The Boy with wallpaper skin
 

In the day they kept him well hidden

only letting him roam after midnight

known to some in town as a myth,

 a nightmare,

 a sin

 

Never caught on camera or by human sight,

the boy with wallpaper skin.

Parchments of multi-coloured hormones

Crystallised  like pieces of rainbow putty,

watching us all sleep while he roamed

eyes the musty breath of sunset glue,

before returning to the cellar of his home.

A curse to be ever so young a human chameleon

the boy who never aged

with skin coloured by his surroundings and mood

from a relaxed nicotine pale to the brightness in angry vermilion,

left in the dankness of daylight white

to the slick and inky colour of evening blue.



MJ Duggan  Born 1971, Bristol, UK. Published in Roundyhouse, The Journal, The Seventh Quarry, Apogee Journal, The Stare's Nest, Illumen, The Cobalt Review, The Dawntreader, and many more.


Winter Wonderland

The fairground beckons in waves of reflected colour,
refined sugar, and resounding pleasure.
‘Come over.’
But we’re happy here across the water,
not needing its pleasures, or its terrors.
For, though it would appear
our breath is all that stirs this cold night air,
we’re on a rollercoaster
with no safety bar except each other.

Sand Castle

I built another castle in the sand
with four tall towers on which we’d stand
entwined and enraptured with the sun
saluting us from some horizon.
And when cold night came we’d retreat within
to fire each others souls and skins,
shielded by four walls so thick
the world would not trouble us as we slept.
We could not hear then the tide’s turning
and the slow crescendo of its stallions,
pausing a moment at our moat to sip
and admire the shell detail of our portcullis
before charging our foundations,
tearing grain from grain,
and tearing me from you
again.


Bloody Valentine
 
February fourteenth. Exterior. Florists.
Like pigeons round a crust to buy some sanctioned love,
without dirt, without root, that’ll be dead in a week.
 
Love is more bindweed than roses,
growing from groin to gut then up, up,
heart, throat, malignant,
to wrap itself and wrap itself inside your thoughts.
 
And however much you tear it down
there’s always a tendril or a bloody stain.
However much you tear it up
there’s always a root
and another bloody shoot.




Nathan Evans is a writer, director and performer whose work in film and theatre has been funded by the Arts Council, toured with the British Council, broadcast on Channel 4, archived in the BFI Mediatheque and awarded a few statuettes. He occasionally catches a poem and attempts to jot it down.

 Sweet and Sour
 
I leave you
in the knowledge
that your sweet words
would soon sour
in my company –
when we are apart,
you know just what to say.
When we are together,
the weather forecast predicts
rain.
 
 
Wish List

I would love to say that `all I want
for Christmas is you’ like in the song,
only I can’t...don’t get me wrong;
of course all I want is you... a Peace
plant for the bedroom; that perfume,
a massage, electric blue baggy jumper,
a bumper case of red wine, a few
fine poetry books... I’m making a list   
to pamper myself, as it is Christmas
and because you don’t exist.
 
Lapsed
 
Lapsed member of Equity Actors’ Union
Lapsed member of Freedom Leisure Pool
Lapsed member of Weight Watchers UK
Lapsed member of the Poetry Society...
 
Emptying her purse she could visibly see
that so much has lapsed. As a lapsed member
of the Catholic Church, guilt weighed
as heavy as sin.
 
 

 
Susan Evans is a Brighton-based Performance poet from North East London. Straddling stage and page, her work has featured in a number of publications; in print and online, including: The Fat Damsel, I am not a silent poet, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Nutshells & Nuggets, Poetry Space, Proletarian Poetry, Prole (Issues 14 &15) Slim Volumes 1 & 2: No Love Lost and Wherever You Roam (Pankhearst) he Stare’s Nest, Writing Magazine and more.
You can find her here:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Evans-Performance-poet/485340264922817
 
Email contact: susanevanspoetry@live.co.uk


Suspended

Beyond the yellow walls
I presumed there was endless rain,
occasional snow,
but I rarely left bed
that winter.
Everything  was in reach -
my books, letters from home,
the comforting pulse
of Letter from America, Desert Island Discs,
interminable cups of tea
finishing in dreg-filled rows,
icy trips to the kitchen
for meals we’d eat in bed,
skin, hair, breath, warmth,
but very few words.
We were fighting a war we knew
was futile.
Rejoining  the world
was the death of us.


