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.

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.


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<strong>Issue</strong> <strong>#11</strong><br />

<strong>November</strong> <strong>2017</strong><br />

Edited by Kate Garrett<br />

All poems copyright © <strong>2017</strong> individual authors<br />

Selection/issue copyright © <strong>2017</strong> Kate Garrett / <strong>Picaroon</strong> Poetry

This Month’s Rogue Poems ● <strong>November</strong> <strong>2017</strong><br />

the mice have abandoned the woodpile // James H Duncan<br />

Footsteps // F.R. Kesby<br />

Donegal 2001 // p.a. morbid<br />

On a Prairie at Sunrise // Jacob Butlett<br />

Kinnikinnick // Bethany Rivers<br />

Gift of the author // Sharon Phillips<br />

Big <strong>Issue</strong> // Rachel Bower<br />

If I Write About You // Jessica Mehta<br />

Watch What You Eat // Ali Jones<br />

Inside an Old Basement // Juliet Cook<br />

Reality TV // Spangle McQueen<br />

Bake Off // Paul Brookes<br />

Mrs Bun, the Baker’s Wife // Russell Jones<br />

Confession without Absolution // Janet Philo<br />

Crime Procedural // Brennan Downey<br />

Spiderling, hobbled // Emma Lee<br />

Knave // Joan McNerney<br />

French Kisses and Rainbow Bindis // Saira Viola<br />

again a sweet blue // Reuben Woolley<br />

Mouthpiece // Kitty Coles

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

parent // Nick Allen<br />

The Mountain // Benjamin Smith<br />

Organised: Hand to mouth // Sally Barrett<br />

Strategy for Having the Last Laugh<br />

on the International Space Station // Simon Williams<br />

The End // Irene Cunningham<br />

Dance // Gareth Writer-Davies<br />

Alack // Ken Cumberlidge<br />

Gibside in Winter // Ceinwen Haydon<br />

Growing on // Jackie Biggs

James H Duncan<br />

the mice have abandoned the woodpile<br />

it’s so cold that you sweat,<br />

shivering and alone in a small room<br />

as the phone lights up with<br />

digital daggers and questions of whether<br />

you’re seeing someone new<br />

and wouldn’t it be nice to catch<br />

up over drinks at one of the old places?<br />

outside, the wind across the lake makes the<br />

cold worse than it really is, and it’s bad enough<br />

that the mice have abandoned the woodpile<br />

to hide in the walls inside here where<br />

they still freeze to death, and<br />

you’ll know where come spring<br />

it is three days to New Year’s Eve and she<br />

already has her plans and won’t you be a<br />

part of them? early afternoon cocktails? but<br />

you think by not replying you’re winning,<br />

except you both know it hurts, you both<br />

know the streets are snowing themselves in,<br />

that time piles up higher and higher to end<br />

all things, all inroads, all escape routes<br />

and it’s so cold you sweat as you wonder<br />

what to say to her or anyone anymore, spying<br />

through the curtain at the chopping maul, the pile<br />

of wood waiting, the frozen lake beyond,<br />

and the phone buzzing brings you back,<br />

always brings you back, lighting up your face<br />

in the blue silence of the small room alone<br />

what will you do? what will you do?<br />

now and forever, or never at all

F.R. Kesby<br />

Footsteps<br />

Here, I think, here is where I fell,<br />

where jeans ripped and ringlets tangled<br />

with bike gears and stinging nettles.<br />

Here among the petals and stems<br />

in a garden of roses, a fallen infant<br />

leaves a dent, a mark.<br />

Does the ground remember?<br />

Yes, it welcomes me home<br />

as my footsteps beat a tattoo<br />

into the skin of my history.<br />

Home, again, to the doorstep,<br />

worked and reworked and cemented<br />

beyond recognition and memory<br />

except the air that stands still<br />

and holds my first kiss,<br />

ready to embrace me all over again.<br />

Every time I try to leave old love follows<br />

whispering lingering remembrances<br />

as my footsteps beat a tattoo<br />

into the skin of my history.<br />

My first and last cig waits in a graveyard,<br />

the smoke still visible, still choking me.<br />

And here, here is where she loved me<br />

and here is where she broke me,<br />

my heart interred at a bus stop.<br />

in this town where I lived,<br />

where the pavements are stained<br />

with my past, my future,<br />

where my footsteps beat a tattoo<br />

into the skin of my history.

