Nobody Knows Where You Are – Eugene O’ Hare

Nobody Knows Where You Are

this afternoon i walked by the green river
then up behind the old naval college
to Blackheath. the good photographers
come to the heath this time of year
to catch the fog on its slow parade.
plenty of evenings i have been swallowed
into this fog and had to listen my way
toward the road. four years ago,
mad with your disappearance,
soused up on rum, i came to the fog
to become lost too. perhaps i thought
in the lost place i could find you
and rub rum into your gums
and place your cold hands
into my armpits until i could feel
a flutter that was more than my heart.
nobody knows where you are.
how often does that occur to you?
i think the idea of all the people
who love you getting drunk and lost
and drunk and lost in fog, in sun, in sleep,
in rain, must excite you in some small way-
like a mischievous wish under the hood
of a solemn prayer. it will only be
when i am lost forever that i will find you.
i’ll be old and afraid of nothing then
& you will still be beautiful in the shirt
you left by the green river.

Eugene O’Hare was born in Ireland. His plays are published by Methuen. Recent poems have featured in Crossways, Fortnight, The Galway Review, and as a news piece in The Irish News. He lives in London. 

Featured Publication – In Charge of the Gun by Graham Clifford

Our featured publication for October is In Charge of the Gun by Graham Clifford, published by The Black Light Engine Room Press.

Consistently Clifford: he navigates the mechanics of our failures, and in attempting to fix them, what we may become, or not.” Philip Hancock

These are pitch-perfect poems powered by luminous and revealing images, a razor sharp voice and a beguilingly dark humour. There is irony too and witty insights. Graham is a poet’s poet, with a mastery of syntax and form and a keen awareness of the writer’s need to observe. An immensely readable collection, with a great deal to admire and enjoy.” Anna Saunders

The White Baboon

A white baboon became important.

Everyone visited the zoo to see what he had done to become important. He reflected everyone’s life at
the breakfast table back at them. Who could not be moved by the white baboon and his achievements?

He was also an excellent draftsman. Sometimes it was the tops of houses he could make out from his
cage, or a visitor he remembered. A keeper bought him canvases to use the paints he had made using
oil from Tapir excreta and rocks that children still threw at him.

By humanely removing the top of his skull, neuroscientists properly understood the white baboon’s
importance and helped us to. This success coincided with a dip in zoo ticket sales; attributable to the
allowable and expected mid-implementation slump bought about by edgy economic policy.

There were no ill effects from his surgery or the subsequent analysis which involved sedated journeys
to the best universities. They sold the research paper in the souvenir shop. At K. University he was
allowed to dress in jeans and a t-shirt. The baboon was once beaten for an affair with a handler’s wife.

The baboon went bald, grew back his hair, dreamt he was flying, dreamt of real places he’d never
been to, and drew and drew and drew. He tattooed one of his peers with his own language and
smashed three sons on a boulder near the tyre swing.

In summers, he was captivated by the skittish algorithm of sunny gnats. He understood.

Previously published in The Rialto

The Righteous Path

Then there were Jesuses everywhere. They crowded like water fleas in the supermarket and butted
into lightbulbs at night like moths. One woman had a desiccated one set in a banned sort of resin and
wore it as a broach. Every tiny tooth perfect in miniature; think yawning baby shark.

A really big one decided its job was to stand on the horizon like an inaccurately beneficent history
that everyone colludes with because of the way light congratulates the enormous, softening edges in a
water-colour way.

Juggernauts would flatten them in their thousands on B-roads in the sweltering mating season and
some teenagers kept them in boxes and grew attached to how their Jesuses made nests from rips of
dead other Jesuses. How they would look mournful weaving legs.

You turned into Jesus and I say, It must be tiring. I know how hard it was just to be you, but now you
are Jesus. You must find it difficult to juggle this and your family and work commitments.

Not at all, you say. It was like stepping into a warm room. As soon as I decided, I got this kit and the
address to a website where I could dump my past. I got this enamelled badge and all this paperwork.
Work have been fine, I’m now seen as a kind of mascot or lucky charm.

But you didn’t mention your children, I say. Jesus didn’t have kids, you reply.

Previously published in The Crank

Dear Idiot,

……………….do not share with me
your plans. They are
idiotic and much like mine
when I was an idiot.
You haven’t costed them
and they overreach your
capabilities; I mean,
have you any idea how much
an island is? Even
one infected by tactical
evaluation exercises?
And what will you do
when you can hypnotise? And
where did you hear that
it’ll all be all right in the end?
Dear Idiot, please do not
try to contact me for a reference
even via memories, even
via emotions, even via
the weather even via
poems I’ve always known.
You are an idiot,
and I should know.
Now I see the danger in
your hair do and getting
up late; your
clever rhymes and gestural
brush strokes. It is beyond reckless
to represent fauna
in metal snipped from white goods.
You should be made
to rewrite your manifesto,
every paragraph employed to incarcerate
your idiot thoughts.
You should consider
restarting yourself, and
what the dark buzz from machines means.
Have you not investigated tree bark?
Have you not given up yet?
Idiot.

