Rishi Dastidar – Three Poems

Value at risk

“Hello Stockholm? Yes, this is the economy of the world calling. Yes, that’s right, we called earlier, but you were busy giving some dynamite to Abba? Anyway, just to say that we’ve got Messrs Scholes, Black and Fischer in the boot of our Ferrari, trussed up in some of their Excel macros, and we’re going to do to them what they did to us – think of it as a male remake of Thelma & Louise – unless you revoke their prize, and knowledge. Capische? Kthnxbai!”



Unfulfilled workers of the world,
be more forthright.

You have nothing to lose
but your Facebook addictions.


The Big Society

We are building the Big Society,
and doing it on your backs.
We won’t stand for any impropriety.
We are building the Big Society.
We will give you a life of variety;
we hope you enjoy dodging our axe!
We are building the Big Society,
and doing it on your backs.


Rishi Dastidar works as a copywriter in London. A graduate of the Faber Academy and a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he was a runner-up in the 2011 Cardiff International Poetry Competition, and featured in the 2012 anthologies ‘Lung Jazz’ and ‘Adventures in Form’. He is also currently part of The Complete Works II.


Fred Pollack – Combined Development

Combined Development

There’s a number to call in Calcutta,
standard overseas rate plus a percent,
for guilt-trips. Everyone involved
checks out: no bride-price murders,
female infanticide, eight-year-old hookers. Also, no
intern or whiz-kid programmer sending
half of her half-scale wages home from
Dallas or Frankfurt, and
no embarrassing politics, just hot stinking poor.
These extremely polite and depressed
voices tell you, with that funny sing-song,
the circumstances of their lives, answering all your
questions (it’s your dime) until you’re
guaranteed to feel like
shit or your money back
(except for the cut that pays them).

I call to complain. In these viciously hot
(at least for North America) days, I
can’t get the air-conditioning
where I want it: it’s either too chilly, or still
and airless. That sort of thing.
They struggle to imagine,
to remain polite, remain on the phone, simply
to persist. We have a relationship.
I say things like, “Remember that flower
I described, in a yard down the street
from me, the blue wildflower? I stole it.
It’s no longer in nature.”


Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Kalkion, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.

Patrick Lodge – A Simple Game

A Simple Game

(for Mary Baker)

Chopping fruit for an

Autumn dessert,

the rhythm of knife

on board lulls me.


I see my mother,

pinnied, in a 50s

Formica kitchen

peeling a Bramley.


It was a simple game:

each scrape of peeler

released an inch

of shiny spiral,


until a single helix

dangled unbroken,

flexing like a snake

on a blackthorn branch.


She gave me the knife:

if I could follow, tease

out my own green spring,

the blade would halve


a white apple heart

to be dipped in demerara;

always, like this memory

tasting bitter sweet.

Patrick Lodge was born in Wales, lives in Yorkshire and travels
on an Irish passport. His poetry has appeared in magazines and
anthologies in England, Wales, Ireland, Greece, Australia, New Zealand
and the USA. He was a prize winner in the 2009 Envoi
International competition.

Kathy Gee – One day in the life

One day in the life

(An Ode to the NHS, after Dylan Thomas)


In the half-lit corporate magnolia of the nurses home,
Queenie sleeps, turning like an eel in her narrow bunk,
dreaming of the leafy green of her Caribbean garden
and the vile green of theatre gowns.
She smiles in her sleep as frangipani fills the steriliser.

Dark in a room off ward fifteen, Dr Houseman Dave
grabs twenty minutes, twitching feet in the cellular blanket,
shaking like a terrier anticipating action far too long.
Beneath his blue-black eyelids, dry eyes search for softness,
longing to bury his so tired, brain-fried, face in her breasts.

At sun rise, the practice manager mutters by his skinny wife,
counting hours and contracts, fights and budgets,
firing random shots at the dawn before he must wake.
And in his comfortable, modernist home on the river,
the Minister sleeps.

At the top of the hill, where the trees meet the cloud-pink,
lock-clink sky, Freddy sneaks back to his mother’s house,
reeking of drink from his all night bender. He practices,
silent as a hairbrush ‘Just been out for some milk, Ma’
fumbles a vase to the ground with a crash. Ma? Ma?

