Sanjeev Sethi

Dead End

When feted by futurelessness
we marinate in memory.
Those with a robustious present
hardly squint at the quondam.
If they do, it’s on a slow turn
in the whirlpool of wretchedness.

Your parent on the cusp of death
pricks me to call you after a verbose
stretch of silence. Your voice is like
a newsreader. Detailing for the inner
circuitry disallows entry. Some portals
are better padlocked.

© Sanjeev Sethi

 

Magnitude

You’re an emotional Greek fire.
To temper or tamper with your
high pitch calls for collusion.

I am on another sail. Of singing
to the hollow of the sea and encasing
its echoes in wordless chutes.

Those minding the ecological store
won’t evade the mopes like star-crossed
lovers. The perp walk awaits them.

 

© Sanjeev Sethi

Iteration

As your eyes buttonhole me,
I bask
in the languorous positions
my body forms.

The faucet to the fountain of
romantic feelings
that seemed closed for centuries
suddenly revives.

Of such nuggets
I draw nourishment
from the oneiric squad
that fails to dry up on my duvet.

 

 

© Sanjeev Sethi

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

Astrologers

They knew nothing of roulette
but understood the wheel of heaven
turns through slow configurations.
Thoughts they
tossed against it skipped
across revolving skies
and often tumbled into nowhere.

Then fancy fell into a clutch
of stars converging to such brightness
that it pulled them to their feet

to name it and to claim the promise
it must hover over. Watching
wouldn’t do: they started walking,
staking life and reputation
on that single night’s alignment.

Not that stars have much to do
with our affairs: they neither cause
nor prophesy our shifts in fortune.
So the cosmos moved ahead
a few degrees for its own reasons
while their search, beginning
with apparent patterns in the sky
brought them near a focal point
for all celestial paths.

 

Here too
all human histories are watched
and understood – not just as arcs
but utter narratives, complete
yet still continuing through time
elapsing while it’s standing still.

© Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

A little legacy from Antioch

It was there the disciples were first called Christians  Acts 11:26

 

Who can say what folk in Antioch intended
when they picked that nickname small anointed ones?
To indicate a taint of smug self-righteousness?
Or crediting a rare degree of calm and kindness
matched with tolerance that didn’t roll its eyes?

 

It’s odd this one-off label stuck throughout a time
when folk were told that nearly all anointed kings
had royal blood before the oil was poured on them
(and those without made sure to prove their built-in
better-than-all-others claim to climb the throne).

 

It might suggest all Christians have to pass a test
– like squeezing through that parabolic needle’s eye,
or being shaken in a catechism’s sieve –
before approval’s balm is massaged on their brow
by suitably well-qualified examiners.

 

Much better labels are available: disciples,
servants, followers or friends. No previous
experience required – or even relevant.
No fixed-term contracts either nor retirement date
from practising whatever is too hard to preach.

© Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

 

James Owens

Caretaker

 

I am responsible for a magnificent house,
while the wealthy owners are away.
It is many stories tall, its back set
into a bluff beside a fast river 

with stony banks, stripped autumn
branches tossing in a raw wind.
I descend a dizzying exterior stair
along one side of the house, glancing

 

through windows at the pale, yellowish
wood of the walls and at the rich furniture.
My hands shiver, when I think
of the unlikely lives one might live there.

 

At the base of the bluff, the glass doors
look out on the tumbling river.
Despairing, I believe I have lost my key
but find I have merely left it in the lock.

 

(This is the mercy of dreams—the key
is forever lost, but I dream it is still
in the lock.) I go inside, humming,
turning on lights. The rooms know me.

© James Owens

 

the pilgrim

death walked the road inside her
cherry petals flying all about
softly on the shadow that was his breath
on the shadow under his wanderer’s cloak

she kept asking him
what does it mean
this world where cherry petals
fly like the abandoned dreams of migrating songbirds

what is it
to have this shape
when these petals
scatter my pulse to the wind

but death had strayed too deep
to remember this world
or the teahouse
of their last words together

his beggar’s bowl
filled slowly
with the drift
of snowy petals

© James Owens

J.S. Watts

Waiting Time

(Sometime during 2020-2021)

 

There’s a Lou Reed vibe to this whole thing.
Maybe it’s the grim urban setting
me in my parked car in the cold
concrete box of this uptown car park
where time wanders off bored looking to score
leaving me to stare at the black leather steering wheel
hanging while life finds direction again.

I’m just waiting for my jab
struggling to remember when
words had music to pulse forward to.
I’ve lost the thought-framed melody
I was chasing as I fell asleep.
There is no dance to this line.
The words strike flat.

Advice is to follow the flow
let thought take you as it wants
but this line isn’t shooting sweet
is waiting for something to happen
but something is taking an afternoon siesta
or maybe it’s a year-long hibernation.
Time is much the same at the moment.

I turned up too early and this is what early does
eats up time you already can’t spare
because life has just eaten a whole year
and may choose to eat more
if you let it
if you aren’t careful, they say
if tomorrow’s just some other time.

