Picaroon - Issue #5 - November 2016

picaroonpoetry

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.

Issue #5

November 2016

Edited by Kate Garrett

All poems copyright © 2016 individual authors

Selection/issue copyright © 2016 Kate Garrett


This issue is dedicated to two of the most beautiful rogues the

world has ever seen

Melissa Lee Garrett

7 May 1968 – 14 November 2016

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

resilient and loving

&

Leonard Norman Cohen

21 September 1934 – 7 November 2016

Beloved poet and musician to millions; soulful and mystical and

above all human, just like you


This Month’s Rogue Poems ● November 2016

The Other Side

Ava C. Cipri

Shelter Us from the Dark Rain

Ojo Taiye

The Old Note Book

James H Duncan

Jennie

Charlotte Ansell

Medea

Monika Kostera

Ultrasound

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe

Black Dolls

Jackie Biggs

The Mending Ghost

Lesley Quayle

47 Miles Inland

Amy Kinsman

At Noblett’s

Derek Coyle

Mushrooms

Cheryl Pearson

Beating

Bethany W Pope


Conversation with a Sister

Nenad Trajkovic

The Telling of Blue

Jane R Rogers

Memories of a Soldier’s Dying

David Susswein

A Boy’s Text Message in Headlines

Emma Lee

Initiation into the Order

Jo Burns

Bull

Brett Evans

Pick-Up

John D. Robinson

Sleeping with a Bearded Man

Shauna Robertson

When Somebody Outdrew You

Bobby Steve Baker

Dewey-Eyed Farm Girls

Holly Day

The Next Morning

Courtney LeBlanc

A Real Man

Jessica Mookherjee

My Other Coat

Paul Brookes


No Closure

Pat Edwards

All I Want for Christmas

John Grey

Caffeine

Steven Bruce


The Other Side

Ava C. Cipri

Honey please, this is me talking to you

through the looking glass. You darkened my door

along with everything else.

Stop walking, but run for your life:

become a deadly weapon; carry a stiletto, love,

if you go chasing rabbits. Men

don’t feel you anymore and I’ve given up on waiting.

Get up, admit it is over. And one pill makes you small.

I’m going back, don’t come around here,

go ask Alice.

This cento is sourced from the lyrics of Jefferson Airplane’s “White

Rabbit” songwriter Grace Slick (1967); Tom Petty and The

Heartbreakers’ “Don't Come Around Here No More” songwriters Tom

Petty and Dave Stewart (1985), and Stevie Nicks’ “Alice” songwriters

Stevie Nicks and Rupert Hine (1989).


Shelter Us from the Dark Rain

Ojo Taiye

(for Romeo)

shouldn’t i give you something else

something outside of myself

the many pastiche behind the eyes

and hands of Picasso

in the commonplaces of the asylum

in the narrow dairy of my mind

will it not shock you?

if you found out that

i am animal waiting

for a butcher’s knife;

an accident of hope

sometimes, an inverted bowl –

you wouldn’t rage in your own bowl

albeit, i am not whole

i see things in all shades of black

will the world go away for a while?

i bleed purple in places deeper than

you could ever imagine.


The Old Note Book

James H Duncan

the last thing inscribed

was “her eyes swing away

like blue jays in flight”

but it was the old note book

and I couldn’t remember

who it was about—maybe

nobody I knew, or her

though her eyes weren’t blue;

none of them were, come

to think of it

the handwriting just

above that entry read “flash

bulb morning through the

train window” in the same ink

so, a stranger then,

a woman with blue eyes

who departed a train along

the Hudson River some years

back whose eyes sail

like birds in flight

into the lifespan of another

man or woman or

some other miraculous state

of being entirely

and then, in the old note book,

a black line beneath demarcating

the years passing by

farewell, blue eyes in flight


Jennie

Charlotte Ansell

You meet me from the tube,

bare feet, impossibly

micro shorts, pixie hair.

