Everything Must Go – Guy Elston

Everything Must Go

For Alisa

A nervy, thin man selected
from my library of ancient vellum
parchments, and the scarabs
were packed up in panniers
by a sober-ish lady on a fixie.
A trio of calamitous academics
took the furniture, at length,
while a muscled man with a frog
nabbed the second-hand blender.
The mythical sword Excalibur
went to a good home (a pair
of evil twins with a clear secret)
but a predictably damp sandwich
collected the poetry, trying
to ask me personal questions.
The rest – gloves, gift cards, lacquered
parrots bought in Barcelona –
I stuffed in a box marked ‘priceless’,
placed on the kerbside. Finally
the floating began, and floating, I swam
over the city and its millions
of possessions-obsessed insects,
swarming over condos and hatchbacks
while I counted clouds, unattached,
uncompromised, with nothing
but time; time I spent thinking
what an idiot I’d been not to take
you, and everything you, with me.

Guy Elston is a British teacher and writer currently living in Toronto. His poetry has been included by The MothInk Sweat & Tears, The Honest UlstermanAnthropocene and other journals. He is (sort of) on Twitter – @guy_elston

Featured Publication – Like This by Neil Elder

Our featured publication for August is Like This by Neil Elder, published by 4Word.

What I love most about Elder’s work is the deep sympathy for all he observes, the way his language steers us toward the plangent note but then we are lifted into love, into understanding. These are calm, measured and wise poems offering hard won joy.‘ Daljit Nagra

‘‘Like This’ builds on Neil Elder’s previous collections as these direct, plain-speaking narrators give voice to the fleeting moments that unite and separate us. With humour and tenderness Elder records the things we do to give our lives meaning but often enough epiphanies come when we least expect them. Chaos, rage and sadness are kept in check just below the surface, “There is no cure for the end of summer”, but these poems urge us to grasp happiness, even as it’s slipping from our hands.‘ Lorraine Mariner

Neil Elder’s poems wash over you. They can be deft and unobtrusive, but they stay with you… A poet so sure-handed is irresistible. This is a dazzling collection.‘ George Bilgere

No Reception

After a while we leave the footpath,
continuing in comfortable silence,
each wondering how we can turn today into forever.

Life must still be happening to people,
shops will be open, traffic is stacking up,
and we must believe that there are passengers
in planes that pass overhead.

But out here, where we have no reception,
there’s sky, fields, crow crested trees and us.
The sun is splashing through leaf cover
and I squeeze tight shut my eyes
to see a kaleidoscope rush of yellow and green.

Only when we see the burnt out car,
that’s flattened a path into wheat,
do we feel the tug of our lives,
hold our phones up high
and search for a signal.

Runner-up in the Binstead Poetry Prize 2018

Reading Thomas Savage

Upstairs, I am reading the last two chapters of The Power of The Dog.
It’s another tale of people suffering and struggling
before they get what they want, or don’t.
Downstairs, my wife and daughter are watching I’m A Celebrity,
which also involves adversity and tears.
And although I have enjoyed the book,
its ending powerful and pleasing,
what I will remember most about this evening
is the sound of my daughter howling
with laughter.

The Balance

Sudden low sun in the eyes makes me blink,
and puts in mind the man who sneezed
uncontrollably in the sun’s glare, before swerving
into the path of oncoming traffic,
killing three but walking away unscathed.

I am jolted by the realisation
that I don’t remember how I arrived
on this stretch of dual carriageway,
such is the routine.

Ahead is a day of work and I should be glad,
and indeed, I am. But I shall be glad
when I drive home into the sun,
knowing I shall do this again tomorrow.

Also published in The High Window.

The theme is …

This is where I duck out;
the moon’s too big for just one person.

Give me a tiny moonstone to write about,
or better still, a moon shaped stone
that fits upon my palm.

Like the stone I took away from the shore
the day I gave an urn of ashes to the sea:
a trade that, like the tide,
keeps returning you to me.

Like This follows a run of publications for Neil – Codes of Conduct (shortlisted for a Saboteur Award), and The Space Between Us with Cinnamon Press, Being Present (BLER) and And The House Watches On (Cicero). He is widely published in journals and magazines. Neil lives in London and does his best with what life gives him. Contact Neil on Twitter @Eldersville

Like This can be purchased from either Neil’s website or from the 4Word website here.

