The Son – Tim Love

The son

She told him that the pain of dying was
like giving birth – it wouldn’t last forever.
She didn’t want drugs to numb the feeling.

For the funeral he ordered flowers
with long stems because the hospital
could use them after, because tulips,

unlike roses, will not boast about love,
the love that dries them out through
long winters. Their bulbs are poisonous,

not like onions, which only make him cry.
Like all lilies, they need cold shocks
to bring out the best in them.

From then on he wore hope like superman
wears underpants because Kryptonite lurked
in every playground and waiting room.

He kept her jam jar of buttons, each one
a teddy-bear’s lost eye, shaking it nightly,
staring in as if it’s a kaleidoscope.

The sun shone like the moon.
Even the stars believed him now.
He’d give it a year like he promised.

 

Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet “Moving Parts” (HappenStance) and a story collection “By all means” (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/

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The Day I Turned Into a Bear – Joe Williams

The Day I Turned Into a Bear

There were funny looks at the station, and
gasps as I clambered onto the train.
I was pleased to secure a double seat,
and that nobody checked my ticket.
I had a perfectly valid one,
and don’t know of any rules that say
you can’t have bears on a train, just
I don’t like to cause any trouble.

At work we agreed it was probably best
if I didn’t see any customers, so
I spent the day answering emails,
making the tea and filing.
I took a longer than usual lunch,
which gave me time to go to the woods,
find a few berries and plants to eat,
and attend to some personal business.

By the time I got to Sainsbury’s, I
was getting used to being a bear.
With a satisfied growl I flipped a fish
out of the fridge compartment.
The queue dispersed. I said that I didn’t
need a bag, or help with packing,
thanked the cashier for their help, carried
my dinner home in my teeth.

I wasn’t intending to go to the pub,
but there was nothing on television,
nothing that would appeal to bears,
so I dropped in for a pint.
I knew I would get a ribbing, of course.
Everyone there was taking the piss.
I lost count of the number of times
I heard the “long paws” joke.

In the morning I was relieved to find
that I was no longer a bear, but
my porridge was far too cold, and I had
a very sore head.

 

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. His verse novella, ‘An Otley Run’, published by Half Moon Books, was shortlisted for the Best Novella category in the 2019 Saboteur Awards.
www.joewilliams.co.uk
www.anotleyrun.com
@JoeWilliamsPoet

Red Pencil – Jonathan Humble

Red Pencil

I am six years old, my pencil breaks
mid-word in Mrs Foster’s class.

So I turn to my friend Martin,
show him the pencil and whisper,

‘Martin, Martin, my pencil has broke.’
‘Use this,’ he says and passes a substitute,

secretly under our desk.
‘But it’s a red pencil, Martin,’ I say.

He smiles a smile. It is an ‘it’ll all be ok’
sort of smile and so I carry on,

copying lines of words I cannot read,
but which I try my very hardest

to replicate, as neat and true to the original
as I am able, at six, to do.

At the finish, I look down at my page
of writing; my teacher’s lines above,

with mine in red below and I wonder
about the words I have written.

I am happy with the result of my effort;
especially the esses which are

smooth and curvy and flowing and lovely.
They are the best I have ever done.

So, I walk twenty paces to Mrs Foster’s desk,
clutching my paper with pride,

and return ten yards with a slapped arse,
my work in shreds in a basket,

having a brand new perspective on the way of things
and on the reliability of my friend Martin.

 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. His poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and other publications such as Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework, Atrium, Riggwelter, Amaryllis, Eye Flash and Picaroon. His short stories and poems for children have been published in The Caterpillar and Stew Magazine.

Web: https://northernjim.wordpress.com

 

If I’d smuggled you through the Search Tank, past the dogs – Avril Joy

If I’d smuggled you through the Search Tank, past the dogs

persuaded them, made them listen in their offices and their conference halls
bought a bicycle and a Tannoy, made the streets ours.
If I’d taken up your letting cup, tipped blood backwards to your veins
ironed your crumpled skin like a skirt smooth at its seams, like a skirt for dancing in.
If I’d opened the prison gates and let them swing
torn down fences, dug tunnels like POWs.
If I’d given you a notebook of swanskin embossed with your name
if we’d sipped tea together from porcelain,
the space around us grown to cathedrals.
If I’d shown you the lacing pattern of leaves, the still pillow of night over hills
bought the day like heroin and banished dreams
if we’d eaten papaya and mango fresh from their trees.
If we’d swum in the Indian ocean
thrown ourselves at waves resisting undertow.
If we’d stood on stilts like stilt fisherman, like Jesus on his cross
guarding the children lost; at sea.
If I’d shown you how the world can sometimes be.

 

Avril Joy’s poem Skomm won first prize in the York Literary festival, competition 2019. Poems have appeared in Strix, Ink Sweat&Tears, Dream Catcher and Snakeskin. She is currently writing a sequence of poems reflecting on twenty-five years spent working in a women’s prison to be pub in Sept 2019 by Linen Press wwwavriljoy.com

Featured Publication – Threat by Julia Webb

Our featured publication for July is Threat by Julia Webb, published by Nine Arches Press.

