Poem in which I’m a bird

My voice now has this minikin flutey quality
and a needling sound where the wind careens through it.

Did you remember the seed? my bird wife cheep cheeped
when I arrived home clutching the shopping in my wings,

and a smile gambolled on her stiff beak lips.
(Her lack of expression drives me so crazy for her sometimes!)

Other birds slide and climb and slip inside clouds and out again,
and land on roofs or trees

or on the parochial ground. My bird wife has laid out
brittle wombs – three serene blue prams.

Our nest is stupendous, instinctive. There they nestle. Inside one,
sky rumbles wet, sky rumbles hard.

It’s calling, she says.
Listen. Touch it with your peculiar flat-hammered fingers.

Mark Waldron

Poem in Which You Blame the Demon

Your friend thinks you are possessed by a demon he says
he told his church about you and they agree but they won’t cast
the demon out because you are not a Christian if they exorcise
the demon you would become an empty vessel the demon
will come back with his friends their uppers are your downers
they will have a party inside you their joy is your pain
your friend swears he saw your eyes turn completely black
black as amateur porn loading on a laptop full of viruses
he says Jesus Christ will take your anxiety away if you stand
in front of all these people and upload your memory to God
the demon will piss off and Jesus will do the washing up
but you don’t step forward you shake sweat pop pills stare
at the shape of your shadow on the world everyone is dancing
they remind you of scarecrows bobbing in a hurricane
after the event is over people wearing yellow t-shirts
bring food from a local takeaway you watch the fat pastor dangle
a steaming slice of kebab meat over his happy mouth the meat
makes a slimy sound as it slaps around the pastor’s lips you stare
at his pretty wife think about her kicking you in the balls
imagine she’s suffocating you with her quiet Christian vagina
maybe the demon puts these thoughts in your head yes
just blame everything on the demon the inside of the circus tent
the church has rented is dripping with condensation and after walking
in a circle with your head back mouth open like a baby bird you finally
catch a drop of condensation on the tip of your dry tongue it tastes
like some kind of fetish your friend says only eight people stepped
forward and gave their hearts to God tonight they were led away
to the special area where counsellors give advice and start-up
packs and carefully folded emotions they touch your arms and smile
for a moment you thought you might step forward and wave
at everyone and cry a little bit and walk to the special area
as the demon screams No No No please No No
you almost ran towards the stage to hug the preacher
wailing your sins like the comedown crows of Sunday morning
perched on your neighbour’s chimney burnt letters barking
the charred syllables of love Yes a small part of you
maybe one of your nipples or a broken tooth or the fading
memory of your ex-girlfriend the lap dancer regrets not stepping
forward because you feel guilty about a lot of things
such as mood swings and selfishness seagulls and supermarkets
the way your mind wanders off and yesterday you ripped up
your wife’s anniversary card during an argument and spat
on each crumpled Hallmark half you horrible bastard
your self-hatred is a gambler’s guide to astrology
a fairground by the river your childhood heaven’s faulty jukebox
you wonder how the demon feels when you take your daughter
to the park and you spin together on the big spinny thing she loves
and she looks around in awe and then she looks up at you in awe
and tells you this is fun I am having a great time with you daddy
as you push the spinny thing faster and the park gate blurs into trees
and trees melt into sky and sky shivers into sun and the sun sets
behind the circus tent and the pastor is happy and his wife’s
vagina is happy and your friend is studying your demon eyes
very carefully as you log in to Facebook on your crappy phone
because your lift is late and you’re not sure about this you don’t know
if you are awake today but you are definitely alone you don’t know if
you are possessed by a demon but you are definitely going home.

Bobby Parker

Poem in Which Girl Speaks to Snake

We’re not supposed to parley, Ropey Joe.
I’m meant to close my eyes and shut the door.
But you’re a slender fellow, Ropey Joe,
……………………………………thin enough
to slip beneath the door and spill your wicked do-si-do
……………..in curlicues and hoops across the floor.
I’ll be here. And I’m all ears –
there are things I want to know.

Oh tell me tell me tell me
about absinthe and yahtze,
and sugarskulls and ginger, and dynamite and hearsay,
and all the girls and boys who lost their way
and the places in the woods we’re not to go
and all the games we’re not allowed to play –
there are so many things to know.

My mother’s got the supper on the go.
My father will be sagging in his chair.
But you’re a speedy fellow, Ropey Joe,
……………………………………quick enough
to slide behind his back, a wicked line of dominoes
…………….zipping through the hall and up the stairs.
Come on, pal. I’m ready now –
There are things I want to know.

