Open Submissions poetry 2 — summer 2022

“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still”
Sylvia Plath

From 16 July until 30 September 2022, we feature our second open submissions window. Submission is free, and selected poems are published as text, and as an audio recording if one is submitted.

Details of our second Open Submissions Window are here.

Thank you to all who have submitted, making the selection process so challenging and interesting.

Poets selected for publication in Open Submissions 2:

Abigail Ottley, Angela Arnold, Anpa Marndi, Bridgette James, Dominic James, Emma Grayaudio symbol 2, Frank William Finney, Iris Anne Lewis, Jodie Duffy, K. Zopa Phuntsok, Kate Copeland, Larry Wingeraudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Nicky Whitfield Philip Burton, Pitambar Naik, Rodney Wood audio symbol 2 audio symbol 2 , Simone Mansell Broome, Wendy Webb  audio symbol 2 audio symbol 2 audio symbol 2

audio symbol 2 indicates one audio of a poem read by the poet.

Wendy Webb, prolific poet, experimenting with many modern and traditional forms and reading historic poets extensively. She ran a small press poetry magazine; won some awards; and is recently published with Reach, Sarasvati, Quantum Leap, Crystal, Seventh Quarry and online through Wildfire Words, Littoral Magazine, Lothlorien, and For the Many.

Fathers Day, 2022 to 1993

It was the best day of the year,
that day you became a father
and I was hot, exhausted, tucked in bed,
while you made busy with phone calls – news –
before mobile phones/digital/live streaming.
Thank the gods no delivery recorded.

So proud, how you carried our second
            in your arms; cradled to the grave.
Tiny; early; late; far too late.

Proudly discombobulated – in the lift –
anaesthesia wearing thin:
you held my hand, proud husband/
father/man; that good news reigned,
running between SCBU and post-delivery ward.
You haven’t stopped since: keeping us both happy.
What a delivery (9 weeks premature),
unlike that bouncing firstborn (2 weeks late).
Sterling silver; gold; platinum;
            multiplied.

Prouder than hell (if you would listen):
this tip of the iceberg – Pluto’s –
where other men are simply lettuce.

No father – ever – did more; did better; survived
Father’s Day Breakfast at a Vintage Inn.
Nothing at all compares… You deserve an OBE
(not much competition),
as the best father;
                             ever.

Gifts in transit

Motorbikes always meant: Going home,
or holiday destinations.
So when I brought him Quality Street (or Roses),
colourful bright packets scented of chocolate,
he looked confused.
Wanted to be told what to do with them.
When I gave him full permission to eat,
the only problem was flimsy wrappings.
No long-learned duty of sharing;
I should have scoffed them equally,
Thanksgiving/or Christmas-hearty… raised a host,
Father, my Father.
Easier with chocolate buttons, or, yogurt.
All joy – no effort.

That day I brought his cap,
he grabbed it like a medal
and arthritically-Parkinson’s (and all the trimmings)
defied gravity. Scooped and whisked
and plopped on his head.
Dressed now. Presentable.
Covered the bald pate,
not T-shirt/incontinence pads/and, sometimes, sheet.
On that winning streak – odds even –
gave him a motorbike glove
            (just one, for starters),
grabbed, whisked, prised – as near as heaven/hell.
He knew his way out of there:
(no matter trousers/undies/bus pass)
            …his way back home
from a loving daughter
(son/wife/father, who cared).
Ready, so ready, for destinations.

Wired cow, crow, and a beautiful pigeon

What a day, the daisies popping everywhere,
blooming into cares of tyred journeys.
So they arrived, parked in line with dandelions,
while I, brash paeony, wilted
in the heat of an RTC.
You don’t want to know. (You do?)
A dairy cow spread wide across the tarmac;
a bemused crow sat beside a tree
(lilies gathered round to refresh him).
Debris of last year’s bulbs, corms and perennials,
holding up traffic.
Later, a brazen parakeet, vivid shades of 999.
Move on, the treasure hunt began
in town – tiny puzzling squares
of Mr Plod and Weed and rampant slug.
No matter; it was over, for me.

Finding no place to pop in coins
(pop out a ticket),
having failed miserably to wave
 -royally- at electronic installation.
A work of art (dinosaurs elsewhere):
a street sleeper raised the pigeon dead
(self, clucking and laying coins, not eggs).
Carrying my ticket like the Host
(showering praise and small change where deserved);
I went home by another route
for a bottle’s bouquet; barbed.

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough. His poems have appeared recently in The High Window, The Journal, Magma (Selected Poet in the deaf issue) and Envoi. He is co-host of a monthly open mic  at The Lightbox in Woking. His debut pamphlet, Dante Called You Beatrice, appeared in 2017 and When Listening Isn’t Enough, in 2021.

Delirium, confusion, and agitation

I’ve been here once before after I’d left
behind the luggage of day. I recognise

the room, the smell, the way it sways,
pipes that line the walls, the dust alive

in each stammering breath — in and out,
out, in, in and out. The moon is hidden.

Shadows and lights bathe my eyes.
Hands on the clock are still. I wait for

knocks at the door. I wait for everything
to end, for Death to enter carrying an

open book, a pen, deciding whether
to put an X against my name and take

everything, even that memory of Noel
Fielding appearing from behind a door.

