Deciding the future in an outside loo – Pat Edwards

Deciding the future in an outside loo
 
She had chosen this place of ruin
with its grim stains, expletive graffiti.
Feeling the cold seat beneath her
she breathed the smell of stale piss,
shit. Inside her the cells of a foetus
mocked her careless night. Elsewhere
men and women were in hot debate.

It’s a woman’s right to choose.
Only God can take a life.
I wouldn’t be here if my mum had got rid of me.
 
Dry, useless, crinkle of hard loo roll
wouldn’t do any kind of a job.
She wouldn’t decide which way
to vote tonight. She stood up,
flushed the toilet, scrawled
help on the wall

 

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has more recently been published in Prole, Magma (due summer), Ink Sweat and Tears and Deborah Alma’s #MeToo Anthology. Pat runs Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.

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Diversion tactics – Charley Barnes

Diversion tactics

I dry my hair, dress myself, paint my nails –
start again. I strip my nails back to the base colour and re-paint them
a slightly different shade. I’m a better person when I’m busy.

I cure the nail varnish for eight minutes longer than necessary;
under the UV light I inspect the creases
of my knuckles for crumbs.

After this I will work for ten hours before I go home,
have a bath, read a book, go to bed, go to sleep,
on an empty stomach.

 

Charley Barnes is a Worcester-based writer who has recently gained her Doctorate in Creative Writing. Charley’s short story collection, The Women You Were Warned About, was published in May 2017, and her debut poetry pamphlet, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache, has just been published by V. Press.

The Hush – Natalie Crick

The Hush

Pine limbs sleep
silent under snow.
Cattle low like preachers.

The dead listen.
Shrouded by cornstalks
they stand enrapt.

I light a candle and watch the smoke curl
until it twists into moths:
they whisper before they leave for good.

It is ink-black and the room has tightened.
I am disturbed by your absence,
numb as a berry fallen in snow.
I hear the tide of the corn,
the last dull vowels of the dreamers.

 

Natalie Crick (UK) has poetry published in Interpreters House, Bare Fiction and Poetry Salzburg Review. A Writing Poetry MA student at Newcastle University (taught by Tara Bergin and Jacob Polley), her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice.

Featured Publication – We Are All Lucky by Ben Banyard

Our featured publication for August is We Are All Lucky by Ben Banyard, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

We Are All Lucky is an uplifting collection which carefully examines the joys and sorrows of modern life, from the cradle to the grave and everything in between.

What strikes me most about Banyard’s poems is his affection for humanity, grounded by his wry humour. His imagination allows him to empathise with people he encounters. He has the gift of finding pleasure in the everyday, in all its seediness and tawdry beauty. He has the true poet’s gift of noticing details others miss.’ Angela Topping

Ben Banyard writes accessible poems about the real world, with its triumphs and disasters, tragedies and comedies. I like them for their humanity and warmth, for their sense of humour, and for the way Banyard often pins down just the right details to bring a piece vividly to life. This is an enjoyable collection.’ Geoff Hattersley

There is an impressive range here and, whether writing about childhood memories, being a father, cataracts, spit hoods or Birmingham, this poet displays a sureness of touch and an ability to precisely capture a vanished world or the exact tone of a voice. Ben Banyard is a poet with a sharp-eyed yet affectionate view of the world. I very much enjoyed this confident and varied collection.’ Carole Bromley

WAAL cover

Use By 

It started with tea bags left in the sink
which bobbed and swirled as the kettle filled.
They were eaten inside out with blue blooms.

Sometimes I would find the fruit bowl layered
with apples, pears, oranges, all on the turn,
sitting on top of a guilty banana’s mush.

There were loaves of bread kept unopened,
mouldy slices sweating inside the bag.
Feed it to the ducks, you said.

I wasn’t sure whether the fridge gave up in protest
or you broke it to advance your efforts.
You admired the chunks of milk.

The cat was the final straw.

You tried to explain once, as we walked
along the beach, but most of it was lost
in the roar of the wind. I heard:

control.

 

Unsung Lullabies

Donʹt forget the ones who flinch
as you wave printouts of your scan at work.

They wouldnʹt want you to feel guilty
for broadcasting what seems as simple as A to B.

You can post snaps of family holidays on Facebook;
they donʹt mind, really, but wonʹt look too closely.

Sometimes they have photos of
freshly painted spare rooms,
smiles cradling their bumps,
might tend a small grave.

