Louise Warren

 

Re-stringing the Boy

It takes hours. We move from socket to socket
unknotting his spine, the droop in his shoulders,
those loose dangling hands.

The way he came on stage the other day, just slumped in,
hardly lifting his head. I had to jerk the main string
tighter and tighter until he almost cracked.

One by one we cut the threads, untie him ,
until he is free of us, our meddling fidgeting hands.
If he could, if he had a soul, he could walk out right now

But someone carved him into shape,
invented the colour of his eyes, that same unchanging expression
blank as a reflection cast in a puddle, forget him,

he cannot make himself happen, it is all in your imagining,
he is nothing without our breath, see how he drags his bones now.

 

 

 

Louise Warren has been widely published in magazines . Her first collection ( A child’s last picture book of the Zoo) and pamphlet (In the scullery with John Keats) are both published by Cinnamon Press. She lives in London.

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Gordon Robertson

 

 

Loss Of Breath

There were better ways for lovers to meet. He’d been tying his shoelace on a street corner, his fat, ripped cello case leaning against the wall, and she’d come flying around it, the wind dramatizing her hair as she clamped the case notes for Anderson v AgriCorp tight against her chest, her mind still in the courtroom. Of course, she tripped over him, the case notes escaping out like doves, her hair now a soft blonde blindfold through which she saw nothing but her imminent death. On instinct, he reached out and grabbed her, preventing her hips from smashing against the concrete and softening her fall as her legs gave way from under her. Meanwhile, the cello case toppled to the ground, twanged loudly, and fell silent.

It didn’t seem like it, but the whole thing was over in seconds, her own hands reaching the pavement mere heartbeats before her face. She tried pulling herself to her feet, but something still clung to her. She twisted her head round and grunted. As politely as she could under the circumstances–which was in no way polite at all–she told him he could take his fucking hands off her now, thank you very much.

He liked the feeling of her hips in his hands. Under different circumstances he might have felt brave enough to run them a little higher. Or a little lower. Today, however, he could do neither. As much as he tried, and he genuinely tried, he just couldn’t pull his hands away.

She’d pushed herself to her feet now and was simultaneously trying to brush him off and scream for help. But nothing she did could rid herself of the man welded to her lower torso. It was then that she realised she couldn’t move her left leg. Or rather, she could move it, but not as far as she would have liked. Which, right now, was half a mile down the street and into the nearest police station.

Velcro? Was that what this was? As ludicrous as it sounded, even inside her head, she couldn’t think what else it could be. She kicked and kicked, trying to kick him away, or kick herself off him, but no amount of kicking–and she was doing a lot of kicking–could separate her left leg from his right. More out of frustration that anything else, she roared and pushed hard against his chest. He was in the process of rising, and in any other scenario would have fallen backwards and cracked his skull. As it was, he stayed firmly in place. As did her hands, glued–for want of a better word–against his ribcage.

They stood for a moment, the two of them, virtual statues, he with his fingers stitched to her hips, she with her palms ironed to the front of his shirt, their legs banded together like crude splints. The absurd thought came to her that he was strangely attractive. More in a Clark Kent way than a Jamie Dornan way, but given what her last few boyfriends had been like even that was a bonus. She could do–and had done–a lot worse. For his part, he glossed over her rack of blonde hair–he’d always preferred brunettes–and concentrated instead on her face. Her eyes were on fire from something other than the frustration and impossibility of their situation, while her cheekbones could have been plucked direct from an oversized Taschen art-book.

It was all so sickeningly addictive. They felt it as keenly as the bonds that held them physically together. A hot flame flickered in her groin and spread through the rest of her body like a forest fire. He picked up on that, her gasped moans signalling to him a desire he felt himself reciprocating much lower down. They could barely move, these quicksand lovers, but their passion for each other was moving mountains beneath the skin. It moved their pulsing hearts and their over-driven minds, and, eventually, their lips.

The official cause of death was given as suffocation. Or, less dramatically, loss of breath. The case of Anderson v AgriCorp went to appeal, and the cello, with case, went to charity, but there was no court of appeal, nor feelings of charity, for the would-be lovers, ridiculed in the press and online as an aberration; as freaks. Not that it mattered. They were now tied to one another forever, through death and beyond; nameless, blameless, and filled with stars.

 

 

Gordon Robertson is a writer and filmmaker from Scotland. He has had several short stories and a poems published within the past year and has written and directed two short films and a music video.  His latest short film – ‘The Chair’ – won Best Super Short at the 2016 UK Screen One International Film Festival.

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Caitlin Gillespie

 

 

 

Venus calling Neptune

Venus :
‘I dial your soul into mine.
Sometimes I wish it would eat
me up ( your soul)
Like the wide broad boulevards
of shops.
Traffic lights,
And long girthed
Bottles of wine
(eat my soul, by night)
Neptune, all I am
Is ripe
naked body,
Dressing /undressing
As you wish
I am nothing
I will die
Slowly /away
From the
Waves/ in
Our peace’

 

 

 

Caitlin Gillespie is a writer and emerging poet based in St Albans in the UK. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from The University of Hertfordshire and is currently working on her first poetry pamphlet.

