Three poems by Cynthia Blank

American Woman

 

The joke is familiar:
a girl has had too much to drink.

She lets the bottle lick her lips,
the alcohol sour her throat.

She blacks out, but not enough
to forget the invasion.

She refuses to vomit (and admit
something foreign needs extracting.)

She falls asleep in the bathtub,
scrubbing away the evidence.

She wakes up naked, dangling
over the red-hot coals of shame.

She remembers the laughter now.
She was the joke.

..

..

Bleed
..

I have been silently screaming for seven months
trying to rid myself of the rot
building inside me.
But every time I vomit up a shot of tequila,
or cry while investigating myself in the mirror,
nothing is excised.
I am always brought back to a little white room
in which screaming, silently or not,
offers nothing but indignity.
He touched me against my will, but I prompted his touch.
He’s not a good person, but he’s a good worker.
He was in love with me.
So the boss said.
So an excuse is cemented in the ground.
So another woman splits herself open
just to watch herself bleed.

..

..

..

Prey

..

I run down the stairs
and he chases after me
With each step, I can hear
the sharp bang of his hand
cracking against
my skin, the slurp
of his mouth seizing mine
I run faster to them
They’re on the ground floor
I can see them
I start to scream, I scream
for my life, but they take
a knife and make a gash
in my tongue
They bundle it with gauze
and promise me the swelling
will subside
with time
I’m oozing red, I manage to shout
oozing red from the inside out
They don’t want to hear
but I can
see from their faces:
no one imagined I could bleed like that

,,

Cynthia Blank received her MFA in Poetry from Bar Ilan University’s Shaindy Rudoff Creative Writing Graduate Program. Her poems have been featured most recently in Foreign Literary Journal, SHANTIH Journal, New Reader Magazine, and Grey Borders Magazine. More of her work can be found at https://cynthblank.wixsite.com/website.

Three poems by Elizabeth AJ Eaton


THERE IS WHERE I WANNABE

People say I’m over the top,
Passionate and driven are just words for “Shut the fuck up”
I’ve got all these opinions riding around inside my head,
Screaming out for answers,
Seeking out some praise.

They wish I’d chat about the weather,
Be calm and reflect,
Let the silence linger…
Not fill the room with statements, declaring my theories,
Just breathe in… and out…
But, I can’t.

Good at being,
Intrigued by who we are,
Enlisted in understanding our purpose in this world,
Rather good at making things awkward,
Perfected uncomfortable silences to a T,
I have.

So I tap the side of my pint,
I twist and tug my hair,
To force the words from BLURTING out.

The traffic on the M3,
The work I’m doing to my ensuite
My pension scheme,
Wait, who am I kidding,
A writer,
There is no pension scheme,
It just all feels alien to me.

Sex education in schools,
Social media causing emotional withdrawal,
The cotton industry draining the Aral sea,
The fear-mongering broadcasts of the BBC
There is where I wannabe.

..

L-I-K-E-L-Y 

They build you up with patronising talk
Those adults standing there with coffee-flooded breath
and armpit sweat.
..
They break the words up sounding out those
stupid letters L- I- K -E-L- Y, now you try
..
Standing you up on the table
in front of all yours peers, clapping and cheering
Your little face covered in shame
Children snigger
because you finally learnt to spell your name

.. 
At first they’re patient but soon their faces fill with red
They watch the clock as you fill with dread
Soon you’ll see it’s like riding a bike
or learning your ABCs
..
Then they’re slamming the table and pulling at their hair
You’re sat with hot little legs
and milk down your chest, while questions fill you head
..
Why can’t I
..
Why don’t I
..
Get it
..
Never get it
..
You pick up a pen and move it round the page
You know what it is that you want to say
but the words just don’t quite come out
..
It’s like your hands being pulled about
It’s like it’s dangling from a piece of string
Somebody is manning it, making you look like an inadequate little thing
..
As this must be torture and it must be cruel
That all your life you have to use all these extra tools
..
You fight through school
..
Battling with it
..
Laughing at it
..
The class clown, it’s the only way to survive
in this wild and roofless town
You achieve a grade but it’s not great
Pushing and dragging through it, like a pack horse on its way to market
Suddenly you’re in so-called adult life
You continue to have nightmares that you’re in that exam again, so you wake up terrified
..
It’s not easy
It’s not simple
..
People throw the term around like it’s going out of fashion
Oh, didn’t you know that Einstein had it
It means you’re creative
It means you have a talent
If only that was comforting to our small demographic
It’s those times that the words jump about and muddle across the page
It’s when you’re trying to speak your mind but out of nowhere those facts wander off and you’re left behind
..
It’s coming up with an idea that could be mind-breaking and world-saving but you turn your head to find a pen and suddenly it’s gone
..
It’s the constant feeling of being embarrassed
It’s the judgement and stigma that goes alongside it
It’s the shock covered faces and long lingered pauses when you say you’re doing a master’s degree. Well, I guess really that should fill you with some glee.

