Crab Fishing – Rachel Bruce

Crab Fishing

Tiny monster, blanketed in the earth’s skin;
the spirit of Achilles lives in you.
You are a funny thing to fear.

I remember the sun soaked breezes of Brownsea
where little fires jumped from branch to branch.
Our assaults were always fruitful there.

Children have no mercy. We hunted eagerly,
pulling you from the deep, calculated and slow.
How we squealed at your shadows in the water.

Once captured, we gazed beadily at you
scrabbling at the plastic walls.
Soon we’d hold an army in our bucket.

When we tired of our labour,
desiring sandwiches and dry clothes,
we turned from soldiers to emperors.

Turning the bucket onto the deck,
like toying gods we watched you race away,
fleeing back to the salt from whence you came.

I wish I could have seen you floating down,
parachuting into the dark as living meteors.
When I see you now, I smile at the memory of those days.

How cruel we were then in our love;
and still I yearn to fish again,
reaching down into the sandy unknown.

Rachel Bruce is a poet based in London. Her work has appeared in The Telegraph, Eye Flash Poetry, The Daily Drunk, Hencroft Hub, and Atrium among others. Find her on Twitter @still_emo.

Time and again – Livvy Hanks

Time and again

One day – how can I know which? –
I lose my diary. Brain lurches
into the chasm of the year:
who is expecting me, and where?
Who is even now drumming their fingers on Formica,
alone with their agenda
and their forbearing frown?

There is terror, then liberation.
Everything is unexpected: friends drop by,
then don’t. I make appointments,
note them on a nearby banana,
which I eat. The whole world
is continually in rooms and restaurants without me.

Encouraged, I throw my alarm out of the window,
put my watch in the bath. My phone
is a landline, it is 1997 –
I presume. It cannot remind me of anything
and almost everything is yet to happen.

The days are short and frosty,
then fresh, then long. At last I panic.
It is nearing the time when I will meet you,
but nothing can tell me when.
The town hall clock, beneath which we will meet,
is broken. I walk there every day as the sun goes down
and look around me,
wondering if I will recognise your face.

Livvy Hanks has an MA in Literary Translation from the University of East Anglia, and worked as an editor before moving into policy and campaigning work. Her poetry was most recently published in Lighthouse. She lives in Norwich. Twitter: @livvyhanks

Archive – Jacqueline Haskell

Archive

Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library,
for the archive. There you watch footage from the war,
scan blown glass, missile drops, train stations.

A home video, newly surfaced, downloaded from an ancient iPhone:
refugees crossing at Medyka, waiting to board buses, going west.
The librarians know to call you when this happens.

You would know it anywhere, her coat; too distinctive to miss
with its lupin-coloured quilting, fake-fur collar and
the striped pixie hood she swore made her invisible.

Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library,
for the archive, hoping to see her – you and her – that exact moment
when she was there at Medyka, holding your hand. And then not.

By now you know them better than you know your own, the librarians –
where they go for lunch, the park bench, summer, winter,
their children and grand-children: whether their coats have hoods.

Jacqueline Haskell’s first poetry collection, Stroking Cerberus, was published by Myriad Editions in 2020 – https://myriadeditions.com/books/stroking-cerberus/ – as part of the Spotlight Books series. Her debut novel, The Auspice, was a finalist in both the 2018 Bath Novel Award and the 2020 Cinnamon International Literature Prize.

Phantoms – Jill Abram

Phantoms

I hear voices of unborn babies most nights
and sometimes in the day; they should
have been held in my arms. And his.
Did he pass me by, neither of us realising?

Was he the commuter who offered his seat,
the waiter who winked as he gave me
too much change, or the driver of a sporty
two-seater who stopped so I could cross?

He could be at the party, brought along
by a friend of a friend, line up behind me
at a checkout, or stop me on the street
with a questionnaire. Time chased away

those children like a fairytale monster –
ogre, evil troll, big bad wolf –
through the woods and out of the life
which could have been mine. And his.

..

Poet, producer and presenter, Jill Abram is Director of the collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. She grew up in Manchester, travelled the world and now lives in Brixton. Her pamphlet, Forgetting My Father, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in May 2023. jillabram.co.uk

Howl – Lisa Kelly

Howl

Brecean, Brittany, 11 September 2021

They told me they found two owls, 
two dead owls, and they supposed 
the owls must have flown down   
the chimney and the owls had no way  
of knowing how to fly back up  
the chimney into the night sky.  
They died a desiccated death 
and they told me if I’d seen the owls, 
I would have cried. The owls were  
barn owls, beautiful and the extraordinary  
thing was the weight of the owls, 
incredibly and unexpectedly light. 
They put the owls in a bin bag  
because owls are a protected species  
and this is what the town hall said  
must be done and to drop off the owls  
at the town hall. I wanted to know  
more about the owls and asked  
if they died together but no 
one owl died at one end of the loft 
and the other owl not especially nearby.

