Small Worlds – Paul Waring

Small Worlds

Clearing his warden-assisted flat
days after the funeral,
this creased Box Brownie holiday photo
I find is enough to flood memory.
Sister and I, milk tooth smiles,
either side of Brylcreem-gloss father
in his prime on clifftops at Land’s End
and those words before we left:
we’re going to the end of the Earth.

Excited legs and feet in Woolworths’
plastic sandals behind the Zephyr’s bench seat.
White-hot beaches, sunburn, night scents
of calamine lotion, itching for Land’s End.
Mum saying cheese, and us, staring at nothing
but waves, folding and falling like skittles
behind the horizon. Father, I never did tell you –
when you said we’re at the end of the Earth,
for so long I believed you.

Paul’s poetry is published in Prole, Atrium, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, London Grip and elsewhere. Awarded second place in the 2019 Yaffle Prize, commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition, his pamphlet ‘Quotidian’ is published by Yaffle. www.waringwords.blog Twitter: @drpaulwaring

The Shed – Hannah Linden

The Shed

Mother is getting a new shadow
for her shed door. It fits in beneath
the keyhole where the latch-cover
falls. If, in the middle of the night,
someone rattles the door, the shadow
would curl round their curious fingers.
Some things she keeps tucked in, out
of doors but under cover. Darkness
finds its pattern amongst them, a naked
light bulb pushing it into corners. Mother
has spent more time in the shed since
Father left. She piles more empty boxes
on top of the mess he left. She promises
to let us help her sort through it, one day.
She locks the door but we hear her,
after she says goodnight, opening and shutting
opening and shutting the door.

Based in Devon, Hannah Linden has been published widely. She’s working towards her first collection, Wolf Daughter about the impact of parental suicide. Twitter: @hannahl1n

Featured Publication – Inhale/Exile by Abeer Ameer

Our featured publication for June is Inhale/Exile by Abeer Ameer, published by Seren.

Inspired by the many stories and parts of stories she heard as a child and visiting family in
Iraq as an adult, Ameer has written a book that celebrates the resilience of her forebears and
extended family in Baghdad and around the world. The book presents a range of characters in
a mixture of political and personal poems; ordinary people living in extraordinary
circumstances; those who remain in Iraq, those who flee Saddam’s regime or the civil strife
subsequent to the US-led Invasion and its aftermath. The grief of those in exile is keenly felt
as they yearn for the place and people they have left.

This remarkable debut offers us a treasure-chest of 50 stories that lift the wraps from the
personal and the public, the domestic and the political, revealing a hoard of complex tales,
deftly, powerfully told. Abeer Ameer’s poems weave a series of mesmerising journeys back
and forth between Iraq and the UK, exploring the interstices and convergences between
cultures, between atrocity and hope, faith and dogma, language, silence and love. Ameer tells
it bluntly, sometimes wryly, but with surgical precision and composure: each poem vibrant
with the smells, tastes, textures, muscles and heartbeat of authentic experience, ‘in the search
for home between two rivers’.
” Robert Walton

This debut collection by Abeer Ameer is a moving, impassioned exploration of human
resilience in the face of political upheaval, state persecution, the violence of war and the pain
of exile. Intimate and personal, rooted in history that is at once ancient and contemporary,
individual and international, these poems remind us that even in the darkest times, there is
light, and there is love. Inhale / Exile insists that the reader doesn’t turn away from suffering,
like the photographer who must ‘share what the world needs to see’, and in return we learn
the stories of lives lost and lives saved, witness tremendous acts of courage, and understand
how faith ensures survival.
” Katherine Stansfield

The Reed Flute and I
after Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi

As the reed flute sings you weep your sorrow;
your heart still beats in the place you left. The weight
of your yesterdays that were once tomorrows
halves you, just like the day the reed was cut
pulled from its bed, carved to carry the breath
of the carver to ears held far. Its inhale
is your exhale; as if straight from your own chest.
Its wails redden your eyes. Its larynx speaks your exile.

The same parting that split the reed from its bed
brings you together and you can’t know until
you’ve always known; when they said farewell, you bled
so long, knowing you would not fare well, and still
only long for the place your heart comes from.
Reading in tongues; all music yearns for home.

