*

This issue of London Grip New Poetry features poems by:

* J S Watts * Emer Lyons * Pam Job * Kerrin P Sharpe * Joan Michelson
* Hugh McMillan * Barry Smith * Nick Cooke * Melanie Penycate * Rodney Wood * Ricky Garni
* Neil Curry * Ruth Hanover * Donald Atkinson * James Norcliffe * Bruce Christianson * Cal Freeman
* Michael W Thomas * Jackie Lovell * S J Mannion * Jack Houston * Brian Docherty * Tim Miller
* Bruce Barnes * Akpa Arinzechukwu

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be found at lg-new-poetry-winter-2016-7

London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December

Please send submissions to poetry@londongrip.co.uk, enclosing no more than three poems and a brief, 2-3 line, biography

We prefer to get submissions in the following windows: December-January, March-April, June-July and September-October i.e. avoiding the months when we are busy compiling a new issue

Editorial

Unexpectedly for a Christmas issue, several poems in this posting are about burials and funerals.  The arrival of so many good poems on this topic gave us a sense of being invited to tap into some species of zeitgeist. One might be tempted to associate it with this year’s many high-profile deaths  – or else with fears that 2016 has dealt a fatal blow to some cherished beliefs and institutions.  But in fact the grave-related poems are too varied and too personal to permit any glib group classification.  We hope our readers enjoy them and the rest of the contents in this issue.

17-jesusinswaddlingclothesOne of the traditional images of Christmas is the new-born Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. As the preceding paragraph reminds us, this image can continue to have resonance beyond the nativity…

Wrappings

He felt the world’s first chafe on his new skin
from strips of cloth his mother made.
And there were other linen bindings
he told his friends to pull apart 
from Lazarus’s not-dead hands and feet.
But the robe the soldiers raffled 
at his gallows – that seemed much too good 
for sharing out among them as torn pieces.

He left the world, materially speaking,
some strips of cloth inside a cave with echoes
of accounts of slings thrown off,
swift unlacings of strait-jackets
and ragged lives invisibly repaired –
all the hand-me-down reports that do 
until we’re old enough to talk about
unwinding our own bandages and dressings.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

http://mikeb-b.blogspot.com/

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J S Watts: Lost in the Word Woods

What follows on is a search for truth, fleeting gods,
that started here, on unyielding pavements, but began there.
A truth, some say a meaning – not the, I could not
be so presumptuous.

She starts slowly, following the way a sharp word cuts
home to her darkness, pulsing along the brackened stream
as it foremothers her, here, there, chasing the light,
hoping wherever it flows to find the truth
already fits inside the day or leads outwards
well beyond the night and into the heart
where no one ever goes, now, not ever,
but no it has nowhere to go
except hoping.

Even if it would, she can’t, won’t – and the truth
of all of it, this, whatever this is, has lost itself
to enlightenment – knowing not feeling –
falsifying and punctuating the rough particles of life.
Its dilutions are worldwide, but the World
has already left, lost so deep
in the woods flowing out of her, out
of the wishful light and the claims of reason.
Day collapses its red embers, experimental soul
vacuum worthless and emptied without
the gift of meaning.

Weakened, the wood carries bleeding notes
in its leaves, the empty cry
of an abandoned sylvan god
intimidated by the spreading presumption
of neon streets.

J.S.Watts’ poetry and prose has been published and broadcast in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States. She has published two poetry collections, Years Ago you Coloured Me, and Cats and Other Myths , a multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue (Lapwing Publications) and two novels, A Darker Moon – dark literary fantasy, and Witchlight – paranormal romance, published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press. See http://www.jswatts.co.uk/

 

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***

Emer Lyons: The pieces left after something falls apart

The opening and closing doors
rattle the wind chimes, 

reminders of the past
curl on the shower wall,
 
letters loom in the letter box 
like petrol bombs,

There’s wasn’t enough room anymore; 

weekends were dead headed, hoed. 

Our delicate hand washed remains, 
drip in the garden.

