Dressing up in Lockdown, by Shanta Acharya

DRESSING UP IN LOCKDOWN

A pristine summer’s day, sparkling like champagne,
perfect for giving my garments an airing.
At home in a bubble of my own, lounging
in pyjama and dressing gown, numbering
my days’ illusions, comfort reigns over style.
My wardrobe reprimands me, cries in chorus
– saris complaining the loudest of not being
touched, embraced, admired – their silks, chiffons,
satins, crepes, georgettes, chanderis mothballed
in tissue, chide me for starving myself
in the midst of plenty. Unable to ignore their
pleas, I wear a sari with matching jewellery,
spray myself with Immortal and Eternity,
with a glass of bubbly watch Downton Abbey.

In the words of Mimi Khalvati, Shanta Acharya’s ‘poetry shows a rare combination of lyricism, intelligence, sagacity and a wicked sense of humour.’ The author of twelve books, her most recent collections are What Survives Is The Singing (Indigo Dreams, 2020) and Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2017). www.shanta- acharya.com

 

Schoolyard Memory, by Maurice Devitt

Schoolyard Memory

When I refused to share my Latin homework,
you challenged me to a fight
outside the tuckshop, first thing after school.
With little choice, I accepted,
my strategy hopelessly unclear. You had form
and news of the mismatch sparked from class to class.

The lane was choked with the cough
of cigarette smoke and the acrid smell of BO
funnelling from the knots of baying boys
heralding my entrance. You strutted around
the makeshift ring, joking and laughing
with your cabal. I was tempted to admit defeat,

but conscious that attack is often
the best form of defence, I walked towards you,
shucking school bag and gaberdine,
baited you with words of bluff bravado,
silencing the crowd and tempting you
to hit me for the first time. I flinched

but didn’t react, tried to distract you
with the recitation of random tracts of Latin
unseen and the declension of obscure French verbs.
You continued your attack, my rubbery mouth
spitting out the syllables of broken words,
until I could take no more, legs buckling under me.

Curled on the ground, I sensed the mood
of the crowd shift to hushed concern,
and unfolding myself like a deckchair into standing,
rushed to concede. You win, I mumbled,
sweeping up my school bag and disappearing
into the maw of the crowd, tears starting to fall.

Perhaps chastened by the incipient shock
that rippled through the school, you never asked
for my homework again and, when we left school,
our paths diverged, until today – I saw you in town
stepping out of a brand-new Tesla,
pristine paintwork too tempting to ignore.

Maurice Devitt

A past winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland and Poems for Patience competitions, he published his debut collection, ‘Growing Up in Colour’, with Doire Press in 2018.

Curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site, his Pushcart-nominated poem, ‘The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work’, was the title poem of an anthology published by Hibernian Writers in 2015.

 

I Have Something to Say About Crochet, by Carla Scarano D’Antonio

I have something to say about crochet

I was trained by my mother
when I was only 5 or 6
and could make granny squares and doilies
with tiny hooks and bright cotton.

She taught me how to chain first,
I made long ones coiling around my feet.
Then double crochet, treble, half treble, double treble.
They developed in patterns,
in things to use and wear.
Can you believe there are people who don’t value such a work?

The long solitary confinement of lockdown
required emergency.
I intensified my crochet work,
survival was suffused with the rituals of choosing the thread,
matching the colours, developing patterns
and creating something I felt.

How to break the sadness of isolation?
How to heal the unhappiness of lost social cohesion?
The thrill of creation, the minutiae of the stitches
were extra revelations.
I shivered with recovery.

Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020. She was awarded a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading in April 2021.
http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/

 

Go on, make mine that boil-in-the-bag by the stove, by Beth McDonough

Go on, make mine that boil-in-the-bag by the stove.

God forbid, you’d think I’d want to eat it, mind!
Not that darling little clear plastic sachet,
excitingly bright with uncrystallised liquid,
which reveals a magic snap coin inside.

Oh, let me plop you in my pocket, wee friend,
as I swimsuit up, heap on so many layers.
All but forgotten as I pedal to the beach, strip,
and throughout my wintery swim, but then
I rigid-finger find you in my after-gear,
crack you into dynamic action. Fast warmth,
stuffed in my mitts, curled round my handlebars, go!
I’m always touched by your presence, dear.

 

Something Fishy . . . By Carole Donaldson

This is what culminated from a brief encounter at Sainsbury’s. It took five minutes to make up a rhyme about the extremely brief dalliance, but I think I had a close shave and dodged a bullet, yet unfortunately if the guy hadn’t been in such a hurry to ‘get his leg over’ we could have made fine music together, but I’m pleased that I usually always go with my gut feeling about things, and this guy was far too forward for comfort. Shame, really, he wasn’t bad looking but he let his mouth run away with him.

SOMETHING FISHY …

I met a man, while out shopping, at the salmon counter,
he came over quite suave and quite slick,
a few weeks on from that chance encounter,
he turned out to be naught but a fanciful dick

He kissed me and hugged me the minute we met
So charming – he addressed me “Dear Madam”
But how familiar is it right for a stranger to get
When I didn’t even know him from Adam

We exchanged our phone numbers and as days went by
I waited to hear from this Casanova
But I’d text and then wait but get no reply
So before it begun, it was practically over

He finally rang and arranged that we meet
His excuse for no contact? He preferred not to text
We went for a coffee on a posh market street
Where he wasted no time saying how much he loved sex

Well, I was appalled and quite taken aback
It was far too soon to be talking that way
But he took me to lunch, at Kings Road Seafood Shack
And when the huge bill came, he was happy to pay

(80 quid’s-worth of food was devoured that day)

Though we chatted at lunch and duly both laughed
With the same sense of humour we shared
I got a bad vibe and I thought myself daft
I could’ve been an old boot and I don’t think he’d’ve cared.

