*

This issue of London Grip features new poems by:

*Phil Kirby *Tracey Peterson *Abegail Morley *Natalie Crick *Geoffrey Winch *S W James * Sue Rose
*Tom Phillips *Mark Totterdell *Tristan Moss *Thomas Ovans * Gareth Culshaw *Patri Wright
* Elizabeth Smither * Alice Major * Colin Crewdson *Mary Franklin * Jack Little * Stuart Henson
* Sarah Mnatzaganian * Paul McLoughlin *Keith Nunes * Marc Carver * Geri Dogmetchi
* Jane McLaughlin *Brian Docherty * F M Brown * Stuart Handysides * Teoti Jardine
* Francis Annagu * Brent Cantwell * Robert Nisbet *David Flynn

Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors

A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be found at LG new poetry Spring 2017

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

In the past it has sometimes been our habit in these editorials to draw attention to particular themes that have been favoured by several of the contributors to the current issue.  We now think this may have been a little patronising on our part since readers are surely capable of discerning such things for themselves*.  Readers who have been with us for a while should also be able to discern that this posting is an especially full one, possibly featuring more poets than we have assembled in any previous issue.

We are very grateful to all those poets – from many parts of the world – who continue to submit work to the magazine.  We are particularly glad that our new rubric about submission windows seems to have been noted.  At the risk of appearing over-controlling, however, could we ask for future offerings to be spread more evenly across the whole window-pane of relevant months rather than clustering round the hinges where the window meets the frame?

 But at the risk of stating the obvious, we point out that our cover image relates to the poem ‘Swarm’ by S W James

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

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

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***

 Phil Kirby: Brandt’s Wife

He was always dressed in drab and gaitered;
knew the quickest ways to trap and skin a hare,
when to shoot a woodcock; learned the rivers’ 

falls and swims better than the gillies: 
like where among green ribbled weeds 
to find the fittest trout. Once, he hid 

a precious salmon – freshly caught and dented 
by his priest – curled inside my dolly-tub, 
so bailiffs wouldn’t take its silver from our tongues.

I thought he’d be a catch for girls like me. 
But his roguish grin and knowing wink 
ensnared my innocence. I see that now.

For all my dreams of hobbling and breaking him, 
I’m the one who wound up being trapped, 
limbs yielding, punctured by an iron-slow bite. 

The gaping mouths of all our young 
have kept me cooped up in the house for years; 
there never was a chance to run with him  

through heavy drops of summer showers, 
or walk the woods in tainted autumn mists.
The day the news came to my door 

that he’d been pulled up from the quarry – 
broken, dead - by squire’s men, they said 
perhaps he fell. But none believed it. 

Word went round that Brandt had simply 
lost his knack, become cock-sure, forgotten 
how to be afraid. 
    I was in the kitchen, 

raw cracked hands on aproned knees. 
Fresh plucked feathers lay like hare-forms 
round my feet. For a moment 

I stared into the bird’s still bright eyes.
And all that I could think to say?
‘Oh, thank God. No more bairns.

Originally from Chingford, Phil Kirby currently lives and works in Gloucestershire. He has run Waldean Press, been an East Midlands Arts ‘New Voice’ and bursary recipient, has had several pamphlets published and his first full collection, Watermarks from Arrowhead Press, which came out in 2009, is now officially ‘sold out’, but the last copies are available through contacting his website: www.waldeanpress.co.uk.
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***

Tracey Peterson : Sweet Rachel
 
The babies were born without a wet washcloth applied to her forehead.
Sweet Rachel, she even scheduled the last one’s arrival to suit him better.
If she could have stood on hot coals.  If she could have been Esther.  If only
she could have been less of herself, more of something else.  Even now, she
wants to, but only a bad girl would say it (fuck the injustice of it all.  Fuck it.)
 
Little Lucy-last-in-line bounced off to school this morning.  Rachel, at home
alone, opens and closes cupboards all day.  She’s looking for all the forgotten
parts of herself.
 
