Plastic Wing Beats – Beth O’Brien

 

Bird wings beat in a tree nearby

and it sounds like someone is repeatedly shaking

a 10p bag.

Not a flimsy 5p one, or a sturdy bag-for-life,

but the one in between.

 

I realise I know more about plastic bags than bird life

and think it is sad I’m comparing something natural

to something that isn’t,

because I’m sure it should be the other way around;

 

but I have never thought a carrier bag

sounded like wing beats before –

and I still don’t.

 

 

unnamed (3)Beth O’Brien is currently studying a degree in English Literature at the University of Birmingham. She loves reading, writing, food and seeing the world – when any of these overlap, she loves them even more!

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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.

After Me – Julia Molloy

 

Darling, come closer. There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing to fear. You are always safe with me. Whenever you smile, I’ll smile too, though mostly you make jokes that aren’t funny these days. Whenever you cry, I’ll be waiting with my shoulder and a glass of your favourite wine. It’s the Rioja you prefer now, isn’t it? When we first met, it was all about the alcopops and fluorescent cocktails that quickly got us high so we could dance and be free. We’d dance to songs we no longer heard while others vomited and fought and cried. We’d dance and hold each other close. I guess we lost friends that way. But I can still remember how it felt, the first time we held each other. Our shoes stuck to the floor and the DJ shouted through the air, but all I could focus on was you. I thought my skin would ignite. As the years have mellowed, as our days have grown more fleeting, we savour the Rioja while we can. We don’t dance or play music. We sit, and we hold hands through fading daylight and long dark nights.

Darling, come closer. That was what you used to whisper in the darkest of nights after our son died. We held each other under bed sheets you always insist on ironing. We waited for time to do its work, but I think we both still feel the emptiness. So we hold each other wrapped in the clean, sharp edges of the bedsheets. We stop asking why.

Darling, come closer. I worry about who will keep you safe after me. Who will know about your favourite Rioja? Who will know how to leave you in peace when you come home from work, how to give you that space in which to breathe? Who will know the hole inside? I suppose someone could learn this soon enough, but still I worry. I don’t recall learning these things about you as much as absorbing them. We cried once at a study where children were punished and rewarded to see if they learned better. Our own son toddled at our feet. But now I come to think of it, that was how I absorbed these things about you. Your joys and your hates, your laughs and your rages, punishments and rewards. Who else can absorb these things and keep you safe?

Darling, come closer. I need to feel you near me. You don’t understand why I worry so much about you, why I don’t worry more about myself and what I must face. You don’t understand that worrying about you keeps the fear away. When we met, I remember how I felt a weight had been lifted from my mind. I didn’t have to be alone. I could hold you in my arms and you wouldn’t even comment on my clammy skin. Now, I worry about you to keep darkness at bay.

Darling, come closer. I can feel the darkness coming. I whisper to you again and again, or at least I think I do. You’re smiling, but not as you used to. It’s a smile that will turn into a cry the moment I close my eyes. I whisper again, or perhaps I don’t. Perhaps this is just the dream of life. Perhaps this is how you are after me.

 

 

Author photoJulia Molloy is a short story writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream, Crack the Spine, STORGY, Platform for Prose and Riggwelter Press. Her work was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2016. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2015 with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and now works at a government organisation. You can find her at www.juliamolloy.org and on Twitter @JRMolloy2.

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.

I have yet to attend a funeral where it didn’t rain – John Grey

 

You were buried near twilight

and as the moon went missing

behind a combination of clouds,

and oncoming night methodically

devoured the shine, it was up to

your tombstone to illuminate

its surrounds, sprout grass and

wildflowers, as sky splashed,

on your new forecourt, star-sized tears

in the shape of rain, each one plopping

into the last, and your shadow,

having rid itself of you, found, beyond

death, new life as a black umbrella.

 

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Nebo, Euphony and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Día logues – Margaret King

 

She talks to every living thing

Maybe even more than humans

She talks to her plants as they grow

To butterflies & birds who visit daily

She has an ongoing rapport with the

Blue jays and chickadees

Who boisterously call for food

Whenever she walks under the trees

Of the yard

Underneath, the grass is littered with

Shells of sunflowers & peanuts

A beach, an ocean of giving &

Giving back

She talks to her cats

Marking loyal days together.