Emer Lyons is an Irish writer, currently living in Dunedin, New Zealand. She has had poetry and fiction published and short listed in anthologies and competitions in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. She is one of the 2016 emerging playwrights at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin for her play, The Green.

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Pam Job: S.A.L.O.N.I.K.A

In here, the air is weighted down with guns.
I'm standing in the bookshop, subject: war.
I scan the shelves and titles fall like lead 
shot into my eyes; battles, actions,
campaigns and, sickeningly, recipes,
cemeteries, their horizontal grief. 
What next? 'The Joy of Everlasting Conflict?'
Why do we have words if all their end is steel
and bayonets in guts and drones that fly unseen?

I'm killing time in here, idly browsing, 
fastening some connection fraying by the 
year. 'Have you got anything on Salonika?'
I ask the sales assistant, who's texting on her 
phone. 'How exactly is that spelt?'
She's not employed to know her stock,
but to ensure the change she gives adds up.
I spell it out, she clicks the mouse and checks
the screen. 'Nothing's showing here, sorry.'

Like Auden's 'altogether elsewhere', 
Salonika's some half-forgotten outpost 
where 'we' took on Johnny Turk, a useless 
cul-de-sac of war, which kept my father 
safe, until he went to France where bullets 
found him out: Arras, Second Battle
of, at least's recorded here, but still
the puzzle of my father's life lies,
jigsaw pieces on the bookshop floor.

Pam Job has been writing poetry for the last eight years and is a member of the Poetry Wivenhoe team and a co-editor of their publications, one of the most recent being so too have the doves gone, new poetry on the theme of conflict. She has won awards in several national poetry competitions and has been published in various magazines including Acumen and Artemis.

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Kerrin P Sharpe: if you look

there is something held
by more than physics
in this rough air above Verdun

the souls of soldiers
some still on horseback
float in the arms of angels

the last carrier pigeon
787-15
stunned by gas and fumes again

and again draws fresh air
from the release loophole
in Raynal's command post

and delivers his message
difficult to breathe
and falls into the field

of bone smoke shellfire
until the wind
the shadow of larger wings

raises the brave bird
beyond the Cathédrale 
Notre-Dame de Verdun
beyond tomorrow

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Kerrin P Sharpe: en route to Fish Hoek

when our father checked the radiator
and forgot all about the hand-brake
we never forgot being left inside
the green Austin at the top of Kariba Hill

or how our father chased the rolling car
and left his panama hat in the air

and because not one of us could reach the hand-brake
we learnt that day a terrible lesson
from gravity from physics even our baby

heard fear deep inside the machinery
of our mother stop her milk

we never forgot how the old Bedford truck
lumbered out of the dust at the bottom of the hill
and positioned itself for the impact

or when our father reached us and we all knelt
in the red earth how our baby began to feed

Kerrin P Sharpe is a Christchurch NZ writer. Her first book of poems, Three days in a wishing well was published by Victoria University Press (VUP) in 2012; a group of her poems appeared in Oxford Poets 13 (Carcanet) in 2013; her second book, There’s a medical name for this was published by VUP in 2014 and her third collection Rabbit rabbit has just been published (2016), again by VUP

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Joan Michelson: Reading

I wake and see my father reading.
He’s sitting in a kitchen chair,
or on the couch that disappeared
the year he moved into The Home.

Or in the chair that eases back,
gift of M, who suddenly ‘passed’.
At his back her cushioned pad; 
on his lap, her rug and his.

Spirit now, he’s far from me.
But still I see him sitting here.
He’s dressed for work or dressed for bed,
blanket-shawled in an old chair.

I hear the turning of a page,
and tick-tick-tick of our hall clock.
These hours are mine as they were his. 
I read in bed and breathe his breath.