p.a. morbid<br />

Donegal 2001<br />

December in Donegal and we’re walking<br />

up the main street in Falcarragh<br />

the heavens hidden by high grey clouds<br />

that press down low, obscuring the mountains.<br />

Everything is grey, except for the crows<br />

which flap and caw close to our heads<br />

the rain falling steady, pungent with peat smoke.

Jacob Butlett<br />

On a Prairie at Sunrise<br />

Say it.<br />

My boyfriend and I used to walk hand-in-hand<br />

through the prairie, our prairie,<br />

outside my apartment on Sunday mornings<br />

to catch the sunrise with our eyes,<br />

glassy butterfly nets brought to a crooning shine.<br />

On a Sunday morning months ago,<br />

as he drove to my apartment,<br />

a tan sedan swerved into his lane and—<br />

In my backyard,<br />

I paced impatiently on prairie groundsel,<br />

not knowing I was waiting<br />

for a ghost.<br />

With his parents’ blessing,<br />

I spread his ashes across the prairie:<br />

his gray body flew like grounded<br />

woodchips through the tallgrass.<br />

Say it.<br />

I wanted and still want<br />

to die.<br />

I’m caught in the violet air,<br />

buried in the grassy melodies<br />

of the swaying big bluestems,<br />

listening to the chickadees and sparrows.<br />

With him gone, my outstretched hand<br />

has become an open grave.<br />

Say it.<br />

If I were to hang myself.<br />

He’d want me to live.<br />

The red past, a prairie fire, encroaches,

the future like rain<br />

slowly, slowly<br />

snuffing out my tears.<br />

He’s a part of the earth,<br />

his ashes a part of our prairie.<br />

And I’m sitting here, watching the sun<br />

rise from coarse clouds,<br />

the dirt holding my hand<br />

with cold fingers.

Bethany Rivers<br />

Kinnikinnick<br />

Kinnikinnick is when you’ve lost your hat<br />

and your shoes are untied and you can’t bend<br />

down and you can’t find your glasses.<br />

Kinnikinnick is when the food is too salty, too peppery,<br />

and it’s cooked now and that’s all there is to eat<br />

or starve. Kinnikinnick is when the TV has lost<br />

its transmission and it’s your favourite<br />

show and there’s nothing else to do but<br />

sit and stare at rain through a window or white noise.<br />

Kinnikinnick is when you don’t care about any<br />

of this and neither do your friends, and the three or four<br />

of you sit around in the haze of it all,<br />

conversationless, white noised, pattered and<br />

patterned by drops you can’t touch and the cat<br />

snuggled in front of an empty grate.

Sharon Phillips<br />

Gift of the author<br />

The book was cheap online. Hardback,<br />

condition good. I clicked ‘buy now’,<br />

forgot till I took in an unexpected box.<br />

There it was, its jacket red and gold,<br />

cream pages deckle-edged and poems<br />

like voices of friends not met for years<br />

though dear: it seemed we might all laugh<br />

and talk as if no time had passed. Hardback,<br />

ex-library stock, its pages so crisp they felt<br />

unread and frontispiece inscribed in black<br />

American Library, Paris, gift of the author<br />

then overstamped in red: withdrawn.

