Stephen Bone – four poems

Sundews

Like something
you might find encased
in a paperweight’s glass

or snorkel over,
shimmering angelfish
in tow.

Ruby Slippers, Red Ink,
Pale Rainbow, each name
an exact fit

for these wetland lovers,
hungry
for a luckless gnat
or damselfly;

each primed leaf
sprouting quills
tipped with a glittery deceit,
a viscous hell

disguised as a dewy heaven.


Victorian Jet

In the jeweller’s window,
an assortment of Victorian jet,

brooches and lockets
laid out

on a velvet tray,
like small fossils

of grief.


Moonflower

Coaxed into flower by a May full moon,
you bloom for just one night,

flood
busy tropical air with a scent

more pineapple than floral.
Intoxicate

hawkmoths for miles around,
desperate to reach

your nectar offering, petals
opened to a laundered freshness,

white as seed pearls or the pallor
of a short-lived heroine.


Titan Arum

Colossus of Sumatran forests,
who’ll have no truck with honey bees, fritillaries;

instead
with a stench of rotted corpse

tempt sexton beetles, flesh flies,
grim connoisseurs of carrion,

into sultry powder rooms.
A hothouse sellout, crowds swarmed

to your once in a blue moon flowering,
on your arrival at Kew.

Frock coated gentlemen turned crimson
as your pleated spathe,

at your raw priapic show,
while whale boned matrons pressed

to their faces fragranced silk,
to mask a surging thrill.


Stephen Bone’s work has appeared in magazines in the U.K. and U.S.
His first collection, In The Cinema, was published Playdead Press in 2014.
A pamphlet, Plainsong, is due from Indigo Dreams Publishing later in 2017.

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Jack Little – three poems

Ancke

Plautdietsch banking billboards rear up
against the mountain desert backdrop of northern Mexico.
Ice-white Mennonite blondes serve pizza–rich cheese,
ranch palaces dominate a land of bare branch apple trees
where Tarahumaras beg at traffic lights, cloaked in
primary colours on gravel

Ancke, was semi-forbidden to talk to men
except to take orders, her Spanish rough and accented
rounded and sliced in ways different to mine,

her words an efficiency, a stubbornness of five colony generations
this island on a highway leaving Cuauhtémoc
and enveloped in faraway lyrics – Europe, America
in the like-me, not from here – home.


Remembering Carlotta

It’s been several years since you died,
since you scratched an entrance with your voice.

I wonder how you were sculpted?

How your smile lines grew like roots around your eyes,
your mouth – your generous hugs learned from years of

……………..‘love is better’


Fasting

Between you and me – and God,
an empty gut from dawn ‘til dusk
is a brick sinking to the ocean floor.

The smells of tortillas, goat meat frying
on the street corner are stinging petals
on the tendrils of jellyfish… I pray

beyond my immediate space, I try to be reflective,
those less fortunate are murky in my mind and light
barely breaks the water’s surface… the ripples of my fast

less a transformative process, more a guilty silence in place
…………..of a loud and greedy swallow.


Jack Little (b. 1987) is a British-Mexican poet, editor and translator based in Mexico City and Palma de Mallorca. He is the author of Elsewhere (Eyewear, 2015) and is the founding editor of The Ofi Press. He was the poet in residence at The Heinrich Böll Cottage on Achill Island in the west of Ireland in July 2016.

Emma Simon – three poems

The Periodic Table

This isn’t just a grid of everyone you’ve loved
listed by initials: the first kiss,
the woman you should have married,
the man you did. For key elements
– the ones you need to breathe
the very building blocks of life –
jot down a single letter, S or K or B.

You are Mendeleev. Arrange the squares
in interlocking rows to map out
the properties within. A catnapped Wednesday
with Ml shouldering Jv –
from the column of friends you’ve lost.
Consider how the memory of each
burns with the same peculiar lilac flame.

