Leftover Casserole – Nina Parmenter

Leftover Casserole

As the schedule decreed, I had  
leftover casserole for lunch. 
I de-tubbed it sloppily and warmed it, 
smelling yesterday 
and the day before.

But even in the first greyish forkful,  
the paprika had deepened, 
the mushrooms had infused, 
the meat had relaxed and softened. 
My mouth thought it was all new.

When you came home, I kissed you,  
noticing that you were more peppery 
than when you left. 
Later, over goulash, you pulled a new face 
and I laughed.

Nina Parmenter has appeared in journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, Light, Better Than Starbucks and The Lyric. She was highly commended in the 2021 Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize, and is a Forward Prize nominee. She lives in Wiltshire. Twitter: @ninaparmenter Facebook: @parmenterpoetry Website: ninaparmenter.com

Gradient – Alice Stainer

Gradient

A glorious day, Dad, as you would say
(that always made us snigger, did you know?)
……………Pull on your boots—you do still need them? —
……………army surplus from the funny shop in Hotwells.
……………We scoffed, but you said they were ‘value for money’.
Come on then, Dad—there’s a hill needs climbing.
Plastic-pocketed map bouncing on my chest—
I’ve learned its language as you did, and more:
zigzag up a slope,
…………..flex with the contours,
……………………….pick your way over hummocks.
………………………………….Skirt the bog
……………………….but don’t cry over lost wellies.
………….Vivid green patches have a forked tongue.
Heather helps you to hang on.
There’s one path I have yet to find, Dad—
but I will. I will.
…………..Right, binoculars slung round my neck—
…………..chance of a ptarmigan, wouldn’t you say?
…………..Those chubby boulders of bird.
Once, Mum and I saw a whole flock—
consolation, we thought, for a stumbling day
when the cloud came down.
I remembered, you see, what you said about the hills.
…………Now bog myrtle is spicing the air.
…………Hurry up, Dad! We have got all day but still,
…………this clarity of sky is precious.
…………Mete it out like Kendal mint cake in the high places.
My turn to lead the way—although in truth,
you’ve climbed this hill ahead of me,
…………and now will never leave it.

Alice teaches English Literature to visiting students in Oxford and is an active musician and dancer. She has only recently begun to publish her work, found in Poetry and Covid, Green Ink Poetry, Steel Jackdaw and 192 Magazine amongst other places, and won the 20/21 Gloucestershire Poetry Society competition. Find her on Twitter @AliceStainer

Cardiotocography – Flora Cruft

Cardiotocography

The noise overwhelms me

…………………………………………………………vibrations of your ocean drum

each note

………………………………………………………….plays a different frequency, each note

ululates a ripple

…………………………………………………………..only I discern.

This is how you speak to me,

…………………………………………………………….through the beat of your ripening heart

Dum-Da Dum-Da

……………………………………………………………..Mum-Ma Mum-Ma.

Below my bloated pressure stockinged feet

……………………………………………………………..sits a machine spewing out images:

a chain of dark mountains

……………………………………………………………..rough tumbles from the peak

the shadow of an eagle

……………………………………………………………..hung in empty air.

I hold tight to the hem of this blue

……………………………………………………………..checked gown but it’s no use,

my mind rushes

……………………………………………………………..as you contract the muscle of my blood.

You jump on my cord

…………………………………………………………….like a restless hare.

Behind us I hear the call

……………………………………………………………..of another, racing to catch up.

Flora Cruft is a poet whose work has been published in a variety of anthologies, magazines and journals. Her poems have been selected for publication by Jo Shapcott and Hollie McNish, with one shortlisted for the Exeter Poetry Prize. She is also an existential psychotherapist and a creativity coach in private practice, and has a popular Instagram page @poet.therapist.baker where she explores the intersections between mental health, poetry, creativity, maternity and nutritional psychology.

Unknown Unknowns – Graham Clifford

Unknown Unknowns

Viciously calm silverback, he
is moving gold spuds up
through the mud, his great hand
coming to the surface like a net.

