Mab Jones – three poems

Butcher

She fell in love with a butcher. Master
of meats. Strimmer of limbs. Arms which dealt death
daily, as a routine. They carried her
‘cross the bloody threshold, into a bed
patterned with hearts, frilled at the edge with white
like toque blanche. He was a seasoned lover –
salt-tongued, sweet-chop’d. Killer by day, at night
he cleaved her body to sweetness, covered
her ribs with kisses stronger than pepper.
Hooked on him, her yesses were a given,
assumed, even when the edges of his temper
frayed, his hands serving hell, not the heaven
she had known. But, she stayed. Was never freed.
Cut her teeth on his love, and learned to bleed.


Silent Night

She placed the baby gently in the bin,
and closed the lid, and quickly walked away.
She’d wrapped her hoodie – bloody – round the thing,
the Snoopy one she’d got on Christmas day.
The bricks stared blindly at her as she left,
then listened deafly as the baby cried.
The bin, a plastic cradle while it slept,
would also be its coffin if it died.
Some people passed but were not close enough
to sense the baby where it had been lain.
Later, a couple who had stopped to fuck
made too much noise to hear it as they came.
Amidst the bricks and refuse, in the cold;
a still, small infant, nearly one day old.


On Sweetness and Lies

Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear:
tell me what is true, not what is nice. Do
not whisper words of comfort in my ear,
I want hard facts not tender lies. If you
want a woman who smiles at sweet nothings,
well, try someone else and save your spiel. Words
to me are instruments more than playthings,
not a ball to toss but tools to wield. Cursed
are lover’s lips when lies falls from them, even
when those fruits are so pleasant to taste. I
desire a partner who’s above them, one
for whom fibbing is disgrace. Flattery
is meaningless when falsity’s entwined.
Insults, when honest, are far less unkind.


Mab Jones has read her work all over the UK, in the US, Ireland, France, and Japan. She is the author of Poor Queen (Burning Eye Books, 2014) and take your experience and peel it (Indigo Dreams, 2016), which won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize. Her website is at mabjones.com

Charlotte Ansell – three poems

At the Bluebird Hairstyling Salon

Now magazine proclaims:
“It’s war between Jen and Angelina”
“Dieting has destroyed your looks”
bluebirds flutter round Hollywood bulbs
basking in their fake suns,
the retro lamp, the genteel stacks
of china tea cups; shelved,
the trainee stylist all seeing
like an owl, with those big framed specs
all the young girls wear.
They talk kettle bells, ex-best friends
and getting toned for Ibiza
while I just sit, pretend to read.

She can’t find her scissors,
says I swear there’s gremlins in here
stuff’s always getting lost – its odd”
and it is; when you misplace
something important,
like the girl I met at art college,
with the bluest eyes,
who could lie for England,
who was by turns a hand model
or an international spy
who glided up to her wedding
to ‘Dream a little dream’ in
a boat fashioned into a polystyrene swan,
rocking vintage lace,
who made plaster casts of her belly in pregnancy,
giant sunflowers out of crochet,
who saw me through the years
of broken hearts, impermanence and regret
and was so effortlessly more
everything than anyone I’d met
but who no longer buys gifts for my kids
at Christmas, or returns my calls

and is lost to me now,
like the mysterious world of women,
or a pair of scissors that couldn’t be traced,
that had somehow slipped
between another lady’s bag and the wall.


Looking for crocodiles

This is the river that looked so calm until she stepped in because she was tired and closed her eyes on Halloween when all the gauze of her witch’s costume fanned around and held her up (or the time before when she was looking for crocodiles)

And this is the call from school on the first day back when I believed his assurance:
“there’s no need to panic, she’s absolutely fine…” to arrive and find a tooth knocked through her lip where she’d fallen off the climbing frame.

While this is the open hinge of the safety pin, perfectly picked out, sitting bone white
inside her stomach back-lit on the X-ray slide, that soured her dad’s marathon triumph,
after she swallowed it just to see what “it tasted like”.

