Sarah Wimbush

 

 

 

Vixen

I wait outside my daughter’s boyfriend’s house.
Ignition off. Radio low.
I rarely feel my hackles rise
at my desk, or in Tescos, but here,

a flicker creeps into my peripheral vision –
fire on black – a comet’s trail, then
a head that oscillates; her upturned snout.
I switch the radio off. Watch from above.

She paws the tarmac, bows to me – but no,
slides her jaws around a roadkill squirrel
indistinguishable except for its compressed plume tail.
Slinks off to where the foxes go.

 

 

 

Sarah Wimbush comes from Doncaster and now lives in Leeds. She won the Red Shed and Mslexia Poetry Competitions 2016.

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Alison Graham reviews ‘While I Yet Live’ by Gboyega Odubanjo

 

 

 

 

While I Yet Live begins sudden and bold; the speaker of ‘Obit.’ Announcing

i will die in London in the neighbourhood
i grew up in…

When the poet writes:

…sweat
-ed tongues and pidgin song to cease

Stumbling is put upon the reader’s tongue by the cut of the line. There is an exactness in the handling of the clipped, high ‘i’s of pidgin and spreading low of ‘tongues’ and ‘song’. I think this balancing act, of speakers always just on the brink of becoming, is in part why the pamphlet is exhilarating. In ‘John 19:28’, restraint and expanse work in tandem to create an ecstatic feeling. The reader anticipates entire sentences and space on the page denies these, in

of me       please       everything    on me

Only by letting go of expectation and leaning in on loosening syntax can you proceed through the poem. There is a movement forward by relinquishing. I the reader pass through lighter, more motile. With regards to the how the speakers of these poems move, I like how attuned Odubango is to his speakers invoking themselves, often with Biblical urgency. The poet outlines his subjects by writing of these subjects outlining themselves. In

you tar
me so

“you” comes before “me”; the ‘I’ is dependent on you to begin. These lines are dense with vowels, but none of the same; it is a moment of  differences held together. The gathering of varying things is shown again in ‘We’; the self-negating of

talking nothing
but nothing but

brought together under “my own name”. There is no shying from contradictions, or falter. It is said because the speaker wants to say. Odubanjo is closely attuned to spoken speech outside poetry; to everyday conversation, and how to bring it through into poetry, inflecting it newly. In ‘Ineffable Name’, the poet makes “cos” the line’s point of orbit, patterning sound around it, just as it turns the line casually.

you don’t know no more cos he had your name

The sequence itself is one of differences held together. I am struck by the range of forms. There is the found poetry of ‘I’. Here, Enoch Powell’s speech is appropriated. It is broken open, into a river that breaks “intractable” from its course. There is the blank verse of ‘Watershed’, the poem writing its own rules just as the “we” within explores and finds

…cds our parents kept
in cabinets

The poem is studded with detail; the nostalgic texture of “soft carpet on toes”, the precise cultural marker of “when michael sang ma makoosa”. Blank verse is rendered more sparsely in ‘Songs in the Key of Terror’. Repetition beats dynamically amongst this pared-back language, as in

so petite mort
so rumpunchblooded
so in the flesh

In these poems, the speakers seem to exist, suspended, just before they come into singing, and when Odubanjo begins singing through them, these ‘I’s start to gather themselves into bodies ardent to be alive.

 

 

 

 

Order your copy of  Gboyega Odubanjo’s While I Yet Live (Bad Betty Press)  here: https://badbettypress.com/product/while-i-yet-live-gboyega-odubanjo/

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Natalie Shaw

 

 

 

Night punting to standstill

We could see nothing
Except the fizz
Of our cigarettes

We did not know
Where the edge of the water
Met the boat, or bank

Our eyes were shut
Or not, we couldn’t
Tell, and anyway

We didn’t care
We had no coins
We were going

Nowhere; we trailed
Our fingers through
The plashy Cam

We pushed ourselves
Through the night
And it was heaven

 

 

Natalie Shaw lives and works in London. She has a kind husband and children of varying sizes. Her poetry has been published widely in journals and anthologies and she is currently editing a book of poems inspired by artist Natalie Sirett’s Medusa & Her Sisters series of drawings.

