Teaching Hawthorne to High School Juniors – by Al Ortolani

 

The old trunk has casters.
A boy rolls it, squeaking
like a thousand bats,
down the hallway
so that he can turn its
flat top into a desk.
Sitting on the floor
to write is difficult
for some. Teachers
use the change in venue
to engage students.
That’s why she allows
the trunk, the boy,
the squeaking wheels,
to set her teeth
on edge, to give her
cold chills. Everyone
listens, unable to write
until the squeaking
stops. Hawthorne’s
black veil,
lifted only at death,
is on hold again,
the village returning
to itself
after years of waiting.

 

 

 

Al Ortolani’s newest collection of poems, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. His poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and New Letters. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has recently been featured on Writer’s Almanac.

One last cigar – by Robert Ford

 

I like to think I’ll smoke one more cigar before I go.
It won’t need to be some thick, ostentatious Cohiba,

just something slender, sweet, meaningful, cheap,
chasing the tail of a fractious day, a burnt-orange sun

aquaplaning into the water, a glass of rum, ice.
And you’ll be there, I expect, leading me astray,

like the knowing, older brother you should’ve been.
A ghost of bitter smoke will gather around my tongue,

factory-dry, and I’ll know that this is bad for me, which
in itself will feel better than anything good ever did.

 

 

 

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 Poetry, Homestead Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears. More of his work can be found here

Allotment – by Vivien Jones

 

I just have to see those rigs,
those bed-spread patches,
to see my mother sewing
fragments of grown-out-of clothes,
to make a summer skirt.

She laid the colours like plants,
like rows of summer blossom,
the cup of tulips, the tuck of roses,
the corduroy of new turned rigs,
I wore a garden in the sun.

While outside, my father
lined up wigwams for beans,
telling us wide-eyed children
they were magic, would grow
to the sky, where giants

might sing to a magic harp.
One by one, we lost belief
until there was only
the little red flowers,
the curling tendrils, the

fattening pods. Breathe in
and hide in the leafy tent,
runs a thumb down the seam,
pop the pods, catch the beans,
now that was magic.

 

 

 

Vivien Jones : Her first poetry collection – ‘About Time, Too’ (Indigo Dreams) published in 2010. In that year she also won the Poetry London Prize.  Her second poetry collection – ‘Short of Breath’ (Cultured Llama) published in 2014. She has two short story collections in print and  spoken word and drama pieces for performance. www.vivienjones.info

Action Man is 50 – by Duncan Chambers

 

He taught me how to skin a rabbit,
set a fracture, the elements
of Manichaean politics:
generals, ministers, your mates.
You trust your mates, he whispered
in the darkness, no matter what.

They booted him upstairs, of course,
into a shoe box with Minnie Mouse
and a broken fire engine. They said
his eyes were creepy, stabbed him
in the back with the word ‘doll’.
He was going to tell me soon

what it was like with a girl
and how he really got that scar.
Flat on my back in the top bunk
with my brother snoring and war
about to be declared downstairs,
I wondered again what a mate might be.

 

 

Duncan Chambers is a University researcher living in York and working in Sheffield. He has been writing poetry (with gaps) since the 1980s and has been published in various magazines including Ambit, The Rialto, Stand, The Interpreter’s House and The North.

 

Oldham: 1970 – by Marg Roberts

 

Saturday afternoon at the Watersheddings
wrapped in parka, woollen mittens
stout shoes and thick stockings,
I remember the click of the Boys and
Ladies’ turnstile, standing next to dad
though he was hundreds of miles away.

Play up, Owdham! We shouted hoarse.
Wind and rain buffeted booted bare legs
bums in mud shorts. Despair drowned in
half time Bovril, recollections of winning ways.
Fog never stopped play. Hookers and scrums
melted out of sight in swirling Pennine mists.

Among the echoes of Lowry streets and mills
just for a while the roar of hope was all.

 

 

Marg’s poetry has been published in several magazines including Orbis, Reach, Cannon’s Mouth, Message in a Bottle and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She was Warwick’s poet laureate 2009-10. Her novel, A Time for Peace, was published by Cinnamon Press in October 2016. You can read more of her work here.

Optical Illusions – by Vince Borg

 

In the darkened room the cloaked magician
holds a round glass in each hand.
He gently lowers them for the man to peer at
obscure symbols hanging in the cloudy distance.
A veil descends and covers an orb.
With a sly twist of the wrist
balls suddenly appear and disappear.
Red and green, circles playing in the light
coming in and out of view.
The magic continues in the gaze of disbelieving eyes.
Bright stars appear from nowhere,
puffs of wind, all moving on courses determined
by the seer’s wand, tricking the man to perceiving
the world as an optical illusion.
Finally, the man utters in dismay, as all is revealed.
‘F – C – U – K – M – E’,
reading for the first time the letters on the lowest line,
as the optician begins to write his prescription.

 

 

Vince is a retired Maths teacher. His family has lived in North Leeds and enjoyed the Yorkshire countryside for over 40 years. He performed in open-mic at Wicked Words in Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, for many years, and produced an unpublished anthology Running Down the Up One in 2012.

Rite of Passage – by Maggie Mackay

 

Girlie-girls, city-bred on the scheme, turn out,
suitcases past sell-by date, strapped with belts.
Kohl lines frame Cleopatra eyes,
allium spikes of spray-stiff hair quiver
slick with mousse, and then there’s the damson perm.
A wail of guttural nae way fills the bus.

Bedtime unravels. A cluster of smiles
shows off a photograph of a soldier,
tucked into a layer of grey-white undies,
the boyfriend, he’s braw, eh, Miss?

Alarm clocks rattle, sleepy-heads mumble,
what’s this, eh? where’s ma Coco Pops, eh?
Life jackets, canoes, Inuit style, slumber on the shore.
Water whooshes towards their feet. Eyes widen.

Nae way goes up the chant,
nae way at the very thought.

Loch Morar waits, glint under the widest blue.
Paddle hard, Atlantic bound,
never coming back. This is magic, Miss.

 

 

Maggie Mackay, a jazz and whisky loving Scot, has work in various print and online publications, including The Everyday Poet edited by Deborah Alma, Amaryllis, Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Fat Damsel, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, and The Poetry Shed.