Séance by Zoe Mitchell

Séance

If anyone here can talk to the dead,
please tell my Dad the news of his daughters
that would bring him the most peace.

Tell him of the dreams we made real,
and the grandchildren who laugh in his image.
Tell him we miss him and we know

he always loved us. List the achievements
he would most want to brag about to whoever
his pals are in the afterlife. Tell him

we’re happy, please – or if you must
catalogue the trials we’ve faced since he left us,
tell him we conquered every one

or tell him that we’re going to
if he doesn’t beat you to it. He always was fast
to find faith in us, I imagine he still is.

You’d better not tell him about all the books
he’s missed out on, or the way the world is going –
anger is bad for his heart and you can’t

be too careful. Who knows if we take
our weaknesses with us when we go? I think so
because in my version of heaven

he’d be wearing his glasses; his face
wouldn’t be his own without those constant frames.
Tell him I know I wasted this page,

I don’t believe anyone talks to the dead,
or at least I don’t believe they can listen. He’s gone.
There are no more updates or back tracks;

I have to lean close to my heart to hear
what his answers might be. He would advise
telling it all to the living, while you can.
 
 
 
Zoe Mitchell is a writer living and working on the South Coast. She has been published in a range of magazines including The Rialto and The London Magazine. Her work also appeared in the Chalk Poets Anthology, a collection inspired by the landscape, history and mythology of the South Downs commissioned by Winchester Poetry Festival 2016, where she also performed her poetry. Twitter: @writingbyzoe

Two poems by Jessica Mookherjee

The Liar

I never believed in Father Christmas
as I crawled out of the chimney, soot-stained,
ingrained dust in the whorls of my skin.

I never feared the dark, crawled under my bed,
talking to dust, moulding it into imaginary friends.
We sang together to the soil.

Suspicious of prayers to invisible gods, I stared
at vicars and asked them who would go to hell,
whether they worshipped thunder.

I found runes in churches and muttered spells
in graveyards, climbed into yew trees,
licking insects from bark.

I saw adults spin, catching flies, never saw bogey-men
lurking in woods or under bridges.
I crawled from moss-damp ponds dripping with slime.

No-one believed me when I told them
where I went at night, under those trees,
inside badger holes, curled up with fox cubs.

Teachers and parents told me to tell the truth,
scrubbed the earth from under my nails with wire,
called me a liar, washed my mouth with soap.

(published in Prole – Autumn 2015)
 
 
 
The Milk

There are no daffodils in Bengal,
so my mother had no idea why I wore one,
it was the ladies that fed me welsh cakes
who told me why
I wore a black hat on
St David’s Day.
Dewi Sant, I wasn’t sure
who he was, but
I thought I heard him in the
waves off the Mumbles head.

I had no grandmothers here,
just the mamgus on the bus.
Those crinkled Bridget’s were my wet-nurses,
feeding me chewing gum, peppermints and
their native tongue.

Those old ladies fed me stories
of frost covered forests
and Bendigeidfran.
They were my milk.
It’s comin’ in, see
they said – with an eye on the wind,
come pray with us…
I went to their chapel, where the wood is worshiped
and where they had me believe
that the desert Bible lands were in the mountains
of North Wales.
 
(published in Tears in the Fence, 2016)
 
 
 
Jessica Mookherjee is a poet with Bengali heritage, who grew up in Swansea and now lives in Kent. She has a background in Biological Anthropology and works in Public Health. She has had poetry recently published in Under the Radar, Tears in the Fence, The High Windows, South, The Interpreter’s House, Prole among many others. She has been selected to be in the Templar anthology 2016 and Eyewear’s Anthology of Best New British and Irish Poets 2017. Her pamphlet The Swell is published by Telltale Press. Twitter @jessmkrjy

‘Hazel’ by Aled Thomas

Hazel

Swedish and new and steel
it would take his thumb as keenly
and cleanly as the shoots off
the hazel canes he’s shaving and
stacking against the wall.

The wound would be the same, for a bit –
the colour of cream and smooth as an ice cube
on a zinc bar.

