The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 10 ” Portraits”

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A Portrait of my Daughter
(a cheap one from a photo booth on the front
)
by Gill Lambert

I wonder where she came from, this woman child
with a body that can’t have come from mine.
Thirteen has brought the Blackpool out in her,
switching on electric sunshine, a kaleidoscopic
roller coaster, black to bright lights, with a smile
as transient as candy floss. She raises
a perfect eyebrow, in an hour goes from waif
to jail-bait, from out-of-season-dull to a Funny Girl
who’s on the pull. She’s neon, plastic, fairy lights
and glitter, with a little bit too much front.

……………………………………………………………………..******

Selfless
by Gill Lambert

Make sure all you leave’s not just a pout,
your filtered features, gazing out,
into the middle distance.
Stop staring at yourself in monochrome,
with garlands around your head, or devil horns.
with ‘look at me’ insistence.
Do things, instead, that will improve your mood,
not just believing you always look good,
or cooly enigmatic.
If what you say is worthwhile being heard,
it’ll echo back through other people’s words
leaving a legacy not quite so static.

……………………………………………………………………*****

Written in the Sky
by Lynn Valentine

You have a star up there,
a month of decisions to christen
the already dead planet. We cluster
round that name, remember
your joy in the careful deliberations
as you turned towards the dark.

I see you there on clear nights,
dusting each silver speck,
aligning each constellation to your own
satisfaction. Your shadow falling
from the Glens to the sea. Shells
in your pockets and forget-me-nots for eyes.

………………………………………………………………………………*****

all the wreckage carved
by Linda M. Crate

the portraits
never show
how you always
blamed me
for everything
or how i always had
to walk on eggshells
because heaven forbid
if i ever rocked the boat,
and the portraits don’t show
how you hurt me
or how you used your tongue
as a sword;
they don’t show how much
i resented hearing
you were a good man
when you were not a good one to
me—
you are kind now,
but that doesn’t erase all the tomes
of pain
that i was never allowed to express
in my private journals or in photographs;
doesn’t make everything okay
it’s why i use silence
to distance myself from you
so my heart can finally know how to heal
from all the wreckage
you carved into my heart.

…………………………………………………………………………………..*****

no longer here
by Linda M. Crate

in the picture
there is some of my awkwardness,
but not all of it;
a playfulness i don’t always
express in laughter and disbelief—
yet it doesn’t show
all the times
you let me down
or the ways you bullied me
how you called me sister
simply so i would
remain
where you wanted me,
but not because you truly meant it;
it doesn’t show how you would badmouth
your date at a latter time
or how you would nag me at all the wrong moments
refusing to accept my boundaries
or my work—
i will treasure the moments we shared in my past
sometimes,
but i will not miss the bickering and fighting;
and all the stupid misunderstandings and grudges
you held over petty things
i won’t miss you—
the door is closed, the past is gone,
and i am glad you’re no longer here.

……………………………………………………………………………..*****

maybe i deserve that
by Linda M. Crate

the portrait
doesn’t show
how our friendship
disappeared
because our smiles
are so wide
that the universe didn’t even
see that coming,
but sometimes the people we love
the most are perfectly wrong
for us;
maybe that’s why when you said
it was all right
that it really wasn’t—
i resent that misunderstanding every day
knowing no matter how many
times i apologize
it will never make up for whatever i
fractured inside of you
that day,
but i miss you as i have missed you
all these years;
once we were friends but now we are ghosts
and maybe i deserve that—
i still miss you.

………………………………………………………………………………….*****

A Portrait on a House-Skin
by Caroline Hardaker

The house-skins are brushed with a master’s precision,
in a portrait of a greater house, the horizon.
One belly of a room becomes the sun;
the earthworm curves of peripheral hills,
the humps of still hips – a family together,
and the ink of moon dripping on a mud flat.
All of this painted in stained glass, hatched
by drinn-grass dropped from the back of a pack-mule,
the mule’s hoof-prints, flecks of sand-shine
in sandals. A gap in the face of it –
a dark cartouche is rimmed with lips of grey clay.
It hums a truth set in harlequins,
the facets cut and polished to turn a rock to ruby.

A cow plods out of this mouth
and leans on one illustrated wall
as a sister would on her sister after a deep sharing.
Her body full of songs, heavy with cream,
arms around shoulder-ridges like children.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Little Shoe
by Caroline Hardaker

It shone – a world on a little satin thing
poking through the rose of wrinkled Tyvek;
a ruby to slip a lily into.
Lifting it from the case, I sat it on one cottoned palm,
fingers fanning beneath like a lark’s wing around an egg
or a teacup, stitched from sun-silk
and curving to a point slim enough to sit through
the thumb-loop of a girl
just beginning to learn the art of painting
a sky she touched in childhood.
All her favourite garden sights;
bluebirds, tamed hoopoes, palm-swifts
in the peach of a blushing cheek and perching proudly
amongst trickling vines in lagoon azure,
and cloud-like lotus flowers – falling in a white flush
of flocking doves,
swooping on the whistle-crack of wind
up from the stone floor. Scenes from before

her life of little stitches, little shuffling steps on fists of flesh
in groups of golden lilies tipped with red
and ever-held together by hands grasping her sisters’ sleeves.
Tied in this amorphous knot of quiet,
each face meets another mouthing the name
inked in a bird’s nest of expressionist strokes
hidden inside her shoes.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

Portrait of a Lady and Her Dog
by Gareth Writer-Davies
there must have been
a deal
to have the dog in the portrait

with a winning cock of the head
the mutt
sits

as his mistress holds the pose
(upon a cushion)

I imagine
the dog was hand-fed grapes (for his instruction)

she
looks out from the portrait
also to the side

the painter knew where love lay
that art cleaves to money like a flea

From his collection The Lover’s Pinch (Arenig Press)

………………………………………………………………………………..*****

A Portrait of His Wife
by Sithuraj Ponraj

Then there is the story of the Maharajah of Jaisalmer who ordered the celebrated artist Mosum Begh to paint a portrait of his favourite dancing girl, a courtesan from Kashmir. Begh painted the portrait, mixing precious stones – diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires – and other rare minerals into his paints, for the seventeen-year old Sithara was exceedingly beautiful.

When the portrait was done the Maharajah studied it for a few hours with tears in his eyes before pronouncing himself satisfied. He then ordered his soldiers to bind the dancing girl with strips of fine linen dipped in the rarest aromatic scents and set alight – for he suspected her of having been unfaithful, having accepted an exquisite sweet in private from a visiting Turkish ambassador, a tall and handsome man. The Maharajah watched from his throne as Sithara the dancing girl, dressed in her finest silk clothes, dissolved in the hungry orange flames – disappearing into a blaze of perfume and colour.

Father told the story over breakfast, as we sat around him on the living-room floor of our old tworoom apartment. Mother was in the tiny kitchen next to the living-room ringing up toasts almost burned black, the coils in the old toaster hissing with disapproval. She chided Father in a low voice as she bent over his shoulder to replenish the fast emptying slices of bread in the large, chipped plate before us. Stop telling the children such violent stories. Father smiled as he shaved long hard curls of margarine from the open can in front of him with a butter knife and spread the margarine on the bread slices in his hand. He then broke off little pieces of bread and passed them to my sisters, and then bit into a large chunk of bread, the sides of his mouth now thick with yellow margarine.

Father was tired in the morning after night shift as a security guard downtown at a large Japanese bank. He was leaning back on the palms of his hands as he sat cross-legged on the floor, his eyes bloodshot with fatigue, blue uniform shirt criss-crossed with insignia and badges stained with dark perspiration – smelling of cheap cigarettes, coffee made with condensed milk and crowded early morning bus-rides. This was how he sat as he told us stories of old kings, magicians and noble prostitutes and dancing girls in his rich baritone voice each morning.

Sometimes we caught Mother listening to Father’s stories as she stood by the toaster, her face relaxed into a half-smile as she pried out slices of toast stuck in the old toaster with a fork.

We never heard our parents have an intimate conversation. Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was forty-nine. Father stopped telling us stories. We would wake up in the morning to find him sitting next to our Mother in the two-seater sofa in the living room. He, in his sweat-stained uniform – and she, clutching her left breast as if she were nursing us again. Their heads would be bowed close to each other as they whispered to each other in low voices. Father would then change out of his uniform and accompany Mother back to town for her chemotherapy. They talk in low tones as they leave, shuffling slowly next to each other down the long corridor outside our flat.

It was around this time that Father took out the dusty, old saxophone from the cupboard at the back of the living room. He walked around the living room fiddling with the pearl-topped keys of the saxophone, his mouth sucking on a hardened old reed, willing his saliva to soften it quickly. He then fixed the reed and hoisted the saxophone to his mouth, tentatively playing a few notes – loud, full of smoker’s cough, squeaky. Father had played the saxophone in a radio orchestra before he married Mother. Radio orchestras had uncertain hours and Father’s work as a security guard did not allow him to continue playing. Mother was lying motionless on the sofa, her once luxuriant hair now sparse.
The chemo session had sucked energy from her.

Father then opened an old exercise book and use a ball-point pen to carefully record down every note he played. Crotchets, semi-breves and breves, with lots of silence. He did this every day when Mother came home from her chemotherapy. It was only after we saw him glancing at Mother that my sisters and I realised that Father was painting a portrait of Mother through his music and writing her down, note by note.

