What’s Your Story? – Angi Holden

What’s Your Story?

My father was a Goldfish.
My face betrays amazement.
Not literally, she laughs.
He was an airman. His plane ditched
somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
That’s what they called them,
the survivors: Goldfish.
She turns to walk away.
I swear the air she leaves behind
is misted with salt-water,
the carpet trailed with golden scales.

 

Angi Holden writes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions. Her work explores family history and personal experience. Spools of Thread – winner of the Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize – was published in February 2018.

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Pelt – Jennie E. Owen

Pelt

The cold cream, thick and white as melting meringue
smells of my grandmother and I find
I do not mind, shrugging off my old skin
and trying on a new one, even a second hand pelt.

There’s comfort in the longing and the lines to come
catching spiders webs around the eyes, the mouth.

Comfort in the grandchildren, who will one day,
rub their own faces on the cool pillows
of my cheeks. Building wrinkles of their own
with bunched fists and buttered kisses.

 

Jennie Owen is competition winning writer and has been widely published in anthologies, magazines, and online.  She is a University Lecturer in Creative Writing and lives with her husband and their three children in Lancashire.

Jim – Belinda Rimmer

Jim

Squashed inside the shed,
six of us – The Invited.
The club is in full swing.
We’re up to our tricks,
pin-pricked skin: Blood Sisters.

On a shelf, cigarettes
from my mother’s pack
sit like Snow-Queen fingers
alongside a bottle of lemonade laced with gin.

Rat-a-tat on the door.

My father’s voice,
crab-apple sharp.
Where’s Jim?

Pins and blood-soaked tissues
shoved into an empty plant pot.
Inside my sleeve, tobacco tendrils.

Only my brother has my father’s attention.
Are we holding a secret,
hiding Jim?

He’s found quickly
in the neighbour’s garden,
lost in a game of make-believe.

For a moment, I imagine myself missing –

 

Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse, counsellor, lecturer and creative arts practitioner. Her poems have appeared in magazines, for example, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, ARTEMISpoetry and Obsessed with Pipework. Her poem ‘water’ won the Poetry in Motion Competition and was turned into a film and shown internationally.  Website: belindarimmer.com @belrimmer

Bardo – Charles G Lauder Jr

Bardo

All night the TV flickers off and on again,
broadcasting a signal that all darkness
is temporary. A tiny, flashing green light
and then the story resumes,

though the plot’s moved on. What words
were spoken while our eyes were shut?
Was it the meaning of life
and where does that fella in gray fit in?

Even the white noise of the washing machine
takes a moment, then continues spinning.
We could call out a repairman,
but he’ll only recommend a new model.

Snow is forecast for Dumfries tomorrow,
double digits for London. No clue
what’s to happen here,
except that I have to bury the cat.

 

Charles G Lauder Jr is an American poet who has lived in the UK for several years. He has published two pamphlets: Bleeds (2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (2017), and he is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.

Featured Publication – Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma

Our featured publication for July is Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma, published by Nine Arches Press.

Deborah Alma’s debut poetry collection Dirty Laundry is raucous, daring and honest, drawing contemporary women’s lives and those of our foremothers into the spotlight. It voices bold, feminist songs of praise: of persistence, survival, adventures of sexual rediscovery, each reclaiming the space to speak its mind and be heard and seen. A perfect remedy for the heartsick and weary, Alma’s intimate and particular poems are resolute enchantments, a form of robust magic. The collection brims with poems which are unafraid of airing secrets, desires and untold stories. From growing up mixed-race and learning to survive as a woman in the world, to tales of the countryside and themes
of escape and finding joy, this book of poems is as vivid as it is frank and fearless. There’ll be no need for any tears, it’ll all come out in the wash…

These poems stand firmly on the page in torn silk stockings; they are voluptuous, defiant and hedge-witch earthy. Dirty Laundry glimmers with sequins; a speck of blood on a canine tooth; with bright new love after a season of showers” Helen Ivory

