Family Portrait

Father walked us to the zoo
in the cold September rain.

The trees were dying. A titian hue
 saturated the air like a blood stain.

We could see the Houses of Parliament 
a little girl in a blue velveteen dress

shiny black shoes, clickity- clack on the pavement.
A family portrait ― a small monkey you caress
 
as he perches on your shoulder. I thought you laughed
but you were crying, tears of black mascara.

We grimaced a smile for the photograph. 
The monkey took fright at the camera's

flashbulb moment. It clung to your red hair, whimpering
like a baby. You held it so tight

singing a lullaby, slowly crying.
We walked home shadowed by the fading light.

Father stony faced in anger, 
you clicking along in your stiletto heels. 

He held you tight like a lover.
Later I heard you playing Blue by Joni Mitchell.

He found you naked in the bath, the flood
of water a muddied terracotta. 

Your wrists dripping red like the monkey blood 
I licked from my ice- cream. A daughter

― a little girl in a blue velveteen dress 
shiny black shoes, clickity- clack. Mother

smiling for the camera under duress 
her sepia skin drained of all colour.



Rachel Burns poetry has been widely published in UK poetry magazines including Mslexia, Other Poetry, Brittle Star, Ambit, Obsessed with Pipework, The Interpreter's House and Ink Sweat &Tears.

My Place


The trees wear the darkness
like some monks hood.
Holly stands with their
dress of prickly ends
stretching into the bucket
of night. A streetlight gives
a rug of orange between 
the beech timber.
Occasionally cars roll by
as if they’re peeling away
layers of the road. A voice
chatters like an evening bird song.
Soon all is quiet as the wood
swells and the path becomes
lonelier. I’m inside
wearing this jacket of trees.
Nothing tempts me away
from this place. It’s where
the world makes sense
it’s where I make sense.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He has been published in various places across the UK and USA. 


My Place


The trees wear the darkness
like some monks hood.
Holly stands with their
dress of prickly ends
stretching into the bucket
of night. A streetlight gives
a rug of orange between 
the beech timber.
Occasionally cars roll by
as if they’re peeling away
layers of the road. A voice
chatters like an evening bird song.
Soon all is quiet as the wood
swells and the path becomes
lonelier. I’m inside
wearing this jacket of trees.
Nothing tempts me away
from this place. It’s where
the world makes sense
it’s where I make sense.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He has been published in various places across the UK and USA. 


Secrets

 
Today I passed my school and found it flattened.
Sports-field turf had thrived to waist-height, undisturbed.
I wanted to walk corridors where Mr P
had peered under our skirts for years ‘till someone dosed his tea
with senna in the maths block.
I wanted to claim the playground
I was spat at in, to storm the office where I sat,
punished for lateness by their withholding of lessons.
 
Winter’s forceps hold me in pincers
above myself, forcing examinations.
Gulls sense disquiet, changing cry-tones
to inland, flocking by once-goalposts.
I stall at the padlocked fence feeling robbed where bulldozers
stand static atop their inheritance.
Our voices still exist – not in those concrete piles
but captured by the air that sung their tones,

where laughter’s tears
shook our bodies, bleeding our teenage make-up.
Rain thunders on the windscreen,
turns to mud heaped classrooms
where we constructed ourselves
from the skeletons of childhood.
We do not speak.
I’ve kept your secrets.  


In 2016, Kitty Donnelly's poem Migration' was commended in the Southport Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition and she has been long-listed for the Canterbury University Poet of the Year for her poem Night At Whitestone Farm. Catherine has had work published by The Forward Press and has poems due to be published in several magazines, including The Dawntreader. Her poems West Pier and An Immigrant, Dover have been short-listed in the Hungry Hill Wild Atlantic Words Poetry Competition this month and will appear in the upcoming anthology.


Inconspicuous


Stand quietly
in the presence
of a bumblebee -

black and yellow
it will hover
on four wings

then fly off
once it knows
you're not a flower.


Mary Franklin has had poems published in various journals including Ink Sweat and Tears, Iota, London Grip, Message in a Bottle, The Open Mouse, The Stare's Nest and Three Drops from a Cauldron, as well as several anthologies, most recently by Three Drops Press.  She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Gerald & Bertie

 
Bertie’s wheel squeaks like it’s about to go flying,
and the fur above her spiky toes lifts and falls swift
like a tea towel being angrily flapped ready for the line.
 
At least, that is how it looks to Cassie of Owl Class
as she gazes, nose pressed to Gerald & Bertie's cage,
and hopes, hopes as hard as she can, that she can
take Gerald & Bertie home for the holidays.
 
She likes Bertie best. She thinks.
The way he wheels so fast he often flips himself
right over. (No one’s aware that Gerald & Bertie
are both misnomered females.)
 
Miss Denton, sat at her desk, watches Cassie
watching Gerald & Bertie and wishes
she could let her take the hamsters home,
but Cassie frankly hasn’t applied herself enough this half term.
 
