On the Second Day of Christmas we bring you Gill McEvoy and Jinny Fisher

 

 

Travellers

A high price to pay at their journey’s end,
they travelled a long way; he on foot,
she on a mule
and she heavy with child.
All doors were closed against them.
No welcome anywhere.
And the night bitterly cold.

There are others travelling now,
paying a cruel price
for unsafe boats, or crowded lorries;
men, children, women heavy with child.
Many die on the journey.
No welcome anywhere
and the nights bitterly cold.

How they would be glad of a stable,
the warmth of beasts,
the small comfort of straw.

 

Gill McEvoy is a Hawthornden Fellow. Her second Cinnamon Press collection is  Rise  ( 2013.) Gill runs many poetry events in Chester where she lives.

 

 

 

Christmas Eve

They had always dressed the tree together—
surrounded by gold-sprayed pine cones
and evergreen wreaths.

Each year, a new ornament, marking
a shared city break or afternoon stroll
around a craft fair.

Tonight, she uncurls her fist, sloughs off
her ring, considers the imprint
that remains.

She swings the ring a moment from her finger-tip,
slides it over a drooping branch.

The fairy, impaled on the tree’s top stem,
stares paint-eyed across the room.

 

 

 

Jinny Fisher was a classical violinist, and is now a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She lives in Somerset and is a member of Juncture 25 and Wells Fountain Poets. Magazine publications include The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, and Prole.

 

 

 

 

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On the First Day of Chrismas we bring you James Parris and Catherine Ayres

 

 

 

The Alchemist

The house was strange without one.
Corners where it could be swelled
daily in their emptiness
and threatened to topple the festivity.

Contrary under her gaze, he determined
that a squat bought thing just wouldn’t do,
and, shedding skeptics,
picked me as acolyte for misadventure.

And so in speckled overalls, like skins,
treading dampness into itself,
we left Crosby-carolling
for the trees who shivered at garden’s end

and saw in hand and hand on trunk,
he hoisted me into the twiggy innards
and spiced stench of sap
to amputate a branch or two or three

that we might puzzle together
in counterfeit of Christmas.
Metal teeth chattered bark to pulp
until my knuckles roared.

Then on the grass he laid our loot
and crouched and bent and sculpted,
rehearsing imperfect forms
gloveless, beneath the limbs’ original,

and twisting out an edifice, like origami
patterned from some secret
blueprint, invisible to me,
he stood content over his design.

Inside, we propped our patchwork nature,
boughs shot out like a mad star,
where he hoped it might not
shout its own lie loud enough

for her to tear it all to pieces.
Still, she came, and stood, tramadol online no rx and, silent,
circumspected for a hanging second.
And she smiled.

From one angle it was almost a tree.
But from every side his alchemy
now seemed to warm the house,
fuller in its strangeness.

 

 

 

James Parris writes from East London. He has just begun to turn his mind to poetry

 

 

 

 

The single woman and the lights

They’re bunched in the bag like an addled brain.
Last Christmas it was easy: he shook them free,
or maybe it was the mulled wine, the thought of his hands.
Now each strung head is desperate, locked in a final kiss.
I spider them apart, an afternoon lost to unpicking,
set them straight as graves on the living room floor.
It’s dusk. I take them in my arms and we slow dance
round the tree. When they wince through the tinsel
my eyes swell. These plucky buds. Another year.

 

 

 

Catherine Ayres lives and works in Northumberland. She has a pamphlet published by Black Light Engine Room and a collection – Amazon – to be published by Indigo Dreams Publishing next year.

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O. J. Tong

 

 

 

at first

Jill asked me, and I told her. It’s not like I can remember how he was at first, when we danced. He’s renewing it each time we are together, as am I, or you. But for him I want to think of it like it was at first. George I remember, with his feet on my stomach, pressed, lying on my sofa. But that is because it has been too long since we have met. But now with Joe it’s not so clear. I can make, with dark shapes, the image I would like to remember, but I cannot place him inside of it any longer. It is a different Joe who presses my shoulders softly when he thinks I am stressed, with a different voice. And this Joe I love too, but he is not the Joe who dances. Or danced. Though I wonder if that Joe still exists somewhere. If perhaps in years to come he will be at the bar, and buying drinks, he will approach a woman and talk to her, leave her. Then later in a different place they will meet again and he will dance with her. And she will know the Joe at first, who dances, before he becomes again the Joe who presses softly our shoulders.