 

Tracey Peterson is passionate about poetry having read, written and performed it from a young age, and in her adult years taught it to children aged from 5 to 16 years. A graduate of Canterbury University where she studied English, Linguistics, Psychology and Education, she more recently graduated from the Hagley Writer’s Institute with distinction. She has completed writing her first collection of poetry that she hopes to see published in the future. Tracey resides in Christchurch where she works as a speech-language therapist.
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***

Abegail Morley: Watermark
 
So this is how it is to drown. I’m not sure
I can take its slowness, how my body sinks
over and over, yet still sprawls upwards,
snags in bladderwrack spooling the surface.
 
I didn’t expect to gift my life to waves that thrust
my body for miles down a deserted beach,
my chest carrying the brunt of its force,
lungs blown inwards like shop windows.
 
I’m not supposed to be indelible. I just know the end
is a glacier ready to breach, river water releasing
winter, even something as mundane as ice-cubes
unclenching from trays melting by a sink.
 
I see myself standing on a frozen lake, laying claim
to a shunt of ice that hunches under branches, hangs limp
from its skeleton, skin shuck off a life-time ago.
I say, This is me, this is me, this is me.
 

Abegail Morley‘s fourth collection, The Skin Diary, is published by Nine Arches Press. Her debut, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup was shortlisted for The Forward Prize Best First Collection. She blogs at The Poetry Shed.
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***

Natalie Crick: Poppies

The poppies smoulder,
Lit matches struck in the dark

Where we brought my sister’s ashes
When her life blew out. 

Each red flower 
Is black at the heart

Of every burning
Wide bloody mouth.

Sunlight shines through,
But it is Winter here.

Frost waits nearby,
Sharpening his scissors. 

Natalie Crick, from Newcastle in the UK, has found delight in writing all of her life and first began writing when she was a very young girl. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including The Lake, Ink Sweat and Tears, Poetry Pacific, Interpreters House and Jet Fuel Review. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem, ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
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***

Geoffrey Winch: Endings    

they tell her mother 
about where and when 
they last saw her 

how she came to be there 
and how she’d been 
well looked after 

how cool she was 
at the end  
not losing her head 

how they – the remnants of 
her band – had to leave her 
and how her songs still went 

round and round in their heads 
but that they will never know  
how her last song ends   

Geoffrey Winch is a retired highway engineer and lives in West Sussex where he is associated with a number of local creative writing groups. His poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies in the UK, US and online. His most recent collection is Alchemy of Vision (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2014) which focuses on the performing, visual and literary arts.
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S.W.James: Swarm

A life: a mother and a child at work, 
gardeners, child-gardener-for-summer-holidays.

Gardening rich people’s houses, local villages.
Low buzz gets louder.

A child’s been chased already
by every stinging yellow. Gets louder.

Every thorny cable’s sliced, already,
until a child has to get gardening gloves from the car.

Gets louder. Child in a car, searching under seats
with the door closed. Low buzz. 

And Louder. And Louder. Low Buzz. And Louder.
And Black, and Loud, and Speckled. The Sky.

Gets Louder. A Mother running towards the car, a child searching,
opening the door—Louder, Louder, Buzz, Louder—and closing it.  

Telling a child not to look and not to listen. S’Nothing’s z’inside. 
There’zzz s’nothing’zzz inzzzide. Low Buzzz. Getz Louder. Tap tap tap underneath.

A child remembers the sky as black and loud and speckled,
and getting louder. Knowing they went under the car as well.

Remembering the tap tap tap under the feet. Waiting
while a mother finishez the garden after. 

Sam James is a new writer, having only been published once in Ink, Sweat and Tears and in University of Gloucestershire creative writing journals, Compass and Reflections
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***

Sue Rose: Standing Water

Surfaces still make sense. 
I can tell their meaning 
in the failing light and say ‘branch’, 
‘leaf’, ‘water’, with certainty, knowing 
that this pool, barred with trees 
and edged with nature’s leavings,
may look like a thin skin,

but down there, 
under the muddy record
of all the feet that have been here,
this Lethe could be a vertical river
drilling down into the dirt, 
unwatched, unknown, rotting 
the seeds of spring.
 

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***

Sue Rose: Denouement

A wide trail 
through the wheat, late 
summer in the air, 
a girl running. With her, 
two dogs, dark as pips,  
one anxious for the screen 
of trees ahead, the other loping 
behind at a distance. 

