We didn’t do science – just the domestic sort.
The chemistry of cakes, the physics of flans,
The microbiology of meringues.
Still, our teacher wore a white coat,
drew grains of flour on the blackboard,
they’ll expand gently when you add
the liquid cold, she said,
you must do this before the hot,
then return the lot to the pan.
We never learned the periodic table
only how to lay one for dinner.
Our gravies were always smooth.
Penelope Kease lives and writes in Oxfordshire, a lifetime away from her Bristol childhood. She holds a recent MA in Writing from the University of Warwick.
People who kill revolutions are sometimes those who value poetry and read it in dim-lit cafés.
Here, they sip lattés outside abridged bagel shops
Late Tuesday mornings.
Engaged in eloquent conversations with their phones,
Dribbles of milk and absorbed conversations frost their beards.
I don’t speak to them, but instead think of a tattoo of Lenin I saw once
On the forearm of a young man.
Chuckling, I catch the eye of the coffee shop worker who shaped the milk-foam of my cappuccino
Into a dripping, pale heart.
She probably knows I’m there to spy on them, holding nothing to obscure my expression.
We both find comfort in being disconnected, if only to find loathing
In short gestures of levity and pretext.
Meanwhile, Lenin stares at me from the corner of his painted eye,
Resting on a cold wood table
Made from a rotted tree trunk
And glazed with dark maple paint.
We secretly condemn forms of imperialist extraction
And what there IS to be done,
Beyond the confines of this Brooklyn café.
I get no answer, just the haughty voice of a post-hipster selling houses in the gig economy.
When I re-enter the sunned cold,
I desire to unfasten the hinges of subway doors and their owners.
John Maerhofer is a writer and activist living in Brooklyn with 3 cats.
We pulled the rental car over to the dirt track verge.
Fela Kuti on the radio died away. Snakes scuttered under brush.
The sign boasted the first and freshest continental fish.
What could be better on a day like this?
And as we ate, finger-licking, I felt it underneath the peace,
A tremor through my teeth: The rumble of Kuti’s Africa.
The breaths and deaths of millions.
A clamorous zest.
As the land pointed out to meet the sea,
We picked the oily flesh
And felt our own soft bony lives trickle out our
In blooming navy slicks atop the waves.
Eilín de Paor is an emerging Dublin poet. A latecomer to writing, she is a parent of two, working with people with intellectual disabilities and lecturing in disability studies. Her poetry debuted in February 2018 in The Runt Zine and in a Kevin Bateman Presents YouTube event. She can be found on Twitter at: @edepaor #bitofapoem
Spiky horsehairs, disguised by a patchwork
coverlet, prickle bare calves of the girl
who raced to perch between dad and grandma.
Her mother leans from an armchair to stroke
the boy’s head while he squirms on the rag rug,
whines to sit, instead, where his sister is.
Jane, says grandma – the girl stiffens
as everyone looks at her – please
fetch my crochet from the dining room.
Past the door, through the gap between hinges,
she sees brother, triumphant, beside dad; hears
grandma say, I thought that’d settle things.
The girl brings the crochet. She sits, quiet
on the rug. Rage rests in her diaphragm.
One day, she’ll breathe that out.
Lesley lives in Dorset. Her poetry has been published online, including Long Exposure and the Poetry Kit website, and in magazines and anthologies, including: Tears in the Fence, The Interpreter’s House, Sarasvati, Reach and The Butchers Dog.
You opened your mouth
and an eel came out –
sliding from between your lips
gasping into the air.
Take this, you said
these are my best words
my midnight flights
my early morning distillations.
Eels, you said, do not stutter
look, they flow like liquid
they do not take more than they need
they are the best of us.
I watched it swim away
out of the bedroom window.
But often, when I least expect it
it returns, a slow swagger through the air:
brushing past the curtains when I sleep
curling into the nest of my inner ear.
Ben Ray is a young poet from the borders of Wales whose second collection, What I heard on the Last Cassette Player in the World, will be released with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019. Find out more about him at: www.benray.co.uk .
Very pleased that our next Editor’s Choice poem (from those published this month and in January) will be picked by Rachel Bower.
Rachel lives in Sheffield with her three young children. She is the author of Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018) and Epistolarity and World Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and edited the Verse Matters anthology with Helen Mort (Valley Press, 2018). She is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, where she is researching the links between poets in Leeds and Nigeria in the 1950s and 60s. Rachel’s poems have featured in a number of magazines, including Stand, New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, Frontier and Popshot Magazine. She has also been shortlisted for the London Magazine Poetry prize, and her poems have won several other prizes. Twitter @rachelebower Website: https://rachelbowerwrites.wordpress.com
Photo by Jan Bella
You took only your doll, your sister
nothing at all.
Your mother pressed keys
into a neighbour’s hand, closing fingers tight around metal,
like a secret. ‘Keep it,’ she said. ‘The house. It’s yours.’
Did she weep, that Sikh lady,
this sudden owner of a second house,
or was acquisition sufficient to temper sorrow?
Perhaps she watched your father shoulder his gun,
count his bullets, pinch his children’s cheeks,
heard him say, ‘I’ll shoot you all before I let them have you.’
But perhaps she turned inside, to pray or pretend
no relative of hers was among the bawling mobs.
You might not know
or you might not want to say.
You spoke of the platform sweeper,
scratching with his broom at blackening, coagulating puddles
that had oozed off the last train in from Lahore.
Your mother didn’t say what he was doing
and, you, understanding, kept silent too,
your little sister making you brave.
I cannot ask – because there is no answer –
if I would have stood with those crowds
waiting for the next train west, making
desperate plans to conceal my children
in the luggage rack. I want to know
that, like your parents, I would have walked,
foodless and empty-armed,
onto the hot road the monsoon
had not seen fit to bless.
Louise Taylor’s poetry is often inspired by the natural world, history, mythology or some combination of the three. Recent publication credits include The Poetry Shed, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Bonnie’s Crew and the Loose Muse Winchester anthology. She is co-editor of Words for the Wild and tweets occasionally at @Sar1skaTiger.