john e.c.

Terri Aggro     Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Swallows

 

Early evening, late summer.

Swallows twisting tails above us

As we have our cuppa in the yard.

 

Her reminiscing. Family history, mostly.

Some of it old, some of it new,

Some of it wrong.

 

Aunty Sissy had a B&B in Blackpool,

Not Morecambe.

Grandma’s Yorkshire Terrier wasn’t Kitty,

But Candy.

And she didn’t teach dad how to play draughts:

He taught her.

 

So it goes on

And becomes a game of spot the mistake.

But I don’t contradict her.

There’s no point in that.

 

Eventually she pauses, takes a sip and notes that

They’ll soon be gone north.

 

Again, I don’t correct her

But lift my lukewarm cuppa

And take another gulp.

Janice Smithers

Pontefract, West Yorkshire

 

 

I want to be a renaissance man, but she won’t let me!

For years I’ve felt trapped in my hum drum life,
Working int’ foundry to earn brass for the wife;
So she could stay home looking after her Mother,
Her budgie, her whippet and even her brother!

 

For years I have been at her beck and call,
Fitting her kitchens, rewiring the hall;
So now after years of toeing the line,
I want to do something that I can call mine!

 

In moments of solitude while sipping a brew,
I’ve studied - improving my mind on the loo;
“What are you doing? The dog needs a walk!”
I obey commands now, we no longer talk.

 

She smiles and laughs when I try to protest,
As I stand covered in grime, stripped down to my vest;
Trying to discuss the beauty of art,
All I frequently get is: “Don’t you start!”

 

In the public library reading book after book,
Devouring poetry till my whole being shook:
But my wife isn’t interested in the learning of verse,
Her responses to me are becoming more terse.

 

I bought a violin and learned notes of the stave,
Of studying concertos I became quite a slave;
But she snorts her disgust and loudly she sneers,
And goes back to her CDs of Britney Spears.

 

On sculpture and form I could hold seminars,
I can carve stone and granite and even weld bars;
But my efforts are met with disdain and pure mockery,
As she throws my statuary onto her rockery.

 

Michelangelo’s art work puts fire in my soul,
His use of a brush has long been my goal:
But my efforts at painting have long met with hate,
Unless I am glossing the front garden gate!

 

I think I have now reached a point in my life,
When I have to appraise the cause of my strife; 
She’ll have to go! I’ve got to break free!
I want to be a renaissance man, but she won’t let me!

 

Melmoth

Whiby, North Yorkshire

Personal Soundtrack

 

big bro is

hardstep

hip-hop

psychobilly

death rock

epic doom in every room

crust punk

for sure

 

that’s right little bro

big bro is

garage

grime

post grunge

freak folk

cross-over thrash my ass forever

that crunkcore mother

 

agree there bros

big bro is

industrial emo

make that screamo

cybergrind

born unkind

black metal

drill

in for the kill

 

well that’s enough of your noise

you three

I don’t hear that at all

no

not me

only feel his trembling

the vibrations

 

and I only have

ringing in my head

unless you come and calm me

mother always said

your whisper

was the only music I ever heard

sister

Zachary Rogers

Scranton, Pennsylvania  USA

 

 

A Single Fly


 

Sometimes the presence

 

Thirst quenched from fountains on Liberty Square.

Swallows writing summer in freehand,

high above the palace. 

 

in a prison         

 

River kissing banks

below the suspension bridge.

Lovers lock and release, lock and release.


 

of a single fly

 

Warm breeze blowing flyers 

into the blackened windows of vehicles.

Lines of birches dancing in Havel Park;

leaves holding firm.



 

stirs into life

 

Through gates onto open fields, 

butterflies, wild flowers and waving grass.

 Smiling faces coming forwards,

arms raised.

 

 

a thousand illusions.

 

 

Arundhati Lahiri

Dollis Hill, London

 

 

Bouncing Back

 

Losing all my shine, now patchy and bald.

Neglected in a puddle by the bin

Then kicked on all sides by the lads again.

Getting tough to bounce back. Deflating, old.

 

Stood and sat upon. Booted through the dirt.

And always subjected to mockery:

‘Hey, look at me, I’m having a baby!’

Shout boys who stuff me up their bulging shirts.

 

Soon for the skip, no doubt; but I’ll arise!

Thrown with intent, I’ll mark their young faces

And strike them hard in their tender places.

A clouted nose will bring tears to their eyes.

 

I, ball aimed straight and true into the balls,

Will bring me sweet revenge on one and all!

L.Vikram Piggin

Hampole, South Yorkshire

I, This

 

I hardly think before I speak

The words I learned from others.

 

But hear this: I was born on a day not of my own choosing.

.

