Cruise ships convert towards war, by Andy Brown

There is a cruise ship docked out front;
six hundred passengers could disembark
destroying delights of a pristine Peniscola
egging others to vaunt vanities of vandalism.

It might be a warship outside the harbour walls
waiting, just waiting for a right time to disembark
guides that present missiles of hate and vandalism
always to annihilate prospects for petition and peace.

Perhaps in our troubled days we can dream a possibility
of togetherness wrapped within a cocooned community.

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Sunday Matinee, by David Chorlton

The lady was a reckless rider
in the light rail car,
standing up to shake her hips
with the beer in her plastic cup
washing up the sides and threatening
to spill over upon
those of us just minding
our own businesses, which she
appropriated for herself
and campaigned for an end
to being miserable: an apt
description for how it felt
to be in her intoxicated shadow
while the smoothly running
wheels carried us along
our route to baseball
or ballet.
……………….The program
was all Balanchine, with its
angular grace and depictions
of sin and redemption, the struggle
to be human, and a jealous
woman’s vanity
leading to a fine finale with
her erstwhile suitor lying dead
to a knife wound in the chest.
Meanwhile, outdoors
………………………………..the temperature
was rising, and a certain
melancholy overflowed
the bars whose doors were open
and upon whose television screens
the final inning was in play. Some city
pigeons pecked for scraps
and the long streets
led to uncertain horizons.
On days like this
………………………it is impossible
to define the soul, thinking perhaps
it is the white moth
flying in the scene before
the curtain falls, or the part of us
that cares for what is lost
when a civilization turns into
technology; the part that wants
to scream like a chainsaw
when it sees what it has done.
Or is the soul
………………..the hand that holds
the knife? That tightens its grip
on the handle, bracing
to fight against loss. A fingerprint
upon its victim’s
final breath.

things men have said to me (a found poem), by Amy Kinsman

you can be so delightfully cold sometimes.
cold. literally and figuratively.
you’re much cooler than i thought you were.
you have amazing breasts.
that isn’t making you feel attractive to the world?

i know what i’d like to do tonight.
i didn’t think english girls had asses like that.
if you stay, i’m going to ask to fuck you.
people won’t be taking drugs
………and having sex in the street yet anyway.
i bet you’d also like to see my coffee table.
………to be honest i have a much nicer bed.
you have beautiful thighs.
am i coming home with you, then?
don’t fall in love with me.

do you mind if i go?
i was holding on to my testicles the whole time.
big, sweaty, meaty balls.
taking you outside alone was a weird thing to do
……..but for some reason i thought that was right.
i do sometimes decide i just need to escape,
……..though i would never leave anyone on their own.

i want to leave you in no doubt that
……..there exists no sexual feeling between us.
you’re a lot like my sister.
it’s because you’re young and hormonal.
i’m basically on a break with a girlfriend at the moment.
i’ve also been making an effort to distance myself
……..from everyone i met at uni.
i’m just messing, amy. why can’t you flirt?
girlfriend is a stupid word.
i’m a fascist.
is that why we can’t have sex?

i don’t think sleeping together broke the friendship, as you say,
……….so in what way was that a mistake?
because as far as i’m concerned that was a thing that happened.

i completely understand why you’ve asked me to
……..stay away from you for a while,
it’s entirely your choice, but i feel
……..it was merely a miscommunication after the fact.
however, i do think certain aspects of things need to be explained:

i actually know a disappointing amount of swingers.
i was aware that there may have been
……..greater forces at work the other night.
i’m faintly aware i need to stop drinking as much as i am.
i feel that i never really made any friends.
white straight men are the most prejudiced
……..against group in the modern day.
feminism has gone too far.
if women can’t climb the career ladder,
……..that’s their own fault for having babies.
i think you’ll change your mind about having them one day.

i think you think you could break me,
……..but you’re wrong. i could break you.

i would never hit you.
this is compromise.
this is how they treat women in my family.
she deserved it. she got on his nerves.
……..she was irritating and talked too much.
they were as bad as one another.
……..she engineered the divorce because it suited her.

i need to know if it’s bad, what you need to talk to me about.
……..why would you talk about that?
i must ask how much you
………have discussed what i said last night.
please, don’t write a poem about me.
………okay, but don’t expect me to publish it.

have i done something wrong?
i just don’t understand where this has come from.
i don’t know how i can help.
how am i not respecting you?

hey, just out of interest, was i lacking a big sweeping gesture
……..or were you just not interested in me?

are we still friends?

