The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning – Jean Taylor

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

My children have begun to talk
of Swedish death cleaning –
the process of sifting and sorting,
of losing before you are dead,
those possessions they would
rather not have.

They tell me there is a book.

I will read this book, for I want to know
why I should part with the buttons
I saved from their shirts
the photos of them, taken,
when the thought of my death
would wake them sobbing in the night

looking for comfort.

Why I should part
with The Cat in the Hat
or Alice in Wonderland
the Monopoly set with the dog and the boot
their handmade birthday cards
the tooth fairy’s treasure box.

I check on Amazon.

The Swedish death cleaning book
is available in hardback.
If I order it today it should
still be in good shape to pass
on to my children, in due course,
with the rest of my clutter.

I hope they will find it helpful.

 

Jean Taylor is a writer and paper lover living in Edinburgh. Her poetry has been published in a range of publications including Orbis, Northwords Now, Firth, and Envoi as well as online on Snakeskin, Amaryllis and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

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Kind Stranger – Alex Josephy

Kind Stranger

The old girl I am now
comforts the young woman
I was then

a veined hand
placed lightly
on a trembling hand;

the young one
is on her way home
with stories she will never

be able to tell her mum
or even herself, not
in words, only

in flashbacks,
wrong turns in the pit
of her stomach,

inexplicable tears.
Now she’s in the vortex
of a panic attack

on a train, somewhere
in the Midlands. Is this train
out of control? The old girl

listens, considers,
as if that could be true.
No, I think we’re all right.

 

Alex lives in London and Montalcino. Her pamphlet Other Blackbirds was published by Cinnamon Press, 2016 and her collection White Roads by Paekakariki Press, 2018. Her poems have appeared quite widely in magazines and anthologies in the UK and Italy.

Pissabed – Pen Kease

Pissabed [1]

They’d said not to pick those dandelions –
but she did. A tiny bunch tied up
with daisies, buttercups and string,
a bright reminder of his garden days
among weeds and roses, carrots and bees.

Today, wreaths and crosses are laid,
a coffin lurches on big boys’ shoulders.

Never pick pissabed, it brings bad luck –
she knows that now – awake and small, squashed
under blankets, coats on top, between
big sisters, in the middle, in a panic –
pants, vest, petticoat, black wool stockings soaked.

When the big ones leave for the factory,
she’ll dress. Make tea. No school. Again.

 

[1]  The folk name given to the dandelion. Children were often told that if you picked it, you would wet the bed. It does however, have diuretic qualities.

Pen Kease holds an MA in Writing from the University of Warwick. She is currently interested in family myth and 20th century social history, some of which is reflected in her poems. Currently, her hair is pink.

Featured Publication – Maps of the Abandoned City by Helen Ivory

Our featured publication for May is Maps of the Abandoned City by Helen Ivory, published by SurVision Books.

Maps of the Abandoned City imagines a place deserted by its makers. Mirrors are starved of human life, creatures cut loose and the Dark comes home and takes off its boots.

“Ivory’s epigraph – the Serbian proverb ‘Get your moustaches together, you’re going on a journey’ – certainly captures the imagination at work here, but there is something disturbing coming towards us from these poems.” William Bedford (The High Window)

“Helen Ivory’s surreal collection of poems taps into this fascination, using a kind of archaeology of the imagination. It articulates our worst fears about climate change, system collapse and the consequences of our negligent trashing of the natural world.” Kathleen Jones 

mapsfrontcovernew3 Webjpg

 

In a Time Before Maps

Long ago when the city was an infant
it lay on its back on a big white sheet
transfixed by the tiny articulations
of its own small hands.

Constellations of eyes beheld from the sky
the city grew vivid, grew hearty,
grew schools and grew graveyards
and when these were replete, it grew more.

Straw begat sticks then sticks begat brick
so the wolf packed its bags
and decamped to the forest.
The city sprouted a gate and then locked it.

