Mandy Macdonald – On the road to Zaragoza, May 2015

On the road to Zaragoza, May 2015

loping away
from the roadside’s
playground of poppies
vines in formation process
calmly
………towards
……………….their
…………………….vanishing
…………………………………points

green and bright as hope
under the low hill edges
silvered with olives

then:
warcry of turbines
………………..windfarm
………………..sudden as an ambush
………………..over the hill-brow
………………..across the horizon
………………..expecting a new
Quixote

Laura McKee – swarm

swarm

as if god hated people
crossing a line
trying to walk on water

and in His almighty strop
sent a sign to David
the world could end

with this swarm
descending
a plague of locusts

starts with one
following another
just to eat

Laura McKee likes to walk and take photos while writing poems in her head. Her poems have appeared on postcards to friends, in journals, and one will soon be on a bus in Guernsey.

Edilson Ferreira – Dreaming Wide Awake

Dreaming wide awake.

Should I have
my house with doors unlocked,
banks without security guards
and supermarkets you can walk
without cameras that sleepless
watch over us;
streets free of patrol police cars
and armored vehicles that carry
either money or arrested men.
Could I talk
to everyone I meet, even child
young or elders, girl or woman,
nobody thinking it would be for
malice or wickedness.
Should I have
this entire world free of assets and
liabilities, debts and credits, profit
and loss; having its accounts made
by other measures, only looking for
the human happiness,
a common plain smile and

a permanent beauty’s ravishment.

Edilson Ferreira is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than Portuguese, in order to reach more people.  Has been published in four printed British Anthologies, online or printed reviews like Cyclamens and Swords, Right Hand Pointing, Boston Poetry Magazine, West Ward Quarterly, TWJ Magazine, The Lake, The Stare’s Nest, The Provo Canyon, Amomancies, Snapdragon, The Gambler and some others. Short listed in four American Poetry Contests, lives in a small town with his wife, three sons and a granddaughter and began writing after retirement as a Bank Manager. See more of his poetry in www.edilsonmeloferreira.wordpress.com.  

Lesley Quayle – Old Moley

Old Moley
 
Old Moley-man, three coats, two waistcoats,
jumpers, vests layered back to a museum
of skin, festering, bagged up in ruined corduroy,
his boots, one grey, one brown, both soles
curled under dirt-scarred, nomad’s toes –
he dances in the park. With eyes closed,
struts his stuff and promenades,
a waltz, a quickstep, cuts some rug
and rock ‘n’ rolls, his jive and twist
compelling flies, semibreves around his head –
his stench tolls through the wooded square.
He stumbles, stops, dry as a broken bottle,
soul drained, a desert of old dreams,
new sorrows, sits on a bench, his breath
a toxic smog, until the sun demists the view.
He rests, forlorn as torn up letters
fretting on the breeze. Passers-by tune out 
when he thunders godless hymns,
his mouth a caved in hovel, humming,
whistling when he can’t remember words.
He’s entertaining strangers for odd coins
rolled downwind to the ragged cockle of his hat.
There’s no applause.

Stu Buck – What I Don’t See

What I Don’t See

To the BBC News,
When I look outside my window
I do not see famine
I do not see rapists and murderers
I do not see pit-bulls mauling children
I do not see poverty
Or Aids
I do not see the failings of the health system
Or a cocaine snorting politician
I do not see people growing old
And dying
I do not see gangs of feral youths
Stabbing immigrants
For iPhones
I do not see cancer
I do not see the rain
I do not see obesity
I do not see guns
Rappers
Grand Theft Auto
The movies of Eli Roth
Or anything else causing violence
I do not see prostitutes
Or drug dealers
I see two sheep
One chicken
And lots of hills
Please report this at once
To cheer everyone up.

Stuart Buck is an ex-chef turned poet originally hailing from Hull but now living in the Valley of the Poets, the Ceiriog Valley in North Wales. He has a wife, a daughter, another on the way and his debut collection of poetry is being published October 16.

Lisa Kelly – Night Drawing In

Night Drawing In

The debt collector’s on my doorstep,
rattling locks, peering through the letterbox,

blackening my name,
watching what I do, after things of value.