Rachel Bower<br />

Big <strong>Issue</strong><br />

He asks me what’s in the fancy bag<br />

as I hand over three warm coins for the magazine.<br />

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

We peer down past the handle, hooked over my wrist<br />

into the gloss black bag, where a box of shiny boots sit.<br />

On top of the box is a pregnancy test.<br />

He looks up at my eyes and beams freckles<br />

puts his arm round my shoulder and squeezes.<br />

He’s all god bless you and have you got any more kids<br />

and he knows all the comings and goings of the town this man<br />

when wives are ill, when twins are born<br />

when jobs are found and friends are lost<br />

his emerald eyes have always known it.<br />

At twilight he flies with the starlings.<br />

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

Jessica Mehta<br />

If I Write About You<br />

If I write about you, you’re important<br />

even if it’s just once, even<br />

if it’s in passing. My love collects like coins,<br />

fine precious metals,<br />

in the cobwebbed attic of my heart. It occupies<br />

all corners, each seam of every beam.<br />

If I write about you,<br />

I’m keeping you and nobody or nothing<br />

can claim your space. You’ve become<br />

a part of me, as necessary as my limbs,<br />

my breath, my blood. When I write about you,<br />

it’s a testament—my shouts to the world<br />

that in this instant, you’re everything that matters.<br />

And even if it fades,<br />

even when it dims,<br />

the echoes of our collision<br />

will reverberate in my chest, play conductor<br />

to the orchestra of my heartbeat.<br />

Do you know what power you have,<br />

how many blessings you’re gifted,<br />

when I play god and make you immortal,<br />

supplicating like a peasant while you’re reborn<br />

omniscient in the drying ink? I choose happily<br />

to bow before you, grateful and obliging<br />

to simply be here<br />

basking in the splendor of You.

Ali Jones<br />

Watch What You Eat<br />

She never believed her mother, and alveoli flaring,<br />

inhaled the seed, lodged it in the casket of her chest<br />

until one day it rooted, and she finally emerged,<br />

no longer barren, germinating, the seed<br />

snaking nutrients from the coils of her veins;<br />

it sought light, reaching for the anglepoise<br />

that perched on her desk beneath the window,<br />

drinking her from the inside, pushing upwards<br />

to break through. One day when she woke,<br />

her lips had sprouted leaves in bud,<br />

her hair a crown of twigs, arms branching upwards,<br />

star seeking. It did not seem strange to consider<br />

heartwood darkening her spine, outer layers hardening<br />

to textured gowns, at each season another layer<br />

bedding in, armouring her against the world,<br />

a xylem danced beneath the widening sky;<br />

at the moon’s nodes, her mother fetched her water,<br />

staked her strong, decked her arms with ribbons.

Juliet Cook<br />

Inside an Old Basement<br />

My tongue was pulled out of my mouth.<br />

A red tongue bath<br />

staining an old box.<br />

Broken lights.<br />

Broken bulbs.<br />

Broken glass.<br />

Another broken light blue egg.<br />

Nobody loves you he said.<br />

You might as well suck<br />

the dead baby<br />

bird out.<br />

What did I think he wanted anyway?<br />

Nobody wants all of me.<br />

They just want small pieces.<br />

Tear another part out,<br />

stick it in<br />

another box.<br />

Nobody will look inside<br />

after the blood dries.

Spangle McQueen<br />

Reality TV<br />

Her carcass is splayed across<br />

three Silent Witness tables -<br />

and our widescreen television,<br />

amidst repeat reports of the Iraqi war. An alien queen<br />

whom an excited marine scientist prepares<br />

to dissect and weigh and measure<br />

as if he could learn her very essence,<br />

since she met her skin’s disintegration,<br />

net-tangled beyond her depths in Ross’s ice-choked sea.<br />

He is cautious. Alive, he states, she was a predator,<br />

the biggest, most fearsome known to science.<br />

While plucking broken beaks from sperm whales’ bellies,<br />

in colour-blind dreams he swims around a tank with her,<br />

alive, intact, his mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. *<br />

Now he calls her ‘colossal’ to convey her size and<br />

(speculated) aggressiveness. Meanwhile, back to Baghdad -<br />

seven Iraqi women and children have been shot at a check-point,<br />

killed in their vehicle for failing to stop as instructed.<br />

Witnesses state no warning shots were fired.<br />

*<br />

colossal squid

Paul Brookes<br />

Bake Off<br />

to unstress, knead that flour.<br />

Knuckle into a surface that gives<br />

as plasticine once gave under pressed<br />

thumbs and curled fists, work the worry.<br />

Hand whisk gets bubbles into the mix<br />

up and round the bowl till stiff.<br />

Wooden rolling pin stretches the thought<br />

to fringed edges, flatten and dab with water.<br />

Place in hot oven and inhale fresh growth,<br />

bread that breaks out a steam bath.

