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Carolyn Oulton

Shaggy Dog Story for Teenagers

That living for the moment
meant I wasn’t surprised
by the state of your bedroom,
Melissa. Tom, I haven’t
opened your window. I’m not
promising anything.
Just so you know.

Soon you’ll start to judge
people and things
you weren’t asked to (at least
going by my diary, or the boy
who asked in that Now I’ve lost
all respect for you way)
how I could show it as history.

One day June, by now
in a care home,
will tell a stranger
she never helped her mother
(which can’t be true).
That she played in the woods
(which almost certainly is).

Sylvia we know will jump
seventy years post war
at the sound of a bell.
She will perhaps forget
saying this. In the end
she will close her eyes,
wake when I stop reading.

But boy who patronised me,
children of my own
actually using words
that belonged to us first –
I’ll tell you something.
[This is the one that ends,
I can’t tell you yet, because]…

 

Carolyn Oulton teaches Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University. She is also a Victorianist and rescuer of obscure books that were probably never intended to survive. Her most recent poetry collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple.

 

Alison Campbell

Animals have ruined my life

The Manx cat that cost a fortune to neuter.
The French poodle that needed
intricate clipping, a shampoo & blowdry.
Later I put my foot down –
a smooth haired guinea pig, Elvis,
from the Animal Shelter.  A dear
thing.  We even took him on holiday
to some wild sandy beach, thinking
of fresh air and exercise.
(Better than the open spiral
staircase in the city garden –
he sometimes scrabbled up a single
step.  We had nightmare visions
of him falling, so confined him
to his hutch.)
It was June – we smuggled him
into the Norfolk B&B.  It was windy
that week – his downfall.
A rogue wave dragged at the flimsy
wire run.  Washed it away while we
played frisbee on the dunes.
Only a few claw marks
left on the sand.

In my dreams
Elvis can swim.

 

Alison Campbell is a school counsellor from Aberdeen living in London. Her poetry has been published in Obsessed with Pipework, The Curlew, commended in the Barnet Poetry competition 2018 and shortlisted in the Segora poetry competition 2018.

Nigel King

Applecore Sam Takes a Walk

Death takes Sam by the arm;
they promenade like Regency dandies
along the inner ring road.

Think of all the ways I could have you
says Death: a stumble
in front of a Ukrainian truck
its driver hollow-eyed,
five days out from Kiev;
a nail piercing the rotted sole
of your boot, the wound untended,
turned septic.

Death puts a hand on Sam’s shoulder.
He shrugs it off.

Why not choose a simple way?
A shop doorway on a frozen January night.
And you with so much less to lose than most:
that heart I clutched in the golf club bar,
that spine I snapped at the wheel
of a new Mercedes.

But Sam has halted and stands
near the market steps,
transfixed by a column of ants
bearing fragments of pizza crust
through a crack in a wall.

Death taps a foot, glances
at his half-hunter,
mutters
another time!
spins on his heel, strides off,
his silver-tipped cane clicking
towards the corner of Zetland Street.
Behind him
pigeons fall from the skies.

 

Nigel King lives in Almondbury, Huddersfield, but originates from the badlands of South Essex. Growing up there, obsessed with Science Fiction and unimpressed by Ford Cortinas or Margaret Thatcher, had a lasting influence on him and his work. His poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in: Poetry Salzburg Review, The High Window, Three Drops from a Cauldron, The Dawntreader and The Poetry Village. His first collection, What I Love About Daleks, was published in 2017 by Calder Valley Poetry.

 

Anne Mikusinski

Afterparty

I watch you study
The token
Resting
In the nest
Of your hand
As if it can be read.
Around me
The world stops
Except for all the
Real
Words inside
Clicking against each other
Like dice thrown
On a table
This is how I press my luck tonight.
And when you look up
To play your wild card
I fold
And meet you halfway.
All bets are off.

 

Anne Mikusinski has been writing poetry and short stories since she was seven years old and most probably making them up long before she could hold a pen or pencil in her hand.
She finds inspiration in music and art, and sometimes, even little things that happen every day. Her influences range from Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas to David Byrne and Nick Cave, and she hopes one day, her work will inspire others in the same way these writers have been an inspiration to her.

Johanna Boal

When I Have Eaten Wolf

I always like a bit more salt when I cook Wolf!?
I don’t mean a large saucepan of boiling water like the story – The Three Little Pigs
I’m talking about salt in terms of preservation – respect for the Wolf.

Its highly social structures of ranking like a nuclear family
establishing territories far more than it needs to survive. The wolf is a stalker,
a nuisance, powers of endurance follow their target day and night.

Its octave, the spine-tingling howl, creepy an almost sound of out of tune
in the wilderness; bears sleep in the deep forest and mountains,
the legendary Wolf high up on the food chain is not afraid.

A cooked-up story; historically tried by people and burnt at the stake
for its intelligence and flexibility, and I relish in the Wolf,
notorious villain of fables and fairy stories that outwitted man.

 

Johanna lives in East Yorkshire and works in the libraries for the East Riding Council. She has been widely published with poems featuring in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The High Window, Poetry Space and more. Johanna’s debut pamphlet is published by Poetry Space, Bristol.

R. Gerry Fabian

To Ladies Cauterized By Poets

Okay Caitlin –
So they found him dead drunk in a gutter –
A “leftover life to kill”.
But wait a minute –
Does the rain fall down on his grave?
Of course,
so
the earth sucks his strength.

You know it’s more than just lust words
in a strange combination of beauty.
They make us be the words.
And when the wheel of chance
falls upon obscure creations
we don’t know any better
than to claim the sallow prize.

Post evening always turns gray
with dawn all too obvious.
In that hour before birds sing
A rust colored hue says.
“ You don’t grow up – you grow tired.”

But worst of all
is a goodbye in the form of a letter
because the words are dry
and at least three days old.

 

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor.  He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines. His web page is https://rgerryfabian.wordpress.com

He is the editor of Raw Dog Press https://rawdogpress.wordpress.com

His novels, Memphis Masquerade , Getting Lucky (The Story) and Seventh Sense,. are available at Smashwords and all other ebook publishers. His first book of published poems Parallels is available as an ebook and as a paperback at all major bookstores and on Amazon. His second book of published poems, Coming Out Of The Atlantic is slated for publication in 2019.

 

DS Maolalai

Visiting Edinburgh

the city smelled
of biscuits and roasted oats
which I thought
smelled the same – hops
burning in the brewery
apparently. I was there
with a girlfriend,
enjoying the hilly streets,
enjoying
bars
and the hops
between coffee shops.

love
came out of every alley
like a fox
and we kissed
while we waited for the train.

one night
we talked about
bricking the shop that had fired her;
decided against it. instead
just went for
another drink
and met
some more of her friends
whose names
I no longer remember
and don’t have to
anymore.

 

DS Maolalai is a poet from Ireland who has been writing and publishing poetry for almost 10 years. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press, and he has a second collection forthcoming from Turas Press in 2019. He has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize.