With poems from
Anders Carlson-Wee, John Grey, Robert Beveridge, Mohamad Kebbewar, Pauline Rowe, Holly Day, Mark Mayes, Maya Horton, Matt Duggan, Cilola Magdalena, Grant Tarbard, Hannah Stone, Finola Scott, Lucy A. Snyder, Mat Riches, Megan Pattie, Rex Emerson Jackson, Mark Farley, Edilson Afonso Ferreira, Neil Fulwood & Jennie Owen.
A word from editor, Louise
What riches are here; it is my pleasure to invite you into another world of wild wire-walking, sometimes with an umbrella and a bow, sometimes unguarded, impetuous, but always beautifully formed. Here’s a cheer for the poets whose work you see before you: welcome to Poems to Survive in, 11, phase 2! Mind how you go…
My brother hits me hard with a stick
so I whip a choke-chain
across his face. We’re playing
a game called Dynamite
where everything you throw
is a stick of dynamite,
unless it’s pine. Pine sticks
are rifles and pinecones are grenades,
but everything else is dynamite.
I run down the driveway
and back behind the garage
where we keep the leopard frogs
in buckets of water
with logs and rock islands.
When he comes around the corner
the blood is pouring
out of his nose and down his neck
and he has a hammer in his hand.
I pick up his favorite frog
and say If you come any closer
I’ll squeeze. He tells me I won’t.
He starts coming closer.
I say a hammer isn’t dynamite.
He reminds me that everything is dynamite.
TO A COP FOUND HANGING
When the fire spoke, it was in the language of a crackling toy train,
not a small boy. His toy train crackled. The caboose exploded,
bits of metal flying everywhere. I held a hot sliver in my hand
when it occurred to me. I don’t speak burning metal.
The ashes couldn’t tell me anything but that’s ashes all over.
Couldn’t find the corpse, but by the sound of
the blood’s conversation, I could tell that
the witnesses were lying to me – it wasn’t some tart
but delicate, demure, pursed lips, a nose, a freckle –
a young woman surely – DNA lifted its skirts
to reveal a long, lithe brown leg.
But despite the bludgeoning he gave her, she didn’t know
the guy. Then she dried into a stain and said no more.
Guys had to dig and dig just to get
a word out of those basement bones.
Mostly, it was me putting words into their mouths –
we take the blame, we were foolish, we thought he was a kind man
I tap-tapped on the skull for good measure. No tap-tap back.
Skulls are useless with Morse code.
My problem is I figure victims want nothing more
than to set their stories straight.
But rope scars look up at me with such a puzzled look.
A hanging? This neck? That ceiling beam? You’re joking, right?
I’ve placed a severed human finger to my ear just like a shell –
nothing – likewise, the dismembered leg and the liver
that came gift-wrapped.
Talk to a body encased inside a cement block –
you may as well be talking to a cement block.
Friends tell me maybe I should hang out with the living for a while.
I can see through them. They just want to know who did this to me.
did you dream
when you went out that night
that someone would wait
******along the road
******or in the back of your car
and ask you poking
a gun in your side
I wish you were here.
Silence for Oil
Death by Improvisation
Eastern Aleppo is levelled
Smoke screens and corporate greed.
Bombs fall on Aleppo
like fireworks on a national celebration.
I had never seen a bomb with pink smoke
like a jelly fish releasing its ink
The sound of buildings collapsing
like a truck unloading gravel stones
Children are lost beneath the rubble
Memories and lives rise in whiff of smoke
The newspaper does not report the war
They say the war has been going on
for too long
People are bored
A doctor slices tissue from my tongue
releases rising rifts of shaken sound
defies the broken skin to leave me bound
up, silent, touched; he keeps the cords of song:
dumb-struck ventriloquized ageusiac,
I pray my body’s grace will seal the wound
for benedictions from St Blaise, confound
the fix from Astra Zeneca and Roche.
Raw wool against my spit
*********************stopped every noun.
A week of artful deaths, reprieve and sorrow
“Have you come to kill us?” – words I borrow
though not yet cleansed of love, nor speech nor sound,
unsure which portion cast me from the fold –
the biter, top, the tip, its pull or hold.
Suddenly, I know what is in the package. It’s
another piece of child, sent to drive me crazy. The package
is just the right size to hold either
a bunch of little bits
or one big piece, a torso, perhaps,
a well-cushioned head.
