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.

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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.

Distracting photograph – Kieran Egan

 

Pensive, looking sideways, unfocused eyes,

perhaps wondering about her future.

 

Now flight-phobic, terrified of takeoffs.

To ease her anxieties I had suggested 

we bring and talk about photographs of ourselves, 

at ages five, and ten, fifteen, and twenty.

 

We examined the pensive ten-year-old girl looking sideways.

The woman she had become started to reminisce 

about her family, her school,

and what the girl in the photograph most cared about.

 

It was just a few minutes’ distraction, to ease her fears,

neither of us anticipated the flood of sobbing tears.

 

 

unnamed (2)Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quills (Canada), Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review (Canada), High Window (UK), Orbis (UK), Raintown Review (USA), Envoi (UK), Shot Glass Journal (USA), Qwerty (Canada), Snapdragon (USA), The Antigonish Review (Canada), Acumen (UK), Canadian Quarterly and The Interpreter’s House (UK); also shortlisted for the John W. Bilsland Literary Award, 2017 and for the TLS Mick Imlah prize 2017.

Garage Cobwebs – Alyssa Trivett

 

As the cobweb hangs

by the hockey goal

near the bike with

cracked spokes,

oil spilled from yesteryear

covers the cement surface

in artistic splotches,

in holy water coffee ground

dots throughout.

We are only chess pieces

piling things,

playing irregular Jenga.

Knocking the stump remover

bottle over and rattling rusted

metal shelves.

The sealed chamber opens.

We skate with

recycling and trash bins,

soaking up the sun in

brief movie clip moments.

 

 

unnamed (1)Alyssa Trivett is a wandering soul from the Midwest. When not working two jobs, she listens to music and scrawls lines on the back of gas station receipts. Her work has appeared in VerseWrights, In Between Hangovers, and recently at Otoliths and Five 2 One.

Last One – Rachel Lewis

 

The sun had almost given out that day

I went out late, after the sun had almost

Left us all behind.

 

The first thing I saw was the birch tree,

That had turned such a shade of yellow

As I’d never seen.

 

It was brighter and purer somehow than any green,

And the colour ran sharp through me, set me

Crying as I walked.

 

Blackberries were pouring down. The grass

Was dying in the last of the wintry light.

The streetlight glow began.

 

Willows by the river, and the plane trees,

All said “I know” whenever the wind filled

Their echo chambers.

 

Ducks and geese and magpies live here,

Resourcefully around our houses.

Swans, blackbirds as well.

 

I swung on the kissing gate and realised

I don’t know whether he’s for real, or if he’ll

Ever come back here.

 

 

Rachel headshot portraitRachel is a London-based poet. She was previously a poetry editor for the Mays Anthology and a Young Producer with Poet in the City. Her poetry can also be found on the Poetry Society website, in the Dawntreader and Kindling journals, and unpredictably at live events around London.

Blood Tendrils – Meredith LeMaître

 

You know nothing about

Me and that stings,

That you don’t know what I like to read o’ winter nights,

Which finger I like to stick up at sexism,

What time of year I love best;

It’s early summer when the sky’s iridescent, and I can lie on the sticky new grass, gaze at the fat clouds floating heavenwards, 

Apple blossom threaded through my hair.

But you didn’t know that, never thought to commit it to the library of memory.

The boy I’m half in love with has learnt what lights me up like a firefly, apart from being with him. The only thing that links us now, is the blood which slides through our veins, wraps its tendrils around our wrists. 

That we both have noses like the buttons in Mama’s sewing box,

Thin feet as the angels do in Renaissance paintings.

Tell me 

is blood and resemblance

ever enough?

 

 

wp_ss_20170723_0001Meredith LeMaître is a home educated writer and dancer from Brighton, UK. Her poems have previously been published in Hebe Poetry magazine, Now Then Manchester and Risen Zine, she has also been Highly Commended in Foyle Young Poets’ Award and was a Poetry Rivals 2016 finalist. You can find one of her articles on Hebe Poetry website. She loves writing, crafting, acroyoga and ballet and is interested in colour, languages and mythology.

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.

Yesterday Calling – Laura Potts

 

Somewhen,

a gull snaps its wings

and laughs

as I stretch out the past

 

to the city with its dark heart

and us,

splitting our skins for a kiss.

 

On the rim of a memory,

spinning,

we fizz

like silver pins

on that street

or this.

 

My lover’s words I remember

trembled

like globed pearls on tepid stars

the hot dark of torchlight

kicking

from the pavement

sparks

as he went.

 

Bone-bent,

with eighty-six years in my face,

I read books

and play cards

and years have dried up,

slow prunes

in a vase.

 

But last,

in my crabbed hands his skin,

doused with river lights,

no foul breath of wartime but

a whole lost world of long-kissed nights,

 

thin films of eyes candled bright

in the lobes of my palms,

the four-medal arms deliberate,

passionate,

strong.

 

 

Afterwards, the distant salute of a bomb.

 

 

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’sAgenda, 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.

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.