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Nick Carding

 

 

 

In this room

You walk in here
(if you can walk)
and see the faces turning
eyes sliding over yours
slipping away
assessments made
a future told
in indifferent glances.

You walk in here
and lose your place.

Time scurries under beds
hides in corners
seeking sanctuary
wherever darkness is
minutes are hours
days an aeon
or a moment
gone before you notice.

Here only the routine
remains inviolate.

Space expands
contracts at will
at night as infinite
as all those hours
squeezed by day
to claustrophobia
the press of bodies
stretching only tolerance.

Here we live
and partly live.

On this small stage
we pirouette
our puppet choreography
of pain and boredom
the music made
by medicine men
a hope for wholeness
pulling strings.

In this room

it’s kill or cure.

 

 

Nick Carding is an Englishman now living in Croatia. Most recently his work has appeared in Orbis, Allegro and Ink Sweat & Tears, as well as in various publications in the USA.

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Kenneth Pobo

 

 

 

Sixth Grade

My first man teacher,
first research paper.  I used
an encyclopedia.  “Spain.”
He blamed me for the 500%
increase in juvenile crime—

I said I’d rather study
American history than Roman.
He yelled because we couldn’t name
the Emperor when Jesus was born.
When he got in trouble,

he took me out in the hall,
put his arm around me,
and asked me to ask my parents
to defend him at the meeting.
The gym seemed huge.  We often

played a game where we threw balls
at each other.  Junior high
in September–my teacher,
while out of my life, festered.
A year like an open sore.

 

 

Kenneth Pobo has a new book (prose poems) out from Clare Songbirds Publishing House called The Antlantis Hit Parade.  Forthcoming from Duck Lakes Books is a new collection called Dindi Expecting Snow. His Twitter is: @KenPobo.

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Luke Kuzmish

 

 

 

fourth step
“made a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves”

my first
fourth step
on the porch
of the halfway house
out in the country
40 men
for four months
smoking
maybe
a million
cigarettes

I sat with Doug
notebook in hand
he would ask
“what was the fear?”
after
every inventory item
every winding anecdote
every unrequited love

there was so much
pretense
about penning this inventory
crossing this bridge
into a shared legacy
communion
with failures
and successes
and God;
a chance
for
true intimacy

there was no
privacy
and I was shocked
that what
made me cry
was recognizing
I was still
mad
about my childhood
the clothes
mom
dressed me in
the way
dad was never
happy

despite
all the hurt
I caused them
with my deceit
with my deadbeat living
with my death wishes

I never
felt vindicated
by unconsciously
seeking revenge

I knew then
the hot coal
I was holding
would only ever
burn me
 

 

Luke Kuzmish is a new father, recovering addict, software developer, and writer born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania.  His latest collection, “Little Hollywood,” was published in 2018 and is available on Amazon.

 

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Neil Flatman

 

 

 

Ear Worm

(2018 ABC)

What keeps me awake at night: tumble-drying
in the warm utility of the mind, rotating
with the work shirts and her unforgiving thongs
is not the crises of the world: fat thumb
of the despot’s hand above the small red button
or the plastic patch in the pacific larger and less
fragrant than the whole of France. Nor
is it the little irritations: the parking space
stolen after the octogenarian finally found reverse
in the winter dark, a couple, stationary, their roll-on’s
a barricade across the airport travellator,
but something you might understand, so can we
make a pact like lovers standing hand in hand
before the jump, or secret agents swapping spies
on a foggy bridge? Swear you won’t reveal my fear
of hearing Billy Collins read. That unique voice
and the ironic pause, dry humour and mesmeric close,
so easy to fall into as I lie here in the small hours:
jade glow of the alarm clock beaming gently through
the dark, the sound of a trash man singing softly
in Armenian as he passes the house.

 

 

Neil Flatman is an alum of The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Tin House summer workshop. He’s been published in print and online at, among others, Ithaca Lit, Panoply and The Paragon Press. He lives and works in Singapore.

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