One Poem by Richard Hawtree

A Pair of Red Shoes

The start of your life was the end of empire
as they lifted you to the pyramid’s top
with your wind-up gramophone and desert smile.

The start of your life was a sandstorm
that buried golden plates and suits of armour
strobing through seamless royal palaces.

The start of your life was a pair of red shoes
worn once at a children’s party
where you danced with young Farouk.

The start of your life was the end of trunks
dizzy with dresses for the summer season
your mother, for some reason, never returned to Harrods.

The start of your life was the end of bell boys and tweenies,
the beginning of bombs and doodlebugs, the flattened silence of Hull,
the sonic boom of your memory singing.

 

Richard Hawtree’s poems have appeared in literary magazines including: The Stinging FlyBansheeThe Honest UlstermanSOUTH, and The Penny Dreadful. His pamphlet The Night I Spoke Irish in Surrey was published earlier this year by Dempsey and Windle.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Ready to Fall

I sense it first,
that old summer breath
musty as compost,
shuffling in on winds
weary of dragging
those bruised leaves
along the mouldy bank
slick with river-spit
and discarded regret

toppling, tumbling
from the fit of spring,
its uniform green
appearing routinely,
buds in place
held tight to chest
preparing for summer
the season of symmetry,
hanging, ready to fall.

 

Kate Young lives in Kent and is passionate about poetry and literature. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in magazines internationally and in Great Britain. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

Two Poems by Gary Beck

Lower Learning

When I was young
I didn’t know enough about government
to have any idea how it worked,
who made it run.
Like many other youths
I accepted at face value
what they taught in school,
which made government seem
a lot better than school
with boring rote learning,
teacher oppression, bullying.
But as I got older
I began to discover
school was the training ground
for all the abusers
that plague our nation
and it may have been constricting,
but it wasn’t chaotic
like the land I love.


Dependency

The need to rely on others
is a serious burden
made heavier by obligations
to those being tended,
especially the mentally ill,
infirm, aged, no hope of cure,
just the daily effort
of service, care, attention,
a continuous demand
finally resolved
by emancipating death.

 

Gary Beck spent his life as a theater director. He has 14 published chapbooks, 21 published poetry collections, 4 accepted for publication. He has 6 novels published and 4 accepted for publication, and 3 short story collections published. Also forthcoming is a book of one-act plays. He lives in NYC.

One Poem by Martha Landman

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

A Woman Muses in an Autumn Field

Summer slips away, barely making sound
as it brushes past golden-glowed stems,
silky as her skin. Dressed in cream and blue
she listens. The landscape, shadows listen,
blue clouds listen, lie shallow in the stream.
She misses the silkworms, beetles, the birds.
Her lover’s gone abroad, her neck’s a swan.
She mourns in advance for this paradise
that will soon be blanketed in winter’s frost.
To the grass and the trees, the hills and sky,
to this phantom Eden without snakes,
the words on her lips whisper a soft song —
a song prepared for her lover’s return,
a song for autumn’s mind-twirling wonder.

 

Martha Landman has been published in various online journals and in printed anthologies. She has previously contributed to Nine Muses Poetry.

One Poem by Matt Duggan

The Modern Pasquinade

Knack to all gamesmanship
is to always let the enemy
feel they are winning.
Become the ashes that keep burning;
circles of imbalance will fade
like bubbles of oxygen under the ocean/sea.
You’ll continue to burn brightly –
above sinking mouths
clawing at opened wounds.
Be the echo of the worm,
let them eat the shadows from letters
placed on the talking statues of Rome;
you’ll continue to burn brightly,
their flames will turn
into bottled shades of blue.
Knack to all gamesmanship
is to always let the enemy
feel they are winning.

 

Poems have appeared in several journals such as Osiris, The Journal, The Potomac Review, The Cannon’s Mouth, Here Comes Everyone. Winner of the erbacce prize (2015) and Into the Void (2016). And one of the winners of the Naji Naaman Literary Prize (2019). New full collection Woodworm (2019) (Hedgehog Poetry Press).

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

A season’s seasons

Autumn, some swear, enjoys its own four seasons.
It has its spring: when the signs of it come in,
beyond the village, the trees arch and glimmer
over the fields, rewarming light fashions.