Expand it outwards: work through
a litmus test of second cousins,
the half-lives of exes, all the unrequiteds,
latticed like the brickwork of your favourite home.
Follow its predictive power: hypothesise
tomorrow’s strangers. From this synthetic yearning
you’ll learn to recognise
the exact weight of their smile, it’s degree of spin.
Slot each one into place, the white box,
like a blank face, waiting.


How To Fly Kites On Wordless Days

Find a hill, a view to make your lungs ache,
run with time stitched to your heels
unspooling your cloth-yards of hope
until polka dot ribbons stream behind you.
Do all you can to keep these colours airborne.
Be the friend who’ll chuck the cross hatch
high into a blue tomorrow,
laugh at the swerve of sky,
and roll out picnic rugs from rain clouds.
Ignore those holding a finger up
to taste the air. Grab the ropes of days
and sail the bright pendant of them, far as you dare,
in spite of pylons. Don’t count the starlings
gathering there, like isobars on nearing horizons.


My Mother’s Other Kids

would be summoned when required:
the boy who won the wheelchair marathon,
two with flayed leather jackets and smashed smiles,
one with a neck tattoo. And that girl who clawed
into her arms and chest trying to dig out spiders
underneath her skin. She’d sneak back into the night,
juggling scissors, whisper round the fingers
in my ears all she knew of nightmares.

They hovered at the periphery of our lives
with their worries, sent boxes of Maltesers
at Christmas, had trouble spelling Beryl.
Fully-fleshed they’d crash into a Saturday
afternoon, in Boots or Menzies, with their jobs
and prams and five-year’s worth of getting ons
offered up like spit-spot apples.

My mother grew a little taller then, among
the racks of toothbrushes or puzzle books,
crackled with a smile of satisfaction
I’d yet to understand, lit from within;
while we kept our fidgety ledger —
measuring each time they made her late,
the hours they took, against the weight
of these strange gifts, with the hooded
exactitude of stunted misers.


Emma Simon’s pamphlet, Dragonish, will be published by The Emma Press in March 2017. She has been widely published in magazines and anthologies, including The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, and Writing Motherhood (Seren). She was an active member of Jo Bell’s 52 project, and was selected to take part in the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring scheme in 2015. She lives in London where she also works as a part-time journalist and copywriter.

William Stephenson – three poems

Maria’s

You don’t say Mar-rears. This isn’t
The Sound of Music. You say Marriers
to make a rhyme with barriers, Asif
at work told me. So I weigh down
the first syllable when the wife asks
where I’m going. Harriers? she says.

Maria’s is where I learned curry leaves
pinch your tongue like lime, but methi
bristle on the palate like sawdust ground
into Marmite. Cumin seeds taste best
toasted till they crackle. Don’t use oil,
the bag said, in English and Punjabi.

On the PA a bloke wails like toothache
over hand-drums and a pump organ.
Spiky red cucumbers out of Star Wars
jostle aubergines fat as black puddings
and okra rough as sandpaper to the touch.
I’d buy chillies but the wife hates the burn.

The till girl says, Samosas on offer today
and because she’s smiling I take two.
I cook korma with cream but the wife
bites into her pastry and snaps, Jesus.
You’ve got to stop going to that Maria’s.
No, love, I say. It rhymes with barriers.


The Lion

God, did you feel that? The whole deck shook.
We’ve hit something. A rock? I’m getting up.
I’m going to find out. I am going past the door
studded with numbers, hashtag and plastic eye.
Everyone quick we’ve run aground, I shout.

Japhet slinks up smiling and says, Easy now.
I’ve been waiting seven fucking years to set
paw on land, I reply. He says, This is Leeds,
mate. The sea’s miles away. Don’t make me
restrain you. I blurt, you wouldn’t do that.

So Japhet does that. And as my good arm’s
popping out its socket I’m screaming,
I am the Lion of Judah. Noah chose me
to propagate my species on the reborn Earth.
Until Ham stalks across holding a needle

and the waters peel away like cling film.
The pissy fibres of the carpet spring up
Serengeti grass. I’m bounding, paws out,
mane back, watching the God-delivered
herds of juicy wildebeeste flurry like fish.


