Jinny Fisher – four poems

Camouflage

She is seventeen, her hair deep purple,
hanging in dreads, some fake, some real.
She wears studded boots, layered black velvet
down over her wrists.

At twenty-one, her hair flows luminous green—
lighting the path she seeks through campus.
Her blouse, a flourish of saffron messaline,
covers her arms.

Now twenty-five, her hair Rosetti auburn—
she becomes Ophelia, La Pia, Beata Beatrix,
with russet stains inside her sleeves.


Rondo

I turn to my mother’s piano
in the living-room corner
and ask

…..“When will you leave?”

Always… or maybe
never.

…..“Will you play for me?”

Never… or possibly
always.


Grave for a Family Cat

She still remembers where he lies, feels the jolt
of her spade as it hacked the frozen earth
by the wild blackberries.

She lowered the cardboard box, extemporised
a sketchy ritual, rallied her kids enough
to say goodbye.

She stamped down a stone to keep his bones
from breaking through, but now it heaves
for want of words, of flowers.


Ritual

Every night
she would wait
to wince at the curse
that burst through
the partition wall,
as her brother
hit his head
on the sloping ceiling
in his sliver
of the attic room
they shared.


Jinny Fisher lives in Somerset and is a member of Taunton’s Juncture 25 and Wells Fountain Poets. Her poems have been published in print and online including in The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Prole and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She likes to push around The Poetry Pram and hopes to get a book out one day.

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Ion Corcos – three poems

A Different Life

Grey suit, sweet bread in a plastic bag,
he stops to look at a studio full of marble.

Thin white hair, like a gnarled branch
trained to cover lattice with flowers;

the scent of fish in the salted air; music
old as my father when he left his home.

My father would have felt at home here,
at home in this Greek mountain village;

the closeness, the gossip, the nearness to sea.
When his father died, my father found

his own Alexandria, but it was occupied.
Greece was his home, but he never returned.

He never walked these narrow streets,
and I will never walk them with him;

my father in a suit, sweet bread in his hand,
and beside him, his flowered wife.


Bonelli’s Eagle

I reach a patch of grass
where olive trees grow;
where wildflowers change
the colour you imagine an olive grove to be –
you have never seen one.

I glide above the trees,
look for a mouse, a scurry;
don’t want to get caught up in the life of a cat,
fight place, lay in a tangle of grass
beside garbage.

I rest my wings on air,
there is nothing to see here, to feed my flight;
I fly over pine forests, dry scrub,
bare slopes with rocky cliffs;
roost in far mountains.


The Dark

The blackened sky
cracked apart,
she scurries through
rumble and rain,
shopping bags drenched.

Snapped boughs
and scraps of skin
torn off paperbark trunks,
night slams and knocks
the seaweed mist and sky
into her wood home.

By candlelight she threads
a rip, her floral dress caught
on the snag of a twig.

As thunder trembles,
she peers through
the rain-speckled window
to see the noise
wandering out late.

Only the cemetery
overgrown with plastic flowers,
untamed grass, thrashed
leaves sprawled,
and the dark.


Ion Corcos has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Every Writer, Plum Tree Tavern, Rose Red Review and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. The themes of his work centre on life, nature and spirit. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is https://ioncorcos.wordpress.com

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs – three poems

Ascending

It’s an April day
that could go either way
to sun or showers
and so could we
between the village
(food and shelter)
and the ruins
(the some-still-standing stones
whose legend fetched us here)

The lark surprises us
doing what (you knew)
all larks will do
and climbing to a place
of commentary
lyrically mimicking
my incredulity
and ecstasy
that you and I have come this far

We might pretend
its notes were tokens
of encouragement
for us to press ahead

(finding no significance
in the sudden plunge
when the song was finished)


Time and Tall Ships
Greenwich, September 2014

Suppose a schooner’s oaken flanks could stretch
like putty: a continuum of vesselness
riding its own feathered chalk-line wake
whose prow is here and now
while aft it passes through a home port
to a shipyard where it splits
into trajectories of single planks from trees.

An albatross, white-winged and hovering
above the heaving waves, transcends
whatever’s measured by their steady tempo
and can watch each mile and moment
which that hyper-clipper occupies.
It’s free to settle anywhere
along the pencil-masthead’s trace.

Imagining elastic galleons
as analogues of timelines
makes our past seem so much less
an archipelago of memories
and more a joined-up terra nova:
we arrive where we have never been
and find ourselves still there.


