Plymouth Parade, by Lily Atkins

                             for 42

Amid the pomp and circumstance,
they march through streets of surging tide
and quickly give a backward glance
to spy the ghosts of those who died. 

‘For Queen and Country’ holds no claim
beyond the debt that duty’s owed—
it’s brothers, lovers, family name
that bring to bear the warrior’s code. 

It’s hard for me to know what’s sweet and right
beyond the inklings I have heard
in the voice that calls me late at night
and whispers volumes in a single word. 

I haven’t bunked at dusty FOBs;
haven’t planned the ops as you have done—
didn’t walk the sand or hear the screams,
didn’t smell the death or fight the sun. 

Still, you ask me if Owen wrote the truth
as you lay your beret down on our bed,
knowing we’re created by what we do
and decisions don’t stay buried with the dead. 

While one marine is proud & boasts a shiny medal,
another chuffed just to be alive,
most lack concrete proof of mettle
and re-enlist, guilty they survived. 

Awards and cymbals are just for show;
they aren’t a measure of the man.
But if you ask if you should go—
then, yes, if just because you can.

 ..

Bio: Lily Atkins writes because she must. Her words appear here and there, and she hopes that one day they’ll all come true.

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Three poems by Marilyn Timms

COUSIN CLARENCE

French November winds sharpening to ice,
muddy overcoats mimicking cement.
My Yorkshire lad, summer in his heart,
carrying despatches along the Somme.

Man and metal, symbiotic voyagers,
bucking, jumping, sliding sideward,
almost stalling. ‘Trusty Triumph
stumbles, buckles, regains its balance
breathes and soldiers on;
racing like an Arabian
across hard, bare rock.

Seasoned soldier, standing tall on his stirrups:
hurling to heaven news of the Armistice.
Knife-sharp winds, flensing the horror,
exhuming his dreams.

In his nostrils, mislaid scents
of elderflowers in an English spring;
blue bonfire-drift of autumn leaves,
poignant essence of Christmas trees,
soap-and-talcum kisses from his Gran.
Against his fingers, the smooth, cold river;
the silken caress of mesmerised trout.
On his tongue, pickled onions and home-made cheese.

Eighteen years old, more alive than he has ever been.
Beyond the wire, a German sniper takes careful aim.

..

MILITARY HANDBOOK FOR FLYING CADETS, 1941

‘Immediately on being seated, a guest should place his napkin

in his lap, unfolding in one direction only. It should never be

unfolded completely, or tucked into a belt or collar.’

They are more than boys, but not yet men,

embryonic air-crew sat in rows

on a booming, airless, airfield

beneath the savage Florida sun.

Two hundred homesick English youngsters

in a sea of Air Force blue:

each thumbing through his handbook

on just how a war is won.

 ..

‘The soup spoon is dipped gently into the soup away from

the person eating, and conveyed slowly to the lips, which

are placed against the side, never the end, of the spoon as it

is tilted toward the mouth.’

It’s not enough to be a fighter,

dining etiquette is de rigeur;

But if etiquette’s so important,

why not have an etiquette for war?

Escort your enemy into dinner,

seat him safely at the table,

refrain from killing millions, sip your soup,

and talk some more.

 

‘The soup plate may be tipped only away from the individual

… it is unnecessary to pursue the last, precious drop.’

According to the handbook, to help a fellow fly,

give him months and months

of marching; mathematics daily

and rarely let him see inside a plane.

Flying Cadet Cross must keep on drilling,

wheel and tip like birds at evening,

not knowing he’s pursuing

his precious Spitfire dream in vain.

 

‘The knife is never used to convey food to the mouth and,

preferably, it is not used to cut the lettuce of a salad.’

Cross doesn’t make the cut for pilot

though he’s in the top five in his group.

This chastened, second Icarus

tumbles down to Wireless Ops A/G.

Motto: Per ardua ad astra,

through adversity to the stars.

Go lad, take the fight to Hitler,

go fly and make us free.