Or this the gap between the old diesel tank and the wall with the frog and mucky puddle where she got trapped when she somersaulted down the bank unseen
while we tried in vain to work out where she’d fallen, from her screams.

And this the hospital that couldn’t find any cause at a week old despite her temperature rising to 104, the lumbar puncture, the endless tests, the lack of rest or any kind of peace, with not even a cup of tea allowed on the children’s ward.

This the day that she was born when nothing foreshadowed the way ahead, when she slid out within an hour or so, no pain relief, this dream birth, this elfin girl
who ever since has made us beg,

for ordinary.


This is why we can’t have nice things

It took just weeks to demolish the Bohemia,
the billboard’s silhouetted ladies writhing around poles
now buried beneath rubble, consigned to the dirt

but I wonder if they will rise in the night
in their heels, to dance on the bonnets of cars;
or if they too accepted defeat.

Outside Ferham School a woman boasts
“They won’t get me to work, can’t mek me”.
Aspirations are lost between Steel St, Holmes Lock

as generations draw dole cheques,
forget what it is to bring home a wage
as shame settles and stains like coal dust.

Resignation has been ingrained; trodden
into pavements like the puce stained floors
in the covered market loos can never quite get clean,

even the river’s going nowhere, silted up
with Farmfoods plastic bags, Tennents cans,
and shopping trolleys, the burden

it can’t shake off, while outside The Bridge
the lads are going two’s on fags,
waiting on jobs that don’t exist.

Midnight, Tesco’s car park, a woman
pulls down her leopard skin thong over
carcassed thighs, squats between cars for a piss.

Oh they can pretty it up, planting wild flowers
outside the Minster but it’s not enough,
the playgrounds are held together

with rust, graffiti, broken glass,
bus stops smashed in, litter bins
burnt to shrivelled black stumps,

a generation who believes
this is all they deserve, smash up
what even in the first place wasn’t much

with no honest way
of getting what they want;
austerity just means more of the same.

At a pub across town, on a broken window
in the ladies loo, a sign asserts:
“this is why we can’t have nice things”

preferring to announce the problem
than mend the broken glass.


Charlotte Ansell has two poetry collections published by Flipped Eye with a third forthcoming in April 2017.

Publications include Poetry Review, Mslexia, Now Then and Butcher’s Dog and anthologies including The Very Best of 52 anthology (Nine Arches Press, 2015) and WordLife (Wordlife, 2016). She was the winner of the Red Shed Open Poetry Competition, one of 6 finalists in the Fun Palaces Write Science competition in 2015 and winner of the Watermarks Poetry Competition 2016.

Anthony Watts – five poems

Amniotic

Green couples share
their bathwater. She naturally
is first to enter (dirty man-water
holds no appeal for her).

He, on the other hand, is pleased
to yield to her water’s warm embrace.
He sinks back with a sigh, closes his eyes –
is again a baby in the womb.


A Wasp

Sleek machine, quarrying
for cider in the apple’s flank – lean tiger,

squeezed into a bodice, unable
to articulate its roar,

but still fearsome, still
flying its colours.


Wren

When wren flew
from the carpenter’s chisel

she ricocheted

from cover to cover
amongst the flowers

for just so long
as her momentum
lasted.


Wood Pigeon

With a flap of his cassock, a plump
cleric lands on the lawn.

He picks it over
for tasty morsels of scripture.


October

I am a passive smoker
of bonfires. Find me
standing downwind, eyes closed against the sting,

inhaling deeply,
letting the sweet ghosts
of summer waft through me.


A member of the Fire River Poets, Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for nearly 50 years. He’s won prizes in poetry competitions and had poems published in magazines and anthologies. His latest collection is The Shell Gatherer (Oversteps Books, 2011). Anthony has lived in rural Somerset for most of his life and has no plans to leave.

Belinda Rimmer – three poems

Agnes

Agnes, in her front room
turning up bars on an electric fire,
telly on full – someone screaming blue murder –
as the last light of a winter’s afternoon fades.

