Zoe Mitchell

 

 

 

Shtriga

The evil eye is when someone you love
looks at you but they aren’t there.
My mother is now a Disney villain;
the sun has become an insult. She should

be fitted with a blood-black velvet cape.
Pale blue eyes in a hard-set face stare out
from a levered hospital bed. If she opened
those pursed lips now, I would reach down

her throat and rip out whatever is gnawing
at her from the inside with teeth
as sharp and rotten as broken promises.
I want to scatter crumbs of pure white salt,

make the sign that will ward off the glutton
that eats her into disorder. A creature has beetled
into her mind, burrowed deep fathoms
into her marrow and flits around twilight recesses

on brittle wings. It got in after a click
of bare wet twigs on a thin glass window,
thorny fingers beckoning toward the night.
I can’t unsee the bone-etched handprint

on my mother’s back, I know can’t recover
every drop drained but I can’t stop trying, either.
I must touch my trembling fingers to my eyelids,
my lips, the pit of my stomach and both

chambers of my heart in the right order,
throw some of that salt in a fire and smoke
the evil out. I will leave vases of flowers
that look like purple clover and hope

it won’t notice their blooms hold garlic seeds.
I will steal the greyscale kaleidoscope
she uses to see, give up every silver coin
I have to fashion an amulet of doctors and nurses.

I will whisper prayers to protect us both.
Now I have learned about creatures that lurk
in the dark, I can’t ever unknow them,
their leaden shapes. Wizened fingers grip my throat:

I know before I kill this wraith, before I see
my Mum again, I must look them both in the eye.

 

 

Zoe Mitchell is a widely-published poet whose work has been featured in a number of magazines including The Rialto, The London Magazine and The Moth. She graduated from the University of Chichester with an MA in Creative Writing and was awarded a Distinction and the Kate Betts Memorial Prize. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, examining witches in women’s poetry. In 2018, she was joint winner of the Indigo-First Collection Competition and her first collection, Hag, was published with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019.

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Kevin Higgins

 

 

 

The Art of Collaboration

Whatever job he’s given,
the collaborator is a perfect fit.
A man of no fixed particulars.
His views are plastic
and always on the verge
of being melted down
and made otherwise.
His life is a full orchestra
of raised eyebrows
and suppressed twitches.
The collaborator laughs at your jokes
and makes it look like he means it.

Whatever it is,
the collaborator makes it his business.
He writes everything down,
especially your name.
The collaborator is awake tonight
and looking up the number
of the relevant government agency
so he can phone them tomorrow to tell them
what he’s heard you’ve been doing.
The collaborator doesn’t mind being put on hold.

The collaborator knows
the name of the woman, man, emu
you were with in that hotel room
you shouldn’t have been in.

The collaborator points the nice policeman
in the direction of those
the newspapers say are bad men (and women).
For the collaborator doesn’t discriminate,
except in favour of himself.

 

 
Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland. He has published five full collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital (2019). His poems also feature in Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe May 2014).  His poems have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times (London), & The Daily Mirror. The Stinging Fly magazine has described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”. His work has been broadcast on RTE Radio, Lyric FM, and BBC Radio 4.

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Charlie Hill

 

 

 

At the Birmingham markets

When I was young, before
the sky was torn, I strutted
in-and-out of poisoned jobs
and bare-walled rooms, poor
yet indestructible, naive and full
of quirk and piss, not belonging
but belonging, knowing more
than anyone could know.
Back then I loved, part-owned
the vital edges of my world where
this bold front came most alive – the suspect streets
and pubs and clubs and darkened parks
and yes, the markets too.
Oh the markets! And how down there
unruly grapes jostled maverick yams, dissenting pears
and proud bananas, Mick the Meat, cheap eggs,
defiant blocks of out-there cheese;
and how people fraying before their time
from lives hard-strutted sat – underdogs
outside the empty Church of Pigeons –
smoking fags and supping polystyrened tea,
and talked in common gestures
of various degrees of pain, their very breath affirming
the ties between the never-hads –
in Birmingham we thank the driver
as we get off the bus!

Now some years on –
although I’m sure it isn’t only that –
the sky is fractured, my piss is dissipating,
and avoiding restless liminal places,
the venues where the others play,
I have also come to reconsider
my attachment to the markets.
Down there, it seems at least, the air
has soured like Mick’s old mince:
the battered toms, bruised plums,
the gourds that want for water,
the bested shot potatoes,
yellow dairy and cheap peas
mock every inch of front
I once enjoyed and worse:
the ragged left-behind who sit
and lie and wheeze in fumes
and bags outside the useless church
are indistractable, resigned,
draw no longer succour,
fillips from their unconnection,
display no common human cause
that may redeem our beating down.

 

 

Charlie Hill is a critically-acclaimed novelist and short story writer from Birmingham, whose poetry is improving. A memoir – I don’t want to go to the Taj Mahal – is due out from Repeater Books in September.

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Andrew Shields

 

 

 

Thief

You took my index finger
and showed me where to go.
My thumb you painted green.
What do you want to grow?

My elbow helps you move
across a crowded room.
But why’d you take my mouth?
What will you say, to whom?

You swept my feet away
and left them in the cold.
You told me, “Break a leg!”
And I did as I was told.

You even took my rib
to help you make a start.
But worst of all, you took
my heart, my heart, my heart.

 

 

Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong was published by Eyewear in June 2015. His band Human Shields released the album Somebody’s Hometown in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016.

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Sue Hubbard

 

 

 

You

There you are again at the far end of the empty beach,
scrambling over rocks beneath the abandoned nunnery

painted ice-cream green. Fleet as a greyhound,
tiny as a mote floating in the outer corner of my eye,

matted hair a billowing ghost of rain as the day
folds back into its rookery of clouds.

I’ve caught a glimpse of you before:
a shadow on the wall of empty streets

where silence sounds like noise. Barely noticed,
you stand among stagnant puddles

by the graffiti-etched door in a patina of winter light.
You bear a name you never ask for,

trace the history of longing in your veins,
your lost passions in the March wind.

At night you are both salt and ash.
A low scream in the mirror of the moon.

 

 

Sue Hubbard is an award-winning poet, novelist and art critic. She has published 3 collections of poetry, two novels and a book of short stories. As the Poetry Society’s Public Art Poet she was responsible for London’s largest public art poem at Waterloo.  Sue Hubbard’s latest novel, Rainsongs, was published in January 2018 by Duckworth.  This poem is taken from her new collection, Swimming to Albania due from Salmon Press this spring.  Website: www.suehubbard.com

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Natalie Rees

 

 

 

How to let it go

Pick it up.
Feel the weight
of it in your hands.
Pinch, roll,
squeeze,
flatten, slap
it like fresh clay.

Own the reactions
of your body.
Pinpoint the lump
in your throat,
the knot
in the lowest part
of your abdomen.

Coax the howl
up from your soul
like a wet dog. Sit
with it a while,
your legs dangling
over the edge
of the heart’s bed.

Welcome the ache,
the hollow,
the numb
like distant relatives.
Let them shoehorn
their leaking boots
into your ribcage.

Open the gift
you can already make out
through the thin tissue.
Allow them to fill
your floating body
with the thing they think
was taken from you.

 

 

Natalie Rees lives in West Yorkshire where she works as a Play & Creative Arts Therapist. She has been a prize winner in the Flambard (2017) and Penfro (2018) poetry competitions and has had poems published with The Interpreter’s House and Prole. 

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European Orders

The Red and Yellow Nothing: Delivery to Europe




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