James Bell


While you wait

on the concourse

the seats are white plastic hollows

machine pressed out of a round -

to not have contours is important

so you cannot loiter long

as they do not support the back

contortion is demanded -

this outside fashion stores

where style and comfort is the vision

the true construct

a song about dinosaurs is sung

from the public address system by

a girl group who sing with passion

over a heavy beat

 

you wonder about the reason

for all this - was the experience

conceived by one person

a convocation

a committee

or it's all just an unhappy

                                             accident

that happens every day

without fail

without sensibility

 

                                 the song changes

the next one

sung with passion by some guy about how

             he now smokes a cigarette -

 

at this point you leave

mentally hand over the continuity

to those who now sit or walk about

 



 

 

 Hands in the clouds

 

one day I had to photograph

a woman without a face though

one that resembled a face with eyes

still able to express feelings

the only parts unreconstructed by

a wild impasto of the plastic surgeon’s art –

we discussed her pose for a passport

yet had no discussion on how her situation

came about or where this black and white

photo would take her – she smiled with difficulty –

complied with what needed to be done -

I sensed in her familiarity with performance

how this image was only official

not a gift for a lover to go in a frame

and how she knew there might never be

a special caress for this same face

unless it became different by some new art

that exerted a fresh transformation – it took

only a minute a long time ago   -

afterwards it was also

the first time I climbed to the top of a hill

and stuck my hands in the clouds to be cleaned

in their unearthly texture and tried to gain

a semblance of meaning from what

I had seen – have found since that life

can often be difficult on clear days

 



 

 

 being lame

 

means a lot of no longer and never again      whatever words

in the lexicon seem to  fit

 

it means I write this with the left hand while not originally ambidextrous 

just wrote badly - should have been a doctor kind of  thing

 

is a light introduction to the kind of comments

the lame come to expect

 

the temptation to abuse because you are in some way different is not always

held back so you are treated different - I have never yet met anybody who

is not different to anybody else in some respect

 

being lame makes you more aware of this point of view

 

prejudice is hard to shake

 

I hate the neurologist who wanted to feed me Parkinson's medication

even though I don't shake

 

as revenge he said it would get worse or there could be an operation

that might not work

 

being  even a little lame has its dangers even when my hand does not hang down

limp from the right hand

 

I hate too the neurologist who ordered as series of MRIs of my head as

he suspected a diagnosis

 

years later the source of poetry has still not been found as part of a solution

to the problem and I carry on being lame

 

this is the constituency of a poor thing some say whose wine glass must be

in the middle of his place at table lest it be filled with water

 

being lame for me is a small ache hardly noticed and which tai chi  eases

 

the worst I ever had about being lame was when somebody said I had

worn the arm out wanking and wear glasses because I'm going blind

 

I finally gave up trying to play guitar again when Bowie died

with a final Star Man on dulled strings - one of those no longer can do's or was it

a never again

 

I will still become a little more lame even though lameness is usually used for legs

of course being lame can mean other things too

 

falling out of trees and breaking the same arm more than once when you are young

has consequences

 



release

 

there was an empty one bed apartment

in the building opposite us

its walls had been painted white

so a new occupant could

put their own stamp on the place

 

then one day a man moved in

there was none of the usual ceremony –

large van with belongings – furniture -

the collective possessions and passions of years

with noisy shifts of stuff from van up the stairs

 

there were no curtains

never the flicker of a TV set 

lights rarely switched on to bare walls

though there must have been a bed

at least one chair – nobody visited

 

one night there was a fire

where flames blazed from broken windows

in his apartment

people from the building were

out on the street

mostly in nightwear and dressing gowns

 

he was never seen again

the fire pretty well forgotten about

as the apartment returned to white walls

then people moved in with the usual clamour

curtains and net curtains appeared in windows –

at night lights and the flicker of a TV

 

 more than one word for wood could be used here


 

your mind begins to dwell on wood

not texture

                     more size and moisture content

could use a meter

                                though not yet

a little later in the burning season

            when the flame needs to be more intense

as part of a cycle in a relationship

             needs its due respect

      has to be kindled and laid

the dryness of each piece like

              a finger or arm at first

fondled in bundles

                                  even with insects and grime

you read the book and not the cover

               both burn

translate into a heat where

               smoke acts like pheromones

tomorrow the party is ash

from which nothing will rise

 


James Bell - is a Scottish writer of poetry and short fiction who now lives in France. His work has appeared most recently in: Runcible Spoon, The Projectionist's Play. Quixotic Travellers (A Poetry Kit E Book), and Multiverse -an international anthology of science fiction poetry.