 

‘It goes without saying that one should refrain from the

practice of juggling the knife or spoon, or toying with other

implements at the table.’

Pensacola to Toronto;

back to Pensacola, on to England.

From Sumburgh Head and Bircham Newton,

to Wigtown, Prestwick, and Petrivie,

Flight Lieutenant Cross is juggling Hudsons,

Dakotas, Dominies, and Ansons

with Wellingtons and Warwicks, and Lancaster 523.

 

‘As with every other article of an officer’s equipment, his

calling cards are required to be of the best quality.’

Mr. Barnes Wallace begs permission

to present his card outside the door

of the Misses Mohne, Sorpe and Eder,

that distinguished family of dams.

The squadrons focus their attention

on attaining the unthinkable —

ultra-low-level bombing

with a bouncing battering-ram.

 

‘Nuts may be placed upon the tablecloth but one should

not place salt upon the tablecloth and then dip wet items

into it, as this practice soils the linen.’

Back from practice over Ireland,

the plane overshoots the Wigtown runway.

Flaps down and undercarriage lowered,

it staggers up the wooded valley.

Flying just above the sunlit water,

it clears a bridge by merely inches,

negotiates a second;

then the port wing strikes a tree.

 

‘Cheese must be eaten with a fork. Elbows have no place

on the table.’

As trees flash by the drooping wingtip,

Cross wonders why the flaps aren’t up yet;

leans across his wireless table,

wraps both arms tightly round his head.

The wing touches earth, the merest kiss

wheels the plane straight over on its nose.

It totters, topples forward:

pilot error, pilot dead.

 

‘If, through some error, a guest should end up with

a spoon where a fork is required, it is entirely correct

to request the proper implement from a servant.’

Cross lugs his crew through leaking fuel,

three unconscious, two are dead:

performs first-aid in thistled grass

beyond the shredded, severed wings.

He asks a car-load of spectators for coats

to warm the wounded. They refuse

because the man who has no legs

might leave blood upon their things.

 

‘One should not push one’s plate away, even slightly, at the

completion of a meal.’

Military handbooks fail to mention

the pain that goes too deep for tears.

A wreath of scarlet.

Pause.

Remember

Watch, as Squadron Leader Cross salutes

those men who gave away their futures

so that you and I might have today.

 

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

he will remember them. And never dream of juggling

his knives and spoons.

..

POPPY JUICE

This is not my son.
Not this mishmash
of broken bone
and shredded flesh
sent in a box

to Wootton Bassett.
My son is a child
of the sunlight,
crafted of dreams;
pressing his footprint
on Gloucestershire’s hills.

My son is the peace maker,
the giver of music,
fashioned of rivers and trees,
eternity’s promise;
as young as the May fly,
as old as the yew. 

Not in my name.
Voice of the people,
outflanked by egos.
Trouble, fermenting,
where opium poppies
are the colour of blood.

My son is a father-in-waiting,
a teacher, a child,
with just a king’s shilling
to spend on the peace.
Poppies ripening, wilting;
spreading their poison.

My son is a sleepwalker,
lost in the profits
of your armaments deals.
Vultures are circling.
Contrails from bombers
serrating the sky.

Tribesmen, untutored,
high in the mountains
living in tunnels,
lost to their families.
Taliban soldiers,
self-seeding like poppies.

Snipers,
killing my boy,
getting shot in return.
Who wields the power?
Not the mothers.
Not the sons.

..

Marilyn Timms is a writer and artist living in Gloucestershire.  She has had her stories and poems  published in magazines, anthologies and online and has read at four Cheltenham Literary Festivals. Alison Brackenbury describes Marilyn’s first collection Poppy Juice as a collection of brave and unexpected adventures, with intoxicating, sometimes threatening colours. Two of Marilyn’s comedies have reached the stage, the third lies mouldering alongside her novel.

