Nicola Belte's 'Scissors, Paper, Stone'

Scissors, Paper, Stone

Glitter and glue. Paper. Scissors. Child’s ones, with red plastic handles and blunt edges. Safe.  She’s making decorations, poking out her tongue, like I do.  We sit side by side; her, snipped from me, the diamond gap that gives a paper snowflake shape. Precious. Me, formless without her.

Paper dolls, holding hands, impossibly orange and purple and green. I fold the paper for her, and think of black crepe chaos, creased up like an accordion; me, concertinaed against you and the wall, in the darkness of our room, cutting her out of nothing.

She draws a human, carefully, and runs the scissors around the outline, slowly; especially gentle around the fold, ensuring that the chain remains intact. She delicately opens them up, determined not to tear them, smiling as they jiggle and bob, multiplied, but one, between her outstretched arms.

She gives them smiley faces, and scarves and hats and buttons, and I hang them across the window in her bedroom.

They watch her sleep. I watch them.

I think of those dolls pegged to the pylons, screaming in the breeze; their cries just static in the night. I think of them cluttering up the guttering, blocking the drains; see them impaled on a litter-picker’s spike: arms splayed, severed, alone. I see the drawing pin stigmata on her small, sticky palms, see her falling, leaving behind a prick of chipped paint, invisible, on the great stone wall of the universe.

*Nicola Belte lives in Birmingham, U.K, and writes fiction. You can find her here:

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Donal Mahoney proposes…

Cats At Their Bowls Lapping
This time there’s a postscript:
“If ever I cook dinner for you,
it will be Coquilles St. Jacques
and Jefferson Davis Pie.”
Imagine Angela,
after all these years,
rising and gliding
to check on my pie,
wouldn’t that be something?
Angela, come to Chicago,
and bring all of your cats.
I’ll watch those cats
in your lap napping,
you in my lap napping,
the cats at their bowls lapping,
and I in my chair laughing.
Angela, bring all of your cats
and come to Chicago
to make Coquilles St. Jacques
and Jefferson Davis Pie.

*Donal Mahoney has had work published on Ink Sweat and Tears and other publications in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa.

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Tess Jolly's 'The Hatch'

The Hatch
Each night I do the rounds,
monitor hearts’ contractions
by lamplight’s gleam, press nerves
down crumpled spines
and wrap skin round bones
as paper holds a watermark’s ghost,
graft cells onto glass-bound wings.
I feed drops from a pipette
to soft beaks: they mewl and bleat,
furl wrinkled fists around my little finger,
lift oversized heads to the moon.
When slack muscles strengthen
I cup them to the hatch
carved beneath the eaves, watch silhouettes
thrash from my open palm.
My shoulder-blades bristle and bruise
as I hunch in a suit of feathers,
transfer new blood to empty tubes.

*Tess Jolly lives in West Sussex with her partner and two young children. She has had work forthcoming in Iota, The North and
Magma and was highly commended in last year's  Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition.

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Hilary Mellon reviews Tim Lenton's 'Running with Scissors'

Running With Scissors: Poems by Tim Lenton(Published by Jokerman House, 22 Aspland Road, Norwich NR1 1SH, 2011, Pamphlet: £3.00 22pp)

Tim Lenton is a fine poet who deserves much wider publication and recognition.  He is a former newspaper sub-editor and columnist and has also taught writing of different kinds.  He has written poetry for many years.  His first collection Mist and Fire (also by Jokerman House and available at £4 – 50 post free in the UK) came out in 2003.  His second Off the Map came out in 2007, the same year that he won the Fish International Poetry Prize.  He is a member of InPrint, the visual arts and poetry collaborative group.

The poems in this pamphlet were all written during Lent of this year and came out of a personal project to write a poem a day for 40 days.  In his introduction Lenton tells us that many of the poems were inspired by everyday events, and some by extraordinary events, like the tsunami that struck Japan.  One on this theme begins When the water rolls back/ and the pavement settles/ like a used blanket/ under new friends// we hear the clock ticking/ somewhere out at sea: … and continues with Soon we will be collecting time,/ trying to lock it away/ so that it cannot hurt us … (‘Aftershock’)

The themes of temptation and denial run through a number of Lenton’s poems, sometimes part jokingly as in I will give up my attempt on Everest/ I will give up lemon curd, because/ it tastes like vaseline … I will give up emptying the rubbish/ and the contents of my mind/ and a cold east wind/ and snow in August (‘Giving Up’) and sometimes more sternly as in Cruel April springs surprising sun:/ blitzkrieg rays/ from an innocent sky // leave me exhausted,/ open to any argument// If you were to tempt me now …  (‘Temptation’)

Amongst his other poetic talents, Lenton is a superb minimalist and a master of the unexpected yet perfect ending, as in Someone should unlatch my head/ and leave it wide open// so that my prayers/ can float straight up to heaven/ instead of clinging like bats/ to the inside of my skull// radar rebounding off/ padded walls (‘Bats’)  