A series of cascading triplets ending in brassy glissandos represented the time when they stole away from the watchful eyes of her father, a stern-faced grocer with thick spectacles who ran a provision shop near the old British naval base. The old grocer hated Father because he was the son of an Indian latrine cleaner and was poor.

A deep, throaty adagio for the time Mother lost their first son – my older brother – in a sudden miscarriage in the third trimester. Mother often stayed up late at night when we were growing up, looking at the tiny infant clothes she had placed – folded neatly – next to the family altar, a perpetual shrine to her first-born.

Deep glides and syncopated beats for all the times she would tousle his hair with a smile, as he sat eating bread thick with margarine, his mouth full of old stories.

Mother died very soon after she was diagnosed. The illness was too far gone. Our parents had never taken a photograph together. On the night after we cremated her, Father took out the saxophone and carefully played out the notes he had written on his exercise book for hours. And after that night, although he would very often open the exercise book and run his wrinkled old fingers on the lines and lines of musical notations in faded blue ink, Father never played the saxophone again.

……………………………………………………………………………………*****

Bedroom, Arles
after the painting ‘Vincent’s Bedroom In Arles’ Van Gogh
By Nigel Hutchingson

Inventory:

two rush-seated chairs, small table,
heavy wooden bed, coat hooks,
five paintings, mirror, window;

colour scheme:

cool blue walls, yellow chairs,
pale green floor, red bedcover,
lemon windows, violet stillness;

materials:

wood, plaster,
straw, cotton;
glass, paint;

composition:

bed against a wall,
chair opposite, window facing,
table in corner;

atmosphere:

quiet,
modest,
ordered;

outside:

trees like flames,
clouds rolling,
storm approaching.

………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Pushkin
by Peter Clive

A shooting star thinks it’s an only child,
glimpsed bright and brief alone some moonless night,
then gone before a sibling from the sky,
companion of the star, sharing its flight,
refutes the lonely aspect of its light.

Stray, feral, hybrid, huge, wild or half-wild,
unsuitable to obtain for a child,
my father chose you from a stray cat’s brood
which otherwise was meek and cute and mild,
the least amenable to love, most bitter,
the untamed savage, fiercest of the litter,
and we rejoiced in your blood thirsty mood.

We fed you to prevent you eating us,
placating you with a can of whiskas,
and anyone who stroked you would receive
a mauling that required some stitches.
We’d warn visitors “withdraw your hand”
if they’d reach out without wearing a glove.
You didn’t mind if the meat was not canned,
while we did not enjoy the sight of blood.

Peerless you prowled, burning in the night.
You granted birds and rodents no respite,
and in the morning we could not ignore
the carnage that you left at our back door.
The local dogs fell under your control,
after you mauled them if, on your patrol,
they failed to bow to the top carnivore.

One day you could not go on any more.
I saw you as you struggled to draw breath,
all strength departed, yet defying death,
with undiminished will. The stuff of yore.

I felt you pass, and with it, all stars set
forever past horizons in the west,
announced the end of days in my sad heart,
a congregation of lost shooting stars.
You were much more than a beloved pet.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Eimhir
by Peter Clive

The world could not survive
the undiminished presence
of a beauty so luminous,
so incandescent and startling,
as yours.

A visitation from a perfect world
and a prisoner in this one,
your beauty reminds the world
that it is ugly and overcome
in every comparison with you.

That is the only sense I can make
of what would otherwise be made
more cruel by being arbitrary:
the world’s impositions on you.

Let me pretend there is a purpose
to the way the world curbs its exposure
to the beauty behind the mist
it wraps around your mind
to protect itself.

Let me pretend there is a purpose
to the weight it hangs on you
to fatigue your limbs
and exhaust their strength.

Let me pretend there is a purpose
to the way the world tries to limit
what is seen of the singular beauty
that exposes all its ugliness,

for if you are possible
who would not want to dwell
forever on your countenance
and forsake the world altogether?

I know this pretence of mine
offers you no relief
other than perhaps the knowledge
that you have been seen and recognised.

I promise one day that will be enough,
and I will rejoice
as the world entire burns down
after one single glimpse
of your undimmed radiance.

……………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Lady of the House
after Sylvia Plath’s “An Appearance”
by Lisa DeSiro

Veneer of domesticity,
devoted wife and mother.
You cook and clean and

keep the ice
-box filled,
the milk chilled. If this is

your voice, to whom
are you speaking, to
whom declaring love?

The typewriter keys
kiss your fingertips,
lips spewing syllables.

The sewing machine
spools thread, red
as blood,

a fabric flood.
Unlike you,
I have

no husband or children.
My refrigerator growls
like an empty stomach.

My microwave beeps
like a truck backing up.
I don’t wear an apron

when I bake in the oven,
boil or sauté on the stove.
But at least my kitchen has

a carbon monoxide detector.

………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

In Orana Maria 1891 by Gauguin
by Mark Hudson

Gauguin was tormented by the islands
But his paintbrush never faltered
Through agonized stroke after stroke
He captured natives in full array
Skin colors mixed with dabbles of paint
Yellow, brown, and orange texture
Born to paint in the South Seas
What if he never left his family to paint?
In his life he must’ve seemed rather odd,
Irresponsible to leave his family behind
But his work has outlasted the natives
Immortal beyond what photography could do
The fruits look good enough to eat
Could man invent edible paint?
It could just as well be Howard Street in Chicago
The faces wouldn’t look less familiar to me.

……………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Tempest
After Oskar Kokoschka’s painting, 1914
by Mantz Yorke

You lie asleep, naked,
on your lips
the hint of a smile.

This balmy night
I too am naked,
turning over and over
in my mind
a vision of shipwreck –
our bed a raft
tossed by a rising sea,
and my clinging
fingers weakening
as breaking waves
sweep over us.

I imagine you floating
on a deep blue lake,
so serene
it mirrors land
we once inhabited.
I need you
to tell me your secret –
how you can sleep
so contentedly
when I am restless
and about to drown.

………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Not Just a Pretty Face
‘Self-portrait of Me Now in Mask’ by Gillian Wearing (2011)

by Jean Morris

You lot are all such suckers for a pretty face,
so have a look at mine. Here, in classic
three-quarter pose against renaissance blue
and framed in gold, my heavy, shiny hair
casting a shadow on my white neck, my wry
and rosy cupid’s bow, retroussé nose,
doe eyes, I look quite like one of those nice
old paintings until you get closer, see the join
and feel the jolt… the shattering surface
sucking you into my blue, my shark-infested sea…

………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Two Heads
Fragment from a lost painting by Nicolas Poussin (1626-7?)
by Jean Morris

……….her face three quarters life-size …………..frowning a little
looking down ………..while the other …………….just behind her
stares fixedly upwards and out of the painting …………….the past
is a far-off country …………how many lifetimes ago? ……….a dozen?
lives back then were often short………… imagine
a woman running a rusty nail an unchecked infection
yet these two ……….light glancing across their flushed cheeks
and softly dressed hair ……….are eternally familiar
their quiet breathing here on the gallery wall in picture time

…………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

What I love about Suzanne Valadon
by Jean Morris

is in every last painting
of her tough, unsmiling mother
and troubled artist son,
the evidently feisty women
who modelled for her,
interesting chaps she fancied
(here’s André, the much
younger husband)…
her adored cats, especially
the ginger one, Raminou,
even those gorgeous flowers
in curvaceous vases
brought out to brighten up
her more downhearted days…
like Suzanne herself,
they all explode with life

………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Supporting Actor
It takes grace to play the second fiddle well ‘Strife Knot’, The Fall
by Matt Bryden

My friend tells me it’s the second guy,
not Travis, but the married brother
at ease in his own image

the character actor who only gets
his name above a picture at 76
alongside an Oscar nomination,

the one who carries the family,
whose back of the hand
bustles open a drape to turn

the winch of the clothes airer
rather than slap a woman’s cheek,
runs water,

or while appreciating the curls
that hang low on the dusky brunette,
collects a child by the white picket fence,

only to jog across a sunset it took all day
to establish, hold court in an American bar
and order well – might attempt

to engage the chanteuse
before giving it up and suggesting a chaser,
a snapshot in his wallet of his wife and babies,

each time knowing the cost on the battery,
this guy the guy
who has something to tell me.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Maxims
taken from Wadjda, directed by Saudi film-maker Haifaa al-Mansour

by Matt Bryden

a woman’s voice is her nakedness

it’s true – in the computer room past 12
your sigh, your yawn

it’s like we curl up together
complicit and intent,
then exit separately through turnstiles

respectable girls go out of the sight of men

and it’s true, the fascination of the separate –
Rastafarians keeping a three-day fire,
women in their incarnadine tent

cats that keep to the harbour-side
one ear, one eye – a tattered cast
fetched upon a pebble shore

Pythagoras’s triangle is a theorem of God

and it’s true you cannot race me on my own vehicle

you, ‘just a mixture of forests
and swamps and red rivers
populated by enormous beasts which eat each other’

could have no better lover
than the neighbour’s son, drawn
to your headstrong challenge to every rule

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..******

Slight
for Paul Scofield
by Matt Bryden

Shouldn’t he, you wonder, have entertained
the entrance of the fish-eaters to his dressing room,
loved a little more their ringlets of (oiled) hair,
the folds of tissue-paper wrapping each garland?

