Three Poems by Roddy Williams

Phone Call from Wales

She asks if I have news
and I say ‘No’

then in that pause I hear the thready keening wind
of distance
that I stole from Harold Pinter

I hear the out-of-focus voices
from TV
and I wonder if she knits them into
sense when they string through

Then she asks if I’ve had dinner so
I say I’m making curry
and I hear that sound of ages

she is sucking back a sigh

both to hide her disapproval and
to show me where it’s hidden
in the ‘Well, I’ll let you go then’
that she’s worn to threadbare whispers

I have offered her a new one
but she says that this one fits her
and she’s comfortable
with what she’s used to

the wearing down and hanging up
until the next time


prayer

i know the noises
of my night-time prayer

the tv clicks the congregation’s muffled chatter
to attentive quiet

the bathroom door creaks open
like a rusty bible

closes

a moment of silence

the bathroom door gives the response

a trinity of light switches
kitchen
hall and holy stairs
and then he amens
up to bed
like a suitable answer


singer

your face is the thread
that stitches days together
tight as the old pedal singer
used to
rattling as my hands pushed our
time
under its precise needle

it sits in my mother’s
back bedroom now
silent as an ended seam
sometimes i sit and stare and wonder

the unravelling
the reel spinning naked
mad
when the cotton
snakes down to a ragged finish

 

Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams now lives in London. His poetry has appeared in The North, The Frogmore Papers, Magma, The Rialto, Envoi and other magazines. He’s had two plays performed in London, is currently working on his first novel and is a keen surrealist photographer, print maker and painter.

Three Poems by Stephen Mead

Wearing Red

The various shades:
a neck of bright cherry,
scarlet for the heart,
cedar feet, burgundy legs . . .

No one is bleeding, nor
is it sweet rose, nor is it valentine.
Yes, the cheeks could be Snow
White’s apple. Yes, fire, yes,
war paint . . .

Yet all clots break & flow
without being a wound.
Yet all is safe & sane as the flame
that is just a match used briefly . . .

Heat: but the warmth is no inferno.
Shine: but not of gasoline.
Friend, see crystal.
Here is the clear flesh.
Not a puzzle to figure.
Here is touch feeling touch &
the blood of love thick as any groin.

Still: more expressive.
Still: not mere loins,
& if you cut your thumb
& if I cut mine

brothers could not be more open.


Love Handles

More the entire mug really –
warm, brimming, firm,
the way certain pillows are
just right for a hand or nose
nuzzling close so lips
learn to circle, live
fixed on that language
of a body that is not
anybody’s but the one
who’s earned giving,
whose generosity returns
full from the urn of comfort
where we nourish
each other’s cornucopia
as it runs over & over –
yes


Our Fourths

Sparkle more with the clarity of aging
from child sighs re-stuck in the “ahs”
that come with each flash of color
cracking clear sky . . .

Two tourist planes circle round that,
the smoky pompoms of Oz in their flares . . .
The tourists raise glasses, toast the pyrotechnics
as if at a launch, while below, in the harbor’s
ink, boats, mirroring the stars, honk their horns
beyond fog . . .

They seem good as toys in the bath
of a stirring whirlpool, while here, on our second
floor, gazing across tree tops & strays in Navy
White late to the display, here to the sound of
‘Pops’, our own tube’s soundtrack, we discover
that our personal fourths are no longer about war.

We discover each other too
again in July’s mildness, our jockey stripes,
a faded flag, our tank tops puckered
for the tanned wrinkled tattoos of old glory;
our arms press the sparks of
here in a shared bed
which is fourth enough
the rest of the year.

 

Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance.

Two Poems by Stuart Laycock

Intimacy

There is
a weird intimacy
to witnessing
face on face
a bit of town
a building
a row of shops
a police station
before
and after
the full fist of war
smashes it
beyond all
smiling recognition.
Like an ex-lover
where romance
is dead and decayed
and all that lives on
is the ghost of passion.


Dead Box

Do you hear that sound?
It’s the past calling,
lost then, now so found
with the night falling.

The line’s long been dead
but it doesn’t matter.
Stale air fills your head
with the ghosts of chatter.

They’re all still in there
crying, laughing, flirting,
a flick of the hair,
smiling, shouting, hurting.

 

Stuart Laycock studied Classics at Cambridge and was a writer in advertising. He did volunteer aid work in Bosnia during the war and is now a historian. His collection, Zone – Poems of the Bosnian War, was published by Mica Press in 2015.

Three Poems by Dennis DuBois

Dream Dance I

  Already in her flannel pajamas,
she lounges on her comfort couch,
                          wasting a night,
                                           alone.             
Her place in the romantic novel
                         lost so many times
  she can no longer track the plot.
The radio blares background noise
         to soften the discomforting
                      emptiness
     until a waltz filters through
     the speakers, fills her ears,
                 hooks her,
                               pulling her
     attention away from the book
                   to the music.
Um-pa-pa, um-pa-pa, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh
     the choral singers harmonize.
                   She rises
    to her feet, closing her eyes
                   to find the rhythm —
    1-2-3, 1-2-3, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh
                  she hums
as she moves freely around the room,
                  raising her arms
    to encircle and hold the hand
             of her imaginary
                                     partner.