..

Our cities’ children

..
City fumes and red-faced greys
Broken roofs with slanted slates
..
Torn up hearts and calloused hands
Stamp your feet, if you have it hard
..
Tired eyes and sore feet
Endless days of fighting fit
..
Keep on moving, swim, swim, swim
This city never stops to breathe
..
So much anger, so much rage
As children curse instead of pray
..
Such panic fills their little hearts
It stops them play, it stops them laugh
..
Now I stop, to take it in
I wear a skin that’s paper thin
For I do cry and fear for them
Trapped in a maze with just a few better days.

Four poems by Caroline Johnstone

Solvitur ambulando

Sleep eludes me for we wait, and still we must wait;
for change comes slowly, slowly, in drips
of sweetened milk and force-fed quiet protest.

We must be ladylike as we rock the status quo.
Resistance must not stamp its feet, flaunt itself,
give anyone excuses to blame our sex.

They waved their placards, politely petitioned
for rights, took toffee hammers to shop windows,
set fire to the establishment –

yet still we pick our steps through cacophonies
of wolf whistle stares, sexist shaped salaries,
misogyny that chokes us, clings like muck to our souls.

It is not us who needs to clean our act up.

The moon turns the pages of a new century,
reaches to the corner of my room, shines
on my soft leather boots that sit, tongue silenced.

Worn out and ready to be polished, their impotent gaze mocks
my rage that this path still needs treading,
for we wait, as the world pussy foots around us.

The moon turns the pages of a new century,
reaches to the corner of my room,
shines on soft leather boots that wait to be polished –

optical illusions of movement, déjà vu dances.
Tongue silenced, their impotent gaze mocks
my rage that still we wait, we still have miles to travel.

..

Asylum

 

There were locked wards in the mental hospital I first worked in,
the kind that made you scurry away from the howling, banging,
heavy iron doors locked with jangling keys.

Outside our office, the ones they said were harmless mad
would wander, wait to pounce with sly smiles asking for money
for cigarettes, a ribbon for her unwashed hair, a stamp.

This was Katie’s home and prison; suitable accommodation
for family shame, far from observing eyes and lies and questions
for an unmarried mother with not even the money

to emigrate, take a boat journey to decency and respectability
in England, spend the next two years in slavery to pay
for the privilege of silence, face nuns taking her child

away for ever. She was never mad or bad, she could just never
forget his face, tiny white-nailed hands, pink lips that sucked
furiously in his desire to live, that left her crying for weeks,

tears spilling like milk from redundant breasts. Grief stalked her.
She haunted our letterbox, searched for replies for the letters
she sent with my stamps, no forwarding address.

..

Human Beings of the Lesser Spotted Kind
Half the sky’s still
Boxed in by their gender.
Each woman – meek and mile –
Should know her place.
Cultural frameworks created
And then categorised by men
Hold most in place firmly,
Deviation classified
A witch, a goddess, bitch;
Human beings
Of the lesser spotted kind.

..

Man Up

Scissors spilled out of her mouth,
sheared deep wounds in his psyche,
chopped things that mattered into pieces,
cut him right down to size

She chipped him away from his friends
and loved ones, flew into rages,
blamed and berated him, big waste
of space, for her failings.

In shame each evening, he picks up his invisible wounds,
then sweeps them under
the carpet, where no-one will see them,
and fewer believe.

