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 submit and make the selection process so challenging and interesting.

Poets selected for publication in Open Submissions 2 are:

Abigail Ottley, Angela Arnold, Emma Gray audio symbol 2, Larry Winger audio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Philip Burton, 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.



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