One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Tension

Do we need that extra turn?
The fine tune?
The last twist of the nerves’ strings?

Back here, the tension has its own smell,
A fierce scent,
A razor-strop to make the nerves spin.

So do we need to twist the tuning peg?
Sinews jangle.
Waiting for the cue. The pointe in time.

We live these low-lit, twi-lit, lime-lit worlds,
These gleaming globes
Complete within their fourth wall.

Our gleaming worlds are our shell, our armour
And our carapace,
Our babies and our mothers’ arms.

We let the big world in, from time to time;
Open our doors,
Let them sit in rows outside the open wall.

They should know their place: outside our worlds.
We need no grit
In our oyster to make pearls.

 

Edward is a lecturer and writer, mostly on business and politics. He often posts twittaku (double haiku in 140 characters) on Twitter, plus the occasional political limerick.

Two Poems by Jack Powers

A Little Red

Aunt Pauline started painting in her sixties
little watercolors of beach scenes and roses
matted and framed on her kitchen walls.
Her football-coach husband seemed mystified
at her sudden secret life. Each Tuesday
she packed her paints and set off for class
with 80-something, Mitch Kells, the watercolor king
of Englewood, New Jersey. Put a little red,
he’d say, in each painting, and she’d comply.
Each week a new picture was framed and hung
soon covering the dining room, the living room,
even the basement man cave – a little red in each.

At Mitch’s funeral, she put a red ribbon in his casket.
She’s an artist, her husband said. I never knew.


Rejoice in the Cat

Writing about cats will cast me as crazy.
Smart’s paean to God and Jeoffry was a prayer
penned in an asylum cell. All the women
I know say they fear becoming cat ladies. And
Broadway aside (or is it proof?) Eliot’s cat
fetish is a cat box mystery to me. Still,

consider my cat George, every-day named,
servant to no one, sixteen, who shares my birthday,
thinning ragamuffin, begging to be lifted to his bowl.
Now sitting before me on the table licking white paws
then waiting for my scratch under his jaw, his chin,
settling into a soft purr, haunched, fur a little ragged.

He steps back, kneads, licks a paw absently.
I smile, reminded, it’s not just about me.

 

Jack Powers is the author of Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, The Cortland Review, Poet Lore and elsewhere. He recently retired after teaching special education for 38 years. Visit his website: http://www.jackpowers13.com/poetry/.

One Poem by Martha Landman

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Projections of a Suspicious Mind

after Behind the Scenes, Pierre Dubreuil, 1902

In a half-lit backroom
away from the exit
a man in black Callahan coat
with his back to the door
                hatted head slightly bowed
                hand in pocket
                urinal stance
chats up the ballerina
who makes ready for the stage
or has just performed
and needed to clear her head

on her own
unable to read his face
she’ll have to think straight
talk her way out
he might be the cellist
or the conductor
telling her this was his last show
he might be innocent
someone’s father or husband
her face appears relaxed enough
                but this doesn’t look good

 

Martha Landman writes in South Australia and is a member of the Friendly Street Poets. Her chapbook, Between Us, was published by Ginninderra Press. She has previously contributed to Nine Muses Poetry.

One Poem by Mary Kipps

You, in Photographs

Just as you used to encourage,
I have taken up photography.
These walls are now covered
with my efforts.
And you are there, in every one,
like in a stereogram,
only not so obvious.
Can you find yourself?
No?
There.
Do you see that blue starfish
beside my naked toes?
And the overhang of snowpack
on that mountain crown?
There are your eyes,
shadowed in the knothole
high up in that sycamore tree.
And this close-up
of the Happy Alien orchid?
You always could make me smile.
And here you are
as you were in the end,
the fleeting remnant
of a stellar explosion
I waited an eternity to catch –
a dwarf gone Nova
in the blink of an eye,
such that I almost, very nearly,
didn’t see you.

 

MARY KIPPS enjoys composing in traditional forms as well as in free verse. A former Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies across the US and abroad since 2005. She is also the author of three Kindle short-read eBooks of paranormal satire.

One Poem by Felix Purat

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Serenade

As the Standing Hampton man
Seeks out the next tune in his life
Long after the consumers abandoned
Rock and roll (Sammy Hagar in the process)
The new Bob Dylan album streams
To an audience of one within
The bedroom of helplessness

An invisible bass or cello player
Serenades the Standing Hampton man
The ballerina twists her shoelace
With palpable interest
The stage is set, the grapevines spread
Only they know the source of the light
Only they know what lies within

 

Felix hails from Berkeley, CA but lives in the Czech Republic and travels frequently. In addition to four micro-chapbooks (all published by the Origami Poems Project), Felix has been published in numerous outlets and magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poems have also been translated into Slovak. His webpage is: beyondnorcal.wordpress.com

One Poem by Bill Cotter

The Power Station and the Schoolgirl

Morning wet in cattle hide brown,
The cooling towers blunt the early sun
And roll their dirty, grey fleeces over the town.

