CHICKEN

There is a chicken on my head.
I keep absolutely still.
If I had a phobia
This would be the right time to sweat.

But I don't.
I love chickens.
I love the smell of chickens
And this one I suspect will not disrespect

Her perch of impudence
Upon which she flew
To be above all others.
She queens it over the whole flock!

Keeping her beautiful balance,
She feels like a subtle scalp massage,
Like a winged, brief visitation of a prayer.
And as I let more barley trickle down

She flutters back to ground to take her share
And I am strangely privileged,
Humbled and satisfied
To have been sat upon by this proud hen.

Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Prole, Erbacce, Salzburg Review and Message in a bottle. He lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon, England, often walking along the River Dart for inspiration. He has yet to make a first collection.


Nothing Like
 
 
‘How sweet it is, when mother Fancy rocks
The wayward brain, to saunter through a wood!’
 
                                                                                  Wordsworth.
 
 
Shattered light among trees cut
the upturned faces of celandine, silenced
the tongues of wild garlic and last year’s
fossil-rotted leaves wheezing like a cross old man.
An exiled tyre slowly, temple-slow, lost
purpose below the fence post’s wired field
where, above its shadow, a lone oak’s
doomed buds obeyed the dying sun of spring.
 
Not one among the avian operas of hope
told to the tin-shone sky in its gauche blue coat
covered a single note of my progress,
till a blackbird’s warning cracked
the deafening shell I broke through
to the empty nest of a silent morning.
 
Water flitted far and fast from every foot
I took in pointless dance of wooing it.
It giggled from the falls in front and whistled
from the willow bank back the way I came. Last
I saw, it was carrying on round the bend
with froth and dipping fronds and bold hard rock,
with scurries pinched by shadow, and the long louche touch of root.
Still puckered its lips by the weir to blow a kiss at me.
Then gone, pure flirt, run off with memory.
 
Came alone and left that way, nothing like me there.



Craig Dobson has been published in The London Magazine, The North, The Rialto, Agenda, Stand, New Welsh Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Under the Radar, Orbis, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Frogmore Papers and Poetry Daily, and been featured in the Bad Kid Catullus and Boscombe Revolution pamphlets.


The Payoff

Every day with less effort, 
     I’m buying back 
my compassion, softening 
     my heart 
with each exercise of kindness, 
     filling my spiritual 
bank account to the brim with these 
     piecemeal deposits.

I give to make amends, 
     to partake in 
this hidden opportunity—
     to soften 
the plight of anonymous 
     sufferers 
for whom compassion is 
     sorely lacking.

There is so much desperation 
     in the air, so many 
homeless, so many bums, drifters, 
     lost souls 
with more appearing every day. 
     Doubtless 
a failure in his every endeavor,
     A bedraggled one 
extends his hand from down below 
     on the pavement,

I give over and above my doubt, 
     my suspicion. 
My inflated morality sizes him up 
     or judgment. 
Is he deserving? I don’t really know. 
     On the spot 
a snap investigation is underway. 

I give knowing I am paying 
     so this man can eat 
or drink, smoke, shoot, 
     or snort, or just to 
enhance his catch for the day. 
     I am not naïve. 
I have known men who panhandle 
     for a living, 
who wear war medals found 
     in junk shops, 
who toy with my generosity, 
     who coax me 
to give more than I 
     had intended. 

Mostly, I give to forestall my own 
     possible fate, 
to sweeten the pot with small 
     down payments 
to a punishing authority, to extract 
     a divine promise  
to cushion me should my 
     fate fall flat.  

I give to forestall a painful 
     string of bad luck, 
to soften it with these deeds 
     to the anonymous 
who lack human compassion, 
     who are desperate 
to touch the heart of humanity, 
     for love 
in a tangible form. 

I give small coins that jingle 
     as they fall 
into his tiny cardboard container. 
     He nods when he sees 
the flash and flutter of paper money. 
     A restrained smile rises 
in the corners of his world weary face, 
     though only for a moment. 
We are not intended to truly connect, 
     or touch, or speak, 
and he knows better than
     to proffer his grimy hand. 

I return the nod, framing the exchange.  
     Both he and I know nothing 
          is certain. 
All is in play. The gods 
reward and punish whimsically.
     Today he, 
          tomorrow me—
Better to assuage the demons—


Dennis Dubois has published poems in Bee Museum, Curved House, and The Projectionist’s Playground. He is self-taught over many years, and is preparing a collection of poems and a first work of fiction. He is an American expatriate, living in Copenhagen.


ON THE TRACKS
 
Train was held up because
it hit someone on the tracks.
Turns out the guy was drunk,
mistook the steel rail
for the soft mattress of his bed.
The locomotive severed a limb,
crushed his skull,
while we passengers
complained about how we
weren't being told a damn thing.
 
I read all that in the paper
the next day.
I felt bad for the guy,
had to retrace my life
back to those two hours
of frustration in that train car,
and replace annoyance with sorrow,
cusses with care.
 
Luckily, it's a route I've taken many times.
Like relating skimpy Christmas presents
to an old man out of work,
or tracking a lost love to a missed opportunity.
 
So many moments
don't get their information
immediately from the source.
Facts show up later.
Not apologetic.
Just truthful.
 
Last night,
on my commute home from work,
my annoyance thought it hit someone.
Turns out my regret was responsible.
 
 
 
 
 
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.  
 
All the Things Echo Doesn’t Know


The echo doesn’t know it is a ghost,
roaming spirit of both loud and soft.
Exploring surfaces and angles
it makes many as it travels,
returning to its source, a host.

