Tomatoes – Natalie Crick

 

Plump tomatoes roll

Beautifully, with

Silken skin that puckers

And splits. In my hands,

They have a pulse.

Each one curious, childlike

As a heart thumping in wonder.

 

Natalie Crick PhotoNatalie Crick, from the UK, has poetry published or forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Interpreters House, Ink In Thirds, The Penwood Review, The Chiron Review and Rust and Moth. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

The Moon’s Call – Natalie Crick

 

Hush now,

The sound of the moon

Budding on the float of her own white voice,

 

Her call, like

Spider silk strung from the darkest

Branches, swaying woozily.

 

Moon turns her ripe eye

To the ground, making

Music that melts,

 

The whole wood

Lit with alarm,

Dawn like a black knife.

 

Natalie Crick PhotoNatalie Crick, from the UK, has poetry published or forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Interpreters House, Ink In Thirds, The Penwood Review, The Chiron Review and Rust and Moth. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Choking – Jonathan Butcher

 

I remember you in the school

dinner room, choking on the

corned beef sandwiches that

the dinner ladies forced down

your throat; waste held no

relevance between those walls.

 

I remember you sat alone at break

times, hands and stones slapped

across your face like whiplashes,

for an injustice you were far from

capable of committing.

 

And you walked home, your head bowed,

through those orange bricked streets

that framed our morning walks, alongside

the neglected grass verges like miniature

jungles we never dared to enter.

 

Those doors opened once again, before

the sun set behind the grey roofs and dust

like trees, you stand and stare once more

in that hallway mirror that hangs rusted,

and only slightly cracked.

 

Foxglove submissionJonathan Butcher is a poet based in Sheffield, England. He has had poetry appear in various print and online journals including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Elbow Room, Your One Phone Call, Mad Swirl, The Transnational and others. His second chapbook ‘Broken Slates’ was published by Flutter Press.

The Owl – Sanja Dragojlov

 

Nyctophilia wreathes his senses

while reticent night takes him

in her loving embrace

b.l.i.n.k.i.n.g yellow eyes

burning stars

survey his

complacent kingdom

everything is his

and yet not.

 

Movement catches

his intelligent eyes

his heart shaped face twists, turns

and like a lightning strike

he flies

silent and deadly

he tears, shreds, claws, rips

until mouse dissolves in a

travesty of flesh and fur

for this is

his kingdom.

 

At least

until the silver king

Descends his throne

for a more worthy heiress.

 

sanjapicSanja Dragojlov is a final year Ph.D. student at Cardiff University in EU Politics. She is also the author of Amaranth (Demon City Chronicles), President of the Creative Writing Society at Cardiff University and the Creative Editor for Quench magazine. In her spare time, she also enjoys traveling, reading and learning a new language. She speaks five at the moment which include Serbian, Spanish, Italian, Croatian and French.

Weekend – Jonathan Butcher

 

Hapless at weekends, yet still with that

contrived joy; in the beer gardens and car

parks, where perfume and aftershave still

smell fresh against fake fur and denim.

 

The hiss of music from the outside speakers,

that threaten to fall, but never damage conversation.

The bottles strewn across badly mounted tables

and tree torn, cracked pavements.

 

The warmth of this room blocks out winter, yet

its shell remains fragile, like rusted gates that

no longer retain the strength to block out the

weakest of imposters.

 

And again we glide without protest, our voices

placed only where needed, our feet as nimble

as ever; tripping over curbs now an art form,

that at last we have finally mastered.

 

Foxglove submissionJonathan Butcher is a poet based in Sheffield, England. He has had poetry appear in various print and online journals including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Elbow Room, Your One Phone Call, Mad Swirl, The Transnational and others. His second chapbook ‘Broken Slates’ was published by Flutter Press.

Hillside – Ella Kennett

 

I stride up the green staircase,

Its steep struggling surface

is a workout for the lungs.

Never mind the breath of the sky,

holding me hostage in its grip.

 

Adventure calls like the howling of wolves,

and though our fingertips

have conceded to the cold

Having a hand to hold,

exposes skin to expedition

and makes us immune

to the climate,

as we climb higher.

 

Laughter echoes down the rabbit hole.