 
Lost

The scarf with the marbled patterns like a
child’s painting must have been lost somewhere
between the car and the Japanese garden,
a last gift from someone I loved gone
so it felt like losing them a little bit more
 
and then I noticed when I went to check which year
I graduated that the diary from 1998 is missing
from the red leather box and the realisation hit me
that I’d lost a year of my life, not just a dog-eared book
with paintings on each page from the Portrait Gallery
 
and it occurred to me soon after that all the warmth
is gone from this house which is not unusual for winter
but no matter the number of blankets
or how many pancakes I make or how bright the sun
shines on the russet bricks, I know it won’t come back
 
and neither will the funny brown skinned boy I’ve spent
a decade watching, cataloguing every thought, 
capturing on film every smile, who would rather
skype a friend, he says, rolling his eyes, than walk
with me to the park which would bore him to tears
 
so I set off alone and catch myself wondering what I really
ever had now that all these things have slipped away
and decide that everything lost is together somewhere
with the healthy glow I had on the beach up north
and my father’s carefree laugh, and any chance to start again.
 
 
Prints in the sand

 

The beach

Thai-dyed in peach light,

the coastline faint

against a silver sea.

We squeak down pristine dunes

through dew-wet vines,

leave towels

above high water,

tessellated with twigs,

weed, shells and stones,

perfect, untouched,

run flat out, calling wildly,

stop suddenly at the water’s edge

before plunging in.

We loll and float through

the beauty of an azure day

in the long roll of the waves

until, like crabs,

we crawl up the sand,

pulled home,

our footprints the only proof

that we were in Eden at dawn.

 


 
Jane Frank’s work has recently been published in Australian Poetry Journal and the Bimblebox Art Project. Jane teaches a range of writing disciplines at
Griffith University in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. She has just completed
a PhD examining the rise of the global Book Town Movement.


Looking for wildcat in Abernethy Forest

The signs so slight and quiet
hidden in snow, hummocks
of bilberry that pull at clothes,
a path we travel through this space
and no sight, an impossibility
of seeing anything
before it sees and hear us.

Something lives inside
the woods, empty, receptive,
our sight of emptiness and silence.
And there is the faintest path, scratches
on an overhanging branch,
a rank smell that I sniff crouching
on all fours from the wood itself.



Tuesday funeral in winter

snow gouged by shovels and the strain of bagpipes
on air pixelated by like flakes
on Waverley road it’s clear someone has died
somewhere a piper laments or sucks the tune
the corpse enjoyed with others at rideouts
or with fiddle playing, book-reading or drunk
and now that sound is everywhere like the snow
and nowhere outside time the white road
my eyes all torn by the fall
the piper’s up there by the open grave in the yard
I’ll not spy him yet however hard I look.




The trouble with lichen
1. With Beatrix at Dalguise

Aurora and her books down by the burn
she stares at rock
volumes tumbled in her lap
a piece of heather in her hair
sketched like that by Landseer

but the girls are looking at lichen
cross-referencing its open cups
a stone university
later in the study they take out the microscope
stealthily before crumpets

2. Marianne

the flowerpots started it; the search
for what? first to cleanse, why
were they always dirty? crusting
with time and absence
such hazy frondage I wouldn’t
have eaten the contents of their shadowed cups
saucers and vases
now in the laboratory I take them 
to pieces their fruiting parts
I have to know
I look at the white wall tufted with horse hair
and wonder.

