Zenith, by Kevin Higgins

Zenith

Zenith Kane is the type of guy
who, home from a challenging afternoon
in the rat eat rat milieu that is the trade
in self-rotating slurry tanks,
lowers himself into his marble bathtub
with his pet electric eel;
makes up plans

to go, first, into politics
then the global arms trade as a lobbyist,
to familiarise himself with the menus of
the better hotels in Brussels,
Beirut, the District of Columbia;

then retire to a purpose built shed
the far end of the garden to drink
Ginseng tea through a handmade straw
and draft the twenty seventh best novel
in the history of front cover blurbs written
by critics with specialist haircuts
and names translated into Gaelic;

bathe in the sunlight of the quality press
declaring it brilliant
before it’s even written.

But last things first: those business cards,
and the professionally done head shot
all the websites say a novelist of his standing
must these days have.

For now, though, the struggle to rise
pinkly out of the bathtub while feeding
an eel buzzing its discontent
frogs and crabs by the bag load,

so tomorrow he can again be Zenith
and talk a man from Anbally or Gortlusky
into a tank with a rotating paddle
guaranteed to maintain the quality of his slurry.

KEVIN HIGGINS

KEVIN HIGGINS is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway. He has published five previous full collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital (2019). His poems also feature in Identity Parade – New Britishand Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe May 2014). Kevin was satirist-in-residence with the alternative literature website The Bogman’s Cannon 2015-16. 2016 – The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins was published by NuaScéalta in 2016. The Minister For Poetry Has Decreed was published by Culture Matters (UK) also in 2016. Song of Songs 2:0 – New & Selected Poems was published by Salmon in Spring 2017. Kevin is a highly experienced workshop facilitator and several of his students have gone on to achieve publication success. He has facilitated poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre and taught Creative Writing at Galway Technical Institute for the past fifteen years. Kevin is the Creative Writing Director for the NUI Galway International Summer School and also teaches on the NUIG BA Creative Writing Connect programme. His poems have been praised by, among others, Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul, Observer columnist Nick Cohen, writer and activist Eamonn McCann, historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, and Sunday Independent columnist Gene Kerrigan; and have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times (London), Hot Press magazine, The Daily Mirror and on The Vincent Browne Show, and read aloud by Ken Loach at a political meeting in London. He has published topical political poems in publications as various as The New European, The Morning Star, Dissent Magazine (USA), Village Magazine (Ireland), & Harry’s Place. The Stinging Fly magazine has described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”. One of Kevin’s poems features in A Galway Epiphany, the final instalment of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series of novels which is just published. His work has been broadcast on RTE Radio, Lyric FM, and BBC Radio 4. His book The Colour Yellow & The Number 19: Negative Thoughts That Helped One Man Mostly Retain His Sanity During 2020 was published in late by Nuascealta. His extended essay Thrills & Difficulties: Being A Marxist Poet In 21st Century Ireland was published in pamphlet form by Beir Bua Press this year. Ecstatic, Kevin’s sixth full poetry collection, will be published by Salmon next March.

 

The love song of Sergeant Wilson, by Ben Macnair

The love song of Sergeant Wilson

I say would you mind awfully
if we went to the cinema to see one of those
new fangled films the kids are talking about?
Sir are you absolutely sure that’s a good idea?

And I say would you mind awfully if I were
to walk you home afterwards to your humble abode?
Sir are you absolutely sure that’s a good idea?

I say would you mind awfully if I told you about my sergeant’s exam?
Shall I tell you about my manager at the bank?
Or about Jones the greengrocer?
How about Fraser?
He says we’re all doomed.
At times I think I agree with him.

I say would you mind awfully if we went to one of those new nightclubs?.
I think I may be too old for them these days.
I like a good club with a bit of dancing.
Maybe they’ll have a bit of jazz with trombones and trumpets.
Or maybe I will just bring my ear trumpet.

I say would you mind awfully if we just went to a tea dance.
Or maybe we could play bingo
Maybe we should just not bother.
I see the kids are watching that new Mrs Brown’s boys comedy.
Have you watched it?
I haven’t, I am not absolutely sure it is a good idea.

 

The Ballad of Bertie Bassett and the Bisto Kids, by Ray Pool

THE BALLAD OF BERTIE BASSETT AND THE BISTO KIDS

This is the ballad of Bertie Bassett
And how he dealt with the Bisto Kids,
He rode into town to settle a score
And to see the woman he did adore.

He felt like settling down at last,
To put away his chequered past,
Mary was in his line of sight,
He hoped to see her this very night.