And this is it—
the moment before
the breeze stills, 
colours chill into grey 
as they enter the shadow, 
dust basin, dry water. 


Sue Rose works as a literary translator and is the author of two full-length books of poetry: From the Dark Room (2011) and The Cost of Keys (2014), both published by Cinnamon Press. She also brought out a chapbook of sonnets paired with her own photos called Heart Archives, published by Hercules Editions in 2014. She is currently collaborating with photographer, Lawrence Impey, on a series of poems inspired by his photos.
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***

Tom Phillips: Composition

Leaf silhouettes beside
dank foliage clumps coalesce
into a speculative boundary
for whatever it is refusing
to take shape. In transit
I’d be talking under casements
in Jacobean brickwork 
making knowledge adjustments.
or attaching detail to its armature
to some extent. When November
slopes in across the garden,
its scraps of light patterning make
their modest interruptive demand
(a first small poem to themselves).

Tom Phillips is a poet and playwright living in Bristol. His poetry has been published in a wide variety of magazines, anthologies, pamphlets and the full-length collections Recreation Ground (Two Rivers Press, 2012) and Unknown Translations (Scalino, 2016).
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***

Mark Totterdell: Two Leaves 

Autumn has all boiled down to this; two leaves
from a plane tree have died and come to earth
to form this pavement tableau, hands the hue
of caramel with soft star-pointy fingers.

One, in an act of auto-origami,
has made itself a parcel of thin air,
enclosed a volume, has my mind convinced
for seconds of some solid frogginess.

The other one has wrapped its paper self
around the bottom of a plastic drainpipe
and stayed, gripped by the glue of its own damp,
some time-caught prey that tried, but failed, to flee.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines including Agenda, The Interpreter’s House, The Rialto and Stand. His collection This Patter of Traces was published by Oversteps Books in 2014.
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Tristan Moss: Walking in the Wolds
To Jane

Smooth patination shows
how countless hands  
have used this post
for support. And now
my hand too. But not yours.
It rests on mine.

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Tristan Moss: Collocations
To Jane

We didn't tell people
we'd fallen in love -
these words
went together too easily.

We said
we liked each other
and knew
these words 
only had us
to hold them together.

Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two young children. He has recently had poems published in Snakeskin, Lighten Up Online, NOON, Fat Damsel and Shadow Train.
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Thomas Ovans: Feelings

Feel it she says,
holding out her sleeve,
Go on, feel it ...
...  see, it’s felt.

Old jokes still please him

and the ones they share
always cause a tiny beat-skip
in his heart .
	          His heart
felt the unfamiliar pull
of loops and threads of yearning
within a day of meeting her

from the time she asked 
the group around a table –
they later made a joke of it –
Who feels like a walk? 
while her eyes were miming
No not you or you ...
.. . but you

Thomas Ovans is one of London Grip’s regular reviewers. He tries not to let this quench the spark of his own creativity.
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***

Gareth Culshaw: The Dying Farm

Just as shuffling feet edge
towards train doors, their heads 
jostle for the trough full of rain

tassel tails flap as breeze 
blown wind socks. grass is
forgotten under hoof trodden land

a round neck jumper armours
a man, who has stuffed a thousand
years under his fingernails

a cottage sits, quietly as a corpse skull
barns take in the wind, allowing 
it to leave at will

the sun never alights here
just stopping short. A heap 
of used tyres, now blanked out.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen. He has been published in various places across the UK and USA.
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***

Patri Wright: Une Ville Abandonée

A pedestal shorn of its statue, the sea’s encroachment,
eye socket windows, absentees. Wind, on the banlieue.
The reek of medieval atmosphere. Belfries, the unringing
of bells, the town square, the broken parapet, the tumbleweed
street. Here, all shadows in the sun, here the last man. Ask
where the people have gone; ask and the answers trail off
on the breeze. The sky lowers whiteness, a morgue sheet.
Cobblestones hold the clatter of clogs: stored recordings.
Doors, no doorknobs or latches. Shutters are shut blind
and all is static. 