Caroline Johnstone is originally from Northern Ireland, now happily living by the sea in Ayrshire.  She writes stories through her poems, mainly on philosophical, political and life experience themes and has been published in the UK, Ireland and the U.S. She is the social media manager for the Federation of Writers Scotland, is the Secretary for the Poets Advisory Group for the Scottish Poetry Library, is a member of Scottish Pen and the Scottish Writers Centre, and was the social media manager for the Women Aloud NI cross-community group.

 She writes books on journaling and happiness and wellbeing, and runs a number of workshops that dare people to be happier. .

Resurrection, by Terrence Sykes

in the 1800 block of Houston Street
in grimy Greenwich Village back
in the turbulent limbo of the 60s
..
that walk up cold water tenement flat
was a dream for a coal miner’s son
fleeing reality of Nam & poverty
..
printing press operator by day
fedora’d longing  poet by night
searching for whatever could be
..
took another name & age
premature gray hair brought
no suspicion to that resurrected life

Four poems by Mariangela Canzi

Auschwitz

 

Looking
at the snowflakes
falling down.
Memories of home
return
like a torturing
pain.
Snow is covering
the freezing huts,
whitening
the crematory roof.
A cheerful robin
is flying high.
Silence:
dreadful is the grief.
Silence:
death is coming on.

..

Dedication

To the proud losers
who chase their goals

To the bold pioneers
who share their passion

To the kind forgotten
who keep their dignity

To the strong poets
who spread their words

To the sweet dreamers
who grasp their moon

To the brave politicians
who destroy their walls.

..

donald:   by Mariangela Canzi and Rick Davis  on LINKEDIN

you are a monarch
and a run-away asteroid.
melania avoids limelight
as a dutiful concubine to the emperor.
you smother the defenseless
and teach the world
to revel in social media,
wear falsies and smirk.

You speak words
of deep hate.
you have buried your soul
in dark prejudice.
your forgotten are lonely
across the world.
you keep on wanting
barriers and fights.
we keep on writing
no borders no walls.

..

The Forgotten

The sky darkened slowly
in the poor dreary village.
People there yearned for life
beyond the inviting clouds.
They all prayed loudly
to reach the Promised Land.
They walked and walked
till they fell to the ground.
Children were lost in wonder.
Whispers and prayers flew up
in the weeping sky.
Wishes and hopes vanished
behind a cold wall.

..

Mariangela Canzi is Italian mother tongue, translator. Her passion is English language and literature. She started writing poems about two years ago. It was a joke, it is now a challenge and a pleasure.
She tries to express her feelings and thoughts about life and the world.

Black Hole Haiku (4/10/2019), by Clara B. Jones

for Shep Doeleman* & Dimitrios Psaltis*

Nobel in your hands,
Isn’t it? Men win again—
History written.

*Event Horizon Telescope Project

Clara B. Jones is a Knowledge Worker practicing in Silver Spring, MD (USA). Among other works, she is author of, Poems for Rachel Dolezal, published in January 2019 by GaussPDF.
——————————————
Attachments area

Four poems by Joan McNerney

Her

Did you see that woman falling
from the escalator at Grand Central
Terminal?  Lying in dark circles of
blood?  Begging the police not to
tell anyone?  She would be alright
when she got up.

What about her?

Did you see that woman screaming
in front of the newsstand? Hear
those screams of hatred spewing
from her face?  Notice her eyes….
burning slits of light?  Maybe
she can’t be tranquilized anymore?

What about her?

Did you see that woman walking
across the street?  Wearing those
special shoes?  All the toes
on her right foot cut off?  Isn’t
it awful?  Watch her getting on
the bus, all that pain on her face.
How much longer can she keep going?

What about her?

Did you see that woman?  Ashen
and still as a corpse.  Lying
by the side of the Palisades
Highway?  Her hair so grey,
her legs so straight. Lying
in the short grass.  She was
always running off schedule
Always trying to be on time.

What about her?

 

The Waitress

 

Sally thought everything was
up to luck and she had zero.
Her chances got swept
away with yesterday’s trash.

Every day working in this
dumpy dinner slinging hash.

There were the regulars
who knew her name and
left good tips.  They had
no place else to go.

