Kathy Gee – three poems

Homemade

I was seventeen before I tasted wine.
Ours was dandelion heads on verges,
fingers stained tobacco-brown at school.
Add Yorkshire tea dregs, citrus fruit, sultanas,
floating under grey-mould crust, the smell
of yeast from plastic buckets in the larder.
Choirs of bleep jars on my father’s wardrobe,
bottles in the cupboard out the back.

I tried to be the perfect, home-made wife,
transcribed my mother’s recipes
from marble-boarded pages stained with juice,
bought more fermentation jars and tubes.

On my divorce I emptied every bottle
down the sink. The kitchen smelled of childhood.


Almost Midnight

When Dad has be-bopped with his son,
danced ‘come on, come on, do
the Locomotion’ with his beautiful,
beautiful, given-away daughter;

when the trestles have been emptied,
guests drifted off down the lawn
and a lilac fascinator lies unloved
beneath a table; when the mother
of the bride has lost her shoes
and reunited friends don’t want to leave;

when, as if it’s the last time, the bride
has danced with her flower girls, hugging
and laughing with tears in their eyes,
and the last vintage bus is about to depart;

there, beneath an invisible fault-line in time,
the bridegroom winds his skinny arms
around his friends, their fair heads close
as wheat sheaves, reluctant to rip apart;
that’s when a dozen Chinese lanterns
dance in a bright, new constellation.


I can recommend divorce

I absobloodylutely love my single life.
I’ve started eyeing architects in corduroys,
those men who wear red beaten chinos,
men with beards and no commitment.

No one gives a damn if I eat meat
or finish off a box of biscuits.
I can choose the colour of my walls
and hang my paintings in the bathroom
far too close together.

Friends said ‘you’ll have time to do
those things you always wanted to’.
I’m fairly sure I always have. So now
I seek out small adventures on my own,
and sometimes, only sometimes
I can absobloodylutely understand
the purpose of a husband.


Kathy Gee works in museums and heritage in the UK. Since 2011 some fifty of her poems have been accepted by print and online magazines. Her first collection – Book of Bones – will be published by V. Press in 2016.

Rachael Clyne – three poems

X Rated

It’s the black and white, those minor chords,
that zither refrain, the avenue of poplar,
slash of scissors behind shower curtains,
or the night cutlery clattered from the tea stand
and alien ants scuttled from the pit.

She’ll never get the stench of Andrzei Wajda’s shit
from her nostrils, forever crawling
through Warsaw sewers with survivors.
There is no escape. Next time, there’s
always a next time; it’ll be her turn.

Bogies should stay behind the screen,
not the living room, not bedroom corners;
defeated by plucky chaps who empty tunnels
from trouser legs, rescued by wonder-horses,
called Champion. Only her faithful cat
can save her from the downstairs yells.


Reserve

Two ladybirders gaze at distant shapes.
Oo are they wigeon? Nah, tis just more
o’ they greylags. Wherewuzit we didn’t
see oystercatchers Pam? Wuz the tide wrong?

A man dressed like a mallard:
russet cords, teal jacket,
holds forth about bittern, plying us
with his endless gifts of information.

Couples flock along the path
gather for the Sunday starling roost,
their necks decked with lenses,
backpacks filled with flasks and fruitcake.

Nah! Got the road wrong. T’wuz disappointin mind;
like them ‘oliday brochures what make places
seem fabalous, but when you do get there
they’re not; bit like life really.


Taking Account

The first day, forty bin-bags filled
with serviettes, sugar-sachets, plastic spoons,
pinched from Asda. That was just the kitchen.

Bedroom drawers, stuffed
with brand new towels, gloves, cardigans
bargains, he insisted, had them ages.

Sixty pairs of shoes, fifty ties
two double-wardrobes of suits
he altered to fit himself.

Ten spare pairs of spectacles
twelve extra hearing aids
a carrier bag of tiny batteries.

On the thirtieth day – a final sweep.
Above the wardrobe shelf, the secret shelf,
for his credit cards, was empty.

Then – another shelf, above the other shelf,
I used a grabber to sweep it; fourteen sets
of dentures tumbled round my head.

