Stephen Claughton

 

 

 

Winter Road I
after Georgia O’Keeffe

It’s not exactly a road,
more the idea of one
and maybe not even that,
a symbol, a cedilla,
this mirror-written C
that sweeps across the canvas,
kinking at the top,
where Route 84
mounts the crest of a rise,
before bending to the right
and heading further on up
into the New Mexican hills
which, as it’s winter now,
are blanketed by snow
that the ploughed road
crookedly parts.
There’s only the road itself;
everything else is implied.
I think of her painting it,
as a calligrapher might,
with a single, practised stroke,
the road between
Ghost Ranch and Abiquiù
so familiar to her now
it’s become the shorthand for home.

 

 
Stephen Claughton has published two pamphlets, The War with Hannibal (Poetry Salzburg, 2019) and The 3-D Clock (Dempsey & Windle, 2020). He reviews regularly for London Grip and links to his reviews, poems and pamphlets can be found at www.stephenclaughton.com.

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Nick Browne

 

 

 

Mother to daughter

Rejection tastes like stale beer,
stinks like old carpets, cup- a soup.

Other people’s grime greases
the corners of a rented flat, floating,

unmoored in some Midlands town
where the rain is unrelenting.

The cream immobile phone won’t ring
postmen bring no mail of any kind.

At twenty-three my misery
settles like moths, eating hopes to holes.

Now you are sad and twenty-three
I offer past as present, grimy with failure.

Meaningless to you, just photos,
flayed rags and eighties pop songs,

dry bundles of words, old stuff
about a girl, who was never you.

 

 

Nick Browne is an established novelist and aspiring poet. Nick’s poetry has been accepted for publication by Acumen, Ink Sweat & Tears, Blue Nib, Snakeskin, Archaeology Today, Anthropecene, Wivanhoe, Lunar Magazine and been anthologised in Bollocks to Brexit, Lumen’s Shelter anthology Eyewear’s, The Poet’s Quest for God and in Indigo Dream’s forthcoming collection Dear Dylan. Website: http://nmbrowne.com/

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Clare Knock

 

 

 

Ignitor propellant

In a gun the main propellant charge needs energy supplied as heat, before it will react and burn.  The heat is supplied by the ignitor system that consists of a type of propellant that requires little energy to burn, but is therefore less safe.

A single spark:
an unwashed coffee cup,
a stray lipstick smear
and Maureen ignites
yelling hot gases,
spitting hot particles,
that inundate the chamber.
There is nowhere to avoid her words
as they kindle the inert:
Steve sprawled on the settee
watching Arsenal
is irritated into reacting,
venting his defence
with blistering denials, scorching rebuttals:
“I said I’d do it later”,
“It was the boss’s wife, I couldn’t avoid it”,
raising the temperature of the heated atmosphere
until the entire chamber burns.

 

 

Clare Knock is a university lecturer teaching and researching in physics.  She has been published in Ink Sweat and Tears and Lighthouse.

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R. Gerry Fabian

 

 

 

Opting For Happiness

She puts her child
in the car seat
on the right side
of the pickup.
It is a ripe
Indian summer day.

The smoke-like dust
from the dry dirt road
swirls in the slight breeze
and then is no more.

 

 

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. As a poet and novelist, he has been publishing his writing since 1972 in various literary magazines. His web page is https://rgerryfabian.wordpress.com

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Adjoa Wiredu

 

 

 

Pink

Pink lips came over to our table while we ate dinner
said hello to her friend in front of me
leaned on the table with one hand
the other on her hip
she told us about her son, job, salad,
her tipple and her very old pink vintage bottle.

 

 

Adjoa Wiredu is a writer from London, she writes poetry and creative non-fiction about place, lived experiences, and intersectionality now. Her debut poetry collection will be published by Jacaranda, October 2020. Her writing can be found on Irisi, Silver Birch Press, and Gal-dem.

 

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Michael Bloor

 

 

 

Fell at the First Fence

Liam limped listlessly into the lift. It was empty. He pressed the button for the seventh floor (Safetyseal Export Sales). There was the usual hiatus, while the mechanism seemed to consider his request. Liam weighed LIFE in the balance. On the one hand, he had a steady job (Data-Processing for Safetyseal); on the other hand, the job was crap (no prospects, no interest, precious little money). Likewise, next weekend would be the Easter holiday; but today was only Monday. Again, he now had Sunday mornings free, having disgustedly given up playing for The Black Swan FC; but in the unlikely event of ever recovering from the injuries inflicted by the Centre-Back for Wilmington FC, he had no-one with whom to spend those Sunday mornings.

Then the bugle sounded. She tripped demurely into the lift, pressed the button for the sixth floor (Smellie & Thrawn, Solicitors) and turned away to face the lift door. It was HER. Small, deft, with long tumbling dark hair. He’d seen her four times before, in the lift or the offices’ entrance hall. Once he’d heard a colleague call her ‘Jenny’ or ‘Ginny’. Once also, he’d heard her laugh – a gentle, private, smoky chuckle. The lift door closed and the mechanism lurched into action.

