If Ali was a football side who would support him as he defended his right to wave a new flag coz his old one had faded? If Ali was sent off in the first minute for being cut down would we share the replay and agree he should not be banned or is it just too upsetting and not in vogue to discuss? If a foul was committed against Basra United would we all shout “ah come on ref” or just wait for something more meaningful to shout and sing about. There is no Basra United, there is only United and United and some forms of United make us cheer or not cheer. Imagine if Spurs or Barcelona never turned up because the game was just too hard, can you picture the outpouring of passion and anger? Imagine if the game on Gaza beach next to jumpers on goal posts took place on a day when fifty-one people cheered for something more than football it would be everything about football and life I’d truly wanna see. Can you imagine how some would be enraged at people cheering for their side and their side? Imagine if they’d kicked the ball over the wall like I did as a kid and asked my neighbour if I could have my ball back and they sent back “no” in bombs or soldiers. If all of us were football teams I’d be supporting all of them as one team so none of them could lose. If all of us were football teams we could all play together and hold aloft the silverware with all our names on it. We’d all meet down the boozer where they’d use beer kegs as drums and all of us would get drunk on being together as one massive city we all could support. Nobody would goad each other, a man would not have his tyre slashed because of the wrong kit colour, a few good men and women too tired to carry on would be helped over the finishing line and be told that even the boring goals matter in this long game we’re all trying to win. If all of us were football teams I’d be hugging you way before the final whistle and extra time would be given to the massive bench where sixty million substitutes wait looking for a new home. They want to feel supported, their form of escapism is different. They all want to play, all of us could win.
I want to think of you young in the parachuting smoke where you met him
his brass buttons cold against your cheek as you danced to conscripted tunes.
Your stolen kiss after war must have felt like a dabbed wound to his mouth.
I dreamt I was made in the waterfall’s shroud that dropped in tresses of red
and when you spoke his name dusk became an unpicked scab of no man’s land.
I am the son of an unknown soldier who died with earth in his fingernails.
I am the son of an unknown woman who lived in the earth with his hands.
His hands, his hands, his hands, was all she said when we danced each autumn.
“Coventry has been named the most violent city in UK”
In England’s most violent city I sank in a galleon of fog to steal the red treasure and spent bronze coin of dusk. Maybe it is violent to see how buzzards fire themselves like bullets at voles and swallow their hearts like right wing newspapers. Maybe it is violent to see how magpies clean the road more travelled where badgers park forever split open at random by whatever car had trespassed their country. I only see violence when I look away and my heart will not allow it anymore. The most violent I ever felt was the moment I fell in adult love and realised that flesh is kaolin sculptured in the fires of loving a woman who knows who she is. If our world forgets how to spin I know that to love through fire you must be it, so I will kiss you where the phoenix rises in my violent city. I will tell you that Presidents and ministers do not own our lips or minds, so meet me in the most violent city declaring ourselves fit for battle. Meet me where the girls played football down Finham park and beat us at our own game by being violent when the ref looked away. Meet me at the Binley Mega Chippy where Cod is flung into oceans of fat and cooked so violently that people queue for up to an hour just to float away from the week that had them. I will violently kiss you where the phoenix rises and Coventry was born, and born and born and born and,
feel the gentle kiss of wind down Cathedral way.
To get a poem on the Yemen massacre published I wrote a poem about the good times when we ate the finest steak in a five-star restaurant in Yemen. We never ate in such a restaurant but to get a poem published for the statues of walking ash let’s just say we did for the sake of it all. So, we ate the scorched remains of meat floating in a bloody bowl that begged to be appreciated and consumed. We talked about the influence King Leopold the twelfth had on the mass production of silk purses in post regency Francais. To get the poem published I could mention the conversations we had about how influential Lars von Trier is in contemporary cinema like the scene in Anti-Christ when the white baby falls with white snowflakes as his parents made love in white cotton and of the darkness and irony of the metaphorical irony of it all. But metaphorical irony doesn’t make sense but that’s okay because I’m talking about Lars von Trier and like David Lynch is ever so artsy to display a sense of ambiguity now back to my poem or prose or whatever the fuck it is or isn’t. We never ate the finest steak in a restaurant in Yemen because the only time I went there was a news article where words bombed into my eyes that Great Britain shook hands and sold their arms there. The arms I saw were strewn in what was a five-star restaurant where human steak was served up in white cotton totally unlike a Lars von Trier scene where parents made love soft as white snowflakes. These off-white bodies were red as steaks in Park Lane restaurants where deals were done and deals were done and deals were done. The hands I saw that were shaking were held up to Gods like begging bowls of blood, this steak is all that matters it is too well done and everyone is sick to the stomach of it. If this steak was served in newspapers like tragedies of white meat, then they’d ask for more of it and like the queues in ‘eat as much as you can’ buffets they’d all get fat on it and we’d finally see what they were really made of.
