Displaced – by Lynda Turbet

 

Words swim from hidden places

dimple the surface unexpectedly
each tail flick flash a landscape –
a limestone scarp
a tumbling froth of spray:
a sea fret’s clammy fingers curled up staithes.
Rain teems or there’s a mizzle
beck, tarn, spout, foss or force
a lexicon of drenching.

Go north, for lochs and burns to dook or guddle in,
peat bogs ooze and suck each step
in black and copper pools.
You’re drookit and the smirr
stipples the windscreen.
It’s fairly dinnin’ doon,’ the wifies say.
The haar rolls in, as August turns to March,
insidious wetness clinging to your hair.

Here, by shingle shore and sandy heath,
Dry, I am lost for words.

 

 

After decades teaching in the north of England and Scotland, Lynda Turbet now observes the world from rural Norfolk, and tries to make sense of it all through writing.

On Being Ordinary – by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez


Is it better to give up one’s life

And leave a sacred shell
As an object of cult
In a cloud of incense

Or better to live
As a plain turtle
Dragging its tail in the mud?
             
               – Chuang Tzu (Thomas Merton, trans.)

 

Once, I pictured myself as sinister as a vulture,
even though people treat me like a sparrow:
a creature out-and-out ordinary and non-threatening.

Likewise, in Penny Dreadful, I identified
with John Clare, the hideous,
poetry-reciting monster – when I’d be more
likely cast as “Mahjong Parlour Owner”, “Police Photographer”,
or “Audience Member”.

I used to sink into a deep blue funk thinking
about how with my plain turtle looks, nobody saw me
as a warrior princess. I was scenery
mouthing “rhubarb rhubarb” to another anonymous shrubbery.

At best, I’m comic relief.
When people see me, nobody gets a pistol-in-his-pocket,
but at least they don’t try to shoot me.

And like the Fool in King Lear who flies
from the plot before the main characters die,
I will be the Police Photographer who lives on to photograph
another gory aftermath. Or better, the Mahjong Parlour Owner
keeping the world playing for another azure day.

 

 

 

 

Sharon Suzuki-Martinez is the author of The Way of All Flux (New Rivers Press, 2012), and winner of the New Rivers Press MVP Poetry Prize. She is also the Editor of a music and poetry blog, The Poet’s Playlist.

 

 

 

 

Testosterone’s the hormone of the devil and my son’s a shape-shifter – by Nikki Robson

 

The production line’s working overtime
and the surfaces of all our lives are zit-marked,
antler-rubbed. Bad son, good son,
he skinny-runs big-footed across the sky
in dark cloud, bright sun, dark cloud.

The bathroom ceiling’s peeling, flaking rites
of purification. Steam and deodorant
heavy the air, appease the gods.
Earphones hang like ancillary limbs,
snapchats of body parts dangle, disappear.

The bedroom’s forest floor
is ankle-deep. He argues autonomy,
is the only one of us who’s always
right, loudstomps to the shadows,
vanishes in deep bass.

He’ll later re-take human form –
or so it might seem, distorted
through the bottom of a glass.

 

 

 

Nikki Robson’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including Acumen, Under the Radar, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Lunar Poetry and Obsessed with Pipework. In 2015 she was awarded First Prize in the Elbow Room competition and Highly Commended in Wigtown and Carer’s UK.

My Dead Father Takes Your Dead Mother on A Blind Date – by Iris N Schwartz

 

They are ideal for each other:
She is weepy and dependent.
He is funny but strong.

He treats her
To film noir –
Flick dark and sexy like my father,
With women whisky-voiced and blonde—
Like your mother.

Your dead mother gets scared
When the movie bullets fly.
My dead father eases his arm
Across her trembling shoulder
And pulls her close to him.

My dead mother never cared for
His public displays of affection,
But yours adores them.

 

 

 

Iris N. Schwartz is a fiction writer, as well as a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from such journals as Bindweed Magazine, The Flash Fiction Press, The Gambler, Gravel, Gyroscope Review, Jellyfish Review, Pure Slush (Volume 12), Silver Birch Press, and Siren.

Glass Hour – by m.nicole.r.wildhood

 

Kids eat dirt, though they don’t know
that they have a limited time
to be infinite. This is okay with them:
tomorrow will take most of forever

to claw its way, second by second,
to us and start over again.
Mountains pile up on young tongues,
then worlds on their shoulders

as they, we, arc toward earth.

Children fill their mouths with dust; they cannot
know yet that is what they are. Specks,
small as seconds still adding up, of exquisite earth
on this titanic grain.

A minute, forever when you’re chewing sand,
is a grain of time, scratchy until it’s lost in the endless
tumble of uncountable flecks, smooth against the inflexible
glass, the whole forever slipping onward.

 

 

 

m.nicole.r.wildhood’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Atticus Review, Five and elsewhere. She currently writes for Seattle’s street newspaper Real Change and is at work on a novel and two full-length volumes of poetry. She also blogs at http://mnicolerwildhood.com

How to Sculpt a Perfect Kiss – by Kathleen Strafford

 

While studying Rodin’s Kiss
       
she moulds lumps of clay
                         creating two heads

                                    flicking away clumps of earth
                           until features begin to appear

    & tilted faces begin to convey a calm
                              delight        their grey lips
                                           
almost
                                                   touching
but they could not
                              
and would not
                                         it was impossible.
                                                     In response the Professor shrugs
For another week
                   
she primps his nose
                                    plumps her lips
                                          halfway closes eyelids
                                                 forcing cheeks to nuzzle
                                 
but the clay heads rebel
                                                    refusing to kiss            perfectly

Fuming with frustration and the feeling of failure    she gives up

                                                 placing one hand behind each head
                                     she smears the two difficult
                                                                 faces together
                                                                        twisting hard
                                                                                        like this
Professor calls her work genius.

