Jonathan Humble – three poems

Man Without A Pullover

He wore his usefulness like a threadbare garment,
an image of time eroded mettle, twenty years’ experience outmoded,
rooted outside the woman’s door, all action lost,
while overwhelmed, his daughter wept alone.

Time was, on these occasions he would don the knight’s armour,
have the skills to see off whatever demons had surfaced,
become the arms and chest in the woolly pullover;
a dad pillow for a sad head.

And though, given the choice, he would be that man again in an instant,
on these bitter days, these later days on the outside of the room,
he had no dad’s pullover to hand.


Then It Rains

You ask on my behalf to rise and leave,
to dress without the hindrance
of bootlace worms returning at our feet.

In vain we anticipate permission from spiders
who watch in shadows, spinning webs
that constrain all action.

Standing, squatting, sitting, we are opposed,
resisted. We are tangled marionettes,
linked with quantum string, each responding
with confused counter movement.

Blink my dears; so many eyes feel the tension
of our unseen bonds. These rainmaker thoughts,
connected across a web of reverberating nonsense
and countless coils, speak to me with jaded explanations;

there are no options again today. So you tell me
that we have to stay and wait.
And I have to listen. So I listen.
Then it rains.


How Bad It Is

How bad it is when every note you play upon the keys
sustains the void within the waiting soul;

when it is accepted that this flow will not stop
and bring an end to all these helpful faces;

when your scent assaults my senses like a bludgeon
and takes me to a day I want to bury;

when an empty chest refuses to give way
under the repeated blows of expectation

and all experiences in time coalesce into
a returning and enduring disappointment.

How bad when the abiding thought is that at this point
it could get no worse and then to be proved wrong
and wrong and wrong.


Jonathan Humble is a deputy head teacher in Cumbria. His poetry has appeared in The Big Issue In The North, Poems For Freedom, Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework and on BBC Radio. His short stories and poems for children have been published in The Caterpillar and Stew Magazine.

Mat Riches – three poems

Slarver

I don’t mean to run on like a two-bob watch,
but when it hit me, I knew what I had to do:
I had to climb the railway bridge
at the bottom of the loke.
To ascend the embankment;
prove myself and go for broke.

Raiding the stores for supplies I came up empty
but cobbled the essentials together:
An old cycling helmet, a length of rope that went on forever,
a map folded to blindness, of the nearest town,
a life jacket in yellow,
and breadcrumbs to find my way back down.

All packed and ready,
the gate to the road remained closed;
the basecamp plans replaced by tea and toast,
no brio, too young for all the climb entailed.
My own personal Eiger
remained resolutely remote, and un-scaled.

Earlier, having put on my parts
over a load of old squit, after a cuff round the lug,
I declared I was leaving, to no one big.
Snuck out a single sleeping bag-
blue on the outside, pink in the middle –
my only luggage; nothing to drag.

I set off to the overgrown field behind home, unmissed.
Setting up camp, wrapping myself
amid the Cowslips and Lady’s Smocks, adrift
like a sobbing Thumblina, on my own.
I floated home later on a rippled corn breeze,
at my stomach’s call, to forgive everyone.
 

Notes on Norfolk dialect:
Slarver – Drool, dribble- talk rubbish; Run on like a two bob watch – babble; Loke – Short lane, alley way; Putting on parts – display of bad temper; Squit – Rubbish, inconsequential; Lug – Ear; Lady’s smock – Cuckoo Flower


Kübler Ross

I’m only now just starting to think
we made a mistake
in not burying you, marking a spot,

in committing you to the fire
and floating your dust
away and away to the Broads’ cold bed.

No place left to visit, to be sure,
or bones to check on;
be sure you’re still there, not gone off elsewhere

Stay there as something to remember
and mark with phone calls,
a brief hand held down on distant shoulders

Before the fog rolls right in again,
obscures the view, the way
forward in any direction at all

One solid gust with gusto to clear
and come to our heads.
We breathe in all of our ghosts constantly.


Horsey Seals

We disembark, desperate to air out lungs,
get ourselves halfway down this track.
Seagulls offer a pencil line shrug
on the skyline, following the last trawlers back.