GP Gilly wakes in her ochre bedroom, drowsy with sunlight,
blowsy with fantasy. Her ears don’t hear the siren,
the swinging of systems into action, while Freddy’s Ma
is oblivious, deep in the sleep of a stretcher and oxygen.
She’s listening with her nerve ends to the soothing blur

of the paramedic, who behaves the same to his drunks
and their mothers, to kids and their baby brothers,
hold on there, he croons, be there soon, be there soon.
From the depths of his sleep, a bleep rolls Dr Dave upright,
down the corridor before his brain is in charge of his legs.

And in his home on the river, the Minister wakes.
GP Gilly smiles at her waiting room, rations appointments
without being sour – hernia, headache, I fell over a door.
She’s best friends with cancer, urine infections and coughs,
can multiply tablets in weeks, months and years.

Freddy’s determined to beat it, to give up the booze,
How long had she been laid there, all wet on the floor?
So Freddy and Ma, and Sue from social services
talk about furniture, making the downstairs / upstairs,
what help she will need.

At the top of the hill, where trees meet the sky,
Freddy scents their bathroom like a jasmine garden,
puts a few flowers in a marmalade jar.
From the care of their telling, the slow-show, we’ll help you,
don’t worry, he might become somebody Ma can rely on.

Late in the evening, a tired practice manager
prepares for inspections, for cover, and cleaners,
afraid that the service might fail, as some say it will.
And in his comfortable, modernist home on the river,
the Minister drinks to a trouble free day.


Kathy lives in Worcestershire and has a parallel life working for museums and heritage. Although she started writing poetry (secretly) in 2007, didn’t submit works for publication until 2011. She organised the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings poetry trail in 2012, enjoys performance and has an occasional blog at http://www.wordstring.co.uk – an experimental vehicle for occasional video poems.


Ben Banyard – Then Sings My Soul

Then Sings My Soul

In Bond Street I wait at the crossing
and not wanting to make eye contact with anyone
I glance to my left and get
by the sheer hip-hip-hooray of colours.

Someone has planted wild flower seeds which blaze from the grey,
making the concrete sing like a summer meadow
and I feel like I’m on a caravan holiday in Dorset.

My fellow pausing pedestrians aren’t moved by it
as they fiddle with phones or stare blankly

I turn to a middle-aged suit and clap my arm around his
and I say:
“look at this wonderful thing that someone’s done”,
and he sees the poppies, meadow buttercups,
corncockles and red campion for the first time and
smiles at them and we both stand and look
as the lights change from red to amber
to green to amber to red…


Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, where he sometimes writes poetry and short fiction.

Jennifer McGowan – Two Poems


I damn near came before you touched me,
which was as well, because you never did.

You walked as if oiled, bare-chested
in the heat. I could define every muscle
as you rippled towards me, count your six-pack–
how many times I counted to six–
smell the sun as it came off your skin.
You smiled at my carer, stood shoulder
to shoulder, nudged her breast. Left me
as spare and angular as my chair.



The abject ache in his lower bones
is as familiar as the sound of her slippers
hushing across the laminate. Carefully he hooks
the chair over and levers himself into it.
Wheels himself to the great window
overlooking the garden. Feels green life
pull at him with its thousand filaments.
He smiles, loses himself in watching a leaf breathe.

He can smell the tang before she arrives
with the tea. She busies herself; serves;
puts the extension on the chair so he can
elevate his leg. Says something or other.
The tea is not as warm as his gaze upon her.
Her voice is ripped silk. He feels himself stir.


Jennifer McGowan is based near Oxford and is a member of the Back Room Poets. Her latest acceptances are in Prole, Dawntreader, and Morphrog. Also, she says: “Paxman writes me fanmail. Trufax. Totes legit.”


Pippa Little – Blotto


On Starbucks’ corner hunched against the cold
I’ve been here since the moon was high;
come morning, blow hard into the knot
of my blue hands, I have no hope
today will be more than the old shuttle
between being sober and being blotto.