The other wood – that stuff that comes on a truck –
has been transformed from a pile,
where it was drinking up the rain
and serried for the winter.
Two ranks, where it exhales the scent
of the forest, and he steps out every hour,
bends to it and breathes deep.

The sun has some real heat now
and he’s having to squint
trying to follow a fat tadpole,
its frogness bulging at its skin.

As the pigeons call like field hands
and a robin marks his patch like a drunk
offering to fight the whole pub,
he can hear his own blood in his ears,
and doesn’t know if that should worry him.
 
 
 
 
Aled Thomas lives in Gloucestershire, where he works as a journalist. He is a graduate of the Guardian/UEA writing masterclasses. He has performed at the Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the Winchcombe Festival of Music and Arts. He is currently working on his first pamphlet with Frosted Fire Press. He blogs (occasionally) at aledthomas-writing.blogspot.co.uk and is on Twitter more frequently at @AledThomas99

‘Rose Petal Jelly’ by Angela Readman

Rose Petal Jelly

The apples drip slow as September
dabbing sun to the rain, juice
slips over the glazed lip of a jug.

Outside, a resilience of roses hold
in the wind. We feel petals open, jagged
caruncles in the corners of our eyes.

One nod and I shin a fence, grab
a second flush in blushing fists.
Mother snips off the bitter white tips

and grins. Some women don’t deserve
roses, or know how to use them, she says.

The kitchen smells like a honeymoon.
Only love letters open as slowly
as she lifts the lid, nosing in at the roses

someone’s wife didn’t pick, all ours,
donating their rubies to our pan.
She holds a sunset, lets it fall

through her sieve. Briefly, the windows
fill with a rosetint. Our used jars
become churches we smash with a spoon.

Caruncle: the red prominence in the inner corner of the eye.
 
 
(from The Book of Tides, Nine Arches Press, 2016)
 
 
 
 
Angela Readman’s poetry has won The Mslexia Poetry Competition, The Essex Poetry Prize, and The Charles Causley Poetry Competition. Her work has been widely published in various journals including Ambit, The Rialto, Magma, Popshot, Bare Fiction, and Envoi. She also writes stories, her story book Don’t Try This at Home (2015) was shortlisted in The Edgehill Prize. Her latest poetry collection, The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in November 2016. Twitter @angelreadman

‘Ode to a Flat Earth’ by NJ Hynes

 

I’m bored by infinity. I want to sail a long time,
paint my gums with lemon, sharpen my teeth on hard tack,

slip over salted sheets of water, slide across mats of emerald algae,
reach the edge of the earth’s table top and stop  –  to admire

the thousand pounding waterfalls and the mouldy line of dragons
employed as bouncers on the world’s rim, their steaming breath

pushing day-trippers and pilgrims away from the glistening edge,
its long black drop hidden until the moment when, chasing a child

or a photograph, someone slides past the security rail of scales
and slips off –  then, as clouds scatter and dragons twitch  

their heavy tails, I might see the finite edge of things,
a life held to a world that refuses to curve.
 
(previously published in The Department of Emotional Projections, 2014)
 
 

NJ Hynes is poet in residence at Greenwich Rail Station. She finished an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths with distinction in 2010, and her first collection, The Department of Emotional Projections, was published by Live Canon in 2014, having won their inaugural first collection prize.  Her poems have appeared in Mslexia, Magma, Popshot and Brittle Star and are featured in a video by Southeastern

Two poems by Tess Barry

White Girl’s Sonnet for Barack Obama

I come from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from Donegal, from Croatia,
from Mont Saint Michel, from Troy Hill, from a long line of immigrants,
from steel mills, racists and bigots, from the city of bridges, the Mon

and Yough rivers, from egalitarian blowhards, from an infant left
in a basket in Dubrovnik/from the note attached to her blanket:
we are opera singers and can’t care for her. I come from a century’s arias,

from untraceable orphans, from Robert E. Lee and Honest Abe Lincoln,
from American might and wrong-headedness, from white Catholic
churches and mostly white neighborhoods, from the canonized privilege

of dialect, from the syntax of Caucasian ignorance−and like a vine I can
never eradicate it creeps in-between slats, cracks my pavement, pull it up
by its roots with both hands, turn away, and it creeps rifely back.

