The Other Boy – Sheila Jacob

The Other Boy

There was another boy
Dad confided, out of the blue.
A lovely little bab, Gran told him,
who died hours after the birth.
The priest baptised him in time-
a soul gone to heaven, Dad said,
his words a warm handclasp
I palmed under my skin
and shared, fifty years on,
with his last living sister.

She’d always suspected
something happened
decades ago, in the big bedroom
of the old back-to-back.
Gran’s bad stomach ache.
Cold supper on the table.
A neighbour’s red eyes.
Footfall up and down stairs
and later, furniture buffed
until it glared like looking-glass.

Spring-cleaning, Gran huffed
at her young daughters
as though they hadn’t noticed
her sudden weight loss
and frequent visits to church.
Things were like that in those days,
my Aunt sighed, relieved
she could claim him, at last.
The unnamed boy who arrived
at their home and never really left.

 

Sheila Jacob has had a number of poems published in  U.K.magazines and on webzines. She has recently self-published a short collection of poems which form a memorial to her father who died in 1965.

Advertisements

Map Gazing – John Short

Map Gazing

In the stone age of paper maps
I gazed all day,
found a dot marked Chapel-St-Leonards
and decided I must go.
Now I’m sitting on a bench
outside Tesco,
a can of lager by the sea.
I cycled two hundred miles to get here,
to hit the coast or rather
a wall of wind hit me
shifting sand
into beach huts and a derelict hotel,
making shapes in corners
just like the abandoned Arabian palace
in a comic book when I was six
that fired dreams
of travel, but ultimately
dots on maps are disappointing,
no mystery in arrival
only in staying.

 

After spending some years in Europe, John now lives in Liverpool and is a member of The Dead Good Poets. Recent appearances include The Blue Nib, Stepaway and Allegro. Work also forthcoming in The High Window, Envoi, Picaroon and Sarasvati.

One Way – Katherine Stansfield

One way

In the morning you will find yourself
inside a human heart. You will be warm,
and notice, with surprise, the purple and the blue.
Not everything is red in the temple
of pump and shunt, squeeze and release.

It will be loud and you will be small –
will have to be, to be there
and alive, your own heart now
flea-sized, grain of sugar-sized, at most.

Once you’re over the shock you will rationalize
and hold your breath
in case such extra air makes
the heart’s rhythm catch
or worse, cause a clamorous
blockage like the clanging
fury of the airlocks you remember
in the old house’s pipes.

By the time you’ve worried all this
you will be dizzy, need to lean against a ventricle
but lightly, in case your tiny nails tear
the walls and drown you in the rush
of this hospitable stranger’s loose blood.

So you will put your hands in your pockets
and that’s when you will find the bus ticket,
tiny too, but your tiny eyes can read
the type and then you will know
how you got there. That once again you
brought this on yourself.

 

Katherine grew up in Cornwall and now lives in Cardiff. Her poems have appeared in The North, Magma, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, And Other Poems, and Butcher’s Dog. Seren will publish her second collection in 2020.

Near Miss – Sharon Phillips

Near Miss
for Marc Bolan

Perhaps that first impact gets shifted
an inch: the Mini scrapes the fence post
and stalls before it can smack the tree;
they get out giggling, stoned or pissed
and he lives to write songs that revive
his career, to sing ‘Heroes’ with Bowie
at Live Aid or even strut a Vegas stage
in silver spandex, his froth of curls dyed
matt black, his pout fossilised by botox.

Or maybe he’s scared enough to strike
a deal with fate: quits booze and drugs,
retires from rock, gives away his cash
—so here he is, slouched in Outpatients,
his head fuzzed white, his face puffy
with steroids, looking up from his book
when the nurse calls out ‘Mr. Bolan!’

 

Sharon’s poems have been published online and in print, and have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the WoLF Poetry Competition. Sharon won the Borderlines Poetry Competition in 2017 and was among the winners of the Poetry Society Members’ Competition in November 2018. She lives on the Isle of Portland.

It might be over – Maurice Devitt

It might be over

This morning we found
a glass slipper on the step
and, despite me trying
to convince you
that it looked a little tight,
you felt it was a perfect fit,
so ever since
I have been watching you
like a hawk, as you hover
in the vicinity of the front door,
though, thankfully, one postman
and two chuggers later,
there is still no sign of a prince.

 

Maurice Devitt: Winner of the 2015 Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition, he has been runner-up or shortlisted in Listowel, Cuirt, Patrick Kavanagh, Interpreter’s House and Cork Literary Review. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site, chairperson of the Hibernian Writers’ Group and has recently published his debut collection ‘Growing Up in Colour’ with Doire Press.