I’m an animal for your attention,

clawing at your love

Like a fox in the night,

searching for prey.

 

The views up here

are high and mighty

but you, the antidote

are much more beautiful,

than what my eyes can describe.

 

ek-picElla is an 18-year-old A Level student from Kent, England who loves music and film alongside literature. She hopes to study English Literature and Creative Writing at university after she finishes her last year at school. She writes at ellagkpoetry on Instagram.

Daily devotion – Katherine Henderson

 

Lay your foundation

Use beauty-blender

Cover all over

Smooth out from centre

Conceal everything

Out of place or uneven

Shed light on dark circles

Put away blemishes for later

Pinch your cheeks

Set with powder

Sculpt brows into archways

Where men will try and find you

Prime and pigment eyelids

A bright, matte white

Is a quick-fix face lift

Draw jet-black spine down lash line

End in wings

Dress lashes in black for lift

 

Always end with the lips

Start where you sulk

Scalpel sharp tip draws blood

Outline in red

Stay in the lines

Blot twice

Draw your finger

Through your lips

Get rid of excess.

 

kh-bio-picKatherine is a poet, blogger and essayist based in Edinburgh. Her blog – Pin Ups and Panic Attacks – looks at vintage fashion, lifestyle and self-care. She dabbles in crafting and is working on a series of drawings called #projectladybutts that celebrates all kinds of femme beauty.

Unfinished breakfast – Roma Havers

 

Cold burnt toast waits in dawn light

for a kettle shriek,

porridge stains hob-tops,

stiff boils emerge into oaty alps,

a lung faints above clouds

as her tongue lolls onto stone tiles;

last kiss into dirt and breadcrumbs,

A rib cracks in a gust of air,

lets out a tire hiss;

 

the cat flap swings in spring air

and paws tread prints into her snow-flesh,

veins mark snakes and ladders under claws,

purring, its soft head dings at a dead arm

and licks a line from ear to throat,

the wet skin does not move

 

like a pond where freeze takes hold

and goldfish hang

mouths open, in the glass,

the cat scrapes at the surface,

starved for fish.

One last tear melts down her,

red with life,

and the kettle sings mourning blues.

 

roma-haversRoma Havers is a Manchester-based poet, currently in her third year of an Drama and English degree at The University of Manchester where she is the Books Editor for The Mancunion and Chair of the Creative Writing Society. She performs regularly at spoken word nights, and events such as Reclaim the Night and UniPresents.

Hand-me-downs – Kate Garrett

 

The bricks housed phantoms;

the anachronistic soda counter

 

I now recall in a haze of decades

and miles as solid, yet of its time

 

and the man running the shop still

slicked his grey hair Brylcreem smooth.

 

Some villages never catch up.

The drugstore was plastic and rounded

 

and faded and chrome, Americana buried

just for me, so I could uncover

 

its message one morning—

the new kid with bony shoulders grandma

 

folded into floral sundresses I wanted to love,

relics of a childhood that wasn’t mine.

 

But I know we each spent our time huddled

and waiting for progress, or nuclear winter,

 

nursing fears we couldn’t name, hiding

in cellars from the first sign of a black sky.

 

kate-newKate Garrett is a writer, mother, editor, wife, history buff, and amateur folklorist. Her work is published here and there online and in print, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent books are The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) – which was longlisted for best pamphlet in the 2016 Saboteur Awards – and Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon Poetry, 2016). Her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, will be published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams. Kate lives in Sheffield with her husband, four children, and a cat named Mimi.

Winning the tombola – Maria Sledmere

 

She turned the package over in her fingers. Silken, purple, properly gift-wrapped. The thought of what might lie inside glazed over her mind like the sweetening glow of a bar of milk chocolate, crunched alone on a cold evening.

She had a full hour to herself, before they returned. This kitchen, the room of her life, seemed transformed before her. The bread bin was open, the fridge was bursting with its hoard of treasures. She didn’t need to touch anything, though it was seductive, to think of the carrots neatly lined up like pens in a stationer’s, the orange juice, the dark bitter rye bread, the drawers chockfull of hazelnuts and brazils and the luxurious sugared lemons they’d bought for the festive season.

Earlier, he’d pinned her against the mahogany wardrobe.

