Poem in which the twenty words most common in heavy metal lyrics are used

Though we’re aware there are moments when the form sorrow takes will mean a reduction in our awareness of things, it is in those moments that our awareness perhaps becomes insufficient for us to counteract the effect our sorrow will have on how aware we are. My sleepy demon tells me he doesn’t mind stumping up for the pizzas, but insists we’re gonna go halves on the beer. The television plays quietly; the candles on my cake burn low.

It’s been a wet afternoon so my sleepy demon suggests a game of scream-like-you-mean-it and though, after the visit from the police has made me feel I could reasonably claim victory, my sleepy demon keeps at it until the budgie is breathing audibly, and the air smells like rusty cutlery, and the tv channels are flipping between a difficult quiz show and championship ping-pong. I get a hunch there’s something gunky in his veins. There’s a box of tissues in the kitchen, but when he cries he doesn’t use them. I’ve a hunch there’s something silty in his soul. Between us we’ve practically completed the crossword.

My sleepy demon shows me a photo of a bunch of younger demons, leaning against a wooden door in their baggy yellow sweaters. He smokes, and taps the ashes into a lemonade can. The more he stares at the candle flames, the more they appear to splutter. The notes that I told my therapist were an account of my dreams are, in reality, just some paragraphs I copied from a sci-fi novel.

My sleepy demon hands me a page from a spiral-bound notebook on which he has written ‘a mood of resignation reigns’. The takeaway menus and till receipts are already in shreds, but now we tear up our coffee-shop loyalty cards, the tv-licence renewal notice, a club-night flyer, a jiffy bag, the amaretti wrappers, the street map, some pages from his notebook and my hospital appointment letter. Sometimes when I’m queuing for coffee or picking up the phone or getting onto a train, I like to pray there’s somebody somewhere getting all this on camera.

My sleepy demon reckons I’m confusing the idea of eternity with the idea of the passage of time, and while, he says, what I’m anticipating is the continuing rotation of winters/summers, morning/evening, weekdays/weekends, what I’ve got coming is an unbudging moment sometime early in March where across the town the drizzle is consistently thickening and in the kitchen the strip lights seem particularly yellow. A small sleepy beast crawls in through the cat flap, and my sleepy demon offers it the pizza crusts and the complimentary tub of hummus.

In the goodbye note he pins to my door, my sleepy demon expresses an ethical objection to metaphor. There are, he hints, particular gods whose brief it is to make things easy for us so that when the gods whose brief is to test our resolve get on the case the test will be sterner and the results will give a truer picture. In the evening I’ll sit in the kitchen with my yo-yo and a new box of ping-pong balls, and I’ll barely even have to breathe before the candles blow out.

Matthew Welton

(The source of the data for the 20 heavy metal words can be found here).

The Town Buries Its Mayor

Things our former mayor liked: 1. Laws. 2. Butter. 3. Composting. 4. Small doses of fentanyl. 5. Kindness. 6. Her grandfather’s suits. She had been a good and fair mayor; she was a creature of curious depth and strangeness and endless strength. She would bend her ear to anyone who needed it; she broke her back for her neighbors on moving day. She created laws that helped the old, the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable, unlike the Town doctor who had run from her responsibilities, unlike the Town mystic who had embarrassed us with her fervor. She had come to the Town from far away, from a place we derided as polluted and primitive, and she often remarked on how the air here was almost too fine and rich for her lungs; she felt she was breathing in stolen gold and emeralds that she had no right to possess. See: she was charmingly modest!

She had been told the truth of our Town’s policy with female mayors – that they were allowed to rule, perfectly or imperfectly, for five years, and then they were broken down and brought to the burial cairn on the neighboring island. She had agreed to these terms but when her time comes we are disappointed to find her weeping in the barnyard amidst her scattered papers. A billowing red mist appears to be emerging from her heart. The goats are nibbling her bowed head. We place our hands upon her, we pick her up using all the gentleness at our disposal, and we pass her over our heads, toward the water. Had the moment been less solemn she would have realized the pleasures of crowd surfing! We move her toward the shore, where the strongest of us are waiting, with the boat.

For the mayor’s sake we had hoped for grey skies but instead the day is driving its sunlight down our throats. We pile into the boat, and power it with eight people per side. Our mayor is laid out on the bottom. She is dressed in a suit and one of her mother’s brooches – this one a small arrow piercing a ruby. We are not sure of the condition of her face; it is wrapped in a scarf. Her body has, by and large, maintained its integrity. The mayor makes no sounds.

Haltingly, we move in the water, splitting a path through the ice. The lake is a series of white, silver, and opal striations. The cold roots in our chests and blooms, spreading to the filaments of each lung. The dark fuzz of fir trees seems so far away. These are always the very worst moments, with our mayors. What can we say? What comfort can we offer? We cannot guarantee that she will be treated gently.

Sara Peters

Issue 9 Coming Soon

Featuring new poems from:

Joe Dunthorne

Annie Katchinska

Dai George

Claudine Toutoungi

Jerrold Bowam

Siegfried Baber

Ian Cartland

SJ Fowler

Angela Kirby

Ella Frears

Harry Man

Camellia Stafford

Lauren Vevers

Alison Winch

Sophie Herxheimer

Jack Nicholls

Sarah Jean Alexander

Jenna Clake

Rachel Piercey


Poem in Which They Mine the Sun

They scratch the sun from the ridge
like coal, like scrub-pine knots, like the roof
of Sloan’s Garage, the alley that burns
into a police car, pigeons that saunter
across this small grease pit where you trap them.

Your jacket smolders. It’s like most of the sky
pushed from orbit. It talks to you, then me,
like a news anchor witnessing a camera exploding.