Evening is then its own phenomenon
down by the neat stream of autumnal summer.
That’s when a soul could notice the slow leaves
gliding over those tall reflections. When

autumn’s autumn arrives at last, it’s calmer
still, as beyond the hills the daylight moves
away; only a hint of loss may linger.
The deep past truly lives; the rest is rumour.

Now winter touches winter. The mind’s hunger
dissolves. As does the joy, the doubt, the anger.

 

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

One Poem by Jan Wiezorek

Sunflowers

Helianthus annuus sprays
like holy oil from a font.

I sit here, my hands filled
with dirt in a field, watching

these children grown from discs,
creation more than clover.

Longevity is the fruit of
phototropism (facing the sun,

but features will die, I think,
if I take my eyes away).

So, I do little else, or, if I do,
I still think about them,

and if I look further
across the road, I return

here, praying in suspense,
wishing to alternate

this leaf upon that spindle,
lifting backs until they stand

upright, seeing if these eyes see
above a canopy. Even this

is not enough. So, I measure
them all against the fence.

My reality out-struts
the horizon, where you are.

But this is the middle space
where souls hinder, holding us

at arm’s length,
keeping us all spy-crazy.

 

Jan Wiezorek writes from Barron Lake in Michigan. He has taught writing at St. Augustine College, Chicago, and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming at The London Magazine, Yes Poetry, L’Ephemere ReviewWords DanceTHAT Literary ReviewLeaping Clear, and Cabildo Quarterly. Jan is author of Awesome Art Projects That Spark Super Writing (Scholastic, 2011). He also writes about unsung heroes for The Paper in Buchanan, Michigan, and did so formerly as a freelancer for the Chicago Tribune. Jan holds a master’s degree in English Composition/Writing from Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago.

One Poem by Rennie Halstead

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Daughter

How is it possible, you ask, to drown
in this small, shallow stream.
You’d have to be mad or desperate,
but then, that’s rational thinking
and teenage girls don’t think straight,
not when they’re in love,
her prince out of his head
and no wonder, such goings on.
But he didn’t have to be so cruel,
say he never loved her, turn her wits
then killing her father like that
and she giving away flowers,
stopping everyone she met.
And that priest, saying her death was doubtful.
What does that mean? Dead’s dead.
She can’t come back and explain.
What does he know.
So I come here every day,
no one minds me, just
a mother who’s lost a daughter,
trying to understand,
find some peace.

 

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

One Poem by Marguerite Maria Rivas

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Autumn Thoughts Tanka

Amber leaves quaver—
uncertain fall travelers
float downstream on wind-
rippled creeks toward rivers, seas—

unafraid and free.

 

Marguerite Maria Rivas is an Associate Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Her essays and poems explore notions of space, place, and community. She is Poet Laureate of the Borough of Staten Island in New York City.

One Poem by Jood Gough

Butterflies

Butterflies? she asks,
never having seen one of course.

I close my eyes to visualize.

One of them sat on my hand, I say,
barely an inch long,
blue – oh! a heavenly blue!
Lighter than a sprinkling of dust,
trembling wings …

Wings …? she asks, Wings …?
Yes, wings to help it fly.
Like lifting your arms
up and down
by your sides;
only different, beautiful.

She is silent.

They fed from flowers too, I say,
long delicate tongues curled up in their mouths
uncoiling to reach the sweetness.

She looks at me askance.
They did! I insist.

And the colours!
Brightest whites to the most mysterious of purples,
coolest blues and flaming oranges,
palest golds on the deepest of greens.

And patterned – decorated –
spots and stripes, and patches
of the strangest marks
in many colours.

Spots and stripes?
Many colours?
Disbelieving
she walks away.

And I stand there
my hand still open
seeing that blue thought
quivering in my palm.

 

With thanks to The Loss of Birds by Nan Craig.

Jood Gough is a Shropshire born visual artist, who took up writing poetry rather by accident some three and a half years ago. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Like her visual work, a lot of her writing has its roots somewhere in the ancient landscape she lives and walks in, while this poem is also probably the result of her joining the Extinction Rebellion movement recently.