otsp Poetry

Thank you to all who submitted poetry for this theme.

GUEST EDITOR for our theme On the Same Page is Katherine Parsons, Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award winner, and author of Little Intimacy (Frosted Fire, 2022).

The closing date for submissions is 11:59 on 31 December.

The poets Katherine has chosen for publication on this theme are:

Ama Boltonaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Angela Arnoldaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Annie Ellisaudio symbol 2, Brenda Read-Brownaudio symbol 2, Bridgette Jamesaudio symbol 2, Carol Sheppardaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Chris Hemingwayaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Clair Chilversaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Dave Wynne-Jones, Gaynor Kaneaudio symbol 2, Giles Constable, Glenis Moore, Hilary Feeney, Jane Sprayaudio symbol 2, Jason Conwayaudio symbol 2, Jonathan Ukahaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Josiane Smithaudio symbol 2, Kate Copelandaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Kathryn Helen Moores, Kelly Davisaudio symbol 2, Larry Wingeraudio symbol 2, Margaret Kiernanaudio symbol 2, Marilyn Timmsaudio symbol 2, Mary-Jane Blackaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Michael Parsonsaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Neil Beardmoreaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Nicky Whitfieldaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Peter Devonald, Richard Devereuxaudio symbol 2Robert Rayneraudio symbol 2, Sarah Macleodaudio symbol 2, Simone Mansell Broomeaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2, Wendy Webbaudio symbol 2, Yvonne Crossleyaudio symbol 2audio symbol 2audio symbol 2

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

Ama Bolton convenes a Stanza group in Somerset, where she lives with a sculptor and two hens. Her poems have featured at festivals, on Radio 3’s The Verb, on local radio and in magazines and anthologies. Her e-chapbook Nines is due from Snapshot Press in spring 2023.

The poem reads the reader

I would like my work to read the one who is reading it. – Beau Beausoleil

You think you’re here to read me
but I know better. I’m your mirror.
Your face is an open letter,
love and loss and steadfastness
in every line.

I read its hesitant paragraphs
the crossings-out, the second thoughts.
Your smile is a signature
on which I place
the lightest kiss.

The booklovers

She found him
page by page
on shelves of Poetry and Art
footnote by fragment
in History and Linguistics
bookmark by marginal jotting
from Anthropology to Zoology.

He chose a volume
from the shelf marked Biography.     
We could be twins, he said,
separated on earth. 

Clair Chilvers has published two collections: Out of the Darkness (Frosted Fire, 2021) and Island (Impspired, 2022). Her poems have been published in Acumen, Agenda, Allegro, Artemis, Atrium, Ekphrastic Review, Impspired, Ink Sweat and Tears, Live Encounters, Lunate, Reach Poetry and Wildfire Words. She lives in Gloucestershire, UK. www.clairchilverspoetry.co.uk

Grandmother’s Inkwell

I The Grandmother

The sun catches her silver inkwell
on a warm summer day
projecting a bright spot on the opposite wall.

She moves it so that the reflection 
dances on the walls, 
laughs at the childish pleasure of it.

She seats herself at her desk
pulls in the tapestry-seated chair
finds a fresh sheet of paper

embossed with her letter heading 
and her quill pen, freshly cut.
She waits, not knowing how to start.

II The Granddaughter

The silver inkwell has streaks of dark brown tarnish
across its smooth sides.
With my finger I trace the delicate etching 
around its base, the sharp corners 
and the fuzzy green felt underneath.

I tip a little cleaning fluid i nto a saucer
smell the sharpness of it
if I close my eyes I can see the young batman
in his air force blue uniform
sitting at a deeply grained kitchen table.
He is frowning as he cleans my father’s medals 
with a piece of torn linen sheet
polishing off the white powder
with a black-stained duster. 

I rub the white liquid into the silver inkwell
stroke it across the flat lid
use a little soft brush on the tracery
buff it with a clean yellow cloth
remember my grandmother.

The Watcher

I watch my firstborn breathing
hold my breath until his next one.
Swaddled in his white shawl
his little fist against his cheek,
I cannot bear to leave him
lest it is my vigilance
that sustains his tender life.

*****

The line creeps across the monitor,
the vestiges of a life.
A mother’s life, a long life,
but I cannot let her go.
Her breaths are fainter now,
pauses between them longer.
I hold her hand, willing her to go on living.

Hilary Feeney stopped painting professionally five years ago to do more writing, having dabbled in it since youth. Joining a creative writing group, Hillary had several poems published in anthologies, enjoys writing prose, and finds both reading and writing poetry soul-touching.

Behind the Page

Her body curls around itself
a quiver of cold laid in supplication at his feet.

He notes her singleness.

Adjusts the tension of the pose with interlocking streaks of charcoal.
Transfers each sinewy line onto the page
exposing private parts of secret places,
exploring shapes, the hidden spaces of the form.

Her face, half covered by the pose hints at skin, soft as a peach.
Blue shadows wrap themselves around
charcoal traced rib bones more prominent than yesterday.
Each sitting shows the change.
Only to him, their laddered lines
present intriguing challenges of space and light and mark.

* * * * *

He knows my shape so well by now,
explored it more than any lover,
exposed me on his page with practiced strokes,
my angles measured and caressed with charcoal sweeps on paper.

I know his face so well by now,
every expression, every frown etched into my mind like pencil drawings.
The way he sighs, his smile, lips parted as he holds the palette knife
thick with the paint of my pose
poised and ready to pounce onto the board.

Eyes flicker, briefly locked with mine,
a glance, no more significant than one he gives
to nose and mouth and chin.
Analysing every bend and curve, he looks at me,
looks, but never really sees,
not me, I mean
not really me.
The girl behind the pose, behind the page,
sacrificing her identity each day
stripped to the bare bones for love of him.

Yesterday he passed me in the street.
Of course he would
I had my clothes on after all.

Nothing to get hung about

Who was this phoney anyway?

More popular than Jesus Christ was what he said
but surely Christ was resurrected from the dead
while this dude never even took the time to pray
I always thought I’d love a guy who sang
give peace a chance but then began to wonder why
he said imagine no possessions but
lived sky high in multiple apartments in Manhattan where
by the way even Madonna didn’t succeed in moving in

It was that sort of uncertain afternoon
I was walking the streets of New York and
disappearing every time I crossed the road
everything inside me going into overload
standing on the edge of some crazy cliff
wanting to save him but not sure how
asking myself What if? What if
he was less grand just like he used to be
but now he’s on the hot-shot side
not on our page no time for
common folks like you and me

I guess I made the choice

The night my mother never warned me about
was the night I took him down near Strawberry Fields

for ever

Let’s face it once you take a life that’s it but
I waited while they tried to save the guy
Revolver on the ground I cried and sighed goodbye
John’s signed Double Fantasy album in my pocket
my hand held Holden Catcher in the Rye

Michael Parsons came to writing poetry fairly late, loving the way words convey feeling.

