Picaroon - Issue #5 - November 2016

Welcome to Issue #5 of Picaroon Poetry, or as I've been affectionately (and unofficially!) calling it, 'the sex and death issue'. It's an unquestionably autumnal/wintry collection of poems for our last outing of 2016, bleak and unflinching in places (though there are some wry, hopeful, and funny moments as well). Still, as long as these things are being written down, everything keeps moving forward. Includes poems by Ava C. Cipri, Ojo Taiye, James H Duncan, Charlotte Ansell, Monika Kostera, Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe, Jackie Biggs, Lesley Quayle, Amy Kinsman, Derek Coyle, Cheryl Pearson, Bethany W Pope, Nenad Trajkovic, Jane R Rogers, David Susswein, Emma Lee, Jo Burns, Brett Evans, John D. Robinson, Shauna Robertson, Bobby Steve Baker, Holly Day, Courtney LeBlanc, Jessica Mookherjee, Paul Brookes, Pat Edwards, John Grey and Steven Bruce.

Welcome to Issue #5 of Picaroon Poetry, or as I've been affectionately (and unofficially!) calling it, 'the sex and death issue'. It's an unquestionably autumnal/wintry collection of poems for our last outing of 2016, bleak and unflinching in places (though there are some wry, hopeful, and funny moments as well). Still, as long as these things are being written down, everything keeps moving forward.

Includes poems by Ava C. Cipri, Ojo Taiye, James H Duncan, Charlotte Ansell, Monika Kostera, Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe, Jackie Biggs, Lesley Quayle, Amy Kinsman, Derek Coyle, Cheryl Pearson, Bethany W Pope, Nenad Trajkovic, Jane R Rogers, David Susswein, Emma Lee, Jo Burns, Brett Evans, John D. Robinson, Shauna Robertson, Bobby Steve Baker, Holly Day, Courtney LeBlanc, Jessica Mookherjee, Paul Brookes, Pat Edwards, John Grey and Steven Bruce.


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<strong>Issue</strong> <strong>#5</strong><br />