Earth gave me weight.

Light coloured my eyes;

 

And now when I close them

It is sleep which fills my hollow head;

 

Dreams come from the night,

Warm, like your lips on my cold ones.

 

Love is not my invention;

You are teaching it me. Thank you.

 

If only I could sing to you

A song of my own making;

 

But I cannot, for I am this.

 

Arundhati Lahiri

Dollis Hill, London

LOVE AT BAY

 

I heard the secret call of the unambiguous,

Like framing the story of an untaken chance

 

I get then handed over.

 

It is the colour of hands tried and tied,

Feel of a walking-stick, always a step ahead,

And love means water for its flow goes so chary

Its flow just a metaphor that is so real as we live.

 

So, framing a story means a war is a war

 

A war in the beginning looks like a stone

Pieces and pebbles, made for some good, and curious better

Pebbles need the beach, to keep lovers at bay

Pieces are shared like partners swapped,

I got the call, my turn then over

 

It is as simple as warring sets,

You have me reminding and I have a chance,

Random is a cuss-word, secret of war

 

Something is relevant, you call it dream

 

Jayanta Bhaumik

Kolkata, India

 

 

Do You Take Your Coffee Black?

 

I catch your eye

as your Rothmans haze clear-

you smile and twist a curl

of long blond dishevelled hair

around your index finger,

an unspoken invitation

to whisper sweetly,

through dangled earrings,

into gently nibbled ears.

 

In the twilight of sobriety,

you flitter with butterfly wings,

I’m open to your seduction,

and I promise I’ll try

to satisfy your silver dancing.

 

And when the moment comes

its beauty is distorted

even more than your face

which has moved far beyond

any resemblance to death.

 

I’m still thinking on this

when you offer a cigarette

and light up yourself.

I’m blowing curls of smoke

when you break the silence:

“I’ve run out of milk-

do you take your coffee black?”

 

Keith Davison

 

Ex-Gateshead, England

 

 

 

Kerosene

 

Fire is eternal; the sun fuels our dream.

The conflagration comes; comes and is near.

Prepared, we baptise babes in kerosene.

 

Raising kindling altars; think it obscene?

In tinderbox land there’s little else here.

Fire is eternal; the sun fuels our dream.

 

Fear not the flames; holy men do not scream;

But quietly prophesise, ear to ear.

Prepared, we baptise babes in kerosene.

 

Water colours earth; paints serene greens, for

Hours or days or weeks or months or years, yet

Fire is eternal; the sun fuels our dream.

 

A phoenix, her plasmatic wings agleam,

Ignites our sleep: torched from the photosphere.

Prepared, we baptise babes in kerosene.

 

Pyriscent seeds rest; patient for extremes.

Infants of the scorched plain will reappear.

Fire is eternal; the sun fuels our dream.

Prepared, we baptise babes in kerosene.

The Baron Aargh!

Newcastle, England

 

 

Unusual Professions And Their Sine Qua Nons

 

Anarchist: endless pointless meetings

 

Bacteriologist: dirty kitchen

 

Cat groomer: scowly Persian red

 

Donkey man: beach

 

Elf: Christmas

 

Fingerprinter: ink, accused

 

Gigolo: erection

 

Hedgefund CEO: supreme greed and arrogance

 

Illusionist: politician

 

Jacob Rees-Mogg: hubris

 

Kite maker: wind or good farts

 

Looter: riots in urban areas

 

Mountaineer: knowing which way is up

 

Nobody: excessive masochism

 

Orangutan: forest

 

Pantomime horse: partner (front or back)

 

Queer: excellent grooming

 

Reveller: parties

 

Simpleton: Facebook

 

Time traveller: watch

 

Undertaker: botox

 

Vampire: decent fangs

 

Writer: delusions of bestsellers

 

Xylophonist: wood

 

Youth: touching faith

 

Zeroist: nothing

 

Cross reference as desired or required

Attempt these professions at your own peril

Perstimmons

Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

 

 

 

Spinning Hands

 

Time rides the tide onto migrant shores;

Washes sand through his tiny mouth and nose.

A decade marches a family up the Metzgerstrasse to the tick-tock rhythm

Of soldiers’ boots; her little arms outstretched at 10 to 2.

Long minutes on the paediatric ward.

Flowers at the school gates draws a gathering of hours.

Intensive moments: what to do with her photographs, his toys, their clothes?

A vacated cloakroom peg brings a century to a close.

Canals, dykes and slurry pits; a millennium clocked

By the spinning hands of drowning boys.

Mother hardly spoke again: choked on the year of your missing.

Father’s singing voice reduced to a low whistle

From the day your heart gave way - as did ours -

Between the passing of two small seconds.

john e.c

Hull, East Yorkshire

And You Who Never

 

Shrouds of rain over St. John’s Lane.

