Issue 8

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Photograph by Jane Burn

 

Edited by Grant Tabard

Hello damsels everywhere. Firstly, when Jane asked me to be the guest editor for issue eight it was a honour, not the type of Hollywood award ceremony honour but a real one as I’ve read with love The Fat Damsel since its inception. They, along with Three Drops From a Cauldron and The Blacklight Engine Room, to name but two, truly give a voice to all, whether experienced or unpublished. The work is all that matters. Editing this issuewas like collecting fragments from a meteor shower, valuable shards that could power cities, even the poems I haven’t chosen could be a barrier against the flood. The poems that I have chosen represent this diversity, they aren’t afraid to explore the dark of Lilith and the humanity of Eve, to quote the Resurgant Press manifesto. It gives me warmth to know that poetry is in a healthy state, despite what Newsnight and all that say.

Poets
have Aga fires
for hearts and a penny
on the chest of drawers for the
meter.

Thank you all so much.
Grant Tarbard, March 30th, 2016

 

 

Night Before an Operation

The bite of tension fed on my neck, grey
bagged tapestries deseed my packing­crate
eyes as I drank the hours medicine. My
pupils turned white without speech as I turned
into dust from clay and back again. In
the night ward Vermeer’s bulb has burnt out its
filament, no longer is the evening
painted with burnished light, pitch sleeplessness
swallowed a tattered jacket of black, of
congealed ash stuck to the back of the throat.
I use Egyptian blue ink to paint my
eyes shut, in my pyjama pocket folds
there’re a hundred painted idols that keep
guard over my clay until the next day.

By Grant Tabard

 

 

All His Summers Would Belong to Her
1952, outside a youth club in Havering Road, Romford. My grandfather met
my grandmother

The outside was bare,
an avalanche of nothing.
All the tress were scratched

out, all the houses
were skinless drums waiting to
be mended with hides.

On the altar of
dereliction, rapture has
a dress rehearsal,

he looks at her through
a fug of Frankie Lane and
Mario Lanza

and the outside was
suddenly Technicolor.
All his summers were

ripe for the picking.
Henceforth, all his young summers
would belong to her.

By Grant Tabard

 

 

Cycle lane

That Frenchwoman there would
have skinny-tyred this – in seconds;
her helmet thrust hard to the bars.

Those Lycra-cased thighs must
piston cellulite-free, hard butt pushed
up to sky. She’d sleek over tarmac, before being hit

by meadowsweet whiffed after rain.
In her whizz-by, she’d miss broom’s
black and green jewels, she’d

lose the pink
blossom on brambles. Small beads
on hawthorn, and foretells of rodden

would have passed without note
and the road brought alive
with jump fuckings of frogs

just

never happened.

By Beth McDonough

 

 

Dirty Bird

Far from the sea, an obnoxious gull wakes me
with its insidious caw. It has moved inland
for easier pickings – dirty bird, go shit
on someone else’s head. My hands brace
the bathroom sink – scabby piers, half immersed
in scum. A sagging chest spanned between,
suspension grown slack. When did I get so old?
The mirror is a taunt. No fairest-of-them-all
from my reflection, spotted with toothpaste,
like viewing myself through snow.

It has been a fortnight of slow dripping away.
I feel something, I feel nothing. Something,
nothing, nothing…..nothing. I want to sleep
the clock around and see if you are still
around when I eventually wake.

By Jane Burn

 

 

Number 63

I remember that house – the terrace where we shared a room. Us kids,
we used to love each other so much. Back before duvets – piles

of scratchy blankets, topped off with candlewick. Towels on windowsills
for condensation, us three in proper pyjamas, well buttoned up. Mother

downstairs banging pots. My dad kept a helm­wheel on the landing –
I used to sit cross­legged in my nightie, imagining you could steer a house.