<strong>November</strong> <strong>2016</strong><br />

Edited by Kate Garrett<br />

All poems copyright © <strong>2016</strong> individual authors<br />

Selection/issue copyright © <strong>2016</strong> Kate Garrett

This issue is dedicated to two of the most beautiful rogues the<br />

world has ever seen<br />

Melissa Lee Garrett<br />

7 May 1968 – 14 <strong>November</strong> <strong>2016</strong><br />

Beloved aunt / surrogate big sister of our editor; wild and free and<br />

resilient and loving<br />

&<br />

Leonard Norman Cohen<br />

21 September 1934 – 7 <strong>November</strong> <strong>2016</strong><br />

Beloved poet and musician to millions; soulful and mystical and<br />

above all human, just like you

This Month’s Rogue Poems ● <strong>November</strong> <strong>2016</strong><br />

The Other Side<br />

Ava C. Cipri<br />

Shelter Us from the Dark Rain<br />

Ojo Taiye<br />

The Old Note Book<br />

James H Duncan<br />

Jennie<br />

Charlotte Ansell<br />

Medea<br />

Monika Kostera<br />

Ultrasound<br />

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe<br />

Black Dolls<br />

Jackie Biggs<br />

The Mending Ghost<br />

Lesley Quayle<br />

47 Miles Inland<br />

Amy Kinsman<br />

At Noblett’s<br />

Derek Coyle<br />

Mushrooms<br />

Cheryl Pearson<br />

Beating<br />

Bethany W Pope

Conversation with a Sister<br />

Nenad Trajkovic<br />

The Telling of Blue<br />

Jane R Rogers<br />

Memories of a Soldier’s Dying<br />

David Susswein<br />

A Boy’s Text Message in Headlines<br />

Emma Lee<br />

Initiation into the Order<br />

Jo Burns<br />

Bull<br />

Brett Evans<br />

Pick-Up<br />

John D. Robinson<br />

Sleeping with a Bearded Man<br />

Shauna Robertson<br />

When Somebody Outdrew You<br />

Bobby Steve Baker<br />

Dewey-Eyed Farm Girls<br />

Holly Day<br />

The Next Morning<br />

Courtney LeBlanc<br />

A Real Man<br />

Jessica Mookherjee<br />

My Other Coat<br />

Paul Brookes

No Closure<br />

Pat Edwards<br />

All I Want for Christmas<br />

John Grey<br />

Caffeine<br />

Steven Bruce

The Other Side<br />

Ava C. Cipri<br />

Honey please, this is me talking to you<br />

through the looking glass. You darkened my door<br />

along with everything else.<br />

Stop walking, but run for your life:<br />

become a deadly weapon; carry a stiletto, love,<br />

if you go chasing rabbits. Men<br />

don’t feel you anymore and I’ve given up on waiting.<br />

Get up, admit it is over. And one pill makes you small.<br />

I’m going back, don’t come around here,<br />

go ask Alice.<br />

This cento is sourced from the lyrics of Jefferson Airplane’s “White<br />

Rabbit” songwriter Grace Slick (1967); Tom Petty and The<br />

Heartbreakers’ “Don't Come Around Here No More” songwriters Tom<br />

Petty and Dave Stewart (1985), and Stevie Nicks’ “Alice” songwriters<br />

Stevie Nicks and Rupert Hine (1989).

Shelter Us from the Dark Rain<br />

Ojo Taiye<br />

(for Romeo)<br />

shouldn’t i give you something else<br />

something outside of myself<br />

the many pastiche behind the eyes<br />

and hands of Picasso<br />

in the commonplaces of the asylum<br />

in the narrow dairy of my mind<br />

will it not shock you?<br />

if you found out that<br />

i am animal waiting<br />

for a butcher’s knife;<br />

an accident of hope<br />

sometimes, an inverted bowl –<br />

you wouldn’t rage in your own bowl<br />

albeit, i am not whole<br />

i see things in all shades of black<br />

will the world go away for a while?<br />

i bleed purple in places deeper than<br />

you could ever imagine.

The Old Note Book<br />

James H Duncan<br />

the last thing inscribed<br />

was “her eyes swing away<br />

like blue jays in flight”<br />

but it was the old note book<br />

and I couldn’t remember<br />

who it was about—maybe<br />

nobody I knew, or her<br />

though her eyes weren’t blue;<br />

none of them were, come<br />

to think of it<br />

the handwriting just<br />

above that entry read “flash<br />

bulb morning through the<br />

train window” in the same ink<br />

so, a stranger then,<br />

a woman with blue eyes<br />

who departed a train along<br />

the Hudson River some years<br />

back whose eyes sail<br />

like birds in flight<br />

into the lifespan of another<br />

man or woman or<br />

some other miraculous state<br />

of being entirely<br />

and then, in the old note book,<br />

a black line beneath demarcating<br />

the years passing by<br />

farewell, blue eyes in flight

Jennie<br />

Charlotte Ansell<br />

You meet me from the tube,<br />

bare feet, impossibly<br />

micro shorts, pixie hair.<br />

‘You could still be seventeen…<br />

in the dark’ I say,<br />

dodging your shove.<br />

As if we could peel away the<br />

years like flaky skin, go back<br />

to the cold weather shelter work;<br />

your nearly indecipherable<br />

Belfast vowels, penchant for denim<br />

and that prick, who scrunched<br />

you into a ball until<br />

you rolled out from under<br />

to waltz down Brixton High St<br />

with the gentle Italian<br />

you couldn’t love<br />

but who wouldn’t break you.<br />

Not much could; incorrigible grin<br />

and mischief, those obscene<br />

vulva- toed boots you bought,<br />

the time you met Prince Charles,<br />

gave him your business card with a wink,<br />

queen of the faux pas, regaling<br />

any room with your tales, that laugh.<br />

Still all eyes and legs at forty two,<br />

talking faster than the boil of the expresso pot,<br />

our time together in meagre slices now,<br />

not the weekend slabs we used to have<br />

that even then weren’t enough.

You come in for a wee while<br />

I clean my teeth,<br />

I’m trying to digest your news;<br />

the Brighton house you’ve put an offer on.<br />

Fourteen years of making the sofa cushions<br />

into a bed on your living room floor,<br />

in the house that watched us grow up.<br />

I let myself out at five am,<br />

walk into the subdued pale<br />

of a Tottenham morning,<br />

tell myself a few hundred<br />

miles more won’t hurt.<br />

Remind myself,<br />

I’ve always loved the sea.

Medea<br />

Monika Kostera<br />

Mother of untouched teddies,<br />

smooth identical dolls, and of plushie<br />

rabbits, hanging by the ear at checkout.<br />

Of ready-made cards, wishing on<br />

birthdays to best dads<br />

in the world. Of mugs<br />

lined up, wearing<br />

red red hearts<br />

on their sleeves. Mother<br />

whom no one shall mock,<br />

not like the rest.<br />

Holy mother, pray for us,<br />

pray for all that has been cut<br />

off<br />

and thrown away.

