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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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.

Ithaca – Rachel Lewis

 

My wife is behind me

And my life before.

The sky lit from inside itself

With golden dying day.

Turning itself,

Turning itself,

And turning again.

We are sailing east

Towards a dawn

That has not yet risen and will not

Til terrors past absolve us

Of having left at all.

Ithaca, sharpening blue

And deepening silver,

My house just one

In our city stretching out the coast.

My father buried there, his dust

Rising in flowers touching heads to dew.

My nurses there, their old hands threading

At baby clothes, sat in sun smiling wrinkled.

Ithaca I can feel you holding back.

Something in me will not come with me.

It will stay murmuring in the cypress,

It will croak with the cicadas at night,

It will live with the snakes in the sand and the gulls on the water.

Promises, winds,

They cannot move a weight of water.

Ithaca I promise

I have never and will never leave you

Even as winds blow me on

Into the rose red grasp

Of this first dawn alone.

 

 

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.

Sunset in October – Louise Wilford

 

The air ticks – the wandering, wild strum of it

breaking through me, rattling the pebbles

like long-dried bones.

 

The wind whines – the banshee bawl of it,

screaming through ginnels of granite,

on the high moor.

 

The land shivers, pulling its coat of gorse 

and heather tight round its ears,

shrugging me off.

 

And the earth drinks the sky.

 

 

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.

Coldharbour Lane – Rebecca Metcalfe

 

You drive to the end of the lane. Past the rice factory, the seafood processing plant, the paper factory, the chemical works, the pharmaceutical plant. Grey upon grey upon grey sails past your car window and then disappears into your rear-view mirror as you drive further down the lane. You reach the turning at the end of the lane, the road narrows and there are dense bushes either side. You reach the carpark at the end, and you see the river. The wide, grey river where the tide beats endlessly on, eastwards. Mud lines the banks on both sides, thick, stinking mud that will never clean off. The footprints snaking across this ooze show the steps took by recently-flown wading birds that are now no longer to be seen. A bit closer to the water, the hulking mass of the concrete barges, leftover from some war long past, sit and refuse to rot, only crumble slowly. Then there’s the metal statue of a diver, who looks like a cage and crawls out of the water whenever the tide is going out. He will never reach the bank. The water of the river is violent and boats jolt along it. Police boats or cargo boats carrying industrial containers in and out of the city. Going eastward, they are on the very edges of the city now. The factory smoke mixes with the clouds and they roll across the paleness along with the tide, heading out to sea and waiting to hit the vast East Anglian sky.

 

 

22752130_10210178275199633_1006394601_nRebecca Metcalfe is a 22-year-old student and writer from Essex. She did her undergraduate degree at the University of Chester and is now studying for an MA in Victorian Literature from the University of Liverpool. She has been published in Pandora’s Box, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine and in the Electric Reads Young Writers’ Anthology 2017.

Rain – Louise Wilford

 

The rain, it raineth every day.

Slugs cower beneath the pavement slabs –

the sage leaves curl, their powder spent –

the quilted mint leaves pillow through their veins

and spears of tarragon drip glassy beads.

 

The painted terracotta cat

no longer casts out beams of candle light,

just snivels, shoulders huddled in the chill.

The real cat shelters underneath the bench.

The rain, it raineth every day.

 

The rain, it raineth every day.

Chlorophyll glisters green on every branch.

The guttering spews an endless waterfall.

The rags of rubbish blown out of some skip

are stuck with watery bullets to the fence.

 

The rain, it raineth every day.

The traffic is a dampened lullaby,

a pebbled stream that boils across a weir,

the ache of a wave collapsing on a beach,

nudging the rounded rocks and shells.

 

But still the loud rich smell of dampened earth,

the bursts of thyme and parsley as I pass,

the slick pink smell of early flowers, 

trumpets the spring through the cloud-drenched air.

But the rain, it raineth every day.

 

 

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.

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.

Newt – Lynn White

 

I can understand

why

on a hot, hot day,

Lawrence’s snake appeared thirstily

at his water trough.

And why his lizard ran out

onto a rock

to flaunt himself in the sunshine.

But why

on a wet, wet day,

a newt should leave

her splendidly moist habitat

and venture hazardously

into the dry warmth of my kitchen,

that

I cannot understand.

And, of course she couldn’t explain.

 

 

Lynn...Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem ‘A Rose For Gaza’ was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. This and many other poems, have been widely published, in recent anthologies such as – ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Silver Birch Press, ‘The Border Crossed Us’ and ‘Rise’ from Vagabond Press and journals such as Apogee, Firewords Quarterly, Indie Soleil, Light and Snapdragon as well as many other online and print publications.