Here is a debut collection that will sweep you away in its generous, welcoming arms: poetry that bears witness to the twin faces of pain and pleasure. Dirty Laundry is a boldly poetic treatise that examines with a stern, clear eye the ravages of male repression and violence but refuses to break faith with the human capacity for healing, growth and love. Electric with metaphor, glorying in friendship, everyday joys and the sensual delights of sex and the natural world, this collection will ambush you with sudden and surprising epiphanies gleaned from a life well lived: immersive, thrilling and redemptive.” Jacqueline Saphra

This is a collection which glitters with keen observation: ruby slippers, bangles, sunlit, tender moments. The characters in Deborah Alma’s poems are uncompromising and unapologetic: a therapy client tramples over the eggshells of an analyst’s metaphors in Doc Marten boots. These are poems that invite you in and – when you’ve finished reading – invite you to walk a little taller through the world.” Helen Mort

Haunted by violence, yet refusing to be silent, rooted in the body as a way of experiencing the world and unafraid in their sensuality, these are poems that examine women’s lives in all their complexity, woven through with imagery that lingers in the mind and the heart long after you finish reading.” Kim Moore

Morning Song

An open-windowed church-belled morning
chimes of loss and mine; water pipes sing,

and I bring back to bed a blue enamel
pot of hot coffee, as silk as the slide

of skin on sheets, and rough hot bread
warmed in an oven kept in overnight

and bite into a grape and lazy eyed
the women I have been no longer fight their corners;

cocks-crow, black throats thrown back with old songs,
flown back to all of these edges of me,

they stay and stare, these women, across the hazy
sun-strewn wooden floor of my dreams

and my ageing; the mirror crazed
and hung with beads, the pink and the red

and the purple of the stocks I have grown
and the white of the daisies.

 

Nearly Love

I nearly fell in love once.
He came round and found the list on the fridge,
leant over to read it carefully, winked,
picked up a pencil, and ticked and ticked
and ticked all the boxes.

After I told him it wasn’t working,
my friends and family, astonished,
pointed to the list. But I said,

I will not drink from the cup
that comes up in small tiptoes
and black shoes, that sits
at the end of the bed, waiting;
its mouth an oh of ordinary;
comfort and safety and sex;
a drug of slowing, of rest, like death
already come.

They could not see this.
They knew what was best.

 

Roshan

Three quarters of the way into my name,
there’s Roshan, roshni, light; that seems to me right,

a silver of bangles on a wrist, round mirror chips
embroidered into the hem of my clothes,

my white skin seen tiny times over,
sequins sewn into my childhood.

This is my light; a cloth weighted
with five bright beads over an English lamp.

And me now, turning on these lights in the dusk,
move still with a shake of bells at my feet,

not quite heard, the light not quite seen.

 

Deep Pockets

I sit in the kitchen
in a yellow-striped dress
with deep pockets

thrusting my hands deep,
there is string, a pin,
garden wire and three sweet-pea seeds.

I sit sullen like a child.

On the table a rough grey
plate with flecks of blue and four
chocolate dainty cakes
and five of us in this house.

 

Deborah Alma was born in North London, and has lived on the Welsh/Shropshire borders for the last 25 years where she brought up her 2 sons and now lives with the poet James Sheard. She teaches creative writing, works with people with dementia and at the end of their lives and is the Emergency Poet in her 1970’s ambulance. She edited The Emergency Poet – An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology and The Everyday Poet – Poems to Live By (Michael O’Mara Books) and was the editor of the landmark #MeToo poetry anthology, published by Fair Acre Press. Her first poetry pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press. Dirty Laundry is her first full collection of poems. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University.

Dirty Laundry is available to purchase from the Nine Arches Press website.

Bombed on the bandstand – Sheila Jacob

Bombed on the bandstand

You ask where I was and I will tell you though I didn’t hear
the full story on the day, my husband’s thirty-first birthday.
He travelled twenty miles to see me, brought our baby son
who cwtched against my neck as I bluffed about feeling better.

I wept when they left, had hours to moonwalk in the redbrick
Victorian hospital built for the insane where iron bars climbed
high windows, corridors cloned themselves, on-duty nurses
chain-smoked and outside, a moss-slimed grotto stood empty.

No beautiful Lady appeared, shone my path to the workroom,
distracted me from pieces of a furry toy I pinned and stitched.
Later, on the ward, Staff Nurse mentioned the news: London,
soldiers killed, horses maimed and I tutted, took my tablets.