Oi! he shouts. I know you’re in.
Everything you own, every brick is on tick.

All the things that were mine
in the bright light of day, he wants to take away.

One of his henchmen has a huge lamp,
staring like a glaucous eye. I draw the curtains, sigh.

It’s no good, he laughs, I’m still here.
I try and sleep, count him down – like bills and sheep.

In the morning he’s gone,

but I know he’ll be back: dealing in the black.

Lisa Kelly’s pamphlet Bloodhound is published by Hearing Eye. She is a regular host of poetry evenings at the Torriano Meeting House, London and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

Adele Fraser – Two Poems

A Half Full Begging Bowl
.
Welfare recipients are not supposed to make the best of things.
Being, in the eyes of society, a lesser species,
we are not permitted to smile through adversity, and
should we ever display the temerity to keep our chins up,
the media would immediately sock us in them.
.
Imagine Pollyanna today, unemployed and playing the glad game
on benefits, cheerful as they come to disconnect her electric:
‘It will give us more chance to really talk without the distraction
of television, and the dark can be deliciously romantic!’
Hell, they’d wipe the smile off her feckless face, make no mistake.
Us lot make a mockery of the whole system.
We lack moral fibre; that’s our problem.
 
For tears are owed to the taxpayers to season their pound of flesh.
And, should it prove necessary, productive society shan’t shrink from
using threats of starvation to extract payment of this debt. It’s tough
love, that’s what it is; we shirkers don’t respond to soft measures.
We’ve had too many carrots; it’s about time we tasted the stick.
 ‘
You see, they, with their jobs, have earned the right to label our lives
a paradise of foreign holidays and widescreen TVs, of playing
the system like poker while we pop out kids weekly for council houses.
 ‘
There’s no doubt that we’re expected to accept their judgement
that we have it made. We’re just not supposed to be pleased about it.
The benefits claimant who eschews a hairshirt in favour
of jeans and a jumper is blatantly making it a lifestyle choice.
Society shan’t stand for it any longer. Oh, they’ll put the shame back
in claiming, alright. They’ll have us idle bastards face-red, head-bowed
and teeth-gnashing, as we were in the workhouse. It’s high time we learned
that joy and self-respect are employment bonuses (like company
cars or pension plans) – those without jobs aren’t entitled
to positive attitudes and, in the interests of justice,
the government will seize them like the stolen property they are,
while the media looks on gleefully and middle class
professionals sip their schadenfreude over tea and toast.
.
.
A Diagnosis
 .
As a teenager, drinking heavily, she was diagnosed
with Bipolar Disorder Type II. Older now and sober,
she knows the phrase does not describe her, that the label does not fit.
She has no prolonged periods of highs or lows, and has never known
moments of normality. Her fits of screaming have their source
in shame, in  bewilderment, in an inexpressible sense
that the world works on a system of secret handshakes
into which she has not been initiated. They burst out
of frustration, from unacknowledged language barriers,
limits to her recognition of faces and gestures,
her inability to speak sentiment or small-talk,
her struggles with ambiguity, her sense that conversations
lack clarity, her failure to process the concept of tact
or refrain from airing thoughts as they occur to her,
her awareness that she always gets things wrong
and the pain of being unable to ascertain why.
.
She is Autistic.
Yet she lives pinned to a label of mental illness, pale in the
shade of misdiagnosis, afraid to seek rectification
of another’s mistake. She is afraid a change in label
could be considered a Change of Circumstance, causing her
to be called for reassessment of benefits, despite
her condition’s remaining the same (a rose by any other name).
She is afraid of DWP medicals, afraid they could feel
like interrogations. She is afraid of questions that seem
incomprehensible and of unwritten rules.  She is afraid
of subtext she cannot grasp and games she cannot play. She is afraid
they could choose to interpret her uninhibited frankness
as rudeness, defiance, or, most dangerously, non-compliance.
She is afraid of adversarial attitudes and
political presumptions of fraud. She is afraid of her
vulnerability, afraid of comorbidity, afraid
that the stress of denying mental illness could trigger it.
She is afraid of the ordeal of it, the modern-day witch-dunking.
She is afraid she might have to drown before being found innocent,
or die to be allowed the means to live.