Oh tell me tell me tell me
about lightning and furies
and ligatures and diamonds, and zipwires and gooseberries
and all the girls and boys who went astray
and all the ones who never got to go
and all the words we’re not supposed to say –
there are so many things to know.

They told me you were trouble, Ropey Joe.
You’ve always got to tip the applecart.
But you’re a subtle fellow, Ropey Joe,
……………………………………suave enough
to worm your way inside and pin your wicked mistletoe
……………..above the crooked lintel to my heart.
Come on then, shimmy in –
there are things I want to know.

Oh tell me tell me tell me
about hellhounds and rubies
and pretty boys and bad girls, and runaways and lost boys
and all the things that made my mother cry
and all the things he said to make her stay
and all the things we’re not allowed to say –
there are so many things to know.

Abigail Parry

Poem in Which A Fridge is Broken

I think that sometimes we have lives in which we
happen simultaneously, a dream for example
is one, a poem is another

this is not a new thought,
I borrowed it from someone I haven’t met yet.

There are people living in houses who believe that
they understand you – they don’t. They assure me
in text that they understand, as if that were

Get on board with the wind, says the leaf
says the crisp packet, there are bees to my
right loving themselves, I hum so that our
frequencies are (quieter than at first) not separate,
there are folks to my left discussing a
woman they would like to get to know
better. Listen, the fridge is humming
along with us, I pretend I did not break it,
you did when you smashed your fist
against the door in an argument,
you might agree in a dream
that my sadness broke it.

I’m ok.
I can watch the news and pretend
that it is not broken.
The sun is shining, it’s too hot for this
time of year, summer is not meant to
be so hot, it is ok
if it is between 21 and 27 degrees,
in a second life you woke up to a day
that could not be ruined by 11 o clock
like a poem which is impermeable,
not this poem, which is semi-permeable
or if it is raining then entirely
In the cafes, and restaurants, and
in people’s kitchens, and in front of televisions and
at desks and between appointments, and on
the beach, people swallow their grief with their lunch,
it tastes like grief tastes, in a third life
people don’t notice, they think their lunch tastes
like this.

Dollie Stephan

poem in which i am a real person at the hairdressers

instagram sounds ok she say.
yes i have been there once or twice in my youth
i say, it is a bit like the 80’s when groups of friends were
still american.
oh ya, she say and looks at herself over my hair-
i remember that- i went to see bands that weren’t famous.

yeah, me too! i say. in the 90’s it was the same.
remember t-shirts with pen on? and lockjaw? we laugh.
yeah we were crazy back then.
i stare at my face.
nowadays though of course i am a grown up, it means some things.
oh yeah for sure she say.

nowadays i have different outlooks, with alternating colours in them-
death is close. maybe i will have a staycation instead on twitter-
it is colder there but with content.
nah she say,
twitter is kinda dirty. i stare out the window and see a small
dog in a hand-knitted jumper. the old crafts are back in.

my hair is coming on, it is in a shape.
my boyfriend is at war again she say-
he is asleep. she corrects her posture.
ages ago he was a hunter-gatherer.
yeah i say, i know what you mean.
a song comes on, it say
do it do it
do it, shake!
i love this one she say and moves her hips. an old lady
is authentic in the corner.

seen any films lately? say the man slightly to the left.
oh ya say my one,
it was about how we’re all the same and do the same things.
great! say he. you’re not married are you?
he looks at me all vicious.
no i say, i am married to myself!
at least you won’t ever leave yourself! he say.
no i say, i will never forget my own anniversary!
it doesn’t quite make sense but everyone laughs.

it is quiet then apart from
do it do it
do it shake! and all suddenly awkward.
the old lady takes out a handkerchief like a prop and blows out her ancient insides.
the problem with you youngsters she say is that you get bored of things too easily.
it is a pretty boring thing to say.
i can’t even finish an article i say, let alone a life!
this time no one laughs- it really doesn’t make any sense.

