Scott Edward Anderson – three poems

Calculated Risk

There’s evidence accounting goes back to the days
of Mesopotamia, bookkeeping to ancient Iran,
even audits conducted by Egyptians and Babylonians.
Of course, Romans perfected rendering unto Caesar;
while the Brits made accounting a profession.

Computare is the numbers game,
compter is the one who counts.
An accountant reckons by calculation
and settles one’s accounts.

Acountancy is for neither faint of heart
nor eye; although the accounting firm
that accounts for my day job
doesn’t see fit to supply eye insurance.

Somehow, this doesn’t add up to me.
I mean, wouldn’t you want to insure
the one thing making sure all the numbers compute?

Alas, just as there’s no accounting for taste,
there’s no counting on such things as common sense.


My Friend Finch
(For Don Paterson, after his “House”)

My friend Finch visits me each Tuesday,
When he knows I ought to write a poem,
Telling his stories in an illuminated way.
A Samaritan, he once worked for Home-
Land Security, designed surveillance
Systems to guard against terrorists;
Now, a person of interest, helping freelance
In a way that, by and large, consists
Of violent measures ably performed
By three friends, Mr. Reese, Fusco, and Shaw.
And then there’s Root; she’s a nut-job, informed
By the system he created, a flaw.
Still, if I’m in danger or threat mortal,
I only hope it’s Finch who gets the call.


The Line Between Apocrypha and Truth

My mother’s parents were a handsome couple.
They resembled the young Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz:
Marjorie’s hair swept behind her ears, curly and fair, like her complexion;
Eddie’s pomade jet over hazelnut forehead and eyes of obsidian,
his rakish grin a razor, not yet succumbing to society.

(The line between apocrypha and truth is easily crossed,
but like the tree–line on a mountain top,
once you cross it, there’s no doubt…)

My grandfather’s sister told me a story
about my grandparents, about how they came together.
It seems Eddie was sweet on Marjorie’s sister,
pursued her, with his sad, dark eyes.
When she showed little interest, Eddie took Marjorie out to a dance.

Marjorie got pregnant. Eddie’s mother threw a pot at him.
“Vergonha! Shame on You!” she shouted. “You gotta marry her now!”
Some months later, Marjorie had a miscarriage.
(My own mother waves me away when I repeat this story.
I can tell I’ve crossed the line, but on which side do I stand?)


Scott Edward Anderson is the author of Fallow Field (Aldrich Press, 2013) and Walks in Nature’s Empire (The Countryman Press, 1995). You can follow him on Twitter @greenskeptic and check out more about him at scottedwardanderson.com.

Gus Peterson – three poems

Prom

We rent a limo to take us
to the dance,

guys jockeying bravado,
girls leaning into each other.

Maybe it was a sly draw
of curl over your ear,

the dark coffee of Cuban eyes
beneath long lashed lids.

Tangle of tongue and cherry lips.
Gown blue as winter sky.

A week from now you’ll be gone.
Who else will remember

your brown hair,
the smell of plum blossoms?


Another Dollar Store

The day before
they break ground
I see a man onsite
digging up lupines.
He’s done this before,
the way he binds
each ache of dusk
and plum in burlap,
a bruise of beauty
secreted away
in the trunk
of an old Subaru
I’ll see parked
the next morning
by a bulldozer.


Florida

They come here to wilt
under an endless sun,
caravans of high buckle slacks
clustered in kaleidoscopic groves
of tucked in polo around
oases of sterile pools
and manicured putting green
with names like Valle Verde
or Casa Bonita,
spicy names full of vida
rooted in a soil of slowing,
as if there was something here,
subliminal in the purr of golf carts,
the unlined smiles of staff
that makes one dig in,
blunder on through a jungle
chasing myths.


Gus Peterson’s work has appeared recently online in Rattle and the Aurorean. He is still in Maine and figuring out a full length collection.

Matthew Dobson – three poems

Ark

The Natural History Museum, London

The bison skull behind the glass — as dense as iron
with rusting, pitted horns.
It’s an anchor
that stops the museum — this ark
for the dead — drifting off above headlights and rain.