Dream Dance II

Oh, fortuitous discovery!
         What a joy! -- to be
lifted up out of the doldrums
         in this way!
She beams at her image
         in the mirror
as she brushes her hair,
         polishes her teeth.
The radio closed in preparation
         for bed,
but somehow the music plays on
         in her head.
Pulling the covers over her, she lies,
         blissfully ensconced,
her arms wrapped around her torso.
         Soundlessly she hums
         the tune.
The dance lingers until she falls
         into a gap
         between
this world and the next,
         a fantasy web
         of her own making.
         So alive!
Her body moving in her sleep,
         her eyes to and fro
         in their sockets,
a smile spreading gently
         across her face.


In the Aftermath

I look away to curse into the wind 
      for my perceived mistreatment.
The insults made worse for their indirectness, 
      vague enough to allow deniability.  

Propriety banned discussion. All were voiceless. 
      Insults souring like a battered green grape, 
clearly someone had said something, aided 
      and abetted by the muted hush of the whole.

History hints sharply, at first jab no pain is felt, 
      but on the out-thrust the jagged edge lags, 
curdling the innards. Still we acclimate 
      to the challenge, rationalizing the injury. 

Harmless play, perhaps a ploy for attention. 
      It drew no blood, bore no scab, 
left no scar, would heal to invisibility. 
      In time would be wholly forgotten. 

In the aftermath of blunder and bust, 
      curled in the nook of one’s own lair, 
in the quell of quietude a certitude arises; 
      banishment can be worn as a badge of honor.

Spring green erases winter white, points to 
      an opening, to the rays of light that pierce
the cloud cover. The flicker of orange-tipped flames 
      warm the inner hearth, coaxing the heart 
          to find the rhythm again. 

Continue reading “Three Poems by Dennis DuBois”

Three Poems by Ion Corcos

When You Laugh

When you say peacock, I hear the rattle
of a snake as it slithers, the thud of a falling orange
as it hits the ground, a magpie sing.

In the river, far away, swim crocodiles.
How did we get here, you with your aches,

our room by the fishing boats, the smell of fish unloaded
at four in the morning? When you say you are happy,

do you mean that no more orangutans are being killed,
that you have found your mother in your dreams again?

When you say durian, do you mean the tree?

I hear the butcherbird in your thoughts, when you laugh,
and now you laugh even more.

We are starting to understand one another again;
to see that things are not always what they seem.


Your Heart

If I open your heart, I will see tall reeds
growing in a swamp, stray dogs barking at a cat,
a drain pipe blocked with leaves.
If I open your heart, I can’t come close,
your blood spurting out of holes, a bird locked
in a cage, dark corners where your dreams
have been thrust. Lying on your back,
I see you on your bed,
dying, having died over and over,
having lost everything, and yet, not
seeing what is nearest to you;
that your eyes can refill the spirit you lost
when you left the woods, that your spirit is close
and can hear you cry; and that
how you got here was through your self.


Like Sweet Figs

She sees a bumble bee
for the first time
as it drones in the sweetness of a yellow flower,
black ants caught in a tussle
till one is decapitated,
a snake in tall grass,
its head raised, still as a century
past. Love pulls at her shoulder,
an island life imagined,
drunk on a fig tree, scattered lemons,
and the sea.
A fishing boat at night.
The snake retreats, slips through leaves
into an unkempt garden, silver reeds,
a lettuce heart. Inside,
an icon of Saint George, gallant
on his horse, a monastery on a crag,
a quiet peacock; to know
that there is more, there is more,
a crimson pearl in the sky,
her soul inside her eyes;
to know that
even though the earth is dry,
it will rain, that
even though the yellow flowers have gone,
they will come back.

 

Ion Corcos has been published in Panoply, Amaryllis, Clear Poetry, The Cardiff Review, The High Window and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is www.ioncorcos.wordpress.com

Two Poems by Jan Harris

Another Laundry Day for Betty

Every Monday, without fail,
Betty would peg her washing on the line.
Sometimes it froze like startled ghosts
trapped between two worlds.

Now, girls with smoky eyes
say “Take it easy,
you’ve done your bit Elizabeth,”
as they smooth the creases
her fretful fingers make.

Betty wonders why they call her Elizabeth.
She remembers the tiny woman
who taught her to hang sheets
so they billowed in the wind like sails
and cursed like a trooper
when rain spat on a day’s hard toil.

She keeps an eye on the weather,
a wicker basket by her chair.
It’s a good drying day she whispers
as she waits for the shout
to peg out the smalls.


Two

He’s quiet on her lap,
kneading himself into the shape of her,
little dough feet
dandled in a bowl set on the floor,
warm water milky with lather.

She soaps each toe separately,
works suds into the spaces with her thumb
where grains of dirt gathered
from running barefoot with a kite
across the cricket field.

She’d let him hold the spool,
hand cupped over his for fear he’d let go.
So much to learn,
how to control the kite’s persistent tug,
the play in the line before it falls.
A sudden squall at two brought tears.

They’ve left the wind’s demands outside;
the windowpane amplifies the rain’s percussion,
otherwise the room is hushed,
their own shared space.

He’s sleepy now,
heavy on her knee.
She smells the outdoors on his skin,
the meadow of his hair,
wraps her arms around him like the cord
that held them close.

 

Jan Harris lives in Nottinghamshire and writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories.  Her work has appeared in places such as Ink Sweat & Tears, Mslexia, Envoi and Acumen. She was awarded a place on Writing East Midlands’ 2018 mentorship programme and is currently working towards a first collection.