Ultrasound<br />

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe<br />

The transformation is almost complete:<br />

an embryo suspended in amniotic fluid;<br />

swelling as we fast-forward through months<br />

of tentative pre-natal footage, recorded<br />

by anxious doctors at the I.V.F. clinic.<br />

Hold the negative up against time and watch<br />

as it changes: a microscopic expanding circle,<br />

throbbing with a faint pulse. A globe encapsulating<br />

hope. See the arm as it flexes for the first time,<br />

and the legs curl up, toes arching to touch the nose.<br />

Months of tests and medications, daily injections<br />

into yesterday’s bruises, result in a growing bump<br />

that started as an uncertain blip on the ultrasound.<br />

Now we see a somersaulting black and white image,<br />

trying to kick its way out of the photograph.

Black dolls<br />

Jackie Biggs<br />

She sits in swirling dust<br />

as she knits<br />

with fine black yarn.<br />

Only dolls.<br />

Only black,<br />

even their eyes.<br />

All day<br />

in a shaded room,<br />

where the motes<br />

float<br />

in rays filtered<br />

through tiny gaps in blinds,<br />

she crochets around coal dust,<br />

knots stitches in silk,<br />

makes tassels.<br />

Tiny fingers create Goya’s Black Duchess,<br />

covered in her mourning lace,<br />

from her hair to her tiny,<br />

pointed shoes.<br />

One plain one purl<br />

and there grows the Marquesa de Santa Cruz,<br />

mantilla floating in a breeze,<br />

veils and shawls, layer on layer.<br />

A fine figure in billowing skirts,<br />

a flash of scarlet pinches her waist<br />

above the frills and flutter of taffeta,<br />

twisted and woven,<br />

where lace rustles<br />

around the swish<br />

of satin.

She knits and<br />

she frowns at the little blaze<br />

of red.<br />

Even her piano plays<br />

only in minor keys.<br />

All day she sits<br />

in the swirling motes<br />

as she knits<br />

and knots and twirls her yarns.<br />

Only dolls,<br />

only black,<br />

they sit in twilight<br />

in perfect rows on shelves<br />

all around the sooty room.<br />

While in her night-time dreams a crow calls<br />

from a lone tree,<br />

rooks gather on great towers,<br />

shouting their stories over<br />

broken walls<br />

and a raven ruffles his perfect black wings<br />

ready to fly.<br />

A gulp of swallows swoops low<br />

over a locked-up memory<br />

in her darkened life;<br />

and the green sheen<br />

on the black of the magpie’s tail feather<br />

shines bright<br />

in her closed-in mind.<br />

Black swans gather<br />

in their grace,<br />

a bank of sails on a sleepy lake,<br />

they seem made of coal,<br />

hacked out of ancient strata,

fashioned from the gloss of black minerals.<br />

No light escapes their slick patina,<br />

they suck in her surprise<br />

at seeing them at all,<br />

and glide with it<br />

and mill together among weeds,<br />

trapped in tar.<br />

Red squints of beak<br />

show among feathers<br />

and flashes of scarlet<br />

bleed under scrapes.<br />

I am the one,<br />

the black swan –<br />

listen<br />

to my song.<br />

But the chorus has no tune.<br />

Necks curl and bend,<br />

mirror each other,<br />

make hearts<br />

in their mating game,<br />

but she sees only the tar backs,<br />

the swan black,<br />

and she’s gone back …<br />

before she was born.<br />

She wakes in the hour before dawn<br />

to the blackbird’s song,<br />

and a taste of bitter on her tongue.<br />

As light seeps in through cracks,<br />

she rises,<br />

and looks first<br />

to her rows of dolls.

Unravelled yarns,<br />

threads of black<br />

fall in coils,<br />

like the soft hair of<br />

the Marquesa,<br />

a thousand<br />

black strands in curls and waves,<br />

hang loose from ledges,<br />

in the coal-dusty cold room.<br />

And all day she sits<br />

in swirling dust<br />

as she knits.<br />

Only dolls<br />

only black<br />

even their eyes.

The Mending Ghost<br />

Lesley Quayle<br />

Over time, we forgot about<br />

the broken doll,<br />

even though our daughter cried herself to sleep<br />

when she dropped it and the hard skull<br />

split like a watermelon.<br />

My doll, precious, handed down to her.<br />

Her conscience wasn’t easily consoled.<br />

Her father, able to mend anything, tried,<br />

for both our sakes, but pronounced it hopeless.<br />

We laid its irreparable corpse to rest<br />

on the bed in the spare room, tiptoed out<br />

and, over time, forgot.<br />

And for months it lay, undisturbed,<br />

in the strange, cold room where we’d uncovered<br />

frescoes of woad-blue figures round the fireplace,<br />

garlands of them, bleeding into plaster, like faded<br />

paper-dolls, a child’s finger-painted depiction.<br />

No-one wanted to sleep in there. A room of dolls.<br />

And then, walking past one afternoon,<br />

the world grew small, an open door<br />

the only clear space, framing the bed<br />

where the broken doll lay – undamaged, mended.

