Featured Publication – thirty-one small acts of love and resistance by Steve Pottinger

Our featured publication for July is thirty-one small acts of love and resistance by Steve Pottinger, published by Ignite Books.

Steve’s sixth collection of poems is a glorious weaving of celebration and defiance in politically turbulent times.

‘These are hard-hitting poems salted with a good dose of Black Country humour. They are poems from a poet who is only too aware of the bad press that has been doled out unjustly over the years to places like Wolverhampton. The rot set in as early as the first half of the 19th century when the young Princess Victoria ordered her servant to pull down the blind so that she could be spared the horror of looking at the Black Country, an episode which Pottinger recounts in ‘Trainspotting, 1832’ and then goes to show how this attitude still prevails today in a poem where a machinist called Kevin wonders “when will the cameras come to Tipton?”…
…Pottinger is a perceptive social critic with a great eye for detail. His pace and delivery, which is even evident from the printed page, is just what we have come to expect from this accomplished performance poet.’ Neil Leadbetter, Write Out Loud

9780993204470

Glass collector

Let us sing of the mouse-quiet collector
of glasses, clearer of plates, wiper of tables,
he who returns sauce bottles to their
allotted place on the worktop
he who takes no space at all
asks no space at all
who is seventeen
who will surprise you by butting into
your conversation about the Milky Way
with an extensive knowledge of cosmology
who will shrug and say he taught himself
because what else is there to do here
really, what else is there to do?
Let us sing of the mouse-quiet collector
of glasses, his slow orbit round tables,
of sauce bottles and wisdom
and no space at all.
Let us raise our glasses.
Let us sing.

Winner of the Bread & Roses comp, 2018

 

Olives only once, mind…

Two years on, she sleeps
whichever side of the bed she wants,
spends money how she fancies.
Tries olives, cocktails, trampolines.
Visits an art gallery, paints a wall,
sits in the garden for hours
watching the light shift, change,
fade, fall. Sings in the bath,
the kitchen too, if the mood takes her.
Goes to the gym and the pub. Loves both.
Loves chips more. Is a woman
of appetite and smiles.
Apologises for nothing.

Doesn’t think of him at all.

Previously published as a postcard poem by PoL

 

The drunken Polish labourer, homesickness, and the 529

if there is god thinks Piotr
then this bus will not stop
at sentchiles sick tempull
places which he cannot name
places which all look the same
bus will not leave him in darkness
on dog-shit chip-box puddle pavement
cold flat waiting

if there is god, bus will drive through night
head south, east through towns
villages neon cities lit by rain
will fall idle only on boat, engine cooling
Piotr will swig at beer through sunrise
turn up music on his phone
see autobahn and kirche
from top deck front seat window

if there is god
bus will deliver him to dark bread,
barszcz, kielbasa, kopytka,
wódka, wódka, wódka
Piotr gazes out into blur of noo slain
knows bus will deliver him home
if there is god
if there is fockin god

(St Giles, Sikh Temple, and Noose Lane are stops on the 529 bus route from Wolverhampton to Walsall)
Runner-up in the Prole Laureate poetry competition

 

after years of putting her down john bull kicks europa out of his house and embraces a bright new future where he makes his own rules.
 
Monday.
and John shrugs his shoulders
says it’s been coming for a while
plenty more fish out there, you know
another lager, landlord! smiles
slides money over the bar
breathes deep and crows of freedom
sinks the pint, again again again.

Tuesday.
he’s back down the pub
telling anyone who’s there
that he’s fine without her
no more gip about leaving
the toilet seat up
no earache when he has
a harmless daytime tipple
he’s living the dream, people!
you saps should try it.

Wednesday.
she needs him more than he needs her
you’ll see, she’ll be back, the bitch,
mark his words
crawling on her fucking knees.

Thursday.
pissed, he mutters about betrayal
shoots dark glances round the bar
asks for the loan of a tenner
till, well… whenever
you learn who your friends are
someone helped her take the bloody sofa
yer bastards, you lot, bastards.