                           This, my future ennui. A shrine, relics,
where the town’s your shroud, wraps itself round your 
recluse heart, occult pulse, your spectral hood. Alone
on a bridge, you’re a beguine or anchorite, then Ophelia:
your face ashen, hair camouflaged, sprawling. I see myself
sketch your vignette, as gables double themselves over quays.
This grief has yet to happen: a lock of hair in my pocket,
the sea rising up the church spire. The sleep of poppies 
drifts through me, with you in exile, a deposed queen.

Patri Wright has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. His poems have been published in several magazines, most recently Agenda, The Reader, and The London Magazine. He teaches Creative Writing at the Open University
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Elizabeth Smither: Drycleaners – London and Paris

A little girl like a shepherdess receives
my knit top with a tomato stain
and returns the docket: Tuesday.

On Tuesday it’s hanging on a hanger
the spot shrunk but still visible.
I can’t complain to a shepherdess

who has lost one stain but carries its ghost
in her demeanour like a lost lamb.
I take it to another drycleaner.

In Paris the spot is onion soup.
Briskly it is frowned over: one week
to remove it, Madame.  Not sooner.

It will take a special discovery of benzene
an accident like Tarte Tatin
and rows of girls in chemises

sweating over garments in poor ventilation.
No wonder we should sniff at improvements
in Paris and failure in London.

Elizabeth Smither’s new collection, Night Horse will be published by Auckland University Press in 2017.
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Alice Major: Dust to dust

A film of silver on the bookshelf,
fluffs of disaggregated substance
on the baseboards. Much of it is me – 
	I’m shedding
seven million flakes of skin a minute,
a whole outer layer of myself
day by day. There’s just so much dust
to dust. And it isn’t only me.

	We’re heading
gravewards faster than we think. 
Seven billion people on the planet, plus
our dogs and cats, our cows, the pollen
from our mutated crops – and then
all that dessicated soil blown in
from desertified territories.
	A webbing
of soot and off-scourings, a scurf
that settles into every crevice, accretes
beyond the reach of rags and cleanser.
Dust to dust. The round world’s winding sheet.

Alice Major has published ten collections of poetry. She lives in the Western Canadian city of Edmonton, where she founded the Edmonton Poetry Festival.
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Colin Crewdson: Bone-thing  
funeral parlour, Palermo

They all see a Tibetan mastiff
sober, dark-suited:
I have a fore life (in the bardo)
and an afterwards. Here I’m Cerberus
on guard at the heart of the classical world
at the door of lo-cost Hades.

I like to sit here chewing my plastic bottle
maiming it as death chews life 
inoffensively impartial, implacable, keeping an eye
on my funeral parlour, over the road from the halal butcher
where life drains slowly my way,
mutilating my dented bottle, this modern classic bone-thing.

Even the pigeons slide when they land.
These stone pavements have been so shone
by the feet of the dead and living, spat on
and polished by passing shoppers and neighbours
as one by one they slip through the cracks to find
my world of bones and plastic bottles.


The bardo is the world of existence between death and rebirth in the cycle of reincarntion, according to Tibetan cosmology. The guardians of the bardo are often pictured as fierce animals.
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Colin Crewdson lives and works in Devon, UK, after a career observing the mishaps of human experience and trying to learn something. He’s had poems published in The Journal, The High Window, Amaryllis, Ink, Sweat and Tears amongst others
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Mary Franklin: Now and Then 

He selects the managers’ group address,
writes a message, hits Send and receives  
a prompt snowstorm of emails in reply.
He would like to leave them to settle 
overnight, shapeshift like a folktale,
contrails that might morph into white,
waning streaks.  There’s no time for that.
He wipes his hand across his brow,
heart thumping, types the draft agenda.

The Yelamu chief decides to summon	
village elders to a meeting.  He removes  
his bull-roarer from its hand-painted cover,
spins it lasso-like in the air, its deep sound 
soothing as the humming of large insects.
The faster he whirls, the higher the pitch, 
its hypnotic hum carrying far beyond
the village.  He returns to his teepee,
sits cross-legged and smokes his pipe.  

