On My Bookshelf – by Hannah Yerington

1.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
confusing chutzpah for passion,
drinking themselves into a cloud of Manischewitz,
forgetting to call their mothers.

2.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
accidentally painting crucifixes,
going to Zen retreats,
putting kippahs on sculptures of the Buddha.

3.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
wrestling with angels,
having thumb wars with the Virgin Mary (and losing).

4.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
arguing about diaspora,
yelling about Marxism,
moaning about Netanyahu.

5.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
sticking cloves into oranges,
complaining about the weather,
slyly eating lobster in Montauk.

6.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
talking about all the Nobel prizes they’ve won,
telling stories about getting drunk on their Birthright trip,
promising to never ever buy eggnog again.

7.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
searching for old desks and family history,
visiting the graveyards for those afforded such luxury.

8.

The confused Jewish artists on my bookshelf:
rushing through their Passover Haggadot;
yelling at Elijah to hurry up already,
we don’t have all night;
slamming the door in his stupid prophet face.

 

 

 

Hannah writes about many things; primarily the space between Judaism and feminism, talking flowers, post-memory, and sometimes seals. Her work has been published in Werd, The Bolinas Hearsay, The Fem, and Bearings Online, among others.

Zero Hours – by Ben Banyard

 

We can get up at five
to pour your coffee.

Clean toilets at 3am
with ear buds for company.

Drive you home from the club
hoping you don’t puke.

Sit on lines making tortilla wraps
for your meal deal tomorrow.

Our kids see us sometimes
rub the sleep from their eyes.

On pay day every penny’s gone within hours
so we wait for the next.

Boss says You must report here at 7
so we can see if we’ll need you.

We have a set of rooms called home
where we might not live next month.

They say we should be happy in our work
and give us training, but we pay for the uniform.

 

 

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol. His debut pamphlet, Communing, and first full collection, We Are All Lucky, are published by Indigo Dreams. He blogs (sporadically) and posts mixtapes at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com

The Science of Love – by Stuart Sinclair

 

Moments are usually defined with respect
To a fixed reference point.
I WAS IN THE KITCHEN.
They deal with physical quantities as measured
At some distance from that reference point.
MY WIFE OF 30 YEARS WAS EMPTYING THE SHOPPING BAGS.
I WAS IN THE DOORWAY OF THE UTILITY ROOM.
HER BIRDWATCHING BINOCULARS
WERE HANGING ON A COAT HOOK.
For example, the moment of force acting on an object,
Often called torque
I COULDN’T SPEAK WITHOUT CRYING.
   ‘There are moments’
SUDDENLY REALISING HOW MUCH I LOVED HER.
   ‘Tenderness like a broken
   winged bird’
Is the product of the force and the distance
   ‘Wakes me from the dream
   Of the day,
   Gladness like a stifled sob
   Shakes me from sorrow.’
AFTER ALL THESE YEARS.
   ‘Shopping bags
   Specks of dust in sunlight.’
To the object (i.e., the reference point)
SO I JUST KISSED HER.
In principle, any physical quantity
Can be multiplied by distance
   A kiss
   Narrating itself
   Too sudden
To produce a moment.
   For words.

 

 

 

 

Stuart has read poetry for years, and now writes. He is fascinated by the way that modern science emerged from other ways of thinking. “The Science of Love” uses a definition of a moment from http://www.educationjournal.org and from Wikipedia.

My brother wants to shoot cats – by Roddy Williams

My brother wants to shoot cats

and send everyone back home
He rests both hands on his walking stick
He says That’s what I’d do

He’s built a computer in his shed
or so he said
My brother talks very loudly
so the cats can hear him coming
besides he’d have to manage
the gun and the stick
He wouldn’t want Benefits
hearing about that

I don’t say much to be honest
as it generates another
list of what he’d do

He wants to stop sex education
He says That’s what I’d do
He says that no one needs it
He had none in his school
They just taught him to hate cats
and to send everyone back home

That’s what they did

 

 

 

Born and raised in North Wales, Roddy Williams now lives in London. His poetry has appeared in ‘The Frogmore Papers’, ‘Magma’, ‘The Rialto’, ‘Envoi’, ‘Stand’ and other magazines. He’s had two plays performed in London and his first collection of poetry is due out this year, He is also a photographer, printmaker and painter.