Russell Jones<br />

Mrs Bun, the Baker’s Wife<br />

She’s not the spouse you’d expect: no<br />

ribbon in her hair, no summer dress, no apron<br />

bowed, no bag of flour cradled at her breast.<br />

She’s not the ageing poster child<br />

for the family bakery. She never bakes<br />

the bread. Mrs Bun refuses to rise<br />

to the crust of her name. She’s more<br />

than just the baker’s wife. She paints<br />

the town her shade, knocks off<br />

men quick as she knocks back malts.<br />

Mrs Bun plays happy families like no other.<br />

She acts the Doting Wife or Caring Mother<br />

but Bun is a criminal mastermind.<br />

She’s piss-tongued, strong-armed,<br />

the wild card. Bun’s a silent, bloody killer;<br />

steel-jawed, public enemy number one.<br />

In short: don’t fuck with Mrs Bun.<br />

The baker told her she was doe-eyed,<br />

dough-thighed. Now he’s toast, brown bread.<br />

The bloated bastard never saw her coming<br />

as he loaded the oven one last time.

Janet Philo<br />

Confession without Absolution<br />

I killed him gently.<br />

I confess.<br />

I held him down<br />

in tepid water<br />

until it<br />

filled his lungs.<br />

I stretched from thumb<br />

to finger tip<br />

across the carapace.<br />

‘He’ll sleep,’ they say,<br />

‘just fade away.<br />

no squeals,no pain,<br />

no dread.’<br />

and in my mind<br />

I watch him<br />

stretch eight limbs<br />

across an empty beach,<br />

climb the sand-fold<br />

ridges and wade,<br />

wet-legged,<br />

towards the sea;<br />

eye stalks erupt,<br />

tentative,<br />

from water laced<br />

with sand,<br />

staring at tomorrow,<br />

shaded by<br />

my hand.

Brennan Downey<br />

Crime Procedural<br />

I’m mostly stock footage, to be honest.<br />

To lie, I am the red herring.<br />

I'm the killer as well.<br />

Half truthfully, I fear that there is<br />

an evil which runs through<br />

unexpected burst of my energy.<br />

I have concerns about love and<br />

some questions for hate.<br />

Somedays I’ll be hate. Let’s eat.<br />

Let’s make more. Let’s make love separately.<br />

Really, I’m a plumber<br />

for interconnectivity.<br />

There’s a maze I like which<br />

promises cheese to its master.<br />

I am brochure simple,<br />

but everything isn’t simple.<br />

Everything is much longer.<br />

My body is a body in a dark doorway.<br />

Its ideas are strange to me.<br />

I peek at it while I<br />

pretend to be asleep.

Emma Lee<br />

Spiderling, hobbled<br />

You spun a story that put you firmly<br />

at the centre of your complex web.<br />

One persistent strand made you the shiny social one<br />

compared with your drab academic sister with an easy<br />

teaching job while your pupils glittered your reputation.<br />

No one noticed the gold you offered was pyrite.<br />

Look at how the sun shines on the dew caught in your web.<br />

A myriad of mirrors. How could there be space for another?<br />

Could you risk another tarnishing your spangled web?<br />

Maintenance was hard work. You took the risk.<br />

You created a spiderling to fix bridges, direct the sun<br />

back at you, to remind others of the marvel of you,<br />

and strengthen your venom towards those who failed<br />

to praise you. A spiderling to reassure you they were wrong.<br />

Your greatest fear: that your spiderling would leave<br />

so you could no longer claim its achievements as yours,<br />

that your spiderling would expose your dark web,<br />

the shadows you worked so hard to keep hidden.<br />

You made your spiderling broken. Hobbled attempts at independence,<br />

used ridicule when it expressed an opinion that wasn’t yours.<br />

Told others your spiderling was difficult, headstrong,<br />

sullen, would never amount to much. Stole credit<br />

for any talent it showed. Never let it hear praise.<br />

Demonstrated that to you it was no more than a tool.<br />

Your failure led to estrangement you don’t understand,<br />

just as Frankenstein never thought his monster would think.