O. J. Tong lives in Cardiff, Wales. Short fiction, in its many forms, has kept him interested for the last 5 years.

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Matt Black

 

 

 

Spoons

I don’t know how long I’ve been planning spoon rebellion. Maybe it’s just come over me, thinking about you once again, and carefully drying all those spoons in the cool drawers in your house. I know it’s too late now, you’re gone. And yes, we’ve wept and drunk champagne and scattered your ashes in the ocean, but it does satisfy something even now, the idea of getting drunk and spoons rebelling. Spoons up in arms leaping out of drawers, spoons laughing and jumping up and down on your polished tabletops. O mother, what would you say? Spoons doing spoony tap-dances up the walls and over the ceiling like upside-down Fred Astaires.

But that’s the way it comes over me, and it makes me giggle, when I think about solemnly drying up your spoons and putting them away under the shadow of your clenched lip. Your silence, your busy busy busy behind me in the kitchen somewhere. The spoons we must use for your family-famous puddings, gooseberry fool, windy pud, the silver spoons we are meant to be grateful for inheriting. Here they are, in the frayed wooden drawer in the kitchen barn at the back of the old house. In the romantic south of France, where very un-romantically you have no money. And very impractically we have to travel all the way from England to even see you. And then we have to dry up those spoons so carefully.

But the wine is cheap, and it’s good to be here with you. Even like this, you busy washing up, clenched lip, thinking about your paintings and having no money and looking worried. Ok, so maybe I haven’t dried them up the way you wanted, and I think I will get drunk. And in the back of my mind, yes, spoon rebellion is well begun by now. I’m twenty-three, and I have no idea what I ‘m doing. The pressure’s on, and my tongue is about as articulate as spoons. As your own, as your own zone of silence behind me, busy busy busy, there you go. You flatten your tongue and I’ll flatten mine.
Anyway, for now I’ll just dry them up and put them away. Why not? After all, they’re only spoons, aren’t they. It’s no big deal. And we’ll do something different in a minute. Have a cup of coffee and talk about something jolly. Yes, that’ll be better. So there they are, spoons all put away now, lying in the cool shade, next to the knives.

 

Matt Black lives in Leamington Spa, and was Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2011-2013). He invented the world’s first Poetry Jukebox, and works in schools and at festivals.  Website http://www.matt-black.co.uk/

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Lana Bella

 

Eleven Years Tasted Like a Thousand Year Old Chinese Egg

eleven years tasted like
a thousand-year old Chinese egg
doorway cracked
windows rusted at the seams–
the nights grew thin and red
summer gripped me in its fist
then winter tricked your shadows into my eyes
leaving imprints on walls
the tall looking glass
staircase
sidewalks
with rain and snow poured heavy like the China sea,

I went to your house
ghosts roamed behind the chiffon curtains
faint but they left me breathless,
always
distance was a skeletal landscape stirred in smoke–
this was heartache I knew
still I came
and grieved
woke to eat the black preserved egg
slept when the sky broke into yellow yolk on my lips and skin,

back to front
I was narcotized with the kernels of your excess
your painful sincerity
your articulate cold–
now I smoked your cigarettes
tasted the chemicals
musky
rotten,
I blew out wisps of clouds
the whiteness sat at the tips of my fingers
resolved to leave me near invisible.

 
Lana Bella  has a diverse work of poetry and fiction anthologized, published and forthcoming with over ninety journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (2015), Aurorean Poetry, Chiron Review, Contrary Magazine, QLSR (Singapore), elsewhere, and Featured Artist with Quail Bell Magazine, among others.  Lana divides her times between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a wife of a novelist, and a mom of two frolicsome imps.

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Graham Buchan

 

 

 

 

Al Hillah

The young woman is smiling in my photograph.
She points to a picture of her father.
He is smiling, but he was murdered.

The young woman is smiling in my photograph.
She points to a picture of her brother.
He is smiling, but he was murdered.

The young woman is smiling in my photograph.
She points to a picture of her grandfather.
He is smiling, but he was murdered.

Graham Buchan graduated in Chemical Engineering but worked as a freelance filmmaker. Two books with the tall lighthouse and individual poems in the Express, Morning Star, Rialto, Dream Catcher, International Times. He has read in New York, Austin and Iraq.

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Michael Bennett

 

 

 

Likeness

Paint cakes the bristles in thick lumps
It tears
It pulls
It refuses to detach
The sink bleeds slowly
In slate grey
In Blue Lake
In Red Ochre
In Yellow Light
On the table the painting lies
Fields are blocks
Skies are bare
Trees are lines
The brush won’t paint
The knife is ready
To scratch life into oil

 

 

 

Michael Bennett was born in 1987 and grew up in Suffolk. His short fiction and poetry have been published by Litro, The Lampeter Review, Jon McGregor’s The Letters Page, and several online journals. When not writing, he plays the viola, paints, and makes things out of paper. Outdoors, he tries to learn the names and ways of plants.

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