None of it – he made the final train each evening,
walked the gravel path through the park
so the curtain was the curtain and his stationed wife
recognising his tread would rise from the bench to greet him.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

The Sitting
after an unnamed portrait in Gladstone’s library

by Matt Bryden

She came from Munich, or Minsk.
No prints, just lips pressed into towel;
a locket opened, its key withdrawn
and pushed into a bar of soap. Plain,
she was, and dark.

Her hair curled like the briar, black vein
breaking her cheeks. A streetwalker
she looked when she arrived, unhappy
to be stopped at the door by servant,
lady, even the master.

A glowering, sour-faced beauty,
her language was spider-point, compass dragged across
the bottom of a desk, coral
amassed on the side of a rock. She quarreled
and they shaved her crop.

A mane was slipped over her head
and all points taken from her room.
Pomade dabbed out the fire in her cheeks
and lastly – this brach, slipped beside her
to indicate fidelity.

Their voices knit in incomprehensibility.
She descended the stair with the banister unleant on –
or gripped! The things that came from her hands
we never saw. Just folded chits the couriers
slipped into their saddlebags.

And it was around this time
the missives stopped. Not a sound
from her chamber but the metal of her sticks
on the boards of her floor.
I never saw her walk the grounds.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Van Gogh
Self-portrait (with bandaged ear and pipe)
by Rona Fitzgerald

I thought a portrait would help
to ground me
…………………………..to fix my self
…………………………………………………..in time.
I like the pipe
…………………………. it takes the gaze
from my wounds.
Looking into my eyes
……………………………………….blue follows me
……………………………………………….round and round the room.
My palette’s muted now
…………………………………………….time steals red
renders yellow brown.
Shadow
……………..softens
……………………………..shapes.
I love that green coat…………… fern
reminds me of spaces in Arles
evening ease
………………………..a sliver of a moon
trees silent sentinels
……………………………….before my ear
and the world felt wrong

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Ready
Two ballet dancers in the dressing room, Edgar Degas
by Rona Fitzgerald

I love the fact that they are round, ripened
not the sylph like dancers of later epochs.
Despite the luminous whites and soft blues
of his palette, they remain grounded.

I imagine their chat:
My back hurts when I stretch
this new choreographer
thinks we are sprites.

Her friend is tying the blue bow
…………………………………….on her cloud soft tutu
she seems to be finding it tight:

Well not for long if I keep eating late suppers.

Yet
…..something in their pose animates
……………………………………………..possibilities of the dance
where they will tell a different story.

………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Scorching of the Mack, a Portrait
by Maggie Mackay

Macintosh gifted northern light,
the drama of electric lights,
their chains suspended from the ceiling,
clear glass, timber posts and beams,
wooden uprights bejewelled
in red, green and white enamel.
But timber burns and smoulders.
Midnight turns to hot High Noon.
Pitchfork flames skewer solid frames
with extinguishing water.
Its dark stained wooden gallery is gnawed
through, abused, scarred, desecrated.
It’s an Inferno; it has the potency of combustion.
Glasgow mourns. Even those who had
never walked up the stone steps are at a loss.
Only walls, the vim, pep and zing of genius.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………...*****

Speckled Toad Beer
by Jim Bates

I hate to admit it, but I never knew that the inspiration for the character of Uncle Sam in the WWI recruitment poster was the artist himself. Apparently he’d dilly-dallied on doing the painting until it was almost too late, so he did the initial drawing based on his own reflection in the mirror. He liked what he saw and from that first draft he completed the work, adding the bushy eyebrows, craggy features and the pointed, somewhat threatening finger, that to this day is still an iconic American symbol.

My wife and I had been watching a special on our local PBS station when the story behind the poster was explained. It gave me an idea. Why not do the same thing using myself as a model for the Speckle Toad Beer ad campaign I was working on?

I floated the idea past Michelle. It didn’t take her long to express her opinion. “Your nuts, Troy,” she said, and popped a kernel of popcorn into her mouth from the bowl we’d been sharing to emphasize her point. “Completely out of your mind,” she added, grabbing a big handful to further solidify her opinion.

“Why? What’s wrong? I think it’s a great idea.”

She let out a soft belch and looked me right in the eye. Michelle has taught third grade at the Long Lake elementary school for fifteen years. She’s good at it; dare I say, even great. She has a firm but loving hand with the kids, which makes her popular with both the students and their parents. She also tells it like it is and doesn’t pussy foot around with the truth. “Who would really care to see an image of you on an advertisement for beer? Seriously. My guess is no one.”

She chuckled to herself and went back to the popcorn, figuring she’d made her point. In her mind she probably did. But me? I’m a little slow on the uptake. I should have listened to her.

I’m in my mid-forties and have worked for nineteen years in the art department for Lavender Hill Design, a well known upper Midwest firm specializing in advertizing work for small businesses. We’ve recently hit it big with the local craft beer industry, and I’ve been one of the most successful designers. Maybe longevity and success had gone to me head, but I ignored my wife’s advice and proceeded with my plan of using my own image in the ad campaign. In World War I it was Uncle Sam saying ‘I Want You.’ Now, for my ad, I was hoping to come up with something like ‘Speckled Toad Beer Is the beer for you,’ with my face serving as the spokesperson.

I took some selfies and then used them to make some preliminary sketches. Then I used my oil paints to create the perfect image. After a couple of weeks of work I had my character, “The Face of Speckled Toad Beer,” as I secretly called it, and was ready to present it to my design team at the end of the week.

My presentation was on that Friday. When I was finished, I can honestly say that I had never heard people laugh so hard.

That night I dragged myself home and plunked down on the couch, the same couch a month earlier we’d watched that ill-fated PBS special.

“Bad day at the office, Dear?” Michelle asked, sitting next to me and handing me a gin and tonic.

“You might say,” I said, gratefully sipping my drink.

She grinned, “I told you so. Want to tell me what happened?”

I did. I told her I had taken my enhanced face and dressed myself in a coonskin cap and buckskins like that Davy Crockett character my dad used to watch back in the fifties. Bad move. Hysteria was the order of the day from my team. I had completely blown it.

“When my supervisor caught her breath and quit laughing, she told me that an amphibian dressed up in buckskins wasn’t going to cut it. It went downhill from there. The rugged character I’d hoped to portray ended up looking like a deranged mountain man. I don’t know which was worse, the fact that I’d blown the presentation, or that everyone thought my face looked like a toad.” I sighed and leaned back on the couch, “The general consensus was that instead of selling beer, it would more likely scare people away from buying it. Back, as they say, to the drawing board.”

Michelle snuggled next to me, “See, you should have listened to me. I really do know what I’m talking about, you know.”

She was right. I don’t know what I’d been thinking. “Yeah, I hear you. I guess I let my ego get in the way,” I sighed and sipped my drink, starting to come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought I was.

“You want to watch some television?” She started scanning the shows. Then she stopped and looked at me, joking, “Can we risk it? You’re not going to let some show give you any more crazy ideas?

I laughed, “Funny. No, I think I’ve learned my lesson. From now on I’ll just stick with what I know, art and advertizing. ”

“Good idea.” It took her less than a second to agree.

She found a program she liked and we watched it. It was filmed in England and had something to do with a baking contest. Interestingly, the contestants were vying to win, but they were also quite pleasant to each other. It was nice to see. Maybe they were on to something, and it gave me an idea. I wondered if maybe the ad could say something like, “Speckled Toad Beer, a beer that treats you kindly.” It sounded good and had a nice ring to it. I’d run with it.

But this time I’d keep my face to myself.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Portrait of an Artist.
Lancelot, ‘Capability’ Brown by Nathaniel Dance 1773
by Tina Cole

Some called you pernicious,
architect of the bucolic, others
thought you a magician, master
of elaborate illusions, shaping
landscapes where woods vanish
and valleys rise, remoulding
contours where none was real.

Your cockeyed portrait affirms
that surety; a low born northerner
whose black brown eyes absorbed
the simple beauty of moorland
and transposed it to twinkle into
guineas. A mouth that kept its own
counsel, knew the price of, harmony
how to sell a vision of infinite,
capability.

Croome Park, (your first and most favourite
child), was landscape as the stillest life,
a vast acreage of living mural, vistas
designed for the long musings of future
Lords. Rolling parkland as pleasure palace
with ancient woods re-sculpted and that
Georgian joke to keep cattle in their place.
You chose a wide canvas, a plain palette
with just a faint a seepage of light through
tree lined horizons each one placed
like an accent of punctuation and perfectly
posed each landmark to arrest the eye.

One man’s monumental vision accomplished
by sweat, (300 navvies to dig the lake).
Churches and villages swept aside,
half a million acres repainted into pastoral
masterpieces. Today cows in deep shade
enjoy the clumping of oaks you so favoured
three centuries before, tails slapping,
they regard your endless rolling pastures.
English countryside forever to be seen
through your eyes.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

A Lesson in Observation
Mans Head, (Self Portrait I) 1963 – Lucian Freud
by Tina Cole

First, it is the angle
……….I want you to notice
to appreciate that this muted
……….pallet of chiselled highlights,
serves the grainy glass world
……….where I am burrowed down
into the privacy of myself.
……….I expect to be left alone
to get carried away
……………………….in this meticulous moment
…………..of haughty grandeur
when I could further analyse the finer
……….points of composition but
in truth my thoughts
……….dance like hailstones,
imagination mushrooming
……….with the spores of silent
……self-criticism

………………………………………………………………………………………………………...*****

Portrait of Man as a Giraffe
by Tina Cole

Not teeth or claws,
only head-in-the-clouds languor,
an elegance of heavy hoofed
vagueness and no clue
as to what lay beneath
those unsolvable tessellations
of tobacco patched skin.