Now he’s hosing them
as if water goes on forever,
an expansive act of cleansing, moving
new tubers around with the jet,
the trees restless around him, this
lump of nature, a pent force in the garden,
and the trees all but touch their toes
and transporter planes bring in
a fresh round of war dead, and
he takes it all in and defuses connection,
simply refuses thoughts to knot,
just cleans potatoes on the crazy paving.

At night dinner digests in the yards of guts we add up to,
water levels peak and
the gutter funnels a tapping
that gives our sleep a beat.
Something, not very much,
wakes the whole house;
you could hear us all silent
awake.

He was lying there full of potato,
remembering cleaning the potatoes, considering
lunch then dinner tomorrow, wondering
if this rain will smear his windscreen
and I wonder, does he get something right
I don’t even know needs correcting?

Graham Clifford’s poetry has been described as having ‘coolly brutal frankness.’ His fifth collection, In Charge of the Gun, is published by the Black Light Engine Room. Graham is also published by Against the Grain and Seren. http://www.grahamcliffordpoet.com

Nobody Knows Where You Are – Eugene O’ Hare

Nobody Knows Where You Are

this afternoon i walked by the green river
then up behind the old naval college
to Blackheath. the good photographers
come to the heath this time of year
to catch the fog on its slow parade.
plenty of evenings i have been swallowed
into this fog and had to listen my way
toward the road. four years ago,
mad with your disappearance,
soused up on rum, i came to the fog
to become lost too. perhaps i thought
in the lost place i could find you
and rub rum into your gums
and place your cold hands
into my armpits until i could feel
a flutter that was more than my heart.
nobody knows where you are.
how often does that occur to you?
i think the idea of all the people
who love you getting drunk and lost
and drunk and lost in fog, in sun, in sleep,
in rain, must excite you in some small way-
like a mischievous wish under the hood
of a solemn prayer. it will only be
when i am lost forever that i will find you.
i’ll be old and afraid of nothing then
& you will still be beautiful in the shirt
you left by the green river.

Eugene O’Hare was born in Ireland. His plays are published by Methuen. Recent poems have featured in Crossways, Fortnight, The Galway Review, and as a news piece in The Irish News. He lives in London. 

Featured Publication – In Charge of the Gun by Graham Clifford

Our featured publication for October is In Charge of the Gun by Graham Clifford, published by The Black Light Engine Room Press.

Consistently Clifford: he navigates the mechanics of our failures, and in attempting to fix them, what we may become, or not.” Philip Hancock

These are pitch-perfect poems powered by luminous and revealing images, a razor sharp voice and a beguilingly dark humour. There is irony too and witty insights. Graham is a poet’s poet, with a mastery of syntax and form and a keen awareness of the writer’s need to observe. An immensely readable collection, with a great deal to admire and enjoy.” Anna Saunders

The White Baboon

A white baboon became important.

Everyone visited the zoo to see what he had done to become important. He reflected everyone’s life at
the breakfast table back at them. Who could not be moved by the white baboon and his achievements?

He was also an excellent draftsman. Sometimes it was the tops of houses he could make out from his
cage, or a visitor he remembered. A keeper bought him canvases to use the paints he had made using
oil from Tapir excreta and rocks that children still threw at him.

By humanely removing the top of his skull, neuroscientists properly understood the white baboon’s
importance and helped us to. This success coincided with a dip in zoo ticket sales; attributable to the
allowable and expected mid-implementation slump bought about by edgy economic policy.

There were no ill effects from his surgery or the subsequent analysis which involved sedated journeys
to the best universities. They sold the research paper in the souvenir shop. At K. University he was
allowed to dress in jeans and a t-shirt. The baboon was once beaten for an affair with a handler’s wife.

The baboon went bald, grew back his hair, dreamt he was flying, dreamt of real places he’d never
been to, and drew and drew and drew. He tattooed one of his peers with his own language and
smashed three sons on a boulder near the tyre swing.

In summers, he was captivated by the skittish algorithm of sunny gnats. He understood.

Previously published in The Rialto

The Righteous Path

Then there were Jesuses everywhere. They crowded like water fleas in the supermarket and butted
into lightbulbs at night like moths. One woman had a desiccated one set in a banned sort of resin and
wore it as a broach. Every tiny tooth perfect in miniature; think yawning baby shark.