I gently pick the package up and put it
in the spare bedroom with the rest of the packages
the tiny finger-sized boxes
the still-sealed shoeboxes concealing bare, uncalloused feet
The rest of the mail sits waiting to be sorted through
I flip through pizza coupons, form invitations
to local beheadings, a flyer advertising the opening
of a new Baptist church in my neighborhood.
At the very bottom of the stack is a large manila envelope,
thick with paperwork. I open it, curiously, not
recognizing the handwriting, and watch in confusion
as photographs of people I don’t know
pour out onto the floor.
Don’t go anywhere.
Sit on chair.
Eat sweet something.
Let all come to you
via screen and speaker.
Dear exemplary listener,
Don’t say anything.
S’all been said
by the qualified.
Let yourself smile,
laugh, if you’ve a mind.
Bodies wear out.
We see this.
You are for a land of light
where shadows scare themselves.
Hermes Under Autumn Stars
Stars reflect upon the mist-pool. Rigel, Deneb, Betelgeuse.
Beneath the Milky Way, a rush of Sitka silhouettes.
A structure floats upon the water. Alien installation.
Glowing. Months from now, it will be encased in ice.
There’s a coal bunker in the store room. You
are warming up soup, and I am hovering, feebly.
Cracking stupid jokes. Desperate for your attention.
Months from now, I’ll be standing under Capella,
facing the Northlands with my back to your skyglow,
temporarily forgetting to feel anxious and helpless.
This is Not a Self- Confessional Love Poem on the Juvenile Yearnings of the Heart
inside the foot of a children’s slide
in daylight a chalk window
fades into black cement;
a swerving ruin where bluebells grow
on passenger seats like pin cushions
flowering in spring.
She walked the cycle path
where the rainbow turned left –
tenderness folded on young cheeks
when telephone boxes had queues
pockets lined with a fifty pence piece
we were all drunken clowns
seeking that kiss like a stumbling giraffe.
chips at the Hing- Kee Fish Bar.
Kissing in the quarry after midnight
HOFMEISTER HEDGEHOPPING AMYL NITRATE LOVE BITES;
If my heart beat rushed a thousand beats
when looking into the eyes of my first love
would my heart beat as fast again?
could those memories long estranged suddenly reappear in my sleep,
I, lost in her eyes then – remembered her;
How might I feel to see her once again?
when spring is the season
that brings her sickness back to me
Where the sound of metals scraping together
echoed her voice again where she kissed me and I couldn’t move
paused with the softest touch close to the deep blue school railings;
where voices from the chocolate factory disappeared .
my body bears
indigo fruit ripe for picking.
the dip of my navel covered in stitches,
doused in sugar water.
my loving is sweet,
thick treacle on the
pink of your tongue.
clinging to the corners of your gums.
this wound is not made
lash brandy puddles
at the crook of my elbow.
for here lies only the scent of
myrrh and sour milk.
I know you well, we passed on the stairs,
you held the mirror whist I shaved my hair.
Didn’t we sing on the shore at dawn?
You bathed me in our gospel liaison.
The pier lights witnessed our public vulgarity,
flowers were handed over with celerity.
We fumbled on your parents’ floor
long before it became a chore,
long before my concussion of pills.
Let the late hours let go, forget the bills
kiss me before words move, I’ll do a strip
white flesh escapes through stiff fingertips.
Halfway up the hillside I paused
to catch a second wind.
Evening light and brisk gusts
tumble down the moorside.
A beep punctuates the coloratura of curlews,
who ride the hillside’s swaying rushes.
Your text tells me you’ll never own your breath again.
Perverse physiology, that expanding air sacs
are causing your lungs to close like a fist;
it’s punching below the belt.
You’re fucked, my friend,
though I doubt the docs would put it quite like that,
nor would you want to hear it, anyway,
as you bend to share your toddler’s latest inspiration.
The washbowl’s been moved again.
Beside the kettle’s plug, soap dribbles.
I reach to shut the window, open
on dreich summer. Leave it Mum.
This place needs air.
My son fills the kitchen, dreads
I wonder if he’s cooked enough,
wonder if there’s anything left
in the fridge, wonder how long
I note the scuff marks on my new lino.
Then a tune reels out
of the radio.
**he’s on his feet
************roon an roon.
In November I did my duty,
went off to see the dentist
expecting the status quo:
my teeth would need a cleaning
but they would be in order
just like all the years before.
Dr. Freiheit had bad news:
one of my hardworking molars
had cracked straight to the root,
lost its silver lining
and demanded a crown.