Tijuana Couple, by Kushal Poddar

A couple in Tijuana
snowballs depression.
..
Their daughter just flies over
the furthest tower,
over the border.
..
The thing about the pigeons is
they have old man hidden
in their voice and they look like babies.
..
A snowball in Tijuana
exchanges two kinds of mindlessness.
,.
.
Kushal Poddar has been featured amongst the poets for the month December by Tupelo Press, Vine Leaves Literary Journal’s Best of 2014. He presently lives at Kolkata and is the editor of the online magazine ‘Words Surfacing’. He authored ‘The Circus Came To My Island’ (Spare Change Press, Ohio), “A Place For Your Ghost Animals” (Ripple Effect Publishing, Colorado Springs), “Understanding The Neighborhood” (BRP, Australia), “Scratches Within” (Barbara Maat, Florida), “Kleptomaniac’s Book of Unoriginal Poems”  (BRP, Australia) and “Eternity Restoration Project, New And Selected Poems” (Hawakal Publishers, India)

Widow’s Dues, by Kathryn Alderman

*For Bridget

The fat cheque lands like a lardy cat hogging the doormat.
Twenty years too late to de-louse the babbies,
or rumble the glacier shoring up the scullery wall.
..
There’ll be coal fired tonight, like cracked black eggs,
a toast raised with the Black Stuff, for his lungs
soused in Passchendaele gas. Still. Finally.
..
No cheers for her pay spent like fags, Tommy-the-hero’s trauma
cured in ale, kids hid in the kahzi at his carousing
Two Lovely Black Eyes down the Brummagem back-to-backs.

For this, she left salmon silver-backing up the Moy,
Brent Geese overwintering in raw Killala Bay.
Blood money she says, her wages of war.

..

Kathryn Alderman is widely published online and in print, including: Amaryllis, Atrium, Bonnie’s Crew, Eye Flash Poetry Journal, Good Dadhood, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Canon’s Mouth and she won Canon Poets’ ‘Sonnet or Not’ Competition (2012) She co-chairs The Gloucestershire Writers’ Network
@kmalderman1
@GWNgloswriters
www.gloswriters.org.uk

The Old Scholars Project, by Pauline Sewards

These names are united
on the plaque on the wall
as they were in this classroom
of  the ‘Big Boys School

Our searches and stories return them
to the hearth of family
in these redbrick streets.

Those children who ran in the park
when the trees were saplings
with their pockets full of sweets and string

when we find they survived a battle
we are pleased at the small reprieve
but we know they all came to the same fate in the end
pockets packed with mud and shrapnel

Did any of them meet
(faces wrapped in overlapping bandages)
in the Nightingale wards where
the scent of burning paraffin lamps
masked  the stench of gangrene flesh?

In the archives we make remembrance
each stopped heart each broken body

We trace them through certificate and census
roll call, hospital records
medals, newspaper pictures
telegrams and handwritten cards listing possessions at time of death

 

These are the names
‘Fathers and Sons lost in the awful slaughter’

These are the other names
mothers sister bereaved lovers
children who were never born or even conceived

The hero whose name was left off the memorial
the one whose name was spelt wrongly
the many whose bodies were never quite recovered
swept up bones in the wrong order
exhumed and disinterred

and  the Conscientious Objectors who were imprisoned for their views

In this pocket of the city it is known that  no war is First or Great
and it was said
‘No worker in any country would go and fight others if not forced to, most people are interested in earning a living and trying to feed their families’

..

This poem was written for The Old Scholars Project which has traced the lost stories of the names listed on a War Memorial plaque at St Werburghs Community Centre Bristol. The centre was formerly a school and all of the men commemorated has been pupils there. On November 9th for the third year in a row a remembrance service was held in the centre with local school children taking part. The project is co-ordinated by Xeena Cooper https://thebristolcable.org/2018/11/this-st-werburghs-first-world-war-soldier-was-forgotten-until-now-100-years-after-his-death/

..