3. Germination of the spores of the Agaricineae

another letter from Beatrix full of ferns
and fungus; her paper heart
encased in a male body,
mysteries next to little pictures of 
dressed up rabbits
work passed off as belonging to others
spore wants bacteria
men who sail away and leave us
to investigate and write
capillaries strained to classification
I order 200 hundred trees from France
and tell her the varieties.


Bridget Khursheed is a poet and geek based in the Scottish Borders. Published extensively in anthologies and magazines including New Writing Scotland, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Poetry Scotland, The Eildon Tree, Gutter, Stravaig and Southlight, she received a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award for poetry in 2014. www.poetandgeek.com | @khursheb | @poetandgeek

The Human Condition

Did I forgive her, you ask?
What a silly question.
Why wouldn't I forgive her?
The mother of my children,

she's been dead for years.
Our long war died with her.
Did I attend her funeral?
I'd have been a distraction.

But I pray for her, 
the repose of her soul.
She belongs in Heaven,
no denying that, up front

in a box seat after all 
she's been through.
If I'm lucky, I'll find 
the side door to 

Heaven unlocked.
I'll sneak in quietly
and if Peter doesn't  
throw me out, I'll sit

in the bleachers.
The question is, 
will I wave if she 
turns around?




There's a Cliff Ahead

Sixty years ago,
the two of us rode tricycles
up a little hill
behind our school.
Nothing stopped us till  
mothers called us home.

Sixty years later,
we ride mountain bikes
in this wilderness.
We'll keep pedaling till
someone takes our bikes.
We know that someone will. 

Your wife told me
you haven't been 
to church in years.
She's worried
about your heart.
Skips a beat?
 
Let's stop for coffee
and you can fill me in.
There's not much time.
Maybe we should stop 
for a beer instead.
There's a cliff ahead.
 




Dying at Midnight

Two big attendants 
in white coats are here 
to remove my remains.
My son called the mortuary 
after Murphy said I was gone.
The doctor, a good neighbor, 
came over at midnight, found 
no pulse and made it official.
I could have saved him the trip.
I knew I was gone.

My wife's in the kitchen 
crying with my daughter 
in a festival of Kleenex.
I told her I was sick
but she didn't believe me.
She thought I was faking it
so I wouldn't have to go 
to her mother's for dinner.
I don't like lamb but 
her mother's from Greece.
Lamb shanks are always
piled on the table.
Stuffed grape leaves I like
and she'll make them for  
Christmas provided I start
begging at Thanksgiving.
Every Easter, however,
it's another fat leg of lamb, 
marbled with varicosities 
and sauced with phlebitis.

Right now I'm wondering 
who'll win the argument
between the two angels 
facing off in the mirror
on top of the dresser.
The winner gets my soul
which is near the ceiling,
a flying saucer spinning 
out of control.
I want the angel 
in the white tunic 
to take it in his backpack.
The other guy in gray  
looks like Peter Lorre 
except for the horns.


Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes poetry and fiction. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com


Parallels 

Through, worldling, through, trifler 
of bird nests, everybody else's accomplice; 
through, comforter, divestor, horrific companion.  
A lady's lingerie touted, 
travesty abetted, 
impediments accepted; 
indebted to caprice, its rawness - 
seagulls, a feral cat outpace the crowded past, 
chimpanzees pause, 
the sun does nothing, nothing else but set. 
What possibly could be an end? 
Not care?  
Who could say why not. 
Torn by sky's tear, pelleted  
by dirty demitasses and other perplexing parallels. 
 



 
Running for Cover 
 
 
Blooming lilac, fragrance and dissemination, 
thunder burgeoning into a furtherness. 
Not a paradisical summit? 
The trappings of monastic orders promulgate one way, 
sequined thong apparel for the beach another. 
Difference in order - how to tell whether slight or not? 
A going out, a holding back. 
To stand there, groundless, 
a flung stick, raised arm. 
What constitutes a flattering posture - 
tree screens, veiled head dress, 
the misbegotten stoned, 
the ordinary subsumed?  
Unclear where the inward leads.  
 
No topical key today. 
 
