Heather M. Browne – three poems

Yesterday’s Dirt

Momma said don’t look back,
just drive straight and fast down that dirt road,
black walnuts stretching their arms over, shielding,
hiding me, looking like some highfalutin ballet dancer or giving me a hug.

I pitched you your crappy cracker jack ring,
cut up all your smiles into little fine chunks, that glittery smile,
left you all your love letters, all those pretty, pretty words promised
that you’d never forget.

I dumped that whole load right there in your dying grass,
you forget to tend to things that are yours,
‘specially those things that once were live.
I watched hundreds of little bitty pieces of you,

fly, didn’t know you’d already gone,
so I am too. Looking out through yesterday’s dirt,
June bugs and flies smashed on that windshield cracked,
laying there side by side just like you and me two days ago in your rope bed

with your fist print right there smack
before my eyes, broken glasses and vows
driving down that road trying not to look
back through so much of yesterday’s dirt

and everything cracked


Gift Tag Missing

Morning sun peeled itself back,
unwrapped in crackly cellophane,
discarding the tangle of ribbon rays,
glaring in appearance.
Today would be bright and brave.

I placed my toes into the sea
and felt you shiver on the other side.
You always draw away it seems,
even with the cool of oceans current deep
in between,
the stirrings of salt and sand.

How is it I still make you move,
uncomfortable, continents a part?
Tossing country after country between our hands
with you alive right now
living on a completely different day.
And I,
..here, only
..in your yesterday.

Is that why you cut hastily?
Scissors ripping through final
..strips of our days,
while I kept pressing more tape to mask?

The underbelly of the sun burns Mylar curls
tied.
Looking at your gift tag,
foreign, missing
any mention of my name.


His Sleeves

She let me touch
His sleeves, his military shirts
Fabrics that covered his back
The delicacy in weave of life and war

Holes were left
For arms
That wrapped securing
His rifle, her

The flag brings little comfort

She let me smell his scent
Trapped within these drawers
Pulling him free from destruction

Tears fell
Shrapnel in her sky
No one cares about the aftermath

As we boxed him


Heather M. Browne is a faith-based psychotherapist, recently nominated for the Pushcart Award, published in the Orange Room, Boston Literary Review, Page & Spine, Eunoia Review, Poetry Quarterly, Red Fez, Electric Windmill, Apeiron, The Lake, Knot, mad swirl. Red Dashboard released her first collection, Directions of Folding (2014).
Follow her: www.thehealedheart.net

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Chris Hardy – four poems

Catching Up

He chases a sparrow
that flies away
when he gets near

then lands and
as he catches up
flies off again.

I want to tell him,
but cannot work out how
or why,

that life is a sparrow
which flies away
when you get close,

and if you ever do
wrap your hands around
its frail, winged body

the frightened heart
beating beneath your fingers
will make you
let it go.


Kush
Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile

With one hand on a wooden rod
she holds her reed boat still.
Nearby a rock, shaped like a turtle,
flickers with light.

The river flows through the lake
then goes thousands of miles
to push an arc of mud
into the sea.

Shallow water between islands
beneath the sun, that can see
this brown green eye
looking up from the mountain,

and the woman leaving her home,
taking eels and millet to market,
moving across
the centre of my life.


Reunion

I walk up to you,
you read the name
pinned to my shirt,
and that first tussle
on the bed comes back,
white muscles
turning above me
as your top came off.

I say, You haven’t changed,
to your sprayed face and
upright posture
in the wheelchair
against the table,
where your name is stuck
to a plate.

You see through me
for the last time
as we watch the past
on rewind in a cinema
of ancient strangers.


From Start to Finish

Standing by the kerb
listening.
the stall holder waits
patiently.

What will you have
today?
After a while
you answer,

Tomorrow I will have
my baby.
He smiles and offers you
an apple.

Next morning
in the hospital lift
you give birth
to our daughter.

Surrounded by people
from start to finish
you are alone
until it’s done.

There is only
one other thing
like it.


“I have been published widely in magazines (Rialto, Poetry Review, the North etc), anthologies (e.g. Forward Prize) and on-line (Ink Sweat and Tears, poetrypf etc). I have won a few prizes including one in the National Poetry Competition. My fourth collection is due out in 2017 from Indigo Dreams. I am in LiTTLe MACHiNe. We set famous poems to music and perform at literary festivals. We have recorded five albums, including one featuring the Poet Laureate and very recently, The Likes Of Us, with Roger McGough, who we are gigging with now.”
http://www.little-machine.com/

Simon Williams – two poems

Reboot

Do you find
when you wake in the morning
that you can make it to the bathroom
before the memories you had last night
get re-installed?

As if you have
a bootstrap loader that flips in
at start-up, enough to handle
basic locomotion, vision, motor control,
urination,

but not the big stuff
or the trivia which fills your allocated
2.5 petabytes. That arrives file-by-file,
so ‘I wrote a poem on sheep’ comes in
just after ‘dentist appointment’

and ‘I bought Shreddies’
follows ‘deadline on printer review’.
Loading from long term to central processor
completes in around five minutes.
Or is that just me?