Lisa Kelly’s first collection, A Map Towards Fluency, (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021. She is co-editor of What Meets the Eye, (Arachne Press) an anthology of poetry and short fiction by UK D/deaf writers.

25 – Ella Dorman-Gajic

25

A mouth has been at the bins again. 
On the District Line, I find egg stuck to my Nikes. 
Kid in my class asks: they Air Force 1?
& I feel my wrinkles. So I wash my face 
in London’s spit, until Simple is on offer. 
Am I grown yet? I watch YouTube tutorials
from my office chair; catch a flash of grey 
in my Groovy-Chic mirror;
have now realised it really isn’t possible
to kick a pigeon. The new housemate is in the shower
again. I wish I knew how to look after
my damn plants. I could be pregnant right now.
The only thing I own of my Oma’s is her hair, in a box. I cry
when I miss the 37 bus. They are terribly irregular. 
How could I have known I would not need 
all these dresses. The sea is pouring 
from my wardrobe. Maybe I should get out of the house. 
Watch the green ducklings, iridescent nappies. A world 
with more coke products than tigers.  
My screen asks: Want to add a free drink to your order?
I should wake up from my desk now, it’s been two years. 
John’s been awaiting my email.

Ella Dorman-Gajic is a London-based playwright, poet & performer. Her writing has been described as “impassioned” by The Guardian. Her debut play Trade premiered at Omnibus Theatre in 2022. She’s part of the Roundhouse Poetry collective & alumna of Apples & Snakes Writing Room. https://www.elladorman-gajic.co.uk/ 

John Barleycorn’s Daughter – Siegfried Baber

John Barleycorn’s Daughter

She peels off her summer dress
and empties a jug of water over her head.
The day smoulders like a smoking wick.
She can feel the dying grass
beneath her feet; a single bead dripping
slowly between her shoulder-blades
down to the small of her back.
Pale blossoms curl, shrink to a cinder.
Now follows the scent of fireweed, honeysuckle
and dark peppery nettles. From tall trees
a sudden flint-spark of birdsong
threatens this whole valley with flame.
She smiles. An idle finger teases cirrus-clouds
from a tender seam of blue sky.
She never wants you to stop watching.

Siegfried Baber was born in Devon in 1989 and his poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid was published by Telltale Press, with its title poem nominated for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. In 2019, he published London Road West, an ebook of poems and photographs. A debut collection, The Twice-Turned Earth, is forthcoming.

A Short Walk – Ross Wilson

A Short Walk

The maternity ward is a short walk
from the ICU where I work
long shifts among lives in the balance
and visitors counting the breaths
of those unable to breathe for themselves.

As I walked out on my break one day
I thought of the rooms I cleaned
in hotels when I was young;
the arrivals and departures, the bus tours,
the never-ending revolving doors.

My reflection moved in a window
framing the Necropolis beyond its pane.
Then the atmosphere changed like a season;
the cold winter air I’d been breathing in
turned warm as spring in bloom.

A tiny finger curled my thumb.
I cradled a bundle of flesh and bone.
Where did she come from?
The obvious answer couldn’t explain
the lightness in my arms.

Or the heaviness in my head
as I returned to work, carrying
the weight of what I know:
the maternity ward is a short walk
from a long shift in ICU.

Ross Wilson works full-time as an Auxiliary Nurse in Glasgow.

Girl Without A Pearl Earring. – Nuala Watt

Girl Without A Pearl Earring.

She took them off to sleep.
Or did Vermeer insist

she left them in the realm
of oils and spirits?

Though it’s the same smell
as my mother’s workroom

Vermeer did not paint me.

Please never say, to me,
woman with disabilities.

They are not jewels.
I cannot put them down.

Nuala Watt’s poems have appeared on BBC Radio 3 and in anthologies including  Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press 2017)  and A Year of Scottish Poems (Macmillan 2018) 

Murmuration – Marion Oxley

Murmuration

Marion Oxley is originally from Manchester but now lives in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. Her debut pamphlet In the Taxidermist’s House was published in October last year by 4Word Press. She is a Forward Prize nominee for best single poem.