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.

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The Spider – Beth Barker

 

her hairy spindles await movement.

an eighth of the almond beads

embroidering her crown

rolls, scrolls across the green

surrounds, spots the anticipated.

she detects what she needs

and what she craves like the prayers

for breeze in heat or 

melodious noise to fill deathly 

silence.

she’s feared and she revels in

her loneliness.

 

the meagre

body crawls close, too

self-assured, thinks he can

take

take

take 

like the rest of them.

her glare deep enough to 

see every hair on his back,

and abdomen that hides a heart throbbing

with licentiousness self-proclaimed.

he oozes hopes to take his fill

and populate, as he was born to do,

birth rights plastered into clear view

by wandering legs, irritating strut, infernal self-absorption,

watering at the mouth and-

 

she strikes.

 

interlocked, one two three, a quick finish.

the deed is already done, relief

makes her hairs stand to attention like soldiers

preparing for battle.

the skies glow divine, the gods know

the main event is yet to

come.

legs steadfastly wrapped, she holds him close,

little heart beating like a little drum.

 

a warm embrace and the silent entrance

of a merciless pair, gliding through skin.

oozing supremacy complex now

swimming in crimson,

delectable.

she’s drinking him and she’s eating him

in her favourite position.

crafts a web, sticky gleaming thread,

secures her day’s work

well done.

 

 

Photo on 26-10-2017 at 14.44Beth Barker is a poet, student and zinester, writing in Manchester. Whilst her appreciation for literature is now explored through her degree at the University of Manchester, her love for writing manifests itself on her blog. Her first recognition was the Poetry for Peace contest between the colleges in her hometown of Blackpool, resulting in a first prize win. When she isn’t writing poetry, Beth enjoys making zines, drinking coffee and embroidering art inspired by her words. She blogs at https://brdbwords.wordpress.com.

Fight or flight – Angelica Krikler

 

Come and lie with us, the flowers said, you have nothing now. Like us, there is no one to love you and your marriage bed must be the thorn bush, your funeral pyre the dams that will not break

Forget keeping your physique and the limescale in the kettle

You are a leopard in the snow. There is no way you will survive

Everything you planted will turn against you

Soon you’ll forget about hairdressers, and you’ll start to malt like us

And songs will be nothing more than the hum of crickets, the sound of your own fist beating your body

Scallop shells will give birth to you

Family will simply be nature’s surrounding colours

And your lipstick will be a rush of blood

Or else, write until the pen runs out

 

 

unnamedAngelica Krikler is a student from Essex who is hoping to study English Literature at university next year. She spends her time writing, reading and watching American stand-up. She has previously been published in The Claremont Review, Morphrog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Y-Magazine and Cake Magazine.

saving a shell – Paul Waring

 

I picked you from a shallow grave

of mussel shells one of many 

that lie close to the sea wall beneath 

the promenade left exposed when 

the tide rolls back into the horizon

 

haphazard clusters of naked nacreous 

sockets without eyes and blue-black 

domes of weathered backs in rockpools 

at rest on soft skin of red and grey

pebble and stone I chose you

 

I don’t know why I stepped over 

seaweed tendrils sprawled on sandstone 

to ask questions about your secret life 

how you met death unglued unhinged 

prised open cracked like a code 

 

scooped out by curve-billed curlew

or common gull abandoned washed 

and buried here by the incoming tide 

in this ghetto of empty homes I don’t 

know why I thought I could save you

 

 

IMG_6036Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. His poems have appeared in journals/sites including Reach Poetry, Eunoia Review, The Open Mouse and are forthcoming in Clear Poetry and Amaryllis. He recently returned from living in Spain and Portugal and continues to enjoy being re-acquainted with the wonderful variety of nature in Wirral and other parts of Britain. His blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com.

Witchcraft – Andrew Nowell

 

I

 

She was always the one who was different.

Her lazy eye cast a roving shadow,

Fell at oblique angles into the netherworld

Where sin and desire might mingle.

 

The line-up was a simple job.

She stood no chance against the other eight.

Familiar number. Familiar fate.

 

After the burning the death pall

Hangs heavy over hovels, chokes air.

Reek of wood and rope lingers for days.

Charred splinters circle-blown by wind.

 

 

II

 

Anyone could have picked her out.

Anyone at all would have noticed her.

Accusers only needed eyes to speak.

 

These words return to him.

He feels their physical touch in blackened watches.

He yearns for cigars. He yearns for scotches.

 

I have never seen stars so black and cold.

Music from the future time-loops in my head.

A goddess without answers blows out the moon.

Gates open. A train stops in a fierce wind.

 

 

IMG_20170903_165005Andrew Nowell studied English literature at University College London where he completed an MA in Shakespeare and the Renaissance. Now a journalist working for a local newspaper, he is also looking to break into creative writing and poetry. He lives in Wigan.

Helianthus – Margaret Holbrook

 

These bright, brash plants standing

tall have no pretence.

They are what they are,

and don’t deny it.

 

Fields of them line the

French roadsides. Striking and

purposeful, they are not to be

meddled with.

