Delta of Venus on the Bus, by Neil Fulwood

DELTA OF VENUS ON THE BUS

Cruelly, I bend the pages back
until the force can be felt in the spine.
The volume opens like a calyx,
freeing its horny pollen of words.

My hand trembles. I lay my palm
against the cool smooth paper,
flex a single quivering finger
and caress the length of a sentence

that ends with the word “vigorous”.
I have hidden cover, title, author’s name –
folded them hard into each other.
But the words writhe shamelessly;

inky exhibitionists. How many times
can one use “penis” in a ten-page story?
How many times before it launches
itself into the aisle, daubs its likeness

on the steamed-up windows, provokes
the driver in an obvious fashion?
How long before all eyes are on me,
everyone knowing what I’m reading

and forming their own conclusions?

Neil Fulwood was lives and works in Nottingham. His new collection, Service Cancelled, is published by Shoestring Press later this year. 

 

Pants, by Sue Cose

PANTS

Your underpants offend me.
I don’t care for the designer label,
I’d be happier if you felt able
To pull your sodding jeans up.
Up round your hips where they should be
Not sagging down towards your knee
So the rest of us are forced to see
Your PANTS!
Which may have a print of smiley faces
But fail to raise a smile on mine
And ‘no’, I’m not a moody swine,
My mood was actually quite fine
Until I saw your arse.
Which really doesn’t pass
For fashion sense or class.
If that is creativity
The art in it is lost on me
For all I see is PANTS.
And ‘yes’, this is a rant,
But one I feel is overdue,
For far too many men like you
Have got their underwear on view
And I don’t think it’s right.
It’s not a pleasant sight.
And even though you might
Claim your look is ‘hip’ or ‘street’
Your jeans are bagging round your feet
And seal the fate you soon will meet.
For suddenly you trip and fall
And face-down on the pavement sprawl.
Your jeans now well below your arse,
There’s nothing you can do to pass
For trendy, hip or cool.
You’re just a flat-out, fashion, fettered, fool.

 

Trousers, by Ray Givans

TROUSERS

“Is there no one who feels like a pair of pants?” Kenneth Koch, from his poem ‘Fresh Air’.

38L

54% Polyester, 44% Virgin wool, 2% Elastane.

We met in the Men’s department of Marks and Sparks.
I was hanging on a ‘bargain rail’
squeezed between a short-sleeve, Hawaiian-style shirt
and a chunky mauve jumper, XX Large.
He examined my labels. Dry Clean Only.
I recall being taken only twice to Ballyhackamore Dry Cleaners.
The attendant addressed me as, ‘one pair of pants’.

I am, what-they-call, a year-rounder
which gives me an advantage over the 30 + pairs
vying for a prominent position on his wardrobe rail:
chinos, cargo, drawstring, khaki, joggers, jeans – regular,
relaxed and loose – suit pants, moleskin, 3 band hi-vis polycotton
and corduroy – narrow and wide wale, in cream, blue and green.
In lightweight wool I am his favourite for the Office,
but, in truth, I am uncomfortable in summer, supplanted by
cropped trousers, shorts and long-leg cool linen.

Sometimes I am worn 2-3 days consecutively,
then shunned for several weeks.
Stich by stich my loop-holes are unravelling,
I see the day when I am turfed out for some bright young Turk.
I stay positive, think back to happy days of our association.
I was there when his son was forceps delivered in theatre,
proud to carry the digital compact in my front pocket.

There is still a faint stain on my knee
from the spilled celebratory flute of bubbly.