The woad-blue figures round the fireplace<br />

were fresh, their edges sharp, a fingertip of ice<br />

on my spine.

47 Miles Inland<br />

Amy Kinsman<br />

Blackbeard is buried forty-seven miles inland,<br />

in the grounds of a poorly attended church,<br />

under a stone marked with a skull and crossbones.<br />

He listens for the sound of Sunday school letting out,<br />

patent leather shoes patting over the grass<br />

in search of a stick of silver birch to serve as cutlass.<br />

Says yes, my lass, an overhead slash will bait a crowd,<br />

but when the crown comes calling, forget swashbuckling,<br />

spill their stomachs on the deck or you’ll hang<br />

and watches her whip her brother’s wrists,<br />

jab the pointed end through the third hole in his belt,<br />

send him crying back to mummy in the vestry.<br />

The grown-ups count the coins in the collection plate,<br />

brush them off, demand they play more quietly,<br />

when she asks say don’t be daft, he was killed at sea.<br />

Yes, and I was interred here to stop me going back<br />

as if I couldn’t commandeer canal boat or ice-cream van,<br />

as if my power was in my ship and not my wits.<br />

She whirls past him overhead in a flurry of hair<br />

and Sunday best and fallen autumn leaves, her feet,<br />

like those before, wear down his seal incrementally<br />

until someone yells across the yard get off the graves,<br />

I’ve never seen such disrespect for death and<br />

daddy takes her by the hand to pack her in the car.

Blackbeard, six feet underneath curls a skeletal hand,<br />

his phantom tongue pressed against the cold of gold,<br />

for a one-way trip with a ferryman that he refuses to take,<br />

-and calls up along the path when you go out that lychgate,<br />

kid you need not go to sea, but when you’re grown and good<br />

and gone promise me no one will ever bring you back.<br />

*Though it is impossible to know why it is so, children living in the parish<br />

of St. Lawrence, Denton have known that Blackbeard is buried in the<br />

churchyard there for several hundred years.

At Noblett’s<br />

Derek Coyle<br />

(i.m. Patrick Featherson, Dublin, 1900 – 1916)<br />

If it were like<br />

any other Easter,<br />

it would have meant<br />

the circus had come<br />

to town, but it was<br />

more like a scene<br />

from some mad film<br />

or cartoon. Only,<br />

this wasn’t in black<br />

and white. Noblett’s<br />

sweet shop, a fantasy<br />

world of Lemon Drops,<br />

Clove Rock, fudge and toffee.<br />

Those unnatural yellows,<br />

blues, and reds.<br />

They hadn’t even opened<br />

the doors, no,<br />

the mob had smashed<br />

its windows and you were free<br />

to crawl in through.<br />

There was no need<br />

for shillings, pound, or pence—<br />

you could take<br />

all you wanted for free.<br />

It seemed like,<br />

for once, this city<br />

had given you<br />

all you wanted,<br />

and there wouldn’t be a price.<br />

You would have said,<br />

‘if it were up to me,

I’d have a day like this<br />

every week of my life.’<br />

I had read about you<br />

and forgotten, until<br />

a child sucking a lollipop<br />

saw you come back to me.<br />

Your face blended<br />

with that black<br />

hard rock of solidified sugar.<br />

I could see your tiny fist<br />

wrapped tightly around<br />

bright red gobstoppers,<br />

only this wasn’t some cartoon<br />

smash and grab, a comic<br />

strip. This was life.<br />

Which means, you were dead meat.<br />

There were centuries<br />

of evolution behind<br />

the small steel bullet<br />

that pierced your leg,<br />

a swift blink of an eye<br />

from iron-age axe-heads<br />

to the machine gun, that rifle.<br />

Connolly shouted out the order:<br />

“Shoot some looters!<br />

Shoot them blasted looters!”<br />

This bullet was made<br />

for a child, this bullet<br />

was made<br />

for you.

Now, you will never get<br />

out of these woods.<br />

In your dreamland pastures,<br />

Clove Rock grows<br />

on apple trees,<br />

and Lemon Drops<br />

pepper the fields<br />

like dandelions.

