Broken ( After visit to London, September 2017) by Dave Rendle

I heard the crying of the birds

as music sailed into tragic sky,

passing lonely figures with express

ionless gaze, sitting sightless and mute,

their only comfort a strong weatherproof can

almost naked in their cages, neglected and worn,

faces stained with sadness and bitter pills

the marks of battered existence,

sheltering among cardboard in open view

broken and torn, losing sense of hope,

with aching belly’s, empty pockets

flicker of dreams slowly evaporating,

struggling, drifting on streets of anguish

the pavements they sleep, not laced with gold,

as rain poured down, to lash skin and souls

others  rushed on by in search of entertainment

troubles they will keep as another world turns.

and politicians walk on paths of indifference.

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.stop sign. by Sonja Benskin Mesher

the lady with the blue umbrella

is merely a road sign, remember.

 

until we walk over and find there

is not one.

 

had difficulty sleeping, thinking.

of you all.

the hurricanes.

 

thinking of you all.

 

the genocide.

spelled carefully

 

you all

at war.

 

all who are ill,

unease.

 

i went on the bus, saw the mud

from the festival. talked   to you

who got lost and fed the homeless.

 

read some road signs elsewhere.

stop

 

Closed Quarters *for DACA* by Debra Webb Roberts

Space shared multiplies,
slices of atmosphere warm
to congenial

where offerings of generous
are portioned, not rationed –
this becomes our giving room

We like tidy edges,
picket fence perfection
until maps reveal untraceable tracks,
crossed boundaries prove Others
left behind to hanging out on the fringe

We’ve elbow room for plenty,
wide brimmed-hats and big boots
boast enormity

Even the stoutest of walls must breathe,
expansion is a door blown wide open –
do we come unhinged at prospect?

Warm welcomes friend and stranger,
empty platitudes tossed aside,
dishing out, instead, the simplest gifts of grace

Here it seems irrational to segregate,
heart’s divided and sometimes stingy cry
for solitude goes unheard, defied
in the expansive act of ushering in

Old modes relearned,
elders taught necessity of compassion :
strangers and angels come, visit;
invitational is to revisit soul’s yearning
for connection

A land, a house, a home of plenty –
proverbial jar of oil never runs dry

Spaces portioned, freely served,
the welcome mat whose face
is worn away for traffic

Love does not divide, nor reduce

Where walls come down
hearts increase in size
souls expand with joy

.not for sale. by Sonja Benskin Mesher

critical.  some things are not for sale.

 

you see.

it is

not about money

nor gain.

 

critical. heard things

you disliked.     they

saved your life

didn’t                they?

 

critical and        difficult

on all sides.       it is not

a competition, we shall

not paint it white.   the

 

upper rooms.

sale

 

Our Children’s Story by David R Mellor

The rolling film

The ticker tape

The white van that feels no pain

The eye witness “who saw nothing “

The slow counting of numbers

“Is that 1 or 13?”

 

The rolling film

Over her eyes

The white van speeding towards her

Imagining the screams

 

This is our children’s bedtime story 

..

Following the events in Barcelona.

The Greedophile by Bill Lythgoe

I creep through the clean, green, town-centre park,

eyeing rich pickings. What’s in it for me?

How can I use it to make my mark?

I creep through the clean, green, town-centre park.

I need to act quickly or some other shark

will move in, develop it, charge a fat fee.

I creep through the clean, green, town-centre park,

eyeing rich pickings. What’s in it for me?

..

Bill Lythgoe has been writing poetry seriously for about six 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 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.

While his guitar by Kushal Poddar

We light a frail candle.

Waves. Canopy. Phosphorus.

His strings garrotte 

the darkness.

A dying blaze traverses 

the nighttime firmament,

and you fix a wish

with your finger tip

calloused from working on me.

Music. Bonfire.

Everything is as unbroken 

as everything ground

again and again and once more.

Political by Sam Richards

Political political,
Everything’s political.
This poem is political.
You are.
I am.
If you post pictures of your fluffy cat
On Facebook,
Or your brat doing something you think is
Cute
That’s political.
Don’t kid yourself:
There’s nothing that’s not political.
Even kidding yourself
Is political.

If you think “political”
Only applies to politics –
That’s political.
Quite possibly
That’s what politicians
Would like you to think;
And that too
Of course
Is political.
In some ways
Politicians
Are only marginally political
But they are fully political
Just the same.
Thinking you can live your life
Free of politics
Is political.
Assuming the arts
And music
And poetry
To be outside politics
Is political.
Language of course
Is political
Before you even open your mouth
Or commit words to paper.
Paper is political,
So is the screen of your laptop
So is your laptop.
Digital is political.
Science is political
Both dead and alive
Schrodinger’s cat is political.

Going shopping is political
To the Nth degree,
The Nth degree is political.
Shopping mall or old market street,
Both are political
As is your choice
To use one rather than the other
Or both.
Hedging your bets
Is political.

Taste and judgment
Are political.
Your aesthetic preferences
Are political
Even though you may think they’re not –
They are.
The choices you make
Are political.
Doing nothing all day
Is political.
Loving it and not giving a sod
Is political.
Money
Is only political
And nothing else.
There’s nothing more political
Than money
Or the lack of.

But surely
The golden sunset of the enfolding evening
Settling over the wild, wild moor
Clouds ablaze with shepherd’s delight
(Cue the music)
Is void of politics:
Political, political
That’s not political…
Nice try,
Sorry to disappoint:
But sunsets
Have influenced decisions,
Provisions and visions,
Ordered and organized
Human societies
And anxieties
For centuries,
They govern, control, console
Have power in the evening hour
Where their symbolic appearance
In films, poems, paintings, novels
Is fruitful, crucial
Not neutral.

Dreams and desires
Are as political as a revolution.
They are the roots of revolution.
Denying the political
Is like denying climate change –
Political.
You can’t be a-political.
It doesn’t exist.
Being fed up
With everything being political
Is political…

Grand Junction by Neeli Cherkovski

the rivers meet where sentences slide.
I’d bet my life, lie on a river-bed.
the slim young man in dungarees will slip
into position when the sun has gone
into overdrive. the sons and daughters
of my generation will prepare
for the end-game. some might linger
for years. others will fall into sleep
and not return. in Grand Junction
I take my chances.

fight the killer birds who perch
on your spark plugs. is it
a God makes mercy work or common
decency? from Junction we visit
the canyons to witness the geologic
truth. a fat man who makes
a big deal of selling cups of iced tea. when
I say “fat” I mean easily 350 pounds. his body
jiggles. “Dive right in” he tells me. “Cool,” I
say and return to the van.

some of the rock formations are one
billion years old you may wish to purchase
and be the proud owner. we’re digging a new well
and making preparations in case the mammoth returns.
over the far hills. you ask what it means, oh
what does anyone know? they will build here
their fortresses of steel and glass. one of the boys
Dies of boredom and two trade in obsidian.

Back to Barcelona: Summer 2017 by Kathryn Alderman

Barcelona

Kathryn is from Gloucestershire, U.K. She’s won the Canon Poets’ ‘Sonnet or Not’ competition. Recent publications include: Amaryllis, Good Dadhood and World Refugee Day in Poetry (for Worcestershire Poet Laureate). She is chair of Gloucestershire Writers’ Network @GWNgloswriters who organise a county writing competition for The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

American Rattler by Anna Kander

Extreme and Vicious Dangers of the United States

“a federal investigation found that deputies had used stun guns on prisoners already strapped into a ‘restraint chair.’ The family of one man who died after being forced into the restraint chair was awarded more than six million dollars… The family of another man killed in the restraint chair got $8.25 million… after the discovery of a surveillance video that showed fourteen guards beating, shocking, and suffocating the prisoner, and after the sheriff’s office was accused of discarding evidence, including the crushed larynx of the deceased.”

—evidence against former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio,
pardoned by President Trump on August 25, 2017,
as reported by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker

 

1.

the American rattlesnake is shedding its skin
revealing another layer

sticky with newness and sharp-edged with scales
the same, deathless serpent

brown-on-brown like a Western Diamondback
winding beneath cracked earth

with each molt, the snake adds a segment to its rattle
sloughing skin into wads of dead keratin

dragging shed skins like history or taken scalps
inconvenient and noisy

2.

from 1993–2016, in Maricopa County, Arizona
Sheriff Joe Arpaio reigned over four million

proclaimed his jail a “concentration camp”
in his custody, a hundred men died

on surveillance video, Scott Norberg slurs, dehydrated
barely conscious, strapped to a “restraint chair”

as fourteen police officers
shock, beat, and suffocate him to death

but the good ol’ sheriff excused them all
and now the president has pardoned the sheriff

when lawyers started to investigate Scott’s death
the sheriff seized Scott’s body

and the evidence of abuse—Scott’s crushed larynx
disappeared

3.