Friday.
she’s been seen walking out
with another fella on her arm
looking good, someone says
before they’re shushed to silence
and they all try to pretend
they can’t hear the sound
of a proud man lost
and sobbing in the toilets.

Previously published in the Bollocks to Brexit anthology, May 2019

 

Steve Pottinger is a dynamic and engaging performance poet, and an experienced workshop facilitator who shoe-horns spoken-word gigs into his busy schedule when he’s not plotting a benign world domination underpinned by sourdough bread and beer. He is a winner of the Culture Matters poetry and spoken word competitions, was runner-up in the 2019 Prole poetry competition, and has had his work widely published. Steve’s fifth volume of poems a fine fine place is published through Ignite, as were Island Songs and more bees bigger bonnets both of which have now sold out. He previously had two books of poetry published through AK Press: Shattered and Kissing It All. For more info about Steve and his work: http://stevepottinger.co.uk

thirty-one small acts of love and resistance is available to purchase from the Ignite Books website.

Anorexia in the time of Covid – Anonymous

Anorexia in the time of Covid

It’s hard restricting when all the focus is on adequate, when people pile their trolleys full of plenty and talk is of the things that comfort: chocolate and home baked bread and wine – and there’s me spooning out my flax seed and imagining it sloughing off a millimetre from my colon and how much would that actually weigh? Then when my cracked thumb flesh decides to not-to-heal because I’m eating no-fat yoghurt as my source of protein because my brain has told me that a slice of ham (28 kcal) is far too much for one main meal, appears to not quite be sufficient to produce fibrinogen and every day I get to peer inside my hand instead and wonder at the germs and scrub and scrub, all times keeping up a perky smile and wearing pastels and a lovely lipstick.

It’s difficult when sometimes my head goes Oh fuck it! Have the fucking wine! And so I do and then I have the nuts and half a pack of crisps and seven grapes and a razor rind of cheese, two peeled carrots and a stolen Marks and Spencer’s choc liqueur and 4 sennacots, 6 prunes, 3 tablespoons of califig and next day have the fainting fugue, numb legs, heart jumps and lags and fearing that each nap attack might actually be death.

It’s not fun.
It’s not about my size 4 clothes.
It’s not about my bird wrists or the hollows in my chest where birds could bathe when I shower, but it’s all about control and

I have none

Artist’s Impression, 2009 – Sheila Jacob

Artist’s Impression, 2009

She takes a slip of white paper
from the Consultant’s desk
and a black biro from her pocket.
“This (sketching quickly) is your kidney.”

A cute, bean-shaped thing.
A plump curve with a stalk.
“And at the top here” (drawing
a dividing line and squiggles)

are the nephrons, the good guys.
Your tumour’s at the base.”
She inks another line and a blob.
It squats there, nasty and dark

and full, in reality, of cancer cells
that have gorged and grown
for the past six months
without warning signs.

“So”, my Support Nurse continues,
“Mr. De Bolla can remove this part
and you keep the useful bits.”
She smiles, we both smile

and hug each other like schoolgirls.
I take the picture in both hands
and drop it in my shoulder bag.
No need, now, to re-Google

What The Kidney Does,
puzzle over 3-D images
of the minor calyx, renal pyramid
and uteropelvic junction.

I’m free to leave until next week.
Today, I ‘m striding out,
a new route map
swinging against my hip.

 

Sheila Jacob lives in North Wales with her husband. She was born and raised in Birmingham and resumed writing poetry in 2013 after a long absence. She is frequently inspired by her working -class ‘50’s childhood. Her poems have been published in a number of U.K. magazines and webzines. Last year she self-published a small collection of poems dedicated to her Dad who died when she was almost fifteen.

Forthcoming – Alison Jones

Forthcoming

If we could visit now, would you come with me?
Take my hand, let me lead you up the pea gravel path –
tread carefully if you are wearing sandals,
I have learnt this the hard way, in summers past.

