Two Poems by Simon Williams

Helping My Son on a Saturday

Yesterday
I helped you with the fridge.
Although I’d cleaned it,
it had to go,
so we loaded it in the camper,
drove through town,
proved we lived in Plymouth
(though we don’t)
and left one item
of hazardous waste.

Yesterday
we chose a new toilet seat.
We could have had MDF,
(the cheapest)
one with a seaside scene,
(the most expensive)
but went for one in white ash.
You demonstrated a new design
of nylon bolt to fix it with.
I was impressed.

Yesterday
we tried to kill the smell
of cat piss, even though
you never had a cat.
We cleaned the carpet,
fitted new air fresheners,
wondered if we’d inadvertently
shut in a stray,
would find a desiccated body
if we searched long enough.


Wednesday, Gone Noon

One person, who’d died the night before,
wasn’t the one that night.
Even the ghosts were applying
for Irish citizenship.

Street lights are by no means all sodium,
some are daylight in a box.
A storm, let’s call it Oswald,
is already fiddling with the trees.

A cat sneezes, the devil when
you’re on the hunt. The Prime Minister
has lost her voice again.
The fairy lights have shone since Christmas.

Anthracite still burns in many
cottage grates. A hundred years ago
the village smelt mainly of sulphur.
The railway carriage is now a restaurant.

Cliffs are where two swathes of land
no longer get on. Someone backed
into the rear door of our van.
The front tyre pressures need checking.

 

Simon Williams has eight published collections, his latest being a co-authored pamphlet with Susan Taylor, The Weather House www.indigodreams.co.uk/williams-taylor/4594076848, published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013, founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet and produced the well-received PLAY Anthology. He has created the science poetry show, Cosmic Lattewww.simonwilliams.info

One Poem by Rennie Halstead

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Promise

Never trust a man in a tail coat
with moustaches and a
silver topped cane.

I can give you all your dreams,
make them true. Sign here,
never mind the small print.

I will make you a famous beauty,
a star, renowned in magazines,
on social media, on TV.

Doors will open for you,
riches will pour on your head,
a modern Cleopatra.

I was gullible then,
believed people, thought
they told the truth,

failed to notice the sly deceit,
the politician’s promise
telling half a truth.

I wished for beauty,
porcelain skin, perfect nose, eyes,
lashes to dream of.

I paid the shilling,
was transformed,
a mannequin.

So you see me,
perfect youth captured
twenty years ago

now, chipped, worn,
forgotten, overlooked,
an inconvenient memory.

 

Rennie has been writing since he was eleven. These days he concentrates on poetry and reviews. He lives in Kent.

Two Poems by Mark Totterdell

Snail

The snail lives in a shelter, hard and whorled
and watertight, which, when life gets too wild,
and round the universe it’s hurled and whirled,
gets cracked and broken. Then the snail, unwilled,
instinctively, works with a slow, cold weld
to mend the damage to its one small world.


Peregrine

Just past the spot
where the sea has torn out
a morsel of Cornwall,
so the path’s over the drop,

there’s a still grey shape,
a pinnacle, an outcrop,
until its feathers ruffle,
until the shriek shriek shriek.

If, in a rush of blood,
I aped its headlong stoop
and plummeted, in seconds
I’d be nothing but meat.

 

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).

One Poem by Lily Beaumont

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Petrified Forest

For beauty’s sins—transgressive redness, splitting ripe
upon our lips, the ink-curved lash that dared curl up
towards heaven—we could once hope to be made

monstrous: Scylla, stepping from her poisoned bath
garlanded in fangs; Lamia’s carnivorous search
for the skins, the children she once shed. But it proved

easier, more economical, to congeal rather than transmute—
to entomb the woman’s body within her blush, eternal
expanse of unbroken loveliness, welling crystalline

from the point of a hypodermic needle. Medusa’s trophied
halls no longer colonnades of stony suitors, but abandoned
girls and mannequins, all plastic, all unwanting.

 

Lily Beaumont is a freelance curriculum and study guide developer; she holds an MA in English and Gender Studies from Brandeis University, and currently lives in Central Texas. Her creative work has appeared in publications including Open Minds Quarterly and The Furious Gazelle.

One Poem by Simon Leonard

Bubble Days

to Emer

This is of you as Columbus
on a dune, doubling your guess
about where America lay;
challenging the world to say no.
Having it all:
husband piped and semi detached
in a deckchair, but decidedly domesticated.
Home habits transplanted to the seaside.
Short-sleeved under a cardigan,
sun-hatted against the chance of a tan.
One son with telescopic arms,
clutching at his mother; his brother busy
with a digger
and all that beach to build.

Children were less breakable then;
we bounced around the back seat
of a Renault 5 among holiday necessities:
rugs, books, kettle, plastic sacks
about to spurt out clothes,
as the road grew sparse at the sides,
grass became marram.
A toy blue gate
provided personal access
to the holiday bungalow,
welcoming our senses
with boiled new potatoes
and sea-wet cocker.

