The Late Show – Oz Hardwick

The Late Show

After midnight, stars have faces, silver
in smoke, soft-focused, indelible. We watch
the street, the shadows, the heavy, hooded eyes,
lamplit across gin-joint tables, taunting
the man with the dangling cigarette, his fingers drumming
to the rhythm of a femme fatale’s black nylon
legs whispering suggestions. There’s a drive-by at the drive-in:
Chicago pianos rattling skeleton songs,
bullet holes in swaying scenery, a blizzard
of sugar glass catching in lacquered hair,
tears welling their farewells, my lovely. But
after midnight, even the dead remain young,
their Hays Code faces fluttering, starlit,
lips pursed, winking at popcorn kisses.

 

Oz Hardwick is a poet, photographer and sometime musician, whose seventh
poetry collections, Learning to Have Lost, was published in 2018 by the
International Poetry Studies Institute, Canberra. Oz leads the Creative Writing
programmes at Leeds Trinity University.

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Kissing the Undertaker – Barbara O’Donnell

Kissing the Undertaker

Dad’s heart was still beating, when the remote control changed
channels and the pizza came hot out of the oven, on this
other side of the Irish Sea. The internet’s absence of noise,

holds a gallant ignorance against the ringing of both phones.
It can’t be true, until the silence is unequivocally cleaved
first by confirmation from the nurse, then condolences.

The world splits, into those who know and those who do not.
Bank card numbers, swallowed into the ether, buy
two seats, my other sister’s absence occupying the third.

In the airport toilet, the music is reminiscent of a communist
Chinese labour camp or a 1950s American TV commercial.
Christmas lights pierce the fog, distressing my optic nerve.

The quiet hills and descending fog, create a damp
blanket, holding each absent year, every winter night
of childhood and the empty chair at his bedside.

The undertaker’s soft voice, from a mobile in a car, speaks of
tasks to be done, sounding strangely far and comfortingly
close, all at once, as if he could somehow fix everything.

I wonder, would the undertaker’s gentle tones,
transform into the fiercest of kisses, hold me safe
from the newspaper deadlines and coffin catalogues.

 

Barbara O’Donnell was born in 1975 in West Cork and works full-time in the NHS in London. Her poetry has been published in The Screech Owl, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Skylight 47, Three Drops Poetry, South Bank Poetry and Poetry24.

 

Obedience Class – Ilse Pedler

Obedience Class

Fine-tuned to catch
……….each twitch
of the hand,
………………each whispered
command,
……the collie;
sleek back
rigid,
trammelled
tight to leg,
pitched high
……………..as an e string
over-wound.

While in the bright distance,
the fells unfold,
beckon,
a skylark rises
unchains its throat.

 

Ilse Pedler has had poems published in magazines and several anthologies. She is the winner of the 2015 Mslexia Pamphlet Competition with, The Dogs That Chase Bicycle Wheels, published by Seren. She was shortlisted in the National Poetry Competition 2018 and was also the poet in residence at Sidmouth Folk Week. In between writing poetry she works as a veterinary surgeon in Saffron Walden.

 

Autobiopic – Ben Banyard

Autobiopic

Opening credits, your first screams.
Exterior: the Midlands, mid-70s
orange and brown.
Filthy yellow buses pass the Rotunda;
happy-sad place.

Montage of the usual growing-up,
grandparents and cousins,
you decline invitations to classmates’ parties,
shrink in terror at the museum T-Rex.

At the posh school your Brummie
is scoffed at by the toffs.
You make the best of it for seven years
then sprint for the Devon coast
where your accent blows away
on the salt breeze of sea and estuary.

This is the low point of the narrative arc,
but it picks up when you meet the girl
who makes this a love story,
dusts you off, helps you grow up,
makes you a proud father,
writes you the happiest of endings.

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. He followed up his debut pamphlet, ‘Communing’ (Indigo Dreams, 2016), with a full collection, ‘We Are All Lucky’ (Indigo Dreams, 2018), and he’s currently putting the finishing touches to a new book. You can follow Ben’s blog at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com

Uncle Hagop in Stratford upon Avon – Sarah Mnatzaganian

Uncle Hagop in Stratford upon Avon

I’m on my camp site by the river,
wading through the flood that followed rain
where, undeterred, uncle Hagop swims upstream.

Joy buoys him up like Dead Sea water.
Head and shoulders high, he walruses
his favourite lines:

Now is the winter of our discontent;
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow;
If music be the food of love.

