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Steve Walter – Ribosomes

Ribosomes

Wondering where you are, among the beaten sky
broken rock, contours of distant mountains –
the tips of your fingers, all over me
from last night’s loving, now washed with water.

Not knowing quite what we’ve started,
without precaution, chromosomes divide
differences combine, begin to replicate
within, the nucleus going about its work.

We catch ourselves tripping over
the ultrasound of grasses in the breeze
following the sun and the long light
while inside, he grows.

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Steve’s Dad was a poet, his Mum a watercolour artist. Steve has performed at the Brighton and Edinburgh Festival Fringes, based on his first book: Fast Train Approaching… a powerful, yet good humoured, account of life during and after breakdown and recovery. He has also shared other people’s stories in Voices: mental health survivors, carers, therapist, family and friends (both published by Chipmunkapublishing).

His second pamphlet of poetry, When the Change Came, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016, and his long poem, Gaia 2020, is published by Making Connections Matter.

Steve continues to enjoy creative writing, has a daughter and son, stepdaughter and stepson, and lives with his wife, Liz, a physiotherapist, in Kent.

Visit: http://www.makingconnectionsmatter.org

 

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Bernadette Gallagher – The Last Walk

The Last Walk
in memoriam Tadhg Mac Suibhne

I walk through the forest
carrying the sadness of your leaving.

You make your way among the trees
rust body with white tipped tail

stopping, sitting, staring
you at me and me at you.

After, you turn away and step
through the undergrowth.

 

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Bernadette Gallagher is a poet from Ireland. Her work has been published in Irish Examiner, Boyne Berries, ROPES, Stanzas, in the US peace journal DoveTalesCinnamon Corners, and in various online journals. A selection of her work has been recorded by the University College Dublin Poetry Archive. She has been invited to read her work in Ireland, UK, US, and India.

bernadettegallagher.blogspot.ie

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Bernard Pearson – Waiting Game

Waiting Game

When she saw him
In her flesh
She did not
dare die,
although
in all the time
he had taken
to catch up
and fall in love,
it was all that she
had wished for.

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Bernard Pearson’s work appears in many publications, including; Aesthetica Magazine, The Edinburgh Review, Crossways, In 2017 a selection of his poetry ‘In Free Fall’ was published by Leaf by Leaf Press. In 2019 he won second prize in The Aurora Prize for Writing for his poem Manor Farm.

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Oz Hardwick – An Index of Mood Swings

Capture

Oz Hardwick is a poet, photographer, would-be musician and inveterate dabbler in diverse artforms. He is drawn uncertainty and unstable boundaries, and has in recent years pitched his tent on the shifting sands of prose poetry. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI/Recent Work, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery Book Award for poetry, and he is co-editor with Anne Caldwell of The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019). Oz teaches Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University. http://www.ozhardwick.co.uk

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Veronica Aaronson – On Dartmoor

On Dartmoor

Grey Wethers
The sky is unwrinkled Persian silk.
Ghostly zips are stitched onto it,
then dissolve, as if the chipped button
of the moon is the only fastening
it requires.

Yarner Woods
In the distance
a mound, the size of a stuffed
carrier bag, shimmers.
Close up
hundreds of ants crackle the leaf litter,
swarm like shoppers during the sales.
Nearby
a green woodpecker cackles.

Haytor Quarry
The ref has called time between bouts.
We take a break from the gale’s tackle,
huddle on boulders under a rowan, watch
squally autumn rain and wind
fight it out alone.

Childe’s Tomb
I can’t be sure whether it was
the light on granite,
my aloneness,
the single violet bloom
clinging to rock, or all of it
that doused me in grief.

