Ethel Jane Cain – Stephen Bone

Ethel Jane Cain

The search for the girl with the golden voice
ended with Ethel Jane Cain, a telephonist
from Croydon, who beat all others
to give time a tongue and face.

Movietone finds her an English rose,
a Marcel waved emblem of the politeness of kings,
never be late again the campaign ran. To be fast
or slow a thing of the past.

The switchboard jammed the first day
the glass disks turned; the lonely rang in
for company, insmoniacs for a sort of lullaby,
others found in her crisp correctness a certain charge.

The tick of Ethel’s heart stopped at eighty-seven,
but archived, her debutante vowels survive,
winding back the clock of herself
to our parents’ long coffined days and nights.

Stephen Bone has a ‘Stickleback’ pamphlet due from Hedgehog Press in 2021.

The witch hair – Ramona Herdman

The witch hair

It’s the strongest shoot of me,
the devil’s mark. It hooks
its seed-serpent fang out
from the scar under my chin,
fetching my finger to its itch.
I pull it out and burn it.
It comes back like a bone
turned up by the plough,
glinting its hard little head
out of the scar-line’s crest.
It teases for a week –
too short to tweeze.
I see its silhouette on Zoom
and its wink in the mirror
as I mad-dog brush my teeth.
I pull it out once it’s long enough.
It comes back with the new moon.
Sometimes it raises a helmet
of neon green pus
as its egg sac, curling inside
like a shark foetus swimming.
The devil is subtle.
He believes in the minuscule.
The world is falling apart
and still he has the time
to come to me at night,
his flea-jaws working,
suckling at the one wrong hair,
giving it life.

Ramona Herdman’s latest pamphlet, ‘A warm and snouting thing’, is published by The Emma Press. Her previous pamphlet, ‘Bottle’ (HappenStance Press), was a PBS Pamphlet Choice. Ramona lives in Norwich and is a committee member for Café Writers. ‘A warm and snouting thing’, is available from The Emma Press website.  
www.ramonaherdman.wordpress.com twitter: @ramonaherdman

Milk bottle – Olga Dermott-Bond

Milk bottle

My mum is standing at the kitchen sink
pressing the silver coin down so carefully

with her left thumb, a dented heart that beats
two days, until it joins the pretend pennies

scattered on the window sill. Above me,
the fat-rimmed lip of the bottle; I can almost

touch the frilly collar of cream that my sister
drinks. My job: to take the empties. I dare

to carry them one-handed, letting their bodies
reverberate, a juddery hollow of sound curling

through my fingers and sliding into their open
throats. I have been taught not to answer back,

not to question the world of empty men,
tight-necked, stout-shouldered. When I reach

the front door, I silence them with a rolled-up
scroll, filled with my very best handwriting.

Olga’s first poetry pamphlet apple, fallen is published by Against the Grain Press and her second collection is to be published by Nine Pens Press later this year. She is a teacher and has two daughters. @olgadermott

The White Horse – Anthony Wilson

The White Horse

The rain is my grief for my mother.
Like this train heading west

through rain
I travel into it

learning about loss
as I go.

Last night my father
conked out in his chair –

he has so much
to think about –

which is what I have just done
Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary

floating by
in a dream

a very grey dream.
You only need to visit Venice once

because it never leaves you.
At Paddington

my flat white was not flat
nor was it white.

Anthony Wilson’s most recent books are The Afterlife (Worple Press, 2019) and Deck Shoes, a collection of essays (Impress Books, 2019). In 2015 he published Lifesaving Poems (Bloodaxe Books), after his blog of the same name. www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com

Art for a Little Sister at Eighteen – Olivia Tuck

Art for a Little Sister at Eighteen

Day unfurls on the conservatory roof,
and you sit, chewing your pen, blinking.
You flinch at the flit of the tiger moth
on your windowpane – wonder why she stares
as you watch the sky become peach parfait.
The essay title is your name. You search
a thesaurus for post-club burger grease,
an exam hall clock’s fast heartbeat, the stall
of a car engine. All the rest is hidden
behind bathroom mirror fog. You didn’t see
the arcs of those days before you existed.