Agnes, her skin sprouting potato spurs
the size of old threepenny bits.
Gnarled fingers round needles
busy making baby bonnets.

Agnes, in cheerful woollen stockings,
tartan slippers, out in her garden
in search of loose frogs.

Or at her stove stirring blancmange,
rice pudding, plum jam.

Agnes, aged one hundred,
remembering her daughter
who would have been eighty-five
if she’d been allowed to keep her.


Marilyn

The boy stopped clearing leaves
to stare at the woman. Her hair white
as his mum’s best tablecloth,
lips, brighter than any baker’s icing.

When she rested her hand on the window,
he saw inside her skin: life lines.

Not caring if he came to grief,
the boy picked his way over.

What’s your name? she said. Don’t be afraid.

It was as if he’d only been sleeping;
the way those silvery waves came –
electric and forbidden.


Aftermath

Fourteen men
around a town square,
sprawled on marble benches.

Useless rumble of ordinary life.
Heat, and they shed jackets,
but not hats.

Kit bags slung across shoulders.
Newly shined shoes,
no trace of desert.

Among them,
a black clad woman.
It happens

after the loss of a son;
refusal to go down,
tug to be in the aftermath.


Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse and school counsellor, taught dance/drama, creative writing and poetry in schools, and for a time lectured at a local university. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, including, Dream Catcher, Obsessed with Pipework, Sarasvati, The Broadsheet and Brittle Star (pending). Some poems have made it online too – Poetry Life and Times, Open Mouse, Writers Against Prejudice and Ground. She enjoys writing short stories (though not as much as poetry) and recently won the Gloucestershire award for the Cheltenham Story Prize for a story about the town’s infamous Banksy painting, GCHQ.

Stella Wulf – three poems

Engagement

Some days you gatecrash,
sweeping in like the headline act,
in a glitter ball of dust,
turning your spotlight on my grimy windows,
flooding my floors with your aura.

Even on the grimmest of days,
you try to engage me,
sliding under my kitchen door
like an illicit proposal,
insinuating yourself into my darkest niches.

Today, you shimmied in on twinkling toes,
hip-hopped the popping suds to dance the tap,
strobe the dimpled bottoms of washed up pans.

You are one that embraces curves,
slips with an easy grace
around the shoulders of chrome,
flatters the obduracy of stainless steel.

I’ve seen you leap on a knife edge keen as a laser,
slide down the blade of a cleaver.
I’ve watched you play in ladles,
loom in the scoops of spoons.

Today, you beamed at the moon
of my face in the kettle,
gave me back to myself in parody.

You dazzled me with wit,
lit me up – then balanced a diamond
on the rim of my cup.


Briar Patch

She left me on the floor to moulder,
like an odd sock rolled in on itself.
A finger of sun pokes through the shutter,
stirs up a corkscrew of glitter,
pulls me out to a sparkling day.

Strung out on the line crows hunch,
mute as tar babies,
unshakable in the ruffling air.
Maybe I caught a glimpse of her,
there – in the rainbow
of their oil-slick plumes.

One by one they lift,
wing to a sky buffed clean
by a rag of cloud,
their cries snatched
by a whippersnapper breeze.

While I languished,
the upstart swept the dead skin of winter
under a gaze of ox-eye daisies.
Fresh blood springs from the humus;
poppies, scarlet flax, red campion,
an insouciant host of dandelions.

I vagabond forgotten lanes,
like an errant mutt, nose to the ground,
following her breadcrumb trail.

A hare breaks pell-mell from its hollow,
flushes a partridge from the ditch,
a whirring snitch, startling
the whiffle of horses cropping clover,
skimming the backs of knuckled down cows,
flurrying the white flags of egrets.

My heart surrenders to the day,
stops beating itself to submission.
I found her there, in a patch of briar
bristling with sparrows,
a passerine choir whistling
a score of promissory notes.


Madame Dubois’ Confiture

A wedge of sun squeezes past the shutters,
drenching the room in an orange glow.
Monsieur Dubois resists the press of his dreams,
throws back the covers, rises
with the levity of proven dough.

