Underneath the park bench
there were four loose pieces of a jigsaw
face down in the frost. I turned each one over
and they were all sky.
Is that always the hardest part to get right?
I look up to the real thing
and with my son in my arms I can’t tell
where one piece ends and the next begins.
Stewart Carswell is from the Forest of Dean and currently lives in Cambridgeshire. His poems have been published in Envoi, Ink Sweat & Tears, and The Fenland Reed. His debut pamphlet was Knots and Branches (Eyewear, 2016). http://stewartcarswell.wordpress.com Twitter: @stewcarswell
She used to wake on a Pokémon pillow,
uniform hooked on a shell pink drawer,
liked a laugh with her bestie at the bus stop.
Miles from school now.
A fingered Daily Mail in the foyer, centre-fold
her family- LIVE-IN-LUXURY SCROUNGERS.
No word of knickers in the sink half-dry,
Her pull-out bed.
In the street, cars sneer, next room’s TV growls.
Some days she dreams of cottage pie. Mum wraps
a blanket round the twins, hopes for news
they can go home.
The law stops them: contracts, courts, files.
She can’t tell Mum about the Mail.
A baked bean tin sits on a heater.
It will be warm by tea.
‘unpeople’ coined by John Pilger in Hidden Agendas
Helen’s poems sometime pop up in magazines. She was recently placed second in the Leeds Poetry Peace and Wakefield Sanctuary competitions, and highly commended in the Shelter Competition on the theme of Home. She spends too much time on facebook.
Those Pyjamas –
from Debenhams sale
with climbing roses
in soft grey
lie empty, folded,
not worn enough.
You seemed so
pleased with them.
That male nurse
named you ‘Model’–
stem-thin at 90
flowering all the way.
Helen Freeman loves reading and writing poems and has been published in several online sites such as Barren Magazine, Red River Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Clear Poetry, Algebra of Owls, Corbel Stone Press, Sukoon, Open Mouse and Ground Poetry. She lives in two polar opposite cities – Riyadh and Edinburgh.
after Vicki Feaver
we have been stirring the paint for some time
now we have the shade
whitewash darkened with a little blood
my most determined daughter chastises
the thirsty new plaster
twisting the hard brush into corners like a finger into a wound
whilst I follow with the smoothing roller
edging her thick more definite coat
“more blood” she says
circling the pot
I nod and we stir the pigment until we reach a new colour
I name Flesh
& she names Pig Headed Jasmine On A Stick
Gareth Writer-Davies is from Brecon, Wales. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017), the Erbacce Prize (2014) and Prole Laureate for 2017. Bodies published in 2015 by Indigo Dreams and Cry Baby in 2017. His collection The Lover’s Pinch (Arenig Press) was published June, 2018. He is a Hawthornden Fellow for 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.