I so want to colour you in,
keep pace with that loping gait
but rumination was your focus
you gum chewer,
and that leather strap tongue
so deft at sucking out sweetness
between the spines.

It was always our dry season,
the earth incendiary;
a frazzled interface
between ground and sky
backlit by red rimmed
blood balls
their liquid orbs sinking.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Portrait
after Philip Larkin
for Gill Lambert
by  Mark Connors

Her hands are a safe bet:
The hands of Dino Zoff,
Gordon Banks, keep out
That which threatens us
In a flash: worries, doubts,
Those shots that come from nowhere.
When our defence is breached,
Her eye is on the ball
To block and parry, reach
Beyond expectations.
Her head and heart in where it hurts,
She sometimes saves us from ourselves.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Every picture
by Jackie Biggs

Eyes that smile at their edges
observe her
as she moves around the room.
She feels his look on her,
tracking her,
yet she must know,
somewhere in herself,
that he cannot really see.

She touches objects,
a paperweight, a vase, a photo,
fingertips feel the cold smoothness,
as memories float.
A few flowers, a rose,
a gift to her,
a drop of blood welling from a pinprick.

The photo on the desk,
that trip,
the lake, a young man sitting on a rock
looking away,
ripples on the surface,
the breeze through the trees behind.
She shivers, her hand trembles.

The paperweight – glass,
some bright jewel in the centre.
She weighs it,
her tiredness pressing on her;
she recalls the letter it held in place,
the words he chose,
her disbelief.

She picks up the glass,
sips oak-aged wine,
a little bitter,
places it back on the desk,
notes the darkening street outside;
and catches her reflection
trapped in the window frame.

She sees only her age,
dark circles under eyes too wide,
too large,
startled, like a bird,
caught in the moment,
but she cannot fly,
or even cry.

The light in the painting,
a shaft from the side,
across the cracked background,
the florid features of the face,
the crinkles of the eyes
in the dinginess of the dusty room,
the brightest thing there.

This old man and his attentive gaze,
the great observer,
can he see her fear?
He is just as he saw himself that day.
Now her, hundreds of years later,
disturbed by his surveillance
and her sense of him.

She feels the scrutiny
as his eyes follow her around the room
and she turns away,
heart beating too hard,
sweat breaking,
making a dampness on her back.

First published in The Spaces in Between (Jackie Biggs. 2015. Pinewood Press, Swansea) and also on https://poetsandpainters.rhosygilwen.co.uk/

………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Borders
by Steve Carr

The room the size of a small walk-in closet was Vance’s room. It was a room in a rooming house with six other rooms, but none as small as the one Vance lived in. All six rooms were on the second floor of an old building near the university. On the first floor of that building was a garage with six spaces all rented out to people who lived nearby.

Through the floorboards in his room the gas and oil fumes from the cars coming in and out of the garage would seep through and mingle with the smell of oil and acrylic paints, the aroma of linseed oil and turpentine, and the fumes from empty beer bottles which Vance kept in brown paper bags under his cot that was pushed against one wall. He kept the bottles there until he had enough to turn in to get the small refund he would get on each bottle, the refunds then being spent on more beer.

While painting surreal, grotesque, frightening portraits of people he imagined and drinking beer or lying on his cot Vance would watch through his open door the comings and goings of the other borders. He said nothing to them and they said nothing to him.

The afternoon Shawn moved into the recently vacated much larger room next to Vance’s room, he passed by Vance who was standing in front of a canvas, paint brush and oil paint covered palette in his hand. Shawn leaned against the frame of Vance’s open room and said, “Oh cool, an artist.”

Vance looked at Shawn, sized him up as it were, and while adding a few brush strokes of gray paint to the image of a man with an open umbrella over his head walking on a rainy street replied, “Your keen sense of observation will classify you as a genius among your fellow students at the university.”

To this, Shawn let out an exhalation of laughter. “I deserved that,” Shawn said. “How did you know I was a student?”

“Everyone here, everyone but me that is, is a student. I think the landlord takes a butterfly net on campus and catches students who look in need of a cheap room to rent.”

Shawn let out another burst of laughter. “I heard about it through the Veteran’s Assistance Office on campus.” He paused, then added, “I just finished a three year enlistment in the Army. I was stationed at a border crossing in Afghanistan.”

During the brief and oddly awkward silence that followed, Shawn looked around Vance’s room, at all the things crammed into the small space, at the head of a beer bottle sticking out of a bag under the cot, at the portraits stacked against a wall. He too had sized up Vance.

Winter came on quickly and ferociously. The damp and coldness seeped up through the floorboards from the garage below. The rooming house had changed. Shawn had changed it. Shawn’s room, separated from Vance’s only by a thin wall, had become a meeting place, a hang out, where other tenants in the house, and students from outside the house, listened to music, and ate meals together bought at a nearby Skyline Chili restaurant. Tenants and students walked by Vance’s open door all hours of the day and night. Only Shawn would stop and say hello.

Near Christmas, when Shawn was the only other tenant in the building, Vance’s two oldest adult children sat on Vance’s cot while he stood rigid like a man before a firing squad. His children didn’t ask about his painting, or what he was eating, or even if he was eating at all. What he had to say about anything was of no more importance to them any more than what they had to say about anything was of any importance to him.

After they left he closed his door and quickly drank two bottles of beer.

In the middle of the night Vance awoke to silence. He rose to a sitting position on his cot and put his hands to his pounding temples. His head felt light, not light as just before falling asleep after drinking too much beer, but as if his head would lift off of his neck and float to the ceiling. Getting up from his cot he stumbled to his door and opened it to the silence of the cold hallway. He knew whatever mixture of aromas and fumes – those he could smell and those he couldn’t – coming from his own room or from the garage below and seeping upward through the floor, whatever they were, they were making him very sick. He started toward the door leading to the stairs to go out of the building, then turned and saw the door to Shawn’s room was closed.

Opening the door to Shawn’s room, Vance saw Shawn sprawled on his back on his bed. “Shawn?” Vance said as loudly as his parched throat would allow. Getting no answer he went to the bed and finding a pulse in Shawn’s left wrist he took hold of Shawn’s limp body and pulled him from the bed and onto the floor and dragged him out of the room and into the hallway. For a brief moment he looked at Shawn’s face and wished he had painted his portrait, just as he was.

The last thing Vance did before his heart gave a final beat inside his heaving chest was to open the door at the top of the stairs and roll Shawn down the stairs into the feet of two firemen wearing breathing apparatus.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Daylight Saving Time
by Gerry Fabian

When I remember you,
it must be in a dark cornfield
huddled closely together
waiting for the sun to rise
as the sound after we kiss
is that of a firefly flash.

……………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Two All Beef Patties …
by Gerry Fabian

I am sitting alone in McDonalds
around 8 pm enjoying
my large Big Mac meal.
I know this will play havoc
with my digestive tract tomorrow,

For six weeks, you have Nutella spread me,
Ramadan fasted me, Quaker peaced me,
Zen meditated me, Evian watered me.
and Yoga stretched me.

Enough!

No love is worth this.

It should please you to know
how impassionately intrigued I was
to get to know who you really were.

I’ve decided to end it;
but not yet,
I still have a container
of warm fries to finish.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

The Last Taste Of Your Lips
by Gerry Fabian
I paint rabble in three styles.
The first is impressionistic
And there is no sign of you
Amid the soft pastels of yellow and blue.
The second is portrait.
The focus is on the face
In both strength and grace.
The lips resemble you
But nothing more.

The final is abstract.
With colors splattered
In reds, then brown
Then black bleeding blue.
And there you are.

But no smile is evident.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Muse
by Rosemary McLeish

Let me introduce myself:
my name’s Laurette, and
I am pissed off.
He’s had me sitting in this pose
for the last five hours … and counting.
I’m freezing, sitting here
in this outdated harem outfit,
transparent, open down the front,
what does he think I look like?
It’s all very well for him,
in his suit and waistcoat and
who knows what, long johns?
It may be Nice, but it’s still November.

I suppose he finds this sexy,
nipples erect from the cold,
doesn’t notice the goosebumps.
Of course, he’s painting me
for a load of dirty old Parisians
to drool over – he’ll make
a lot of money out of me,
and what do I get? A pittance!
I’d rather get paid the going rate
for the hundreds of hand jobs.

And another thing.
I’m desperate to go to the toilet.
I don’t mind the hunger –
it helps to keep the weight off –
but see how my legs are crossed?
I’m glad he chose this pose
because ever since the baby came
the tap’s always dripping.
What’ll happen when I uncross,
I daren’t think. Piss all over
this nice velvet chair, that’ll teach him
to give me a break. Still, it’s a worry.
I need the work.

I left the baby with my mother.
She’s missed a feed already
and my breasts are aching,
leaking onto this fancy silk,
he’s got no idea. He promised me
no more than four hours.
Sometimes I could kill him,
that’d wake him up from his
precious daydreams of Paradise.

