Picaroon - Issue #11 - November 2017


Welcome to the last 2017 issue of Picaroon, and the last before our extended break - we will be back with Issue #12 after your faithful editor's maternity leave. In the meantime, we have poetry of ice and snow, crime and punishment, death and life - and a garden in spring. Which is where we will meet again (in spring 2018). Featuring work by James H Duncan, F.R. Kesby, p.a. morbid, Jacob Butlett, Bethany Rivers, Sharon Phillips, Rachel Bower, Jessica Mehta, Ali Jones, Juliet Cook, Spangle McQueen, Paul Brookes, Russell Jones, Janet Philo, Brennan Downey, Emma Lee, Joan McNerney, Saira Viola, Reuben Woolley, Kitty Coles, Carla M. Cherry, Nick Allen, Benjamin Smith, Sally Barrett, Simon Williams, Irene Cunningham, Gareth Writer-Davies, Ken Cumberlidge, Ceinwen Haydon, and Jackie Biggs.

Issue #11

November 2017

Edited by Kate Garrett

All poems copyright © 2017 individual authors

Selection/issue copyright © 2017 Kate Garrett / Picaroon Poetry

This Month’s Rogue Poems ● November 2017

the mice have abandoned the woodpile // James H Duncan

Footsteps // F.R. Kesby

Donegal 2001 // p.a. morbid

On a Prairie at Sunrise // Jacob Butlett

Kinnikinnick // Bethany Rivers

Gift of the author // Sharon Phillips

Big Issue // Rachel Bower

If I Write About You // Jessica Mehta

Watch What You Eat // Ali Jones

Inside an Old Basement // Juliet Cook

Reality TV // Spangle McQueen

Bake Off // Paul Brookes

Mrs Bun, the Baker’s Wife // Russell Jones

Confession without Absolution // Janet Philo

Crime Procedural // Brennan Downey

Spiderling, hobbled // Emma Lee

Knave // Joan McNerney

French Kisses and Rainbow Bindis // Saira Viola

again a sweet blue // Reuben Woolley

Mouthpiece // Kitty Coles

Pyrophobia: there is a reason why // Carla M. Cherry

parent // Nick Allen

The Mountain // Benjamin Smith

Organised: Hand to mouth // Sally Barrett

Strategy for Having the Last Laugh

on the International Space Station // Simon Williams

The End // Irene Cunningham

Dance // Gareth Writer-Davies

Alack // Ken Cumberlidge

Gibside in Winter // Ceinwen Haydon

Growing on // Jackie Biggs

James H Duncan

the mice have abandoned the woodpile

it’s so cold that you sweat,

shivering and alone in a small room

as the phone lights up with

digital daggers and questions of whether

you’re seeing someone new

and wouldn’t it be nice to catch

up over drinks at one of the old places?

outside, the wind across the lake makes the

cold worse than it really is, and it’s bad enough

that the mice have abandoned the woodpile

to hide in the walls inside here where

they still freeze to death, and

you’ll know where come spring

it is three days to New Year’s Eve and she

already has her plans and won’t you be a

part of them? early afternoon cocktails? but

you think by not replying you’re winning,

except you both know it hurts, you both

know the streets are snowing themselves in,

that time piles up higher and higher to end

all things, all inroads, all escape routes

and it’s so cold you sweat as you wonder

what to say to her or anyone anymore, spying

through the curtain at the chopping maul, the pile

of wood waiting, the frozen lake beyond,

and the phone buzzing brings you back,

always brings you back, lighting up your face

in the blue silence of the small room alone

what will you do? what will you do?

now and forever, or never at all

F.R. Kesby


Here, I think, here is where I fell,

where jeans ripped and ringlets tangled

with bike gears and stinging nettles.

Here among the petals and stems

in a garden of roses, a fallen infant

leaves a dent, a mark.

Does the ground remember?

Yes, it welcomes me home

as my footsteps beat a tattoo

into the skin of my history.