We mustnʹt moan too loudly about parenthood
when they long for allergies and tantrums.

They reconcile reasons to be cheerful,
stay away from catchment areas.

A deep and blameless longing
past greed or jealousy
to a place they know but canʹt reach.

 

Cataract Clinic 

This is a production line, in a good way;
every half‐hour a patient is prepared.

This is your new lens; 
These eye drops have got an anaesthetic in them; 
just a little swab of iodine… there, all done. 

A Character in jazzy braces
broadcasts his life story in Bristolian burr:
I been a widower sixteen year now, mind; 
it were the breast cancer what took her. 

He puts on a papery blue theatre cap,
a rustling robe: welcome distractions.
Don’t I look bonny in this get‐up! 

One by one they creep out on a nurse’s arm.
We look at our watches, sip at teacups,
remember we have a Bourbon left,
go to work on 17 across.
At least that rain’s held off, touch wood. 

We’re surprised when they come back after 15 minutes.
Some look like they suspect a practical joke,
most stare around with wide open pupils.

Something catches in our throats each time
we see that part of them is reborn:
they’re so touched by this everyday miracle
they can barely concentrate on the nurse’s advice:

take one eye drop every four hours; 
don’t bend over or go down on all fours; 
total loss of vision definitely isn’t normal; 
ring the helpline if anything worries you.

 

Junk 

Cheery bell on the paint‐blistered door,
I find myself in a dark space made of ages:

chipped Charles and Diana mugs
bowl of tarnished medals
Welsh dresser crammed with
trinkets from Dawlish, Cromer, Tenby.

I want the framed sepia photographs
of a long‐forgotten family.

There are no price tags.
The owner’s propped behind the counter,
blowing into his cup‐a‐soup.

Tells me heʹs been here forty years.
Where did it all come from?
He shrugs.

This was once a going concern
now itʹs a rock pool
restocked by the cityʹs tide.

He leaves the door open
for an hour each morning,
greets these damaged memories
with hands behind his back
as they tumble into his shop.

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, with his wife and two young children. His
work has appeared in many journals, both in print and online, including Prole, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Atrium, And Other Poems and Proletarian Poetry. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016. Ben was formerly the editor of the popular online journal Clear Poetry, which he closed at the end of 2017 to devote more time to his writing.
Blog: https://benbanyard.wordpress.com
Facebook page: https://facebook.com/benbanyardpoet
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bbanyard

We Are All Lucky is available to buy from the Indigo Dreams website, here. Signed copies are available directly from the author, here.

Birthing Pups – Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe

Birthing Pups

The Bitch is birthing
in a nest of torn scraps of cloth,
blankets, towels, bits of fluff – even belly fur,
all scrabbled together. A rats nest almost.

Her collection is smattered with red droplets,
pain smearing across the gathered comforts.

I sit on the edge of the action. Waiting to be called.
My tiny fingers fit where no adults can.
Hooking out trapped limbs,
flopping them free or cleaning tiny mouths,
membranous yet pin sharp teeth already.
Rubbing limp back to breath;
damp sodden fur – little rags.

Or the worst,
loosing the taut cords
slipping them free
only to have her bite too close.
Small strings of purple
easing out, teasing loose.
The knots uncoil –
I cannot push them back.

 

Zoë is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. She has an MA in Poetry from Bath Spa University. Her work has appeared in Magma, Curly Mind, Clear Poetry, Lakeview Journal, Interpreter’s House, Picaroon Poetry and The Lake amongst others.

There’s Always Someone Messier – Olivia Tuck

There’s Always Someone Messier

Her anger caused an avalanche in the centre of Bath
and all the zopiclone in this hemisphere wouldn’t let her sleep
and the spell of her name makes psychiatric nurses scream
and there’s a ward in the Priory
just for her exes
and she flickers in agony
when the boy next door chops turnips
and she binges-and-purges
as often as she smokes
and her debt is deeper than a catacomb
and her Smirnoff tears burn throats
and the heat from her cuts melts tungsten
and last week she kicked off when an old man was sleeping
in the corner bed in the A&E observation ward
because that’s her bed
and she never knows how she’s got home when the search lights
of morning smack her in the face, like Betelgeuse dying,
and the bonfire in her back garden is stoked
with letters, negligee, bridges, bridges, bridges
and her parents buried themselves under the patio
and the poltergeist in the attic avoids her
and the Devil spends Friday night on her sofa,
watching Breaking Bad and painting her naked
thighs with tracings of pomegranate seeds
and her baby is a haunted doll: chipped,
with lunar eclipse eyes, unblinking,
when she leaves it – as she was left –
cold, in the sink.