Her feet swelled up at
the end of lunch rush.

Sally wiped tables filling
ketchup bottles, salt shakers,
sugar jars while staring out the
window at pulsing rain.

Waiting a half hour for the bus,
winds tangling her hair.

She stopped at the market to
bring a few groceries home.
Struggling now to open her door,
only cold rooms would greet her.

 

Teacher

She hoped some would leave,
rise above dirty factory gates
past plumes of smoke spewing
from the cement plant.

Occasionally when discussing
great American novels, the walls
shook. Ravines were blasted
for more rocks to crush into powder.

She wished they would not become
clerks for soul-less chain stores or
cooks in fast food joints where
smells of burning grease lingered.

What was the use of teaching literature
and poetry to these children who would
soon grown listless?  Their spirits grinded
down like stones in the quarry.

 

The Blue God

The blue god of war
is so strong
he can twist trees
with the tip of his tongue.

You better not defy him
scream at him
lie to him.
He’ll explode and beat
the hell out of you.

He lives on nothing
will die for nothing
makes us children
shivering all night
crying in empty winds
turning our tears to ice.

The blue god of war
is so strong
northern winds bow to his will.

He doesn’t dig
your moaning
and groaning.
You better shut up or he’ll
make mincemeat out of you.

He laughs at everything
has respect for nothing
makes us afraid to fight
when he spits in our faces
turning our tears to ice.

So we watch in silence
waiting for the coming light
when he will hold us
in his burning hands
and we will be born twice
once by fire
once by ice.

..

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Warriors with Wings, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 

Hush, Child, by Christy Bailey

They — the ubiquitous, omnipresent they

Told me
Loudly, and in no uncertain terms
That I was not sad.
That I was better off, really
(so much better off, honey, really).

They — the all-knowing, all-seeing they

Told me
Frequently, so that I wouldn’t (couldn’t ever) forget
That I was chosen.
That it was for the best, really
(so much better off, don’t be ungrateful, really).

They — the powers-that-be they

Told me
How I felt

How I didn’t feel
How I was allowed to feel
(I’m better off, I won’t be ungrateful, really.)

They
Told me.

But I am no longer a child
And I will no longer be hushed
I will whisper it into the dark
Until someday

I
Will tell

Them.

Dear Crystal, by Chaucer Cameron

I know you think you’re free to come and go.
To one day be so high, you touch stars.
You think you’re free, to spend some days
so low you hardly breathe, while blood
and broken bones, putrefy beneath your bed.
Ease you say, comes quick –
but only when you stick the needle in.
I know you think you’re free to stand
on that street corner and remain intact-
in fact, I think I’m free to tell you
that you may survive: just.

… from a knife wound, by Chaucer Cameron

What bunny can I buy
the chocolate kind.
How can I post it flat
I’d have to break it into pieces.
Is milk chocolate by the sweets
or near the till.
Do they still sell rubber bands
and balls of string.
Where can I find plain packaging.
Someone’s moved the tea again
I swore I saw it, yesterday.
How can I post a bunny
flat. Where did I put
my purse, my hat
who is that man
he’s waving.
Is he my son
no he’s in Oz.
Oh I don’t know
how time moves on.
My watch has stopped
yes he’s in Oz. I think
I’ve mentioned this before.
It’s strange, this feeling
strange, a floppy sort of feeling
…………………………….like I’m bleeding …

..

Chaucer Cameron is a poet living in Wiltshire; she is the creator of Wild Whispers, 2018 an International Poetry Project. She has co-edited three collections of Poetry and Image. She has collaborated on two, long film-poem collections, and her poetry has been published in various anthologies and publications. Her film-poems have been screened in various International Film Festivals. Chaucer is the co-editor of Poetry Film Live and Elephantsfootprint, she currently facilitates film-poetry collectives around the UK, and produces film-poems for Nine Arches Press. 

100 Thousand Poets for Change, by Red Slider

A shield for those who have courage and take the risk,
a crowbar for those put in cages, persecuted and tortured,
a megaphone for those who have been silenced,
a memory that will not forget, no matter how stealthy the lies,
remote the dungeon or weak the muted voice
speaking truth to power from behind thick walls.

