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.

 

Medea’s Wedding Gift to Jason’s New Wife by Marie-Therese Taylor

It was always me took care of things
– he should have remembered –
the bulls, the dragon and the tyrant kings,
and as we escaped a brother dismembered

She wanted him. She wanted this gown
a gift from the gods. A little bemused,
sweet Glauce accepted the dress and the crown,
they knew were my best. He was confused.

but for only an instant, as each tiny spore
soaked through her skin through each tiny pore
my curse distilled in the warp and the weft
each organ aflame till nothing was left.
He then thought of me to whom first he had vowed
as she lay extinguished in a black bridal shroud.

Marie-Therese Taylor draws on everyone and everything… no one is safe. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Glasgow Review of Books, Soundwaves, Mixing the Colours, Nutshells and Nuggets, and The Stare’s Nest. She lives in Glasgow where she has also been known to perform.

 

Sappho Considers Her Brothers by Mandy Pannett

Meanwhile, I’ll tell you more about my brothers since you complain
my fragments are tantalising and you want the real stuff –
concrete lions not pot-pourri, the booze of stag nights not
confetti in the rain.

I am the one born in the middle. (Umpteen volumes
thrive on this theme which I’m sure you’re sick of, as I am.)
Still, they’ve got a point, those clever words, labels that peg
and wind me round a wigwam of canes like a runner bean.

Yes, I felt neglected, underrated, always
the Indian who got scalped, never the cowboy with a gun.

Yes, I was jealous and did mean things.

Baby was the worst. Whoever gave him that nickname?
Fat and forty plus, getting bald before his time –
Even his email is chubbycheeks@babyface.com

It was easy to make him cry: snaffle the biscuit from his plate, add
vinegar to his angel delight, forget to put the brake on his buggy
at the top of the garden steps.

He had a girl friend once. (Mother didn’t welcome
intruders to the house, vetted them first as if filleting fish.)
This one stuck like superglue until a text, sent from his phone, called her
an ugly cow, suggested she fuck off.

Stags. You want a stag? That’s my elder brother – testosterone
on the rampage, a beer-gut he doesn’t even try to hide
(he thinks he looks so good in shorts). I could go on
but I’m sure you get the scene.

Incidentally, those fragments, do you ever wonder
why there aren’t more of them? Why the edges are charred?
Names on paper shrivel like worms tossed on a fire …

If a name can disappear, well,
the owner of it might, just possibly,
vanish too.

Mandy Pannett works freelance as a creative writing tutor. She has won prizes and been placed in international competitions and has judged others. She is the author of a novella and five poetry collections: She has edited a number of publications and is the poetry editor of Sentinel Literary Quarterly.