Mary Franklin has had poems published in various journals including I am not a silent poet, 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 in one by Three Drops Press. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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Jack Little: Mischief
 
the hallway vending machine
has chronic issues:
 
not peculiar nor unique
to something in
#84762-675’s position,
 
just a 5p coin trapped in
the dispensary area so
kids rock it back and forth
 
until security moves them on, 
peering from behind a curtain
 
daring not to breathe too loudly:
smug and motionless, the instance of
the five pence hard won
 
with a deep indent in the underside
of vending machine #8476… etc.,
still lovely, rectangular.
 

Jack Little (b. 1987) is a British-Mexican poet, editor and translator based in Mexico City and Palma de Mallorca. He is the author of Elsewhere (Eyewear, 2015) and is the founding editor of The Ofi Press: www.ofipress.com.  He was the poet in residence at The Heinrich Böll Cottage on Achill Island in the west of Ireland in July 2016.
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Stuart Henson: Contra-jour 

Tide’s out on that little beach that runs
up under Waterloo Bridge. It’s seven o’clock
and the city holding hands with summer still
clings on, besotted by the shining river.

Sun ducks below.  Boats slip on liquid chocolate.
A squad of rutty boys has dragged the legend
JACK (HEART) ANAL SEX across the sand.
Thumbs up!  It’s instagrammed.  They’re off.

Worlds pass like buses plying to their terminus.
Cloudy.  Cloudless.  Until a girl, their age
offended by that grossness puddles down,
her shoes in hand, to scrub it back to nothingness.

Nymph un-departed, slight on the flood
as all our long drowned days lap at the mud,
the bright sky sinks, dumb ripples churn.
Burnt black, the slow flux hesitates, then turns.

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Stuart Henson: Étude 

Then the moon looked in
and she caught
the piano, lid open, the whites of the keys

so she sat
and reached down
with the delicacy

of a lover 
or one who listens to decode a safe’s
whispered secrecy.

The room was a study
a gleam 
of the things 

that the moon had once watched
or her heart
had once dreamed.

What I heard I would play
if I could
but the moonlight forbids

Or my hands are deceived.

Stuart Henson‘s recent collections are The Odin Stone and Feast of Fools both from Shoestring. A New & Selected is scheduled for 2018.
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Sarah Mnatzaganian: Slow movement
In loving memory of Jamie Gardiner 1994 – 2017

If you loved me, 
paint the air
with music. 

Let the notes fall 
on your face 
like winter sun.

Allow your body
to be plucked
fingered,
bowed

and your heart
to be kneaded
and stretched
by warm hands.

Open your throat
as if to sing
but put words
away.

Listen with me
to what I loved
and then,

when the colours 
fall like petals into 
silence,

hold the peace
as if it were
my hand.

Sarah Mnatzaganian studied in Oxford and London and worked as a teacher, freelance journalist and PR consultant before co-founding a specialist cello business and starting to write poetry. Three of her poems were published in The North magazine in July 2016 and another will be published by The Fenland Reed in 2017.
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Paul Mcloughlin: Improvisation
for Anne Stevenson            

Whatever’s great is always obvious,          
your house of fantasy where players in
the rooms above can hear the music
rising from the rooms below, while 
those below hear nothing from above. 	
And yes, I can imagine the topmost floor.  
It’s what’s lost to those who automatically
assume whatever is most recent’s best,
the reverse of those supposing standards
have been falling since the Greeks. It’s 
the fault of those most moral words
‘best’ and ‘better’, versions of ‘good’. 

I’m jazz not classical and not too hot
at that, figured bass requiring somehow
speed of thought too fast even for one 
familiar with chords, even tritone 
substitutions. Music’s a mystery before 
it’s anything else, C.P.E. developing
the sonata but not the form’s ensuing
tyranny. Hughes admired the instinctive,
natural behaviour of animals, free from
the angst of consciousness. Mozart had it,
Mingus, too. What’s one to make of what’s
supposed to raise us above the beasts?

What works is when art risks the cliché, 
makes it live again, the simplicity of 
duende. I should be so lucky. I string 
words and notes together in the hope 
of making more sense than the press.
But then I live in hope of endings.