Even the city became lost in those days –
took itself for a wander inside its own head,
and simply vanished. Something had to be done.
The cartographer stepped from a fold in the sky.

 

The Cartographer Invents Herself

Thunder loped across the sky’s wilderness
and clouds stumbled around,
then fixed upon an almost-shape.

The Cartographer feels her hands
for the first time, lifts them to her face
and then expertly moulds her own eyes.

She draws the roads that will carry her blood
and the pathways to order her ribcage,
then hollows out a playground for her breath.

 

The Cats and the Mice

When all had been absent of human noise
for three turns of the moon,
the cats and the mice came to an understanding.

Mice would reign in the cheese shop
while cats would claim sovereignty
of the fishmongers.

There will be no Tom-and-Jerry-style
absurdities. No sticks of dynamite applied
to the rolled-out tongues of sleeping cats

and no mouse need squander a bead of sweat
on hefting irons to rooves
in the hope a cat would mosey by.

Thus, began a golden age, which like each golden age
will soon prove itself to be composite metal
with gilding shown greenish as it rubs away.

A mouse in a cloak stands on the last cheese wheel.
A cat in a cloak holds the last sole aloft.
It’s the cats’ fault! said the mouse. Greedy mice! said the cat.

And so, the Battle of the Grocery Shop began.
The mouse shouting orders with a mouth full of brie.
The cat screaming attack! spitting sole at the ranks.

 

Nights in the Abandoned City

Dark comes home to the abandoned city
and heaves off its boots by the fire.
It is astonishing how weary the dark is from its work,
its commute through choking towns and encampments.

It talks to the flames of the things it has seen
of the stilled hearts it has held
between finger and thumb.
It unburdens itself of all human sorrow.

And the fire, pretending for now,
it is a hearth at the centre of a church house,
listens like a priest and bites its own tongue,
imbues the parlour with cloying incense.

In the shadowplay, the dark is a plague doctor’s mask,
a bone-saw, a gathering of spat-out teeth.
Soon, fire will describe a still life of eyeglasses –
their tiny infinities – all their dashed lenses.

 

Helen Ivory is a poet and a visual artist. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is a tutor for the UEA/NCW creative writing programme. Fool’s World, a collaborative Tarot with Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press) won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me is published by KFS.

Maps of the Abandoned City is available to purchase from the SurVision website.

Warmth – Matt Nicholson

Warmth

She puts her hand on the radiator
every time she passes by.

I hear it from all the way upstairs,
when her wedding ring taps

against the glossed metal,
the sound of it makes me smile.

She is never really cold, not really,
she just fears that, one day,

she might be,
and she is not prepared for that.

 

Matt Nicholson is a poet and performer from East Yorkshire…a very cultured place of late.  His latest collection, We are not all blessed with a hat-shaped head, was published by Kings England Press in April 2018. http://www.kingsengland.com/we-are-not-all-blessed-with-a-hat-shaped-head-c2x25917079  Twitter: @mattpoethull

The Late Show – Oz Hardwick

The Late Show

After midnight, stars have faces, silver
in smoke, soft-focused, indelible. We watch
the street, the shadows, the heavy, hooded eyes,
lamplit across gin-joint tables, taunting
the man with the dangling cigarette, his fingers drumming
to the rhythm of a femme fatale’s black nylon
legs whispering suggestions. There’s a drive-by at the drive-in:
Chicago pianos rattling skeleton songs,
bullet holes in swaying scenery, a blizzard
of sugar glass catching in lacquered hair,
tears welling their farewells, my lovely. But
after midnight, even the dead remain young,
their Hays Code faces fluttering, starlit,
lips pursed, winking at popcorn kisses.

 

Oz Hardwick is a poet, photographer and sometime musician, whose seventh
poetry collections, Learning to Have Lost, was published in 2018 by the
International Poetry Studies Institute, Canberra. Oz leads the Creative Writing
programmes at Leeds Trinity University.