Dirges for Two Distant Lovers – by Ugwu Erochukwu Shedrach

 
i.

for Anny

i have walked past your absence –

40 miles across the moorlands.
i want you again, back into
my sombre body, swallowed
by protracted maladies –
of stained glasses & neon trees.
i am seated in the dark
of extinction, it’s hard
to light a candle now.

ii.

for Ashraqat


i have made the shahadah

my tongue’s best friend –
i am a wilted ixora, lamenting
in my modicum chamber
of regret & dying like
the sun at dusk. now you
are free. swift like the wind
& soft as shadow. i will
carve out your face from an urn,
& fill its hollow with flowers.

 

 

Ugwu Erochukwu Shedrach writes from the city of Enugu in Nigeria. A
soil scientist & a moral philosophy enthusiast.

Blue – by Amelia Walker

 

The first blue I knew was blood.

Later there would be skies and oceans,
eyes and sapphires, petals, ink, plastic lids
of pens my teachers said, don’t chew.
The skin-ripple of a hushed tattoo.

The blue of singers, songs, the sounds
and shoes, jeans, dresses, uniforms
I wore reluctantly, eyeliner brandished with glee.
There would be bruises. Planets. Marbles.

But first, the blood.
And when we cut ourselves we rust.
A kind of blossoming, a bloom
of buds unfolding just to die.

We are fields of roses, yes,
in lips and finger tips, the speckled light.
We could not be fire were we not also smoke.
Could not be red without the blue.

The first blue I knew was living.
The first blue I knew was blood.

 

 

 

Amelia Walker is a South Australian writer. She works at a university and lives near the coast.

Winners – Jan/Mar Poem Awards

The votes are all in and the poll-winning Readers’ Choice poem is…

Hearing Things – by Mat Riches

Mat will (eventually) receive the usual winner’s mug, and thanks to everyone who voted.

The Editor’s choice was selected by Rachel Bower and she picked out

A Place on the Sofa – by Lesley Burt

Rachel had these comments to make.

It was a pleasure to read this pile of wonderful poems as Guest Editor this month, but not an easy task to choose a winner! On first reading, I was struck by the range of form, as well as by recurring subjects and tropes, particularly running, keys in hands, the child’s perspective and coming to terms with the past. I was drawn to several poems before deciding on my winner.

I was struck by “Five-Year Survival”, for the intensity created by its patterns of repetition (I find it hard to resist a pantoum!). This poem is full of mystery and delicacy, and I didn’t want it to end. I also loved the ‘‘chemistry of cakes’ and ‘physics of flans’ in “Girl’s Education”: a seemingly simple poem which is layered with meaning. The violence simmering under “How You Will Identify My Body” and the ‘creamy breasts of pigeons’ which ‘turn crimson’ in “First Deaths” were also powerful. “August 1947” effectively captured the human aspects of a moment of great political upheaval, and this poem was a close contender for the winning spot.

The winning poem stood out on first reading, and got better every time I read it. By the third or fourth reading I was sure this was the one. “A Place on the Sofa” is an understated, taut account of a single moment in a girl’s family life. The poem skilfully enables the reader to share the perspective of the young girl, sent off to the kitchen by the grandma so that her brother can take her place on the sofa. I love the way that we look through the gap between the hinges with her, and share her rage at this injustice. The poem is tight: there are no wasted adjectives or articles, and the rage bristles against the tight tercets of the poem. The ending is also wonderful – the rage ‘rests in her diaphragm’, as in this restrained poem, and we wait for the day that it will finally be breathed out. This is a powerful poem about the moments that make us (and mark us), and the ways in which the personal and everyday are always political. Thank you!

Congratulations to both our winners.