The Queen’s Secret Siberian Sisters, by Bryan Franco

Bryan Franco is from Brunswick, Maine, USA. He is published in the US, Australia, England, Ireland, and Scotland, has featured for poetry events in the US, Canada, England, Ireland, and Scotland; hosts Café Generalissimo Open Mic; his book Everything I Think Is All In My Mindwas published in 2021.

 

The Ballad of Laurel Blaney, by David Ludford

The Ballad Of Laurel Blaney



Old Tally was a minstrel
He wandered free and wild
And one day he met Annie
And Annie bore his child.

Now Laurel loved to play, she did
She loved to fool around
But went too near the river
And Laurel went and drowned.

Now if you should see Laurel
Just run away, just go
For Laurel’s now the devil’s girl
She’ll drag you down below.
Beware the deep, deep water
Beware the devil’s daughter.

Now think of young Jack, a boy
Who loved to dive and swim
Just think back for a moment
You may remember him.
Jack he was an active boy
Yes, swimming he loved most
He wasn’t scared of monsters
He’d never seen a ghost.
Jack stood on the riverbank
One lovely summer’s day
When Laurel grabbed him by the foot
And swept him clean away.
Beware the deep, deep water
Beware the devil’s daughter.

Remember too poor Jenny
Just strolling back from town
A shortcut by the river
She hadn’t meant to drown
A bully boy from school she saw
A silly girl he thought her
He rushed and pushed
She slipped and slid
And fell into the water.
No Jenny hadn’t meant to drown
Wicked Laurel dragged her down.
Beware the deep, deep water
Beware the devil’s daughter.

The purpose of these tales, my friends
That make you shake and shiver
Just beware
And take great care
When you are near the river.
For every tale, old or new
There has to be a moral
And my advice
I won’t give twice
Remember wicked Laurel.
Beware the deep, deep water
Beware the devil’s daughter.

End


Dave Ludford is a writer from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, where not many writers come from. Except George Eliot. His short works of horror and science fiction have appeared in a variety of online locations.
 

Elon’s Folly, by Sue Spiers

Elon’s Folly


It’s tall as four whales or Victorian folly.
A knob at the top like the bud of a lily.
The rocket, some tell us, resembles a willy.
We snigger and wink at the billionaire wally.

It’s thrust into space with no weight in its belly,
the glamorous passengers wobble like jelly,
all posed for their show on terrestrial telly.

He’s looking for Martians, like Mulder and Scully,
to work in his factories and make him more lolly.
He’s touting the rides to rich guys on a jolly,
returns on investment, exploiting space fully.

His moon shots drop junk in its silvery valleys
and boosters’ debris falls dark-side without tally
His ship spills its drool in a rocket-fuel chalice.

Sue Spiers lives in Hampshire. Her poems have appeared on Spilling Cocoa, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Atrium and in print with Acumen, Dream Catcher, The North and Obsessed with Pipework. Sue tweets @spiropoetry. Don’t follow me, I’m lost too.

 

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.

 

Bohemian Raspberry (Liqueur), by Vanessa O’Rielly

Bohemian Raspberry (Liqueur)

I drank a little Amaretto with my Nan
Crème de Menthe, Crème de Menthe will you drink a cold Tango?
Thunderbolts, White Lightning, very, very frightening me
Galliano, Galliano
Galliano, Galliano
Galliano, Aperol, Limoncello

 

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.

 

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.