Ashes – by Katerina Neocleous

 

The Ash is common enough –
with keys the wind misplaces
and in winter, velvet leaf buds
that recall those long

black gloves I wore
to trace your trembling
outline – neck to hip,
and down a little more.

Its fissured bark is
a history of cuts, as if
the past can be cast off
like a worn out coat.

As green leaves fell
I glimpsed a woman
in the copse,
or maybe a hare.

 

 

Katerina Neocleous has been published in various poetry journals. Visit visionsfromhell.wordpress.com to see more of her work.

Take your coat off – by Roddy Williams

 

You won’t feel the benefit
when you go out
so take off that coat
I’m telling you now
you’ll be starved by the time
you get to the gate
starved like a post
How many sugars?
You might has well have one
You’ve taken your coat off

You’d best slip your shoes off
as well they’re all muddy
I know I could hear it aye
rattle the roof
like a man at the door
after money and time
It was bouncing down earlier
Just leave them there with
my sack of regret and my
box of old anecdotes
Might get them out if
it carries on bouncing

I think there’s some cake here
You might as well have some
I can’t eat it all
If I don’t it will all have to go
to the foxes
You wouldn’t want that
a fox at your cake
I’ve got time in the fridge and
it needs to be used
Well past its sell-by
We might as well use it

Now give me that coat

 

 

A Welsh exile, Roddy Williams now lives in London. His poetry has appeared in ‘The North’, ‘The Frogmore Papers’, ‘Magma’, ‘The Rialto’, ‘Envoi’ and other magazines. He’s had two plays performed in London, is currently working on his first novel and is a keen surrealist photographer, printmaker and painter.

Editorial – Call and Response

I have always secretly (or not so secretly) loved Kim Addonizio.

Her most famous poem (arguably) is:

What Do Women Want?

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

 

However, there is a problem with this poem. The title is all wrong. It should be “What does Kim Addonizio want?”. As written, it is rather presumptuous and begging for a response. Today over at Eunoia Review there is a poem written ‘after’ Kim’s I want that adapts the title to something much more direct and honest, with the presumption taken out (and it’s a fine poem too).

That poet is not the first to feel like issuing a response, either. See this one from Brenda Shaughnessy.

Your one good dress

should never be light. That kind of thing
feels like a hundred shiny-headed waifs backlit
and skeletal, approaching. Dripping and in
unison, murmuring, “We are you.”

No. And the red dress (think about it,
redress) is all neckhole. The brown
is a big wet beard with, of course, a
backslit. You’re only as sick as your secrets.

There is an argument for the dull-chic,
the dirty olive and the Cinderelly. But
those who exhort it are only part of the conspiracy:
“Shimmer, shmimmer,” they’ll say. “Lush, shmush.”

Do not listen. It’s a part of the anti-obvious
movement and it’s sheer matricide. Ask your
mum. It would kill her if you were ewe gee el why.
And is it a crime to wonder, am I. In the dark a dare,

Am I now. You put on your Niña, your Pinta,
your Santa María. Make it simple to last your whole
life long. Make it black. Glassy or deep.
Your body is opium and you are its only true smoker.

This black dress is your one good dress.
Bury your children in it. Visit your pokey
hometown friends in it. Go missing for days.
Taking it off never matters. That just wears you down.

 

So yeah. I have always secretly (or not so secretly) loved Kim Addonizio. I need to stop doing that.

Sleight of Hand – by Julia Webb

 

Blink, you said, and you will miss it,
it’s not like I hadn’t heard that cliché before.
I opened the doors to you and you galloped in,
trampling the soft furnishings,
biting chunks of plaster from the walls.
I mistook your enthusiastic stampede for love.
Now you see it, now you don’t.
was your other favourite saying,
though I didn’t take it personally at first,
I missed the signs: your sleights of hand,
your disappearing rabbits.
It was only when you disappeared yourself
that I noticed the wizard’s cloak
lining the inside of your hastily discarded coat.

 

 

Julia Webb is a poetry editor for ‘Lighthouse’ literary journal. She lives in Norwich. Her first collection Bird Sisters was published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.