Tell Us More About Yourself (100 Words Max) – JLM Morton

Tell Us More About Yourself (100 Words Max)

Fuckety fuck fuck fuck what do I SAY?
Mother of two, wife, friend – in middle age?
I’m a school runner, taxi driver, cook.
Baggage wrangler, donkey octopus.
I’m a personal shopper, pet feeder
nurse, bog cleaner, psychiatrist, leader
of a small dictator tribe, ragged nailed
lover, discoverer of pockets full of snails.
Fitting three days into two, a part-time worker,
(my boy boss still thinking I’m a shirker).
I’m an all inspiring gin-drunk mum,
time poor, I am rich on unearned income,
walking wounded survivor of lost shoes –
and now so fully knackered that this will have to do.

 

JLM Morton lives in the Cotswolds, an emerging poet snatching as much time as she can to write between caring for a young family and staring up the barrel of a demanding day job.

Cinema – Daniel Bennett

Cinema

In the low budget indie comedy
of my experience,
I am always on the road
between destinations of heartbreak

or stranded on lonely trains
in the windblown junctions
of elsewhere towns, with their shepherds
and forests and hooch.

My gunmen are bewigged fools,
coming clumsily through the door
of the cold Chinese restaurant
where I eat cheaply after work

or I speak in imagined German
in the back tents of circuses.
The trapeze artist is mournful and abrupt,
the dead clown is my epitaph.

………………………My iconic car chase
is a taxi ride in a foreign city,
with you, one bright afternoon,
waiting in the tailback from the cross city train.

The light and suddenness of it all
is preserved in high glimmer
when I close my eyes, the chrome and dust
of that foreign highway,

and when we slipped across the rails
and you reached for my hand,
you pulled me into a moment of grandeur
hitherto unknown. I always see us here.

 

Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been published in numerous places, and his first collection West South North, North South East is due out this summer. He’s also the author of the novel, All The Dogs.

Family Photograph Album -Richard Westcott

Family Photograph Album

Everything then was very small,
black and white, and dim
like that little face-sized screen
looking up at us

as the family gathered round
in our little room
keen to see what we knew
was there and here, both

then and now, together.
Now by myself a long time later
I return, to look up close
at these little windows

each framed in white, panes
into the past, drained
of colour, in which I see
those long gone, and me

a little bundle tightly wrapped
in white and shaded
by her raised hand.
I know for certain

from the careful writing
in special ink – white of course
upon the dark brown page
I am here and there, am named,

held secure by little triangles
across each corner. Seasons pass
as pages turn, the baby grows
and walks while parents age

Grannies come and go.
Dinah the dog who shared the pram
sits quietly through the years
until some photos start to loosen

and captions peter out, to leave
blank pages. Prints and screens
along with cars and houses –
all have grown much bigger

now, I don’t need to go up close
and peer through little windows.
I am enlarged and full
of colour and of understanding.

 

Richard Westcott, for many happy years a GP in north Devon, now has no excuse not to get down to writing. He blogs at richardwestcottspoetry.com and he’s been pleasantly surprised to win a few prizes.  His pamphlet is published by Indigo Dreams

Featured Publication – The Dancing Boy by Michelle Diaz

Our featured publication for August is The Dancing Boy by Michelle Diaz, published by Against the Grain Press.

‘Assured and fresh, tender and brutal in equal measure, this book will knock you sideways – and it will pick you back up again. Held by the framework of one woman’s life, experiences from birth to death and everything in between are reframed in a language loaded with anger, loss, love and an unerring pull towards beauty. It begins in pain and it ends in love – and you will be a richer person for reading it.’ Clare Shaw

‘From the brilliant title poem about her son, “a child without an off button”, to equally startling portraits of family, love, childbirth, relationships, The Dancing Boy is a five-star debut, filled with raw humour, “I stir my latte with a pregnancy test”, wry metaphysics, “What we truly are is always on the back row, throwing popcorn”, and metaphors like shots in the arm, “The sky was full of nouns”. It’s this mix of intense feeling with stunning imagery which gives Michelle Diaz her distinct voice – visceral, quirky, not to be missed.’ Dr Rosie Jackson

dancingboyfrontcover

 

Slipstream

He feels into my unspoken waters, is never hasty,
knows sex – what belongs to me.
No push or surge without the sigh of initiation,
his hands translate that this heat, this body is mine, on loan.

He is an explorer,
gauges yield with quiet clairvoyance,
listens like a fox for a rupture of heartbeat –
something fluid as invitation.

All men are bastards
falls to its knees, is trite fallacy
when one has learnt to read.

Some need heavy oars to navigate a river,
he has hands and eyes, knows the subtlety
of each gasp, the sound of love screaming,
discerns when God’s name is being taken in vain.