© J.S. Watts

 

Making My Bed

 

A slow open hand slides across cooling cotton
chasing raised wrinkles from the crumpled white
persuading, kneading, smoothing
like spreading soft butter-cream icing
over freshly baked sponge
fingers painstakingly caressing away the creases
and all complications of thought
over and over and over and over.

Next I plump the pillows into leavened fullness
wafts of breeze-fresh laundry at the beginning
the cloying musk of humanity just before
the next sheet change. A routine established
to chase unkempt decadence at bay
started when I was unable to rush
into a morning without a backwards glance
when quarantined time was there to be filled safely.

Now my gaze is fixed on the bedding
my thoughts bleached as blank as white linen sheets
lost to repetition and sliding flatly towards tedium
the daily mind melt. Not even
the faint weave of the cotton against my dry palms
can bring me back. I tug
the upper sheet sharply into a divide across the pillows
a reverse underlining of domestic exactitude.

Tomorrow I will make these moves again
and the tomorrow after and after that
stretching into the future
like infinitely taut linens.
I cling to the routine despite gnawing boredom
for fear of sudden unexpected alternatives.
For now, at least,
I sleep well at nights.

© J.S. Watts

Not A Paper Doll Poem

No paper dolls were bought, sold or exchanged
in the making of this poem.
This is not, in fact, a paper doll poem
though you might think it is.
There are similarities.

When small I didn’t need an imaginary friend.
I had dolls of stitched cloth and butterfly-bright plastic.
Innocent blue eyes, kissable cherry lips
and a beautiful black baby who looked back at me
with my own dark stare. I played
at happy families and romantic intrigues.
I talked to them.
Most didn’t talk to me.

Growing older I fancied I’d a lover I could call my own,
a real life friend, with the emphasis on real,
shining blue eyes, passionately enticing lips
but words either spoken or written
are not automatically true.
For years I lived inside our fevered fantasy.
It is surprising how many contradictions
a person can believe without trying
though maybe it isn’t.

Dreams entrusted to paper.
Row on row lying flat
flimsy as tissue paper
torn and shredded as love.
The dry rustle of crumpled, thrown away opportunities
origami butterflies blown away on a gust
a papier-mâché heart lost to tears.
One of us always clinging to a blank page.

Reality is fickle. This is not.
I imagine him perfect, dark brown eyes
a lover to call mine.
I only have to reach out to find him
in my thoughts reaching back to me.
Someone to love while my heart beats.
Sturdy support in uncertain times
smiles in times of sadness
the gentlest of touches.
At night firm careful hands press my skin.
He dreamed me warm one winter
will cradle me through the next.
In my mind we walk a different country
a place of might have beens, maybes and might still bes.

Is this too surreal?
What more do you want?
My head space is secret
my precious concealments
mine to keep.
Is love flesh stroking eager thoughtless flesh
or believing yourself truly cared for?
Is a poem words
or the sounds of words
or the hidden echoes of words?
Lovers like paper butterflies
tumble down the breeze.

© J.S. Watts

Peepshow

I have come across lauded American poets
Publicly doing this
Stringing together phrases
That sometimes flow seductively & meaningfully
Sometimes leave you
Sucking on warm pineapple juice
So thick it makes you gag
Capitalizing all line starts because
America is so Big &
Introducing line
Breaks unexpectedly whilst eschewing
Punctuation Oh Lordy yes!
They’re hoping on the down low
For augmented frisson
An intimate connection to the reader
So the poetry will peek out
Between blousy lines
Like an unplanned clothing malfunction
Will wave enticingly seducing
You to peer underneath & between for meaning
Feeling excited & a little bit dirty
At the same time.

© J.S. Watts

Gridiron Flow

Stasis. 

               Starting from a point of stoppage. 

Greying tangled cobweb knots
old hairs caught
in the dry bristles of an old brush
holding on, holding back, tethering and tightening.

How to shed them
             flow forward into freedom.


Like letting stale straggling selves go. 


Accelerate so flakes fall
…..    way back behind
…………….like discarded soiled underwear
…………………….from a split broken suitcase.

Accelerate, unhitch
     the world plunging past
         smeared muddy rainbows of once upon a time colour
              wants, learned scripts, failed futile controls
                    layer after brown stinking onion layer
                         dropping away into history’s compost.

Pour onward into sundown’s transitory glow
            already dawn elsewhere.
………………..The freedom of nothing
………………………..framed golden by now
                              Immerse. Evaporate.
………………………………………………Blaze.

 

© J.S. Watts

John Short

THE SMOKERS

 

A routine medical satisfactory,
strong lungs, they noted.
Lucky to survive undamaged
from times when no one thought:
a child sent down the road
for hours out of the family hair
to a house thick with clouds
of greyish blue, song birds’ twitter
and dogs that circled the yard.

 

Ancient visitors who dropped in
would come at you prodding
with the weird extremities
of their thin, abandoned auras;
held me terrified with tales
until it was time for tea and time
to say goodbye, then emerge
from unfamiliar aromas,
cobwebbed history into light.