He had seconds to act. He might never be alone with Jenny/Ginny ever again. He regretted that he wasn’t wearing his good grey suit. And he regretted that he wasn’t good at this kind of thing. He thought back to the advice his louche Uncle Dermot had given him over a drink at Cousin Mary’s wedding. Dermot was explaining that the secret of success at those dating websites was to have a profile with a good ‘hook’, a good opening line:

‘Writing, “Own hair and teeth” simply doesn’t cut it, Liam. Currently, my hook is: “I’m thinking of buying a horse” – not bad, eh?’ Liam had nodded slowly into his pint. He believed he saw Dermot’s point: ‘thinking of buying a horse’ was arresting and engagingly quirky, while hinting at financial resources and healthy outdoor pursuits.

‘OK,’ thought Liam, staring at the back of Jenny/Ginny’s head, ‘Just say something arresting and engagingly quirky.’ They were passing the third floor…

‘Mmm. Maybe something about a lift breakdown?? Jesus, no, that’d sound scary-creepy. What about: “Do you find elevators give you elevated thoughts?” Gotta be joking: would she want to go out to the pictures with Stephen Fry??? Mmm. Err. “I was once in a lift with Freddie Truman, the Yorkshire fast bowler” No, No, No.’ They were passing the fifth floor…

Liam knew that he must act NOW: ‘Harrumph. Harrumph. I’m thinking of buying a horse…’

The lift doors opened onto the sixth floor. She stepped out of the lift and turned to face him. He could see the brass plate of Smellie & Thrawn behind her. She gave him a considering look: ‘Well, you’ll need to take it up the stairs then.’

The lift doors closed.

 

 

Michael Bloor is a retired sociologist living in Dunblane, Scotland, who has discovered the exhilarations of short fiction, with more than fifty pieces published in Ink Sweat & Tears, Everyday Fiction, Spelk, The Copperfield Review, Litro Online, Firewords, Moonpark Review, The Cabinet of Heed, The Sea Letter, The Drabble and elsewhere.

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Shelley Roche-Jacques

 

 

 

Removing the Bouquet

The Station Team staff room is just behind Lost Property. There’s a doorway, without a door, connecting the two. If someone rings the bell at Lost Property reception when you’re on a tea break you have to make a judgement call it seems.

I’ve noticed Linda usually goes through to help, Mac usually doesn’t (they should take more bloody care of their shit in the first place), and Sanya is about 50/50 – it depends if she’s in the middle of posting something on social media. I’m still figuring out my approach.

Mac came through from Lost Property yesterday in a surprisingly jolly mood. He was doing a sort of dance with a prosthetic leg. He held it next to his legs and started singing a jaunty sort of song, lifting two of his three legs up in the air at a time.

Linda wasn’t there to tell him off and Sanya kept her eyes firmly on her phone. Someone had to give him some sort of reaction, and I found myself saying whoever lost the leg would be hopping mad when they realised.
Mac jabbed me in the stomach with the foot.

‘Good’un,’ he said.

I looked at the rota. I was down to do the platform bins and toilet checks from 14.00 – 15.00. Mac was Duty Manager for the shift, which just seems to mean he doesn’t have to do any actual work. I took a pair of plastic gloves from the cupboard.

‘There’s a bunch of flowers wants taking down at the arse end of platform 3,’ he said. ‘Left over from when some glum bugger decided to re-paint a train with his guts.’

I nodded and hurried out to get the rubbish cart.

On platform 3, I unclipped the bulging bin bag from the metal ring and held my breath as I opened the rubbish cart and stuffed it in.

Then I wheeled the cart down to the ‘arse end’ of the platform. The bouquet did need to be removed. The flowers were brittle and brown and the inside of the pink plastic wrapping was covered in a sludgy residue. There was a card attached, but weeks of rain had turned the words to small blue bruises. In the days after it happened, a whole mountain of cards, photographs, flowers and other odds and ends had built up. We left everything there for a decent period before bagging it up for the big bins. A couple of months had passed, but every so often a solitary, belated token of grief like this one would appear.

I took a breath and thought of the small avalanche of colour and wishes piled up along the wall of that grimy motorway footbridge almost seven years ago. Our housemate, Tom, had been struggling and I had known it. If I had followed him out that day I could have stopped him. But the others had said he was being a dick, just wanted attention, to leave him to it. Always the last to figure out my approach.

A train thundered past. Behind the grey-green rushing wall of it I cut down the bouquet, threw it in the cart, and promised to do better next time.

When I got back to the office Mac was on the phone. He seemed to be wrangling over something and finally hung up, looking defeated.

‘She’s a stupid bitch,’ he said, flopping heavily into a chair.

‘I got rid of the glum bugger’s floral tribute,’ I said. Just for something supportive to say really.
Mac smiled.

‘Fancy a beer at The Tap after this?’ he said.

‘Sure,’ I said.

I wasn’t sure. I had my French class later and wondered if I’d have the nerve to order a half.

 

 

Shelley Roche-Jacques’ work has appeared in magazines such as Flash, Litro, The Rialto and The Boston Review. Her collection of dramatic monologues Risk the Pier was published in 2017. She teaches Creative Writing and Performance at Sheffield Hallam University.

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