 

Olivia Tuck’s work has been published on Amaryllis, in Three Drops from a Cauldron and in Lighthouse. She is due to start at Bath Spa University this autumn, to study for a BA in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites

Fire and Bees – Bethan Rees

Fire and Bees

A low hum as the gas oven
flicks into ignition. We leave the door
open because the dog
is cold. A house filled with
warmth. A little log fire
of a man lies in bed, pillows to be
shook, hearts to burn into flames.

He sets the house on fire, and we drown
in trouncing flames, together. We are close, closer,
closest until we are ashes and then we are one.

The dog didn’t make it either.

Dull crackles turn ember to smoke,
as a crowd of bees fill the open space
where our house once stood.
We, as ash people, keep
them. The queen is adamant that we
are hers, and as long as we are
together we are content.

When everything is back to everyday,
I am a furnace
that encases us both in heat
as we sleep, and in the shuffled
awakenings we both can hear,
that dangerous buzz
on my breath.

 

Bethan Rees has been published in Three Drops from a Cauldron, Fly on the Wall Poetry and Amaryllis and studies MSc Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. Her successes are owed to her elderly dog, Mitzie. (and partner Reese, she supposes).

Holiday treat – Jackie Biggs

Holiday treat

It is far too tall,
bigger than a secret she can never know.
She looks up and up
and still can’t see the top.
A tiny Alice in a bad dream,
she has no hope of reaching the starting place.

With a hand clenched tight
she tries to control the longest spoon she can ever imagine.
Windows stream with the hot breath of damp customers
and the noisy steam of the coffee machine
in the plastic-clad milk bar.

Inside her misty glass
bright cherry sauce
curls around pure white ice cream,
sticky with tiny splodges of fruit
and layers of red gloop –
all the sweetness she cannot taste.

He finds a smaller spoon,
holds the glass lower,
watches her.

Melting ice cream
dribbles down the outside
over her fisted fingers,
sticky as glue.
She needs the long spoon
to forage.
She wants to consume it all,
for him,
every last glob,
right down to the cherry
at the very bottom.

Syrup is
a cloying mass in her mouth.
Her big teary eyes look up to him
above lips smeared with red.
She so wants his approval.

 

Jackie Biggs has had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies, both print and online, including Clear Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon, Poetry24.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first collection is The Spaces in Between (Pinewood Press, 2015). Blog:  http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk  Twitter: @JackieNews

It’s 3am – Karen Dennison

It’s 3am

and the seagulls are screeching, insisting
I think of you in the photograph
racing past seaside chalets,
hair swinging.

I run us backwards,
emptying shoes of sand,
days of beaches, nights of stories.

Your house at the end of our road
has become a legend, like a film star
who died too young. It rises
brick-by-brick around me.

We’re in the dark mouldy basement,
discovering the corpse’s hair
is just a mop propped up at the grating.

I’m holding a miniature bottle of rose-petal
perfume we decanted, neck closed
with a rubber stopper; our promises
scrolled up tightly inside it.

 

Karen Dennison’s (kdennison.wordpress.com) poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, Counting Rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. She has designed several poetry collection book covers and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Making space – Sharon Phillips

Making space

When I woke in the night, there was Mum
sat on the edge of my bed.
Shove over, she said, make me some space.

She was all done up to go out,
her face Max Factor fair,
lips slicked vivid coral,
red hair shiny and newly cut.

Put auburn, she said, not red,
or they’ll think I’m ginger.

She was scrawny when we last met,
mouth agape, skin yellow, eyes sunk.

You’re never going to put that, are you?
Cheeky mare, showing me up so much.

Stilettos clacked on the floorboards.
Come and see, she said,
look at the snow.

Snowflakes whirled so giddy fast
I thought I was falling up.

It’s only a dream, my homing pigeon.
Let me see if you’re hot.
Her hand rested on my forehead.

That’s better, she said,
that’s a nicer thing to write.

 

Sharon’s poems have most recently appeared on Bluepepper, The Open Mouse, Amaryllis and Ink Sweat and Tears. In 2017 she won the Borderlines Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Tales of Doggerland’ and was also shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.