Come. Here are two striped cats that bask
and unfurl, in the dappled sap-light. Now, through the orchard,
where Norfolk Pippin, Cox’s Orange, Victoria and William,
reach and recline, limber limbs to the waiting sun.

We can always return here. Boundaried by beeches
that hide clamouring hives, through the stable door.
Here is the cool flagged kitchen, where flowers, foraged
from hedgerows rest in chipped crystal – fit for the fae!

Celandines, daisies, Jack by the Hedge.
Here on a scrubbed wooden table, Mason Cash bowls
perform daily alchemy, from base grains to tempting treasures.
Tins rinsed in the old Belfast sink, then dried with Irish linen.

Sit for a moment, here with me in the midday calm,
pull up the Hepplewhite chair. Somewhere deeper within
arpeggio practise goes on , sung through a well-worn cello,
lifting into bird song and bell chimes. We can always begin again.

 

Alison Jones is a teacher, and writer with work published in a variety of places, from Poetry Ireland Review, Proletarian Poetry and The Interpreter’s House, to The Green Parent Magazine and The Guardian. She has a particular interest in the role of nature in literature and is a champion of contemporary poetry in the secondary school classroom. Her pamphlet, ‘Heartwood’ was published by Indigo Dreams in 2018, with a second pamphlet. ‘Omega’, and a full collection forthcoming in 2020.

Let Us Be Lit – Paul Waring

Let Us Be Lit

like the party packed into bass-bin
headphones opposite; trip with fogey
friends, planets away from denture
feedback aboard arthritic charabancs;
Ibeefa and boggy field fests, mega-
decibels above this train carriage rave
where only ears go dancing; drop dj
god names like pain meds, cloud fluffy
white heads with house, schmooze
over tunes (not discs – ours are too
prone to slip); cut shapes from spare
skin and wings, make aged sacroiliacs
creak like back gates. Wear club gear,
ubiquitous beards, coiffured hair and
CK foofoo; call each other names
no-one’s heard before, tattooed backwards
in Mandarin or Hakka and, bible likely,
spells mad cow or monkey spanker –
but only to those in the know.

 

Paul Waring’s poems have been widely published in print journals and webzines. He was runner-up in the 2019 Yaffle Prize, commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition and has a pamphlet ‘Quotidian’ (Yaffle Press, 2019).

 

 

Fray Bentos Corned Beef – Finola Scott

Fray Bentos Corned Beef

That tin, that shape, so useful. Homework slide-ruling the crumb-dusted tablecloth
after tea. Dad as backup, rustling newspaper in the living room. I am someone else tonight. A Columbus testing and daring edges. That tin, sides straight, straight as
neat whisky, parallel but not square. Symmetrical but not identical. Like siblings.
One end always bigger, surer, wider, standing more steady, generous. Awkward on Formica shelves, unstackable. But such a neat fit in kit-bags, nourishment to be
taken hunkered in trenches amidst slaughter. Below its armour I sense the contents’ tasty presence. Like slippers under the bed on cold nights, it waits reassuring.

 

 

Finola Scott’s poems are widely published including in Scottish Writers Centre Anthology, The Fenland Reed, and New Writing Scotland. Red Squirrel published her pamphlet last year. Tapsalteerie will publish her Scots poems this Spring. A winner of various competitions, and runner-up in Coast to Coast’s competition her work can be read on Facebook at Finola Scott Poems.

The Shade of Wind Chimes – Emma Lee

The Shade of Wind Chimes

A pyramid roof offers scant
shelter for the twisted strings
like frayed nerves not ready
to let go of the chimes,
pushed to dance by a breeze
to create a sound like polite laughter
given by someone who knows
what they heard isn’t a joke
but everyone else is smiling
so she forces a giggle,
and prays it’s enough
and will stop the roar
of a hurricane
that he becomes inside
the house where the wind
chimes dance from their
hook on the porch.