Joan Michelson has won first prizes in the Bristol, and the Torriano Poetry Competitions and she was awarded the Hamish Canham prize from the Poetry Society of England. Her writing has been selected for both British Council and Arts Council anthologies of New Writing. Her poems have been published in many literary magazine and anthologies in the UK and USA. Her first full collection, Toward the Heliopause was published by Poetic Matrix Press, 2011. Bloomvale Home, a chapbook, is forthcoming from Original Plus Books ,2016. Originally from New England, she lives in London, England

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Hugh McMillan: A Proper Joke

Through a haze of noise,
late night juke box anthems
and the beginnings of a fight, 
the door bangs open,
and a blast of cold air heralds
the entry of my Uncle Jack.
He is dressed in a short sleeved
shirt and flannel trousers,
with a comical moustache 
like an ink line perched above 
his mouth. 

It is odd to see him
like this, exactly like I 
remember him, 
odder still
as he is dead.
He stands at the bar,
and the air between us is filled
with a slight turbulence,
as though sentences should be there.
I cannot remember a single word 
from my Uncle Jack

though it was known
he was a funny man,
holding people's head under
the water until their ears 
felt like bursting. 
He and my father were close
because of the war: 
It is said they both went bald
on the same day.
The last time I saw them,
in Edinburgh in 1973, 

they didn't know who I was,
and I never said.
I didn’t like Uncle Jack.
What he's doing here now,
when I myself am losing hair,
and so much complex time  
has passed, and he is surely dust 
long lost by the shores 
of the North Sea, is a mystery. 
Perhaps it is his idea, 
at last, of a proper joke.

Hugh McMillan is a poet from the south west of Scotland, well published

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Barry Smith: Clown Town
Bognor Regis Clown Convention

Ping-pong noses red as poppies
flat-flapping feet like squashed sausages
stalking stilts tap-tapping, a family group
of balloon-blowing jolly-jokesters
whose pancaked faces reveal crease upon crease
of lived-in, laughed-at, still laughing line-craters

clownsas Koko and Konrad and Zonko and Bonzo
squirt yellow-toothed, cherry cola-ed mirth
at camera-clicking, accordion-playing, burgered
clown town: not one but a thousand –
some surreal nightmare of circus gone mad
with absent knife throwers and bearded ladies

temporarily lost, but soon to appear,
breathlessly asserting an elephantine presence
here, town of clowns, down-town clown,
in shabby splendour of baggy patchwork
denying all that you or I hold most dear,
but desperate laughter.

Barry Smith is the organiser of Chichester’s Open Mic Poetry and co-ordinator of the Festival of Chichester. His work has appeared online at youtube and in magazines. He was runner up in a BBC Proms Poetry competition and is co-editor of Poetry & All That Jazz.

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Nick Cooke: What’s The Damage?

My heart’s in the garage and the mechanics
at work on it are shaking their heads.

‘What the hell’s this strip of plastic
across the left ventricle?’ – A band-aid, 

rather old and worn by now, I dare say:
a girl at primary school hacked a hole there

just with her eyes. ‘And this, on the other side –
are those bleeding stitches you did yourself??’ 

Glumly I nod, and tell them the tale 
of God knows who, some archaic perpetrator, 

now a sin-forgetful grandma. They look at me
like I’d tried to hold up a hurricane 

with bare hands. I shudder to think what
they’ll say when they get to the rear

and see the splatter of black-blue contusions
I picked up in other wars. All in all,

it’s going to be a costly little service
and my warranty ran out years ago.

Nick Cooke has had poems published,in Agenda, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The High Window Journal, Dream Catcher, Poetry Space, I am not a silent poet & Nutshells & Nuggets and in the anthologies Poems For a Liminal Age and To Kingdom Come and others. His poem ‘Tanis’ won the 2016 Wax Poetry & Art contest and ‘Process’ was Highly Commended in the 2015 Segora Competition He is currently working on his first collection. He has also written several novels, a collection of stories (due from Sentinel in 2017) plus around twenty stage plays and eight film scripts.