‘You could still be seventeen…

in the dark’ I say,

dodging your shove.

As if we could peel away the

years like flaky skin, go back

to the cold weather shelter work;

your nearly indecipherable

Belfast vowels, penchant for denim

and that prick, who scrunched

you into a ball until

you rolled out from under

to waltz down Brixton High St

with the gentle Italian

you couldn’t love

but who wouldn’t break you.

Not much could; incorrigible grin

and mischief, those obscene

vulva- toed boots you bought,

the time you met Prince Charles,

gave him your business card with a wink,

queen of the faux pas, regaling

any room with your tales, that laugh.

Still all eyes and legs at forty two,

talking faster than the boil of the expresso pot,

our time together in meagre slices now,

not the weekend slabs we used to have

that even then weren’t enough.


You come in for a wee while

I clean my teeth,

I’m trying to digest your news;

the Brighton house you’ve put an offer on.

Fourteen years of making the sofa cushions

into a bed on your living room floor,

in the house that watched us grow up.

I let myself out at five am,

walk into the subdued pale

of a Tottenham morning,

tell myself a few hundred

miles more won’t hurt.

Remind myself,

I’ve always loved the sea.


Medea

Monika Kostera

Mother of untouched teddies,

smooth identical dolls, and of plushie

rabbits, hanging by the ear at checkout.

Of ready-made cards, wishing on

birthdays to best dads

in the world. Of mugs

lined up, wearing

red red hearts

on their sleeves. Mother

whom no one shall mock,

not like the rest.

Holy mother, pray for us,

pray for all that has been cut

off

and thrown away.


Ultrasound

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe

The transformation is almost complete:

an embryo suspended in amniotic fluid;

swelling as we fast-forward through months

of tentative pre-natal footage, recorded

by anxious doctors at the I.V.F. clinic.

Hold the negative up against time and watch

as it changes: a microscopic expanding circle,

throbbing with a faint pulse. A globe encapsulating

hope. See the arm as it flexes for the first time,

and the legs curl up, toes arching to touch the nose.

Months of tests and medications, daily injections

into yesterday’s bruises, result in a growing bump

that started as an uncertain blip on the ultrasound.

Now we see a somersaulting black and white image,

trying to kick its way out of the photograph.


Black dolls

Jackie Biggs

She sits in swirling dust

as she knits

with fine black yarn.

Only dolls.

Only black,

even their eyes.

All day

in a shaded room,

where the motes

float

in rays filtered

through tiny gaps in blinds,

she crochets around coal dust,

knots stitches in silk,

makes tassels.

Tiny fingers create Goya’s Black Duchess,

covered in her mourning lace,

from her hair to her tiny,

pointed shoes.

One plain one purl

and there grows the Marquesa de Santa Cruz,

mantilla floating in a breeze,

veils and shawls, layer on layer.

A fine figure in billowing skirts,

a flash of scarlet pinches her waist

above the frills and flutter of taffeta,

twisted and woven,

where lace rustles

around the swish

of satin.


She knits and

she frowns at the little blaze

of red.

Even her piano plays

only in minor keys.

All day she sits

in the swirling motes

as she knits

and knots and twirls her yarns.

Only dolls,

only black,

they sit in twilight

in perfect rows on shelves

all around the sooty room.

While in her night-time dreams a crow calls

from a lone tree,

rooks gather on great towers,

shouting their stories over

broken walls

and a raven ruffles his perfect black wings

ready to fly.

A gulp of swallows swoops low

over a locked-up memory

in her darkened life;

and the green sheen

on the black of the magpie’s tail feather

shines bright

in her closed-in mind.

Black swans gather

in their grace,

a bank of sails on a sleepy lake,

they seem made of coal,

hacked out of ancient strata,


fashioned from the gloss of black minerals.

No light escapes their slick patina,

they suck in her surprise

at seeing them at all,

and glide with it

and mill together among weeds,

trapped in tar.