I’d better wipe the scowl off my face,
he could easily get someone else.
Marie, for instance, he likes that
Eastern look, and she’d jump at it,
the fat cow, she doesn’t know
how tough it is, sitting around
doing nothing all day.
You get so stiff. You ache and ache.
My Mum has to massage me
back to normal every day.

And being stared at, it’s horrible.
It’s as if you’re not you, just
some nasty old man’s wet dream.
Give him his due, he’s quite polite,
not like that satyr Gauguin,
or Renoir, he’s another one.
You do get used to it, though.
You learn to drift off,
but all the same, I’d rather
be doing the business.

Thank goodness, not long now.
Soon as I’m healed and the baby’s
weaned, it’ll be bye bye
Monsieur Matisse, hello sailors.

Inspired by “Laurette au Turban Blanc” 1916 and by Catherine Tate’s character ‘Lauren’

………………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The Old Photograph
by J. J. Steinfeld

No one in the living room could recall
when the old photograph
appeared on the wall near the door
was there an older photograph
anywhere in the family
in the city even
but now, a family reunion’s
last few moments
someone, drink in hand,
comments that he was a bastard
and lived to be a hundred
another, grabbing coat
and at the door
says he died at eighty in his sleep
and was that age in the photo
another says ninety-five, if a day,
guesses left and right
from early sixties to late nineties
in bed, drowned, murdered, off a cliff,
hanged, poisoned, accident, conspiracy,
self-inflicted gunshot wound,
a little boy saying two hundred
and I want to go home.
He was a good generous man
who lived an upstanding life
in tough and unforgiving times
a seafaring man on the open seas
a recluse in an old shack
a bastard, a lousy bastard,
the ‘lousy’ added with another drink.
His great-granddaughter
a woman now approaching ninety
was helped to the wall with the photo
and looked up at the mysterious face:
I met him once and still remember
where he touched me.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Practice
by Virginia Bach Folger

Little one, when I left my homeland
I left father and mother
the grave of my first husband
my house and the memories it held.
I boarded the ship with my five children.

My new husband Otto and I watched
Until Bremen Harbor slipped away.
The grey sea rolled on before us
for nearly a week. At Ellis, authorities
checked us for papers and infirmities.

Son, Ernst, was sent back for a problem with his eyes.
For ten years I prayed for his arrival.
I learned English, worshipped in
a new church, cooked in a new kitchen.
Otto and I had two more children

We sent my oldest daughter
out of state to work and send money home.
I watched your father, my youngest son,
lowered into his grave too soon.
When your mother stopped bringing you to visit,

I did not forget you.
Your picture was always there on my wall.
Remember, little one,
though I was well practiced at loss
your name was always on my heart.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………...*****

Blood of Ice
by Fabrice Poussin

I know your blood is stone
crystals of ice in the summer sun
when the frigid blues scan the heavens
glass of mirrors to reflect your heart.

Still you sit pale as the past
a gentle breath barely escapes
from a heart seeking life
your soul solid to all futures.

Life does not come easy this day
in this struggle to keep the world away
its hurts, its dangers, its hate
you remain prey, hidden to the foe.

See the pleasures of a welcomed guest
made of sun, light and warming touch
to soften those veins, and let it flow
the nectar of your noble dynasty.

I know your soul fears the crossing of
the threshold beyond the polar memories
leaving the swelling of frozen moments
for the burning of a passion yet unknown.

Your blood stops, facing the hated predator
to be unseen, cohorts of feeble babes
pretend to a lifeless existence so they may
escape in time, pleasure, and remain
in the certainty of their comfortable numbness.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Into an Ocean
by Fabrice Poussin

There was once a little girl perhaps a boy, certainly
A thing that lived and giggled in the soft breeze of morning.

The thing traveled for it was its destiny
Downward to meet a friend or two and make a family.

The thing was scared a little at first, they say
Rolling down, casting down, crashing down, and again.

Then it joined forces with the unknown, the new,
The same as it was in the mirror of another day.

It saw an odd thing, made of steel, and wood, and
Two-legged machines pushing and pulling upon the wood.

There was a journey to make, so on the thing went
Shiny in the daily star, it made hues of a million shades.

It crashed against a wall at the speed of another time
Eyes opened to prevent a destiny meant for another.

Soldier in an infinite army of two, she continued on her way
Shaping a world with gentle hands artist of many worlds.

He saw villages, and towns, and cities of strange brethren
Going on to a future to last beyond the realms of his country.

She gave him a thing also to take into his wandering soul
And he let something new emerge from the mountain he once was.

Behind them, they left a vein throbbing from the calm unknown
So they could take a bow and sleep in the midst of the grand creation.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Man with a Chainsaw
by Fabrice Poussin

I saw you with your chainsaw, swords and daggers
no pity in your eyes, no mercy in our heart, murderer
of dreams, realities and deep seated hatred in those orbs.

Easy it is to close the lids of those who have died
gaining the trust of the one who seeks only safety
when danger lurks in the hands of the frightening mouth.

You attacked, cut, punched, bruised and broke all you could
tireless at the task it seems there was no end to your strength
you with the hard weapons, the armor, the beast for a soul.

I saw you with your sword cut through my flesh as you laughed
pieces of me fell to the hyenas your faithful children
your moves artful in their eternal signature remain in me.

Uncertain of what is left of the monticule of what was once
I saw you walk away covered in what splattered, laughing,
all knew your blows were senseless; you have no sense.

Criminal from one time to the next from the previous
consistent in your negativity feeding on what you destroy
dark, tall, a skeleton malodorous screaming its ugly face.

I saw you run, shiny in your adornment of bluish steel
with fire in those gazes oozing with remnants of a self
feeling sorry that you had no courage to fetch a mirror.

Would you then be filled with envy, terror, hate or love
in view of this mystical creature that you have become
grown in hell nourished by the minions of the devil.

Human of sorts shapeless as you travel the honest roads
if only you could look in the glass, trip on your forked tongue
and vanish so your victims may live without fear.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Portrait of James
by Pam Thompson

This is how she likes him—in electric glare,
in front of the appraising lens,

in a room half-lit, backdrop:
Facebook page open on a monitor on the desk;

his life on shelves, books for the Masters,
helmet and kneepads for American soccer.

Head down, he mimics a discus thrower pose.
Though his muscles flex, he’s malleable.

Sweat as it courses down his forehead.
She steals his gaze and freezes it

in close-up. His sinews tense to run
but he’s rooted like the statue he’s become.

She opens the lid on the suitcase of sex-toys.
His skin is the colour of spunk.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Transit/Opposition
by Pam Thompson

………………How convenient to blame it on the stars—
to decide, after all, that our planets

………………………………………………………..are misaligned

as you suspected, although never said,

……………………………………………………when Madame Osiris

shot you a look that day when she designed
our natal charts,

………………………………..like an portrait painter who gets the nose

wrong, and, after several goes, wonders whether she should rub it out,
start again.

………………………………………………………………….Just like you to raise
these concerns after we’d sold the house
…………………for a very good price.

………………………………………………………….Such an imprecise science!

The female estate agent nods in agreement.

(Pisces, I’d say, or even Aquarius)

……………….A good match—
………………………………………….you were always overheating.

Oh, we were young, we were foolish
……………………………………………………………and the stars
when we met
……………….burning with their false fires
………………………………………………………………………………………….were liars.

………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Canvas Diagnosis
by Stephen Watt

In continuous company, I will never change
until a photograph or video
stress a wrinkle; a mutation in dialect.

I will detect everything before you.

A flourish in ego.
A spasm in reverse-parking.
An augmentation of pubic hair
in the plug hole. Some white.

Weight will catch up with height
and I will feel it

stretch, pinch, masticate every inch
regardless how au fait
you are with certifying double chins.

I will already know these things

but
……………..in the clandestine corners
where my positive light shines through
becomes negligible to me;

entirely answerable to you

………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Common Scents
by Rachel Collinge

You knit with your fingers,
even though your daughter
bought you bamboo bones
to wend the wool around.

No, you twist the thread
onto that fleshy starfish
and boast that you’ve always
spun a good yarn.

That ragged ribbon
snakes out from your knuckles
and you tell me you love the feeling,
that you’ve never needed
the middle man anyway.

I joke that you’re
making scarves for weasels
and you grunt that
your client is even less
discerning.

When I find the loose cornrows
braided together in brown paper
I can’t help but
tangle my fingers in the lines
as you did
to the hum of bad TV shows
and the incessant chatter of the radio.

