Jennie Farley – two poems

Grandma Jenkins

Grandma Jenkins stirs her porridge
the wrong way. She doesn’t feel

the need for teeth. Her eyes
are sharp as tin. On warm days

she sits at the cottage door, her skirt
stretched wide, shelling peas.

I hurry past on my way to school,
but can’t resist a backward glance.

Would she put a spell on me?

Once I dared myself to stop
and say, Good morning.

Grandma Jenkins beckoned me
close, I could smell her baccy breath,

she leaned forward with a cackle,
chucked me under the chin. I ran

and ran. I haven’t yet turned into a rat
or an owl, but I go to school another way.


Tea Candles

There was this woman – let’s call her
Maud – who went about helping herself
to things in shops. She was the kind
of person should keep a cat, eyes the blue
of a child speechless with joy at a birthday party.
She wore a flowered frock with lots of smocking.
She left her large shopping trolley in the hall.

Her front room was a tottering tower
of glorious booty, jewelled slippers,
velvet gowns, fur capes, things
she’d never wear.
There was a drawer full of tea candles,
a small table laid with lace doilies,
fairy cakes, sherry in tiny glasses
to welcome visitors who never came;

and no one would ever see inside
the airing cupboard on the landing,
each shelf heaped with bootees,
knitted baby bonnets, plastic
rattles in pink and blue.


Jennie Farley is a published poet and workshop leader.  Her poems have appeared in magazines including New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Lunar Poetry, Prole and have won several awards. Her collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is due out later this year.

She has performed at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, the Swindon Poetry Festival and at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre.

She runs The New Bohemians at Deepspace Community Art Centre, Charlton Kings, providing writing workshops, performance, poetry and music events, and is founder/leader of Picaresque, a troupe of women performance poets.

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Amy Schreibman Walter – three poems

Laundry

There was a time when I traveled
in the dark, sheer across 21st street –
pyjamas, padded slippers, quarters jangling
under my winter coat, as though a homeless person,
or a crazy, only to wash my sheets.

There was a time when I delivered my laundry
to a large Laundromatic drum, sat on a plastic chair
waiting for the cycle to finish, squeaky brown seat
upon bright orange linoleum. I wrote letters to you
on formica countertops as people were sorting their
whites from their darks.

There was a time when the operatics of soap suds
dying against a plastic porthole
distracted me from reading Great American Novels.
On Sundays I talked about the rain with the Chinese lady,
the one who had an endless supply of change in her jar.
New York was a hard place to live.

This is not New York. Today
our dirty linens have no duffel bag to contain them.
I carry them down carpeted stairs in bare feet.
The arms of our sweaters reach to each other,
your socks spin inside my socks.


Disavowing Barbie

You insist
she has to go.
You’re kicking her out.

You’re ten;
she’s bringing you down.
She’s babyish,
woefully out of fashion.

So you start with drowning,
but she won’t sink –
her blue painted eyes
smile knowingly at you,
defying submersion.

Her thin frame resists
your hands –
her plastic body drifts
in the ocean of your childhood
blue bathtub.

She floats back up to you
mermaid-like, bobbing,
unphased, apparently
overly optimistic.

Still she doesn’t die
when you put her
in the microwave–
even as her plastic legs burn.

The timer rings,
you scrape her out –
still fully intact.
There’s no explosion
like you’d hoped,
no combustible parts.

You eventually
decapitate her –
girls always do.
You chop off her hair,
pull off her legs.

Even then –
headless, legless
all her doll parts
in bits, scattered –
she stays afloat,
incapable
of a complete death,
a kind of decaptitated Ophelia.


The Last Time I Went To The Movies With Ida

A new hairstyle, wisps of her
dyed blonde hair falling
onto her thin eyebrows.
Beads, a scarf, red nails,
French tips. I wheeled her
an Avenue and a block.

At the Quad, she befriended
the usher, popcorn crumbs
scattered on his shirt, a whizz
with wheelchair brakes. Winking,
she told him: This is Manhattan,
of course they have a section for wheelchairs.