Red squints of beak

show among feathers

and flashes of scarlet

bleed under scrapes.

I am the one,

the black swan –

listen

to my song.

But the chorus has no tune.

Necks curl and bend,

mirror each other,

make hearts

in their mating game,

but she sees only the tar backs,

the swan black,

and she’s gone back …

before she was born.

She wakes in the hour before dawn

to the blackbird’s song,

and a taste of bitter on her tongue.

As light seeps in through cracks,

she rises,

and looks first

to her rows of dolls.


Unravelled yarns,

threads of black

fall in coils,

like the soft hair of

the Marquesa,

a thousand

black strands in curls and waves,

hang loose from ledges,

in the coal-dusty cold room.

And all day she sits

in swirling dust

as she knits.

Only dolls

only black

even their eyes.


The Mending Ghost

Lesley Quayle

Over time, we forgot about

the broken doll,

even though our daughter cried herself to sleep

when she dropped it and the hard skull

split like a watermelon.

My doll, precious, handed down to her.

Her conscience wasn’t easily consoled.

Her father, able to mend anything, tried,

for both our sakes, but pronounced it hopeless.

We laid its irreparable corpse to rest

on the bed in the spare room, tiptoed out

and, over time, forgot.

And for months it lay, undisturbed,

in the strange, cold room where we’d uncovered

frescoes of woad-blue figures round the fireplace,

garlands of them, bleeding into plaster, like faded

paper-dolls, a child’s finger-painted depiction.

No-one wanted to sleep in there. A room of dolls.

And then, walking past one afternoon,

the world grew small, an open door

the only clear space, framing the bed

where the broken doll lay – undamaged, mended.


The woad-blue figures round the fireplace

were fresh, their edges sharp, a fingertip of ice

on my spine.


47 Miles Inland

Amy Kinsman

Blackbeard is buried forty-seven miles inland,

in the grounds of a poorly attended church,

under a stone marked with a skull and crossbones.

He listens for the sound of Sunday school letting out,

patent leather shoes patting over the grass

in search of a stick of silver birch to serve as cutlass.

Says yes, my lass, an overhead slash will bait a crowd,

but when the crown comes calling, forget swashbuckling,

spill their stomachs on the deck or you’ll hang

and watches her whip her brother’s wrists,

jab the pointed end through the third hole in his belt,

send him crying back to mummy in the vestry.

The grown-ups count the coins in the collection plate,

brush them off, demand they play more quietly,

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

Yes, and I was interred here to stop me going back

as if I couldn’t commandeer canal boat or ice-cream van,

as if my power was in my ship and not my wits.

She whirls past him overhead in a flurry of hair

and Sunday best and fallen autumn leaves, her feet,

like those before, wear down his seal incrementally

until someone yells across the yard get off the graves,

I’ve never seen such disrespect for death and

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


Blackbeard, six feet underneath curls a skeletal hand,

his phantom tongue pressed against the cold of gold,

for a one-way trip with a ferryman that he refuses to take,

-and calls up along the path when you go out that lychgate,

kid you need not go to sea, but when you’re grown and good

and gone promise me no one will ever bring you back.

*Though it is impossible to know why it is so, children living in the parish

of St. Lawrence, Denton have known that Blackbeard is buried in the

churchyard there for several hundred years.


At Noblett’s

Derek Coyle

(i.m. Patrick Featherson, Dublin, 1900 – 1916)

If it were like

any other Easter,

it would have meant

the circus had come

to town, but it was

more like a scene

from some mad film

or cartoon. Only,

this wasn’t in black

and white. Noblett’s

sweet shop, a fantasy

world of Lemon Drops,

Clove Rock, fudge and toffee.

Those unnatural yellows,

blues, and reds.

They hadn’t even opened

the doors, no,

the mob had smashed

its windows and you were free

to crawl in through.