Bridlington. I wanted to drive it there. I remember the seafront ­ a man had
a monkey dressed in knitted clothes. On our shoulders in the photograph,

it shows us hunched; hair all scissored off, pavilion behind. My dad always
dreamed of the sea, would endlessly watch for yachts. So many things that were

wrong then. Fag and a match for twenty pee – taking beans from that blokes allotment.
Holding my brothers while they cried. That poor animal. It must have been so afraid.

By Jane Burn

 

 

Power Down: Run­Time Error

Shutting down is the easiest option sometimes.
It is cheaper than drugs or a drink and
is less drastic than slicing at your
wrists. Sometimes silence is just needed to see if
you can make your brain stop pounding.
There comes this moment where you think splitting your
brainstem is the easiest way to achieve that,

but that option isn’t available so you
instead settle for sleep, the temporary sweet
bliss of ignoring the world for 8 hours, but
then the problem there is actually trying
to fall asleep; to quiet your anxiety riddled brain,
and manage to close your eyes and
not see a monster is impossible

and your system is used the daily sleeping pill
so nothing will actually help you. Meditation
becomes futile and crying does too so you
stay up until daylight and your eyes hurt.
Then in one single moment,
you feel a nagging urge so you
decide to pull the cover over your
head and finally you can rest your eyes.

By Angel Powell

 

 

Raw Edges

She touched the edge of sanity
rust laced her tongue
the metallic taste lingered
she stopped mid­sentence and left

He called her back
to the bright lights
of the living room

She left his gravel voice
and entered the star­cold night:
mist escaped her lungs
her feet strode to the car
keys whispered in her pocket
she’s an hour’s drive
deep in country dark

He followed her outside
flashing a torch
flashing her name
both swallowed by the greedy night
her ears turned deaf
his batteries fell flat

She couldn’t recall later
opening the car door
reversing down the drive
or having any notion
where to go

But she remembers
the clarity of light
behind her navel
a new taste in her mouth
the taste of truth
her truth

The taste of mountain water
blessed by sunshine
ice fall and bird call
and the vast wildness
of the Himalayas

By Bethany Rivers


 

 

Dreality

Dreality, the intertwining of dream and reality.
The translucent crossroads between subconscious and conscious.
In this state our memories may be different
Yet we know not, as all seems consistent.

At the time of his coma ‘Will’ was in the hospital.
When he awoke, he inquired “where’s my yellow convertible?
You know the one I just won in that word game,
I parked it over­there, down the lane.”
In those three weeks of stillness, an alternative life had been lived,
Consisting of: daring stunts; numerous affairs and no­longer deceased
relatives.

The recall of these things is vivid, with heightened senses, perfect sight.
Deborah explained sounding timid, “I can’t remember my dreams from each
night.
But this transcendence was the time of my life!
Such ventures with great people stay rooted in my mind.
Though I’m told none was true; I saw with my third eye.”

The title of ‘Dreality’ is simple to see. It’s ‘reality’ with a big ‘D.’
Compromising the first four letters of ‘dream.’
It fits nicely for the purposes of rhyme, but touches on a subject most
sublime.
It hits to the core of how we’re wired, generating lucid thoughts from a brain
that’s tired.
Some of bliss; some of trouble; or being on the ‘other side’
via the cosmic tunnel of pure white light.

So what to believe, is ‘this’ real or just a dream; or somewhere in­between?
Descartes pondered the same; it helped to gain him fame.
However, we can’t know either way, so whilst I still am sane,
in asking this I shall refrain!

By Mark Smith

 

 

 

The Art of Walking Away

From your kitchen to your door
there are precisely twelve steps,
it takes less time from your bedroom,
though pace is a determining factor.

And each time is a new time.
I never mastered the latch on your gate,
not even that one last time
when I saw buttercups at the cracked stone of your doorstep
fallen apples define the endless green of the grass at your windows
and as you spoke your careful words,
a squirrel on your garden wall,
on his way home I thought.
I heard songbirds colour your bathroom,
spotted the packaging in your bin of your last ready meal,
the earthy promise of garlic and basil’s scent, long gone.
your tobacco sofa, bought on a slow Sunday
where I should or would sit, and sing to you sometimes,
now gaping and still crumpled from yesterday.
In this now your space, there are no guiding clocks
and we had abandoned music’s suggestive commentary
on how we were or could be to each other,
preferring neutral silence or the happy clappy presence of your TV.
Your cupboards are a periodic table I know by touch,
from here, I see that your white table candles are still not entirely spent,
the sellotape in your second drawer will always quietly sit me out,
the cheese in your fridge, that proud talisman, always offer consolation or
spice,
should I need it and in the unlikely event of you ever wanting it.