The sperm whale skeletons soar like birds
plucked from the seas; spines quake;
tusks sprout beneath
the stag’s skull pinned to the wall:
its antlers spread and twitch like large antennae

tasting the air our bodies haul behind them.
Shark jaws quiver when
our throats walk past —
they’re biding their time as the building lurches,
tugs at its anchor. Warm crowds surge on board

and our breath steams up the cabinets of oysters,
fool’s gold, butterflies,
and feathered beasts
splayed on a slab of slate. Our ribs,
like restless wings, muscle against our skin

as though we had once learnt to fly but are now
keeping it secret from ourselves.


Rain on the Island

And through the darkness
my father follows his torch.
He’s found a lamb —
as lumpy as a spent candle,
sodden black
wick-neck.

His hands are stroking its ribs
as though a pulse
were smouldering inside,
as though his heat
could spark one.

He kneels, unsure
of whether to drag it in
or leave it cold
among the damp crow wings
and fox eyes shining like fairies
in his torch beam. He stands,
looks past the beach to the sea,
the sea gently closing
door after door.


Screens

Our spreadsheets have colour-coded
the names of diseases
we may die from,
formulated the mean
of our daily breaths.

Our inboxes have collected names —
an algorithm
will show us their thoughts
like when you hold a finger
to a lamp
and see the bones.

Our photographs,
when we touch them,
live again.


Matthew Dobson lives in Surrey, England. He has been published in numerous print and online magazines, including Butcher’s Dog, Neon, and Agenda.

Gram Joel Davies – three poems

How Can I Mourn a Man Still Living?

At the edge of my ears, a single nerve
rings like a tungsten bulb.

All I have done is mention the orchard
where my dad would take us to buy from a man
who measured sugar into cider flagons.
Through planted rows awash
with a slow syrup of photons, I hear
the apple fallout of the branches.

Only a mention—but my dad looks to have witnessed
a flash over the horizon. A bottled
ferment from his centre rushes
staggered trees.

His face is fruit complete with rot
as the blast goes through but leaves him
standing, as himself, comprised of ash.

When his whimper finally breaks,
a ring of light hides everything.

First published in The Moth (ed. Rebecca O’Connor)


Die Back

Downpour. Over his ale,
he tells me, Ash wood burns wet.
Trains in disarray, villages
silenced. The English—
forever unprepared. To reach
a bus stop we needed waders.

That website showed us
how to spot the rot: patches
in bark like porter soaking
shirtsleeves; twigs’
black fingernails bared
above canopies.

We fought flash floods
on roads which closed like zips
behind us, to this inn fire
under these ceiling beams.
Some things appear changeless;
there are no tales of tomorrow.

Away in lanes, overhung by ashes’
banana-bunch branches, comes
a creeping flame. Another ale—
he tells me there were fewer
floods, back in his day.

First published in Bolts of Silk (ed. Juliet Wilson)


Sid is Material

Today, Sid is net curtain,
which is to say, he is flesh.

He steps from his doorstep
into light frost, as a man

billows into him, heading
for the launderette. The frost

is light, the man’s duffle bag
only shines. Today, Sid

is flesh, which is to say,
he is bus ticket, frozen to kerb.

He passes the window where now
the bloke loads a drum

among turning drums. Sid is 80%
water, which is to say, machine

turning memory of pavement—
of peppered suds—of light to net

memory of flesh. Some days,
all Sid can do is remember.

He turns toward the bus stop,
mechanical, which is to say,

a line scored into glaze. Someone
taps his arm like white pepper,

asks if the number 10 just passed.
Today, Sid is bus stop signpost,

a shadow across the path.

First published in Bare Fiction (ed. Robert Harper)


Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon. His recent poetry appears in The Interpreter’s House, Dark Mountain and The Fenland Reed. His first collection Bolt Down This Earth is to be published by V. Press in April.

Alongside fellow poet Hannah Linden, Gram will appear at Cheltenham Poetry Festival on the 9th of May, with a workshop beforehand.

This year he is also touring with #Trios2017 poetry/art project in the Southwest.

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.

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.