It smells of you:
clean soap and cigarettes,
rubbed from your skin,
and I realise you’ve sent me
an autograph.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Vodka and Wooden Crates
by A.J. Huffman

Frame my dreams.  I see myself as an image
of these intentional confinements.  Drowning
inside a cage of my own making has become a tangible
mantra of my mindset.  I raise a never-emptying glass
to my own imagination, as this suicide
is anything but unoriginal, and feel the burn
of another regret slide past my tongue.  I slur spite
as the next round swirls around me.
At least this is a giddy way to go, I think
and immediately receive a splinter
as I instinctually knock on such
spectacularly repurposed wood.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Self-Portrait as Sea Crate
by A.J. Huffman

Black and white lines define me.
I am finite.  Creature
of water and land, I can thrive
in any condition.  You cannot
suffocate or drown me.
I crawl up walls, stick
to floors.  Suspended
animation is my gift.  I breed and leave.
Survival is my first, last and middle name.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Mona Lisa Musing
by Paul Waring

It’s all about perspective. Take the imaginery
landscape behind that Leonardo saw as contrast
to my reserved posture — for me, a tad theatrical.
And far from his mind’s eye depiction of ideal
womanhood like the Virgin Mary, he’s portrayed
me as a frumpy plain Jane housewife. Although
I’m known as La Gioconda meaning jocund
I didn’t see the funny side of that — nor sitting
for an eternity on that rickety pozetto armchair.
OK, you may detect a hint of a smile in upturned
corners of my mouth and eyes but it’s no laughing
matter to be stared at constantly. I never wanted
to be famous. You’ll no doubt  think I’m ungrateful
and deserve to be called Moaner. You’d be right,
but I’m laughing on the other side of my face
now. As I said, it’s all about perspective.

Revised version of poem published at The Ekphrastic Review, July 2017

………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Portraiture
by Kate Garrett

Invisible without this camera lens,
she’s less than bones. Her jagged
pose filtered through him: yoga asana
wrists corroded by knots. His praise

patters like that of a cat’s charm
to a spider: so flattering to be picked
as a favourite toy, such fun to be had
bending limbs and bending will.

I see palms together between
shoulder blades, edges of skin
made real through manipulated colours.
Angles of elbows contrast the curve

of hips, a body in frozen
supplication, desire hardened
by his viewfinder. I see downcast
eyes drawn thick with black lines

in a white face, a slash of scarlet lips
through wisps of hair; a strong
chin points to bound breasts. This image
isn’t me. This woman is just a suggestion.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

HERVØR
by Anne Ballard

Icelandic warrior’s name –
you were bigger than me, white haired, older,
the first girl in the class to wear a bra
although you were born a year after me.

Other mothers thought you
a bad influence, even depraved;
mine ignored our friendship, stayed neutral.
She once visited your Faeroese mother
who gave her a large dead fish,
still with its head on, that looked at her
so was quickly consigned to the dustbin.

I found you quite educational
and fancied your father
who gave me my first glass of sherry
and my first kiss
on your thirteenth birthday;
who spent most of his time watching birds
on remote Northern islands.
Once you went with him and claimed
you seduced the ship’s captain.
I thought you were lying.
Since then I’ve wondered.

We went, under age, to X Certificate films,
adored pop stars together,
drooled over records and photographs,
weaving the most torrid fantasies;
saw our latest idol, live, in concert
on the eve of our French exam
which you failed and I passed.

When transported to Thurso
you sent an address
then never answered my letter –
of course not.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Anna
by James Gering

Hello, welcome! My step-daughter clomps into the living room,
a red cast on her left leg, a blue one on the right,
………………………………………..stretching out the tendons, 8-years-old.
……….Red, blue, red, blue, where are you going, Anna?

The days of hauling her in a buggy
………………………………….attached to my bicycle are over.
………………………….Faster, faster, she used to say as I gulped for air
and pedalled on.

At the aquarium, she sprawls face up in the Perspex tunnel
…………………………….that curves into the marine world.
…………Fish, fish, she says, when schools of colour
………………………………………………………………………..glide in to greet her.

A stingray slides in, oddly two-dimensional,
…………………..nose and mouth mere slits under the kite
……………………………………………………and there the sting, flick, flicking.

Venturing out with Anna used to mortify me –
……………….that time in a café she ambled over to a family.
Hello, welcome! she said, launching a gooey hand at the dad,
……..who parried. She seized a chunk of his cake.
……………………………………………..I pleaded with the floor to swallow me.

When her casts finally come off, we visit the beach.
She weaves through the semi-clad
…………………..offering hello-s and welcome-s.
When they ask how she is, she nonchalantly says, Good, good.

We build aqueducts and avenues in the sand
…….before the arching waves summon her, this divine child
…………………………………..shepherding me from two dimensions into three.

A certificate in her school bag declares her student of the week.
Hooray for Anna! We celebrate with a sushi spread.
Come bedtime, the Owl and the Pussycat ready their boat
………………………….for the night. Tomorrow she sees the physiotherapist,
……………….the next day is speech.

What’s this? she asks, goggling at the contraption in her bedroom.
…………...A jogging machine, Mum says, squeezing Anna’s plump cheek.
It comes with Wiggles on its screen, but only when you jog – no jogging,
no wiggling.
Eee – you gotta be joking.
No, Mum says. Faster, faster, I say.
Eeeeeee – you seriously gotta be joking.
……………………………………………….Yet she draws deep and learns to jog along.

In the garden, Anna points to the clouds.
Popcorn, she says. Sheep, I say. No, she says, her eyes grave.
Anna crouches low. What’s this? she asks, picking up a feather.
……………………………………………………………………..I flap my arms, she flaps hers.

She is curled up the pod swing ready for take-off.
I send her arcing high.
……………………………….Higher, higher! she calls, my mentor
………………………………………………………………………………..bent on a singular journey

……………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Portrait of my Father as an Old Dead Man
by Owoh Ugonna

The first promise you give an old man is the blessing of laceration. He would say your breath is fast asleep. Take it too bewilding to think off. But when you trade words with him , he realizes that the dead bears humors.

skin.I slit tomato grin to paint my pot red, fry them into oil pods on my fire. They say they aredried. The last humor I saw my lips smile to was the rise in hallelujah of hot oil on my

My father last meal, tasted of a man mixed into a wooden casket, his epitaph were written with pepper seed and tomato grin,

Don’t fetch your pepper at kombolo, my father cried out before his death, his ghost is the sun, he sees the hidden and found things.

On the last day I saw my Father’s breathe, I tasted swift cubs, they fell on grill fire

Blasting,

Ti-ti-ti

Like an ant screaming for help.

I ate them hot. But on that day, I came back home, watching the lines of screams, the death of papa, the cries of Mama, my bones told me I was on fire,.

Blasting
Ti-ti-ti
Like those cubs
My soul laid stiffled
My breathe heaved heavier than an owl.

My father is the old man, beard white, eyes dim like a shower bulb, mouth haired.

My father is his ghost. Own his tragedy, he knows that fate.
……………………He drip a stream down his cheeks. says a ghost is humor
The dead are laughter. Their tender gleam are daisy. Reeling skin learns to honor them. And his tears drip to fill an ocean.
He goes to the cemetery to say farewell, but realizes that he is the one whom they say farewell to.
His eyes are shut, their fears are gone, so hide behind pages And make your mouth stoop.

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

Portrait of my Grandother’s Loneliness
By Owoh Ugonna

……………………………………………………..My mind is the art workshop I have built with dead light
…………………………………………………………………………………….To paint my grandmother’s loneliness.
…………………………………..The only portrait I have painted is her Acapulco, parrot / flick / tuft/
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Necklace.

I only hear her call it till death do us part.
Maybe till death do us part is the name of my grandfather’s ghost.
The name always
Hang above the tip of her tongue like a syllable of knives in a mouth
Flowing in a way a man’s blood write historical pains
To his veins,
heavier in a way a man
kisses death unto his soul.

……………………………………….I picture my grandmother’s loneliness as a grave site
…………………………………………………………strangled between her bones,
………………………………………………………………she said my grandfather kissed death unto his soul.
…………………………………………………………………………………..because he wanted to protect this land,
…………………………………………………………………………………………….So her body learnt to curl into an
……………………………………………………………………………………………………….unimagined hatred, a kind
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………of hatred my fatherland
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….needs to skip out a
………………………………………………………………………………………………………..A rib to make death equal
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….With life.

I once asked my grandmother if she was a loner,
and she told me ‘ I have never being a
loner, I’m not a loner, and I will
never be a loner’. And I
thought how she
needed to camouflage into her
wilted bones and call them
friends before making
me the closest
being to her.

I paint my grandmother’s loneliness as a bacteria hung over her skin,
and her body a leper to this sociable world.
She told me ‘don’t trust this world,
Their faces are bronzed mask
of affection,

……………………………………………………………………………………….so it gets too uncomfortable for light
………………………………………………………………………………………………..shade to spot out the reflection
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..of their wickedness.

My grandmother’s loneliness is a skin peeler,
crawling over her body like
a flat head tick, when
she sleeps, I become

…………………………………………………...dead sure that her silent is better
…………………………………………………………..than a crave loneliness
…………………………………………………………………….between the
………………………………………………………………..death of a graved
……………………………………………………………………………myth.

………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

The 18th of July, 1988
For Krista Päffgen aka Nico
by Rachel Coventry

I did not know it then but
you were dying in Ibiza
before Ibiza was the thing,
as I listened to you sing
in my brother’s bedroom
the curtains drawn
all tomorrow’s parties
still to come.

You were one year older
than I am now.

But way back before Studio 54
You asked, “was ist das Licht da?”
It was Berlin burning,
born, as you were,
the year before my mother
who was downstairs then
watching soap operas.

What I didn’t know was that
mostly, they wanted you
to stand at the back
and shake a tambourine.
They just let you sing
on a couple of tracks

I liked that I could manage your range,
wished that I could have your hair,
but I didn’t realize back then
Venus was always the one in chains.

…………………………………………………………………………………….*****

One Woman
by Rachel Coventry

All the players have left the stage
and there I am in the spotlight
but also occupying every seat
in the stalls and the balcony

watching myself,
vaguely critical, vaguely bored
thinking I am in no mood
for a drawn out monologue
wanting to check my phone.