From your bedroom to your door there are eight steps
and from that other room of gentle light,
of easier direction to and fro,
there are only three.

By Annie Pia

 

 

 

Les Tulleries, Paris

Your approach to that white painted chair
which had something of Giacometti about it
in a Paris garden without grass..
backend of arty..
is a precise green and white,
mild and magnificent
as well as your words and your hair bow;
and as you order nougat glacé
gold rimmed and salon seasoned
you taste every word,
and together with your grandson or so I imagined,
you gather the soft fruit of your vowels
lightly tread the idioms of your native tongue
speak with measured rhythms
aged in the casks of birthright and Gaelic precision
and then the milk soft son
moves on.

By Annie Pia

 

 

Alfred’s Piano
for Rob

Employ this rule of thumb
on the sound quality of a piano recording:
give it five minutes and step
into hallway or kitchen –
the impression of a grand piano
worked expertly in the living room,
a world­class soloist playing
to an audience of one, is the proof

audiophiles can take to the bank,
collectors count on as collateral –
a guarantee of something definitive,
a performance for the ages. For example,
any of the hundred­and­fourteen CDs
in this Alfred Brendel box set: his
complete recordings on the Philips label.
Start with disc one. Months, years

of enlightened listening are yours.
But be prepared for the ubiquity
of Alfred’s piano. Be prepared for it
to stalk or ambush you, to squeeze
itself into the smallest rooms
or cupboards, rearrange its dimensions
to the fit the back seat of your car;
be prepared for it to take up residence

everywhere. Be prepared for high art.

By Neil Fulwood

 

 

 

Ninja Sloth

His lack of movement goes beyond zen;
there are boulders, slabs of granite,
petrified forests that envy him.

This is taut­nerve stillness
of an intensity that is frightening.
He has become one with the branch;

his blood moves like sap,
but slower. This is the end point
of decades of training. This is iron disciple

personified. This is ninja sloth
and you could turn your back on him
and not realise. You could walk away, live

your life and five generations
of your bloodline blow away like dust

before he strikes. Assuming he can be bothered.

By Neil Fulwood

 

 

Tenth Floor Going Down

They are a people who do not speak smiles
understanding does not even stretch to nods
We stand in the lift divided by their disinterest
a chasm of apathy
they stare straight ahead
in case eye contact lashes out
hits them in their furrowed anxious brow

They could inhabit this empty universe
live cruel lonely decades excommunicated
cut off from all human contact
adrift on an island of disconnect
like a colony of monks
sworn to a vow of silence
passing as ghostly ships blown off course

But I open my filthy mouth and speak
greet them like a blow to the face
utter inane human mutterings
force reluctant response
torn out of them
like shrapnel from a wound
start them swearing syllables

Until we realise we have had an
exchange of flaccid begrudging
metaphors and clichés
have broken the vow
set sail on a new course
perhaps colonised an archipelago
begun a new species Darwin­style

By Pat Edwards

 

 

 

Burial For A Bumblebee

awakened from hibernation
On the path, beside the house, I see her;
crawling like a broken clockwork-toy.

Hours later, she’s still there
not moving but moving.

I buy a box of matches, discard the contents,
scoop her tiny, velvet body into the cardboard casket
and place it on the mantelpiece
along with other knickknacks.

That night a cortege of black beetles and a train of
ants comes to carry the coffin away.

Earthworms have dug a fitting grave. Moths hover
above the procession lit by firefly lanterns.
Earwigs, woodlice and ladybirds form an aisle.

