My last joke, by Jorge Leiva Ardana

My last joke
After Luis Buñuel

Should the day come and my soul be released,
though a convinced atheist, I’ll call in a priest
and the barber that messed up so much my hair
will tell those presents about our secret affair.

The service will be set around plastic flowers,
the ceremony held at the most inconvenient hour.
Bagpipes will be nicely played out of tune,
your headache will last until the following June.

A party horn shall be resting on my lips,
a bubble pipe between my fingertips.
Buried in a place I’ve never been,
I thought –why not- of Aberdeen.

Arranges will be made as follows:
Weeping or sorrow not allowed.
A ventriloquist must read my eulogy.
Please, invite to speak an expert on ornithology.

All the money I have although is not much,
will be donated where it’s really needed,
the Oregon Taxidermy Association,
where I can finally get a standing ovation.

My relatives won’t get a dime
which might be the last of my crimes,
and if you think all the above sinister,
remember a Nobel Peace Prize
was awarded to Kissinger.

 

Sprouts, by Claire Hardisty

Sprouts

The son cooks sprouts at Christmas
Virgin olive oil
Garlic
Butter, blocks of it.
Sprouts chopped to fine feathers
There’s a technique you know, Mumma

And during this process, you are wrestling with Delia’s Roasties and
Jamie’s Turkey Crown and Mary’s Homemade Sherry Trifle
Marshalling mint sauce, cranberry sauce, bread sauce.
Running from the hob to the table
Folding napkins into origami something or others
Why do we have 23 knives in the drawer and not a spoon to be seen?
Work out the timings

Daughter appears just before noon
Have an argument with daughter about cracker placement
Bend wire to make table centrepiece, resurrecting last year’s oasis from the garage,
Feeling slightly sorry for the mouse that had made it home
No doubt Mary or Delia would have cut fresh winter roses of damask red from their frosted gardens
I make do with three silk rose things with plastic berries and ribbon, no one will notice anyway
Work out the timings again

Realise that the candlesticks are covered in tarnish and go on mission to find the silver polish
Take off posh Christmas apron with snowman body and put on battered DIY apron
with multiple indeterminate stains, splashes of gloss paint and suspicious marks
Spread newspaper on the side and clean said candlesticks
Dig out the Swarfega from the cupboard under the sink to clean hands after cleaning candlesticks
Drink a glass of bucksfizz that someone made at 9.00 and I never quite got round to

Soon I’ll go and get changed, tidy my hair, spray on perfume,
might even put on a catlick of makeup, add some sparkly earrings but no time yet
Feel a failure for not making real gravy, rely on Mr Bisto instead
Work out the timings again

Chop carrots and beans
Chop finger
Drink cold mulled wine
Check timings

Turn out cupboards
to find the one uncracked Portmeirion Christmas Holly serving dish
Shove the white wine in the freezer as forgot to chill it
And all this while, Son is making his sprouts

Finally all is ready
And the sparkly earrings and outfit are still upstairs
and I in my saggy jeans
and faded shirt and no make up and I don’t care any more
They assemble at table
Daughter wearing size 10 slinky dress and sparkly earrings and more than a catlick of makeup
Son puts sprouts centre stage

And everyone oohs and ahhs
At the sprouts
Son looks at me
Why you wearing your DIY apron, Mumma? I look at him
Best not to answer
Discretion being the better part of valour.

I am a Headteacher in a primary school, and have written poetry since being a small child. I also try to share my love of writing with my school children.

I started going to an online novel class, and a poetry class in February, (run by Gill Lambert and Mark Connors) and feel these have made a tremendous difference to my wellbeing in stressful times.

 

What do you think of, by Sarah J Bryson

What do you think of

when you imagine Christmas?
Is it the fancy eats and sweetie treats
in mouth watering an-ti-ci-pa-tion?
Or is it the gluttony of Christmas
that overloads your mind
with thoughts of our out-sized,
slouch-on-the-couch nation,
engorging in the felicitations?

And when you think of Christmas sounds
do you think of the beauty of a choir,
singing mass at the mid-night hour?
Or the distorted speakers of the ‘Rotary’ sleigh
going round, with collectors shaking tins
on damp December afternoons,
and a skinny man shouting a thin “ho-ho-ho,”
lost inside the outsized Santa suit?

