Appearances of the Loch Ness Monster, by Neil Fulwood

APPEARANCES OF THE LOCH NESS MONSTER

“They spoke ... in a desultory fashion of current events. The news from abroad, events in the world of sports, the latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster.”
- Agatha Christie: ‘And Then There Were None’


The latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster
was at a book launch by a sceptic
who had scientifically proven its non-existence.
The old saw about no such thing
as bad publicity was applicable here: the book
sold more than it might have
without the headlines and hasty, half-blurred photos
but the author wasn’t best pleased.

Prior to that, it had been spotted in a phone booth,
a call to a bookie to place a bet
on its own newsworthiness. Whether the bookie
paid out has gone unrecorded
and sightings of it dropping in at the Dog & Duck
on the way back for a swift half
and a whisky chaser made a minor buzz on Twitter
but remain unsubstantiated. And prior

to that, well it had pulled one of its remain-hidden-
from-the-eyes-of-the-world stunts,
decades having past since it was noticed
at a White City dog race, wearing
a trilby and a trench coat, a rolled up copy
of the local sporting fixtures paper
tucked under one fin. Some say it had a fag on,
others that it was a pipe smoker.

All so long ago it might have been in black and white.
Those were the days it preferred, anyway:
stentorian Movietone voiceovers, fleapits fogged
with cigarette smoke, bored usherettes
doing the intermission rounds. Walking back
through misty streets, the last bus
swallowed by distance. Night falling as the monster
disappears into familiar waters.

Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham where he still lives and works. He has published three collections with Shoestring Press. His latest collection, Mad Parade, is due out with Smokestack Books in July.

 

Corpus Christi College has no pastry chef, by Natalie Shaw

CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE HAS NO PASTRY CHEF

Also the gold pelican on the JCR wall has gone,
as I believe has the JCR itself.
This despite the fact that Jack Turvey
stapled himself to the pelican and the wall
to prevent its sorry loss.

I digress: without a pastry chef and with the sorry loss
of the pelican, poor Corpuscles
have sorrier options. Adam Spicer,
senior Corpus sous chef and Masterchef:
The Professionals quarter-finalist

has been blamed for the crisis.
With no pastry chef,
a dearth of formal halls; the passing
of the loving cup in a silver horn
must pause. Worse, students are forced

to breakfast at Catz or possibly Fitzbillies:
the sole college founded by townspeople
in 1352, site of the oldest living court in Cambridge,
home of the hideous Chronophage and Parker Library,
now with no cake to crumb in fledgling mouths.

 

Is Poetry Pointless?, by Alanna Hammel

Is Poetry Pointless?

I don’t write poetry
I don’t think I ever will
It’s a rotary system
It’s one aim to kill.

I admit I did once overdose
On Lowell’s polyphonic prose.
You don’t see that lot nowadays,
With your Robert Frost
Or your Terrance Hayes.

They have all moved on to screenplays
If they do write it is melodic phrase.
What does pointless even mean?
Without purpose or meaning?

Purpose in poetry is fairly drastic
Some just want a book to read quick.
I doubt most poetry would please the reader
Unless you care for iambic pentameter.
I can see the poet waving its beater
Easy to confuse with the grim reaper.

Poets are killers
I’ll say it again
From your Rupi Kaur to your Dickinson
On rhythm the poet stabs to death
That’s about as good as poets get
While the poet goes through the alphabet
And thinks for a minute about their next sonnet.
Being struck by lightning odds at 500,000 to one
But Increased massively by reading John Donne.
They say you are what you eat
You also are what you read I learnt that from a man with a degree in ‘filíocht’
Little did he know his future would have sucked.
Writing poetry is pointless
I’m telling you now
That’s coming from someone who doesn’t know how.

 

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).

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Poem that Got Me Cancelled, by Daragh Byrne


Daragh Byrne is an Irish poet writing in Sydney, Australia. He has had work published in various journals and newspapers, and his poems have been commended or placed in numerous competitions in Ireland and Australia. He runs The Sydney Poetry Lounge, a long-running open mic night.

 

Too Many Straights, by Claire Duthie

There are too many straights on telly
The situation has really got very silly
And out of hand
Wny don’t you understand?

There’s far too much prancing
On strictly come dancing

Wny wallow in the mire
And watch ” married at first sight?”
It really, really is dire.