The poems in Threat, Julia Webb’s second collection, train their eagle-eyes on life
at the margins, and on family, love, loss, belonging and not belonging. They are
not afraid to visit the uncomfortable places where true humanity resides. Threat
is an examination of self from multiple perspectives. Its narratives of both past
and present tread a fine line between fantasy and reality – these are the lives we
have led, the lives we could have led, the lives we are leading or could still lead.
Forensically detailed and disturbing, the dark and sometimes brutal undertow of
small-town life seeps to the surface of these unsettling poems.

“Threat is a powerful and unsettling telling of how it feels to be a girl living in
small town whose surfaces are seethed with graffiti, and home life bristles with
disquiet. A girl whose body grows into a woman’s shape and becomes instant
prey to the lurkers in bars and those who snuffle the playgrounds with bags of
hot chips. Julia Webb’s voice here is magical realism at its most gritty, full of loss
and longing. I found myself in these poems; know their streets and forest
pathways and felt their dangers as a visceral ache.” Helen Ivory

“Threat is a collection which brilliantly manages to be both surreal and of the
body; it’s a reminder that within the perfect metaphor can live a depth of truth
that ordinary language might not be able to discover. Threat knows how closely
love and loss, comedy and tragedy, violence and sexuality can be bound together
within the tight confines of a poem.” Andrew McMillan

“In Julia Webb’s audacious new collection the past is as claustrophobic as one of
the cramped houses she so vividly describes, where families are cooped up
together in dangerous proximity. Tensions simmer in poems of startling
physicality, where the body’s desires and rages make their – sometimes brutal –
presence felt. By turns horrifying, comic and tender, the poems crackle like a
nylon sheet in the dark – full of hair-raising energy. Highly recommended.” Esther Morgan

Threat Cover WEB

 

The language of home hurts my mouth

It spies on me at night, peering in through the letterbox.
Though I left years ago, it hasn’t let me go;

when I was six it tied a bit of elastic to my ankle
so I would always bounce back again,

when I was ten it inked its name on the insides of my thighs,
enjoying slipping its hand between my legs.

This is how it is with us – me running, it pouncing.
Mostly it speaks in screeches, the rising voice of accusation.

My hometown doesn’t have an s, an a,
or any other friendly letter. All its sounds are hard.

Weeks and months go by now where I barely say its name
but its language lives inside me,

spills out at odd moments as fucks and cunts,
a whole town teeming with swear words.

Beyond that the shush of pines;
shoulder to shoulder silence, shoulder to shoulder dark.

Previously published in Lampeter Review (#16, summer 2018)

 

The Doll

was in our father’s arms,
he butchered her daily,
first cutting off her head and arms
then her legs and feet.

He waved at us with her hands
from the kitchen window
as we bounced tennis balls onto the flat roof,
any excuse to climb on the fence.

By tea-time she was sewn back together,
her stitches clumsy, her head on wrong.
She crashed around the kitchen,
dropping hot fat onto delicate skin.

I’m all fingers and thumbs today,
she would say.

Previously published in Domestic Cherry (2018)

 

Your mother is landlady of the dead house

She slides a drink to you along the bar –
where did she learn such tricks?
She used to be an ordinary woman,
with her peasant dresses and handicrafts,
she is even handier now, the landlord says.
Your mother pushes her breasts up and together
as if she has just discovered them.
Now she is out of her dress-tents she feels invincible.
You want to make her one of those warning signs
like the ones they have at the swimming pool
to help steer her through the choppy waters of lust:
no heavy petting, no bombing.
Your mother is pulling a pint,
the muscles in her arm bulge,
she leans across the counter
and whispers in a customer’s ear,
her voice is breathy, girlish.
You want to sweep her into your arms
but instead you knock back your drink
and call for another shot –
tequila with its line of salt.
Oh mother you are a public bar
and I am the scratches on the counter
you tried so hard to remove.

 

All the Women

“all the women, all the women
of Texas flock towards it”

(Hilda Sheehan, The Box of Books 1)

all the women, all the women
are inside me now
shouting that this is a fine day for it
that they needn’t have brought their brollies,
their rain faces, their fold-up kagoules

whose voice is loudest I couldn’t tell you

I speak acorns and buttresses
I speak water lilies and doves
the day is a wedding
and shortly we will all climb with our brimming glasses
aboard a vintage double decker

but the women, the women
they are building their bakeries inside me
they are making baklava and baking exquisite cakes
they are replacing my blood with confectioner’s custard
and icing the insides of my breasts

and they are right it is a fine day for it
the sky is smiling widely showing its teeth of birds
no bombs are falling
we have 24 hour supermarkets and online shopping

and there are books, books galore on ebay and in libraries
we can pick them up and check them out
we can put them under our jumpers and take them home

but the women, the women
are camped on the edge of the deep dark pool
they are writing their epic poems on the inside of my skin
they are filling me up with shopping lists
chapters of novels, letters and bills
I am word confetti

