Homes and Gardens – Melanie Branton

Homes and Gardens

The brambles went mental when my mum was ill.
I was too sapped of strength to pick up the secateurs
and, like mouthy Year 9s testing boundaries with the supply teacher,
they sensed my weakness, took the piss,
played Twister, graffitied all over the garden,
flung their hagnailed hands over the fence
to give the finger to the neighbours.

They infiltrated the house,
insinuated themselves inside my mother’s rib cage,
wrapped themselves around her lungs and heart,
popped them like birthday balloons
that shrivelled to scraps of burst rubber
in the centre of a dark and thorny thicket.
Prickly tendrils crept inside my skull,
clawed my brain, left puncture wounds that festered.

It’s only now I can bring myself to cut them back,
only now I can see over the garden wall again.

 

Melanie Branton is a poet and spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her first collection, My Cloth-Eared Heart, was published by Oversteps in 2017 and her second, Can You See Where I’m Coming From?, is forthcoming from Burning Eye. melaniebranton.wordpress.com  Twitter: @sapiencedowne

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How to eat cherries – Ian Stuart

How to eat cherries

In a summer garden
languidly.
Piled in a blue bowl, sun
polishing their gloss;
the name’s soft consonants
springs water in your mouth.

Don’t hold it by the stem
and slice away the flesh with your front teeth.

Put one in your mouth and feel
cool roundness on your tongue,
then bite the skin, bruised flesh,
teeth touching a knot of bone
and juice, trickling like dark blood
in the corner of your mouth.

 

Ian Stuart is a writer/performer in York. He has had work accepted by Dreamcatcher, Obsessed with Pipework, Selcouth Station and other poetry outlets.
Last October he had  “Quantum Theory for Cats” published by Valley Press in Scarborough – see link below.

From one room to another – Kate Garrett

From one room to another

I was wearing a corduroy
coat at the end of June –

the need was unexpected;
like your scent of berries and blue

summer at midnight brushing
cold rain away, like the sudden

rush of heat through an attic
window drying my lake-damp skin

twenty years before. The weeks passed,
morning followed bright on the road

rolling me to your street. The hint
of a kiss pulled me into Wednesday,

sweat-salted and heavy, smiling
up to cloud-cottoned July.

 

Kate Garrett writes and edits. She was raised in rural southern Ohio, but moved to the UK nearly twenty years ago, where she still lives – in sunny Sheffield – with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat. Twitter: @mskateybelle / www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk

Hand-me-downs – Karen Dennison

Hand-me-downs

Last night I had that dream;
I was being chased but my feet
were set in concrete. And waking,
my thumb is jerking like a tadpole hatching.

Half-asleep, I picture my grandfather
shrinking in a tunnel of hallway.
He tries to shift a leg but his soles
have grown roots that burrow the carpet.

His left hand twitches at his hip, fingers bent,
twig-stiff. His right is bud-tight, a wax-white fist.
It’s then I wonder, thumb grazing palm,
if he’s given me his hands, their terrible gift.

 

Karen Dennison’s (kdennison.wordpress.com) poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, Counting Rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. She has designed several poetry collection book covers and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Lung Wood – Edwin Stockdale

Lung Wood

I stand in my wellies,
a camera in my hand.

The land remembers the Border Reivers.
An abandoned sheep dip lies

at the side of the burn,
stones sculpted by hail, rain, snow.

A cheviot sheep’s skull coils
like an ammonite.

The pines mutter,
guard their secrets.

A gaudy pheasant, smug,
looks at me.

In the lung of the wood
pine needles now claim the mill-leat.

I disturb a roe deer;
she bounds.

Only the bracken knows
where she will hide.

Just before I came here
my Grandpa died:

the burn flows
as if nothing happened.

 

Edwin Stockdale’s debut pamphlet, Aventurine, was published in September 2014 by Red Squirrel Press.  He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham with Distinction and is researching a PhD in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.