Mushrooms<br />

Cheryl Pearson<br />

They raise the roof with<br />

nudging skulls. Not loud. Not fast.<br />

But overnight, the earth pours down<br />

from their soft caps, and in the morning<br />

there they are: darkly-skirted,<br />

faces tipped to dappling light.<br />

Pulled, they smell of earth, and damp.<br />

Rub soft as suede<br />

in your palm's cup.<br />

What do the dead know?<br />

The mushrooms know.<br />

They borrow their frills from burial gowns,<br />

bloom from ribs like tumours.<br />

Under, they are ridged like open mouths<br />

where tongues moved once.<br />

Where only worms move now.<br />

Their grey juices spit at the grill.<br />

Dark sparks from a fire.<br />

Can you taste the old language<br />

when your teeth split the skin?<br />

Agaricus bisporus. Agaricus campestris.<br />

Lost hymns found by a choir.

Beating<br />

Bethany W Pope<br />

My door was always locked from the outside,<br />

so I pried the paint away from the frame<br />

of the third-story window and slid down<br />

the long copper gutter-spout, pretending<br />

to be The Amazing Spider-Man as<br />

I rushed towards the frozen December ground.<br />

I wasn't wearing anything. My clothes<br />

were taken from me when I came in from<br />

work. I kept a huge pair of overalls<br />

in the shed with the boiler. Slithering<br />

into this borrowed skin, I tried not to<br />

think about the kittens who were born here,<br />

who I fed and kept secret until their eyes<br />

opened and they wandered out into the yard.<br />

I tried not to think about their bones and<br />

bloody pelts scattered, bright, against the grass.<br />

I tried not to picture the red teeth of<br />

the lawn edger or the grin of the boy<br />

who’d fallen dreamily in love with death.<br />

Dressed, I flew for the barn where the new-made<br />

steer were kept until the date of their slaughter.<br />

Their door was never locked, and it was breathwarm<br />

beneath those eaves. When I made my calls<br />

home (under supervision) I made up<br />

stories about making pets of these calves.<br />

I wanted to save them and I couldn’t,<br />

except through stories. In reality,<br />

the most I could manage was some mutual<br />

comfort. I wandered from stall to stall, bathed<br />

in the spoilt milk of their breath, lying down<br />

against their soft, fattened bodies, feeling<br />

the slow throb of their hearts through the taut drum<br />

of my skull. Their pulses beat as slowly<br />

as my mother's when her veins were flooded<br />

with prescription morphine. Sometimes, I slept.

Conversation with a Sister<br />

Nenad Trajkovic<br />

Translated by Danijela Trajkovic<br />

everything had to be<br />

a compass needle<br />

remains inhibited<br />

cloudy sky<br />

fog outside<br />

your path chooses you and steps on you<br />

the days we spent in reading<br />

I was told that we should make better use of<br />

yes ... it’s about that time<br />

we have sidelined the mind<br />

to get the answers always at hand<br />

nothing ... I repeat it had to be<br />

you walk halfway around the world<br />

people are everywhere from the blood<br />

sharp things already in speech cause pain<br />

regret doesn’t ask for forgiveness but deletion of guilt<br />

therefore we need to find hope<br />

it is always inside the things we still love a little bit<br />

and this brings us back<br />

today children do not read<br />

poor imagination takes over the world<br />

so there is hope for it<br />

A in the Klassenbuch<br />

no one should understand a writer<br />

parents eat their children’s happiness<br />

their successes chuck on the table with friends<br />

smallness grows out of the big needs<br />

and detects you inconclusive

my day though<br />

distracts lullabies<br />

all on the run<br />

elusiveness increases

The Telling of Blue<br />

Jane R. Rogers<br />

If it’s a tale of the usual, then:<br />

maybe that wet stone cribbed under the Moon,<br />

Cornish fishermen at night,<br />

Picasso’s painting of a female lover,<br />

traditional Bristolian glass,<br />

or the dying of light after a fire’s embers burn away.<br />

That star we haven’t landed on yet,<br />

that is told Blue.<br />

But this is a tale of something new:<br />

when a ransom is unpaid, they search,<br />

access ‘best gore’, ‘execution porn’,<br />

see the click-tick of…<br />

Prisoner. Captor;<br />

view in frames,<br />

the click-tock of committed men,<br />

listen to the spasm of dying cells<br />

where a blade’s sweep<br />

is filmed and flicks back<br />

to a reflection they no longer know<br />

leaving the space behind the back of that head…<br />

a mystery.<br />

And then maybe off camera, they imagine<br />

the back of an empty pick-up truck, waiting. And maybe<br />

think of a shark in formaldehyde<br />

retailing at six million pounds.<br />

If it’s not of a story of the usual then,<br />

it’s one of who stacked sand when the tide was in.<br />

Water cleaning up after the execution<br />

that is told Blue.

