Cutting Back the Tayberries – Edwin Stockdale

Cutting Back the Tayberries

In her head, Granny hears Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1,
the CD Grandpa bought her.

She is pruning the tayberries away
from Galloway Beltie cows.

The stalks beginning to brittle.
She sits on a stool to garden.

She shuffles back to her bungalow
with tiny feet that shrink over time.

Time for her tot, whisky and ginger ale,
with not too much ginger.

She sits on the patio, her back supported,
sips her drink, watches the sun fading.

 

Edwin Stockdale’s debut pamphlet, Aventurine, was published in September 2014 by Red Squirrel Press.  He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham with Distinction and is researching a PhD in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.

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The Boat – Sam Payne

The Boat

I don’t expect to see his boat
moored amid the feathered plumes
of the pampas grass.
Paint flecks rising in the breeze
like rowers lifting their oars.

He used to tell of sirens and sea ghosts,
taught us how to navigate by the stars.
Warned about the swell and how
it could toss a little boat like a wet rag.

He’d be there with his pipe and yellow hat
and we were his sea-licked urchins
with sand in the gaps between our toes
and the brine of the seas clinging to us
long after we went home.

 

Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing with Teesside University through their distance learning programme. Her poems have appeared in several places online including, Ink, Sweat and Tears and The Open Mouse.

Battenhall Fair – Ian Glass

Battenhall Fair

I knew this place, this hill, this sky;
not long before the fields were buried.
I stood where you are now.
There was a stile as high
as my shoulder and a hawthorn
whose shade I borrowed.

And Sam sitting on Persephone
our cow asked why and why
and why does grass grow upwards
and why is the sky blue?

And Mam smiling said: God’s love
is reflected in the sky; the grass
reaches up to touch.
And Pa said: starlings
paint the sky with cornflowers;
the grass is scared of worms.

And scraps of laughter drifted
up the hill from Battenhall fair
and beyond the stalls
the tall cathedral tower stood
golden white
and the river twisted
silver blue
like the ribbon in my hair.

And Sam was singing, so I shouted: why
did they build so tall?
And Mam said:
to touch God.
And Pa said:
because we are scared of worms.

 

Ian was raised in Northumberland, lives in Worcestershire and has two grown-up daughters.  He trained as an engineer but when not writing he works as a programmer.  Ian’s poems have appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears and Algebra of Owls.

Con Moto – Stephen Claughton

Con Moto

Who else would have thought of it:
teaching yourself to drive
by sitting at the piano,
playing with (look!) no hands?

That’s how I found you one day,
both feet on the pedals,
an umbrella clutched by your side,
as you practised changing gear.

In the days before simulators,
what else were you to do?
I needn’t have scoffed, I suppose:
you passed your test first time,

even though years of driving
never quite smoothed out
those kangaroo starts
and tooth-on-edge, grinding gears.

You carried on into your eighties,
pooh-poohing my spoil-sport advice
about buses and taxis being cheaper
(and less costly to life and limb).

Nothing could dent your resolve.
Wing mirrors in the end
became consumable items
like the tins of touch-up paint.

Even writing your car off once,
not stopping when you should,
didn’t prompt you to give up,
whatever that policeman said.

Those white-knuckle rides to the station!
I’d rather have walked through the rain
with a ton of luggage in tow
than have taken those lifts with you.

“Remind me again,” you said,
as we came to a busy junction,
“what happens at roundabouts.”
No arguing, you were grounded after that.

You still had the piano, though,
tuned up, ready to go,
whenever you fancied a spin,
or a trip down memory lane.

You read music better than roads
and never lost your touch,
the notes still at your fingertips,
long after you’d failed to grasp words.

 

Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared widely in magazines, both in print and on line, most recently in Ink Sweat & TearsLondon Grip and Poetry Salzburg Review. Another is forthcoming in The High Window.

The Potter’s Clay – Stella Wulf

The Potter’s Clay

Not the porcelain beauty you had designs on,
I was a red-earth mother, homemaker
through and through, ripe for laying
immutable bonds, bearing loads.

I wasn’t to know you were stealing my fire,
whilst tenderly kneading the give of my nature.
How malleable I was, a render to spread
on the façade of your attentions.

When I was soft as curds you turned,
like milk in the sun, such dizzying speed,
you threw me. Slip-slap of palms, you pulled me up,
knocked me back. Your manipulation

plumbed me hollow, fettled me thin,
until I was a frangible object,
a receptacle for your ego, seared
by the rage of your obsession.

After the baptism when I cracked,
you held my fractures up to the light,
wept a salt-glaze over my imperfections,
turned my fault to the red-brick wall.

 

Stella’s poems are widely published both in print and online, and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry, and #MeToo. She has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University.

Featured Publication – Arboreal Days by Daniel Bennett

Our featured publication for September is Arboreal Days by Daniel Bennett, published by the red ceilings press.

The chapbook opens with the title sequence, Arboreal Days – a six-part poem exploring life amongst trees. Further poems explore the landscapes of cities and the country, of travel and staying still, or unearth the hidden stories of secret technology and lost films. In these shifting backdrops, the characters of the poems often appear bemused and disorientated, victims of absurd situations beyond their control. And always beyond them stand the trees, providing memory and continuity through inevitable change, despite their distance and indifference.

 

AB_tree-200px

 

Arboreal Days
2
Lost in the digressions
of that hard autumn
I followed you into the woods.
Morning is yellow light
tessellated through leaves
the wood is a place
children are taught to avoid.
During the early stages of the crash
everyone retreated
into a narrower sense of self
insulating themselves
from consequences and impact.
On walks along the creek
we saw tents strung up
catching oak helicopters
and lime and elder pollen,
we will date those moments
from the thin ring of soot
in a cross section of sycamore
the charred vein of bark
suitable for thumbnail sketches
and while things recharge
beyond us, we hunker down
into a comfortable hollow:
the ring around the pond
the sway of a willow
and in a far off public park
of finite summer
the girl recognised
that the elm tree was ours.