..

Amy Kinsman is a poet and playwright from Manchester, England. As well as being founding editor of Riggwelter and associate editor of Three Drops From A Cauldron, they are also the host of regular Sheffield open mic, Gorilla Poetry. Their debut pamphlet was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017.

Threads, by Mark Connors

i

We live in the age of pulling threads,
open colossal cans of worms
which once kept bigotry contained.
We cannot help but hear them spill:
the plop, the seethe and the wriggling
to uncomfortable truths;
we have moved forwards but stepped back.
Our leaders pull threads and get votes,
legitimise bad behaviours
in our pubs, on radio
in the places where we go to work,
on a scale not known for decades.
They split countries 50/50
in ways which once caused civil wars.

ii

There was a film that shocked us, once,
about a nuclear winter
in Sheffield, of all places.
As realistic as it was,
the three-minute generation
were protected by a comfort:
mutually assured destruction,
as cold as a comfort can be
but a comforting deterrent
which is no longer evident
in these days of no trust. Seldom
have we seen such oscillation:
one day leaders threat to the brink,
the next day they are holding hands.

iii

We set up and pull on Facebook
and we are all provocateurs
in our own narrow little worlds.
When we don’t talk about our cats,
our kids, our holidays, our meals,
we will always be in conflict
with someone, somewhere: an old friend,
someone who never really was,
those we just don’t have time to see.
We will defriend our abusers
and then preach to our converted.
Our leaders will know what we feel,
keep pulling at our slender threads
and we will unravel, or not.

..

Mark Connors is a widely published poet and novelist from Leeds. His work has appeared in Envoi, Prole, Dream Catcher, The Salzburg Review, The Interpreter’s House and many other magazines and anthologies.  He has won prizes at Ilkley Literature Festival and North London Lit Fest. His debut poetry pamphlet, Life is a Long Song was published by OWF Press in 2015. His debut collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. www.markconnors.co.uk

I want to burn a tangerine, by Diana Devlin

I want to burn a tangerine,
hear it fizzle, squeal and pop,
watch it glow like a sorry sun,
feel the laughter of the dead
rise up like a billion bubbles.

I want to join the celebration of release
from slavery and war. Throw another log
on the barbie! Watch flames leap
and twist, seek out the awful seeds,
make ash, don’t let them rise again.

I want to burn a tangerine, I really do
but the awfulness of such a deed
would infiltrate, annihilate,
turn us orange, one by one –
it can’t be done.

I won’t apologise for dreams of vengeance.
My dreams are all I’m left with
when building walls is easier
than building peace.

The Native-American Dream, by Heath Brougher

There very well could have been a Native-American Dream.
Unfortunately, the European’s Dream, the seed
of the American Dream, quickly came charging in
and began its destruction before it even thought to ask!
 ..
Maybe there was a Native-American Dream,
though, good luck finding one who can tell
you what it is. Or was. Though I’m guessing
if there was a Native-American Dream,
it has severely changed over the past few centuries.

What I’m Not, by Heath Brougher

The whole world may be laughing at them,
but they’re not laughing at me.
I am no american.
I run with no herd.
Have allegiance to no one but my Self.
Yet they try to call me an american
just because I happened to have been born
at a particular place in the world?
 ..
Once again Proximity reigns,
along with the axiomatic insanity of society.

Trump was Right, by Heath Brougher

Trump did not win the Presidential Election—
for it was hatred that won the Presidential Election.
All those bigots running deep into the valleys of America
where the hills have eyes finally received their spokesperson.
They could finally unleash all that latent racism and homophobia and xenophobia
that lay quiet as a landmine just waiting for detonation.
These vicious voices were finally given a platform
and they ate it right up like swine from a trough.
 ..
Trump was right. He could have stood in the street
and shot someone without losing a single vote
because the election was never about that—
for it was hatred, and nothing else, that won the election.