Road Works

They’re digging up the street again.
You might not think the smell of tar
could creep into that locked-up boxroom
where I stack old memories

but

from a tattered duffel bag
it’s fetched the essence of those summers
when they came to renovate
the avenue I played beside –
black-polish it with bitumen
like liquorice or treacle toffee.
Then they’d spread and roll out flakes
of grey-pink flint, as highlighting
along the road ahead that led
to growing-up (by way of school bus
and another autumn term).

Now

we celebrate our tenth September
with a well-made, aromatic,
still untrodden year to come
that curves away past fading trees.


Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip. His latest collection is Pictures from a Postponed Exhibition (Lapwing 2014) which features artwork by David Walsh. He is working on a new book which combines poetry & fiction.

Sally Douglas – three poems

Taking Her Out

I’d drive her out each Sunday, and we’d park
and watch the frigates sail. I’d buy her tea –
she’d add a nip ‘for warmth’. Sometimes we’d talk.

But often we just sat. We sat for years.
Long years of grey October skies. Destroyers
came and went. Tankers hulked on the horizon.
Radios tinkled from the beach. Children played,
and children drowned. She sat there with a rug
tucked round her knees. The sea was flat, the sea

was always flat; the sky a gun-grey arc.
The Café closed. Her eyes grew fish-opaque.
I never knew what we were looking for.


Cigarette Holder, Cocktail Length

When she died, they gave it to my father,
wrapped in tissue in an Asprey’s box
with her broken watch, her powder compact:
the only things not sold after the War.

Holiday gifts for her were always easy:
cellophaned bricks of Silk Cut, Duty-Free.
I never wondered – why not scarves, or gin?

My father had never mastered the forgetting:
how Granny played the long-since-gone piano,
while Grandpa sent him scavenging
for dog-ends in the street.

I don’t know why I keep it.
I touch it: ebonite, embossed
with lead-white flakes of skin.


After Equinox

One of those red mornings
……..sun scudding a salmon sky
my eyes filling with sound

……..planes trailing grey tunnels of roar
…………….birdsong scrawling on air
……..our words……beautiful frayed ribbons

I drop you at the station
……..drive home through wind-scoured lanes
prepare to binge on winter


Sally Douglas’ first collection, Candling the Eggs, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2011. She has been published in various poetry journals, most recently in Under the Radar and Canto. She was a winner in the 2015 Exeter Poetry Festival Competition, and starts her MA with Lancaster University in Autumn 2016. On Twitter she is @SallyDPoet.

Helen Freeman – three poems

In Transit

Airline tags hang on her freckled life
frayed with the residue of passage.
She empties her clutch bag, clatters
the tabletop with ghosts of presence:
a fingerprint, a strawberry-blond hair.
Pared down to her skinny nub, you might
find a mango stone from an obscure shore,
in need of prolonged soaking, trying to root.

She’ll be off again to the surge of the wind,
her passport bulging, her blisters leaking.
Maybe she’ll raise a toast some day
to a new home, but she’ll be turning
strange keys, doubtful if she can
remember her way back.


The Rock

The clunk of the rock tied to your ankle,
homespun traction, raised and lowered, draws me
onto the stone floor to watch. Rising sun
paints golden freckles on your injured knee,
rugby’s legacy. Desert boots fastened,

I follow you to work, onto my perch,
scrubbed with antiseptic soap, observing
as you hunch over patients, so focused.

Ring-necked doves welcome the night’s arrival.
I snuggle into your lap of stories,
Old Spice-scented hugs enfold me, salty tang
of day’s labour, our knees bent, giving thanks.
The brylcreem’s worn off and Mum stretches out
to coax your remaining strands into place.

Now here you are again, emboldening
me to let go of my zimmer and sway
across the decades into your open
arms, rock-like, steady, still held out for me.


At the keyhole of the master bedroom

Your top a t-shirt two sizes too big,
mango-stained, with the hem unravelling
into an ample skirt and pockets
most likely full of bees and glossy starlings.
From this angle, from the secrecy,
with Liquorice Allsorts (here, take one!)
you are a queen, dispensing
perfume, knighthoods, world peace.

I watch you prop your royal sceptre
in a bucket of Dettol bubbles and lean over
to pick a lipstick from my mother’s drawer.
You scrunch up your face like a rabbit,
your cracked lips and fingers smudge with mulberry.
From this angle, from the secrecy,
with aniseed breath (go on, have another!)
I can only imagine the scent of Chanel
on your walnut skin.


