Public Bar, Central Hotel
Bill, swivelling on his stool to get a better look at your cleavage.
Bill, who tells you: you are the type of girl men have affairs with.
Bill, whose hand moves to his flies as he speaks.
Bill, whose leather car seats smell of suntan lotion.
Bill, who plays you like a drum, a flute.
Bill, who truth to tell – what truth might that be?
Bill, who by rights shouldn’t.
Bill, his hand sneaking up your skirt.
Bill, who plans to retire with a caravan and a Jack Russell.
Bill, suburban, slacked and uncompromising.
Bill, shorter than you, but you pretend not to notice.
Bill, who promised you nothing but dry-heaves in a pub toilet.
Bill, too cheap even for a cheap hotel.
Bill, who silent-fucks you in the car park behind the bins.
Bill, who won’t look you in the eye but buys you another vodka and orange.
Bill, twizzling his pinkie ring and thinking about his wife.
Bill, sheepskin jacket on, heading home.
Bill, once, you said, and that was the second time.
Julia Webb graduated from UEA’s poetry MA in 2011. She has had work in various journals and anthologies. Her first Collection “Bird Sisters” was published by Nine Arches Press in 2016. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse.
Argus Fish Bar, Bedminster
Queued first along the steamed window,
or out of the door in the cold some nights,
then the shiny cabinet-topped counter
glowing with battered sausages, mushy pea fritters,
Clark’s pies, cod, haddock, plaice.
Jim’s dad opened this place in the 50s,
his customers are like members.
Knows their names and stories,
asks after kids, jobs, test results
from his station at the fryer
as the ladies heap chips on paper.
Salt and vinegar with that, my love?
Wrapped up or left open?
The photo Martin Parr took one lunchtime,
pride of place above the pickled onions,
captured Jim and his queue,
framed something familiar, ordinary.
Made art of it forever.
Ben Banyard grew up in Birmingham but now lives near Bristol. His pamphlet, ‘Communing’, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016, and his first full collection, ‘We Are All Lucky’, is due out early in 2018. Ben also edits Clear Poetry: https://clearpoetry.wordpress.com and blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com
This birthday slippers in,
scuffs autumn’s first frost.
You exist, fragile in rowan leaves
veined into pavements. Whatever I lift
rips a little, risks more loss. New damp glues
your thinning reality close, holds you
unique among so many walked-on patterns.
Cobbled to here, the road slows
an uneven ahead, which now
runs into breathless space.
Though branches collar October,
a throat opens to sing the firth’s
floated celebratory light.
Beth McDonough trained in Silversmithing at GSA, completing her M.Litt at Dundee University. Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts 2014-16, her poetry appears in Agenda, Causeway and Antiphon and elsewhere and her reviews in DURA.
Handfast (with Ruth Aylett), Mother’s Milk Books, 2016 charts family experiences – Aylett’s of dementia and McDonough’s of autism.
On seeing Bredon
I used to sneak into my parents’ room
in Hinton-on-the-Green and root around
the dusty fluff on dressing table tops
and sense unmentionable stuff in drawers.
Then as the sixties spread their thighs
and I grew bold, I rifled tallboys on a whim
and seized what I’d been searching for:
the Penguin edition, orange, a phoenix
leaping from the flames
among the lacy underwear.
My mother’s smuggled copy of the book
seemed to cock a snook at father’s Bible,
black and gold and splayed
upon the bedside table.
On hearing creaking stairs,
I thrust rough Mellors back
among the petticoats with Constance
and with no time to scuttle to my room,
leant elbows on the window sill instead
to worship Bredon in the summer dusk.
My father seemed to find this plausible.
Now, as my life of adult subterfuge
and sin chugs in from Paddington once more
and Bredon Hill comes back into my view,
I venerate that sly old crocodile again,
complicit, half-exposed and basking in its sea of green,
jaws still gently menacing the Combertons.
Sharon Larkin’s work appears in anthologies (Cinnamon, Eyewear); magazines (Prole, Obsessed with Pipework) and on-line (Ink, Sweat & Tears, Clear Poetry). She runs Cheltenham Poetry Café, chairs Cheltenham Poetry Society, edits Good Dadhood, has a CW MA and loves Wales. Website: http://sharonlarkinjones.wordpress.com
Carrying Myself Home
I breathe in mountains, breathe in sky.
From here I can see houses spread out
across time, each like a Russian doll,
with lives within lives, within lives,
each with a kernel of pulsing memory,
a grain of guilt. This town’s a lacquered box,
with a detailed scene from a folktale,
lost in retelling, an embroidery stitched
from a faulty pattern, each deliberate line
winding neatly to unintended directions,
its purpose misremembered. I was born here
and, wherever I’ve travelled, I’ve lived here
all my life. Although I can’t see them,
I know my mother and father are standing
at one of these lighted windows, smiling,
waving, waiting for me to arrive home
with whatever stories I have gathered.
I breathe in the dark river, breathe in myself,
take my first step down the dizzying mountain,
turn my back on the sky.
Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer and occasional musician. He has been published widely in the UK, Europe and US. His sixth poetry collection, The House of Ghosts and Mirrors, will be published by Valley Press in September 2017. www.ozhardwick.co.uk