Stopping by stairs on a frosty morning, by Fianna

Stopping by stairs on a frosty morning

after ( and with no disrespect to) Robert Frost

Whose sock is this? I think I know!
Its twin is in the laundry though
Oh why has Robert left one here
while all the rest grow white as snow?

Ach! Should I wash by hand? No fear!
I wouldn’t want that stink so near
my face, though if I hesitate
it might stay dirty till new year

It seems the only choice is scrape
the horse-poo off with soapy flake
I do not want the smell to creep
or mingle with my Christmas cake.

I spray the air with Forest Deep
and poke the sock down-in to steep
It takes an age to stop that reek
It takes an age to stop that reek.

Fianna (Fiona Russell Dodwell)

Fianna ( Fiona Russell Dodwell ) is from the Fife and Antrim coasts, and now lives in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Her first poems were published in Ink Sweat and Tears, and she has since had about 70 poems published, both online and on paper.

 

A Last Will for your Detriment, by Cáit O’Neill McCullagh

A Last Will For Your Detriment

after ‘Bequests’ by Kevin Higgins

I, Kitty of the Firths
unsounded in this queasy world
invoke these many bold bequests
upon the heads of the priapic primi
pomposities of party patriarchs & aparatchiks
furnish your wine fountainheads & cheese centrespreads
ye deadheaded dulleries, these items to fulsomely enjoy

[may they visit you in your blue sky thinkeries
haunt the despicability of your venal drinkeries
reduce you to the scuff on the scuffed shoes that squirm
about the fleet feet of the cleaner-uppers that scrub stains
from the sticky floors of your reputations]

Item I

the ire of a dram-drunk Highland midge, more
the whole disgruntled genealogy of midges
may they berserk every kagouled dippy picnic
of your sandwich-strewn hay-baled hippy chic

Item II

may the marriage of a rusted key & unyielding tin
splice you from the pads of your pinkie promises
& may you chomp that sweaty slab of corny beef forever
millennia of hard to swallow BS wrapped in lethal armour

Item III

the gape-mouthed masked-shut silent tears
of a pandemic peoples’ damp-sheet sweated fears
& if you crossed the line that you asked them to keep
endless pundits razored tongues to grip you from your sleep

Item IV

forever may you step the spiral stairs to the teetered tower
where you held humanity dangled, rampart tipped its toes
neck wringed it in your greedy grasp! O contemptuous
face now the howling wind of your very own disgrace

About me:

Cáit O’Neill McCullagh is a straying ethnologist in the Scottish Highlands. She started writing poetry in December 2020. Since then her poems have appeared in Northwords Now, Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis, Drawn to the Light, Bella Caledonia, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and The Banyan Review. Cáit tweets at @kittyjmac .

 

The Birds and Bees at Aldi’s Checkout, by Lorraine Carey

The Birds and Bees at Aldi’s Checkout

Showering my five year old
one evening in the run up
to Christmas, he casually
enquired whether Santa Claus
could see his privates,
and hear him fart in bed.

Stifling a laugh I realised days before,
I’d declared Santa could
see and hear everything
At the supermarket checkout,
he asked do I have to be a Granddad
when I grow up ?

Bagging groceries as fast as I could,
I replied, well, that depends
and you would need to be a Dad first.
I knew what was coming
and so did the shoppers in the queue.
He appeared a bit flummoxed

and asked how do I be a Dad then ?
Using age appropriate language,
I attempted an answer while loading
the boot, hoped it would suffice,
explaining it would be a really, really
long time before he was a man and had

to worry about a girlfriend or things like that.
Driving home, he hummed Jingle Bells
behind me, elevated in a booster seat,
with his chocolate crusted cupid’s bow,
firing off questions to his teddy
like sparks from a Catherine Wheel,

saving this one just for me.
Mum, what if I’m all growed up
in love like a man with my lady
and forget what I have to do ?

Lorraine Carey’s a poet from Greencastle, Donegal. Her poems are widely anthologised and have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, The Waxed Lemon, One, Abridged, Poetry Birmingham, The High Window, Ink Sweat &Tears, Orbis, Eunoia Review and The Honest Ulsterman. Her art and photography have also featured online and in print.

 

There Was Once A Girl with Red Glasses, by Pip McDonald

There Was Once a Girl with Red Glasses

There was once a girl with red glasses
She wasn’t the same as other lasses
Her specs became
Her eternal flame
It was she was different from the masses

The glasses were clearly special
They were made of magic metal
When she took them off
The magic was lost
Like a flower who lost a petal

She tried to wear different colours
But alas life became duller
She became depressed
Lust for life was less
She just couldn’t cope with another

The answer was simply red
Or she would be found dead
She would fall down
To the ground
To red she would be wed

There will simply never be another frame
And life will never be the same
They looked after her face
Like a warm embrace
It makes her want to dance in the rain

She couldn’t live without her specs
Without them she would become a wreck
Her red is on
She’s got it going on
Red is really better than sex

Some people say she should change
But she thinks that this would be strange
Why fix it if it works?
Because red rules the world
Her glasses make her sane

There was once girl with red glasses
Who rose like a phoenix from the ashes
She never looked back
Red is the new black
Eyes flickering with red flashes

Red was in her DNA
A revolution, the one, the way
Red was the light
It shines so bright
Red glass are here to stay

Pip McDonald writes and performs her own poetry and is a DJ for The Thursday Night Show. Pip has written and performed original poetry both in an online capacity and at live open mic events including Conversations make Connections event, part of London Festival of Ideas organised by Open Ealing Art Centre, the Oxford University English Society Poetry Night, Write Out Loud and Gobjaw in London. You can follow Pip on Twitter: @PipMac6
Photograph

 

Five More Limericks, by Mark Totterdell

FIVE MORE LIMERICKS

He was not one of life’s born attackers,
Just the gentlest and best of alpacas,
But he spat and he bit
And behaved like a shit
When the vet came to snip off his knackers.