Helen Freeman published a collection of poems, Broken (AuthorHouse UK, 2011), in the recovery time following a severe road traffic accident in Oman. Since then she has completed several online poetry courses including ModPo and the Poetry School. A Third Culture Kid brought up in Kenya, she now lives in both Edinburgh and Riyadh.

C.J. Miles – three poems

Nothing Like Light Years

My sister will always be three pounds long,
And now I’m up to a pack a day.
In front of her shoebox buried six feet down
I am always telling her, Soon so soon.
I am always telling her, Nothing like light years.


First Poem I Wrote for You

When poets go extinct, will the birds follow? Every love poem is a fossil meant to be unearthed centuries later, from the cracked ribs of a skeleton, dusted and studied, stuck behind a sheath of glass. Thank God this is not a stupid love poem but instead just some words dedicated to the days that keep struggling to find their meaning. I have been thinking about you for so long my thoughts have piled skyscraper tall. I hope they never meet a plane. I hope you never get out of bed without looking both ways. I hope you are thinking about me while you pour your coffee, while you brush your teeth, while you condition your hair for a full two minutes. You are waiting for me to quit cancer and I am waiting to find something that isn’t a side effect of love. Neither of us will quit first. Still, I hope we never stop waiting. I hope we never stop wrinkling. I hope we reach for the prune juice at the same time. And I say and I say and I say, I hope the birds follow the cancer after it kills me.


How to Be a Poet

First, tie a waist around your rope.
Next, throw your waist over a canyon.
Smile more.
Accept that you are not human not beast not
Wilderness nor sound—you are the stick
The caveman scratches against the other
Stick. Yeah, that hurts.
You are every umbrella left at a restaurant,
A lozenge stuck down the neck of a giraffe,
A shotgun wedding to your second cousin,
A Taylor Swift B-side.
God, you suck.


C.J. Miles lives in Iowa with his wife. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Forage, Euonia Review, and Algebra of Owls. He is currently working on a manuscript about being an awesome movie star in a bunch of mostly mediocre action films. Follow him on twitter at @cjmilespoet.

Janet Philo – three poems

April Morning

The sun’s
pale pendulum,
stopped, silvers the water.
A single wader seeks worms, dips
and cracks

the discs,
of mirror-pools;
winter’s ephemera.
They glaze spring fields with pewter, still,
like ice.

Left ear
pierced by throaty
chips and whits of small birds
rising. Only grass tips tremble,
breathing.

Slow train
grumbles, laden,
through her right ear, while cars,
insistent, edge her world with growls,
then pass.

Her left cheekbone warms.


Friar Gate: Derby

A city churchyard – he
beats time with his crutch;
alone in the world of
his black woollen hat.
He treads the same path
as the ghosts of fat friars;
footprints and crutch steps
thawing the hoar frost as

pools of warm colour
pour onto pavements;
the friars are feasting
inside glass cases
like Joseph Wright’s bird
trapped in the air pump,
fat-breasted, plumped feathers;
smiling and sliding
towards a slow death.

Spices at blood heat
tease and drift into
urine soaked doorways
where light doesn’t reach,
where bones fused to stillness
succumb to the cold,
where, in time with the crutch beat,
a sleeping bag speaks.


Morning on Skye

You said I must get up and
share this day with you…
But what if I had not?
All I would have seen, was grey.

Days had been wrapped in grey,
alpaca soft and dripping, but not today,
today’s firm skin is stretched and full
of colour; torquoise,red and royal blue

reflections of small boats, anchored
in moss green. A green edge to
the liquid pink of sunrise pouring
across a flat and polished sea.

Domestic strife of seabirds
shreds the silence. A hungry otter
threads quiet savagery through water
and, like a cardboard cut-out,

matt black, picture book still,
a cormorant’s neck is bent
to his breast, beak buried
in softness. His neck forms a circle;

a lens through which I see
as far as my world’s end.
You said I must get up
and share this day with you

But what if I had not?


Janet Philo is an adopted Northerner, originally from the Midlands, but lived in London long enough to love the space in Redcar’s sky.

She was first published in ‘Fulcrum’, magazine (2014)

Spoken word performances include work with the Tees Women Poets, and she also enjoys mixing up music and poetry accompanied by husband, Phil, on guitar.

Her work has appeared in The Black Light Engine Room Issue 13 (summer 2015) and online at The Fat Damsel Take 10 (issue 8 ) and in Issue 6 of ‘Poems to Survive in’

Her first poetry pamphlet, Under-hedge Dapple, was published in June 2016 by Three Drops Press.

She has recently had work accepted for a forthcoming Pankhearst publication, Deranged.