He picks for his wife, a petit déjeuner,
plump figs ripened by a fine promise.
Madame Dubois doesn’t care for muesli,
coddled eggs, kippers or kedgeree,
she likes to pluck from her husband’s tree.

She craves the flesh of his Mirabelles,
devours his juicy Bergerons,
until she’s overcome with the yield.
Touched by his tenderness, she preserves
his sweetness to spread over winter’s long denials.

When the orchard sleeps under a duvet of snow,
and the brassica beds have lost their allure,
she’ll screw the top from a pot of summer,
fall back on the comfort of bread and butter,
nourish their love with her confiture.


Stella Wulf lives in South West France. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and her work has been widely published, both in print and online magazines and journals. She has poems in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52 (Nine Arches Press, 2015), three drops from a cauldron, and the Clear Poetry Anthology. She is also an artist and her work can be seen on her website: stellawulf.com

Maurice Devitt – three poems

A Simple Twist of Fate

And in the nub of time
you will wake to a day
that seems to fit every dream
you have forgotten
and the light, the cautious light,
will seep into a blotting-paper sky.

Maybe then this will all make sense.

How he never told you
about the illness until it was
too late, how her name appeared
from nowhere to claim the house
and how, after the funeral, every call
seemed to be the undertaker
looking to settle his bill.


Homeless

The doors on your street
have become strangers,
the windows no longer smile
and the dogs bark
at your unfamiliar shadow,

as though, when you received
the letter to return the key,
someone secretly erased
the years of carrying messages
from the shop, buggy wheels

finding every crack, and
pretending you had some to spare
when neighbours called
to borrow sugar.

Now you hurry past in the glim
of evening, breath catching
as you hear a child
crying in the empty hall.


One Summer Evening

Only the trees will remember –
the road ribboned in the evening haze,
a car, full to bursting, tacking
the corner of that stingy chicane
and the quiet certainty of a man
puttering home in the outside lane.

A brother, once back-seated
and buoyant, now jostling
for his life. A sister waits,
wishing she could whisper life
into spent breath and ignore
the raven tapping on the glass.


In 2016 Maurice was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and shortlisted for the Listowel Poetry Collection Competition. Winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015, he has been placed or shortlisted in many competitions including the Patrick Kavanagh Award, Over the Edge New Writer Competition, Cuirt New Writing Award, Cork Literary Review and the Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. A guest poet at the ‘Poets in Transylvania’ festival in 2015, he has had poems published in various journals in Ireland, England, Scotland, the US, Mexico, Romania, India and Australia, is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group.

Ivy Schweitzer – three poems

Distant Savannas

I write the word tawny
trying to evoke highlands
downed with autumn grass
savoring the velvety play of vowels

when the word yawns open and
out rushes — you
the almost ghost that troubles
every poem I write and my hand
warms against the nap of your back
I stroked over and over
on nights of elusive sleep.
You would say my hair hurts
meaning, attend to me
true axis of your world,
with all the avowals of motherlove,
heal the hurts little boys should not have.

And I faithfully intoned those ritual words
your tawny back,
as you preened and grew quiet and tiny
even when you overtowered me,
lulled in the stillness
of skin on skin and my authorizing hand
as if birthing you weren’t authoring enough
it had to be those syllables
of bronzed communing
and my touch like does
grazing the savanna of our shared awareness
of how the world rends you.

Emerging from the fog of Haldol and charcoal,
chaperoned by the suicide watch,
you whispered hoarsely
my hair hurts.
I had the illusion I knew what to do.


Playing Free

Oh God have they gone out too far this time?
jamming on the club’s tiny makeshift stage,
a row of cow skulls watching from the wall
with empty eyes
the sparse audience paralyzed
in ranks of cast-off wooden auditorium seats.

The drummer, my son’s childhood friend,
kit wedged in the corner,
tracks rhythms with a lemur’s sense of smell
and someone I don’t know on the upright bass
booms like the sea on Adderall,
backing up my boy
who stalks the edge
……….listening hard
barefoot to feel the vibes
thrumming through floorboards,
guitar prizing like a lever.

