer,
and arms that lunge to stab at your legs.

I brought you north to this walled city
to cocoon your old age, encircle frailty
in safety. Your mind had other ideas.

Weather-damaged by widowhood,
your walls grow porous; others’ heads
turn loamy and seem to sprout saplings.

Those you’ve loved appear in the guise
of nurses, Carers, contestants in TV quizzes.
You no longer know who is friend or foe.

Above the near motionless mutter of your lips,
faded blue eyes stare, their yellow iris lines
exclamation marks of surprise.

Exile, I strain to catch old names, fragments
from the carnival within, as clocks run amok
and the silenced enemy waits the hour.


Julia McGuinness lives in Cheshire where she is a counsellor and writer – and then combines the two in running creative writing workshops for well-being! Her first poetry collection ‘Chester City Walls’ is to be published by Poetry Space. She can be found at www.creativeconnectionscheshire.co.uk