a larynx, also called a voice box
resembles a rattle segment

pyramidal and hollow
without them, you can’t make a sound

i picture them: rattle segments
strung like stanzas

sound the warning
louder

4.

i picture them: larynxes
strung like rattles

pieces of victims
like tin cans clattering after a car

someone celebrating
a marriage of evil and convenience

and mr. and mr. complicit
a polyamorous affair:

there’s Joe and Little Donny
Mitch, Ryan, and more

maybe back to Adam
a circle-jerk of snakes

in business suits and fig leaves
paired with power ties:

red like apples, silks slithering on pinstripes
or leather restraints on chairs

when Adam reached for his irresistible fruit
did that serpent rattle, too?

5.

imagine—me, the serpent
my body, a closet dragging skeleton

surviving years between meals
you can’t starve me out

horses and cattle know:
you will have to trample me

gather
your voices like rattles

until then, you fools—
run!

..

Anna Kander is a writer in the Midwest. Her work is published or forthcoming in journals including Gnarled Oak, Leveler, and Train. Find her at http://annakander.com

The Arena by Jennifer Lagier

The latest of President Pussy Grabber’s

crude, clueless appointees

has lasted less than ten days.

Fired after ranting on video

“I’m not Steve Bannon,

trying to suck my own cock.”

The Mooch eagerly fluffs

batshit Cheeto-in-Charge

as his fed-up wife

files for divorce.

 

Pundits guess

how long other staffers

will remain before

they are thrown under

the vindictive orange bus

or voluntarily abandon

a sinking clown car administration.

 

On Face the Nation,

one talking head

predicts an immediate pivot

to more dignified behavior,

fewer embarrassing leaks

now that there’s a

new sheriff in town.

 

Wanna place any bets?

The Longest Gamble by Jennifer Lagier

The presidential apprentice

gambles for ratings,

pardons a racist sheriff

to pre-empt sentencing

for his conviction,

then incarceration

 

After U.S. threats

of fire and fuy,

North Korea launches missiles

that sail over northern Japan.

The skies fling hurricanes,

tornados, 50 inches of rain.

Flood waters rise, cover red Texas.

 

It’s a feeding frenzy

of conspiracy theorists,

right-wing radicals,

climate change deniers

whose crackpot beliefs

now pervert the White House.

 

We’re on our own during

democracy’s deconstruction,

Constitutional crisis.

Ethics, integrity crumble.

Russia laughs; their boy is in charge.

Treason, corruption, hypocrisy burgeon.

..

Jennifer Lagier currently hides among sand dunes at the edge of the Pacific Ocean to escape the ongoing decline of discourse and democracy in the U.S. Website: jlagier.net

Listening to Bach’s Passion at the Proms by Carolyn O’Connell

Sung in German, his language
one I slightly know
the anger of the mob, a people led
by men who feared loss of power
to reject an innocent man
who’d helped and taught love.

Knowledge of another’s language
culture and beliefs: brings understanding
no matter what his colour, status
or the culture, country where he flies from
or still strives to live.

If all men could learn from others
the stranger on your road
then no leader would have power
to bring men to hate or war.

There would be no enemy
no one to despise
we’d understand each other
no matter what the dress or voice
or where we live or worship
or even what we eat.

Then we’d be each other’s brothers
and sisters, forever joined in harmony.

Counting Dead Rabbits by Rachel Burns

I sit on a bench, surrounded by moorland

and watch the children fly their new toy plane

it is motorized with a propeller, and has red and white wings.

The bench has a plaque dedicated to a son killed in Iraq.

 

The farmer is burning the heather over the far side

and I can taste smoke like someone else’s grief.

The plane takes off, droning through the air,

nose dives

             bombs

     crashes

               into the heather.

 

The children pick it up, try again.

The sun is high in the sky and I can see for miles.

The farmhouse looks tiny below, as do pine trees

planted in neat triangles sheltering the cattle from the cold.

 

The plane takes off, droning through the air,

nose dives

bombs

crashes

into the heather.

 

A pair of peewits and dive, peewit, peewit

rising above the sound of the droning engine

voices sharp as breaking glass as they dart

in and out of the tussocks of grass.

 

I see snow on the furthest reaches of the hills

and the dot, dot, dot of sheep. Smoke

from the burning heather billows across moorland.

Another sound startles from the heather,

hidden but strange like a wound up toy.

 

The plane takes off, droning through the air,

nose dives

bombs

crashes

into the heather.

 

The plane keeps on crashing and the children start to squabble.