He is also a photographer, a fact that is sometimes directly reflected in his poetry.  This can be seen in the opening of ‘Send Someone Else’ where Spring sun fixes river margins/ like a photograph,/ and nothing moves,/ not even yesterday’s prayers …  Sometimes it is rather more indirectly, as in the wonderful image Bare, thin branches/ against a flatfish sky … (‘The Bell’)

Lenton is a Christian and his poetry often echoes this. For me, there is something powerfully profound in how he explores his faith, as in ‘Unable to Sleep’ where half-forgotten monsters/ walk brash ancient paths/ … and kick me awake/ … telling me/ that it’s all just stories/ and there was no garden/ … But I do not believe them:/ I know a holy word when I hear one -/ a word untangled,/ set apart/ from the mess we’re in …

The poem from which the pamphlet takes its title (‘Running With Scissors’) ends with this wonderfully sharp (forgive the pun) image: Next time you see me/ if I rise from this bed/ I will be cutting through/ risking it all/ running with scissors

Lenton takes risks with his poetry and they work.  So take a risk and buy this pamphlet.

…reviewed by Hilary Mellon 

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Ivor Murrell's 'Buttercup'


The boy was coaxed into the room
clad for the first time
in his new school uniform

nothing was said
the heavy silence in the dim light
warned of a new unknown

leaden on the bed
his fearful eyes spoke
but nothing else moved.

After purposeful nudging
young lips sought the rough cheek
bright as buttercup in the sweated sheets.

*Ivor Murrell has written poetry for over 40 years, but could only give it the time it demanded when he took early retirement, which also allowed him to build his website to share his writing.

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Words and Image by Jim Davis

Hot Water Portrait: Translation

I said Reader,

There’s romance in the article of how-to-burn-a-bush, of dusk with highway; trains. Let me explain how the pull-cord gesture damns the overpass. Orpheus reached for it, and it was gone. There is, are too distractions, pink dusk descending.

West coast has been always less sensible and difficult to realign – the space, or lack thereof reassigns the tree limbs breeching what I assume with two canvas corners (created by pink fingers, Ls, before they shut down for the evening). Elephantine, on my drive, the letters on my lap, penned without glancing at the page. I hope these characters are recognizable. Writing at this hour of night is biting into my sleep. Dangerous dreams recorded at the bedside.

It’s as if the highway were hiding. It’s as if the whispers of a strip mall had anything at all to say to the burning bush, the one that shakes and groans. If only there still were birds, then the limbs would present or dissect the trembling trio once and for all: train, tree, bird. But for all that talk of finality, here is a good enough place to start.

Hot water. Opportunity. And conversation when the weather provides.

Anyhow, it’s raining now, first thunder thrown for months. April showers, they say…

Kind Regards,


*Jim Davis is a graduate of Knox College and now lives, writes, and paints in Chicago. Jim edits the North Chicago Review, and his work has appeared in After Hours, Blue Mesa Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Ante Review, Chiron Review, and Contemporary American Voices, among others. Jim will see two of his collections go to print in 2012: Lead, then Gold (unbound content) and Elements of Course: Crafty Abstraction (MiTe Press)


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Jenny Holden's 'Enclosure'


The clock will follow the man, insofar as it will follow anyone. First, he must learn how to die. Then, how to live. There will be a desire to mark out, build walls and square off edges. Essential that he know the distance between the bars of shadow and light on the sundial, and what is at his disposal, and how much. Count it out. To look at the thing is to be brave, and also to be a man. There is a need for certain metals, and a knowledge of the pendulum's swing – if it goes so far this way, can you be sure it will come back? The meeting of brass, stuttering shark-fin, and its brother, keen to get on with it. It's what we're all doing, love, but carry on, we're behind you! A shudder, the briefest friction, and the thing is done. On we go – round and round.
    Pace your land, draw up the deeds. Set your men to work with hammers and iron, or eke out their leisure-time in pastry and decanters shot with light, in the motion of a knife through parsley, the complicated meeting of white and green. Sweetmeats and fruit, lavender and port on the side and never heeding the sky turning blue to black through high windows. Live always in Bede's hall, heads about the table wavering by candlelight. A cry, or laugh, and a closed fist creased into itself as the knots in the oak worn smooth over time. You place a hand to the wall; first it is cold, and then you wonder if you are – it responds to you as flesh, or stone to stone. The glass swells at the bottom of each diamond pane. Your heart isn't what it was – perhaps you are growing too old for this.

When first light is making a ghost of the pine forest, send them out with saws and chains. Down by the ponds; make something of yourself. Look out on what you have, and breathe easier. A chime off in the house makes you start – crows upwards suddenly from the trees, which are solidifying into their right shapes. Dawn always gives over to day, you know this. And yet – last night you dreamt of a life without walls, of a tide that wouldn't turn, and men off everywhere, unable to finish what they have started…

*Jenny Holden was runner-up in the 2009 Orange/Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in nthposition, Horizon Review, Brand Literary Magazine, The Literateur, Fuselit, Fractured West, Junctures Journal, likestarlings and (Short) Fiction Collective.

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