Yellow Ribbons – Pene Morley

 

The newspaper did nothing to stop the cold seeping from the wooden bench into Steve’s bones. He hugged his anorak tighter around his shoulders and tucked his hands under his armpits. Swapping that old blanket for a tin of baked beans had been a bad idea.

Shoppers, muffled up in coats and scarves and hats, trudged to and fro in front of him. Most ignored him, but some watched him out of the tail of an eye as they passed him. He wanted to grab them and tell them, ‘I was like you once, before I went to fight your bloody war’, but he knew they wouldn’t believe him; they never did.

A woman hurled a half-eaten burger into the bin at his elbow, and he eyed it for a moment before snatching it up. Then he noticed the girl staring at him, knock-kneed, gripping a plait in each hand as though she thought her hair was going to fly off.

‘It’s for my dog,’ he said, nodding to where the lurcher was curled up among the carrier bags at his feet.

The dog raised its shaggy head at the sound of his voice, and he tossed the burger between its paws. It snapped it up.

‘What’s his name?’ the girl said, edging closer.

‘I don’t know. I call him Bob but he’s not really my dog; he just follows me around.’

‘Can I stroke him?’

Steve nodded. The girl bounced down on to the ground at his feet with a grin, and the lurcher stretched out his neck to sniff her mouth, his tail thumping the pavement.

‘My dog’s called Scruffy,’ she said, giggling and squirming as Bob licked her face. ‘I got him when my daddy died but nobody can see him; he’s invisible.’

Steve crumpled up the burger bag and chucked it into the bin. Not having a dad must be tough on the kid, but you wouldn’t know it looking at her now. She was holding Bob’s ears up like butterfly wings and chatting to him about everything and nothing. Steve was about to ask her about her dad, when a slip of a woman rushed up and grabbed her by the shoulders.

‘How many times have I told you not to run off like that, Anna?’ she said, pulling the girl on to her feet.

Anna twisted in her grip. ‘I just wanted to see that man; I thought he was daddy.’

The woman’s body slumped, like a puppet no longer in play. She glanced over at Steve, exasperated, and for an instant he thought her tired eyes were pleading with him for help.

Then she tugged at Anna’s arm. ‘Come on, I don’t want you bothering him.’

‘But he’s got a dog,’ Anna said, digging in her heels, ‘and it’s real.’

‘I don’t care.’

‘And he’s got no laces.’

‘What..?’

Her mother stopped pulling her arm and turned to Steve. She studied his cracked, unlaced army boots and then looked back at Anna, frowning.

‘Remember when Daddy’s laces broke and he used my ribbons to tie his trainers,’ Anna said. She smiled at Steve. ‘Would you like my ribbons for your boots?’ She knelt at his feet. ‘I think they’ll look ever so pretty,’ she said, threading her ribbons through the lace holes.

Her mother gazed at Steve as if to say, ‘I’m sorry, about her’. He grinned at her, and she reached down to stroke Bob and hide the flush of colour that had appeared in her cheeks.

 

 

PM bio picPene Morley lives in the south of Germany with her husband, teenage son and two Labradors. She discovered very short stories on Twitter over a year ago and now tries daily to do one of the writing prompts. Since then she has also started writing flash fiction and is writing a novel which she hopes to have finished soon. You can follow her on Twitter @PeneMorley.

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Foal – Anthony Watts

 

On Thorncombe Hill

I saw the world

 

balanced

upon four saplings

 

itself-begetting

in the dew of the foal’s eyes

 

who whinnying

down nostrils newly bored

 

printed upon that

immemorial quietude

 

his infant sneeze.

 

 

Anthony Watts - head & shoulder portrait (3)Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for about 40 years. He has won 26 First Prizes in poetry competitions and was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition 2014. His poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Poetry Salzburg Review, The Rialto and Riggwelter. His fifth collection, Stiles, is due to be published by Paekakariki Press. His home is in rural Somerset and his main interests are poetry, music, walking and binge thinking – activities which he finds can be happily combined.

Tornado – Robert Beveridge

 

The tornado

whispers across

the green lake

 

heads for your eyes

so that when I kiss you

your body splatters me

with droplets of jade

 

 

20160903225845_IMG_2924_20160903230828315Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. He has recent/upcoming appearances in New American Legends, Toho Journal, and Chiron Review, among others.

where we are – Spangle McQueen

 

we can only start from here

no blaming the illness

myself

or all the others

just start here with the breath

where the succulent’s still

unplanted

and the sunshine soothes an aching temple

and turquoise sky fills my mind

bliss

a neighbour bangs on the window

for attention

the black cat slips off the fence

I open my eyes and wave

reset the clock

start again

focus on the breath

try to stay in the moment

while an ice-cream van

is playing the tune

about a pony

a feather

macaroni

 

 

20171019_233122-1Spangle McQueen is a happy grandma and hopeful poet living in Sheffield.

Fox – Paul Waring

 

Out on a night

like this

you swagger

aloof

star on stage

under diffused

orange spotlight.

I see you sashay

soft brush tail

lithe limbs

quiet as a whisper

across grass

as I close

my fourth floor window.

