Sam Murphy

 
£3.56
Trotsky took the bus to the other
side of town for his friend’s birthday.
The birthday was torn up by children
running around homemade ponds
in hand-me-down trunks and chocolate
covered faces. Trotsky had become annoyed
by the exponential rate of his friends
having children like bacteria on an agar dish.
Children changed them.
They lost touch, lost hair and put on weight.
At the same party a man in the corner,
everyone thought someone else knew,
read The Spectator,
with the grace of a baby eating
a peach on a train.
The man scrunched every double sheet
into a ball and read it in that order.
He threw the balls at the nearest child.
Reading The Spectator out of sequence
gave him an inadequate knowledge of current affairs,
but a kaleidoscope image of what news could be.
The man left the party.
On the chair he left a biro and four tightly scrunched newspaper balls.
He had half finished the crossword.
Trotsky completed the crossword.
He never saw the man again
but left him £3.56 when he died.
It was the least he could for his widow.

 

 

 

Sam Murphy is based in the West Midlands. Sam has recently completed an MA in creative writing at the University of Birmingham, with a focus on Poetry. He tweets infrequently @Sam_Murphy00

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Angharad Walker

 

 

 

Leda Meets Helen

She is fresh on this globe from my globed belly and I am too scared to look. I dread the moment she opens her eyes. She could have his black beads.

I unwrap her. Not a feather in sight. I turn her over and over with delight, run my fingers over her human down. Her toes are angular, unwebbed. Her neck cannot hold up her head. Her lips are soft, pink, unfed.

I will never teach her to swim.

I will never dress her in white.

 

 

Angharad Walker graduated from the University of Warwick with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2013. She lives and works in London.

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Gary W. Hartley

 

 

 

Worker Ant Monologue

Alone among thousands
millions, maybe

We don’t even talk
if it’s not about work

If we did we’d say
how happy we are

Together, not lonely
how can you be lonely

when so damn together?
Exactly.

Nods to work/life
balance from top brass

An email went round
nest softball practice

We’re all too tired
to bother turning up

It’s not even really
our thing anyway

so back home to a box set
of aphids

Licking their legs
honeydew ready meal

Satiated if not satisfied
that’s enough

Then head down;
today’s hundredth power-nap

Busy bees, us ants
busy busy busy

This is all for us
or if not for us exactly
For a greater good:

Roll up, step up
Give up

for our happy
hardworking family.

 

 

 

Gary W. Hartley does daft, vaguely-poetic things on stage under the moniker Gary From Leeds. His debut collection, Your Attempt to Enjoy These Poems is Considered Unsatisfactory, is out soon on Listen Softly London Press.  Twitter: @garyfromleeds

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Sarah Passingham

 

 

 

Lineage

Then take one end to draw it close
around my shoulders. Let it flow
like a mountain burn about my neck but
leave at least an inch below my lips
where speech denies the thistle.
They say the best pulls through a wedding band,
but this is plaid.

Bunch it, grow it kraken-like, pleated,
tartened into that twilled, hidden part of me,
made from heather and peat-smoked whisky,
oatmeal and sheep. Fasten it with a silver clan pin.
Bellow my name Fortune like a red stag in rut,
dancing on a Cap of Maintenance.

Throw Campbell and Douglas battles around
my shoulders. Let them fold against the weather,
storm-proofed and heavy as the granite hills. Show me
skirling in the wind, sloughing off brine-hurled surf
against the island cliffs. Show me wild.

 

 

 

Sarah Passingham has published three books of non-fiction and a libretto. Her collection, Hoad and Other Stories was published in 2014. She began writing poetry to improve her prose, then found she couldn’t stop. Twitter: @Sarahsarie

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Abigail George

 

 

When light poured into me at the swimming pool

There was a sweetness to the day.
The horizon a blue harsh line.
I looked for stars but there were none.
For some reason they were always
invisible during the day. My heart was
filled with honey. I licked the edge
of that spoon clean. I thought mostly
about writing love poems to myself.
I thought about the history of my chronic illness.
The tartness of jam. My sadness
was obstinate. It did not want to go
away no matter how many lengths
of the pool I swam. Stroke for stroke
never reaching the end. I swam
until my hands felt like clay. My face
soft. I kept on saying to myself that
the death of the day was a myth. I make
it a habit to fold my dreams into myself.
My goals, the poetry I write. I worship this,
this light that is pouring into me now.