Who dares defile the sacrament of word?
Try to silence one of us and a hundred will speak out.
Try to lock one of us up and a thousand keys appear.
Murder one and 100 thousand poets will expose you
in permanent ink, at open mic, on the stage of the world
where we resurrect the souls of fallen comrades
and lay tyranny bare on the open page for all to see.

Make war, and we’ll be there. Refuse the sick or hungry care,
we’ll be there; exploit the poor or the vulnerable or the meek,
we’ll be there. Try to silence the truth, and you’ll never hear the end of it.
We will pry open your ears and force you to listen while your lies
confess of their own accord the crimes that swallow your tongue.
Unable to scream from within the silence you make of yourself,
no one will bother to listen to you begging for your own death.

..
100 Thousand Poets for Change, hosted by its founder Michael Rothenberg of BigBridge press,  is a global effort of poets speaking out for change in the world.  
100TPC now sponsors an annual Day of Change poetry event in more than 500 cities and 120 countries.  Join them to add the poetry and voices of your own community
to the effort.”

Three poems by Renwick Berchild

Downstream

..
And men are the evilest of beings—
there is no doubt in this.
..
In southern keelings,
in northern sleeps, hungry lions
call.
..
Like mewling cats, like baaing sheep, as dying
bodies deflate and hiss, waters inky
with mass casualty, with weeping
boys take their guns and wash them.
..
So is war. So is violence. No freedom flapping
in a wind. There is no noble purpose when it is happening
there is no greater understanding when the last bombs drop
and all cheer loud.
..
Men don’t have names. Men don’t have minds.
Not on the plains cragged in murder.
..
Women don’t have love. Women don’t have truth.
All slaughter flows downstream.

..
..
The Guns
..
,,
Damn your guns. Damn your corporations.
Benefactor—beguile me no more. I curse your silk sheets and feather bed.
,,
How much wider can be craned the maw? May we all fit inside
or shall some dig graves, some lie in them, the rest
eat up, sleep well.
..
I was told that the world was mine; it is a sad memory.
I was told that good do good and cruel ones die, but in summers
all the light is laden with silent weeping.
..
The buildings rise up fast as weeds, glint as lances
spiked on the mounds in the morn
draped in gonfalons with fray and holes.
..
Dear Soldiers,
..
how many bodies have you set lead into, how many threads are holding
your uniforms and medals upright, fingers around bazookas and bombs,
feet on gas pedals, helmets strapped down
..
Dear Soldiers,
..
how many times can we ask of you to passively go
into the red meadows of singular war, the godheads keeping
the mountains all for themselves, for their many houses trimmed
in frescoes and gold, the many bodies stacked up just beyond their stoops
just outwith the velvet of their robes
 ..
Dear Soldiers,
..
you smell the oil in the streets, blood streaks
on our soles, those sands
those sands
..
are hunting us.
..
..
War Is Not Over When It’s Over
..
..
Before the wars stabbed us in the veins
before the narcotic of violence bloomed all the trees bloody
my father held me, in a hand that never once held a gun
the bounty of love shriveled up in the coronas of bombs.
..
Wilfred Owen said to beware the Old Lie
but boys marched in the echoes, girls raised their eyes
so were the ships of iron knelt in the sands with holes cut in them
so were the beetles and soils turgid with fill.
..
The buttoned up men came to my door
I said, “No, not I.” and hid my shame in a bow
the country fed on unwillingness as much as it fed on willingness
there was no moral universe left to rest in.
..
No one slept those years
the tsunamis of battalions came, drowned all the truth and dreams
the hammers hit the red gluttonously, the weapons got forged
in the wheel of relentless jingoism and pedantry, we lingered.
..
My sister stopped her menstruating
so hollow she could not make life, nor love, nor eat
My brothers are all dead somewhere on those flattened scapes
with yellow and purple faces sagged, victimised.
..
I say to my paramore, “Let the lead balloons have me.”
succor of the daffodils seems so sweet. When in the rank heat
I’d plunge my head into the buckets of brown water
open my woeful mouth and breathe.
..
“No one knows us.”
the last words of my mother before she got rolled over.
Is there anyone out there who still hears and cares, I ask of you
to read this poem aloud for me.
 ..
The wars won’t end. As I walk to the grocery and back
ghosts torn and hobbled build new temples
to lay their wounded hearts, and the beasts
will feast on the soured muscles and grow strong again.
,,
Again and again, oh God, again.
,,
,,
,,
,,
Renwick Berchild is half literary critic, half poet. She writes at Nothing in Particular Book Review, and her poems have appeared in SUSAN Journal, isacoustics*, Spillwords,Vita Brevis, The Stray Branch, The Machinery India, Social Alternatives, Streetcake Mag, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. She was born and raised on the angry northern shores of Lake Superior, and now lives in a micro-apartment in Seattle, WA. You can find her work and additional links at RenwickBerchild.com.

