Harry Gallagher – three poems

Entremet

Lipstick smiling, she is filling up.
Feasted out on scrambled heads,
she is toast; roasted in sorrows,
burnt to the marrow. Eaten away.

No longer fullofbeans, lemon tears
scald her dreams; citric kisses
searing at skin. She needs a waiter,
patience long as an a la carte menu.

One close at hand when the moment
arrives, serving up silence, all ears
and smiles. Twinkles and sympathy,
an entremet before sweet slumber.


A Bridge Too Far

These are the tracks
that carry the world;
crossing the bridge,
spanning the void.

These are the arches
that parry the wind
over the ridge,
avoiding the train.

This is the mind
that dreamt up the arms
that carry us now
from city to town.

These are the hands
that drew up the plans
to transport the steam
through every dene.

But this is the ego,
this is Canute
forbidding the tide,
refusing to stop.

This is the hero
dead on the quay,
who said No mere sea
will ever stop me!

This is the man
who built the bridges,
who changed the world,
who couldn’t give up.

Who kept on marching
into the storm,
who saw no tide
worth respecting.

Whose need to advance
was never ending,
who wouldn’t listen
to the voices
pleading to stop.
Never stop!

This is the man
who couldn’t swim
when his only ship
was sinking.

Note: In 1859 Brunel, the great engineer and builder died while trying to build the world’s biggest ship, The SS Great Eastern. The project was a disaster and many blamed the stress of the project for his premature death.


Whatever Happened To The Tuxedo Princess?

Newcastle, we have your Princess.
She is orange and drowning
in a river gone bad. Leaning
into a tide only going out.

Snared by a bridge nobody uses;
she was old and decrepit,
skin seared brittle. Fell into
sludge’s soft loving tug.

We have sponged her banal
with sunshine tomorrows, ashamed
to call the breakers in earshot.
She is almost bloated enough now.

And one day soon, we will bubble
about dignified ends; add her name
to the list of the glorious dead
of a town where everything dies.


Harry Gallagher has been published widely – The Stare’s Nest, Ofi Press, Heddon Quarry Press, Lucifer Press, Rebel Poetry, The Font Journal and many more. His third pamphlet, Chasing The Sunset was launched on 30th January by Black Light Engine Room Press. He is co-founder of The Stanza, a monthly poetry night in Newcastle, and performs regularly across the North.

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Miles Varana – three poems

The Gameboard at Midday

As dawn breaks, long shadows fall
over downtown blocks, covering everything.
Businessmen and businesswomen, bums,
flea markets, tow trucks, koi ponds, everything.

It is a huge game of checkers, played by trembling
hands in a nearby park, everything zigzagging, everyone
jumping over one another in a mad rush
to survive the next hour, row to row, all
uncrowned but not forgotten in the swirling din.

This is a game they have played before; the rules kept safe
in the lilting monologue of the subway conductor,
in the line cook’s sage advice, in the baritone
of the bespectacled zealot who told us,
“No matter how hard you try, you can never make Him hate you.”

As the sun climbs higher, its beams break the silhouetted plane
of downtown, opening holes in logic, cutting power lines
into strips of ribbon. And you can see, more clearly now,
the trembling hands, the diagonal boulevards,
the thousands who are running, dancing, crying,
just waiting to make a king.


Something’s Gotta Give?

When prom was finally over, I parked the car,
told my date goodnight, and watched her pink dress
disappear, like a magnolia sinking in the light.

Breathless, I drove home, navigated the kitchen window,
where the Virgin Mary sat side-by-side with potted cacti,
then crept down the basement stairs to my room,
past superheroes, and holes in the wall my father made
when he realized he couldn’t send me to college.
In bed, I closed my eyes, and dreamt,
without vulnerability of dreaming, of here; of home.

Years later, as Grandma cackled in her hospital gown,
I put my arms around her, and remembered that last dance.


Meena

She was 64, they found her in the living room.
The TV was on, and must have been for quite a while,
because they say the smell was like broken glass.
“She was so nice,” says Mrs. Defron next-door, “always so sweet.”
And everyone has heard, how her bathtub was full
of cigarette butts and empty wine bottles.
“I just can’t believe she’s dead. Who will live there now?”
There was a piece of paper on her dinner table.
It said: “Your cross can’t save you now.”
In letters that were small and calm.
And how could any of us know, that at 19,
all her friends called her Meena, she wanted to be a veterinarian,
and liked to listen to The Kinks,
that spring was her favorite time of year,
and that she once saw Walter Cronkite at a bar in Houston, Texas.
Upstairs Mr. Caswell says, “At least she didn’t have cats.”