I like your poem, The one you haven’t

written yet he says, before running away.


Nude in the bath, 2020

Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar. Pablo Picasso

Black & yellow hazard warning signs covering
the bathroom door announce DANGER OF DEATH
even so Marthe sinks into the water
after a long day, she wants to unwind,
relax & stop her mind running on overtime
but her gaze rests on a shark bath plug
with rows of teeth & a smile wider than
its body. It could easily bite off
a toe. The fin says “Made in China”
& its light flashes red, yellow, green, blue,
Morse code spelling out the word “help”.
Maybe they could drown in all the bubbles.
Disappear like a glitter or bath bomb.
The radio plays a dirge instead of
the latest hits. Her robber duck leaves
behind a trail of shit. The shower head
is the mouth of a python whose body
curls & wants to strangle her with its chrome
plated coils. The pink sponge by the taps
is a leech waiting to become bloated
with her blood before being eaten by a shark.
The electric toothbrush looks innocent
but after scouring her teeth & gums
it will do the same to her soft insides.
She wants to grab the towel but thinks it could
be stitched with razor blades or the plague.
Someone rings the doorbell but whoever
it is can wait & catch their death. Water
grows cold with dead skin, flotsam, germs & sins.
She jumps out the bath, lands on the marble
floor slick with soap. It’s ready to upend
& crack her head open to show elaborate
fittings & scroll work. The hairdrier blisters
skin. The make-up mirror shows who she is:
an alien with skin like the surface
of the moon, dotted in circles of yellow,
brown & red. She looks at herself growing
stranger & stranger. There’s an oversized
mosquito on the wall. First thing she does
is reassess her relationship with nature.
She reaches for her black-reaper robe.
There’s a tap on her shoulder & she turns.

Emma Gray is a neurodivergent writer and artist from Brighton, UK. Her work has been shortlisted for the Creative Future Writers’ Award in 2021 and longlisted for the Mslexia Poetry Competition 2022.

Ninety-five percent

Seven days after her mum dies
she arrives with flowers from her garden,
stems swaddled in damp kitchen roll and tin foil
as if they might fade in the minutes to mine.
She carries them like a candle –
paper star of white cosmos,
the butter rose, its honey scent

and teaches me the word umbel
from the Latin for parasol
that describes the spoked flowers
of caraway, Queen Anne’s lace.
I say she’s an umbel with her head of curls,
and wish (too fancifully or uselessly to say out loud)
her hair were its own umbrellaed inflorescence
to shield from what’s been making nights and waking cruel
as if what seeps through the thinnest membrane of those moments
is a rain from without.

She last gave this rose to her mum, she says
and I hold the flotsam of her, wonder
at the storm she’s survived.
Later, a memory of our girl selves
wrapped in dog towels, her blue feet in my lap
as Dad drove us home from that dark
loom of kelp below our ribbon legs.
It’s said that ninety-five percent of the oceans
are uncharted by man.
All that Vantablack,
those blind ghosts adrift.

Larry Winger is a retired scientist, erstwhile village hall chair/grantsperson/caretaker/cleaner/barperson/secretary/treasurer, diarist, social historian, writing groups member, aspirant novelist.  Also a surviving grandpa, frustrated classic Hymermobile travel-partner,  sometime wood-fired hot-tub reveller on a high North Pennines fellside.  VisualVerse contributor, and daily muser exploring new roads to joy.

Fire and smoke

Whisky burns my throat
The things that you remember
The way that they conflate.

            Sad technician’s smile
            Close fits the guiding cowl
            Blue flames imagined still

                        I’m gagging on the diesel fumes
                        The torch ignites the hay bale
                        Backwards scramble out the tunnel
 
            Smooth glide into position
            Under the source with clicks and whirs
            Blistering  square around my neck

                        Waiting for Guy’s pile to catch
                        White pillar to the sky
                        Orange tendrils flicking through

            Concentric rings of dying bone
            Black fireworks pit pale scrimshaw
            Yellowed teeth in rictus clench

                        Raked embers in the morning mist
                        Ash and cinders blown about
                        Smoke  rasps  my throat.
                                   
Whisky brings life crashing back.                                      

It’s the blizzard I want

Enough with this dreek,
this endless soft, this wet
that splodges me with clarts,
that spits and crawls and speaks
of cloying damp, of vague-ish grief.

Enough, enough of constant rain
this waterfall of pain sustained
this mist that hovers, fast
obscures the road I’ve missed
the wipers taunt each other’s path.

I won’t have streaming tears. Give me instead
a harsh walk into piercing stabs
of winter’s knives plunged clean and deep,
the frosty bite on lowered head,
the swirling flights of darkest dread.

The agony of lovers lost;
the tragedy of life foreclosed.
On windswept moors drifts shark’s fin snow
that tells of tumult worth the cost
not saddened whimpers, wet and soft.

Only the shrieking blizzard
and the trudger who is tossed
in blasts of icy, stinging flakes
will do for now, for all of time —
for grace, beloved, once was mine.