The Bisto Kids were on his list
riotous gamblers who carried arms,
Bertie now was on the prowl
And soon would face them cheek to jowl.

Meanwhile unbeknownst to them
A US marshall was on the train
Coming to put the kids in gaol,
For shooting and looting in Cripple Dale.

In the diamond X saloon
A poker game was starting up,
the Bisto Kids were always cheating,
The atmosphere was overheating.
Bertie was known for his licquorice log
And had his pick of womenfolk,
Now in the bar, his legs astride,
poor Mary nearly had a stroke.

The players all got up to leave,
as in strode the marshall, the place went quiet
all the drinkers began to burp
They thought it was old Wyatt Earp.

The Bisto Kids had pulled their guns
And theirs were not the only ones
Bertie held his weapons high
But Mary revealed a gartered thigh

Which drew old Bertie’s eyes away
when a bisto bullet hit his leg
but Billy had the quicker draw,
the Bistos fell upon the floor.

“Jack, Jack” a voice was heard,
“Jack, Jack, wake up, wake up !
You fell asleep and the dinner’s ready,
And what have you done to your favourite Teddy?

Little Jack, just shy of ten
His allsorts box quite empty, then
As the smell of gravy came through the door
Said: “Mum, I’m not hungry anymore.”

My flirtation with poetry blossomed whilst working at the BBC. I had a poem published in the Breathru Magazine run by Ken Geering in the late sixties. It is only since semi-retiring from the music business that I ventured into live poetry reading, and am now a prolific writer of poetry. I tend to choose subject matter of a quirky or satirical aspect, often read with mimicked accents and dialects. I have had two pamphlets published by Dempsey and Windle and poems in anthologies by Paradox and Indigo Dreams.

 

Padraig – Who Drove the Snakes Out of Ireland, by Pratibha Castle

Padraig – Who Drove the Snakes Out of Ireland

At the allotment, daddy
forked the crumbly black earth
till the air quaked
with anticipation
of excess, me
sifting stones
in search of treasure;
the robin sat, pert, on the lip
of the bucket meant to carry
spuds or cabbages, the occasional
giggle-tickle carrot
back to placate the mammy.

The bird’s eye bright
with a lust for worms, his song
a crystal cataract of merry;
though none of the seeds we sowed
ever showed head out of the sly earth
and we saw nothing of the slow worm
daddy promised so that, his name being Padraig too,
I guessed he must be a saint, especially
when he himself vanished.

Though he turned up
months later
at the end of school
again and again and again till
I had to tell the mammy
where the books and toys came from
and that got me sent off
to board at St. Bridget’s convent
where the head nun was nice to you
if your mammy gave her fruit cake in a tin,
bottles of orange linctus sherry, a crocheted shawl
like frothy cobwebs, none of which

my mammy could afford, Padraig
having banished more than snakes.

Pratibha Castle’s award-winning debut pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) publishes 2021. An Irish poet living in England, her work appears in literary magazines including Agenda, Dreich, HU, Blue Nib. Highly Commended in various poetry competitions, she reads regularly on West Wilts Radio.

 

First Mayor of Richmond, by Peter Kay

FIRST MAYOR OF RICHMOND

T’was sixteen hundred and six,
for legend has it so,
when, whilst out hunting all alone,
Robert Willance, future mayor
of Richmond, shattered his femur bone.

His horse, a noble steed of some renown
had always borne him well,
but as November’s dense mists thronged,
the bewildered beast bolted,
racing headlong into nothingness.

With Willance clinging on for life,
his horse plunged to its death,
two hundred feet o’er Whitcliffe Scar.
Robert lay prostrate, right leg broken,
twisted, breached, death’s door ajar.

With no prospect of immediate respite,
he slit soft belly of his beloved horse,
using a trusted hunting knife. No malice.
Plunged his leg in up to groin and hilt,
to try and keep it for his balance.

For two days he held on to life and limb,
before rescue came at last.
Alas whilst Robert survived,
his poor leg could not be saved, t’was buried
with due ceremony, in his chosen grave.

T’was sixteen hundred and eight
when brave Willance and his stump,
became first mayor of Richmond.
Eight long years, without a single blunder,
Before dying, reight well, in his slumber.

And so it came to pass that in his death requited,
Robert Willance and his leg were gladly reunited.