To her, these things are as alive as anyone

& worthy of communication.

But why doesn’t she speak to the

Hummingbirds? Messengers, she feels

She should at least send a prayer

Or a wish

Or a private longing

A cry for help

But she doesn’t

Want to scare them away.

 

 

 

unnamed

Margaret King is a Wisconsin writer who enjoys penning poetry, short stories, and young adult novels. In her spare time, she likes to haunt the shores of Lake Michigan, similar to many of her fictional characters. Her most recent work has appeared in Unlost Journal, Moonchild Magazine, Enclave, and The Ginger Collect.

Turn the Wheel – Ali Jones

 

He marks the year with stones,

feels the fire in trees rising,

 

when the sky calls up life.

He inhales beneath the horse chestnut,

 

stands in his father’s footprints,

eyeing the benign branch caught stars.

 

His mother leashes his hand,

they ride on wind dogs and go hunting

 

for the best kindling, where hills

are clouded with sheep.

 

In autumn, leaves throned gold,

he pockets treasures, and watches

 

the flames recede in the fall of red and yellow,

dry wood transformed in age.

 

He mounts an iron horse,

flesh consumed with the spirit of speed,

 

the season carries his skeleton to cage

a man’s soul, while roots travel

 

down, sinking with winter’s life,

to condense into vital coal.

 

 

 

Author photo 2Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She has also written for The Guardian.

Honest Hands – Susan Richardson

 

If he is the rain, then I am gravel,

parched under the embers of shame,

longing for the relief of him.

He washes the soot of loneliness

from my skin and offers me comfort.

 

Irish blood and bones, he is

the son of verdant landscapes,

shared pints of stout and fierce loyalty.

He navigates life vigorously

and laughs with his whole body.

 

His voice carries the tones of Autumn,

rich with the luster of unravelling gold.

I sink into the warmth of his words as

he helps stitch my broken limbs

with threads offered from his heart.

 

I remember so clearly the night

he wrapped his arms willingly

around my imperfections.

It was the first time I was

touched by honest hands.

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”. Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice and Sick Lit Magazine, with pieces forthcoming in Amaryllis. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize.

Stairfoot – Ali Jones

 

They enter dark waters in fire damps,

waiting in the amniotic dusk,

below the surface, while the mouth

breathes fire to the sky.

 

Softly, they flow downwards,

grow back into the mineral landscape,

tossed back up to the light when

the earth sees fit. Some were found in shards

where the water world dammed

and womb fluid filled the streets.

 

Maybe they are fish now,

transforming all together

into a great shoal, the older men leading,

the boys drifting, tentative, into

bodily definition, coal, ironstone,

fireclay, ganister, shale and sandstone;

 

all become them. Separated from life,

in wonders and challenges, they enter again,

transfigured by fire and waves,

and they shall be here in many wonderful shapes,

the grain of wheat, the running hare,

leaping alive at the harvest, or turned back in again.

 

 

(Historical note: The Oaks Colliery explosion is the second deadliest coal mine disaster in the United Kingdom after the disaster at Senghenydd Colliery. There were two more explosions on 13 December 1866, which killed 27 rescue workers. The Oaks Colliery, one of the largest coal mines in England, experienced 17 further explosions until it ceased operations in the 1960s.)

 

 

Author photo 2Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She has also written for The Guardian.

Spring – Trivarna Hariharan

 

In the face of

a weathering river,

 

there lives a bird

whose song can be

 

heard even in

the silence of stones.

 

 

PhotoTrivarna Hariharan is an undergraduate student of English literature from India. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has authored The Necessity of Geography (Flutter Press), Home and Other Places (Nivasini Publishers), Letters I Never Sent (Writers Workshop, Kolkata). Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday, Otoliths, Peacock Journal, One Sentence Poems, Birds Piled Loosely, TXTOBJX, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, and others. In October 2017, Calamus Journal nominated her poem for a Pushcart Prize. She has served as the editor in chief at Inklette, and is the poetry editor for Corner Club Press. Besides writing, she learns the electronic keyboard, and has completed her fourth grade in the instrument at Trinity College of Music, London.

In Autumn – Trivarna Hariharan

 

If a river ever

lost her way

 

into a forest,

what upon returning

 

would she find

but a bark of flowers

 

falling at her feet,

over and over?

