Chris Fewings

 

 

 

Cure

I asked the doctor what was wrong with me.
He held his stethoscope to my amygdala.
Thought there was something blocked. Try writing,
he said. I have, I told him. Had to put a bung
in my pen. Stuff kept dribbling out. Can’t you check
my cortisol? I need a pacemaker for my days.

Try walking, he suggested. Try pacing up and down
a treadmill.
I have, but I clocked out – the gate
clicked shut behind me. I’ve lost the key.
He offered me bread and wine and pilgrim’s sandals
and a map of the longest river. I told him I was tired.
His pharmacopoeia was nearly empty. Kissing?

Whom? I inquired. Start with a rose, lips to the petals.
Get sensuous with nasturtium. Run your hands
over the smooth bark of a beech tree in the gloaming:
perhaps you’ll meet another pair of hands – perhaps
your kindred spirit will be exploring from the other side.
I stopped off in a churchyard and washed the feet

of an old soak with cracked hands huddled on a bench
and forgot about the roses and the beech. When I got home
someone was sitting on my doorstep with a bowl
of warm water and a towel, a bottle of olive oil, as if
expecting me. I slipped round the back before they saw me,
and found a prescription pinned on the back door:

Let him be loved. Let him raise his voice on the street corner.

 

 

Chris Fewings lives in the Rea Valley in Birmingham, where he writes poetry, fiction and other prose, enjoys reading (and reciting dead poets) at open mics, and facilitates writing groups and the work of individual writers.

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Clive Donovan

 

 

 

Fairies

There is little to be told about them really:
they took my teeth, left modest coins
and a note sometimes on paper blue,

detailing private lives among frogs and wrens,
schemes for the bloody stumps, the writing crazed
as a butterfly’s flight

or thistle seed on breeze and yet, of these frail things,
it is hard to imagine the lugging of sixpences
or sabotage of hen houses or milk pails,

conflating them with all those wild agencies
beyond the homely sill – the tinker tricks, the animals –
the stolen mind of grandpa, his stramash of memory…

Away with the fairies : on some tumescent hill I flick
his fairy picture book – Victorian children
photographed in chiffon wisps…

Here comes a real one now – sticky wings enmeshed
in the lines of this poem. Fast and deft, my hands, I clap.
She twinkles and dissolves to innocence.

 

 

Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including The Journal, Agenda, Acumen, Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Stand, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Transnational. He is hoping to entice a publisher to print a first collection.

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Karen Little

 

 

 

(Untitled)

Oscar had faith in me; I sang without breaks,
effortlessly reached the  highs and lows,  was
the voice on the love songs he wrote for his wife.
When he fell in love with me, he bought me
a bamboo flute, highly polished, an object of art.

I didn’t have the patience to produce the notes—
I was all bluster, impatience, a tabla drum beat—
the beautiful gift was wasted on me. I propped
the flute in the corner of my Maida Vale flat;
left it behind when I moved. I lose everything

except memories— I carry them everywhere.

 

 

Karen Little (kazvina) has exhibited her art internationally, and is widely published as a writer in the UK and further afield. Her latest publication is the illustrated pamphlet, Dissecting an Artist (2019) with The Black Light Engine Room Press.

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Hannah Hodgson

 

 

 

Death Rattle

Back in the day, everyone loved a good hanging –
curiosity gathered in the town square, red-nosed,
waiting for the theatre of mortality to end.

Today I attract the equivalent crowd –
have to untangle my vocal cords
from intrusive questioning.

Hospice is an experience with the brink,
as near the cliff edge you can go without falling.
Natural death isn’t quick.

It begins with a storm brewing in the chest –
thunder of increasing intensity,
crackles of lightning in the airway.

It ends with a moment of clarity,
final words like a rainbow
slowly disintegrating.

 

 

Hannah Hodgson is a 21 year old poet living with a life limiting illness and disability. She writes about these themes as well as hospice, feminism and other topics. Her first pamphlet Dear Body was published in 2018. www.hannahhodgson.com

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Zoe Mitchell

 

 

 