“Do it like this,” he whispered. She remembers such words like a litany.

There were seven words to be said for the lottery. The old women tittered at the sight of her skirt, the hole in her tights. It was an unfair judgment; she had done nothing but turn up, as was her right. Seven words to be said. The music was harsh and synthy; dissonant, like the music they play in a mall, only slowed down to a creepy, molluscan crawl.

He poured dark muscovado sugar on her tongue, lovingly. He put his finger in her mouth, swirled it around, till the coarse stuff got sticky and wet and dissolved. It was as if he had drained the juice of her blood and here she was, dried and rasping. Come.

He used to scrunch her hair in his palms, and later it would lie a certain way against her neck, limp and curled, the filaments crushed.

He had been a jazz musician once. He had played the saxophone in her sleep, the shrill buzz of those notes swivelling through the staves of her veins, twisting her organs to a new truth.

The old women drew papers from a golden box. The one with an amethyst scarf waved a number, triumphantly, as if declaring the birth of an age.

“That’s me!” she had shrieked, leaping from her seat. Their eyes had been upon her, and maybe for a moment she had felt ashamed. Still, it didn’t last. The parcel was duly handed over; she treated herself to a taxi home.

What was the use in waiting? She had dallied long enough.

The ribbons fell apart in her fingers. Her heart backflipped, a ballerina. So this was the promise?

What she saw made her vomit.

 

author-pic-maria-s

Maria Sledmere is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ Magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.

Losing interest in the sound of petrichor – Kate Garrett

 

and the scent of the thunder;

you’ll tell me it’s ozone broken by forked

lightning, but thunder has a smell

of its own:

heavy and green, pregnant with wildflowers.

 

The clouds pressed through our roof,

drowning a protestant sun; it was one

of those evenings I wished for a bee sting

one of those evenings when heat rises

and I am overly alive, when I’m breathing

in too much summer to stem the panic.

 

And the weight of your body

on mine did nothing

and the restless sweat escaping

my pores did not cool me down—

 

but when night fell, the owls sheltered

from the hot rain in graveyard trees

and I wandered beneath their calls

to calm the tremors.

 

kate-newKate Garrett is a writer, mother, editor, wife, history buff, and amateur folklorist. Her work is published here and there online and in print, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent books are The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) – which was longlisted for best pamphlet in the 2016 Saboteur Awards – and Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon Poetry, 2016). Her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, will be published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams. Kate lives in Sheffield with her husband, four children, and a cat named Mimi.

Silly Love Songs #1 – Stephen Mossop

 

She lay beside him, under a summer moon.  The swing swayed above them, casting brief shadows over their faces.

‘You know what?’ she asked, expressing a random thought, ‘I’d love it here, even if it was snowing, as long as you were laid beside me’

He smiled.

‘In winter, when the air is clear and cold, when all is silent, and when you can feel yourself breathing in the gathering frost, if you look up to the sky you can see even more stars than you can now’.

She snuggled closer.

Those moments when his mind hovered between here and there, when his voice spoke of eternities and certainties, when his spirit moved between fire and ice, were the ones she loved the most.

 

unnamedStephen Mossop was born in Lancashire, raised in Cornwall.  A former University Librarian, he is now a full-time writer living in Devon. He is married to Brenda. They have three grown-up children and beautiful teenage twin grand-daughters. His passion for writing and story-telling started early.  As a teenager he edited and published ‘Riff-Raff Poetry Magazine’, and several of his poems from that time were published in anthologies. With four books published since 2013, clearly story-telling comes naturally to him – ask his kids, who are never quite sure if he’s making things up…

Exam conditions – Katie Lewington

 

I can’t believe I have to give myself permission

these stapled sheets are winding me up no end

pen tapping as if the feet of Astaire

I pick it up and put it down

an effortless weight

too many ghosts are swirling around the ticking of the clock

sighs

and scratching nibs

stillness

lessons learnt –

the power of three, commas and paragraphs

bulging thoughts unable to word

throbbing heat beneath the skin

less resistance

put more work in

then able

to put it all behind me

and begin.

 

kl-picKatie Lewington is a UK-based writer and has been drafting, editing and rewriting her bio since she started submitting to literary magazines and journals two years ago. It isn’t as if she doesn’t know who she is, she just isn’t sure what is relevant. Her creative writing can be read at https://katiecreativewriterblog.wordpress.com. She can be contacted through Twitter @idontwearahat.