Pauline’s poems been published by I am not a silent poet in the past and she has a collection called This the Band ( Hearing Eye 20180. She is a co-host of  Satellite of Love – a poetry and spoken word event in Bristol

Poppies, by Lesley Quayle

here is the red –
of blood (obvious),
of hearts slashed open
like keening mouths,
of landscape wearing
the going down
of the sun,
here is the sap,
staunched too early
and the half opened bud,
tooth and claw (old story),
hell’s architecture
of fire
and angels burning,
embers
in never to-be-harvested fields.

..

Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet, currently living in Dorset. A former editor of Aireings magazine, she is now a co-founder and editor, along with Stella Wulf, of 4Word poetry press.

In Memorium : Lest We Forget, by Dave Rendle

In fields of horror
the poppy flower now grows,
as superficial patriotic threads spread
profiteers fill their bellies on the dead,
bereft of life, cruel futility flows
cities of blood built, destruction grows,
fresh graves tended, full of nameless corpses
peaceful branches torn, children left as orphans,
salted tears soak the earth on the edge of memory
in every sense of direction, the screaming roars,
on fields of slaughter, visceral anathema shed
but the white bird of peace flies, lest we forget,
fluttering on the winds, its seed will always blossom
showering the world with gentleness,
high above the ruins, reason grows strong
choruses sing in unity, embracing humanity,
touching, stirring beyond the futility of it all
an enduring battle of survival, to make us secure,
away from indiscriminate killing, the slaughter of war
primal forces degenerating, a new age is born,
lessons learnt, history provides the ammunition
with hope we can turn swords into ploughshares.

Dastards, by Dominic Albanese

double down dumb shit
lawyers guns n money
thoughts n prayers
empty lies…..edit videos ….slap crap
by
truck loads
a mother today, is sitting by
a window
with a photo of
her freshman college daugher
at her high school graduation
who
now is in a morgue
with a 45 caliber
exit wound big
as a grape fruit
in her other wise
youth full pretty
corpse

White Feather, by Harry Gallagher

How many young men Emmeline?
How many slouched off to slaughter,
stabbed by white feathers,
pinned by you and your daughter?
Did you find out what colour
white runs under gunfire?

How many cowards did you find Emmeline?
How many trembling wrecks
within sanatorium whitewalls?
How many missing legs,
heads that never recovered
from the mud and the blood?

How many feathers would it take
a boy to make wings,
fit them to his back
and fly away?

Three poems by Peter Wyton

UNTIL THE SMIRKS ARE WIPED FROM MEN’S FACES                                    

 

On social media, a video
showing nervous teenage Indian girls,
disembarking from a bus to take part
in a demonstration condemning rape,
speedily surrounded by teenage boys,
smirking, every last one of them smirking,
keen to tease with irrelevant debate. 

“Do you think it’s all right,” bellows their spokesman,
“for a girl to go to a cinema
with a boy not of her own family?”
Chorus of approval from his buddies,
still smirking, pressing ever closer.

“Is it right,” counters one girl, defiantly,
“for rape to occur in any circumstance,
even at the hands of a relative?”

“It doesn’t happen like that,” bawl the boys,
widening those smirks, shoving nearer yet,
not admitting that it DOES happen,
as they won’t, neither here in India,
or in countless societies worldwide
where the masculine sex is conditioned
to act according to its own urges,
while the feminine sex is brought up
to accept violation and sometimes
to take the blame for its consequences.
Until the smirks are wiped from men’s faces                         
and replaced, unimaginably, by smiles,
we will not address the root of this evil.

..

A STRANGER TO ROMANCE                                     Andrea Dworkin, 1946 – 2005.

 

‘Much abused radical feminist who condemned pornography and dismissed men as mere cretins.’

                                                                                    Daily Telegraph obituary

 

 

DEAD MEN DON’T RAPE, the caption read above her desk.
Implacable in dungarees and double chins,
she found it irresistible to take the risk
of alienating liberals, upright citizens,
obdurate feminists or almost any radical
who might have rallied to her combative colours.
Porn-brokers wished her to the hottest depths of hell.
Difficult to assess if these manly fellows
hated her most for her views, or her corpulence.
Surprisingly soft-spoken, for a virago.
A friend to the abused. A stranger to romance.
She abhorred chauvinism. She had reason to.