Wild Rocket

Strong, shout the letters on the bag.
A dark green leaf with a distinctive
peppery flavour. This pack provides
two servings. But the plastic’s pearled
with droplets from your breath. Rocket,
you’ve lasted ten days in your oxygen tent.

Your topmost leaves are green. Promising.
But you’re black as slurry at the bottom
where leaves and stalks soften into slime.
I open the bag and dare to breathe in,
hoping I can snip your top, eat the shoots
to honour the cadaver that shoves them up.

You reek of brambles and bracken sagging
with damp, the smoker’s lung of autumn.
Old mushrooms, wilted ferns. Can I bear
to bin you? Definitely. Try Me Love Me,
wheedles your pack, moist and shrunken,
as appealing as a second-hand condom.

I shake you into an old margarine tub
to join a lemon scrofulous with penicillin,
an apple wrinkled as a goblin’s scrotum.
Bitter leaf, you are compost to me now.
Watch me unscrew the lid on the garden bin,
deciding where to dump you among the worms.


William Stephenson’s poems have appeared in Envoi, Iota, Magma, Orbis, The North and The Rialto. His first collection, Travellers and Avatars, was shortlisted for the Live Canon First Collection Prize and will appear in 2017. His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013).

Steve Xerri – three poems

Lament With Birds / Blues For Jon

As I walk past your old house a trio of starlings
in gold-dashed livery, perched on the pantile ridge,
percuss their beaks like castañets and witter
their streams of otherworldly code. Up a level,
gliding in lilac light, shrieking swifts trace
the curve of the sky’s bowl, and trawl
moist banks of air for insect shoals.

Seems I can’t stop noting sound
and colour, any more than birds
can cease their noise : but all day long
the years that you have not
strapped on your Les Paul gold-top
and strummed well I woke up
this morning have lodged in my belly
like a meal of lead.


In the margins

We are used to this falling below notice
when the stories come to be written.
No embellished initials for us, we
are walk-ons in the calendar, wielding
broom or flail or billhook
in fields not ours while the high-born
dressed in cramoisy and fox fur
trot by on caparisoned horses,
heading across the gilded page
for some warm chamber, for their
appointed place in legend.

Our accents are unheard, but we
burst out ink-sketched in margins
alongside dogs with bagpipes, cavorting
monsters, whales and mermen. We
catch the eye – we gurners, we barers
of arses and turners of cartwheels. But
the book knows nothing of our little
smack of grace, inward as bright lining
smuggled inside rough gloves : says nothing
of how we lived – with the sun on loan to us
a few years, a bit of love if we were lucky,
and skin as able as anybody’s
to feel the touch of both.


Home

Again today she saw, was sure
she saw, her little boy, stood
alone at the garden’s edge : but
as she turned to wave, he merged
with the shadows in the hedge,
or was swallowed by the dark
scooped out in the centre of her sight.
Why do they not come to see her,
the boy she gave birth to and the boy
she married? And how did the world
become so worn it went in holes
for coins and combs and rings
to fall through out of reach?
Names won’t stick, nor faces
from the TV, nor conversations
they tell her she had yesterday
in the lounge. It’s no good :
general dusk has settled over
everything
………………till someone plays
one of the old songs, and all
is recomposed about her, stood
in front of the hallway mirror
listening to the wireless
as she adjusts her hat, then
closes the door behind her
on the hiss of the gas, the kettle
wheezing up to sing, the quiet clack
of her sisters’ wooden bobbins,
weaving yards of gauzy lace
out of next to nothing
……………………………….and now,
the only sound in a muted world
is the crunch of her ankle boots
on the velvet skin of snow
as she tramps uphill to the big house,
gently holding in her mittened hand
a square of her mother’s sugar-crusted
sly cake wrapped in greaseproof.


