The Seven Year Itch
Giddy with the thought of him returning
after months, though it felt like years, of travelling,
weary of cheap hotels in distant cities,
calling every night to swap the day’s stories,
absence teaching new ways of missing,
his voice crossing continents carrying
passionate promises, kindling her desire,
leaving her with inexpressible longings
stirred by the memory of their giving
and taking, matching their yearning –
the inseparable embrace of milk and water,
climbing of a tree, the twining of a creeper,
and marriage spreading a shamiana of pleasure.
What is this dance that turns a woman to fire?
Rainer Maria Rilke
Her arrival lights up the dark stage
into a firework, resplendent,
shuddering in rich shades of autumn,
framed in an orgasmic hallo,
sun setting on a sea of crimson
undulating, gently glowing.
Smouldering black eyes hold secrets
buried deep in the earth for centuries.
Her lightning glances dart back and forth,
lips shining like pomegranate seeds.
Soul flowing through her limbs spell dreams –
of love and creation, betrayal and redemption.
Music swings to the rhythm of her singing feet.
Arms swaying like snakes coupling
leave the audience gasping –
the world whirling on her finger tip,
she a flickering flame of fire spinning.
The clapping of hands and clacking of castanets
rise in a crescendo of applause. She positions
herself for the kill. The crowd enthralled want more.
Mesmerised they watch her feet, hips, fingers-tips, lips.
She flicks her wrist, spins her skirt, face framed
by strong arms, bascules of a bridge opening,
the finale of a grand pageant sailing in –
A blazing inferno circles her with cries of admiration!
Her feet draw a drum roll, with a gesture of disdain
she tames the fire stamping out the illusion.
Lights dim, darkness descends upon the stage again.
The art of ageing
Growing old gracefully is no simple task –
for a start, sleep as much as you want.
When you wake, stay in bed savouring the moment.
No point in rushing out, things will take care
of themselves as they have for centuries.
Switch off the radio or TV the moment you hear
anything you do not like, or find disturbing –
no point in not revelling in a world of your own
or not going gently into that good night.
Let the young rage and fume, throw a tantrum,
preserve your energy for life and living.
Practise your Mona Lisa smile when you are out
and about. At home, laugh as much as you please,
as loud as you can with or without anyone.
Make faces at yourself in front of the mirror
to get rid of those wrinkles and frown lines.
Remember to smile when the world frowns at you,
say confidently A – E – I – DON’T – O – U!
When you pray no point in thanking the Lord
for all the things He has not done, or repenting
for all the things you have. If he hasn’t heard your prayers
in all these years, what makes you think he will now?
You already know what to wear, but don’t just stick to purple,
try all the colours that take your fancy – experiment,
mix and match, do all the things you never dared.
Shanta Acharya was born and educated in India, before studying at Oxford and Harvard. Her doctoral study, The Influence of Indian Thought on Ralph Waldo Emerson, was published in 2001. The author of nine books her latest poetry collection is Dreams That Spell the Light (Arc Publications, UK; 2010). Her poems, articles and reviews have appeared in major publications including Poetry Review, PN Review, London Magazine, The Spectator, The Guardian Poem of the Week, Edinburgh Review, Oxford Today, The Warwick Review, The Little Magazine, The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (2012), India International Centre Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Fulcrum, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (Norton, 2008). She is the founder director of Poetry in the House, Lauderdale House in London, where she has been hosting monthly poetry readings since 1996. www.shantaacharya.com
What the Animals Say
Listen to what the animals say outside
your door – yes that’s an imperative:
you can’t rely on self-reliance.
there is no reason love is tied to sex.
some boys do grow up to be stammerers.
The method of the life we all lead
There is a strange coming and going of feet.
Men appear, act and re-act upon each other, and pass away.
When the crisis comes, the man who would fit it does not return.
When the curtain falls no one is ready.
When the footlights are the brightest they are blown out.
thinks for itself :
Sunday of every
watch Citizen Kane.
I strip off
clothes and pretend
Orson Welles: ‘here’s
Rowland Bagnall is a 21-year-old student of Literature from Oxford. His work has been previously published by The Missing Slate, London Grip, Miracle, Message in a Bottle, the English Chicago Review, Revolver, and Cake, as well as appearing in a number of Oxford-based journals.
At the craft centre shift your shoes
in the squeaky powder as she cuts amber
rolls the beads like an insect guarding,
cleaning its eggs. Walk to the gift shop,
hold a necklace to the late summer sun,
see the trapped ancestors of biting flies
still patrolling our shores.