Deciding the future in an outside loo – Pat Edwards

Deciding the future in an outside loo
 
She had chosen this place of ruin
with its grim stains, expletive graffiti.
Feeling the cold seat beneath her
she breathed the smell of stale piss,
shit. Inside her the cells of a foetus
mocked her careless night. Elsewhere
men and women were in hot debate.

It’s a woman’s right to choose.
Only God can take a life.
I wouldn’t be here if my mum had got rid of me.
 
Dry, useless, crinkle of hard loo roll
wouldn’t do any kind of a job.
She wouldn’t decide which way
to vote tonight. She stood up,
flushed the toilet, scrawled
help on the wall

 

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has more recently been published in Prole, Magma (due summer), Ink Sweat and Tears and Deborah Alma’s #MeToo Anthology. Pat runs Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.

Diversion tactics – Charley Barnes

Diversion tactics

I dry my hair, dress myself, paint my nails –
start again. I strip my nails back to the base colour and re-paint them
a slightly different shade. I’m a better person when I’m busy.

I cure the nail varnish for eight minutes longer than necessary;
under the UV light I inspect the creases
of my knuckles for crumbs.

After this I will work for ten hours before I go home,
have a bath, read a book, go to bed, go to sleep,
on an empty stomach.

 

Charley Barnes is a Worcester-based writer who has recently gained her Doctorate in Creative Writing. Charley’s short story collection, The Women You Were Warned About, was published in May 2017, and her debut poetry pamphlet, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache, has just been published by V. Press.

The Hush – Natalie Crick

The Hush

Pine limbs sleep
silent under snow.
Cattle low like preachers.

The dead listen.
Shrouded by cornstalks
they stand enrapt.

I light a candle and watch the smoke curl
until it twists into moths:
they whisper before they leave for good.

It is ink-black and the room has tightened.
I am disturbed by your absence,
numb as a berry fallen in snow.
I hear the tide of the corn,
the last dull vowels of the dreamers.

 

Natalie Crick (UK) has poetry published in Interpreters House, Bare Fiction and Poetry Salzburg Review. A Writing Poetry MA student at Newcastle University (taught by Tara Bergin and Jacob Polley), her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice.

Featured Publication – We Are All Lucky by Ben Banyard

Our featured publication for August is We Are All Lucky by Ben Banyard, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

We Are All Lucky is an uplifting collection which carefully examines the joys and sorrows of modern life, from the cradle to the grave and everything in between.

What strikes me most about Banyard’s poems is his affection for humanity, grounded by his wry humour. His imagination allows him to empathise with people he encounters. He has the gift of finding pleasure in the everyday, in all its seediness and tawdry beauty. He has the true poet’s gift of noticing details others miss.’ Angela Topping

Ben Banyard writes accessible poems about the real world, with its triumphs and disasters, tragedies and comedies. I like them for their humanity and warmth, for their sense of humour, and for the way Banyard often pins down just the right details to bring a piece vividly to life. This is an enjoyable collection.’ Geoff Hattersley

There is an impressive range here and, whether writing about childhood memories, being a father, cataracts, spit hoods or Birmingham, this poet displays a sureness of touch and an ability to precisely capture a vanished world or the exact tone of a voice. Ben Banyard is a poet with a sharp-eyed yet affectionate view of the world. I very much enjoyed this confident and varied collection.’ Carole Bromley

WAAL cover

Use By 

It started with tea bags left in the sink
which bobbed and swirled as the kettle filled.
They were eaten inside out with blue blooms.

Sometimes I would find the fruit bowl layered
with apples, pears, oranges, all on the turn,
sitting on top of a guilty banana’s mush.

There were loaves of bread kept unopened,
mouldy slices sweating inside the bag.
Feed it to the ducks, you said.

I wasn’t sure whether the fridge gave up in protest
or you broke it to advance your efforts.
You admired the chunks of milk.

The cat was the final straw.

You tried to explain once, as we walked
along the beach, but most of it was lost
in the roar of the wind. I heard:

control.

