Rocket – by Lydia Unsworth

There is a hole where a decision should be (where an act of love, where a sweltering and broad horizon), where a welling up like seafront fizz lashes at the pent-up rocks stacked against the hard edge of the mainland.

There is a cough in a silent hall at the precise moment a thread of hair and violin string make touching.

There is a change of state, an accident of opinion, layers of paint, the bright light that surrounds modern art. There’s your private consideration of it, the art, your shoes and their forever undoing shoelaces, undoing only when you are out of your comfort zone, malignant forces whose name is a fly swatter clapping your cheeks without rest, without real pain.

There is a cracked voice at the end of a stamped slip of paper, the red sealant a closed mouth, gloss masking shame. The veneer flaps like a roughly raised mosquito net over a kitchen door that provides no exit: all tendrils and unhealthy velcro and mosquitos anyway. They can see you trying. Never cook too-plain pasta for anyone. Never welcome them through into the mess you’ve made.

There are night rockets ablaze with whatever you hoped the stars would inject into you. There’s impetus, impotence. The uncut grass of never asking knots and knots until severence is the only uncalled-for answer. The sir in any kind of response already cause enough for a swerve. Gardens that should have been tended, either tended or left wild enough to flower.

I am the suburban no-place. A tent pitched in the back garden of an ’80s housing estate. A no-frills cheese-and-tomato pizza that tastes more like woodchip than anything else. A midnight walk to a petrol station for rubbery snacks. A metal fence with a bent-back gap. A trail that leads to no more than an electricity pylon and then back to that gap. Yet there are night rockets ablaze.

 

 

 

 

Lydia Unsworth is the author of two collections of poetry: Certain Manoeuvres (Knives Forks & Spoons, 2018) and Nostalgia for Bodies (Erbacce, 2018), for which she won the 2018 Erbacce Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in Ambit, Pank, Litro, Tears in the Fence, Banshee, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Sentence: Journal of Prose Poetics, among other places. Based in Manchester/Amsterdam. Twitter@lydiowanie

On Bad Days I Think About How I Will Identify Your Body – by Christina Thatcher

 

First: under your left eye, eight stitches
            from our black lab who, like I warned,
            would bite if you pulled his whiskers out.

Second: the crown of your skull, stapled
            after it split open on the basement floor.
            Dad blotting the blood with Band-Aids.

Third: back of your head, sewn up
            after leaping from your plastic bike
            knees to your chin, a concrete wall.

Fourth: right middle finger, caught
            in the jamb of a YMCA door
            after our first swimming lesson.

Fifth: our matching birthmarks
            swooping under the joint of thumb
            like a fading comet.

Sixth: left arm, track marks.

 

 

Christina Thatcher is a Creative Writing Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She keeps busy off campus too as the Poetry Editor for The Cardiff Review and as a freelance workshop facilitator and festival coordinator. Her poetry and short stories have featured in a number of publications including The London Magazine, Planet Magazine, The Interpreter’s House and more. Her first collection, More than you were, was shortlisted in Bare Fiction’s Debut Poetry Collection Competition in 2015 and published by Parthian Books in April 2017. Website: christinathatcher.com, Twitter @writetoempower.

nightshade – by Jessica Moore

 

The farmwife said I can’t remember
the last time it rained so hard that it broke
the awning. She closed the window
like a mouth and there was a crack
in the sill that hadn’t been there before.
She told the housecat to follow her
to the kitchen where she would show
it the proper way to peel a tomato.
She asked the wallpaper if it knew
how to make the skin fall off and it
didn’t answer. Using the blunt end
of a knife, she said you have to bruise
it first. And no one, not even the tomato,
made a sound as she beat the blush
red cheek.

 

 

 

Jessica Moore is currently living in North Carolina and working toward her MFA at Arcadia University. She spends her time writing, running and avoiding confrontation.

The Ritual – by Susan Darlington

 

It was the night before the ritual
and Celandine couldn’t get any rest.
She perched on the end of her bed:
contracted the muscles in her feet
to make her toes curl into talons.

She used them to tear at the duvet,
eiderdown spilling out while she listened
to her mother’s downstairs preparations:
the harsh chirp of the whetstone
sharpening the family carving knife.