Once in London years ago
it’s happened before
alone in the yellow flat in Clapton
reinventing myself like Madonna
though now I can’t be bothered
with blond hair, new clobber.

Instead the woman on the stage
just watches me back
and though I will it
the curtain will not fall.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….******

Unemployment
by Rachel Coventry

Back before coffee became Macchiato,
we drank lager in Mick Taylor’s bar
but that was OK, you’d always to say
because one day that spacetime
would blister and split
and we’d emerge from its chrysalis
flutter away on velvet wings
kaleidoscopic, if ridiculous.

………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

A Teapot
by Rachel Coventry

This time, it was a pot,
you’re off caffeine so
you had a Rooibos
I followed you
it came in a pot for two
and it was something.

We both knew
I went to pour (I tend to)
but you stopped me
poured it yourself
with that everything was said.

A little spilled
you were sorry
and as I know these things
I knew you tipped it too far
I said nothing
it didn’t matter.

.……………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Creation
by Megha Sood

I paint you with my metallic tears
dripping from
my obsidian heart
as I draw and sketch
and darken the areas
ripping me apart

I trickle my pain
dipped in the
copious amount of my nightmare
that darken your kohl-lined eyes
with the pain my heart bares

As I slowly and gradually
draw those fine lines
those wrinkles
time has left behind,
I slowly feel the numbness
cloaked in the dark veil
that you are hiding behind

As I ‘m coating
you with my glowing love
and drenching you
with the warmth of my soul,
my fingers etch the poem hidden
in your curves
weaving a story untold

As my wrist turns and twists
counting the beauty
of your million freckles
nimbly hiding those occasional
guffaws and giggle,

I replenish my brush
with your love
as I draw your heart,
locking the glow
of the thousand summer suns
born eons apart

Giving broad strokes to your
stomach and surrendering
my love in your naval,
I neatly fold and wrap my love
with the fragrance of  a thousand lilies
and gently place in
your cleavage,
quietly hidden

As I finish giving touches to
your fingertips
surreptitiously
carrying the warmth
of the entangled palms,
I finish your eyes
laced with
the dreams of future
where we will be
together as ONE.

………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

A Portrait of my Sister
by Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich

They sat on my bed ten dolls,
Leaning against my pillow
And the wall, all next to each
Other. Older dolls gave homage
To the newcomers—a Raggedy
Ann doll, limp and bald wearing
A frozen smile like a scarecrow,
Flaunted her long arms, bracing
One around the shoulder of
An infant doll, which wet her
Pants, drank from a bottle, and
Moved to a lullaby that sweetly
Played, when pulling a string.
I named her my favorite doll.
She wore a one-piece white terry-
Cloth pajama, with a pastel-
Pink bib. My sister’s platinum-
Blond doll looked chubby in a worn
Red dress with white collar; and
She always looked wise like an adult
—All grown-up—but was dressed in
Child’s clothes. Now she looked old—
Like a fifty-year old debutante.
Her smile didn’t shine, the way it used
To then; it seemed fragile, and
Wrinkled. Her youth had vanished
With my sisters, after surviving
Years of neglect and resting
Stashed away, in a box in the attic.
I remember her dolls looked pretty
Like her, when she used to play
With them then. Each was a model
Of what she valued: a clamorous
Group of women-like-dolls—
Stylish as movie stars. For Christmas
She ordered a vanity-fair doll
Dressed in a purple-velvet gown,
With a white petticoat, that reached
Her feet, and classy with a red velvet
Pocketbook and matching bonnet.
She was utterly breathtaking!
I don’t know where she is today.

……………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Leading the Blind
by J.A. Sutherland

On observing De parabel der blinden, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525- 1569) in the collection of the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.

I was the last to go,
although I felt the tug as the first two toppled
like dominoes into the ditch.
I can’t be sure which it was in front,
but the grinding hurdy-gurdy stopped
in manner both rude and abrupt:
this supposéd aural balm
turned out to be an irritant
that day when the peaceful calm
was punctuated with the tintinnabulation
of the nearby church whose congregation
that scrounging Leiermann had never darkened.

After the fall of the first
I heard the call of another, aghast –
the guy with gauged-out eyes who, at the Inn,
had proudly announced his pious intention
to do as the Good Book advised him.
“If thine eye offendeth thee,” he recited,
“Pluck it out.” Transpired his eye had slighted
more than just himself – his gawp and glare
gave credence to the saying that it’s rude to stare.
Furthermore, ignoring another more holy law –
‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife’ –
he was lucky he lost just his eyes and not his life.

I felt another pull as I steadied myself
with my staff. Resigned that he should follow suit,
the third went down with a simpering sigh
that made it blindingly obvious (at least, to me)
which of our motley parade this was:
the one who claimed to be some kind
of Milton, or Handel, or even Maeonides.
Despite his less-than transparent charade
that he was a poet, or genius, or seer, it was clear
to us that his past was less-than prophetic –
the cause of his blindness being syphilitic.
It was easy to see what hadn’t turned him blind.

Fourth, it must have been
that miserable miser bemoaning his poor health
(at least, in the ocular sense –
his other faculties awarded benefits, since
he’d transformed his infirmity into opulence.)
He – according to those who could see –
was the dashiest dresser, despite his global atrophy.
It was noted by those who observed his bright hose
that he was self-beguiled by a different strain of pose.
“Wealth,” he assured us, “Is recompense
for our crippled condition.” Then, with a curse
as he fell the un-spent coins spilled out of his purse.

We must have looked a sorry bunch
of slubberdegullions that trudged
along the path, oiled not so much
from inebriation as the courage (Dutch)
of our (false) convictions: were we
the meek that were to inherit the earth? Surely
The man in front, though not blind drunk,
less able to handle his liquor played a dirty trick
as I grabbed his not-so-comforting stick.
He was the next to fall with a decadent cheer –
the only one of our company to greet misfortune and laugh!
Until I landed with a crack, whacking his balls with my staff.

That I was the last to fall was little comfort
to my palsied, blistered skin. And yet I will assert
that I was pulled along in a chain of actions
incontrovertible as one foot goes before the other;
as ignorant brother learns from ignorant brother.
There were – as there always are – distractions
as we lolled in our dishevelled state
and rolled our redundant eyes towards the stars –
the call of the cattle, the birdsong, the church bells,
the warmth of a local Inn, the sun on the distant hills –
and yet, and yet, as each idea appealed, I suggested: “No, wait:
we have nowhere further to fall. Let us remain as we are…”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….*****

Portraits
by Alex Williams

Remy was a 30-year-old young professional who lived alone in the bubbly seaside town of Hove. He had a modest job that payed him enough to live in an apartment complex a 5-minute walk from the beach. He was shy, but a pleasant enough man that a handful of colleagues and neighbours would go as far as to call him a friend. He was trundling through life, living from alarm clock, to Pret-A-Manger lunch, to TV boxset and back around again, only breaking the routine for an occasional weekend night out.

One Saturday afternoon as he sat nursing a hangover, watching Netflix and scrolling through his phone, he received some terrible news. There, on his Facebook newsfeed, was a group picture from last night, except he had been cropped from the edge of the photo. Embarrassed, he locked his phone and turned back to Netlfix.

‘But Why?’ the thought cycled round his head, over and over, pulling him away from the show. With each repetition the answer morphed into something more painful. An approximation of ‘you’re not good enough’ with claws and teeth that tore away at him until he felt so queasy that he had to retire to bed.

He spent the rest of the evening prodding at the small regions of body fat on his stomach and legs, telling himself that he should love his body whilst simultaneously wanting to chop it all off. After several hours flitting between trying to sleep and scrutinising himself brutally in the front camera of his i-Phone, he fell into a restless slumber.

Throughout the night his head was filled with tortured dreams.

He was back at school and the whole class was laughing at him. Then he was in a restaurant and A girl he had dated briefly was telling him she couldn’t be seen with someone like him. Then he was walking through the streets and people were pelting him with rotting vegetables. The only relief was a small vignette in which he found himself in a memory of his grandma’s house, she was sat at her dressing table putting on her jewellery. She pinned a small gilded broach to her shirt lapel and beamed into the mirror.

When Remy awoke he hopped straight out of bed, got ready and was out the door within 15 minutes. It was a sunny Sunday. As he walked between the shoppers he was gripped with a fear that everyone he passed was silently judging him. But the thought only clung to him momentarily, like a cobweb that he broke as he walked through it.

He headed straight for his favourite clothing shop. As he entered through the glass doors he hit a wall of air conditioning that sent goose bumps across his forearms. A Sales Assistant who was hanging tees looked up. He smiled, she smiled back.

“Need any help there?” She raised her eyebrows.

“No thanks, I’m fine for now”

“Well if you need me I’m right here”

She held his gaze for a moment before looking back to the clothes rail. Remy began looking around the shop for inspiration.

He grabbed a poplin collar fitted shirt, a grey marl tee, a pair of navy stretch skinny chinos, and a pair of tan Chelsea boots. He got dressed facing away from the mirrors in the changing rooms to avoid the sight of his stomach squeezing and wobbling as he bent down to change his trousers. When he was dressed he turned around. He was pleased with the result, he could hear a voice in the back of his mind;

“Love yourself and look after your appearance” it was his grandmother, from a memory of being sat on her lap as a young boy, in front of the same dresser from his dream. She was untangling his hair with a brush. “It will make you feel like a million dollars.”