I was shocked. Dr. Freiheit said
others would have felt the pain
but my own nerve had failed
to alert me to the fracture
and I had surely swallowed
the toxic metal wad.
Suddenly nothing seemed well.
Was my body poisoned?
Were my nerves diseased?
Would this be the first
of many broken teeth
on the road to infirmity?
Dr. Freiheit raised her light
and smiled sympathetically,
told me that these things happen
and we’d deal with it systematically.
Lucy A. Snyder
Wiping My Dad’s Arse
You can’t touch your toes, or assume
a starting line position. You’re slack.
I don’t think you ever changed me,
but then again this is not about that.
The trick is to keep your arms
about my neck to not lose our heads.
A partial dance to rotate, then
get palms flat, before anything is said.
How I long for you to be telling me a story –
something I don’t know from your past.
A misdemeanour, indiscretion, shaggy-dog tale;
anything to raise even half of half a laugh.
This business is over, despatched and done.
We’ve achieved what we had to do.
There has to be an easier way to do this.
That’s it. I wash my hands of you.
I’ve been apologising for taking up space.
“Sorry,” I say, and squash myself into pretty
little crystals, twinkling, “Sorry, sorry…”
Silly. I am big and fleshy and irreducible.
I fill 5’3” of any container in which I am placed.
I take up seat space and street space.
So there’ll be no more apologies;
I intend to be at large.
People will know when I’m in a room,
call me invader of air, call me criminal
as I clear my throat of the dried up
sorrys, stick out my tongue, scratch
them away and stamp them into dust.
When I run and shout they’ll say that I
am lost, but I defy them: I’m right here,
laughing and waving and being.
Being swashbuckling and adventurous.
Being untouchable and incorrigible.
I’ll sign my name at the foot of all my deeds:
At large and not one bit sorry.
Out of Time
We reach down inside of ourselves
and pull out our skeletons.
Our hearts beat steadily and then slow.
when you live in hallways kept
sterile, squeaky clean
and the bed is not yours.
We are grinning bones
clattering gleefully around
while nurses chase us with
and feeding tubes.
The incessant tick
of a clock in every room
marking the hours,
that we are mortal
We just keep running away
We just keep running out of time.
Soon we will no longer recognize ourselves.
Rex Emerson Jackson
Listen with half an ear.
A blind man is coming
to stay with us. He lost
his wife and they found him
sitting beside the fridge,
opening and closing
the door, staring into
a light he could not see.
Dreaming a Home—Journey from Exile
Sometimes, one of us rises to the surface,
taking flight from the bottom of Dark Sea,
where, exiled, we have stayed for so long.
Defeated in old battles forgotten by time,
sentenced in absentia by a merciless court,
clearing debts of incautious ancestors.
Our vision accustomed to the shadows,
our body surviving with minimal breath.
When the one who adventures the climb
arrives on the shore and breathes full life,
he is abruptly sunk again by diligent guards,
those armed cherubim at Paradise Gate.
Has our penalty not yet lapsed?
Has not yet been paid the reparation of the beaten?
Would we endure light by the day of release?
Perhaps, then, with a pledge of the dark days of yore,
we may, sharing beloved Earth with the Almighty,
make a new light; friendly to human nature,
openhearted, unabrasive and compassionate.
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
i.m. Derrick Buttress
Your poems put in their ten or twelve hours
a day at the factory or in the sweatshop –
they milled and soldered, cut and stitched
and emerged with callused syllables,
the knuckles of their lineation red raw.
They knew the value of a keen eye
and a process executed at speed.
They knew the cost of minimum wage
and the banter of the underprivileged.
Your poems saved the best of themselves
for the knocking-off whistle,
scrubbing up well for an evening
at the dance hall or picture palace,
on the qui vive for the girl who’d transmute
Ava Gardner’s smoulder from the silver screen
to the streets of Broxtowe. Two cigarettes
lit from the same match, a pint
and a dry white wine from the last
of their change, her name coyly omitted
from their stanzas as they made their way,
your poems, casually back home
barely thinking of work tomorrow.
******************is postage stamp
******************size sometimes, a tiny light cube
******************in precarious blackness,
******************Today is howling
******************mouths, dark red shades pressing in
******************wetly shouting singularity. I am truly
*******************focussing on the stamp
******************,,,in the distance, I will it to
*******************a postcard, perhaps
*******************I can get word>
*****************************,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,< to you.