You look up

as if you know me

bat-ear surveillance

and dark adapted eyes

aimed like arrows

into mine.

 

 

IMG_6036Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in Liverpool bands. He is a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee whose poems have been published in Foxglove Journal, Prole, Amaryllis, High Window, Atrium, Algebra of Owls, Clear Poetry, Ofi Press, Marble Poetry, The Lampeter Review and others. Find more at https://waringwords.wordpress.com.

Death in Spring – Ben Banyard

 

She took her last breath as we put the clocks on.

Lambs, daffodils, Easter eggs, cheerful optimism,

but a funeral to attend and relatives to console.

 

We’ll Google the church’s car park,

agree to work around that afternoon with bosses and clients.

Follow the coffin in, glance at riotous banks of grape hyacinth.

 

There will be hymns.

All Things Bright and Beautiful no doubt,

The Old Rugged Cross, perhaps.

Choke back a lump in the throat at the eulogies,

smile with damp eyes at anecdotes.

 

What will move us most are the details of her youth,

how she played nicely with her sister sometimes,

what her parents did for a living;

Spring details, when her life was beginning.

 

 

ImageBen Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, UK. He’s the author of a pamphlet, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and a full collection, We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018). He blogs and posts mixtapes at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com.

Concentration – Ben Banyard

 

It’s hard, here in orbit,

not to be able to hear

the simultaneous hum

of all those minds at work.

 

But it’s far harder to imagine

that this orb contains

all of the love and fear

for as far as eyes can see.

 

 

ImageBen Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, UK. He’s the author of a pamphlet, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and a full collection, We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018). He blogs and posts mixtapes at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com.

Old sludge beds – Mark Totterdell

 

The former sewage settlement lagoons,

a wasteland wedged between the river’s curves

and an elbow of equivalent canal,

have been recolonised by sedges,

by bulrushes releasing feathered seeds,

by tall blond reeds in broad stands, rustling

with unseen life, suspicious scurryings.

 

From leafless trees, the great tits and song thrushes

are cleanly piping out, respectively,

their simple and their complex repetitions.

Close your eyes and you can almost see

the sounds as clear distinctive prints

cutting into the greyish sludge that spreads

everywhere from the traffic on the bridge.

 

 

This one DSC00795-herefordMark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).

The Strawberry Gel – Raine Geoghegan

 

On warm summer nights they lay on thick blankets looking up at the stars. The door of the vardo left slightly open in case the chavies woke. They would whisper about the time they first met in the strawberry fields. He remembered the blue dress she used to wear, how her hair was braided on top of her head, her sovereign ear rings unlike any he’d ever seen. She would tell him how she was taken by his honest brown eyes and the way he took her hand and said, ‘Shall we go for a stroll Amy?’ He had picked a strawberry for her and it was the sweetest thing she had ever tasted. It was kushti bok that both he and their gel had strawberry marks on their backs. They laughed at how she could never get enough of the fruit. They called her the strawberry gel. Their Phylly, with the corn coloured hair. He yawns loudly. ‘Shush, go t’sleep Alf.’ They both settle down, his hand resting on her hip, her hand on his chest.

 

Romani words: Vardo – wagon; Chavies – children; Kushti Bok – Good Luck

 

 

2017-07-17 18.15.26Raine Geoghegan, MA lives in West Sussex, UK. She is half Romany with Welsh and Irish ancestry. Her poems and short prose have been widely published and her debut pamphlet, ‘Apple Water – Povel Panni’ is due to be published by Hedgehog Press in November 2018. It was previewed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net 2018. Her poems were also featured in the film ‘Stories from the Hop Yards’ as part of the Herefordshire Life through a Lens Project and one of the poems was made into a film by the Wellington Primary School. Find out more at rainegeoghegan.co.uk.

Silver Fox, Sweden, 2010 – Gordon Meade

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded.

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded

in capturing my best side.

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded

in capturing my best side,

my stoic pose, beyond the bars.

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded

in capturing my best side,

my stoic pose. Beyond the bars

of my cage, the night air bristles.

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded

in capturing my best side,

my stoic pose. Beyond the bars

of my cage, the night air bristles

but I am no longer party to that.

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded

in capturing my best side,

my stoic pose. Beyond the bars

of my cage, the night air bristles

but I am no longer party to that.

My gaze remains turned inward.

 

I think you have, as far

as is possible, given the present

circumstances, definitely succeeded

in capturing my best side,

my stoic pose. Beyond the bars

of my cage, the night air bristles

but I am no longer party to that.

My gaze remains turned inward.

My eyes have seen too much.

 

 

IMG_20180410_165525Gordon Meade is a Scottish poet based in the East Neuk of Fife. He divides his time between his own writing and developing creative writing courses for vulnerable people in a variety of settings. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow working, at the moment, on their Bridge Project in Scottish schools. His ninth collection of poems, The Year of the Crab, a poetic exploration of a diagnosis and early treatment of cancer, was published in 2017 by Cultured Llama Publishing.

Picking up lost leaves – Gareth Culshaw

 

The sunlight I once knew.