 

A Birth Journey in Nine Movements

We are en route to Yorkshire,
I stir my latte with a pregnancy test,
it shows up positive,
all the waiters do the Macarena.
My mother finds a Clear Blue box in the fridge –
it is full of eggs.
We have omelette for tea.
The family has never been so together.

I am carried around by four angels
who guard my apple pip cargo,
pump me full of oxytocin,
airbrush the stretch marks.

My body wages war on vegetables,
organic and tinge of green are off the menu.
I am possessed by the Honey Monster,
only pear drops and Jelly Tots will do.

Three weeks to go and somebody has let the bathwater out –
oligohydramnios – the midwife tells me you’re shrinking.
The sofa becomes a wet grave I bury myself in.

The hospital – I have a bed with a bell,
Mr Doc says emergency caesarean.
We float round the room like balloons in denial.

Seven days go by – you are still not out,
despite Doctor Patel’s insistence,
despite the letter on serious yellow paper,
despite my dangerously high blood pressure.
I sense we are dying. I am probed silence.
You have been leaked information.
You are not coming.

C-section. They find you. I become Mummy.

The room breathes morphine, the women sweat.
I am in Tenko. The nurse has a moustache.
She withholds pain relief, wheels away precious baby.
A cold star rises above the saline drip,
guards the broken nativity.

My old skin lines the corridor,
the curt nurse picks it up.
Strangely, I cry because you are no longer inside.
Your dad closes the curtain in case they think I am depressed.
I’m not. It’s just that I will never again know such intimacy.

 

Magma Skating

I love the pristine crackle of your eleventh year,
still reachable, open-faced, wanting to talk to me
about the things you overhear, the playground whispers.

Mum, what’s magma skating?

My mind fills with lava, eruption, something dangerous.

You do it on your own. It looks like this …

(makes a hand gesture).

I don’t tell you.
Not because I’m prudish or shocked,
but because I like your name for it better,
want to inhabit this wide-eyed world of pre-knowledge,
to be eleven again, clueless,
skate around your lovely head before the curtains start closing
and I can no longer watch the play.

 

The Rebellion of Sleeping in

I want to scrape back clouds,
bring morning to you on a tray,
allow you that extra hour.

I want to scrunch the world up, pocket-sized,
then feed it to you
in pieces you can swallow.

Instead, routine makes a Colonel of me,
I bark instruction:
Face and nails, tie straight, cornflakes,
blazer. Hurry up, it’s late!

Not today.

Today I will let you sleep till ten,
swim in your unseen dreams,
to hell with school, alarms,
the regimented day.

Your face is the softest peach,
The way things have to be
will not consume the fruit of you,
dribble you down its chin without care,
without tasting your sweetness.

 

Michelle Diaz has been writing since the late 90s and began her life as a poetry performer in 1998 at The Poetry Café in Covent Garden. She studied English Language and Literature at Manchester University and always had a love of words and a passion for poetry. In 2009 she had two poems accepted by Live Canon, which were performed onstage in Greenwich. Between 2015 and 2017 she hosted a monthly poetry group in Glastonbury. She also became a Wells Fountain Poet. In 2017, she won 3rd prize in the Mere Literary Festival Poetry Competition. She also began regularly submitting her poetry to a range of magazines with an encouraging amount of success. She has been widely published online and in print and has recently been accepted for several anthologies. She has been part of the open mic at Swindon Poetry Festival, Words and Ears in Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Wells Fountain poets. Poetry and a Pint in Bath and many other venues. In 2017 she was the inaugural winner of the Glastonbury Bardic Silver Pen award. She also won the 2018 Christabel Hopesmith NHS Competition judged by Wendy Cope and Lachlan Mackinnon.

The Dancing Boy is available to buy from the Against the Grain Press website.

 

A Wrap of Ice – Emma Lee

A Wrap of Ice

The ice-hockey blades feel unnatural:
short, rounded and blunt, but stiff boots
and the sound of metal on ice reassured.
I was used to elegance on a blade’s edge
rather than a huddled dash grasping a stick.
The cold was welcome, familiar.
A few days before I’d stood on a glacier.
Reminded myself this would be my home
climate if it weren’t for the Gulf Stream.
A group from the southern hemisphere
shivered in thermals, hats, gloves, scarves
and anything they could wrap themselves in,
like the intricate layers of padding put on
in a set order by hockey players to prevent
chafing and inducing clumsiness, unlike
a figure-skater’s minimal costumes warmed
by movement. Their sun would burn me.
They slither back to the bus and shot of spirits.
Before following, I touch the ice for luck.

 

Emma Lee’s publications include “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). “The Significance of a Dress” Arachne (2020). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” is Poetry Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for other magazines and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.