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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Lucy Atkinson is the IS&T Pick of the Month poet for August 2020

‘Evocative and charming, a modern day folk tale’, a comment on Lucy Atkinson’s ‘Sunspot’, perfectly summing up why this fine poem is the IS&T Pick of the Month for August 2020.

Lucy is a North-East born writer studying a MA in creative writing at Durham University. She has published poetry in magazines such as Acumen, Agenda and Crossways. Her play ‘As It Was’ was recently published by lazy bee scripts.

Lucy has asked that her £30 ‘prize’ be donated to Teesside Hospice.

 

Sunspot

I watched her. Persephone.
Sunflowers on her dungarees. Breathing in
the blackened syrup. London air.
She’s trying not to talk about it
but she remembers. Winter.
There’s Parsley on the windowsill. Planted
in a little mug. The only spot in her fifth-floor flat
that ever gets some sun.
She doesn’t talk about him, either.
If there was a him. She asks me
if I would sing if they put on a karaoke night
down at our local pub.
She misses Karaoke. Good music and bad.
All at once and all around.
A tsunami for the thoughts.
On the radio they play “Wild Daffodils.”
A low budget song from an album
by a local artist. We both agree
he can really sing. There are no people singing
here. Karaoke or in the streets.
But she mouths the words to
the same song that the radio played an hour ago.
Winter is gone. She’s forgotten it.
She asks what song we can dance to next.

 

 

Other comments include:

I love the modernisation of a classical myth transformed into something both beautiful and relatable.

Myth is used in an original way brought alive by visual details.

A stirring last line which brings out a relentless sense of optimism in the emergence from a period of strife. ‘Blackened syrup’ as a descriptor for london air is wonderfully cloying and seems to be in conversation with Celan’s black milk of morning, offering a sense of warmth and depth and but also stagnation in comfort which reminds one of the immobility of any kind of depressive episode.

Fantastic imagery, simple yet hugely affecting; the smallest details pack a serious emotional punch throughout her poem.

Like reading a good story. I could imagine standing by the window looking at the tiny bit of sun.

The imagery is so alive with nature and the air of London, it conjures up the place for me.

A thoughtful and beautiful piece of writing.

I loved the imagery with the plants and flowers running through it.

The positivity of dancing and singing in the future is especially poignant in the current circumstances

Imaginative writing always grabs my interest. This poem more than most stayed with me after reading.

Hits the spot. Real.

Excellent poetry, a rising star

Powerful emotions delivered exquisitely

I love the first two lines especially, and I think this poem represents this moment- when the world has had to retreat inside, and is watching the seasons change without being able to go out and resume our lives

Reminds me of times that I have felt alone and having something positive to cling to.

The pathos behind it

The form of writing has a semblance to contemporary rap music.

This takes me back to feeling warm and safe and I love the imagery in her words, it’s so powerful and peaceful at the same time

Focuses on the next and the things we enjoy. It contained a lot of beauty.

I find it very emotive and eloquent. Reading this poem I find myself taken to the place and can see it happening.

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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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