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Melanie Penycate: this is not my heart

mine had a hole
in it which stretched

too cavernous for them to patch

they took my chest apart
and stole
it

now I own
this strange heart snatched
out while a dying soul
was spiralling towards the light

it beat alone 
held in the air
high on a dish

dropped in behind my ribs 
and stitched

it wakes me
in the thick of night 
with messages
I can’t quite catch, 

it hunts for one who isn’t there
it beats 
           I miss you
and	
           I wish

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Melanie Penycate: A Pausing Man

He kneels to grant me my desire
but pauses just before he screws
the paper up to light the fire
and drops his eyes to read old news,
losing track of time and task
until, frustrated by the cold
and longing for the flames I ask
what is the story there that holds
his interest so long. At last –
‘Women get – in menopause’ 
he reads it to me, from all fours,
‘forgetful’. So I’ll write this fast.

Melanie Penycate lives with her partner in a converted Blacksmith’s Forge in West Sussex. She is a recently retired teacher of English and Psychology. She has always written poetry and has two collections: Breaking the Arch from Guildford Poet’s Press and Feeding Humming Birds published by Oversteps books

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Rodney Wood: Now Wherefore Stopp'st Thou Me?

I’ve forgotten when I first read
books about John and Mary,
The Happy Train or Let’s Learn To Read

but I remember the comics
dad bought home each Saturday afternoon
from work. Bundled in his arms were

Beano, Dandy, Eagle, Hotspur, Look & Learn
and I’d devour them one at a time
and no one stopped me.

I loved the strips: Corporal Clott,
Desperate Dan, Dan Dare and the Mekon,
Korky the Cat, Roy of the Rovers,

Dennis the Menace, Biffo the Bear,
The Iron Fish, The Bash Street Kids
and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

in issue 310 of Look & Learn.
I can draw the old man with a grey beard
and red and white sock for a hat,

I can draw the wedding guests
in their tricolours, ruffs and red jackets.
and no one stopped me.

I can draw the mariner with a cross-bow
shooting the albatross.
I can draw the ship idle upon a painted ocean.

I can draw the ghostly green shades
playing dice for the souls of the crew.
I can draw the fierce monsters in the slimy sea.

I can even draw the crew
sinking in a whirlpool
and no one will be able to argue.

Rodney Wood is retired and lives in Farnborough. He is currently holds the flag for the Woking Stanza, jointly runs an open mic at Send and is revising a novel, The Poet Assassin. His work has recently appeared in magazines such as Tears in the Fence, South, The Frogmore Papers, Message in a Bottle, The Lake and Stride; and anthologies such as Double Bill and The Poet’s Quest For God.

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Ricky Garni: Rapscallions

They are feeding LSD to the bison of Montana. This is not good. 
The bison are interested in LSD but it is not good for them at all. 
The owners of the bison are understandably furious about this. 
Bison cannot do the things that bison should do – like romp and 
mount – when they are hallucinating. What can they do about these 
acid eating bison? What will transpire with the bison population 
if the culprits do not desist? What will the world feel like when you 
can no longer say “Out there in the prairie – I think I spotted some 
bison” when the fields seem to glow in the pale light of limitless beauty?

It is worth keeping in mind that the bison eat the LSD
the first time out of politeness. The second time, out of desire.

Ricky Garni has worked as a teacher, wine merchant, musician & graphic designer. He began writing poetry in 1978, and has produced over thirty volumes of prose and verse since 1995. His work can be found in many online publications, print magazines & anthologies and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize on six occasions. COO, a tiny collection of short prose printed on college lined paper with found materials such as coins, stamps, was recently released by Bitterzoet Press.

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Neil Curry: Mrs Woolf
                     on meeting Henry James

With as many synonyms for the noun
Solemnity, as mind of man could conjure up,
He, Henry James, unsmilingly immaculate,
Came to a standstill on Oxford Street.
“Miss Stephen,” (Was he, she wondered, about
To challenge her to a duel?) “I ? that is ? they  
Tell me, yes ? ahem ? they tell me that you ? 
As indeed your father’s daughter (slowly
His hat reoccupied his head) nay, your
Grandfather’s grandchild, (And what a head)
The descendent ? I may say ? of a century
Of quill pens, of ink pots and, yes, of ink; 
They tell me ? ahum ? in short, Miss Stephen, that you
Write.”  Now to have denied such an accusation,
And in a public place, struck her, she explained,
As altogether far too churlish for words.

