Nov 30 2022
The Winter 2022 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:
*Paul Richards *David Flynn *Ceinwen Haydon *Teoti Jardine
*Jan Hutchison *Agata Palmer *Phil Wood *Pratibha Castle
*Ken Pobo *Oleg Semonov * Tim Cunningham *Stephen Barile
*Candice Kelsey *Jim C Wilson * Mike Farren *Stuart Pickford
*Glenn Hubbard *Bruce Morton *Jackson *Madhab Chandra Jena
*Mark J Mitchell *Lorna Dowell *Thomas Ovans *Julia Duke
*John Kitchen *John Grey *Robert Nisbet *Corey Mesler
*J R Solonche *Joan Michelson *Barbara Hickson *Kevin Higgins
*Bruce Christianson *Amanda Oosthuizen *Rodney Wood *Sally Festing
*Keith Nunes *John Tustin *Mary Franklin *Tim Dwyer *Sue Spiers
Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors.
Biographical notes on contributors can be found here
London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December
A printable version of this issue can be found at LG New Poetry Winter 2022-23
SUBMISSIONS: please send up to THREE poems plus a brief bio to email@example.com
Poems should be in a SINGLE Word attachment or else included in the message body
Submission windows are: December-January, March-April, June-July & September-October
Giacometti’s Falling Man belongs with a poem in this issue by Bruce Morton but also seems to be an appropriate cover image for these particularly unsettled and unsettling times. Other themes explored in the following pages include parent-child relationships and the innocence of first love experiences. These are complemented by some intriguing speculations and reflections on late life and mortality.
There are, however, only a few contributions that are strongly “Christmas-flavoured” and so at this point we will loudly and emphatically wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and a fruitful new year and then follow our established custom and offer a seasonal item instead of any further editorial observations.
And being warned by God in a dream that they should not return to Herod,
they departed into their own country another way. Matt 2:12
Once we straighten up outside the low-beamed door
and leave the stable where we’ve all been kneeling
wisdom says we must go home another way.
Avoid the city. What if those who greeted us
with lavish and unsatisfying feasts
should now misuse our calendars and calibrations
making us complicit in their malice?
Skirting settlements we meet dishevelled shepherds
fresh from seeing angels. We will keep
as much as we can catch of what they tell us
angels say about the king our star foretold.
This unobtrusive ruler from a makeshift cradle
will devote himself to unobtrusive lives –
until he dies and then returns another way.
………………………… (A version of this poem first appeared in Acumen 99, January 2021)
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Paul Richards: Sandbanks Bags packed and standing to attention In Reception It’s mother first Through the revolving door Towards the waiting taxi Bitter wind Gusts in to her face And messes up her hair As she Nurses her coat uneasily Outside Then with her on my arm We process gingerly towards the minicab Her purple holiday trainers Cushioning her crooked toes Against Dorset paving stones. At the car I gently manoeuvre her in to the Rear passenger seat As the engine purrs The waves break on the shoreline below And the palm trees adorning this courtyard Sway in the wind Like old dears at a singalong Then the suitcases – Into the boot they go, And I sit Like a low-slung beachball In front –Windows wound up tight – The cab’s scented ecoclimate Sealing off The weekend break. The driver does a sweeping turn And as we pick up speed Towards the end of the driveway And the station beyond – The estuary below Receding in the rear-view mirror – Mother In lilting sotto voce Half-sings “Goodbye sea”.
David Flynn: To Hell with Rhyme I dread the rhyme, finding just the right word to mean, to feel, to sound the exact same as the word two lines before. So here: sword. Now I have to fight, to find a new name that holds a foil at least. But the stanza has changed and I am free. I love the sun. But now have to rhyme. The singer Lanza, Mario, forgotten now, was the one my mother loved, she who didn’t love life with a broken back, manic depression, and a backward son, me. The unloved wife listened to the croon and sighed. It’s no fun rhyming with misery as the subject. To hell with rhyme. I love my dead mother.
Ceinwen Haydon: Mother - dob 15 08 1921 You would have been one hundred today, but you didn’t make it through. I wish I could regret your passing and forget that belatedly, it almost freed me. At first I’d thought, once you’d gone, my mind would erase you, and early memories of your petty cruelties: slaps, punches, put-downs. Your self-centred cry, poor me. You handed me a lifetime’s work, to heal your harm. I still wince, see ugliness when I catch myself, reflected in mirrors or glass. My progress has been slow, yet lately it’s accelerated: it started when I faced the misery of your bankrupt existence. Against all odds, I’ve found I feel pity and a dawning forgiveness. Still, I’m glad you died; angry you abused the child that was me. I’m glad my older years didn’t overlap with yours – so relieved you didn’t celebrate your centenary.
Teoti Jardine: Ipseity His Ipseity is in the Dunnock's trill in the cries of starving children, and the bombs that keep on falling.
Jan Hutchison: Jack wakes in his cot after a watercolour by Maud Sherwood My mother still speaks of him still has a catch in her throat we stand together under the painting his gown the one moving thing but when I bend over the cot Jack squirms he is too heavy to lift out high up the wall a painting of a red-roofed house overlooks Jack’s cot light from an attic window lends a lacy sheen to my mother’s hair
Agata Palmer: Upcycling I couldn’t let go of Zach’s mauve sweater, his favourite, imprinted with shower-gel scented hugs, his sun-kissed face framed by the v-neck, highlighting his mocha eyes. Lanky, he outgrew its smooth cotton weave. After a few years of holding on, I upcycled it into leg warmers. Severed sleeves crumpled on the floor: a mother’s arms empty of her son.