A really big one decided its job was to stand on the horizon like an inaccurately beneficent history
that everyone colludes with because of the way light congratulates the enormous, softening edges in a
water-colour way.

Juggernauts would flatten them in their thousands on B-roads in the sweltering mating season and
some teenagers kept them in boxes and grew attached to how their Jesuses made nests from rips of
dead other Jesuses. How they would look mournful weaving legs.

You turned into Jesus and I say, It must be tiring. I know how hard it was just to be you, but now you
are Jesus. You must find it difficult to juggle this and your family and work commitments.

Not at all, you say. It was like stepping into a warm room. As soon as I decided, I got this kit and the
address to a website where I could dump my past. I got this enamelled badge and all this paperwork.
Work have been fine, I’m now seen as a kind of mascot or lucky charm.

But you didn’t mention your children, I say. Jesus didn’t have kids, you reply.

Previously published in The Crank

Dear Idiot,

……………….do not share with me
your plans. They are
idiotic and much like mine
when I was an idiot.
You haven’t costed them
and they overreach your
capabilities; I mean,
have you any idea how much
an island is? Even
one infected by tactical
evaluation exercises?
And what will you do
when you can hypnotise? And
where did you hear that
it’ll all be all right in the end?
Dear Idiot, please do not
try to contact me for a reference
even via memories, even
via emotions, even via
the weather even via
poems I’ve always known.
You are an idiot,
and I should know.
Now I see the danger in
your hair do and getting
up late; your
clever rhymes and gestural
brush strokes. It is beyond reckless
to represent fauna
in metal snipped from white goods.
You should be made
to rewrite your manifesto,
every paragraph employed to incarcerate
your idiot thoughts.
You should consider
restarting yourself, and
what the dark buzz from machines means.
Have you not investigated tree bark?
Have you not given up yet?
Idiot.

Previously published in The Salzburg Review

Crossing

My brother started crossing animals with kitchen implements, garden furniture, screws, nuts, bolts,
fixings, ironmongery and work wear, guttering and drainage solutions, door and window fittings, Hi
Vis overalls, fillers, aggregates and sealants, work towers and cleaning essentials.

He raised a half hedgehog half old-fashioned tape measure. He was very pleased with the snakes that
part-way along fanned out as all the sizes of Allen key.

They would be reared in ice cream tubs, an old chest freezer or on his bottom bunk. And all the
animal/objects weren’t obviously upset by their uniqueness in the world. My brother could manage
pain with the skill of an anaesthetist.

Our parents asked him about pursuing his crossing as a proper career but he wouldn’t hear of it.

A sparrow/whisk on his shoulder and a pocket alive with woodlice/Rawlplugs, he tried to tell me there
was more to life than the obvious but I couldn’t understand a word as his tongue was pimpled with the
buttons off an ornate till and his motivation was insulated with a no nonsense and damp-resistant
expanding sticky foam.

Graham Clifford was born in Portsmouth, grew up in Wiltshire and lives in London with his partner and two daughters. He has been published widely, in such magazines as the Salzburg review, the Rialto and Magma, and has won or been commended in awards and competitions such as the Arvon, Bridport and Forward poetry prizes. Graham has performed at the Aldeburgh, Hay on Wye and Bridport Literary Festivals, among others.  He has a MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and is a Head teacher. http://www.grahamcliffordpoetry.com

In Charge of the Gun is available to purchase from Graham’s website.

Spiderwebs – Eleanor Punter

Spiderwebs

This morning
we counted spider webs
on the way to school
warm hand curled in mine
soft peach
of a September sun
dappled on our skin

and you pointed
at the harvest moon
faint penny in the sky
your half-mast socks,
messy plaits
your laughing and skipping
over the cracks

light catching
the gossamer thin curve
of lashes, the gappy row
of your teeth
and I drank you in
and everything you are.
This morning, this love,

wonderful and
bewildering
spins so tight
as you run into school
warm stickiness
of your fingertips
traced lightly onto mine.

Eleanor’s poetry explores women’s experiences such as relationships, motherhood or bodyimage. She has been shortlisted in various competitions, won third prize in the Binsted competition 2019. She has recently had a poem published about anorexia in Ink Sweat and Tears magazine.