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 Neil Curry: Mrs Woolf
                       on Sir Leslie 

Take this faded kodak here for instance,
This handsome couple with their baby girl,
A baby who, by all accounts, is me,
Yet I know no more of her than I do of them.
He, as I came learn, was an accomplished  
Oarsman, an intrepid mountaineer. 
There’s that silver cup on the mantelshelf,
An alpenstock rusting in the doorway.
Events the likes of these are set down,
They happened, are established facts.
They are the granite in the landscape,
Whereas feelings and emotions are 
As ephemeral and far off as rainbows.
I do admit though that his great grief
At the death of his wife seemed to us
(And Oh how long, Mother, was I going
To have to pay for that?) inordinate.
When he himself died, after a slow, painful decline,
The family gathered together
All the black-edged letters of condolence.

Neil Curry‘s most recent collection Some Letters Never Sent was published by Enitharmon Press. These poems are from a sequence in progress to be called On Keeping Company with Mrs Woolf.

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Ruth Hanover: On Waking

Each morning
I turn to face my country
ideas of Mecca 
lost to me,
long since.

As I wake
as I turn
there you are
my wife,
my mother.

Winter,
this far north
bereft of sunrise,
I turn 
in the direction 
of my wife,
my mother, then 
the others…
as if I were the one 
to hold the list;
my brother, 
my brother’s wife,
her small child.

Each morning
my wife, 
my mother
look at me.

If it were only disappointment
that I am here, that they — 
remain


if it were only their
hope in me,
I would rise up

but each morning
my wife,
my mother
look at me.

Ruth Hanover‘s writing has been shaped by a degree in English literature, ESOL teaching in Cairo and Stockholm, a duty of care for family (Alzheimers), travel, and being in therapy. She has written a first novel, (unpublished), short fiction, and poetry.

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Donald Atkinson: House, Syria,  2015

Daybreak.

Rising
from her table of silence
she crosses the room

and arms stretched wide
embraces the angle of the wall 
where sunlight
stands like a man.

Outside

the grandmother
knits as she walks
a garment
looser than blown sand.

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Donald Atkinson: The best mother-of-god we never had   
after Fra Angelico

annunciation-1434When he stepped up from the garden
with his unlikely news,
he was of course too late:
she was six months gone.
A setback, technically,
but a condition, none the less,
of interest to an angel.

Drawing her close,
and en-arming her
in his wing-like-an-Iroquois-headdress,
he danced her a slow salsa,
and felt the child stir
as he passed her,
cross-body.

Donald Atkinson is a recognised and award-winning poet, whose work has been published widely in poetry magazines, as well as by both Peterloo Poets and Arc Publications, over the past thirty years. Keeping Time is his sixth full collection.’

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James Norcliffe: The last stop before Bethlehem

The bus throbs patiently 
as I stand swaying in the aisle.
The only eyes those of the man
at the wheel in his rear-vision
mirror, magnified, disembodied.

The hospital had been less than forthcoming,
but I had got the picture, or at least the frame.
The wheeze of hydraulics opening the door
and I’m so grateful for breath I
murmur my thanks to the driver
for delivering me to this sodium light,
these windows, meters, these muted stars.

There is a wind, too, again the breath
of white noise, the whole city breathing 
with its eyes closed, whispering that I 
should join it blind-folded on some
ridiculous trust-walk through the dark 
alleys and channels of its beating heart.

But there is nothing to trust, really
except to trust people to do their jobs: 
surgeons, bus drivers, and the tired woman 
leaning in the light behind this glass
doorway who may or may not deliver me 
a long black, and should I so desire
another and half an hour or so of her breath.

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James Norcliffe: Three times upon a time

Three times upon a time she told me that she loved me.

The first time upon a time was in a lilac hedge under stars sprinkled like talcum.
Embraced by leaves we embraced each other and in that embrace she murmured
the words.

The second time upon a time was frolicking in a field where wrapped around
with grass we wrapped around each other and in that wrapping she whispered
the words.

