Issue 5

Remission & discharge
Mike Bartholomew-Biggs

With symptoms muted by a box of pills,
you’re going home where prospects of a doctor’s
probing latex glove seem less invasive.

Escape commences in a station entrance.
where local casual anger hangs around
with gangs of greasy leather jackets, curl-peaked
baseball caps. Its short infrequent words,
while still unsaid, are shaped by brutal squares
of thinly razored-down moustache and beard.
Its hand, unoccupied by beer, propels
a hard black rubber ball again, again
against a step to catch it bouncing back
erratically, as if dodging logic.

From your paid-for window seat you watch
the trackside cables dip and rise to nod
in reassurance you’ll be getting back
the rights the world’s already granted you
to make smart choices.
If you lose your glasses
you’ll decipher rules and prices badly:
but whatever you half-see you can
half-guess and half-remember what it means
and what you have to do.
      If some can’t read
then what they never knew, they’ll never know.

 

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is poetry editor for London Grip magazine and hence knows as much about dishing out rejections as he does about receiving them.

‘Travel Sickness’ is a four-part sequence based on a harrowing real-life experience as long ago as 2005. After many attempts the two middle-section poems were taken by The High Window in June 2016, but the opening poem entered the Salon of the Refused in autumn last year and now this final part is matching, head held high, in the same direction.

 

Boy Blue
Helen Kay

     I tagged him Boy Blue
After the fix in the taxi rank toilet.
…..No horns blowing then,
Just a bleating siren injecting the dark
…..While I frittered away
Shy as fag smoke, thin as wasted dreams.
…..Unpicking my shock
I hunched on a blistered iron seat
    Outside the A and E
Fists stretching the skint of my pockets.
    I tried to fixate
On the high vis coats and strapped stretchers,
….But only half caught
The slowly dripping wheeze of the dying.
…..Saturday dawn split
Before our Friday night was ended.
……Later, they discharged
Boy blue – just like that! Later still I left,
…..Tried wearing a job,
With ironed shirts, felt lost without him.

 

Helen’s poems have been published in an array of magazines and her debut pamphlet, A Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry, was published in 2015 by Indigo Dreams. She was runner up in the Cheshire High Sherriff’s prize for Literature in 2016.

 

Beaks And Talons
Kitty Coles

For the owls in the heart
death dawns…
                                   Paul Celan, Darkness

They are flying again tonight. The breath
of their wings
is draughty and puckers the blood
into moving furrows.

They are on the hunt.
Their hoots resound in the hollow
beneath the ribs,
throwing echoes out like seeds
which will root and insinuate into the masonry there;
dark leaves
like arrows,
dark creepers hairy as toes.

Their feathers brush the arteries
and their claws,
when they roost in the veins,
grip tight and wound
and smaller twigs break off and fall below.

There are rodents here in the dark.
The heart gives them up:
the dark unpeels
to disclose them,
to the light in the eyes of the owls,
their beaks and talons.

 

‘I liked it when I wrote it but the feeling doesn’t appear to have been shared by others as it’s been submitted to eight different magazines without success!’

Kitty is one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, will be published in August 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com

 

MY PART IN YOUR DOWNFALL
Irene Cunningham

There’s a party brewing,
a celebration with hats and whistles,
paper cups brimming over, banners screaming…

the bloody paint’s still wet
behind the ears of this coupling
All the clichés sing their songs:
the phone’s off, dinner’s in the dog,
I’ve gone to my mother’s.

Down at ground zero
I’ve glued your face to your floor
so I can dance it out of existence.

The cold calls to me like an old friend
who knew I’d be arriving soon.

 

Irene Cunningham is building a platform here: http://ireneintheworld.wixsite.com/writer and has been tidying reckless poems and their offspring for years. This is one of the often-rejected that doesn’t want to disappear.

 

 

Extracts From the Notes and Journals of J. P. Smallbone
Angela Kirby

Due, possibly, to some climatic changes, not yet fully understood, recent
harvests have been remarkable and three species of fish, previously
unknown, spawned in the upper waters of the river Prana,
while their sacred durra evergreens, hitherto thought to be sterile,
this past year have born a number of purple fruit which, after initial fears,
proved to be not just edible but, it seems, highly nutritious –
increased sexual activity being very noticeable of late –

February 3rd   –   eight months gone by already , so much left to do, notes to
………………………………………………………………………………………………………….correlate,
papers for the Society still unfinished – some animal prowls very close –

however, despite the benefits, it seems that problems have arisen – births fall
(the women preferring trade to child care), while the average lifespan now
approaches forty, the likely cause being the unprecedented and abundant
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………riches
of the diet, yet these vigourous people are not accustomed to an ageing
population, there is no provision for it in their culture, most of them
having heretofore died young or in their prime –

March 6th   – my studies with the language continue, but many things still puzzle, it seems they have no word for dying, the phrase going up the mountainbeing used instead …

The leaders tell me that their first thought was to set aside a plot of land
for the elders, some distance from the village and, for a while, it amused the
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..tribe
to watch them – the men growing outsize, uneatable vegetables, the women
content in raising albino doves and rainbow-tailed carp – but now
their endless croaking of ancient songs makes sleep impossible while the stink of Quarenda, a traditional dish of stewed goat brains, beans and bitter
………………………………………………………………………………………………………….herbs,
long abandoned by the rest of the village, is all-pervasive –