Home, again, to the doorstep,

worked and reworked and cemented

beyond recognition and memory

except the air that stands still

and holds my first kiss,

ready to embrace me all over again.

Every time I try to leave old love follows

whispering lingering remembrances

as my footsteps beat a tattoo

into the skin of my history.

My first and last cig waits in a graveyard,

the smoke still visible, still choking me.

And here, here is where she loved me

and here is where she broke me,

my heart interred at a bus stop.

in this town where I lived,

where the pavements are stained

with my past, my future,

where my footsteps beat a tattoo

into the skin of my history.

p.a. morbid

Donegal 2001

December in Donegal and we’re walking

up the main street in Falcarragh

the heavens hidden by high grey clouds

that press down low, obscuring the mountains.

Everything is grey, except for the crows

which flap and caw close to our heads

the rain falling steady, pungent with peat smoke.

Jacob Butlett

On a Prairie at Sunrise

Say it.

My boyfriend and I used to walk hand-in-hand

through the prairie, our prairie,

outside my apartment on Sunday mornings

to catch the sunrise with our eyes,

glassy butterfly nets brought to a crooning shine.

On a Sunday morning months ago,

as he drove to my apartment,

a tan sedan swerved into his lane and—

In my backyard,

I paced impatiently on prairie groundsel,

not knowing I was waiting

for a ghost.

With his parents’ blessing,

I spread his ashes across the prairie:

his gray body flew like grounded

woodchips through the tallgrass.

Say it.

I wanted and still want

to die.

I’m caught in the violet air,

buried in the grassy melodies

of the swaying big bluestems,

listening to the chickadees and sparrows.

With him gone, my outstretched hand

has become an open grave.

Say it.

If I were to hang myself.

He’d want me to live.

The red past, a prairie fire, encroaches,

the future like rain

slowly, slowly

snuffing out my tears.

He’s a part of the earth,

his ashes a part of our prairie.

And I’m sitting here, watching the sun

rise from coarse clouds,

the dirt holding my hand

with cold fingers.

Bethany Rivers


Kinnikinnick is when you’ve lost your hat

and your shoes are untied and you can’t bend

down and you can’t find your glasses.

Kinnikinnick is when the food is too salty, too peppery,

and it’s cooked now and that’s all there is to eat

or starve. Kinnikinnick is when the TV has lost

its transmission and it’s your favourite

show and there’s nothing else to do but

sit and stare at rain through a window or white noise.

Kinnikinnick is when you don’t care about any

of this and neither do your friends, and the three or four

of you sit around in the haze of it all,

conversationless, white noised, pattered and

patterned by drops you can’t touch and the cat

snuggled in front of an empty grate.

Sharon Phillips

Gift of the author

The book was cheap online. Hardback,

condition good. I clicked ‘buy now’,

forgot till I took in an unexpected box.

There it was, its jacket red and gold,

cream pages deckle-edged and poems

like voices of friends not met for years

though dear: it seemed we might all laugh

and talk as if no time had passed. Hardback,

ex-library stock, its pages so crisp they felt

unread and frontispiece inscribed in black

American Library, Paris, gift of the author

then overstamped in red: withdrawn.

Rachel Bower

Big Issue

He asks me what’s in the fancy bag

as I hand over three warm coins for the magazine.

I’ve been squeezing them up the street - I knew I’d meet him here.

We peer down past the handle, hooked over my wrist

into the gloss black bag, where a box of shiny boots sit.

On top of the box is a pregnancy test.

He looks up at my eyes and beams freckles

puts his arm round my shoulder and squeezes.

He’s all god bless you and have you got any more kids

and he knows all the comings and goings of the town this man

when wives are ill, when twins are born

when jobs are found and friends are lost

his emerald eyes have always known it.

At twilight he flies with the starlings.

Cherry-faced, I whisper, I’ll come back and let you know.

Jessica Mehta

If I Write About You

If I write about you, you’re important

even if it’s just once, even

if it’s in passing. My love collects like coins,

fine precious metals,

in the cobwebbed attic of my heart. It occupies

all corners, each seam of every beam.