What page are you on?

‘What page are you on?’ you asked.

‘Not the same as you,’ I responded.
‘We started on the same page, didn’t we?
But you’re a quick reader; I’m slower.
I read every word; you skim-read.
I pore over meaning; you don’t.
I ruminate over character, you want plot.
I like to think. You like to move on,
to get to the finish so that you can start again.’

Is that what happens between us? I wonder.
Is that why I feel I’m always catching up,
always behind, always slowing our relationship,
wanting more depth, more intensity?

And, is this how it ends, the last chapter?
You with a sense of completion,
ready to move on before I’m halfway through?

You throw your copy down on the table,
put on a worn raincoat, shoes,
your green hat and leave.

I remain, sitting
and sob over a page you’ve already left.

An old man wondering

Amidst the turning chill of Autumn,
sheeted rain persisting,
clouds turning daylight into gloom,
night into raven blackness,
an old man sits wondering to himself:
wondering about the friends he’s lost;
about familiar customs gone;
long-held hopes, abandoned;
wondering why he doesn’t still feel
integral to the world he inhabits –
a little lost, it seems.

As delicately wrought as any work of art,
today he feels as breakable as pottery,
as useless now as a broken wheel.
In his loneliness, he shivers nature’s chill,
senses the encroaching gloom within,
entrapped in night’s pitch blackness.

Nature at least allows trees their Autumn glory;
before their demise they seem to clothe
themselves with luxurious colour –
anticipating resurrection, perhaps –
future life in Spring’s new energy and drive.

The old man, too, looks beyond today’s darkness –
not confidently, nor with any real certainty,
but with perhaps an unclear, forlorn hope beyond the pain.

Together

Together we ventured out in darkening
sunlight along the Thames.
Sombre, dusk-grey, the river stirred with purpose –
ducks strove after dry ground against its will.
Swallows dipped and rose, carefree,
flickering the feeble light,
obliging our gaze to follow.
That liminal aera of day,
pale, translucent, somehow sensing close.
Just about as thin a place as I’ve felt.
Hand in hand, we walked –
touched by love and hope and inexpressible longing.

Robert Rayner
joined Northumbrian Writers’ Group on retirement following a legal career. He has enjoyed success in various writing competitions and his work has been published in online anthologies and books.

Watching the world go by

From across the square come shouts
and whoops of joy. A long time, 
he thinks, since he’d laughed raucously
like these locals clattering skateboards. 
 
Comfortably shaded under the blue
and white striped parasol, along
the serried tables of the street cafe,
his necessary props are here – 
a hefty paperback, and large Americano
deposited by the bustling waiter. 
 
There’s a flicker of recognition
from the woman he saw yesterday,
a fellow lone-traveller, 
settling nearby on the cushioned
bamboo chair. Perhaps she finds
dark thoughts fill empty evenings;
that daytime is much easier –
watching the world go by. 
 
Distinct amid a throng of tourists
appears the Downs youth,
always a few steps behind 
his elderly mother, as she
stares blankly ahead. 
Again today, he wears a policeman’s cap,
jacket and a wide grin. 
Why do some people frown ? 
Catching the light 
in the eyes of his almost-companion,
his face too creases with a smile. 
 
It’s not what you look at
that matters, 
it’s what you see. 

Fledgling

She is unacquainted with this new self;
two hours old, a short-lived imago,
existing only in this moment.

The innocence of childhood
left behind. No longer a daughter;
wedded, but not yet a wife.

Vows, rings, have been exchanged,
two lives melded into a single future.
Innocent, trusting, she stands

on an emotional mountaintop
oblivious of the boom and clash
of the chasm below.

She knows she can fly.

Dave Wynne-Jones left teaching for health reasons, gaining an MA in creative writing at MMU, then writing articles for outdoor magazines and organising expeditions for time-poor mountaineers. He’s published two mountaineering non-fiction books and two poetry collections, whilst his poetry has also been anthologised and appeared in magazines.

Hands

Hands seamed with destiny
calloused with the passage of time
the burdens of work
are blunt reminders
of the down to earth.
They hold all tools
that shape a way of life
but share the gift of touch
with another’s feeling;
now stroking a cheek
now wiping away
the tears.

I hold your hand
in the dark.
It is firm and warm,
as when I held
my mother’s hand
as a child
to cross the road.

Now the roads are not so wide
but the darkness is deeper
holding my son’s hand
binding the fragility
of his life to mine
and all that chain of hands
that leads to us.

Prints

Feathers of snow spread a clean sheet
          over whatever irregularities,
                   but not for long.

Like the electric tic of a flickering screen,
black marks on bleached wood pulp,
brush strokes on rice paper,
hieroglyphics inscribed on papyrus,
or the pressure of a stylus on wet clay,
life prints its passage.

Perhaps it is the deer whose white tails disappear
          into the darkness of forest,
the paw prints of foxes
circling to the source of some secret scent,
or claw-scratched traces of pine marten
on the smoothed surface of ski tracks,
prints upon prints, eventually diverging.

Here cloven hoof-prints of jabali
          lead to blood on the snow and a half-eaten boarlet;
wolf, perhaps, but no spoor for confirmation.

And there, where a bird tires of snow,
          taking to air,
the final prints of feet
framed by those of feathers
leaving only a glyph,
to puzzle over;
another unfinished narrative,
like ours.

Glenis Moore started writing poetry at the beginning of the first UK Covid lockdown in order to pass the time. When not writing poetry she cycles and makes beaded jewellery. Glenis lives just outside of Cambridge in the flat lands of the Fens.

Morning coffee

Every morning he brings coffee
in a large green mug.
He doesn’t always stir it well
so I filter the lumps out
with my teeth as I drink.
It smells of street cafes
but tastes bitter in the early light,
while I dream of hot chocolate
and thick porridge – the sweet of syrup
on my tongue with my antihistamines.
He wakes me up when he comes
and the cats sigh on the bed.
None of us want to rise as
the room feels cold and stark
even in the summer sun.
But we get up anyway
as he brings love when
he brings coffee.

Brenda Read-Brown enjoys producing a mix of page poetry and performance poetry as she has since 1997. Thinking she ought to read Lorca, after all this time, Brenda feels that Lorca’s images have as much point as extreme ironing.
www.brendareadbrown.co.uk

Lorca

My volume of Lorca
has the Spanish to the left,
English on the right.
Lizards go to die in still waters
and bullfighters strut under the moon;
ancient villages are home to
processions of virgins;
love opens like naked tulips.