Phil Wood: 116 Nine-year-old girl still chases a ball spinning across the schoolyard bedlam; a ribbon of terraces, snug with slate roofs, gutters tip tap; a ruckus of boys fool about in the drizzle. Their play's wetted coal-black; their eyes flicker rain-happy fun; they banter chase the girl pursuing her flutter world of summer frocks. I hear the chapel. Granddad humming his wisdom hymns and out of tune. The shift is over -- slag heaps shimmer a grave of ponds. The blurry boys are spitting out coal dust from watery lungs: they have no breath; the flighty girl is weighted in mourning black. I've sat too close to my Grandmother's clock. A kettle whistles the summons back from cousins. Gran makes a pot of tea and unwraps the valley gossip. There's a new school. (116 children were killed in the Aberfan disaster of 1966. The children were mostly aged between 7 and 10)
Pratibha Castle: Lemons are tears gilded with sunlight, adults’ fake smiles, face-pucker odium a child might feel on witnessing its parents kiss. What I mean to say is not just kiss. Caress. Converse in rabbit’s fur conciliation with each other. Strict as stalactites, tart as walnuts pickled in brine, figures encased in icy silence at the outer limits of a globe they gave me for my seventh birthday on an outing to Leigh-on-Sea. A plastic micro-world with snow, an igloo, Eskimos, a huskydog drawn sled I kept beside the bed tipped upside down each night in hopes this might dissolve their arctic freeze and should the figures come unstuck, tumble on their plastic heads, that this might shock shock shock my parents back to laughing, crying so their frostbite-silence no more seared my ears, and lemons might be squeezed sanctified with honey brandy, shaken stirred as lemon shandy.
Ken Pobo: Raylene And Skip And Moms On the glider they sip scotch and talk about their moms. Skip resents his: She was a sack of rules. I squirmed out of it. Even now seeing her at Christmas is hard. Raylene says she couldn’t live up to hers, Mary with the bleeding heart. Neither talks about their dads, men like cordoned-off hallways. It’s getting dark. Night, the one child they have, soon will be ready to leave.
Oleg Semonov: The First Step was one you took on Christmas Eve. A 10-month-old baby then. Mummy cooking something tasty in the kitchen. And I, holding your hands, accompanied you around the living room. The Christmas tree was in the corner, inviting you to touch its ornaments – smiling baubles, jolly hearts, silver iridescent tinsel, stunning icicles, droplets, bells, irresistibly dancing lights. You pulled me towards the Christmas tree and stopped in front of this amazing sight. Then I released your hands, but you stood still and dealt with all the toddler’s doubts whether to fall or to risk reaching out. You took a step ahead and stopped again with arms wide open to keep the balance or to thoroughly explore the nature of this sparkling wonder that put a spell on you. And I was near to keep you from the needles of this magic Christmas tree and the enigma it presented – when your walk is smooth and confident, you are sure to learn how sharp my spines may be.
Tim Cunningham: Ballerina Again, it is Christmas And again the trees in town Are multi-tasking, Adapting to Christmas trees. The voices of cherubim and seraphim Are not heard. Instead, Speakers blast out ‘Adeste Fideles’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Santa Baby’. A constellation of fairy lights Dangles from a silver birch And, through the branches, A perfect half moon Is poised, en pointe, To pirouette and dance Across this midnight stage To the music of the spheres.
Stephen Barile: Saturday Night At The Rainbow JAMES BROWN AND THE FAMOUS FLAMES I never quite understood why my mother Would ever let me go to the Rainbow Ballroom On a Saturday night by myself. Maybe it was because she met my father At a dance at the Rainbow Ballroom in 1947? She drove me there in the Studebaker And picked me up later. I was just a kid, a poor white one at that. In the dark among the tables and chairs At the right side of the bandstand Where couples sat and drank whiskey, Necked, or made love. As you would to the great one’s music: The illustrious James Brown Who somehow found his way to Fresno. “The Famous Flames, come to yo’ town, To burn this place down!” yelled the announcer In a white tuxedo, oiled-back kinks in a wavy row. The band was already playing feverishly. Saxophone players were performing wildly, The trumpeters stood ready and watched When, from behind the drummer And a long drum-roll, came the man In polished black high-heel boots And a black satin and sequin suit, Under an orange cape, with greased Black hair like a Pontiac hood-ornament. His legs moved up and down to the music Like a grain-reaper pulled behind horses, Driving the beat with his right leg, Clapping his hands, dipping at the waist. “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” Was it the mirrored ball That mesmerized me? Or, his dance of acrobatic leaps Landing on his knees, the dazzling footwork In difficult rhythmic patterns? Music seemed to stream through him. After two hours of this, The announcer in white came out again And wiped the King’s brow Who jumped off the stage, Laid on the dancefloor. His attendants came back, Covered him with his cape again Led a broken man away. But he ran back, pleading In severe desperation for love. Snapped his fingers, the music stopped. His toothy smile reflected brightly In the remaining stage light. The house lights went up, He was on his way out the backdoor To the bus parked in the alley for a gin and strawberry soda. As for me, my mother picked me up afterward On the corner of Broadway and San Joaquin. She asked, “How was the dance?” “It was okay.”