Winner of South Brent Poetry Competition

Veronica Aaronson is the co-founder and one of the organisers of the Teignmouth Poetry Festival.  Her work has been published widely in literary journals, online and in anthologies and she has won, and been placed in, several competitions.  Her first collection Nothing About the Birds Is Ordinary This Morning (Indigo Dreams) has been put forward for the 2020 Laurel Prize. https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/veronica-aaronson/4594449130.  One of the poems from the collection was chosen for the Scottish Poetry Library Anthology 2019.

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Hélène Demetriades – Familial intimacy

Familial intimacy

I crush lavender buds under your nose –
you open your mouth like a baby bird.

You sleep with eyes wide, gaze turned in.
I see into depths without being checked.

I rock with you on the panting rhythm
of your breath. We are chugging to your death.

On day three, your eyes break the surface,
your lips flex. I lean in to connect with you.

You’re hopeless! you hiss.
You are the death adder, Acanthophis.

I flee your bedside. You slip back
into your body’s fevered decoupling.

(first published in Envoi)

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Hélène is a practising psychotherapist living in South Devon. She has been published online and in print magazines and anthologies, including Envoi, Obsessed with Pipework, The Curlew, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Ofi Press, Snakeskin, Eunoia Review and Allegro.   She was highly commended in the Marsden Poetry Village Competition 2019 judged by Patience Agbabi.

 

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Bloodlines by Sarah Wimbush reviewed by Rennie Halstead

Seren Booksbloodlineds
£5:00
ISBN-13: 9781781725948

Winner Myslexia Pamphlet Competition 2020

Sarah Wimbush’s award winning pamphlet is a rich reflection on the history of Gypsy travellers.

Wimbush details simple episodes from a travelling life, reflecting most effectively on the episodes where a traveller’s experience intersects with the life of the rest of us non-Gypsy gorgios.

In Carroty Kate we meet Kate, with “hair the colour of a thousand foxy hawkweeds” who “owns one red skirt and a navvy’s tongue”. Kate makes something of a living telling fortunes, a “kissi belt strapped tight / to my left thigh.” and muses on the way gypsies were treated in earlier times when she might have been:

slapped […] in irons
dragged me to York Tyburn in a hay cart sat on my coffin,
where I’d be dropped
from the Three-legged Mare –
just for being.

I can see Sandbeck Hall recalls a visit to a country house, receiving cast-offs from the “lady housekeeper” in a poem that shows how Gypsies were seen as outsiders, in a scene reminiscent of a 1950’s county house drama:

onion sacks filled with steel pans, rabbit skins, cast-offs,
and the two wide skirts belonging to old Lady Scarborough.

[… ] Daddy doffs his trilby, grease stains round the rim,
like a posh mush in his best gorgio: thank you dear Madam.

The Bittern takes us through the travellers’ autumn and winter and shows us the close link between seasonal work and the Gypsy way of life. The harshness of life on the road drives the family to spend winter in a two-up two-down cottage, whilst their vardo is parked at Big Frank’s place. Autumn has finished:

After the glut of soft fruits,
and oat cakes toasting on the griddle,
and the deluge of Cox’s.

it’s the wintering-over
in a two-up two-down cottage

Winter brings different treasure:

a squall of pheasant and quail
bartered for a tail-end of hogget,
mother schooling us by the range:

The children learn:

how to baste the skins to gold,
how to skim the fat for rushlights
and axels, how to eke the meat out

Wimbush remembers the memorable sound of the bittern as winter turns into:

the hardness of spring.
Bitterns nesting in reed beds,
sweeter than heron —

the male’s deep whoohu-whoohu
like a breath blown over a bottle.
On a still day, I feel that call for miles

Grai describes the death of a horse and it’s recovery from the bog that trapped it. The poet shows us the scene in a matter-of-fact, documentary style that is devoid of sentimentality:

the mare watches you
watching without blinking,
the shire horse dragging her away
like a bundle of rags.

the horse is shot:

[…] the knackers placed the muzzle
behind the dark pool of her eye

a new thought blown
across her vision.

