Grandmother’s hairpin – Signe Maene

Grandmother’s hairpin

You gave it to last night,
you said it was time to let that
crystal hairpin go. With the
flowery, fake pearls,
like your shiny earrings,
the kind that I dislike.

You wore it when you
first met him.
Sleet descending on a
shared umbrella,
splitting a biscuit in two.
Awaiting a bus that
never came.

You wore it when you
finally left him.
Afternoon tea in the garden,
broken glasses and a
flying breadbasket,
falling in common ivy.

I force myself to try it on,
and I can see myself.
Drawing at the kitchen table,
the smell of organic carrot soup,
something glittering in your hair,
your smile.

I think I like it better now.

Signe Maene is from Belgium where she lives in Ghent. She studies English literature.

Ring – Maureen Weldon

Ring

Having sold it
for more than it was worth
I bought a ticket
Return Day Dublin.

On the way home,
laughing into my drink.
Third finger left hand
for a moment so grand.

 

Maureen Weldon represented Wales at Ukraine’s 2014 Terra Poetica. Publications include, Crannog, Poetry Scotland, Ink Sweat & Tears, Vsesvit, Open Mouse. 2017 her poem Midnight Robin, featured by Second Light Live. 2020 Red Squirrel Press to publisher her a pamphlet.

Gift – Mat Riches

Gift

You’re hooked up at home, plumbed into machines
for hours, as your kidneys are pressure-washed.
Nothing to be done but stare out
of converted office windows
at resident blackbirds.

Your cat wanders through to offer the gift
of a frightened hatchling caught in its jaws.
I’ve not brought so much
as a seedless grape.

Outside, the older birds strafe the garden,
pointlessly singing We are here.
Where are you?

 

Mat Riches is ITV’s poet-in-residence (they don’t know it). His work’s been in Dream Catcher, Firth, London Grip, Under The Radar, Atrium, Orbis, South, Obsessed With Pipework, and Algebra of Owls. He’s tweets as @matriches and blogs at https://matriches76.wordpress.com/

Sunday Morning Bathing – Sue Spiers

Sunday Morning Bathing

Spearmint toothpaste anoints her chin.
She turns taps to start the deluge,
pours thick liquid that smells of balsam,
places a razor on the side of the bath.
Gradual immersion; toe, shank, buttock,
fully soaks in amniotic warmth.
Her mind glides to roughness, ruminates,
re-orders words, chanting them to clarity.
Her razor slides over stubble, restores
smooth legs, pubes, oxters and muzzle.
She raises her knees, dips back three times;
plunge, lather, plunge, condition, plunge,
pinches hair between knuckles,
curls a wet knot at the back of her head.
Sentences unjumble, become slick
in rethinking, she repeats the lines
and examines puckers in fingertips,
assesses the time it takes to get out,
pulls each heel to thigh, purges soft skin.
At the final plughole amen, she wraps
herself in a towel wimple and surplice,
rinses the scum of her life away.

 

Sue Spiers came 3 rd in the Battered Moons competition and was highly commended in the Yeovil competition, both 2019. Sue’s poems are or will be in Dream Catcher, Black Bough, Fenland Poetry Journal, Orbis, South & Stand this year. Twitter: @spiropoetry

The man who just stepped out of the photograph – Nicky Phillips

The man who just stepped out of the photograph

left his young sister lazing on rocks
on a sandy beach with his close friends,
Mr & Mrs Rolfe, sitting tidily nearby.
It’s a rare holiday for the 13 year old,
whose parents run a pub, have no time off.

Her slim and lanky frame is covered by
a swimsuit deemed figure-hugging in 1934,
first indication perhaps of the modelling
career to come in the 40s and 50s.
Relaxed optimism beams from the picture.

Five years later, on a sultry August day
three long weeks before the outbreak
of the Second World War, the man
who stepped out died of tuberculosis.
He was my uncle. I never met him.

Now, just a few inches high, he strolls
around the collection of family shots
on the sideboard, puzzles over groupings,
hesitates, rubs his chin as he studies
a photo of dark-haired teenage girls

playing cricket with grandparents
on a remote Scottish beach. He lingers
over the lady, stylish and upright seven
decades on, then, with a brief sigh
of reassurance, steps back into his own.

 

Nicky Phillips lives in Hertfordshire. Her poems have been published in magazines
and online. In 2017 one was nominated for Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her
pamphlet Jam in Aisle 3 was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018.