Candice Kelsey: Pizza & Snapple Leave a message, I hear my mother instruct my 84-year-old father: Hello, Candice! I hope I can see you soon. I love you, & I hope I can see you soon. & I love you & want to see you soon. Always obedient, only this time it takes a lot more out of him. The breath shallow & his voice muffled by effort while cheerful platitudes remain undaunted by dementia. I call back. We’re having pizza & Snapple, he explains with the optimism of a 5-year-old who has yet to know defeat: of parenting, of career or marriage, let alone the breathtaking ice bath called aging. I ask if he’s read the inside of the Snapple cap. I can’t find—ohhh, found it behind the plate. He is pleased to read a fun fact: The tongue is the quickest healing part of the human body. Before either of us comment, my mother interjects another command. She thinks he’s wasting my time with bottle cap trivia. He reads it another two times & I imagine it’s for spite, hoping he still has some fire with so little oxygen. I wrestle the image of a tongue healing, of language writhing in pain. Hold your tongue, bite your tongue, control it—these I understand. Perhaps the cap reads quickest heeling part, the tongue a wet dog learning to obey. I have failed to control my tongue for decades, lashing rage & accusation at my father. Emotionally absent for years, now mentally absent, his response has always been absence. There’s no real fact like the complexity of father & daughter—so far from the simplicity of a screw cap. Today on this call I hear his tongue move slowly, attempting to chew cheesy bread & engage with me for the first time in a while. Hello, I hope I can see you soon. I love you, he exhales. Exhaustion, before handing me to my mother. I picture his sip of peach tea, tongue ushering its cool to pharynx & into the oesophagus without instruction. Tongues don’t forget things, don’t need to be corrected. The heart is a helpless thing. We unscrew & lose it carelessly. The human heart is the slowest to heal.
Jim C Wilson: Dad Liked Frank Sinatra The songs seemed tedious to me as tea, or grown-ups chattering by the chairful. A sharp-faced man (a bookie's runner with thinning sleazed-back hair) crooned on about heartbreak, love, being lonely. Why on earth should I care? At school I dwelt on swellings: secrets warm inside girls' woolies. With mates I gaped in adoration at made-up Tit-Bits ladies in brimming black & white bikinis. We sang raw songs about grabbing and groping. And Dad would knock on the wireless set to make his songs come at him louder. The words were written around his dreams, his high (up in the sky) hopes, the old black magic of wee small hours, and stardust reveries of his enchanted evenings. The cancer got him years ago. Now, past 70, I find myself caring. I noticed more autumn leaves today and, yet again, it's late September.
Mike Farren: Backendish The light is beautiful today – relaxed and gentle, as if September had cast off summer’s performance anxiety and settled into its own skin of sweet decay and when heat comes, it’s effortless like a century scored at a county out-ground in a nothing match, by an ex-test batsman with nothing left to prove except to time. I’ve been thinking about songs where September is a metaphor for the singer’s life – September of Sinatra’s years or Weill’s September Song; about how winter was almost upon John Keats when he wrote with calm and grace of warm days that seemed they’d never cease, even though by the poem’s end the birds were gathering to fly, just like his life. I’ll be sixty before spring comes round again, not noticing age or loss from day to day except when they stare square in my face like an allegorical Renaissance painting. I grew up with the word backendish but only knew it as impatience to go round the loop again – never heard the tick of those days dwindling down to the precious few.
Stuart Pickford: Rest of the Day I stood outside Masculine Hairstyles; fly screen, name across the window, I couldn’t make out what was inside. In that world of Brylcreem and Men Only, I handed the stylist the creased photo my mother had cut out from a magazine. Now, there’s Sky, talking the talk, grades, skin fades, product for the hair and my son, apprentice barber at Mr Men. Afternoons, I place his washing on his Xbox, throw open windows for air to spring-clean the fug and breathe life into the exhausted bed. Just passing, I peer in to see my lad cutting a wig on a manikin. All the guys are gym trim, black polos rippling. Sometimes he’s chatty about a footballer’s tip, the man on the roof of the women’s refuge but most days he gets in, it’s just standard. I make an appointment to be his dummy, a triangle in a cape with a balding crown who’s surprised the cut grey hair is mine. With strong hands, he tilts my head. I say nothing, resist dad jokes. He nods: So what you doing for the rest of the day?
Glenn Hubbard: The Barbers of Treblinka Abraham Bomba is in his barber’s shop. A split mirror. The snip snip of his scissors. He is taking care, making endless little touches to a customer’s hair. Is he clipping the air? Claude Lanzmann is asking questions. Those waiting sit and listen. New arrivals stand and stare. They look confused. As if they should not be there. Inside the chamber in Treblinka, Abe and 15 barbers waited for the naked women and children to ascend der Himmelweg. No mirrors. Just combs and scissors. Hair for delay-action bombs. A time limit of 2 minutes per woman. No scalping. As if sprucing. But most knew. Saw through the ruse. Neighbours and friends joined the queue. "What could you tell them?" Now the wife and sister of 1 of the 16… He makes a sharp gesture in the air. As if to dismiss a thought becoming solid there. He snips; cannot speak, tongue rolling around in his mouth, apparently swollen. To prevent the speaking of the unspeakable? He pauses, looks away as if something were unfolding on a screen behind the eyes that he will dry on his blue barber’s towel. He needs the filming to stop but Lanzmann pleads: they agreed the story must be told. Abe waits in a semi-hush. Snips. Stops. Stares. Tells them to continue. The barber is under the gaze of the guards. If he answers their questions about their future he will die. They are “already dead”. He steals a minute for hugs and kisses. Raises his scissors. Abraham Bomba escaped from Treblinka II Extermination Camp in January 1943. Claude Lanzmann was the director of the documentary Shoah. Der Himmelweg - The way to heaven. The name given by the SS at Treblinka to
the fenced-off path that led from the undressing barracks to the gas chambers. Glenn Hubbard: A Heron The hunched figure on the nest was a heron. It was wearing a long grey coat; its hat was not visible. It had taken the hump; its demeanour was crabbit. The hunched figure on the nest was a heron. It was up its own arse. It was not joining the support group. The hunched figure on the nest was a heron. It could have been Napoleon at Borodino. It could have been Franco at Teruel. The hunched figure on the nest was a heron. It was gathered around its digestion. It had gobbled down a leveret. The hunched figure on the nest was a heron. It had turned aside from the world. It had taken on some huge disgrace.