Trump is Not a Person, by Heath Brougher

Trump is not a person. He is the conduit of hatred
that was lying latent in the heads and hearts
of the American herd which sprung into action
when the poles closed so cold and relevant
on that terrible Tuesday. Now, a lunatic bounces
off the walls of the oval office after admittedly,
and in such a braggardly way, to grabbing many an oval orifice
which would have spelled immediate political death
for any sane politician. This is why Trump is not a person.
Trump is an ideology reflected back at the bigoted, dumb as a rock
populace, which, consciously or subconsciously,
ate up his bigotry right from the filthy, golden dog dish
upon which this blight was served. Equality is now
severely jeopardized and is slowly atrophying
every minute this man, this idea, is alive and breathing
with his tiny hands so wrathfully wrapped around
the biggest piece of power in the world.
 ..
Someone should really pry his little fingers
off of that as soon as possible.

Lottery, by Neil Fulwood

“… and for the lack of anything better to do, I went back to work.”  – James Crumley

And there is always one
in the office syndicate
who insists without irony
they’d still keep their job.

And I wonder what it is
about a life without meetings
that doesn’t appeal. What
peer reviews provide

that can’t be found
on the deck of an ocean liner.
For which the driver’s seat
of a Mercedes 560SL

is a poor substitute.
Why a private jet
and the mile high club
don’t buzz the mojo

like an hour on the phone
with an irate customer
or a reprimand from HR
on your permanent record.

Like the pay rise frozen
or the pension fund
transferred to a provider
you’ve never heard of.

What the Eye doesn’t See, the Heart doesn’t Grieve, by Neil Fulwood

Something glints in the shadows
and the eye looks away.

Breaking news on the bar-room TV
and the eye scurries
to the dartboard, the pool table.

A headline stark as a tombstone
and the eye looks for cracks
in paving stones or faces in clouds.

A placard, a sign, a banner,
several dozen gathered in protest
and the eye checks a smartphone app
for alternative routes, other things to do.

The eye distracts itself with clickbait.
The eye relaxes in the dark of the cinema.
The eye finds its forte binge-watching Netflix.
The eye and the brain want the heart untroubled.

..

Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham. His pamphlet ‘Numbers Stations’ is published by Black Light Engine Room Press; and his debut collection, ‘No Avoiding It’, by Shoestring Press.

Asking for the Moon, by Roberta Monokroussos

My children and I wake up hungry at the border
So many people congregate in anxious disorder
We fled from our country to seek asylum
Our lives were in jeopardy; I am glum

I journeyed no food or money
clutched my children one by the hand
my baby in my arms afraid
for our safety, tired and hungry

Honduras in extreme poverty
the homeless street kids everywhere
join gangs—the Maras—no escape
no opportunity no safety

We have escaped from the violence
Some boys and men climb the fence
Persecuted by gangs without defense
we seek a “credible fear” interview
Hoping for humanitarian common sense

The border is closed this Sunday afternoon
Hope we shall find asylum very soon
We looked through the border fence
Hoping for humanitarian common sense.
The sun sets as we ask for the moon

Whatever Happened to the Secret Ballot? by Oonah V Joslin

You have your ballot card with you I see.
Maybe you killed someone to get that though.
Do you have proof of your identity?
A valid drivers licence? Expired… I see.
Passport? You never go on holiday?
Can’t afford to. Ah. Pity.
Birth certificate? You should apply for a copy.
Are you in full employment? Retired…
Did you leave of your own will or were you fired?
Made redundant? Can’t have been tip top.
Post code…the scruffy houses by the railway stop.
You don’t look like you’d vote the way we’d like.
Don’t think I’ll let you vote… Now, on yer bike!


five members of staff, by Martin Hayes

after the recent culling of staff
due to a sudden drop in revenue from the loss of a few big accounts
the Board of Directors asked the supervisors to report
on why the service levels have gone down
from 89% to 83%

the supervisors are unsure what to do
as though it was the Board of Directors who ultimately made the decision
on who had to go
it was the supervisors who allowed it to happen
without saying anything about the potential threat to the service levels
for fear of being marked out
as a troublemaker

and now we are here
and the supervisors will not have the guts to tell to the Board of Directors
that the drop in service levels is because we have five less staff now
it will be far easier for them to lay the blame at the controllers who are left
who they will say have underperformed
because then the directors will be able to
shake free their dragon wings
and breathe fire down onto the boardroom table
before advising HR to put the controllers left
under ‘a little bit of pressure’
and tut-tutting at the supervisors
for letting this happen
while they go about
fixing it