You say your grampa who never mined coal
has black lung, has sciatica, bird-flu, weasels
in his ears. They scratch him out of the ground
to tell you. They scratch us out of the ground
to watch the sun roll backwards like a yellow eye
sucked from an egg.

Clyde Kessler

Poem in which everything remains much the same

the ground still
wet                      underfoot isn’t it

0                                                    a comfort
that the blue light from your television
will be alive on the lid of it all

and isn’t
your chest a little more
0                       swollen, just knowing that

the grass will be no more or less green
or brown          and the coffee will still cool

0                                      too quickly tomorrow

Karl Smith

Poem in which she wears her favourite wedding dress

which is a marriage of sea and birds.
Saints are all about her. Herring and mackerel
flit from the frothing nets of underskirts.
As it drips, the dress has many moods –
more than velvet, more than silk.
It is a ruffled dress, a dress in which to swim,
a dress in which others pray. It is a dress
of some import, a dress which reels
through her arms, covers and uncovers her head.
As the tidal collars retreat, choughs fix their nests
in her windy hair, their bright legs and beaks
ornament. This is a dress for accordians and fiddles.
This is a dress for a storm – a dress of gold and white,
and blue and red, and black. In this dress,
she senses she is half-Christian, believes
in the old names – those she loved,
those she lost – Alef, Cadoc, Dungarth, Salomon.
With the itch against her skin, she lets
the fabric fall, becomes mythology. Landscape.

Katrina Naomi

Poem In Which My Mind Has A Cat Flap

0               a little door for abstract beasts
0              and tumbleweeding questions;
0             for Canada and verve;
0            for whatever eats gates—
0           a flap for for and and and through;
0          for terms like pluffle, skish
0         to enter and pad round rooms,
0        to scratch casually at walls
0       until the house trembles,
0      adjusts itself while I drift
0     across hours, not knowing
0    I’ve been entered, only dimly aware
0   of the slap of the hatch, as if
0  a baleful future had sent word,
0as though the static air
.had blown a kiss.

John McCullough

Poem in Which I Am Not Shortsighted

First: surely myopia is a priestly calling,
where the world falls short in long isinglass halls.
Here souls flit like floaters, intransigent,
and the clear image crystallises forward
of the retina, oracular as a twist in a marble.

Secondly: resolution will never come to pass.
Even the finest lasers freeze at this degree
of negativity. It’s easier to see myself eyeless,
orbits cored and caved. But I am tempted:
I imagine such a poem, and I want in.

Thirdly: short sighting’s a matter of too much,
the whole 3-D backstory, the eye so stretched
it’s water-sculpted as a barrel jellyfish.
At 20:20 it would all be different: my eyes
round as real globes, doll-painted, factory-fresh.

I admit that I woke on a coach without lenses once,
and at 4 am could read the green LED
of the driver’s clock. It was a temporary cure,
but it was fine: the ripping away of cloth;
miracle, with its tinsellish, lottery-win tocsin.

Judy Brown

Poem In Which I Watch Jane Brakhage Give Birth

Baby’s debut in bath water
head crowning and Jane has her mouth open
its as if the first baby of Earth is being born now
it hurts my vagina but it is not my vagina
I clench it shut.

Stan is behind the camera and I wonder
if daddy is missing the whole thing
or if he realises he is daddy yet.
The year is 1958.

I want to name her Agnes but she is not mine
Baby’s head is crowning
it hurts and I clench again.
My mind goes to the black cherries and rice pudding
I had for dessert at lunch.

Baby’s debut and we see the window,
so off to the garden now, off now
Baby is four years old
how fast it all went by
when the film is not even over yet.

Jessica Schouela

Poem in Which A Girl Strays Beyond the Course Material

beyond the course material, the girl would ask the lecturers
how they dress in the mornings whilst
holding the threads
that pull rugs from her feet

at the appointed time
they spit rivulets of Colgate
carving fragile faultlines in the sink:
between criticality
and complicity

she is dawdling on the edge of the course material,
a coarseness leaking over and out

beyond the course material
is the £5 curry bought before the screening*
menu scrawled in the same font as Zero Books publications

beyond the course material
is the honeydew melon bought after the screening
because the white girl wants a sweet escape
without the waistline, purchased in that immaterial safety net:
mohair weave of academic loan

the smize in bakery windows
of a hyped up Marie Antoinette

students complicit
in a circus of suspension
This essay requires:
a tightrope over reality
3cm margins fit for misprision
a carving knife ripe for the carcass
any carcass – please
keep privilege to footnotes,
and submit one myopic sliver
cured & over-seasoned by the end of the week

.                                                         today the tarpaulin revolution
.                                                   folded in                    on itself; the commons
.                                                           collapsed inwards. something
.                                        cellular;                 rhizome in         reverse. fears
.                                               about poetry with an appetite of capital;
.                                                                                                  eating up everything
.                                                                                                            bulimic and gleaming

but on bright mornings splayed on the horizon
& autumn leaves bleed out to our feet
you think maybe words are resistance,
like the commons as sites of oppression
made fertile mud for revolt

the mud that cloys and chokes
is also the sludge that spews life

she is dangerously close to that primordial swamp
it is uttering something inaudible, dumb
back in GMT she tames the only hyper– that’s real
feral –sensitivity passing for grades

on unmarkable days of decreation
it seems a poem is the best of a bad bunch
and a garden
the greatest violence of all

Daisy Lafarge

* A film in which a white man tells Congolese workers to capitalise on poverty, which
provides their greatest source of income. Malnourished children dance around the neon
sneer of Text Art installed in their village that reads: ENJOY POVERTY