Steve Xerri lives in Cambridge. He has variously been a teacher, musician, illustrator, digital imaging trainer and web designer but now splits his time between writing poetry and making pottery.

Katerina Neocleous – three poems

Alchemy

Time passes but my hand
reaches out to twirl
the wedding ring I used to wear;
as if it’s still there.
Its twin is lost at sea,
where the waves lapped
and that fish leapt once.

Anyway, you can sell it –
Three grams of eighteen carat
scrap gold, heavier than the soul;
if you believe the metaphysician
who measured it leaving
a dying man’s bed:
If it helps you live, husband.


Old friends

I nearly walked past you smoking a skinny roll up
waiting for me in the rain outside Sue Ryder
god but you’re looking gaunt and unhappy
mumbling through your down-turned mouth,
devoured by debt losses and insomnia
but you say you’re going to be OK and
you’re helping your friends who are in a band

And all I want now is to see you like you were before
walking with a swagger and that punk badass snarl,
with a pay packet in your pocket and some gear
on your way to see a girl at the gig
and everyone on the door knows who you are:
The whole world ahead of you,
and it can go fuck itself somewhere.


Spring Clean

There are cut daffodils left on the path
like lost gloves, laced with the lingering scent
of balled tissues, kidskin and lozenges.
When Margorie died, her bronze carriage clock

Graced the charity shop window;
surrounded by her orphaned porcelain dolls.
She’d wanted to die at home with her things,
but she passed away in a ward somewhere.

It’s possible a nurse held her hand,
even if the old lady despised them.
They paved over all her proud flowers –
The Raspberry canes leaning into the bins;

And the Spanish Bluebells, tuberous bulbs
she’d failed to rout with rancour each year:
the Council cleaned up what wasn’t landfill,
and sold the property to foot the bill.


Katerina lives in the North West of England, where she home educates her daughter. Her poems have appeared in several poetry publications, most recently Obsessed With Pipework.

Claire Walker – four poems

Somewhere between rose and black

This evening I sit on the river bank,
sun low in the sky, wrapping my back.

I think of water, how it cares nothing for deeds,
good or bad. Whoever’s chest your head rests on,
it will still smooth prickled thoughts from your hair;
still swirl the softness of your body, won’t coil away
in reproach.

I sit on the river bank, the light dropping somewhere
between rose and black.
I slip my feet inside the shallows –
know they would graze on the pebbled floor,
but feel the dusk-cooled water stroke them clean.


Watching the Ocean

Love is like trying to catch
a fish with your hands.

The glitter draws us –
each scale a silvered kiss, waiting
to be plucked from the tide.

Playing just below the surface
it looks so easy to reach out,
no need for lines or hooks.

As you grasp at a tail
flipping over waves
you see it might slip through fingers.

Better to try than spend a lifetime
just watching the ocean.


Feeding the Jays

I hung up the sheep’s breast bone –
my bird table offering for the year’s infant months.
I could sense fear when they first flew in,
cautious twitching heads as they weighed their safety.

Persuaded, their ravenous beaks set to work,
stopping only occasionally to hop, amused,
around the rack of bones. Such appetite,
despite being only the size of my hand.

This was not a selfless gift. Days lighten
when I see those green wings fly in;
black heads bobbing for the fat they are hungry for.
We are all starving – desperate to make our bodies full.


Young Robins

I thought of them as children.
He perched on his father’s shoulder,
while she rested in my hands.
Early morning, their insistent beaks
would tap the window for food,
perched on their window-sill cot.
I learned their tastes, fed sunflower
seeds from my palm.
I watched fluffed feathers grow smooth
against growing bodies.
In the skies that came,
they chose the garden’s touch
instead of mine. Paired together
they grew shy, found the hedge-lining,
jumped the border and flew to their own nest,
away from human eyes.


Claire Walker’s poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and webzines including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Clear Poetry, Prole, and The Chronicles of Eve. Her first pamphlet, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, is published by V. Press. She has recently become a Poetry Reader for Three Drops from a Cauldron.

