Artwork by Jane Burn
Edited by Julie Hogg
Apologies for slight differences in lines – this site only allows a line of a certain length – therefore some lines run onto the one below. Thanks for your understanding.
As the late summer thwack of a ball on tarmac
Makes me look up and around this little park
Through wind tussled leaves, clover, daisies
The familiar clank of chains from the swings
With bursts of laughter, sudden blasts of anger
Snatches of voices of the living on the paths
Pushing buggies and trailing sniffing dogs,
And of the dead in the soil beneath their feet –
The hoi palloi and those in the cholera plot,
I see it all, as if all the gravestones still stood,
A distant memory drawn from my childhood
When we’d wander through to the ABC club
On Saturday mornings to watch Captain Marvel
Yell ‘Shazam,’ Flash Gordon, The Double Deckers
And cheer on Jonny Weissmuller playing Tarzan.
These winding paths map Rosicrucian maze
For lost souls to navigate through migrant nights
In this town of clashing tongues – a sanctuary
Of sorts, far removed from any place of power
Where we all washed up on a promise of sommat
Better, like pine cones beneath a monkey puzzle,
Learning the grace and patience of the endless
Sleepers among the roots of these imported trees.
‘You are a sick mother fucker, a morbid bastard!’
Said a friend I’d never met, before he blocked me
Last night on Facebook, disturbed by the shameful
Image I’d shared of a young girl floating in the Med,
One more ‘migrant’ death, who didn’t make it here
To kick a ball or pick pine cones for her window sill.
By Bob Beagrie
Did you feel like the hero,
as perceived in the press?
Were you proud of your uniform,
as you marched through the city?
Were you a protector, a warrior,
proud to be at your country’s defence?
Were you brave and fearless and strong?
Not when I saw the bodies piled high,
for the sake of race or religion.
Not when we uncovered mass burial sites,
of mutilated women and children.
Not when I saw the cities in ruin,
and the towns burnt down to the ground.
Not when I saw the civilian dead,
blown up by a bomb meant for us.
Not when my friends lost most of their limbs,
from an improvised explosive device.
Not when my buddy took a round to the head,
and I witnessed the life leave his eyes.
Not when I was followed all the way home,
by the ghosts of the injured and dead.
Not when I hide away in the house,
because I’m frightened
of what’s waiting outside.
Not when I’m scared to fall asleep,
because they are there
in my nightmares as well.
Not when the memories
and flashbacks and dreams,
turn my home into a prison cell.
Not when I frighten,
my wife or my kids,
because I’ve got no one to tell,
about the bombs or the bodies,
the death or the war,
that turned my life,
into a living hell.
By Simon Green
Dad told me
When I was your age I used to make boats.
He got a bit of wood one day
Said this will do to carve the hull
But then we never got round to it.
One rainy day I put it in the vice like
I’d seen him do and took a chisel
And carved the hull by hitting
The handle with his hammer.
When he saw it he yelled at me
For the dent in the handle
Of his best chisel but was relieved
I had sharpened its blade properly
Afterwards on the oil stone.
Calmer, he said this is a good start
We can do something with this.
I imagined somehow we’d finish it
Make a battleship or a luxury yacht
Then sail it on Albert Park pond.
Long days on the road selling,
Nights down the legion playing housie,
Frustrations filling out paperwork;
Not so easy with dyslexia
But better than his old job in the works,
Meetings he hated where he had
To read out reports and the sudden
Threat of redundancy as bad times
Hit every industry in the region
Put paid to all dreams of shipbuilding.
New Romantics on Top of the Pops
Wore frilly collars singing about
Stuff that had nowt to do with me
By the time I found the unfinished hull
And tied my old action man to it
To shoot him to pieces before
Setting it all on fire
The ship went down and the band
That played for me was The Smiths
What difference does it make?
By Andy Willoughby
trying not to hear
the dark wind grabs me by the hair
it’s getting cold
just outside the glow of a golden street lamp
on a leafless tree
hundreds of tiny hanged men
left over from autumn festivals
are dangling from the branches
like hearts of the church bells
they’re beating unwittingly
to some unwanted music
I’m trying not to hear
the swish of velvet bars
that bend obediently as I walk
stretched taut between
why can’t I see my face
all these unearthly reflections
I see yours instead
the mouth, the nose, eye sockets
a silver mask
flickering on the iron curtain between now and then
what am I
trying not to hear
By Renata Connors
An omniscient curse has stalked me this turbulent decade,
Dripped gastric acid into the cosmic scales and forever tipped the balance out of my
Gnarled limbs have thrown me into the abyss, thrust the drill into my gut and made
me an invalid.
An unblinking red mass, I lunge from pane to pane in a frenzied, perspiring panic.
This amorphous malice, this scheming villain of a thousand different guises;
It bleaches my skin, bloats my stomach and rubs glass into my exposed nerve endings.