Bertie calls, in between puffs of breath, to Gerald,
«You really–– should keep up–– your practice, ¬¬––
dear. You–– know that if we work–– hard,
Cassie might–– take us home!»
 
Gerald stares at Cassie through her tiny metal bars.
 


Jack Houston lives with his wife and young son in London. He has poems forthcoming in Magma and The Butcher's Dog.

The Church on the Way to the Park

 
has the smaller graves cotted front of shop,
next to the churchyard path and flowering beds
like a maternity ward in which mothers forgot
about Imogen Rose - Born Asleep,  
Jasmine Crystal - Tread Carefully,
Here Lies Our World. So I plead with the girls
not to go running after squirrels over graves,
even those at the back all lichen-stained.
We’ve a lengthy exchange over whether
we are seen or heard by the dead
while they use a tombstone as a misericord.
The bells might begin any minute, of course,
ten thousand feet hastening to squeeze
through a narrow gate before it’s locked
and bolted for eternity, each rook’s caw
from the steepling trees a call to quicken.
The Malvern stone is crazily paved,
yet erect, straight-lined and dignified,
as if an ape were draped in a collar and tie.
It hankers for home, staring at the recumbent hills,
from which it were hewn in Victoria’s time.
I’ve half a mind to go inside and watch dust
refuse to settle in a shaft of coloured light,
but these girls are made of a different hue.



I who was

 
 
I remember my teacher who she was
 
she smelled
gave us detention because no one snitched
cut out blue fabric on an ironing board
didn’t care we despised her
 
I was no one
     not a favourite
     not a Christine or a Pamela
 
                                                         I was/wasn’t
 
     was it me who wasn’t
     was it someone in my skin
     pretending
 
if it wasn’t me
     who was I
 
I who could add up
remember my tables without peeping
listen to Handel’s Water Music without laughing
write my own stories
 
                                                  was that me/or not
 
 
what did my teacher know


Marg Roberts has been published in several magazines, including Orbis, Cannon’s Mouth and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She was Warwick’s Poet Laureate 2009-10. Her novel A Time for Peace has recently been published by Cinnamon Press.



Winter

 
I see you

With your pale stark hands

Away on the horizon
.
A pretence of distance and nothing more.

Set to gull the torpid and still their hand,

To slow them in confronting you

Until the time’s too late.

Wood not cut and planting thrown awry;

Then,

You roar down from the north

Smash, and steal, and kill.

Or insinuate your stone heart

On us from the east.

Use stealth to drain us

And lower infinite weight upon us,

Smother our warmth and hope,

Snatch away the weak,

And pass them to your brother, Death.

But I see you.

Even when you journey far,

Year after year affecting benevolence.

No, I’m not fooled,

I feel you at my back.

Waiting in the dark,

With an ice shard

Diamond sharp to slip between my ribs.

Stalking those I love,

To petrify into eternal stillness.

You know what you’re about.

And so do I.

I will endure – this time.

You will not.

Yes, I see you.


Paul Shaw is a creative writing student. He has written poetry all his life; generally for his own amusement. He takes his subject matter from life’s eternal wonders and absurdities. He left his Lancastrian background over 40 years ago and settled in the Garden of England. He is still a ‘foreigner.’ His short stories have appeared in anthologies and waste paper bins.

Oprah and Deepak Day 6

You deserve more than second-hand experiences.
Today I am completely free of the past.

In the blink of a mantra,
the listener is propelled into limitless space—
eyes closed, not too tightly,
relaxed in an armchair or on a couch
breathing evenly in and out,
no count necessary.
This isn’t nirvana.
It’s a talk show host and a meditation guru
guiding the listener to a new path,
a better grid for living.
Thoughts will be clearer,
light will be brighter,
a lifetime of baggage will be unloaded,
never to be gathered again.
I know it sounds hokey,
but on the deck 
after midday lunch,
eyes closed, ears open
I feel a change as if the orange
light behind my lids is more than the sun.


Marc Swan’s poems have recently been published in Scrivener Creative Review, Passager, Crannóg, Gargoyle, Mudfish, Sheila-na-gig, Coal City Review, among others. He lives with his wife Dd in Portland Maine. 


Headland

Each weekend we flee the chatter of screens,
the hum of central heating, the kids that kick a ball
against next door's graffiti wall. We drive beyond 
our valley humdrum with bracken,
pockmarked with burnt out cars, and past
the bruised lungs of an open cast mine. All
are left behind. We trek our cliff path and peg
the fret and noise to dry in sea breezes,
and if a scatter of tiny bones are found,
we know that endings are a footfall away.
But when stumbling on a nook in salt-cracked rock,
we slide into its curves, share our flask of tea,
wait for the malarkey of dolphins to begin.

Phil Wood works in a statistics office. He enjoys working with numbers and words. His writing can be found in various publications, most recently in: Sein und Werden, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Open Mouse, London Grip and The Centrifugal Eye.