The Fag End of the Meal – by Lee Thompson

 

Sunday dinners circa 1979
were comforting
and burnt.

Mum would try her hardest
but grew tired of making excuses
for the vegetables
that emerged from the pan
spoiling for a fight.

The meat
apologetic and flustered
was clothed in a suit
that was as cheap
as the aftershave of the man
that sold it to my dad
round the back of The Comet.

At the fag end of the meal
the dishes
queuing by the sink
patiently waiting for the Fairy
were staring at mum
the same as me.

I’m glad that she couldn’t see me
through the narrow gap in the door
as she counted coppers into teacups
tears bouncing off the floor.

 

 

 

Lee is a Nottingham poet, previously unpublished, and an ex-police officer (medically retired at the ripe old age of 42 after an injury on duty). A lot of his writing is based on the ups and downs of life at the sharp end of life (and death).

In the Valley of the Shadow – by Rob Evans

 

So many gods but always the same stale joke
played on us in the gardens where gods grow.
In great stone circles and in groves of oak
they’ve suckered in our flesh like mistletoe.
And every god has blessed the world with priests
who made a bloody altar of it all:
a place to flay the unbelieving beasts
‘til they were temples, cleansed and skeletal.

But still some sinners do survive without
a single star to pierce their tenebrous lives.
They read no scriptures yet remain devout
in their belief in Man despite his knives.
I love the godless. I love the way
they go unarmoured into each dark day.

 

 

Rob Evans is an aerospace Engineer who lives near London but who works all over the world. When not flying or working, he spends his time writing poetry and sometimes reading it to hushed and not-so-hushed audiences. He is a one-time UK All-Comers Poetry Slam Champion but has since clawed his way back to some kind of respectability.

Bird’s instant custard – by Kate Noakes

 

I can’t remember clearly the last time
anyone gave me flowers, but I can
count on one hand the times you did.
Example: my forty second birthday.

Supermarket blooms were a gesture, but
when you chose two stems of half-price ones
forgot to peel off the tags and red spots
what were you saying?

I was discount wife, a bargain basement
only worth this begrudged bouquet of
mostly half-dead, sour scented chrysanths
and worse, they were exactly the same shade

as Bird’s, just add water, instant custard.

 

 

 

Kate Noakes’ sixth collection is Paris, Stage Left (Eyewear, 2017). She is an elected member of the Welsh Academy and her website (boomslangpoetry.blogspot.com) is archived by the National Library of Wales. She lives and writes in Paris and London.

Metaphor of the Neighbor Kid as a Meteor – by Adrian Thomson

 

The tip of my plastic Triceratops’s tail tastes
Best when I sit in the sandbox.

Jigsaw shadows of rustling leaves cast
Judgement day clouds over the late cretaceous.

As hungry pterodactyls swoop overhead,
Clutched in my pudgy predominant palm,

I cut my dinosaurs’ desert pilgrimage short
With monsoon rains from the garden hose.

As an insatiable deinosuchus circles around
And around the herd while they stand trapped on a sandbank,

My meddling, weeding mom over by the base of the shed
Hearkens over the neighbor kid leering at the edge of our yard.

With fervor the kid races over to me, snot
From his nose lagging two feet behind him.

He jumps into the sandbox, bowl-cut hair flinging back,
Leaving a foot-shaped sinkhole in my dimetrodon swamp.

He waggles his shorts in my face for a bit,
Then sits down in the center of my raptor oasis.

He ungraciously grabs a green gallimimus
And tosses it into the kiddie pool Tethys Sea.

He laughs, splashing silt, flashing a smile
With more jagged holes than a theropod skull.

From a dry patch of Pangea I scoop a blue plastic shovelful of sand
And try to help fill in the holes for him.

As he runs off without even thanking me,
I help my herd recover from the sudden sandstorm.

 

 

Adrian Thomson is a student attending college in northern Utah. This is his first publication in a professional literary journal.

I Help My Husband Sleep – by Karen Greenbaum-Maya

 

Your head rolls onto my shoulder, crushes
my hair so it rasps in my ear.
I smell your silver hair,
Einstein-wild from hospital sweat,
waxy under my hand.
Me almost under you, offering myself
as a better bed, compressing
the single-use egg-crate mattress.
I’m here to let you let down.
Stop fighting your eyelids’ pull.
Burrow your heavy head into my breast.
I’ll hold on while you take up your dreams
like a tired dog who feels the grass
under his paws, twitching in his sleep
at the flicker of abundant rabbits.
I lie braced in the narrow bed
that keeps me from cradling you enough.

 

 

Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and occasional photographer, no longer lives for Art but still thinks about it a lot. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Kelsay Books publishes her book-length collection, The Book of Knots and their Untying. www.cloudslikemountains.blogspot.com

The Day Dying – by Christian Bazinet

 

The light becoming softer
Means our sun is setting
It looks like death on the trees,
But I like death. Death is peace.
It’s cool all around. But the kind of
Cool where you don’t need a sweater and
Breathing it in is like getting jacked on drugs.
It smells like pure moisture, like tree breath,
Like cars don’t exist. All those idiots
Driving around in cars. Burning dead dinosaurs.
They’re just a bunch of overgrown rats.
That’s all anybody is. And rats are just overgrown
Bacteria. That’s all anyone ever is. Rodents that crawled
Out the water, while the sun was setting probably.
That’s the best time for anything.

