Middle: An Assay – by Charlotte Ansell

 

Sometimes you’re the piggy,
the spare part, the third wheel,
your struggle is mostly oedipal.

You’re always in between,
feeling it’s you; grown up too fast,
the child listening from the stairs.

You’re the favoured possessions
of mummy bear; the porridge,
the chair, the bed. Goldilocks

didn’t want you, no one did.
You are forever overlooked
but always there- except

when you’re the empty in a polo,
the dropped stitch, the gap left
when the first baby tooth falls out.

You’re the stubborn of me do it!
Shoelaces, mouthfuls, tangled curls,
the tantrum in the Tesco’s aisle.

You’ll become a wish to be
unseen; gawky, gangly, acned,
the ugly before the swan

or the mousey huddle of girls
in school; picked before the fat girl
but no one ever remembers your name.

you’ve had your moments
but you’ve never won,
you cannot be alone.

You hold it all together;
won’t be undone. And damn,
weren’t you always the precious one.

 

 

Charlotte Ansell has two poetry collections published by Flipped Eye with a third forthcoming and has been published in Poetry Review, Mslexia, Now Then, Butcher’s Dog, Prole and various anthologies. She won the Red Shed Open Poetry Competition and was one of six finalists in the BBC Write Science competition in 2015. She was commended in the Yorkmix poetry competition and won the Watermarks poetry competition (in aid of flood victims in the Calder Valley) in 2016. She lives on a Sheffield keel on the tidal Medway with her family and a pirate cat.

Blizzard on the hills in spring – by Bridget Khursheed

 

An infinite wire fence on each side nothing but snow
The boundary itself curls like a barbed creeper bent up then down
Animals struggling to get to feed
 
But there are no beasts here:
Just a path of beaten down footsteps in the lee of the posts
The white on all sides the dogs and mine
 
This is the only line we can follow on a blank map
Everything is flat we fly high up above the dykes
Somewhere in a hollow deep beneath sheep breathe still

 

 

Bridget is a poet based in the Scottish Borders and this poem reflects the way she walks,  runs and writes in our very rural land. She was also a (very poor) teenage taxidermist and loves Victorian gothic and engineering.

 

Five-Year Survival – by Olivia Tuck

 

When I follow blown leaves to Savernake, I look for his car.
I make good eye contact and I engage with you well.
Water fills my glass like a siren: I swallow white seeds,
because the moon has been scrabbled to bits by fingernails.

I make good eye contact and I engage well;
explain that Old Town has a storm suspended over its clusters.
The moon has been scrabbled to bits by fingernails!
I tell my psychologist, who is a fresh lavender bouquet.

Old Town has a storm suspended over its stony clusters –
sometimes it breaks, sometimes it doesn’t.
My psychologist listens; arranges a fresh lavender bouquet.
The heart is debris for divers to salvage –

sometimes it breaks, sometimes it doesn’t.
Water fills my glass like a siren: the seeds create dusk.
My heart is debris divers shouldn’t have bothered to salvage,
for when I follow blown leaves to Savernake, I always look for his car.

 

 

 

Olivia Tuck has had poems and prose published in literary journals and webzines including The Interpreter’s House, Lighthouse, Amaryllis and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her work also features in the Fly on the Wall charity anthologies Please Hear What I’m Not Saying and Persona Non Grata. She is studying for a BA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and her pamphlet Things Only Borderlines Know is forthcoming with Black Rabbit Press. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites

Hearing Things – by Mat Riches

 

I found my calling in backgrounds,
and replicating the noises
only noticed when they’re absent.

My sleight of hand is often found
behind creaks of creeps on old stairs;
that’s me pulling nails from fresh planks.

The sound of rain falling in films
is bacon being fried up close.
I made lunch today, it poured down

and I couldn’t tell the difference.
The mundane gives drama root notes:
a guillotined neck gets its voice

from a cleaver through a cabbage.
Hams hang on a hook to be punchbags
and put their heft behind fistfights.

A lion’s roar enhances car chases
and flapped gloves make the swooping sounds
from birds of prey about to kill,

but birdsong’s only ever birds
being themselves. I’ll drive for days
to record the correct species.

What noises can empty rooms make
when no one’s there to record them?
This keeps me awake every night.

Just last night I thwacked a dead cow
in the ribs with a cricket bat,
and I know my motives were sound.