For years she made me fearful - was her
mantis poise beside the tumbling drum
an act for tourists or a mating sign?
Then we met at a wedding in the month of flies.
We were both stuffed in dead relative’s suits.
She talked so well about the power of amber
how she polished visions of past and future
I finally felt why my parents moved here.
I danced and years of anger fell away.
The music stopped and she touched me
and we knew we’d passed the test to stay.
Her insectness fell away as we left the hall
then ran through mosquito storms
to her boat pulled up on the shore.
Fixing the Boat
At low tides you waded into the mud
and hacked rust from the side of the boat.
I offered help from the deck but you shook
your head. It was no job for a child.
I watched but never took it in so now
I’m trying things out, hoping I take after
you enough to keep us dry. Tonight
a storm’s forecast and my hopes aren’t high.
I know I slopped on the tar, rushed the job.
Even though we all rely on this boat
I got in more of a mess than I’d hoped.
Forklifts filled containers
and as the ship lost sight of land
the sailors dealt out cards
and missed the flipper sending
up a wave of skittering fish.
The thought of that long necked
dinosaur battling giant squid
amidst the wrecks and spilling
treasure chests got me searching
in the dockside gastro pubs
for a bearded captain.
I’d pay him to fire the steel harpoon
then drag the dripping carcass
between bobbing yachts
to the wine bar on the beach.
I’d flense the fatless slabs
of meat from the fire pit
and as my chattering friends
rubbed their chins about whether
the meat was fish or chicken
I’d answer their questions
by regaling them with tales
of the vicious plesiosaur,
leaving them gagging.
But the captain never
discussed the mission
as he threw shimmering
squid rings on the griddle.
He never said to me,
fifty leagues out to sea:
keep your money
we’re heading home.
He just stared as if I’d moved
down from the city
and knew nothing at all.
Paul Bavister has published three collections of poetry, the most recent being The Prawn Season (Two Rivers Press). He works as a gardener and also teaches creative writing for The University of Oxford and Birkbeck College, London.
The bus left as they always do, with statue in
water behind me, covered in old time thoughts
anew. Now with four hours plus to Washington DC,
which earlier the Baltimore signs seemed reluctant
to leave. Seven years have now passed, but got
within forty thousand feet of you. I was above you,
you will be pleased to know, looking down onto your
cold shaped snow.
As we headed under the Hudson, the bus driver
announced a film for us all to see, it was put to a
vote, Tom Cruise, Oblivion...in silence the journey
chose. Smiling to myself, at his latest effort refused,
it became so clear to me there and then, it's just
better never to have been known.
2) True Intentions
True intentions eventually reveal themselves,
bursting forward from their hiding place as does
every child. Yet words will still try to build monuments,
reassured no doubt in knowledge that you can't smell
a rat in a compost heap. But don't feed a plant, a goldfish,
an animal, child or lover, then all will die.
As cockroach, walks upon marble surface pristine, with
alien feeling as surface of the moon. But once dropped
to floor, finding a small crumb, pet cage, or refuse bin
ajar, proving no matter the true intentions, the situations
you create can be heaven to some after all.
3) Dead Things
Being told that you are loved and given all the
words in the world, these words can only be as
beautiful, as a house, a car, or holiday. Because
no matter how heartfelt their delivery, they're
meaningless, once known to be spoken by
someone....who is more in love with dead things.
Car Crash, Arrest, And The Domino Effect
Saturday morning 10.45 am, cleaners sitting
drinking coffee, their work finally done. In
South Shields bar, father with older brother,
stalk their chosen lair, as uncle puts his coat
on back of woman's chair. I'm told in his day
he was known as a ladies man, but soon the
ladies like his reputation, are finally gone.
(Isn't it funny how the old lay claim to tables
88 and 86 years old, both unsteady, but fear no
match as yet for stopping them being here. Friends
arrive, one's particularly welcomed, 72 years of age,
just out of hospital, young inexperienced driver
put him there. They say alcohol in blood relaxed him
for impact and fall, proving its worth once and for all.
My uncle an ex-policeman, visited the same man's
home, to arrest him, prison ensued, many years
ago. But in old age all is forgotten, nothing matters
now, and if truth is being told, it never really does.
Domino game starts and I'm soon forgotten, as for a few
hours are all problems. Crash victims bag of urine
strapped to ankle above sock, tells of soon to be removed
in hospital, the following week. My father in a couple of
days, camera to go down his throat, and uncle with cancer,
nothing more that can be done. Another who isn't here this
time I'm told by his closet of friends, of visit to hospital to
find him on drip, while drinking beer from a can,
(John died 30th April 2014).