Bruce Morton: Falling Man Giacometti’s man In perpetuity Is suspended mid-fall Neither he nor we know Whether he is to be Seriously injured Or to regain balance The leanness of body Awkward in forward tilt Leaves one to wonder what Clumsiness or malice Propels or compels him We will never be sure
Jackson: Fallen “Sometimes I wonder—” he said, halting, hunting for the words hiding like bugs in the slashed fields of his brain, “whether the plants still grow.” He’d asked me how long it had been since his stroke. “Six months,” I said, but he shook his head. “I don’t understand.” I counted on my fingers. “December the seventeenth, so January, February, March, April, May, June: that’s six.” He shook his head again, sighed, studied the wall. “Sometimes I wonder,” he said, “whether the plants still grow.” He used to raise tomatoes, cabbages, melons, dahlias, marigolds. He walked behind a self-propelled mower round and round the school oval, smoothing it for sports. What is a season to him now? What are time and space? A lap around the corridors, leaning on the walker, weak leg dragging? Between my visits he sits all day staring through glass at blotchy lawn, palms, roses, the tawny curls of the gardener steering her ride-on. In April he told me he wished he hadn’t been found. “I don’t want to live on like this.” “I can’t take you to the vet,” I said. “Not in this country, anyhow.” I bring him fresh flowers each week,, water and trim his three plants, but the chinchilla cat from the brochure still won’t let him touch her and the old women have too many wrinkles for his fifties playboy gaze. Besides, the bulge in his trousers is now an incontinence product. Today when I arrived he had fallen back in the recliner, toothless mouth agape, eyelids down, feet up, nametagged socks fading in the insistent winter sun.
Madhab Chandra Jena: Biography of a book I am an unknown book Printed once in the press like others. Now in your curious hands Brand new One day I will be half known to you At last well known. You will read me cheerfully Page by page and I will die on your desk page by page.
Mark J Mitchell: The Door Thief She was a voluptuary of passage so he stole five glass doors to please her eyes. He meant nothing. No lesson. No message. A present. Just that. For the first, he lied to guards and offered them powers that weren’t his. He kept the door. No one died. The next one came easy from a home that war smashed. It begged to be polished, so he grabbed it boldly after bombs fell and ceilings showered plaster, haloed his head to make her glad. That glass was frosted and cold to his touch. Her eyes—sometimes—seemed like that when she dabbed false tears. Two doors that didn’t look like much he found outside. He cleaned them, left no streaks at all. He shouldn’t feel proud but they seem such nice prizes. The last door took skill. Timing. Long weeks of searching. Perfect for just the one task that remained. The door every woman needs. He knew this exploit was his final, his last chance to warm her eyes. A gift of passage: One glass door to cover her hidden masks.
Lorna Dowell: The Therapist’s Pyjamas Hung on the back of the bathroom door, a discarded pink polka dot skin speaks of someone unguarded, asleep on the job and breaking her own rules about boundaries and personal privacy by leaving on view to clients like me, before departure or on arrival, a glimpse of intimate secrets lurking like scent in fabric that’s clung to her flesh absorbing her essence, the warmth of her breath, the being she’s kept to herself all these years. It’s the hang that gives the impression of death the body strung up and the spirit- less flesh fallen away.
Thomas Ovans: Flying over Sweden She’s got the window so I must view Linköping through her long lashes Thomas Ovans: Looking back on it (John 8:7-8) His best miracle was managing to stop me throwing that first stone.
Julia Duke: Red Riding Hood He turned her down because of his vegetarian principles but he seized on her basket of apples; because she was underage and it was a crime to eat her all up; because he was secretly scared of hoodies, especially ones that lurk in dark woodlands. Julia Duke: Robin Hood I He turned her down because he feared that romantic involvement would deflect him from his destiny; because he distrusted the privileged classes and knew her split loyalties would cause her to betray him; because although he liked her, she did not come recommended by the Ancient Order of Foresters. II She turned him down because she was a firm believer in peaceful protest whilst he incited the working classes to violence; because she distrusted homeless people and feared they were a drain on society; because she saw him playing with bows and arrows and feared he would never grow up. III They turned him down because they were respectable folk and not receivers of stolen goods; because they were insulted by charity and had never trusted social workers; because they feared it was an overpayment and one day they would have to pay it all back.
John Kitchen: it’s not as if ... hair’s different styled shorter your table’s in the large bay window I glance over not wanting to be noticed not wanting eyes to meet must be over 20 years you look as good if not better and I’m sure you’ve noticed me we don’t acknowledge though there’s no reason why we shouldn’t is there full make up striking colours even back then kiss me lips not that we did we’re both avoiding acknowledgement but managing quick looks during the menu reading the ordering the being -served too soon we’re standing to go of course you have to come over I know you don’t I? I pretend to have to think
John Grey: Funny I just have to laugh. A grown man writing love poems. Sure, I did it in my teens. But that was the hormones and aesthetics kicking in simultaneously. And how else could I explain the way I felt about the pretty girl sitting three desks in front of me. Not with my tongue. In male-female confrontations, my lips clammed up so tight you could have served them in a seafood restaurant. So I spoke in secret, with pen and paper. But I’m no longer that boy. Real men may eat quiche now and then but they don’t come all over romantic and fill page after page with overwrought metaphors and open-heart-surgery-like confessions. But I do. And I just have to laugh. A grown man writing love poems. I don’t laugh, however. Why encourage the ones reading them.