The third time upon a time was in the ocean. As white horses crashed around us
and gripped by an undertow we gripped each other and although the salt and
surf all but drowned her words I understood clearly what she was attempting
to say.

And did we live happily ever after?

We planted a lilac hedge and monthly clipped the heart-shaped leaves.

We grew a lawn and mowed it weekly.

We never visited the ocean.


James Norcliffe has published nine collections of poetry, most recently Dark Days at the Oxygen Café (2016). He has also written a number of fantasy novels for young people. With Harry Ricketts and Siobhan Harvey he edited the recent Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (2014) and with Joanna Preston the anthology Leaving the Red Zone: poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes (2016)

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Bruce Christianson: The Barbecue of the Vanities

love checks the charcoal
(still too hot to cook on) 
sets the wine to breathe
then swears 

an ancient saxon curse
(the birds look shocked) 

                   blood trickles 
between love's fingers & 
drips across the compost
(its a shame to waste it)

soon we the guests arrive 
& admire the roses 
                                    while
love slips away unnoticed
from someone else's story

Bruce Christianson is a mathematician from New Zealand. He has spent the last thirty years teaching in Hertfordshire. Love still has not returned his handkerchief.

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Cal Freeman: Invective Against Mourning Doves

They coo in the spruce behind Stu Price’s house, trying to soothe me
with their nonsense.  I sit in my dead friend’s living room listening

to a Bix Beiderbecke 78.  His children are huddled in the kitchen
describing a man I did not know to neighbors who did not visit

the old violinist or care much for the strange music that he played.

They stay in their roosts long past dawn on the frigid days.

They were once called Carolina Pigeons.

That trumpet tone does not sound like a dove; pigeon is no clarion.  

Stu did not screech or moan though there must have been great pain
given what was in his bones.

Their wings screech as they take off to fly, So sorry for your loss,

wired to return to wherever they feel safest and to panic
at the rustle of last year’s leaves.

Cal Freeman, author of Brother of Leaving (Marick Press) and Heard Among the Windbreak (Eyewear Publishing), is a poet from Detroit, MI. His writing has appeared in many journals including The Poetry Review, Commonweal, Berfrois, Drunken Boat, and The Paris-American.

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***

Michael W Thomas: Shame

The cat calls to me from the garden:
Are you ready for your death?
I’ve had three lives, could do with
more than nine, if only for how it feels
to wither on the swell, meet myself
coming back.  Each time, I flick me to the maggots
as I land in fresh bed of heartbeats. I could be leaping 
the roofs of a runaway train.
                                             But you’ve just the one.
You must walk to that unlit door 
with your bag of hurts and history
pulling down a shoulder, as I see them
round here with their Saturday shops
coming back from all their buses.
Always something that leaks.
Something meant for the freezer placed aside,
remembered just in time to be thrown out.
Always the wrong sort of something
grabbed in a jostling blur.
                                          But for me too
in the end. There’ll come a leap, a real cloud-tickler,
that drops me down where the tracks are still singing the train
and the birds of a sudden come over all safe.  
Shame, eh?
                  The cat vanishes,
a car brakes, someone cries, someone else
claps and whistles.  Come evening 
he’ll be outside the porch,
chewing medicine-grass,
getting his next call ready.

Michael W. Thomas‘s latest poetry collection is Come To Pass. His most recent novel is Pilgrims at the White Horizon. He is poet-in-residence at the Robert Frost Poetry Festival, Key West, Florida. He is working on Nowherian, the memoir of a Grenadian traveller. www.michaelwthomas.co.uk Blog, The Swan Village Reporter, http://swansreport.blogspot.co.uk/

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***

Jackie Lovell: Cat Dreamer

From outside the playground he called her
Picked her after watching.

Said he’d lost his pet cat, that he was sure
He’d seen it down that dark alleyway

And all he needed was her help
His cat would come to her call. She was four.

In nightmares she saw the cat, black
Its tail low, strung out, its face a grimace

And each time in the same scene
His cat’s tail floated upright then spat.