On Election Day 2008 I worked the polls, signed an affidavit for a ninety-
two year-old white woman−she was blind, you see. I had to enter
the election box to witness as she cast maybe her last vote for democracy.

(previously published in Mudfish, Vol. 19, 2016)

 
 
 
Finding My Bearings in Picasso’s Blue Period

When I am sad I return to your Blue Period
and rest there. I read and walk

on blue sand, swim in melancholy, drown
my longings in brushwork

and white caps, press myself between your
Poor People on the Seashore.

I turn to your mother
first, her arms crossed and head down,

wrapped in the cape of herself,
unified in blue monochrome.

I give her some bread,
which she takes never looking

into my eyes. She doesn’t acknowledge me, doesn’t
even acknowledge

your abrupt and smooth sea. I turn to your father,
hold his elbows, offer him shelter.

Back to the shore, he faces her, faces emptiness,
faces me too, but our eyes

never meet. Their young son faces them both,
a force and a presence,

one hand rests on his father’s dark thigh,
another floats free,

grasps my offering. Arm-in-arm we turn
toward your blued sea,

find our bearings in the thick even strokes,
in your constancy.
 
(previously published in Aesthetica, 2014)
 
 
 
 
Tess Barry was shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize (UK). Twice a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize and Aesthetica Magazine’s (UK) Poetry Award, she was also shortlisted for the 2014 Bridport Poetry Prize (UK). Most recently her poems appeared or are forthcoming in Mudfish Vol.19, Cordite Poetry Review (Australia), The Woven Tale Press Arts and Literary Magazine (UK), and online at Manchester Writing School’s (UK) website. Her most recent prose is available online at North American Review’s blog, where she has been a featured blogger. Barry is a Fellow of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project and Mentor/Editor for Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops. She teaches English, literature, and creative writing at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Twitter @tessbarry88

‘The Counterplayer Gazes In and Lives to Play the Tale’ by Dzifa Benson

  1. What is the meaning of Legba’s red baritone saxophone in the Five Spot Café at midnight?
  1. On the cliff face of this wet indigo, he is the man who tied water.
  1. A trumpet sounds: the prince is in a hurry to dance in the street.
  1. Sometimes it sounds like the boom of the earth stretching and yawning. Sometimes it’s as erudite as a tabla. Most times it’s as though he’s about to regurgitate a star.
  1. What kind of food is a song?
  1. He’ll see you in that space between finger pluck and the decay of sound.
  1. With spoilt embouchure I carry the sputtering smoulder of a blue note in my tympanum.
  1. The priest tells you these palm oil plantations have been a 1000 years in the making.
  1. He spits stories of the Mami Wata, Siren of Keta Lagoon, coils of serpents around her neck.
  1. I’ll tell you of the shade of Iroko and girth of Baobab, of a bracelet made of an elephant’s tusk, of cotton in my ears and blood gurgling in my throat.
  1. Kokuvi, the musician, has covered his eyes with his hands and is using his jaw to see.
  1. When I die
    Turn no corner
    Bend no curve
    Take me straight to Agorko

 

(Previously published in the anthology Double Bill, Red Squirrel Press, 2014)

 

 

Dzifa Benson has performed her prose and poetry nationally and internationally at venues such as the Southbank Centre, Glastonbury Festival, the Houses of Parliament and on tour with the British Council in South Africa. Her writing has been widely published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Poetry Review, Magma, the Manhattan Review and Philosophy Now@DzifaBenson

 

 

‘The Kaleidoscope My Big Brother Gave Me’ by Ann Leahy

The Kaleidoscope My Big Brother Gave Me

It created geometric processions out of rooms:
made a pair of butterflies rise from a fireside chair,
caused a ball of wool to fan and become a guelder-rose,
a cylinder of gas to spoke into a four-pronged star,
eight eyes to glisten from a hot-plate ringed with chrome.