 

Scattered ashes – Maria Sledmere

 

Father died at sea, like most of the men on the island. We didn’t hold a funeral. Ma came with the ashes one Sunday morning and we skipped church, the three of us plus Ma’s friend Fiona, to drive out to the docks. It was quiet, the fishermen still out on the water, or else having a lie-in. I thought how strange it was, the quiet. Normally there’s such a bustle; clanging of metal and tugging of rigging and bumping of sterns and shouting. You could only hear the sea, its constant, sheet-like rustle, the evil cries of gulls overhead. I remember looking out across the purple water, its shivers of grey, the mounds in the distance that formed the archipelago. I thought: he’s on one of those islands. Daddy’s out there. He’s coming home some day. Ma said: Do you want to do the ashes? I frowned. I didn’t know what she meant. She was holding out this wee tupperware tub so’s you could see what was inside. It looked like flakes of rust, or mouldy cereal. I didn’t want to touch it. She seemed to understand; I guess she was disappointed. Fiona, gem that she always is, rubbed me on the shoulder; held my hand as Ma scattered the ashes. I was worried they were going to blow back in all our faces – wee Tyler crying with impatience, Johnny playing with the zip of his jacket – but somehow the wind caught him and the ashes were swept up in this swirling breeze which disappeared somewhere across the sea. We stood there for ages afterwards. I kept watching for boats, because I couldn’t stand just being there all sad watching the waves take my father away. I was still thinking: He’s out there. Maybe they had him on a boat; it was a mixup, the wrong body. Maybe they burned a deer and said it was him. It was quite possible. They’d done it before, to trick the grieving families into believing there was a body. Most of them were forever lost at sea. We’d done it in school, the fishermen’s stories. Fiona must’ve noticed I was crying then, because she gave me a bunch of tissues and pressed my face into her soft belly, itchy with a thick woollen jumper. I wasn’t really crying; it was the way the wind stung my eyes. I felt something hard and sad inside of me, like a thing I couldn’t lodge from my chest – like when you have a bad cold and it all builds up. It was just this…object. I guess I carried it around for a long time. In the car back home, Fiona drove while Ma kept her head out the window, the wind blowing back her greasy hair. Johnny played his Game Boy while Tyler watched, scrabbling for a shot. I tried to breathe, but my chest was so sore. I would write it down on Monday: he’s still out there. The teacher would give me a star, and I’d think of him out there at night sometimes, all those ashes up-scattered to the one particular silver-glinting star. I wish you could peel it off from the sky, the way you could with the stickers in your jotter.

 

Maria Sledmerauthor-pic-maria-se is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.

Sid and Cassie – Maria Sledmere

 

If you told me, aged sixteen,

I’d be alone on a hilltop, sipping vodka

from a water pistol borrowed off my brother,

I’d have said, wow, cool. 

 

If you told me then, that in a bedsit

I’d be gold-toned, honing sapphic desire in my underwear,

poking slugs around a fish tank

and naming them in lieu of past lovers,

I’d have said, lovely. 

 

If you told me he’d write me a letter

with real imprints of tears in the ink,

I’d have opened my glossy lips

and laughed with careless teeth.

 

If you told me I’d end up

gazing down at the boats on the Brooklyn Bridge,

I’d have wondered how I ever felt

at all before this.

 

In the hospital garden once I sat

in my straw hat, with pin-curls and a mugful of gin

and he would come to kiss me

in his mismatched pyjamas, but I

 

was half-dreaming – I said I would love him forever

and for a while I meant it. I thought

the pink mist would surround me again;

I thought he would eat my chips

and in the darkness we would twist

as clumsy as those slugs,

 

like the day in the ambulance

when everything was bright and plastic and blue;

almost forgotten, the world not turning,

yet everything lovely,

lovely as you.

 

In the mirror I splash my face with glitter and lightning.

Maybe he has that hand-knitted hat

still full of my stardust, the nicotine traces;

I miss him, totally, but you know

it’s only the boats that go places.

 
author-pic-maria-sMaria Sledmere is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ Magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.