Miles Varana is currently the co-managing editor of Hawai’i Pacific Review. He enjoys naps, rainy days, and copious quantities of egg nog. His work has appeared in Yellow Chair Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, and is forthcoming in Unbroken. Miles lives with his girlfriend, Alana, and their pet bunny rabbit, Cameron.

Gus Peterson – three poems

Vows

When I read I’ll promise
to always listen
but for now as your lips move
I’m adrift on the soft sea
of your shoulder thinking
how many stars died
to assemble you here today
in perfect periodic precision
not one element missing
and that if you ever do
lose a piece of yourself
the way our table
at the diner wobbles
after all the years
of hungry couples
starting and ending
I’ll fold the napkin of me
under one leg and we’ll
place our order


A Walk Before The Snow

For a while you follow
the yellow line,

zipping up the frayed coat
of this neighborhood

for one more storm.
In the pines beside a vacant house,

a tire pirouettes in its noose.
From the playground,

swings pumped by legs of wind
rasp their delight.

This is what the world does
when we withdraw.

Your loneliness is a woman
on the dance floor content

to wrap herself in her arms
and sway to the music.

Overhead the crow, unable
to contain itself, laughs.


Dave

We used to wonder
about him, sitting out
on the sunny steps eating
sardines on cracker,
watching the birds,
strolling up the road
for a coffee even though
the pot burbled all day
upstairs, trimming his Bonsai
between sales calls,
popping the weathered text
of his features into offices
instead of email.
We learned to seal off
any openings, to pick up
the phone whenever
his boots approached.
Seven years gone
and here we are,
still talking behind
closed doors.


Gus Peterson works in sales and lives in Maine alongside the Kennebec River. Work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in print from the Aurorean and Northern New England Review and online at New Verse News. A chapbook, When The Poetry’s Gone, was recently released by Encircle Publications.

Annest Gwilym – three poems

Milk

This weather reminds me of you:
wind and rain whistle down
the alleyway, tear leaves from trees,
cement salt onto windows,
send tin cans scudding down streets
with a jarring metallic scrape.

Nights of deserted windblown
encounters in dreary seaside towns:
posters torn, lights blinking, litter flying
in drizzled air, empty but for a hint
of fish and chips, seaweed, beer
and Wish You Were Here.

I remember a boy with skin like milk,
the taste of freshly baked bread,
chestnut hair falling into his eyes,
charm of a John Lennon smile;
dark eyes on white made this place
an Arcadia of cheek and jaw.

I was the shy new girl he chose,
16 and green, dazzled by headlights.
We skipped school for the sand dunes,
the river, the back of his father’s van;
the pine tree’s bark a tattoo on my spine.

Then the eyes always looking
for other beauty, greater loveliness.
I left you but I didn’t forget you,
my boy with skin like milk;
you were the yardstick others
never measured up to.

And now I hear of your early death,
a light goes out, the colours fade,
the milk sours.


The Greenhouse

At the top of the field
a room of wood and glass
that holds wonders.

Air heavy with earth and growth,
sun-born globes red as rubies
hang like baubles.

They leave a tang on the hands
and juice down the chins
of little thieves –

pick the bottom ones or those
hidden behind sticky leaves,
the smallest are the sweetest.

Grown by hands calloused
with use, earth-furrowed:
my grandfather’s green thumbs.


The Fox Road

After a month of sun and rain
grasses grow waist-deep,
downy with dandelion seeds
furring edges into soft focus.

The lizard basks and the adder
makes arcane trails through long grass
on warm dry crumbs of earth.
White butterflies dip and drink

from buddleia holding its lilac
candles to bright thick air.
By the oak trellised with ivy
the fox road into woods.

Here they are now building houses,
a crop of square concrete foundations.
Uprooted trees gape like hastily
pulled-out teeth, and at night

ghosts of lizards and adders
and butterflies parade, while phantom
lilacs wave in dusty air, and foxes
stalk the shrinking woods.


