Scott Elder – “Sometimes”

Sometimes,

you’re barely there
a windless spin, a thin flutter
carrying no more than spirit

stage lights flicker off and on
a dance floor agape, côté cour
wide-eyed and blinking

your colour: a strain of pale blue
a daughter’s dress,
memory of fools and lovers

listen!  only the music bears a motive
a shuffle of footsteps down an aisle
brings a blind man to the door

a half moon, spilled 
and felt through his skin,
crackles like thunder


Scott Elder, an aging man, once born in California, living most of his life in France, shares the latter bit of this with his three teenage children in Auvergne. Occasional sheep stray into their garden and he wishes to live by the sea. His second collection, My Hotel, is due to be published next year by Salmon Poetry.

Peter McCluskey – “Chopin’s Last Piano”

Chopin’s Last Piano

The piano is sounding Chopin in the salon.
I hurry to take my seat to swim, to float, to be immersed.
A few zloty for a beer, a few moments to daydream in Warsaw.
She plays a nocturne and the traffic outside the window fades.

His last piano is a metre away, beyond the rope.
I stretch, I hope – no one comes.

My finger touches middle C.
The ivory key is cool despite  the museum lights.
I count fours beats – no one comes.

I hear Valse Opus 64 Number 2.
I release, I step back, I sway –  the beer, the zloty, the music, the piano.

In the old town square, the boy turns to the girl.
He tells her she deserves more.
He tells her she deserves magic.


Peter McCluskey is a fiction and poetry writer from Dublin, Ireland and has published four contemporary novels to date. His first anthology of poetry, The Flickering Tide, is due for publication Autumn 2022.  His fifth fiction novel will be published early 2023.

Peter J Donnelly – “The Late Owner of Aardvark’s”

The Late Owner of Aardvark’s
i.m. David Barnett 1929-2022 

He only came at Christmas
and once to the summer lunch.

He drank out of my blue mug
I brought from my room in halls

the first time I saw him
and another year nearly fainted

on hearing an account
of a duck being banged on its head.

I remember him dancing
but not who with or why.

Nor do I know if I ever went in
his old health food shop

on my many trips to Carmarthen
though would have passed it each time

I had coffee at Waverley’s
further up Lammas Street.

I wish I could say that although
it’s been seventeen years

I could recall a line
from one of his poems,

even one that wasn’t very good.
Maybe someday I will.


Peter J Donnelly lives in York where he works as a hospital secretary. He has a degree in English Literature and a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales Lampeter. He has been published in various magazines and anthologies including Black Nore Review, One Hand Clapping, Southlight and Dreich. He won second prize in the Ripon Poetry Festival competition in 2021 and was a joint runner up in the Buzzwords open poetry competition in 2020. He tweets as @pj_donnelly and is on Instagram as donnelly1947.

Brian Kirk – “Absence”

Absence
for Sally

Every morning I look for you,
even though I know you’re gone.
The places where you sat
still hold your image. I know
that it will fade in time, but not just yet.
I’m like a hermit of old in the desert
accosted by visions, interpreting signs,
looking for meaning that doesn’t exist.
I was happy to let you go, but I wasn’t prepared
for this loss: the punch in the gut, the ache
in the heart, as if you were my child.
You were a cat, a pet, an animal that lived
with us and could have lived without us
just as well. Without trying you did more
for us than we could ever do for you.


Brian Kirk is a poet and writer from Dublin. He has published a poetry collection, After The Fall (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and a short fiction chapbook, It’s Not Me, It’s You (Southword Editions, 2019). His poem “Birthday” won Poem of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2018. He blogs at www.briankirkwriter.com.

Matthew Paul – two poems

Butterflies of Vermont

Atlantis Fritillary / Hoary Edge /
Harvester / Mustard White / Buckeye / Black Dash //

Mourning Cloak / Eastern Comma / Bog Copper /
Question Mark / Eyed Brown / Hobomok Skipper //

Coral Hairstreak / Juvenal’s Duskywing /
Tawny Emperor / Monarch / Frosted Elfin //

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell / Lucia Azure /
Spicebush Swallowtail / Little Wood Satyr //

Pink-edged Sulphur / Baltimore Checkerspot /
Pearl Crescent / Viceroy / American Snout //

*** 

Caesarean

A week late, my second son, you’d flipped
Into breech. Hipster orderlies scrubbed
Up; told me to do the same. I thought
They said take everything off. I froze butt-

Naked beneath the hospital gown
I somehow put on the wrong way round,
The ties securing the back too slack
For the cotton to cover my crack.

Well gone midnight, Kiss FM boomed
And shook the ultra-bright theatre, rammed
With happy-clappy disciples urging
On the garrulous, blond-curled surgeon.

The trice his knife made the deeper cut,
Out you sprang, my son, bolt upright,
Blotched purple–orange, an angry jack-
In-the-box; in synch with a soundtrack

Of mainstream House: Armand van Helden,
‘U Don’t Know Me’; that week’s number one.
(Your brother’s first incidental tune
Had been The Smiths, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’.)

Unfastened from your mother’s embrace
To put, at last, the face to my voice,
You crinkled as I lifted you up:
Me cock-a-hoop; you the FA Cup.


Matthew Paul’s collection, The Evening Entertainment, was published by Eyewear in 2017. His two collections of haiku – The Regulars and The Lammas Lands – and co-written/edited (with John Barlow) anthology, Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku, were published by Snapshot Press. He lives in Rotherham, blogs at matthewpaulpoetry.blog and tweets @MatthewPaulPoet.