 

Even their small siblings,

the ones bought in pots from

florists and garden-centres

have attitude.

 

These plants are not shrinking-

violets. You will not find them

cowering in shade or damp woodland;

they are showy, proud, in your face,

demanding to be seen.

 

If sunflowers could speak,

They would be loud, outspoken,

heard above the crowd,

unable to help themselves.

 

But,

sunflowers are silent, intent

on following the sun,

looking for love; and

all the while in that beautiful head,

Fibonacci numbers are calculated,

seeds plotting their spiral patterns.

 

“Helianthus” previously appeared in The Poetry Shed.

 

IMG_0641Margaret Holbrook lives in Cheshire, UK, where she writes poetry, plays and fiction. Her work has appeared widely online and in print including publications such as Jellyfish Whispers, The Poetry Shed, Schooldays, Best of British, Orbis, The Journal. Her latest poetry collection, Not Exactly Life was published in September 2017 and all the poetry features women; from life, fiction, film and history. ‘Where else,’ she says, ‘would Lucrezia Borgia, Jean Harlow and my mum all appear in the same volume?’ Find out more at www.margaretholbrookwrites.weebly.com.

Verona – Andrew Nowell

 

I wasn’t expecting you to fall in love again

With me, that day I rang with tickets to Verona.

It’s just I knew you loved the opera:

So did I, and the festival

Was far too good an opportunity to pass.

 

We fenced a courtly distance through piazzas,

The streets with gliding intimacy, the stone

So warm and honey tan.

Your eyes averted from the balcony

Where Juliet lamented to a spice-filled night.

 

Looking back, it probably wasn’t my greatest-ever notion

To take you to see the obsessed lover

Double-cross the letters,

Fill with cruel bullets,

His straw man, the artist, a poor painter of scenes.

 

But I just wanted you to hear when background music

Set up to depict the world has to give way,

A silver thread of sound,

A clarinet sentinel,

Gently parts the veil to climb to dreams and rapture.

 

So, at midnight, the performance finally over,

We walked to old hotels through star-bathed lanes,

Our hands a set distance apart

Like the conductor daring not to twitch

Or breathe, in case the music runs from his control.

 

 

IMG_20170903_165005Andrew Nowell studied English literature at University College London where he completed an MA in Shakespeare and the Renaissance. Now a journalist working for a local newspaper, he is also looking to break into creative writing and poetry. He lives in Wigan.

the other side of nowhere – Paul Waring

 

It announces itself in muted shades of light –

returns from nowhere 

 

to stretch taut skin of summer into shadows 

to shed above baked earth 

 

that hears tangled webs of parched root

whisper need for change. 

 

Autumn stands solemnly

with hands to deliver last rites; 

 

pulls down mist to lay moist sheets

on musty carpet, wraps a blanket

 

of cold around the body 

of winter, locks life like a vice

 

until sharpened light of spring 

signals release. 

 

And the promise 

of new beginnings on March winds 

 

that arrive back 

from the other side of nowhere.

 

IMG_6036Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. His poems have appeared in journals/sites including Reach Poetry, Eunoia Review, The Open Mouse and are forthcoming in Clear Poetry and Amaryllis. He recently returned from living in Spain and Portugal and continues to enjoy being re-acquainted with the wonderful variety of nature in Wirral and other parts of Britain. His blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com.

Pinjarra and Me – Graham Burchell

 

(Pinjarra, the saltwater crocodile at Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium)

 

we came into the world in the same year

you

chased out of a shell 

and into the muddle of mud and mangrove

 

me

snipped slapped weighed and wrapped

 

for you 

it was crocodile breath the press of a mother’s teeth 

and the first flush of river

 

for me 

it was the touch of fabrics voices the breath

of last adult meals and afternoon light 

 

perhaps we were born on the same day

same moment to be axis points on a globe

 

you

with your long leathered face 

silent hunger and cold blood in brackish water

 

me 

with my green bones and jellyfish flesh turning 

towards cathedral bells beyond the walls of the room

 

 

we are each sixty five years old separated by glass

along the way we’ve made mistakes

 

you 

for being in the wrong place after a flood

for becoming stranded on a Queensland farm 

 

me 

how long have you got

 

now look at us

 

DSCN2854Graham Burchell lives in South Devon. He has four published collections. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. He is a Hawthornden Fellow, 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, winner of the 2015 Stanza competition, and runner-up in the 2016 BBC Proms poetry competition.

Days Lie In Wait – Paul Waring

 

I wander streets 

as days lie in wait 

on blind corners 

and the future 

hides behind clock faces.

 

Six magpies steal gold 

from afternoon sun,

the seventh 

knows secrets

like city stone.

 

In corners of a shadow 

a black cat

sees me coming,

stretches, counts time,

disappears into days. 

 

And waits 

to deliver news

I’d least expect.

 

IMG_6036Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. His poems have appeared in journals/sites including Reach Poetry, Eunoia Review, The Open Mouse and are forthcoming in Clear Poetry and Amaryllis. He recently returned from living in Spain and Portugal and continues to enjoy being re-acquainted with the wonderful variety of nature in Wirral and other parts of Britain. His blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com.

