My Father’s Dinner Jacket – Simon Williams

My Father’s Dinner Jacket

Each year, just once, I measure up to him,
see how I fit his DJ – black serge,
thin, silk lapels, proper pockets. This year
it’s not so bad, I’m only slightly plumper
than the girth of him, don’t raise my arm
too far in slipping on the jacket.

When I’m back at midnight,
the trousers humid from rocking to
the Stones, beating to Quo,
I know he’d never rise to perspiration,
from a Lehár waltz, a ragtime foxtrot, though
perhaps he’d raise the odd bead from a polka.

He wouldn’t like the music, never did,
but he’d appreciate the ball, would like me
living up the night, welcoming December
by polishing my shoes, straightening
my purple bow-tie, taking to the dance
like a tailor takes to tails.

Simon Williams (www.simonwilliams.info) has eight published collections, his latest being a co-authored pamphlet with Susan Taylor, The Weather House (www.indigodreams.co.uk/williams-taylor/4594076848), which has also toured in performance. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013, founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet and is currently developing a one-man, science-based poetry show, Cosmic Latte.

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Featured Publication – Suitcase by Kevin Reid

Our featured publication for December is Suitcase by Kevin Reid, published by 4word.

These poems are the real thing. Gritty, honest, vernacular, funny but also at times startlingly moving. Reid writes equally movingly about a mother’s deathbed (he wasn’t there. He was away being a fuckin’ artist) or a daughter’s move to Glasgow. The loss which he carries with him to a new life in Athens is so skilfully evoked you can taste it long after you close this lovely collection.‘ Carole Bromley

Kevin Reid’s poems view the world from an angle which renews and revitalises the everyday. Here pigeons have ‘tones of stone’ and ‘the devil in your feet’. These are tender poems alert to the way the objects that surround us can summon our greatest losses. ‘the twitch of twigged words / woven into chicken wire’ one speaker notes before turning to ‘Your easel: a girl in a white dress, / her unfinished wave’. Careful and evocative, Reid’s lines shimmer with the unspoken.‘ John McCullough

How long has it been since a Scottish poet wrote at any length about Greece? By my reckoning it was Alexander Scott in 1971 with his pamphlet Greek Fire. Even then, he wrote as a tourist and many of the poems were damp squibs about retsina tasting worse than hemlock. Here, Kevin Reid tackles the lot of the self-imposed exile, trying to outrun grief and the grim legacy of the past with all its bigotries and religious baggage, only to have to confront it finally in poetry. Reid shows us that little worthwhile is come by easily, that it is the struggle to live a truthful and meaningful life that is worth all the hardship.’ Richie McCaffery

The Church of the Red Telephone Box

was open to all,
baptism wasn’t a requirement,
but loose change was. Confirmation
took place when you were tall enough,
strong enough to open the door.

Communion wasn’t a sacred host
or fortified wine, only the occasional
unholy offering of a half-eaten chip butty
and the dregs of a can of McEwans.

Confession wasn’t face-to-face, back then
the messenger wasn’t Skype. The operator
was supportive, but not always forgiving,
no matter how often you said sorry or swore

because they couldn’t connect you.
Their absolution and penance of hang-up
and redial, often led to immediate lapse
like leaving the receiver off the hook
or kicking-in a window.

A sanctuary of sin, this is where sex
could take place before marriage if
you didn’t mind shameless voyeurs
or the holy order of an unexpected ring.

Previously published in Prole 29

On Dying and Being an Artist

As your brain bled could you hear
my sisters bicker over who was
and wasn’t allowed at your bedside

Did you feel dad’s hand in yours
he said you still had a firm grip

Did you smell him leave the room
hear the family tell him not to

As he reached your side they told me
you opened your eyes for the last time
for the first time in twenty-four hours

Did you know I was on the other side
of the country at an arts festival

giving an artist’s talk
being a fuckin’ artist

Suitcase: A Traveller’s Companion

As vital as a bible can be to a Christian,
with its must-haves and recommendations.

Its attention to toilet bag detail:
dental floss, mouthwash, toothbrush
and toothpaste, hemp soap, cotton buds,
Jean Paul Gaultier, shampoo, shower gel,
razor and razorblades.

Its highlighted note on the essential
spare pair of glasses to replace those
you could lose in a dark room
full of naked men and women.