There was no need

for shillings, pound, or pence—

you could take

all you wanted for free.

It seemed like,

for once, this city

had given you

all you wanted,

and there wouldn’t be a price.

You would have said,

‘if it were up to me,


I’d have a day like this

every week of my life.’

I had read about you

and forgotten, until

a child sucking a lollipop

saw you come back to me.

Your face blended

with that black

hard rock of solidified sugar.

I could see your tiny fist

wrapped tightly around

bright red gobstoppers,

only this wasn’t some cartoon

smash and grab, a comic

strip. This was life.

Which means, you were dead meat.

There were centuries

of evolution behind

the small steel bullet

that pierced your leg,

a swift blink of an eye

from iron-age axe-heads

to the machine gun, that rifle.

Connolly shouted out the order:

“Shoot some looters!

Shoot them blasted looters!”

This bullet was made

for a child, this bullet

was made

for you.


Now, you will never get

out of these woods.

In your dreamland pastures,

Clove Rock grows

on apple trees,

and Lemon Drops

pepper the fields

like dandelions.


Mushrooms

Cheryl Pearson

They raise the roof with

nudging skulls. Not loud. Not fast.

But overnight, the earth pours down

from their soft caps, and in the morning

there they are: darkly-skirted,

faces tipped to dappling light.

Pulled, they smell of earth, and damp.

Rub soft as suede

in your palm's cup.

What do the dead know?

The mushrooms know.

They borrow their frills from burial gowns,

bloom from ribs like tumours.

Under, they are ridged like open mouths

where tongues moved once.

Where only worms move now.

Their grey juices spit at the grill.

Dark sparks from a fire.

Can you taste the old language

when your teeth split the skin?

Agaricus bisporus. Agaricus campestris.

Lost hymns found by a choir.


Beating

Bethany W Pope

My door was always locked from the outside,

so I pried the paint away from the frame

of the third-story window and slid down

the long copper gutter-spout, pretending

to be The Amazing Spider-Man as

I rushed towards the frozen December ground.

I wasn't wearing anything. My clothes

were taken from me when I came in from

work. I kept a huge pair of overalls

in the shed with the boiler. Slithering

into this borrowed skin, I tried not to

think about the kittens who were born here,

who I fed and kept secret until their eyes

opened and they wandered out into the yard.

I tried not to think about their bones and

bloody pelts scattered, bright, against the grass.

I tried not to picture the red teeth of

the lawn edger or the grin of the boy

who’d fallen dreamily in love with death.

Dressed, I flew for the barn where the new-made

steer were kept until the date of their slaughter.

Their door was never locked, and it was breathwarm

beneath those eaves. When I made my calls

home (under supervision) I made up

stories about making pets of these calves.

I wanted to save them and I couldn’t,

except through stories. In reality,

the most I could manage was some mutual

comfort. I wandered from stall to stall, bathed

in the spoilt milk of their breath, lying down

against their soft, fattened bodies, feeling

the slow throb of their hearts through the taut drum

of my skull. Their pulses beat as slowly

as my mother's when her veins were flooded

with prescription morphine. Sometimes, I slept.


Conversation with a Sister

Nenad Trajkovic

Translated by Danijela Trajkovic

everything had to be

a compass needle

remains inhibited

cloudy sky

fog outside

your path chooses you and steps on you

the days we spent in reading

I was told that we should make better use of

yes ... it’s about that time

we have sidelined the mind

to get the answers always at hand

nothing ... I repeat it had to be

you walk halfway around the world

people are everywhere from the blood

sharp things already in speech cause pain

regret doesn’t ask for forgiveness but deletion of guilt

therefore we need to find hope

it is always inside the things we still love a little bit

and this brings us back

today children do not read

poor imagination takes over the world

so there is hope for it

A in the Klassenbuch

no one should understand a writer

parents eat their children’s happiness

their successes chuck on the table with friends

smallness grows out of the big needs

and detects you inconclusive


my day though

distracts lullabies

all on the run

elusiveness increases


The Telling of Blue

Jane R. Rogers

If it’s a tale of the usual, then:

maybe that wet stone cribbed under the Moon,

Cornish fishermen at night,

Picasso’s painting of a female lover,

traditional Bristolian glass,

or the dying of light after a fire’s embers burn away.