He’s in his element, twice.

Swans gather in his wake,
curling respectful necks.
We leave our sodden tents and follow.

 

Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet.  Shortlisted for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition 2016/17, her poems have been published in The North, Fenland Reed, London Grip, Poems in the Waiting Room, As Above, So Below, Write to be Counted and #MeToo a women’s anthology edited by Deborah Alma.  She studies with Peter and Ann Sansom, Heidi Williamson and Moniza Alvi.

 

 

 

 

 

Running Deer – Louise Warren

Running Deer

Under the trees they cluster, a small tight group,
nervy, pacing, half in shadow,
waiting for me to make a move.

I say be still. I watch the shadows drift, the mist,
their bodies flecked with soft brown leaves, be still,
but I can see them twitch,

a dark and startled eye, a tail begin to flick.
Their blood is hot, their hooves begin
to stamp a pulse inside my head.

They stamp, the cluster moves as one, sweating, tensed,
ready to spring. I try to soothe them back
too late, one leaps away

now here they come. Running and running,
their hooves a thundering beat around around
the bone hard floor.

All I can do is hide, crouch down, cover my face,
but I can feel their animal breath, chaos runs
with the deer, suffers, won’t be eased

until the wood is smashed to bits, I wait,
dazed, emptied out, I watch them vanish
they are delicate and terrible in the half light.

 

Louise Warren – ‘A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo’ (2012) and ‘In the scullery with John Keats’(2016) both published by Cinnamon Press. Winner of the Prole Laureate Poetry Competition 2018. Her next pamphlet ‘John Dust’ will be published by V.Press in 2019.

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Figs – John Porter

Figs

From a life where they’d made no impact
he started eating one fig a day
on the advice of a doctor in a dream.
At first with yoghurt and honey
then whole like an apple
seeds drying round his mouth
oil lingering in his throat till late.
It became such that if he missed a fig
the gripes were crippling and visions
of demons would send him to bed.
When trade laws changed and supply
dwindled he sold the house
to charter a plane from Jordan
and when it didn’t arrive was found
naked on the runway, clawing at the asphalt.

 

John Porter’s poems have been published in The Stinging Fly, Prole, Streetcake, Snakeskin, Pulp Poets Press and Morphrog. He lives in Gloucestershire, UK, after previous stints in London and Moscow. He usually writes on trains or whilst waiting for his children to fall asleep. He has a website at https://www.johnporterauthor.com .

Featured Publication – Interned at the Food Factory by Sharon Larkin

Our featured publication for April is Interned at the Food Factory by Sharon Larkin, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Interned at the Food Factory takes eating as its theme, where food is less a source of nourishment and enjoyment, rather a series of individual and social challenges to be confronted and overcome.

By turns vulnerable and sassy, heartbreaking and funny, consistently insightful and readable. The food in these poems is no spread for some twee picnic.  In an age of increasingly innocuous poetry, Sharon Larkin is to be applauded for the rawness included here and for an exceptional instinct for the  emotional weight and balance of her poems” Brett Evans

In these poems Sharon Larkin weaponises the language of food; sometimes witty, always moving. Watch out. This is a place where you must check whether ‘the knife drawer’ [is] closed.” Kate Noakes

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Sloe Gin

Plucky to show up so soon
before your white-blousy neighbour
before your green has burst
or frosts have pinched their last
and after they’ve returned
it’s kind of you to hang on,
long after blackberries
are corrupt in devil spit.

How thoughtful of you
to yield the right wood
for this walking stick
bringing bough to hand
but how mean that your
blue-bloomed drupes
so pucker the lips.
You’re only good to ruin gin.

Picker-spiker, now it’s my turn
to pierce your skin, make you bleed.
I take up the needle.
The pay-back is sweet.
A fistful of sugar
for every pound of flesh –
you soak for weeks
in the sticky liquor.

As cakes are laced and puddings sweat,
you are steeping, inedible,
utterly drunk.

 

Beach Breakfast

It’s been a long night, a difficult week.

We meet on the sand
where you’ve set up an impromptu barbecue –
and, of course, it’s fish you’re grilling,
freshly caught and gutted by the guys
hovering around the boat, looking over at us,
no doubt wondering about the conversation
that is just beginning.

I blurt out how sorry I am.
I was unfaithful. I still love you.
But you don’t seem to accept
my apology, my profession of love.
I have to repeat it, over and over.