Ethel Jane Cain – Stephen Bone

Ethel Jane Cain

The search for the girl with the golden voice
ended with Ethel Jane Cain, a telephonist
from Croydon, who beat all others
to give time a tongue and face.

Movietone finds her an English rose,
a Marcel waved emblem of the politeness of kings,
never be late again the campaign ran. To be fast
or slow a thing of the past.

The switchboard jammed the first day
the glass disks turned; the lonely rang in
for company, insmoniacs for a sort of lullaby,
others found in her crisp correctness a certain charge.

The tick of Ethel’s heart stopped at eighty-seven,
but archived, her debutante vowels survive,
winding back the clock of herself
to our parents’ long coffined days and nights.

Stephen Bone has a ‘Stickleback’ pamphlet due from Hedgehog Press in 2021.

The witch hair – Ramona Herdman

The witch hair

It’s the strongest shoot of me,
the devil’s mark. It hooks
its seed-serpent fang out
from the scar under my chin,
fetching my finger to its itch.
I pull it out and burn it.
It comes back like a bone
turned up by the plough,
glinting its hard little head
out of the scar-line’s crest.
It teases for a week –
too short to tweeze.
I see its silhouette on Zoom
and its wink in the mirror
as I mad-dog brush my teeth.
I pull it out once it’s long enough.
It comes back with the new moon.
Sometimes it raises a helmet
of neon green pus
as its egg sac, curling inside
like a shark foetus swimming.
The devil is subtle.
He believes in the minuscule.
The world is falling apart
and still he has the time
to come to me at night,
his flea-jaws working,
suckling at the one wrong hair,
giving it life.

Ramona Herdman’s latest pamphlet, ‘A warm and snouting thing’, is published by The Emma Press. Her previous pamphlet, ‘Bottle’ (HappenStance Press), was a PBS Pamphlet Choice. Ramona lives in Norwich and is a committee member for Café Writers. ‘A warm and snouting thing’, is available from The Emma Press website.  
www.ramonaherdman.wordpress.com twitter: @ramonaherdman

Milk bottle – Olga Dermott-Bond

Milk bottle

My mum is standing at the kitchen sink
pressing the silver coin down so carefully

with her left thumb, a dented heart that beats
two days, until it joins the pretend pennies

scattered on the window sill. Above me,
the fat-rimmed lip of the bottle; I can almost

touch the frilly collar of cream that my sister
drinks. My job: to take the empties. I dare

to carry them one-handed, letting their bodies
reverberate, a juddery hollow of sound curling

through my fingers and sliding into their open
throats. I have been taught not to answer back,

not to question the world of empty men,
tight-necked, stout-shouldered. When I reach

the front door, I silence them with a rolled-up
scroll, filled with my very best handwriting.

Olga’s first poetry pamphlet apple, fallen is published by Against the Grain Press and her second collection is to be published by Nine Pens Press later this year. She is a teacher and has two daughters. @olgadermott

The White Horse – Anthony Wilson

The White Horse

The rain is my grief for my mother.
Like this train heading west

through rain
I travel into it

learning about loss
as I go.

Last night my father
conked out in his chair –

he has so much
to think about –

which is what I have just done
Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary

floating by
in a dream

a very grey dream.
You only need to visit Venice once

because it never leaves you.
At Paddington

my flat white was not flat
nor was it white.

Anthony Wilson’s most recent books are The Afterlife (Worple Press, 2019) and Deck Shoes, a collection of essays (Impress Books, 2019). In 2015 he published Lifesaving Poems (Bloodaxe Books), after his blog of the same name. www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com

Art for a Little Sister at Eighteen – Olivia Tuck

Art for a Little Sister at Eighteen

Day unfurls on the conservatory roof,
and you sit, chewing your pen, blinking.
You flinch at the flit of the tiger moth
on your windowpane – wonder why she stares
as you watch the sky become peach parfait.
The essay title is your name. You search
a thesaurus for post-club burger grease,
an exam hall clock’s fast heartbeat, the stall
of a car engine. All the rest is hidden
behind bathroom mirror fog. You didn’t see
the arcs of those days before you existed.