The words of both languages
lie, on the same page;
a valley of white truth
between their struggling hills:
an empty ocean
that the heart can’t cross.

Kelly Davis lives in Cumbria and works as an editor. She has been published in magazines including Mslexia, Magma’ and Shooter. She appears in the Black Spring Press Best New British and Irish Poets 2019–2021 anthology, and she has twice been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.

Grateful
After ‘For Tess’ by Raymond Carver

And you might be rinsing a glass
or tasting a mouthful of scrambled egg
or walking a familiar path,
you might hear a blackbird’s song
or just the wind in the trees –
and remember.

And you might get caught in torrential rain
with the cold soaking through your jeans,
you might get home and peel them off
and feel half-dead until
your flesh tingles back to life –
and remember.

And the phone might keep ringing
but it’s only cold callers
and you get distracted and
the day’s vanished –
and you remember
 
you’re both still here
on this Earth
together.

Jason Conway lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire and is the Director of the Gloucestershire Poetry Society and founder of Steel Jackdaw magazine. He is published in Poetry Undressed, The Blue Nib, Poetry Bus, The Poetry Village and Impspired magazines. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

Unspoken Song

When the cold of night draws in; as light becomes a rare swan
on a moonlit lake, your wings heat my chilled frame; slide smoothly
like warm grass on bare shins in afternoon escapes in the haze of summer.
My thoughts drift…

Breeze Spirits comb my breathing skin, tingle senses,
make waving hairs salute the sky as they spoon sweet floral medicine that soothes
aching, unworked bones. Their silent notes sing to me, paint landscapes
behind closed eyes; the musty scent of mossed carpets and mushroomed bark
as scaled cones pine the giving soil below, enchanted petals carry cushioned feet
and plumed ferns bow to Belenus as he rides the flaming sun across the sky.
And Cailleach, the generous hag, searches for kindness in the worthy,
bestows divine gifts for good deeds.

Perhaps my gift is the joy to wander wood and meadow, stream and dust?
To understand that her wilderness is enough. All that matters.
She is a sage cloaked in shadow, aged in time, nurturing lessons of service
and compassion. Her true beauty is not the fair maiden of thanks
that beguiles me, but the abundance of her ground, the light of her sky,
and the wealth of wisdom in her eyes.

It’s dark and you wrap me in heat beneath silken feathers; unspoken stories
of love and belonging as if you are a child of hers, teaching me, each cool night,
that all I have is here, in cornucopia. As if the time to sleep is a winters hibernation
to dream of green fields and wild flowers, be thankful for the will of seasons
as they challenge and gift us.

Keep me warm, for soon, I will fall deep into dream and petrify like Cailleach,
a sleeping rock, snug in soft weaved ground and sleep until spring.

I’ll rest until your wings harp my hardened skin; play a waking melody,
a primal spell that morphs rock to clay, clay to limb, as shining rays spark
wild magic. The magic of your unspoken song, that all I need is here
among the hush of morning, till darkness comes.

You are my wilderness gifted by the gods. I am bound by your good nature
and your nature is enough.

Sarah Macleod has published in Mslexia, Inclement, Ver Poets, Iron Press, prize Grey Hen, published Edward Thomas Fellowship, Pennine Platform, commended Indigo pamphlet, commended Geoff Stevens Memorial, longlisted twice Cinnamon Press pamphlets, shortlisted Cinnamon Literature Award and Hedgehog Press for pamphlets. She is a silversmith, linoprinter, makes chandeliers and automata.

Laying the table

My mother placed rosy-cheeked apples
on the scrubbed table that isn’t there.

I pod a colander of fresh-picked peas
until they rattle like laughter.

I put my mother’s death on the table,
white as a swan-folded napkin.

I weigh ripe pears in my hands
cup their curves of comfort.

I put my mother’s songs in a bowl
feel them echo        echo

*****

My mother kissed me on the forehead
the night after she died.

I put that kiss on the table.  It nestles,
a sweet cherry.  I put my kiss

beside it, and they link, like two cherries
you wear as an earring.

Yvonne Crossley, sometime poet of inspiring places, exploring how we interact with the natural world. Poems in three Scottish Borders anthologies – The Journey, Colour, Yes Arts FestivalA set of ribbons; also The Eildon Tree. Recent pieces appear online in Littoral Magazine. Joint winner of Hengistbury Head competition 2020, 2021.

Nuts and Bolts

This is the way his world goes together:
the inventive joints fastening timber frames,
medieval crucks, arch-braces, purlins, wooden pegs;
the bread-and-butter work of a carpenter’s mind.

Standing in a metal and glass bus shelter,
the irritation of minor construction faults
annoys him enough  to speak his thoughts.
And yet I find I have not been viewing the same details.
I am looking at the trees beyond,
the recent greening of twigs,
the valiant crows flying against the wind.

Widgets – these technical things –
I admit do not fascinate me, but I realise
their functionality is crucial to his world.
Over many shared years,
our lives have become bound by intricacies:
the nuts and bolts that rust slowly
and yet still manage to hold us together.

Love in the Exhibition Mirror

My face is not your face but we share this mirror;
you are my reverse and I cannot believe
we are the same person.

I should respect and live with you and within you.
How strange to think I know you when I do not know myself –
the parts of me that I must learn to love,
the parts others see – even my partner of many years –
may not see me as I think I do.

How strange is this world we cohabit?
Love is a journey never quite explained.
Deep inside us is a spark to be nurtured;
a hopeful flame not extinguished by death.

Faith is a cupboard where I hang my doubts.
Belief is a consequence of my trust in humanity;
It enfolds me in a cloak of care and understanding.
Yet, now and then, I find surprises
lurking in Van Gogh’s exhibition of self-portraits,
reflections staring back at me
in this cockeyed hall of mirrors.

Opinions are just that

Make what you will of it – this tangle’s not for unravelling.
The problem with two sides is not everyone can tell which is which:
Salt grains are like sugar until they enter your mouth.

Pavements are always watching from the side lines.
Weeds are pioneers; they squeeze in the gaps.
Yet describing a weed leads to muddy pathways.

Windows know when to look in, when to look out,
But sometimes it is difficult to decide which is greater:
The sky… the land… the sea.

Tattoos have become fashion accessories;
Is the swallow on your neck trying to fly south?
Don’t look at me like that; I haven’t arranged my eyebrows yet.

Jonathan Ukah is a graduate of English and Law living in the UK. His poems have appeared and will soon appear in the Pierian, Boomerlit magazine, Discretionary Love, the Poet, New /reader Magazine, New Note Poetry, Compass Rose Literary, etc. He is a winner of the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest 2022.