He mentioned the sex thing again I had noted
He clearly had his own agenda
He was quite up front, not a thing sugar-coated
And showed himself up to be a pretender

This encounter has taught me to be somewhat wary
This chap had manners like a pen full of swine
His ulterior motives can seem somewhat scary
But in truth that’s his problem, and certainly not mine

It’s been over a week now and he’s disappeared
At his hinted intentions, I told him where to go
Asking if I was adventurous – far too forward I feared
And on that score the arse’ole will now never know

 

Cop O The North, by Cáit O’Neill McCullagh

Cop O The North

After Nicanor Parra’s ‘The Poems of the Pope’

Insta this! I’ve been crowned!
I’m the COP o the north
King of the Anthropocene
every ‘ancestor’s wildest dream’

Oh, I’ve suffered decades of your resolutions
deny me no more, Anthro’s here darlings!
and petro-chemical green’s my scene
my cloak is all COP-washed glory

the forests burn, the earth expires
the sea’s an acid-gasp! It’s oil thanks to me!
I’ve anointed this planet in fire and flood
and folks while I rule it, you’ll consume it

We’ve peaked post-truth, BTW
my people write the scripts now
this one’s called ‘Beyond Petroleum
from filthy lucre to carbon-blue’

flush with the glow of burning ozone
I’m the green god now
I grace every couch on your blessed telly
but never admit, it’s fossil fuel that keeps me lit!

I can get you what you want today, no probs.
But tomorrow, things go nuclear
and I know where the button is
and I know the folk who want to press it.

Ever since our story started
when you pushed that first hungry plough
and took your axe to the lungs of the forest
Gaia has groaned to birth me.

So, bless her do your mother earth
perhaps one less flight will heal her extinction
but remember, while the crude keeps bubbling
it’ll be me who’ll be your final benediction

Cáit O’Neill McCullagh is a straying ethnologist writing at home in the Highlands of Scotland. She started to write poetry in December 2020, and since then her poems have appeared in Northwords Now, Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis, Drawn to the Light, and The Banyan Review. Cáit tweets at @kittyjmac .

 

Errands, by Sarah J. Bryson

Errands

As novices on the ward
we students were sent to collect,
to beg to borrow –

‘nip to 15 see if they have any spare
draw sheets, and ask Sister Pink
if you can borrow a sphyg,’

‘go down to the porter’s lodge
and tell them we need someone urgently:
bring one of them back with you,’

‘take this list to CSSD
with the trolley, and bring back
as much as you can to stock up’

One day I was asked to go to
the orthopaedic ward
for left handed syringes

and a long stand.

Sarah J Bryson

Bio
Sarah has poems published in print journals, anthologies and on line. She has been a regular participant, during the Covid pandemic, in a weekly on-line arts event, combining photographs with haiku style poetry and has recently had several poems on the Poetry and Covid site.

 

Strictly Speaking, by MT Taylor

Strictly speaking…

…her shoes let them down
five inch heels and that soft kid leather
in come-fuck-me red.
Were they ever
really a pair?

He with his polished Latino click
hers a scarlet asymmetric slit
with a temper to match
his a spandex sparkle
and the macassared slick
of his Lugosi thatch

She didn’t fall, merely tripped
on his slippery charm
and her own indecision
lost her footing
gripped his arm as they took to the floor
in their downward collision.
She felt a smack from the back
of his left Cuban stack.

She’s had enough.
Through the crack of his dislocation
she remembered old scores
lost marks
humiliation

The last he knew was her impatient sigh
and the crushing sight
of her restless stiletto above his eye
the mocking cry
the samba siren and the boys in blue
(what-the-foxtrot-tango?)
lights on full
Paso doble
torero mujer
and one dead bull

MT Taylor was a librarian before retiring to Glasgow. Her work has appeared in The Glasgow Review of Books, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Northwords Now, The Lake, Under the Radar, and Poems for Grenfell. She has four children who still talk to her, and she still interrupts.

 

Rubbish Love Poem, by Martin Grey

Rubbish Love Poem

Love is like a kung fu fighter.
It conducts itself with grace,
but if you let it draw you in,
it might kick you in the face.

Love is like a chainsaw.
Proper use is not a laugh,
‘cos if you treat it irresponsibly,
you might cut yourself in half.

Love is like a cup of tea
that someone else has made.
Sometimes it tastes so wonderful.
Sometimes they put the milk in first.

Love’s a bit like shopping,
full of newness to be handled,
but sometimes you’ll end up in Ikea
with a trolley full of candles.

But love ain’t unconditional,
no matter what you’ve heard,
‘cos if I see you put the milk in first
then I’ll need to have a word.

Martin is a Nottingham based poet. His first collection, The Prettyboys of Gangster Town, was published in 2020. He’s co-director of World Jam, co-host of Lenguas Open Mic and co-presents Poetry Global Network’s The Poetry News. He often wonders if people keep mistaking him for the poet they actually wanted.