It’s a kind of leaving without going, blotto:
an easy travelling farther away than cold,
swift and sure as a loom shuttle
I go clean and I go high,
way past being lost or found – in hope
only that one day I shall free this knot,

memory-knot, hunger knot, knot
that’s the opposite of blotto –
if you see me huddled at your feet I hope
you’d throw me more than a blind cold
stare from your important walking, high
above me, on your commuter shuttle:

to and fro you go, slaves of that great shuttle
faster and faster and for what? A slimy knot
you can never shift from your gut. Only a high
ending and a hurrah and I’ll soon be blotto,
my fanfare in your face, my joke against life’s cold
shoulder, in the sure and resounding hope

of what must come, hope in spite of hope.
The north wind’s a blade-sharp shuttle
I’m an impediment to its purpose, cold.
All in the end I’ve got is this ordinary knot
That’s me. Do you know blotto?
Do you know high?

Out cold, high, face kicked to a knot,
small hope of recovery. Found by the airport shuttle, blotto.

Elaine Taylor – Atonement


Before you came, what we knew were olive trees,
mules scuffling through dust, sweet smoke
of cooking and tobacco, old men polishing
memories generations long. The church bell clanged
the regularity of our life; the language of our land
had not been wrested from us.

You were the refugees, returning to the home
you mourned each year with brine and bitter herbs,
digging through stones, watering your new life
as it grew into our soil. At the beginning it almost seemed
we could have lived together. Semite was not a word
you applied only to yourselves.

Our land became your right. We gagged on smoke
from burning fields, watched our olives fall
ungathered from the trees as our compliant mules
bore us away from the houses you had stolen.
Church bells hung mute; the old men’s stories
were uprooted from the land. The language we heard
was like ours but not ours.

Now you have caged us in like animals, denying us
even the right to anger. Only you claim persecution,
the gaping crater of wrongs too terrible to imagine
always in your vision, blinding you to the sight
of your own cruelties. All that you’ve taken from us
you wear for your own adornment, thinking we can’t see
the stains of blood and ashes.


Elaine Taylor has been interested in writing for many years and writes both poetry and prose. In 2011 she completed the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, working mainly on a novel. She has had poems accepted for publication in The Broadsheet and The Journal and her blog address is http://www.thebelatedwriter.wordpress.com.



George Szirtes – Five Poems

Postcolonial Operations: Malaysia

September. Morning.
Here the peaceable kingdom,
pale and serious.

Foreign languages
blossom in corners. Far off
bright blooms. Acts of speech.

On the hot island
food is served, chairs are wiped down,
nation building starts.

One thinks of angels
at their impossible angles
slipped into language.

Between languages
the hot day explains itself
using simple terms.

Puritans close down
the cinema of the soul,
yelling at the light.

Into September.
Into crispness. Into evening.
Into the clock’s face.

Back to the empire.
Back to old rites of passage.
Late sun. Darkness. Song.

In The Country of the Heart

I couldn’t remember if I had left my heart in the right place. There is a place for everything.

My heart was on a train heading for the right place but would it get there on time?

My heart was in one of two places, neither of them right.

Must you talk about your heart, they asked. We’ll be the judges of that.

They were looking into my mouth but it was my heart they were looking for so I produced a heart for them.

Is this your heart, they asked. You don’t want to leave it lying about the place.

May we direct you to the right place for your heart, they asked, indicating their batons.

I was able to demonstrate that my heart was in the right place. That seemed to satisfy them.

All our hearts were in the right place. It was getting crowded in there.

Too many hearts in one place. We were having trouble orientating ourselves.

Our hearts were joined in one big heart. Our hearts were full to overflowing

My eyes were closed, my mouth was wide open and shouting, my liver had gone missing, but my heart was in the right place.

Oil Slick

The first time we struck oil
We were covered in the stuff
I was slicker than a seal
It was hard to scrape it off.

The deeper sank the well
The higher rose the spurt
The smoother the gears moved
The more we hit pay dirt.

We swam through seas of oil
In sheets of heavy slack,
Dark statues of the glib,
A sculpture park of black.

Well-oiled we drifted past
Planets of black suns
Our memoranda viscous
Paradigms and puns,

Deaths, loves, pipedreams, plans
In plumage dense with glue,
We’d written ourselves out.
Now we were through, quite through.


