Frances Gapper engages in some light conversation


Fiona over the road asked me
would I please stop shining a light
(my reading lamp)
through her bedroom window.
She said, it's like a searchlight
and these new lamp-posts are the wrong ones
she added
the council will have to replace them.
It might be the angle
you're shining it at.
Thanks for letting me know, I said.

• Frances Gapper writes very short poems and stories.

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Vanessa Gebbie is watching the reeds


There are babies growing in the reed beds again.
They grow in cocoons like the nests of harvest mice,
a little looser in the weave.
The cocoons have been swelling since the spring;
the first frosts have come and gone but the cold will be back.
I feel it on the wind.
The welcome boards at nature reserves
have posters attached, headed ‘Advice’.
Should you stray off the path,
do not make eye contact with the foetuses.
Of course, I’m still walking there.
I did yesterday.
I stopped a while in one of the hides.
Many cocoons had burst; the air filled with thistledown.
Below me, the water was as still as glass.
And under the water, babies.
Curled up tight, thumbs in mouths,
floating under the surface, turning lazily as though breathed on by an unseen current.
Then I strayed from the path.
A cocoon was bursting.
A male child grasped a reed with one fist.
Crying, a high sound.
Below him, the water.
I’m far, far too old for this.
But it is done;
I did not let him drop.
I put him under my jacket,
naked against my skin.
And on the way home, I sang.

• Vanessa Gebbie's debut collection of short fiction is longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Award.

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Review: Drop, Anchor – by Ben Barton

drop, anchor is the new chapbook collection by Ben Barton. Although the author is described as 'a queer poet from Folkestone' this is not a collection of gay poetry. True, there are some that deal with aspects homosexual relationships but essentially this is a highly accessible – and readable – collection of 21 shortish (in some cases very short – there's even a haiku in there) poems about love and life. And lovers and family. And even encounters in supermarkets. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Although I suspect one of the key poems for Barton is The Re-Birth Remembered – about his still-born twin brother, which manages to be tear-inducingly sad without resorting to the usual cliches, the piece I found the most moving was Commandment No.5. This deals with the equally painful – but far more prevalent yet never seriously addressed – issue of the strained relationships that appear between fathers and sons as both grow older. Here's the opening stanza

My father is a stranger to me.
He never turns-up uninvited.
Sitting cautiously on the sofa
He waits – never asks,
for a mug of tea.

drop, anchor by Ben Barton is published by Erbacce Press (ISBN 978-1-906588-18-2). The price is £3.99 and you can order it direct from Ben Barton or, via PayPal, from Erbacce.

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It's Saturday – time for another haiga

• Alexis Rotella is a regular contributor of haiga to Ink Sweat & Tears

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The lady likes them young – by Louise Halvardson

The lady who borrows youngsters

There are no items to satisfy her request
talking books about contemporary life don’t exist

She walks down the high street
pulls youngsters from queues
invites them for tea
and line them up on her sofa
in alphabetical order

She wants to be told everything
her eye-sight is too bad to read about
DJ’s, graffiti and raves
the life of her grandchildren
if she’d had children

When it gets dark mobiles
makes an alarming noise
the youngsters have been reserved
for someone more important
they want to be discharged
back to their lives

She takes the phones off them
asks their families and friends
if she can renew the loan
she doesn’t mind paying the fine
if she can keep them
for just a little longer

But the reminders
are piling up on the hall mat
her license to borrow has expired.

• Louise Halvardson was born in Sweden on a cold winter's day in 1982. When she was old enough she escaped to England and ended up in Brighton which inspired her to write a novel. It's called Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd and was published in Sweden last year. She's also active, going by the stage name of Lou Ice, as a performance poet.

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New prose by Mandy Pannett


She often walked along the waterfront in Venice. On a clear day she could see Belmont, high on its hill, mist-clad as usual like the fairy-tale it wasn’t. There were more stalls in the market these days – packed with bodies and sweat. One stall was selling monkeys, gibbering chain-clad creatures like the one she’d exchanged for the turquoise ring in the loving years. A horrible thing that gibbered and whimpered and chucked its wet faeces all over the place.  

Sometimes she’d bring Leah to this rat-hole, but it was such trouble keeping an eye on the child and so near the water as well. ‘Leah’ – she’d never forget the row there’d been when she’d insisted on christening the baby with her own mother’s name. ‘A Jewish name,’ her husband said and spat. His cronies, all as drunk as skunks, backed him up of course. Their wives just gave her funny looks, drawing close. As they always did.  Still, she got her way. She did, from time to time.

Faintly, from the Jewish quarter, came the dreaded, mournful sound. Sunset with its prayers for recent dead.  ‘Who is dead now?’ she wondered, ‘Is it him?’  She wished it could be her. Runaway daughter, disgrace to her faith, thief − that was the bit that stuck in her throat – not the theft of the ducats but the ring, her mother’s ring. Sold for that perishing ape. She’d been told how her father had cursed her and wept. Well, all was a wilderness now.

She shoved her way along the water front. Soon be dark and a full moon. The floor of heaven, Lorenzo had called it, in the loving years Inlaid with patines of bright gold. She shrugged. ‘What heaven? What gold?’ There’d be none of that for her.

A regular contributor to IS&T, Mandy Pannett runs an arts cafe, supports two local writing groups and
enjoys giving readings and running writing workshops. She has two
poetry collections from Oversteps Books – Bee Purple and Frost Hollow.

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Two new poems by Colin Cross



I wake up

in the morning

and wonder

what day it is


but I always know

that the next one

is tomorrow

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


although Anne
is twelve years
younger than me
we were both born
in the year
of the pig
which I reckon
makes us both
Anne collects pigs
which is maybe
why she hangs out
with me
and why
maybe one day
I'll find myself
hanging on her wall
like some kind
of bizarre trophy

• Colin Cross is a regular IS&T contributor

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