What do you see in your minds eye
when you think of Christmas?
Do you see the delicate twinkling tree,
put up lovingly by the whole family
or the glittery, over-dressed shop windows
and the grotesque street decorations
put up in October half-term, taken down,
perhaps, in time for Easter celebrations?

Maybe you think of the thrill of giving?
Bringing joy with your gift of a toy,
carefully chosen, wrapped and sent,
all savings spent? Or is this sentiment
lost in greedy commercialism?
When every child is asked to produce a list
and every shop sells gifts of badly-made-tat
to fill the stockings of each ungrateful brat.

What about the scent of Christmas?
Do you imagine oranges-stuck-with-cloves,
and hot mulled-wine which wafts to your nose,
mixed with pine needles, and warm mince pies?
But no, with Christmas trees made from plastic and wire,
and radiators, not a real log fire, and no time for making –
instead there’s the faking of the Christmas smell
sprayed from a can, which M & S sell.

But think of the excitement of Christmas…..
the thought of finding, with wriggling toes
a stuffed Christmas stocking… and thoughts of,
the possibility of, “What if it snows?”
And the thrill of seeing all those relations,
not seen since last year, (at Auntie Flo’s)
not since the last blazing row about….
ah well – who remembers what?

Another year flown, another marker for how we age,
see how the children have grown, since last time.

Sarah J Bryson has poems published in print journals, anthologies and on line. During the Covid pandemic, she took part in a weekly event, combining photographs with haiku style poetry. She has several poems on the Poetry and Covid site. She has been recently commended in the YorkMix poetry competition

 

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.

 

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

 

Tu-tu in Training, by Trisha Broomfield

Tu-Tu in Training

Steph was wider than me, and shorter,
it was a gift, a hand-me-down
from her parents in their high house
to me and mum in our basement flat,
‘Come on try it on,’ Mum urged,
‘you’ll feel the part.’
I slid it up my non-existent hips
the shine of the satin, soft
as my hands smoothed over its bodice,
‘The skirt’s a bit torn at the hem,’
Mum said, ‘But I’ll fix that in no time.’
I looped straps over my shoulders,
they fell off, my pointy bones
unable to cling to pink ribbon,
‘Safety pins,’ Mum said, ‘hoik it up a bit.’
Hoiking and pinning, Mum, sideways pull to her lips
determined to make it fit.
‘You’ve got the book,’ Mum flicked to the page,
‘come on, position one.’
I tried, one then two, easy peasy this ballet,
then, knees like my dad’s, I stuck in position four.
‘Back straight, neck long like a swan.’
Mum had seen The Nutcracker on telly.
Shoulders cramped by a bodice pinned to fit
I sank a hopeful plié.
‘That’s it, you’ll make a ballerina yet!’
Mum clapped her hands in delight,
‘though, you will have to keep your vest on.’

 

From the Rag, by Christian Scully

From the Rag

Time drags as the barmans rags wipes another stain away from the bar top Feelingas though the clocks have all but stopped and the hourglass sand or the biggest hand are heading backward
Its funny how stood here in this palace of beer church to excess as tobacco laden breath requests another and sings a sad lament Cursing them who lurk on borders them past into obscurity and them who are royally fucking up the country whilst doing their best as you see… its complicated

Bleary eyed hobbling from pint to pint to bookies and back handing over scrunched up notes pulled from grubby back pockets as there lips smack down the sweet nectar.
Straightening ties telling the same lies how its just a quick one on the way to the office when we both know they will be back tomorrow.
Hearing grumbles and strife about distant kids and ex wives after pint after pint after pint
Some starting early
or some continuing
a perpetual night out that
they can never bare to end

Best mates at breakfast become bastards by lunch
as they are too drunk to stand let alone throw a punch
but then its all just a part of the carbon copied institution once known as a pub
Where now they serve kiddies and professionals grub
whist in the corner they lurk
all crude gestures and smirks
till its time to wobble back to bed
rest their red faced weary heads
grab a sarnie
grab a kip
buy the paper
and repeat