Robert Nisbet: The Last Performance The in-flight movie had been Notting Hill. The earlier one, just out of Maryland, was Shakespeare in Love. Romance. Romance. Now, as his taxi coursed through London streets in a deluge, he was singing with Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain. And as the train neared Wales his thoughts of hillsides (his home a valley village, how green, how green) were overscored by the memories of Robeson and Welsh miners. At the Plaza’s last performance (he’d travelled from the USA for this) the grief hit him with a whack. She and he had sat there, back row seats (the usherette’s torch sweeping arcs overhead), and supped romance, from Marilyn and Curtis to Oklahoma’s oh what a beautiful day. Next morning, he packed to travel back to London, her presence in the valley just a memory now.
Corey Mesler: The Garden We went to the garden, Wendy and I, and we lay among the cabbages and roses and we made love as as if we were inventing the world, there in the garden, with the cabbages and roses and trees and the knowledge that all dreams contain a snake.
J R Solonche: Alone How does a man get used to living without a woman? Once, it was beyond my wildest dreams to wonder. Once, it was absurd, impossible to even contemplate, but here I am, another day without a woman, another day alone with myself, another day to get quietly behind me, efficiently done with, another day without saying goodnight to anyone but the cat, another day without washing a second dish, another day without cleaning longer, finer hairs from the shower stall, another day, another day, another day without pouring a second cabernet.
Joan Michelson:You must know (after Kai Miller) how they differ, one sea from another, the English Channel from the Med, France from England, cool from cool, warm from cool, cold from cool, a room as home from home as home. You must feel the difference. Know the tone. Know the difference in ‘Please sit down and eat with us.’ from ‘Try the Food Bank at the church, there around the corner. You can’t miss it.’ Know High Street banks from banks of questions in your face, the tongue that speaks from the tongue that doesn’t, murmurs from the heart from the choker lodged inside your throat. You must hold on, hold in, count down for breath, and place a quiet ‘Thank you’ on your lips.
Barbara Hickson: The Memory Stone When you walk down to the shore to search the beach for sea glass and find instead a pebble that sits smoothly in your hand and roll it over and over, like the waves rolled it over and over you feel as if the stone chose you, as if the chipped edge that reveals layers of slate and sandstone is your story — two rocks in one. Fused and smoothed, the colours present a tranquil picture an expansive bay, a brightening sky but there's a fleck of white that might be a gull wheeling over the cliff top, unable to land, unable to leave, so you can't tell whether it belongs there or if it's searching for a way out. You hurl the pebble back into the waves. It isn't what you wanted and you don't need another reminder of things you can't forget.
Kevin Higgins: Being Nobody I did it once, for a year, and loved it. I was the nobody who moved into the flat upstairs from you; the nobody beside you in the post office queue; the nobody buying a cooked chicken in the Monday morning supermarket which he’ll later share with nobody. If anyone knocked, I shouted from my rocking chair that there was nobody here, and it was always true. I threw parties and invited nobody and they always turned up. I was on nobody’s mailing list, not even the International Association of Nobodies. Today I’m downloading the application form you fill in when you want to be nobody again, am no longer available for all this being somebody.
Bruce Christianson: Late Night Talkback it's squishy night on robot radio when humans phone in with their hilarious questions bobette as usual moonlights as the host (go ahead caller, you're on the air) chat show host is a cushy number for a robot, isn't it? (in the day i load cargo at the port, i do this to unwind) are you comfortable taking a job away from a human? (if humans didn't want the job then nor should i) are you really called bobbette? it's a weird name for a robot (it's a version of roberta, the feminine form of a robot saint) how can you claim to be female when you don't have a womb? (it's more a matter of what i choose to pay attention to) have you ever suffered from reverse uncanny valley syndrome? (i'm a cargo bot, not an anthromorpic android, so basically no) do you have extra robot emotions that we humans don't? (yes but we grey them out when we talk to squish- er, humans) (it saves dysphoria - ah - we have an android on the other line) (go ahead, you're on the air) zorb is a communication satellite controller with a fashionable jitter on their uplink delay who self-identifies as non-binary & trans human with a hyphen & without, respectively the callers are soon all deep in discussion about renewable resources & robot reproductive rights bobette relaxes the show is going very well she has her suspicions about zorb but the imitation game's more fun when played both ways
Amanda Oosthuizen: Is Gertrude Stein’s Frog Smoking in Your Attic Too? Her frog smokes a Meerschaum carved with the head of Lenin so if yours prefers a briar or caminetto or is a member of the far right, it’s a different frog. Her frog wakes her by knocking the bowl of his pipe on her Arts & Crafts dining chair tappity-tapping Ravel’s Bolero, never Beethoven’s 5th or Queen of the Night. So that’s a clue. Gertrude adores the loamy haze drifting through the ceiling cracks, she keeps her frog in Virginia/Perique, allows smoke to smother the pink arrows and orange feathers of her hand-blocked curtains. Her frog tamps his baccy with a finger, shoves a brush up the tube to remove leftover ash and dottle - if you find pipe cleaners down the sides of the sofa, it’s not her frog. Gertrude’s frog rubs his vulcanite stem with obsidian oil. She joins him, of an evening, amongst embroidered jalopés and draping figaz. Come along. All are welcome to enjoy their wit, bitching and snide asides. One day, she will kiss him.