My music is consumed. 
 
Another music plays. 
 
Some other need, some further waywardness, 
directionless, 
much as an empty sky.  
 
Is it chance, 
this pointing ahead? 
And what of the  bounteous reward 
in a swallow's flight? 
Another dimension catered to, another oracle,  
and surely 
no longer creep, no longer petty. 
The tales doted on, compulsive, even when capricious, 
will leave some weepy, some relieved, 
while in their taken for granted routines 
 
consummate courtiers of yesterday rage, 
while and while  
across such temporal easements 
paper machetes, halloween masks, 
Passion plays circumvent the troubled taking of our days. 
 
Among the monoliths of granite, 
plastic flowers. 
Ah, who could ever think that sentiment is cheap. 
There, the continuum, the shadowy trees 
 
that stand and wait.

Frank Praeger

A Thank You

I wasn’t aware that I was
causing any problems, so was
surprised when my
manager said he needed
to meet with me;
deliberately, I arrived
10 minutes late;
we sat at a table that
could accommodate 20
people;
“How are you?” he asked
“How am I?” I said
“Yes, how are you?” he repeated.
I couldn’t resist the
opportunity to throw a line
from a Frank Lima
poem at him and said
“I’m as happy as a faggot
in Boys-Town”
he lowered his head
and shook it slowly
but I could see that he
was smiling and he was
 trying to think of a come-back;
he raised his head
and still smiling he said
“I’m glad to hear that
your ethics and principles
are firmly in place and that
is why the department
is what it is now”
“Incompetent and inadequate”
I suggested
he looked at me and
the smile dropped and
he said
“You’ve done some good
work of recent, I’d like to
say thank you; it’s been
noted”
“Is that it?” I asked
“Yeah” he said
I rose from the chair
and walked silently out
of the room and back into
the office of bewildered,
cheated faces and the
banks of blinking
computer screens.

*Line taken from Frank Lima poem ‘Woman’ from the book ‘Underground with the oriole’


Step Mom

She had married once or
twice before, had 3
children as a
memento and at
some point she was
deported from
Australia for her
involvement in a
murder;
she couldn’t handle
alcohol; prescription
drugs were her
forte and she married
my alcoholic
father and introduced
him to her
chemicals but her
dyed blonde hair
and heavy make-up
did not hide the
confusion and malice
in her blurred eyes
and although we never
made it as step-mother
and son,
we did share brief
moments that meant
something and
one time, both of us
drunk and travelling
on some liquid
codeine, she suggested
that I read
Kerouac’s
‘On the Road’
and I did and like
countless others I
felt liberated by the
book’s energy and
the sense of life’s
spiritual quest and
established a
life-long love of
Kerouac
but I never thanked
her for this and I
wished I had;
18 months after my
father checked-out,
she followed by way
of a chemical overdose,
following her road
to it’s unnatural
conclusion;
like Kerouac,
like too many,
too often and the
road never ends.



On the way back

By chance we met in the city,
once seated on the train he
asked me
“Have you got anything to drink?”
“No” I said.
He opened a bag and
pulled out a bottle
of vodka;
by the time we
arrived at our
destination we were
drunk but we
weren’t finished,
we hit the nearest
bars and drank
some beers and then
we faced the six
mile trek along
dark isolated
marsh roads back
to the Barracks;
3 hours late we
staggered towards the
entrance of the camp,
the guard appeared
shaking his head and
grinning, maybe he
even laughed,
“Come in you two”
he said.
We made no more
than 20 yards
when we were
violently apprehended
by 2 very pissed-off
and  ill-tempered
military policeman
who pushed us into
a stinking holding-cell.
05.30am we were
awoken by the
screaming voice of
our Platoon Sgt,
who also appeared
very pissed-off;
we stood to a wobbly
attention and I
couldn’t stop smiling
and maybe I even
laughed but I couldn’t
stop the hung-over
smile;

we spent another
48 hours in that
stinking holding-cell
with the 2 heartless
M.P.’s as company
for my dumb young
vodka smiling,

the next time
I smiled
was when
I walked away
and returned
home to die in
a way
that I wanted to.