Ex-miners, shipyard workers, electricians, police and bus drivers
all, enjoying each others company, while they all still can.
Jeff Bell, poet and musician, originally from South Shields in the North East of England, now living in London over last thirty years. Has recently started writing poetry/prose and finds it a release from the restrictions of songwriting. Has had several poems recently accepted in various magazines. A sample of his music can be heard at www.myspace.com/quangomusic http: //www.jeffbellmusic.com
A hushed dusk . . .
cherry blossoms in bloom and then I find
your old brown boots in the garden shed.
You always said procrastination was a killer -
that would rank me somewhere near serial
so tonight I tied them together by their laces
took them to the foot of your grave and placed
daffodils in them. I'll go back Sunday
and see if the wind has blown them away.
Whose house is this, remains of which
swelter under a saffron sun -
roof blown off, the walls of rooms
tortured by the wind?
The blustery wind blows dust in my eyes
as it must have done to them
when fire spread like a hurricane
destroying what was their home.
There's a well out back dry as biscuit
where starlings build their nests
burnt skeletons of apple trees
garden tools covered in rust.
In the yellow swaying prairie grass
mosquitoes whine and buzz . . .
a slow waltz round an oven door
all that's left of a family stove.
In this small space coated with soot
something makes me stumble -
a plastic tea-set with broken pieces
a little pail and shovel.
Here's some bricks, once a fireplace
the corner of a chimney.
Did a couple sit here their work done
and talk of the old country?
Neighbours say they sang strange songs
with tarns, lochs and glens.
Wherever they are, I wish them well.
I wish them rain.
Silence in the mountains . . .
aspens stare at their reflections
in forest streams like teens preening
before a mirror. Purple flowers
tremble - anemones, petunias, verbena.
Singing starts as a sort of hum,
the flash of a tail fin and I see
her auburn hair flowing,
her pale pearly skin. Lit by rays
from the green corn moon
I skip across stepping stones,
gaze into the water. I will guard
your secret, I whisper. Did you gain
a soul by falling in love with a man
and bear his child? She swings
a hand, gloved in weeds, waves
at me. Later, near a waterfall I hear
her singing, lilting notes floating
on the river, rising and falling
with the swell like small church bells.
Mary Franklin has had poems published in various poetry journals, anthologies and online journals in UK, Canada, Australia and the USA.
The Poetry Police
Dixon of Dock Green plods metrically
down the Old Kent Road, kind to children,
little old ladies and early Victorian verse,
but contemptuous of the greasy post-war stanzas
lounging outside the all-night chemist,
string ties, Brylcreem and flick-knives. Nice little
quatrain, fell off the back of an anthology.
Regan and Carter don’t bother with rhyme
and meter. Their guv’nor bangs on about the rule book,
hasn’t been the same since Quiller-Couch
took over from Haskins. Makes no difference.
Some Liverpudlian nonce up against the wall, blade
of grass slapped from his hand. We don’t like
wasting our time on poets like you, son.
Morse appreciates line and form, detects
no villainy in the villanelle, orders the rondeau
released without charge. He’s been known
to sympathise with the sonnet. Street poetry is suspect,
though; crimes against syntax. It’s when murder
is done without elegance or cerebral motive
that he breaks out the Wagner and turns to drink.
The penguin in Herzog’s Encounters
at the End of the World, determinedly
waddle-walking its way in completely
the wrong direction – the filmmakers
legally obliged not to halt its progress –
disappears into a sea-sky-ice terrain
where celluloid immortality and certain
death are guaranteed and meaningless.
But proud! The penguin as colonel,
monocle and gloves, an invisible line
of ghost penguins marching behind,
marching right up to the gates of hell
like whoever it was in whichever war
said that thing about hell freezing over.
Toucans at Their Rest
Toucans in their nests agree
Guinness is good for you
Try one today and see
What one or toucan do
- 1940s Guinness advert
Their feathers are shabby, their bills
chipped like the veneer on a badly-used table
that fetches nothing at auction.
Their eyes are dim. Some joker
keeps moving the horizon further back.
They flew in squadrons once, pints
of the stuff beak-balanced.
The opposite of bombers, not
a fluid ounce of their cargo spilled.
Or they occupied weathervanes
and watched men carrying girders.
And on every corner a pub
with a Popeye-bicep’d landlord
and a choice of bitter, mild or stout.
A pub today would confound them.
Their cages are comfortable enough;
besides, the sky doesn’t hold
the same appeal. Endlessness daunts
when endurance is finite.
They watch TV instead. They haven’t
recognised an advert in decades.