Melisa Malvin-Middleton – three poems

Spilled childhood

of chocolate milk
Fruit Loops sprawl the linoleum.

Fallen blips of primary color
bloat with heaving sweetness.

Willie Wonka river
swells into Quik cascade

meeting
ceramic daggers.

The crash and scream
make the boy shudder.

A macabre routine:
I’m sorry.

No visible blood
this time

unlike the punch
that stains the marble counter.


Repairs

We went to the home improvement store
for paint brushes and rollers.

Didn’t know that joint compound
was a good patch.

A weekend of planned painting
turned into a month

of holes that never
seemed to fill or dry.

Cracks from earthquakes past
spread across our asbestos sky.

Lavender everywhere
stuck to strands of hair

and those old Converse
that I can’t seem to throw away.

Martha Stewart says to add
a drop of black to the white paint

to keep the trim from yellowing
as if it were dress and veil

sealed in the hermitage
of a cardboard box

from discount dry cleaners
under piles of clothes

on bottom closet shelf
to be sorted one day

by Goodwill.


Schism of My Maker

I.

“Flores para los muertos.”
Love of theatre
my mother gifted me.
Dust mites in Samuel
French script,
Summer and Smoke.
I stumble upon her script notes.
A piece of her as I read, a study.

Brevity.
The bare minimum.
Works defy logic,
painting glorious pictures
for rich and heartbreaking figures.

The writing I adore, I am drawn to write
…………………these tragic figures who almost make it out unscathed.

II.

I am a master at unearthing our humanness,
our flaws in raw honesty.

Trying to understand that which makes us human,
that which makes us flawed—

how we can be an amalgam
of contradicting emotions and morals;
…………………good people sometimes do terrible things;
……………………………………………………………….and so on.

Making sense of ambiguity.
Writing and being raw, tragically flawed,
is to ascertain the impossible, and in doing so,

peace.

III.

May I be well.
May I be happy.
May I be free from suffering.

May you be well.
May you be happy.
May you be free from suffering.

May we be well.
May we be happy.
May we be free from suffering.


Melisa Malvin-Middleton is a Los Angeles poet, playwright, and musician who teaches writing at California State University, Northridge and College of the Canyons. Her poetry appeared in the latest issue of The Ofi Press Literary Magazine, and her plays have been performed by Fresh Produce’d and Savage Players. This fall, her chapbook will be out with Yak Press.

Sharon Larkin-Jones – two poems

Locust

He hovers inches from my forearm,
gunmetal grey, whirring like a model
of a military drone, mechanical,
but, for all that, an ancient presence.

I’m in a land-ringed cove, equatorial,
mid-ocean, yet so sheltered and stifling
that the sound of rough waves
cannot penetrate.

Except for Schistocerca‘s wingbeats,
nothing disturbs the shroud wrapped
around these cemeteries named after ships
that patrolled East Africa centuries ago.

My new friend’s a desert locust, gregaria,
the kind that swarms in tens of thousands,
the species of biblical plagues,
but my companion today is a singleton,

rocked up like me at Comfortless Cove
where vessels once were quarantined
with typhoid, yellow fever, dysentery,
contracted on the coast of Senegal.

Ships limped back here for sailors
to find food, fresh water, to recover
or die – to be buried at sea
or find rest in these lonely plots.

My eyes return to the shallow graves
just for a second and, when I look back,
with a great emptiness I see
my fellow traveller has gone.


Therianthrope

I never knew what I would be getting.
Every time you showed up in a fresh outfit
as if experimenting with a new wardrobe.
Each combo came with a different persona,
a whole tribe of them.

The success in the city in pin-stripes,
preppy loafer in argyle sweater,
hipster in lumberjack shirt,
shapeless shorts – and sandals,
for heaven’s sake.

And then, the rocker in black leather,
God help me.
Yes, I liked that look best
but found it hard not to snigger
when you creaked at sleeve and knee.

It wasn’t until you’d shown me everything
that the filters across my lens proved a distortion.
All versions had been blurry reflections,
two dimensional, temporary, untrue.
Naked, you were magnificent.


Sharon Larkin has been published in magazines (Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed with Pipework, Prole, Here Comes Everyone, Reach); on-line (including The Stare’s Nest, Open Mouse, Clear Poetry) and in anthologies (Cinnamon, Indigo Dreams, Eyewear, Fair Acre). She chairs Cheltenham Arts Council, chaired Cheltenham Poetry Society 2011-2015 and helps run Poetry Café – Refreshed in Cheltenham. Blog: Coming up with the Words https://sharonlarkinjones.com