Annest Gwilym lives in North Wales, near the Snowdonia National Park in the UK. Her writing has been published in a number of literary magazines including Ariadne’s Thread, The Cannon’s Mouth, The Journal and on writersbillboard.net. A couple of her poems were published in the Templar anthology Mill in November 2015. She has received three ‘Special Commendations’ and one ‘Shortlisted’ in writing competitions in recent years. Also, she was the runner-up in the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2015, for short fiction.

Jacquie Wyatt – three poems

Octopus

Anna sits, pink petals furled,
as we talk of recurring
nightmares.
Her bones barely veiled
by her whispering skin.
Her skirt so short
she could be soliciting,
yet her legs are childish,
the picture of innocence.
Nothing enters her, including food.

Mine’s about an octopus, she says,
looking at her mother.


Passages

There’s something sacred
in sharing someone’s story,
sifting through dusty memories,
for their flannel-scrubbed faces.

Recollections clawed back,
as they land remembered selves
like gasping fish –
random flashbacks –
integral to them still.

I hear the same themes rise,
like rhythms drumming through
people, markets, shops, events
the hard, the kind, the nearly-new.

Passages long shared,
back ways in to gardens,
to acceptance and pride
in what we made of it all
in this little knot of streets,
so narrow you got glued
into each others’ lives.


Baton

You didn’t want to go,
whole, into the ground
because you thought most people,
like you, with your silly life,
meant little in the running
of the human race,
just passed the baton on.
Not enough earth
for each of us to become
boxed compost heaps.

You didn’t fancy cremation,
your grit flung in favourite places,
us stung by the loss of you,
slapped back by the wind,
spitting mouthfuls of shock.

You joked that we should shove you
in a black bin-liner,
now you’d shrunk you would fit
in with the rubbish –
leave you out on the kerb.
You didn’t want us fussing,
said you didn’t want me sad,
about you dying.

You might have guessed,
I’d keep you with me,
here, in this poem.


A refugee from marketing, Jacquie Wyatt writes poetry, flash fiction and novels. Her poems have been published in The Dawntreader, the Poems for a Liminal Age anthology (SPM Publications, 2015), Rollick, Structo, Chain Reaction and Gold Dust. She is a repeat winner of Write Invite for flash fiction and Hour of Writes for fiction and poetry.

John Mackie – four poems

Untitled

here I go again
confusing
movement with action
running hard
as though
all these distances
could
undo time

she looks
much smaller now
blurred
at the edge
wary of wormholes
and other
ways out


Duende
for Anna Lavigne

if it is in the voice
it has flooded there
from a thousand years
of sliding quarter-tones
rising in the throat
as mist at dusk
on some dark road
of flight

if it is in the feet
it has table top staccatoed there
high heels tipped with
percussive steel
below an uncurtaining
swish of petticoats

everything is on edge
in the darkest notes of the guitar
beyond the reach of firelight
locked out of the city

in the dusty hinterland
children’s eyes grow huge
swept up in a word that
has danced its beserker’s way
from “goblin”

to insinuate,
to place beneath our skin,
all the seductive sorrow
of the world


Exile

no more than a granite plug
to geologists who camped here
as students their tip-tapping
hammers sparking
lumps from Clachan’s shore

for we kids it was volcano
its head sliced flat by fire
forbidden to try for those
icy melt lochans and eagles
the low cloud of Raasay scudding
raising menace high

we carried Dun Caan with us
to cities of exile; narrow skies
struggles with money and breathing
daily wars of value and worth
uprooted, anomic, but always
drawn back to the roar of The Sound

this is no Cuillin
but high enough
after the steep slope winding
through bog and scree
past acidic lochs full of cloud
to quicken the breath
and widen the eye

up here on this plug
the fingers of kin
tug at my sleeve
tomorrow I walk with them
on Calum’s road


To A Younger Self

so you wish, so you say,
to bend your life to the goad
the restless itch of the word
to follow the wisp
of a will …… well,

change your name, address,
bank and passwords frequently
switch utilities and credit cards
learn foreign languages
live abroad whenever you can

use sheaths of noms des plumes
each with a different aesthetic
nipping from autographic
to allographic and back
all the while

you’ll have to put up with blood-type
shoe-size fingerprints and DNA
but coating yourself in PVA
will help you cover
some of your tracks

don’t talk with Roger Scruton
or look in Harry Fainlight’s eyes
for longer than it takes to know
that both are too convinced
to be convincing

don’t sit on the steps of the Albert Memorial
hoping for Wholly Communion
travel on storms
cluster with wildebeest
run from the roaring boys

follow it go with it
let it blow you away,
up all the red dirt tracks
down all the lead sea lanes;
nobody here will miss you