That day, a black sea of eighty bin-bags
on the service balcony. I thought of men
in Africa, wearing his eyes, ears and teeth.

Of my Mother, all that remained:
a vanity case, a hairbrush, a few nighties.
He sold her platinum rings for vitamins.


Rachael Clyne lives in Glastonbury and performs at venues in the southwest of the UK. Her collection, Singing at the Bone Tree (Indigo Dreams, 2014), won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize. Anthologies: The Very Best of 52 (Nine Arches Press, 2015), Book of Love and Loss (Belgrave Press, 2014), Poems for a Liminal Age (SPM Publications, 2015). Magazines: Poetry Space, Reach, Domestic Cherry, Tears in the Fence, The Interpreters House.

Marc Woodward – two poems

Too many dresses

Stunted thorns slump east.
Three red calves stand on the ridge
rumps to the west wind.

Rabbit weary grass
faints at the clump of his boots.
In the house below

she’s folding dresses.
A thin surrender of smoke
waves like a torn flag.

By the time she leaves
he’s sodden to his white chest
and the fire has died.


The battle of Newcomb Hollow

I went at dawn to Newcomb Hollow,
a war reporter for breaking light.
To see the last-gasp darkness swallowed
down the gullet of a mackerel sky.

I was spied by periscoping seals,
popping through the barbed edge ocean;
commanding waves to raid and steal
in constant pillaging incursions.

Resisting them: a Marram band
defended the cold and cratered dunes,
resolute and still in that half land,
waiting for a wind borne call to move.

Later I wrote of the Kingdom of Whales,
every stanza a water-board of light.
Lying down I dreamed of buried shells
and silent seals watching me at night.


Marc is a poet and musician from Devon. He’s been published in numerous magazine and web sites including Ink, Sweat and Tears; Otter; Stride; The Broadsheet; The Guardian Webpages; The Poetry Society Website and in anthologies from Ravenshead, Forward, OWF and Sentinel Presses.

Karen Jane Cannon – two poems

Daughters of Thor

At the first rumble we would scramble to the window,
eyes bright lightning strikes,

ears curved conch shells, echoing
the distant tide.

The air charged with static,
from the low rumbless in our parent’s room

and we would count the claps of thunder –
One thousand, two thousand, three thousand,

as the storm blew overhead.
We watched for the flash of electricity

that would split the sky so wide—
once we climbed up a jagged fork of light

and crawled inside. We stared down
at the channel churning below, marbled as tombstone,

saw the look of horror on the faces of of sailors
trying to turn into the wind.

And watched the coastguard slip from his bed,
his life neatly rolled up on the shore.

We didn’t feel the sharp edges of sky tearing
our skin— the three of us,

worthy daughters of Thor. We just listened
behind closed doors.

In the morning our mother would sweep debris,
sew the world back together again.

She tried to fix the sky split too,
with a plastic first aid kit, rolls of lint.

But on a bright day
you can still see the scars.


Mary’s Key

The day Mary died
she was fussing for her key— the silver Yale

which fitted snugly inside the lock
back home.

She’d left the fumbling of pockets, handbags,
on the other side of the hospice doors.

The nurse said the night before she died
she’d cried for all those times locked

inside the understairs cupboard, scolded
by her mother— over eighty years before.

When we collected her things –
nighties, glasses, a wash bag,

we found a spare key pinned
into the hem of her skirt.


Karen Jane Cannon’s poems have appeared in a variety of print and online journals, including Acumen, Orbis, Obsessed with Pipework, The Interpreter’s House and Ink, Sweat & Tears, as well as anthologies such as Other Countries (Rewiring History, 2014) and The Sea. She was highly commended for The Flambard Poetry Prize 2014.

