Lenni – Gill McEvoy

Lenni
 
She had no truck with softies –
you swam the river. Or not.

And, if not, endured
her silent scorn.

You went to the forest,
for bilberries. Or not.
 
Mosquitoes? Pah!
Lenni had no time for them.

Nor they for her – but you,
that was different.

When your bitten ankle
swelled and swelled

Lenni lathered it
with lead-water, didn’t care

if lead were poisonous
or not.

She brought you
to the deepest, coldest lake

and when you wouldn’t jump
she pushed you in.

Ah, Lenni, Lenni,
carving the cold lake water

with her long, strong arms,
marching to the forest

baskets swinging from her hands –
You coming? No? Pah!

And Pah! again.

 

Gill lives in Devon; member of the Totnes Company of Poets; Hawthornden Fellow; winner of the 2015 Michael Marks Award for “The First Telling” Happenstance Press.

Strange Orbits – Sarah James/Leavesley

Strange Orbits

Another alien sky. Wrapped in mist,
the pale sun turns to ghostly moon.
Five months, four weeks, two days and still
everything is strange: sleep rains
nightmares; his face and 100-watt shadows
orbit the long waking hours.

My non-stop mind churns white noise.
The radio headline that crackles through
is a fire at Chester Zoo…animals missing.
Missing, miss him. Words spin
like his anti-crease shirts playing
at white clouds in our tumble drier.

Meanwhile, me, driving, and more driving –
a thick-windowed metal beast charging
the road’s jolting hum and jumbled horizons.
Avoiding home. My thoughts flock
like sheep rushing an upturned trough.
His silhouette dominates every skyline.

“Let me write it down in case.” Last words
are stones skimmed across an endless lake,
the tarmac’s unrelenting grey, the deep
emptiness inside me, my heavy bones,
these restless limbs. When the phrase sinks,
and memories rise, I feel its full meaning.

In the corner of the sky’s eye, a quiver
of birds in flight. Rain pelts my glass face.

 

Sarah James/Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her recent titles How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Poetry Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) were both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. Her website is at http://sarah-james.co.uk.

 

 

Llys Dedwydd (Heaven’s Court) – Janet Laugharne

Llys Dedwydd (Heaven’s Court)

The red curtains she had made herself,
faded in the sun over time,
but still she enjoyed their colour,
wrapped in her mohair blanket.

She created an island of convenience
around her riser chair: TV remote, books and pen;
coffee and biscuits on the butterfly tray.

Leaving, she took the blanket with her, and
the curtains, unhooked, were brittle and thin,
deceiving, so
different from when in place and daily drawn.

 

Janet Laugharne lives in Wales, UK.  Her short stories, flash fiction and poems have appeared in Yours magazine, Litro online, Reflex Fiction, Spelk, Paragraph Planet and Writers Forum. She also co-writes with Jacqueline Harrett under their pen name, J.L. Harland.

Still Here – Rhianne Celia

Still Here

I bet you didn’t think you’d make it
this far, what with the noise in your
head turned up to neighbours ringing
the police, the shower a hissing beast
and the cat’s sick something to step
over or else completely avoid. The list
goes on, but so do you.

Remember when we made a journey
in flipped coins, pit-stopped for sugared
worms and let them hang from our
mouths like a promise? Or when
we slept under the bed just because,
fuzzy knees tuned into each other,
and we chose the animal we’d most like
to become, and you said a dog ‘cause
they’re happy to just leave the house
and have a wee? That list goes on, too.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that
you’re still here, and there’s still so
many cats hedge-blinking and waiting
for your squeak. Plus, think of all the lists
you still need to write, like your best
places in Manc to buy olive bread from, and
tips for when you feel anxious
at work. ‘Cause if you don’t write them,
I can’t poke fun at but secretly love
them, for what they say about you.

 

Rhianne holds an MA in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester. She adores music, animals and eating, in no particular order. She thinks humans are wonderfully weird. You can find more of her poetry and general musings over at rhianne-writes.tumblr.com.

Rat Dissection – Beth Davies

Rat Dissection

She is crucified against cardboard
with stomach cruelly exposed.
I am surprised how easy it is
to cut through skin. I try not
to think about the vulnerability
of my own pale flesh.