 

Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, UK, 2015), is Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com. Twitter: @Emma_Lee1.

Kimmeridge Clay – Fiona Cartwright

Kimmeridge clay

After the winter storms, clay layers
on the beach, like slices
of my mother’s
coin-hiding cake, only one
containing treasure.
I prise them open.
The fifth reveals
………………………a scatter of seabed
no-one’s seen since the Jurassic.
A pyrite ammonite glows,
a small sun among crushed shells.
Spring’s first peacock butterfly
out of hibernation
skitters
……………across the beach.
I don’t move.
If I pull too hard
millions of years of existence
will fall to dirt between my hands.

 

Fiona Cartwright (Twitter @sciencegirl73) is a poet and conservation scientist. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, including Magma, Mslexia, Under the Radar, Interpreter’s House and Atrium. Her debut pamphlet, Whalelight, was published by Dempsey and Windle in 2019 (https://www.dempseyandwindle.com/fiona-cartwright-443431.html).

The Orange Trees of Altea – Marion McCready

The Orange Trees of Altea

A row of orange trees, five of them, five gifts
unwrapped and standing in all their glory
like a guard of watchmen.
The orange trees release their scent
as I walk under them. They welcome me
at regular intervals. Wrinkled and overripe,
the oranges are veterans of the night.
The winds roll in from the Mediterranean.
The oranges do not live in glass bowls
on Welsh dressers – heirlooms from the dead –
but instead float through a sky of Spanish blue;
the blue distilled into a topaz on my finger.
The orange trees are a dream of five treasure chests.
I want to pluck them out of the ground, cup
the orange heart of them close to me.
The orange trees of Altea rain their blossoms
down on me singing of the Levante.
On a hot night, the Mediterranean floats over
steep hills and rests on me. This beach,
on this Costa Blanca coast, bears soft pebbles
slipping down to the sea, caught in a white wrath
of waves. I finger two pebbles in my pocket,
perfectly round, warm stones and there is nothing left
but the sea, dark sky, the ice mountains of Sierra Helada
and me. And a dream of five orange trees.

 

Marion McCready lives in Dunoon, Argyll. She has won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and the Melita Hume Poetry Prize. She is the author of two poetry collections – Tree Language (Eyewear Publishing, 2014) and Madame Ecosse (2017).

Featured Publication – These Are The Hands – Poems from the Heart of the NHS, Edited by Deborah Alma and Dr Katie Amiel

Our featured publication for June is These Are The Hands – Poems from the Heart of the NHS, edited by Deborah Alma and Dr Katie Amiel, published by Fair Acre Press.

This anthology offers a unique insight into the real experiences of the people at the heart of the NHS – from the student nurse at the start of his career to the heart surgeon on the eve of her retirement. We also hear the stories of those whose vital work is often unseen and unsung from domestic cleaning staff to sign language interpreters.

The poems offer unflinchingly honest and intimate accounts from the people who care for us from the moment of birth to the end of life. In crystallising the most beautiful and painful moments of being human, they speak directly to all our experience. Above all these poems are about our shared humanity. They are about the compassion and care that lie at the heart of the NHS and in all our lives. They also serve as a stark reminder of the human cost of trying to offer compassionate care in a system that is underfunded and understaffed and the importance of showing the same compassion and support to the staff we depend on to hold the NHS together.

Here is the big, beautiful, beating heart of the NHS as you’ve never seen it before. Tender, sinewy, passionate, intimate. What a book – what a celebration of all that unites us. Truly wonderful’ Rachel Clarke

Deeply moving poetry from the people who work to keep us whole and healthy
and happy and who care for us when we’re broken’ Mark Haddon

This is a beautiful book: heartfelt and intimate’ Adam Kay

The very heart of who we are and what we are here for. An exciting and wonderful book’ Michael Rosen

A wonderful anthology to celebrate the NHS, which is itself the best poem a country
has ever written’ Stephen Fry

Every ward and waiting room should have a copy’ Simon Armitage

TATH front cover high res (1)

First Last-Offices

We were goslings pushed to the front of the skein,
made to flap our wings. As hatchlings we had emerged
more turtle than goose – able to turn to saltwater
we were chosen for our instinct to forge alone.

