Scott Silsbe

 

 

 

Red Lightning

A sprawl of light takes over the night’s horizon.
The authorities are quick to shoot down theories
that it’s something otherworldly or problematic.

There isn’t very much below us or above us—
it turns out we were short-sighted once again.
Talking to no one—or else myself—I say,
“I’m going to have nightmares tonight.”

But, then, this isn’t about me. It’s about us.
All of us. We’re in this damn thing together.
It seems to me that we forget that these days.

She suggested we sit and watch the country
burn and destroy itself—the way we knew
it always would. I guess I hadn’t realized
that it would be televised. But there it was.

For a moment, I think a little about the things
I would save if I could save them. Even though
it’s pointless. Even though they’re already gone.

 

 

Scott Silsbe was born in Detroit. He now lives in Pittsburgh. His poems have been collected in three books—Unattended Fire, The River Underneath the City, and Muskrat Friday Dinner. He is also an assistant editor at Low Ghost Press.

Read More

Sam Burt

 

 

 

A Consensus

One bright morning in December, the court agreed unanimously that:
the former prime minister was two months dead;
he was guilty of treason in absentia;
he had committed suicide while awaiting trial;
he had died suddenly in prison;
he had kicked himself to death;
his fingernails had been seen in the Ministry of Interior;
the rest of him was missing;
he had plotted too soon;
he had acted too late;
his coup had been thwarted;
the revolution had been saved;
poetry would be safe again;
he had been an unexceptional figure;
his achievements were limited;
his ambitions had been impractical;
he felt at home in London and Washington;
he was popular with students;
there were too many students and not enough soldiers;
there were too many students and not enough jobs;
there were too many students;
he was sentenced to death;
his body, if found, be hanged;
long-term investment in industry was needed;
dried fruit exports looked promising;
a factory made three tons of ice a day;
Russians bought 40,000 tons of cement;
Russians paved the capital’s streets;
the former prime minister had no children;
he could not leave politics alone;
his supporters were educated, agreeable men;
and all agreeable men were now in agreement.

 

*For Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal (1919-73), the seventh prime minister of Afghanistan.

 

 

Sam Burt is a copywriter/tutor in east London. He writes poetry and fiction and has enjoyed success in Writer’s Magazine competitions and the 1000 Word Challenge. His non-fiction has appeared in the Guardian and at Book Riot and the Huffington Post. He is working on a novel.

Read More

Avril Joy

 

 

 

Aztec Love Song for Uprooted Flowers

I carry them to your house on my back,
uprooted flowers.
I am bent double with the weight of them,
of women torn from the soil, their roots mud
stem and sepal crushed
I carry them. I carry their scent, the scent of ash
and blood in my blood.
Bent double with the weight of their fragility,
buds unopened, roses full-blown
discarded, trampled on
I carry them.

Their flower faces sit: geranium,
harebell, meadow-sweet,
in my classroom in this prison,
foliage fluttering in the breeze
from the barely open window
I carry the leaf of them,

bent double with the weight
of what we do to them,
how we punish and incarcerate
condemn to iron fallen blossom, uprooted
flowers I carry them
on my back, to your house.
 

 
Avril Joy is currently writing a sequence of poems about her time working in a women’s prison. One of these ‘prison’ poems, Skomm, won the 2019 York Mix poetry competition. Find out more at www.avriljoy.com

Read More

Rebecca Ruth Gould

 

 

 

Bird on a Branch

A bird poised on a branch
asked the moon lover
for the number of lives
she had left

before she died.
She plumed her feathers
like a canopy
& tried to breathe free.

The smog was thick
the drone was loud
& the current of sound
raged against her lustrous trill.