..

OH DEAR WHAT A SHAME NEVER MIND

 

Complaints are surfacing in the country sports press that partridges are becoming too heavy or lazy to fly fast and high enough to suit the requirements of shooting parties.

 

So a rich fat prat in a deer-stalker hat
Finds it terribly upsetting,
When he goes to the trouble of getting
His lard-arse out of doors,
In voluminous plus-fours,
Only to find (what a frightful bind)
That the partridge he aches to slaughter,
Won’t fly as fast as it oughter
And he fails to find it funny,
When he’s paid a pile of money,
That a well-fed turd of a thankless bird
Should be so disinclined
To provide some fun for a chap with a gun.

Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

November 5th 2018, by Jane James

Tonight, I could make a bonfire
and burn an effigy of a racist
but I don’t think it’s right
to burn people, not even
symbolically,
even if those people are racists.
..
Tonight, I could find the house of a racist
and burn it down, but that would be
an act of hatred and
I don’t think it’s right
to bear hatred,
even against racists.
..
Tonight, I could light a barbecue
and symbolically cook gammon, but
I never cook gammon
because I have more respect
for the lives of pigs
than some people have for the lives
of other human beings.

red, by Pascal Vine

For Shuggie

i made you a small shrine of red things.

original flavour lucozade, fiery roses from kenya you might’ve thought a waste,  a card with hearts on it you would’ve hated, a single cigarette with a tan end;

it was not enough.

i swept burning red leaves to the spot where you had cardiac arrest, now lined with flowers and well wishes in the daylight. people stop to read them all day long, people who might’ve have avoided you in your big issue jacket, people you would’ve been pissed at even if you were pissed af.

the space needed to be red so people knew something had happened and it was empty and it was wrong. I dug out a single copper coin. someone in a crimson anorak held me from behind. i bashed my pallid fist into the pavement until it grazed.

because it was red on that blanket you sat on each night. you were huddled with your skinny dog with the red collar, red in the cheeks in the rain. you were an unwilling silent protest, i said hi. knowing id see you like this again. i got told by a white sign my friend had gone in the night.

maybe if you were a pink bouquet people would have stopped to say hello more. if you were a beige victorian monument of limestone in this city they would have paid to make you a home. if you were grey clouds you could’ve been hungover as you like and no one would have looked down on you. they’d look up and call you silver.

i hope you’re reborn as a poem better than this one; people will listen to you this time. you spent your last night outside a furniture shop with a bed out front, haloed by blinking fairy lights in the warmth. all because you could barely work, because you were damaged, because you were hurting, so you according to policy you got nothing.

mate,
you utter legend, look at all the shit your friends got you, all you ever asked for:
beer, cards, flowers, lucozade, candles, cigarettes, tear-blinded rage.
is there anything we’ve forgotten?

—–

Pascal Vine is a performance poet often found lurking around Bath and Bristol, but in actuality is holed up on the Somerset levels. You can find them on wordpress at pascalvinepoetry and youtube at pascalvpoet. This poem was written for Shuggie, a beautiful brave man who passed away last January who was a source of love and wisdom for five years to Pascal. Published with permission from his friend Sue.

Are we nearly there yet? by Roger Turner

In that country, the men are kept in camps,
behind discreetly landscaped safety towers and fences.
Groups of women come in their Audis at the weekends,
strolling among the deckchairs and swimming pools
as if selecting kittens from the pet shop.

The men look surprisingly happy, idling away their days
in the gym, or else in the computer lounge, absorbed in porn
or watching endless cake-making videos. In the afternoons,
they admire each other in the full length mirrors,
their muscles glistening in the Mediterranean light.