Walk with me my love through the Trump funded Oaks daubed red to be cut down and I shall hold your face like a tragic promise in the sold-out wind there. Did you know trees are betrothed to sky in rings that form an atlas into bark made from oceans that fell on their knees praying from East to West. It’s the way she said “I love you, always have, always will” and these working-class manifestos are forged from all the suns we lived through that lifted and fell like veils of queuing Brides dressed in spindle silk for one day in Pakistani meadows. Yes, Pakistan has meadows, it is so much more than just war.
Walk with me my love where our friends with wrong tongues shouted hopeless rebellions at a country that cut them down like oaks. Look at the streets where Hombres photographed a moving flag of Britain where saltires of market stalls criss-crossed through Small Heath in Braeburn pinks like the colour of his cheeks, yes, the colour of his non-white cheeks. Look at the empty shop wells where that woman who God forgot wore a scarf over her face so believers would feed her, oh man I believed in God that day when she left fatter. Yes, women who cover their faces there are people like me who really saw you.
Walk with me my love through miasma of pepper sprayed streets and hold your head up high to keep your nose from bleeding. Walk with me to the pin striped man who popped the world like a blue and green balloon and ask him to excuse us. Run with me past Trump and Murdoch Boulevard where birds sing past the curfew and after our sixty-hour working week we’ll catch the privatised rain in jam-jars and hope no one reports us for stealing the sky. Sleep by me my love and I’ll send a contraband text to our friends who now live in enemy states. Dream with me, my love.
After Bejan Matur
It came quickly to take them away
They never knew if the flames were Russian or British
But it came nonetheless and flames can make you so cold if you survive them.
It came slowly in the night for her and
I want to say that all the feathers from her exploding pillowcase made Angels
that took her to the place between heaven and the smouldering signposts of hell.
When it snows in Aleppo I hope that a bird made of pillow feathers sing her songs
I hope that it rests to sip from the scarlet slush and makes a new nest
I hope the snowmen made of people where they fell fly away.
When Aleppo thaws I hope we see it.
I hope children stop reaching for red crayons in describing their family
Mother’s and Father’s in wax drawings should be circles and sticks smiling on green grass.
At the foodbank, there is a human wall the blind built
two magpies for joy peck at turkey and silver in tinfoil
oh, how rich the meat is when it is left to hang by butchers in suits.
At the foodbank, there is a woman ripping a wing of white meat and
the left wing breaks as easy as the right but she doesn’t care,
She will not grab at the meat, she is still, yes still womanly.
At the foodbank, there is a tin soldier melting in a ladle
she is remembering Basra and the rich man’s decorations
she is hanging baubles of blood from a tree of shoes she cannot un-see.
At the foodbank, is a human wall of bad hombres from everywhere.
They are saying happy Christmas to the bad hombres serving them,
they are all here but somewhere else trying to find the wishbones.
I dreamt you and I were driving over Earth’s sky and tuned into the radio of each country hearing ballads fading out to white noise. We noticed moon was a frosted bullet-hole and behind the black glass of space was the explosion of impact where brain matters of Gods making new worlds were actually reflecting the end of ours. We passed the blue desert of ocean to ice and watched it shrink like snowflakes in greenhouses. We turned up the radio over Syria and all of the stars turned to cats-eyes taking us to streets of roadkill in human clothes. As we broke down there sun hurled itself through this street in an act of self-immolation for all the people maddened by war. I dreamt you and I were driving in darkness with earth and moon as our busted headlights, “it’s no wonder we got lost” you said. We turned off the radio and watched sap bleed out from elms as sparrows gave it song. We slept in the beautiful earth.
The scariest clowns I ever saw
had faces of children in masks made by war
the rock-a-by-babies in cribs of a sea-shore.
The scariest clowns I ever heard
were men of parliament but not of their word
who vanished like magic tricks when truths became blurred.