Shtriga

The evil eye is when someone you love
looks at you but they aren’t there.
My mother is now a Disney villain;
the sun has become an insult. She should

be fitted with a blood-black velvet cape.
Pale blue eyes in a hard-set face stare out
from a levered hospital bed. If she opened
those pursed lips now, I would reach down

her throat and rip out whatever is gnawing
at her from the inside with teeth
as sharp and rotten as broken promises.
I want to scatter crumbs of pure white salt,

make the sign that will ward off the glutton
that eats her into disorder. A creature has beetled
into her mind, burrowed deep fathoms
into her marrow and flits around twilight recesses

on brittle wings. It got in after a click
of bare wet twigs on a thin glass window,
thorny fingers beckoning toward the night.
I can’t unsee the bone-etched handprint

on my mother’s back, I know can’t recover
every drop drained but I can’t stop trying, either.
I must touch my trembling fingers to my eyelids,
my lips, the pit of my stomach and both

chambers of my heart in the right order,
throw some of that salt in a fire and smoke
the evil out. I will leave vases of flowers
that look like purple clover and hope

it won’t notice their blooms hold garlic seeds.
I will steal the greyscale kaleidoscope
she uses to see, give up every silver coin
I have to fashion an amulet of doctors and nurses.

I will whisper prayers to protect us both.
Now I have learned about creatures that lurk
in the dark, I can’t ever unknow them,
their leaden shapes. Wizened fingers grip my throat:

I know before I kill this wraith, before I see
my Mum again, I must look them both in the eye.

 

 

Zoe Mitchell is a widely-published poet whose work has been featured in a number of magazines including The Rialto, The London Magazine and The Moth. She graduated from the University of Chichester with an MA in Creative Writing and was awarded a Distinction and the Kate Betts Memorial Prize. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, examining witches in women’s poetry. In 2018, she was joint winner of the Indigo-First Collection Competition and her first collection, Hag, was published with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019.

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Kevin Higgins

 

 

 

The Art of Collaboration

Whatever job he’s given,
the collaborator is a perfect fit.
A man of no fixed particulars.
His views are plastic
and always on the verge
of being melted down
and made otherwise.
His life is a full orchestra
of raised eyebrows
and suppressed twitches.
The collaborator laughs at your jokes
and makes it look like he means it.

Whatever it is,
the collaborator makes it his business.
He writes everything down,
especially your name.
The collaborator is awake tonight
and looking up the number
of the relevant government agency
so he can phone them tomorrow to tell them
what he’s heard you’ve been doing.
The collaborator doesn’t mind being put on hold.

The collaborator knows
the name of the woman, man, emu
you were with in that hotel room
you shouldn’t have been in.

The collaborator points the nice policeman
in the direction of those
the newspapers say are bad men (and women).
For the collaborator doesn’t discriminate,
except in favour of himself.

 

 
Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland. He has published five full collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital (2019). His poems also feature in Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe May 2014).  His poems have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times (London), & The Daily Mirror. The Stinging Fly magazine has described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”. His work has been broadcast on RTE Radio, Lyric FM, and BBC Radio 4.

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Charlie Hill

 

 

 

At the Birmingham markets

When I was young, before
the sky was torn, I strutted
in-and-out of poisoned jobs
and bare-walled rooms, poor
yet indestructible, naive and full
of quirk and piss, not belonging
but belonging, knowing more
than anyone could know.
Back then I loved, part-owned
the vital edges of my world where
this bold front came most alive – the suspect streets
and pubs and clubs and darkened parks
and yes, the markets too.
Oh the markets! And how down there
unruly grapes jostled maverick yams, dissenting pears
and proud bananas, Mick the Meat, cheap eggs,
defiant blocks of out-there cheese;
and how people fraying before their time
from lives hard-strutted sat – underdogs
outside the empty Church of Pigeons –
smoking fags and supping polystyrened tea,
and talked in common gestures
of various degrees of pain, their very breath affirming
the ties between the never-hads –
in Birmingham we thank the driver
as we get off the bus!

Now some years on –
although I’m sure it isn’t only that –
the sky is fractured, my piss is dissipating,
and avoiding restless liminal places,
the venues where the others play,
I have also come to reconsider
my attachment to the markets.
Down there, it seems at least, the air
has soured like Mick’s old mince:
the battered toms, bruised plums,
the gourds that want for water,
the bested shot potatoes,
yellow dairy and cheap peas
mock every inch of front
I once enjoyed and worse:
the ragged left-behind who sit
and lie and wheeze in fumes
and bags outside the useless church
are indistractable, resigned,
draw no longer succour,
fillips from their unconnection,
display no common human cause
that may redeem our beating down.

 

 

Charlie Hill is a critically-acclaimed novelist and short story writer from Birmingham, whose poetry is improving. A memoir – I don’t want to go to the Taj Mahal – is due out from Repeater Books in September.

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