 





Peter Branson


Swettenham, Cheshire, autumn 2011 - 2018

Grass soused with morning rime blessed by our star,

near to a planted ‘Private Garden’ sign,

I meet you, edge of no man’s land in age,

surprised, where your Edwardian mansion greets

this arboretum you devised, adorned

with species garnered from all corners of

our Lilliputian stage, mere dust mote on

your cosmic page. In motorised armchair,

you’re not the man you were, bright spark, a new

Elizabethan sage, gigantic dish,

your listed monument, built more than half

a century ago, a country mile

or two from space-time, quantum, here and now,

where early Russian satellites were tracked

and lighthouse beams from long-dead shrivelled suns.

Your skin is white, face shrunken, yet your gaze,

all soulful, watery smiles, is knowing bright.

I wave, but don’t let on you’re recognised,

your colours to enjoy, move by. Too soon,

I find you’ve passed. Sensing you’d pearls to share,

deep understanding of our present tense,

if asked, I dowse my future, when and where

and why, life measured in a fraction of

a humming bird’s heartbeat, dart of an eye?

 


Middle Englishmen diggin’ their blues

For Black History Month

 

Stiff-collars open at the neck like smiles,

so crass these days, they’re centre stage, these cool

white dudes, jeans comfort-size, in rank and age,

play early twentieth century black men’s tunes,

the musings of a suffering underclass.

They dream, far out of time and place, don’t hear

the loud here-now heartbeat of poverty’s

mean streets, slip blinkers on with seamless grace.

They’re stirred by rhythm, style, the music of

oppression: there’s no down ‘n’ outs, no trade

ships out of Africa, no beating heart,

no lash, no price to pay, no substance here,

no chains of slavery emblazoned on

the soul, no noose, no fiery cross, no fear.

 


Future Tense

 

There’s history here, this hanging hill, the view

beneath its sway a tapestry, enhanced.

Take in the pub, red tractor turning hay,

elm avenues, rook pie, a living map

before your gaze; proud-steepling wedding bells,

transcending larks, blind cuckoo’s cry, until,

one marbling watery glaze, horizon place,

infinity’s blue haze where earth meets sky.

Cuckoo and turtle dove are voiceless ghosts,

song birds and bees long disappeared, rooks flown,

clerestories’ silent grieving hosts. The grave-

yard’s grown, church soulless, roached beyond repair;

house lawns tree’d over, ivy next of kin,

glass AWOL, frames decayed, thatch whisper-thin.

 

                                                                       


Peter Branson, songwriter, singer and poet – poetry published widely, including in Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Anon, Envoi, London Magazine,  North, Prole, Warwick Review,  Iota, Butcher’s Dog, Frogmore Papers, Poetry Salzberg Review, Interpreter’s  House, South, Crannog, SHOp, Causeway, Columbia Review,  Main Street Rag, Measure and Other Poetry; ‘Selected Poems’, 2013; ‘Hawk Rising’, ‘Lapwing’, 2016; shortlisted Poetry Business Pamphlet/Collection competition, 2017.
 





Zoe Broome



Birding

 

so many scrambled branches

climb up to sparrow-song -
 

lick lips – stretch claws -
 

fly

 

through pink blossom.

 

Land –

 

a flap of wings

a feather-mess


Zoe Broome is a full time poet from York whose first collection 'Back To Yesterday' was published by 
'Three Drops Press'.



Milton Ehrlich


A LAUNDOMAT FIT FOR A QUEEN

 

I watched him

apply fire-red nail polish

to his fingernails

and purplish-blue paint

to his toes,

and realized how everyone

finds happiness in their own way.

 

 A look-alike Liberace,

with all the glitz and glamour

of the cherubic charmer himself,

he does a pas de deux

between the washer and drier

to retrieve his underwear.

 

A non-stop talker, he raved 

about how this “Everclean Laundromat”

in the Embarcadero was bed-bug-free,

having explored, the “Lavanderia,” 

“Jazz Wash,” “Get the Funk Out,” 

and the “Missing Sock Laundromat.”