You are more concerned about food,
intent on the prospect of sharing it around,
even though in my eyes, right here,
right now, there are just the two of us.

Then I realize that is my perspective.
I’ve squeezed you into my narrow field of view,
where you rightly have the proportions of a giant,
but you’re not mine alone,
you’re theirs over by the boat,
you’re everybody’s.

 

Pâté d’Alouette

A teenager abroad for the first time
sits down to a little delicacy
from the sixteenth century.
On her plate, bones of a small bird
attracted by multicoloured glass
and netted in the Gatinais,
not a great distance from where
Jeanne d’Arc first ventured out.

She learns the recipe: eight larks,
eight ounces of bloated livers
from force-fed geese, stock
from a boiled chicken, her egg.
Marinate larks in port, thyme, bay.
Next morning, rise with the lark
to prepare the day’s specialité.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.

Stir-fry the tiny organs and intestines
of your larks, crush them, incorporate
with shallots and breadcrumbs
in chicken stock. Fill body cavities
with truffled foie gras. Make a pastry bed,
bury larks in stuffing. Top off with crust.
Seal. Brush with egg, bake for an hour.
Best served cold with green salad,

a baton, a little wine.

 

Bacon for the Olfactorily Challenged

Come. I’ll show you the unraw material,
these young Old Spots.
Pick one up. Stroke his back.
Look into his little piggy eyes.
Rub the down across your top lip.

I hope you can sense the tenderness.
Twist his cute curly tail
around your little finger.
Hear him squeal.
Get used to it.

When electrocuted, he’ll sizzle and pop.
Watch as his belly is slit, his innards spilt.
They will glisten and steam,
as they slither over the slick zinc.
It is a shame you can’t smell.

After the beheading, hanging, quartering,
run your fingers over the strips of fat,
lean, gristle, bone. Breathe in the smoke,
the sodium nitrate. They improve texture
and taste but maybe not your health.

Now slice your pig thinly, spread him,
streaky-rashered, over your grill-pan.
Turn up the heat. Hear Babe spit.
Gaze on his remains as they twist and weep.
Wince as his irascible fat stings your hands.

Sprinkle salt on your burns.
Eat your bacon with lashings of sauce.

 

Previous publication credits: Sloe Gin – Beyond the Well-Mapped Provinces (Cheltenham Poetry Society), Pate d’Alouette – The Stare’s Nest.

Sharon Larkin’s poetry has been widely published in anthologies, magazines and on-line.  She is Chair of Cheltenham’s Arts Council and Poetry Society and jointly runs Poetry Café – Refreshed.  She was founder/editor of the Good Dadhood poetry project and runs Eithon Bridge Publications.

Interned at the Food Factory is available to purchase from the Indigo Dreams Publishing website.

The Late Kathy Gee – Kathy Gee

The Late Kathy Gee

Let it be said that I was late
to start, much later ‘popping’,
almost last to fall in love.
Let it be said that I made up
for years so carelessly mislaid,
that I was late to grow into
my wrinkles, late when, in my fifties,
I fell hot and bothered into
lust, but left it far too late.

I am a late developer.
That ought to be ‘I was’, of course,
but I am slow to take on board
this dying thing. I hope it’s not
too late to learn that I was loved.

 

Kathy Gee’s career was in heritage. In 2016, her poetry collection was published by V. Press http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/book-of-bones.html and she wrote the spoken word elements for http://suiteforthefallensoldier.com/. Her next small collection of duologues – Checkout – is due out in March 2019.

 

 

Running Down the Past – Tom Kelly

Running Down the Past

(To Granny)

Aa run down Hope Street,
Salem Street an’
Saint Paul’s Road aa thought was dead posh,
ti’ th’ Salt Grass,
where we’d bool waa paste eggs
doon th’ humptybacked hill.

Aa run down th’ Church Bank an’
Sandy’s Hole,
th’ winding path
ti th’ Mercantile wi boats’ bloated
in tha’ docks.

Through th’ Pedestrian tunnel an
Howdon , thinking we wor in another country.
Run up Ellison Street ti’ th’ Mechanics Hall,
where mam an’ dad danced th’ night away til ten.

Aa run up th’ cemetery bank,
stop at ya unmarked grave
an ye tell me th’ years have flown.

 

Tom Kelly is a poet, playwright and short story writer. His stories have appeared on Radio Four and in UK magazines. He has had eight poetry collections, and Behind the Wall, his first full-length short story collection was launched in April 2018.