If I write about you,

I’m keeping you and nobody or nothing

can claim your space. You’ve become

a part of me, as necessary as my limbs,

my breath, my blood. When I write about you,

it’s a testament—my shouts to the world

that in this instant, you’re everything that matters.

And even if it fades,

even when it dims,

the echoes of our collision

will reverberate in my chest, play conductor

to the orchestra of my heartbeat.

Do you know what power you have,

how many blessings you’re gifted,

when I play god and make you immortal,

supplicating like a peasant while you’re reborn

omniscient in the drying ink? I choose happily

to bow before you, grateful and obliging

to simply be here

basking in the splendor of You.

Ali Jones

Watch What You Eat

She never believed her mother, and alveoli flaring,

inhaled the seed, lodged it in the casket of her chest

until one day it rooted, and she finally emerged,

no longer barren, germinating, the seed

snaking nutrients from the coils of her veins;

it sought light, reaching for the anglepoise

that perched on her desk beneath the window,

drinking her from the inside, pushing upwards

to break through. One day when she woke,

her lips had sprouted leaves in bud,

her hair a crown of twigs, arms branching upwards,

star seeking. It did not seem strange to consider

heartwood darkening her spine, outer layers hardening

to textured gowns, at each season another layer

bedding in, armouring her against the world,

a xylem danced beneath the widening sky;

at the moon’s nodes, her mother fetched her water,

staked her strong, decked her arms with ribbons.

Juliet Cook

Inside an Old Basement

My tongue was pulled out of my mouth.

A red tongue bath

staining an old box.

Broken lights.

Broken bulbs.

Broken glass.

Another broken light blue egg.

Nobody loves you he said.

You might as well suck

the dead baby

bird out.

What did I think he wanted anyway?

Nobody wants all of me.

They just want small pieces.

Tear another part out,

stick it in

another box.

Nobody will look inside

after the blood dries.

Spangle McQueen

Reality TV

Her carcass is splayed across

three Silent Witness tables -

and our widescreen television,

amidst repeat reports of the Iraqi war. An alien queen

whom an excited marine scientist prepares

to dissect and weigh and measure

as if he could learn her very essence,

since she met her skin’s disintegration,

net-tangled beyond her depths in Ross’s ice-choked sea.

He is cautious. Alive, he states, she was a predator,

the biggest, most fearsome known to science.

While plucking broken beaks from sperm whales’ bellies,

in colour-blind dreams he swims around a tank with her,

alive, intact, his mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. *

Now he calls her ‘colossal’ to convey her size and

(speculated) aggressiveness. Meanwhile, back to Baghdad -

seven Iraqi women and children have been shot at a check-point,

killed in their vehicle for failing to stop as instructed.

Witnesses state no warning shots were fired.


colossal squid

Paul Brookes

Bake Off

to unstress, knead that flour.

Knuckle into a surface that gives

as plasticine once gave under pressed

thumbs and curled fists, work the worry.

Hand whisk gets bubbles into the mix

up and round the bowl till stiff.

Wooden rolling pin stretches the thought

to fringed edges, flatten and dab with water.

Place in hot oven and inhale fresh growth,

bread that breaks out a steam bath.

Russell Jones

Mrs Bun, the Baker’s Wife

She’s not the spouse you’d expect: no

ribbon in her hair, no summer dress, no apron

bowed, no bag of flour cradled at her breast.

She’s not the ageing poster child

for the family bakery. She never bakes

the bread. Mrs Bun refuses to rise

to the crust of her name. She’s more

than just the baker’s wife. She paints

the town her shade, knocks off

men quick as she knocks back malts.

Mrs Bun plays happy families like no other.

She acts the Doting Wife or Caring Mother

but Bun is a criminal mastermind.

She’s piss-tongued, strong-armed,

the wild card. Bun’s a silent, bloody killer;

steel-jawed, public enemy number one.

In short: don’t fuck with Mrs Bun.

The baker told her she was doe-eyed,

dough-thighed. Now he’s toast, brown bread.

