Rick Rycroft

 

 

 

Fathers’ Day

Just for a moment there you had me.
Fathers’ Day, and I suddenly thought,
I’ll give you a ring, that’ll surprise you.
Well, it would have done: you’d been
dead sixteen years and were never
that keen on calls anyway. You had
me going for a second or two, though.

About the same length of time,
I remember you telling me,
as when you woke up one day,
sunlight streaming into your room,
and for an instant forgot you were
bedridden and dying, feeling instead
what a good morning it would be
for a walk on the Warren.

 

 

 

Rick Rycroft retired from practising dermatology in London in 2005 to spend more time with his poetry. In 2011 he moved to Frome, since when he has taken part in classes, workshops and poetry cafés there, as well as in Bradford on Avon and Bath.

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Martin Reed

 

 

 

Knuckle

In front of the hyena enclosure I want to hold your hand. I don’t care about your other family watching. I stand alongside, stoop slightly to your eight year old height so the back of my hand contacts yours. I can’t do the rest though. I can’t reach my fingers to curl around yours. It’s no more than a brush of our knuckles.

A battered looking creature lazes at the back of the cage, one eye on us.

“Will you call me Dad?” I say instead, and then regret it, immediately. Too much too soon. I nearly call you princess. I’m relieved I don’t.

You move away without returning my look, enough so our hands aren’t touching.

“It’s just – ” I say.

Your face is reflected in the glass. You aren’t looking at the animals. I don’t know what you’re looking at, but I can tell it isn’t them, the way your eyes are focused. Is that a good thing? Does it mean you’re thinking about what I said?

“Last time I saw you, you were this big. Couldn’t walk, talk, nothing.”

I can feel your parents looking at us. Your do-the-right-thing adopted parents who decide when you’re ready to write to me, who decide when you’re ready to hear from me, who decide when you’re ready to call me whatever, who decide how much it matters that you meet me but on their terms, always on their terms.

“It’s weird I know,” I say, “this.”

I crouch so you’re taller than me, then force a short laugh so they’ll think we’re getting along just fine, but feel an idiot afterwards because you don’t react. But it’s what they want to see. Completeness. Your story coming full circle. You coming to an understanding with big bad birth dad, the big bad wolf they told you could never look out for you. For you to look at my face and see something of yourself, to acknowledge that, then move on, say you’ve done that. Done me. I know how that works I think. I know they think this is a one off. But.

I try to see what you’re looking at, your eyes angled away and down. Undergrowth in the enclosure, from what I can tell. Tangle. You haven’t looked at my face at all. You only looked at my right hand when we first met, the one I brushed against yours just now. Knuckles tattooed. K. A. T. E.

I want to say I’ve changed, but I doubt that would mean anything to you. Would they ever tell you what happened back then? Would you be standing so close if they did?

“I used to hold hands with your Mum all the time,” I say. “Before, I mean.”

You half turn to look at your parents behind us and I wonder if you’re confused for a moment, thinking I mean that Mum.

“You look just like her.”

I say that, but really I want you to turn to me, see my face and think to yourself you look just like me.

The inked skin of my knuckle still tingles from our touch. As far as it goes. No further. They’ll be over in a minute, your other parents, calling time.

The hyena at the back, its one eye never leaving us, bares its teeth to grin.

Martin Reed is a London based writer and editor. By day, he pays the bills writing about homelessness. By night he makes things up. His short fiction has appeared in more than 20 publications, including Critical Quarterly, Litro and Ink Sweat and Tears.

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Melanie Branton

 

 

Hamelin

I never meant to be so singular.
One day the Pied Piper came
and led all the other children away
but left me here
with my defective soul and my callipered heart
infesting the streets with my aloneness
never quite shaking off the sense
that people think he should have drowned me in the Weser, too
with the rats.

 

 

 

 

Melanie Branton lives in North Somerset and has worked in education, theatre and as a full-time carer. Her poems have been accepted for publication by journals, including South, Clockwise Cat and Monkey Kettle.