Lionel Blair
Is no longer there

Mayday, maidez
Paul O Grady

Heaven help us
Russell T Davies

 

Bruce Wayne : Space Pioneer, by Ross Crawford

Bruce Wayne: Space Pioneer

Whit if Bruce Wayne wis a real guy?
Whit wid he actually be like?
Wid he still run aboot each nicht
Getting intae a ficht
Wae every petty criminal in the city?
Wid he?
Say ye pit him oan a fixed-term contract:
How wid he react?
Wid he sit through an annual review
Tae discuss aw the jaws he’s cracked?
Punchin fuck oot the symptom
Never curin the cause
Is much mair fun
Than trying tae change the laws
“Least ah dinnae kill,” he’d cry
“An ah’m no gonnae justify
Masel tae the likes ae you.”
But it starts tae make ye hink:
If he’s a billionaire who’s only kink
Is dressing up in aw that bat gear
And makin wee guys pish in fear
Is he helpin or hinderin?
Is he actually a guid yin?
Ah bet ye if Bruce Wayne wis a real guy
He’d prolly jist try tae get tae the moon
Like aw the ither silver-spoon
Billionaires blastin aff intae space
Auld Brucey boy racin big bald Bezos
Tae build the first galactic base
Nae cosmic threats tae fight
Fur this Dark Knight
But he still cannae forget
That his parents are deid
Instillin him wae this insatiable need
Tae dae them baith proud
And so he has vowed
That in the name ae the slain
Thomas an Martha Wayne
He’ll lead an interstellar trip
Perform a low-gravity flip
Inside a bat-shaped spaceship.

Ross Crawford is a writer/scriever based in Stirling, Scotland. He mostly takes his inspiration from the history and nature of Scotland, but his head can be turned by sci-fi and superheroes. He writes in Scots, English, and Gàidhlig. You can find him on Twitter at @RRMCrawford

 

Surf School, by Robert Garnham

Thou has the charms of a warthog.
Vile, doth your snout snuffle
Amongst the remnants of last night’s moussaka.
Has thou perchance upon my corduroy trouser leg
Upchucked?
Be gone!
Quoth my
Surfing instructor.

Upon my word did the very same surfing instructor
Not two hours previous
Raise an eyebrow or two as, with help,
I oozed into the requisite wetsuit,
Like a slug into a Smarties tube,
Thus requiring considerable tugging,
Talcum powder, axle grease, Vaseline,
Gravity and sheer luck,
And yea, for it was the closest I had come
In many months
To sex.

Unleashed on the sea thus be-rubbered,
I had all the equilibrium of a sparrow
In a cement mixer,
All the agility of a lopsided basset hound
With an inner ear infection,
All the balance of Fox News
And all the rhythm of a drummer divorced from his drum
And also, coincidentally,
Three months in the grave.
You might say that
I wasn’t really cut out for it.

Thy surfing instructor, Troy, were a frown
With a man attached.
Sayeth he,
I’ve never seen a surfboard just sink like that.
It just went down like a stone, didn’t it?
You’re rewriting all the laws of physics,
And upon my word,
Did’st thou notice the countenance of that
Dolphin?
Such a worried demeanour.
And you’ve put the fear of god
Into a porpoise.
And also,
Thou art emitting
A vast and toxic slick.

Thy wetsuit were as shapely as a
Delaminated lorry tyre,
Such that a passing walrus should deliver
A cocky wink,
And surely I would have excelled
In all my brine-soaked majesty
Were it not for a chafing in the gusset
Which brought tears to mine eyes and
Conjured
That night I spent in Nuneaton with an
Abraham Lincoln impersonator
Whose frisky appetites
Could ne’er be sated
Yet ate my buffet breakfast and scarpered
Without so much as a how do you do?

The sea were as rough as mine uncle
And it pounded on the beach like
An angry old man on the doors of the closed cafe
In which he has left his baccy tin,
And no matter how I progressed
I could stand not on that blessed board.
For when it cometh to surfing I am nought
But a charlatan, a poseur,
A ne’erdowell enmeshed in misery,
No more qualified to join the surfing greats
Than a giraffe join a coven of mallards,
That I might hang my head in shame,
And mutter, oh, when do I get to say cowabunga?
And hand in my ankle bracelet
And my coral necklace
And my flip flops
And submit to the life of a land based mammal
Such as a badger or a dental hygienist.

How vast the expression of shock on the face
Of my damp-headed instructor
When I leaned on the flanks of his
Cobbled rickety surf shack
And the whole place concertinered
Into a jumble of wooden planks.
He hardly laughed at all.

And thus began a tirade the general gist of which
Implored me to explore
Other avenues of past-time
In which my ham-fisted bungling efforts might
Not cause quite so much pain, anguish, damage
And general gnashing of teeth.
And that, dear listener,
Is how I became a poet.

Robert Garnham has been performing LGBT comedy poetry around the UK for ten years at various fringes and festivals, and has had three collections published by Burning Eye. He has won slams in places such as London, Edinburgh and Swindon and headlined or featured at events such as Bang Said the Gun, Raise the Bar, and Milk and in 2019 was the Hammer and Tongue featured artist for a tour of the UK. Je has supported artists such as John Hegley, Arthur Smith and Paul Sinha. He has made a few short TV adverts for a certain bank, and a joke from one of his shows was listed as one of the funniest of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe. Lately he has been writing short stories published in magazines such as Stand, Defenestration and Riggwelter, and a humorous column in the Herald Express newspaper. In 2021 he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and shortlisted as Spoken Word Artist of the Year by the Saboteur Awards. His influences are diverse and include Ivor Cutler, Salena Godden, Bob Newhart and Laurie Anderson.

Robert is the editor of Spilling Cocoa. His website can be found at https://professorofwhimsy.com