Presentiment of Fright

[After Louise Gluck’s Parable of Flight]

White pain permeates my gums —
she pauses
as the sparkling iridescence subsides
behind closed eyelids —
‘You should get that seen.’
And life changed.

Back to a changed and unfamiliar
fellside covered, obliterated in white,
we trudged in single file
up the long and winding track,
stumbling, losing our way in the deep
until a break in the howling wind and
a rabbit huddled down the syke bank
a befuddled splotch of surprise.

Staggered shark’s teeth icicles
hanging from the guttering —
our neighbour welcomed us home.
‘Come in, come in, get warm.’
But my throat burned until
the solace of morphine,
and white dreams,
obliterated conscious thought.

When the power went, after
another screaming blizzard
and the genny failed and in the cold
like shards of ice to the heart
we faltered and fell, then
the track became a mountain path,
the burn a frozen River Styx
and our next steps sank deeper
deeper into the white
presentiment of fright.

Abigail Ottley. Over the past decade, Abigail’s work has appeared in more than two hundred outlets, most recently in Poetry Wivenhoe, The High Window, the Trigger Warning anthology and The Survivor Zine. She is a contributor to Morvoren: the poetry of sea swimming published in June, 2022. 
https://www.facebook.com/abigailelizabethottley

The Rigger
(after a line from. ‘Haar’ by John Burnside)

This cold fog over the water takes me back
to that day in late November. You
not tall but compact and sturdy. Grizzled
but nimble as a monkey.
A rigger, you boasted: a young man’s sea tales,
worked the cranes and containers down the docks.

That day we took the ferry from the riverside at Tilbury
on the windswept deck you pulled me closer.
River fog rolled in, settled in droplets on my lashes
closing the eyes that might have seen you.

You thanked me later for giving you my body.
I was fifteen. You, forty-two.

I See You In The Library

You surely must be dead by now/Or dying/I won’t say I wish it/when I think of you which is more and more often/most likely this is me growing older/I try to see you as a hollow/not a shell exactly/much too pretty for my purposes/more like a rusty tin can/something that never was beautiful/which might once have been of some passing practical use/I see you as something ruinous now/ruinous and crumbling/tumbledown like a ramshackle building/or something disturbing/even monstrous/something profoundly at odds with itself/unsteady on its feet/ I see you I suppose as a wreck of yourself/ you never did look healthy/that sallow skin/oily and pitted/the shine on your ill-fitting jacket/its cheap black fabric already turning green/flecks of dandruff on your shoulders like stars /earth under your fingernails/and the skin of  your hands still soft and pudgy/soft/soft like a  girl’s/not roughened by work like my dad’s big hands/ scrubbed clean every evening for tea/and your scuffed shoes down at heel/your hair just an inch too long/your brown eyes/your dull eyes/sad like a dog’s/ I see you in the library where I used to like to be/your back turned to the sky/in my memory the sky is always blue/there is sunlight/ streaming through the window/you are slumped like a scarecrow in a low chair with arms/reading/pretending to read/you are young in this picture/or something like/a shark lazily cruising/flat-eyed/not especially hungry/cruising through the four o’clock heat/circling/circling/one eye on the clock/circling slowly/you smile and smile/your jaws open like clockwork/your teeth up close are not white.

Bird In A Net
                       
           
Caught in a mesh of whispered words,
            wingless, beak-stifled, mute,
            my feathers are silky, smooth as your
           promises, star-lit by shivers of sky.

            Feathered for flight, I am lustrous, unruffled,
            yet mastered by your pale crooked finger.                                             
            Soon you will pucker your bloodless lips,
            coo your supper-time prayer:

            There, there chickadee, come to daddy.  
            Come lightly on your hollow bones and feathers.                                 
            Come, come. No harm shall be done.
            Nestle yourself on my knee.

Simone Mansell Broome is a Welsh-born optimist, business woman, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, lover of stage as well as page, animals and the environment. She is a vegan living in rural Carmarthenshire, a published poet and children’s writer, who regularly performs her work and is now working on her first memoir.
Facebook – SimoneMansellBroome
www.simonemansellbroome.com

Last Samaritan in Paris

Rene Robert, a Swiss photographer famous for his images of Spanish flamenco stars, died in January 2022, in Paris, after a fall.

Nine hours.
Not stripped, robbed, beaten this time. Not left
at the side of the road that runs
from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Left for dead. Not this time.

This was
urban abandonment, half a world,
two millennia away. Nine hours
on a cold January night, between
the Place de la Republique and les Halles,
a route he knew well, his bedtime stroll,
his territory.

A dizzy spell,
a trip, a slip, a fall and a man is down,
alien, anonymous. These priests and Levites
tonight are again too busy, too wary to bend
to check. Look the other way, cross over,
pass by, lost in our own concerns.


It takes another invisible one
to call at last for aid, (maybe another
of those six hundred who’ll die
on France’s streets this year).
Help comes too late.

If we’d had time,
had known his fame, weighed up the passion
of his art, would he have seemed at last
like one of us?
No ass or inn this time.
Just absence, indifference.

Osculation

We meet by chance
in the health food shop,
gannets gathering around the last
of today’s bread delivery.