The echo doesn’t know that it’s a game.
In ones and twos and clans it bats
through alleys, caves and tunnels, fumbles
over walls and narrows, transmits
a throng back to a child’s whooping throat.

The echo doesn’t know it weakens,
chased by silence to a whispery end;
a memory of sound. Memories don’t know
they’re guests, only a step inside a mind.
Once the visit’s over, there is no return.



E A M Harris has been writing both prose and poetry for some time. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies online and in print.


Rooms for Tourists

(After the painting by Edward Hopper)
 
We found the boarding house sleeping
in an off track part of town.
Its clapboard walls seemed built for us –
held a special kind of quiet
not many folk could tolerate. You heard this first,
how wood absorbed the wind’s purr,
the fading bird song. An infinite September, you said.
Most of all you liked the inner light:
honey in the thick night,
like something oozed from darkness, and set.
It lures a special kind of moth,
torn between the moon and sun,
a special kind of shadow, longing to be swallowed.
You liked the windows too,
their heavy lidded awnings holding
half their world from view, asking questions:
how different from a secret is a lie?
Because you knew the answer,
I followed you inside, the perfect place for us to hide. 
 


Paul McDonald is Course Leader for Creative Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. He is the author of several novels, critical books, and has poetry collections with Flarestack, Cinnamon Press, and Indigo Dreams Press.  His poems and stories have won prizes and been shortlisted in numerous competitions including the Ottakars/Faber and Faber Poetry Competition, The John Clare Poetry Prize, The Sentinel Prize, Bedford International Writing Competition, the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize, and the Bridport Prize.
 

No Shoes Allowed

 
Not open to the public but I’m in,
costumed, towel in hand, flip-flops against
the sterile floor - I take them off,
put the towel on that chair, the one
no one uses, slip silently into the pool.
 
It is unaccountably warm, like sliding into a bath,
I watch the ripples spread from my outstretched hands
Of the three lanes, I choose the fast one
swim anticlockwise in the clockwise lane.
 
There’s no one behind me,
no ‘Our Lady of the Sorrows’,
no ‘Pot-Belly Man’,
no ‘Bolting Jack Rabbit’,
no ‘Sisters of Mercy’,
clogging the lane.
 
No one but me, so I turn around half way,
float on my back lengthways across the width,
climb out, jump in screaming,
make a hell of a din, hear sounds
multiply against cold stone walls.
 
I’m first in the changing room,
showers still hot,
I steal all the shampoo,
leave my towel on the floor,
 
escape through the fire exit
just as they’re opening.



Maggie Reed, originally from Cumbria now lives in West Malvern where she writes poetry and short stories. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2015 with a merit in an MA in Creative Writing and in 2017 achieved a Post-Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes at the Metanoia Institute, London.
In 2016 Maggie had three poems published in the North magazine and won third prize in the Settle Sessions Poetry Competition. In 2017 she had another poem published in the North and self-published her first pamphlet ‘Life Lines’. Previously, in 2011 she won a merit in the Nottingham Open Competition.

NOT A BLAZING FIRE

 
 
Not a blazing fire, but one where small flames
Lick hot coals lazily and the grate sighs,
On a dark evening where a lost owl flies
Above bats, that collide with window frames;
In the smart street where visitors have no names,
The doorways where lovers say their goodbyes,
Near the gardens where last week's snow still lies
And the alleyways, where we once played games.
 
Not a blazing fire, but a gentle heat
Just enough to warm our outstretched hands
And melt the ice clinging to shuffling feet,
Before the hearth where the coal scuttle stands,
The place where winter and the New Year meet,
Where the chimney smokes and a hot spark lands.
 

 
David Subacchi lives in Wales (UK) where he was born of Italian roots. He studied at the University of Liverpool. David has 4 published collections of his English Language poetry First Cut (2012), Hiding in Shadows (2014), Not Really a Stranger (2016) and A Terrible Beauty (2016). He also has a collection in Welsh Eglwys Yng Nghremona (2017). His work has also appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies worldwide.
 
You can find out more about David at
 
https://www.writeoutloud.net/profiles/davidsubacchi
 
or simply by searching on line for DAVID SUBACCHI.

The Morning Within


I awake, caught up in the bed clothes,
bodies behind the plasterboard yawn.

I’m off of caffeine’s vainglorious psalms,
as rich as soil my granddad used to grow his spuds in.

Green tea is a quiet solution, a whisper
instead of a shout bellowing in the gut.

I forage under carpets and play the game of breakfast,
I swallow the crumbs which my standing brings

in the underhanded machinery of a housing estate.
The dog underfoot is expecting a different world 

to be out in the garden every morning- instead
the conifers are as still as a dying man, reed thin.

I put on my headphones to hear the world within,
an atlas of unexplored places searched with a stone in my shoe.


Grant Tarbard is an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron and a reviewer. His new collection Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams) is out now.


After Snow

 
Brush with your eyes the sunlit snow.
See, where they chance to rest, a firmament
appears: a sparkling solar dust.
 
Shift your glance – this galaxy moves
with you, or another is born
out of the quantum distance of the crystal’s heart.
 
Pause a moment in the cold, enjoy
this little drama of creation –
of sun, snow, retina and optic nerve
 
as though these pinprick glitterings were worlds
and snow the stuff of deep space.
 
 
Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for about 40 years.  He has won prizes in poetry competitions and has had poems published in magazines and anthologies.  His latest collection is The Shell-Gatherer (Oversteps).  His main interests are poetry, music, walking and binge thinking – activities which he finds can be happily combined.