Neil Fulwood is the author of ‘The Films of Sam Peckinpah’ and runs film review blog Agitation of the Mind (www.misterneil.blogspot.com). He’s a member of the Alan Sillitoe Committee, who are raising funds towards a permanent memorial to be sited in Alan’s home town of Nottingham, UK. Neil co-designed their website www.sillitoe.com.
Suggestion from an Old English Fragment, The Ruin
‘This place is desolation only:
Where once were marvellous stones
Now in vacant courts gather
The grime of fragments
That were the work of giants
Who have found in Fate
A feckless watchman…’
City of dust
Whose fragments fall
Frozen on water hard as stone
Where stone is broken.
Nothing is sacred now.
All that flowed from paradise
Has vanished with the gods
Whose shadows alone remain
Among the ruins.
In streets surrendered
To the world’s worst.
The world is no more,
Shattered like stone,
Cold as bitter spring,
As hard as memory
Of what has been.
Nothing is sacred now.
A GOLDEN THREAD: Encountering Verlaine
Invisible the sun that sets on our schemes.
Considering the division of the city,
we find our way in the dark forest,
following a thread of gold
toward the nightingale
The scene is the same:
In these remains of memory
Enslaved to a dream,
He remembers images familiar,
Of origin always unknown.
The whisperings insist:
He hears an orphan’s plea
In the pale monotony
Of an autumnal aquarelle
Soon to be ruined in the rain.
The ordeal has an ending:
In her presence he is wearing
A mask of velvet reverence
That in time will appear
The dreamer’s natural face.
He is living the time:
A face resembling the Moon,
Her tender serenity
In the celestial cabaret’s
A treasure of the Western Han Dynasty
From fire and air one world is made,
From eyes and ears another.
A game of sticks and counters,
Unearthed from the tombs, intrigues.
No-one knows the rules.
These things are lost over time.
Discovery is a matter of chance.
So much of history is guessing
In the guise of evidence.
The wise go down the well.
What they find is darkness
With echoes of worlds falling.
Geoffrey Heptanstall's poems London, Sometimes in the Roman Night, South Kensington Summer 2013 published last summer in Message in a Bottle Poetry Magazine. Recent other poetry published by The Coffee House, Pacific Review & The Write Place at the Write Time. Recent theatre work for White Rabbit & Kilter Theatre. Regular reviewer for The London Magazine, & regular contributor to Open Democracy.
End of an empire
A sash, a belted sword
in its scabbard, hang
on the door's brass hook;
a still life of worn leather
with scarlet and gold.
Cigar smoke thins out,
drifts over the bed
to mingle with sharp cries
of pleasure or pain.
Through the open window
the smell of horse dung
rises from the cobbled square.
Moths advance on warm air
to the unshaded bedside lamp.
Shutters creak and snap
in the cafe below. Laughter
of leave-takers slowly gives way
to the croak of frogs,
bringing the swamp closer.
A silver silk gown lies
on the floorboards,
like the shed skin of a god.
No one can hear
the odourless gas
seeping under the door.
Most at home on platforms
of remote railway halts, his bulk
tightly belted in a raincoat that has seen
better days. The old country returns
in humming cables, the chatter
of starlings, the smell of rusting
paint released by rain.
We do our best to help him integrate.
There’s plenty going on: the rugby club
and village hall events; the summer fete.
The Hunt. And Quiz Night Thursdays in the pub.
Will the present ever reconvene as past,
expunge the smell of concrete corridors,
dogs, urine and sweat; of fear that flares
in the interval between footsteps halting
at the door and the key’s crisp efficiency?
Imprisoned by some ghastly failing state.
Thrown out. Abroad, alone. It must be tough
to fetch up in a district one might hate –
though my move here from Town was smooth enough.
In dreams he returns to the house of youth.
The owners withdraw tactfully, give him
free access .He opens shutters for air
but eyelids struggle to lift the weight
of sudden flooding light.
Oh yes we do our best. But honestly,
I wish he’d deign to smile and have the grace
to thank the open door that set him free,
not frown as if we slammed it in his face.
Familiar too the faded grasses
of flatlands flowing towards emptiness.
The corn grows gold .
The horizon reconciles the sweep
of earth and sky.
Lunchtime. I sit alone with a coffee,
tensed to silence by a tightening workload.
From the corner a colleague shouts my name,
waggles the phone. What now? I take the call.