The talk, of course,
is all about the weather,
this heat we still find alien,
and the unexpected benison

of a summer shower.
‘Come into the garden, Mark,’
she says she said. Apparently,
there have been forty-eight hours

of no kissing.
Intimacy too sticky
to bear. So, the woman in front of me,
with her pain de campagne,

the unbleached white, rye
and wholemeal sourdough,
and five shiny croissants for the morning,
tells us, the queue,

how they revelled
in some luxury
of slow uxorious smooching
in the warm, Welsh rain.
                       
Summer shower

Just now, there were two thunderclaps,
that prescient pause, and then rain.
At first it seemed to be a passing shower,
but we thought wrong. The clouds
unburdened themselves. You drank
your coffee, laughing as I ran to rescue
newly pegged out washing.

These last few weeks, I have become used
to trusting the weather, to trusting the sun
to persist, to trusting that there will be
the smell of line-dried linen come the evening
What folly! I fumble with unclipping, mocked
by fat, hot, earthbound tears.

Twenty minutes and it’s over, but the air
is thick, the sky still laden, my skin sticky.
Outside the kitchen, the decking dries fast. Pets
are on shutdown, eking out energy
in furry torpor. I am a creature

of temperate climes, loving the lusciousness
of a Mediterranean summer, yet
barely able to function when it comes here.
I will need to adapt.

Philip Burton is a family man, a former Lancashire head teacher, and has also been a poetry practitioner for children. Philip received a commendation from Heidi Williamson in The Poetry Society Stanza poetry competition, 2020, for his poem on the theme of dyslexia.
His poetry publications include The Raven’s Diary (joe publish, 1998}, Couples (Clitheroe Books Press, 2008), His Usual Theft, (Indigo Dreams Press, 2017), Gaia Warnings (Palewell Press, 2021), The Life Dyslexic, (Palewell Press 2022).
www.philipburton.net 

 Quick Guide to the Philosophy behind Short Cuts

Always looking for a shortcut, they muttered
when ‘Time and Motion’ changed its name to ‘Work Study’
                                                                          Anon

White-tailed and Buff-tailed bumblebees were glued
to finding nectar in a Foxglove flower tube
but their tongues fell short. Back to the drawing board
they went, organizing flow charts and reviews

until a short cut buzzed around the hive:
a simple nibble at the base of each bloom
makes a door, a short cut to deep inside,
reaching, at last, the golden glutinous hoard.

The flower is in vain, its pollen spurned,
and long-tongued visitors, Bombus hortorum
feel diddled, bypassed, short-changed; How absurd
say the White and the Buff. Use the rat run.

The bee does not choose its behaviour
and should be admired. Life, after all, finds a way.
The shortest route home is the path of desire
for commuters in cars, even in quiet Torbay.

Peace at Last
 

 ‘Peace is poor reading’              
             – Thomas Hardy, in The Dynasts, a Drama of the Napoleonic Wars

Peace, even the odd quiet day,
is, to novelists, anathema
(a one-word oxymoron and, as such,

the nearest Peace comes to being combative).
Writers shove Peace to the last page
as a tired epilogue.

Re: that cauldron of Peace
the most heavenly spot on the River Seaton:
did a farmer self-harm here?

Did he compose a concerto for branding irons
to be hissed off-key for his funeral?
Is nothing too strange for fiction?

Having rural icing on the spiked Opera cake
plays up the mayhem:
Midsomer, Oxford, Jersey, Shetland…

The Wessex erased by King Harold 
Thomas Hardy re-drew, but industry shrank
Casterbridge even as he wrote

folk going where they would be fed,    
psyched out by mendacious
Dorset on the doorstep.

Delivery

 I swam in the thunderstorm
                                 Peter Redgrove

A lightning fist in a sonic glove
jabs the purple eye of the storm.
No bell rings, no ref’s gentle shove,
no safe laying down of norms
like, “Good clean fight from the off
cease to clinch when I tell you to part…”
just ungloved knuckles of surf
thumping my groin and heart.

The boxing ring twists, capsizes,
turnbuckles fail, ropes flop aside.
Conger eels grope the victor’s prizes.
My butterfly stroke won’t fly.

Coach is waving a terry towel.
Take a dive! Drop! Fall! Concede!
I’m spent. I inhale. I sink. I snivel.
A billion volts peel off the sea
like a duvet. Nothing moves
but a pair of forceps and the sun.
I Breast crawl, am delivered 
hungry to clinch, latch on,
drink deep.

Angela Arnold’s poems have been published by UK magazines that include Magma, Envoi, Dream Catcher, Spelt, Marble, Popshot, Mono, Dreich, Obsessed with Pipework, Cerasus, The Dark Horse and The Interpreter’s House.
Others have been included in anthologies by Templar, Frogmore Press, Eyewear and others.
Her collection In|Between will be out in 2023 (Stairwell Press). @AngelaArnold777

Home, They Call It

Mother,
gone completely to The Never
but still, barely, stationed here, firm as a solidly 

silent sea: murmurless
without your own shore to rub raw,
not anymore.

These brand-new corridors have taken you
to their ruler straight bosom; their
unforked, speechless

lightning
sits waiting with you,
your own guard in your gone eyes,

            beside the Ever door that keeps
(and will keep) its mouth
shut.