That star we haven’t landed on yet,

that is told Blue.

But this is a tale of something new:

when a ransom is unpaid, they search,

access ‘best gore’, ‘execution porn’,

see the click-tick of…

Prisoner. Captor;

view in frames,

the click-tock of committed men,

listen to the spasm of dying cells

where a blade’s sweep

is filmed and flicks back

to a reflection they no longer know

leaving the space behind the back of that head…

a mystery.

And then maybe off camera, they imagine

the back of an empty pick-up truck, waiting. And maybe

think of a shark in formaldehyde

retailing at six million pounds.

If it’s not of a story of the usual then,

it’s one of who stacked sand when the tide was in.

Water cleaning up after the execution

that is told Blue.


Memories of a Soldier’s Dying

David Susswein

i. the ancient stares at the young

Did I zip my pocket,

forget my thermoflask,

close the front door,

turn off the gas burner,

open the loft window,

kiss my grand-niece

good-night when I looked in,

Tuck the duvet close to her chin.

Did I wish this was not Friday

did I wish I was someone else’s son

did I wish I had never asked

the question every bright-eyed boy

asks his father: ‘what did you do in…’

well, tsk tsk this is just another birthday,

just another birthday of sorts…

A birthday for beautiful death.

ii.

the wife stares at her wardrobe

I got the clothes back

they sent them in the post.

wrapped with strings and brown paper

the clothes smelt acrid, sulphurous.

the left breast had been eaten by hungry

moths in transit, the crotch gobbled at

till it had quite completely torn:

the moth had even seemed to leave

brown stains, dozens of streaks and spots


from cuff to seam.

I woke up from feeling the uniform,

it’s coarse texture or ruthless smell,

and remembered vulgar graffiti:

“You can take your king’s shilling

and slowly, Shove it up your Arse.”

iii.

the angel wishes for a different master

In those days,

there was no social state

no worker’s relief, no safety net

They lived and died by the work of their hands.

But he had no fucking hands.

your emperors and rulers,

time-and-motion-men at Peter’s Gate

Had hacked them Off, discarded them in a plastic bin

marked “Surplus Men”.

iv.

the soldier looks at his past

He was seven and grinning wider then

his cheeks could safely tolerate,

chasing down marching army bands,

his skipping gait in time with their

bassfull drums alone.

He was fifteen and grinning like a lamprey,

winked his careful ways to the front.

he laughed in the mud [always liked to make a splash!]

he laughed with all his new mates, smoked a cigarette

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


he tried his best! and his best was more than good enough,

he even caught grenades and tossed them back!

Till he didn’t.

But he never once looked into a German’s face,

Or starred into any single enemy eye.

At home, the prosthetic was good enough,

at least he didn’t complain.

He sometimes looked at his medals,

with a distant look to his eye,

but he could not pick them up.


A Boy’s Text Message in Headlines

Emma Lee

Fifteen people rescued by one boy’s text

Pashto-speaking boy, fleeing Taliban, sends text

Unaccompanied minor texts for help

Boy texts in broken English.

Fifteen refugees saved from suffocation

Fifteen migrants found close to death

Fifteen immigrants found in lorry container

Fifteen immigrants, assumed illegal, detained

One man arrested for illegally assisting entry to UK

Arrest made as police investigate lorry containing migrants

Police investigate immigrants in lorry, arrest made

Frumpy: Duchess of Cambridge in Indian-designer dress

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

“I ned halp darivar no stap car no oksijan in the car no sagnal iam in the

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

to track the lorry he was travelling in to a services stop at Leicester

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


Initiation into the Order

Jo Burns

Shake hands with treasurers. Pay off an SUV.