.

.

Adele Fraser is a poetry lover who is living on Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance due to a life-long illness. She has degrees in Philosophy and Literature, and has been writing for many years. She only started sending her work out this year, when the political climate compelled her to speak out. These are her first published poems.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs – Historical Perspective

Historical Perspective

June 2015 – the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and possibly the eve of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights

I sometimes wonder how I’d cope
with working in a tyrant’s kitchen.
Henry’s Hampton Court has much the feel
of where I am imagining
myself a scullion or skivvy.

Let’s not dwell on smells of spice and rot,
the cling and chill of greasy water,
aching hours of hunger for foul scraps
among the hooks and spits of roasting meat;

but let’s suppose I broke a platter –
like the one I’ve just now smashed
against the taps, above the Eco suds –
What would they do to me?
……………………………….And if I knew
would I fold up in all-day trembling
dread of butter-fingers’ consequences,
praying I could hide the evidence
or palm it off on someone else?

As I bin the broken bits I’m glad
a Declaration of my Human Rights
(for now) implies I can’t be racked, immured
or maimed if I should shatter any despot’s
(real or metaphoric) crockery.

.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip and co-organiser of the North London reading series Poetry in the Crypt. His latest collections are Fred & Blossom (Shoestring, 2013) and Pictures from a Postponed Exhibition – a collaboration with the artist David Walsh – published by Lapwing Press in late 2014.

Harry Gallagher – Northern Powerhouse

Northern Powerhouse

Jackie Milburn picks up dog ends
on the high level bridge, beneath
the all-seeing stare of Stephenson.

Joseph Swan drinks Carlsberg Export,
huddled on a pavement mattress
outside the Holy Jesus Hospital.

Bobby Charlton smokes his last
in bed, red all over his face;
no consolation goal, no-one to see.

While darling Grace saves tins
for the food bank at Sainsbury’s,
manna for wayfarers in distress.

The next great inventor of steam traction
has now given up on any further action
and works in a Sky call centre.

Ray Miller – Rationalisation

Rationalisation

We’ll begin at the top –
send someone to the loft
to shed light on the dark and spooky,
seek out the machines
that have captured our dreams
and other instruments of cruelty.
Let’s excise and expose
what lies under clothes
and strip the whole joint naked,
so that nothing’s intact,
let’s be ruthless, in fact,
and if it ain’t broke then break it!

Go dismantle the beds
where the uneasy heads
will no longer lie amending
and then eradicate
everything that lies straight
until the infrastructure is bending.
Bring out the wrecking ball,
it’s unprofessional
and against all we ought hold sacred;
I want to take a knife
to this dying life
and if it ain’t broke then break it!

Come, shatter the screens
that reflect on the scenes
where we spent our time in quarters;
and when the cops discover
that we’ve killed Big Brother
then the camera won’t have caught us.
We’ll ransack the clinic
of all that is in it:
if it says Do Not Shake, we’ll shake it.
Let’s call time on the calm,
raise a general alarm
and if it ain’t broke then break it!

Go trade the sedatives
for any drug that lives
and the potions which disinhibit.
Spend the spare cash
on a superstore dash
through the zone marked wine and spirits.
When there’s no money left
we’ll pursue petty theft,
whatever we want we’ll take it.
If the weather is nice
we’ll have drinks with ice
and if the ice ain’t broke then we’ll break it!

Excavate the files
where the treason trials
were dramatised and documented.
Overwhelm the shredder
with each word and letter
that was wrung from the tormented.
Start the final fire,
build a funeral pyre
just as tall as we can make it.
To the flames consign
each Thou Shalt Not sign
and if it ain’t broken break it!

Let us run amok
before they stop the clock;
there’s no points for good behaviour.
Let me be the man
who will fling the flan
in the face of last year’s saviour.
As the days approach
that we fear most,
when we’re cast into the snake-pit,
pause a while and reflect,
pay your last respects
and if it ain’t broke then break it!

Ray Miller’s work has appeared in many magazines. He won the Inter Board Poetry Competition in September 2013 and finished 3rd in the 100m sprint at Trescott Junior School in 1965.