The bloated bastard never saw her coming

as he loaded the oven one last time.

Janet Philo

Confession without Absolution

I killed him gently.

I confess.

I held him down

in tepid water

until it

filled his lungs.

I stretched from thumb

to finger tip

across the carapace.

‘He’ll sleep,’ they say,

‘just fade away.

no squeals,no pain,

no dread.’

and in my mind

I watch him

stretch eight limbs

across an empty beach,

climb the sand-fold

ridges and wade,


towards the sea;

eye stalks erupt,


from water laced

with sand,

staring at tomorrow,

shaded by

my hand.

Brennan Downey

Crime Procedural

I’m mostly stock footage, to be honest.

To lie, I am the red herring.

I'm the killer as well.

Half truthfully, I fear that there is

an evil which runs through

unexpected burst of my energy.

I have concerns about love and

some questions for hate.

Somedays I’ll be hate. Let’s eat.

Let’s make more. Let’s make love separately.

Really, I’m a plumber

for interconnectivity.

There’s a maze I like which

promises cheese to its master.

I am brochure simple,

but everything isn’t simple.

Everything is much longer.

My body is a body in a dark doorway.

Its ideas are strange to me.

I peek at it while I

pretend to be asleep.

Emma Lee

Spiderling, hobbled

You spun a story that put you firmly

at the centre of your complex web.

One persistent strand made you the shiny social one

compared with your drab academic sister with an easy

teaching job while your pupils glittered your reputation.

No one noticed the gold you offered was pyrite.

Look at how the sun shines on the dew caught in your web.

A myriad of mirrors. How could there be space for another?

Could you risk another tarnishing your spangled web?

Maintenance was hard work. You took the risk.

You created a spiderling to fix bridges, direct the sun

back at you, to remind others of the marvel of you,

and strengthen your venom towards those who failed

to praise you. A spiderling to reassure you they were wrong.

Your greatest fear: that your spiderling would leave

so you could no longer claim its achievements as yours,

that your spiderling would expose your dark web,

the shadows you worked so hard to keep hidden.

You made your spiderling broken. Hobbled attempts at independence,

used ridicule when it expressed an opinion that wasn’t yours.

Told others your spiderling was difficult, headstrong,

sullen, would never amount to much. Stole credit

for any talent it showed. Never let it hear praise.

Demonstrated that to you it was no more than a tool.

Your failure led to estrangement you don’t understand,

just as Frankenstein never thought his monster would think.

Joan McNerney


Full of himself flaunting

his black leather jacket

covered with silver studs.

Bling hangs from his bulging neck.

Flashy zircons, deep cologne,

tattoos, piercings, purple hair.

Puffed up, he struts across alleys.

Headlight eyes scoping

each corner searching prey.

Pushing down anything

in his way. Sniffing rear

doors, sniffing out death.

His hands move like claws

through shadows with

crooked nails buffed blue.

Lugging a bag of tricks loaded

with brass knuckles, chains,

zip guns, switchblade knives.

Opening his cavern mouth,

smacking wide lips, he drains

a cool cocktail of ruby red blood.

Saira Viola

French Kisses and Rainbow Bindis

Hippie French kisses and rainbow bindis

Glitter mouthed blow jobs in the back seat

Zappa and Dylan on playback –

He keeps calling

It’s a ruptured burnt –peach Summer evening

The night wraps angel wings around her

Eyelids painted duck –teal and cream vanilla

Her unpinned hair falls like a golden step– ladder

In the distance flirty drunken laughter

but all he knew was BITE KICK PUNCH SLAP !

Pastel shades of vomit bubble– froth her glottis

Liquid lies Van Goghed the tiny pockets of air in her throat

And she saw three poets as her eyes turned into two pulpy black balloons

One was graffiti and saliva colonising a wall in Ladbroke Grove

Name unknown

One was stapled together hand made in the kitchen on acid free paper

–baby powder white

And one generic cup and saucer verse stands proud in the shop front window

Gold and silver fills that poet’s mouth

The first poet made hundreds of people stop and think

The second grew a devoted cult following

The third was honoured by the Queen.