Memories of a Soldier’s Dying<br />

David Susswein<br />

i. the ancient stares at the young<br />

Did I zip my pocket,<br />

forget my thermoflask,<br />

close the front door,<br />

turn off the gas burner,<br />

open the loft window,<br />

kiss my grand-niece<br />

good-night when I looked in,<br />

Tuck the duvet close to her chin.<br />

Did I wish this was not Friday<br />

did I wish I was someone else’s son<br />

did I wish I had never asked<br />

the question every bright-eyed boy<br />

asks his father: ‘what did you do in…’<br />

well, tsk tsk this is just another birthday,<br />

just another birthday of sorts…<br />

A birthday for beautiful death.<br />

ii.<br />

the wife stares at her wardrobe<br />

I got the clothes back<br />

they sent them in the post.<br />

wrapped with strings and brown paper<br />

the clothes smelt acrid, sulphurous.<br />

the left breast had been eaten by hungry<br />

moths in transit, the crotch gobbled at<br />

till it had quite completely torn:<br />

the moth had even seemed to leave<br />

brown stains, dozens of streaks and spots

from cuff to seam.<br />

I woke up from feeling the uniform,<br />

it’s coarse texture or ruthless smell,<br />

and remembered vulgar graffiti:<br />

“You can take your king’s shilling<br />

and slowly, Shove it up your Arse.”<br />

iii.<br />

the angel wishes for a different master<br />

In those days,<br />

there was no social state<br />

no worker’s relief, no safety net<br />

They lived and died by the work of their hands.<br />

But he had no fucking hands.<br />

your emperors and rulers,<br />

time-and-motion-men at Peter’s Gate<br />

Had hacked them Off, discarded them in a plastic bin<br />

marked “Surplus Men”.<br />

iv.<br />

the soldier looks at his past<br />

He was seven and grinning wider then<br />

his cheeks could safely tolerate,<br />

chasing down marching army bands,<br />

his skipping gait in time with their<br />

bassfull drums alone.<br />

He was fifteen and grinning like a lamprey,<br />

winked his careful ways to the front.<br />

he laughed in the mud [always liked to make a splash!]<br />

he laughed with all his new mates, smoked a cigarette<br />

[his first time] Smiling still, he did his duty

he tried his best! and his best was more than good enough,<br />

he even caught grenades and tossed them back!<br />

Till he didn’t.<br />

But he never once looked into a German’s face,<br />

Or starred into any single enemy eye.<br />

At home, the prosthetic was good enough,<br />

at least he didn’t complain.<br />

He sometimes looked at his medals,<br />

with a distant look to his eye,<br />

but he could not pick them up.

A Boy’s Text Message in Headlines<br />

Emma Lee<br />

Fifteen people rescued by one boy’s text<br />

Pashto-speaking boy, fleeing Taliban, sends text<br />

Unaccompanied minor texts for help<br />

Boy texts in broken English.<br />

Fifteen refugees saved from suffocation<br />

Fifteen migrants found close to death<br />

Fifteen immigrants found in lorry container<br />

Fifteen immigrants, assumed illegal, detained<br />

One man arrested for illegally assisting entry to UK<br />

Arrest made as police investigate lorry containing migrants<br />

Police investigate immigrants in lorry, arrest made<br />

Frumpy: Duchess of Cambridge in Indian-designer dress<br />

(Ahmed, aged seven, sent a text message to an aid worker which read:<br />

“I ned halp darivar no stap car no oksijan in the car no sagnal iam in the<br />

cantenar. Iam no jokan valla”. [valla - I swear to God]. Police used GPS<br />

to track the lorry he was travelling in to a services stop at Leicester<br />

Forest East which led to the rescue of 14 people on 8 April <strong>2016</strong>.)