The sun leans in. I look at you; open my mouth –
unveil each work in my exhibition:
you at birth, head capped with coconut bristles,
your fist an apricot against your cheek.
At two, scattering the crushed-stone dust
of a pepper grinder across a tablecloth.
At ten, riding an inflatable dolphin
over wave-swells, Atlantis at your toes.
Now, your hair is autumn-infused, your eyes
are blue lace agate, your skin brandy butter;
your laugh is the smell of ginger, of cloves –
it could thaw an ice age. Don’t be afraid
to burn like Venus at dawn. Don’t be afraid
to spit out sunrises, to sing. Don’t be afraid
to run full pelt down the stairs – through the door,
into the quivering light of child’s-moon morning.

Olivia Tuck’s poetry has appeared in print and online journals including Under the Radar and Ink Sweat & Tears, and Tears in the Fence, where she is also an intern.Her pamphlet, Things Only Borderlines Know, is published by Black Rabbit Press. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites

The Angel – Jennie Farley

The Angel

He’s following me around the supermarket,
an angel wearing the flouncy frock

I’ve just bought from the charity shop
for two pounds fifty. He gives a wink,

tips his halo. What does he want?
And why is he in my dress?

Every time I turn around
I see him three paces behind,

eyes bright as sequins.
After paying at the till

I take my basket and turn
with a beaming smile,

an appropriate greeting
for an angel who might offer

to carry my shopping.
But he isn’t there!

Oh, he’s only being a tease.
I stride out in a don’t-care kind of way.

When I get home, my frock
is on a hanger in the wardrobe

and on my pillow lies an elegant
white feather, tipped with gold.

Jennie Farley is a published poet, teacher and workshop leader. Her poetry has
featured in many poetry magazines and in performance. Poetry collections include
My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016) and Hex (IDP 2018).
Her new collection What the Dream Told Me is in progress

Beach Waves – Rachel Bruce

Beach Waves

I never know what to do with my hair.
It falls flat over my head like a veil,
mourning my lack of ability.
I try ponytails, and feel embarrassed
for not running free over the sand.
I venture into beach waves,
and I come away with burnt fingers.

It’s when she first curls her fringe
that I notice a tension at the top of my chest.
Her face is paler than before,
and her eyes shine so blue I think I’m drunk
in that teenage way, on WKD
or salt water.

I start to wonder how long I have looked at the curves of her body
rather than the clothes decorating them.
She smiles wickedly,
like she knows when I lost my virginity
or how I’m going to die.

Dirty blond and shining.
The ends of her hair tickle my imagination
until one day, bored and panting hard,
I take the scissors to my own.

Rachel Bruce is a poet from Hitchin, UK. Her work has appeared in The TelegraphSecond Chance LitEye Flash PoetryEponym Magazine, The Daily Drunk Mag and The Hysteria Collective.

House-Father Has Shit on the Carpet – Peter Raynard

House-Father Has Shit on the Carpet

Love is not a lump of shit on a white carpet
when the carpet is no longer white
when it can be no longer called a carpet
when there is only Calpol on a spoon
with a baby screaming into a room
with all of its contents now crammed inside
this House-Father’s head. He starts to question
the apocryphal power of this purple sugar-based syrup.
Maybe baby is hungry. Father smokes a spliff.

He always wanted to do a philosophy degree
or an engineering degree or better still
a philosophy of engineering degree
that by degree would show him the mechanics
of a quiet world. He could do it in France
they love theory. Now House-Father thinks
he’s shit himself. Will nobody help him?
He can’t do this by himself in the middle
of a night when everyone is dead, refusing
to rise and all the others who now realize
that we are put on this earth to wipe away
all of the shit we never shit in the first place
but are still meant to call it love. Shit!

Peter Raynard is editor of Proletarian Poetry (www.proletarianpoetry.com). His  books of poetry are: ‘Precarious’ (Smokestack Books, 2018) and ‘The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto’ (Culture Matters, 2018). ‘Rumbled’ will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2022.