Louise Robertson – three poems

Celery

I hate that my name means love. I hate
that my name, when written or spoken,
means I have to say “love” to you, to everyone.
It’s embarrassing. When
you flash your bleached teeth at me,
I don’t want to love you. When you
simper and whine and jerk
yourself back and forth, anxious
as a weed on a highway, I don’t want to love you.
My parents did this to me. How could
they know that it feels like I’m
Superman when I love someone
except that, instead of opening
my shirt to reveal a bright S, when
I open my ribs — like the wings
of a jacket — my lungs and
pancreas fall out. I hate that.
I don’t want to please you. I don’t
want to teach you anything. I
do not want to do as my mother did
in the kitchen
when she peeled off the cardboard
outsides of the celery, pulled off the strings
and the fiber, worked out
the soft, sweet inside stem, and
held it up for me.
It’s the best part she said,
then she gave it away.


Brain Pan Anniversaries

We are listing the ways the leaves
scratch the pavement. I say they’re like hands;
you say like feet. Our brains don’t know
calendars, but they know the smell
of burning yard waste. And the smell of
sprinkler water. And the smell of
manure fertilizing the damp earth.
And the smell of snow colored
with exhaust. That could be our
lungs there. You were born
in the time of the chrysanthemums
and hot cicada buzz. He was born
in the time of dry grass. A long
time ago, we were under the ground and climbed
up into the light grabbing at
other people’s stories like
they were ours. Hands, feet,
we’re all sometimes trying to get
under the ground again.


Cathedral

Like a cathedral:
inside your mouth. The apex gives
it away, as high and rigid as a spine.
The arch of your foot; I catch your foot
in my hand like a fish. Your ribs,
cuddling as they do the lungs. When
you breathe out words, it’s bellows
to the fireplace. The big walk-in fireplace.
Your skin does a great service
to the naves and fonts of your body.
Who doesn’t love
the architecture and the vestments?
So many altars. Gospel. Song. Pulpit.
I should believe. Body. Voice. Mind. Mouth.


Louise Robertson has earned degrees (BA Oberlin, MFA George Mason University), poetry publications (Pudding Magazine, Crack the Spine, Borderline – among others) and poetry awards (Mary Roberts Rinehart, Columbus Arts Festival Poetry Competition – among others). Brick Cave Media published her full-length book, The Naming Of, in December 2015. She is active as a poet and organizer in her local Columbus, Ohio poetry scene. Someone once said about Robertson that, underneath it all, she is kind.

Claire Walker – three poems

We Show Our Tattoos to the World

You frown at the skeleton on your wrist,
a temporary transfer for Halloween.
Arm stretched in front of you, a puzzled
appraising gaze, you say it’s upside down.

I tell you that when I had mine,
spoke to the artist about rotation,
he said we show our tattoos to the world.

A permanent initial –
your letter that I keep on my wrist –
performs a headstand before my eyes
but I wear it so that everyone might see.


Turquoise

Our paths cross at the tills.
Her blue velour tracksuit at odds
with carefully set hair, her make-up
slightly clowned from unsteady hands.

She bends slow knees to my daughter’s height,
asks her what’s your baby’s name?
My little girl wheels her doll’s pushchair forward,
starts four-year-old chatter.

I turn to the checkout, half hearing
the lady’s praise of pretty names and red hair.
I realise she’s opened her purse, is passing coins
to my daughter, whose hand is open, eager for shiny things.

I stutter at how to say no,
how to give the money back,
we teach not to take from strangers .
She says I never had any children, which is sad.

I smile, touch her turquoise arm,
thank her for this kindness;
glad of my daughter’s little hand
cupped in mine.


Stationery Thief

I find shavings of rubbings-out
piled on her floor, discarded skins.

The spiral spine of my notebook,
stretched from pages taken for sketching.

The sheen of gel pens
claimed as a crayon upgrade.

Post-it notes appear,
her dots and loops around the house,

then highlighters: knock-your-eye-out
orange and pink streaks emblazon walls.

I sit at my emptied desk, thinking how quickly
one little girl gets through so much stationery.


Claire Walker’s poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and websites including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, And Other Poems, Nutshells and Nuggets and Crystal Voices (Crystal Clear Creators, 2015).

In October 2015 her debut pamphlet, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, was published by V. Press.

Her website is clairewalkerpoetry.com and she can be found on Twitter at @ClaireWpoetry.

