From Pewsey to Didcot by Mouse-Hearse
Get yourself a free-rolling hearse;
a Daimler or a big Ford. You won’t require speed,
a good walking pace will do.
You’ll need a bedroll and a sleeping bag for night,
something to insulate against the metal of the runners,
but space won’t be a problem, you can lie out full length.
Breed your mice from the best stock;
weak, white lab specimens aren’t born to dray work.
You’ll save the cost of peaked caps for their pink eyes.
Give them motivation through inspirational talks,
remember chocolate is more attractive than cheese.
Allow five hours to harness them each morning.
It is your job to apply the brakes quickly,
should a cat or other predator break cover
and scatter your team. Many previous expeditions
have been cut short by losing stock
to the wheels of vehicles or early sledges.
Mice do not respond to whip-cracks.
At the end of each day, attend to the needs
of your mice before your own. Feed and water them.
Make sure they have plenty of fluff for nesting.
The route is mainly flat; there are no major hills
(don’t contemplate the Hexham expedition).
Give your mice recuperation time. Avoid Newbury.
Simon Williams has five published collections, the latest being A Place Where Odd Animals Stand (Oversteps Books, 2012) and He|She (Itinerant Press, 2013). He was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet (www.thebroadsheet.moonfruit.com). He makes a living as a journalist.Read More
Dancing with a Bonzo
Will you do me the honour? says a man with long hair,
mottled amber and silver, pink-rimmed glasses round
as free-range eggcups, wispy beard like a question mark
on a face pale as oats, and what’s this he’s wearing?
A Chinese dressing gown. Yellowy, satiny, swirls of embroidery
sweep my arm as he propels me into the dance.
Who is he, a dragon breathing fire at his back?
Why! It’s Vivian Stanshall, the original Urban Spaceman.
Now, Vivian, I’ve had time to reflect and wish to say, if ever
we meet among the stars, I’ll hold you, you old Dog,
and whisper Doo Dah, the honour was mine for you were more
fabulous than a stack of Ming dynasty pots, finely cracked.
Published by the small press and webzines, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Joan Byrne has read her work at the Conway Hall, pubs and literary festivals. She performs with the Rye Poets, a trio of poets of which she is one. Website: http://joanbyrne.co.uk Twitter:@stjoanofpeckhamRead More
Partners in Sadness
I cut our white sheets into rabbits.
Your mother was terrified.
You laughed. Saw only the hopeful and misplaced talent.
I tried to make breakfast in bed
but you started kissing me and I forgot.
You put it out. Didn’t say what could have been.
This was everything and enough for you
and I kept chasing dust.
That peace…I couldn’t accept.
When you cried, I thought that hurt was mine.
Then you smiled and I was once more a child.
In your boredom, I grabbed my uke and made (bad) music,
a whole minute you stared, whispered “I only need you here”.
Had to stop chasing. Took the time to be still.
In my doubts, you called the pixies out.
Pulled on each of their little hairs so they popped,
ended bald and ugly like a potato.
They could but glare, we could but giggle.
You were with me but so was Depression.
We slogged at it day by day.
My regular regeneration.
Stephanie Farnsworth is a queer poet, activist and charity worker based in the North East of England. Her focus on identities, particularly of bisexuality and working class backgrounds, have directed most of her poetic works.Read More
Damascus: Narrow gauge
The Ottoman train
Swiss made (1905)
on its narrow mountain gauge
from the main Hejaz line, smoking,
laying smoke wreaths for the city.
We twist through the suburbs,
stop for rubbish dumped
on the tracks, stop for busy roads,
then climb cursing, rattling, whistling, huffing,
an onomatopoeic fussing effort.
Freezing the passengers,
wind funnels and pokes through holes
in the wooden floor and broken windows.
Stones fly in the apricot orchards:
children pelt the intruder
as its doppling self
shifts away from its past.
Colin Crewdson lives in the Westcountry and works as an osteopath. He has travelled widely in the Middle East, and used to love Syria before it fell into the Inferno. He’s had poems published in The Journal and The Open Mouse.Read More
The quilt still smells of you, but your bedroom walls
are pocked with blu-tack, football teams all gone.
They say you crossed the border, walked into Syria.
You will head home, I tell them. As you used to
come back from parties, drunk on girls and spliffs.
You will come in, yawning, lifting the lids
of my saucepans, grabbing a spoon. I will say,
your father is worried. Why are you breaking my heart?
It’s done. It’s broken. I was looking the wrong way,
like the guards at the airport. They caught you on camera,
clear as the scan of my womb. Now someone else
is being born, a boy with a gun, screaming obscenities.
And the view from your room is just the same:
that lilac bush, a blackbird, the washing line.
Maeve Henry was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition 2015. Her poems have appeared in on-line and print publications, including Mslexia, Prole, and Live Canon, and more of her poetry and prose can be found on her website, maevehenry.comRead More
Glad To Be A Dalek
I’m not your average Dalek,
You know the sort I mean,
All bent on domination;
Giving vent to all that spleen.
I like to think I’m different
From other Dalek crew,
Who keep emotions hidden
While exterminating you.
I don’t agree with killing,
With plans to subjugate.
The Universe is lovely
And I find it hard to hate.
In fact, I’ve got my own plan;
I’m working from within!
I’m teaching other Daleks
How to knit and sew and spin.
I run a secret workshop
Where Daleks can relax
And find their inner Dalek;
Get the monkey off their backs.
We try to be creative;
To make things, not destroy.
I run a Dalek choir
Learning Ludwig’s ‘Ode To Joy’.
So if you see a Dalek
In homeknit wool poncho,
Don’t run off in a panic,
Come across and say ‘Hello!’
Jonathan Humble is a deputy head teacher in Cumbria. His poetry has appeared in The Big Issue In The North, Poems For Freedom, The Caterpillar Magazine, Lighten Up Online and on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Cumbria. Through TMB Books, he has published a collection of his stuff entitled My Camel’s Name Is Brian.Read More
I tracked her by the sound her mouthparts made:
rasp, rasp, on a dry stick. She straddled it
and worked her jaws, reviving something dead,
collecting shreds of fibre. Once, in Egypt,
strips of plant stem, pressed in crisscross bands,
were made into smooth sheets—a list, a map
of the world beyond, a glove for midwives’ hands
so the child, born into papyrus, would not slip.
Rasp, rasp on a dead stalk; she chews old string
to papier-mâché, builds her fluted chambers,
a symmetry of shadows, multiplying.
Her children prosper, folded in the aumbries,
cradled in paper, smocked in the complex fabric,
the house the wasp has made, her enduring book.
Christine Whittemore is based in her home county Gloucestershire after years in the US. Her poems have appeared in many publications, including The American Scholar, Orbis, Outposts, and Antiphon, and won several awards. Her novel Inscription is out now. This is her website: http://www.christine-whittemore.net/Read More