Artwork by Susan Castillo
Edited by Kirsten Luckins
Cut grass scent
Rising from hidden municipal lawns,
Violins tuning high
Over the chuntering
Bonnets of black Hackney cabs,
Pungent, gridlocked timpani.
Cantilevered streets flourish
Rowans from their top hats,
Rapid drumroll berries
Splatter hot pavements.
Tantrum black sky bassooning
Over Kings Cross.
Footfall, rainfall, freefall.
The head behind your head
Recalls days like
This day, this
Open stringed cacophony, same, same
Old orchestra pit.
By Kirsten Luckins
The hoop of night rolls out like turf across a humid field.
Downtown the wolf in sackcloth lopes,
devours graffiti on the bridge.
Across such lanes the pilgrims crept as penitents in grief.
They’d claw their way to paradise,
with gongs and drums bash out their faith.
In Sainsbury’s now the walls are bright with oranges and greens.
Beneath the asphalt in the car park
dust in a plague pit stirs.
A wild swan dies of pestilence, somewhere
a rattle shakes. The wolf in sackcloth curls and creeps
around a withered street.
Long deserted villages still testify to loss.
With tambourines the burger kings
take up their ancient dance.
By Mandy Pannett
Weirdly Localised Patch of Fog
Spring’s better temperatures fall
under evenings chill spell, causing
cardigan-shouldering shivers, brisk
arm rubbing. This grim, weirdly localised
patch of fog has settled in a dusky valley,
dipped between the grassy meet of two
lovingly adjoining, sloped fields.
Imperceptibly, its nucleus leeches out,
grey tendrils shifting cunningly over
the plough – spooking, oppressive, cold.
A phantom’s gathering – death nymphs
loosed, smoky, wafting, seeping.
A dusty, moth-eaten bridal veil cast over
jilted ground – ashes vacating the lungs
of an Earth giant, exhumed
By Jane Burn
The thing that is strong is the flesh
in tones of rusted earth and sumac-red
A dark stain of sternum means shield
She’s a muddle of legs, like a horse
In tones of rusted earth and sumac-red
though the core of her is clear
on a muddle of legs, like a horse
her bones are hollow and unstable
Yes, the core of her is clear
yet the ink betrays a frailer majesty
Her bones are hollow and unstable
she wears them on the outside
The ink betrays a frailer majesty
her hair is a sketch of barbed wire
She wears secrets on the outside
if you blink she’ll turn away
Her hair is a sketch of barbed wire
she is a shadow of herself
If you blink she’ll turn towards, away
like a flicker-book girl
She is a shadow of herself
Her darkly stained sternum means shield
She looks like a flicker-book girl
The thing that is strong is the flesh
By Beth Somerford
You must have heard her breath hitch
when you scraped your fingernails
along the sharp dip of her hip. Do you
remember the twitch of her pelvis
when you buried your tongue in
the chamber of her ear? Tell me
that you did not limit your lips to hers.
Tell me that you were a traveling
mapmaker, that you filled in all
of the empty spaces with geography.
I have to know that you cared enough
to look for landmarks. Tell me that
you inhaled the scent of bitter citrus
at the base of her neck, that you held
that scent like a safety blanket the day
you went for your driver’s license.
Tell me, did she kiss with teeth?
It’s okay, you can be honest with me.
I know already that her nipples
are coffee-brown and wide. I know.
I know, I know, I know you know
the hard thrust of hands beneath
waistbands, fingers beneath jeans.
I know you knew how to touch her,
instinctively, the way my mouth
knows the mouth of a bottle, that
hunger. I know I never figured out
how to touch her like I hadn’t
studied for it.
Tell me that you didn’t notice
the thick white pads of her palms,
the startling deep of her voice, all
gardens after rain. Tell me that you
do not know her favourite songs,
the purr of her first cat, how much
she hates her mother. Tell me that
she never gave you a nickname,
that those screenshots of love poetry
By Rachel Schmieder-Gropen