Let me tell you of the saddest clown
they are pink balloons of flesh as children drown
who claimed the blue empire till it claimed them down.
The scariest clowns I ever saw
had faces of children in masks made of war
who sleep on restless sea beds as shells forevermore.
The saddest clown that ever chased us
hash-tagged and mourned as they faced us
we shared their deaths as their lives had displaced us.
The saddest audience I ever saw
wept for the clowns as they pour and they pour
trapezing from fourth worlds to the blue empires floor.
When God pressed her fingerprints over Calais
A million starlings swirled song-less over the jungle.
When God threw her black veil in grief for widows
A million starlings migrated to the bottom of the sea.
When God danced in her black dress to Aleppan anthems
two Mig birds left an aviary of wounds in a million nests.
When God wrote her ballads for man she used the ink-pot sea
A million starlings danced over Calais and sang from the diggers.
When God slit her wrists just she released a million starlings
She wanted to see the pain leave her but mankind never cared.
When a million starlings lie dead over Europe
wrap them in tents where the albatrosses slept.
on nine twelve they spoke of the falling man
imagine developing his shape from water
gradually appearing in bleak suspension
leave him to dry into more than a shape
watch black grains form into her son
I heard the sky was perfect blue.
On nine thirteen you said that they looked like rain
maybe some were whole new worlds
white cotton should not turn scarlet
it should not lay by twisted steel
a mother is nationless in birth
her children belong to life
I heard he was born
they erased him.
Her skin was Pokemon yellow but
nobody looked for the monster in her –
the florists daughter retching from her ointment
cared not if the fire was Russian or Brexit European
flames hurt wherever they are forged and baptised from.
The furious doctor has not slept for eleven Iraqi nights
he is shaking so violently yet gently injects Shoab and
tonight in penicillin dreams Shoab may walk again, walk
to his Mother and see a red scarf leave her mouth
and strike her down where she tucked him in.
It is time to look for Pokemon in wartime.
For three seconds the woman soldier opens fire.
She is a woman soldier and last night was a mere child.
For three minutes her Father was a florist of wounds and cyclamen
laid it on her grave, her womanly bones. All they found was a monster.
For minimum wage and break-time Haribo she’d work till dawn
then go outside where birthplaces start with zero next to Agency Dave
who is forty nine years old reliving where it all went wrong in a box of glass.
From ten to six in the morning she’ll pick five hundred and twenty items and
twenty over target means she’s made them a mint so her cut’s two quid and pence
She’s two miles closer to her sister in Bucharest and maybe real coffee from ailse twelve.
I’ve seen them half way into their shift when a red light lets them out the immigrant order pickers vaping cumulus in their grey concrete sky and god they look so tired of being here
so they are going there, back to Tirana, Krakow, or cities of Aleppo myth.
I’ve seen them in the canteen darkness drinking pop out chicory,
it’s how you learn to say fuck in polish or God in Aramaic.
This is my country they take me to and they help me,
They help me arrive
help me depart.
He harms himself who does harm to another, and the evil plan is most harmful to the …………planner.
For babes in skin-blue waters,
this sea shall only age for you,
let the wrinkles of this ancient empire conquer our hearts,
lay flags made of ragged clothes,
cup hands with unblessed water
wash ourselves unclean as night.
This happened this day our daily salt may we forgive those
Who trespassed towards us, may we forgive those who float, they
in salt- eyeballs,
drown in them.
Drown in you
Float on land
in its hands
……….& the years
in their eyes
…………are not theirs
are grains to grow
…………in wooden boats for soil
………………….more and more
………………………………….Four nails sing
…………………………………………Afloat on strangers shoulders
………………………………………………..Arriving in atlantis, sweet, paraíso.
more words: Reuben Woolley
image:………Sonja Benskin Mesher
Hey Reuben, so tell me a little about IANASP and why people should read it?
I am not a silent poet started at the end of November 2014. I was at a point where I was getting very angry and depressed about the number of Facebook posts and Tweets about different kinds of abuse all over the world: gender abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, female genital mutilation, abuse of the disabled, the bombings in Gaza, Syria and many other places leading to the huge numbers of refugees trying to enter Europe with many drowning on the way in the Mediterranean, the mistreatment and killing of blacks in the USA, austerity imposed by the Conservative party in the UK and its terrible effects on the poorer members of society…
I felt it was time to do something, but this was rather frustrating because of my age and family situation, there is little I could really do except write. However, there seemed to be few places where poems of protest against abuse can find a home and also where the response time is very short. Many of these cases require an almost immediate response, almost like a newspaper.