Emma Hammond

aranka, the name alone

fragile, a crackling
in the wood, at her feet
the landscape’s mechanics stood
out, a sound

of green spaces, well-­worn paths, like
a barren bush rushing home on
k its branches, that’s
how she was beyond us, aranka

slippered, big calved, aranka, who
sang from out of the hollows of her knees, fists
on the wheelbarrow between the buckets, aranka

the name alone smells of bread
& left-­overs – like
kk worn-­out angels’ bodies
kk  on the run, that’s how she pulled

her wheelbarrow through
the wet grass beneath the laundry-­poles, “yeah,
kk schälerelli, she’s…
already eaten shit
for two marks“ – i ask

where, aranka, your weight has spread
which rustling or when
the emptiness in our voices began, the
pattering, stuttering & around

that stuttering
when the blocs & shadows grew
kk like curses, where
as children we were put to sleep
with an aluminum spoon in our mouths
with a rubber hammer in our fists; only

from you, aranka,
not a single word. only
kkkthe glistening fats, the juices
kkkof decay, alone
kkkyour stinking wheelbarrow in the dark, its
grating whistling, this is how you set out. the wheel
was driven by a stick
& circled the house
where our sad origins rested

aranka, nights her glance met us
under the blanket, her toothless o
but do it, sung from out of
knee hollows, a hundred times over
the same song: aranka

the name alone –
heat lightening out of tristan sparrows,
picked up & starved to death
in the electrical cabinet … aranka, once again:


Lutz Seiler, translated by Alexander Booth

Poem In Which Codeine Doesn’t Take The Edge Off

You haven’t written in six months, O terror of terrors, O clot of dark in my heart. I write to you still, and it reaches you somehow, like the smattering of rain that hits the bus window as you stare out over the landscape. That’s me. And the football those kids booted in your belly. That was me too. You don’t get to escape from me, I have a lifetime of haunting to do. I saw a picture of you; your hair hasn’t fallen out, you still need glasses, still squint. Your headaches turn into my headaches. When the paracetamol doesn’t take the edge off, that’s you. When I’m reaching for the codeine, that’s you. And I would punch you in the head if you were here, in the flesh. It’s called progress. I am not waiting for a letter. You are not waiting for a letter. It comforts me to think you read my books. You read them and you suffer little paper-cuts. You read them and your temples bruise. I wish you no harm. Sometimes I wish you would write, but I’m afraid there’s nothing so delicate as that, O moonbeam, O poet in the night, O honest miracle. Now I exist leagues from your heart. I still find your poems hidden between the pages of my books, toying with the idea of making my love-hearts leap. I read them in my own voice, not yours. Yours is caught somewhere between the tide and the mountains of rain-cloud. O my mute harbinger, O danger, you will never remember thirst, or the taste of me and the gutted sea.

Melissa Lee-Houghton


today you smell like a day spent
in a foreign supermarket, while outside
it is threatening
to rain. and my parents are upset

because all they ask is that i am
happy for this two weeks, but two weeks
seems a long time: i am eleven
and i have only thought

twice about sex –
as an idea, without its own smell –
and somewhere, ten years ago, you
are not quite yourself

and I am not yet
fascinated by thunder

Karl Smith

Letter from Kurt

As if a letter from Kurt Schwitters might arrive
one evening, coming home from work, when the children
do not hear me open the door, the television is loud
and even when I stand in front of them, they do not
move, I make myself a gin and move in to the other room
and there is the letter propped against my pillow,
imagine, I open it and out fall the scraps, the tickets,
the fragments of writing as a bus passes in the night
and the house shakes slightly I am still
holding the empty envelope, in fact there is no way
that I know this is from Schwitters at all,
I have work to do still and
the shaky handwriting of the address, I would like to piece
on the canvas but where will we sleep
and when I wake they fly from me
a sad fact I cannot know
is flowing over me like a punctuation mark
not a question mark but perhaps a grave accent
and when the phone rings, I expect the worst, the words
the words are speaking to me on the phone
when the phone rings, I expect the words
and they will talk to me, once, but not right now
instead, there is music, a stranger’s friend is talking to me
and there is the language-game of withholding information
but nothing is less than the hour we have now
to unfreeze the children to begin to set aside
the plates, to raise the arm as a fist
opens in front of me, as if my children spoke through me
to say there are no letters, only envelopes.
Giles Goodland


I watch but mustn’t
breathe your sweet
forbidden hope, my own
Ronette. Donned for out,
visionary in Coty mist

that falls like gold
leaf settling on an
icon, you smell pink,
your laugh a shiny
halo. I see nylons rasp

up legs with mushroom
sounds; from beehive tall
with oriental lacquer, let
birds and bees flutter
my outlawed heart.

Young farmers wait, the
van with straw and chits for
diesel on the floor is revving
by the pond. You scent it,
pony-like. I long to

be you, wear the black flicked
eyeline tails that prance
for action, pancake
thick and rosy, skimp
of costume squeaking over

bum, breast— taut, mauve—
and frosted lips, and white
shoes spiced with market
newness. We hear
wolves, softly whistling.

Sarah Wedderburn