The seals are writing hieroglyphics
on the cold sea-stretched canvas
spread out along Horsey beach;
a constantly moving language.

It’s hard to tell between rock,
driftwood and new parents.
We are kept at a distance
to protect the innocents.

Each being shelters the other
like a Russian doll.
I pull you closer;
spell it out in full.


By day Mat is a researcher for ITV. He has been published in And Other Poems, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and was longlisted for Primers 2 via Poetry School/Nine Arches Press.

Blog: https://matriches76.wordpress.com Twitter: @matriches

David Coldwell – two poems

High Summer

They found her by the canal
…..beneath the thicket of shrubs
……….that crowded the opposite bank.

Yellow flag iris, now smothered by a rush of bees
…..or hoverflies, I couldn’t tell which,
……….softened the edge of the ditch where

buried by sky, spikes of green disguised
…..pewter skin wet with rain
……….and the flush of red from a newsworthy coat

that the tabloids had copied for click bait.
…..The water was peat black. This was high summer,
……….the busiest time of the year.


DIY

Fact one – Morning
The early bird catches the worm.
Listening to birdsong but seeing
only magpies as passers-by watch mist
disappear to sky.

Fact two – Rust
Hinges made from an unacceptable alloy.
Knowing that rust is alive and making
a guess as to how long paint will survive
before red oxide makes another appearance.

Fact three – Letter
An unopened letter left on the dresser.
My name in black on white with no capitalisation
or sender information. The haves and have-nots of household maintenance
and a history of human kind in lists.

Fact four – Sun
The birds are now quiet.
The sun has moved to where I’m standing and the day has become
too hot to paint over rust. The colour, anyway,
I would suggest, would only be temporary.


David Coldwell is an artist and writer based in the South Pennines. His poems have featured in a number of journals including, The Rialto, Butcher’s Dog and Prole. His debut pamphlet, Flowers by the Road was published by Templar Poetry in February 2017.

www.davidcoldwell.co.uk
Twitter: @d_coldwell
Facebook: @davidcoldwellart

Emma Lee – three poems

Turn Up the Volume

She plays the same CD in her car,
matching junctions to specific songs
to monitor her speed to the same daily pace,
the volume always on a prime number.
Everything on her desk has its place.
She watches the soap operas and reads Glamour
so she can talk to colleagues.
Her wardrobe is divided between
pencil skirts and blouses, and block colour shifts.
Make-up from a neutral palette.
She holidays at the same hotel,
sunbathes after breakfast, shops in the afternoon.
Meals are weighed and measured
from a restrictive menu.

She turned down his restaurant invite.
But he knows she’ll marry him.
All he has to do is make small
adaptions to her routine, offer protection
and become familiar enough to be allowed
to undo the zip on her dress.
He thinks he knows what will be revealed.

But doesn’t know about the scar
under her left breast, under her ribs
or what might happen when a mouse roars.


Butterflies at Breakfast

The delicacy of the pattern
on his tee shirt contrasts
with the sleeve tattoos
hardened muscle tone
and callouses from labour.

She has wrapped a spacious
brown cardigan over an LBD.
Hair tugged into a scrunchie.
Make-up shows smoky, smudged eyes,
possibly last night’s toned down
then retouched. Her shoes the flats
that can be squashed into a handbag.

They order a full English:
brunch and a hangover cure in one.
The butterflies on his tee
crowd along the hem
and drift up towards
the neckline where they
become singletons in flight.


All Emmas have a tragic end

at least in pop songs: suicide, overdose,
injuries from a car crash, an empty house
left behind after drowning, sentenced
to hell and silence, the end of an affair
with the lover who saps her strength.
Emma found herself incommunicado,
falling like rain under grey cloud,
a red, Christmas flower under acid tears,
silenced in drunken streets and misunderstood.
She was a blonde angel, a princess, a blue-eyed baby,
who wanted to be a star, who wanted better
who couldn’t see she was all she needed to be,
who wanted to be human, to be loved.
Emma’s the girl known by everyone.


Emma Lee’s most recent collection is Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com

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.