Initiation into the Order<br />

Jo Burns<br />

Shake hands with treasurers. Pay off an SUV.<br />

Tip your caddy with crumbs. Park in captain’s spots.<br />

Your cards will read Doctor honoris causa (bought)<br />

Your subtle name drops will be golden confetti.<br />

Don’t mention the girl who said No, please stop!<br />

(Paid termination. She turned out quite tricky.)<br />

Pledge allegiance to Mammon. Until it’s internal.<br />

Dupe the domestic, the quiet, the humble, the small man.<br />

Your pawns under cover; play out Rome, Minoa,<br />

or Harrapan. Be an Emperor in your own book.<br />

Pierce peace with a Pfff! It’s just pure abstraction.<br />

Be thuggish. Be thorough. Incite the infernal.<br />

Use and abuse the phrase necessary evil,<br />

Forget what is evil, or even what is necessary.<br />

Start believing that necessity has evil within.<br />

Squint blind, when fate fishes and slice those lines.<br />

Be the stone in the pool that skims, never sinking.<br />

Think without living. Live hard without thinking.<br />

Wake empty each day, flecked with self disgust.<br />

Gasp in deeper and deeper. Blow yourself up.<br />

Your skin translucent. Your truth stretched taut.<br />

Now recite after me: I will heal, conceal, and never reveal<br />

any part of the secrets or mysteries,<br />

which may have been known, or shall now be shown to me.

Bull<br />

Brett Evans<br />

On the piss with Daedalus,<br />

in the snug of The Bull, no less.<br />

He drained his pint of Speckled Hen<br />

and bade farewell to all his friends,<br />

“It’s no place for my son.”<br />

All jaws dropped (it was his round),<br />

an awkward hush, then speech was found.<br />

“You cannot think of leaving us,<br />

you know we all love Icarus<br />

and drinking’s just begun.”<br />

“I want to see him carve a life,<br />

not waste it in this den of vice.<br />

He has a head for dizzy heights,<br />

no stomach for our drunken fights -<br />

so boozers he shall shun.”<br />

This genius bought one last shout,<br />

we drank his health and he was out.<br />

Followed by the hobbledehoy<br />

whom we had cherished since a boy,<br />

for families we had none.<br />

Icarus’ searing slide<br />

blues guitar could charm the tides,<br />

bring tears to Willie McTell’s eyes,<br />

and at the bar we all took pride<br />

in the house of unrising bums.<br />

Of course he joined the 27s -<br />

we’d taught the boy there was no heaven<br />

to reach and that the Devil’s music<br />

soared on scotch. But he abused it.<br />

Don’t we feel such cunts?

Poor Daedalus returned a wreck.<br />

The Bull refused to stock the meths<br />

that he required to speed up death.<br />

We didn’t drink more, did not drink less –<br />

refused to cut out fun.<br />

So first we toasted Daedalus,<br />

waxed lyrical on Icarus,<br />

two clever dicks now lost to us –<br />

we have but one life therefore must<br />

live low, avoid the sun.

Pick-Up<br />

John D. Robinson<br />

I had dropped by to pick-up<br />

some blow;<br />

‘It’s not been a good day’<br />

he told me;<br />

‘Rikki came round<br />

earlier and she wanted<br />

sex and I didn’t feel like<br />

it, I’m tired and I told her<br />

and she got wild and<br />

told me she had<br />

another boyfriend and<br />

she started screaming<br />

and then before I knew<br />

it, she was gone’<br />

Shit I thought<br />

I’d like to have<br />

problems like that,<br />

just the one time<br />

would be good.

Sleeping With a Bearded Man<br />

Shauna Robertson<br />

When I was twenty, if you’d mentioned<br />

that by the time I was thirty I’d<br />

be sleeping with a bearded man,<br />

I’d have probably dropped my cider.<br />

When I was a cider-drinker, if you’d implied<br />

that by the time I took neat gin I’d<br />

be divorcing an Argentine accountant,<br />

I’d have most likely sprained a lime.<br />

When I was lime-compromised, if you’d hinted<br />

that once I was single-kidneyed I’d<br />

be making five fools of myself with a khaki-shorted cattle rancher,<br />

I might well have choked on my ocelot tartare.<br />

Probably best then<br />

to leave things as they are.

When Somebody Outdrew You<br />

Bobby Steve Baker<br />

(After Leonard Cohen)<br />

The hitch-hiker’s guide to extramarital affairs<br />

chapter one: Be clear on this. Time is the enemy.<br />

Best case scenario is twice, say one week apart.<br />

First time, in the brief throes of alcoholic bravado<br />

half real attraction half the thrill of being bad. Next<br />

a safely planned triste at a neutral location, never, ever<br />

at your home or the others, unless you truly want out<br />

of your marriage and if so for God’s sake, man up.<br />

Make this second one longer and don’t start off drunk.<br />

And – that’s it, stay and smoke a cigarette if you like,<br />

but get out clean and do not line up a third one. Move on<br />

to somebody new. If you don’t, next thing is you’ll be begging<br />

for sex to fix what sex is only designed to break.<br />

You’ll end up standing in the rain while she puts<br />

another notch in her rugaet barrel<br />

before you even know you’ve been outdrawn.