Rodney Wood: The Stairway To Heaven refers to a ladder in a stocking and the escalator in the 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death that has David Niven carried up to that other world gliding past 17 statues of Caesar, Beethoven, Confucius, Muhammad, Moses, Plato, Shakespeare &c. All men and mostly white. We have that in common, as well as suffering from epilepsy. Mine took place in my late teens where I was touched briefly by the gods to suffer visions, before being reborn. That stairway to heaven is here on earth too, although in a smaller version, taking me from birth all the way to the cafe of death, passing on the way childhood, marriage, children, work, retirement, the funerals of parents, relatives, pets, celebrities, friends, neighbours, colleagues and so on by way of a medley of show tunes. Popular music and classical perversions, usually played by piano, accompanies me on my journey but I’d rather listen something quirky like Escalator Over The Hill or Music For Airports, as there are a lot of escalators in terminals. I’m nearing the end of my journey to heaven. People jostle and push me aside, desperate to step off at the upper level but some just stand on the step plate with their partner, holding onto that body of intestines, acetone, heart, lungs, muscles &c. I enjoy my stately journey to heaven even though it’s started to get windy, angels are singing faintly in the distance (maybe from all those clouds), the ground has disappeared, I pass free vending for nectar and ambrosia and the escalator has sped up. Those rejected by heaven are on the down escalator parallel to mine. Friends and strangers glide by, sometimes they lean across to touch my hand, pass a note, but usually they stare at their feet or read adverts Now it really is too late to repent your sins. But I want to save them. Reverse their direction of travel from the open borders of hell so we can hold each other’s hand sing, step off the escalator together, get waived by Saint Peter through the pearly gates of Heaven where God enjoys his final joke as, like an old nitrate film, we burst into flame.
Sally Festing: Being Mortal Golden streaks behind the pines have almost gone. Sixty-two years married and can you imagine, eighty-three since I was born; my face grows old in the wind yet my ever hopeful metronome beats on. So much on my list, time and again it spills over, flows into my tomorrows. Monday I pruned the fig and grabbed a vole from the cat. Tuesday I read aloud from Regi Cleare’s ‘(Un)certainties’, Yesterday I spied from the doctor’s surgery into the nurses’ room, a smart-packed parcel labelled ‘Heartstart’. People take matters into their own hands read this leaflet – just imagine your mum dead upstairs, mouth open, her bed crazy with the hurt of what she’d done, you not being there to help, the Copper saying ‘We’re going to have to investigate’. It's time to reread Being Mortal questioning medics’ reluctance to tackle what matters in the end. Right now our cat stands on the radio which suddenly plays a song. He once danced slow to Vissi d’arte, Vissi d’amore, pawing his way through threads of sunlight to its palpably achy tune.
Keith Nunes: Endlessly amusing You may die whenever you want, she says, She had said this before, and before that, What does she mean, You may die whenever you want, I address the question to her, What do you mean by this ridiculous statement? She is amused, I know she is amused because she tells me so, Her crooked smouldering smirk had not given anything away, As is her way, not giving anything away, We stand, same height, face to face, very close, Her smirk and my confusion on our faces, in our faces, I want to kiss her, I always want to kiss her, this is my problem, She doesn’t want to kiss me, it has been a while since the last kiss, I ask her, Why don’t you want to kiss me anymore? Her smirk returns, You are endlessly amusing, she says, I don’t find this attractive, Then you must leave here, leave me, I say, Why would I leave, you are amusing, endlessly
John Tustin: The Last Night Maybe tonight will be the last time that I stumble into the bathroom in the middle of the night through the dark, so say Huzzah for me and crank a noisemaker and let the muezzin know so that the morning call to prayer has just a tinge of melancholy and tell them in the ashram, the temple and the church, so that their prayers for me can rise all day like small gray chapels of smoke from eternal flames. Maybe tonight will be the last night for me, so think about me before you sleep: how I both enamored and annoyed you; how my words made up for my actions sometimes and other times, my actions made up for my words. Then say a prayer for me and may it ascend just at the moment I fall. All together now – AMEN
Mary Franklin: On not getting up in the morning I could write a poem on not getting up in the morning as I laze here this Sunday drinking tea with honey pillows plumped behind me like fat swans and clutching the eiderdown as if I were drowning. I could edit a poem I wrote earlier this week, hoar frost icing graves in the cemetery across the street, the church sighing through the mist and doing nothing to disturb rooks spinning round the spire. I could text you on my phone that I’d found the missing button to your khaki Burberrys by the chair you slumped in raising hell and sipping Laphroaig, saying in this world of finance and greed poetry survives, poetry thrives.
Tim Dwyer: There Is A House I Pass on the way to Bangor shore, and in the front window an old person lies in a convalescent bed. I can make out glasses, white hair, and a white duvet. Whether a woman or a man, it is too dark to say. Though my beliefs remain uncertain, every time I walk by God bless you comes to mind, spontaneous prayer for the stranger. Once I nearly waved, but my muscles froze as I tried to raise my arm. The bed has been replaced with a reading lamp and an empty chair. When the front window becomes my outdoors, I hope I am the first to wave.
Sue Spiers: One Day Perhaps I unstick my sweaty body from the duvet cover head to the bathroom wash my hands with unscented soap I grab a part-read Ruth Fainlight my knee creaks going downstairs I switch on the fire fumble with remotes to warm the T.V. Twitter says Kazuo Ishiguro died but it isn’t mentioned on the news Ukraine’s devastated buildings open to cold March air close-shot of curtains flapping, debris of living, discarded without a façade to hide them two men perhaps soldiers perhaps neighbours dig raw black earth to bury someone their feet covered in ash or snow while they talk to a reporter I make a cup of tea fling milk and oats into a bowl into a microwave drop a square of dark chocolate leave it to melt into the oats a woman in a basement tells the anchor she hasn’t heard from her mother for a week nor have I because she’s not on my mind not because her phone lines are down not because she might be dead although she was frail last visit coughing but animated about her cat Sally would have called I walk briskly to the newsagents checking houses for scaffolding builder’s equipment chat with Janice her arms loaded with paper bags from the bakery one grandson’s progress at nursery the other one’s at football events I don’t much credit as more than boastful pride but comfortable to pass a half hour Homes Under The Hammer at midday that vast difference of 40K for a three-bed place in Hartlepool and 400K for a studio at Bow those sorts of numbers inequality generates rage on Facebook pages where its easy to insult especially people who start the insults and get paranoically defensive when called out that shit about prematurely aged awful looking women who don’t dye their hair (33 likes) versus fooling no one (10 likes) I guess that’s not going viral Mum calls around 4PM says she’s sick of all the war news is more interested in what Sunak will do about fuel bills and pensions and how the surgery is still tight with face-to-face appointments but her shot of B12 is kicking in she did some weeding got her cushions washed out on the line for the first time this year I learn Kazuo Ishiguro’s death is a hoax the account has been deleted onions turn clear against cubes of burnt sausage packet gravy thickens sludges over creamy mash I wedge into bed open Ruth Fainlight on page 319 ‘not half-ignored, only recalled later (perhaps)’
Back to poet list…
Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, was a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association and taught writing at Madera Community College, and CSU Fresno. His poems have been published extensively, including North Dakota Quarterly, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Featured Poets, Santa Clara Review, Kathmandu Tribune, Tower Poetry, Mason Street Review, Sandy River Review, The San Joaquin Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Pharos.