Spun

Clicking along neighbourhoods been and done and down roads
oddly remodelled (streetview says). Staring.
Miffed at memories trashed, bundle yourself down
better threads to follow: barbered houses to not buy,
at oligarch prices. Take a deluxe dare of a trip then
(your loved one oblivious): that scenery from afar,
from above, any angle, on repeat.

Here you can dream mountains.
Outcrops, bedrock, all there.
Mapped perspectives, to take, wider. Ready to replace
a flopped life, a gutless examination,
inching and wiggling and worming across a virtual map
uncrinkled, weather-safe, like the rest.
Look: deep sea trenches are never a visit too far
when courage can stay seated.
Googling Earth in all its fragility can stay a pale hobby
that zooms nicely out of personal responsibility.
See: Tiny Orange Man, your familiar, how obediently
he swivels north or west – servant, spy,
companion, webmasterly spinning
your own bespoke web, clearly expanding

            something.

Snowshine

Album: you, supposedly,
dished up with all the seasonal
glitz – hush, flash!

Look: squeezing bears, clutching books,
aunties’ hands, the quarter, half,
then three-quarter pint version.

See – caught it: the set sicklemooning
of the lips, sugared face,
promptly snatched; and stashed. True,

a whole printed life. Untrue,
concocted. Hard handfuls of hurt
swept aside: only snowshine in your eyes

satisfying the Recording Parent.
Muddle. Album, memory…
one to own,

the other just to sting you.

Anpa Marndi has an MA and M Phil from Utkal University. He passed the prestigious UGC-NET exam in 2006. He is a professor, teaching in the department of Odia Literature at Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. Anpa has two books of poetry, Ranga Dekhi Sapa Chinnhe Samay Soren and Naamal in Santhali which went to win the Kendra Sahitya Akademy Puraskar in 2014. He was born in Mayurbhanj district and lives in Bhubaneswar, India.

Poetry translated from the Odia by Pitambar Naik



Requiem at the Death of Humanity

After asphyxiating all the facts, with chunks
of deceptive darkness, you’ve dabbed
everyone’s eyes with black kohl.

In the land of the dead—-the entire numb bodies
the unrebellious, innocent docile mind
the water-coffined secularism

in the Nile of the depth of silence  
the love of the missing humans
dabbled in all sorts of callousness.

Sir, I’m awestruck at once at your stature
and suspicious of your being human
I’m shocked at your wretched kindness.

The happiest human is the cow
and the most appalling animal is human
in your elusive Ram’s kingdom.  


The Spider’s Web and the Chopped Thumb Finger

Teacher god, I’m an innocent and ignorant tribal boy
who doesn’t understand complexities;
I don’t understand totally how the spider weaves the web
which is its leg, hand and which is its finger?

I remember my chopped-up thumb finger, I look at my
palm, tears gush out from the eyes
teacher god, I’ve not yet understood the meaning of
Guru-Dakshina, it keeps hanging like the spider’s web
of the questions of darkness.

I’m in a dilemma, teacher god, in gratitude, in wishes 
and devotion gifting the stuff in one’s own capacity
or the colourful name of taking away the coveted thing?

I haven’t discovered the reason for your snatching
my thumb finger I don’t know what was there in it
but it’s a black day for the blood that oozed from
the severed thumb finger, for the still time
the grave sky and the tearing earth.

Do you know the reason, teacher god?
My marangburu knows, my sinbanga knows and my
mother earth knows so much so there was deceit in
your demand and there was a spider weaving in your
consciousness as much as gratitude and purity
were there in chopping up my thumb finger for you.

Marangburu: God in the Santhali tribal language
Sinbanga
: The sun
Guru-Dakshina: Repaying as a gift to one’s guru. This poem is based on the life story of Ekalabya from the Mahabharata, who was a tribal warrior and archer and had the potential to finish both the Kauravas and Pandavas, who the Brahmin teacher Dronacharya taught. But Ekalvya’s indirect teacher, Dronacharya, plotted a conspiracy and snatched the thumb of Ekalabya as guru Dakshina to restrain him from the war. It’s considered to be one of the great conspiracies by a Brahmin teacher in history to finish the strength of the tribal community.

The Earth      

Neither with the desire of nirvana nor moksha
no monastery for meditation or chanting
I searched for two feet of earth standing wherein
I’d have to say in the pride, this is my world.

Nothing much frankly, what I wanted was just
a fist full of rice for the stomach
to swath my shame, some ragged clothes
and to shelter, a reliable flattened bamboo shingle
to be identified as an alive human being.

But where is the earth here that I could
germinate dream as per my wish and
I could harvest the greenery in the boughs of life?

Had I understood that without my notice
the earth would have distributed inch by inch?
Where is the earth in my share? The surplus is
only the chest full of void in the chest of the sky.

No pain at all, I am a man and made of the earth
and going to merge into the earth. 