The intricate mess glistens beneath.
Intestine, liver, stomach, kidney,
spleen… Not neatly arranged
like textbook diagrams. The scent
of death fills me, threatening to empty me out.
Is this how we would smell? I am lucky
not to know the answer.

Exposed insides reveal
harsh simplicity. The guts are
only a tangle of tubes, the brain
a lump of cells, the heart
a bag of muscle. I cannot find
the signs of how she moved,
how she thought,
or how she felt.

In the end
there is only meat.

 

Beth Davies is a poet from Sheffield, studying at Durham. She is the editor of The Gentian journal and part of Durham University Slam Team. Her work has appeared in Pulp Poets Press, The Kindling, PUSH and multiple anthologies.

Fockynggrove – Deborah Harvey

Fockynggrove
 
The artist who exhibited a seven-foot black velvet cock
in the gents’ toilets at the junction of Park Row
and Woodland Road

and the not yet ex-husband, his knickerless mistress
fogging the lift’s mirrored walls
in the multi-storey car park

and the scrag cuts and mullets in double denim
all exploratory hands and tentative tongues
round the back of the ice rink

never knew that the ground beneath their feet
this hill rising up under tarmac was once called
Fockynggrove

but the bay trees pot-bound in terracotta
valerian seeded in cracks in walls
the buddleia thrusting through gaps in railings

feel the pulsing through their roots
the longing for stories to tell themselves
recreate old echoes.

 

Deborah Harvey’s poems have been widely published and broadcast on Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Her four collections are published by Indigo Dreams, the most recent being The Shadow Factory (2019). She is co-director of The Leaping Word poetry consultancy.

 

 

 

Possum – Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Possum
for Aiden

he’s back
from his day long tour
with the school band
he takes a warm shower
and rests his tired head
in my lap
snoozing
I watch his eyelids tremble
a powder of moss
the telltale wisps
of fine down
quivering above
his eleven year old lip

still my baby for now
nestled against me
hands like possum paws
cottony pink
cupped in mine
like they used to curl
in the pads of my palms
at one, at four
at seven

I want to shift my leg
relieve the discomfort
of pins and needles
but I don’t want to wake him
lest he shuffle away
displace the completeness
of this moment
because
if the sixth grade mums
are to be believed
I cannot be sure
that back from band tour
he will still want
the warmth of my lap
next year.

 

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Australian artist, poet, and pianist of Indian heritage. She’s a member of the North Shore Poetry Project and Authora Australis. Her works have been published in several literary journals in Australia, US, and the UK.

 

 

 

 

Self Guidance – Robin Lindsay Wilson

Self Guidance

fold your arms
on the desk
rest your head
and go to sleep

dream yourself clever
dream yourself good

dream yourself grown up
remembering this day
of shocks and tears
and bright red cheeks
this friendless day

when you waited it out
then looked at the sun

because it was forbidden
because it was impossible
because it was an idea
smiling and obvious

smiles will blind you
but ideas can heal

 

Robin is a lecturer in Acting and Performance at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. He has had work published in many UK literary journals and poetry magazines, including – Magma, Iota, The Rialto, South, Other Poetry, Dream Catcher, The Interpreter’s House, Brittle Star, The Edinburgh Review, Chapman and Envoi. He has had three collections of poetry published by Cinnamon Press, Wales. The titles are – ‘Ready Made Bouquets’ (2007), ‘Myself and Other Strangers’ (2015) and ‘Backstage in Paradise’ (2019).

Cohabitat – Hilary Watson

Cohabitat

The flat below is rented out to angels
who pass us in the hallway, quickstep
down the stairs to fetch up wine crates
overfilled with books: The Cuckoo’s Egg,
Critical Path, The Unseen Hand. They shift
furniture at night, slap each other’s flesh,
whistling the kettle, guffaw like riled chimps
at Friends. Their incense haunts the corridor
with feathers lost from duvets until the call
to move again. We’ll force the lock to check
for char or shrine or scrap or monument.