 

 

PhotoTrivarna Hariharan is an undergraduate student of English literature from India. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has authored The Necessity of Geography (Flutter Press), Home and Other Places (Nivasini Publishers), Letters I Never Sent (Writers Workshop, Kolkata). Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday, Otoliths, Peacock Journal, One Sentence Poems, Birds Piled Loosely, TXTOBJX, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, and others. In October 2017, Calamus Journal nominated her poem for a Pushcart Prize. She has served as the editor in chief at Inklette, and is the poetry editor for Corner Club Press. Besides writing, she learns the electronic keyboard, and has completed her fourth grade in the instrument at Trinity College of Music, London.

Childlessness – Antony Owen

 

You and I have perfected being invisible,

to be the disappearing dot as people move on

we will always be children growing grey like shovelled snow.

~

You and I have swallowed bruises from joy at others’ children,

made chemical love with natural hopes to conceive

mourned in revelations of blue stripe tombs.

~

We wanted a baby so bad I held you like one in our Ikea tomb.

At seven PM on the dot we mixed potions dead of magic

I was so close to your skin and noticed you had gone.

~

You and I have heard it all like how one day it will happen for us

like Sheila and Tom down the road who sold a house for seed,

one night I stood naked in the firelight and doused the flames.

~

You alone knew that our spines are like hand rails on tube trains,

everyone is leaving and there is only you and I in the dark eye

the pin-prick daylight will not conceive us and we no longer weep.

~

I alone knew that my bloodline stops with me, thank god it stops

but remember the cherry tree that blossomed then died

they cut it down and the roots fought hard to keep it.

~

I alone know that you and I are sick and fucking tired of polite sadness,

to avoid the conversations that make others feel awkward because we are,

to realise that some family trees bear fruit so sweet it makes the wind smell bitter.

~

You alone know that the sharps box is Pandora’s box letting us out,

the needles mock us like talons of a crow on Jacobite earth

next week is our check-up but we are nether here or there.

~

I alone know as a man who sees our children writhing in the dreamcatcher

that there is a beach with a gate for us where the sea-smoke cools the sun,

I alone know that the manger of loving you is more than tangible life.

 

 

biopic 3Antony Owen was raised in the industrial heartland of Coventry which is a notable inspiration of his work. Owen is also a critically acclaimed writer on war poems with work translated in Japanese, Mandarin and Dutch. His fifth collection of poetry, The Nagasaki Elder, (V.Press) was published in September 2017 and is already its 2nd print run. The Nagasaki Elder was inspired by direct testimonies of atomic bomb survivors taken in Hiroshima plus evacuees displaced from conflict. Owen’s work has been commissioned by BBC and National Poetry Day and is regularly taught in Hiroshima at monthly poetry workshops by Professor Klein. He was chosen by CND UK as one their first national peace education patrons alongside AL Kennedy. Owen was also a recipient Coventry’s 2016 Peace & Reconciliation Award.

Could Be Stardust, Could Be Rain – Alison McCrossan

 

I am stardust. Yet it could be said I’m mostly rain.

‘What riddle is this?’ you ask.

‘Oh, only the original. Who am I?’

‘Doesn’t that lead to Why am I?’ you say.

This is getting painful.

You poke at the ground where you sit and hold up your hand. Your finger is crusted with wet sand. ‘How many grains?’ you ask.

‘Impossible to know unless we Google an equation.’

You’re a professor of archaeology and reckon that makes you academic. ‘An academic with working man hands,’ you often say with a laugh. Your dark curls fall down one side of your face, facial features too young to know it all.

‘How many people have asked this question?’ you say.

‘That’s not getting us any closer to an answer.’ I swipe away an assault of meaningless equations that have sprung up on the browser window of my smart-phone. I forgot to add ‘grains of sand on a fingertip.’ Wet sand would alter the equation too-surely adding another factor or something. Oh, the credence I give Google.

I’m the creative sort, not that it matters. Even the academic uses Google. You have often told me I love too much, too deeply, and too soon. I might have said, but doesn’t this life deserve such enthusiasm. I add playfulness to my art in the hope that another might smile. Not that I’m adverse to contemplation. I’m thinking more about the why of everything today, but on other days I’m known to just wonder at the stars and not how they relate to me.

