A place on the sofa – by Lesley Burt

 

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.

The kindness of the eel – by Ben Ray

 

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 .

August 1947 – by Louise Taylor

 

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.

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.