The best superhero we can conjur, by Rob Schofield

The best superhero we can conjure

sits in splendid self-isolation. He
does not fret about provisions, other
than how best to keep the plebs supplied with
bread and circuses. And toilet roll. His
tenebrous consigliere, last seen
scuttling away from the black door sans
smug grin, is at home now, mired in his blog,
scribbling his fiendish marginalia
and plotting how and where to push the blame.
How will he muddy waters already
soiled by years of verbal diarrhoea?
Where were his not-so-super forecasters
when the rest of us were glued to the news
from Wuhan? And the second string, these Lords
of Misrule, whose misplaced confidence rides
shotgun with incompetence, snatch at the
coat tails of the experts they scorned, alive
to the scapegoat’s scent. Eton College closed
its doors before our children were sent home.
What of the rich, no longer able to
stake sole claim to being idle? Boltholes
undetected, they feed foie gras and fox
cubs to the hounds, riding out the storm while
trusting their Joker to keep their backsides clean.

Rob Schofield writes fiction and poetry from a temporary bunker in the Yorkshire Dales. Rob is a member of the 2021 Northern Short Story Festival Academy and has been published in The Blue Nib and Prole. He has been long and short listed for several short story prizes. Rob publishes work in progress at robschofield.uk.  

 

 

The Mermaid and the Onion Seller, by Rosie Barrett

The Mermaid and the Onion Seller

Eckphrastic after The Picnic Basket by Dawn Timmins

I’ve just made a huge mistake
This man’s not mine for goodness sake
He’s bonny, brown and looks the part
but life is more than simply art.
Sat here on his bike I’m cold.
We’ll not be lovers when we’re old.
Mermaids don’t eat cheese, drink wine.
When I’m on land I know I’ll pine
for gentle currents, wafting weeds,
for whale songs drifting through the reeds.
My sisters, combing out their hair,
if they were here would simply stare
and tell me not to be so daft.
But they weren’t here when he laughed
said “Ma choupette, come, marry me
the good Lord will bless you, set you free
to be my wife, bear me a son.
I’ll teach you French, we’ll have some fun”.
He really hasn’t thought this through
but he’ll have a tale to tell his crew.
For the moment I’ll sit here
My nipples hardening in the air.
And later on I’ll tell him “No
We really can’t – I have to go”.

 

Art Students in a City Park, by Patrick Deeley

Penniless, sodden, splattered
with mud and paint,
we cling to our brushes and easels,
catch tree-bark and bareness,
the on-off colours
of January light between showers.

What we offer the world
is what the world feels it can do
without. Futility,
say the cars tail-backed beyond
the railings, futility
the wind-wrecked umbrellas,

the errant golf shots
in far green spaces, the drug deals
done on side-streets,
futility the bank executives
in tinted restaurants
laughing off their latest messes.

Here, snowdrops cluster;
a scribble of moss
resembles yellow crayon-marks
where sunlight hits;
a sleeping moth, all
but etched into an old oak trunk,

gathers us together
to chaunt the idea of it as a tawny,
inverted love heart.
The park is about to be shut.
Suppose, one of us
suggests, suppose we mosey up

to the sour-puss
key-rattling park attendant posing
as Saint Peter
and smile our Mona Lisa smiles,
will he allow us
to stand just one more half-hour

in the wind and muck?
At which we all splutter into our
aqua marines, indigos,
burnt siennas, alizarin crimsons,
behind the tall,
rusty, suffering gates of Paradise.

Patrick Deeley’s awards include the 2001 Eilís Dillon Award, the 2014 Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize, and the 2019 Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award.  Recently he has had poems published in The Rialto, The London Magazine and Staying Human, an anthology edited by Neil Astley.  His seventh collection with Dedalus Press, ‘The End of the World’, was shortlisted for the 2020 Farmgate National Poetry Award.

 

Jan, Jen or Jean, by Thomas McColl

JAN, JEN OR JEAN

I hadn’t seen her in years.
Her name was Jan, Jen or Jean,
I couldn’t remember which.

My face lit up like a fruit machine
when she caught my glance
as we passed each other on Southwark Bridge.

“Hi, Tom,” she said,
and as if she’d pressed PLAY,
I felt compelled to take the chance.

The names began to spin inside my head –
Jan, Jen, Jean.
I pressed STOP too quickly –
I had little choice –
and settled on Jean.
“Hi, Jean,” I said.

We passed.
I pressed COLLECT,
and got a sick feeling in my gut,
as the name Jan,
for first prize,
flashed before my eyes.

Thomas McColl lives in London. He’s had poems published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Prole and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and has had two collections of poetry published: ‘Being With Me Will Help You Learn’ (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and ‘Grenade Genie’ (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020). 