Transparent souvenirs trailed home
before the kids outgrew their season;
the skin of simple things wrinkled,
tired and finally popped unnoticed
to reveal a greying stretch of strand
tapering into a rubbery sea.

You agreed it was time to move on.

And this is you in the bubble,
settled on grass, sustained with cords;
crowning joke for a passable Irish summer.
You put wicker chairs inside,
drank Earl Grey after breakfast
and toasted the first Riesling
of the evening with that smile of victory;
challenging the world to do better.
Having it all:
husband driving in recalcitrant pegs,
distracted from devices.
Membrane of success where you could plan
church battles, meals to freeze,
outdoor toys for when grandchildren came;
imagine a son back to acknowledge
that all was worth having, worth keeping,
for the little ones, their future memories:

cutting strawberries                           the cell mutates
adding sugar                                          exploring ambiguities;
a little more                                            poised diaphanous,
don’t tell your mother                          reconciles with air.

 

A poet and intermittent writer of short fiction, Simon spends most of his time teaching English in a Secondary School in Cologne, although he would like to escape back home to Spain. He has had work published in EnvoiOrbis and Ink Sweat & Tears, and been shortlisted in various short fiction competitions.

One Poem by Daphne Milne

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Serene with striped eyebrows

This is how I want
to be remembered
endless eyelashes
smooth white flesh
a Barbara Goalen look
elegant and formal
as a Mondrian painting

In youth I had the look
slim hipped  fine boned
sleek as any supermodel
now the baldness
gives away my secret
This tatty death mask
must be my epitaph

 

Daphne writes poems, short stories, novellas, flash fiction. Work published in print/on line in magazines and anthologies internationally.

Daphne now lives in Fremantle, W. Australia. She reads regularly at Perth Poetry Club. She has recorded two podcasts for ILAA on Kalamunda radio.

Her pamphlet The Blue Boob Club is published by Indigo Dreams Press: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/daphne-milne/4594486684

Two Poems by Susan Surette

Outreach

He presents a silent vigil
isolated like a leper
in a dimly-lit alley
off a mean city street
he sits
back pressing against
cold graffiti-laced cement
wearing soiled ragged jeans
his brows are thick like his
work roughened hands
a stranger to soap
hair without direction
a grimy overcoat
heavily lined with despair


Insomnia

Dust settles anonymously
upon quiet surfaces
where noise is
unwelcome house

Floors creak
clocks tick
windows subtly rattle
corners settle
wind vibrates
everything

Sitting motionless
determined ears
detect the subtle hum
from day’s evaporating energy

a deafening to those
who lay awake

 

Susan Surette is an avid traveler, bibliophile, grandmother, hand drummer, yogi and poet with work published in The Avocet, Westward Quarterly, The Voices Project, and The Curlew. She recently founded the Not Yet Dead Poets Society in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

One Poem by Randal A Burd, Jr.

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Physician of the Mind

This mannequin—lifeless, demure—
Will keep close secrets told secure,
Unlike that friend who in the end
Is quick to judge and less mature.

What troubles whispered through the years
Have bounced off these unhearing ears,
Unburdening a client’s soul,
Absolving guilt, allaying fears?

This true physician of the mind,
Compassionate, unduly kind,
Is counselor, confessor, priest,
Conservator, and more—combined!

 

Randal A. Burd, Jr. is a married father of two and an educator who works with the disadvantaged in rural Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri. Randal is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sparks of Calliope magazine. His latest collection of poems, Memoirs of a Witness Tree, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in Summer 2020.

One Poem by John Tustin

Cicadas

Cicadas clack prehistoric wings
Like castanets against the leaves.
They mock my morning of coffee, of abject desire,
Of no Valerie.
They laugh as they are captured by birds midflight,
Stalked by yardcats, shedding their skin
As if the new skin is the promise
Of a slick and shiny new life.
They laugh because they don’t need love,
They don’t sit desirous in endless empty hallways,
They laugh as they are eaten, chittering click-clack,
As I sit at my kitchen table
Alone but for their derisive voice.

 

John Tustin started writing poetry a decade ago after a long hiatus. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

In the back room

She looks just as she looked in 1963 –
              more or less –
and blushes as she blushed the year before.
              Fashion was
as it is: fickle. They chucked her out in 1964.

Her chipped smile adorned her work for charity
              after that;
her lashes still were levelled as they’d been.
              Bearing what
hand-me-downs she had to bravely, she played the mannequin.

“They shut that hard-up shop and, as for me,
              off I went
to a back-room stocked with unsold tableware.
              No, I don’t
miss wigs or coats or evening wear – I miss the view, the air . . .”

The eyes do not adjust, merely degrade. The sea,
              out of sight,
erodes each day, and she, as if entranced,
              listens. It
could all change. It could – again – one day! But she’s not convinced.

 

Michael Caines lives in London, and has had recent poems commended in the Battered Moons and Culpepper’s Remedy competitions.