Mystery Woman – Stephen Bone

Mystery Woman

No one knew who she was.
When it was taken. Too late
to ask now.

Our father’s dressed
in a pinstripe blazer,
Panama at a few pints

down tilt. She’s a swirl
of rose-printed frock,
her hand against his face,
white gloved,

like an archivist,
touching something
priceless.

 

Stephen Bone had been published widely in magazines in the U.K and U.S. A first collection, In The Cinema (Playdead Press) appeared in 2014, followed by Plainsong (Indigo Dreams 2018 ) .

Nautilus – Sarah McPherson

Nautilus

Curled into the semblance
of a shell, we lie. I will watch you sleep,
listen to your small sounds, trace
with one finger the line of your arm
beneath the sheets.

Curled into a tangle of limbs
and hot breath, we lie. Kelp
on a beach, safe above the line
of polished glass, tin cans and foam,
left by the sea.

Curled in the quilted darkness
of our cave, we lie. These are the times
that wrap those small dissatisfactions
in a shining skin, smooth pearls, to ease
the tensions of the day.

Curled into a single twist
of sun-bleached wood, we lie. Washed together
by the tides, we rest as one. I will
lean my head into the curve of your neck
and join your dreams.

 

Sarah McPherson is a writer of short fiction and poetry from Sheffield in the UK. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Corvid Queen, The Castle (Royal Rose Magazine), Still Point Arts Quarterly, and Burning House Press.
Twitter: @summer_moth

Atoms – Robert Ford

Atoms

Even now, deep into your final disintegration, we still find humour,
hidden like truffles in the darkness, waiting to be unearthed. You joke

about the size of hole I’ll need to dig. I tell you that you underestimate
what I can do with a shovel; a long, spare afternoon or two; light soil.

We bitch about the weather, name each raindrop, argue the relative merits
of every prevailing wind, decide we are all of us fog. All temporary storms.

I hear you’ve started going to mass again, hedging your bets perhaps.
An over-confident priest comes calling, addresses you as ‘dude

without a flicker of irony. He may or may not be after your soul, but
it’s your atoms that concern me. Could I find them again one day,

sending cryptic signals through the leaves at the bottom of a teacup?
Or in a sunlit puddle, once these sullen thunderclouds have rolled away?

 

Robert Ford’s poetry has appeared in print and online publications in the UK, US and elsewhere, including The Interpreter’s House, Brittle Star, Butcher’s Dog and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Echo – Ross Wilson

Echo

The voices of ducks,
doggies and birdies
echoed in the caves
of our mouths.
Ack! Ack!
Oof! Oof!
Weet! Weet!
In the underpass,
I let your name rise
deep from my chest
so you could hear it
bounce back at us,
as moments like this
will come back
when we are far
from here,
and your hand
no longer needs
my hand.

 

Ross Wilson works full time as an Auxiliary Nurse in Glasgow. His first full collection was published by Smokestack Books in 2018. His poems have appeared in The Dark Horse, The Honest Ulsterman, Edinburgh Review, and other publications.

Featured Publication – The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr

Our featured publication for January is The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr, published by V. Press.

There’s an enviable gusto and assurance about this debut, the confident voicing of a
distinctive sensibility that deserves our attention. Lauder has a keen ear for the musical and metrical possibilities of a well-wrought line which well serves his deftly rendered lyric style. Particularly impressive are the domestic sequences and longer poems which hold both interest and momentum throughout: an achievement of poetic coherence and craft that can only be accomplished by a poet more than ready to stake a claim for his place on the contemporary scene.‘ Martin Malone

In his debut collection, Charles G. Lauder is not afraid to delve beneath the surface of white masculinites, unearthing violence and toughness but vulnerability and tenderness also. This means examining his own past in the US; what he has inherited, what he brings to his life in England, and what he finds there. Again and again, poems reveal that his family is his lodestone: “We are our elements. I would be lost/without them.” The Aesthetics of Breath is a rich and varied collection which has love and social justice at its heart but does not turn aside from uncomfortable truths.‘ Pam Thompson

The Aesthetics of Breath is NOT a breath of fresh air – it is an unflinching, deep breathing-in of a gas called ‘history’, so that it hurts in the lungs. Be they personal myths or legends of entire nations’ violence, here the vapours of various histories sublimate into Lauder’s vivid ‘solidifications’ – poems that render the distance and otherness of places and times as touchable and smelt. Some of these poems are ‘stellar gases congealing into orbits’, and they are celebratory confirmations of essential stories we humans need to tell our selves. But be warned: some of these poems cast ‘Hiroshima shadow[s]’ to exorcise our civilisation’s pale myths, its ghosts that too often comfortably haunt us, and our too easy and shallow breaths of memes. At times this book is like opening a grave to find the buried still alive … and violently gasping out accounts of ‘the ruling passions of the woods.’ Mark Goodwin

LAUDER _ CHARLES_G_THE AESTHETICS OF BREATH_V PRESS

 

Surviving

There’s a river that runs behind the house
where most go to murder,
hands around the throat, head held down.