Tip your caddy with crumbs. Park in captain’s spots.

Your cards will read Doctor honoris causa (bought)

Your subtle name drops will be golden confetti.

Don’t mention the girl who said No, please stop!

(Paid termination. She turned out quite tricky.)

Pledge allegiance to Mammon. Until it’s internal.

Dupe the domestic, the quiet, the humble, the small man.

Your pawns under cover; play out Rome, Minoa,

or Harrapan. Be an Emperor in your own book.

Pierce peace with a Pfff! It’s just pure abstraction.

Be thuggish. Be thorough. Incite the infernal.

Use and abuse the phrase necessary evil,

Forget what is evil, or even what is necessary.

Start believing that necessity has evil within.

Squint blind, when fate fishes and slice those lines.

Be the stone in the pool that skims, never sinking.

Think without living. Live hard without thinking.

Wake empty each day, flecked with self disgust.

Gasp in deeper and deeper. Blow yourself up.

Your skin translucent. Your truth stretched taut.

Now recite after me: I will heal, conceal, and never reveal

any part of the secrets or mysteries,

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


Bull

Brett Evans

On the piss with Daedalus,

in the snug of The Bull, no less.

He drained his pint of Speckled Hen

and bade farewell to all his friends,

“It’s no place for my son.”

All jaws dropped (it was his round),

an awkward hush, then speech was found.

“You cannot think of leaving us,

you know we all love Icarus

and drinking’s just begun.”

“I want to see him carve a life,

not waste it in this den of vice.

He has a head for dizzy heights,

no stomach for our drunken fights -

so boozers he shall shun.”

This genius bought one last shout,

we drank his health and he was out.

Followed by the hobbledehoy

whom we had cherished since a boy,

for families we had none.

Icarus’ searing slide

blues guitar could charm the tides,

bring tears to Willie McTell’s eyes,

and at the bar we all took pride

in the house of unrising bums.

Of course he joined the 27s -

we’d taught the boy there was no heaven

to reach and that the Devil’s music

soared on scotch. But he abused it.

Don’t we feel such cunts?


Poor Daedalus returned a wreck.

The Bull refused to stock the meths

that he required to speed up death.

We didn’t drink more, did not drink less –

refused to cut out fun.

So first we toasted Daedalus,

waxed lyrical on Icarus,

two clever dicks now lost to us –

we have but one life therefore must

live low, avoid the sun.


Pick-Up

John D. Robinson

I had dropped by to pick-up

some blow;

‘It’s not been a good day’

he told me;

‘Rikki came round

earlier and she wanted

sex and I didn’t feel like

it, I’m tired and I told her

and she got wild and

told me she had

another boyfriend and

she started screaming

and then before I knew

it, she was gone’

Shit I thought

I’d like to have

problems like that,

just the one time

would be good.


Sleeping With a Bearded Man

Shauna Robertson

When I was twenty, if you’d mentioned

that by the time I was thirty I’d

be sleeping with a bearded man,

I’d have probably dropped my cider.

When I was a cider-drinker, if you’d implied

that by the time I took neat gin I’d

be divorcing an Argentine accountant,

I’d have most likely sprained a lime.

When I was lime-compromised, if you’d hinted

that once I was single-kidneyed I’d

be making five fools of myself with a khaki-shorted cattle rancher,

I might well have choked on my ocelot tartare.

Probably best then

to leave things as they are.


When Somebody Outdrew You

Bobby Steve Baker

(After Leonard Cohen)

The hitch-hiker’s guide to extramarital affairs

chapter one: Be clear on this. Time is the enemy.

Best case scenario is twice, say one week apart.

First time, in the brief throes of alcoholic bravado

half real attraction half the thrill of being bad. Next

a safely planned triste at a neutral location, never, ever

at your home or the others, unless you truly want out

of your marriage and if so for God’s sake, man up.