All That is Solid

She is dry leaf, parchment, batwing, husk, a skim of earth. She is asleep yet awake, mobile yet collapsing. She is thinking.
Between wake and sleep there is only a flimsy, almost invisible sheet. It is onion-skin, India-paper: a brittle integument easily broken.
The will to control is strong. She owns a life. It must be hers. Whose else could it be? Whose is this skin, this half-dream?
Once there was a state of affairs. It was quite specific. If she could be specific now it would make an act of will, a document, a film.
Figures move about the room but are not precisely here. They are breath turned into presence. They are elsewhere and are obliged to be.
The present is not entirely present, she thinks. The past is a landscape shrouded in fog. She opens her eyes and drinks it down.
She treads a ground that is not entirely solid, but then, she feels, neither is she. All that is solid will melt. So let it melt.
Mind hovers between sense and matter. Is that her hand shaking? It is hardly shaking. It is the merest tremor. Not even that.
The air is glass. To walk is to move through glass, each step a moment frozen, glazed, perfected, the panes crashing behind her.
The room is full of ghosts. But where else are they to go? Let flesh enter them, she thinks. Let them seek their own bones. Let them pass.


Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these rages will show.

It was the rages he flew into
whenever she appeared
in the bathroom mirror.

It was not the mirror
but the page that appeared
that she flew into.

He was getting in touch
with his feminine side,
with Agnes and Dora.

But he was not about to become Dora
or Agnes. It was one side
or the other he had to touch.

He was the hero of his life.
She was the love of his life.
(Or possibly her life).

The rest was rages.
A matter of turning the rages.
Not to forget the writing of all those rages.

George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee in 1956 following the Hungarian Uprising. He is the author of some fifteen books of poetry in English and roughly the same of translation from Hungarian fiction and poetry into English. He won the T S Eliot Prize for his book Reel (2004) and has been shortlisted for his two following books, The Burning of the Books (2009) and Bad Machine (2013). His New and Collected Poems appeared in 2008. His translation of László Krasznahorkai’s Sarantango won the Best Translated Book Award in the USA in 2013, and his book for children, In the Land of the Giant was awarded the CLPE prize for best book of poems for children in the UK in the same year. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in England and of the Széchenyi Academy of Arts and Letters in Hungary.


Ira Lightman – SUITABLE CASE


For want of a cuppa
      I wouldn'a had bus change
      from a £5 promissory portrait
of the monarch, right
      for its dates
      in the limited edition of
ink on cotton rag fibre and
      "colours which are
      difficult to balance
on photocopiers" (Peter Symes);
      or need to pee
      at Birmingham New Street
urgently; disembark,
      with two cases
on the X48 from Newman
      University interview.
      No taxi for me
and time? No, O Maxx
      next to old
but to scout kerb
      encumberance, where fellow
      bussies had pointed.
(They'd liked me in suit,
      justice scale
      of bagged books, siphoning
the courier carriage cost
      to buy tickets
      from home to Llandrindod,
booked 6 in advance
      of this call to B'rum
      one week ago.)
I and the cases
      met accessibility
      politics, from North
to Midlands to West
      until the station
      under refurbishment
and its (indicated
      only by human index
      finger) entrance.
Threading white concourse
      I reversed
      at the barrier,
gave card to machine
      and its printout
      to a human,
      to where loos
where sign is "not for construction
      for nothing".
Nothing's what I'd pay
      double or quits.
Why exchange coinage?
      Why not
      urinate there
and then on recladded
      Victorian public
      work unupkept?
"Clean this, and my tarnish,
      I'm your boss,"
      I seem to solo
in my time among
      to push prow
on wheels. I wait
      for the cleaner.
      I hear her
I imagine reword
      the injunction
      to constructing
man spitting,
      orange jacket
      on back
inside closing cubicle
      SHUN!" He angles
      his trochees.
Monosyllable nouns
      toy he will
      stay where
he's exiled
      till vacant.
      Wise to injunctions
and care
      she's supposed
      to police
here. Befuddled
      all made circus,
      I leave. And
return. "Can
      I come
      on the
same 30 pence?" "Yes."
      Seen by loo,
      last of my interview suit.

Ira Lightman is a poet, author of 3 books and several chapbooks. In his double
column poems (Trancelated atwww.ubu.com/ubu) he employs quoted text and
translations in collages. He makes public art, organizing a community’s poems
into visual art. He broadcasts on BBC Radio 3’s
The Verb. He has set Creeley,
Gunn and Sward &c to ukulele.