First day of winter – Miguel Guerreiro Lourenço

 

I had yet to see a mantle

that soft and sweet.

Not in its taste, but kindness.

I guess, it was in the way it fell—

No. Trickled down—but not out

of sight.

 

Gently filling in their footprints;

everyone came and went, but it stayed

hoping someone would notice.

Only the crunch of boots remained,

slowly disappearing like the morning birds

in the early fog of winter.

 

From its incessant showering of delicate

affection, perhaps, it did not care.

Blind, I persisted.

 

No amount of shovelling or running it over,

turning the beautiful, serener hail

into dirt slush, discarded mounds

of frozen mud, will stop it from falling.

 

I looked onwards, as it covered everything:

the white sheet pulled over our heads—giving

me something I longed for, for decades.

 

 

16602475_1526336234046119_5253531429660193922_oMiguel Guerreiro Lourenço is a Portuguese poet and writer, currently living and studying in the United Kingdom. He is influenced greatly by many contemporary artists and slam-poets, but its his love for music, namely hip-hop, that shapes the flow and rhyme schemes of his pieces. Miguel aspires to entertain as much as to inspire, for he believes there is always something worth writing about in all of us.

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Competition – Louise Wilford

 

I won a competition. Yes, I did. My fingers

drew a poetic Fall, all red and gold decay.

I know the debt I owe – Keats’ ode still lingers –

but my creation was, in its own way,

worth fifty quid.

 

Chaotic interlinkage. Velcro hooks of words,

confusing as a froth of wasps stuck in a honey pot.

Some end up barbed wire bundles, spikily absurd,

or limp on, split and wounded. I’d be the first to spot

my writing sucks.

 

Yet sometimes words escape, their goal the blooded page,

and go home, battle-weary, on figurative legs;

they mesh like lovers meeting, no griping war to wage,

and fit like Lego bricks or halves of Easter eggs,

a greater whole.

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 50 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.

Afterthought – Beth O’Brien

 

I’ve recycled the packaging before I thought

To check the calories.

 

Half way to the bin, I made myself stop and I’m

Standing in the middle of the kitchen,

Battling the need to know, with the words:

It doesn’t matter.

 

But just wanting to look feels like I’m

Walking backwards, and

The words: ‘Just looking won’t hurt’

Already do.

 

Turning around, I sit back down and

Tell myself to just be proud

That calories are now an afterthought.

 

 

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!

Giving to Charity – Megan Whiting

 

Yesterday I gave my life away.

Ripped the past from the present

and left my house devoid of memories.

Bullied my childhood into boxes

and coerced my teenage years into carrier bags,

then lugged the entire sorry lot to the one place it might be useful.

Here, I handed every part of my former self to an elderly volunteer,

who groaned at the weight of my old life

and decided what it was worth.

Only then could I return to my empty house

and start again.

 

 

megan image 5Megan is a freelance writer and proofreader based in Suffolk. A poet at heart, she has been published in anthologies and online and offers personalised wedding poetry as one of her services. Megan loves to read and go for tandem rides with her fiancé. Find out more at www.meganwhiting.co.uk.

Village Ceilidh 1922 – Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon

 

Flies buzz, zap the scullery window.

She wipes their last supper dishes,

mops her sticky forehead. Flings

the tea towel down on top the wash pile,

stacked teetering on quarry tiles.

Tomorrow’s duties tug her mind.

She loves them all, her sister’s two,

the three she’s born. All hers now,

along with David, once brother-in-law,

now husband, a man to be obeyed.

She’s been tied down, since Maggie died.

 

‘Esther-Ann, you there?’ Hannah,

calls out loud. ‘Aye lass, come in.’

‘A special day?’ asks Esther-Ann.

‘You’re done up pretty, so you are.’

‘It’s the dance,’ says Han. ‘Be fair,

you said you’d try to come, we’d pair?’

‘So it is, so it is, but David bid me,

Stay where you belong. At home.

I’ll maybe hear the music, later on tonight.’

‘More fool you girl,’ says Hannah,

and swishes out through summer’s

sunset, scattered pink-petalled light.

 

David downs his fifth, then thinks,

what if his girl takes flight? Weary,

he stumbles from the Castle Inn

and stops to stare. Sees Esther-Ann.

She’s on the grass bank, dreaming,

dancing, as the band plays on

across the way, pipes and fiddles

inside the hall where she dared not enter.

In fury, he grabs her arm, quicksteps

her to punishment. His errant wife,

a prisoner in her young, promised life.