Featured Publication – Much Left Unsaid by Finola Scott

Our featured publication for February is Much Left Unsaid by Finola Scott, published by Red Squirrel Press.

From tender explorations of family love to subtly phrased exposés of every kind, these vivid and surprising poems engage the reader on every level. Finola Scott is attuned to the natural world, from which she draws many of her images, but equally alert to townscape and domestic interiors. There are dazzling leaps of imagination: an artist ‘tastes wind from Africa’ on Lanzarote as he ‘waits for Franco to finish’; a woman in an antenatal clinic thinks of her pregnancy as a pilgrimage, and kisses her ‘bruised antenatal card’ like a relic. A strong sense of being alive pervades the collection, but an equal sense of the precariousness of human happiness in poem after poem balances the reader like the acrobat of the reopening poem on tiptoe between dancing and downfall.’ A C Clarke

Finola Scott’s debut pamphlet showcases a bold new voice, full of grit and reality. At times experimental, at times playing with poetic tradition, these are poems of difficult tensions. Scott’s verse explores the depths of memories whilst avoiding sentimentality. It blends beauty with threat to create stark scenes of bruised women and washed sheets, queens and pirates. These are poems without pretence, unfolding lives in miniature. Scott lifts the rock, uncovering least-seen corners of the world.’ Russell Jones

Capture

 

Cardowan Colliery, North Lanarkshire

My rubble-full garden’s no use for digging,
I don’t dare go deep. At times I hear canaries
cheep for breath, bogies rattle rails, bent men
cough for sunlight at end of days.

In the church car park, traffic in shifts
charts the days. Flower Arranging, Choir Practice.
Wedding-hatted women, lads in fierce pride kilts.
Floodlights keep the dark in its place.

Tarmac over pit-propped caverns, shaky hollows,
greedy snaking tunnels. The dead recorded
in the new estate roads where salaried men drive home,
hands soft and clean, music playing. 

The earth remembers.

 

Teuguise, Lanzarote 1619

Pirates enter on a day thick with storms.
The shutters are snicked too late,
the fincas barred in vain. Heavy cloud
tricks the watchers while sails wait furled
at the coast. Death is here, on the cobbles.
The raiders twist in smooth as corkscrews.
Flagstones shine sangre slippy with the spilt
lives of sons, uncles, friends. Hidden away
Juana thinks of the old man her father
has chosen for her groom.

The women jostle to peer through slits
in the fortress that’s squatting on the shoulder
of the volcano. The ground shudders to the whack
and crack of bones in the town below. Echoing
oaths rebound in courtyards. Maria and Fayna
are puzzled by the blue eyes, bear-fierce beards,
careless laughter of the marauders hurtling in.
Juana’s mother pushes her into the shadows,
orders her to cover her ebony hair, hide her
jewels. But Juana stands on tiptoe to marvel
at the grit and spit of lava on their lips.

 

Riding the Marches

If I had thought, taken a sliver of time,
I’d have checked my soft boundaries.
Ridden them regular, cut a sod of turf,
nailed a herring to a bannock,
minded my back.
But I didn’t hear moss sneak and stretch.
Didn’t see larks’ tongues wag.
Dark vigilance or weary watching might
have spared me wounds.
Walls, hedges encroached unseen.
Markers moved in midnight hush,
rocks lured by deceitful streams.
Unguarded, my safety shrank as the vixen sang.
Masked strangers, marauders, came
trusted at my door, as friends not foe.
Too late for cavalcades or queens.

 

All sheets to the wind

When it’s time, flap me, wrap me
to sleep, in silk, all printed with travels
and you. Skin unsullied, hair
story-booked, I’ll dream drift
on a different curve. My toes will tingle-grip
all the sand, all the puddles we plashed.

Tuck me tight in map-memories
contoured streets,  frescoes and freesia.
Soothe me
anchorless liminal.
Set me full sail.

 

Glaswegian Finola Scott’s poems can be found on posters, postcards and tapestries. Her work has been anthologised in many publications including Gutter, New Writing Scotland, The Fenland Reed, Lighthouse and The Ofi Press. She was commissioned by StAnza International Poetry Festival for inclusion in a multimedia installation issued as a postcard in 2019. Finola has read her poems at many events including Edinburgh International Book Festival, Welshpool Festival and Brantwood. She read her prize-winning chapbook poems, published by Blue Nib at the launch in Galway.