Paul McLoughlin’s most recent collection was The Road to Murreigh (Shoestring Press, 2010) and  a further collection will be out in the autumn. He also edited and introduced Brian Jones: New & Selected Poems (Shoestring, 2013)
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***

Keith Nunes: say it already

you can say it, 
say what you like, 
I know you like what you say because you say it over and again,
you say, ‘can I just say’, like hey ‘shut up its formally my turn’
but you could have said it anyway
I wasn’t holding up a sign with ‘it’s my turn and always will be’

so you finally go ahead and say it
and damn
it sounds just like what I was saying

Keith Nunes is from Lake Rotoma near Rotorua. He was a newspaper subeditor for 20-plus years but changed lanes and now sees life from a different perspective. He’s been published in Poetry NZ, Landfall, Takahe, brief, Trout, Catalyst and Snorkel among others, has been anthologised many times and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His book of poetry and short fiction, catching a ride on a paradox, is sold by the lunatic fringe.
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***

Marc Carver: Coffee House Feedback

I look at the girl's reflection in the sheet glass window.
Another woman looks at me.
She shouts for some exotic coffee “to go” 
but it doesn't matter because everything is in a “to go” cup today.
The Anglo Indian assistant told me the dishwasher was broken. 
When I asked if it was him, he looked sheepish.
I can't decide whether to tell the girl who made my coffee it was good
because she told me she doesn't get much feedback.

It is quiet now and I don't want to leave but know I must 
and know I have to say how good that coffee was.
As I tell her an old boy interrupts
"Horrible the coffee in here is – horrible."
"Mine was alright." I tell him.
As I walk out he walks beside me with his coffee.
He has spilt something on his jacket but not recently.
"Horrible." he says again.
"Well it will sober you up." I say
"It will be Christmas soon." he says.
It is January.

Marc Carver has published ten collections of poetry and had around two thousand poems posted on the net but being able to work and write in the way that he wishes gives him the most joy.
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***

Geri Dogmetchi: Whittington N19

The hospital is a capsized liner 
listing on the seabed. 

An old lady sits inside a coracle
of tubes, pipes, drips and drains. 

She applies lipstick. Brushes    
what’s left of her hair.

Bewildered by the tide   
of nurse administration, 

the blood pressure cuff, oxygen 
mask, drip feed of medication,

she sees the doctor’s hands 
like starfish on her thigh, 

doesn’t understand 
the seaweed of words -

intervention - just in case - too much - would you 
sign? If by any chance?  

Meanwhile she goes hungry. 
The plastic tray holds - flotsam,

everything out of reach. 
The lady cries salt all night, 

longs for her family. 
They swim to her at visiting time

and like anemones marooned, 
sway at her bedside while she sleeps.

Geri Dogmetchi lives and works in London. She is a member of a workshop group with Mimi Khalvati and attends an ongoing group at the City Lit. She is returning to writing after years of working in Mental Health services.
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***

Jane McLaughlin: My Neighbours Trade Down Aged Eighty-Three

As if a coffin, the recycling men
carry your wardrobe gently down the steps.
But it’s your lives in there, dust of your clothes,
the hairs, flakes of skin shed over fifty years.

Its mirror captured your dressing and undressing,
wedding hats brilliant, black coat worn
for the unbearable, the son’s funeral.

A glass records light and darkness,
sleeping and waking, holds pictured
young bodies now too breathless to climb the flights.

Houses, furniture soak up breath, vibrate to 
sounds long silent.  Nothing we touch
remains unchanged.  You want now
to throw out the ballast, ride the balloon’s gondola –
if not skywards, at least to the new bungalow.

Between door and van, the mirror
shines like pale water at  February sky
before sliding into secondhand darkness.

Jane McLaughlin writes poetry and fiction and her work has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She has been commended and listed in major competitions. Her poetry collection Lockdown is published by Cinnamon Press and has received an excellent review in London Grip.
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***

Brian Docherty: One Door Will Open To Another World

This dream delivers me to the threshold.
Am I looking forward or looking back? 
Asking where I might be is pointless, 
the door is now, I am now, I can see green,
I can see a path, I can see the light.

What more do I need to know? 
The gateway is worn, but the lintel is solid,
this side is grey, the other side is fresh, 
let us call this gate Janus, a new start,
I will not walk backwards or stand still.