The sun leans in. I look at you; open my mouth –
unveil each work in my exhibition:
you at birth, head capped with coconut bristles,
your fist an apricot against your cheek.
At two, scattering the crushed-stone dust
of a pepper grinder across a tablecloth.
At ten, riding an inflatable dolphin
over wave-swells, Atlantis at your toes.
Now, your hair is autumn-infused, your eyes
are blue lace agate, your skin brandy butter;
your laugh is the smell of ginger, of cloves –
it could thaw an ice age. Don’t be afraid
to burn like Venus at dawn. Don’t be afraid
to spit out sunrises, to sing. Don’t be afraid
to run full pelt down the stairs – through the door,
into the quivering light of child’s-moon morning.

Olivia Tuck’s poetry has appeared in print and online journals including Under the Radar and Ink Sweat & Tears, and Tears in the Fence, where she is also an intern.Her pamphlet, Things Only Borderlines Know, is published by Black Rabbit Press. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites

The Angel – Jennie Farley

The Angel

He’s following me around the supermarket,
an angel wearing the flouncy frock

I’ve just bought from the charity shop
for two pounds fifty. He gives a wink,

tips his halo. What does he want?
And why is he in my dress?

Every time I turn around
I see him three paces behind,

eyes bright as sequins.
After paying at the till

I take my basket and turn
with a beaming smile,

an appropriate greeting
for an angel who might offer

to carry my shopping.
But he isn’t there!

Oh, he’s only being a tease.
I stride out in a don’t-care kind of way.

When I get home, my frock
is on a hanger in the wardrobe

and on my pillow lies an elegant
white feather, tipped with gold.

Jennie Farley is a published poet, teacher and workshop leader. Her poetry has
featured in many poetry magazines and in performance. Poetry collections include
My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016) and Hex (IDP 2018).
Her new collection What the Dream Told Me is in progress

Beach Waves – Rachel Bruce

Beach Waves

I never know what to do with my hair.
It falls flat over my head like a veil,
mourning my lack of ability.
I try ponytails, and feel embarrassed
for not running free over the sand.
I venture into beach waves,
and I come away with burnt fingers.

It’s when she first curls her fringe
that I notice a tension at the top of my chest.
Her face is paler than before,
and her eyes shine so blue I think I’m drunk
in that teenage way, on WKD
or salt water.

I start to wonder how long I have looked at the curves of her body
rather than the clothes decorating them.
She smiles wickedly,
like she knows when I lost my virginity
or how I’m going to die.

Dirty blond and shining.
The ends of her hair tickle my imagination
until one day, bored and panting hard,
I take the scissors to my own.

Rachel Bruce is a poet from Hitchin, UK. Her work has appeared in The TelegraphSecond Chance LitEye Flash PoetryEponym Magazine, The Daily Drunk Mag and The Hysteria Collective.

House-Father Has Shit on the Carpet – Peter Raynard

House-Father Has Shit on the Carpet

Love is not a lump of shit on a white carpet
when the carpet is no longer white
when it can be no longer called a carpet
when there is only Calpol on a spoon
with a baby screaming into a room
with all of its contents now crammed inside
this House-Father’s head. He starts to question
the apocryphal power of this purple sugar-based syrup.
Maybe baby is hungry. Father smokes a spliff.

He always wanted to do a philosophy degree
or an engineering degree or better still
a philosophy of engineering degree
that by degree would show him the mechanics
of a quiet world. He could do it in France
they love theory. Now House-Father thinks
he’s shit himself. Will nobody help him?
He can’t do this by himself in the middle
of a night when everyone is dead, refusing
to rise and all the others who now realize
that we are put on this earth to wipe away
all of the shit we never shit in the first place
but are still meant to call it love. Shit!

Peter Raynard is editor of Proletarian Poetry (www.proletarianpoetry.com). His  books of poetry are: ‘Precarious’ (Smokestack Books, 2018) and ‘The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto’ (Culture Matters, 2018). ‘Rumbled’ will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2022.

Featured Publication – Dusk in Bloom by Ava Patel

Our featured publication for July is Dusk in Bloom by Ava Patel, published by Prolebooks.