Years later when school was out
She almost forgot how pretty she was

Forgot her childhood nightmare, until uncle
Needed his lap warmed when everyone was out.

Yet uncle’s lap was never warmed for long enough
And what started with a kiss took her teens away.

In her twenties, after good grades, after bad
After uni, she met a man after therapy

Who she thought she could trust
Yet, what started with a kiss

Brought the nightmare black cat back
Its tail low, strung out, its face a grimace

And each time in the same dream
His cat’s tail floated upright then spat.

Jackie Lovell has returned to writing poetry, having previously had poems published in Pharos: Paris and Offshoots V: Geneva. She is a member of Open Mic Poetry, Chichester.

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***

S J Mannion: January In Ireland

She’s all grown up now.  
All trussed up like a Tudor feast.  
At her dad’s funeral (she didn’t know him well) 
His brother came over and said 
Sorry for your loss, love.
And then swallowing first
Jaysus, you’re huge, you’ve gone huge.
He said huge with two syllables
Hew-age.
His eyes fixed on her buttercream breasts.  
Luscious and richly spilling out of black lace,
a corset worn tight outside by itself and 
pushed up over a pale plump belly.  
Tender as dough rising over torn velvet shorts.  
January in Ireland is not the weather for shorts.  
She hasn’t the legs either.
Even with those fuck you heels.  
But she doesn’t care about all that.  
She’s proud of herself whatever she is.  
She knows the power of youth though 
She doesn’t yet know she knows.
And so we laughed my sister and me.  
Really laughed and were glad of it all.  
Comedy and tragedy.  A right funeral.  
What else should we do?  
She’s all grown up now.
Hew-age.
And far from women who 
apologise for themselves.

S J Mannion writes “I am an Irish writer living in Christchurch, New Zealand. When I can I write – when I can’t I read.”

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***

Jack Houston: And we all go to heaven when we die
a confessional poem for Tom

My wife will be there in the front row
of the council crematorium,
with the kids – maybe more than there are
as this is written, maybe not –
lined up beside her. My parents
will doubtless be a part
of the stars already.

And Morwenna, for that is the name
of my wife and lead mourner,
will probably not want to say anything,
not being too good with the idea of speaking
in front of people, so will leave it
to my brother, who, sobered,
I’d’ve lately gotten closer to.
 
He'll get up and shakily walk
to the front, the little lectern,
unfold the piece of paper
he'd prepared his words on earlier
but then break into great racking blubs,
barely being able to force out a whispered
I loved him so much.

Adam will go up
with his cousin William
and lead the man that is their uncle, father, 
and my little brother, gently,
wobbly and still sobbing, 
back to his pew.

I always did like to make him cry.

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

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***

Brian Docherty: Family Funeral 

What I find myself holding is one petal 
taken from the reddest of roses.

I do not remember being given this petal
or putting whatever else I was holding away.

Some people hold handkerchiefs, handbags,
hats, Orders of Service, mobile phones.

I hold this one petal in my hand, waiting.
For once, it’s not raining here, not even windy. 

Am I missing a page of the script? I know 
I’m in the right place, at the right time.

I have never liked the idea of discarding flowers, 
wanting to respect the gift and the giver.

I know I stepped forward, picked up
a rose, threw it down, shook hands

down the line of relatives, said the right things,
had a small story of my own to share later

over a pint of Guinness, with cousins I had met 
only twice before, but this petal is a puzzle.
 
For a moment I think it is a ticket, but for what?
What’s left is what we hold in our hearts.

Brian Docherty lived in north London for many years, & has retired to East Sussex. He has published four books, most recently Independence Day, (Penniless Press, 2015).

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Tim Miller: Two poems from the sequence Burials

Near Copenhagen (6000 BC)

A young mother and child,
the mother’s head pillowed
 
with a cushion flat and
decayed, decorated

with deer teeth and snail shells,
a pillow which must have
 
glittered, and then rattled.
And the dead child (as if
 
to refuse its demise)
sleeps atop the well-placed
 
cupping wing of a swan.


