I was only the French Maid now and again
in a little black dress, stockings and duster.
She was ‘Brigitte’ and I couldn’t do the accent.
I’d have liked to be Ursula Undress with a knife
or any Bond girl with an exciting name
like Trigger or Vesper or Solitaire,
but I was Miss Jones instead, twinset and pearls
and glasses to remove, revealing my beauty,
Miss Jones I had no idea…
She was easier, although I wasn’t convincing
But now I can take part with my eyes shut.
He and I can be doctor and patient -
me lying in bed in a hospital gown and a coma
(dreaming of Dirk) and he Sir Lancelot Spratt
come on his rounds to give me a poke.
And that almost suits us both.
Meg Cox is new to writing poetry but not to reading it – she’s getting on a bit. She lives in Herefordshire, alone with her dogs and a garden and a view but she promises not to write about them and would rather live in London.Read More
Mrs Gilhooly, Dancing
Every so often she climbs the stair. She goes to birl,
to fit the flair,
to wind the gramophone on an upright chair,
and lilts full throttle through her bobs and reels,
her chicken vocals bleating peals
in the raw November air.
Ill-setten and gawkit,
her man lies hoose-fast in the downstairs room
thowless as a dead wind.
Once, when they were young,
she tried to make him dance. That way he
in his long-quartered town-mades, one een a-gley
in the full-length glass. Even then
he could not do it. His wooden feet
weighed like clay and would not yield to the floor.
Inhibition checked him. It held him in his track.
So she had this fling in secret, a quiet
which she did behind his back.
Pale-lipped and happer-ars’d
she skilts round the running room. The recollection
of jumbled steps falls from her feet by chance:
a hotchpotch of gallops which the years have slowed
to a thin patter of rain.
Young at heart, she descends the stair -
an old woman who has no shame.
Gently she will take his hand and warm it in her own.
She is giddy with jigging in the upstairs room
and sad to feel alone.
Neil Leadbeater is an editor, author and poet living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His poems and short stories have been published widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, Librettos for the Black Madonna, was published by White Adder Press in 2011.Read More
bringing up baby
again she falls. but nothing’s broken and she seems okay. still i go a little crazy. i look around for a nurse. then grab my phone. the big screen is turned up super loud. as usual. she tells me to be quiet and points at the movie. an old black and white. screwball comedy, circa 1938. she says ‘hush!’ then puts her finger to her lips just in case i don’t get the message. my daughter, serene at 25, gives me one of her knowing looks. ‘grandma’s fine’ she says. she sits down right next to her. side by side their faces edge toward the screen. they laugh at the same parts. when baby surprises cary grant. or gets a big kiss from kate hepburn. i watch the two of them on the loveseat. my own private screening. heads so close together. there’s no room for me.
mockingbird song turning from day to dusk
Roberta Beary is the haibun editor of Modern Haiku. Her book of short poems, The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 1st hardcover ed. 2011), was named a Poetry Society of America award finalist and a Haiku Society of America prize winner. This is her website.Read More
Alone At Last
When you die you discover that actually, surprisingly, there was only ever you. You were your own mother, your own father, your own siblings and your own best friend. You were the person off the telly and the king of Indonesia. Everyone you knew, everyone you didn’t, everyone you’d heard of and all the people you hadn’t, every last man, woman and child of them, were all you.
This doesn’t all occur to you all at once, of course. Initially, even as the shock of dying is still wearing off, you apply to the life you thought was you. The solitary you. That’s when, one person at a time, you begin to see the connections: your Mother, your Father, your sister. Then from there you discover the others. The people you knew, the ones who talked to you, the ones who didn’t; the ones who helped and the ones who hurt.
Somehow, you can’t help thinking in terms of you. It’s still your experiences that spread out, like fingers touching across a table; one you to the next. You think on how you grew up, left home, got a job, made lifelong friends and fell in love. With yourself. You think of all the joys and all the pains and begin to understand it was you all along. That’s why, you muse, you felt so sad when loved ones passed away; so angry when you were powerless.
But even as the you you thought you were, you did well. That friend who went on to be so happy and own such a lovely house. That was you too.
Give yourself a pat on the back.
You by you, life by life, you see how you made your own way, walked your own path, formed your own opinions and came to your own decisions each day in a billion different ways. You did great things, terrible things, ordinary things. You ate breakfast and went hungry. There were rewards and punishments for being you.
You populated your own world.
From the beginning of mankind, you looked up to the sun and counted the stars. You were the people who broke records with their longevity and the babies who barely broke the surface of life. These were, you realise, all your moments. They were strong ideas and brief ideas as you moved from one distraction to another, starting wars and making love.
Looking back you wonder what would be different had you known. Would you have allowed fewer of you to be hurt? Taken more time to enjoy your own company? After all, you had that time, you had all of history and you had every person who ever lived. Time was yours to fill and waste. And fill it and spend it and hoard it and savour it and waste it and stretch it and squander it you did.
I mean all of this literally. When you die you do not meet your loved ones because they are you. I am you, writing these words. There is no oblivion either, just you shaking your head at how obvious it was all along.
You could wrap it up right there and then but somehow you don’t. You look at the lives you are still living and want them, to carry on without you because without them, you are nothing.
Dom Conlon is a creative partner at Head First – an advertising and design company. He likes to write fiction and poetry and keeps track of most of this on his blog www.inkology.co.ukRead More
Veronica Von Pegg is a mixed media artist, a photographer and writer, who expresses a past life through images and words. She collects second hand items, and is a firm believer in reincarnationRead More
Doorbell; the first guests, an hour
early for dinner. You’re not ready.
Hair still damp from the shower,
table devoid of plates and cutlery,
oven pre-heating, wine uncorked.
You get into character, fix an easy
grin on your face, open the door
to the soft minefield of the evening,
its nuances and niceties, small talk
and smiles. And this is the thing:
it must remain perfectly civilised
at all costs. You’re the custodian
of blandness, a jailer in disguise
rattling the keys of middle class
decorum; the guy whose job it is
to keep this joint clean, to police
the cellblock of the dinner table.
So you make sure nobody carries
a shiv of opinionism or is able
to distract the guards (i.e. those
droll and endlessly repeatable
golf and cricket club anecdotes
you trade on) with a whip-smart
but loaded remark that provokes
debate. God forbid guests impart
sensible perspectives on politics,
morality, religion … or even art!
Be alert for these kind of tricks;
recognise warning signs. Frown
on disrespect: any of these pricks
talks smart, you take ’em down.
Neil Fulwood is the author of ‘The Films of Sam Peckinpah’ and runs film review blog Agitation of the Mind. He’s a member of the Alan Sillitoe Committee, who are raising funds towards a permanent memorial to be sited in Nottingham. Neil co-designed their website www.sillitoe.comRead More
I went around the neighbourhood collecting bits of string. I tied them together until I had a long enough piece then attached a tin can to either end. I gave one to my brother, who was going to India for a year. When he arrived the string just reached, and our voices travelled sharp and clear across the continents.
He said he’d forgotten his reading glasses so I hung them on the string, raised my arm and they slid down the line. He sent us packages of incense, sweets and a teapot in the shape of the Taj Mahal. We would sometimes get interference when birds perched on the line or someone walked into it. Once a knot came undone in the middle and I had to walk half way across Europe to fix it.
Patrick Widdess is a Cambridge based poet and broadcaster. He has lived in Greece, China, Japan and Poland and his writing has appeared in publications including Orbis, Cake and The Guardian. This is is website: