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.

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

First deaths – by Ryan Stone

 

A red balloon sailing
through patchwork skies
whisked my brother’s young feet
from the fairground. Day bled
to twilight before a cop found him
mangled in a ditch by the highway.

After the funeral, my Dutch au pair
led me down to our basement
and laughed when I told her
I’d never played baseball. Later
we snuck my father’s rifle
out to the train yards, and she
showed me how creamy breasts
of pigeons turn crimson, and

how nothing seems more alive
than in that moment
before it isn’t.

 

 

 

Ryan Stone writes after midnight. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in publications including Algebra of Owls, Eunoia Review, The Drabble and Silver Birch Press and won prizes in a number of competitions at venues including Grindstone, Writer Advice, Goodreads, Writers’ Forum Magazine and Poetry Nook. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Kwa-Zulu Natal, late August – by Fiona Cartwright

 

All afternoon we drive
past No Hawking signs beside
orange sellers in full sun, dust
coiling round their toes, unsheltered
by the bony branches of the trees.
There are only oranges to sell,
the fruits clinging to each other,
an outbreak of harvest moons,
the tiny navel hanging from each apex
an ungrown twin. No-one can buy

such an overflow of oranges,
although we try, squeezing
the last taste of a dry season
into our mouths. All afternoon,
I pass you segments, the juice gluing
your hands to the steering wheel.
I lick at the sap
dripping from my lip,
let you spit pips into my open hand.

 

 

 

Fiona Cartwright is a conservation biologist, poet and mother of two young daughters who lives near London, but wanders elsewhere as much as possible. Her poetry has previously appeared in various publications, including Mslexia, Butcher’s Dog, Envoi. Under the Radar and Ink, Sweat & Tears.

Lawrence – by Robert Ford

 

In Miss Owen’s English class we learned about The Writer,
a local hero, or at least he’d come from a town near ours
we’d heard of, and had written poems and books, and died

abroad. He wrote a novel famous for being about fucking,
she told us – or something – and for having the word cunt in it,
and getting banned. Her fish-batter hair bounced as much as

hair as short as hers could, and her cavegirl face with its dark,
moon-lidded eyes, ground pepper as she said the swear-words,
and feasted on the bony silence they’d milked. After the bell,

we mooched about in the schoolyard like sheep just shorn,
our tongues and lips clumsy with disbelief, the crown jewels of
our vocabulary now strangely blunted in our mucky little mouths.

 

 

 

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, Clear PoetryHomestead Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears. More of his work can be found here

falling to the floor, a flight of gloves – by Jane Burn

 

a sink, cobwebbed with bubbles     hands
coined with freckles     a dishcloth approaches
lockets of spilled milk     the door, booked open

like a half read thing     a draughty wing of calendar
lifts, slices the week with forgotten things
by the basket, the gathered throat of a wet sock

pungent oranges jewelled with smell
an umbrella hooked like a dead life     scribbled
words on an envelope scrap     a letterbox

tongued with junk     thumbed glasses make
a story of use     a judgement of wax reminds
the room of scuppered light

 

 

 

Jane Burn’s poems have featured in magazines such as The Rialto, Under The Radar, Butcher’s Dog, Iota Poetry and many more, as well as anthologies from Emma Press, Beautiful Dragons, Emergency Poet and Seren. Her pamphlets include Fat Around the Middle, published by Talking Pen and Tongues of Fire published by BLER Press. Her first collection, nothing more to it than bubbles is published by Indigo Dreams.