I open my book beak and inadvertently sing

Previously Published in Ink, Sweat and Tears (2018)

 

Julia Webb grew up in Thetford, a small town in rural Norfolk . She has a BA in
Creative Writing From Norwich University College of the Arts and an MA
(poetry) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich where she
teaches creative writing and is a poetry editor for Lighthouse, a journal for new
writing. In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition. Her poem
‘Sisters’ was highly commended in the 2016 Forward Prize. In 2016 she was
writer in residence on Norwich Market. Her first collection Bird Sisters was
published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.

Threat is available to buy from the Nine Arches Press website.

lipstick feet – Frances Jackson

lipstick feet

as a child she would have
given just about anything
for shoes like this

bright red
almost indecently so
flat but dainty
somewhat impractical
in the rain

she can hear her mother’s voice
the wise counsel
that was the soundtrack of her youth
what d’you want something like that for
they’ll only scuff and pinch your feet

it makes her feel rebellious
and out comes the purse
can’t wait to try to them out
take them for a test spin

walks to the shops
buoyantly
a slight spring in her step
proud of her shiny new shoes

hobbles back
of course
blisters on her feet
red angry welts
as if the colour had rubbed off
smudged like the lipstick
that other girls’ mothers wore

 

Frances Jackson is originally from the northwest of England, but now lives in Bavaria. Her translations and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in places such as B O D Y, Nine Muses Poetry, The Missing Slate and Your Impossible Voice.

Watching a Fish on a Cutting Board – Amanda Oosthuizen

Watching a Fish on a Cutting Board

Tipped, no fingers,
onto a white, plastic cutting
board, utilitarian,
not like the fish at all, it lies,

a glamorous bulging muscle;
silky, black fan of a tailfin; lipless
mouth; wiry tiara gills and a silver-
rimmed, lidless eye. An envelope slit

along its belly, awaiting
tarragon, seasalt, pepper,
a splash of balsamic, maybe
a dollop of crème fraîche.

It never lurked amongst swaying
ribbons of weed or battled the wash
of the river. It sprang to a feeder
with five hundred others.
One measly life with a plastic,
cutting board
destiny.

 

Amanda Oosthuizen’s creative work has appeared in Under the Radar, 3:AM, Ambit, on the London underground, in galleries, Winchester cathedral, and Humanagerie amongst others. She earns her living by writing/arranging music and teaching woodwind. www.amandaoosthuizen.com @amandaoosty

Museum of Illness – Angi Holden

Museum of Illness

Exhibit One: The Symptom
………….Last year’s exhibit has been removed for conservation.
………….The temporary replacement is an unseen symptom.
………….Place your hand in the feely-box.
………….You may experience some discomfort.

Exhibit Two: The Referral
………….Paperwork suggests the need for examination
………….and further investigation. There may be a delay.

Exhibit Three: The Consultation
………….Please take a ticket from the dispenser.
………….Viewings are strictly in numerical order and time-limited.

Exhibit Four: The Diagnosis
………….This may be figurative or abstract.
………….Select your gallery in accordance with preference.
………….Be prepared for ambiguity.

Exhibit Five: The Treatment
………….There is a range of guidebooks and postcards
………….available from the shop. Plastic bags are disposable
………….and charged at 10p, proceeds to charity.

Exhibit Six: The Outcome
………….The final gallery is close to the exit.
………….Please close the doors as you leave.

 

Angi Holden writes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions. Her work explores family history and personal experience. Spools of Thread – winner of the Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize – was published in 2018.

Diving – Tim Love

Diving

The diver’s head then legs split the arms’ shaft
like aft oars breaking the stitched scars of the first
or an old junkie fearing detection, having to go deeper
until too scared to open his eyes let alone look up
he wrestles bubbles at the bottom.

Miming death he rises into brightness,
bruising not breaking the skin,
part of the mirror until he feels again
the edge he longed for, smoother than alcohol,
concave and clinging to the steep sides.

 

Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet “Moving Parts” (HappenStance) and a story collection “By all means” (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at
http://litrefs.blogspot.com/

In a Forest near Strömsund, Sweden – Rachel Carney

In a Forest near Strömsund, Sweden

For two weeks
we walked in silence
hoping for bears –

deep from the forest,
turning, lumbering,
huge.

Make noise, they said,
as you walk.
But our desire

to see a bear
was stronger.
Bears are shy,

they told us, and so
we walked as quietly
as we could,

almost believing.

 

Rachel Carney has had poems published in several magazines and journals including Ink Sweat and Tears, The High Window Journal and The Ekphrastic Review. She is a book blogger at www.createdtoread.com and has written articles and reviews for various magazines.