The Army Doctor – Abeer Ameer

The Army Doctor

Another reluctant soldier.
A right leg injected
with kerosene

swollen and necrotic
as the doctor’s own heart.
Amputation of the green-black limb

to save a life
swiftly sent
for questioning.

Those who survive
forever marked as cowards
by the removal of one ear.

Other novel ways
remain unsuspected —
a young man who gasps for air

irreversible lung damage
inhaling fumes from his car
exhaust.

They’ll do anything
for release
from Saddam’s Army.

The doctor wonders
whether he will ever know
redemption

as he finds himself caught
between
captive and executioner.

 

Abeer Ameer is originally from Iraq, but was made in England like the blue Cortina. Her poems have appeared in various magazines including Acumen, Planet Magazine, The Interpreter’s House, Tears in the Fence, Envoi, and LossLit Magazine. She is currently working on a collection poems based on personal stories from Iraq.

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The Rabbit Woman – Kitty Coles

The Rabbit Woman

A dry day, the mouth closed on itself,
shrunken for want of water, and the sky
cloudless, the stomach clenched
on its own emptiness
and the stubble drifting from cornfields
clogging the throat, jabbing the eyes
with the its spindles: such thick dust!

A rabbit, gaunt, flits out from under the hedge,
its gait half-drunken from the ovenish heat.
I launch myself at it and my head’s pain
lurches and rolls, slamming against the skull.
My legs are heavy and my hands too slow.
It vanishes. My belly twists and rolls.

That night, the sheets asweat,
I dream of that bunny.
It lies across my lap, listless and pliant.
It is plump, now, padded with flesh
that will fall from its bones,
that will nourish me,
with its richness, after simmering.
Its black eyes glimmer like liquid,
doomed and tearful.

I awake wet-lipped and hungry.
I see stars
flying like midges
by the open window.
I am sick with longing and bloated
on its substance.
I tremble to let my teeth
meet in that absent meat,
to make that wild blood run
on my avid tongue.

In a month, I birth a litter.
They come raw, unfinished,
slips without eyes or fur,
a creel of red prawns.
They writhe and struggle
so briefly – poor kits –
then lie still,
unfit for life,
malformed by the hunger that bore them.

 

Kitty Coles lives in Surrey. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com

Lost – Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe

Lost

You look lost;
like the ground beneath our feet
is new to you.

Like you expected to find frosted earth –
instead of what has always been there.

You speak with the dipping
clarity of a snowball fight – scooping up words;
flinging them at me;

yet you look shocked when I hurl them back –
breaking them open
letting them disintegrate in front of you.

You look lost;
like the girl breaking out of your arms
is new to you.

 

Zoë is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. She has an MA in Poetry from Bath Spa University. Her work has appeared in Magma, Atrium, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Bonnies Crew and Picaroon amongst others.

Enough – Jean Atkin

Enough

This is the place where she slipped
off her shoes and went walking.
She went far upstream where the clouds are ripped.
This is the place where she slipped
out of the life she’d had – she leapt –
left the cooker on and the dog howling.
This is the place where she slipped
off her shoes and went walking.

 

Jean Atkin’s new collection ‘How Time is in Fields’ is forthcoming from IDP in spring 2019. Previous publications include ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books).  Recent work appears in The Rialto, Magma, Lighthouse, Agenda and Ambit.  She works as a poet in education and community and is currently Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival. www.jeanatkin.com

Absurdism – Megan Pattie

Absurdism

The more we arrange the strange things people give,
the more I’m Alice falling down the rabbit hole,
big-eyed with bafflement while objects continue
to rise up and move around me. I’m overseeing
clothing-rails that sway and burst apart, cascading
tops and jeans and skirts and coats and jackets,
shoes that walk away from one another, scarves
and bags that vanish, mannequins that grab hold
of my name-badge, a giant squid-like monster made
of tangled jewellery, more books than shelves, films
that will take you to the end of time to watch, music
no one will ever listen to, a bright orange novelty
nut-grinder in the shape of a squirrel, hundreds
of spoons, a mug with its handle on the inside,
and one kitchen utensil nobody knows the use for
but we’re selling for 50p and answers, mess, a table
of toys that looks like a torn-up technicolour cubist
painting, cameras, frames, Chinese charms, old coins,
furniture we’re running out of, and when all of the
wonderful things are gone, we’re left with plastic
tubs, wooden spoons, cut glass trinkets, hideous
ornaments, plates, everything nobody wanted, and—
“That’s a new donation on the counter. What’s in it?”
“It’s just a telephone wrapped in a pair of trousers.”