Like Gray, I dissolve solitary into invisible monstrousness.
And when in fitful death I thrash naked upon vast granite slabs,
Titan cliffs will beckon me into the godless fathoms of swirling carbon monoxide and
piercing solar flares beneath.
Stay and feast, unfortunate wreck. Wash up a sad, expired slob atop a mass of fetid
Anything but the raw, puffy lids, throbbing temples and shredded corneas.
By Christie-Luke Jones
Goodbye my friend, my ally,
my bitterest of bitter enemies.
We’ve reached the final parting of the ways now
on a cold, wet April day.
I’d like to thank you for all you’ve done,
but I’m moving away from you while I still have something.
The road ahead is dark, but I’m going blind using you to see.
Monday 30th of April 2012
By P.A Morbid
From gorged on light (Red Squirrel Press, 2015)
Because selective serotonin
rests on your tongue
like analgesia’s brother.
the scales of the body,
not the soul.
like a fractured jaw
or fluid on the lungs.
Because genetic predisposition
is like Brighton rock,
written all the way
through me, into every cell,
a baton I’ll pass to
my daughter, my son.
By David O’Hanlon
From art brut (V. Press, 2015)
A dry, incessant thing lodged
in the back of the throat
like a small feather. The night air
ruffles it – the drop
in temperature. The sharp
sluice of cold beer coaxes
its morse code. White wine
is a shovel boot-driven
into sand or gravel. Talking
is an assault course
designed to trip you mid-sentence.
Each cough is a social faux pas.
Each cough is a poor excuse.
Each cough is the bad weather
on the day you didn’t vote.
Each cough is a colleague
muttering that you’re well enough
to come in. Each cough
is someone who nods and agrees.
Each cough is a search string
on an NHS website.
Each cough is over the counter.
Each cough is I told you so.
Each cough denies an aunt’s remedy.
Each cough offers you a cigarette.
Each cough hankers for popcorn
and a packed cinema it can disturb.
By Neil Fulwood
Shake off the night’s
tear yesterday from the wall
tilt your mind
towards the newly minted sun
risen like a giant florin
to the blackbird’s coloratura
dew damp grass
the bakers across the street
at work for hours
with their fired ovens
floury rituals old as Genesis
yourself with strong coffee
then open your door and board
the up and running day
to take you anywhere
By Stephen Bone
The Reluctant Runner
Ages – all of this Sunday morning – I have monitored the sky for signs that the rain is putting its hat on. So hard to predict, as the clouds pop in and out, in inverse relation to my dashes towards the bright blue running shoes paired in the hall. These shoes have barely run, yet. But they have walked the required distance more times than I could ever have predicted.
I head out. I lock up. I like the feel of blue on my feet. The weightlessness of memory foam soles, lifting me down suburban streets to the beach which is the beach by which I set my compass. The only real beach. The sea is swollen: a pregnant, salinated cyst. The tide is at the halfway mark. I think it is ebbing.
I have plotted my route on a virtual map of my childhood. If I stick to the programme,
I should make it to my promise to my daughter. The soft sand tugs on my heels as I
pass the dunes where I used to go with my boyfriend to practise kissing. Up the steep cinder path where I used to walk my dog, which was not this one. The hours I spent on foot, then, without being chivvied or sponsored. Not realising I was clearing my head. Just doing it.
We hit the streets on the clifftop, now. The pavement is unyielding. I keep the sea on my right – to the east – and head for home. North. The same way I walked to school, in the morning, ages ago. Back again, at night, via alleys connecting cul-de-sacs, just to keep life interesting.
At the end of my road, the rain puts on its wellies and mackintosh and sou’wester. I
used to fancy a sou’wester, yellow, like warming sunshine. Or like a lighthouse lamp
which would keep me safe from storms like the children in story books. Yet now I
am in no rush to keep dry. My pace is steady. My feet break the bright blue surface
tension. The rain works through my hair to wet my scalp and it is exactly the right
By Helen Victoria Anderson
At the Piano
Beautiful her voice carries
over the ripple of his accompaniment
There she stands, her face attentive
her arms lightly on the piano. She sings
of another daughter
who, secluded in her spinning room
combs his wool
while he brushes hers
the spindle now turns inside her
she will dye her thread
in a sun-shy corner. Those words
lift the hands and foot
that supported her voice
sustained her body
those words foreshadow
Their company will part
By Petra Vergunst
My father gave me a Delmonta
twin lens reflex. A German camera
from the Fifties.
Everything’s murky on the ground glass
and moving in the opposite direction
to what you’d expect.
My new mother loves the camera
and it loves her back. She holds baking
straight from the oven under its nose;
laughs for it when she’s drinking
and smoking; blows it kisses; parades
each new dress for it; closes her
beautiful mascara eyes and sleeps
for it. I conjure her in the darkroom,
wash away the silver, fix her, make her permanent.
By Martin Figura