Previously published as a commended poem in the Troubadour Poetry Competition for 2020

Photographer in Halabja, 17th March 1988.

He shoots everything he sees before him:
families gathered in alleyways,
birds fallen from their nests,
that day in Spring.

In front of steps
the figure of a man rests
wearing Kurdish turban and baggy pants,
a large sash wrapped around his waist,

face down in the dirt,
holding a baby in his arms.
Muted earthy tones around a pink blanket,
a white, glowing face, chin-up to the sky.

The photographer
holds his camera tight
to capture this perfect still life
of the just-dead.

Hands shake as he takes the parting shot:
newborn face towards the camera.
This exposure burns
his right index finger, his retina.

He’ll share what the world needs to see
though no image can show the pungent air
thick with sweet apple and bile.
No shadow dark enough.

Previously published in Poetry Wales, Spring 2020

The Diver

It’s no coincidence that he was born in March:
Pisces, romantic who loves to swim,
he’s been called by the government for his services again.

He keeps coming back, no matter how bad it gets.
He loves the rivers and oceans. Despite no-go zones,
barriers and metal nets, he can’t help but return to the Tigris,

and marvel at how she can give and take,
bend and curve, kiss the Euphrates at the Marshes,
cry at what they hold.

Today he holds his breath
in his hands, feels the skin-to-skin connection
as he finds another body. This time with no head.

He loosens it from the Tigris tangles.
Baghdad 2007 has been difficult.
The man with no head

will be buried tomorrow in an unmarked grave
if no family comes for him.
Another lonely Janaza prayer.

Dragged up, it shows hands tied behind the bullet-ridden back.
The diver will probably find his family,
or head, downstream somewhere.

The diver’s own family wants to leave Iraq.
They say he’s a dreamer, tell him there is no hope left,
no point in holding his breath hoping for peace.

But he knows the Tigris has been black and red,
seen much worse than this yet forgives.
Besides, he says, I can hold my breath for a…. very…. long…. time.

Previously published in Prole, Issue 27

The Baker

The baker kneads and comforts the dough to make this day’s bread
Pats it to a diamond eye, pinches both ends, to shape this day’s bread.

Muezzin calls to each mourner that they’ve been blessed
By the God who is always greater, who gave this day’s bread.

Inner and outer canthi dry of tears the baker sheds.
She loved samoon. From his crushed airway, this day’s bread.

Dormant seed once breathed as wheat, died to give grain’s dust.
His hands knock it back to rise again, this day’s bread.

His fingertips flatten each ball of dough, newborn soft,
Palms lay each one to rest in burning clay, this day’s bread.

It puffs up like chests of angry men, is wrapped in white cloth to stay warm.
Broken just like the breaker, it sighs steam of age, this day’s bread.

Opens to the oath of mint and holy basil. The baker knows
It’s perfumed with the nectar of each sealed fate — this day’s bread.

Previously published in Envoi, Issue 180

Abeer Ameer’s poems have appeared widely in publications including: Acumen, Poetry Wales, Planet and The Rialto. She is a member of poetry performance group, The Spoke. Her debut poetry collection, Inhale/ Exile, in which she shares stories of her Iraqi heritage, was published by Seren in February 2021.

Inhale/Exile is available to purchase from the Seren website.

Coming Out – Maddie Forest

Coming Out

This secret wants to escape through my vocal cords,
so I hide it in my underwear drawer.
Then I give it to my dog for him to hide it
like he hides the pigs’ ears we give him.
I get a step stool and hide it between bed sheets
on the top shelf of my parents’ walk-in closet.
Or I stick it in the back garden, in that little crook
at the foot of the big spruce tree.
Maybe I bury it under a begonia when Mum and Dad
plant them in the flowerbed under my bedroom window.
I place it with the dust under the grey couch
that hasn’t been moved in ten, fifteen years.
Finally, I wrap it in shimmery red paper,
tie a green ribbon around it,
then write a name tag, For the whole family,
and place it under the Christmas tree.