Your voice. Unexpected; much missed. Deeper,
more northern than remembered. And at once,
we slip quickly through small talk
to an intimacy whose warm, lit wash
transfigures the day, the, time the place:
a wire paper tray at my elbow chortles
when nudged; spare drawing pins line the notice board
with a smile; the fat, dog-eared Yellow Pages
flashes approval. Around me, staff room
chatter is sweet as a dawn chorus,
exotic as tropical birdsong.
This afternoon I love everybody,
serve myself up in ladlefuls.
Richard Hughes was born and brought up in South Wales. He has worked in education, journalism and as a second hand bookseller. In recent years he has had poems published in “Acumen,” “The Interpreter’s House,” “Other Poetry” “South” and “Orbis.”
Let Me Dream of Her Again
Let me dream of her again...
and often my unconscious obliges.
I meet my memories so completely
that on waking, I feel your presence
like an inrush of sea air and for hours
I feel as though we walked in step again.
My unconscious guards you jealously:
when the dream has faded, your face
becomes as blank as the face of a sunflower,
as intangible as your words in the takeaway,
“I love you”, a murmur, hidden
in the sleeve of your coat, and my reply
ringing clear as crystal, making you laugh.
Is that what you had said?
Let your illness
leak into me
and leave you.
Contaminate me, darling.
Let heavy thoughts lift,
from a child's fingers.
Rise from the bed,
your look of old.
Let me descend.
Let my shape adapt
to the contours left
by your body
in the bed
and let me change.
The traffic light turns red.
He lifts the handbrake,
mind a pinball machine
of thoughts, ricocheting.
From the radio,
a congregation of voices
becoming one voice.
He tunes in.
A desert wind sweeps him.
on the dusty earth
of the plains,
the dusty plains of the Earth.
It is no surprise
to awaken here
and yet he grieves, my God
he mourns for this place.
This is real. This is sacred.
How much I have forgotten.
The handbrake drops –
the light is green –
he moves off, begins
to tune out
and the doubts,
James R Kilner's first collection of poems, Frequencies of Light, will be published by Lapwing Publications in 2015. He began his career in the newspaper industry in Yorkshire, as a reporter initially and later as a feature writer, sub-editor and Deputy Editor. He received a PhD from the University of Leeds for his work on the poetry of Ted Hughes. He lives in Whickham, Tyne and Wear, with his wife and two young sons.
After reading Heraclitus
Grandmother Annie comes over the river
with crusty homemade bread and her blue crochet bag.
I am four and eat the buttered bread and fried liverwurst,
then learn the art of circle, insert, pull through, begin again.
We create white lacy circles together. She guides my hand.
Annie, today in Chester, Connecticut I saw smooth river stones
in an art shop window costumed in crocheted jackets.
I wanted to show you the new template.
I wanted to sit beside you, begin again.
My Granddaughter Lily's blue parakeet died last week,
and she asked me who would die next.
I wanted to say we all enter the river
and leave the river at different times,
the river is never the same, yet it flows on,
but I could not find the words.
Linda Leedy Schneider, winner of the 2012 Contemporary American Poetry Prize awarded by Chicago Poetry, is a political activist, poetry and writing mentor, and psychotherapist in private practice. She leads workshops nationally and internationally and especially enjoys the Manhattan Writing Workshop which she founded and has facilitated since 2008. Linda has written six collections of poetry including Some Days: Poetry of a Psychotherapist (Plain View Press 2011) and has edited two collections of poetry written by poets whom she has mentored: Mentor’s Bouquet (Finishing Line Press 2010) and Poems From 84th Street (Pudding House Publications 2010). Linda believes a regular writing ritual leads to discovery, authenticity, personal growth and even JOY.
The old girls are chattering about foliage.
They’re arguing over the qualities of green,
over life’s chlorophyll, about time’s hedge.
The old girls take turns calling numbers
at bingo or searching for a lost slipper,
eternal sadness perching on a sugar spoon,
a sense of finality permeating the room.
It’s sweet, how they bicker like blackbirds,
all their preening, the ruffling of feathers,
the coming and going of cookies and tea.
Then the stranger arrives. A real smooth talker.
He’s brought them violets and chocolate.
When he walks the earth rustles.
We’re all beautiful in a blackout.
It’s better in the dark.
We lose ten pounds, ten years,
just by shutting our eyes.
We glow by starlight.
The moon highlights
our many adorable places.
Hidden imperfections are scattered
here and there over our bodies;
we only have to find them out,
the joy in the seeking.
Honestly, you’ll have to trust me –
after midnight I’m as cute
as a button being undone.
I’m sweeter than the water
you imagined was wine.
House To House
A salesman is going door to door.
He’s selling bottled rain, sniffed fingers
and seraphim-scented handkerchiefs.