As a mark of respect, the wasps have sent a delegation.
They stand back from the ceremony bowing their heads.

A ministerial spider presides over the proceedings.
Whilst a butterfly choir sings ‘The Invertebrate Prayer’
it lowers the sarcophagus into the ground
on a self­spun thread.

The matchbox remains
still on the bric­a­brac shelf.

By Richard Biddle

 

 

The Growing Of A Witch

For a long time, I was not a remarkable person.
The change came slowly; I could hardly see it ­

with my weak eyes – at first, though I
heard a beating of the air

with smothery things like wings.
Then it got in my throat. The feathers

brushed my tongue when I tried to speak,
they sieved my dinner. Veins rose

in my hands. The skin grew thin and milky.
Old scars tunnelled like maggots. I grew

an owl’s bill. After that, I broke the mirrors.
The splinters were water, sploshing

light like paint up the walls, gemming the floor.
I took in an imp, feeding her like the pelican

must feed its brood, on blood.
It was not my intention

to cause alarm. My herbs, my hexes,
were never left on your doorstep.

I never wanted to hurt you. I thought you knew
that. Your chains, your irons, your fires say otherwise.

By Kitty Coles

 

 

 

Cry

When I put the lid on the glass jar,
the plastic of its seal still
wet from washing, it emits
a high, sharp whine, like the sound
my mother makes, pressing
her fingers to her lips,
to mimic a rabbit’s cry
at the moment of death
and because it’s one
of those days when tears
are pressing incessantly at
the back of my eyes and my hands
shiver, mimicking my heartbeat,
I stop and cry,
considering pain inheres
in the inanimate,
as well as life.

By Kitty Coles

 

 

Eve

It began when they were young,
with skin firm as Pippins, flesh
creamy and yielding. She felt it first;
a longing turning to addiction,
the pull of womb on nipples,
prick of desire, sharp as cider.

She gave him her summers; golden days,
delicious afternoons melting into dusk.
He moved under her, dissolving
into her, his seeds scattering on her bed
with its apple wood frame and sheets
as thin as her marriage vows.

Because promises are difficult to keep
when there’s nothing else to do but be a wife.
At night she lay in a stifling embrace
and closed her body on serpentine fingers
that found their way in. She woke
to an apathy that lasted till the first bite.

But fermented love grows mould.
His worship of her soured, deceit
of the forbidden turned lust to mush,
with every fall. Her breasts, once ripe
and full, grew wizened like forgotten fruit,
her mouth bruised and purple.

Now she takes her drug in liquid form,
pressed apples tasting of the summers
spent cultivating devotion. Oozing
into her bed, her bloated body desires
nothing now but to drink, craving the high
it gives her, sick from the aftertaste.

By Gill Lambert

 

 

Keep Moving

Casting off, out into the open.
Amongst those dauntless dames.
Fire spreading as I sail.
Blistering fingertips with every touch
in searing flames.
Push onward and forward. Keep moving. Don’t stop.

Instinct is lying. Water boils around the vessel.
Dirt stick. clogs in every vein.
I am feverish, distorted
No one sees I am in pain.
March little and often. Keep moving. Don’t stop.

I am grasping but slipping.
Don’t look down, down below.
The burden is deep and self taught.
It will creep and curse and drag
me underneath its barbed row.
Keep moving, step forward, once more. Don’t stop.

The fire is growing but it lives within me
It consumes and destroys, tearing down my self
until I look to see my reflection has changed.
With all the steps, taken with resistance
I was still moving after all.

By Danielle Pegg

 

 

Fifty Two Hours

Two dawns and one night have burned
through her favourite blackbird melody, book-­ending the light.
Her children keep watch. Abide with me, she would sing. The room is the
world.
Her breath has them clinging to a living tightrope.
Her breath has them squeeze her hand, whisper, climb into her agitation.
Her breath shudders like wheels hitting ruts or mistimed taps on piano keys.
She gasps through morphine. Lead has entered their veins.
Her heart stutters, from pelvis to lungs, engulfed by a plug of blood.
An imposter, Red pools in stagnant lagoons, ram­rods kidneys, liver, gut and
bowel.
It’s trouble. At the organs’ boundaries it deports oxygen and gathers.