April 4th – after a while I thought to understand these people, there being
many similarities, yet so much about them remains strange – my fever returns –

and now the young men grow resentful – the land would be better used
for a school, some say while others ask, why not build a shelter for the sick or
for women during childbirth – though this last idea was, apparently, greeted
with much laughter and, despite the women’s protests, they continue to give
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………birth
in the shallows of the lake, according to long-established custom and natural
                                                                                                                            law –                                                                         
it being maintained that certain traditions are immutable –

May 8th   – thank God the the rains have come, they bring some relief – the first
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..signs
of new foliage – my limbs ache and several teeth grow loose –

As for the sick – it becomes clear that they will be taken up the mountain
and left there, as always, for the gods to take them – though of late, many of
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………them
have protested that the tribal healers, mostly female ( who have highly-developed
skills in the use of chants, herb sand crystals), should be allowed more time –
but this too, was not taken seriously – what else is to be done with such burdens,
people asked – and after all, none had complained before –

 June 3rd … the moon swings up over the mountain – I could swear that in the shadows something moves – nights still chilly, the fire a considerable comfort to
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………me –
the scarlet-throated bird sings on –

the school is another matter – the tribe now believes education to be vital,
and therefore, despite a few practical difficulties, the need to make ever
more-frequent trips up the mountain cannot be ruled out – though at this
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………point
I feel it necessary to record that they regard themselves as exceptionally
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………humane
and, noting my concern, asked if my people arrange things any better –

July 27th – insects very troublesome tonight, heat now insupportable – the meal
has left me queasy – difficulties with concentration – my sores do not heal –

 

‘I wrote this attached poem in 2005 and am still fond of it, but only one other poet really likes it. He thinks it is great!. It has been submitted to various magazines and competitions over the years without success   – possible rightly. It is quite long and I shall neither surprised nor offended it you don’t take it.’

Angela Kirby’s poems have been widely published, won several prizes and commendations including the BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year (twice). Shoestring Press has published her 4 collections

One comment from a rejection letter: ‘I think it may not have found its final form yet, It seems to me to end in a strange place as well. Sort of left hanging… ?’

 

The Ruddy Turnstones
Jimmy Pappas

She holds my hand as we walk
down the beach only to let go

to photograph two ruddy
turnstones. The first one

runs away, camera shy.
The second turns its head

as if to say, This is my
good side, before hustling

off to be with its friend.
She laughs and splashes

her feet in the cold ocean
foam while the spray

and my eyes inch their way
up and down her thighs.

 

‘I am including one poem that has been rejected seven times. I like it because it describes a moment when I walked with my wife on the beach.’

Jimmy Pappas served for the Air Force during the Vietnam War training South Vietnamese soldiers. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Poetry Society of NH.

 

The beeches
Helen Addy

for M.J.H

Even the broken-armed among them
touch their neighbours, the tunnel
not quite long enough but dark,
your lit eyes torching, mine
shuttering each grey torso,
kilts of branches soft against
the verges, taller side by side.

 

Helen Addy’s poems have appeared widely in print and online journals and she has recently completed a tree-lined pamphlet. She feels this wee scrap of a poem has strong roots.

 

Bulrushes for Survival
Ceinwen Haydon

He told me stories
pure bull, bull shit.
Bulbous nonsense.

I asked him, tell me.
The truth is best.
The soft parts?

He told me the fleshy
centre of the bull rush
can be survival food.

The soft parts in the reed
tell true, might be
demystified.

Him, bullish lover, when
scared to shed
husk hurts.

Bulrush mash,
sustains life. Unknotted,
we break our fast,
at one table.

Note: Bulrushes are the ultimate survival food

 

Ceinwen’s stories have been widely published on Fiction on the Web and other sites. Her poems have been published in print and on line.

 

THE MAN IN THE ‘CHINESE ROOM’ *
Norbert Hirschhorn

Brutal, exhausted by breakfast,

locked up in this windowless room by a
neuropsycholinguist

 who’s left me a box of characters
– gold embossed on blocks of wood –

 and a monitor whose screen each morning
reveals questions written in Chinese.

I don’t know Chinese, but I must answer, correctly,
using this codebook with pictures of the characters.

I give them names, so they become
my friends, otherwise I’d go mad.

Here’s one that looks like a man
sitting on a turnstile.

(Good morning, Stile Sitter.)
Perhaps I am mad.

I’ve lost track of time. I feel…
like winter darkness in the woods –

 you think you can see,
but you stumble into cellar holes.

The monitor beeps – asks, ‘What are you thinking,
What are you thinking.’

 My thoughts. My thoughts.
I have to bear down, focus, force words out,

 like a monkey throwing shit from its cage:
sycamore, thistle, rhubarb, tinsel.

 I’m thinking every person deserves to be held.

I ignored the monitor once.
I wasn’t fed for three days.

A piece of me escapes in dreams each night
revealing what life is like, outside.

I remember – a long time ago – springtime
in the gardens of Kew –  

 an old old man, impossibly bent,
who looked up at me, and whispered,
‘It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle.’

What ever comes after this, it’s not this.

*A fantasy based on the thought experiment by philosopher John Searle to show that just because a computer can be programmed to converse in Chinese doesn’t mean it has consciousness. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room

 

‘I don’t want to say how many times it’s be re-written, re-fused, re-surrected; but now to find a good resting place.’

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