Wimbush describes the attempted rescue:

[…] the shouting                    the shouting
as they had tossed the rope’s hoopla

over the royal sweep of the neck –
the peculiarity of those whinnies

[…]

down at the hawthorn’s groin
where the field unearthed a bog

The Ring, my favourite poem in the pamphlet, takes us through the colourful, varied life of the poet’s grandmother on an annual round of fruit picking, horse fairs, selling daffodils and rabbit skins. Wimbush reflects on the change in the way of life for gypsies over two generations:

Imagine. Her hands snatching necks.
Shushi skins pinned into borrowed earth.

How she scrubs the gubbins from her garnet setting,
flogs the pelts to furriers for a bob or two.

We watch her journey:

through fields, lanes, cobbled brooks:
posting rag bills, hawking daffodils

We witness a runaway marriage:

how she grips her lad’s hand as they do a runner
to wed at Tinsley Church. And always that sense
of moving as one.

This is a hard life:

No half-dead frills only her histories
and the seasons: the earlies, the hoe, wheat stooks,
mother’s calling basket, wintering over

Wimbush sees much of Gypsy history in the ring, and through it, her own place in the family tradition:

Imagine this ring – my grandmother’s ring.
Its Gypsy setting. Its golden eye burnished
with all the jib and ancients it has worn thin.
See, here on my finger. How it fits.

Bloodlines is a proud retelling of a family chronicle, a Gypsy way of life that appears rooted in a more agricultural past, with the circle of seasons and farm work shaping a family life that is always on the move. Wimbush takes us into this world with great skill, and without sentimentality.

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Lesley Burt – A man recently struck by Holy Communion

A man recently struck by Holy Communion

Hatted ladies cosset him,
mouth lipstick sympathy for the loss
of his mother who, for a while,
he escorted to the altar weekly –

after he’d chilled her in the shower,
force-fed her sausage-and-bacon,
yanked a wiry hair from her wet chin
and chuckled to hear her squeal.

Canon, vicar and churchwarden smile,
remembering their kindness
to bother with the old woman,
how triumphant in their recruitment

of that additional Christian
at Sunday coffee – and now more –
her orphaned son who will share
in sipping from their communal goblet.

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Following retirement from social work education, Lesley completed an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry has been successful in competitions and published in magazines over many years, including: Tears in the Fence (TITF), The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and The Butchers Dog; also online, including by the Poetry Kit, The Poetry Shed, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She is a regular member of the TITF workshop and Festival groups.

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Kieran Egan – Bewitched in Dublin

Bewitched in Dublin

Late afternoon shadows in a silent room,
once elegant, and still so, though dust and time
now hang sluggish in the tired air
and small tatters on the velvet curtains
are new since the days I was at home here.
The old and dented fender’s dulled brass is
duller than when she liberally burned coal
that spread gleams of warm gold across the room.
I stand and slowly walk its length and width,
then sit again in the green high-backed chair,
leather more stained and crackled than before.
From the first moment, my favourite room
I thought without thinking — she made it so.

When first we met after running into
Bewley’s from a sodding autumn deluge,
both protecting copies of the same book,
we’d laughed and argued, and been surprised.
Charm, warm smile, yet distracted by something,
looking bleakly out the window.
She was an actress, she told me,
a haunting part which suited her because
‘I’m maybe an ironic Irish witch.’

When rehearsing comic or tragic roles,
playing piano, even when angry,
always in her eyes the ghost of a smile.
She trod an outer edge of irony,
close enough to hold hands with mild madness —
witch or no, she bewitched.
She introduced me to her friends in pubs,
parties, ‘This is my man who knows about hearts —
but only their plumbing,’ with a wry shrug.

Invited to a Texas hospital
to learn new techniques of valve replacement —
‘Come with me, I’m your heart man, after all.’
She said she would hold me here by magic,
that I would cease to exist if I left.
She’d been true to her word —
not one word more did I receive —
emails and letters ignored, phone disconnected.