A salesman, in an ill-fitting suit,
is selling love-powder and paper aqualungs.
A mouse’s shrugs. Dents in a bucket.
Bio-degradable emotion detectors.
The uninvited, leaning on your front door’s bell,
hauling a scuffed satchel, carrying snake-hips
and vapourous handles. Hair dye for the dead.
A swastika of smoking ashes.
Who’s selling two absolutes for a dollar,
the semi-divine, and storm windows too —
lest yon tempest offend thee.
Pushcart nominee Bruce McRae is a Canadian musician with over 900 publications,including Poetry.com and The North American Review. His first book, 'The So-Called Sonnets', is available from Silenced Press website or via Amazon Books. To hear his music and hear more poems go to 'TheBruceMcRaeChannel' on Youtube.
In the College Porter’s Lodge
She’s aching with sleeplessness.
First paper, British history, at nine.
The porter, Marguerite, is in the lodge.
Coffee and digestives, dunked.
For an hour they talk (Marguerite
saying nothing of her sick grandson).
They see the milk float, early buses,
lights coming on in the annexe.
They talk. A good-luck spider
plumb-lines down from Margie’s ceiling.
Past seven, back to breakfast.
Thanks, Margie, thanks.
Any time, kid. Give ‘em hell.
The 9.30 from Milford Haven, in 1967
A netball team, just seven
bright girls, on the train
from countryside to Swansea,
waving, waving out at boys
(more suave with older lads),
waved, waved at younger ones
with bikes and badges. The boys
were thrilled for just a while
by sex’s scintillation;
were soon absorbed again
in fields and woods and bicycles.
At the Festive Board
Parents, uncles, older cousins, they
are like ninepins. Remarkably so.
Nine of them, all (for what it’s worth)
tubby towards the bum. How she
would love to line them up above
a grille (or tumbrel?), hear the roar
as her well-rolled ball, about
the size of Mount Vesuvius,
rumbles through and scatters them,
in the greatest mixedest metaphor of all:
ninepins, ten pins, a waterfall
of platitudes, down-tumbling fatuous grins.
She’s done so well in her exams.
She’s growing up to be quite the
young lady. Is there someone special
just at the moment?
She wants to be a tart. To strut
cosmetic brilliance through smoky
night clubs. To have a bevy in
the Galleon Happy Hour, write
Bonjour Tristesse, give up
‘A’ level economics. Be
mistress to a bit of rough.
So what are your ambitions, Mair? Oh shit.
Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. His short stories appear in his collection Downtrain (Parthian, 2004) and in Story II (Parthian, 2014), his poems in Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011).
Still I couldn’t hold the brush in the angles you taught
For hours. I tried to change the topic
About turning the fork when you eat spaghetti,
Dipping the spoon in the ice cream cup, holding the knife when they
clap and sing,
icing the coffee scrolls.
But you were keen to teach me painting.
I talked of Lisa’s infatuation, stars and songs
Yet couldn’t take your eyes off .
Your eyelashes curled with the braids of moisture, wilting odor.
My face was still away from the canvass.
I already knew the pictures in your mind.
My eyes have chiaroscuro pupils.
They move in semi circles. can never be captured
in your photogenic iris.
I’ve learnt signing my name
In few seconds, not in someone else’s block.
I will sign your name too
In a purple board with antiseptic letters
The Initials separated by eucalyptus serifs
Capitalized, the glass
lenses have summer filaments.
They burn our eyes in the Lasik dust.
We make steric insects along the powdery solstices.
You can hold my palms and copy the lines
for many other remunerative posters.
The green mushrooms wake at the sand-stitched branches,
Holding the water glass parapets azure ice-sticks.
The children’s perspiration in running to be unseen by the cuckoo,
Raises the while puff under their cloudy feet.
The mellow murmurs on the meadow,
Feeds the ants, the lover’s hormones.
The thunder buffers, displays a blank screen for a moment.
The perse petals turned on, performs a folk dance wearing silver anklets.
The feathery fingers of photosynthetic cotton dolls,
Invest on making a puppet show at the day,
When clapping audience can stare at the printed faces.
Speak for Me
I want to hear you speak our language
all the time
effortlessly. Using the words more than vowels.
Our language is of the birds and fairies too
Of the train tickets, rickety tracks and hulky rickets.
Our language springs from the cricket pricks,
From the Korean dances of indigenous faces,
From the bellies that translate the bigger bellies.
Our language is equally seductive
Moisturizers pasted, shampooed, shining like hair-conditioner bottle
lids Lapsus calami
Have some perfume, comb your hair
Sip it’s Polysemous shades.