I will dance into Mardi Gras, shuffle through Lent,
rehearse my steps to Easter, my new Nikes happy
to tread lightly over the gravel; this looks a world
I can live in, the path is smooth but never straight, 
I will not be bored on this journey, so onwards.

I will find out if this is a garden or a forest
I am entering; somebody has tended these paths, 
has kept this gate clear, perhaps I will meet them, 
perhaps there are things we can share, unless
the Keeper hands me the keys and says It’s all yours. 

But I hope there is a community to be part of,
a place at their table, a seat in their library;
if there is music here, what more could I ask? 
Well, you know what, but that comes unasked, 
and like this open door, should not be refused.     
 

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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***

F M Brown: Landscape From A Dream 
from the painting currently on show in the Paul Nash Memorial Exhibition at Tate Britain
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No way in.  
Safe side too narrow.  Sea side too confined, 
Walled in with glass.

Break in.  Break through.  Destroying mere reflection
Of the scorched world stretched behind me 
From which I need escape.  
			    The birds won't fall,
The sun explode, if I break out, break through.
The only one I'd needle if I did
Is much too busy looking at himself.

It's green, it's white, it's blue where I am going.
Smash red and yellow, crunch them back to sand.
At least
I think there's only nature hidden behind
The looking glass where I can't see myself.
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FM Brown was born in Sheffield but had to come south to soft Bedfordshire to begin writing poetry
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***

Stuart Handysides: Dreamscape

There is always a kitchen, always bigger
than ours ever were, and always yours.
Worktops hide under dishes, newspapers;
washing baskets bubble over, there is
work undone, building in progress, chaos.
Gardens encroach, boundaries fade.

Children wander in and out, grow
older, younger, scene by scene.
The dead appear, as if they were not,
and there you are, and some sort of us,
but the dream seems to know the rules,
knows better than to fix the fragments.

Stuart Handysides writes short stories, essays, letters, and poems. He began writing as a general practitioner and became a medical editor. His work has appeared in the British Medical Journal, British Journal of General Practice, GP newspaper, the Guardian, Presence, London Grip New Poetry, and Pennine Platform magazines, and a short story competition anthology. He has run the Ware Poets competition for the past four years
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***

Teoti Jardine: Morning After

Our dinner and our breakfast 
dishes done.

Dried with care each bowl, plate,
knife, fork and spoon.

My letting go sealed with a
reluctant competence.

When the clutter’s cleared away
my empty kitchen bench

stretches out like the
Canterbury Plains

where I stand alone, bow
to the Nor’west wind

knowing the Southerly will
soon arrive.

Each always follows.

Teoti Jardine is of Maori, Irish and Scottish decent. His tribal affiliations are: Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu. He attended the Hagley Writers School in 2011. His poetry has been published in the Christchurch Press, London Grip, Te Karaka, Ora Nui, Catalyst, and JAAM. He has short stories published in Flash Frontier, and Te Karaka. He reviewed for Te Karaka and for London Grip. He and his dog Amie live in a beautiful old house in the Linwood suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand.
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***

Francis Annagu: Taxi Driver 

The taxi man
Left the garage quickly,
Drove into the rutted highway      
Quenching its thirst
Under the raining dark clouds.
Street lights dim as a Chinese lantern,
Road narrow with pot-holes.
An old man and boy stood by the edge,
Stopped his aged cab.
He pulled over promptly.

While they ride
Into the chilly countryside,
Through hills, lakes and ginkgo trees
They squeeze out a conversation
About Europe and Africa.

Francis Annagu is an award winning poet and a Political Scientist. He writes in mind-blowing images, received the PIN Special Mention, PIN Most Awarded Poet 2016 and was shortlisted for the Erbacce Poetry Prize in England. He was featured on Blog Talk Radio, nominated for the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize and a Poets In Nigeria Connect Centre Representative. His works have appeared in over twenty-five poetry publications, including Lunaris Review, Kalahari Review, Crannog Magazine, Dead Snakes, Galway Review, Expound Magazine, Potomac Journal, Ayiba Magazine and elsewhere; also in poetry anthologies and blogs. His poetry collections are: Rain Upon Us (Classic Age Publishing, 2016) and Our Land In The Beak Of Vultures (Hesterglock Press, 2017).
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Brent Cantwell : night bus, Neasden 