Kate Copeland‘s love for words led her to teaching & translating; her love for art & water to poetry. You can find her publications @ Ekphrastic Review, First Lit.Review-East, GrandLittleThings, Metaworker, Weekly/Five South, New Feathers, Poetry Barn a.o. She’s now assisting Lisa Freedman with Breathe-Read-Write workshops. Kate was born @Rotterdam, adores housesitting @the world.

https://www.instagram.com/kate.copeland.poems/


Home to something familiar

The earth turns slowly and tells me
to home near the sea, to come home
when the sea, and that’s when
I got confused, mistaken, I really thought
the greenest trees would hold me captive
long enough to be happy enough
to call the North a home
to switch from South to slow.
I remember México and the lobsters you
could choose from, ripped open
by the sailor with a smoke, and that was
far away from home,
yet I never felt closer to you.
The turn when I moved more South
without telling, though my defense
your honour, you started
this travel-business, and I just went, was
far away from home
again, and felt ever so far from you.
You threw a bag on the bed, right the first night
and I went to the pool
water to rescue and waterfalls to cross
we tried again near river sides but
I got confused, mistaken, I really thought
the world was possible.
Coffee black as coal
and chocolate black as beans
the caramel words of novel languages
sound lively fresh on Palm-Tree-Beach
and whether it’s in California or Carboneras
in Rotterdam or Rosario,
seeing something familiar in the world
feels enough like home, to me,

Atlas

Forgive me and my map-o-graphy, I am just obsessed
with maps, isn’t that how I seduced you?
Showed my public school atlas, you and me just met at my birthday
party and on Sunday you came over for tea. And stayed. We travelled,
first down the pages of my worldbook, then along with discount tickets
of my travel agent-student job, for weeks, we went along the isling coast
and I wanted to see Tintagel and Jamaica Inn, of course.
And you loved me for that, of course.
Forgive me and my memories, I am still obsessed
with you, isn’t that how you seduced me?
Your arms around the totem pole, little Yucatán children pinching your belly,
you and me all smiles all food all life, always South of your hometown and
close to the sea. I will never remember how to point out where the sun rises
and urban tours I easily forget. It is about the Plaza Mayor, us two in a speed
boat, watching the whale move her tail in a worldly motion.
There is never a wrong question when it comes to travelling.
There is never a wrong question
when you come home.

Lines | Rides

Hard to remember planned journeys, unexpected journeys, which seat
on which row, though I do remember I sat next to a Sean-Connery-voice
and we had a laugh when he shouted: It was lovely spending the night with you.
I don’t have any structure in life or on flights, time differences baffle me up
beyond melatonin and firewater, yet eating sweets’s an art after take-off
my mum always gave me this big bag of liquorice that I true-ly don’t eat,
yet this moving resistance ‘round food and drinks, dries up when one’s over sea,
overseas, and structures of distance, of wings and crossings blur into former
memories, the current wishes, my prayer for pleasure until all’s impossible.
The skylines of Rotterdam, London, LA – I celebrate my history and any body
else’s I meet on the air-airy-aeroplane, I always wanted to be a flight attendant
but long legs won’t weigh up to a neutral face, a job interview where he role-played
something on liquorice, ridiculous. The rides in Exmoor, Venice, BA – neon lights
and nature trails, the fireworks and nights alone, it’s all worth it, all worth it, ‘cos
any moment when Earth’s out of sight, is right, when dreaming goes, blue glows.

Frank William Finney is the author of The Folding of the Wings (Finishing Line Press). His work has been featured in Pocket Fiction, Quibble, Taint Taint Taint and elsewhere. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he taught at Thammasat University in Thailand from 1995 until 2020.
@finneyFw


Longevity & Alchemy

If you end up living
long enough

You’ll be surprised to find
the way

they look at you
when you

grow
wrinkles

in their hair
and ego

turns their heads
to gold.

Seesaw

Oh, what a daffy thing to do.
And all because

she dared me to.
Despite the fact

my love was light,
when her seat

came down
I froze with fright.

How could I
forget the way

her lunchbox
flattened like a tray?

I took a risk
and had to pay

for the lesson I learned
on the playground that day.

Things You Told the Barmaid

Even after
late hour bouts
you bet to wet
one’s money.

You sacrifice.
You cross your walk.
You talk a crosstown
walking.

You field the fields.
You yield the yields.
You kiss the crossroads
calling.

You mock the talk,
You pick the lock.
You rock the dock
you float boats by.

You clean the screen.
You flee the scene.
You end the night
without a fight.

You dream the dream.
You scream the scream.
You prance the princely
protocol.

Dominic James, from Gloucestershire, has been writing poetry for the last dozen years. Recently in Lemon Peel Press, The Lake and Marble Poetry he has two collections, Pilgrim Station and Smudge, the latter just out with Littoral Press.
http://djamespoetic.blogspot.com/

Last Monday at Minch Surgery

It might be gout, arthritis,
I’ll take some blood.

What for?

To test for uric acid, diabetes
and other things, he muttered.

I might have asked: Like what?
But with his box of needles out

I worked on breathing calmly,
averting eyes from the likely spot;
although there was no pain.

Even at this age there is something
in my look that makes him tell me
I am brave.

Good boy, or words to that effect.

Far from it.

Limp out, old man, on loosely sandaled feet.
You were younger, just a week ago,
now you are decrepit.

Sun Kosi River Bank

As night swam in among the trees
our paddles dipped in darkness,
long anxieties of foreign leaves,
of bristling stalks and fragrant soil,
when from the wooded hills a village
whooping out-called the cataracts.