Joan McNerney<br />

Knave<br />

Full of himself flaunting<br />

his black leather jacket<br />

covered with silver studs.<br />

Bling hangs from his bulging neck.<br />

Flashy zircons, deep cologne,<br />

tattoos, piercings, purple hair.<br />

Puffed up, he struts across alleys.<br />

Headlight eyes scoping<br />

each corner searching prey.<br />

Pushing down anything<br />

in his way. Sniffing rear<br />

doors, sniffing out death.<br />

His hands move like claws<br />

through shadows with<br />

crooked nails buffed blue.<br />

Lugging a bag of tricks loaded<br />

with brass knuckles, chains,<br />

zip guns, switchblade knives.<br />

Opening his cavern mouth,<br />

smacking wide lips, he drains<br />

a cool cocktail of ruby red blood.

Saira Viola<br />

French Kisses and Rainbow Bindis<br />

Hippie French kisses and rainbow bindis<br />

Glitter mouthed blow jobs in the back seat<br />

Zappa and Dylan on playback –<br />

He keeps calling<br />

It’s a ruptured burnt –peach Summer evening<br />

The night wraps angel wings around her<br />

Eyelids painted duck –teal and cream vanilla<br />

Her unpinned hair falls like a golden step– ladder<br />

In the distance flirty drunken laughter<br />

but all he knew was BITE KICK PUNCH SLAP !<br />

Pastel shades of vomit bubble– froth her glottis<br />

Liquid lies Van Goghed the tiny pockets of air in her throat<br />

And she saw three poets as her eyes turned into two pulpy black balloons<br />

One was graffiti and saliva colonising a wall in Ladbroke Grove<br />

Name unknown<br />

One was stapled together hand made in the kitchen on acid free paper<br />

–baby powder white<br />

And one generic cup and saucer verse stands proud in the shop front window<br />

Gold and silver fills that poet’s mouth<br />

The first poet made hundreds of people stop and think<br />

The second grew a devoted cult following<br />

The third was honoured by the Queen.

Reuben Woolley<br />

again a sweet blue<br />

she dances here inside<br />

i<br />

know<br />

the once & ever steps<br />

a moon / turning<br />

we don’t sail rip<br />

tides.she<br />

gentle<br />

at a time.i know<br />

this move & then<br />

the rest<br />

it comes<br />

together / the next<br />

small<br />

foot<br />

& floating.the naked<br />

& the waves.they dance<br />

not everything / not now<br />

& welcome the quiet rain

Kitty Coles<br />

Mouthpiece<br />

You disbelieved me, so I brought you proofs:<br />

wax moulds of limbs that shone with spectral lustre,<br />

the touch of hands still chilly from the grave,<br />

pale faces looming, haloed, in the shadows,<br />

new voices booming deeply from my throat<br />

and trinkets such summer flowers in winter,<br />

messages etched into my flesh like wounds.<br />

You saw me shudder, taken up by others,<br />

bound in my cabinet on my own orders<br />

with muslin spewing from my passive lips.<br />

At last you acquiesced and were convinced.<br />

I now confess, as you have grown dependent,<br />

and daily pester me for messages:<br />

all you have seen and felt is trickery,<br />

a pantomine for children, valueless.<br />

The truth is as I told you in the first place,<br />

when you were cynical and I was honest:<br />

the words are real: my body swarms with them.<br />

They crawl my fibres, murderous as wasps,<br />

and when my mouth is opened they fly out<br />

without consent from me, beyond volition,<br />

darken the room, hot and ungovernable.<br />

I am the rushes at the water’s edge<br />

and, when the breeze arrives, I bend before it<br />

and fill the air with its fierce murmuring.

