Bubble Wrap Blues, by Pete Mullineaux

Bubble Wrap Blues

Stack away the coffin boards – pack away the nails,
moor that boat for Avalon, lower down the sails.
Place me on a bed of foam before I take a nap,
swaddle me in comfort,
bury me in bubble wrap.

Take down the big marquee – pay off the cabaret,
cancel the choirboys and girls – come back another day.
Hold back the holy waters, the tree bark with no sap,
let a band of homeless sing –
‘bury me in bubble wrap.’

No bankers to hold the handles, no regulator prayers,
no corporate greed to drive the hearse, no soft landing soothsayers.
No message from our leader, no sentimental crap,
give me a dry-eyed crocodile,
bury me in bubble wrap.

If I rage into the night, can’t take it on the chin,
find it all too much to bear and go without a grin –
let the feelings run and run like a leaking tap,
lend me a suit of armour,
bury me in bubble wrap.

Farewell world it’s been a gas, a never ending joke,
banana skins to beat the band, fun-loving goats to poke.
Laugh me forward to my spot, place me in the trap,
bundle me in comedy,
bury me in bubble wrap.

Life is just a holiday, brief relief from nothing,
huff and puff and other stuff, we get on by bluffing.
But even an off-performance deserves a slow handclap,
minimise the damage,
bury me in bubble wrap.

What’s done is done, no mileage in regret
if it wasn’t exactly all my way, too late to get upset.
The exit doors are beckoning, time to mind the gap,
don’t spare the layers,
bury me in bubble wrap.

Pete Mullineaux has published four poetry collections, most recently How to Bake a Planet (Salmon 2016) – “A gem” – Poetry Ireland Review. A new collection is forthcoming in 2022. He’s been interviewed on RTE’s Arena and also had three plays produced by RTE radio. His work has been described by reviewers as ‘profoundly sensitive’ ‘gorgeous and resonant’ & ‘grimly funny’, and comparisons made with Roger McGough, John Clare, John Cooper-Clarke and Pete Seeger. His debut novel Jules & Rom: Sci-fi meets Shakespeare (Troubador UK) was published in April 2021, (‘Certainly worth a gander’ – Irish Times). following an ebook version in 2020. Website: petemullineauxwriter.com

 

Instructions for reading a gas meter, by Ama Bolton

Instructions for reading a gas meter

1. You’ll need a pen and paper and a torch.
2. Open the door of the cupboard in the corner.
3. Move the vacuum cleaner and the two pairs of boots.
4. Get a brush and remove the cobwebs from the meter.
5. Lie down on the floor so that your face is level with the meter.
6. If there isn’t enough room for you, move the sofa.
7. If you can’t move the sofa, get help.
8. No, not me. You know I’ve got a bad back.
9. Press the button.
10. No, the other button.
11. If you can’t read the numbers, get a magnifying glass.
12. Press the button again.
13. If you still can’t read the numbers, get your camera.
14. Turn off the flash, if you can remember how.
15. If you can’t remember, find the instruction manual.
16. No, I don’t know where it is.
17. Try the top drawer in the kitchen.
18. Under the mousetrap?
19. Press the button again and take a photo.
20. Quick, before the number disappears.
21. Maybe use the zoom?
22. Try again.
23. That’s better.
24. Upload the photo and write down the numbers.
25. Go to the website.
26. The password’s in the blue book under G for Gas.
27. Enter the reading.
28. Yes, I know it’s a smart meter, but the new supplier can’t read it.
29. No, we’re not changing back.
30. Cheer up; you only have to do this once a month.

 

Sleeping Legion, by Jennie E. Owen

Sleeping Legion

They’re all here tonight you know,
every face you’ve ever seen
flickering behind your eyes like cherries
spinning like bells
they put on a show
as you push off your blankets
then swaddle them again.