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Brett Evans

 

 

 

Sloth on Fine Dining

Sloth’s favoured position for eating
is legs above head – not his own legs, of course –
and being the slothiest of sloths he’ll lunch
at the laziest of leisure; a real underachiever.

Accomplishing more than fool-sloths,
whose tongues are prized as mere limbs
obtaining tasteless leaves beyond their can’t be arsed
reach, Sloth revels in the rainforest-wet of his reward;

lapping up all he needs to nourish fruitless days.
And don’t be duped to think that starburst effect
cunted down thighs, up spine, out to tips of digits,
or any echoed cries from the canopy above enough

to lull Sloth into some nuzzled slumber. He’s more
than awake, face already tucked into his second course.

 

 

 

 

Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native north Wales. Brett’s debut pamphlet, The Devil’s Tattoo, is available from Indigo Dreams. he is also co-editor at Prole http://www.prolebooks.co.uk/

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James R Kilner

 

Proximity

At night we hear him.
Behind the wall
behind our headboard
our neighbour
is trying to clear his lungs.
Sometimes he calls for his wife.

We lie awake,
silent and inert.

I recall, as a child,
not daring to move,
hearing my grandfather
calling my mother’s name
over and over,
having fallen in his room
on the way for a pee.
I would stare at the ceiling
wishing she would wake,
willing her to hear.

The street has been folded up
and put away for the night.
Beyond, specks of orange light seem to move.
Each is a light on a road
I’ll never walk,
by a house I’ll never see,
where a grandfather
falls or cannot clear his lungs.
Perhaps a curtain twitches
like an eyelid, and someone looks back
at a speck of orange light.
Perhaps one day they will watch
as a light flickers
and goes out.

 

James R Kilner’s first collection of poems, Frequencies of Light, is out now. He is a former newspaper journalist and holds a PhD from the University of Leeds. Originally from Yorkshire, he now lives on Tyneside. Please visit www.jameskilnerwriter.wordpress.com

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Jan Harris

 

 

 

Summerlands

Willow man farms
the summerlands, tends
black maul in its bed of clay.

At leaf fall he harvests
young stems by machine.
His father’s billhook rusts unused.

At home his wife dusts the crib
great-grandmother wove
from withies, stripped white

as tight sinews, proud
on her hand when she twined
the pliant wands to shape.

Their willow lines Old Yeo’s banks
where whimbrel-song springs
and water voles burrow

deep in osier-cradled earth.
And there they sleep,
close to the river’s lap and lull.

 

 

 

 

Jan Harris’s poetry has appeared in Popshot, Envoi, Snakeskin, other literary magazines and numerous anthologies.  She lives in Nottinghamshire.

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‘Tree Surgery’ by Sally Beets is your Pick of the Month for October 2016

 

It was a tightly fought contest and from a dark and sombre shortlist, Sally Beets’ wonderfully caustic ‘Tree Surgery’ emerged as the overall winner and Pick of the Month for October. Maybe we all just needed to vent!

Sally is a poet and Young Adult fiction writer. She is completing a Masters in Children’s Literature and Creative writing at Goldsmiths University where she has had several pieces published in student publications.  She has worked as a teacher in the past and is involved in various local literacy charities and projects based in London.

 

Tree Surgery

I was growing tired of trees, already,
before the end. Tired of going to nature reserves, forests,
woods, with your tree index book, looking up words in
Latin: Quercuis ilex, rubra, robur,
chasing after your over-excitable stinking dogs,
that muddied and laddered my tights,
or worse, when you produced that battered bat detector.

Everything comes back to trees: breath, literature, doors: the
furniture of life. Your calloused hands
always smelt and felt like bark,
your hair too – that space between your neck and
hairline, it was like that forest in Centre Parcs
where we went together, and then I alone, ‘escaping’,
(my chest tight in the healthy air)
– fresh, smelling faintly of damp sweat from
a freezing wrapped up winter walk.

Your favourite is the Oak. Like you, I thought:
classic, strong, reliable. You, the least complicated of men/
Even trees understand you –
Like the one you climbed in Epping Forest
and shouted from that you were king of the world, while
I refused to join in.
I’ve always liked willows: reflective, flexible, lazy.
Like the one where we had that perfect Indian Summer
picnic and made love next to cows in the stream, there was a
wedding just beyond the hedge.

I retain knowledge against my will, on how to
fell or pollard a tree. I know that they go into shock,
how they heal themselves, how you studied that tree
like an archaeologist, in Grace’s garden in Essex,
twisted like hair, it wormed its way in and
out of the ground, how you found a body
hanged from a tree in Hampstead Heath.

*****

Voters’ comments included:

An extraordinary poem with alarming and poignant imagery.

Painful yet beautiful.

I especially like the way, in this poem, the poet creates very painterly bucolic scenes with an economy of language. I also like the depiction of common everyday activities which are suddenly shot through with darker notes.

Brilliantly combines the allusive with the particular – the poem draws you in as it opens out.

I like trees and this poem takes a surprising way to show us what the title means with respect to a relationships – both literally & figuratively.

 

 

 

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