I’m back, half a dozen years behind us.
The flat is now for sale.
I sit in the green high-backed leather chair
and look around the lifeless room — wondering
would the witch come back and make it live again?

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Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His chapbook, ‘Among the branches,’ was published by Alfred Gustav Press, Vancouver, in 2019. He was shortlisted for the Times Literary Supplement Mick Imlah prize in 2017 and Acumen’s International Poetry Competition in 2020, and his poems have appeared in the UK in Acumen, High Window, Orbis, Envoi, HQ Poetry Magazine, Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, Dawntreader, and Sarasvati, and in the Canadian magazines Quills, Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review, Grain, Qwerty, Antigonish Review, Canadian Quarterly, Ekphrastic Review, Spadina Literary Review, Pace, and in a number of U.S.A. magazines.

 

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Amber Gruner – White Privilege

White Privilege

We live in a racialized society
A socially constructed bubble
Where the colour of our skin dictates our life experiences
A carefully allocated civilisation
Filled with broken promises,
Oppression
And white privilege
Though we are not to blame for instigating the system,
We complacently profit from it every day
Sat blissfully awaiting an earthquake
Whilst the ground already shakes beneath us
Such trauma is not new
It’s been four centuries in the making
And if you’re not outraged now
Then you’re not paying attention
You can’t criticise the top when you’re on top yourself
White privilege is not class privilege
Confessing it does not dismiss our own suffering
Acknowledging it is not enough to end it
Our defensiveness should not derail the conversation
Our guilt should not befuddle the cause
Covid-19 is just one episode in a 400-year-long history
Of systemic racism,
Ingrained inequality
And potent white supremacy,
That defines what we call society
We have no real practise talking about race
Henry VIII’s six wives at the tip of our tongue
Yet blank on the territorial evolution of the British Empire
We have been given the privilege of a racist system,
Even if we’re not individually racist
Opportunities
Accessibility
And enrichment on the ends of our white fingertips
We have a built in advantage
Whilst millions are discriminated in
Banking
Education
Housing
Employment
The Criminal Justice System

Privilege is walking through the airport security effortlessly
Whilst my two brown brothers are “randomly” stopped each time
Privilege is feeling safe around the police
Privilege is as small as the shampoo bottles in hotels fit for white hair
Racism, the timeworn theme to humanity every year
We move past civil wars, apartheid systems,
Holocausts, imperial governments,
Colonial societies, fascist regimes,
Yet still so many remain a post-slave to the system
Each day shared in monotony and disparity
Filled with oxymoronic dogmas and hypocrisy
We teach children the golden rule
Though we continue to not treat others how we want to be treated
Following the Pied Piper injudiciously down the road,
Swallowing the pattern of assumptions passed down to us
Generation after generation
It’s time we all have an uncomfortable conversation
We are not retreating
We are reloading
It’s our responsibility to educate our ignorance
And learn the history blood-stained by the savagery of white privilege
Convincing ourselves that we don’t see race is not helpful
Plodding through with quotidian mindlessness is not helpful
This is not the time for narcissistic self-flagellation
The goal is not to demonize white men
But to grasp the doctrine of white privilege
There’s a desperate hunger for change in the air
White silence is compliance
We have the luxury of writing about painful reality
Without having to live it
White supremacy is not the edge of a cliff
But the gushing winds around it
Institutionalised racism has been normalised
That we have forgotten what a normal society is meant to be
Without change, the world is not a fundamental place
Change requires us to commit,
To learn, to collaborate, stay woke
And fight to deinstitutionalise the system and distribute privilege
So that our children,
And our children’s children,
Grow up in a world that promotes
Equanimity and justice
Free of bias and prejudice
For all

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Amber Gruner is a 26 year-old London based writer. Her work focusses on the topics of mental health, international human rights and politics, in addition to covering everyday societal experiences. She has recently completed an MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology and plans to go on to complete a Doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.
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