Wait for me

In the meantime, we are on the same page;
I will give you something to hold,
a slice of my heart,
which, like a blade of the crimson moon
can brighten your darkest corners;nb n
folding darkness into the envelope of light
and tossing it beyond the deepest oceans.
each minute of your waiting
will be filled with scenes of an orchestrated smile,
molecules of excitement, pockets of happiness,
as though you watched an enthralling film,
where every stage is replete with suspense,
while you stand to stare like a pantomime
standing over a garden of orchids and daffodils,
as relief punctuates each stunning state.

Nor will your waiting be in vain,
when possibilities of pleasure
come like a boat full of sunflowers and roses,
a ship-load of joy riding the tidal waves of pain;
I will write your name on every green page
on which your labyrinthine laughing veins
dance like uncapped destinies;
I will make you spots of my flesh, my blood,
standing in a corner, watching your shadow
coming down the stairs before you do,
And let me breathe your catchy air.

But if you would not wait,
death is too light for those born in a hurry,
too gruesome for the impatient to live;
eternity would be too short for a life of sighs,
where you squat in a corner and croak like a frog
as happiness slips from the tips of our feathery fingers,
filling every moment with sighs and moans,
filling the spaces between us with broken dreams.
Perhaps I am the burden hanging around your neck;
and if you would not like to wait for me,
turn your days into hours; your hours into seconds.

The same page

Since we started to climb up
these narrow stairs to the sky,
we have glued our eyes to the grey clouds,
our feet locked within the mountain holes,
we flipped over these crawling flies
against the itching on our peachy skin,
we have never been on the same page;
never read from the same stars,
nor watched the same clouds glide across the sky.

I know you are not such an emulator,
a pigeonhole stuffed with familiar details,
a road with human prints from other ways
and you are wondering how two people,
one carved from the marshes of the ocean;
the other smeared with the blue of the sky,
could form an alloy, a thing conjoined by heart,
and made strangers lie in the same bed,
without staplers to stick them together.

Between us, there is no disparity,
Beyond the happenings of the moon,
which sometimes slices itself in two,
half visiting the stars, the other half teasing the sun,
so to melt its harshness upon the earth.
I know we do not read from the same page,
As it would be the fulcrum of needless pain,
we enhance our destiny through our completion,
deepen our intensity, the depth of our love.

On The Page

My pen is poised over warm sheets
we slept in.
Words pour out from the dog ears of time.
We try and keep up with their rattling,
not given time to read.

We only need one word you say.

‘L’ for the longing to be together
whenever we are apart
‘O’ for opening your heart for me
to embrace
‘V’ for Venus the god of love,
she shows us the way
‘E’ for eternity, as we will go on forever,
together

Put the word down so we know you say

But I don’t need to write the word,
we know it is already there.

Larry Winger searches daily for joy (RoadsToJoy.blog) while remembering the past 20 years of social philanthropy (ALclub.uk and AllendaleDiary.org) and dreaming of another roadtrip adventure (HarryCarrieAndMe.wordpress.com). His poetry has been published at VisualVerse.org and lately in this summer’s submission window here at Wildfire Words.

Flutter-by

It’s baffled by conservatory glass —
this winter miracle flits to and fro
and I stretch out my hand, a gentle clasp
a fleshy cup to share imprisoned woe.
The flutter on my skin reminds me of
the severed nerve that’s trapped within my jaw;
the twitch, as stymied by the scaffold glove
it meets a wall of leg bone new and raw.

I am a modern miracle, it’s true
the treatment’s bark was harsh to save the bite.
Irradiation did its job and blew
the tumour far away and out of sight.

Outside I open up my hand — it flies
away, and I’m a quiet bridge of sighs.

Mary-Jane Black is a Primary school teacher who is new to the world of published poetry.

A moment’s wonder

And still I dream of you
Waiting atop the alley there
Your sweet promise shining
The dapple of October day.

Kissing me under Canazaro skies
Our innocent half grown hope
A young boy-body, tall and taught
A knight to a Convent school girl.

The story, now pallid and bedraggled
Some futures came true, but not you
Too bold was I in saying goodbye
Too eager to slay my dragons.

Lulled back, back, back so far
I barely remember breathing it.
When we were light and bright and might
Have held love in a moment’s wonder.

Gallowglass

Upon the weary footpath we wash up
Expectation spilling from the native glow
Halcyon night, alight with domestic life
China teacups serenade their bygone saucers
Burnt out Carrolls and rashers smoking
Greet the triumphant London Irish return.

Mary’s dormant parlor, barely able to contain
The meeting of our chromosomal allegiance.
What has always been home has never been home
Where jam crowned soda bread waits patiently
After honest embraces and tear smeared faces
We fall in – Our un-Godly tribe’s Amen.

Wendy Webb loves nature, wildlife, symmetry and form, light and dark, and the creative spark. Published in Reach, Sarasvati, Quantum Leap, Crystal (and many earlier magazines); recently in Littoral, Lothlorien, Autumn Voices, Wildfire Words. Landscapes (with David Norris-Kay) is on Amazon.
https://www.facebook.com/wmwordsworth/


Corners of the garden, with bark

If you grew a plant
full of sunshine green leaves,
then insignificant flowers among its peers.
If you watched it fatten and spread
and fill its place all summer long.
Then, as Autumn fell, in vivid sunshine shades
of burning bush,
pruned and trimmed within neat borders,
watched deciduously its fall from grace
to a long winter of raging twigs.
If you then contemplated its place,
for not screening blushed its stems privetly.
Valued its Springtime/Autumn glow,
the price worth its golden nature.
Then, one day, a wise Gardener visited,
as you apologised for your glowing twigs,
vowed its worth a hundred times – in season –
and then, your old friend laughed, sat down,
adored your stray like a faithful hound.
Told you its ignominious name:
            Cornus.
Now you knew how to prune that strange shrub,
glory of the garden’s winter.
Dogwood. Almost wagging its tale…

Simone Mansell Broome is Welsh-born – an optimist, business woman, entrepreneur, lover of stage as well as page, animals and the environment. She lives in rural Carmarthenshire and has published poetry, a children’s novel and ‘Pause’, adapted from her lockdown blog. She’s working on her first memoir.
www.simonemansellbroome.com @BroomeSimone


Named for the tree

Ever squeamish I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone,
beyond the relief we have to feel. The end of pain.
Her long life, lived full. But this day, this   ritual is my first.

No body. No fuss. An empty box. We remember,
without her, the way she folded, blended, welcomed,
warmed all visitors, from kin to friends to passing strays.