The Amesbury Archer (2300 BC)

Grown up amid the Alps,
he crossed the continent
 
and sailed the Channel
to die near Stonehenge.
 
One kneecap was blown out,
and he lived long with an
 
abscess in his jaw, but
he was buried with knives
 
and arrowheads, boars’ tusks,
and with the earliest gold
 
in England wound into
his hair. And among some pots 
 
were the knapping tools and
a small anvil of a smith.
 
Revered and regarded
he died old at forty,

pain in his leg and jaw,
within sight of the great stones.

Tim Miller’s fiction, nonfiction and poetry has appeared in Poethead, The High Window, Parabola, Literary Juice, Bitter Oleander, Juked, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Concho River Review, Foliate Oak, Mungbeing, and others. His long narrative poem, To the House of the Sun, has just been published by S4N Books, and a novel Bearing the Names of Many is forthcoming from Pelekinesis.

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***

Bruce Barnes: Children’s shoes

From a display of Roman children’s shoes
imagine one, with muddy sole and foot-hugging thongs,
scuttles out through the Vindolanda vicus
down Ermine Street  as the wind picks up,
to stop  beside an advert on the London tube;

two images, like boots on the wrong foot, 
are caught in an abrupt lack  of air.
Down the Underground, everyone sees 
start-riteacross the tracks, two children walking; 
he wears a jump-suit and tam- o’-shanter,
she’s older, with a satchel and bobble  hat.

I follow her arm lodged  beneath his armpit,
steering  him regardless past  the sentries
of evergreens, between  ruled stock fencing
to where they will  vanish.  The last speck
races back to claw at my face, past the warning 

in a footsore purple that  ‘ Children’s shoes
have far to go!’  Far is closer than the tunnel
puking its train, nearer than mother’s tug 
 at the sleeve.  Readying myself to board, 
I catch a last sighting, near where ad meets
the tile grime: ‘and they’ll walk happily ever after’.

Bruce Barnes is a Bradford based poet, who has recently completed the Sheffield Hallam writing M.A. His poetry pamphlet, Israel-Palestine, published by Otley Word Feast Press, is due out shortly. His collaboration with Jun Shirasu, interpreting the work of the Japanese proletarian poet Kosuke Shirasu, is published by the Utistugu Press and will appear later this year.

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***

Akpa Arinzechukwu: A Day Off

Your journey to the unknown started the moment you looked your boss in the eyes and called him ‘rogue' – 
your journey to the unknown started like this: you woke in the morning around four-thirty five am, you ran 
into the kitchen and prepared noodles as it was the only thing you could ever get cooked easily. You got a 
text from your ex, it reads: five pm, Murray Bar. You hissed, how dare that son of whatever text me? What 
does he think I am? You brushed the thoughts aside and headed for your bathroom but his words, his face, 
his naked self kept appearing in your head. You remembered the night you two went your ways, he called 
you ‘ugly', he said that your face reminds him of Iran and Iraq – he said many things – so many things you 
have not forgotten but just chose to be quiet. You ran your hands over your abdomen and then up to your 
bosom. You let out a moan. What an unlucky day, you thought. You later headed for work carrying the weight 
of the memory of your days with him to work. At work, you opened avenues for your ambition but then your 
boss shut a particular door just in time. He told you you’ll not be paid soon. That though the company has 
grown in everything they can’t afford to pay employees. It is just not a priority yet. The economy is bad, can’t 
you see? He yelled.  Other employees looked too, murmuring only to themselves. They had known this before 
you. No one protests. You can lose your job. You were dead angry and you let it consume you and your boss so 
that not even your bones withstood the shock. You are a ro.gu.e! – you took your belongings and walked out of 
the corporate world into the streets wondering whether to go home and sulk or go in search of another job or 
just go home, dress up with well articulated, well drawn and well applied cosmetics and zoom off to catch up 
with your ex and explore the world with forgiveness which you said once makes the human race. 

Akpa Arinzechukwu is a Nigerian poet and photographer. His works have appeared on brittle paper, bluepepper, Visual verse and elsewhere.

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