Maddie Forest is a writer and poet in her early 20s, originally from Finland but currently studying Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. When she is not completing assessments, you will find her either talking to animals in parks or singing Taylor Swift songs in her room. She tweets @ItsMaddiehbu

The Pissing Contest – Charles G Lauder Jr

The Pissing Contest

Little boys with their penises in hand
gathered about a porcelain trough,
the drain a silver dome,
when all they know of politics
is what they overhear their parents declare,
so though they know nothing of Watergate
and eighteen minutes of missing tape,
nor of Ehrlichman and Hunt, Mitchell and Dean,
they know ‘Nixon’, with its hard ‘ks’ lump,
and Congressional hearings, the long, droning table of men
in a dark wooden-panelled room
and the high smack of a gavel,
broadcast on all three TV channels,
stealing away afternoon cartoons
and Mothers’ soaps for weeks on end,
they stand there, penises grasped in little hands,
following the biggest boy’s lead
and aim their streams at the silver dome drain:
Look at me! I’m peeing on the Capitol!
Only a few of the arched golden flows
have the strength to splatter against the dome,
burst through its holes like a water cannon
against windows, offices and corridors flood
with desks and sofas floating away in the foam,
interns and PAs swim to get clear.
It doesn’t matter if they really meant
the White House, or Congress,
or Washington in general,
this is for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck,
and, if their mothers were here,
The Guiding Light and As the World Turns,
little boys peeing until penises run dry
and the pee drains away,
leaving a stink and a stain,
the little boys are proud of their new game,
as penises are waved and shook, then tucked away.
This before the days of separate urinals,
like older brothers and fathers already use,
where they’ll stand, distracted by size,
and brag to one another that the water is cold,
and the biggest boy will reply, And deep too.

Charles G Lauder Jr grew up in Texas and has lived in south Leicestershire since 2000. He has two pamphlets Bleeds (CCC, 2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (BLER, 2017). His debut collection is The Aesthetics of Breath (V.Press, 2019): https://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/the-aesthetics-of-breath.html

Psalter – William Thompson

Psalter

i.

A podcast has me listening to Leigh Chislett,
HIV nurse at St Mary’s in the mid-Eighties.

I think of Gunn, who trained both barrels
at men like me in ’92. Then try imagining Wilfred,

still writing ‘I with who another ghost am lain’,
but then surviving late into his nineties.

Just long enough to see yet another cause
of ‘vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues’

or to summon the will that saw him fighting
‘like an angel’ at the moment he ‘came out

to help these boys […] to speak of them as well
as a pleader can.’ And then, of course,

ii.

Housman – whose ‘fear contended with desire’
– who leant across his lectern in ’33 to say,

‘as for a verse in in the forty-ninth Psalm:
But no man may deliver his brother, nor make

agreement unto God for him; that is to me
poetry so moving that I can hardly keep my voice

steady in reading it.’ And so I try imagining
the three of them watching over Leigh, just as

he worries for a patient, who’s signed up
for a dodgy drug on an experimental trial,

only to receive reply: ‘I’m going to die anyway.
This is for those who will come after me.’

William Thompson is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. Born in Cambridgeshire in 1991, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wild CourtThe Honest Ulsterman, LighthouseInk Sweat & TearsQuince and The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-21 (Eyewear).
Twitter: @willthompson237

Mel in the Trees – Mark Russell

Mel in the Trees

‘Hey,. Mark!.. Have you had eye surgery?’.. ‘Hi, Mel.. No,. my. glasses are
right here in my top pocket.’. ‘But you can see me?’. ‘Of course. I’m short-
sighted.. You know that.’. ‘Really?’ ‘Yes.. You’re standing. right in. front of
me.. I can see you as clear as a bell.. But if you went. and stood over there,
I’d have. to put my glasses on. to recognise you. as anything other.. than a
multi-coloured. blur.’. ‘Wow.. That’s fascinating,’,. he said. and moved. off
over to. the. line. of. trees. behind. the. fence.. ‘Can you. see me. now?’. he
called.. ‘This isn’t fascinating, Mel!’. I shouted, but he couldn’t hear me.. I
snatched. a loud hailer. from. a tree protestor. and turned it on.. My voice
became tinny and broken, but very loud.. ‘Come back, Mel,. this is stupid.’
Mel. looked behind him, to see where. my voice was coming from.. All the
tree protestors joined me in waving him toward us.. Eventually, he got the
message. and. staggered. back...‘Good grief,’. he. said,. ‘I think. I’m. going
deaf.’. ‘No Mel,.. you. walked a long. way from here.. I had. to use this loud
hailer,. and still you were.. too far. away..’ He took it from me.. ‘Wow, that’s
fascinating!’ He began to make his way to the line of trees, but this time he
ran due to. the excitement.. ‘Let me see if. I can do it!’. The tree. protestors
were grumbling and wanted their loud hailer back. I suggested they follow
him and force him to hand it over, but they said they were against all forms
of violence. In the distance,. Mel had his back to us. and was addressing an
empty field. to the west,.. but we. couldn’t. make. out what. he was. saying.
‘Shall. we go and. rescue him?’.. one of .the. tree protestors. said... Mel was
jumping. up and down,. but not in an agitated way.. ‘Let’s wait,’. I said.. ‘I
think he’s enjoying himself.’