Alert, bright-eyed bird, maker of Welsh cakes, her kettle
always just off boil, her teapot cosied, ready. Hazel,
named for the tree, laden with the silent wisdom

of a thousand casual confidences, wearing her prescience
lightly, easy as dust, as flour. No flowers to coat this truth:
she has flown. What’s left will now be shared, studied,

dissected, giving to science, as she gave in life.
We’ll dwell instead on fragments – on linen pressed
ready for those guests expected, and as yet unknown,

on fresh bread doorsteps sliced, on endless baking,
on days spliced with old observance, throwing salt,
curtseys to a lone magpie, A wooden spoon,
a hazel wand, her span of kitchen kindnesses,
ancient magick.

Diagnosis

Three or four bottles into the evening,
post-theatre supper with old friends,
the kind you don’t meet up with often
but, when you do, it’s like you saw them
yesterday: and you’ve done politics,

the kids, the state of the planet, had
some hilarity, some banter after all those…
those extremes of on-stage emotion, your friend
starts weeping, wild, raw sobbing in the ladies,
all restraint gone. A diagnosis.

And it’s unjust, premature, final, cruel.
Nothing will ever be the same between
you all, and everything, the catch phrases,
the not using our names any more,
the same old anecdotes – it all makes sense.

Even the last time, when he drove round
the roundabout the wrong way,
and no one said a word.

Checking up on dad

You needed to see it for yourselves – the last time
wasn’t so bad, after all. You’d taken him out
to eat. He’d had some, spilled his half of shandy,
seemed pleased at news of next year’s wedding.

When you drove him back, he’d not asked you in.
You could live with that. You put it down
to tiredness, left. If not content, satisfied.
Duty done. Now there’ve been calls, texts. The door barred

to the lady who pops in to check and clean.
He’s not left out washing; been absent, missed.
So you go. Just three weeks, not the normal four.
He seems thinner. Uncombed, unshaved, unwashed.

The flat’s neglected: the fridge bare. An air
of quiet decay, despair. You find a shirt,
sweater, coat, go with him to buy food. The pub lunch
offer gets rejected. Instead he lets you

make poached eggs. Toys with them, is tearful,
trembles. When you try to shift the topic
from scolding him or fretting, he slips back
half a century. Those early rose-lit days

of marriage. On the trip home, unsaids choke
the car. At last, you turn in, stop. Your man looks away,
clears his throat.

He can’t remember Mum. He’s mixed her up
with the wife before, the one who died
at twenty four. Twelve months, they had. That’s all.
It’s just not fair. That’s what hurts the most.

Richard Devereux is a poet based in Bristol. His poems have been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including One Hand Clapping, Drawn to the Light and Raceme. His great inspiration is Greece – its beauty, its history, its people. Old loves and new loves.
@RichrdDevereux


evening

in the kafeneíon
            ouzos with mezedákia
távli


pieces
            stacked
we roll and move

my careless arm
            brushing
yours

yours
            just happening
to bump mine

in the under-light
            our knees
slow-mo collide

a shin surprises
            a calf
toes tip toes

at Spíro’s
            we nibble
till dinner

a hand weighing
            a hand
letting it slip

a finger-tip stroking
            the dip
between two knuckles

words few
silences long
eyes-for-eyes

Peter Devonald is a Manchester based poet/ screenwriter. Winner of Waltham Forest Poetry Competition 2022, FofHCS Poetry Award 2022 and Heart Of Heatons Poetry Award 2011. Poet in residence at Haus-a-rest. Poems published in Artists Responding To…, Forget-Me-Not Press and Greenhouse, Poetic Map of Reading, 5 group poetry gallery shows, 50+ film awards, former judge Peter Ustinov Awards and Children’s Bafta nominated.
www.scriptfirst.com    https://www.instagram.com/peterdevonald/ https://www.facebook.com/pdevonald


The Perfect Poem


She cut, clipped and condensed the words
down, down, down into the sea / away from you and me
snipped and sliced / slashed and scorched
shorter and shorter / smaller and smaller
find the perfect phrase / the perfect point
to explain the universe
to show the human heart
in its all dexterity / beauty / majesty
unique in intensity
original in intent
to beat / belong / sing / sigh
stanza’s omitted and changed / verses voiced and silenced
reduce the lines to its essence / truth of origin
all human voices / beat of life / beat goes on
beat of you / whisper of me / this moment
and finally / as midnight strikes
the perfect poem complete and true
no more place for cutting / editing / human introspection
the truth of you / me / all of human life
written on the page words / wrought from her soul
bitter and beautiful / sweetest sweet and sourest sour
the final poem read / in all its entirety of truth:

Nicky Whitfield lives in Pembrokeshire. 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 is offering more time to express herself in the written word.


Two seeds sown under different moons
Nurtured and loved
Until full grown.

Tall saplings now with roots spread wide
Explore new earth
Beyond their turf.

With branches touching
The space is shared
Each making room for the other.

Now reaching up
Towards the light
Growing together.

The young trees ripen
And let their fruit fall
Down onto the rich soft soil.

A new seed seeks out the light
With gentle heat and shelter
It will unfurl and fulfill its fate.

Dark days will knock
Winds shake the boughs
Waiting the return of flowers.

Then repowered by sun
Refreshed and full
Bathing in some warmth and fun.

Bark thickens on their withering trees
As they nod and bow
Deep wisdom in their eyes.

Two trees still together
A new woodland for ever
When life gives form to life.

Can I be your Yorkshire terrier?

I was one this morning for a little while.
You cupped my head in your hands,
You smoothed my hair backwards.
My gaze fixed steadily on you.
I felt held
I felt loved
In that moment life was simple
In that moment life was complete.

Neil Beardmore was a winner in the Richard Burton Poetry Competition in the nineties. He has performed his work widely and published his poems in Orbis, The French Literary Review, The Interpreter’s House, Cannon’s Mouth and more. His new collection Making Cars and Blues Art Guitars has just been released.
NeilBeardmore.com


Macbeth’s knife

The exam. A brightly lit gym. English —
I was never good at it. I don’t know why Macbeth,
clearly an intelligent and charismatic
leader, believed in witches.

I’m thinking about this
and trying to explain,
and why the three of them
will meet again, and he anxious to be there.

I noticed it then, the arm of the girl.
She was across the aisle from me.
Right handed, this was her left arm
resting along her desk, palm down.
I did not know her, not well, anyway,
she was from another class.
Her arm shone like marble,
inert, as though unconnected to the rest of her,
the soft light skin covered in down.
I wanted it to move, for its fingers to play,
drum the table uselessly to tap away boredom.
but it remained stagnant.
I could not see her face,
as she leaned forward her hair hung down
obscuring her eyes and nose and mouth,
absorbed as she was in exploring
the workings of Lady Macbeth’s mind.
Then she stopped and looked up for breath,
resting the back of her hand on the desk.
I saw scars then, the dried lines of tissue
across the inside of her wrist.
and I jumped. The invigilator’s eyes
were on me. And I wished at that moment
I was as transparent as Banquo’s ghost.