it was the mid-winter stir,
the plum-dark walk home, 

the pre-work murmur
outside the façade of a cafe 

where buses stop; 
it was the on-your-way-ness of January 

looking side ways
at low-whistled smoke, 
 
smoke sent to the smog-light of Neasden; 
but most of all, 
 
it was the slowing-creep
of his five o'clock shadow 
 
that coaxed him to an empty bus, 
taut as a pin, 
 
self-consciously 
poised for one last groove home; 
 
worn vinyl crackles
as the needle slides silently to its seat

Brent Cantwell is a New Zealand writer from Timaru, New Zealand, who lives with his family in the hinterland of Queensland, Australia. He teaches high school English and writes for pleasure. He has spent time travelling and living in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa and Asia.
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***

Robert Nisbet: A Summer Storm and Afterwards

Going out with Lorna for the very first time,
and yearning’s moment, walking from the bus stop
to the cliff top’s promised privacy, time
just to tremble at the plump white thighs’
proximity. (She suspicious of his silences.)

Then the storm. They scrambled up some scree
to the lee of an over-hang. She (a townie girl)
was frightened, grazed, bled. He simply
wrapped a wet arm around her, puzzled now
that her bloodied thigh was so mundane.

Then, as the sunshine trickled back above them,
he led her, sopping and compliant, down to the shop,
bought Germolene, Elastoplast, tended and patched
the strange damp leg, took her back to the bus stop,
he wittering with disappointment, she near to love.

Robert Nisbet is a Pembrokehire poet who has nearly 250 publications in Britain and around 50 in the USA, in journals like San Pedro River Review, Constellations, Clementine Unbound and Common Ground Review. His one pamphlet is Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011).
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***

David Flynn: Hijab Love     
 
The hijab frames your face, and it is your face alone I know.
You are beautiful. Your tan skin
glows. Your black eyes are huge.
When we talk I pay attention
to your face only.
I have never seen your hair.
It must be black, though maybe not long
because I do not see a bump at the back
of your hijab, black or beige.
I am not sure what kind of body you have.
I have looked. Nothing juts out.
You are skinny, maybe, but your shape
is hidden by the cloth.
Any body is wonderful.
 
I love your face. I live in your face.
The words you say come from your face.
The world, the universe
is your face.
 
I have seen the hair and bodies of others of course, 
those not as religious as you.
But they are not your hair and not your body.
 
And it is not that your hair and your body are mysteries.
I can imagine. I do imagine.
Besides, I hate mysteries; I want to know.
But that face.
Now your face is all I have of you in the physical world.
You are concentrated.
You are where I see you.
Throw in hair and body and you will be hiding
in a jungle of detail.
 
I am allowed to give you a ride on my motorbike,
running through the streets flooded with motorbikes and cars.
You sit behind me, your legs spread,
though you are modest.
You barely touch.
Still, those slight touches overwhelm me.
I drive my motorbike, darting in and out of the rows of motorbikes,
without thinking.
How could I think
with you touching me?
Marriage, with its ocean of touch,
will not be as fiery.
Ride with me.
 
Speak to me:
Your voice is energetic. Your voice can change
to sorrow or concern or love,
and with your voice
your eyebrows move, your forehead wrinkles, your lips part.
 
Inside is a beautiful woman..
Inside is a bright light that flares from your dark skin.
With the hair you will be a field full of plants, birds, the sun, the sky, 
                                                                                                            the wind, so much.
Too much.
I like you now, one.
 
Your hijab frames your face
and that is all I want, all I need, all anyone wants or needs.
Smile.
That smile is all of life to me. 
Who needs anything else?

David Flynn was born in the textile mill company town of Bemis, TN. His jobs have included newspaper reporter, magazine editor and university teacher. He has five degrees and is both a Fulbright Senior Scholar and a Fulbright Senior Specialist with a recent grant in Indonesia. His literary publications total almost 200. His writing blog, where he posts a new story & poem every month, is at http://writing-flynn.blogspot.com/ . His web site is at http://www.davidflynnbooks.com .
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