The metallic lullaby soothed her to sleep
and she woke to find she was trussed
on the kitchen table, the knotted hands
of her sisters, aunts and grandmothers
penning her to the scored wooden surface.

Her mother approached with the knife,
her feather headdress doubled in the metal,
and stood at the base of the counter.
In quick succession she sliced the blade
through the right foot and then the left.

Her stumps were tightly bound with dried grass
and she was gently nestled into a cage.
Paraded down streets, the cold probed her flesh
and the throb of blood in her ears
dulled the angry chatter of daybreak birds.

The pageant halted at the earth’s end.
A yellow gloved hand opened the cage
and as the voices of the mass soared in unity
she was lifted out, her clothes fluttering
in the wind that drove up the cliff side.

She looked across the crashing waves below
and tried to focus her mind on the horizon.
Because when she felt her mother’s push,
without any feet on which to land,
she knew she’d have to learn how to fly.

 

 

Susan Darlington is a freelance arts journalist and poet. Her debut collection, Under The Devil’s Moon, is available now through Penniless Press Publications

Going in with Flowers – by Avril Joy

 

Later she went in with flowers, like honey in broken glass
for the hollow women with little fires in their chest
that refused to be put out, for herself, for the hell
of it, for the green apple stem and earth
and in the darkness there was colour, small strewn flags,
yellow like morning, red for dusk.
They let them in, clutched unsearched as if a flower
were a holy thing even to them, even to a man in black
gloves looking for bombs, opening and closing gates
to the narrow crack, as if flowers were mourning
ghosts falling like rain on every prison’s roof.
She took them in, hoping the rain would fall
and every spat word, waiting hurt, every gloss wall,
mirror blurred, every no glass vase
would expand, bloom, transform itself
to dance like wildfire through a burning house.
She took them in because they said what was in her heart,
what could not be said in ink: it is summer in the mind,
cherries are falling on the grass under branch,
this is your house, this is my house, these our flowers.

 

 

 

 

Avril Joy’s short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies and has been shortlisted in competitions including the Bridport and the Manchester Prize for Fiction. In 2012 she won the inaugural Costa Short Story Award. Her latest novel, Sometimes a River Song, is published by Linen Press. In 2019 her poem Skomm won first prize in the York Mix poetry competition. She is currently working on a sequence of poems reflecting her twenty-five years spent working in a women’s prison in County Durham.

Op Art – by Steve Harrison

 

Bridget Riley had read that
it was Monet’s vanity that had stopped him wearing glasses.
He never saw stars after the age of 14
caught the wrong buses
botched the paintings of his out of focus garden.
She decided to have her eyes tested.
“Can you read the middle line, Bridget?”
“O -P -A -R -T”
“Is it easier to see the Red circle
or the Green oblong?”
“The oblong”
“Now Look at the lines,
Which are the clearest; horizontal or vertical?”
“They’re both a bit wobbly, but the vertical”
“Now Compare these lenses”
“The second is definitely better!”
The world came into her focus.
Clear lines.
She tried the frames
chose black
then caught the right bus home.

 

 

 

 

Steve Harrison born in Yorkshire and now lives in Shropshire where he worked teaching. His work appears in various forms from The Emergency Poet collections, The Physic Garden, Pop Shot, Mid-Winter Solstice to Wetherspoons News. He regularly performs across the Midlands and won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Slam in 2014.

The Lie – by Nairn Kennedy

 

Once, I had a name as smooth and clear
as all the streams of Poland; it poured through ears
like melting snow; but over here

it warped to ugly consonants
which clattered off your tongues
like Scrabble tiles.

In the local coffee shop last week,
baristas pounded out their war drums,
bashing out the grit of coffee grounds.

What name? said the Recording Angel at the counter,
poised with a tattered ballpoint and plastic cup;
the queue behind me snorted in frustration.

I stared straight through my spectacles and hers
into brown eyes. Jim, I said, biting
a suddenly unwieldy tongue.

 

 

 

Nairn Kennedy lives in Yorkshire, and is a member of the York Stanza Group. He’s been a prizewinner in the Ilkley Walter Swan competition twice, and been published in Ambit and Orbis.