Mark Russell won the 2020 Magma Poetry Judge’s Prize. His poems have appeared in The Manchester Review, Stand, The Fortnightly Review, Blackbox Manifold, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal and elsewhere. @mark59russell 

The Doctrine of Triangles – Mathew Lyons

The Doctrine of Triangles

I look up at the tent’s converging walls, their apex
just out of arm’s reach. There is nothing to do

but watch the slow passage of the hunters’ moon
across my torso, watch my body become a map

to track us with beneath the first surveillance satellite
—we dreamers, we moving targets, we stars in transit,

we people of docksides, caravans and container parks.
Bleached skin peels with each passing cloud

as if time were scouring my shadows, my other selves,
from the world. Beneath the moon’s old gaze I am visible

and invisible, naked and meaningless, a thing
of surface only. What does a satellite know of sleep

or the comforts of darkness, of hope and home
and safety: the heart’s grand trigonometry.

Mathew is a London-based poet and writer. His work has been published by Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake, Dust, Dawn Treader, Visual Verse and Nine Muses.

Purple Jeans – Rowena Knight

Purple Jeans

When I bought the jeans he was alive.
I was so excited to find jeans
in the perfect shade of purple,
right size and length.
I was on my way to a meeting.
I was killing time when the jeans caught my eye.
A few hours later I had purple jeans
and a white-hot piece of knowledge.
I wonder if I’ll ever wear the jeans now
or if wearing them will always make me think of Dave dying
– as if the jeans had murdered him!
As if denim has anything to do
with chasing yourself down a blind alley.
Was he wearing jeans when he stopped being alive?
Did he slide his belt from the loops holding it in place?
Did the person who found him hate that belt
for forgetting its purpose
and becoming extraordinary?
He couldn’t carry any more, not even
the weight of his own body.
He will never wear jeans again.
He will never go through the dull
but soothing morning routine.
In a bathroom somewhere
a toothbrush is waiting for his mouth.
His glasses are cold on the bedside table.
Someone needs to tell them.
Someone needs to inform his suits.
They’re waiting so patiently
for the privilege of being worn by him.

Rowena Knight is a queer feminist living in Bristol. Her poems have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Magma, The Rialto, and The Emma Press Anthology of Love. Her poetry pamphlet is All the Footprints I Left Were Red (Valley Press, 2016).  Twitter: @purple_feminist Instagram: @purple_feminist_

Snide – Ava Patel

Snide

I hear ‘I do’ and choose to roll amid some confetti filled gold balloons,
the confetti pieces smaller than I remember in the gold balloons.

Something will go whoosh past my ear soon,
maybe the helium let out of a small, gold balloon.

I see nothing at this wedding but hear badgers humming the truly madly deeply tune.
My mother and I had no one to dance with because soon

we’d be left alone with the empty bar, the two of us all on our own.
My gnarled fingers promised to always be alone,

even in her slightly less gnarled ones—
the whale fell through into our fourth moon.

Wrecking ball, helium wrecking balloons
wrecking wedding cakes, I am the ruins.

The snide rabbit mutters, his voice high from confetti filled gold balloons.
‘Always the bridesmaid,’ he says. ‘I’m never the groom.’

Ava Patel graduated from the University of Warwick with a First in an MA in Writing.  Her debut pamphlet ‘Dusk in Bloom’ has just been published by Prolebooks and she runs an Instagram poetry page: @ava_poetics.Her pamphlet is available to buy here: https://prolebooks.co.uk/