If You Hold It To Your Ear – by Sallyanne Rock

 

Harold sits in his high-backed chair,
tips shells into his lap,
sprinkles the dayroom carpet with sand.

He lifts the tiger cowrie to his ear,
turns down his hearing aid to recall
the taptaptap of Dad’s pipe on the table,
Mom’s pastry-pin roll and thrap,
the budgie’s serenade to a swinging mirror.

He listens to the wentletrap,
makes out a Wurlitzer, the lift and fall
of Dora’s heels on sprung herringbone.
Smiles as she belts out Billie
over the thump of the twin tub,
the button tin rattle saving
his Sunday shirt from a ragbag fate.

Thumbing the ridges of an upturned oyster,
Harold tries to scoop out sounds
of hand-smoothed sheets,
the bedside monitor chirrup,
a last breeze of breath.

He scrapes the shells
back into their box,
clicks the catch
turns up his hearing aid.
Lets the tide rush in.

 

 
Sallyanne Rock is an emerging poet living in Worcestershire, UK. She has been published in various places online and in print, and can often be found tweeting @sallrockspoetry

Reality Orientation – by Clare McCotter

 

Summer solstice in the asylum garden –
the wide blue bringing
your soul to feather
until I lose you
in an oratory of light.
Sloshing water
round petunias and lobelias
I mention your job –
an electrician
with The Belfast Corporation;
family having made it clear
you had the same one
for forty years, never once flying a plane.

Smiling you speak of your first solo flight
a yellow Piper Vagabond
leaving land behind
your azimuth shimmering
in a sapphire south.
Working on the real
I ask your age
your son’s and your daughter’s name
but a plane
headed for Belfast International
catches your eye
and you are gone –
lone aerial ace turning half-loops and rolls
above drifting mare tail clouds.

Planning a landing in the here and now
I pose questions on person, place and time.
Forced back down
you stumble on the here
fall flat on the day, the month, the year.
Confused, your gaze goes back
to that lithe translucence
telling me up there
everything’s brighter
nothing else like it.
A past gone but language still
crystal and flowing
in your dark forest
of Alzheimer firs.
Dayshift draws to a close
still no cognitive breakthrough
until I ask you the name of the best plane
you flew.

 

 

 

Clare McCotter’s haiku, tanka and haibun have been widely published. She won The British Haiku Award 2017, and in 2013 The British Tanka Award. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in The Cannon’s Mouth, Crannóg, Envoi, The Honest Ulsterman, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, and The Stinging Fly, among others. Black Horse Running, a collection of haiku, tanka and haibun, was published in 2012. Revenant, her first collection of ‘longer’ poems will be published in April 2019 by Salmon Poetry. Home is Kilrea, County Derry.

Inish More – by Kate Rogers

 

I try to balance
on the ferry’s bow deck
as we crest waves. Birds
surface —Razor bills,
dark wings accented
with markings like
parings of day moon.
They plunge into troughs,
drag their shadows under.
Cormorants arrow past.
The pier lies down
at my feet like an old dog,
then slinks away
as I climb the hill.
So many walls stacked
from limestone
boundary the island.
On the headland path,
lichen’s mustard
on stone barriers
like headlights in the fog.

Blackberries bramble old
boundaries: tiny pink blooms
tangled among dark fruit,
tart on my tongue.
Rain, more cloud than downpour,
washes off my make up.
Wind scrubs my cheeks
until they sting,
the way my Irish Nana did
when I was small. Eileen Brennan,
who lost her daughter
at a four way stop, her foot
on the brake too late.
I couldn’t check the sex
of the child my womb pushed out
fifteen years ago.
A country with so many
headstones. Inish More
has seven churches
not one roof among them,
slate dark as a squall
bearing down.
Here’s a fresh infant grave.
A wall-eyed teddy bear,
soaked dark brown as an old sponge,
leans its head on the stone.
Older markers are blank,
names erased
by spindrift.

 

 

 

Kate Rogers’ poem “Ode to my period” was shortlisted for the 2017 Montreal International Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Elsewhere: a Journal of Place, Voice and Verse, Twin Cities Cinema, Juniper and The Guardian, among other journals. She is based in Hong Kong. Her latest poetry collection is “Out of Place” (Quattro-Aeolus House, Toronto. 2017.)