 

I wondered if gay men 

were all persnickitty girlies,

and then I remembered

waking up the first morning

in the barracks of Fort Dix

and meeting soldiers in the latrine

who were all applying mascara

while harmonizing Doo-Wop.

 

They fought as hard as anyone else

when human waves of Chinese

attacked us at the Yalu River in ’51.



Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 87 year old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published many poems in periodicals such as the London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Taj Mahal Literary journal, Antigonish Review, Ottowa Arts Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.






Alex Hand 


Garden

 

I know the name of virtually nothing in the garden

But we’re on more than just nodding terms

 

When I do talk, I slide from chatting with the cats

To sometimes calling the lemon grass poppet

 

In an absent-minded way, the cat oblivious, I think.

Mostly though I articulate little, intentionally.

 

Sometimes there’s the odd dialogue, verbalised

An observer would be forgiven for thinking it a soliloquy.

 

We commune in silence, semi-religious in a natural way,

Sharing, and I’m always on the receiving end.

 

I could walk the garden twelve dozen times

And still forget their names, classified in Latin

 

Working down from order, family, genus, species,

Not so important, Ceres and I, we get on well.


Alex Hand grew up in Hampshire and moved to Brisbane, Australia where he lives now. He has had one book of poetry published, ‘The Hand Signals’. He tends towards the satirical but at the same time seeks to be meaningful, much of his work has a slight romanticism to it.




Rosie Johnston


From Six-Count Jive by Rosie Johnston (Lapwing Publications, 2019)


Lie soft, gentle winged creature, roped and dazed;

you’re safe,

unless you struggle.

 

Fear arches her, venom-fangs rise

blood hot

to rip the threat to slivers.

 

Trauma throbs its savage

continuo:

wreckage in that small-hours bed.

 

Up she flowed – a dove high above

danger –

watched her own body slumped, splayed.

 

The body flinched. Jolted. Fell

back on the floor.

She observed it whimper.

 

Foxes scuffle, wail. In pitch-black

hush,

her body’s alarms scream riot.

 

Ablaze with rage, she wades through

muffled dead-eye

days. All hell. All armour.

 

She is broken down small. No one

can splice

her slivers again but her.

 

She stares at rice in packets, her

wits fine-sliced

by replays of the worst.

 

Plain sentences wander past

coherence.

Words shatter into mute groans.

 

Diagnosis: PTSD. Each

syllable

a hot squat bullet.

 

She lives in a glacier.

Loved ones

reach for her, their smiles fracturing.

 

‘I’ve got what I want’ – she

shuts the door

in her empty room - ‘solitude’.

 

‘I’ve got what I needed’ - she

locks the door

of the empty room - ‘safety’.

 

‘I’ll learn to love it’ - she

hugs herself

in the empty room - ‘loneliness’.

 

Through solitude’s dishevelled hours

her pummelled wings

risk tiny flutters.

 

Brimful of hope: unlike

yesterday,

tomorrow could have yes in it. 




Rosie Johnston's four poetry books are published by Lapwing Publications in Belfast, most recently Six-Count Jive (2019). Her poems have appeared or featured in Hedgerow, London Grip, Culture NI, FourxFour, The Honest Ulsterman, Ink, Sweat & Tears and in Live Canon’s anthologies ‘154: In Response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ (2016) & ‘New Poems for Christmas’ (2018). She has read her poetry widely, including Hungerford Literary Festival, Watford’s Big Word festival, Winchester’s Loose Muse, the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, the Troubadour, Torriano, In-Words in Greenwich and Whitstable’s Harbour Books. Rosie was poet in residence for the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust until she moved to live by the sea in Kent. https://rosiejohnstonwrites.com/




Robert Nisbet


A Sixties Scene

 

Four young men in London Uni

in nineteen-sixty-five, drinking

in the Feathers and the coffee bars.

Three were sprightly with the time’s seasoning,

the poems and the Dylan songs,

riding the wagon of the love brigade

into history’s clearing.

 

The cello notes in the quartet

were drawn by Jake, an anthropologist.

When the dank depression sank

cold and clinical upon him,

the others (they were boys

of twenty-one) brought their company,

called and coped, offered him

a dour fidelity.