Carla M. Cherry<br />

Pyrophobia: there is a reason why<br />

I was four when the burning began.<br />

As Grandmother had done to her, Mother<br />

had me perched on our yellow stepstool right next to the stove,<br />

open jar of blue Ultra Sheen on the countertop.<br />

Plastic comb for sectioning, hot comb on the burner, warming.<br />

Paper towel atop a cotton one, for the embers.<br />

Towel draped around shoulders like devil’s ivy.<br />

Every few moments, she lifted the hot comb from the flame, blew wisps of air<br />

on it.<br />

And like an osprey diving towards a trout,<br />

she swooped down into my puffy kinks,<br />

searing my hair straight, one tuft at a time,<br />

the scents of bergamot oil and petroleum jelly wafting through the house.<br />

Sometimes she burned the helix of my ears; made me jump.<br />

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

Imagining explosion, dead husband and daughters,<br />

Mother had nails in her voice: Don’t ever do that again.<br />

As a mature woman, I steal snuggles in Mother’s lap.<br />

She strokes my kinky coils;<br />

I comb her textured, silver silky hair. Still,<br />

fearing fiery burn on fingers, I won’t light a match.<br />

I never light candles for any birthday cake;<br />

have already blown a thousand dandelion wishes<br />

and faith outpaces my need for luck.<br />

Don’t need to light a pilot light to cook.<br />

I don’t throw big parties; don't bring me cans of Sterno.<br />

A dinner for two? Yes. Candlelit? No.<br />

Flick off just one switch.<br />

There will be enough darkness<br />

prodding passions, ample butter soft light<br />

so I can peer into your soul.

Nick Allen<br />

parent<br />

fallen haw blossom foams the<br />

canal lock like a flat London pint<br />

the swimming rat cuts the thin head<br />

as the reflection of traffic lights play<br />

across the darkening surface<br />

shepherding its young<br />

into the feral dark of the walled bank

Benjamin Smith<br />

The Mountain<br />

Ten-thousand dollars<br />

in cash,<br />

stashed beneath the back-seat<br />

of the DeLorean.<br />

We’re on our way.<br />

We’re as free as wild cuckoos.<br />

The mountains are singing<br />

The Animals’ Don’t Let Me Be<br />

Misunderstood,<br />

as the sun burns off the early morning<br />

fog; you’re rubbing your eyes,<br />

I’m clearing my throat.<br />

And tonight,<br />

we’ll celebrate with<br />

a hot shower, clean clothes,<br />

a six-pack of Californian beer;<br />

we’ll sleep in a queen-size bed<br />

with plush pillows, and freshly pressed sheets;<br />

we’ll make love, frantically,<br />

like feverish chimpanzees, pausing<br />

only to re-catch our breath,<br />

or recount our cash,<br />

until we’re spent,<br />

and the wolves have all been cast out.

Sally Barrett<br />

Organised: Hand to mouth<br />

My name is Sally Organised Barrett<br />

It used to be Sally Organised McManus<br />

I am my father’s daughter<br />

When I went to my sister’s wedding party<br />

I was ready and dressed an hour early<br />

Natalie was my plus one<br />

She made me get changed again<br />

So I wasn’t too crumpled<br />

When we had a send off for Nick<br />

At Natalie’s house<br />

She greeted me with<br />

I knew you’d be fucking early<br />

And no one wanted to go into town to dance,<br />

as usual<br />

My life has eternally been<br />

Trying to get people to go into town to dance<br />

Now I’d rather watch<br />

Miss Marple in our living room<br />

And festivals are like an endurance test<br />

Just because I’m organised<br />

Doesn’t mean I can’t digress

Simon Williams<br />

Strategy for Having the Last Laugh<br />

on the International Space Station<br />

The latest information,<br />

used as a key element of the film Gravity,<br />

says your body won’t explode instantly,<br />

if exposed to the vacuum of space.<br />

This theory claims you won’t<br />

lose consciousness for 30 seconds,<br />

that freezing is the first effect to hit you,<br />

not bodily detonation.<br />

So when, after a heated disagreement,<br />

they push you from the air lock of the ISS,<br />

remember this. Scramble to the viewport,<br />

remove your suit and moon.