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

Kathy Gee – three poems

Sneaking out at 4am

It is the lark. One wake-up call.
Then more and louder,
rising notes of almost tune.
The sky’s invisible and visible,
untraceable and full of sound.

Blackbirds lead the chorus
‘leaving, leave you, lovely you’.
The pink horizon sings
‘I love you, lovely, love you’.
He pulls the car door shut,

must go back home to where
his father waits in the metal
cold of April’s early morning.


Cold shoulder

Yes, I admit, I fantasise
a touch, a hug,
a proper, friendly
conversation.

Your kisses blow
in my direction.
No. It’s safer to assume
they’re not for me.

I drown in hot adrenalin.
I had forgotten
how besotted feels,
how hard it is to rein it in.

What if I dared?
What if you turned
a fraction further?
… Just imagine.


Gravitas Lost

Pretence began when I became a Somebody.
I stood up taller, lost the flippancy,
adopted dignity because I thought I should.

Acting like a leader wasn’t hard.
My colleagues, easily impressed by title,
listened, seemed convinced by what I said,
although I’d grown no cleverer.

I’m not important nowadays,
so it’s a shock to have to meet a Somebody
who’s famous. Somebody I must impress.

Those years of being tactful are forgotten.
Flippancy is back. Full on. I don’t remember
how a Somebody’s supposed to talk and don’t.
The nobody I was is who I am.


Kathy Gee grew up in a family of historians and archaeologists but decided that museums were warmer than holes in the ground. Widely published in print and online poetry journals and anthologies, Kathy is increasingly interested in collaborative projects – organising a poetry trail at Avoncroft Museum of Buildings and writing prose poems for the contemporary classical piece Suite for the Fallen Soldier. Her first poetry collection – Book of Bones – was published by V. Press in May 2016.

Roz Goddard – three poems

Field trip to Cadair Idris, 1974

We came from standing water, drownings,
the mosh of forges, silver buckets shunting.

Tipped out in first boots, under the mewl
of buzzards and the spread of clouds,

we climbed through rain. The path was pale
with stones and sand, redwoods stalked away

and after we were delicate in butterwort,
careful on slopes, we spoke of vodka.

Way up, under a marly sky, the armchair
of Llyn Cau, where Idris sat counting stars.

Someone said make a wish, as if the
five blues in its bowl was sacred water,

so we did, mink-farm Sharon and me,
leaning against the whale stone, cupping

our hands to collect the pooling rain,
and all the wind and far off sea.


Edith in the Bay Window

I spied on Edith as she sat writing letters,
full of softness, like a mother in a fairy tale.
There was no man, apart from a bachelor son
who was no bother. He brought half-decent
windfalls over and I baked an apple pie in return.

It was neighbourliness of a sort, though I never
found out how either of them felt about anything
important. She died suddenly and without knowing
why, I imagine letting myself in as a daughter would,
touching her things, holding vellum to the light.


George Dyer Slips the Afternoon Away

A robber’s moon and Chiswick foxes
strolling through the gate, dainty as you like.
I’d come from the glory hole, drinking
with a stranger for hours in the half-lit
back room, a man with the blackest
eyes I’d ever seen. He could handle me,
and me him. Skin of an eel.

Skin of an eel. Kneeling for gin.
Then the party went to ash –
wrong music on the jukebox
a blousy laugh from the street.
He said too much, started on
the romance side of it, Soho nights
meeting up, that lark.

I scarpered to your place Mr
Francis Bacon, sir, Lord of the
bleedin’ manor, Mr Painter.
Broke in through the back window
looking for silver and found you
standing like one of your own crucified
figures. You knew right then I was one
of your men wrecked somewhere and wild.
You nodded toward the stairs, smiled
and I walked on broken glass to follow you up.


Roz Goddard is a poet and former poet laureate of Birmingham. She has published four collections of poems. The most recent, The Sopranos Sonnets and Other Poems was published by Nine Arches Press. She is currently working on another collection of poems.