Seth Jani – four poems

Wren Song

It’s the color of wet madronas.
Tucked under the wing-bone
Like a nestling light.

A plum-sized coin
Carried around in secret.

In the waters of late fall
It is thrown over from
The high branches.

A startling snowfall.
A confettied grace.


Sea Glass

Sometimes the moon of this world
Comes down to incite your dreams.
It’s a fire that knows no limits,
Largening in your head like a rage
Or vision,
Like a small silver thimble
Spilling oceans, magnitudes of light.
It burns off the day as one or two
Dropping tree limbs, shattering misconceptions,
Leaving you a stranger to yourself,
Cradled in sleep.
Sometimes the moon of this world
Is a totem we carry with us,
An assurance that when the time is right
There will be a passage, a conduit home.
Sometimes it is simply a flame
Going wild in your heart, in the sky,
In your hands where it becomes
A million shining vigils,
A trove of weathered glass.


Dirge

I’m going to disappear
Most likely
Into Autumn,
A convert to the fading leaves,
The falling waters.

It will be somewhere
On a shoreline
While the red light
Hems the sea,

While the world I’ve loved
Buzzes into black,
Some animal circuitry

Shutting down its fight
For colors
In that one late season
When they matter most.


Real Talk for the Brokenhearted

Someone you love choosing to become a stranger
Is the sort of thing you carry with you forever.
People say time will mend the grieving,
But really we just grow distracted,
Find consolation in moments of focus.
To cope we develop a kind of ADD,
So that we can feel anything outside our loss.
But I’m here to tell you
It doesn’t work,
It doesn’t fucking work.


Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress. His own work has been published widely in such places as The Foundling Review, The Devilfish Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review and Gravel. More about him and his work can be found at www.sethjani.com.

Robert Nisbet – three poems

A Day Trip to 1959

Imagine Fate re-dealt the decades’ deck
and sent me shuffling half a century back.
I’d rise with such lightness of shoulder,
so little baggage. Swot ‘A’ level awhile,
Jane Eyre OK, I’ll get the hang of Browning soon.
(Meanwhile a Soviet Lunik has started the Space Race).
A kick-around at the Rec, tea, down to Dev’s,
kids cackling, juke box hot with fun. (Remember
that Buddy Holly has already died). And Helen.
She has fair hair, brown eyes and soft brown legs.
No history I know of. No issues. Saturdays, we go
to the shelters at the back of the Parade.


Endpaper

In the strict sense, it’s not an endpaper at all,
but he’s found a letter now, in a scrapbook,
from the girl in Solva (they were seventeen)
and it reads like an epilogue
to youth’s last stretches,
a book’s or chapter’s end.

The writing’s clear, round, strong.
I am in bed and missing you.
(He remembers reading that the very first time,
the heart’s, the pulse’s leap.)
She writes about the school in Dewi Sant,
the history homework. She’s in bed now
(O bed, bed, bed!), listening to Radio Luxembourg,
Bobby Darin singing Dream Lover.
Her mother much prefers Sinatra.
But the girl writes,
I will remember you in my dreams.

The plod, the schmaltz, the earnestness.
The brief while’s joy.


Harvest

As boys, we shucked into old blue jeans,
felt the welcome of sunlight
as we breasted the ridge, over into the woods.
We gathered the conkers, fat, beautiful,
plucked their brownness from soft shells,
savoured the glistening,
then set to hardening them, in vinegar,
ambition spilling in.
Later bigger boys would come
(there were always bigger boys),
swinging their gross, rock-hard opponents,
our conkers splintering.

Don nowadays, working in sales,
is groomed and punctual, successful,
gathering in the text and the bravado
of half-year balance sheets.
He recalls that earlier self, misses him.
He remembers breasting the ridge,
the morning’s sunlight and the glow
of chestnuts’ brown before the plucking out.


Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. His poems have appeared in his Prolebooks pamphlet, Merlin’s Lane (2011), have been published widely in magazines in Britain, and in the USA in magazines like San Pedro River Review, Red River Review, Constellations and Main Street Rag. Two poems appeared recently in India. One of his short stories was featured in the recent Parthian anthology, Story II.