A day doesn’t go by when a body
isn’t being dragged to the water’s edge.
There’s not much resistance as I stare

at the back of the empty skull; I never
look at the face – all complete strangers.
One could be my family but I’ll never know.

I rummage through the pockets
before the current takes them away
and then go back inside for dinner.

Some are of color, some pale.
I never give a thought to ghosts
or what their life was like.

It’s a fair assumption I wouldn’t
have liked them. At some point
they probably would have shot me

or my kin, or stolen from me. So much
of what I have is less than what
my father and grandfather had.

 

The Japanese Movie

When friends’ backs are turned – preoccupied
with ice cream and their year-long trip to France
flitting in and out of French as if in love –
I hide in the audience of a Japanese movie
as if slipping from one dream to the next
the ending clear but not how it’s supposed to be.

There is comfort in the dark with strangers
not looking at one another but at a spot
above each other’s head flashes of movement
and color that take us back to the beginning
when there was only laughter and gesture
I couldn’t speak the language
…………………….and no one could speak mine.

 

Dirty Laundry

Your mother cannot shift the carbon dioxide out of the bottom of her lungs where it
piles up overnight like old laundry. She cannot exhale those dreams of angry men and
dead boys. The burden pins her to the bed. Your father, reeking of sawdust, puts it down
to lack of exercise, the meds, a virus she probably caught on last year’s cruise, the Asian
breathing into a mask in the next bed. When your mum gets her breath back, she scolds
him for the overboiled egg salad sandwich, for losing his wallet and not paying the bills,
for not having finished tiling the kitchen wall. Fifty years of avoiding an argument has
finally burst. Making your excuses, you collect your mother’s soiled clothes and retreat
home to wash it all away.

 

Sunday Morning

As a child in church, bored by sermons of sin
and resurrection, I stared at how stiff collars
dug neatly into the crevices of men’s necks,
heads bowed and raised in prayer like marionettes.

Like ducks nodding to one another
before the drake mounts the hen.
Does he worry about life and death
while he bites her scruff, pins her down?

The cat brings us half-eaten mice, or a shrew
that bolts as soon as it’s dropped,
the dog nearby rolls in traces of fox piss.
Do either think whether there is purpose?

Perhaps the rabbit contemplates – amid
shredded cabbage and straw, likewise
bullocks in the grass before the tractor
arrives with feed – why we’re here.

Was it thanks to God, ponders the cock
as it leaps into the neighbor’s yard
to flee the stench of a cracked egg,
or the right combo of carbon molecules?

The ducks unearth a frog, pull at a rear leg
as it screams and leaps lopsided
toward the hedge, the ducks in hot pursuit.
I don’t get out of my chair to intervene.

Charles G Lauder Jr was born in San Antonio, Texas, lived for a few years each on America’s East and West Coasts, and moved to south Leicestershire, UK, in 2000. His poems have been published widely in print and online, and in his two pamphlets Bleeds (Crystal Clear Creators, 2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (BLER, 2017). From 2014 to 2018, he was the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House, and for over twenty years he has copy-edited academic books on literature, history, medicine, and science. His debut poetry collection is The Aesthetics of Breath (V. Press, Oct 2019). Twitter: @cglauder

The Aesthetics of Breath is available for purchase from the V. Press website.

Unthreaded – Rachel Cunniffe

Unthreaded

………….1
Pearls spill in to
the frosty pavement.
I grip the remains
in my ungloved fist.
From now on I resolve never
to wear antique jewellery
around my neck.

…………2
A stranger will flirt with me
the way the skimmed milk moon
does with intoxicated clouds,
flattered, uncertain,
taking note.
The night air condenses,
like alcohol, optimistic.

……….3
On New Years Day
before the light fades
I begin my search,
my boots bite softly
into the hard white frost.
If I slip as I walk
it will be on a pearl

 

Rachel Cunniffe is based in the North East of  England and has  written a  wide range of  poetry  since being a teenager, has a MA in Writing Studies gained in 1995 from Edgehill University College.

Christmas Pudding – Orla Fay

Christmas Pudding

This year’s dark evening saw the preparation;
the raisins, sultanas, orange and lemon peel,
the grated rinds, the spoonful of whiskey,
the can of Guinness, to add cherries or not?
And then reminiscing, calling the old spirits back,
how her mother would have hers bubbling away,
how hers always turned out perfectly,
how she could always seem to make something
from the nothing they had, with many to feed.