 

Neighbourhood Watch, by Maurice Devitt

Neighbourhood Watch

When she woke he was gone,
the scent of him still dawdling
on the stairs, phone
and wedding-ring abandoned
on the console table in the hall.

After three weeks, she packed
his clothes into a suitcase
and left it in the porch.
In the morning it had vanished
except for the shoes he never liked,
perched squarely on the step.

A woman down the road,
dowdy and disinterested
since her last romance,
has been spotted wearing lipstick
to the bin and the milkman
has remarked, in the form
of an open question,
how she’d increased her order
from one bottle to two.

Winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015, he published his debut collection, ‘Growing Up in Colour’, with Doire Press in 2018.

His poems have been nominated for Pushcart, Forward and Best of the Net prizes and his Pushcart-nominated poem, ‘The Lion Tamer Dreams of Office Work’, was the title poem of an anthology published by Hibernian Writers in 2015. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site.

 

Mourning what he lost, by Rodney Wood

MOURNING WHAT HE LOST

Steve found it boring caressing his hair each morning
because his hair was arrogant, luxuriant and elegant.
He never thought one day he’d need a transplant
for the 2 foot Mohican attached to his cranium.

Hair dyed pink geranium and not bright cerulean, maroon,
bubble gum, cinnamon, electric crimson or even violet-red (medium).

He poured cereal into a bowl then found he had no milk.
His blessed day had shattered, gone belly up, shattered
and his hair had fallen out. He could no longer caress,
flout, shout or watch sprout from his cranium

hair dyed pink geranium and not bright cerulean, maroon,
bubble gum, cinnamon, electric crimson or even violet-red (medium).

All his hair had vanished but one remained and thrived
and each morning he combed, shampooed and conditioned,
trimmed, pinned and gelled that strand so it lay flat on his head.
Then he lost that single hair as it departed his cranium.

A single hair dyed pink geranium and not bright cerulean, maroon,
bubble gum, cinnamon, electric crimson or even violet-red (medium).

What should Steve do with it? Have it displayed or framed,
dipped in formaldehyde, electroplated or suffer immersion
in alcohol? Steve must let everyone know a 2 foot Mohican
once flourished on his now empty cranium.

That hair dyed pink geranium and not bright cerulean, maroon,
bubble gum, cinnamon, electric crimson or even violet-red (medium).

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough, co-host the monthly Write Out Loud (Woking) and is widely published.

 

Lockdown Haircut, by Mogs

Lockdown Haircut
(Printed in Write Out Loud charity anthology ‘Beyond The Storm’ – Poems From The Covid 19 Era.)

She says I need my haircut,
I look like a mad professor,
She’s gonna drag me into town
Leave me there with her hairdresser.
I remind her there’s a ‘Lockdown’,
Every hair salon is closed.
And while she ponders what to do
My hair just quietly grows.

Yes, she says I need my haircut,
Every minute, it gets longer,
Well, perhaps i’m like that Samson bloke,
While it grows, I’m getting stronger.
I know it’s not been touched for months,
But I just could not care less,
I can’t go out, so no one can see
That my Barnet is a mess.

Still, she says I need my haircut,
As she ties me to a chair,
Grabs the wallpaper scissors
and starts hacking at my hair.
She ignores my screams when snipping blades
Give my ear a painful prod,
It seems she honed her hair cutting skills
From watching Sweeney Todd.

So, I no longer need my hair cut,
At my feet, in clumps, it’s scattered,
She’s hacked and slashed, I’ve lost an ear
And my poor nerves are bloody shattered.
This Lockdown just brings misery
And it seems there’s no relief,
Because now she’s found some pliers
And is eyeing up my teeth!

Mogs (aka John Morris) has written poetry since the late 1970’s. He retired from an IT career in 2003 because of failing eyesight. He regularly performs at open mic events.

Books published 

‘Poems Your Parents Won’t Like’ – for ‘children’ aged upto 100.

‘Griff’ – children’s novel.

 

Learning a decade later what I stored in my fridge, by Beth McDonough

Learning a decade later what I stored in my fridge

Newly back from Salzburg
Alex the Milliner waltzed
into the staffroom and my new post.
Just three coffee breaks into November,
after I’d left the job from hell.
Pure pantomime, he passed around his swag-
Don’t look! Just take a feel,
and grab the first one that you rub!
Yes you, new woman, you!
Well. I did.

Something like a lightbulb
rolled around my palm.
I hid it in my pocket, but
cupped it in the dark.
Then I laughed. Of course I took it home.
Allegedly, it’s filled with cream liqueur.
The other sort had added chocolate.
Who cared either way? The lid
is still intact. Presumably the contents
have long evaporated or gone off.

But I like it in the top shelf, a sphere
of welcomes, care and craic.
I told him once how much it meant,
after all the dark. He did his most
magnificent only-Alex roll of eyes.
Whit? Ye’ve really still kept wan o Mozart’s balls?