Kissing the Undertaker – Barbara O’Donnell

Kissing the Undertaker

Dad’s heart was still beating, when the remote control changed
channels and the pizza came hot out of the oven, on this
other side of the Irish Sea. The internet’s absence of noise,

holds a gallant ignorance against the ringing of both phones.
It can’t be true, until the silence is unequivocally cleaved
first by confirmation from the nurse, then condolences.

The world splits, into those who know and those who do not.
Bank card numbers, swallowed into the ether, buy
two seats, my other sister’s absence occupying the third.

In the airport toilet, the music is reminiscent of a communist
Chinese labour camp or a 1950s American TV commercial.
Christmas lights pierce the fog, distressing my optic nerve.

The quiet hills and descending fog, create a damp
blanket, holding each absent year, every winter night
of childhood and the empty chair at his bedside.

The undertaker’s soft voice, from a mobile in a car, speaks of
tasks to be done, sounding strangely far and comfortingly
close, all at once, as if he could somehow fix everything.

I wonder, would the undertaker’s gentle tones,
transform into the fiercest of kisses, hold me safe
from the newspaper deadlines and coffin catalogues.

 

Barbara O’Donnell was born in 1975 in West Cork and works full-time in the NHS in London. Her poetry has been published in The Screech Owl, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Skylight 47, Three Drops Poetry, South Bank Poetry and Poetry24.

 

Obedience Class – Ilse Pedler

Obedience Class

Fine-tuned to catch
……….each twitch
of the hand,
………………each whispered
command,
……the collie;
sleek back
rigid,
trammelled
tight to leg,
pitched high
……………..as an e string
over-wound.

While in the bright distance,
the fells unfold,
beckon,
a skylark rises
unchains its throat.

 

Ilse Pedler has had poems published in magazines and several anthologies. She is the winner of the 2015 Mslexia Pamphlet Competition with, The Dogs That Chase Bicycle Wheels, published by Seren. She was shortlisted in the National Poetry Competition 2018 and was also the poet in residence at Sidmouth Folk Week. In between writing poetry she works as a veterinary surgeon in Saffron Walden.

 

Autobiopic – Ben Banyard

Autobiopic

Opening credits, your first screams.
Exterior: the Midlands, mid-70s
orange and brown.
Filthy yellow buses pass the Rotunda;
happy-sad place.

Montage of the usual growing-up,
grandparents and cousins,
you decline invitations to classmates’ parties,
shrink in terror at the museum T-Rex.

At the posh school your Brummie
is scoffed at by the toffs.
You make the best of it for seven years
then sprint for the Devon coast
where your accent blows away
on the salt breeze of sea and estuary.

This is the low point of the narrative arc,
but it picks up when you meet the girl
who makes this a love story,
dusts you off, helps you grow up,
makes you a proud father,
writes you the happiest of endings.

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. He followed up his debut pamphlet, ‘Communing’ (Indigo Dreams, 2016), with a full collection, ‘We Are All Lucky’ (Indigo Dreams, 2018), and he’s currently putting the finishing touches to a new book. You can follow Ben’s blog at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com

Uncle Hagop in Stratford upon Avon – Sarah Mnatzaganian

Uncle Hagop in Stratford upon Avon

I’m on my camp site by the river,
wading through the flood that followed rain
where, undeterred, uncle Hagop swims upstream.

Joy buoys him up like Dead Sea water.
Head and shoulders high, he walruses
his favourite lines:

Now is the winter of our discontent;
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow;
If music be the food of love.

He’s in his element, twice.

Swans gather in his wake,
curling respectful necks.
We leave our sodden tents and follow.

 

Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet.  Shortlisted for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition 2016/17, her poems have been published in The North, Fenland Reed, London Grip, Poems in the Waiting Room, As Above, So Below, Write to be Counted and #MeToo a women’s anthology edited by Deborah Alma.  She studies with Peter and Ann Sansom, Heidi Williamson and Moniza Alvi.