You say, ‘A grain of sand. A spit in the ocean. A collection of atoms in the shape of you, in the shape of me. Everything. Nothing. Dimensions of perception that go on and on and bend and circle ad infinitum. You could be stardust. You could be rain. It’s entirely up to you.’

‘What are you suggesting? I’m not depressed and depression isn’t a choice.’

‘But you are in pain,’ you say.

‘I ache all day for night and cry all night for morning.’

‘Why?’ you ask.

‘I lost my job, the days are long. My love is gone and I can’t afford the rent.’

‘Distractions,’ you say, drawing a crooked line in the wet sand with the same finger.

My eyes trace its path. Without distractions I am hollow, pain with a hollow centre that is, a capsule without the drug inside.

I kick off my shoe and dip a toe into the sand. The sand has soaked up the rain and resists my toe. It hurts.

I am a void always searching. Searching is distraction and any of the following: pleasure (say music); escape (say wine); status (say job); to go on (say have babies); to learn (say ask who am I) or explore (say ask who are you).

Look at you. I compare. You are contained. I might say you are of the moon, steady and influential. One of a kind. More than a search tool or answer to me maybe. ‘How does it feel to be one of a kind?’

‘You should know. I am part of you.’ You disappear into the hole you poked in the sand.

 

 

alisonMcCrossanAlison McCrossan is 44 years old and living in Ireland. She enjoys writing fiction, including flash and short stories, and is currently working on a novel.

Alma Mater – Laura Potts

 

Widow-black and winter, evening took me south into

lamps burning blue in the dusk. Out and over my hometown musk

lay the hinterland hills breathing low in the dark. Still,

frostspark sharp on the city streets, holy rain sweet

in the winter and the wet, with no evening stars ahead I let

the pavement take me home. Through the town nocturnal, gloam

 

and grey, my chimney throat coughing its smoke, I saw aslope

on the city’s slow spine those old black gates, the summer of my days

inside. Grief cracked my face. Those navy girls and me, a pace

always ahead. But in the pale stairwell light the ghost of my girlhood dead

in its fresh green spring and gone. From roadside wet I looked on

at this child of light, her afterglow bright, her ashes of life

 

already black. The cold breath of loss on my face. At my back

a schoolbell cracked at the evening air. I saw Death at my table there

tipping his hat, and the years in my face that sank as I sat

at that desk at the back of the class. I remember that. And last,

on an old December evening, down hallways dark the wilting hymns

of girls turned ghosts before their time, I saw their eyes

 

like candles cold, like lights no longer leading home. Outside, to the bone

I shook and swung, the darkened seas that were my eyes done

and gone at the sight of myself. Each girl ringing her own passing bell.

Well, in that mist and half-dark morning, my face a clenching fist

in pavement pools, I saw that septic, terminal school

for what it was. No, I never went back, of course.

 

I tipped my compass north.

 

 

527Laura Potts is twenty-one years old and lives in West Yorkshire. She has twice been named a Foyle Young Poet. Her poems have appeared in Seamus Heaney’s Agenda, The Interpreter’s House and Poetry Salzburg Review. She has recently been shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction at The University of Colorado and also made The 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize shortlist. This year Laura became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Her first BBC radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew will air at Christmas 2017.

At the Museum – Claire Walker

 

For fossil hunter Mary Anning.

 

In glass cases, bigger than my childhood

home, they display the rocks of my life’s work.

Together, men caw like gulls over scraps,

applaud their knowledge and its evolutionary weight.

 

They will not, yet, accept these finds as a woman’s

will not acknowledge my days searching the tide;

days when the sky could do anything – layers

of grey and blue stacked against each other.

 

How easily we set ourselves this way:

man over woman. They call me Handmaid,

think I gather pretty shells in my bonnet

for no reason but a pleasing shape.

 

They are wrong to try and erase me –

an expert at preserving remains.

The swirls of my fingerprints are spelled out on flint,

letters chiseled in the lines of my nameless bones.

 

 

12718029_871924849596518_4897711566017020968_n (1)Claire Walker’s poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and webzines including The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Poetry Shed, and The Chronicles of Eve. She is a Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry webzine. Her first pamphlet – The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile – was published by V. Press in 2015, and a second – Somewhere Between Rose and Black – will follow in December 2017.