They begin with some favorite known in the bone,
Zoller’s “Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody”,
its opening phrases
waves of clamorous pulse,
driving deliriously outward,
delivering us to a bare shoal
of electrified air.

Then a long cascading chord
like a wire in the brain
sweeps them out again
……….and again
…………………….beyond form
oblivious that we cannot
breathe
the thin air of such abandon.

At the end
they barely find the head
to reel them back
and in the stunned silence
he bails
shoves his guitar off like it’s scorching
eyes full and blank
heaves off
heaven or hell
even his mother cannot tell.


Dimming of the Day

After the long trek
to the Point of Sleat
over boggy moor
from the lonely village of Aird
we arrive at Camas Daraich
a perfect cove of white sand
and strip gratefully.
The sun beats down
on frigid water
where jelly fish bloom translucent
as lambsmoke. Two ranges of mountains
clash behind us: the Red Cuillins
soft and rounded
as the heads of newborns,
and the Black Cuillins,
a ring of jagged giant’s teeth.
Still, we dip and dally,
guzzle the sharp salt air.
It’s almost ten o’clock, you say
and still light.

Marvelous then, but impossible now,
I think,
to stave off the dark any longer.


Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Ivy has published poetry in Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont (The Blueline Press, 2012), The Glass Seed Annual, Solidus 3 (with interview), Negative Capability, the last four issues of Bloodroot Literary Magazine, and most recently Antiphon vol 19.

Tom Sastry – four poems

The birds leave

In the alley where I found, once,
a curled human turd; in the alley
by the almshouses, the Man
Who May Not Be Blind, has built
the suggestion of a chapel
from a costermonger’s pallet.

Three students are recording him
gargling his truth.

The birds are leaving, he says.
God knows for where. But they are mustering,
on each gutter and tile.
He has heard them
calling down wires and lobbing news
from gable to gutter; fussing grimly with the project of it,
checking feathers
and reading the wind from rumour.

The birds are churching together
summoning their luck,
sharing the last good scavenging days.
breathing the last of the old smoke.

They have their badges and colours;
they have their drummers,
fluting their tails and beating imperatives
in a bland wrath of worry. They call out
the who and the where and the when –
you cannot call it a song –

before rising like a tent,
rasping the air with their din.
There is a sudden hush and then
a cacophonous beating of wings.
The sky remains lost. There is no light.


Death is coming

Death is coming says the sticker
(black bold on lilac, no picture).

I only saw it because I was on the top deck
thinking about the worst thing I have ever done,
whether it is worse than things people go to prison for,

what it means to be worse
and what it means to be forgiven.

Then I started wondering why
someone would put a sticker like that
eight feet up, on the brow of the bus shelter

and that’s how it got into my head
that I might need to worry.


Voiceover for an advert for modern life

Imagine that exile was the thing you were born for.

Imagine being lonely without shame.

Imagine a world of supermarket cafes staffed by brisk women and beautifully meek young men with fractured smiles.

Imagine ready meals that taste of indulgence; imagine all the time you can eat.

Imagine privacy.

Imagine a bus whose passengers don’t pretend to have anywhere to go.

Imagine a world of sound, with the texture of silence, free from human noise.

Imagine the library hush of a busy office.

Imagine ceiling tiles.

Imagine trees and cars; cars and trees.

Imagine birds, as if for the first time.

Imagine never coming home. Imagine never having left.


Time to care

The doctor is sorry for the wait. She looks like
she has just killed someone. I almost forget
about the importance of masks and ask her
if she needs a moment. She is brisk as rain,
the kind that hurtles down from a sudden dark
sky like a drowned wind. She isn’t asking –
she wants to see the mole, has the gel ready.

I know from last time that my sleeves don’t roll
far enough, so I remove my shirt. She looks.
She needs a second opinion. Isn’t that
what we all need? It looks a bit unusual. Isn’t that
how we all look? I want to know whether she
is worried about me or is still thinking
about the last patient, the one she had to kill.