It contains the world, the world too had the intercourse.
Your disabling silence, will return you the world in fraction.
Speak… the linguistics
of our utopia.
Jyothsna Phanija is a PhD research scholar in English Literature
at EFL University, Hyderabad, India. Her poetry has appeared in
Melusine, Muddy River Poetry Review, Northeast review, Coldnoon,
Kritya, CounterPunch, American Diversity Report, Magnets and Ladders,
among several others. Her short stories have appeared in eFiction
India, research articles in Subalternspeak, eDhvani, Wizcraft,
Barnolipi and in several books. She blogs at phanija.wordpress.com
My voice, breaking, breaks
into a soulful tenor; I can still sing,
sway crowds someday. My clothes,
rich natural fabrics, preclude
the question whether one must be
messy to be considered masculine
enough. My parents are benign
with hugging applications, seldom used;
house robots and a trust look after me.
The school to which I descend at noon
is a quiet fastness where I
confound my tutors and swiftly
ascend through all data, creating
theorems and masterpieces at recess.
For me the world-city was condensed
into a village, gentrified, myself
the gentry. And as I stroll Main Street,
monsters, pederasts, priests,
Bad Men shuffle by in chains,
electronically herded and prodded.
It doesn’t matter if their eyes are lowered
in shame or fear of pain; they won’t be back.
Knots of children whom I save,
continually, stop and stare,
knowing that if they dare
resent me, screens will descend, on which
they will be the starved coyote,
the cat the mouse forever hunts. Mostly
they don’t; they invite me, formally, to play.
I smile as if uncertain what that means.
A blonde on the fast track
to cheerleader hands me a flower.
I carry it into the diner
where I have my after-school snack
and check and send messages. The Patrol,
after all, ignored requirements,
age, height, to use me in dangerous orbits;
the least I can do is stay in touch.
Adoring, silent, awed
old people at the counter wonder
what lonely mission I’ll be on. I’d better
finish my shake and suit up …
Puberty attacks in twenty minutes.
Mesdames et messieurs,
members of the Academy, Your Highness:
It’s usual on these occasions
to speak in terms of “we.”
Camus was exemplary;
in his speech, “we” exhorted, berated,
comforted, communed with and praised
ourselves without apparent intermediary.
Reading that as a boy,
I immediately resolved to stand here
someday, which in my country might be
compared to deciding to be president
and therefore running for hall-monitor …
as some do. Tragically –
because if they fail they are only American failures;
whereas I would have been the hero
of an existentialist novel,
staring at nothing, his manuscript burning behind him,
wondering if he is the dream
of that year’s Prizewinner or
vice versa. Even now, even here,
the doubt occurs, but I apply
the lesson of such books: that either way
But we were talking about us,
about “we.” The literate, civilized,
die Geistliche, Platonic Guardians,
the not unhappy. My love for you, for us,
is all the more intense
because of the exception you have made,
in my case, to your injunction
against Americans: their self-exclusion
from the “imaginative community,”
their sentimental brutal taste
for petty self- and family-dramas –
“destiny in lower case”
as some European called it – which,
yes! is dialectically tied
to military adventurism, as you’ve implied …
I agree entirely! Which makes it
all the more wonderful
that you chose me –
not even a novelist but a poet,
our poetry mostly a footnote
to all those obese paragraphs
of memoir … It is so dreamlike,
being here, if it isn’t
provincial to invoke dreams,
that I feel rather like
an American out of Kafka –
a barker, perhaps, in the Great
Nature Theater of Oklahoma –
or the one in Kubin’s
The Other Side
who calmly draws his Browning
and says, “I’ll take on any hundred of you.”
And I find myself remembering,
as if I were experiencing,
a walk in one of those towns
of ours (and yours) that are merely
parking lots and congeries
of universals: Penney’s, the Gap,
Crate and Barrel, Thank God It’s Friday.
It’s the beginning of a crash –
unfair and unforeseeable, of course –
and I, nameless, in thrall
to an unremunerative vice,
look into people’s eyes
to see if they are suffering enough
for me no longer to seem one of them.
At such a time, to be
part of an imaginative community
is, at least in imagination, safety
and comfort, Your Highness, members
of the Academy, messieurs et mesdames.
There’s someone – perhaps the famous
Inner Child, or an unluckier,
alternate me. He exists
tenuously, yet in some way
more than I. When I’m afraid,
he’s very afraid,
and then I tell him, It’s alright.
Which calms him, or lets him pretend
to be calm and me to be strong.