which, by the way
will require five new members of staff

bullets not poems, by Martin Hayes

bullets not poems
change the world
progress not hands
equals nil by mouth
dust not water
creates the thirst
chains not choice
carves the vote
call centers not industry
stallions not mules
death not life
one thousand pounds of pressure per square inch
pressed against the brain for one second longer than can be tolerated
can cause a person to snap
tare out their eyes
with just the use of their hands
and an ice cream scoop

ideas not sweat
crawls the land
strategies not jobs
destroys the community
money not hearts
breaks the will
service not making
celebrities not carpenters
comas not dreams
a clamp tightened against the temples for one second longer than can be tolerated
can make a person uncap their head
remove the things

causing them all of this pain
with just the use of their cupped hands
and an old tin bucket
to chuck them in

as we all skip merrily along
having removed everything from inside our heads
without a care in the world
feeling
nothing

the blood and smiles yet to be delivered into this world, by Martin Hayes

we move the beds of shut down hospital wards that our grandparents laid in to die
we carry the blood of children still open on operating tables
from blood banks to theatres
just to see if they will live
we pack transit vans full of cakes
and take them to weddings where daughters will be given away to men
we pick up contracts from big lawyers and deliver them to CEOs who work from home
so that they can proofread them and sign off the building of a dam
that will shut down a river and turn villages into dust
we tap away at keypads all day sending instructions to couriers
to drive their big vans to bankrupt companies
so that they can empty them of the desks and chairs that workers once sat in
earning just enough money to feed their families and pay their rent
we pick up artificial limbs from factories and deliver them to hospitals
so that men who lost a leg in a war 5,000 miles away
can learn to walk again
we place couriers outside big banks at 2 am
in case the money markets in countries far away take a dive or soar into the sky
we pick up hearts at road traffic accidents
and rush them off to clinics
so that they can be frozen before they stop beating
we put barrels of ink into the backs of vans
and deliver them to printers in Truro and Dunfermline
so that they can print eviction notices and final demand notices we move
dead people’s bodies
after they have been stripped of their organs
and sewed back up as a mark of respect we pick up
projectors screens whiteboards brochures lecterns
and deliver them to conference rooms in hotels
so that a man from one of the big banks can stand in front of 200 people
and explain to them why more and more acquisitions and the swallowing up of jobs
is the best way to grow and thread a corporation through with steel and strength

and when our shifts have finished
we go home to play with our daughters and sons picking up plastic teapots
pouring imaginary tea into plastic cups while sat at imaginary tea parties we make
big engine noises come out of our throats as we help them steer their toy trucks
to the piles of wooden blocks
that they load onto those trucks and steer back across to the other side of the room
where they unload them and announce to their world that “everything has been delivered”
where we pick up bottles of wine after they have gone to bed
and sit at a window wondering about the industries of men
and the blood and smiles that are still yet to be delivered into this world
whether or not they will be the ones
to write that song or poem start
the revolution
that will change everything

Period Poverty, by Karen Mooney

Some use pads, some use socks
To societal norms all in hock
Having to pay because of gender
No money left, why not send her

To a food bank, they can see
No money, no dignity
Paper towels, toilet rolls
Even socks then soiled clothes

Period pain, that costs too
Don’t moan or groan, it’s not man flu
Poverty’s here you realise
Elected, institutionalised

Some will look, some will sneer
She has money for fags, swigging beer
But that’s a ploy often shared
By those who have so we’re not heard

When you’ve kids to feed, down to your last
No money for towels or the kids will fast
But who gives a damn for our fate
“They’re scroungers living off the state”

Who will support those in need?
House, clothes, mouths to feed
Your responsibility or just a scud
After all: it’s not your blood

..

Karen’s work has been published by The Society of Classical Poets and she has self- published three poetry booklets to support various charities. Karen’s poem ‘Unspoken’ has been included in ‘The road to Clevedon’ by The Hedgehog Poetry Press in April and her poem ‘Still Waters’ has been selected for publication by poems-for-all for. Her poem ‘My Silence My Voice’ was published on I am not a silent poet in April.
https://www.observationsinrhyme.com/