I recall late autumn days in the wooden shed by our house,
my brother and I watching the steam from the hob there.
I think of Dad knotting the bowls for those creations
with blue twine that had been saved from bales of straw.
We knew that they were Christmas puddings
and we were caught in the magical slant of time between
Hallowe’en and Yule, babes in the wood
where the shadows gathered, puppets on strings
dancing with the flickering flames.

 

Orla Fay is editor of Boyne Berries. Recently her poetry has appeared in The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, ROPES 2019, Impossible Archetype, The Bangor Literary Journal, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Tales from the Forest, Quarryman and FourXFour. This year she was shortlisted for The Cúirt New Writing Prize. She won 3rd prize in The Oliver Goldsmith Poetry Award 2019. Her shorty story Foxy was published on the incubator selects in April. She is working towards a first collection of poetry. She blogs at http://orlafay.blogspot.com/  Twitter @FayOrla

Harold – Jennie Farley

Harold

When I can’t sleep I pull the blankets
tight around me and grip the reins.
Harold’s antlers spread a shadow
over the ceiling. I shake the bridle,
the bells tinkle, and off we go through
the moonlit window, past the tool shed,
the bird bath, over the fence.
Harold’s antlers are frosted velvet,
his hooves flick snow flurries around us,
his comfortable bulk swaying
from side to side.

Into a world of snow and silence,
pine trees, bushes silvered with frost
and ice, the sky bright with stars.
Flares light a rutted white track
as we pull up at a staging post,
greeted with a smile by a person
coddled in furs who crouches
beside a small wood fire,
playing notes on a slim reed pipe
like no tune I’ve ever heard.

A lady with yellow plaits
in a bright wool skirt bids us
pause a while, brings a bucket of water
and a lichen sandwich for Harold,
a mug of cocoa for me.

We set off again. I find a box
of Turkish Delight and an embroidered
doll tucked beneath my rugs.

The sky pales to pink. I nestle down
as Harold clops gently homeward
taking me to my morning bed.

 

Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher living in Cheltenham.
Her work has featured in magazines including Prole, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, and been performed at festivals.  Her first collection was Her Grandmother Skating(Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016) followed by Hex (IDP 2018). She is working on a short pamphlet The Gymslip Girls.

Beethoven’s Bust. – Lesley Quayle

Beethoven’s Bust.

Beethoven’s bust is broken, a feather-duster casualty,
stoic in Sellotape – a fix of yellowed strips and super-glue –
propped up in hot-flush-corner where ladies of a certain age
take turns to fan themselves with laminated wine lists.

Beethoven’s reconstructed eyes, one higher than the other,
their botched and sticky gaze a hint of former la-di-da,
observe the glow, the menu wafting haze,
study the corner where old men sit,

noses down, a contemplation of pint and pie and mushy peas,
bald heads, their greasy caps shucked off in peeling heat;
they smell of sweat and gravy. No conversation, a rattle of mucus,
a crack of bones, the slap of chapping dominoes to bless

their fiefdom while, beneath planked tables, tired dogs fold
their skinny, creaking limbs to small confines, and snore.
Where Ursula, the counterfeit coquette, a fugitive from
hot-flush-corner, meets the edgelands of age

with carmine pouts and an overdose of rouge,
stumbles over port and lemon, targeting the vacant
laps of young men, who flock together,
migrating from her autumnal reaches.

The fire flickers, a lantern show over brass and warm mahogany,
night slides through windows in reds and pinks and gold.
In come the farmhands, in their overalls and mud-caked boots,
a man who does Times’ crosswords, cider drinkers, ale suppers,

Red Biddy quaffers, white wine connoisseurs, back-slappers,
lone wolves, the gluggers and sippers, the one who’s always
shown the door, yer barred, the one who’s nightly taken home
and put to bed – the piano player, assaulting keys till

stone walls bulge and air parts, such is the cacophony,
and all the mouths are out of sync and fill the bar
with one long baritone, the till, a treble dissonance,
the metal ting. Outside, smokers light up, inhale and sigh.

 

Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet. A folk/blues singer and editor, she has a collection, Sessions (Indigo Dreams) and a pamphlet Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce) and her latest pamphlet Black Bicycle published in May by 4Word. http://www.4word.org/titles/

New Trees – Ian Glass

New Trees

There were other trees on this street,
then one day stumps
and the next just patches of tarmac.

They were the wrong sort of trees.

Their roots flexed like toes in sand
and cracked the pavement.

Their branches stretched wide like daybreak
and threatened the road.

Their leaves danced shadows over shopfronts
and could not be controlled.

Now we have the right sort of trees.

They stand obedient in solitary planters,
opposite Poundland, their branches cut
into economical cubes.

 

Ian lives in Worcestershire where he works as a programmer while studying for an MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University. Ian’s first pamphlet ‘About Leaving’ was published by V. Press in November 2019.