 

Hilary Watson lives in S Wales. She has recently been published in The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog, Impossible Archetype and The Emma Press Anthology of Contemporary Gothic Verse. She loves dogs & beautiful bookshops @poetryhilary http://www.hilarywatson.co.uk

 

 

Featured Publication – apple, fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond

Our featured publication for May is apple, fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Olga Dermott- Bond’s superb poems make their way towards searing emotion via craft,
detailed observation and a kind of glittering acceptance that the world we have is the world we must write about and the job of the poet is to make art from the flawed things around us. These poems reward rereading and hang around in your mind, delivering phrases and lines back at you at unexpected times that turn out to be the times you need them most.’ Ian McMillan
Vivid and Powerful‘ Ana Sampson McLaughlin
olga5

 

apple, fallen

Her smile is waxed water, curved perfect and full.
Sleeping in grass-hush, she fits herself perfectly,
a wise moon dressed only in pearled skin and sugar.
She is open as a lake, offering a steady reflection to
gospelled branches above that sway love-heavy,
growing with all of her hope-laden daughters –

her smashed skull is a restless shattered crawling
of ferment, made only of wasps that cling to shrinking
edges. she is a cave of black static, her crabbed body
hollowed beyond blood. a boat silenced with dry land,
she has sunk her own tongue, devoured her eyes, cheeks,
swallowed the blameless sun. there is only this place –

………………………….turn me over before you ask how I am.

 

Toaster

Each Sunday morning
the bread would often get stuck
or launch itself high

across the kitchen
where dad would catch it, juggling
each flapping bird with

blackened wings. His dance
made us laugh. Tea, marmalade,
homemade jam, honey –

again and again
we would wait for its metalled
cough, to watch salmon

leaping through currents
of sun. I ate six slices
one weekend, enthralled

with how happiness
was the colour of butter,
best eaten hot. Toast.

I believed I could
save each tiny crumb of you,
thinking aged just four

that every Sunday
would stay like this, love landing
soft, the right way up.

Previously published in Ten Poems about Breakfast (Candlestick Press)

 

……………..Fionn courts Oonagh

……………..Harebell

The first time he came to see her after work
it had rained a misery of tales all day,
her mother’s kitchen shrunk, shrivelled at the thought
……………………………………………………………………..……of a visitor

his shoulders sleeping boats anchored deep beneath
an old raincoat, scarcely covering shyness
that she wanted to undress, mind skittering
………………………………………………..…like a leveret –

her book-learning left far from this equation,
cleverness something she was used to hiding,
conjugating verbs a witch’s trick she could
………………………………………perform in her sleep.

Daylight chased from the doorway he ducked under
she stood as sudden moonlight, wondering if
he would sweep all the plates of the table, lift
………………………………………….it clean with one hand –

instead he took harebells from his pocket,
purple-slight flowers, brimming with wet-hedge smell,
held them outstretched, their modest heads trembling wild,
………………………………………………………………..…..a beautiful storm.

previously featured in the Bedtime Stories For The End Of The World podcast

 

Hagoshii

The Navajo people have a word for bringing a conversation to a close. Hagoshii. It was the women, the gatherers, who first made pots; mothers who believed they had already passed through three worlds, trusting the wet clay of this glittering one with their wet fingers, feeling the weight of something hollow and useful taking new form. I wish we had shared this word, wish that I hadn’t interpreted your silence, delays and polite replies as a vessel to drink from. I wish I had known you had buried me like a thirsty fragment, because I was still carrying you sacred as air and fire and light, making sculptures of what I thought we could be with my clumsy hands. I handle our last meeting like a fired relic, searching for symbols. I wish I had learnt the shape of acceptance, of what cannot change through time. Hagoshii. It is finished.

 

Olga is originally from Northern Ireland. A former Warwick Poet Laureate, she has had poetry and flash fiction published in a range of magazines including Rattle Magazine, Dodging the Rain, Magma, Strix, Cordite Review, Under the Radar, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House and Paper Swans. She was the winner of the 2019 BBC Proms poetry competition, is a commissioned artist for Coventry City of Culture 2021 and last year was selected as one of the emerging poets for the podcast Bedtime Stories for the End of the World. She is an assistant headteacher in a secondary school and has two daughters. apple, fallen is her debut poetry pamphlet.

apple, fallen is available to purchase from the Against the Grain Poetry Press website.