This is why I decided to set up a blogzine for poetry and artwork about and against abuse of all kinds and where I could publish poems almost instantly (I think our record is about 3 minutes). These poems often demand that kind of response.
What kind of poems fire you up?
Poems where the heart, gut and mind are working together – both in the creation of the poem and in its reading. Poems which burn a light in the darkness. Poems which are not afraid. Poems which don’t need to rant to communicate what they mean. Slanted and subtle poems which come back to you at 3 am when you wake up and can’t get back to sleep again. And that is also a good time for writing those poems.
In 2015 it was reported by the UN that there are 60 million refugees/displaced people in our world and I wanted to ask you if you think there are enough poets writing about it?
I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell poets what they should be writing about, and I know that I would get very angry if someone came up to me and told me what I should be writing about. There is probably a lot more protest poetry being written than we are aware of, particularly at spoken word and performance events. Unfortunately, unless they are recorded on page or film many of these poems are going to get lost. Also, we are only aware of poetry being written and published in English and a few of the other languages of the world. What is being written (perhaps in secret out of fear) in Farsi, Arabic, African languages is generally unknown to us. This is something I am working on at the moment on I am not a silent poet. I want to encourage people from the countries where those languages are spoken (or refugees from those countries) to submit poems to the mag. I am guaranteeing their anonymity as I know, in many cases, their security is at risk. If they can find a way of getting their work to me I will try to publish as much as possible. I would need some kind of translation, but, if necessary, I’ll use Google Translator which might be enough for us to get some idea of the meaning.
I respect how your poems individually humanise the statistical devaluation of a collective label the media gives to ‘refugees’ like they are one being. I wanted to ask what began this journey into human darkness and the victims of injustices?
I almost never know what I am going to write about until after the poem has been written, and not always even then. The element of darkness is something I have always been fascinated by, whether the poem be socio-political or not, and, indeed, most of my work is not, at least not obviously so. I was rather surprised, in looking through my work, to find that I had written so many which were relevant to the refugee crisis. These, as you know, came together in skins which was published by Paul Hawkins and Sarer Scotthorne at Hesterglock Press early this year.
What poetry magazines are you really digging at the moment?
At the top of my list I must place Tears in the Fence, closely followed by The Lighthouse Journal and The Interpreter’s House – the fact that they have published work of mine might have something to do with that. Among the online magazines I would mention Ink Sweat & Tears, The Poetry Shed, And Other Poems, Goose, The Yellow Chair and, in its time, The Stare’s Nest. Again, the fact that they have published work of mine is purely coincidental.
IANASP is a literary kiln for poets starting out and more established poets wanting to experiment more and I wanted to ask you who are three male and female writers who we should be looking out for at the moment who you feel deserve a spotlight burning down on their work (include at least one from each at IANASP).
Marianne Morris whose book with Enitharmon, The On All Things Said Moritorium is brilliant.
Christine Murray, the Irish poet, with quite a few pamphlets to her name. She writes a blog called Poethead where she publishes poems by, translations of other women poets.
Gillian Prew, again with books to her name. She has also contributed to I am not a silent poet.
Michael Mac Aloran, an Irish poet who mainly writes prose poems and makes my work look light and bright. He edited my first collection, the king is dead, for Oneiros Books. I published some of his recent work on The Curly Mind.
David McLean, who lives in Sweden sounded by computers and enormous dogs. He writes in similar shades of darkness to Michael’s work. I’ve also published some of his recent work on The Curly Mind.
Debasis Mukhopadhyay. His contributions to the magazine have always been excellent and I really do think it’s time he were better known.
Why is it important for poetry magazines like IANASP to exist?
A simple answer. It provides a space for people’s voices and a voice for people who do not have one.
How many people are visiting IANASP and why are they doing so?
It must fulfil some need for people. Some of the readers must identify with the content of some of the poems. Also, for poetry readers in general, I am not a silent poet has poetry of many different styles, and very often of a very high quality. It’s also a good place for newer poets because they can find their poems alongside established and well-known poets.
Statistics. Since the end of November 2014 until the moment of writing (I’ll update these figures when this is published) we have published 1,940 poems and works of art (the vast majority, poems). We have had 84,794 hits. The associated Facebook group page has 4,609 members.