Reuben Woolley

again a sweet blue

she dances here inside



the once & ever steps

a moon / turning

we don’t sail rip



at a time.i know

this move & then

the rest

it comes

together / the next



& floating.the naked

& the waves.they dance

not everything / not now

& welcome the quiet rain

Kitty Coles


You disbelieved me, so I brought you proofs:

wax moulds of limbs that shone with spectral lustre,

the touch of hands still chilly from the grave,

pale faces looming, haloed, in the shadows,

new voices booming deeply from my throat

and trinkets such summer flowers in winter,

messages etched into my flesh like wounds.

You saw me shudder, taken up by others,

bound in my cabinet on my own orders

with muslin spewing from my passive lips.

At last you acquiesced and were convinced.

I now confess, as you have grown dependent,

and daily pester me for messages:

all you have seen and felt is trickery,

a pantomine for children, valueless.

The truth is as I told you in the first place,

when you were cynical and I was honest:

the words are real: my body swarms with them.

They crawl my fibres, murderous as wasps,

and when my mouth is opened they fly out

without consent from me, beyond volition,

darken the room, hot and ungovernable.

I am the rushes at the water’s edge

and, when the breeze arrives, I bend before it

and fill the air with its fierce murmuring.

Carla M. Cherry

Pyrophobia: there is a reason why

I was four when the burning began.

As Grandmother had done to her, Mother

had me perched on our yellow stepstool right next to the stove,

open jar of blue Ultra Sheen on the countertop.

Plastic comb for sectioning, hot comb on the burner, warming.

Paper towel atop a cotton one, for the embers.

Towel draped around shoulders like devil’s ivy.

Every few moments, she lifted the hot comb from the flame, blew wisps of air

on it.

And like an osprey diving towards a trout,

she swooped down into my puffy kinks,

searing my hair straight, one tuft at a time,

the scents of bergamot oil and petroleum jelly wafting through the house.

Sometimes she burned the helix of my ears; made me jump.

Hold still! she snapped. One day, thinking of them, I blew out the flame.

Imagining explosion, dead husband and daughters,

Mother had nails in her voice: Don’t ever do that again.

As a mature woman, I steal snuggles in Mother’s lap.

She strokes my kinky coils;

I comb her textured, silver silky hair. Still,

fearing fiery burn on fingers, I won’t light a match.

I never light candles for any birthday cake;

have already blown a thousand dandelion wishes

and faith outpaces my need for luck.

Don’t need to light a pilot light to cook.

I don’t throw big parties; don't bring me cans of Sterno.

A dinner for two? Yes. Candlelit? No.

Flick off just one switch.

There will be enough darkness

prodding passions, ample butter soft light

so I can peer into your soul.

Nick Allen


fallen haw blossom foams the

canal lock like a flat London pint

the swimming rat cuts the thin head

as the reflection of traffic lights play

across the darkening surface

shepherding its young

into the feral dark of the walled bank

Benjamin Smith

The Mountain

Ten-thousand dollars

in cash,

stashed beneath the back-seat

of the DeLorean.

We’re on our way.

We’re as free as wild cuckoos.

The mountains are singing

The Animals’ Don’t Let Me Be


as the sun burns off the early morning

fog; you’re rubbing your eyes,

I’m clearing my throat.

And tonight,

we’ll celebrate with

a hot shower, clean clothes,

a six-pack of Californian beer;

we’ll sleep in a queen-size bed

with plush pillows, and freshly pressed sheets;

we’ll make love, frantically,

like feverish chimpanzees, pausing

only to re-catch our breath,

or recount our cash,

until we’re spent,

and the wolves have all been cast out.