Tyre Tracks

No two snowflakes match.
No two tyre treads make
the same impressions.
No two drivers are
the same in how they

back out, where they’re
going, why they choose
to drive on a day
like this, when the snow
is thin enough to

move on, without chains,
but also thick enough
for tobogganing.
If you’re tempted
at such cold times to

try for the office,
rather than trudge up
the slope above Chalk
Ford and slide to show
what Moors are for,

remember the poor
joker who drew the
Slippery Road sign, with
impossible crossing tyre
tracks. He drove to work.

slippery-road-sign


Simon Williams has written poetry for 35 years. It ranges widely, from quirky pieces often derived from news items or science and technology, to biographical themes, to the occasional Clerihew. He has several published collections, the latest being Spotting Capybaras in the Word of Marc Chagall (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) and Inti (Oversteps Books, 2016). Simon has a website at simonwilliamspoet.moonfruit.com, was The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded The Broadsheet. He makes a living as a journalist.

Phil Wood – three poems

Last Orders

He’s faded through the hullabaloo,
mutters more beer, more fun – his epitaph.
The tattooed knuckles no longer fist
a threat. My father’s head resting on
the table, mouthing a Johnny Cash song
that mists his glass, but empties mine.


Scribe

The ceiling’s low, he either stoops or cracks
his head. It moulds a humbleness of stature.

He pens the script by habit in black ink,
the magic of writing will clot his doubt.

He counts the letters, and utters every word.
A pause before the nests in dusty corners

shall hatch, pupate, shiver to guilt again.
Insomnia is a fist of fluttering moths.


Debt

Above the promise of this farm
the gods clench fists, pummel clouds
until crops are knuckled by rain;
there’s thunder and lightning,
– gods thrive on melodrama.

After the gun smoke sky
a flash of magpie in flight over
the hurrying sorrow of debt.
Not for me, granddad whispers,
the room rutted with hope.


Phil Wood works in a statistics office. He enjoys working with numbers and words. His writing can be found in various publications, most recently in: Sein und Werden, Ink Sweat and Tears, Autumn Sky Poetry, London Grip and The Centrifugal Eye.

Mark Totterdell – four poems

The Rose and Crown

No passing trade; nowhere to pass to
now, the road east a dead
end. North from the car park,
just dull wide flatness. Lead.

The levels rose and rose,
this hill now a shallow promontory.
South from the window, a glimpse.
Sunlight on water. Mercury.


The Pig’s Nose

Roasting by the fire that crackles in the grate,
surrounded by a rash of all sorts of pigkind,
I’m on the Eddystone, but after half a gallon,
the squealing of the gale blows my mind

out over the bristly fields, up past Gammon
Head, the Ham Stone, over the salted water,
the swinefish caught in the waves as they break
on the blades of the shore, seahogs to the slaughter.


Nestling

Among the grass of our safe childhood garden,
we found a tiny monster, which had fallen,
ugly as sin, from somewhere in the skies.
We gaped at its impossible, pink foulness,
a shocking, insupportable near-foetus,
with dull blue bruises where it wanted eyes,

and as we stared in unbelieving wonder,
it forced our eyes to open ever wider,
and climbed into our minds, where it took hold.
Thus were we dispossessed of our snug haven,
thrown to the wicked world, our nest unwoven,
our new horizons vast and grim and cold.


Beach Café

Wavelets corrugate the sea;
light reflects at countless angles.

One swimmer, braving November,
cuts the ruffles, creates

a wake which better mirrors
the cold sky. He’s trailing

his own patch of brightness;
the tail of a comet

or a slightly time-lagged aura.
A treat of the light.


Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared in many magazines and have occasionally won prizes. His first collection, This Patter of Traces, was published by Oversteps Books in 2014. His website is at http://marktotterdell.moonfruit.com

Julian Dobson – three poems

Meeting at the Wayside Cheer

I’d booked into the Wayside Cheer hotel
which would have been amusing on another day,
kids running in and out with water wings
and bowls of wilting chips served up for lunch.

There’d been a farewell kiss the night before.
I kissed again, featherly, in the morning,
and armfuls now to do, not least this meeting.
Your stubby fingers didn’t miss a detail.

It was July and you were dressed for winter,
polyester moist in suit and tie
and shuffling with a slight squeak on the vinyl.
You wouldn’t let me buy you coffee

(it was the only dark thing I could muster)
but gently murmured me into your brochures.
I braced, tried not to step into your pity.
Your shopping catalogues appalled me.


Urban explorers

Our feet crunch pigeon bones. Cobwebs
are ankle deep. Green paint curls and cracks
in the consulting room. A once-leather chair

mildews by the desk. Opposite, arched windows,
pointed as prayers. Staircase spindles
jut at odd angles, lunge the air.

The smell is damp, wet rot, mushrooms.
Once there was lanolin and beeswax. Shades
of beige suck up light, stifle our cameras.

They bricked our other selves here, shielded them
with starch. Now the asylum bares its guts,
rips off its gown and mask, and shrieks.


Bruisyard church, Suffolk

An inexplicably tapered tower, its flintwork
Saxon, probably. Bashed and bodged to suit historians:
fourteenth century tracery, bricked-up Norman door.