© John Short

Tom Barwell

josephine and the kirk

storm josephine
blew in the circular stained glass
of the local clachan kirk –
it used to show a miracle,
but crashed to modern art –
a flying iris, tumbled onto the altar,
scattering its wealth
over the stone-flagged floor.

a parishioner phoned it in,
having witnessed on a walk,
cyclops roving where
a young god once stood,
and a collared, crooked man
clacked open the kirk with an
iron key, and stood,
arrested in the aisle.

not daring to approach,
the coloured shards, spread
like petals from another universe
over rumpled cloth, onto
two worn steps, and the sweet-tasting
space where the word of God was translated
to an absent congregation.

wedding confetti, showered from a dove.
a pagan pinata, split
by its assault upon the cross,
which lay reclined, sleek on
the altar, a wink of gold.

a creature of wonder, he
took out his iphone, turning it for once
to landscape mode, portrait being momentarily
philistine, given the breadth of what
confronted him: was chaos even
real?

if only he could illuminate the scene
from below, then every shard would
sing brilliance, exactly in the place
it had fallen.

perhaps an algorithm, created by a
spanish phd could map
the exact spray of these divine blood
drops, every gem’s glint, the
ruffles in the altar cloth, the lay of
the cross, the untouched waxen,
vigilant disciples.

a shrine, he realized, a pieta
open for doves to roost, and bats to
congregate in the rafters.
a nascent pilgrim site,
roped off in burgundy,
crumbling into time.

he dreamt that night in patches, of
clanking scaffold and ladders, the
screech of woodsaws and
agony, hammering nails, and
awoke to a text from the diocese:
sad face. sent the clean-up crew.

© Tom Barwell

the parrot and the submarine

  

on the god topic,

you believe in submarines, and i was talking about
…………………………………………………………………………………….parrots

it’s…do you know what i mean by parrot?
………………………………………………………….no                 not the grey one,
though i do like the colours.

 

i nod.  i have no idea. do you know what i mean by nod? 

 

………………………………………………….i’ve lost my feathers. 


i say i see hieroglyphics emanating out of their

 

……………………………………………………………………..faucets, their exhausts,

 

                   and i love them for that, but they’re echoes, not poets.

 

                            you move beneath, under ice-caps, smooth passage

 

                                                       …you mean you say, no

creature can survive a journey into the abstract intact, 

 

                                    definition sees to that. that’s why words trail fishhooks:
to catch reality.

 

the nuclear hull comes through sea ice

                                                   after a day targeting the first number. 

we see its snout and

 

                                     we have reached quantum settlement where

                                                               those thighs birth,

a ledge defying the maw, where our two beings

                            stand, tangible in paroxysms

                                                                                                              knowing there is no way,

 

no way at all, nothing sane about any of it, especially us: the

                                                 cacophony is a pretence of normalcy.

 

                                                                       overhead,

 

under a starscape, the silent mutterings of a passing submarine,

                   and deep below the crunch of our shuffling feet,

 

                                    a fleet of colourful birds submerges into ice and cloud…

 

© Tom Barwell

Gordon Scapens

RETURN VISIT

The map says
I’m a stranger,

and the streets say
I’m somewhere else.

The house has an attitude
that leaving brings,

and the people have an accent
that doesn’t include me.

The answer to today
is asking questions,

and I feel I’m on the edge
of being haunted.

The day is a jigsaw
of broken poetry.

 

© Gordon Scapens

EXIT  LEARNING CURVE

When you call for me
with your beautiful lies
I’ll be ready if not certain.

You’ll read me like a window
that’s well within your reach
but not showing any light
when it’s as relevant
as yesterday’s wasted promises.

There’s no handbook exists
with rules for this occasion,
so I don’t know the protocol
for a unique situation,
but don’t boast your ability
until the appointed time.

Then just knock without fuss
to disturb nobody but me.
We will go quietly, unburdened,
hopefully in the small hours.

At this special time
I will walk with you,
the end reflected in my eyes,
and the expression on your face
will say all that’s needed.

There will be no turning back then
and there’ll be nothing to hear
but the air growing cold,
taking away all sorrows,
taking away loneliness.

© Gordon Scapens

LOSING A CITY

Do you remember  Liverpool;

that used to belong to us
in a time long before
we gathered prejudices;

how thronging streets
would seduce our ears
with a famous accent;

when buses ferried the wind
and the tang of seaweed
from the river for free;

how buildings explained
the theatre of city evolvement
to Liver Bird spectators;

the haunts that still gather
our ghosts of yesteryear,
pointing out our absences;

where roots still thrive
in a compost of echoes
that look like us,

collecting time
like a skin
that looks like our dues,

and gifting a reminder
Liverpool is not ours anymore,
we only borrow it.

© Gordon Scapens

WORDS NEVER SAID

Nobody’s girlfriend,
everyone’s lover,
she was a red carpet
to a night that taught
the art of being the lead
in your own life.

Always available, inflating
hellos with hinted excitement
and goodbyes with promises,
her warmth made the difference
between hope and fulfilment,
performed miracles of boys to men.

She never awarded criticism,
never praised actions,
any secrets were hers to keep.

But nobody ever knew
the effort for her smiles,
ever knew the speech
in the silence she saved,
ever undertook the step
of knowing who she was really  was.

They understand now.
She left a note.

© Gordon Scapens