The burnt heather taste stronger and the strangled sound

of the bird I can’t see, louder like terrible laughter.

I can’t help thinking about Colin.

 

The Red Cap killed in Iraq.

We make our way back over the moorland,

across the heather and thick rough grass.

The children run on in front, counting dead rabbits

 

one dead rabbit

two dead rabbits

three dead rabbits

four.

 

I think of slain soldiers, glassy eyed in the grass.

The body count in Iraq.


 

Down and out in Durham by Rachel Burns

Late in the evening Alfie huddles in a shop doorway

beneath bright Christmas lights

 

Nearing thirty, he looks punch old.

His battered radio tuned to Metro Night Owls.

 

A wave of desperate voices, a distraction

from the freezing cold. Ida from Stockton remembers

 

people darning holes in their socks. Jim from Byker

is pissed off. He’s being sanctioned.

 

Vicky from Shields is looking for a Food Bank

to feed her three bairns. Alfie finds words

 

strangely comforting, as if back inside the army dorm

before he was kicked out, cos his head

 

is filled with raging nightmares and battle scars

before his mates were sent home in body bags.

 

By his side, a collection tin and a bottle of Bull

people walk by, he tries to catch their eye, areet darlin, smile.

 

He wraps himself in an old sleeping bag from the Salvo.

By the morning he will have succumbed to hypothermia

 

people walk on by, foot fall imprinting in the snow.

 

 

An Alien in London by Rachel Burns

Walk past a sea of sleeping bags, blues and greens

see the man swimming beneath, lost in drugged sleep

take a sleeping bag, it’s yours. Drag it through littered

streets. Smile be happy. This is London. The Big City.

 

Smoke weed, roach hanging from your mouth

greet fellow travellers, lost souls

on the long and dusty road. Let the tears flow.

Smile be happy. This is London. The Big City.

 

In the West End, walk through Burlington Arcade

stop to have a shoe shine, shoes blackened

for a charge, a very large charge. Pay with your soul.

This is London. The Big City. The Valley of Plenty.

 

No money? Don’t worry. On the outskirts

of King’s Cross, come sleep rough, become one of us.

Join us. Get your feet blackened for free.

This is London. The Big City. The Valley of Death.

..

Rachel Burns is a poet and playwright living in Durham City, England. Poems published in UK literary magazines. Shortlisted in competitions Mslexia, Writers’ & Artists Yearbook and The Keats- Shelley Poetry Prize 2017.


 

Well Cleaned Working Shoes by Mendes Biondo

wake up my buddy it’s monday
today the world spins again
and you will stand waiting
for a job and a place struggling

as everyday

set up the house
clean the garden

sit and write another curriculum vitae
send the whole thing to deaf
factories
presses

supermarkets
working places without a particular name

start praying your mean god to receive

a good answer
or at least
an

answer

people told you so many times
that work is a way to be free
arbeit macht frei
that work is always abroad
mamma mia
that you need to go away
au revoir mes amis

it’s the same old dirty monday lie
because your working shoes
are clean as a new pair
yet

and good mama girls
and good papa boys
goodfellas
godfathers
recommended rotten brains
idiots of every kind
will overtake your working shoes

but

 

now breath and forgot all struggles
monday is over
and tuesday is ready to make shine
your well cleaned working shoes

Cormelian by Sally Long

He lashes me with his words.
He lashes me with his fists.
He lashes me with his feet.

I lug his granite boulders,
wrap my apron round them,
their heaviness oppresses me,
but there is nowhere to escape.

He lashes me with his words.
He lashes me with his fists.
He lashes me with his feet.

I wear the clothes he tells me,
keep the children quiet,
his behaviour depresses me,
but there is nowhere to escape.

He lashes me with his words.
He lashes me with his fists.
He lashes me with his feet.

He sleeps so I take my chance,
I pick up lighter greenstone,
quickly hide it in my apron,
but then my husband wakes.

He lashes me with his words.
He lashes me with his fists.
He lashes me with his feet.

He sleeps so I take my chance,
I pack a bag, call a cab,
quickly gather up the children,
but then my husband wakes.

He lashes me with his words.
He lashes me with his fists.
He lashes me with his feet.

 

 

Sally Long is a PhD student at Exeter University where she is working on a collection of poems influenced by The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. Her work has appeared in Agenda, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Poetry Salzburg Review, Snakeskin and elsewhere. She is a member of Liskeard Poetry Group and edits Allegro Poetry Magazine.