 

 

 

Kathleen Strafford is a student at Trinity University in Leeds studying for her MA in creative writing.  She hopes her first collection of poetry Her Own Language will be published this coming year.  Her poems have appeared in Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog, Algebra of Owls, The Fat Damsel and various anthologies.

Please see our website for details of the helpline – by Hannah Stone

 

For Jenny Hill

She saw dust rising from rubble,
Tears streaking down cheeks.
She smelled escaped gas,
The ruptured sewer.
She heard screams, sirens,
Heavy lifting equipment.
She adjusted the earpiece
So the signal was optimal.

She spoke of the international response,
Of a wall that had fallen,
Exposing a dining room expecting
A family gathering, not this.
She spoke of the fine glass vase
That trembled, unshattered,
On the table.

She went home.
The door had all its hinges in place.
She poured hot water
Onto coffee grounds.
She observed that as she pushed the plunger
Her hand started to shake,
And her ribcage writhed,
And her throat spasmed with dry sobs.
She noticed her cheeks were wet
And later she sat very still.

 

 

 

 

Hannah is a writer, forager and hill-walker who lives in Leeds. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University. Her first solo collection Lodestone was published by York-based Stairwell Books in 2016. She finds poems in landscapes, people-watching, galleries and libraries as well as the usual love and death stuff. 

Salt – by Brett Evans

 

When they find his body – The Fat in Black,
forever attired for his own funeral – the man
himself will be long gone. As he always was.
Interred in the second-hand wingback chair
with torn upholstery – decorative Spartans
cutting loose with their xiphoi desperate
to free themselves of this dead weight –
unfinished gin to his left, read and unread
books to the right, headphones skew-whiff,
the brain will have ceased its silent singing
of The Streets of Laredo. The only trace of living
being the salt stains on his shirt.

 

 

Brett Evans drinks in his native north Wales. He is co-editor of Prole. Laughing is his favourite thing.

Head Wetting – by Gill Lambert

 

Here’s to Mandy, from 5b, we all had her.
And losing our virginities to girls with more
experience than us – a drink to them.

A shot for every shag we had with Shaz,
an extra one for those that got a blow-job
off her mate; another for remembering her name.

Then a chaser for the mothers of our kids.
And relationships that lasted any longer
than a quickie in the doorway of the Spar.

Raise a glass to forced paternity, the trap
that pins us firmly to the rails. To giving half
our salaries to exes, via the good old CSA.

Get a round in for the ones who take us back.
Reliable and willing, the lower expectations
of the fools that know us better than we think.

Let’s have another for the road, to toast us all.
To non-existent drive, a lack of all ambition
keeping us rooted in the place where we were born.

 

 

 

Gill Lambert is a poet and teacher from Yorkshire. She has been published in The Interpreter’s House , by Indigo DreamsBeautiful DragonsPaper Swans Press and Otley Word Feast Press; and on-line by The Fat DamselClear Poetry, and Poetry Space. She won the 2016 Ilkley Literature Festival Open mic competition, runs the “Shaken in Sheeptown” event in Skipton, and her first solo pamphlet will be published by Indigo Dreams next year.

Pepparkaka Julgran – by Aziz Dixon

 

The tramlines track like a spider’s web
from the beating heart of town
across the urban forest, fringed with moors.
A yellow tram will take you there,
to Stockholm-under-Lyne.
This blue and yellow box
that might have landed quite by magic,
incongruous here among the mill-remains,
the chapels and the red-brick homes –
is this the northern power-house, or
something grimm, a fairy tale maybe?

So feeling brave and strong one day,
with little food but needing very much
a kitchen fitting of the Swedish sort,
I ventured just inside. And there at once I met
the pepparkaka Julgran, sitting snug
beside the glögg. Encouraged thus, and
crumbling at the edges, I stepped into
a labyrinth of show-house rooms,
contorted paths, and words mis-shapen too;
and as I went, I felt the forest
crowd around, the foernitur and fyt-tings jostling me
at every turn, and only a ghostly information desk
from where a long-lost lingvist
might once have cast his spell;
while those I passed, they left no clues,
their eyes were glazed, they moved bewitched
inside this forest in a box.

My crumbs were gone, but there I spied
the kitchen thing, the purpose of my quest;
and glad was I to break the spell,
to take the trail all backwards
to a check-out desk, where Hansel asked
(in English) whether I had found
just everything I wanted.
I did think so, but then
I had to buy another
gingerbread Christmas tree, and
I hope I’ll not have eaten it all
by Yule.

 

 

Aziz Dixon draws on local Pennine and Welsh landscapes and life experiences. He has been published in Pennine Ink and online with Irwell Inkwell. He launched his latest collection, Poet Emerging, with a reading at the Burnley Literary Festival 2016.