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Janice D. Soderling

 

 

A Very Small Kingdom

 

Once there was a queen

who reigned alone over a very small

kingdom,

three children, a sack of potatoes waiting to be

peeled,

a sack of smelly garbage waiting to be carried

out,

a broom, useless for sweeping and even more

useless for flying around on (yes, she

had tried)

and the aforementioned three children

waiting,

waiting apprehensively,

to see what this dotty queen would come up

with next,

and also for their supper.

She had also a nervous tic, a chipped teacup,

and some small change (never enough).

And the King? Where was the King? you ask.

Also the queen would love

to know.

Perhaps he was off fighting a war. Kings love

to fight wars.

They love it so much that if there are no wars

in the immediate vicinity,

they’ll ride off looking for one.

Or perhaps there was no king. Perhaps the so-

called King was only a Frog prince who

metamorphosed back to his true self

after climbing out of the dank

swamp where he’d croaked smutty

drinking songs with his frog buddies

before climbing into the pale queen’s bed

where the climate was far too cold and

far too dry for normal Frogs or Kings.

No wonder he went off looking for a war.

Whatever.

He was gone and the queen reigned alone.

It was a lonely life, but what to do?

Oh, much to do. A queen’s work is never

done.

First she had to go to the office and make

money to buy food.

Then she had to go to the supermarket and be

insulted by rude check-out girls when

she dug in her handbag for small change

(never enough).

Then she had to wait at the bus stop weighed

down with heavy bags.

Then she had to stand during a forty minute

ride because who would give up their seat

to a baleful-looking queen with a nervous tic.

Then she had to walk five blocks through rain,

snow, sleet, you name it, like she was a

freaking postman instead a queen,

but now we are getting off the

track.

Recap.

First she had to make the money.

Second she had to buy the food,

Third she had to carry it home

(tons and tons over the years).

Then she had to scrape it, slice it, dice it, fry it,

boil it, broil it, salt it, pepper it, mash it, splash it,

put it on the table,

and issue her queenly commands:

Eat your supper.

Sit still.

Sit with your chair on all four legs.

Don’t talk with food in your mouth.

Be glad you have food on your plate.

Eat your supper.

The moral of this story is:

Even in very small kingdoms, there is

always much to do.


 

Janice D. Soderling is a previous contributor to Ink, Sweat & Tears. Her poetry has appeared in many UK magazines including Magma Poetry, Orbis, Anon, Acumen, Horizon Review, Antiphon, New Walk, Other Poetry, Sein und Werden.

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Oliver Comins

 

 

 

Background Noise in the Aquarium

Along the carriage a range of headsets and earplugs
with bright wires, each one connected to some piece
of electronic equipment hidden beneath
the supra-epidermal layers of these creatures
who are also travelling into town at this time.

A closed loop within might be full of harmony –
anthems, perhaps, of a favourite artist or band.
Or something faintly experimental recommended
by a friend, whose tastes are more inclusive
than their own – but surprisingly accessible.

These fish can be quite gregarious in their own way,
speaking to one another over huge distances
about things which did or might or shouldn’t occur.
They use a blur of tense and place which makes them feel
at home and alone and almost completely fulfilled.

The rest of us hear one side only of these accounts,
end up being variously tantalised, bored or subdued
by events whose locations are always somewhere else.
Places we might have visited at the wrong time
or streets in suburbs we’ve only ever heard about.

Out here, we enjoy the noise of living traffic, the option
of passing the time of day with someone we can see.
Or just drifting through those intermittent silences
that are inevitably lost on the more intensely connected
of our shoal, their shimmering fins and faraway eyes.

As outsiders, we may be detached and uninitiated,
but we are joined to one another by sharing the same air.
Arriving at our destination we hear the name announced,
step lightly into a crowd whose speech is almost touch,
whose words are nearly kisses landing on our cheeks.

 

 

 

 

Oliver Comins lives and works in West London.  Early work collected in a Mandeville Press pamphlet and Anvil New Poets Two.  Poems are being published this year in Ink Sweat & Tears, Meniscus and The Echo Room plus The Emma Press Anthology of Fatherhood and Choclit from Happenstance.

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