Synchronised, but silent, two crows lope clear,
Probe the patchwork sky for blue, clean air,
And, locked in tight, swinging loops, disappear.

A truck, its headlights bleeding,
Yellow into the mist, trundles onto the highway,
A clumsy beetle with its swaying

Load of hay. A plum tree,
Woken too early from its winter sleep
Opens its pink fingers, while, slowly, reluctantly,

A schoolboy opens his bag and his boredom,
Thinking of ways to impress the girls
And diversionary tricks to relieve this tedium.

Seated behind him, his sister wonders why,
So early, this year, a plum tree should be in bloom
And why the family dam should be already dry.

 

Bill Cotter’s poetry has appeared in journals in Australia, New Delhi, India, New Zealand and England. He has had published in Australia a number of poetry collections, a novel and a short play for voices. He has won the Melbourne Shakespeare Society sonnet competition and the International Library of Poetry competition.

One Poem by Nawal Kishor Sharma

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Offstage

if dance is a song
composed by the soul
to be sung by the body
if dance is rapture
animation, rhapsody
if body is a lyre
that sings the heart’s desire
then she is certainly not singing
anything right now
offstage
away from lights, props, applause
where she is bright and breezy
on the tip of her toes
it’s so easy to know
at one glance
the dancer from the dance
the figure in hat
listens in silence
her soundless words
on the drabness of life
and ecstasy of art
which the photograph
reflects
in the chiaroscuro of light and shade

 

Nawal Kishor Sharma teaches English at a university in Gujarat, India. He has published poems in Visual Verse, an online anthology of art and words. His areas of interest include comparative literature, translation and history of art.

Two Poems by Ronnie Smith

Bereft

The vines shorn
of their purpose,
mothers postpartum,
used and abandoned
facing winter untended.

Until Spring’s maquillage
restores their youth,
their season, their ego.
To be pampered,
stars once more.


Self-aware

Short single sheaves
of wild grass cower
and shimmer,
shy in a breezy
early light. But
appearances deceive.

Their fine gauze
is the modesty of
wistful poppies
who wave their
scarlet lashes at
besotted passers by.

 

Ronnie Smith grew up in the west of Scotland where the land taught him to trust his senses and to write. He subsequently travelled widely and now lives in south west France. Ronnie has published short stories and articles on politics and culture in a number of countries and, in the last few years, has ‘discovered’ a love of poetry.

One Poem by Dorothy Burrows

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Shadow Play

We know the score.
He stays in shadow. She’s lit up.
We watch.

She dips forward, lips closed tight;
head at an angle, meeting his stare.
She knows how to fasten slippers
in that way that makes men crave.
With each flex of strong ankles,
each stretch of newly hardened toes
she perfects the art of pulling.

This gentleman will play along.
Mock reluctance has its attraction,
sharpens his skills of seduction
which we suspect are quite basic
but, for this transaction, adequate.
It’s not as if she’s prima ballerina.
He’s about to bag a backrow girl.

She knows her price. Her worth will
drop given time, accidents, disease.
She’s grabbing her chances now.
His moustache is waxed, his shoes
spat on, shined by some posh valet.
In his swanky overcoat, this man
can easily afford inflated rates.

It’s all there: her desperate need;
his lust, loot, power; this dirty dance
enacted as we watch.

 

Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing flash fiction, short plays and poetry. This year, her poetry has appeared on various e-zines including Words for the WildAnother North and Nine Muses Poetry. She walks regularly in the countryside near her home on the edge of the North Wessex Downs.
Twitter @rambling_dot

Two Poems by Jenny Mitchell

Taming a Wild Mother

Not like a horse, rope tied around her
neck, straining at a cloud of flies
aiming for flared nostrils. Lips curled back.
Buck teeth clamped.

Saddle thrown across her back –
weight sent from the sky –
reminds me of a leather belt.
She kicks to throw the burden off.

I pull as rope chafes both my palms.
Knees bent, I’m dragged along the ground
dust wheeling, soles worn thin.
Her head rears back, the rope between us

slack enough for skipping.
She trots towards me, frame still muscular –
I need her strong. Saddle as a misplaced crown.
In victory, I’d love to hear her poems.


Conqueror of Everest

for my grandfather

When he beat his daughters,
gave them what my mother calls
A series of hard licks

did he use a belt?
Lash a hem above a knee?
Cut at childish legs?

Hard for me to ask.
She always turns away.
Did he knock her to the floor,

stand above with pride,
one foot on a narrow hip,
chin held in the air?

Punishment or sport?
Hunter posing with his prey?
Would a photograph be bloody framed?

 

Jenny Mitchell is joint winner of the Geoff Stevens’ Memorial Poetry Prize. Her work has been broadcast on Radio 4 and BBC 2, and published in several magazines.

A debut collection, Her Lost Language (published by Indigo Dreams) was Poetry Kit Book of the Month November 2019.