 

 

 

 

Abigail George briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg. She has been widely published from Australia, to Finland and Nigeria, to New Delhi, India, and Istanbul, Turkey. She’s a poet, and blogs at Goodreads here
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5174716.Abigail_George/blog

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A collaborative poem from Julia Webb and Maggie Mackay

 

 

Mothers

I dream you alive,
that I wake to find you flying
round my bed. I am not surprised,
though I remember your bulk,
your papery skin, as if
it were only yesterday.
This new alive you is warm,
soft and light as a tropical breeze.

This new alive you is warm,
a rich abundant thunderstorm,
a flutter, skirting my eyelids,
a whisper in that lilting voice,
you steady on the bedpost,
one brief hover. You remind me
of hugs, scolding, the squeeze
of your hand, Scottish drizzle,
August heat on the turn.

August heat and the soft hug
of your voice reading aloud
at the kitchen table.
The words rise and fall
until the room grows dark,
yet neither us can bear
to break the moment’s magic;
the air is strangely alive.

Alive, if only!
In midnight black I sing
Humpty Dumpty with Daddy
as you float along the ceiling cornice –
a balloon slowly expiring
in your least favourite colour – green,
pearls for tears around your neck
Your pots and pans resonate
drums and spoons.

Drums and spoons –
your cast iron pots line up
like cauldrons on butcher’s hooks.
I stand on your red chair tipping
flour and sugar into a blue plastic bowl.
Remember the day we ate a whole bowlful,
scooping the mixture with our fingers?
I see us zooming in and out
of damp washing on broomsticks,
our voices raised in hymn.

A hymn lifts you through the ceiling,
presses roof tiles upright,
glides over rows of lime-green cabbages,
Joy’s Mum’s rhubarb wrapped
in the Evening News on our doorstep.
The church stump tower reaches
for you, but the wind pushes
your song on. Afraid of heights
you drop onto a thundercloud.

Dad’s face is dark as a thundercloud
as he smokes his pipe,
in front of the Nine o’clock News,
while you scrunch poppy-red tissue
for giant paper flowers,
or sit at the living room table
humming, your sewing machine
pelting along at full throttle.

At full throttle your seesaw
feet rock the pedals,
around the table a tangle of chiffon,
sashes, buttons and odd-bin beads
in glass bubbles, knitting needles
trimmed with rows of baby blue.
You guide me through life
just as you slide fabrics under
the speeding needle, zigzagging sometimes,
onwards towards sensible living.
You are my Queen of Dreams.

Queen of Dreams, you dance
out of the mirrored wardrobe
dressed in your sixties cast-offs –
those multi-coloured beauties:
silky mini dresses and satin lined capes,
flimsy finery for our ‘dressing up’.
Your eyes black, heavy with liner,
your lipstick, cherry red.

Cherries in the Snow bursts
across your lips, strands of wispy perm
stray wild around your ears,
you hiccup giddy gulps of sherry
behind a creased napkin,
push varifocals up your nose,
call after strangers with familiar backs.
You drop jigsaw pieces as you wander,
blobs of colour  – summer blooms, hand-painted cups.
Perched on the wall outside your church.
you hum How Great Thou Art’

You hum How Great Thou Art’ and Billy Boy,
guitar balanced across your knees.
Your bungalow is rainbow chaos,
you issue orders from your bed,
fret about what’s been ousted from the fridge.
You rummage through carrier bags
but can never find exactly what you need –
your best teeth, your reading glasses,
that last birthday card from your Mum.

It’s your birthday. A June rose,
sweet and sharp-thorned,
you say: ‘you shouldn’t waste money on me.’
Your wheelchair wobbles
on the North Berwick green,
but you crave the sea air.
We fly through the garden centre –
pick geraniums for a summer you’ll never see,
land for lukewarm tea and chunky chips –
your favourite – those childhood naughties
soaked with salt like the Forth.

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Webb is a graduate of UEA’s Poetry MA and a poetry editor for Lighthouse. She lives in Norwich where she teaches creative writing. Her first collection Bird Sisters is out now from Nine Arches Press.

Maggie Mackay is a final year MA creative writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University with work in a range of poetry magazines. She is a co-editor of Word Bohemia. (www.wordbohemia.co.uk)

Note: Julia and Maggie met online through Jo Bell’s Fifty Two workshopping group. They edited the poem via email, Skype and phone. They are hoping that soon they will meet in real life.

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