It was a Parker Posey movie –
some low budget New York independent
thing. She fell asleep
halfway through. I debated
whether I should wake her,
watched 40 something actors,
self- indulgent dinner party dialogues.

What did I miss? Ida took my hand,
stroked my palm with her fingers.
On screen they were drinking
vintage port.


Amy Schreibman Walter is an American writer and teacher living in London. Her poetry and articles have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her latest poetry chapbook, Houdini’s Wife and Other Women, was recently published by Dancing Girl Press. You can find her here.

Pam Muller – three poems

A Scarce Decade

Thorny stems claimed my late neighbour’s home.
Grabbed what ground they could, crept under the eaves and pushed in.

The rising path John once walked, now belongs to the hare.

Ivy seals the windows, a tree grows from the chimney.
Winter winds have lifted slates and knocked the leaning shed.

In the slant of sun, slow cattle moved in the bramble field.

Fallen stones lie scattered where the wild goats leaped a wall.
The rusted gate still hinges on twisted wire and twine.

Fuchsia bells droop over the fence his grandchildren climbed.

The hedge he trimmed is tall and wild with purple flowers.
I pause as I pass his door, where he leaned his blackthorn stick.

Been years since a dog came out to join me on my walk.


After All

The calloused grandfather tells us of hard times,
mixing concrete with a shovel, digging foundations by hand.
How he kept joking when he felt like walking away from it all,
drinking the health of another newborn.

The grandmother tells us, we had nothing, we did
the best we could and made soup with the bones.
Children collected berries in jars to make jam.
They played with a skipping rope and stones.

Every year she knitted seven woolen jumpers,
The children chose the colour wool they wanted,
got from the jam money she made with their help.
She crocheted a shawl for the baby with the scraps.

Now her gnarled hands fold rugs, often mended,
loyalties recalled, embroidered in careful stitches.
When they were young they sang, danced and loved.
That is what they had, after all.


Granddad’s Weekend Break

Heart attack
two stents more
that makes four
In Friday
out Monday
good as new
or nearly
How was your
weekend break
Some holiday
he said
the bed
uncomfortable
the food
inedible, no butter
no salt, but
the nurse was
beautiful
I almost lost
my heart


Pam Muller was born in South Africa in 1958 and has been living in the South West of Ireland since 1978. She has been writing poetry since she joined Clan na Farraige,
‘People of the Sea,’ a small writer’s group in Kenmare, Co. Kerry over twenty years ago. She won the Speaking for Scéine Poetry Chapbook 2014 prize and originalwriting.ie poetry prize in 2015. Her early poems appear in Perspectives (Askif Press, 2005), a self-published collection which she shared with her husband Etienne Muller and son Michael Muller.

Charles G Lauder Jr – two poems

The Hideout

Far from the madding crowd you must build
a hideout—treehouse, hawthorn den,
village hovel across the sea, whatever.

Stash there a lifetime of loot, starting with
the Stratocaster and amp, blunt picks as bookmarks
in passages of Lawrence and Hardy you meant

to return some day. Cover the walls with silk
valances from Oman reeking of cinnamon
and men beheaded in Saudi market squares,

Audrey Hepburn’s portrait, and sketches
of past lovers asleep in sunlight. Cut
the doorway low and arduous, crawl in

as if at the end of a seven-year pilgrimage.
Preserve each room with stems of lavender
scattered on sofa and window sill,

sealed with turquoise shutters stitched tight
with cobwebs. Share this place with no one.
Already woodworm bore into Aunt Laura’s

pine sideboard and your love of Dad’s Army,
pigeons desecrate the bed through holes in the roof,
mice make nests out of the half-baked manuscript.


The Search for Sustenance

Lost amidst fourteenth-century city walls
there has been a schism. Steps chipped and marked,
the home of Lady Day parades and bishopric feet
with Cross held high, lead into the papal palace
swept by the sway of rouge robe and censer.
How small and diminished beneath this vaulted
painted sky of cherub couples waltzing
on bowed heads. Mass is still mass
in any language, comforting yet claustrophobic
like the houses’ approach in the older
purer districts, half-shuttered and not speaking
to strangers. The travel guide has been stolen,
petals of letters home pressed inside
have been torn apart and scattered,
half-formed thoughts that will soon perish
in the rain, beneath shoe and tire tread.