They wait.
Four walls, cups of cold tea, greasy redundant pizza.
A garnish of sweat and grit.

And her breath leaves. Their heads crack open.
A meteor streaks through that moment.
The wobble­impact of is she gone. A crater in their knowing,
There’s a shift.
More than one shift.

The quilt’s moss­-stained stitches never dim, nor her green-­grey eyes.

By Maggie Mackay

 

 

The Shadow Wife

I have dressed today in dark matter,
draped and white faced, clownish in my sober weeds.
This hat is vintage, deeply felt, its veil of tears implied in netted fretwork.

Behind the tribute queue I linger,
silent until someone breaks rank and speaks to me.
A few offer hugs of consolation, I say thanks, but have no rights.

All is forgiven in death, I’ve learned.
I mourn you now, although in life I didn’t miss you.
Your bones, now ash, will be interred in another street to mine
divided in the niceties of heaven’s suburbia.
Your new wife has shaped your life in death, recast your story.
I hold offcuts, memories of the years we grappled, hard pulled freedom, rusty
nails.

By Pauline Sewards

 

 

A loser called February

I know how to die February
You don’t have to stage the sequence
With dead leaves exposed on the lanes
Walked and crushed
The trees spread out
Like they are suffering
Gasping for breath
Mouths wide open
Autumn the ass

Don’t show me how to die
You sucker
You don’t even have a season to be proud of
You are nothing but
Wind and loads of dust
Neither the cosy winter
Nor the sweaty summer
Deserving the abuse of the commoners

I am a survivor February
This being the month of my anniversary
And I am on my 15th
You worry about yourself
My celebration is your only reason

By Poornima Laxmeshwar

 

 

The Bastards

They tried to stop me by saying I was too young and ignorant
They tried to stop me with you’re too old
They tried to stop me by saying I was at that age
They tried to stop me by giving me too much homework
They tried to stop me because I was doing it all wrong
They tried to stop me by asking me to make all the beds
They tried to stop me by saying people like me couldn’t
They tried to stop me by letting me then stopping me
They tried to stop me by hanging me upside down by my toes
They tried to stop me by making me watch Disney films until I was sick
They tried to stop me by forcing me outside and saying I didn’t live there now
They tried to stop me by giving me dolly mixtures and Smarties
They tried to stop me by changing my name
They tried to stop me by locking me out of the library
They tried to stop me by pretending to show me how
They tried to stop me with go on then show us how it’s done
They tried to stop me by unravelling my knitting and giving the yarn to Oxfam
They tried to stop me by exorcising the house
They tried to stop me by giving me praise for doing what they wanted
They tried to stop me by tracing a finger on my mantelpiece and showing me
the dirt
They tried to stop me by sending me to the shop on a message
They tried to stop me by going la la la when I talked
They tried to stop me by burying me in a pit and saying I was a bear
They tried to stop me until they ran out of ideas and held a meeting
They tried to stop me by dropping me down the agenda
but only half way down so I would know my place
They tried to stop me by binding me with silver, driving a stake through my
heart

By Angela Topping

 

 

Studying the Travel Question

Travel can be dangerous and adventurous

declares the question we discuss
in A level classes. You’re not kidding.

Today, I risked my life, driving through
February snow, still falling, deadly white
on motorway and screen.

Fields and trees of enticing loveliness
tempted me to stop, park the car, set out
in work suit and unsuitable shoes.

Robert Frost spoke in my mind, dark and deep.
One day there will be no promises to keep.

By Angela Topping

 

 

Unwrapped

Nefertiti initiates her kindle
On Lady Chatterley’s swollen desires.
Gawking at a knowledge thirsty bohemian’s
Battle­cries which father
Impotence in men.
She knocks knees at the tumbling
A gamekeeper obliges
To the shrivel of upper­crust life.

By Christopher Barnes

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