There is a dull grey shimmer
on the surface of the water in the harbour
and the same sort of restlessness
you get as it starts to simmer
in a pan. Although it is not hot, it looks
as though it should be. Above
the surface, there is a sign
I cannot make out and, beyond that,
the open sea. It, too, is grey
but unmistakeably cold.
The movement is different too. Like
a carpet being unrolled, or
a blanket smoothed. My eye
keeps returning to the water enclosed
by the arms of the harbour.
I like that shimmer. I like
the idea of its imaginary simmer. And,
most of all, I like the fact
that I cannot read the words
that someone, sometime or other, made
the effort to nail above it.
Gordon Meade is a Scottish poet, now living in London. He divides his time between his own writing and running creative writing courses for vulnerable young people. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow most recently attached to the University of Dundee.Read More
Listening to Arlo play his railroad stories
why is the 60’s, 70’s
American country music
on the road,
across the land?
with an eye on
and the sun
for roadside inns
and dust flying full
or till the next ride down to
the San Francisco lights.
you heard them,
they were already
a (third) beer in hand
odd galaxy of city-streets
all they wept for
will float beneath
the young night-sky
of their America.
Sthira Bhattacharya is an undergraduate student of English Literature in St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Much of her writing traces lines across the three cities she has known in bits – Delhi, Kolkata and her hometown Dhanbad in Eastern India.Read More
from Voices after a Tsunami
The Tohoku Pacific Earthquake (scale 9) and Tsunami hit Japan on 11 March 2011.
A handshake’s worth of stress
caused an earthquake, and triggered a tsunami;
as if a giant bucket of waste water,
left after washing traffic film from a car,
had been knocked over,
sweeping model towns through the garden
until momentum stalls, it seeps into the ground
and people sink into stasis.
Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture
“I will never forget this for the rest of my life, and I think it is important that I do not forget this.” (anonymous medical team member)
Where a body is found, the rescue workers
tie a red flag and offer a prayer.
There are too many flags to count.
Uncooked rice and melted snow
cause gastro-enteritis. When I draw blood,
it’s black and thick. Supplies are “on the way.”
A week on, the radio announces death tolls.
A newborn cries. A siren signals
a moment’s silence at the time the earthquake struck.
A boy reading a book tells me
there’s a cloth of time he dreams he could wrap
around the city and take it back to before.
“Are you in love?” a girl asks.
I tell her he has a beard. “Like Santa Claus?
I wonder if he will come next winter.
“My house is gone now.
He will still stop, won’t he?
I want my house and my mummy.”
We made a footbath, heated with fires
and invited evacuees. “We’re pretty much family,”
an old man wipes his face.
In contrast to the mountains of rubble
and muddy ground, the stars are always beautiful
against the black sky every night.
Emma Lee’s collection Yellow Torchlight and the Blues is available from Original Plus. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for Sphinx and The Journal. She tweets at @Emma_Lee1.Read More
Claire, the flat-packed cat
Your crumbs have been under the highchair a fortnight now.
You were still so new to me.
You used to practice each and every burgeoning word,
clumsily cutting up syllables, thinning them out
as you bore down on your most recent find.
I want to hear you.
I can smell you on the fibres of Claire, the IKEA cat;
the flat-packed cat, your Mama and Diddy called her,
laughing at how hard it all was.
She I cradle at sleepy time,
kissing her matted head,
I am parched and angry and I ache
to feel your weight on my left arm.
You could cut off the blood in minutes.
Sometimes I hold her tight to my chest.
Perhaps in the afternoons, when I am tired and tense,
I smooth her face against my blood-shot cheeks.
We move in no less a general way than
would any toy cat and man dancing.
That’s when I feel your weight
on my skin,
like a package new delivered
as the Valium kicks in,
as I sway you slowly
to our song or maybe songs.
Daniel Roy Connelly was born in England but has spent much of his adult life being educated in Italy, India, Bangladesh, The USA and Scotland. Formerly a British diplomat, he has been an academic since 1999. He is currently an assistant professor of English Literature and Theatre at John Cabot University and The American University of Rome.Read More
You were there,
I was over here,
the swifts were
being transcendental and
complicated and always
trapped in their velocities.
Their stitchwork fell apart
like old infatuation,
like the ghost of fireworks,
until dusk thickened
and they were only
shivers in it.
I moved closer.
You let me help with
your imaginary shawl.
Alasdair Paterson returned to writing in 2007 after a 20 year break, and since then has published on the governing of empires (Shearsman Books) and the pamphlets Brumaire and later (Flarestack Poets) and in arcadia (Oystercatcher Press).Read More
Another Withered Leaf
A thin fragrance of pumpkin and potato peels had lingered there for as long as she could remember, a product of almost a century of cooking and baking seeping into the damp floorboards and worn cedar plank walls of the cabin. She sat in front of the only window in the dim room, swaying softly back and forth in an old rocking chair with a bowl in her lap. Her hands moved rhythmically as she continually thrust a pastry cutter against a mound of unyielding dough. The scones would not turn out because the warmth from her lap was gradually infiltrating the steel bowl and melting the butter across the bottom of the mound. Cold butter was the key to good scones. Her hazy eyes were fixated on an unfamiliar groove in the enormous trunk of a 200-year-old evergreen just outside the window. The tree’s deep, massive roots had penetrated the foundation of the cabin, forcing it to stand subtly off kilter.
Her mind had long drifted away from wondering about the origin of the groove. She saw herself wiping down the sink with a soapy sponge, running water through it, picking up the baby from his high chair… unsnapping the snaps, peeling off his tiny clothes and diaper, lightly stroking the little rolls of fat on his stout legs, smiling at the creases. She envisioned his bottom flattening against the sink as she gently placed him in it and his eyes closing in response to the small stream of lukewarm water she drizzled over his head from her cupped hand. She had been so proud of the protective reflex that had led him to close his eyes, as if he were the first baby in existence to react to his external environment. She watched herself as she lifted him out of the sink and held him against her chest… her shirt becoming translucent with moisture, droplets rolling off his smooth pink back onto her arms.
The sound of the bowl hitting the floor wrenched her from her reverie. She coerced her body into an upright position, feeling joints crack violently in all her limbs. She walked over to the fireplace, stepping on the dough on the floor. The soft, greasiness of it felt good under her bare feet. A frame containing a picture of the baby was removed from the mantle, leaving a clean imprint in the midst of the dust where it used to stand. Hours later, when her husband came home with a truck full of groceries from the nearest town, he saw the picture hanging over the groove on the tree with his wife sound asleep on the browned pine needles beneath it.
E.K. Smith‘s work has been published in Thickjam, Clever Magazine, The Smoking Poet, and other ezines. She is currently working on a chapbook.Read More
Your eyeballs are marbles in my mouth,
large, saliva-sweating, gag-making
gobstoppers, two for a penny,
keeping me silent.
They clank together, underwater
Slowly they melt, sweetness slick
on shiny surfaces, releasing flavour.
I persevere, sucking,
articulating my feelings
around the scraping glass,
until, at last, perfectly
I can speak.
So I start to talk.
Your eyes dart across the room to me
and stop my mouth.
Amanda Bonnick is a poet, novelist and actor who lives in the city of Worcester. She helps organise a local open mic event, The Word and Sound, and also runs the Melting Pot Theatre Company.Read More