Make this second one longer and don’t start off drunk.

And – that’s it, stay and smoke a cigarette if you like,

but get out clean and do not line up a third one. Move on

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

for sex to fix what sex is only designed to break.

You’ll end up standing in the rain while she puts

another notch in her rugaet barrel

before you even know you’ve been outdrawn.


Dewey-Eyed Farm Girls

Holly Day

you fuck your way across the country, peddling

Bibles and gas-station condoms

I read your letters

you can’t come home right now

you can’t get enough.


The Next Morning

Courtney LeBlanc

I remember the train ride,

people going to work,

tourists looking at maps,

my short skirt conspicuous

in the bright light

of the next morning.

I left you still sleeping

in your bed, tip-toed

out with my heels in my hand,

grabbed a cup of coffee

at the corner market

and caught the 6:30am yellow line train.

I thought only of getting home,

of my dog who surely needed

to pee, of the bitter burn

of coffee on my tongue.


A Real Man

Jessica Mookherjee

First you were a boy, on our way home from school,

you lit my cigarette and laughed as you watched

me pretend to smoke. Taking drags, we both felt sick.

And you, saw us in the pub,

your shoulders broader, said, what are you doing,

with him, come and see what a real man feels like,

I pretended I didn’t notice, didn't understand

your hungry looks.

It was that first time when you seemed so beautiful

I couldn’t quite look, that we pretended

to be just friends, and you, pretended we were just mucking around,

drunk, you grabbed my feet, pulled me off the bed...

much later, it was still you – making me

that weird vegetable dish, we watched X Files,

drank fizzy German wine and all our friends were jealous

because we had carpet in that basement flat.

Then you came round for beers, watched us fight,

saw me rip out my heart for him, you

came, whispered to me, come and see what a real man feels like,

I wasn’t ready for your big heart

and I waved you away so many times.

The you that went to Australia, the you who became a doctor,

the you that fell in love with me outside some swimming baths,

said you wanted to grow tomatoes and children together.

Then you were in front of me, with slow eyes,

over a desk at work. Your shoulders were magnificent.

My friends were jealous because we bought a home together.

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,

when the house fell apart you did nothing and I spat

that you were not a real man, so now I wait at train stations,

petrol stations, stationary shops, I will recognise you –

I will recognise your real man’s eyes.


My Other Coat

Paul Brookes

I left my past life in my other coat,

in my other wardrobe,

in another world, this morning.

This other pocket holds my life,

an elastic band that wraps your letters

to me, a rusty steel washer and orange peel.

My other coat smelt of the ashes

of your letters, so I let it hang unwashed.

The rusty steel washer held your favourite seat together.

I peeled the orange, put the peel in my coat pocket while I

watched flames lick around

the perfumed words in your letters.

Now I wear a different coat.


No Closure

Pat Edwards

mum had a rattling tin box of buttons

mostly small white from shirts

but size and colour were no obstacle

now I fear buttons in a crowd like this

alone doing their job on clothes is fine

but a dirty mass of them is nauseous

all the sweating skin they have been near

all the fingers which have fumbled them

making haste to undo, cursing resistance

then flying across the room to land in dust

gathered up for mending and repair

but for me there will never be closure


All I Want for Christmas

John Grey

some flakes of snow,

a busted shutter,

a creak here, a wooden sigh there,

a lone pigeon roosting on the ledge,

an unwatched movie on the television,

a fresh anthology of inspiration,

a glimpse of how it was, how it will be,

a body of my choosing,

a brain to work the controls


Caffeine

Steven Bruce

It’s said that

when you die

the last thing

to go is your

hearing.

Can you imagine it.

Lying there, helpless,

and just after the death

rattle you hear, in the panic,

Oh fucking hell,

He’s dead.

He’s dead.

He’s dead.

Imagine that.

It’s enough to keep you up at night.


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