Hateful Birds – by David W Landrum

 

Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen,
and is become the habitation of devils, and
the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of
every unclean and hateful bird.
                                                      —-Revelation 18:2, KJV

 

“Use black sunflower seeds,” my mother said
as we filled the birdfeeder in her yard.
“If you use small seeds, you’ll get hateful birds.”
Bald Knob, Arkansas, where my mother lived,
and fallen Babylon were far apart,
in distance, years, but not in utterance.
Old phrases lurk in memory, brought by
the old-stock settlers who had ferried them
across the sea and spoke them as they walked
the Carolina mountains and the sloughs
of Arkansas. Elizabethan words
still shaped their speech. It sounded on the day
my grandfather gave me a wooden stake
and said to me, “Go stob this in the ground.”
The hateful birds were ones who ate the seed
broadcast on fresh-plowed furrows – those you scared
away by banging sticks when they came down,
to eat the tithe of grain saved for planting.
Even the Bible chose to mention them.

My mother said to me, on colder days,
“Be sure ye wear ye jacket when ye go.”

 

 

 

David Landrum teaches Literature at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His poetry has appeared in Evansville Review, Measure, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Antiphon, Blue Fifth Review, and many other journals and anthologies.

Pogrom – Clifford’s Tower, York – by Char March

 

Thon driftin’ ’aze of roast pork, I tell thee,
it meks me paunch talk. A single ’ot pie since daybreak,
an’ nowt since – through all thon ’ectic trammellin’
up an’ down’t cobbled ginnels. I allus knowed
as ’ow them weren’t true men – snufflin’ like sows.
But their women! Gods didn’t they screech an’ ’owl!

See? One of them even bit us! An’ run! I’d allus ’eard
they was that fat as ’ow them could ’ardly waddle.
An’ then this gurt long wait after all’t fun. Wi’ me belly
growlin’ an’ carryin’ on. An’ bloody crowd swellin’ like a boil.
All’t sweat done by us few. I just want a bit of summat
for me trouble – for doin’ me civic duty.

But there were nowt there. Paintin’s, posh tapestries,
but bugger all tha’d want. We’d ’eard their cellars
was groanin’ wi’ gold, secret siller, an’ rubies big
as noses. Likely! Nivver even a kindly cask of ale.
They must ’ave tekken it wi’ ’em, an’ The Good Lord knows
as ’ow tha can’t do that – specially not them lot.

I loved t’tower all lit an’ belchin’.
A ’uge chimbley – all leapin’ flame. All a-spit
an’ a-crackle wi’ their fat bones.
Uuuuuurp! Oh – pardon me. It’s me belly.
Nivver right wi’ nowt in it. An’ all on us below,
a sea of Ooooooos! an’ Ahhhhhhs! Flickerin’ ’ot faces.

All grinnin’ up at t’shafts of sparks an’ thon grand smell.
By, I could murder a pie. Tha’d think as ’ow
some bugger’d ’ave nous to come round all on us
wi’ some pies, some grog, summat – city of bloody merchants!
For none on us’ll move, not till it’s cooled enough
to get near wi’ rakes an’ sieves an’ bare bloody ’ands!

Sift thro’ their ashes, ferret out all’t fused coin, all’t
gobs of gold an’ globs of bracelets what they’ve thieved off us.
Money-grubbin’ ’eathen. Ouf! We’re off!
By, it’s a gradely press – canst smell our goodly sweat?
’Ere! Thon bastard tower is still ’urling red-’ot
boulders down on us – whose bloody side is it on?

 

 

Poet, Playwright, Fiction Writer, Tutor and Creative Coach
Char March

Short Cut – by Lynda Turbet

 

Me. Ankle socks and clean red shorts
head full of Famous Five
new borrowings in hand,
take the short cut home.

Thistles, willow-herb and giant dock
edge the track, their coarse smell heavy in the air.
Rank elder bushes black with fruit,
bend to block the way; brambles
snag insistent at my sleeves.

Then they appear; grinning like weasels:
rough boys, I know I must avoid,
all grime and crooked teeth.
One bars the way, the other at my back
thrashes at nettles with a stick.

‘Do you fuck?’ he says. ‘Do you?’
Their sniggers hem me in.
I’ve never heard the word
yet sense it’s something bad.
I run, their jeering yelps and howls
chase me like dogs across the field.

I shouldn’t have been there,
am too afraid to tell. He didn’t touch me,
though in my mind a splinter lodged:
his twisted snake-belt, glinting in the sun.

 

 

 

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.