A fading January afternoon: leaflets, postcards
cobble points of interest, fascinate
the casual visitor. Pictures darken into walls.

A thousand years of small songs, smaller prayers.
Leaning gravestones, muddy river. Below our feet
rich Clarences keep Poor Clares in their place.


Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield, England, home of the famous Henderson’s Relish. His poems have appeared in publications including Brittle Star, The Interpreters’ House and Acumen, and he won the 2016 Guernsey International Poetry Competition. More of his work is at 52poemsinayear.wordpress.com. He tweets, inconsistently, at @juliandobson

Mark Greene – two poems

Breakfast in the West

Sunday morning, drinking tea as we sat
on the sofa watching the latest footage from Aleppo:
a hospital hit by a barrel bomb; a child, with skin
turned obsidian, rescued from the rubble. You asked

if there was a reason for the hospital being destroyed.
I struggled to answer. I tried to explain, as the bacon
began to spit in the pan, that sometimes
rockets and bombs don’t always land where they should.

What did we know of the world?

At the table we listened to Classic FM – a symphony
by Shostakovich – whilst eating bacon on toast
with brown sauce. And after we finished
we returned to the sofa and the TV remote.

But the news from Aleppo was over, replaced by the weather
and the promise of sun. You then gave a smile,
which seemed to fly through the day like a bird,
and said we wouldn’t have to take our coats to the park.

What did we know of the world?


Culicidae
Mosquito (noun):
a small flying insect
that bites people and animals
and sucks their blood.
(Cambridge English Dictionary)

Or in the case of a torrid Skiathos night,
when even the tramping dogs find their mouths too parched to bark,
a mosquito bite is the cause for finding Franz Kafka
sitting at the end of the bed, chiselling
his glistening teeth into fangs.

And a mosquito bite,
like the memory of the thing you loved but still destroyed,
leaves an itch buried deep below the skin’s surface,
and a yearning to burn the flesh
until pain is quelled by pain.

And even the scars from scratching fade differently
to those of the surgeon’s knife
or the street’s broken glass.

But it’s important that nature allows its artwork to endure,
because the mosquito itself, having taken its fill of blood,
will be too satiated to care.


Mark Greene is a poet, short-story writer and novelist. He was born on the Wirral but now works and lives in Sheffield. Mark has previously been published in Now Then, Platform for Prose, STORGY, The Cadaverine and Ink. magazine.

Alison Brackenbury – three poems

Timetables

When she swept first in heartless cars
or steered the slow, heart-thumping bike,
she saw the wet queues waiting, like
children for Christmas. Or a bus.

Now work is gone, though she could drive,
she thought, before sickness or fuss,
she would shun cars. For as a child
she rode hills on a swaying bus.

Now when a queue is tense and hunched
she knows the D is running late,
or notes, with its majestic shrug,
Ninety-Four swings past Ninety-Eight.

Beneath clean, rattled roofs she meets
twins, wheelchairs, pugs. The most off-track?
‘I think he’s had a heart attack.’
She hurries on, through busless streets.


Clean
Dorothy Eliza Barnes, (Dot), my grandmother

Even their daughters could not know
quite how they did it. They had learnt
to brush, beat, polish, for the rich
who picked at toast, yawned at each stitch.
Dot’s own rooms smelled of Coal Tar soap,
cool as sea, brown as petals, burnt.

She stored black notebooks in her drawer
with ‘recipes’ her mother tried.
For feverish children, scoured by food,
rhubarb and ‘laudmum’ were thought good:
a purge. They needed water more,
salts, to revive. They may have died.

Their small ghosts crowded in her mind.
The enemy would not retire.
Floors, kitchen table, sinks were scrubbed
lay acid-pale, unpolished, tough.
(I dab bleach.) Death drubbed, she would find
mud whisper, soot fly from her fire.

My father saw her climb a chair.
Arms, dark as chimney, sluiced each beam.
She never glimpsed my calm dust. Still,
come Christmas, snows of polish fill
her deep black spoons for spices, flour.
Find rags. Rub tarnish. Hold her gleam.


25 Brook Street
(G.F.Handel’s London home)

His narrow house was lined with wood,
shutters, thick as barn doors.
His paintings hid the panels’ grain
above the soft pine floor.
Men blasted duck, or the shy snipe,
a few streets from his door.

How dark the room was where he wrote!
One window’s narrow slit
would show him chimneys, smoke-grazed sky
if he once glanced at it.
Hunched, before carters cursed at day,
while they snored, he would sit.

A painter found him in his room,
in shirt and tawny coat,
round-faced, a young farm labourer,
ink’s music tossed about.
His eyes were lit, clean blue and green.
No stiff lace soured his throat.

By painted pine, in red wool burred
like ours, he lies apart.
Huge, blind, propped on the pillows’ seas
he drifts, wakes with a start
to his last, best, unwritten tune
new-whistled from a cart.


Alison Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire in 1953. Her work has won an Eric Gregory Award and a Cholmondeley Award. Her ninth collection is Skies, published by Carcanet in March 2016. Sample poems can be read at her website: alisonbrackenbury.co.uk