John Mackie is 70 years old, lives in Scotland and has been published in a range of media since 1965. A Strand of Pearls, his music and poetry collaboration with Gavin Sutherland and others, is currently available from iTunes, Amazon etc. John’s website is at www.johnmackie.net

Wendy Pratt – three poems

Now the Wolf is in the Cul-de-sac

it’s come down with the dusk, left
a vast geometry of pines, thin lines
of Christmas trees, sheep hemmed
into the grey-black fields. It’s worked
its way along the red brick walls,
PVC doors, nudged wind chimes
with its nose, paced the patios
and blanched itself to white in each
security light. You watch it coming,
hands, like X-rays on the glass,
your face as undone
as an etch-a-sketch, and all
that keeps the wolf away is light.

So each house lights its windows;
kitchens bitten into squares,
bathrooms petalled-finger-prints
of oblique head shots over sinks.
The wolf leans up against
your letter box and presses
forward with the wind and while
the dog whines from the sofa,
wolf knows neither sit nor stay.


The Art of Breaking Glass

There is an art to breaking glass,
a skill in all the panes I’ve smashed.

There is a skill to snapping stems,
an art to chipping off the ends

of ornaments; Murano fish
a skill within the crackled dish.

There’s skill in scattering the bits
a thrill in V shaped, finger nicks.

And every time I fall through one
I can’t resist the siren’s song.

I’ve fallen straight through full sized doors
I’ve stamped my feet on thick glass floors

I’ve ground my heal on sea glass pieces
picked from crevices on beaches,

picked up broken bottle necks
and pressed them up against flesh.

I even have a box at home
containing fibreglass, like foam.

I fell through my first pane in a faint,
head bowed divinely, like a saint,

I never felt the slightest pain,
so I performed the act again

and I’ve been falling ever since
to somehow prove that I exist.


Two Week Wait

Love turned the dial up
and watched us burn in its gas
light. Love caught us like frogspawn
and cupped us in the light of a duck
egg blue day. Love breathed and whistled
and lifted our faces and touched
us gently as truth must do, and ran us
through like soap suds on washing day.
Like clean sheets on the line we were lifted,
the breeze let us breathe. Love was needles
and charts and scans, love was clinic visits
and operations, love riddled us with drugs,
love shook us with hope, love gave us you,
love lost us both, love lost us all.


Wendy Pratt lives and works in North Yorkshire. Her first pamphlet and her first full sized collection were published by Prolebooks, her latest pamphlet, Lapstrake, is published by Flarestack Poets. She is currently undertaking an MA with Manchester MMU and a PhD with Hull. Her work has been published in many magazines, journals and anthologies. She won both the Prole Laureate and the York mix competition in 2015 and her poem Amazing Grace was highly commended and appeared in the Forward Anthology in 2015.
Blog: wendyprattpoetry

Adele Fraser – three poems

The Spy

Cheerfully fat and frumpy, I sit alone,
tucked away at a corner table,

Tesco carrier plonked on the floor beside me,
George jacket chucked on the back of my seat.

Although I am conspicuous, my presence
is nevertheless unobtrusive; somehow I escape notice

and they speak around me freely.
It’s not that they don’t see me, so much as
that they think I don’t see them and can neither hear
nor understand their conversations.

Discussing their secrets in front of me
seems no different to airing them

in the company of the chairs, the tables,
the abstract pictures and the menus.

In their worldview, real people
(people who matter, people who think)

always wear labels and exhibit
material evidence of recent gym attendance.

As I do not match that description,
they do not suspect that I listen

or that my imagination
could polish their stories,

until they shine, until you could almost
see your face in them.

And if ever they happen to see themselves in a poem,
they’ll attribute it to chance resemblance,

mere coincidence, as they turn to each other
and say ‘I’d swear that was us, but

I distinctly remember that the cafe was empty,
when we spoke of this that day.’


Uncle Simon

When we heard of his death, our greatest surprise
lay in the fact that it had not come in a car wreck.
He had a habit of crashing almost annually,
leaving cars concertinaed but nobody hurt.

He would always walk away, miraculously unscathed,
muttering to himself ‘Blooming bugger came out of nowhere!’
We used to joke that the phrase would one day be etched
on his tombstone, an epitaph and explanation,
two-for-the-price-of-one.