 

Megan Pattie was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2009, and her work has appeared in several online and print publications since; including Eibonvale Press’s Humanagerie anthology and Ink, Sweat and Tears. You can find her on Twitter @pattiepoetry.

Featured Publication – Metastatic by Jane Lovell

Our featured publication for February is Metastatic by Jane Lovell, published by Against the Grain Press.

Jane Lovell’s writing charts mysterious, unsettling trajectories: the invisible paths of bees, the journey of dead light, the routes found in folded and untied landscapes. These poems unmoor us, find beauty and strangeness in the everyday.’ Helen Mort

Jane Lovell’s poetry is rooted in the human body, which in turn is rooted in the earth, sheltered by the sky, and washed clean by the rain. This raw and unflinching collection reminds us that our lives are determined by natural processes, of which change and decay are as vital and relevant as new birth and growth.’ Katharine Norbury

frontcoverwithborder

 

Thrush, Covent Garden, 1792

She has waited over two centuries
for sunlight, beak raised towards
the edge of the page

her nestful of eggs washed grey
and the song of lost days pressed
like a leaf in her heart.

I can tell by her eyes
she’s lived without cloud or sky:
they are earth-brown
and accepting

but the line of her gentle form
aims skyward, pins patience
to an angle we all understand.

Bless this bird
bless her thin curved skeleton
her repeated song each morning
as the light seeps through.

 

Listen

Your name is on my lips.

It flies through cities finding tracks and lines,
the taste of rust and oil, a hiss of wheels
amidst a trance of lights

then slows to drift the calm of alleyways –
a gentle exhalation, the hum of
something brighter, settling.

Below the trees are angels, quietly
unpicking strands of destiny,
their limpid eyes blown blue.

Around lie strewn the skeins and scags
of dream, while in the dark, unseen
a spider bobbles on a ruined web:

a word pinned to a moment,
a world pinned to a moment
and the moment gone.

Your name is on my lips.
It has travelled continents, crossed saltpans,
oceans, crested unknown mountains.

It’s on my lips each dawn
when only lamplight finds the thrush’s eye
and chance lies curled and cold below.

 

Solace

Crows became symbols those dark months,
appearing like omens each morning in the juniper,
heads tilted to pin him in a world blacker
than hell.

Then came a night of angels, a distant song
from next door’s radio, net curtains blowing
to reveal the thinnest curl of moon, and a word
sent to him:

a message and a word, its syllables a bright shell
pared from a dark sphere.
There was hope. He could take ‘solace’.

He took it, kept it like a talisman,
rolled it around his fingers, whispered its mantra
again and again.

And in that bright room, when it was spelt out for him
so that there was no further question,
it cut away the desperation like a small, curved blade,
left him clear and calm.

Wheeling up and down the canyons of his body,
its vertebrae flaring like comets, they had no answer.
Their eyes slid to corners of the room, the space
behind him, refusing to gauge the days left to him.

In that silence, that room of moments,
he found solace in the altered step of time,
a world imaged through the curved eye of a lens,
and held onto his prayer.

He spoke the word, imagined the winds above
holding him until all that remained of the crows
were husks of feathers and bones
blowing in the half-light of some strange eclipse.

 

Perspective in a Hare’s eye

Skyline erupts into tree, backlit and spilling
its own horizon across a perfect black moon,
an anti-matter moon brimming

deep pool silence: a world where nothing moves
till a thousand fathoms down, blunt and primeval,
they drift at you, curious at your veins fizzing,

your mouth yielding glassy planets of air.
Jaws champ, lamp-eyes drift back into blackness.
The moment holds you in its ocean.

This is the place where no one will find you:
no one sees you, except the hare, sudden
and skyswept, poised on a grassblade of decision.

 

Previous publication credits: Thrush, Covent Garden, 1792 (Flambard Prize winner 2015), Listen (Agenda), Solace (Agenda online supplement), Perspective in a Hare’s Eye (Bare Fiction – 2nd prize Poetry Comp 2017).

