Rebecca Gethin

 

 

 

Rocks without names

I watch the silence out there
through the hurly gush of Atlantic
and tide swashing at everything I mean,
if I could find words.

I keep hearing it say nothing
to me.  The moon shining
on white flecks of rock in the cliff face
does it all.

I’m looking at the rest of my life
from this shore. If only
I could swim out to it
but the waves are too high, too cold.

The language is in code
and I could do with some language
for the other side of now, but these
are the ones that carry everything – wind, sea.

 

 

Rebecca Gethin has written five poetry publications and has been a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Messages was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition.  Vanishings (which is about endangered speciesfrom Palewell Press and a second chapbook from Marble are forthcoming in 2020.

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Ben Banyard

 

 

 

Neutropenic


I enter through the airlock, wearing a blue paper gown, hands still damp. There’s a low window which gapes incredulously at concrete slabs with weeds oozing between them, a bare tree, an after-thought of grass. Beside the window, an armchair designed with discomfort in mind. An NHS poster depicts a smiling nurse, one of whose teeth has been Biro-blacked (I suspect by you). The bed might be the hardest thing to see in your room; it screams of institutions, with its beige metallic frame, the fact that it bends and pivots in all kinds of unexpected ways and seems to have a dozen little leads attached to it. You aren’t allowed flowers, in case the water in the vase stagnates and makes you unwell. This is a little bedsit for your illness, where you will be cooped up for another couple of weeks. At least you can have Fisherman’s Friends; I accept one, even though I hate them. I’m trying so hard to be a good guest.

 

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, where he writes poetry and short fiction. He’s the author of a pamphlet, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and a full collection, We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018). His next collection, Hi-Viz, will be published in 2020. He blogs and posts mixtapes at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com

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John Vickers

 

*

 

The syringe should never vacate
The arm it pierces
Growing into white blossom, tied around
A finger, it displays its own idleness
A presentiment
Pulling up a fruity plasma
Of the unhomely

 

 

John Vickers has published over 60 poems in European Journals. He has a Ph.D in Pure Mathematics and an MA in Creative Writing.

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Clare Marsh

 

 

 

Bed Blocker ~ 8/7

An early morning call summons me north
to your death-bed. Delayed by London’s chaos
after yesterday’s bombs I arrive too late.

Mary has kept vigil through the night,
soothed and reassured you, arranged for Mum,
also in-patient, to visit you one last time.

Curtains closed around your cubicle
on a busy general ward, your neighbours
are waking, nurses impatient to hurry you

to the next stage of the terminal process.
You’re letting the side down, as you used to say,
being a dead weight among the optimistic sick.

I know this person must be you
but their face has caved-in, mouth open,
beak-like, after exhaling its last breath.

I reach for your hand – still warm and supple.
Death hasn’t crept this far.
Do I imagine a reciprocal squeeze?

You’re wheeled away briskly for last offices,
and to free-up bed space, so we visit Mum,
whose mental fog obliterates her loss.

Leaving her, we pass someone
who looks more like you, than you just did,
who sits up and smiles at us.

This iteration of you, raises a waving hand
in recognition and greeting. Or farewell?
We don’t make eye contact in case you vanish.

 

 

Clare Marsh, an international adoption social worker, lives in Kent. She has M.A. Creative Writing from University of Kent and specialises in poetry and fiction, often exploring dark themes. https://www.facebook.com/claremarshwriter1

 

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Robert Boucheron

 

 

 

John

At the Food Lion south of town, at the express checkout, the clerk’s name pin reads “John.” In his thirties, thin, in black pants and a blue polo shirt, the store uniform, John has a shaved head and a scar that runs from his left ear up over the crown. The scar is deep, like a furrow. It makes me wonder what happened. A horrific road accident? Open-skull surgery?

I remove my items from the plastic handbasket and place them on the black conveyer belt. I add my canvas shopping bag from the Skaggs Alpha Beta grocery store that no longer exists. The printed logo has faded, and the canvas has frayed, but the green nylon handle straps have held up. Once a year, I throw the bag in the washer. If it rips, I don’t know what I will do.

Instead of scanning my items, John looks at them and shakes his head sadly.

“Chef Boyardee, a bottle of cheap white wine, and a Little Debbie cake?”

“It’s a balanced diet.”

“No, man”

“I’m not using food stamps to pay.”

“This time.”

“I can make my own choices.”

“Your order includes alcohol. I have to get approval from the manager.”

“I’m old enough. See this gray hair?”

The roving manager leans in, swipes her card on the scanner, and moves on. She doesn’t say anything or acknowledge me, though I am a regular customer. John stands there.

“Now what?” I ask.

“We need to pass this by the resident nutritionist.”

“Since when does Food Lion have a resident nutritionist?”

John has a wicked smile. His teeth are white and even. Maybe he is younger than I thought.

“I’m just messing with you, man.” John scans the can, the bottle, and the lump of cellophane. He scrunches my canvas bag like a sock before you put it on. He inserts the items and pulls up the straps.

“Presto!” he says.

John scans my MVP Customer card and totals the purchase. I give him a twenty-dollar bill.

“Is this the smallest in your wallet?”

“Enough prevarication! This is the express lane, not the exact change lane.”

“Every little bit helps.”

“You criticize my diet, you doubt my age, and you spurn my money. See if I ever invite you for lunch!”

“If this is what you eat, man, I’m not coming to your house.” He gives me the change.

“So, John, what’s with the scar?” I hoist my bag.

“You had to ask, didn’t you?” he sighs. “I had a brain transplant. Eleven years, and I’m still getting used to it.”

 

 

Robert Boucheron is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia. His stories and essays appear in Bellingham Review, Fiction International, Saturday Evening Post, and online magazines.

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Sue Spiers

 

 

 

When I become a Rhino

I’ll fill out twenty-fold, grow solid as an anvil.
The horizon of me will cross the far savannah,
My mouth will grow wyd, keratin thicken upward.
I’ll develop rough-bark, tarmac dermal armour
to deflect the sharpest barbs, keep out harm.
Askari wa kifaru will wheedle grubs’ soft bodies
from my mud-cracked skin, some the hurl of shit,
they’ll shriek the stalk of lion, the poachers’ click.

My lips will grow long and soft, pluck the grass,
ruminate on its sweetness, taste the succulence,
roll it between molars. My tongue will be slick
with its juice and molten with the sun’s beat.
I’ll stomp along the groove of my own walking,
drum rocks to dust with relentless three-toed feet.

 

 

Sue Spiers has been published in print journals (Dream Catcher, Orbis, South and Stand most recently) and on-line (Atrium, The High Window and Ink, Sweat & Tears – free read) 3rd place in Battered Moons 2019. Sue tweets @spiropoetry.

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