Knife Angel, by Isabel Palmer

After the Knife Angel sculpture by Alfie Bradley, currently on display at Coventry Cathedral

His face is a mask of tragedy, open-air,
Dionysos, eater of raw flesh, the wand
or weapon god, only his mother mortal,
the cult that feeds the dead with blood

or Christ, the dying and returning God
of blood and wine: a face stripped to the bone,
a crucifix of nose, eyes, chiselled cheekbones,
saints’ lips that speak only to ghosts.

Hollow, gargoyle eyes and nostrils, doves’ nests
for squabs, the same word for young birds
and their flesh, his eyebrows, knife-slashes, traced
with a priest’s thumb, how children draw birds.

His veins are needle-sharp, threaded beneath the skin,
shoulders, hatchet blades, his chest a cathedral ruin,
its ribbed canopy, Gothic tracery eviscerated, the spire lunging
upwards, Coventry’s cross of knives, St Michael on the baptistery,

the Devil at his feet, the saw-toothed walls of nave
and chancel, saints and angels nesting in their dovecote.
His wings are crow quills with bloody nibs, his hands,
nail-bitten fingerprints, offered to handcuffs, birds

already flown. His voice, if he had one, rusty birdsong,
the witches’ chant of pigeons, the siren in the too-late hours,
the dull blade swallowed waiting for news as words
shred guts, throat, tongue on their way to his lips.

 

Isabel Palmer is co-editor of Flarestack Poets. Her debut pamphlet Ground Signs was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and her first full collection, Atmospherics, with a Foreword by Andrew Motion, was published by Bloodaxe Books in Home Front. Both collections were written in response to her son’s experience of detecting IEDs in Afghanistan. In 2018, she was the overall winner of the National Army Poetry competition and a prize-winner in the Robert Graves Poetry Competition. She was Poet in Residence at the National Army Museum for 100 days leading up to the WW1 Centenary and runs poetry workshops for veterans.

Blade, by Nigel Hutchinson

Sharpened steel is a rate of exchange,
a language to the point, a one liner,
blade delivers its simple message,

distils it all, reduces prey
to a single wordless transaction,
as if blood alone is currency,

light on steel flashes a stainless smile,
though it’s not a full-face portrait,
just teeth looking to bite, unthinking eyes

that’ve shrunk their victim
from subject to object,
to obstacle.

Bassano Moon, by Terrence Sykes

bright as that
votive candle
lit after mass
rises above those
war torn mountains
partaking red wine before
dreaming of crepuscolo

mere shadow of a man
paralyzed & nightmares
battling memories
scarring my soul
flashbacks & delusion

traditional shot of grappa
upon grandmother’s
ancient flowering rose
aiming for the roots
pricked my already maimed finger
bleeding upon sacred soil
blood of an unmartyred saint

 

I often write about WWI/II  probably because I like the Italian poets between the wars – I always try to make it a persona poem and take myself there.  Bassano was the little city at the foot of Monte Grappa where soldiers from all over Italy stopped before marching into those mountains to perish or be maimed for both wars – but fortified the fragile body with Grappa before ascending into Hell. 

Write Now, by Tricia Marcella Cimera

If it’s wrong, write.

If it’s right, write.

If it’s big and belligerent
and beats down the weak,
write.  Or — it may be you,
you may need
to exorcise that
inside of you.  So write.