There is peach orchard after peach orchard
beyond the gates in the wall. Corpulent
sun-baked flesh dangling from branches
stretched out towards the road, a gift
to be plucked before anyone notices.
The first bite sends rivulets of hot juice
trickling down the chin. Pickers in Speedos
or cut-offs and bikini tops dart
amongst the trees like industrious nymphs.
But each farm says the same: pas de travail.
Ripe with blisters from day-long walking
and no sanctuary to be found
we finish on the riverbank shrouded
in sleeping bags, still not speaking,
feet pointed toward the water,
waiting for the rising tide.


Charles G Lauder Jr was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and has lived in the UK since 2000. His poems have appeared internationally, and his pamphlet Bleeds was published in 2012 by Crystal Clear Creators. Most recently he was highly commended in the 2015 Poetry Society Stanza Competition. He is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.

Richard Biddle – three poems

The Catch

Our aluminium row-boat full
of beer and ambitions,
we jump in, open a bottle and scull
toward the shallows.

Slugging back, longed-for swallows
we banter;
me an apprentice and him,
the master.

Dumb men, reeling each other in
with words.

Taking regular glugs, our voices
drunkenly mingle
as we watch for signs of struggle.

Woozily floating in the sliding tide
that laps at our lives,
we piss our boozy bliss
over the side.

Our dropped net is hope and the
popped tops of our brews, fizzing time.

We check the haul.
Hand over hand he pulls in as I row
slow oars, wet and steady.

Silver crescents of fish come twisting up.
Dizzy with agony, they gulp
dry-drowning gasps at us.

One by one he untangles their caught bodies
and coshes them with an empty.

In the calm pleasure of this moonlit swell and
clanking lager-brown, glass-rolling symphony,
their scales, hard as fingernails, glint like lenses.

Safely landed, the smell of it lingering on our fingers
and clothes, we drive an empty road home;

victims of the lure.


Remnants

Clutching a bag of just-turned crusts, she steps onto
the shoreline. Before a crumb is cast, they come;

the gulls. Gluttony breaks from beaks as they stab
at the broken host; relentless, ravenous. Screeching,

the flock attacks stale scraps, frenzied peck, after
frenzied peck. She stands amidst this assault, calm

as a corpse; a priestess performing the Eucharist.
Then as now, the space between us, like wings in

air, seems not to exist. Female form, bread and birds
alike, sea, beach, sky, everything entwined. Minutes

later, they have flown, and on they go scouring the
coast for carcases, trash-heaps, other homes – their

mewing calls, a barrage of thought, possessing the
silence that, haunts the vaults of my echoless skull.


Planting Onions

Crouched in drizzle, on loam
studded with flints, I plug the
earth with my obscene dibber.

Dropping sets, into these wet
orifices, is like burying pearls;
each one a treasured offering.

My bulb-bulging pockets make
me a muddy child, thieving
sticky handfuls of pick ‘n’ mix.

Their papery skins flutter away
like sweet wrappers, like moth
wings, like cigarette papers.

Looking skyward, through rain,
I speak a fertility prayer to Cepa,
purple-haired God of Alliums.

Let these seeds; swell with bruised
water, become taut as scrotums,
sweat-sharp and sweeter than lust.

Oh the tears I will cry, as I peel
away the layers and chop, dice,
sauté or fry their caramel hearts.


Richard Biddle won the Big Blake Project 2013 poetry prize for his poem ‘Transparency’

His work is published online, and has appeared in; Urthona, Brittle Star Magazine and Dream Catcher and in the anthologies ‘Transformations’ and ‘The Nine Realms’.

On twitter, as @littledeaths68 he regularly contributes to the experimental writing projects @chimeragroup0 and @echovirus12.

His long, illustrated poem for children, ‘Horizon’, is due to be published this year by Birds Nest Books.

Brett Evans – three poems

Jawbones
for Kate O’Shea

Go hang yourselves, boys,
before you announce some martyr wept
tears for her enough to cause the Liffey
to flood or swell the Irish Sea. Hang yourselves
and your Celtic twilight too.