 

 

IMGP1597_3_monochromeCeinwen previously worked as a Probation Officer, a Mental Health Social Worker and Practice Educator. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in web magazines and print anthologies. These include Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Alliterati, Stepaway, Poets Speak (whilst they still can), Three Drops from the Cauldron, Obsessed with Pipework, Picaroon, Amaryllis, Algebra of Owls, Write to be Counted, The Lake, Ink, Sweat and Tears,Riggwelter, Prole and The Curlew. She graduated from her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University in December 2017. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

3:18am – Beth O’Brien

 

3:18am is awake like its own alarm.

 

We bump into each other on the landing

because we are restless at the same time,

for different reasons,

and we jostle for position in the darkness,

 

both of us waiting for the other

to find the light switch.

 

 

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!

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!

The Good Girl – Louise Wilford

 

Childhood stains it all,

blood that no amount of spit-wet tissue can rub out.

 

The playground grit against our knees,

the slap of rope on asphalt, skipping songs

coating the summer day. The walk-in cupboard where our toys

were kept, silverfish in its dusty corners.

 

That’s where I hid the card, the broken bits

of yellow-painted egg-box daffodils.

Crumbs like dried yolk stuffed in the Ludo box.

 

I’d missed school with the ‘flu’, so couldn’t finish it myself.

She’d stuck on the final leaves, filled in the last

few letters: OTHER’S DAY.

 

Glass animals on the windowsill

watched me as I tore the card to bits,

each wound a slice into her skin.

 

She’d ruined it, just as she soiled that Sunday

when she told them all I’d lied.

And all the while her alligator smile

tuned out their doubts.

 

As if a girl like her…

 

I felt her fingertips against the cardboard flowers,

her grinning brush-strokes on each painted edge.

 

Those old, sad days in which we played and wept.

For good or bad, they’re where we learned to be.

Until we die, they’re where our lives are kept.

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 50 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.

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.

The Phone Call – Emily Harrison

 

Hurt slips down

cheek and curve,

wet tracks into mouth, and

just stop crying.

 

The walls drop away but I stay sentient –

for now.

 

Frame hiccups,

hook and dip,

seizes split lip,

bite down on cut tissue –

bloody wine

and

just stop crying.

 

I can sink lower, though,

and melt into the sticky floor.

 

The rest, purple,

blooming and bruising,

clasp a hand,

itch it back, but escaping

again, oozing

tripping all over itself, and

still

crying.

 

Wilt across the linoleum floor,

but sick peace now,

no more,

no more,

no more.

 

 

for blogA young writer from North Yorkshire, Emily has recently discovered that she actually likes creative writing, despite everything she may have previously said. Quite likely to be found in a local cafe drinking four cups of tea and procrastinating about her work, (someone feed her please), she can also be found on Twitter @emily__harrison. She apologises in advance for her tweets.

Fear of flying and other forays into the unknown – Claire Sexton

 

Don’t start with doubt and dissension. Don’t walk that tortuous plank right now.

Raise your head skyward and contemplate the birds – flying without a hint of reservation or restraint.

Self-consciousness has no meaning for them.

No avian ever fell from the sky because of overthinking; plunged earthward with their head in their wings – shouting ‘where did it all go wrong?’

But here I am undercutting my resolve with insidious doubts and oscillations – a suitcase of distraction and a rucksack of denials. A poker iron to stoke the flames.

I light my candles and repeat my affirmations. Yes, today I would like to travel first class. Today I would like to watch a movie and lay my head back in my chair.

I’d like muffins and fresh rolls please. Carbohydrates, and polite conversation. A perfect aptitude for give and take. Delays that do not make me sweat and toil.

Most of all I would like to taste the tranquility of knowing I have made progress. I have left the house. I have washed my face. I have all my documents, and time to spare.

Firefighters and first aiders will no longer be required.

 

 

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.

Two poems – Sarah Hulme

 

Freedom

 

The bird in the blue

It flew and it grew

To a place where it

knew how to be.

 

*

Longing in short

He’s miles away, he smiles away. Distance is grey.

 

 

EPSON MFP imageSarah Hulme is a Durham University graduate who enjoys writing poetry as a way to understand thoughts, feelings and the world we live in.

Separation – Rachel Lewis

 

In seconds the ice will crack bright on the pond.

You’ll lift a bubble of it in your hand, ungloved.

In minutes the mud will have soaked through our shoes,

And we’ll leave behind the gardens and the bending statues.

In an hour’s time we’ll leave this place I’ve always loved

And in a day anyone might have come or gone.

 

Hot, tight, soft, close, are goodbyes here,

As though intensity could be a kind of glue,

For all the things we’ve promised here, to glue

Them to my promise that next year,

This city, 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.

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.