The lost art of making friends – Claire Sexton

 

This making new friends business is 

hard. 

Nerve-wracking even. 

I’ve blundered through relationships in 

the past,

and lost a few good ones, as well as 

some not so good. 

I thought I might have lost the knack 

entirely:

the subtle, smooth, glamouring;

the sentences sung;

the harmonies hashed out with 

vivacious aplomb;

sparkling in the early hours with a 

glass of plonk;

telling the awkward truths and then 

sleeping it off. 

Waking at noon; hoarse, and good for

nothing.

 

I thought that maybe that had ended. 

That never again would I stand 

forehead to forehead in a mud-strewn 

field, listening to The Libertines. 

Or fix someone’s wedding gown, and 

watch them make their vows, and find 

another life, away from me. 

Or love their children, and twirl them 

around one hundred times in a row, 

like a human helicopter blade.  

 

But here I am exploring new friendships.   

Here I am on a train to Piccadilly, with 

the babbling hoard encroaching. 

Trying to forge the foundations of 

another faith. 

Another shared idolatry. 

Another blast of love.

 

View More: http://rupaphotography.pass.us/headshots-rcppor2015Claire Sexton is a forty something Welsh writer who has previously been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Peeking Cat Poetry, The Stare’s Nest, and Light – a journal of photography and poetry. She often writes about her struggles with her mental health and loneliness.

Something else – Claire Sexton

 

It was like an affair, but not. There was

love in my heart, and hers, I believe.

We saw new places together, and

were inseparable, kind of.

 

She was always stronger, in ways that

men count. She knew all my

weaknesses.

 

She was diamond. And I was glass.

 

Men may count friendship as

something less, than rings on the

finger, and sonogram pictures.

 

But you were my love, and I stutter

and start, as I think of the way, and

the manner, it was lost.

 

View More: http://rupaphotography.pass.us/headshots-rcppor2015Claire Sexton is a forty something Welsh writer who has previously been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Peeking Cat Poetry, The Stare’s Nest, and Light – a journal of photography and poetry. She often writes about her struggles with her mental health and loneliness.

Ballet Studio, June Evening – Meredith LeMaître

 

I look into

the everlasting

electric

of the sky

it pours a little ambrosia

Onto a single spot of the ginger floor

Each hair of my outstretched arm

Picked out in fine

Gold,

Muscles rippling like a vast and sinuous ocean

I breathe in the strength of a thousand other dancers

And the musk of early June.

 

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, Poetry Rivals: Immersed in Words Young Writers’ Anthology (Finalist) and a local paper. She loves writing, crafting , acroyoga and ballet and is interested in colour, fashion and mythology.

New Beginnings – Rachel Bower

 

We are starting again

this wrinkly belly and me

learning how to walk again

and even how to talk

to strangers without

the shield of peach cheeks

and little legs.

 

We are tottering through the retail park

off kilter

but determined to find a latte

and drink it hot this time,

just this time,

even if the milk floods our shirt

even though we’re waddling a bit,

still bruised from birth

and we think of him safe

and scan the tarmac again

without anchor.

 

Our balance is off.

You shrivel in my hollow

as I try to unfurl

and wonder how to tilt on my feet.

 

Only eighteen minutes left

’til we see his starfish hands.

 

We wobble together and smile.

 

Rachel Bower photoRachel Bower is a poet and research fellow at the University of Leeds. Her pamphlet, Moon Milk, will be published with Valley Press in May 2018. She is currently co-editing an anthology with Helen Mort entitled Verse Matters, which is out with Valley Press in November 2017. Her book, Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in August 2017. Rachel’s poems have been published by Stand Magazine, BBC Radio, Now Then Magazine, Valley Press, Three Drops Press, The Stare’s Nest, Pankhearst and others, and she has had poems shortlisted for several prizes, including The London Magazine Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize 2016. She is also the founder of Verse Matters, a feminist arts collective in Sheffield.

Cherries – Rachel Bower

 

Sometimes habits pull you through

and you wonder if it should be scuffed

and slack and holding hands

in the dark, bristle calved, taking

turns to spit in the sink and piss.

Or if it should gleam tight like a cherry.

 

You wonder if this is the taste of bruises

from the bag, whether the crash of juice

in your ears will stop when the rot sets in

whether it is better to shrivel as a pair

on the stalk or pluck now – softest pop

and lick sweet sap from the wound.

 

Rachel Bower photoRachel Bower is a poet and research fellow at the University of Leeds. Her pamphlet, Moon Milk, will be published with Valley Press in May 2018. She is currently co-editing an anthology with Helen Mort entitled Verse Matters, which is out with Valley Press in November 2017. Her book, Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in August 2017. Rachel’s poems have been published by Stand Magazine, BBC Radio, Now Then Magazine, Valley Press, Three Drops Press, The Stare’s Nest, Pankhearst and others, and she has had poems shortlisted for several prizes, including The London Magazine Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize 2016. She is also the founder of Verse Matters, a feminist arts collective in Sheffield.