Inside waves

We rush into summer waves like little kids,
my brother’s son and me,
I, around fifty, he, half my age.
The water comes at us in huge ridges
so we dive through or leap up over,
and then we smile with it.
We knew the rain was coming
when we ran hooting and yelping
in the ice-biting surf,
saw the blue-grey swirl in the sky
heading for us, and laughed and leaped,
got pushed under, rose shaking heads after
ready for the next from behind.
He smiled to me, some new side unraveled
unclouded a few seconds, he sprang laughing,
free of diagnosis, uncaught by pills,
of all the things he thought the world thought
he should be. Unheld by his own voices.
The rain came then, fast-spotting the sea.
Hail burned the backs of our heads.
And he laughed, like I’d not seen.
Not crazy, not ill. A lad in waves,
arms splashing the sea.
Youth, fine-bodied, like years ago I used to be.

Buddhist United versus The Rest

They were over the hill of a sudden,
the men in orange
appearing strangely floating,
cassocks flailing like wings.

And men in black,
they track down
in the sunshine of
an autumn ending,

coming down in the shadow
of the pagoda.
Out of drumming prayer
they drift like strange birds

in distance, freed up.
Three walk the labyrinth path,
devotees to the myths of chaos
with the tree at its heart.

Someone has a ball.
Kicks. Intent revealed:
after devotion — the league.
Break into teams,

The sacred white sculpture
is a goal post along with a pullover.
Buddhists versus The Rest — in black —
orange cassocks flailing.

Hard Zen tackles,
groans at misses, cheers at goal.
Champions of the non violent challenge.
No yellow cards.
Nirvana on the pitch.

Margaret Kiernan is an Irish writer; she has published prose and poetry and is a Nominee for The Best of The Net Award 2022.
margaret.kiernan@facebook.com


Salmon in Aspic Jelly

after Michael Hoffman, Guanajuato Two Times

I should get by with a cat or two
Allow for nine plus lives a piece
scrape through this one too

I should choose those Persian Blues
For chasing black cars
Down our street

I should agree to feed them
Salmon in aspic jelly
But only every second day

They could meow into the moonlit night
Watch a mouse with fear
Remember their un-gilded cages from other lives.

I should show one at a parochial dog show
Clip a lead upon its pretty neck
Get it to sit upon the judge’s shoe

Coax it to mew, have it slurp from his hand
the titbits, pour salt into the wound
Scowl at the neighbour’s poodle

I should seek a rosette or two
Suck a lemon if needs be
Parade in the burlesque cat-show

I should at the same time just before dark
Pretend to play a baby grand,
A duet for two cats.

Kathryn Helen Moores has been writing poetry her whole life.  She has been published in various poetry magazines and anthologies and is most proud when she writes something that her grown children aren’t embarrassed by.
kathrynmoores10@facebook.com kathrynhelenmoores@twitter.


Past Methuselah
How spacious is the soul that floats
on ethered breath until it meets itself again;
and, after introductions, casts aside all pretention
on the ways of matter- of length and breadth
of here and now and there and then until,
quite forgetful of itself, this tenacious soul
attains new heights, quickened by a surgeon’s knife,
to a snicker snack of liberation, away from home,
this gracious soul that seeks a friend, a place, a mate,
that seeks a destination of perhaps another skin
a suit of form and time and food or onward ever onward
past Methuselah and on to walk amongst the gods
who welcome the sagacious soul into their fold
to rest a while from journeying, to rest a while untold.

Kate Copeland‘s love for words led her to teaching & translating, her love for art & water to poetry. Please find her pieces @ Ekphrastic Review, Metaworker, The Weekly/Five South, Wildfire Words, New Feathers, Poetry Barn a.o. Kate has volunteered at literary festivals and poetry workshops, and still adores housesitting.
https://www.instagram.com/kate.copeland.poems/.


Letter to L. [1]

Dear L.,

Today I got your letter. I love
going to the post box
to find you, to read you. My love
for friends is otherwise than to men.

The lines laid down
in the kitchen a bit, I have
grown two-ways
letter-wise: a need for distance, space,
before songs sing, it seems
to beat my eagerness to eat
your hopes, our handwriting
started from the same blue sheets.

You are right to light fear and wish
it less. Then, this one-footed anger,
we just welcome it in? Or direct it at
them, who won’t grant us our own door
– easier said – I am so overwhelmed
by men-stories, beating
macho fronts, rising
when dreamy days dawn two-faced.

And imagine, no more limits,
you almost here, a party in the desert
where we always be
the ones staying till the end.

You are right to take the book and wish
for its cover, down two drinks
on a Tuesday, say, our little Saturday.
Oh L., let us be forever the ones listening
to silence and songs, on all-day-long
decks, even in Winter, even a picnic
in the kitchen, where our hands warm,
where our dogs wait in the late day.

Whateverelse? Your T.


Letter to L. [2]

Dear dear L.,

Weatherfully wishing for you – any sign, a line, your love,
while today won’t disappear, it is like dots, then wine, red
dust as cover.
A new dryness on my face, a lucid dullness and I leave
the liquor for our coffee, the copper-coloured skirts for
our film nights.
A new wild car arrived and I thought it was you, driving
down the drive, cactus high, I will plan our days ahead
before the air is cold,
enough, before my book will finish. I know you make it.
You know I expect you, I prepare a coastline meal and
cherish the blackness
in my chest, for you will sight it, feel it, name it. For you
will bitter nothing, listen, mind it. I wish you wonders,
admire you all hours
and won’t shy away when words are so kind. Still, I wish
you my words as we share so much, in arts, in letters, the
self-standingness.
Find me in this desert, my hero of sounds and vision, you
mountain woman like me. Timeless moments on your own
are dangerous,
the takes on a landscape change and I have never uncovered
to hug me at single hours, whispering myself a happy rise,
though I know
to way down a park, to sand, yet only when held by flowers.
I took joy in my coffee today on a terrace, again not feeling
that bad about
alone, where I live through most eve-tides, see how to read
the pieces, even when the walls whisper back indeed. Shall
we celebrate all
the small and big ways in which you show you, and I show
me, showing up to selves, in colourful garbs on any avenue.
You turn up. Soon.

Your T.