Once upon a wartime
I liked my Trump steaks bloody
Mopping up the mess with onion rings
Switching between Iraqi widows and reality shows
I liked it in The Apprentice when you fired a man for saying white trash.
Once upon a wartime
A cow in Basra grazed on rare grass
growing in shadows of steel Nissan flowers
That once collected hay and filled the air with Johnny Cash
I liked it on Fox News when they said how awesome the firepower was.
Once upon a wartime
An idol was worshipped every week
I’d eat my British Indian takeaway as Simon Cowell
Stood clapping for a dangerous white dog walking on both legs as
meanwhile in opium a soldier lost her legs then her mind back in Glasgow.
Once upon a wartime
I preferred my steaks cold and blue
Like that war in the bedsit on Nobody Road
Where little refugees with names wet themselves as doors slam
And heroism is displayed by a soldier searching for a missing person.
Once upon a peacetime
These people last saw themselves
That refugee was a boy who chose when to leave his home
And the soldier who lost her legs would dance with Becky and Raj
Once upon a peacetime, she ran home before her worried Dad woke for work.
For seventy-three civilians I leave
The flowers that drones leave on dusty ground
And wrap them in responsible newspapers leaving your tragic news.
For thirty-five children oh fuck it
I leave statistics like coat pegs to hang shame from
And wrap myself in my own arms trying to make sense of first worlds.
For white news anchors selling skin and Gods
I picture little Hamza holding Pokemon monsters to be found
And wrap myself in lovemaking so I can bury begging boys and girls.
For forty-three years I have lived well
Drones once made honey weeping from blackfly Acacia
And I wrapped myself in the swirling fumes of my Dad’s knackered moped.
For seventy-three civilians with names
I will simply report that your deaths were not reported
And that Donald Trump’s boulevard star has a wall built around it now.
For seventy-three holes being dug shallow
I hope your sleep leads to an awakening where news stations
Are not named after foxes or big blue graves that drones fall from for what?
Man created sea-worlds so Jack and Jill and Ahmed could marvel at
incarcerated blackfish jumping through hoops like humans and nobody
cared how blackfish exhibited gay behaviour so long as they were happy
or to use another word for happy – gay.
Man created two kind of pens – one to write with and another to trap calves
where gay dolphins and orcas exhibit sad behaviour to make us all feel gay.
Did you know that when an orca cries it sounds just like a human baby and
There are no Christian or Muslim Orca’s they lost their faith in men and mice.
It interests me how giraffes stand so straight yet ninety four per cent are gay,
they rub against each other’s necks forming heart-shapes in the faux Serengeti
that man made for humans who were allowed to believe in any god they chose.
It interests me how nobody cares if giraffes are gay, free, captive or atheists.
I saw a moderate human today and he and she were different going about life
in different ways but sharing the same road that took them to Asda where
Suki served a white man about fifty and they exchanged massive small-talk
that’s far more powerful than a sly fox reporting the nature of mammals.
If I was clever enough I would write a poem about poetry
and watch snowflakes cover footprints of half bent jobseekers
blowing their unemployed breaths into the Coventry moon.
If I was clever enough I would add important letters after my name
and ask a surgeon from Damascus “Why are you cleaning in ASDA”?
He tells me he is blessed and I see his face in my wiped away footprints.
If I was arsed enough I could sip a Wheatgrass latte in Kensington and
launch a collection of poetry on why I love Wheatgrass latte so much
called Why I Love Winter and Wheatgrass Latte (so much).
If I was loaded I’d post Princess Charlotte a rattle made of blood diamonds
and invite her Granny to my book launch at the Koh-I-Noor takeaway,
the surgeon from Damascus could photo bomb the money shot.
If I was British enough I would omit that last stanza and say “Soz and that”
or, “Dreadfully sorry Ladies and Gents I seem to have forgotten my place”,
I am at my place now watching my cat guarding his territory of fuck all.
If I was poetic enough I would write poems for people who never read them,
the man across the road with his arse hanging out in a bay of red roses,
my neighbour staring at her dead husband’s arms waving to her from pegs.
If I was poetic enough I would title this poem something really clever like
“The Ballad of Francesca De Montford’s Washing Line”
but her name aint that posh and she wouldn’t give a fuck about this poem.