Much Left Unsaid is available from the Red Squirrel Press website.
 

The Dresser – Ruth Aylett

The Dresser

Each day the visit with clean clothes;
only the unloved wear hospital gowns,
shedding their identity, disposably dressed.

Here is the T-shirt you bought in New Orleans,
another from Mexico after we climbed
the Pyramid of the Sun. Ben Franklin’s
wit on God and Beer blazoned on this one.

Each afternoon the departure with dirty clothes
plastic bagged; the pyjamas victim of
night-time urine bottle disasters, T-shirts
marked with the slime of cottage pie.

Each night the washing machine runs
in an empty flat, my own sheets untouched
by your sweat or skin cream, bed shared
only by an opportunist cat, seizing your space.

Dressing you for your last performances,
the run ending soon.

 

Ruth Aylett teaches and researches computing in Edinburgh. She has published nearly 90 poems in a variety of magazines – including Prole, The North, Antiphon, Agenda, Envoi, Southbank Poetry – and a large number of anthologies, most recently Scotia Exremis (Luath), and Pale Fire, New Poetry on the Moon (Frogmore Press). You can find out more at http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/writing.html

Loss by the Gallon – Marissa Glover

Loss by the Gallon

Painting the house is an act of forfeit.
Each brush stroke, a soft surrender.
Swish then wish, then swish, then
some new color to cover up the divorce.
But underneath it all, it’s still a wall—
always a wall. Don’t believe the home
improvement ads. Winsome Gray
in the bedroom won’t end the argument.
Balmoral Red doesn’t increase libido.
Ponder can’t save the marriage.
Each layer we add dries. Efforts fade,
then peel. Small flecks the color of attempt
fall to a tile floor already chipped, grout
spotted and smudged beyond cleaning.

 

Marissa Glover teaches and writes in the United States, where she is co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Her poetry is found in UK journals such as Amaryllis, Picaroon Poetry, Solstice Sounds, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Amethyst Review, Nine Muses, Fly on the Wall, Riggwelter, and Fresh Air Poetry. Follow her on Twitter @_MarissaGlover_.

Other Half – Hannah Hodgson

Other Half

I discovered the body to be a dictatorship
when first diagnosed. The realisation of ‘I’ and ‘it’
self-same, that it listens in on my thoughts.
Her role is to remember breathing
whilst I overhear gossip on the bus;
to blink whilst I watch tv,
and warn of a burn from the cooker.
The internet offered the chance to shadow her
a reiteration of fact
when she sleeps, I won’t wake up.
The day the doctor introduced
me to my subconscious
I met a woman who knew everything,
who understood.

 

Hannah Hodgson is a 21 year old poet living with life limiting illness. She writes about illness, hospice and death to raise awareness of these issues. Her poetry has been published in Under the Radar, Acumen and Poetry Salzburg, amongst others. www.hannahhodgson.com

I love you, Mum (& hip-hop) – Guy Elston

I love you, Mum (& hip-hop)

As the tune started,
and ‘Fuck all you hoes’ rang out
in the English seafront apartment,
my mother turned to me on her 66th birthday
and remarked slowly, solemnly,
I haven’t listened to Biggie in a long time.

Not since I made mix CDs for the drive to school,
to my first teenage parties, or to the shop
for her to buy me beers with an air of muted pride.
She never liked the songs
I expected her to. Aphex Twin, then UB40; she confounded,

daughter of a miner
who made a living curating
portraits, framing them for an audience. I noticed early
that Mum had a spectrum of accents, registers;
Didcot is simply ghastly she’d declare, We live on the outer
brink of civilisation; but later that posh prat

doesn’t know his arse from his elbow.
After school my task was to feed the pigeons; doves,
she called them. An entire society of them
lived on the garage (guhraj?), settled
by the promise of a twice daily feed.
I stepped like an astronaut bearing birdseed

into a vortex of uncertain feathers,
cursing her, loving her. We only know our parents
by accident, then by sustenance.
I thought there would be other songs,
that there must have been other ones; but
I can’t remember any. ‘Juicy’ is ours now, absurdly.

 

Guy Elston lives on the Wirral and is completing an MA. His poetry has recently been included by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Burning House Press, Anthropocene and others.