The sweetness of sonnets is sickly, boys.
No beau wants to choke
on the lady’s vomit. Go hang
yourselves if claiming long lost
Broadway lyrics penned
prematurely ; as if she’d nibble
at your deaf ear Let’s do it.

Best hang yourselves. Insist and I could swipe
a jawbone to take ten thousand down
and raze her city too. But what of that?
In such swift time she’ll have stuffed
your mouths with her sass.


The Monterey Strat

Made up and flaunting my body,
some would say I was asking for it.
The much plainer one he’d been with
all night; caressed her, kissed her, stroked,
fingered and licked her. Those hands
knew what they were doing;
who wouldn’t want a bit of that?
All night he wowed and wooed,
and it was the Summer of Love for Christ’s sake.
Shy, yet mischievous, how I thought him
from the wings. To be in his arms,
my curves tucked into his. The bastard
played a cheap tune on me; even that foreplay
was mocked by the violence to follow. He had me
up against the amp, laid me out, burned me.
Those long, strong fingers around my neck,
he smashed me to the stage; our music distorted.
The witnesses did nothing despite their shock.
It was obvious he’d do it to another.


Sloth on the Dawn Chorus

Sloth is not of the belief
that even music lovers wake up singing.
The birds may be lamenting the early light
and no lie-in. Some screech, some hoot,
some with shoulders back look to seize
the fucking day and all who have disturbed it.
Sloth can’t consider it a chorus
if they are all intent on different tunes.
He feels his late noon yawns
and farts much more symphonic.


Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native north Wales. His debut poetry pamphlet, The Devil’s Tattoo, was published by Indigo Dreams and he is co-editor at Prole.

Guinotte Wise – two poems

Between Wars

The war that split up all the families
Spit up all the grieving heaving
Yeah that scary war with newsreels
goose-steps heil hell and those
others with thick glasses big teeth
in all the comics that even Superman
couldn’t make me feel safe in the
gathering of paper and steel and
then the atomic bomb and then it
all began again. My old man might
have kissed that nurse in Times Square
his sailor hat squared on top
bending her back did she resist
and my stepfather packed the bags
and said goodbye to the Manhattan
Project that so taxed his engineering
nuclear fission nuclear fusion
made a world of smithereens
and I got a Red Ryder pump
to X the eyes of all the commies
tube of BBs road to ruin sure thing
being Mr. Death and more wars
ramping escalating upping ante
never ending notwithstanding
peaceniks beatniks signs in yards
and coexisting bumper stickers


Reno Pete

He drove a Lincoln Zephyr down to Caliente
fled to San Diego with the money in his shoes.
Circled back to Reno, then to Laughlin, Kansas City, danced with all the women on the way
Lost the Lincoln out in Vegas, vowed he’d never marry, off to Louisiana, ended up blacked out by Frisco Bay
The women said he danced and drunk or sober never minded wins or losses
Never minded cuts or bruises never wept nor cast aspersions never slowed his way of going always happy always spending always flashing teeth
and dancing teaching how it’s done his way
They knew he was a boxer, and therein was his dancing grace and spinning moves and laughing and yes he was a ladies’ man but never on the ropes of love and never down for long, much less for ten
Spectator shoes of black and white and moves transcendent lit the night
He danced and fought and gambled and made his weekly comebacks
To delight the whirling women, light up another fight card,
head for Caliente, the money in his shoes.


Guinotte Wise lives on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection Night Train, Cold Beer (Pelican Grove Press, 2013) won publication by a university press and not much acclaim. Two more books since. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it.

Melanie Branton – three poems

Manilla

I wanted to be enveloped by manilla:
strong, secure,
large letter size, recyclable.
I wanted to be bubble-wrapped.

But I found only men who were
lightweight, tear-resistant,
single use only,
self-sealing or
would not bend.
Second class.

They got lost in the post
and, damaged in transit,
my life has remained
stationary.