John D Robinson was born in the UK in 63; he began writing poetry aged 16 and published 1st poem a year later; many of his poems have appeared in the small press; of recent poems have appeared in Bareback Lit, Red Fez, The Kitchen Poet, Pulsar, The Chicago Record, Dead Snakes, The Commonline Journal, upcoming poems in The Clockwise Cat, Your One Phone Call; his short fiction has appeared in Words Come Ezine; Opal Publishing; Jotters United. He is married with 1 daughter 2 grandchildren, 4 cats and 1 dog and loves to drink wine and daydream.


*The Down Space*

We climbed the stairs
to find the attic, and found
flower journals and bits
of forgetting, but it was the travel
down to the flooded basement
that we found most like us.



*Shark*

I watch the dark shapes
surface and wonder if they
are amiable dolphins or if
their teeth will sink in to me.



*Looter*

it's all fine and good
until trouble strikes and then
true colors, good or ill, begin
to show.

 
Roger Still is a fairly new poet.  His work has appeared in Belle Reve Literary Journal.

headlines
 
 
'my life of hell’
‘my lovechild shame.’
‘my web of lies’
‘my secret pain’
‘he left me twice.
he’s cold. he’s vain’
‘i took him back…
 
he left again.
 


overheard mobile conversation
 
 
so why were you giving me screwface i says?
and she says like, who?
and i says last night.
you was screwfacing me
in the club, yeah? remember,
‘bout quarter to three.
and she says no i weren’t
but she was man, i swear,
then she says she was
screwfacing charlie and claire
but she wasn’t, right, …yeah!
so i says no you weren’t,
you were screwfacing me!
pulling a screwface ‘bout quarter to three,
cos charlie was dancing with fuller, right?
yeah!
and there’s no way that she was like
screwfacing claire
‘cos claire wasn’t there
so i says to her
how can you screwface thin air?
 
i know… i know
 
yeah!
 
laters!
 


Tube woman II
 
 
Twine rims had trained her eyes
wide around a page of text.
 
She’d wrapped her other senses
in with
battened leaves
against the rain of glances.
 
Her hair,
a mop (the colour of
a doomed sunflower) was
smouldering to its final stop.
 
Russet bangs hung,
poignant petals,
pointing
to her nose.
 
Toes varnished like a
lost van Gogh.
 
We got to Ladbroke Grove
 
and she got off.


 
Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams lives and works in London. His poetry has recently appeared in 'The North', 'Magma', 'The Frogmore Papers', 'Obsessed With Pipework', 'Ink, Sweat and Tears' and other magazines. He is a keen Science Fiction Historian and a surrealist photographer and painter.
 
 
Saying

I cannot calculate
the worth of words.
Cheap babble
slides through me
like slurry.
Little words that
could be gems;
mighty exclamations
lolling as scarecrows.

And what for?
Maybe I'll choose
more carefully,
ration my outpour.
Ah, but then
I fear slowly
slipping into silence
finally aware
there is
nothing
worth



Hank

"Of course he wasn't real..."
in a conspiritorial tone,
"...just the product of editors
writing for frustrated
middle aged guys not
getting enough.
Sex, dope, drama,
action, stuff...
yeah?
No one ever saw him
vomit in a piano.
Come out of a bordello.
No one ever saw him.
Period."
She sat back, looked
satisfied.
Almost like she was
ready for that
post coital drag.
I got up went
down the hall.
Took a decent crap,
whacked off,
killed a spider,
came back.
Said:
"Run that past me
again
would you?"