The sans of the underwear passage
has worn-out, faded from bold black
to greyscale, the value in updating
smalls barely readable. A reminder
of how much you can wear, wash, expose

five pairs of socks and boxers to sunshine
before they become dog-eared and unwearable.

The Brightest Song My Arms Have Ever Held

…call it home. It wanders, yes, but it is still yours.
………………………………………………..Rachel McKibbens

If I could summon joy today
I’d remove the thousands of miles
between Athens and Glasgow

I’d have Aegean sunsets
over the Isle of Arran
eat Greek with Glaswegians

Instead – I remove the years
between adult and child
between now and you singing
Bird On the Wire

Kevin Reid travels and works between the UK and Europe. In 2018, he was commended in The Bangor Literary Journal Forty Words competition for his short poem Four Walls
and an Absence of Livestock.
His poetry has been published in various online and
printed journals including, Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears and Under the Radar. His mini pamphlet Burdlife ( Tapsalteerie ) was published in 2017 and his first UK pamphlet Androgyny (4word) was published in May 2018. Suitcase (4word) was
published in September 2020.

Suitcase is available to purchase from the 4word website.

the man who held your heart in his hands – Natalie Scott

the man who held your heart in his hands

did he have……. a……. steady touch?
did he handle it ………….like a flower 
or…. a grounded…………. fledgling?
was it….. a butter-block…………melting 
in his palms? or did he ………..not need 
such metaphors? ………..did he. believe 
it could be fixed?……… did he …….know 
how many times it had been….. broken?
did he feel its……… fitful ………rhythm
quivering  …….like down…… between
his fingers? ……..was it ……….the first
or one of many feathers…… in hiscap?
did he imagine how much it loved me?
did he fear….. its beat…… would….. stop?

Natalie Scott is an internationally published poet and Creative Writing lecturer. Her latest award-winning collection Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison, published by Valley Press on International Women’s Day, 2020, received ACE funding for a West End performance.

Sparklers – Mat Riches

Sparklers

Free booze and hanging mistletoe
had lit our touch papers, sent us
flying into a dark corner.

We exploded across dance floors
like two speeding Catherine wheels
—burning brighter than all the rest.

Stopped at red lights too far from home,
I see you pushing buttons, and pause.
The rain across the windscreen’s filled

with fireworks from neon shop signs.
The hot potato of my heart
tells me not to go back.

Mat Riches is ITV’s poet-in-residence (They don’t know this). Most recently he’s had work in Wild Court and Finished Creatures. He co-runs Rogue Strands poetry evenings and has a pamphlet out with Red Squirrel Press in 2023.
Twitter @matriches Blog: Where The Fox Hat.

In Praise of Disney Villains who Refuse to Retire – Angela Readman

In Praise of Disney Villains who Refuse to Retire

This is for the women who disguise their frowns with flames, the dusk of
your eyelids and opera of fingertips constructing churches and knocking
them down.

It’s for mothering that rook on your shoulder, a praise for crows’ feet and
your mirror of hecklers, the hours of boiling lost loves into lipstick and mist.

It’s for your pageant of age, strapping a crown over horns. This is for
peeling a lonely night off the window and wearing its cloak, ripping your
spleen

to kibble left out for wolves. It’s for your disgrace, putting on that black
dress, letting it flow like a dozen bridesmaids holding the night.

If age is just a number, this is for calling it in the small hours and breathing
do me into its ear. It’s for making each stumble a dance with lightning and
showing us a cane can conduct skies.

Here’s to you, for making purple a sports car and sharing the map that lets
us go roaring into the dawn.

Angela Readman’s poetry collection The Book of Tides is published by Nine Arches. Her chapbook Cooking with Marilyn, poems after Marilyn Monroe was published by Blueprint Poetry in 2020. She also writes fiction, her novel Something like Breathing came out in 2019.

What I learnt in woodwork – Jon McLeod

What I learnt in woodwork

That a spice rack makes a cradle for misery.
That you can saw for days without reaching
enlightenment. That left-handedness counts
as a curse from God. That carpentry is an art
practised by priests in overalls with a cigarette
and alcohol habit who select a wall plug
as if their whole life’s creed hangs upon it.
That a lathe may rob you of an arm.

That hewing starts with a child asleep
inside a trunk. That you can go against
the grain but the grain will always haunt you.
That you can age a severed tree
by its rings yet some moments leave you
with their smoking brand.