The whale that is known as the Minke
Is ever so streamlined and slinke.
Though it isn’t to blame,
It’s a terrible shame
That its breath is so horribly stinke.

There was an old hippy from Warwick
Who dropped acid to feel all euphoric,
But he should have been stopped
As the acid he dropped
Was one hundred per cent hydrochloric.

‘So is this how I meet the Grim Reaper?’
Cried the junior elephant keeper,
As he fell in the pit
Full of elephant shit
And sank deeper and deeper and deeper.

There was an old fellow from Shoreham,
Whose trousers slipped down as he wore ‘em,
First revealing his crack,
Then his dick, then his sack,
Till quite frankly you couldn’t ignore ‘em.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines. His collections are This Patter of Traces (Oversteps Books, 2014), Mapping (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018) and Mollusc (The High Window Press, 2021).

 

AlApHaBeTi-KiNtSuGi, by Mandy Beattie

AlApHaBeTi-KiNtSuGi

a poem or three or seven
on the march
should be the easel on which it squats thrusting
its chin out & leaving

beetroot stains & cyan

on finger prints hectares after it’s been written
and read it should
dive into a murmuration of starlings & larks not treading
water as jellyfish do but leave us
rubber-necking miles after it’s been seeded into

a stanza-pancake dripping

butter & gooseberry jam with dollops

of double cream melting

in the mouth with or without capitals
commas & fullstops for Pollock’s art
of oxygen in a tempest of ukulele
& didgeridoo or the unexpected hiccough
of spilt manuka ginger & star-anise

scratching a dictionary & search engines in caps
& gowns or street-smarts clamping the thesaurus
for a lethologica word lethonomia word

or a tsunami-tumbrel of words
that leave me

trapezing back to fidget it
leaving it
to brew
for weeks coddled & culled until it has no more
hem for honing as it shoogle’s its grommet
into the groove
of the world where it thumbs mulched wood
a gold Cup Bearer in the winning
of 5 stars from Cassiopeia maybe
or maybe knot?

 

Life Isn’t All Baubles, by Janet Sillett

Life isn’t all baubles

Who wants to win the bloody Booker anyway,
invaded by Yanks
Who wants to be longlisted with the cranks
the false prophets, the portentous
the simply crap
a novel in one sentence
what the fuck is that?

I could change my name to Hilary Mantel
or write a plotless endless novel in unreadable dialect, a hook
for the organic middle class and middle brow
riding on the zeitgeist of identity,
with requisite socio-political angst

Surely enough for the long list?

The taxi to the Guildhall, plague permitting,
smiling grimly at a table weighed down by hubris,
and quinoa burgers and beetroot three ways,
the BBC’s reverential tones on the big screen
selfies on iphones, rehearsing the perfect modest phrase

The Guardian interview in a Shoreditch bar
in battered leather jacket and trainers
keeping back the tears, haltingly, I expose
my childhood in a Coventry cult
and how, kept awake by culture wars, each night
I go through darkness to achieve light

all lies of course

A pay out for those dreary days, the barren room,
chain smoking in the dark, as the words die in mid air
the spent matrimony
the acrimony of failure

But do I really want to win the Booker
to choke on its self-congratulation high art pretention
the cattiness, the condescension,
when I can be signing paperbacks in a Luton basement
with the idlers and the curious,
dozing between the dysfunctional and exiles from the drizzle.

And later sprawled out drunk in the town fountain, trousers half mast
a dystopian baptism snapped for the local rag,
a late dog walker in her Barbour jacket turned away aghast,
whilst my face stares out from the sole shabby bookstore,
displaying my first, my best, my only hit novel?

Janet Sillett recently took up writing poetry and short fiction again after decades of absence. She has had poems published in the Galway Advertiser, Poetry Plus magazine, Green Ink Poetry and Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis, Paws for Pause and flash fiction in Litro. She works for a think tank.

 

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

 

Human Nature, by Eric Burgoyne

Human Nature

Nearly halfway through a trans-Pacific flight, a passenger went into a seizure. It was significant and his thrashing motions alarming. A surprised traveler seated nearby leaped for his seat ready to fight off a highjacker. Steam-like condensation wafting from an air-conditioning vent took the shape of an Angel of Life fighting the Grim Reaper. A doctor and nurse rushed down the aisle to assist. The situation was tense and people wondered if the man would survive. Seatback entertainment monitors began turning blue as anxious passengers paused their movies and switched to the cobalt-colored flight tracker map to see if the aircraft had passed its point of no return. The lips of a few could be seen doing the mental math of connecting flights. A psychic in Business Class intercepted private thoughts and fervent prayers of those onboard: “Father, please save this poor man” . . . “Let him survive and live a long, healthy life” . . . “I beg of Thee, let us not be late for the wedding, P.S. Please bless whoever is sick back there in Economy” . . . “I wonder how much time it takes for rigor to set in?” . . . “What’ll they do with the body? They can’t just leave it there, seat-belted in, can they?”. . .“Hey! Where’s the pretzels and drinks?”

Eric Burgoyne writes and surfs on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. He has an MA in Creative Writing – Poetry, from Teesside University, Middlesbrough England. His poems have appeared in Brickplight, Spillwords, Skink Beat Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere.

 

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/