Archipelago of faith; puddles, an island church.

Candles flicking shadows across the nave,

Making gargoyles of the Boy’s Brigade.

Communicants circle as Sunday drains to its dry centre.

Clem the Organ holding out damp palms in anticipation;

The vicar heating the wafer to softness on her tongue.

Lightning on the windows of the dripping saints;

Thunder rolling across the drenched parish;

The restless wind rattling the knocker.

Weather-veined, the Clements turning their backs on the draught;

Miss Joan finding the chalice warm between her lips;

Wine, fire-red,

Trickling down the throat of Thirsty Bob.

Geoff Tracey

Otterburn, Northumbria

john e.c.

Micah

 

and all we hear is Micah says this and Micah says that

you and your remnant of naysayers from Moresheth-Gath of all places

that toilet on the Shephelah

more of a shit-hole than Elmsall

on and on in mixed-messages:

'fake-news loop-holes'

'zero-hours landlords'

'minimum-wage bankers'

blah blah blah

spreading your poison from Grimethorpe to Zaanam

Orgreave to Adullam

the land of sour milk and honey

eh?

and blaming it all on us

here in the big smoke

listen

haven’t all our prophecies come true?

the city’s never looked so flush

The Temple’s in spanking nick

Jerusalem’s just one big pie, enough to fatten all them that want to get on

food banks for them that won’t help themselves

so don’t speak to us of our ‘incredible capacity for wishful thinking’

and ‘nights without vision’

anyway,

who wants to hear

quote: ‘I’m no hireling prophet.

It’s not my function to comfort, encourage and uplift’?

cheer up, misery guts

liken us to Ichabod all you want but He won’t turn his back on us

why?

because we’ve never had it so good

all He wants is His people’s happiness

simple as

so take it from those in the know

Tyke

best to keep your trap well shut if you know what’s good for you

got that?

all that ‘call-centre poverty’ and ‘tax justice contracts’ nonsense

cut it, understand?

you fetid-goat-balled-God-botherer

Moresheth-Gath indeed

L.Vikram Piggin

Hampole, South Yorkshire

Murmuring

 

We watch them on their rooftop

Gentle in their secret joy

Naked smiles

Mouthing prayers

Not of our instruction

See her

Eyes closed

The one with the silken hair

A babe at her breast

And her sister

The darker one

Daring to bare her neck

As she bows her head

Often

When they bathe the young ones

They sing

Hymns we have not taught them

Quietly

In the evening

And when the sun goes down

They kneel

Hips and thighs

Framed by moonlight

Murmuring

Furtive female praise

Alien to our ears

The brothers

Listening

From the tops of houses 

 

Arundhati Lahiri

 

Dollis Hill, London                                                                                                     

2016

 

torching eir botts en orr arborr

slaughter te lot of em

even te women

dunt want no moor of eir blodd infecting orrs

 

burning tat dammdid bokk

crushing eir wheat underfott

domping te gifted weepons en te sea

weve sticks n stonns n plenty of em

 

what use for eir cloth

meats n radd wine

we go naked agen

grobbing for roots

lapping from clear polls

 

te young desporr

self harming som of em

hiding en caves

scaping oonly t droon

 

hating os

te old te wise

but em will know te island

as we knew it

 

bleeding for te gods

sacrificing eir yoth for ere

orr om

not eirs from te big island

orrs

Kye Conlan

Leeds, West Yorkshire

De Lenz      Hull, East Yorkshire

Laughter

 

What disturbed him the most was our laughter

Not the screaming

Profanities

Hair tearing

Raging from room to room

The usual

But our not crying from behind the door

 

First it was you

Then it was me

Then together

Bedlam style

How we laughed at the comedy

Of our temper fit

Disappointment performed to perfection

 

And when the knock came

We laughed some more

Infectious

Laughing at never having laughed this way

Oh sister we wish you could have laughed with us

When he asked

Are you alright in there

Zoe Marklew

Distington, Cumbria

Pool Closure

 

Butterfly, backstroke.

Speedos on slow blokes.

I love the smell of chlorine in the morning.

Don’t worry cocker,

here’s some change for a locker.

Can’t you two read? We don’t allow petting!

We swam outdoors at Grantchester.

Yes Sir, halcyon days, but this is Manchester.

 

We share shampoo.

She first swam at eighty-two.

Sons plunge deep and dive for daughters.

Sixty-four lengths equals one mile.

Lie me down on green tiles;

lead me beside municipal waters.

You’re Simmonds and I’ll be Wilkie

and later hot chocolate, all sweet and milky.