Men trotted on the shore, kept pace.
We made on with heads bowed down –
neatly primed for sacrifice –
beneath a piglet, squealing, black
held above the bank at dusk,
the oily campfires burning.

We had come too far on the limb
of outward-bound adventuring,
dropped into the wild. We reached
a jutting jaw of the headland’s cliffs
then, the river widened: silence.
We pulled back in to shore.

Back Then

At the snowflakes first, pale fall
you stepped onto the courtyard stone
and met him where the silence drifted:
Magical, you said, adept.

Arctic was the high air’s blue
and valley shoulders locked in cloud,
what was magical was you,
fabulous in confidences.

A bold look took him back,
at first with that beauty of your own
and then, along a distant track
in January snow

to his star-filled, mountain youth
wrapped up in perfect solitude,
where warm mouths met, mingled
                           cold breath
and time had ceased on thought.

Pitambar Naik is an advertising professional. His work appears or is forthcoming in The McNeese Review, The Notre Dame Review, Packingtown Review, Rise Up Review, Ghost City Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Indian Quarterly, and The World That Belongs To Us HarperCollins India among others. The Anatomy of Solitude (Hawakal) is his debut book of poetry. He grew up in Odisha and lives in Bangalore India.     

The Rival
Where you’ll be looking luminous, standing tall, I’ll stand
there diminished, piling the resemblance of meanness
though, let there be a hell-and-heaven difference
between the white grass and the trunk; I learn that
I’ll never reverse a thousand feet of the protest.

As the voice of the sea, the sunrise and the move
of the moon can’t be blocked, so also you’ll not be
able to bar my amazing self-expression
you may have forgotten that you had chopped up
the wings of that toiling bird, perhaps you’re not
aware that while sprouting, they have achieved
mastery in flying it’s close to the heart, the sky
of hope, I’ll fly and fly farther, how backward
I’m for years the pain of rebellion—-
I’m accustomed to combating since childhood.

You may remember, that I’m that ordinary human
your misdeed had severed whose palms
note this, now the two hands have bloomed and have
joined the commoners, there’s the observation of
melancholy in the backdrop of a sorrowful heart
there’s even the piled-up courage of childhood
that waded through the tides of hunger and thirst.

I’m that bruised past of your hateful chronicle
the blood strewn in the land of disgrace will
introduce me as that deprived human being
whose death has more value than the birth
that makes you earn profits, people and prestige
my lord, the more you shatter me, the more I live
demeaning the wrath and dagger born out of
your sin, you can read the scripture of my struggles
and can see the shelter of my faith. 

written in Odia, and translated, by Pitambar Naik

Bridgette James is the author of Sierra Leone in the Diaspora, a collection of poems. Her book Anglo-African Rhymes will be published by LR Price. Her poem ‘London Marathon’ was recently featured in the Fib-Review Journal. Dreich magazine will publish two of her poems in their next print edition.

Noise in Tower Blocks

What you hear through walls in Tower Blocks shapes your perception of the neighbourhood’s closet skeletons where/ They can house you

your nerves of steel shaken by the lady at number fifteen’s bloodcurdling nocturnal screams/ she must be his punchbag

teenagers tossing crushed Cider cans on tiled floors clanging / incessantly through your high riser reminiscent of fire sirens ringing when GRENFELL burnt the gone-but-now-forgotten poor.

What you hear though walls in Council housing/ is misrepresented by the aesthetically pleasing TRACEY EMIN painting: unmade beds are ones not slept in for days/ while the snoring geezer at number fourteen is on a 3-day bender.

Squeals of delighted children penetrating through your affordable Argos wallpaper/ the almighty racket when Parcel Force couriered Christmas present boxes were trapped in the lift door.

What you hear through walls in Council Tower Blocks on weekends is the husky come in/ whispered by the chain-smoking neighbour answering the buzzerto the takeaway delivery bloke

food smells waffling in through your cracked window /tantalising your taste buds- you wishedyou had more dole from the Social- the LOCAL AUTHORITY apologised for delayed repairs: backlog.

You dodged that guy with a swagger that winked at you in the Newsagents’ queue/ but his LOUD music is cheap entertainment when you can’t credit your meter.

What you hear through walls in Tower Blocks are distressing sobs: number thirteen’s son must’ve been stabbed as the OLD BILL have been coming over/ you heard her shouting, They’ve hurt my baby.

They must be the legendary baddies/ the punter at your local swore/ confine all the poor, migrants; ethnic residents to London Tower Blocks/ while They… frolic in the leafy Countryside.

My Country went to war over nothing

No winner here Mercutio yells, peacekeeping
citizen-carcasses laid where a free city once stood
another dispute same story: storm in a teacup:
Capulet’s tantrum erupts over Montague’s chiefdom.

Off with their chief’s head chanted Juliet stroking her fire
burn baby burn up an inferno stirs partisan Tybalt
gunpowder imported from Europe: their chief shall burn
Mercutio forewarns, peacekeeping: No winner here.