Jane Lovell is the Poetry Society Stanza Rep for Mid Kent. She has had work published in AgendaEarthlinesPoetry Wales, Magmathe North, the Honest UlstermanDark Mountain, The Lonely Crowd, Ink Sweat & Tears, Zoomorphic and Elementum.
Jane’s poetry has also appeared in various anthologies including Templar’s MillIn the Cinnamon Corners from Cinnamon Press, Liquorice Fish Books What Lies Within, Zoomophic’s DriftfishDiversifly from Fair Acre Press and One for the Road from Smith Doorstop.
Jane was awarded the Flambard Prize in 2015, won 1st prize in the South Downs Poetry Competition 2017 and won the Wealden Literary Festival 2018 Writing Competition. In 2018 she was also joint winner of the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition. She has been shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize, the Wenlock Poetry Prize and Canterbury Poet of the Year and has been a runner up in the Poetry on the Lake’s Silver Wyvern award, the BBC Proms Poetry Competition, the Bare Fiction Prize and the Wisehouse International Poetry Award.

Metastatic is available to purchase from the Against the Grain Press website.

Symptoms of a worn ball bearing – Julian Dobson

Symptoms of a worn ball bearing

Noise is a classic sign. Here are some indicators
of worn bearings or other wheel-end damage:

Snapping, clicking, popping. Grinding while in motion.
Knocking, clunking. Humming, rumbling, growling.
Uneven wear. Abnormal side pull. Shudder.

That jolt. It’s when we’re broken, dried,
you pay attention. How we lump into your life,
become a constant source of irritation.

You forget smooth-rolling years. Forget our steel.
How we carried you for miles.

 

Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield. His poems have appeared in publications including Magma, Under the Radar, and Acumen, and on a bus in Guernsey.

Mindstrap – Hannah Linden

Mindstrap

Don’t be mard, she’d say.
You’d reckon she meant mardy:
spoilt or irritable

but she meant soft
inadequate, a weaklin.

She ated children
blatherin, cringin.
Physical pain were
a deformity
and we were marred by it
by default.

She were clever like that –
she could take summat ugly
an ide it in Lancastrian
like Everyone felt the same
round ere – like all o words
conspired against us
a mindstrap for
frangin, maitherin kids.

It’s not fair – it’s leather
a menacing wink, a chuckle.
Don’t be mard: future’s hard
always one step’s too loose –
spare the rod and th’as sprung the noose.

Either way we were marred by it
by default. She were clever like that.

 

[ed. ‘fair’ in Lancs pronounced ‘fur’]

Hannah Linden is published widely, most recently with Magma, Lighthouse, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry and the Humanagerie Anthology, as well as on several online webzines. She is working towards her first collection. Twitter: @hannahl1n

Speed trials Hogganfield Loch – Finola Scott

Speed trials Hogganfield Loch

Hooking the wind, they rush
whoosh, claim the space, name it.
Joggers glare, miss beats, consider
evasive action.

Speed isn’t all. Style counts.
The grace of velocity, the angle of curve,
strategy of deceleration. Celebration
of corners.

Swans, Granny!

True to their name the birds whoop
as they swoop the loch.
In a linen-sheeted glide,
they’re down, feet flapping water.

My grandchildren brace, stabiliser balanced.
Pink helmets cradle
baby-bird bones. No steadying
hand at their backs.

 

Finola Scott’s poems are in many places – Gutter, Ofi Press, Firth . A competition winner, her poems are in The Blue Pen’s Chapbook  December ’18. Finola enjoys reading in unusual places including Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Scottish Parliament.

Potato Harvest – Ali Jones

Potato Harvest

Once, we hid moons in earth,
reaching down to sable loam.

Now, tines shy, lifting gently,
we begin to gather them in.

Hauling up, bundles of small satellites,
Dark drops. Another moon floats up

between branches of cherry.
Small moons bring night home,

geosmin, thick and dense, a full tide coming in,
held in canvas beneath polished granite.

They wait to ghost up again, to rise
through fire and water, in cauldron dark pans.

 

Ali Jones’ work has appeared in The Interpreter’s House, Proletarian Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Café Writers, Laldy, Green Parent magazine and The Guardian. Her pamphlets Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Press.