 

 

Rebecca Ruth Gould‘s poems and translations have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Salt Hill, and The Atlantic Review. She translates from Persian, Russian, and Georgian, and has translated books such as After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019).
  Website: https://rrgould.hcommons.org/

Read More

And April 2019’s Pick of the Month is ‘Vital Signs’ by Emma Baines

Sometimes when there an abundance of excellent poetry to chose from, the IS&T Pick of the Month is the one that has the most power to move voters and so it is with ‘Vital Signs’ by Emma Baines. When you read comments such as ‘the most beautiful, heart rending poem ever’ and ‘it is an uplifting poem, simple, direct and moving’ – and these are just two of the many you will see below – you really do see the effect of this amazing work.

Emma has been writing for many years and published poetry in magazines and journals including The Lampeter Review, Roundyhouse, Cambria and POEM. In 2011, she edited and contributed to The Month had 32 Days, published by Parthian and has read at festivals and events including the Laugharne Weekend. She also travelled to Ireland on the Coracle literary exchange. Emma has has translated work (from Welsh to English) for Menna Elfyn and her own writing has recently been included in installation by glass artist Linda Norris. This year, she has co-founded a writers group in Pembrokeshire and is currently facilitating poetry workshops to create films based on the Women of West Wales for Llangwm Literary Festival.

Emma has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!

 

Vital Signs

We laughed,
in spite of the darkness,
at the circles around your eyes.

and you rolled them
over hand-knitted hats
in the chemo ward,
to cover things we tried to hide.

when I shaved your head
and the last of your hair
fell in your lap, you beamed.

as I showered you,
fresh from surgery,
and you carried your drain
in a floral bag; we joked.

when you unzipped a new breast;
pocketed a new you,
we poked fun at all things false.

but when you smiled from the scanner
a truth was told:
how your bones glow
is beyond the measure of science.

now life is given
its last chance to impress you,
from the bottom of us;
we laugh.

 

 

Voters’ comments included:

This poem gets my vote because of its tenderness, the light it shines on love and intimacy. It tells the dark light as Kei Miller would say.

A poem with great feeling, understanding, compassion and warmth.

The light touch of the language contrasted to the subject. It reads as a poem for me.

A very insightful, accessible poem. It has an optimism and strength associated with the sufferers of this sad condition.

It’s such a moving poem — one that everyone can recognise but as it draws to a close it reaches a new realm of love beyond the detritus and heartbreak of lives

Shows complete empathy of a very difficult situation.

Its a beautiful poem, written from the heart, and made me feel that I was there…

The exquisite sensibility and sensitivity of the writing.

Not only through her writing she’s beautiful inside and out. She written for years, but just needs to be noticed for what she’s amazing at doing! She deserves this.

Such an endearing poem representing a journey had by so many. Inspiring and heartfelt

Beautifully written as an expression of a truly difficult time emotionally.

Because this is a sensationally beautiful poem about a difficult and emotive subject.

A wonderful poem born out of sadness but with a strong message of hope and love.

It’s touching and sensitive but also has warmth, humour and humanity in it. Loved it.

This poem is just so beautiful and well measured between the mundane and the profound. I will not forget it.

Emma’s poem is tender and strong at the same time. She uses words beautifully to express intimacy and love in what can be one of the most dehumanising and stressful of situations.

A sharp and compassionate poem, and, what is more, a good one.

Read More

Julia Gibson

 

 

 

Staying Put

When you stick around for long enough,
you get good at being in a place.

You know the best secluded spots
where you can watch stars or sunbathe on a rock,

letting sunbeams soak through all your senses
while you kiss or make flat stones play hopscotch.

You know the best obstacles to climb and then surmount
when all the spotlights of the street hum on

and all the darkest corners in which to crouch
when cops come patrolling in the park.

You know there’s discounted bread on Thursdays
at the corner bakery up the hill

and which cafe has the nuttiest coffee
that you can sip leaning over the window sill.

You get good at knowing there’s an elsewhere
but not straining for its arrival.

 

 

Julia Gibson is a Toronto-based poet and engineer. Her first book-length collection of poems, Two Doors, will be published in summer 2019 by
Clare Songbirds Publishing House. Her personal website is at https://julia-gibson.com/.

Read More