An acrimonious chief belching up expletives in intestinal gunk
festering with the stench of fermented palm wine
Off with her head, insurrectionist; effeminately mutters lady Montague.
Tribesmen mimed spoiling for a fight: off with her head.

Civil War engraved in bold by global internet scribes
Juliet’s day of reckoning. A huffing puffing chief bellows:
blow her head off slithering snake
venomous northern viper contaminating our eastern soil.

Burn the chief shall burn quipped Juliet fanning firewood flames
Two households’ long-running tribal feud.  Chief Lear engulfed in fury
-Tyson Fury. Balloons in hot Saharan air expelled in royal fart-
toxic methane engulfs a tragic Juliet history repeated.

No winner here Mercutio yells, falling on a sword
citizen-carcasses laid where a free city once stood
Capulets and Montagues disturb the quiet in our streets
by waging war in another African state.

Jodie Duffy lives in Gloucestershire. Her poems have been published in a number of online and print publications, including Capsule Stories, Free Verse Revolution and Blood Moon Journal. Much of her poetry is inspired by motherhood and nature. She is a Chinese Studies graduate and works as a publications manager.

Pumpkins

The first fruit to form find shade
beneath inside-out umbrellas, the early leaves
are fatigued, have lost their deep greens
a bee clambers into the lap
of an oversized yellow flower, a tiny tendril
spirals into the grass entwined in the blades
vein-like, vines feed fresh buds

they say pumpkins will be smaller this year

each morning I look out of the window
at the fading garden
will them to thrive

We have seen the light

We have been lured out without
a winter coat too many times
by the promising sunshine of early Spring
only for the harsh wind to scrape our bones

we have been sold a programme
that creates a roaring fire on our screens
while we shiver in our extra jumpers
and leave the energy bill unopened

we know the meaning behind
the neon signs and their promises
the shop fronts glowing red inside

the beams that scan the Channel
are not always the eyes of lifeboats

so, when you illuminate the buildings
across the capital, know this:
we no longer mistake light for warmth

K. Zopa Phuntsok was “Born, experienced the world, wrote a few poems.”



Leather Kisses

for Muntazer al-Zaidi

You came to my land, my home,
bringing your planes, your tanks,
your bullets, your bombs.
You said it was in freedom’s cause
that you came, but I knew better.
I knew it was because of my country’s blood,
the black blood you covet so.
Now you’ve come again, to say good-bye,
to wish us well, and to receive our thanks
for the thousands of boots
that pushed our faces into the sand.
And I, too, have come to say good-bye,
a final parting of old friends.
And like old friends, we must embrace and kiss.
Yes, we will remember you,
your uniforms and your mercenaries.
We won’t forget you.
Your name will be in our hearts
a thousand years; we won’t forget.
So, I kiss your cheeks, old friend,
old leather kisses, worn and unpolished,
save for the tears of the widows
and orphaned children.
I kiss your cheeks, old dog,
sick with the rabies of hubris.
Your name will be remembered
a thousand years, but the memory
of my kisses, my old leather kisses,
will last forever.

The Butterfly and the Moth

You said that he gave to you a picture,
One he had made himself,
Of a butterfly and a flower.
He was the butterfly and you the flower.
Our relationship is, however, different;
You are fire and I a moth.
And whereas a butterfly and a flower
Share a moment of sweetness before they part,
A moth wanders in the darkness
Until attracted to the flame,
Into which it enters and is consumed.

Nicky Whitfield lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.  She has spent her whole life working with words, from teaching English as a foreign language to working with communication-impaired adults as a Speech Therapist. Recent retirement offers more time to express herself in the written word.

The waitress who didn’t like to serve

We tried to catch her eye, she turned her back sharply
I’m not your servant, she seemed to say
I’ll keep you waiting                                           annoyingly long
Then I’ll come back to serve you            some time today.

I’m above all this, thoughts cross her face
as she asks, Have you had enough?
I’m not your servant or your skivvy
can’t you see I’m made of better stuff!

I’ll give an inch, if I must
but not with a smile.
I’m a taker, not a giver
serving’s not my style.

The moment after saying goodbye

Torn from the rock like a barnacle,
Raw edges exposed,
Left unattached and drifting,
Trying not to get caught by the current
That’s dragging me out to sea.

Looking round for familiar routines,
To repeat everyday jobs,
To avoid stillness
Until I adjust to a life without you
And dare look forward to your return.

Iris Anne Lewis is published online and in print. As a competition winner, she has been invited on several occasions to read her work at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. In 2020, she was the Silver Branch featured poet on Black Bough Poetry https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/iris-anne-lewis

Gásadalur

A gaggle of houses cluster
on a stretch of flat land

circled by steep mountains
and cliffs that fall away
in a sheer drop to the sea.
Outhouses, open slatted to the wind,
store hanging shanks of mutton.

In cord jeans and woollen jumpers
we follow the rope-marked path
through hayfields, green and lush
from rain, to Múlafossur.
A surging ribbon of water,
wind-whipped and white, plummets
into the Atlantic Ocean.

This is our land, the oystercatchers
warn us, go away. Their angry piping
fades to silence as we stroll
back to the cafe.

We sit under sun-patched cloud,
the wind benevolent, almost warm,
eat rye bread topped with black,
fermented lamb.





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