Though never for long,
so I tell him again. I’ll die;
so will he, but hopefully
a few minutes earlier.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. He has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Message in a Bottle, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Kalkion, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.
Studying the Travel Question
Travel can be dangerous and adventurous
declares the question we discuss
in A level classes. You’re not kidding.
Today, I risked my life, driving through
February snow, still falling, deadly white
on motorway and screen.
Fields and trees of enticing loveliness
tempted me to stop, park the car, set out
in work suit and unsuitable shoes.
Robert Frost spoke in my mind, dark and deep.
One day there will be no promises to keep.
Oxford Covered Market
Somewhere, mum, you and I could have
wandered, across cobbles and past tubs
of bunched flowers, you purposeful
like me today, with errands to perform,
bargains to hunt out.
Whiff of haddock, rank as Widnes fishmongers,
the sea gone bad in gutters of scales and blood.
Heavy scent of wax and herbs, as hake
swim past blueberry and vanilla candles.
Remember that auction stall where women
would scream out bids and I’d be bored?
Today’s prices would appal you,
who once bought me a satin blouse
for twelve and six, to jaunty at the theatre.
What would you have said to see
Me fork out for Italian leather shoes?
Oxford Market’s quaint but sanitised,
a life away from Widnes market
and Albert’s Walk Round Store.
I am hanging from his overcoat in danger
of being lost. No-one thinks to re-stitch the thread
in my middle’s four round windows,
though it’s been breaking for weeks.
They’ll be sorry, when he comes to button up
this coat against the weather and finds
the third one down missing, gone awol,
and no other in the button box just like me.
In these careless autumn days, he leaves
his topcoat open, but come winter, I’ll be gone.
No-one will notice my falling until it is too late.
Can anyone tell me where lost buttons go?
Angela Topping is the author of 7 collections and three chapbooks. She has edited and co-edited several antholgies. Work has appeared in such journals as Poetry Review, The North and London Magazine. She held a writer's residency at Gladstone's Library in 2013. A collaboration with Sarah James is forthcoming in 2015, in the form of a pamphlet entitled 'Hearth', with Mother's Milk Books.
to the floor
in the school toilet.
Wheeled to sick bay,
Lay boneless on my side
on woven cotton.
Looking at streaks and swathes
of red, yellow, orange, green
across the valley.
School nurse coming in and out.
Sold sign outside
i.m. Pat Russell
Sold sign outside
house cold but not cool
air not moving
talk curled in corners.
two nails and a button
pile of art papers.
Empty box of French matches –
she must have liked that design
of two stylised birds.
with family photos.
Books still on the shelves:
alphabets and alphabets.
Clean glass doors, looking
out at no geraniums.
Kate Venables works as a physician and is also a student on the creative writing programme at Oxford University. She is a new writer and her first flash fiction and poetry appeared recently in Flash, Lighthouse, and The Lake.
My plutocracy of inspiration; my cultivation
that I’ve seen beyond the July solitude
by decoding Karma within me.
The love we should preserve
slow and practical. Parliament of
heartfelt blasphemy. I see
calmness through the eyes of
an actor; to hold and to trust.
Welcoming Teardrops’ Ave.
Believe not in for ever. But the meaning
to cherish that stands before you.
Once In 365 Days
She comes to him before midnight,
The only season they will meet,
Coiling their solitude in secrecy,
Worth the wait –
Driving their brain ‘round the cuckoo’s nest,
In mind-piercing mode,
Discard that midnight countdown,
Clothing discarded – like presents; no ribbons,
Messy sheets – bodies waving white flags,
Running towards the colours; catching the glimpse of the salted yolk,
Hands held high welcoming the tunnel of hope.
Rejections over the window; letters crushing on the hostile ground,
Head held low with hands cuffed behind the loop.
Inspirations come from afar,
Creativity in cultivation,
Dissecting pulses –
Too much room to breathe; gruesome little space to progress,
A Master’s level houses many intelligentsia – are you the one?
The genre chooses me; the slave of this distinctive knowledge.
Am I the one? Must be joking; yes you are. No.
Dream my little child,
Chasing ‘til not the cow comes home,
Be the cream.
Deborah Wong’s poems have been published locally and internationally, including ditch, Poetry Quarterly, Anak Sastra, Red Fez, Mad Swirl, Vox Poetica, Banana Writers, The Tower Journal and elsewhere. Her second short story is forthcoming in Inwood Indiana Press. She’s also a frequent contributor and an editorial board member of Eastlit Journal. Tweet her at @PetiteDeborah. Visit: www.deborahytwong.wordpress.com