Ray Givans lives in Belfast. He has been published in five poetry pamphlets, and in one full collection. The latter was ‘Tolstoy in Love’, published by Dedalus Press, Dublin. This collection was shortlisted for the Strong award, for best first collection by an Irish poet in 2009. His most recent pamphlet collection is, ‘The Innermost Room’, Salzburg Press, at the University of Salzburg

 

In Praise of the May Tree (Perhaps an Ode) by Hillary Willmott

In Praise of the May Tree (Perhaps an Ode)

I want to praise thee, May Tree
For the joy you’ve given me
For those few weeks each year
You set my spirit free

When your gentle flowers bloom
You cover all that open space
that’s twixt my neighbour’s window
and what I call my private place

So for that special time
when you reach up toward the skies
I can run round bollock naked
Without his prying eyes

Hilary has been writing for a very long time.  Her poems have been published by Templar Press, Bristol Poetry Can, Obsessed with Pipework, Leaf, Velvet, The Exeter Broadsheet and Mr Garnham himself. She has also been shortlisted nationally.

 

When Two Worlds Collide, by Jeff Horsey

When two worlds collide

Eric worked at the post office.
Sorting letters at 6 am.
Finished early.
Home at four.
Picked up guitar.
Played ‘til his fingertips were sore.
He had a plan,
he had a goal.
Dug the blues and jazz and soul.
One a these days “Johnny Sansom” gonna MAKE the grade,
not just get post office pay.

Johnny played in pubs at night
until one am and only then,
did he worry about the early shift,
sifting letters and whistling riffs.
See Johnny was Eric in the broad daylight.

Monday morning six am
One of his post office friends
said “Man, you look just like the guy
played down the Bull and Bush last night.
Me and the Missus went for a drink,
she said she couldn’t even think,
‘coz this guy Johnny was in the bar,
trying to play an old guitar.
He could NOT sing.
He could NOT play.
What a WANKER,
she said to me.”

And here’s a video of Jeff ‘The Horse’ Horsey:


 

Invisibility Rant, by Abigail Ottley

The young think they invented cool but they know diddly squat.
Those ankle-snappers shut their eyes to what we wise ones got.
So this old bird is set to strut and fan her tail and crow.
She’s primed to blow her cover. Here’s a thing or two the yoof should know.
This woman’s old but she ain’t dumb. She ain’t pretending she ain’t grey.
Don’t matter if she’s billiard-bald, she still deserves to have her say.
And what she says is simply this. She’s deep-down tired of being dissed.
At worst reviled, at best dismissed, if there’s a mill, then she’s the grist.
Now guys that used to flirt and stare will mostly fail to see she’s there.
One day, she’s classy, gorgeous, hot. Next morning, passé, clean forgot.
How plaintive sounds her shrill lament as she asks where her ‘sexy’ went.
Now just existing leaves her fazed. A life outside her master’s gaze.
That gaze which won’t admit she’s there and for the most part doesn’t care
but turns its back and sends no flowers. In bars, sometimes she waits for hours
before the barman can’t ignore the fact that what she’s waiting for
is to be served like all the rest. Great hulking guys with beards and chests
that press against the bar where she can’t get, can’t hear, can’t even see.
And girls with boobs and killer shoes marked out like maps with blue tattoos
and all the heartless, hip-less yoof who cruelly mock those long of tooth.
In restaurants waiters turn their heads to tiptoe round the dining dead.
In any queue how cursed is she by this in-vis-i-bil-i-ty.
I’m here to say that such as we reject this anonymity.
We won’t sit down, we won’t shut up calm down, make tea. We’ve had enough.
We’re women. We have earned our stripes our stretch marks and our right to gripe.
We’ve paid our dues, we’ve lived this shit. And now we’ve had enough of it.
It isn’t fair, it isn’t just.Where is it writ we woman must
accept our lot and know our place in short, that we must self-efface?
Back in the day when I was young my grandma said a woman’s tongue
dripped wisdom, sweet and strong as wine that, aged in oak, improves with time.
And she was right to teach me how a woman grows into her power.
A witch is but a woman who won’t still her tongue as others do.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley writes poetry and short fiction from her home in Penzance. A former English teacher with a lifelong interest in history, she has been Pushcart nominated, translated into Romanian, and is carer to her very elderly mother. Find her on Facebook or @AbigailLaLoca on Twitter

 