Sally Barrett

Organised: Hand to mouth

My name is Sally Organised Barrett

It used to be Sally Organised McManus

I am my father’s daughter

When I went to my sister’s wedding party

I was ready and dressed an hour early

Natalie was my plus one

She made me get changed again

So I wasn’t too crumpled

When we had a send off for Nick

At Natalie’s house

She greeted me with

I knew you’d be fucking early

And no one wanted to go into town to dance,

as usual

My life has eternally been

Trying to get people to go into town to dance

Now I’d rather watch

Miss Marple in our living room

And festivals are like an endurance test

Just because I’m organised

Doesn’t mean I can’t digress

Simon Williams

Strategy for Having the Last Laugh

on the International Space Station

The latest information,

used as a key element of the film Gravity,

says your body won’t explode instantly,

if exposed to the vacuum of space.

This theory claims you won’t

lose consciousness for 30 seconds,

that freezing is the first effect to hit you,

not bodily detonation.

So when, after a heated disagreement,

they push you from the air lock of the ISS,

remember this. Scramble to the viewport,

remove your suit and moon.

Irene Cunningham

The End

It was as if I was still there, lying

like a forgotten coat on a sofa,

all ears and no understanding. I was

in the room, swimming in their voices; words

about me poked, spiked – my name, character

passed from mouth to mouth with nary a barb

to catch them. They scrambled about the room,

scurrying up arms in the excitement

of holiday announcements. No matter

how I tried to still the picture, snap it

into the answer to my questions, but

the smothering began and sense was just

impossible. They squeezed me out, and when

I rose it was clear that I wasn't there.

Gareth Writer-Davies


I have always admired

those who dance on graves

who even after death, summon up the macabre energy

to do The Locomotion

upon the recently deceased

gone, one step beyond the cares of this world

there is still someone, who keeps me in tight furious hold


and spinning the mortal

unto thought, fleckerl and feather

which is worth more than a thousand words of eulogy

and lasts longer than the funeral cake

so dance upon my grave

I am your hated and everlasting partner

Ken Cumberlidge



in English

haven’t we a word

for the uniquely squeaky

staggered crumple

fresh snow gives

when trodden underfoot?

I’ll own up now:

I haven’t been to look,

but I’ll offer you an even bet

the Swedes have got one;

likewise Danes,

Norwegians, Finns…

the whole fur-booted,

4-wheel driven, herring chewing crew.

Not us, though —

or, as far as I’m aware, not yet.

At any rate, not to the point

of being in such common use

as to have caused orgasm

at OED HQ.

It would be rather fun

to have one, don’t you think?

Not fancy, showy,

technical or difficult to spell,

just something short,


sufficient to the task:

a little, soft-but-brittle word

to thrill the palate,

chill the tongue

and chase around your teeth

before it melts.

Ceinwen Haydon

Gibside in Winter

Iced air stings my cheeks to scarlet,

bites my ears numb and

my feet slip on frosted leaves

tipped by crystals on the Derwent’s rimed bank.

Wind sculled waves spray glitter

on mallards’ green-feathered backs

as they swim downstream

whilst speedwell skies

draw deep breaths from my lungs.

On woodland banks, backlit silhouettes

of stripped-bare winter trees,

stark black bronchioles,

guard the drowsy valley at the sundown’s onset.

Our walk is short,

so few miles, maybe four.

Just enough to warm my hand in yours.

Jackie Biggs

Growing on

I see what is growing in my garden

and think of Ophelia

Here is rosemary, for remembrance

she says.

There is fennel too, for the fickle in love

and daisies – for faithlessness.

Here are ivy and columbine

beautiful but toxic.

Now the long winter spell is ended

I can think about new planting.

There are blank fences with wires

a bench where I can sit and wonder.

There is compost ready,

and space in soil-rich beds.

I think about roses

for colour and scent

to climb the fences

and to bring the bees.

I think about herbs

to arouse tastebuds

awaken fresh memories.

I will add thyme for cleansing

lavender for a clear head

foxglove for a steady heart, and for bees.

There will be mint for potatoes

catnip for cats.

And there will be poppies –

orange and yellow –

for sleep, peacefulness

and for remembering.

For writer biographies / web links, please see the

‘Contributors’ page on our website.

Thank you for reading!

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