Letter to L. [3]

Dearest L,

Wonderful you came to see, you will always be my match, my drinking mate,
knightess in shining travels,
or is that too tempestuous? Even though we are port city, sentimental is never too
stormy, honest lying in
their illusion-empire never too pirate. The bar was a good station to un-feel some
wounds, to safe-sip last
days, to dance to David. So, to dog Borges: I told you the truest thing I mean. You are
the sky, and the sky
should be female. Don’t be alone either. The bounty songs will wait to be tamed.

And remember,

Any escape from pink nights or amber blasts, any alarm to or fro the swimming snow will soften right
when you recall the sun, the Meuse – our muse – where waves and wine ride around a chorus of sky-
scrapers, on best days of the week. The keys we keep, the long runs, so, remember us, sound the songs,
silver. Let us leave clouds, cold, calm. Trade your snowy scape for a plane-train-anything soon, o sea,
join me, always, on this companion-ship we so know how to sail. Let us be true.

Your T.

Josiane Smith weaves social change and human story. She has twice been published in onbeing’s international poetry collection, and has performed at the BBC, Bristol Beacon and Torriano. Her poems feature in exhibitions in South Africa, Jordan and New York, and she is aiming to publish her debut pamphlet this year.
https://www.instagram.com/josianesmith/




The Window

I don’t know if I should tell you this,

but while                       I’m sitting here,
staring into                   yawning light,
hanging like                 a lazy blue;
while I watch               rustling trees
and blink at                  building tops
blurred out;                  while I focus
on rows of                    tiny homes

(their hopeful lights)

and an                            airplane sparkle,
navigating                     waiting air;
while I hear                   little thunders
of cars crash                 like dawning tides, before
retreating into   an unbelievable
momentary                   silence;
the waves of                 grown men
voicing an                     instruction
or goodbye,                  floating
up to me                       from a cold grey street;

whole and without pause,

I open up a                       book of poetry,
drawn as if                       to the windows
of other people              who are also awake or alone,
sometime                         before the sky becomes light.

And I think of you.

I imagine                            rolling my face over yours
while you’re                       curled asleep in my bed,
and leaning in                    to kiss your cheekbone,
before diving                     further into other worlds.

I think of you.

I envision                            what your eyes would do,
tearing up                           or peering through.
I want to hear                    what you think –
staring with me                 through windows,
spotting shapes                and shades
I was before                       blind to.

I think of you.

You are a window            I love looking through.
And I don’t know             if I should tell you this,

     but I do.

Jane Spray is a prize-winning, published and anthologised poet-artist living in the Forest of Dean, where she is a member of PIPS, The Jackdaws, and Dean Writers Circle. Sometimes in May she organises Bluebell Poets.
www.janespray.net


Drawing Together

A regenerative collaboration in Mollie Meager’s stained glass workshop. September 2020. With thanks to Mollie Meager and Pam Moolman

Scruffy us, in the scruffy workshop
strawbale soft curves. In the centre, a big solid table.
Clear it a bit. Unroll Moll’s huge sheet of blank paper.
It doesn’t matter what we put. Pick up fat, coloured pastels
any colour you fancy, go for it.

Pam goes for heartache, raw heartache.
I draw spirals, like hurricanes, and waves. A choppy uncertain sea.
Mollie adds more waves, a little boat, and slaps on coloured paper shapes.
One, a dark blue heart, flapping its wings, the other might be a stone.
Liking the collage, I add a black paper triangle –

instant dark mountain – though Mollie takes it for another stone
a wet slate skimming stone – a stone’s throw away a way away
Pam silver-stains bright arcs of yellow and orange.
I scribble the sudden red gules of anger.
We move round the table, adding from all sides, a dance

call and response; layers, building up.
Moll wants things to move faster – LET’S RISE UP!  in capitals
on the updraft. Turns Pam’s blue dashes into Chagall birds.
On the steep side of my green hill I sketch pines, larches.
Pam burbles a sparrow, an owl, a human being; reaching the sea; hope, love

all these things. I add cracks to the heartache, break it open
open  wide  open         include  include  include       
we don’t always know what we’re saying but we mean it
shapes colours words zinging together as one
we travel together we travel alone and we’re            moving our story along.

Giles Constable writes to better make sense of and celebrate being alive. He started in recent years at the age of 53. He has come to appreciate the act of writing causes life to become at once more challenging but also more vivid.


Murmuration
I am often not brave,
often afraid,
wake deep in the night,
swaddled in grief,
the dark a stone on my chest,
many moments sightless.

I turn to you
and there you are, still.
I tie your breath to mine,
Pulled by your tide.
We fall and rise in time.

You stir and sigh soft birds
which fly from your warm nest,
take to our interior sky.

They rise and twist,
caress space into shapes
impossible and new,
defy care’s gravity,
disperse worry into air

until as if by command
they float down as one,
to drift about us, settle,
soft as the kiss you give
when you wake from sleep,
as the brush of a folding wing.

Gaynor Kane lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is widely published in print and online. In 2022 she was a judge for the North Carolina Poetry Society and guest sub-editor for The Storms: A Journal of Poetry, Prose and Visual Art. 
Find her on Twitter @gaynorkane


A Wild Man

They used to say he was a wild man
but he was no god of the woodlands.
Maybe when young and in the half-light

of a smoky pub he might have resembled
a flirty fawn, the lustre of his short locks
and building site body as muscular

as a prowling mountain cat,
the gleam of his bright eyes
reflecting the bar lights—and perhaps

a girl, after three Bloody Marys
would’ve laughed at his Guinness moustache;
then wiped it off with her finger.

It’s even conceivable
that she sucked the cream
between strawberry lips and he might

have leaned in and she may have
fixed her eyes on his and held her breath.
But it probably wasn’t my mother.

Chris Hemingway is a poet and songwriter from Gloucestershire.  His latest pamphlet paperfolders was published by Indigo Dreams in 2021, and his debut party in the diaryhouse by Picaroon in 2018.  He volunteers for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and Cheltenham Park Run, sometimes over the same week.
chrishemingwaytmepoetry.com


 Aligned

 Sounds below stairs
 at a writing retreat,
 like the closing moments
 of an examination.

 Clicks of completeness,
 quiet scrapes of chairs.
 An air conditioner hums,
 semi-circular,
 snow white noise.

 A still place,
 of single purpose.
 A rare alignment
 of where I mean to be,
 and where I am.

The Cusp

The cusp is not a place
where I step lightly.
It’s like that drop
that ends a dream,
cartoon sudden.

The cusp can be approached
with eyes and teeth gritted.
A tense internal struggle
between frost and fear,
but never thaw.

The cusp is the Lido’s surface chill.
The swirling shamrock in your coffee cup.
7.59, digital alarm, Radio 4
The phone ringing when you know they’re in.
The envelope, the appointment, the winner is.