 

Gosh, what a laugh,

how we say ‘barths’ and they say ‘bafths’.

Byron swam the Hellespont, Caesar in the Nile;

Webb trained at Lambeth, length on length.

Olympic legacy? Give me strength.

Screw-kick, arms flail, let’s all do the free-style!

Lost your pink goggles, let me see…

He kissed me in the deep end, back in fifty-three.

 

A springboard plop;

belly laughs for belly flops.

All of the fatties are lighter than feathers.

Lady friends, short and stout,

swim in tandem and gas about

husbands and ailments and kids and weather.

Three private to one public: So?

Oh, how we weep when we remember the lido.

 

Pool, sprite-bright;

synchronised with dancing light;

sometimes warm and sometimes freezing.

Look, it’s gone and shrunk;

I’ve lost all feeling in my trunks!

Pushing us under, their rhymes and reasons.

Armbands and floats, deflated, still;

England, closing down, drowns her own for want of skill.

 

Opened in forty-seven

By Atlee, or was it Bevan?

These lanes forget more than we remember.

Mother taught me how to swim

or maybe it was Uncle Jim.

We close at nine and then in September.

No tucks, no turns; will our limbs sleep

and cease to draw circles on the face of the deep?

Billy Unwin

Salford, Manchester

Home Time

 

From her habitual high chair

She asks again

How long have I been here?

Not being sure, we shrug;

 

Though time for us is measured

In her repeated questions,

Our not varied answers

and the silences between.

 

The tempo slows further

With the stroking of hands,

The sipping of tea

And the coming and going of carers.

 

The TV flickers then flickers some more.

 

It is windy outside

And leaves brush the window

As a jazz drummer might a snare

To offset the beat.

 

But inside

All is regular.

Fine dust hangs in trapped sunlight,

Neither falling nor rising.

 

The pulse of the afternoon steadies

As the elderly take their nap;

Breathing in unison:

In, out, in, out.

 

She too succumbs to the hypnotism

And as we leave I ask

How long have we been here?

But you shrug,

Not being sure.

Beryl Ashman

Normanton, West Yorkshire

john e.c.

Mid-Set

 

The call of nature followed you into the men’s room;

Caught you with your zip and mouth wide open.

His great sax split you several heads:

Skee-sa-woo-eek-swork! Swee-sa-kroo-ork-eeeeee!

Blew your fuckin’ mind, you said.

Graham S.Crosby

Sefton Park, Liverpool

Other Towns

 

It’s usually on a Sunday

when we leave them at the bus terminal

or at the railway station.

Sometimes we take them to other towns;

we unload their stuff, take a stroll,

have a sausage roll, a cup of tea,

kiss them and go.

 

It’s usually on a Sunday

when we collect them from the bus terminal

or the railway station.

Sometimes we pick them up from other towns;

we kiss them, take a stroll, have a sausage roll, a cup of tea,

heave their stuff into the car

and go.

 

Sometimes we leave them.

Sometimes we collect them.

It’s usually on a Sunday.

Andrea Birch

Bridlington, East Yorkshire

Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan

 

Vodka falls as rain; drains from the hills;

Seeps along the skeleton coast into the livers of the damned.

Beached, they reach for cigarettes.

Smoke drifts from their mouths;

From the court house, over the gaol, onto the church

And back again as incense.

Blackened windows; rifles in the boot; on your knees:

The gutturals of gunfire mark their speech.

Sex is the cold, hard grip on a Kalashnikov.

The orthodoxy of a venal creed

Begets orphans; drowned wives; Job imprisoned.

From Moscow to Pribrezhny and all stops in-between,

Hell is corruption;

Framed within the carcass of a once living whale.

F. Pat Quigley

East Dulwich, London

Brenhilda

 

due north from Butt of Ness

meridian bearing

holding Polaris tween halyard and spar

Brenhilda riding

jabblies

clutters

whaleback waves

to Sula Sgeir

 

not for you North Rona

Sula’s green sister

your brother’s safe keeper

but here

where bore holing Atlantic

crashes over peak jagged black

 

earwig plagued

fasting

prayer

song

acrid guga

gelid lungs

Palled salt air

freezing mists

westerlies squeezing innards

like sea-battered timbers of Sgoth Niseach

 

navagatio

apprentice to signs

strangeness

reading phosphorescent swells

as wonderful book

understanding high cries

of returning petrels

attentive to own time

place

 

blasted scene

of thy resurrection

Guga men

finding ribcage housing shags

taking skull for kist

rounding dark gneiss prow of headland

mulling over

arcing kittiwakes

cormorants cruciform on high rocks

drying outstretched wings

Enoch McManus

Killiecrankie, Perth & Kinross

john e.c.

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