One November night, sounds of sleep and mattresses
bowing filled the cardiac ward, unaffected
by an old man’s death in a side-room. I was alone
until another first-year student was sent to help.

We were eight-months into our training.
Unsure and timid in the ritual of last offices,
we started to wash his cooling body – whispering,
telling him we were in flight. In our first week

we had been warned to see ourselves without glory.
One held him as the other washed and dried him
keeping him safe in the air, shielding him
with a sheet until we laid him back down in his shroud.

We did as we’d been taught on a class dummy
and remembered right – our last offices were nodded at
when Night Sister descended and tugged at our flesh
raptor-like. We repeatedly closed his eyelids.

Tears smarted at homemade jam sandwiches
wrapped in greaseproof paper – unopened and fresh
in his locker. The handmade Get-Well card for Grandad
we saved in a plastic bag marked, Belongings.

Margaret Adkins, Student Nurse

BIRDS

On Sydney Street, someone’s dropped
a paper bird. I can make those.
The crispness of the fold defines the way
it flies. That, and the way you grasp it.
I once sat with a dying child,
filled his room with yellow birds
from folded Xray paper.
He gave them eyes and coloured spots
across their wings. Retinoblastoma.
For years I dreamt of marker pen
on naked heads, of basements
where hushed beds passed at night,
hung about with fluids, the chill,
the dark, the roaches, the Night Pink’s
outdoor cloak, two of us with torches
to check the sick were sleeping.
Some things stay: the way a blackbird
sings through all the gaps in rain,
the pulsing smell of sun on London
pavements, the art of folding paper.

Ann Gray, Nurse

Trace

My fingers walked
to the fourth intercostal space.
This is where I placed
the first gel-backed tab.
The next went

opposite, across the sternum, on the nipple line.
Easy then to make
a descending arc, attach the leads
until a trace appeared;
the heart. Unlike in films

when it stopped for good
the line was never completely flat,
but wavering like the slap of water
against the dock
long after a boat has passed.

Roy Marshall, Coronary care and research nurse 

Invincible

I think of the little girl
who will wear this spinal
jacket, its candy pink hardness
coated with butterflies
forcing her kyphotic spine
in to conformity.

Clasped between its two halves,
like a turtle shell
it will keep her protected
from the taunts of others-

………………………………………………Cripple! Hunchback!

These names will bounce off
her new suit of armour,
like ricocheting bullets.

Inside, she starts to grow,
straightens like a sapling
seeking the sun.
She begins to feel

Invincible.

Roshni Beeharry, Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine

3AM IN A&E

listen

you have come here for answers, and surely
you realise there is little
here but dust, bone, splinter;
the sweltering heat, the small white fan
languishing; the air, the sweat
gleaming at the nape of a nurse’s neck

darkness outside, and here —
the lighthouse —
frenzied and feral

where is the meaning in an open wound;
where the cartography in saltwater, iron, broken
tooth and copper, all the splinters
of a long-gone comet split in us
skin to skin

what do I have to give you, but what makes us
more than weft of tendon, capillary, gyrus;
what makes us tend to each other
in the burning of the world;
look at one another, still, and say:
how can I help you?
what can I do for you?

is there not joy in that, stubborn gladness;
tenderness with which I measure your wound
between thumb and finger, stitch needle through skin,
chart the stars of your fear,
and mine

shall we not call out in the darkness,
one to another;
shall we not try

strike the phosphorus
in our bones to
light.

Jen Lua, Junior Doctor

These Are The Hands – Poems from the Heart of the NHS can be purchased from the Fair Acre Press website. All profits from the anthology are donated to the “NHS Charities Together” – Covid-19 Emergency Fund.