Past midnight, her words wheeled across the bedclothes, echoed
at the hub of my own darkness; I lay quietly beneath half-light,
prayed for those bombed on the bandstand, prayed for the dead
to rest in peace, for the living to mend, prayed I would soon mend.

 

On 20th July 1982 the Provisional IRA detonated two bombs during military
ceremonies in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, London, killing eleven military
personnel and seven horses.

Sheila Jacob was born and raised in Birmingham and now  lives on the North Wales border with her husband. Since returning to poetry in 2013 she’s had work published in The Dawntreader, Sarasvati, Clear Poetry, The Cannon’s Mouth, I Am Not A Silent Poet amongst others.

Shoes – Paul Waring

Shoes

Delivered fresh in a box
like death in reverse
shoes are born
to walk from day one;

stay dog-loyal
if groomed, respond
to stroke of sponge
or bristle of brush

and attach – second skin
intimacy you can’t have
with coats; protect,
support and respect need

for time and space
to breathe, unlace, rest
eyes and tongue. Shoes
know to relax and wait

ever-ready for your return
from dreamworlds
and unexplained appeal
of anti-social slippers.

 

Paul Waring, a clinical psychologist, once designed menswear and sang in Liverpool bands. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming at Prole, Clear Poetry, Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Riggwelter, Foxglove Journal and others.
Twitter: @drpaulwaring
Blog: https://waringwords.wordpress.com

Rescuing a Hummingbird – Christina Thatcher

Rescuing a Hummingbird

Everyone else leaves it banging
its tiny beak against the glass,
its high-speed heart beating,
body rippling with panic.

I rack my brain for hummingbird research
done when I was six. If I pick it up
will its wing-oil perish?
Will its button lungs collapse?

I have no answers but take the risk—
cup my hands and coo: it’s okay
little one, it’s okay,

as the bird terror-spreads its wings
through my fingers, begging:
don’t let me die, don’t let me die,

until we reach the open door
and it jumps into the jungle trees,
a flash of iridescent green.

 

Christina Thatcher is a PhD student at Cardiff University and Poetry Editor for The Cardiff Review. Her poetry and short stories can be found in over 40 magazines and her first collection, More than you were, was published by Parthian Books. To learn more about Christina’s work please visit her website: christinathatcher.com or follow her on Twitter @writetoempower.

Boundary News – John Lawrence

Boundary News

The fence between our neighbouring ground
has slipped into disrepair. I stand and think

how long it’s been like this. The posts
are rotting, winter rains washing them away

until the cycle is complete, atom by atom,
and will not slow when Spring idles in.

A fire would speed it up, but the overgrowth
and nurtured land may suffer. I know that

creatures shuttle day and night along the boundary
ridge, using their claws to grip their right of way,

hastening the decay. I seldom see the man next door;
his curtains stay three-quarters shut; he burns candles

for his creed and when we meet he can only talk
of his preferred certainty, not of everyday tasks

like fixing a fence. I have to do this alone.
With sturdy gloves and long-handled axe

I’ll show what’s got to be done and bring him
to his senses. It will be a small victory.

 

John Lawrence is retired, lives in Worcestershire, and tries to write lighthearted poems which often turn out darker than intended, for some reason. Counselling would probably fix it but, for now, his view is that the pen is mightier than the shrink’s couch.

Love Returns to The Lavender Farmer – Craig Dobson

Love Returns to The Lavender Farmer

Two days for harvest; the cutter,
like a truffling hog, swaying along
the humped and violet lanes. The air
was lavender, their hands, the sacks,
the soles of their shoes, and their hair
as they lay together in the night.

One month on, he reads her text
again and again, each short word
linked like the carriages of her train
he’ll meet at dusk, the silent station
damp with today’s rain; in his hand
the dozen stems whose hues of healed-
bruise he picked from the field’s edge
where they’d lain hidden. Missed.

 

Craig Dobson has been published in The London Magazine, The North, The Rialto, Agenda, Stand, New Welsh Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Under the Radar, Orbis, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Frogmore Papers and Poetry Daily.