This is not an age for madness – the elegant
virtuosity of wasting away with fantastically
coiffed hair belongs to the mists of another
time. Now, we’re all just synchronizing
our hearts with the clack of keys coming
from all the cubicles whose greyness
we won’t even drown in. Now, we linger
like lonely neighbors invited to parties so we won’t
call the cops. It’s sanity in the same way
Muammar Gaddafi’s cufflinks clattering
through a rain stick is a soothing lullaby.
Don’t listen too closely. It’s mumbling
into the palm over its mouth. Something
about lives of diet perspiration,
something about new boss equals old boss.
CL Bledsoe is the author of a dozen books, most recently the novel Man of Clay and the poetry collection Riceland.
Michael Gushue runs the nano-press Beothuk Books and is co-founder of Poetry Mutual/Vrzhu Press. His work appears online and in print, most recently in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, the Michigan Quarterly, and Gargoyle. His chapbooks are Gathering Down Women, Conrad, and Pachinko Mouth (from Plan B Press).
the only reason to come to London is to get lost
to spin in the teeming anonymity
stand still for a minute
stand still for half an hour
and watch nothing happen but furious movement
all with a stare fixed off into the middle distance
this could never be home
Nick gets most of his sustenance from double espressos and malt whisky, and after a lifetime of denial is finally willing to admit his poetry habit in public. First published through the Leads to Leeds project run by Helen Mort, his poems have also appeared in The Cunningham Amendment, Pennine Platform and the Waterworks Anthology, and online at New Boots and Pantisocracies and In Between Hangovers.
Fog sprawls like grey lilies from a dropped bouquet
as the day cools. Beautiful women in rainbow trout saris
swim in shoals down the Embarcadero, flicking tails and
flashing eyes. I sit with a book of poems, sixty years old,
ink still wet, each verse a love letter. I tear out each page,
careful not to disturb the words, fold then into damselflies,
cast them on the breeze. I wait for that special one to rise,
sip the air with full, tight lips, and leap like quicksilver
into the still pool I cup in my moon-curved hand.
Oz Hardwick is a York-based poet, photographer, and academic. His latest poetry collection is The Ringmaster’s Apprentice (Valley Press, 2014), and he is co-author, with Amina Alyal, of the Saboteur-shortlisted Close as Second Skins (IDP, 2015). He has delusions of musical competence, and his one regret is that he is not Belgian. His website can be found here.
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.
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.
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.
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.