It put my reflection in as part of the pattern: let me see
myself in a pendulum, triangulated by a dour
mahogany surround. He helped me through a gap that year.
Finger to his lips, he slowed the whole summer down,
tuned out tractor drone, dog splash, sheep bleat –

moved in on one grasshopper sound, till we’d dipped
level with the angled systems of the insect’s exterior,
its armoured legs jigging out an oscillating click
that swelled in the field, a chant rising in its cathedral.
I became a juggler of surfaces, an evangelist

of detail, my world broken down, re-configured. I’d take
rubbings from the paint tears hardened down our door, wait
outside, round the narrowing waterline, as polygons
broke out across the mud, baked by the sun.
 
(from The Woman who Lived her Life Backwards)
 
 
Ann Leahy’s first collection The Woman who Lived her Life Backwards, Arlen House, 2008 won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Individual poems have also won national awards (the Poetry on the Wall, and Clogh Writers’ prizes and others) and have twice been commended in the British National Poetry Competition. Her poems have been published widely in journals (Stand, AGENDA, Orbis, Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, New Welsh Review and others) and anthologies (Best of Irish Poetry 2010; The Echoing Years: An Anthology of Poetry from Canada and Ireland, 2007 and others). She has taken part in writers’ festivals in Ireland and Germany, and received a Culture Ireland bursary for a reading tour in the U.S. She grew up in Co. Tipperary and lives in Dublin.

‘Aquarius’ by Miranda Peake

 

All day we lived with the thought of you,
celeriac remoulade and Boeuf Bourguignon
covered our plates as we lifted two glasses
of sun and toasted your name. Later
we wandered down Tottenham Court Road,
stopping for love seats and dining room chairs.
We sat on sofas and questioned the depth
of shelves. We measured rugs with our feet
and imagined them here and there. We mustn’t
get carried away, I said, revolving slowly
around an occasional table. In Heal’s café
we turned retrograde, talking about the house
again, the rooms downstairs, how they take the sun,
their double aspect smiles. The Japanese print
and the Lalique bowl – frosty like a moon.
Whether to keep it or whether to sell it, and what
of all this beauty, if you’re not here to live in it.

 

(previously published in 154, the Live Cannon anthology responding to Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets)

 

Miranda Peake is a London based poet and artist. Her poems have been published in Magma, The Rialto, Bare Fiction, Banshee, Poetry News and in the Live Canon 154 anthology. In 2014 her poem ‘Florence’ won the Mslexia Poetry Competition and she has this year been shortlisted for Primers Volume 2. Twitter: @mirandapeake

‘His Heart’ by Raymond Antrobus

His Heart

turned against him in a chicken shop.
He said my heart is falling out

as he slipped into dreams
of his mother in Jamaica.

He came through in hospital, longing
for the woman, dead twenty years.

His son visits and they spend
half an hour holding hands.

There is a needle in his arm
and blood in his colostomy bag.

He asks the nurse if he can go to the post office
to buy his daughter a postcard

but forgiveness does not
have an address.

Madge is the first girl he kissed in Jamaica –
white floral dress, scent of thyme and summer.

She visits his hospital dreams.
Madge is not the nurse who dissolves

painkillers in his water.
He does not drink with his eyes open.

His son turns on the radio,
it is A Rainy Night In Georgia.

His son, a blur
on a wooden chair.
 
 
 
 
Raymond Antrobus is a British-Jamaican poet, performer and educator, born and bred in East London, Hackney. He is co-curator of Chill Pill and Keats House Poets Forum. His poems have been published in The Rialto, Magma Poetry, Oxford Diaspora’s Programme, British Council Literature, Shooter Literary Journal, The Missing Slate, Morning Star, Media Diversified and forthcoming in POETRY magazine, Wasafiri and Ten Anthology, (Bloodaxe). He was selected for The Complete Works 3. Twitter @RaymondAntrobus