Sweeney

" 'Ere's a thing..." the barber started,
putting down his scissors,
"Let's suppose you 'ave a weakness, 
a desire you can't resist.
Should you avoid the circumstance,
- pretend it don't exist?"
His razor now moved deftly 
round to the back of my neck.
"Or, face it, fight it: win or lose: 
at least you'll know yourself?"
He inclined to consider his art.
"Maybe it's best to avoid temptation..."
I countered  "...if you already know your heart?"
I caught his eye in the mirror
and was conscious of my bare throat, 
the razor, an easy slice.
"Well, p'raps you're right Sir...
...yes, p'raps you're right."
He backed away a step or two
"There then, all done"
and held up a mirror showing
my head from a different view.
"Something for the weakness?" 
He laughed at his own pun
as I stepped from the chair,
feeling tension slide away
with a small cascade of hair.



Marc Woodward is a musician and poet based in the West Country. His work, which often has a dark humour, has been published in various journals including anthologies from Forward Press, Ravenshead and OWF Presses; and on The Guardian, Ink Sweat & Tears and Stare's Nest websites.

The sheet of night



on my knees / praying to my love / exhaustion / tears through my body
I can't sleep on such a night / on my knees / praying to my love
I can't sleep on such a night / exhaustion / tears through my body

and my pleas are children's cries / but there's desire on my tongue
my love will always stay with me / and my pleas are children's cries
my love will always stay with me / but there's desire on my tongue

the casual voice of night rolls through / like a breath or a kiss
all of a sudden darkness surrounds me / the casual voice of night rolls through
all of a sudden darkness surrounds me / like a breath or a kiss


Lover on Dover beach



and it's you I want to touch / I want the touch / of your tender hands
wherever I turn I see you clearly / and it's you I want to touch
wherever I turn I see you clearly / I want the touch / of your tender hands

a blessing of angels singing / or the world / breaking out in peace
it's like a miracle / a flash of lightning / a blessing of angels singing
it's like a miracle / a flash of lightning / or the world / breaking out in peace

everywhere I turn you're there / and you've taken my macho / my ego
I've forgotten how I should live / everywhere I turn you're there
I've forgotten how I should live / and you've taken my macho / my ego



Methadone


Helen is sweating / waiting for the chemist to open / at the roundabout / the bus is blurred
the lines had never looked less yellow / Helen is sweating / waiting for the chemist to open
the lines had never looked less yellow / at the roundabout the bus is blurred

she's standing looking at her watch / she's tired / a headache and wants to be sick
the lines had never looked less blue / she's standing looking at her watch
the lines had never looked less blue /she's tired / a headache and wants to be sick

why is she waiting for a train / why is she standing looking at her watch
the lines had never looked less blue / why is she waiting for a train
the lines had never looked less blue / why is she standing looking at her watch

she's waiting for the chemist to open / she's tired / a headache and wants to to be sick
the lines had never looked less yellow / she's waiting for the chemist to open
the lines had never looked less yellow / she's tired / a headache and wants to be sick

she stepped into oblivion / the flowers at her funeral were blue and yellow / were dead already


Rodney Wood is retired and lives in Farnborough. Currently leads the Woking Stanza, jointly runs an open mic in Send and is revising a novel, The Poet Assassin. His poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the recent The Poet's Quest For God.

A Development in Rouen

Perforating an afternoon nap,
the tearing, folding, taping of scrap

paper as our child builds a town
for entertainment in this hotel room.


Celestial Bodies

In the grounds
of Birla planetarium
after today’s 1-30 show

there lay alone
at dead centre
of the pavement

beside the flower-bed
and English lawn

a yellow turd.


Tête-à-tête in Bucharest
for Michaela

The heart’s an over-determined organ,
you remarked at dinner, hailing the mind
as the tool by which poetry is learned.

That later I saw your stone eyes glisten
does not disprove you, but suggests a thought:
a metaphor of thaw in this nation
adapting to its post-communist face,

or of how deep insecurity
projects itself onto every place.


Tim Youngs' poems have appeared in, among other places, StapleThe Interpreter’s HouseLighthouseLondon GripThe Journal,  and The Nightwatchman: The Wisden Cricket Quarterly. He teaches at Nottingham Trent University and is the author or editor of several books on travel writing.