 

Unsung Lullabies

Donʹt forget the ones who flinch
as you wave printouts of your scan at work.

They wouldnʹt want you to feel guilty
for broadcasting what seems as simple as A to B.

You can post snaps of family holidays on Facebook;
they donʹt mind, really, but wonʹt look too closely.

Sometimes they have photos of
freshly painted spare rooms,
smiles cradling their bumps,
might tend a small grave.

We mustnʹt moan too loudly about parenthood
when they long for allergies and tantrums.

They reconcile reasons to be cheerful,
stay away from catchment areas.

A deep and blameless longing
past greed or jealousy
to a place they know but canʹt reach.

 

Cataract Clinic 

This is a production line, in a good way;
every half‐hour a patient is prepared.

This is your new lens; 
These eye drops have got an anaesthetic in them; 
just a little swab of iodine… there, all done. 

A Character in jazzy braces
broadcasts his life story in Bristolian burr:
I been a widower sixteen year now, mind; 
it were the breast cancer what took her. 

He puts on a papery blue theatre cap,
a rustling robe: welcome distractions.
Don’t I look bonny in this get‐up! 

One by one they creep out on a nurse’s arm.
We look at our watches, sip at teacups,
remember we have a Bourbon left,
go to work on 17 across.
At least that rain’s held off, touch wood. 

We’re surprised when they come back after 15 minutes.
Some look like they suspect a practical joke,
most stare around with wide open pupils.

Something catches in our throats each time
we see that part of them is reborn:
they’re so touched by this everyday miracle
they can barely concentrate on the nurse’s advice:

take one eye drop every four hours; 
don’t bend over or go down on all fours; 
total loss of vision definitely isn’t normal; 
ring the helpline if anything worries you.

 

Junk 

Cheery bell on the paint‐blistered door,
I find myself in a dark space made of ages:

chipped Charles and Diana mugs
bowl of tarnished medals
Welsh dresser crammed with
trinkets from Dawlish, Cromer, Tenby.

I want the framed sepia photographs
of a long‐forgotten family.

There are no price tags.
The owner’s propped behind the counter,
blowing into his cup‐a‐soup.

Tells me heʹs been here forty years.
Where did it all come from?
He shrugs.

This was once a going concern
now itʹs a rock pool
restocked by the cityʹs tide.

He leaves the door open
for an hour each morning,
greets these damaged memories
with hands behind his back
as they tumble into his shop.

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, with his wife and two young children. His
work has appeared in many journals, both in print and online, including Prole, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Atrium, And Other Poems and Proletarian Poetry. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016. Ben was formerly the editor of the popular online journal Clear Poetry, which he closed at the end of 2017 to devote more time to his writing.
Blog: https://benbanyard.wordpress.com
Facebook page: https://facebook.com/benbanyardpoet
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bbanyard

We Are All Lucky is available to buy from the Indigo Dreams website, here. Signed copies are available directly from the author, here.

Birthing Pups – Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe

Birthing Pups

The Bitch is birthing
in a nest of torn scraps of cloth,
blankets, towels, bits of fluff – even belly fur,
all scrabbled together. A rats nest almost.

Her collection is smattered with red droplets,
pain smearing across the gathered comforts.

I sit on the edge of the action. Waiting to be called.
My tiny fingers fit where no adults can.
Hooking out trapped limbs,
flopping them free or cleaning tiny mouths,
membranous yet pin sharp teeth already.
Rubbing limp back to breath;
damp sodden fur – little rags.

Or the worst,
loosing the taut cords
slipping them free
only to have her bite too close.
Small strings of purple
easing out, teasing loose.
The knots uncoil –
I cannot push them back.

 

Zoë is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. She has an MA in Poetry from Bath Spa University. Her work has appeared in Magma, Curly Mind, Clear Poetry, Lakeview Journal, Interpreter’s House, Picaroon Poetry and The Lake amongst others.