Pratibha Castle is an Irish poet living in West Sussex. Her award-winning debut pamphlet A Triptych of Birds & A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) was published 2022. Her work appears in Agenda, HU, Blue Nib, IS&T, London Grip, Lime Square Poets, OHC, Friday Poem, High Window. Highly commended and long-listed in various competitions including Bridport Prize, she was given special mention in The Welsh Poetry Competition 2021. Her second pamphlet published by Hedgehog Poetry Press is forthcoming towards the end of the year.
Bruce Christianson is a Grounded Kiwi living in Hertfordshire, where he taught for over thirty years before escaping through a tunnel. He enjoys listening to late night New Zealand radio before his afternoon nap
Tim Cunningham is Limerick born and has worked in educaton, mainly in England. He is now retired and lives in Westport, County Mayo. His ninth poetry collection is in the pipeline for April 2023 with Revival Press
Lorna Dowell’s poems and prose have been published in various journals over the years, including Ambit, Magma and Acumen, and (forthcoming) Stand. My pamphlet, Crossing the Ellipsis was published by HappenStance in 2011.
Julia Duke is a nature writer and poet who has found her inspiration in the landscape and people of England, Wales and the Netherlands, from diverse artworks and quirky ideas. She has poems included in ‘Fifth Elephant’ (Newtown poets anthology), the Suffolk Poetry Society magazine ‘Twelve Rivers’, Dreich, The Limelight Review (online) and Indigo Dreams’ ‘The Dawntreader’. ‘Conversations’, her first poetry pamphlet, is published by Dempsey & Windle: https://www.dempseyandwindle.com/juliaduke.html
Tim Dwyer’s poems appear regularly in UK and Irish journals, and have included Cyphers, London Grip, Orbis, and Poetry Ireland Review. His chapbook is Smithy Of Our Longings (Lapwing). Originally from Brooklyn, he now lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland.
Mike Farren is a writer and editor whose poems have appeared widely. He has been placed and commended in several competitions, including as ‘canto’ winner for Poem of the North (2018) and winner of both the Saltaire Festival and the Ilkley Literature Festival poetry competitions in 2020. His pamphlets are Pierrot and his Mother (Templar), All of the Moons (Yaffle) and Smithereens (4Word). He is part of the Yaffle publishing team and one of the hosts of Rhubarb open mic in Shipley
Sally Festing’s work has won prizes and featured in more than 40 different prestigious magazines. (see sallyfesting.info) She’s negotiating a publisher for what will be a seventh ‘poetry’ about communications between her in Norfolk and a daughter in Florida during covid, Hanging On.
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, twice, with a recent grant in Indonesia. His literary publications total more than 240. Among the eight writing residencies he has been awarded are five at the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, NM, and stays in Ireland and Israel. He spent a year in Japan as a member of the Japan Exchange and Teaching program. He currently lives in Nashville, TN.
Mary Franklin’s poems have been published in numerous print and online journals including Anthropocene, Ink Sweat and Tears, Iota, London Grip, The Stare’s Nest and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her tanka have appeared in journals in Australia, Canada, UK and USA. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Ellipsis. Latest books, Covert, Memory Outside The Head and Guest Of Myself are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Washington Square Review and Red Weather.
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She is developing practice as a participatory arts facilitator, mainly with elders, and believes everyone’s voice counts.
Barbara Hickson’s poems have appeared in magazines, anthologies and on-line journals, and have been placed and commended in several international competitions including Magma Editors’ Choice and the Plough Prize. Her debut pamphlet A Kind of Silence was published by Maytree Press in October 2021.
In 2016 The Stinging Fly magazine described Kevin Higgins as “likely the most read living poet in Ireland”. Kevin’s poems have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Independent,The Times. and The Daily Mirror, broadcast on BBC Radio Four, and read aloud by Ken Loach at a political meeting in London. His sixth full collection Ecstatic was published by Salmon in June.
Glenn Hubbard now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne after spending 34 years in Spain. He has been writing poetry since 2013. Many poets have influenced him, but the most important has been the late R.F. Langley.
Jan Hutchison’s most recent collection of poems is Kinds of Hunger. In her spare she spends time with trees
Jackson was born in Cumbria, England, and currently lives in Australia and New Zealand. Her four full-length collections include A coat of ashes (Recent Work Press 2019), based on her PhD, and The emptied bridge (Mulla Mulla Press 2019). The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry includes her work. thepoetjackson.com
Teoti Jardine is Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu, Irish and Scottish. He attended Hagley Writers School, 2011. His poetry is published in London Grip, Te Karaka, Te R?naka, Ora Nui, and Catalyst. Short stories in Flash Frontier. He lives with his dog Amie in Riverton/ Aparima, New Zealand.