 


Softie 

 

Softie he was known as, or sometimes

Soft-as-shit. (Incisive wits we were then,

giving names like Dafty, Pill and Shortarse.)

Called Softie for the usual reasons,

he hated games, would barely cheek a prefect,

racked up high Latin marks for fun.

 

Then Sixth Form and suddenly, well hell,

he entered for the Sports, 880, mile.

He was sighted loping quiet streets

by night and early day, pushing, pushing,

and at the Sports, both races, Softie

came belting in with twenty yards to spare.

 

And then of course, big ‘A’ levels, Oxford,

and finally an MP, in a distant cranny.

And we, back home, saying, He made it then.

 

Then on. A bloke from his constituency

turned up in our pub. Back then

they didn’t talk of bullying and abuse,

but there’d been nasty stuff, he said,

secretaries and silences and hushing up.

We simply thought, Well, I’ll be damned,

but the girls, the girls from our class,

when we told them, all said, Oh yes.

That’s Softie. That’s his style.

 

Robert Nisbet is a poet from West Wales whose work is published quite widely in Britain and the USA. One of his poems appears in the anthology Universal Oneness, from Authorspress of New Delhi.

 



Carolyn Oulton


West Pier, Brighton

 

The sea is broken I suppose,

cartilage juts sharply

at unnatural angles.

The dusk-marked wreck

sprays birds in rusty fragments.

Rain is horn-shaped,

lamp posts fade there

where already I’ve almost

lost them to the night.
 

 
 Mosaic Art

 

The idea is to harpoon each sequin,

matching the tip of a pin

to a dot in the middle.

Careful, or you’ll drop it.

There. Just over the lines -

it doesn’t matter.

Glue bobbles sticky as fudge

on your fingers, sea blues

attach themselves to fins

and waves clump together,

stop miraculously short

of gaps in the rock.

 

Now take a needle and thread

every word you have left.

Watch. Like this. Capital.

Bumble puppy. I’ll be dashed.

Bathing dress - in front of

their friends if you must.

They’ve got us this time, Edna.

It’s not everyone’s grandfather

(nor was it mine)

who could pull that one off

in an air raid.

I add it to the pile.

 

No one finishes the dolphin,

a stray sequin floats

across the carpet now and then.

 

 
When You’re Friends with Someone Who Thinks You’re Someone else

 

I didn’t see this one coming.

I’ve had friends who went in

for being obstreperous, unreliable,

downright boring. These can be

accommodated, I’d say,

at least some of the time.

 

I’ve made friends by mistake,

had friends who didn’t

think so, it later transpired.

Always slightly awkward.

Ones who lost touch or maybe

just the frame of reference.

 

I didn’t like you, I admit it

and I’m sorry, until the time

I held your hand. You said quietly,

thank you. Someone had helped you

before I was born. You thank me

again and again for that.

 

 



The Tourist Season

 

Holbein’s Visitors’ List

Editorial Office

Tontine Street

Folkestone

 

It’s 1896, there’s the usual trouble

over bathing regs, with more visitors

expected daily. Somehow

the Daily Mail gets involved.

 

The parking runs out in November,

in the Grind and Bake

the girl who hands me my change

is getting down to a song I don’t know.

 

It’s one-way traffic, though you can now

drive down Tontine Street if you happen

to be already on it. Past those

pernicious boys playing tipcat,

 

the librarian writing

alternative realities, up again

where the cliffs draw back

from the knotted mesh of the sea.

 

 
Eclipse on a Cloudy Day

 

That day rain squeezed into puddles

on the path, small pools flapping

like the gills of fish. I’ve known that

since finding it in my diary,

eyelets of flint as they opened and closed,

and I suspect I may have been

side tracked by leaf mould.

That much at least should be obvious.

 

But today, the morning of

the muddy eclipse. One

gave me a key –

one said she had no key

to give me – one watched me

pull at the office blind

but wouldn’t join me at the window.

Cloud … Cathedral. I reported back.

 

This morning I stood at a window.

Saw the clouds, saw the cathedral,

Face up to a dim spring sky.

 



 Carolyn Oulton has been published in recent issues of: Artemis, The Frogmore Papers, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Moth and Seventh Quarry. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press.