The men do not leave the house
They might come in handy
for harvesting fruit, for slitting
stems that snake around their feet
and trip them. The women
don’t feel the need.
Still, I’m grateful
as we walk back to the village
on an afternoon cracked open,
a yolk of sun frying
on the road’s bare earth.
My lip splits, I’m out of water
and tiny fruits of heat rash
bloom across my skin. A man
machetes down oranges.
I fingernail mine open.
They hack theirs apart with cutlasses.
They’re still slashing whilst I’m
sucking down the juice, eating
even the dust it sticks to my fingers.
Fiona Cartwright is a conservation biologist, poet and mother of two young daughters who lives near London, but wanders elsewhere as much as possible. Her poetry has previously appeared in various publications, including Mslexia, Butcher’s Dog, Envoi. Under the Radar and Ink, Sweat & Tears.
He’s next to the drugstore at the mall.
A trickle of women in scarves and shawls
sit behind crushed velvet curtains
and turn plastic pages of catalogues
not looking for a dolphin on the ankle
but photos of before and after.
Some ask about his years as a medic
in South Korea where he learned his art,
others survey the map of the world:
each tack a happy client although
Saudi Arabia has none since
husbands tell their wives it’s haram.
Vinny’s felt hat rests on the desk.
He notes that if surgeons are sculptors,
he’s an artist in the quest for breasts.
Like a hairdresser, he chats away
about Angelina Jolie’s hip flap
and how nobody wants to wake up
with nothing. They say his tattoos are 3D
and help women get their girl back
but those with battered pickups
and no Medicare have flat chests so
he takes special care they’ve something
better to look at in the shower.
They slip out of their camisole tops.
Some wear bras. He tries a smile:
Would Madam care for pierced nipples
this time round? As you can always add,
Vinny starts with the lightest tone
and doesn’t avoid touching their scars.
Stuart Pickford lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish (2016), was published by smith/doorstop.
a sink, cobwebbed with bubbles hands
coined with freckles a dishcloth approaches
lockets of spilled milk the door, booked open
like a half read thing a draughty wing of calendar
lifts, slices the week with forgotten things
by the basket, the gathered throat of a wet sock
pungent oranges jewelled with smell
an umbrella hooked like a dead life scribbled
words on an envelope scrap a letterbox
tongued with junk thumbed glasses make
a story of use a judgement of wax reminds
the room of scuppered light
Jane Burn’s poems have featured in magazines such as The Rialto, Under The Radar, Butcher’s Dog, Iota Poetry and many more, as well as anthologies from Emma Press, Beautiful Dragons, Emergency Poet and Seren. Her pamphlets include Fat Around the Middle, published by Talking Pen and Tongues of Fire published by BLER Press. Her first collection, nothing more to it than bubbles is published by Indigo Dreams.
Delighted to announce that the winner of the September/October poll for the Readers’ Choice Award is Michelle Diaz. A prize mug of infinite joy will be on its way to her shortly. That may be hyperbole but I’ve been at the wine.
My Mother Came Back as a Pigeon – by Michelle Diaz
The Editor’s Choice Poem is:
Memory is held by water – by Jackie Biggs
selected by Clare Shaw who said:
“This was no easy task – a wonderful bunch of poems with many strong contenders! I narrowed it down to five and could go no further for a while – should I choose the passionate, powerful, urgent imagery of “The Function of Emotions” (Olivia Tuck), the concise and precise strength of “Bishops’ Hearts” (Matthew Stewart) with its devastating final line; or the ache and punch of “Instructions for My Husband When My World Comes Undone” (Michelle McMillan-Holifield), with its fractured imagery? Or the perfect portrait of “Hospital Night Wardress” (Natalie Scott), oozing with darkness and sensuality?
All wonderful poems, and plenty more besides. In the end, I chose “Memory is held by water” by Jackie Biggs with its painful, chilling insights and its stunning restraint. This takes the story of one man in one place, and through the voice of the river, offers us something universal – as disturbing and heartbreaking as the subject demands. In its strangely calm and impersonal sense of compulsion, completion and comfort, it speaks for the people it depicts – with tenderness and respect. A great poem.”
The foal from the Batagai crater
lived two months before succumbing
to cold or hunger. Tamped into tundra
for over thirty-thousand years, it emerged
statue-perfect from its earthen skin, a marvel
of muzzle against foreleg. I see this pose
in every pasture I pass. Like the corpses raised
from peatbogs, I await some sleight of hand
to restore motion. If it could clatter away
from the cold table of the lab men, I could run
my hands over warm flanks in greeting.
Leaning in, I would breathe an earlier air.
Save yourself, I might whisper. Save us.
Yet if it had, I might never have seen
the delicate quick of its hooves, its mud-
caked lashes, its matted tail-tuft. Every cult
calls for sacrifice. Every poet requires a body.
Devon Balwit lives scarily close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. She has six chapbooks and three collections out in the world. Her individual poems can be found here as well as in print and on-line journals. For more, see her website at: here
My muscles hold the memory
of when I was a pillar of salt,
to the radiation
of the sun, the vengeance of the rain.
my sinews must
have been on pause,
by a crick of my neck, and
somewhere behind my shoulder
with the buzzing of insects,
of a goodbye.
Jane R Rogers has been writing poetry for seven years. Jane is a member of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop and was a member of the Magma Poetry magazine team where she co-edited Magma 65. Jane’s poems have appeared in Atrium, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, Long Exposure Magazine, Obsessed with Pipework, in Greenwich Poetry Workshop’s anthologies and in the Tate Gallery Website poetry anthology 2012. Jane lives in London but misses the West Country.
Executioner of Edith Thompson, 1923
She had to be carried to the shed
but it wasn’t like they said
that she “disintegrated as a human creature”.
She was restrained and intoxicated
so it couldn’t have been like they said
that she “screamed all the way”.
She did bleed from her private parts
but it wasn’t like they said
that her “insides fell out”.
She was autopsied and declared
so it couldn’t have been like they said
that “the drop was a coffin birth”.
Natalie Scott is a Teesside-based poet and educator with a PhD in Creative Writing. She has collections published by Indigo Dreams, Bradshaw Books and Mudfog, as well as many appearances in literary journals including Ambit, Agenda and Orbis. Her collection Berth – Voices of the Titanic was awarded runner-up for the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition, 2011. Her latest project Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison was awarded funding from the Arts Council of England.