 

 

Christian Bazinet is the dirty poet who lives in Whittier. He’s a writer, a breather, a father, and he intends to be heard. He’s shouting his words through his fingers and so through his pen because he’d be selfish not to. Twenty years old and glad to be your neighbour.

The Lost Gardeners – by Kristina Diprose

 

Last night I dreamt of the men who used to tend me;
how I envied their bodies that could up and leave,
how they left me at night, gone to warm other beds,
to sow other seeds, how I would grow wild with dread
of them never returning, how they always did,
with caresses so tender only they and I lived
when we were together. We lived for each other,
I sculpted and worshipped by prodigal lovers,
I under their nails and in the rub of their hands.
I remember they tasted of sea salt and sand.

Now my lovers are gone and new ones take their place.
Some come daily, most just for a glimpse, then away.
I try not to mind, I still blossom and ripen
and fall at their feet singing “I am your garden,
I am all for the taking if you’ll only stay,
if you’ll sit and be still with me as the light fades.”
It works like a charm for an hour or an evening
but they are not raised with the patience of seedlings
from soil, they are not anchored by the roots of trees.
They are human, they long to be moving and free.

They say that I was lost without them. It is true
that I was long inconsolable at the news
of their deaths, that parts of me grew quite monstrous
while others would not stir at all. I was a mess
the next time they ventured in; what did they expect?
My lovers downed their tools and took up bayonets
and perished with a million others in the mud.
I had been beautiful, but I was not enough
to hold them, to make them peaceful, so my branches
became limbs, my blooms open wounds, my beds trenches.

 

 

Kristina Diprose has an unfashionable habit of rhyming, which she can’t seem to kick. Her work is published by Stirred Press and Route 57 at the University of Sheffield. She lives in Saltaire, runs a spoken word night called Rhubarb @The Triangle and is a member of Leeds Savages.

I So Get It – by Brett Busang

 

with much kudos to Edna Millay, whose hate-letter to daffodils (et al) ought to be read, as a kind of alt-creation story, every Spring

I so get it, Edna.
The good, clean earth takes our footfalls
(rash compliments that trample it down)
and swallows them as we check our mail.

Love watches us like stalkers do, with the mixed intentions
of mother and rapist, of a birthday party and a cruel dawn.
We cannot find our way back to nature
(assuming it ever coddled us). Born to its leafy kisses, we thought

they’d restore our wonder as our swollen agendas took it away.
We’ve always wanted it to be Saturday, but check anybody’s schedule;
we’re late for work already and someone is conniving at our doom.
We come so innocently naked, nothing bad might touch us.

The sun’s rays contain all the light that’s ever poured down on a perfect moment,
the garden has no spiders and the rose no thorns,
our gift-wrapped packages arrive before the bill collector does –
and if we get a lousy grade now and then, we can prove ourselves back to God,

who made from us the earthy bric-a-brac we are always brushing off of our clothes.
God, who punishes the wicked first;
God, whose wrath is just;
God, who loves most to kill in Spring.

 

 

 

Brett’s prose writing has been published widely, with essays and stories in Overtime, The Saranac Review, and Weber – the Contemporary West. His “angry, British” novel, I Shot Bruce was published last year by Open Books/Escape Media, and he had a short story collection out in June.

Vendange Tardive – by Ray Miller

 

When you read of the farmer near Beziers,
whose entire grape crop –
all thirty-five tons –
was stolen overnight by a gang
with a mechanical harvester,
did you remember how we bent

and ached for the grapes, swollen
and pendulous, bruised
like love-bitten breasts,
sweating and swaying before us?
How at night we poured
ourselves into each other

and the rhythm of crickets.
The Languedoc women
wore dark bandannas and clicked
their tongues in mock disapproval
when they learnt we were unwed.
C’est la mode! they supposed,
blessing our unborn children

asleep in the abandoned college
where the mayor of the village,
a Communist called Bruno
begrudged us free electric.
I quoted Lenin’s famous maxim
and he drove us to Beziers

one Saturday afternoon;
me in my yellow kerchief,
polka-dot shirt and fedora hat;
you in your thin peasant dress.
We bet who’d receive the finest
proposals and opted for a sauna
with the young Catalans.

Oh, Jesus, you would whisper
in your soft Northern tongue
as we bit into vendange tardive.
You clawed and kissed the icon
at your neck before we burst
into Rabelaisian giggles.

Did you smile – just a little –
as you thought of the fruit
being lifted by those
with dishonest intentions?

 

 

 

Ray Miller – he’s somewhere between T.S.Eliot and George Formby when he’d like to be between Althia and Donna.