Diana Beharrell – “Annunciation in the Capilla Real”

Annunciation in the Capilla Real

I saw it like a story –

you’re at a window,
a book open in front of you
but looking up and away
at all that outdoors –
a panorama of peasants labouring in mid-distance fields,
the sky so perfect you could sink into it
and hills hardly there on the horizon,
all suggesting a moment too perfect to squander,

when he arrives in a rush,
miscalculating the rate of descent,
making an emergency landing
and suddenly stationary in the doorway behind you,
his outfit outrunning him, billowing white as a cloud towards you,
already declaring,
before he’s even had time to clear his throat,
or rearrange his hairstyle,
what you’ve got to do right now.

But then you’re turning away, saying
Not now,
I’m in the middle of something important here,
your hand held out like a policeman at a traffic intersection.
No means no, you’re saying,
Just go.

And he’ll stop mid-speech, cut short,
stalled completely,
his index finger failing to make a point.
his mouth open, not knowing what to say
while it all sinks in, suddenly realising
there’s got to be a change of plan

while she tells him to take a moment
to locate the nearest exit.


Diana was born and brought up in Northumberland but has lived in London for a very long time. She writes poetry and short stories which are really poems and reviews all the books she reads at awriterreading.wordpress.com.

Sheila Jacob – “Deep Water in the Psycho-Geriatric Ward”

Deep Water in the Psycho Geriatric Ward

I’m not having a bath!
Mum raises her voice,
slaps away the nurse’s hand.

Come on, the nurse laughs,
you’ll feel nice and fresh,
I’ll stay with you.

Mum slaps again, stands rigid.

I watch the dark no-o of her eyes,
remember how she was gifted
bath cubes each Christmas
and gave them to me,
never crumbled one
under the bath taps.

She anchored her feet
in a plastic bowl,
had soap and flannel washes
to save on the electric.

Did she dread the water’s
swing and swell, glass-clear
around her nakedness?
Was she afraid of drowning
as a child, a young girl,
a young mother when Dad’s
Box Brownie mirrored
the tilt of her chin,
the curve of her waist,
the flow of her legs
beneath a summer skirt?


Sheila Jacob has three children, five grandchildren, and lives in Wrexham with her husband. She was born and raised in Birmingham and finds her childhood, adolescence and ancestry a rich seam of inspiration. Her poems have been published in various U.K. magazines and webzines including The High Window and Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis.

Claire Walker – “In my head I’m the lead detective in a TV crime drama”

In my head I’m the lead detective in a TV crime drama

and I’m already pulling my forensic gloves on as I stride
into a North-Easterly wind, over to my waiting DS standing at the cordon.
I greet him with what have we got?

SOCOs arrive. I survey the scene and my legs do not buckle at the open gore.

I begin to follow leads. Back at the station, my team listen when I call them to Briefing.
I give out instructions. I hold the room.

I visit the body. The pathologist explains what she’s found, and I don’t break at the sadness of it all.

There are vices, of course – coping strategies for stress – too much whiskey, cigarettes, and sex
with strangers. The audience understand, plus they know the backstory of my messy divorce. They get me.

I can’t sleep for deciphering clues. Someone brings me coffee. Someone tells me to rest.

I haul the suspect in for questioning, meet their cold, cold eyes and always have an answer
to their answers. They do not dare no comment.

My Superior tells me I’m crossing a line, but viewers are rooting for me – they know
he’s a bastard.

I figure it out. I put the culprit away. I don’t let the family down.


Claire Walker’s most recent solo publication is Collision (Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2019). Her pamphlet Somewhere Between Rose and Black (V. Press, 2017) was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the 2018 Saboteur Awards. Claire is co-editor of Atrium poetry webzine.
Website: https://clairewalkerpoetry.com/
Twitter: @ClaireWpoetry

Finola Scott – “High risk”

High risk
M80 Junction 4

The corners of my eyes often lie to me as
white line hypnotised, I focus on crash barriers.

Oil spills spread rumours on soft shoulders,
verges bruise with bin bags and remnants of days.

Sometimes though, it is what I fear –
the blank-eye fox not quick enough this time,

a russet roe scenting sex, who leapt before
he looked. Ancient territory slashed by tarmac.

That lad playing Grand Theft Auto, in a pal’s car
joking while the light-poor winter night closed in.

Strong legs buckled, crumpled, breath stifled.
Hedgerow battlefields marked by waste and flowers.

Sometimes a pair of buzzards on the high posts.
No bouquets left for wildlife, just frail food chains.


Finola Scott’s poems are scattered on the wind, tapestries and magazines. Her work is in The High Window, New Writing Scotland, Ink Sweat & Tears and Lighthouse. Red Squirrel Press publish Much Left Unsaid. Dreich publish Count the Ways, Tapsalteerie publish Modren Makars: Yin. Visit Finola Scott Poems on FB. Finola enjoys teasing grandchildren and blue-tits, not always at the same time.

Tim Brookes – “Life’s Laundry”

Life’s Laundry

Tuesday, the pain of mumps,
but you won’t sit with me.
Rationing the treats of company
and Lucozade.

Bed stripped and sighs,
pulling socks and pants
from the heart of Ali Baba.
Thrown and swallowed by
twin tubs grinding cycles.

Careful pour of powder
Bold, Surf, Tide,
a cap of Comfort.
The fierce glugging
of moist mischief.
Spinning,
spinning,
spinning.

Then stop.
Grab and tug uncompliant sheets,
dump in basket to peg on
line and pole that serve as
wayward moorings.

Back inside I watch as you spit
on hot steel
to iron out our life’s creases.


Tim Brookes has lived in the West Riding most of his life. He started to write after retiring from working in a Pupil Referral Unit and has had poems published in Dreich, the Poetry and Covid Project and was shortlisted for the Red Shed Poetry Competition.