 

Treehouses
Remember when we brought home pine cones
and arranged them on mantelpieces?
In those days, the interiors of boilers
and drains were a mystery. Letters
always seemed to arrive unbidden
and brought with them experiments
with handwriting and ideas for travel.
Even during summer, we wore black
out of reticence and the whole of nature
seemed to be at the tips of our fingers,
but back gardens stared back at us
inscrutably and offered little comfort,
except for shade for cigarettes or random fires.
We grew accustomed to the idea of houses
as being more or less constant in our lives
even though we remained sanguine
about their disrepair, and cleaning happened
only on the last days of our tenancies.
Our cars, too, were rarities and even then
covered with guano or Saharan sand.
We drank apple tea in cold basements
and experimented with lemon cakes
out of some vague yearning for family,
although we spoke to our parents rarely
and only when something had broken.
We tried on futures with a sense of mystery
like wearing an old coat in a junk shop
and calling someone over to laugh at it,
before moving on, together, to things
we hoped would be ever more glorious.

 

Rainy Days On The Balcony

That was the summer of elderflower and flash floods,
when we cat-napped throughout the afternoons.
Water looked for its level. We awoke into a dream
where everyone wore shorts and baled out cellars,
rescuing photographs and cradles.
This time would teach us the value of tears.

When I lived in the basement flat
we let the neighbours water the garden,
and made iced tea from the mint growing above us.
It ran wild in the beds, the purple flowers spinning
with bumblebees and Red Admirals, like someone
had knocked us unconscious in a cartoon.

The house mover had tattoos stitched down his arm:
a row of crossed out women’s names.
We gave him a cradle, laughed at his life choices.
The reek of engine oil and wet grass
from the parkland, ah, it all takes me back.
We were right there, in the middle of it.

Now, marine colours remind me of summer:
rust, mould, tin, algae. The men on the park bench
drink and watch other men fish. Rain
slides into the puddles of the creek
sets it all rising, lolling outwards, swamping everything.
I look down from the balcony, far beyond those days.

 

Born in Shropshire, Daniel Bennett lives and works in London. His poems have
appeared in a variety of places, including The Manchester Review, The Stinging Fly,
Under The Radar, and Atrium. His first collection West South North, North South
East will be published next year by The High Window. He is also the author of the
novel All The Dogs. Follow him on Twitter @AbsenceClub.

Arboreal Days is available for purchase from the red ceilings press website.

Homes and Gardens – Melanie Branton

Homes and Gardens

The brambles went mental when my mum was ill.
I was too sapped of strength to pick up the secateurs
and, like mouthy Year 9s testing boundaries with the supply teacher,
they sensed my weakness, took the piss,
played Twister, graffitied all over the garden,
flung their hagnailed hands over the fence
to give the finger to the neighbours.

They infiltrated the house,
insinuated themselves inside my mother’s rib cage,
wrapped themselves around her lungs and heart,
popped them like birthday balloons
that shrivelled to scraps of burst rubber
in the centre of a dark and thorny thicket.
Prickly tendrils crept inside my skull,
clawed my brain, left puncture wounds that festered.

It’s only now I can bring myself to cut them back,
only now I can see over the garden wall again.

 

Melanie Branton is a poet and spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her first collection, My Cloth-Eared Heart, was published by Oversteps in 2017 and her second, Can You See Where I’m Coming From?, is forthcoming from Burning Eye. melaniebranton.wordpress.com  Twitter: @sapiencedowne

How to eat cherries – Ian Stuart

How to eat cherries

In a summer garden
languidly.
Piled in a blue bowl, sun
polishing their gloss;
the name’s soft consonants
springs water in your mouth.

Don’t hold it by the stem
and slice away the flesh with your front teeth.

Put one in your mouth and feel
cool roundness on your tongue,
then bite the skin, bruised flesh,
teeth touching a knot of bone
and juice, trickling like dark blood
in the corner of your mouth.

 

Ian Stuart is a writer/performer in York. He has had work accepted by Dreamcatcher, Obsessed with Pipework, Selcouth Station and other poetry outlets.
Last October he had  “Quantum Theory for Cats” published by Valley Press in Scarborough – see link below.

From one room to another – Kate Garrett

From one room to another

I was wearing a corduroy
coat at the end of June –

the need was unexpected;
like your scent of berries and blue

summer at midnight brushing
cold rain away, like the sudden

rush of heat through an attic
window drying my lake-damp skin

twenty years before. The weeks passed,
morning followed bright on the road

rolling me to your street. The hint
of a kiss pulled me into Wednesday,

sweat-salted and heavy, smiling
up to cloud-cottoned July.

 

Kate Garrett writes and edits. She was raised in rural southern Ohio, but moved to the UK nearly twenty years ago, where she still lives – in sunny Sheffield – with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat. Twitter: @mskateybelle / www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk

Hand-me-downs – Karen Dennison

Hand-me-downs

Last night I had that dream;
I was being chased but my feet
were set in concrete. And waking,
my thumb is jerking like a tadpole hatching.

Half-asleep, I picture my grandfather
shrinking in a tunnel of hallway.
He tries to shift a leg but his soles
have grown roots that burrow the carpet.

His left hand twitches at his hip, fingers bent,
twig-stiff. His right is bud-tight, a wax-white fist.
It’s then I wonder, thumb grazing palm,
if he’s given me his hands, their terrible gift.

 

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.