Previously published in The Salzburg Review

Crossing

My brother started crossing animals with kitchen implements, garden furniture, screws, nuts, bolts,
fixings, ironmongery and work wear, guttering and drainage solutions, door and window fittings, Hi
Vis overalls, fillers, aggregates and sealants, work towers and cleaning essentials.

He raised a half hedgehog half old-fashioned tape measure. He was very pleased with the snakes that
part-way along fanned out as all the sizes of Allen key.

They would be reared in ice cream tubs, an old chest freezer or on his bottom bunk. And all the
animal/objects weren’t obviously upset by their uniqueness in the world. My brother could manage
pain with the skill of an anaesthetist.

Our parents asked him about pursuing his crossing as a proper career but he wouldn’t hear of it.

A sparrow/whisk on his shoulder and a pocket alive with woodlice/Rawlplugs, he tried to tell me there
was more to life than the obvious but I couldn’t understand a word as his tongue was pimpled with the
buttons off an ornate till and his motivation was insulated with a no nonsense and damp-resistant
expanding sticky foam.

Graham Clifford was born in Portsmouth, grew up in Wiltshire and lives in London with his partner and two daughters. He has been published widely, in such magazines as the Salzburg review, the Rialto and Magma, and has won or been commended in awards and competitions such as the Arvon, Bridport and Forward poetry prizes. Graham has performed at the Aldeburgh, Hay on Wye and Bridport Literary Festivals, among others.  He has a MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and is a Head teacher. http://www.grahamcliffordpoetry.com

In Charge of the Gun is available to purchase from Graham’s website.

Spiderwebs – Eleanor Punter

Spiderwebs

This morning
we counted spider webs
on the way to school
warm hand curled in mine
soft peach
of a September sun
dappled on our skin

and you pointed
at the harvest moon
faint penny in the sky
your half-mast socks,
messy plaits
your laughing and skipping
over the cracks

light catching
the gossamer thin curve
of lashes, the gappy row
of your teeth
and I drank you in
and everything you are.
This morning, this love,

wonderful and
bewildering
spins so tight
as you run into school
warm stickiness
of your fingertips
traced lightly onto mine.

Eleanor’s poetry explores women’s experiences such as relationships, motherhood or bodyimage. She has been shortlisted in various competitions, won third prize in the Binsted competition 2019. She has recently had a poem published about anorexia in Ink Sweat and Tears magazine.

The bicycles of ice and salt – Jean Atkin

The bicycles of ice and salt

Green panniers strapped and hooked to racks
we pedal the east of France, this autumn so bitter
the bicycles grow ice in their chains.

They sing like birds, says a lyrical
bike mechanic in Troyes. He hoses them down
with hot water, and they go quiet.

We ride through white bees of hoarfrost
that blur our eyelashes. Ice narrows us.
We count the centimes

double the bread ration, camp
in a numb cold. In Avignon the Mistral
rips up our tent pegs, hurls us south.

We ride till our freewheels tick on a track
to the sea. December, and a beach
washed black by short days.

Glassy waves crash in the dark. We hear them
break. There is no more ice, only a swell
of salt to melt the heart.

Jean Atkin’s latest book is ‘Fan-peckled’ from Fair Acre Press. Her second collection ‘How Time is in Fields’ came out from IDP in 2019.  In 2019 she was Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival and BBC National Poetry Day Poet for Shropshire.  www.jeanatkin.com

Codename Trellis – Sharon Phillips

Codename Trellis

If it was you: forty-odd, sneered at
for being a spinster, day after day
you care for your mum, your uncle,
your aunt until you can’t breathe
in the two-up two-down terrace

and though you can’t see the bay
from the house, you can hear it,
its restless grey grinding the beach,
its winds that lurch up the streets
and sea frets blocking the sunlight

and at work you’re reliable, careful
how you handle the top-secret plans,
day after day you file them away
and the boss thinks you’re too dim
to know exactly what they are:

if that was your life and someone
offered you money, good money,
and you saw what you’d be able
to do, how you could live — if that
was you, how would you choose?

Sharon lives in Otley, West Yorkshire. Her poems have been published in print and online, most recently in Atrium, Raceme and the Dreich Sci-Fi pamphlet. She is currently working towards a collection inspired by the life and works of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz.

O kila na vanua era soko kina – Anna Milan

O kila na vanua era soko kina

When I was a child, nobody 
mentioned the prim little man wearing tweed
who stood behind my frail, pale grandmother
carefully taking her words
and putting them in their place 
in an old tin the colour of yaqona root.