Irene Cunningham<br />

The End<br />

It was as if I was still there, lying<br />

like a forgotten coat on a sofa,<br />

all ears and no understanding. I was<br />

in the room, swimming in their voices; words<br />

about me poked, spiked – my name, character<br />

passed from mouth to mouth with nary a barb<br />

to catch them. They scrambled about the room,<br />

scurrying up arms in the excitement<br />

of holiday announcements. No matter<br />

how I tried to still the picture, snap it<br />

into the answer to my questions, but<br />

the smothering began and sense was just<br />

impossible. They squeezed me out, and when<br />

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

Gareth Writer-Davies<br />

Dance<br />

I have always admired<br />

those who dance on graves<br />

who even after death, summon up the macabre energy<br />

to do The Locomotion<br />

upon the recently deceased<br />

gone, one step beyond the cares of this world<br />

there is still someone, who keeps me in tight furious hold<br />

unforgotten<br />

and spinning the mortal<br />

unto thought, fleckerl and feather<br />

which is worth more than a thousand words of eulogy<br />

and lasts longer than the funeral cake<br />

so dance upon my grave<br />

I am your hated and everlasting partner

Ken Cumberlidge<br />

Alack<br />

Why<br />

in English<br />

haven’t we a word<br />

for the uniquely squeaky<br />

staggered crumple<br />

fresh snow gives<br />

when trodden underfoot?<br />

I’ll own up now:<br />

I haven’t been to look,<br />

but I’ll offer you an even bet<br />

the Swedes have got one;<br />

likewise Danes,<br />

Norwegians, Finns…<br />

the whole fur-booted,<br />

4-wheel driven, herring chewing crew.<br />

Not us, though —<br />

or, as far as I’m aware, not yet.<br />

At any rate, not to the point<br />

of being in such common use<br />

as to have caused orgasm<br />

at OED HQ.<br />

It would be rather fun<br />

to have one, don’t you think?<br />

Not fancy, showy,<br />

technical or difficult to spell,<br />

just something short,<br />

evocative...<br />

sufficient to the task:

a little, soft-but-brittle word<br />

to thrill the palate,<br />

chill the tongue<br />

and chase around your teeth<br />

before it melts.

Ceinwen Haydon<br />

Gibside in Winter<br />

Iced air stings my cheeks to scarlet,<br />

bites my ears numb and<br />

my feet slip on frosted leaves<br />

tipped by crystals on the Derwent’s rimed bank.<br />

Wind sculled waves spray glitter<br />

on mallards’ green-feathered backs<br />

as they swim downstream<br />

whilst speedwell skies<br />

draw deep breaths from my lungs.<br />

On woodland banks, backlit silhouettes<br />

of stripped-bare winter trees,<br />

stark black bronchioles,<br />

guard the drowsy valley at the sundown’s onset.<br />

Our walk is short,<br />

so few miles, maybe four.<br />

Just enough to warm my hand in yours.

Jackie Biggs<br />

Growing on<br />

I see what is growing in my garden<br />

and think of Ophelia<br />

Here is rosemary, for remembrance<br />

she says.<br />

There is fennel too, for the fickle in love<br />

and daisies – for faithlessness.<br />

Here are ivy and columbine<br />

beautiful but toxic.<br />

Now the long winter spell is ended<br />

I can think about new planting.<br />

There are blank fences with wires<br />

a bench where I can sit and wonder.<br />

There is compost ready,<br />

and space in soil-rich beds.<br />

I think about roses<br />

for colour and scent<br />

to climb the fences<br />

and to bring the bees.<br />

I think about herbs<br />

to arouse tastebuds<br />

awaken fresh memories.<br />

I will add thyme for cleansing<br />

lavender for a clear head<br />

foxglove for a steady heart, and for bees.<br />

There will be mint for potatoes<br />

catnip for cats.<br />

And there will be poppies –<br />

orange and yellow –<br />

for sleep, peacefulness<br />

and for remembering.

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

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

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