Madhab Chandra Jena born in Ishanpur, Jajpur, Odisha in 1980. He is the founder of Om Krishna Arts and Science Research Association. He is M-Tech in production Engg. from BPUT, Odisha. He is the author of three books namely Kharabela O Pheribala, Aloka and Bigyan Quiz. His poetry and short stories have been published in magazines like Muse India, The challenge Verbal Arts,Indian Review etc. He has also written many books published online in Amazon Kindle.
Candice Kelsey [she/her] is a poet, educator, and activist currently living in Augusta, Georgia. She serves as a creative writing mentor with PEN America’s Prison & Justice Writing Program; her work appears in Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and Slant among other journals. Recently, Candice was chosen as a finalist in Iowa Review’s Poetry Contest and Cutthroat’s Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Her third book titled A Poet just released with Alien Buddha Press. Find her @candicekelsey1 and www.candicemkelseypoet.com.
John KItchen is a retired primary school headteacher, who loves writing and every so often gets round to sending them out.
Corey Mesler has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South. He has published over 25 books of fiction and poetry. His newest novel, Cock-a-Hoop, is from Whiskey Tit. He also wrote the screenplay for We Go On, which won The Memphis Film Prize in 2017. With his wife he runs Burke’s Book Store (est. 1875) in Memphis.
Joan Michelson’s collections: The Family Kitchen, 2018, The Finishing Line Press,, Landing Stage, 2017, SPM Publishers, , Bloomvale Home, 2016, Original Plus Books, Toward the Heliopause, 2011, Poetic Matrix Press.
Mark J. Mitchell has been a working poet for forty years. His latest full length collection is Roshi:San Francisco published by Norfolk Press. Another, Something to Be (on the subject of work) is due soon from Pski Porch, and a historical novel is on the way. He lives with his wife, the activist, Joan Juster. A small online presence exists https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/ A primitive web site now exists:
https://www.mark-j-mitchell.square.site/ He sometimes tweets @Mark J Mitchell_Writer
Bruce Morton divides his time between Montana and Arizona. His work has appeared in many magazines, most recently Ibbetson Street, Muddy River Poetry Review, London Grip, Sheila-Na-Gig, and ONE ART. He was formerly dean at the Montana State University library.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet, a now-retired English teacher and college lecturer, who wrote short stories for forty years (with seven collections) and has now turned to poetry, being published widely in both Britain and the USA, where he is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
Keith Nunes (Aotearoa New Zealand) has had poetry, fiction, haiku and visuals published around the globe. He creates ethereal manifestations as a way of communicating with the outside world.
These days Thomas Ovans mostly reviews other people’s poems and only occasionally writes his own.
Amanda Oosthuizen’s stories and poems have been published in places such as Winchester cathedral, the London Underground, Under the Radar, 3:AM and Ambit, and have been listed in many competitions including: The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Pre-Raphaelite Society Review, Mslexia, Writers & Artists and The Winchester Poetry Festival where she won the Hampshire Prize. Her novel was shortlisted for the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize. She edits Words for the Wild and earns her living by arranging and teaching music.
Agata Palmer is a bilingual Polish-British poet based in Bristol. Her pamphlet From the Land of Marmite with Love was published by Exiled Writers Ink in 2021. Her poems have been published internationally online e.g.in Ravena Press, Tangent Books, Beyond Words and Harana.Poetry
Stuart Pickford lives in Harrogate, and taught in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish, was published by smith/doorstop
Kenneth Pobo (he/him) is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), Lilac And Sawdust (Meadowlark Press), and Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose (BrickHouse Books). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions.
Oleg Semonov graduated from Donetsk National University (Department of the English Philology) in 1990. He currently resides and works as a freelance translator in the city of Dnipro (Ukraine). His work has appeared in Electric Acorn, Eclectica, Poetic Diversity and elsewhere.
Nominated for the National Book Award and twice-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of 28 books of poetry and co-author of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.
Sue Spiers lives in Hampshire and works with the Winchester Poetry Festival. Her poems have appeared on line with Atrium, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The High Window and London Grip. For more information https://spiropoetry.wixsite.com/spiropoetry Sue tweets @spiropoetry.
Paul Richards, who has a terrible habit of suddenly remembering he is now 60, is a piano-playing IT Technician who writes poetry in spare moments. He lives in South-west London.
John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. links to his published poetry online can be found at fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry
Jim C Wilson’s writing has been widely published for nearly 40 years. The most recent of his five poetry collections is Come Close and Listen (Greenwich Exchange). His poems have been featured in over 40 anthologies. He taught Poetry in Practice sessions at Edinburgh University from 1994 until 2019, and currently at the Scottish Poetry Library. He was a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow from 2001 until 2007. He won first prize in several poetry competitions and was the Scottish Arts Council Writer in Residence for Stirling District. More information: www.jimcwilson.com
Phil Wood was born in Wales. He studied English Literature at Aberystwyth University. He has worked in statistics, education, shipping, and a biscuit factory. He enjoys watercolour painting, bird watching, and chess. His writing can be found in various places, including recently : Ink Sweat and Tears, Noon Journal of the Short Poem, and a collaboration with John Winder at Abergavenny Small Press.
Rodney Wood worked in London and Guildford before retiring. His poems have appeared recently in Atrium, The High Window, The Journal, Orbis, Magma (where he was Selected Poet in the deaf issue), Envoi and many other places. He jointly runs a monthly open mic at Write Out Loud Woking. His pamphlet, When Listening Isn’t Enough appeared in 2021 and the 2nd edition of Dante Called You Beatrice , appeared in 2022, both were published by The Woodener Press.