Watching waves – Byron Beynon

 

Do you recall

watching waves through

a library window,

where a painter stood

on the edge of the beach

with the afternoon light.

Footprints that walked

towards the plastic inhabited sea,

imagination drawn there

by the coastline’s question

as to where all

the labyrinths of life disappear.

Before leaving the wide frame

he stood there,

a personal composition

that changed under

a resurrected air.

 

 

Byron Beynon 2014Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales. His work has appeared in several publications including London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, San Pedro River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Yellow Nib and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). Collections include Human Shores (Lapwing Publications) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).

View from Ferryside – Byron Beynon

 

History oozing into pores

invigorates the past;

there’s the castle for instance,

high on a humpbacked hill

reaching out from Llansteffan’s

sand-ferrying shore.

The eternal language of seabirds

regional accents

in the warm rain

as they dive and soar,

sudden shifts in scale and tempo

recording the deep tales

from the journeying sea.

A landscape navigating

through the syllabus of days

that have vanished

onto the skin of time.

The air pure with thoughts,

clear with water-music

occupies this space

entering the cartographer’s

coast of memory.

 

 

Byron Beynon 2014Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales. His work has appeared in several publications including London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, San Pedro River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Yellow Nib and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). Collections include Human Shores (Lapwing Publications) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).

Lexicon – Steve Komarnyckyj

 

The river made no excuses for itself,

Having known so many dead

Having known so many living

The moon drew a veil over its face

Yearning, as always, to erase

Its beauty and proffer only the dark.

The world groped for an alphabet.

 

IMG_2158Steve Komarnyckyj’s literary translations and poems have appeared in Index on Censorship, Modern Poetry in Translation and many other journals. He is the holder of two PEN awards and a highly regarded English language poet whose work has been described as articulating “what it means to be human” (Sean Street). He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie and three domestic cats.

Bed Against the Partition – Roy Moller

 

In from Ontario to have me,

she rooms in a floral,

threadbare situation

in strange Scotland,

picking up chanting

from Infants and Juveniles,

and pigtailed little madams

shoo-ing away

clodhopping brogues

from elaborate elastics

and hopscotch plotted

in chalk mark.

 

She samples the songs of

pat-a-cake in action.

She is handsome, she is pretty,

She is the flower of the golden city.

 

She’s seven months seeded,

sitting out playtime

perched on the edge

of a tartan coverlet

wishing the quilt

and pillow would muffle

anxious appointments,

obligations pressing upon her

and pressing within her

till she can skip over

this rope again forever.

 

Roy MollerRoy Moller is a poet and songwriter who lives in Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland. He is the author of the short-run collection Imports and his work has been featured in the anthologies The Sea (Rebel Poetry) and Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. His musical works include My Week Beats Your Year, described by Louder Than War as “profoundly moving and inspirational”. His website is www.roymoller.com.

Higashi-Koenji 東高円寺 – Anne Louise Avery

 

*Higashi-Koenji is situated in Tokyo’s Suginami ward and is famous as a center of alternative youth culture and for its temples and shrines.

 

The summer my father died

I moved to Higashi Koenji.

The house had new tatami floors

And a fat white cat called Setsuke.

It smelled of cedar wood and mayonnaise. 

It was also

By a video store,

The best in Tokyo

(with every X-Files episode

And sun-faded posters of Peter Sellers).

A lantern carver lived next door.

His mother left me peaches on our stoop

Coated with a thin dusting of mica.

One day, I walked to the station

At six fifteen am to catch a train to Mitaka-shi.

It was my father’s birthday,

The Seventh of July,

And overnight the station people had covered the entrance

With silver stars and 

Long streamers like tentacles 

(Watermelon pink! Slush blue! Frog green!)

For the Tanabata Matsuri, 

The Star Festival,

When the Weaver-girl and the Cow-herd

Meet on a bridge across the Milky Way

Made of magpie wings.

In the evening, I eat grilled eel and

Strawberry cheese cake and

Scratch a wish with marker pen on a thin strip of tanzaku paper. 

And I tie it next to all the other wishes

Bristling on a bamboo branch in Koenji temple.

 

Anne Louise Avery PassportAnne Louise Avery is a writer, art historian and the cartography editor at the travel journal, Panorama (http://panoramajournal.org). Her recent book, Albion’s Glorious Ile, published by Unicorn Press, was featured in the Guardian and on Radio 4. She is also the director of the acclaimed arts education charity, Flash of Splendour. Follow her on Twitter @annelouiseavery and @petitflash.

Blackberrying – J V Birch

 

We walk along the river in Arrowtown

from full sun to dappled shade to welcome shadow.

 

Trees hum with a green to remember

as the shallow water trips and twists over rock bed.

 

We find the fat little jewels of blackberries

race back to our childhoods as we share each bounty

kiss clean each other’s purple-stained fingers

recall the tenderness of us.

 

J V Birch website photoJ V Birch lives in Adelaide. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, journals and magazines across Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She has two collections – Smashed glass at midnight and What the water & moon gave me  published by Ginninderra Press, and is currently working on her third. She blogs at www.jvbirch.com.