If it’s little or helpless,
bleeding as it weeps,
staring at you, write.
You don’t want its blood
on your knowing hands.
Help it.

Write.

Small change, by Jackie Biggs

When you give a beggar a coin,
a pound dropped into
a ragged cardboard coffee cup,
do you feel good?

When the guy looks at you,
nods unkempt gratefulness
for your little gift,
your small change,
does it make you feel better?

When you sit with your
fat £3 a go Americano
and carrot cake on a china plate
do you wonder how he came to be
a beggar on the ground
outside Embankment station?

See his tent, there,
just around the corner under the bridge.
You think, at least he has a tent,
it looks sound.
He’s better off than those
who lie on cardboard sheets
in parks and shabby doorways.

And as you eat salmon and avocado
in a restaurant by the theatre
before going to see a drama on the stage
do you wonder how
he’ll spend your pound?
Tea, coffee, cider?

You give small change,
does it make you feel better?
And there’s another,
wrapped in a wornout blanket
on the bridge, cup in hand.
You give another £1.

And as you tuck into dessert,
your favourite strawberry tart,
you think of
a woman on the bridge
holding out her empty palm
no cup
skin brown with streetlife.
You put two fifties into her hand.

And you pay £15 to see
an exhibition of photos
by Don McCullin of 50 years
of war and poverty around the world
where you see pictures of
homeless men in 1970s England
asleep, standing up, capped heads lolling,
because there was nowhere to lie down.

And here’s another today,
along the side of Southbank centre,
in a doorway.
You drop the rest of your silver coins
on his sleeping bag,
before you go into the warm concert hall.

Small change.

 

 

 

 

(Jackie Biggs has had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies, both in print and online. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first poetry collection, The Spaces in Between, was published in September 2015 by Pinewood Press (Swansea). ). Her second collection, Breakfast in Bed, will be published by Indigo Dreams in Autumn 2019. She reads her work regularly at spoken word events all over west Wales, where she lives, and is a member of the Rockhoppers Coast to Coast Poets performance group. Blog:  http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk  Twitter: @JackieNews )

Putting On Greens with No Holes, by Kevin Byrne

so I’m putting on greens with no holes
Grafton Street is a penny old
and green tomatoes are ambassadors now,
so the question is
is there enough in our pockets for a pint?

obviously I’m putting on greens with no holes
when the barber has to sneeze in discarded hair
when Tuscany looks like Kinnegad in deepest January
and Wexford is a lake called Geneva
the question is
is there enough to cross the toll bridge?

so regardless I’m putting on greens with no holes
all graveyards are dogged by Thomas Hardy look-a-likes
they insist on standing in downpours on isolated farms
in Wessex repeating over and over again ”the question is
whose goin’ to be Baillie now!
I’m putting on greens with no holes
They’re rezoning land in Timbuktu
and the dentists are using continents for fillings.
I can remember when they used to leave cakes
on a circular platter in Bewleys
cream cakes, sugar buns and chocolate éclair empires
but the question is
is there a table left for us now?

There’s no point now in putting on greens with no hole under the January moon
they want to march through my sitting room with a flag
and melt the buttons on the alligators eyes.
I’m going home
To walk through the fireplace into a field of Franz Kafkas
the question is
is there fresh cod & chips
on the other side of Frank Sinatra?

The Patriots, by George Szirtes

An essay in Audenesque

When patriots go bawling in the street
Cursing and threatening as is their wont,
When politicians strut and yell and bleat
And right wing rags scream in their largest font,
When you can hear the thugs mutter and blag
Gathering below the nation’s flag,
You know you’ve heard it once before
Or twice or three times, maybe more,
It’s history kids, you know the score.

You know the score
You know the score
You go to bed and lock the door
And wait for them to bawl for more.

When roars of Traitor, Pirate, Foreign Scum,
Rise from the throats of educated toffs
Who feed the mob with the odd tasty crumb
So one man hungers while another scoffs,
When rhetoric is pitched ready for war
And lynching is demanded by the poor,
When nationhood comes down to race
Your nose cut off to spite your face
So that pure hatred fills the place.

You’ll know your place
You’ll know your place
To leave, to leave, without a trace
Hounded, expelled, and in disgrace.