The best superhero we can conjur, by Rob Schofield

The best superhero we can conjure

sits in splendid self-isolation. He
does not fret about provisions, other
than how best to keep the plebs supplied with
bread and circuses. And toilet roll. His
tenebrous consigliere, last seen
scuttling away from the black door sans
smug grin, is at home now, mired in his blog,
scribbling his fiendish marginalia
and plotting how and where to push the blame.
How will he muddy waters already
soiled by years of verbal diarrhoea?
Where were his not-so-super forecasters
when the rest of us were glued to the news
from Wuhan? And the second string, these Lords
of Misrule, whose misplaced confidence rides
shotgun with incompetence, snatch at the
coat tails of the experts they scorned, alive
to the scapegoat’s scent. Eton College closed
its doors before our children were sent home.
What of the rich, no longer able to
stake sole claim to being idle? Boltholes
undetected, they feed foie gras and fox
cubs to the hounds, riding out the storm while
trusting their Joker to keep their backsides clean.

Rob Schofield writes fiction and poetry from a temporary bunker in the Yorkshire Dales. Rob is a member of the 2021 Northern Short Story Festival Academy and has been published in The Blue Nib and Prole. He has been long and short listed for several short story prizes. Rob publishes work in progress at robschofield.uk.  

 

 

Uncle Peter, by Nigel Lloyd

Uncle Peter

Uncle Peter wasn’t Elvis, but he thought he was.
Admittedly, at family parties even after a skin full
he could hold a tune, but Elvis didn’t need to be
helped into a taxi after a gig, and he didn’t have to retrieve
his false teeth from the garden the following day.

Uncle Peter wasn’t Fred Astaire, but he thought he was.
Admittedly, at his daughter’s wedding, even with indigestion
after a three course meal and several brandies,
he could throw a few shapes.
But Fred Astaire didn’t nearly get arrested
because he was running through the town centre
with a traffic cone on his head.

Uncle Peter wasn’t Casanova, but he thought he was.
Admittedly, he was married three times
and always seemed to find plenty of women
who liked the aroma of Brylcreem and Castella cigars.
But Casanova didn’t put so much Hi Karate on
that you could smell him in the next street.

Uncle Peter wasn’t a young man, but he thought he was.
Admittedly, he had read the NME since the 60’s
but you can’t be cool forever.
He started to look like he had lost it
When he thought Kanye West was a holiday destination.

Uncle Peter wasn’t my favourite uncle, but he thought he was.

Nigel Lloyd lives in rural Donegal and has had poems published in several magazines

From Crannog to Progressive Rock Magazine, he also had a poem featured on 

BBC Radio Ulsters Soundscapes programme and was a finalist in the 

Bring your Limericks to Limerick competition 2018 and a finalist in

The Piano Academy of Ireland Limerick competition 2021.

Www.nigellloydpoet.com

 

I’m sorry I’m late, by Susan Jordan

I’m so sorry I’m late
it was the weather the trains the traffic
a deluge of rejection letters I had to open
six weeks’ washing-up that couldn’t wait
a freak rainstorm that only fell on me
a hole in the road that swallowed me up
a crocodile that punctured my back tyre
a bomb somewhere that might have exploded
the clock starting to go backwards
the dog eating my sense of time
me losing the way inside my house
the streets turning back to front.
Actually I’m just late.

 

What I’m Like, by Kevin Higgins

What I’m Like

Lively as an elderly blue-arsed fly
that’s just been clattered by
the weekend edition of the New York Times.
About as much use in a debate about anything
as a weighing scale floating through outer space.
Reassuring as a naked funeral director
stepping into the same hot tub as you
in search of new customers.
My future smells delicious
as the used odour-eaters
I was going to send you for Christmas
until I saw the price of the postage.
My dream, that little children of every
complexion and gender
will one day gather together
to play Frisbee with stray toilet seat lids
they plucked from the rubble.

Kevin Higgins has been described by The Stinging Fly magazine has described Kevin as “likely the most read living poet in Ireland. His sixth full collection of poems ‘Ecstatic’ will be published by Salmon in June 2021.