Dewey-Eyed Farm Girls<br />

Holly Day<br />

you fuck your way across the country, peddling<br />

Bibles and gas-station condoms<br />

I read your letters<br />

you can’t come home right now<br />

you can’t get enough.

The Next Morning<br />

Courtney LeBlanc<br />

I remember the train ride,<br />

people going to work,<br />

tourists looking at maps,<br />

my short skirt conspicuous<br />

in the bright light<br />

of the next morning.<br />

I left you still sleeping<br />

in your bed, tip-toed<br />

out with my heels in my hand,<br />

grabbed a cup of coffee<br />

at the corner market<br />

and caught the 6:30am yellow line train.<br />

I thought only of getting home,<br />

of my dog who surely needed<br />

to pee, of the bitter burn<br />

of coffee on my tongue.

A Real Man<br />

Jessica Mookherjee<br />

First you were a boy, on our way home from school,<br />

you lit my cigarette and laughed as you watched<br />

me pretend to smoke. Taking drags, we both felt sick.<br />

And you, saw us in the pub,<br />

your shoulders broader, said, what are you doing,<br />

with him, come and see what a real man feels like,<br />

I pretended I didn’t notice, didn't understand<br />

your hungry looks.<br />

It was that first time when you seemed so beautiful<br />

I couldn’t quite look, that we pretended<br />

to be just friends, and you, pretended we were just mucking around,<br />

drunk, you grabbed my feet, pulled me off the bed...<br />

much later, it was still you – making me<br />

that weird vegetable dish, we watched X Files,<br />

drank fizzy German wine and all our friends were jealous<br />

because we had carpet in that basement flat.<br />

Then you came round for beers, watched us fight,<br />

saw me rip out my heart for him, you<br />

came, whispered to me, come and see what a real man feels like,<br />

I wasn’t ready for your big heart<br />

and I waved you away so many times.<br />

The you that went to Australia, the you who became a doctor,<br />

the you that fell in love with me outside some swimming baths,<br />

said you wanted to grow tomatoes and children together.<br />

Then you were in front of me, with slow eyes,<br />

over a desk at work. Your shoulders were magnificent.<br />

My friends were jealous because we bought a home together.<br />

Once, at night, you cried real tears, told me; this is how a real man feels.

I was frightened of real plans, I did nothing,<br />

when the house fell apart you did nothing and I spat<br />

that you were not a real man, so now I wait at train stations,<br />

petrol stations, stationary shops, I will recognise you –<br />

I will recognise your real man’s eyes.

My Other Coat<br />

Paul Brookes<br />

I left my past life in my other coat,<br />

in my other wardrobe,<br />

in another world, this morning.<br />

This other pocket holds my life,<br />

an elastic band that wraps your letters<br />

to me, a rusty steel washer and orange peel.<br />

My other coat smelt of the ashes<br />

of your letters, so I let it hang unwashed.<br />

The rusty steel washer held your favourite seat together.<br />

I peeled the orange, put the peel in my coat pocket while I<br />

watched flames lick around<br />

the perfumed words in your letters.<br />

Now I wear a different coat.

No Closure<br />

Pat Edwards<br />

mum had a rattling tin box of buttons<br />

mostly small white from shirts<br />

but size and colour were no obstacle<br />

now I fear buttons in a crowd like this<br />

alone doing their job on clothes is fine<br />

but a dirty mass of them is nauseous<br />

all the sweating skin they have been near<br />

all the fingers which have fumbled them<br />

making haste to undo, cursing resistance<br />

then flying across the room to land in dust<br />

gathered up for mending and repair<br />

but for me there will never be closure

All I Want for Christmas<br />

John Grey<br />

some flakes of snow,<br />

a busted shutter,<br />

a creak here, a wooden sigh there,<br />

a lone pigeon roosting on the ledge,<br />

an unwatched movie on the television,<br />

a fresh anthology of inspiration,<br />

a glimpse of how it was, how it will be,<br />

a body of my choosing,<br />

a brain to work the controls

Caffeine<br />

Steven Bruce<br />

It’s said that<br />

when you die<br />

the last thing<br />

to go is your<br />

hearing.<br />

Can you imagine it.<br />

Lying there, helpless,<br />

and just after the death<br />

rattle you hear, in the panic,<br />

Oh fucking hell,<br />

He’s dead.<br />

He’s dead.<br />

He’s dead.<br />

Imagine that.<br />

It’s enough to keep you up at night.

For writer biographies / web links, please see the<br />

‘Contributors’ page on our website.<br />

Thank you for reading!

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