Though many are obviously homosexual, they are always
keen for the odd weekend away, and the women reward them
for the services they render with chocolate, or even
a tot of vegetarian rosé. Visitors notice
how the men are invariably healthy and young, not surprising

since it is universally acknowledged that the quality of male
semen declines after the age of forty. The older men
fall prey to mysterious diseases and indeed their memorials
can be seen in neat rows on the outskirts of the camps.
Returning on a Sunday afternoon, the girls are heard to murmur

that they ‘really fancied that david283’, sighing that ‘it almost
broke my heart to drive him home again!’ But they soon learn
to deal with these understandable twinges of emotion.
Everyone agrees – the way things are done in their country
makes for a safer, better and happier world.

..

Bio:
I have had 80 poems published in various magazines such as Interpreter’s House and South. I am former Chairman of Cheltenham Poetry Society, and currently run Poetry Cafe Refreshed with Sharon Larkin. I have also written five non-fiction books, published by Weidenfeld (& Rizzoli USA), reprinted The History Press, J.M.Dent, B. T. Batsford & Timber Press USA.

Smile, Smile, Smile, by Bill Lythgoe

We don’t know if he ever used
a lucifer to light his fag
but we suspect he never packed
his troubles in his old kit bag –
he’d far too many.

We don’t know if he ever asked
what’s the use of worrying
but when we read the diary
they brought back in his old kit bag
we knew he worried

about his loved ones back at home;
about the boys who went over the top,
the comrades he knew would not return;
about the hissing mustard gas
that would one day find him, cause
his slow and agonising death.

Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq;
it never is worthwhile
but we still hold great grandad’s old kit bag
and try to smile.

..

Bill Lythgoe has been writing poetry seriously for about seven years. He has won four prizes in Writing Magazine. He won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly competition and was published in their Oct-Dec 2013 magazine. He has also won prizes awarded by The Page Is Printed,  Fire River Poets, the Wakefield Red Shed and Nottingham Poetry Society and been published by Earlyworks Press, Strong Verse and Southport Fringe Poetry. If you Google Bill Lythgoe poems you can read some of his work.

Not Much Will, by Jennifer Lagier

“I know now traps are only set by me…” – Joan Baez

Today’s installment of dystopic stupid features
Twitter-in-Chief’s frantic, misspelled missives,
Michael Cohen’s 11th hour plea deal,
Paul Manafort’s eight count conviction.

In California, a GOP representative
and his wife are indicted
for using campaign funds
on personal expenses.

Facebook and Microsoft
discover and deactivate
Russian and Iranian sites
spreading disinformation.

The rest of us watch rich white men
stumble and fall,
tripped up by their own
arrogant hubris.

From Culloden to Yemen, by Paul Anderson

Bones are creaking on the moor,
Sprites are chapping every door,
Who will write our battle lore?
While all around are dying.

Children killed from spot to spot
Mothers too reduced to nought
Who can hear the pibroch sound?
Where our men are lying?

Oh! Homage to the British State
It was you that taught the world to hate
You have sealed your untimely fate
With murder and oppression

See our flags as they unfurl
See our marches as they curl
Hear the slogans that we hurl
We are headed for succession!

Still your guns are so unfair
Now with drones that foul the air
But our bones will creak nae mair!
From Culloden down to Yemen

The Horrified Poet, by Ceinwen Elizabeth Cariad Haydon

she hollows out

her creative verve once floated words
voiced waves to lap on others’ shores
messages bottled
with love’s desire to reach and know

now her vigour     leaks     away
passes through membranes
by osmosis
into the fouled fetid alt-right sea

she/fears/she/will/be/swallowed
alive              and silenced

to death

in shock
a jolt
a sudden surge of fury

her emptiness is not complete
currents build beyond herself
and sweep her clear
of weakness

she will join
with sisters and brothers

clean swathes of forest air and ocean waters
where all might breathe and swim

s/he   they   will break away      from apathy

like new-born Amazons defeat the spawn
of Bolsonaro, Trump and all their Klu Klux kin