Your old maths teacher chases you
to the edge of the cliff,
a book of equations in one hand
a garden gnome in the other. Whilst
a midwife leads you
down endless
hospital corridors

where at the end
you’ll find nothing but the check-out boy,
the one with whom you locked eyes
over a cucumber
and a packet of hob nobs,
last Tuesday.

Jennie E. Owen’s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies. She teaches Creative Writing for The Open University and lives in Lancashire with her husband, three children, and cat.

 

When Brian Became Broccoli, by Ben Macnair

When Brian Became Broccoli

When asked what he wanted to be,
three-year-old Brian thought about it,
for a while, and with a smile,
said that he would like to be Broccoli.

A strange choice for a career,
you might have thought,
but Brian was only three,
the age where you could be what you wanted to be.

When a kindly local Wizard was told of this tale,
he visited Brian and asked: ‘And who might you be?’
Are you the little boy who wanted to become Broccoli?
Brian nodded his head.

Brian went to bed that night,
but he woke up with a bit of a fright.
His hair was green, stiff, and standing on end.
The following night, he went to bed,
and woke up completely Green.
His Mum and Dad had never seen anything
quite so obscene.

The next day, they found Brian in bed.
He had become Broccoli.
The kindly Wizard broke the spell,
and for 14 years, all was well.

Until the Wizard turned up one day,
and was quite drunk.
‘I am afraid that the spell didn’t quite wear off.’
he said because Brian was becoming a Punk.

Ben Macnair is an award-winning poet and playwright from Staffordshire, in the United Kingdom. Follow him on Twitter @benmacnair

 

Why I ended up (for a while) in Hull, by Janet Sillett

Why I ended up (for a while) in Hull

My group of friends read Larkin aloud
skiving off hockey,
outliers in a school
which dished out piety at 9am

We admired his contrariness,
dirty words,
and suburban weariness,
his constipated ennui

Larkin inspired me to study
in a god forsaken east coast city
a shared terrace with a parrot
a bath in the kitchen
on Anlaby Road

I skulked in vain in the library,
until we parted company abruptly,
Hull, Larkin and me
I moved on, as they say,
to Plath, Stevens, Crane
to a concrete place of learning,
and Larkin expressed his adoration
for Margaret Thatcher

I reread his poems, when living
in bedsits, in semis,
in the disillusionment of marriage

But let’s face it,
Larkin was a bigot, racist, serial snob
I want to see them starving,
the so-called working class
nostalgic for the good old days
when only white men played cricket for England

Consumer of pornography
(but never in the library)
composer of sado­masochistic reveries
shared to fellow man poets
posh adolescents fumbling with themselves
in bedrooms after lights out

I want to cancel Larkin
unknow his life,
his pervasion of archetypal Englishness
I settle for drowning in his poetry
with fingers in my ears

PS Apologies to Hull which I now think is a great place.

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 and Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis, and flash fiction in Litro. She works for a think tank.

 

Grumbles, by Amanda Baker

Grumbles

I don’t want air treacle in my nostrils
a sullen clot of exhaustion in my stomach
sending spider webs of weakness through my veins
as I trudge up the hill.

I don’t want the miniature catgut squeal
of mosquitoes behind my right ear
to brush its crushed body off my upper arm
as I flail at the soft hollow behind my knee
driven in from my twilight garden.

I don’t want to stretch my fingers to relax
after clenching the steering wheel for thirteen hours
trapped between the swaying container walls
yellow blue and white barely visible in the torrential rain
as useless goods get transported across Europe
in response to an impulsive click on the tick box.

I want to be Legolas,
dancing lightly through ancient lichen-hung forests,
intact ecological webs singing their joy,
untouched by wildfires, beetles and drought.

Amanda Baker is based in Berlin. As a scientist, teacher, and animal physiotherapist, she loves exploring new ideas. She has had performances in KlinkerdIn, the Curious Fox and Over the Edge and has poems published in Automatic Pilot, Poethead and Strukturriss. She thoroughly enjoys Kevin Higgins’ Poetry workshops.