Jon McLeod lives in the North West of England. His poetry has appeared in the The North and The Frogmore Papers. His work also featured in a recent anthology of poetry on the theme of running.

I remember when I walked out onto a surgical ward – Sarah J Bryson

I remember when I walked out onto a surgical ward

for the first time, dressed in the blue of a student nurse.
I remember the not-yet-knowing, the smell in the throat
the top-down view of allotments from the sixth floor.

I remember sister-tutor, in her burgundy uniform-dress
edged with white, who cajoled my group out of shyness
showing us the way to shake down the mercury

with a determined wrist-flick and telling us how, in her day
the cost of a broken thermometer would be deducted
from a nurse’s monthly pay. Let’s do a set of obs, she said.

First of all, take a pulse. So our team of four spread out
in the bay, one for each man in fresh pyjamas
seated by his neat bed. Mine smiled kindly, put out his wrist

for my nervous grip. A hairy hand and arm, but the underside
where I placed my fingers, below his thumb, was smooth.
I remember how his pulse rippled beneath, full and slow.

I remember how it made me blush.

Sarah is a writer of poetry and prose, a nurse and a keen amateur photographer. She is interested in words, words for well being, people and nature and the connections between these aspects of her life. 

My Imaginary Mother – Paul Waring

My Imaginary Mother

My imaginary mother has eyes that clock all,
whispers down from lavender clouds, warns
me away from crocodiles with stapler mouths,
says never trust a taxi driver in a dicky bow –

speaks the language of local birds, gossips
about randy bees in flowerbeds, mouse-hunt
all-nighters frequented by cha-cha cats and
foxtrot foxes; shoplifting habits of squirrels.

Knows colour maths by rote – brown equals
yellow times red plus blue, plays late-night
cards with poker-faced crows, tells dirty jokes
to adolescent gulls; makes them laugh like drains
at the one about Shergar and rocking horse shite.

Paul Waring’s poetry is published in Prole, Atrium, Strix, Ink, Sweat & Tears, London Grip and elsewhere. Awarded second prize in the 2019 Yaffle Prize, commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition, his pamphlet ‘Quotidian’ is published by Yaffle Press. www.waringwords.blogTwitter: @drpaulwaring

Spit On Your Face – Camillus John

Spit On Your Face

He spoke to me with no spit
for the first time in about 10 years.
Each time we’d spoken in the past
he’d showered me with saliva,
passionately making his point
with arse-tight logic and Pythonesque humour.

I never minded. I enjoyed getting washed
with the back and forth of a robust argument.
but apparently he didn’t.

He regretted wetting the world
with his conversation and felt humiliated.

Sometimes when he spoke to me during lunch
there’d be bits of nuts or meat or vegetables in the spit
he’d cover my face with by accident.
Like peculiar acne.

Turns out he took tablets to dry himself out on the inside.
They worked a treat. He didn’t spit any more.
Or talk much for that matter.

I told him to stop taking the tablets.
That I liked the acne in brine
he gave to me and the world
when he spoke.
He said no.

Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin. He has had work published in The Stinging Fly, RTÉ Ten, The Lonely Crowd and other such organs. He would also like to mention that Pats won the FAI cup in 2014 after 62 miserable years of not winning it.

Conversation with a Cavewoman – Vic Pickup

Conversation with a Cavewoman

No, we don’t get many sabre-toothed tigers,
food stores are reasonable at our local Tesco Extra,
my partner has no need for a spear or knife –
he uses a thing called a Mac to sustain his brood,
and firelighters, individually wrapped.

I have not lost any children to the cold or hunger –
nobody wants to take them in the night or kill them.
My milk didn’t dry up in a drought;
when our son had a cough we drove to the A&E in town
and didn’t have to wait long.

But I lie awake at night,
dread what I cannot stop.
My inability to forage, find fresh water or control my fears –
that my children will live like me, talk like me
be frightened of this world.

I worry I don’t show love as other people do,
that they will need pills or to pay someone
just to talk.
On days when the cloud-base is low, and the list
of what’s needed unravels, as I so frequently do –

I want to swaddle their peach skins
in animal fur, smother them with my scent –
have enough fuel to keep the fire strong
and the glow in their faces, knowing
I can take on the world.

Vic Pickup is widely published and a previous winner of the Café Writer’s competition, the 2020 Cupid’s Arrow Competition and shortlisted for the National Poetry Day #speakyourtruth contest. www.vicpickup.com