That yellow light that crept over

the slates and dripped to the tarmac.

Garages with corrugated roofing

that kept the snow from sliding.

Houses with gable and hip roofs

that now have a buckle of solar panels.

The tree that reached for the sky,

even stroked the clouds when we 

were small. Graffiti on the walls

and swear words in the puddles 

of teenage spit from years ago.

New neighbours with quiet eyes.

Swifts that came for a generation

now lost to the winds. The banging

footballs that hammered away time,

just an echo in the ears of myself. 

Moving back to a place I once knew,

is like a tree picking up the leaves

it lost in autumn, and asking them

to belong again.

 

 

IMG_1727Gareth lives in Wales. He has his first collection out now by FutureCycle called The Miner. He hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen.

Musings on my 49th birthday and my eccentric, slightly worn-out body – Claire Sexton

 

I’m 49 years old and I’ve just decided that I like my body.

I like my deep-set eyes; the ones that make people think I am something

I am not; an accident of genetics; an unexplained phenomenon.

 

I like my crooked nail and my birthmark that looks like a permanent

bruise; inflicted by a pugilist god.

Like my flesh is showcasing my emotional vulnerability. My perceived tenderness.

 

I like my freckles and my age spots too. I like my knobbly knees and

elbows, my tendency to put on weight

sideways, not front-ways. Like a wobbly Welsh dresser, or iced custard tart.

 

I like my Irish colouring. So pale that make-up never quite produces

a shade light enough. Never accounts

for the least brazen amongst us. Always, still, venerates the fake-golden calf.

 

I even like my teeth, with their precarious overhang, and odd, eclectic vibe.

Like an informal wake, or

an overture of broken, slightly unpredictable, but still cherished, individuals.

 

I like my backwards glance, my gallows humour, my department store

trauma, and my elevator musak – my

creative flow. Singing in the bath and talking to cats. Like a glamorous diva.

 

I like my body. I like its quirky knobs and buttons, its tatty china cups and

clattering-lid teapot.

And finally, I like the fact that it keeps on going. I like the fact I’m still alive.

 

 

 

Foxglove picClaire Sexton is a forty-something librarian living and working in London. She also writes poetry and occasionally creative non-fiction. She has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, Stare’s Nest, Peeking Cat Poetry and other magazines. She has just adopted a magnificent tortie cat called Queenie.

Unwavering – Susan Richardson

 

Each day, as I reluctantly get out of bed,

to face the sunlight and blindness,

I ask you to hold my hand so I

won’t feel afraid of standing still.

You wrap my fluttering pulse in threads

of warmth that traverse your palms,

dulling the edges of my anxiety.

You teach me to shake off rage

and laugh at the act of coming unglued.

How quickly I learned to seek your

voice in the clamor of being alive,

rely on the steady cadence of your heart

to quiet the noises that breathe in darkness.

You stand unwavering in the center of

our life together, a beacon that always finds me.

Feeling your fingers against mine,

I stand beside you, content to close my eyes

and let the sun shine on my face.

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called, Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, The Writing Disorder and Eunoia Review, among others. She was awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig 2017 Winter Poetry Prize, featured in the Literary Juice Q&A Series, and chosen as the Ink Sweat & Tears March 2018 Poet of the Month. She also writes for the Arts and Lit Collective, Morality Park.

Worlds Apart – Deborah Guzzi

 

beneath my skin

milk flows like fire:

today I have eaten

 

my daughter’s mouth pulls

her hands knead my breast, her world

deep brown eyes hidden

long black lashes flutter closed

no more but she suckles on

 

in the shade we sit

beside the hotel’s grand door:

no coins in my bowl

 

 

 

debbie 3aDeborah Guzzi writes full time and travels for inspiration. Her third book The Hurricane is available through Prolific Press and at aleezadelta@aol.com. Her poetry appears in: Allegro Poetry Magazine and Artificium in the UK, Existere – Journal of Arts and Literature and Scarlet Leaf Review, Canada – Tincture, Australia – Cha: Asian Literary Review, China – Eunoia in Singapore – Vine Leaves Literary Journal – Greece, mgv2>publishing – France, and Ribbons: Tanka Society of America, pioneertown, Sounding Review, Bacopa Literary Review, Shooter, The Aurorean, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Concis, The Tishman Review, Page & Spine & others in the USA. the-hurricanedg.com.

We Will Not Wander More – Louise Wilford

 

We will not wander more. No lotus-blossom keeps

us in our seats, but just the glitter on the wall that seeps

 

into our souls. We love the soothing lullabies of lies

and loss that roll like waves of smoke across our eyes.

 

These padded gondolas will rest our limbs. Our long

hallucinations glow like pearls. Here sounds our final song. 

 

The dying skeletons of ships float by above,

but here we rest, below – bereft of love.

 

The sob of marriage split, of love betrayed,

of feuds and frauds and factions – all displayed

 

in widescreen, stretching thought just broad and high

enough for skimpy hearts and those who’re wide of eye.

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 60 poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshot, Pushing Out The Boat and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children’s fantasy novel.