There’s an extremely accomplished voice that runs through all these poems, tying them together
and ensuring they talk to and build on one another. It’s as though the reader’s been given the key to
a parallel universe where there are extra colours in the rainbow. The consistently engaging imagery
in this gathering is also used for emotional ends. These urgent, intimate poems discover many devastatingly effective last lines. A polished and sophisticated debut
.” John McCullough

A Loss

I can’t remember beer gardens
at that time of year
when the weather hits just right.
I can’t remember blue lagoons

or early morning chicken wing grease
that won’t budge from fingertips.
I’m never going to hear my name
as one syllable again or smudge my lips

with peach juice. No one new
will sit at the kitchen table with me
and make haikus out of the grocery list,
or sigh when I sneak pineapples

into the shopping trolley.  Or go back to collect
the bits of me I forgot in beer gardens
and chicken shops.  Nobody wants to wipe
peach juice from my chin anymore.

Bluebs

Saturday night, highbush blueberries cry for spring
until their throats bleed juice.
I roll them between my fingers
and dream I’m squishing them flat,
dream I’m crawling into their bushes
and living a two-dimensional life with them
as we wait for the season to change.

Our lives mingle and morph

as we rub and ripen one another,
slinking into fresh beings without the worry of suspicion.

Saturday night, the moon splits itself into quicksilver
and infects the highbush blueberries,
painting them glistening globes.
We sleep late and wake early,
wet our lips and arch our feet in anxiety.
Fear drives us to unravel our futures
and discard them into fjords

that swallow our plans with the Sahara’s thirst.
We can’t risk bleeding blueberry into the sea,
so instead, we sit watching the tide,
snapping elastic bands wrapped around our wrists.

Rosebush

Daylight terrifies,
undoing the seams of my skirt.

It seeps into the scratches running down my arms,
the gashes latticed across my face.

A heartbeat’s steps slink a song along the garden path,
and a body curved soft like a petal,

pink as a milkshake,
tender in its sighs and moans,

prickles under the sky’s stare.

Previously published in SOUTH magazine

Paper Planes

A landslide brought me down into the depths of myself.

Foxes shrieked romance into the night
and I succumbed to an early morning start,
the streetlamps sputtering a wakeup call.

I spoke to the dawn tinged cats
as they chased their birds; I meowed to them my prayers,
keen for them to dismantle the paper aeroplanes
I had streaming through my head.

The planes had gone whoosh and swoop
and moaned that they were hungry for cheesy chips.

Clouds scented orange and coloured green
spaced themselves along my frontal lobe.
My nose led the way from one to another,
to a thousand set of myselves waiting to be unleashed,
the clamour of my beings brewing somewhere around, I’d say, my sternum.

And I’ve longed to have my appendix out for a long time now,
and almost prayed for a hospital’s walls, the sterile wards,
or a kind of upside down in between terrific dimension
full of electricity and cannabis and loose hinges and nuts and bolts.

Cats pilot my paper planes, sergeants on duty patrolling the night;
an outbreak of ornithophobia in the bedroom can be a real mood killer, you know?

Ava Patel is winner of Prole Magazine’s 2021 pamphlet competition with debut pamphlet ‘Dusk in Bloom’. She’s had some small successes being published in webzines (London Grip; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Atrium; Porridge) and magazines (South Bank Poetry; Orbis; SOUTH; Dream Catcher; New Welsh Reader). She runs an Instagram poetry page: @ava_poetics.


Dusk in Bloom is available to purchase from the Prole website.

The things that didn’t go in the van – Michele Witthaus

The things that didn’t go in the van

Yesterday, you moved out.
Today, I traced
tributaries of tea,
pale sepia descending the wall
towards the skirting board;
scrubbed in vain at faint blood vessels of nail polish
etched around the light switch;
stared at a fist-shaped dent in the wardrobe door;
sought the price of a replacement
and chose a set of mirrored decals instead;
pulled a miniature of rum
out from behind the desk;
meant to throw it away
but warmed it in my palm a while.
Tonight, I will dream
of that other you,
the daughter I didn’t see until she’d gone.
Tomorrow, I will set aside
these signs of your occupation
and think about redecorating your room.

Michele’s pamphlet, ‘From a Sheltered Place’, was published in August 2020 by Wild Pressed Books. She has poems in several anthologies and other publications and is the 2020 winner of Leicester Writers’ Club’s Ena Young Award and Chris D’Lacy Endeavour Award.