Grandmother sat in her upright chair
her knotted ivory hands clutching
a faded postcard of women with fragile grass liku
and hibiscus in their hair.

I never understood why the man 
took some words and not others
as he took door and laugh and apple
but left her with governor and daughter 
and o kila na vanua era soko kina?

The old woman seemed mostly not to notice.
Sometimes, though, if the man reached forward
when she offered up her words to me with her lips
she would hold onto them with her teeth
and he would tug until the words snapped away
leaving only crumbs on her tongue.

Everyone’s eyes slid carefully around the man
as he picked Grandma’s words one by one
till all she was left with 
was duty 
and suppress 
and au sega ni kila.

Fijian translations 
Liku = skirts made of fibres
O kila na vanua era soko kina? = Where are they going?
Au sega ni kila = I don’t know

Currently living in Hertfordshire, UK, Anna Milan’s poems have appeared in publications such as Under the Radar, Eye Flash Poetry, Black Bough Poetry and Ink Sweat & Tears. @annamilanwrites

A Spell for Motherhood – Nina Parmenter

A Spell for Motherhood

Take a mountain. Scale the pink-arsed flanks of it,  
limb over limb. Find Poseidon. Extract from him a wave 
and a horse’s hoof. Pluck a tree; kill the grip of it 
by showing it your thoughts. Make your peace with the grave. 
Eat apples, all of them. Taste in them the sin 
of being a woman. Let that smack you in the gut, 
you deserve it. Straddle the equator. Suck up its spin, 
take it with you; feel your body snapping shut. 
Learn to count each breath as an act of sedition. 
Pull the lungs from a sleeping leopard. Be a speck. 
Be a planet. Be a long-dead apparition.  
Stuff a storm into your patch pocket, huge and wet, 
but tell no one. Invent two new ways of sucking  
a heart from a blown glass moon. Find a man. Fuck him.

Nina Parmenter has appeared in journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, Light, Better Than Starbucks and The Lyric. She was highly commended in the 2021 Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize, and is a Forward Prize nominee. She lives in Wiltshire. Twitter: @ninaparmenter Facebook: @parmenterpoetry Website: ninaparmenter.com

Invitation to Tea – Dan Blick

Invitation to Tea

The lane is beckoning in the Tuesday sun,
but no one comes.

Toenail clippings curl and yellow,
prose dries, flowers crumble petal by
droopy petal,
poetry does not hit the right vein.

And yet still the sun shines,
the lane beckons,
but no one comes.

Dan is a recent graduate of Cambridge University, who specialised in Islamic Studies, and has worked as a professional actor and writer since graduating. He is moving to New York to study acting in October.

Mistresses – Helen Boden

Mistresses

Brides not so much of Christ
but of the 1944 Butler Act:
those clever girls,
who’d been on a promise
to Girton if they agreed
to take up teaching,
performed acts of education
for the next forty years.
More than content to serve
their calling, they observed
daily rituals of assembly, hourly 
ringing the lesson or dinner bell.
Tolled their obsolescence.

This is my body,
would Miss Jenkinson ever think
as she stood to greet 3B with Salvete?
In the eyes of Cathryn Moore,
with a crush so deep
she nearly stopped eating,
Jenkies was undoing her blouse.

Clare Marshall colluded
with Cathryn’s fantasies.
Together they contrived
Jenkies, in her prime, stepping out
with Mr Hall. Did Miss Greene ever feel
the flip under her ribcage
a buzz inside her underskirt
at the sight of Miss Jenkinson’s
new mint-green polo neck,
or the throat of the layman who gave
the communion wine
at St Saviours on Sundays?

Miss Clarke became Mrs Harris over the holidays.
Clare said Miss Armitage had a gentleman friend.
She’d started wearing lipstick.

When Miss Coates their Head of French
said she stayed over at Jenkie’s
to watch the Young Musician final
because the latter had stereo,
Clare and Cathryn missed the clue
where other girls, the ones like Ruth Charles,
who’d go to the boys’ school barn dance,
had they cared, would have guessed.

Helen Boden is a Yorkshire-born, Edinburgh-based writer, educator and editor. Widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies, her first collection, A Landscape to Figure In, will be published by Red Squirrel Press in 2021

You Wear a T Shirt with the National Rail Emblem on – Wendy Allen

You Wear a T Shirt with the National Rail Emblem on

From Chester to Bangor
the carriages peer down on top
of the wide-eyed sea wall below

you trace your two fingers slow
down the curve of my waist
to hipbone, to the sea underneath

you go down on me
your slated lips taste of waves
I am between blue and breathing.

Wendy Allen came third in The Cheltenham Poetry Festival Transformation competition 2021. She has a Legitimate Snack coming out with Broken Sleep. She is being mentored by Richard Scott and starts her MA in Creative Writing in September.