 

Because it’s total crap, by Karen Jones

Because it’s total crap

Ratner lifted the lid on a sherry decanter
At £4.95 a pop too good to countenance
When asked about his high-street gems
Little tacky rings for working class girls
Risking bedtime dealings with blue collar boys

It was Gerald who had himself by the balls
All for earrings costing less than a quid
He’d choke on an M&S sandwich now
Fish the prawns himself if he could
Than grapple with the loss of a
$10 billion business, 10 seconds to nought

Now 30 years after the biggest PR gaffe
The Sultan of Bling can only think back
To Mrs Ratner and her word of advice
The only pearl he declined to string
Ego really is a terrible thing

Karen Jones is new to writing poetry, a student of Kevin Higgins, born in Northern Ireland, living in Dublin and working in public relations.

 

My Mother Doesn’t Know that I’m a Poet, by Rodney Wood

MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW THAT I’M A POET
after Billy Bennett

I’m cherishing a secret about this poets-life I lead
as according to the papers that she reads all poets
are lazy bastards, cads and cowards who live in ivory towers.
They’re scum of the earth, much worse than bureaucrats
and really don’t give a toss for anyone but numereo uno
but I know is that really us poets are decent folk.
All the people I hang out with think I’m quite OK
and say I’m a poet of the much more pleasant sort
but I never breathe a word of this at home.

You see my mother doesn’t know that I’m a poet
sometimes she sees the inky stains upon my clothes,
the trembling of my voice and that haunted look in my eyes
I tell her is from the solvent I’ve been using for cocaine.
When I spend hours in my room alone and writing poems
I tell her not to worry as I’m only watching porn.
and when I go to London for a Forward or TS Eliot Prize
I tell mother I’m off to meet and reminisce with fascists
because you see, I’ll never tell my mother I’m a poet.

And those parcels that drop through my letter box
I say are guns, knives, explosives, lubricants and sex
toys. If she knew I was a poet she’d shoot me like a dog
and all those books came, I say, by mistake from catalogues
and I keep them, just in case. She can think I’m a murderer
before she’ll know the truth. I have to respect her old age but
she knows that I’m a liar, a crook and arsonist
but it would break her poor old heart if she found out
that I write odes, epics, ballads and get my kicks from sonnets
so thank heavens Mother doesn’t know that I’m a poet.

 

Or your scants will come back to haunt you, by Beth McDonough

Or your scants will come back to haunt you

Here’s to the thrill of ethical knickers

delivered by post through your own front door.
Each pair of pants comes carefully wrapped
in tactile fantastic brown papery packets,
patterned with turtles, octopuses and whales,
skilfully block-printed in India.

All of these garments are guaranteed free
of nasties like plastics, except just perhaps
those barcoded stickers proclaiming these knickers
one hundred per cent organic cotton, designed
entirely to delight on the very fine Isle of Wight,
dyed in colours as smashing as eggshell.

Already, I’m advised on my pants’ end of life,
little symbols explain how these ethical undies
can be sent back, then recycled safely. I must
express just a little alarm about future
manufacturing tactics of endless elastic, but
why not have big hopes for the morals of smalls?

Beth McDonough’s poetry is widely anthologised and published in Magma, Gutter, and elsewhere. Her first solo pamphlet Lamping for pickled fish is published by 4Word.Fairly soon, her site-specific poem will be installed on the Corbenic Poetry Path. She swims year round in the Tay, foraging close by.

 

On Flatulence, by Simon Williams

On Flatulence

It’s commonly held that farts are methane.
While this is true for cows, sheep, goats
and other herbivores, it’s not for humans.
Our flatus (that’s the word, I looked it up)
is largely hydrogen, lighter than air.

So the story of the Persian Prince
with noteworthy and continuous flatulence,
who is supposed to have suffocated himself
while asleep on a low bed-pallet on a trip abroad,
could not have happened.

However, should an equerry have brought a lamp,
a naked flame into the chamber,
his highness, without rising from his sleep,
could have raised the roof.
I think that trumps the suffocation story.