‘I need a fulltime job just to pay for my ruddy insurance!’
he’d complain, appearing bemused when everyone laughed.

In the end, it was his heart. Nobody ever noticed that.
He was all bluff and bluster, an ex public schoolboy,
sent to boarding school at five and never regaining the time
in which to grow up. He loved
cars which went fast and fireworks
which went BANG. He lived
with his parents until their deaths,
then sofa-surfed afterwards.

As his car pulled into driveways
on the dot of dinnertime, children would cheer,
as their parents sighed and whispered conspiracies,
inventing excuses in ever-increasing desperation.

– ‘Say we’re going… ‘
– ‘Where?’
– ‘A work do?’
– ‘We used that last time!’

Meanwhile, the children rushed
to open the door and usher him in,
never hesitating to welcome him
as one of their own.


A Portrait in Objects

Glass covered shelving.
Small china Shelties.
Drawers with lavender sprigs.
Seed cases of honesty in vases.
Toilet roll doll with knitted skirt.
Bed sheets, no duvets.
Crocheted armchair covers.
Photographs on a gleaming sideboard.
Pristine table cloth. Net curtain.
Privet hedge. Door chain.
A stick. A headscarf. An apron.
Shoe polish. Hair grips. Safety pins.
Curling papers. Stockings. Nivea.
A box of pens. A book of matches.
Butter in a bowl above gas fire.
Aynsley teaset, unused.
Pyrex mugs, well-loved.
Custard creams in shortbread tin.
Stockpiled cans of corned beef.
Advocaat. Babysham. R Whites lemonade.
Tinned pears. Evaporated milk.
Bottles on the doorstep.
Toys free with teabags.
Sugar in sachets.
A kettle that whistles.


Adele Fraser lives and writes in the mountains of Snowdonia. Her work has been published by a number of magazines. She also has poems forthcoming in The Interpreter’s House and Ink, Sweat & Tears.

Greg Freeman – three poems

The Probate Registry

Your last wishes see me frisked
at reception, as if I were heading
somewhere new. Sidling from
my pockets through the scanner,
embarrassing residue.
Waiting room of Dickens characters
look up, eye me suspiciously,
wonder if I’m jumping the queue.

When all this paperwork is done,
will I feel something then?
Remember pottering along the shore;
fishermen’s shacks in the old town?
A town that now seems grey, far away,
the place that lured me for so long.
Your last, happy months in the care home;
worries, responsibilities, gone.

Views open up on churchyard’s
twisting road; snowdrops
never seen before. Geese by the pond,
collie watchful at church door.
Umbrellas and grey, weeping sky.
Placing your ashes, I muddy my knees.
Reunited, the new plaque says.
Long winter, but not the end of days.


Sagrada Família

Melting gothic icing; someone
left the cake out in the rain.
Drunk accosts me
at a nearby bar; doesn’t want money,
just an argument. Laughs at my joke,
then accuses me of being American.

Crazy and beautiful Art Nouveau rag.
Poetry readings at Els Quatre Gats.
The drunkard embraces me roughly,
then squats on the pavement,
tears off his shoe.
Our daughter rushes to pay the bill.

Gaudi was killed by a Barcelona tram.
One day, they say, the cranes will be still.
Stone drips like tears, flows as waves.
Lettering advertises belief on façade.
Fabulous, or overblown homage
to Catalonia? You decide.


Looe Valley Line

Two dogs sport for joy
in the sun on the far bank.
I can’t believe my luck;
a branch line that evaded Beeching.
Single diesel coach, railbus
in all but name, clip-clops
past waders, mudflats, seaweed.

How many of these lines could,
should, have been saved?
River dwindles to a stream.
Tangled woodland, smallholdings,
an old tennis court. We come
to a halt; guard jumps down,
changes points. Train reverses

to climb into Liskeard,
circuitous route beneath
Brunel main-line viaduct,
to a separate terminus.
A line that knows its place.
Return journey at gentle pace.
Slightly dotty passenger

familiar to the guard,
reveals herself as a steam engine fan.
“What’s your favourite? Mine’s Clan Line.”
We descend slowly, surely,
towards the crabbers on Banjo Pier,
where the river meets my B&B,
and I loosen my mourner’s tie.


Greg Freeman is a former newspaper sub-editor who is now news editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud. His debut pamphlet collection, Trainspotters, was published in February 2015 by Indigo Dreams.