Kissing With Tongues

We love it, our little mongrel bastard,
spawned when Harold was shafted at Hastings.
A Norman bowman’s battle prick
burst the hymen of his eye,
spuming its load of Romance seed
into our Anglo-Saxon core.

Since then we’ve been kissing with tongues
with our inamorati, our fiancés, with the ombudsman,
at the rendezvous, in the bungalow, at the kindergarten,
for the paparazzi, for the pundits, for the hoi polloi.
We’ve sampled the smorgasbord and
that tutti-frutti macedoine
made our tastebuds sing.


Fused

I exchange polite formalities
with a man I’ve just met
and I notice he’s standing a little taller
and he’s started smoothing down his hair.

Our eyes meet
and it seems to me his pupils widen,
ink drops spreading through blotting paper.

I make discreet enquiries
and it turns out he’s got a girlfriend
(Of course he does. They always do.),

but I still want to thank him for
those few suspended seconds
of possibility

for the way I began to warm up
like a badly wired toaster
that had accidentally been plugged in,
giving off a fierce, but unstable heat
that could burn your house down,
but will probably just
cut out.


Melanie Branton shouts ineffectually at teenagers at an FE college as her day job. She has had poems accepted by journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House and Obsessed With Pipework. She was also the 2015 Bristol Hammer and Tongue regional slam champion. You can follow her blog at https://melaniebranton.wordpress.com/ and her tweets @sapiencedowne

Stuart A. Paterson – three poems

Rainbows

Here, rainbows are cheap,
coming in peely-wally pairs or knock-off
trios watercoloured hurriedly
onto skin-thin greasy sheets
of air. They’re not the thick & dazzling
particles that strut their spumes
of jewel on Skye or down by Lleyn,
laddered auroras seeming to climb
beyond the eye & into space
in that brief gasp of time suspended
overhead. Here, they linger drained
of depth & shade, pale arcs of ghost
drifting on the coat-tails of migratory
sun & scraped off soles of native rain.


Staying On

Summer is eternal & recurring here,
white strands of shell & longitudes of blue
come with the weekly lease & usually
they’ll throw in low tides, unhindered views
of Screel, authentic local beer.

Why try to remember that the cafè’s
only open til September or that
January brings floods that fill the pub,
when bar stools bob around inside
like beach debris, slow golems of Urr mud
inching closer with each sludge of tide?

Hestan’s igneous neb pokes into photos
snapped on soundtracks gushing sun,
children’s laughter, wee dogs yapping
challenges to the world & all the while
David Brown will always falter on
its beach, elude those reaching frantic
hands, be swept away to quietly drown.

There are no holiday snaps of Ian Carruthers
hanging high upon the skerries after
travelling down from Annan, no postcards
of that long gone pasture in the bay
where, fifty years ago, the Purdie brothers
paddled into shallow eternity.

Summer lasts a day, a week, the length
of handpicked memory on film or disk,
departs the moment you do, never follows,
stays forever here. Reminding myself
this isn’t really January, I spool
my eyes back half a year to when
they weren’t watering for them.


Lock-in
Tam O’Shanter Inn, Dumfries

Outside, Dumfries swoons in double
degrees of centigrade, a population
struggles with this upsurge, this assault
upon its northern pigmentation,
take to doorways, huddle under threadbare
trees, devour fags & hanker after times
when weather knew exactly what the fuck
that it was doing. Meanwhile, in the Tam,
there is no climate change, no atmospheric
troughs or peaks or seasons starting early,
ending late, none of that modern pish.
Here it’s always now, time locked in,
unmoving at the bar, expecting
nothing more than the occasional
tectonic yawning of a door.


Stuart A. Paterson was Dumfries & Galloway writer-in-residence from 1996-98. He returned to live in the area in 2012 after 14 years of working in social care in Manchester.

Previously a Gregory Award winner, he received a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship from the Scottish Book Trust in 2014, spending a month in Grez-sur-Loing to complete & compile Border Lines (Indigo Dreams 2015), which won Best Poetry Pamphlet at this year’s Saboteur Awards.

Aye, his first collection in Scots, has just been published by Tapsalteerie Press. Another pamphlet of Galloway poems, Looking South, will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2017.