I get up not knowing the colour of her eyes
but in spite of that I decide that she is kind.
She sighs. I wonder how many breaths
she is allowed. She is running hard. She is late.


Tom Sastry lives in Bristol but tries not to gloat about it. In 2015, six of his poems were selected from many thousands for inclusion in the anthology The Very Best of 52 (Nine Arches Press). He was subsequently chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one of the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets and his debut pamphlet Complicity was published by Smith/Doorstop in October 2016.

Kitty Coles – two poems

Dreamt

of rooms where you came through the door,
of marshlands where I stumbled, called your name,
of beds I found you in, where we lay together,
of lies and lying, silence and broken silence,
of broken glass and a line on the throat like red thread,
of the stink of your cigarettes on me as much as on you,
of ash drowned in water, ash lifted on the wind,
of green eyes and dark hair, and darker bruises,
of darkness and light, the halflight of undrawn curtains,
of trains that left and rain on our upturned faces,
of petals like rain, of kisses light as petals,
of kisses between the eyes, the eyes closed tight.

Dreamt that it wasn’t him sleeping beside me
but you, the ghost of you, from an old, lost life.


I Have Never Dissected a Creature

I have never peeled the seven veils of skin
away, sliced through flesh like a gourd or squash,
to reach the musculature, the organ-bags.

You, to gain wisdom, have opened –
or watched open – the human head,
observed its contents, probed its softnesses.

You have seen the heart unarmoured,
dense and tuberous, a grapey purple,
and memorised its functionality.

You know the circuits that make beings move,
the chemicals whose glitches make me sick.
You understand it all. You never found

a soul in anybody, which must prove
no soul exists – or else, that each soul moved
when you came after it and shrank from you.


Kitty has been writing since she was a child and works for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Mslexia, Iota, Obsessed With Pipework, The Interpreter’s House, The Frogmore Papers and Ink Sweat and Tears.

Kitty recently won the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016, and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, is due to be published in August 2017.

Her website is at www.kittyrcoles.com

Marina Sofia – three poems

Moving

Every room a borrowed room.
Every chair tried on for size
Or posture
Stool-crouching
High-backed
Hardwood
And still
Perfection eludes us
Maybe it’s time to sit cross-legged on the floor.
The doors and keys changed year on year
Some had welcome mats
Some scrapers to knock off caked mud
You didn’t even realise clung to you.
The constants we carried from room to room:
The pearl-leafed teacup
The teapot
A spoon


Marketable Skills

Now I am naturalized and marketable
(thanks Maxine Kumin for the hint)
my brain is useful, my forearms strong,
I gleam with squeaky-clean scrubbing
You can forgive my skin the colour
Of midnight plums………..at least temporarily
when I apply gauze to your suppuration
snip cheerily (not to smile is a sin
when you come from the back of beyond)
My scissors not nearly as sharp as your corrections
of my grammarly faults
Tolerated, jostled, kept on
until something better, home-grown,
comes along.


You Are an Anthology

Of dedications, recipes, anecdotes, jokes.
Burnt bridges.
Spectre unwanted, you startle,
you linger
like ghosts in a monotype print.
You echo unbidden
each morning, at night
the rat-tat smart order you invert.

You carry each country inside,
each stage of your journey,
some best forgotten, but still
they reverberate like a tired organ
in an obscure village church
slightly false, straining,
smile a plaster to cover grazed skin.
Wallpapering wounds.

You are a collection
of sinews too stretched
of nerves beaten tender
of bridges not crossed
pathways not followed.
Old habits dying too hard too soon.


Marina Sofia is a global nomad, blogger and writer, currently living just outside London. She is finding it more and more difficult to stick to the narrow confines of her corporate day job, so her escape has been to publish poetry and short fiction in online and print journals, as well as in a couple of poetry anthologies. She is also currently working on a crime novel, but spends far too much time on Twitter @MarinaSofia8 or blogging: https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/