Peter has had two books published: A Pennine Way Odyssey, 2012. Show Me The Way To Santiago, 2020. A third book is with his publisher. He writes travel memoirs, fiction, short stories, monologues, children’s books and poetry. Three poems have been published in anthologies. His website is peterkaywordspace.co.uk

 

Penny Dreadful, by Phil Binding

Penny Dreadful – or The Terrible Tale of the Drive-By Poetry Murders of Old London Town

A cold wet dawn in the London fog,
an old man shuffled along with his dog
didn’t clock the limo with dark glass
whispering up from behind his arse.

The unseen driver yelled aloud
“I wandered lonely as a cloud,”
lobbed out a quill and sped away.
The shock of Wordsworth on a Walthamstow day

gave the old sod a seizure on the spot.
The only witness, a drunken old sot
bathed in vomit simply cried
“the daffodils, the daffodils!”, and died.

Officers exchanged significant looks.
“It’s another one”, they noted in their books
“Yus, he’s bin Wordswuffed alright.”
CID rocked up and security was tight.

A few days earlier, a little old bird
towing her shopping to the kerb
got buzzed by a flash motor, and heard
“…..let us go then you and I when the evening….”

In Doppler and missed the Routemaster Flyer
that crushed her beneath its Boris-funded tyres.
As she slipped into her own wasteland
she croaked to paramedics “It didn’t scan.”

The Daily Express pounced on the spate
of sonnet-soaked crimes, trumpeting hate,
“Catch the villanelle villains!!!” in red.
The Old Bill were baffled. “We’re baffled,” they said.

A senior Inspector gathered his cops
walls all plastered in digital shots
of grisly blood-spattered drive-by recitations
from Brixton High Street to Euston Station.

“You’ve had the briefing, now you know it
We’ve got a serial drive-by poet,
and he’s got to be vigorously sought.
We mustn’t rest til he’s eventually caught.”

“It’s the worst case I’ve ever met.
Oi is my cup of tea ready yet?
Gordon Bennett it’s a right old mess”
He adjusted his syrup to talk to the press.

“Just had reports of another one, guvnor.”
Some poor Nine Elms coster-monger
got Coleridged this morning, bad luck,
sadder and wiser, crushed by his sack-truck.

They raided the local poetry sessions,
poncey bards got nicked for possession
of venal volumes of popular verse,
others for criminal doggerel and worse.

Bethnal library had its shelves blocked
and records combed for lent-out stock
of Motion, Thomas, Plath and McGowan.
Open Mic evenings were brutally shut dowan.

Rumours abounded of writers rejected
underappreciated and dejected
who might consider revenge through crime
to be a creative use of their time.

Anyone caught with cravat or sandals
were stopped on the street like common vandals
entries to local competitions
were viewed with increasing and dire suspicion.

Then a breakthrough. After a hip-hop
attack of Keats in Kingston chip-shop
CCTV picked up the reg number in the night
“We’ve got im, guvnor. E’s bang to rights”.

The motor was registered miles from here
to a W Shakespeare in Warwickshire.
“Warwickshire?” What’s he doing here?”
And he hadn’t paid road tax for 400 years.

But hang about, result – it all stopped.
That couplet killer never got copped.
He faded into memory like William McGonagall.
No surprise – the enquiry turned up bugger-all.

In a quiet lane all covered in trees,
a burnt-out motor cooled in the breeze.
Nearby a discarded doublet and hose,
but who they belong to, nobody knows.

BIOG – Phil Binding
A poet and writer gently sliding into decrepitude in Burton and a member of The Lichfield Poets. I am all over Staffordshire like a rash at open-mikes and events despite friends begging me to stop. It’s already too late.

 

Apple, by Clive Donovan

APPLE

A man and a woman presented themselves to God,
Tired and bloody from their futile war,
Wishing above all to make peace and retire
Into each others’ arms.
‘For Mighty Maker we know well our purpose
‘But cannot unite.’
Well God brought out and forth an apple
(From off his special tree)
And with his jack-knife smote it into two.
‘Observe now, this browned and swollen flesh,
‘That no longer neatly meets;
‘Refresh your mind upon this cloven fruit
‘For this is how you are.’
The man looked sad, the woman mad,
But both knew what to do.
‘Oh Lord please pare us, spare us not,
‘Cut our wounds off, shave us new
‘And stick us fast together again.’
But God had gone, his pie to make
And left the earnest pair to deal
With the osmotic principle,
And oxidation, too.
‘Let us at least eat of this apple,’
Said she of the twinkling eye.
They crunched and saved the seeds to dry
And after, lay concealed, curved and curled together,
Like spoons in a secret drawer.

Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Fenland Poetry Journal, Neon Lit. Journal, Prole, Sentinel Lit. Quarterly and Stand. He lives in Totnes, Devon, U.K. quite close to the river Dart. His debut collection will be published by Leaf by Leaf in November 2021.

 

Fairy-tale Romances, by Ama Bolton

Fairy-tale Romances

“Happily ever after”
(forgive my hollow laughter)
it’s fantasy, a figment of folklore.
Your knight in shining armour
could turn out to be no charmer
but a bully or a silly pompous bore.
Even sweet Maid Marian
may turn out to be a harridan,
and Sleeping Beauty! You should hear her snore!

Though the Prince may seem adorable
his manners are deplorable.
Cinderella’s pretty, but quite dim.
Snow White is vain and shallow
And Jack’s a tedious fellow;
he’s always at the golf-course or the gym.
Unless you’re into farming
don’t tie the knot with Charming
you’d soon run out of things to say to him.

Beauty’s a part-time Beast,
the prince, half frog, at least.
Beware Bluebeard! Beware of Reynardine!
The end of the love story
is far too often gory.
Living on your own can be just fine
with a dog or a cat
to sleep on your lap.
You can make up your own storyline.

Ama Bolton, former member of The Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, convenes a Stanza group in Somerset. Her poems have featured at festivals, on Radio 3’s The Verb, and in magazines and anthologies including Bridport Prize 2008. She blogs at http://barleybooks.wordpress.com/

 

Mad Old George Haunts a Happy Day, By Jane Burn

I swear to you I saw them – saw the streets lined
with chipper ants, cheery-flapping tincey paper flags
in a butterfly blur of flustered Union Jacks.

I couldn’t help but scan the streets, so many folk
as to seem them a sea, lining many deep for a glimpse –
I picked out the stones of Windsor, heavy against the sky,

Round Tower trunked from a crop of trees, the windows
where the phantom of the first Charles peeps. He’s loving
the pomp, cocking his pearly ear, gibbering on about

incorruptible crowns. The sun lights rings on show-sheen flanks –
the Greys trot merry with ribbons red upon their nodding heads,
blinkered against the spectacle, buckles brassed. Footmen,

more than Cinderella ever wished from out of lizard’s skin
going down the Long Walk, hoi polloi cleaned off. Proles
all stiff and sunburned, pride-burst, shiny-cheeked and glad –

no room today for poverty, austerity, or frowns. Homeless
swept up like leaves for today is a day of pretending, of jollity.
There will be no other news – the world is whitewashed of truth.

We’re all agog – Victoria in that lush navy sack. Her fella,
the one we’re all meant to be lusting after, I saw him bend
so his clothes rode up. I saw his arse’s crack – tonight

there’ll be underpants, skidded in the hamper wanting washed.
Someone will have cleaned his clumps of shaved whiskers
from the sink. Collected his socks. Hats, hats, marvellous hats –

Camilla’s feathered Frisbee skimming her coiff, Amal’s tilted UFO,
Queen a lemon drop. Skeins of pink, spiked heels, thoroughbred legs,
a discreetly skirted Pippa – not for today any headline grabbing bums.

I saw the wife-to-be float St George’s steps in a trailing mist, go veiled to her very own Prince. I think those boys would be wishing most for their mother – her absence the most noticeable guest.

Henry took his Jane to the grave – they rot beneath the piebald floor,
spiced and wrapped in lead. Katherine from her oriel eyrie settles
sighs upon the bride, mourns the sharp felt losses of her womb.

The ghost of Anne Boleyn takes flight above the newlyweds,
keening, riven, cradling the scabby blot of her pitied head.
She makes an anomaly, bat-seeming in the bright of day –

nobody sees, fixated as they are on the lucky pair. Anne cries
her murder out – her neck weeps. I fear the woeful blood
might spatter the snow of that perfect Givenchy dress.

Jane Burn’s poems have appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies. She recently won first prize in the PENfro Festival Poetry Competition. Her next collection, One of These Dead Places will shortly be available from Culture Matters.

 

Absent Greeks by Sue Kindon

Sisyphus has left the scene
his rock came crashing down our track
there’s the wound
gouged in soft ground

the boulder bounced
then rolled to rest
balanced above the lily pond

he can’t be arsed to push it back
he’s had enough of uphill shove
he’s given up the slaving task
and joined Narcissus down the pub.

Sue Kindon‘s poems have appeared in a variety of magazines, and have achieved some success in competitions. She lives and writes in the French Pyrenees, where she also co-runs Valier Illustrated Books.