The cusp is the brim of a glass.
Or the last drop drained from an empty one.
Optimists and pessimists agree.
It’s a moment not a state of mind.

Carol Sheppard
is a poet and playwright living in the beautiful Forest of Dean which inspires much of her writing.  She has had two plays professionally produced and a number of her poems have appeared in anthologies and poetry journals.

www.carolsheppard.co.uk


Sheringham

We sat in tub chairs behind the glass of the patio doors staring out as the sea turned silver and the peach sky paled. Like goldfish behind glass.

Passing the binoculars between us as if we were on coastguard duty, keeping watch for invading ships. Watching the white sails of a sailing boat slide from left to right. Then spotting a low lying container ship on the horizon to the left of the wind turbines fading into the evening haze mist.

People watching with our glassy eyes – the woman with the fat waddling pug, the couple with matching green fleeces, the three lads passing a cigarette between them.

Our vision becoming obscured by the dancing midges with their ballerina moves and dangling tails performing in front o f the window. Rising and dropping in time to the tick of the clock.

Swans (not Ducks)

(with a nod to F W Harvey’s poem Ducks)

When the world goes awry
I turn to swans,
not ducks, like Harvey.
Bold and brash, fighting and splashing
steaming in like flotillas of battle ships
pushing and shoving
at the mere rustle of a paper bag.

I turn to swans
who glide graceful and serene
like delicate ballerinas
on a watery stage
curtained by bullrushes
and water iris.

If you want to see loyalty
– turn to swans
who mate for life.
If you want to see beauty
– turn to swans
dressed in bridal white.
If you want to see love
– turn to swans
when they dance
and twirl beak to beak.

If you need peace from the world
leave the ducks alone
Turn to swans.

When Pip Pirrip met Abel Magwitch

A found poem using words and phrases from the first chapter of Great Expectations by Charles Dickins

Down in sodden marsh country, a bleak place
where sleepy river winds through dark flat wilderness
alder trees and pollards bend to the nervous sea.
Scattered cud-chewing cattle feed on long rushes and sedges
lift heads to gaze at strangers amongst dykes and mounds and gates
on a raw afternoon, wind rushing from the sea.
Sinking sun, rows of angry red and black, cuts the low leaden line,
a silhouette beacon shining out by which the sailors steered
next to a chain hanging gibbet where pirates died in
an unhooped cask upon a pole.

A small bundle of shivers trip trapping
across dropped stone stepping places
faces a bear-like fearful man hung
in coarse grey, heaving a clanking leg iron,
surly mud-smothered skin.
stumbling with stone-lamed sore feet,
flint-cut, nettle-stung
ragged clothes all briar-torn.
A wounded animal prowling, glaring and growling
grabs poor Pip by scruff of neck til he nearly chokes
hisses “keep still or I’ll cut your throat”.

Bridgette James, the author of Sierra Leone in The Diaspora was a Metropolitan Police Special Constable. Her poem “African Mimosa” was in the longlist for the 2022 Aurora National Competition. Two poems would be featured in Dreich Magazine; her work has appeared in the Fib Review and Wildfire Words.
www.ellaspoems.co.uk


A doll from another world

She came in my aunt’s brown leather suitcase all the way from England
a belated Christmas present — a doll unwrapped out of see-through premium
plastic and glossy paper, I kept unrolling across the length of our bare floor.

I could not fathom who she was until my mum said a barbie doll — I stared, fixatedly
at the skinny, exquisite toy — my aunt apologised: brown dolls were never in stock.
Pale blue eyes looked intently back into my mine — mum said ours, were dusty brown —

I stroked her high cheek bones wondering in amazement how a thing could be so beautiful —
unusually. My hair was short and curly and took ages to plait, hers was straight; A Rapunzel: dangling down to her waist: blonde — then aged eight in Freetown, I thought golden yellow.

I knew right away she had to be precious even if not reflective of me a skeletal dark-skinned girl clutching her tightly in my hand — such contrastingly different skin tones. Breath-taking frilly white dress embroidered with glittery pearls I thought were diamonds etched into it.

Toy makers in England must be wealthy. Long flowing exquisite shawl spun out of transparent lace that shimmered, complementing the hem of her frock. I gasped at her stunning outfit; the kind I dreamed off for Christmas. Awe struck; it glammed up my world.

From then on, my impressionable mind was in Sierra Leone — a place where deities were reinvented in folklore as female. I formed an irreconcilable notion that Barbie was the Sea goddess: a mermaid reincarnated.  She, who must be worshipped as the icon of perfection.

Angela Arnold has had her work published in print and online, in the UK and elsewhere, and in anthologies. Her collection In|Between is coming out this year (Stairwell Books). She is also an artist and a creative gardener, now living in Wales.
@AngelaArnold777..


We, the Bus Stop Gods

Yes, it’s us, squatting all bagged-about
on chemist’s steps. Us who stand, backs against
scratchy walls, facing twenty and more
minutes of drizzle. Us, town hawks, who watch
as all-the-world goes squishing by: Grump there,
sour-faced under her mustard umbrella,
Friday fish in her bag; Midge,
plaster-haired and six foot ten with determination,
splatting puddles with his degree.
A world of waterproofed, wellied, hooded,
momentarily unsexed bits of humanity rushling past:
all eyes kept, in convoy, down…
Granny, engulfed in a crowd of giants, in her
best (sodden) pink today. And Mum-of-one
clacking along on heels behind wheels, grimacing
at the untidy legs, bags and elbows-on-mobiles
mess we are on the pavement,
slow to recognise, dope-eyed, our recognition –
                                    yes, it’s us
who watch, watch and draw all the
necessary life-breath conclusions.
                                   And, you there – hey, hissing by
in your streaming metal box? Know what?
You just think you exist. Hhm.
Go on, flick a handy switch,
see whether it makes a taste of rain-on-neck,
a sense of passing eyes
being, just about, family. – And what anyway
is this mad mouthing you do (sat in there,
singly) about the wiped weather?
Go on. Home. It will all wipe: of no account. None of
this
happened to you at all.

Saying Sorry Soon

The phone now become the enemy, to be
shunned at all cost. Square pinprick reminder up there
on the board (in elbow-jog yellow)

needling the conscience as it’s intended to: something
needs dialled, said, spread and
laid out, naked.

Those tongue-numbing seconds will slowly thaw, catch,
grow. That spikey line will
yield to the give of ripples;

something shared:
of awkwardness,
word fumble and doubt.

Pinned there in bright lemon is the hope
that in the coming minutes
flesh and blood warm will trump rational, will just about

unsnake the garden
in the long shadow-testing minutes
that sort of thing takes.



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