“A million dollars” he said it out loud. It echoed around the cubicle and soaked into his bones. He changed into his old clothes and took the new ones to the checkout. “Just these, please.” The Sales Assistant totalled up the items.

“That’ll be £120.” She said, smiling. Remy pulled out his card and entered the Pin. The card machine beeped and the receipt printed.

“Actually.” he said “it’s kinda weird but do you mind if I get changed into them now?” He paused for a beat and leaned in “they look really good.” The Sales Assistant chuckled. “Sure, do your thing.” “Great, thanks.”

When he was changed he strutted out of the changing room like an action hero walking away from an explosion. He motioned toward his clothes as if to say “what d’ya think?” “Very nice” she nodded. Remy did a little spin. She chuckled. He headed toward the door. “What was your name by the way?” He called over his shoulder. “Alice.” said the Sales Assistant. “Well, have a beautiful day Alice” said Remy hopping out of the shop and into the midday sun. He strolled head high through the crowds and towards the seafront. The sea was glistening. Remy bought a Mr Whippy and sat on the warm pebbles by the shoreline, eating the ice cream and listening to the waves washing over the beach. When he had finished eating, and licked the melted vanilla drippings from his wrist, he opened his front facing phone camera and searched for the perfect angle. He took several selfies from different directions and looked at the results.

There wasn’t a photo he didn’t like, a palpable confidence shimmered in his eyes, his hair sat just right and his smile was self-assured. He opened the edit function and played around with the lighting and filters until his masterpiece was complete. He went on Facebook and clicked upload photo. He captioned the image “Feelin like a million dollars😊 😈” and confirmed the upload. He sat for a couple more minutes watching the sun sparkle on the sea, and then he went home.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Meeting Bobo
after Bonnie Barrett
by Toby Buckley

Having met eight ringmasters
in various wagons, trailers, tents
and languages that never
comforted, much less helped,
you finally meet your father
in the dressing room of a small-town
circus. He slowly goes over
how clowns were once
some type of celebrity
and how the hoards would flock
to his famous shows
to grin from bandstands –
this he knew because he heard them
through the darkness,
convinced he saw toothy
smiles reflect his light.
And now, he turns to face you,
though not quite directly.
You take what you can in
of your red-nosed dad.
Does he look like you
under all that make-up,
or is it your job to dress up
and look a bit like him?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………*****

Suntrap Terrace
by Mark Blayney

Polycarp built the house himself. There is no front door. You walk up steps and you’re inside. Sea ahead, jungle behind, to meet feng shui. There’s a fridge with drinks and an honesty box. He stays up drinking with us till 2, then in the morning is gleaming and suited and drives to work, as we watch through half-opened eyes. His carport is curved and green, to disguise the eggbox hotel we can see if we crane from the windows.

The pool is bordered with statues in various states of congress. Modesty is covered with red leaves and moss. We booked for two days and asked for two more. Of course, he said. I’ll need to move you into a different room, if you don’t mind, and when he did it was larger.

Behind the scenes two women help. They live on site but are only glimpsed through beaded doorways. Upstairs is a wood-floored living room with wall-length windows, a sounding board for parrots, monkeys.

Geckos, disguising themselves as a brooch, climb the yellowed portraits of White Rajah era ladies. Female Dorian Grays, their sad expressions those of women who know full well we watch them long after they are dead.

I was born in a longhouse, he told us. For a while we had it to ourselves, then others arrived. Paulo, doing the visa run from Thailand, and his companion, doing the run from her husband. A Finnish couple who run horror-struck from bed until I remove a spider for them, which crawls fist-like along their wall. It’s not a hotel, Polycarp tells them the next day. They were staying in our old room. They didn’t like the suntrap terrace, he told us once they’d gone. Why not? we asked. He took a sip of beer. They said it was too hot.

…………………………………………………………………………………….*****

National Geographic
by Mandy Macdonald

There are countries
where people are afraid of cameras.
Taking a photograph is theft
of the soul, they say,
and hide their faces from you.

Imagine yourself, then, a ragpicker,
spending your days foraging
in garbage dumps for something you can sell,
perhaps, to ragpickers less destitute than you
by a fingernail’s thickness. This is called work.

You catch a stirring in the rancid air:
flapping leaves of still-bright kodachrome,
a magazine some years old
but not many. You cannot read the date

nor any of the words, even if
they were written in your  language.
You are only a girl.
But you cannot escape
(even looking at them sidelong)
the pictures: emerald forest canopies,
sparkling arctic wastes,
suntanned dunes,
strange, glamorous animals,
paradise birds, outglowing the ashy
detritus grey. You let the colours trail
gorgeously into your mind

…………until you see the page with
the girl
stooped, working, sifting landfill,
face on the crinkled paper turned away and
hidden by hair the colour of hunger
and you know: she is your image
she is yourself
your dirty
………….shameful
…………………….discarded
self

Such a person could not have a soul to steal.
Everything has been stolen from her already.
Your spirit shrinks from the devil paper, fails.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

David, the Cop
by Charles David Albert

Serving the public in a town
with a high population
(years before pot was legal)
of vagrants and homeless…
it’s gotta be tough. To be the cop
always ringed by a phalanx
of trust-fund idealists
and you-tube rabble-rousers
second-guessing how tight
you administer the cuffs.

 But since you were once a parent
of small children, you know how,
after the party, jacked on sugar
they cried real tears,
and with feeble fists
called you “mean,”
tried to stave off nap time.

 You are the signature on the social contract
and the only force that keeps
food in the stores where they shop-lift
garbage off the streets they occupy.

 You keep the murderers and rapists
from having the run of the town
and of these ardent young men
who kibbutz on “brutality!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..*****

Portrait on skin
by Linda Goulden

Landscape, late,
no apple, olive, rose,
no nectarine,
no peach in dew,
no honey.

Earth folds,
old fields,
a dry land
no spring

will plump.
Parched bed,
forgetting
force and flow,
shrinks without
the river.

Desert hill. Still,
barely a finger
breadth below,
the quick
shivers.


Biographies

Gill Lambert is a poet and teacher from Yorkshire. She has been published widely and her pamphlet ‘Uninvited Guests ‘ came out in 2017 with Indigo Dreams Publishing

Lynn Valentine is a dog-walker and sometimes writer living on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Her work has appeared on the Scottish Poetry Library blog, the Federation of Writers Scotland anthology and the Scottish Book Trust’s website among others. She is a previous winner of the Glasgow Women’s Library ‘Dragon’s Pen’ award and has been placed in competitions.  In 2018 she read at StAnza as part of the ‘My Time’ project.

Linda M. Crate’s works have been published in numerous anthologies and magazines both print and online. She is a two-time push cart nominee and the author of four published chapbooks. The latest book of poetry being My Wings Were Made to Fly. (Flutter Press, September 2017).

Gareth Writer-Davies: Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017) and the Erbacce Prize (2014) Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition (2015) and Prole Laureate for 2017.Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition (2015) and Highly Commended in 2017 His pamphlet “Bodies”, was published in 2015  by Indigo Dreams and the pamphlet “Cry Baby” came out 2017.His first full collection “The Lover’s Pinch” (Arenig Press) was published June, 2018

Caroline Hardaker lives in the Newcastle upon Tyne, and her poetry has been published most recently in Magma, The Interpreter’s House, and Shoreline of Infinity. Her poetry collection, ‘Bone Ovation’, was published by Valley Press in October 2017. Follow her at www.carolinehardakerwrites.com

Sithuraj Ponraj lives in Singapore. He has published 2 novels, a short story collection and 2 poetry collections. His works regularly appear in regional and international journals.

Peter Clive lives on the southside of Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and three children. He is a scientist in the renewable energy sector. As well as poetry, he enjoys composing music for piano and spending time in the Isle of Lewis.

Nigel Hutchingson studied Fine Art and worked in education. His first collection ‘The Humble Family Interviews’ is published by Cinnamon Press.He is currently involved in curating an exhibition in response to T.S Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’.

Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in a number of print magazines, anthologies and e-magazines in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Canada, the US, Australia and Hong Kong.

Jean Morris is a writer, translator and editor living in London. Her poems have been published in the online journals Gnarled Oak andOtata and she is a guest contributor to the poetry blog https://www.vianegativa.us/

Lisa DeSiro is the author of Labor (Nixes Mate, 2018) and Grief Dreams (White Knuckle Press, 2017). She works for a non-profit organization and is an assistant editor for Indolent Books. Read more about her at thepoetpianist.com

Matt Bryden was shortlisted for both the Bridport Prize 2017 and the Keats-Shelley Prize 2017 and won a Literature Matters award from the Royal Society of Literature in 2018. He is currently Poet in Residence at Bristol Temple Meads Lost Property Office. www.mattbryden.co.uk

Rona Fitzgerald has poems in UK, Scottish, Irish and US publications both in print and online. Originally from Dublin, she now lives in Glasgow. Most recent publications are Poems for Grenfell Tower, Onslaught Press 2018, and #Me Too, Fair Acre Press, 2018.

Maggie Mackay has a particular fascination for family history which informs much of her work online and in printincluding a poem in the #MeToo anthology.  Her poems have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem in 2017 and 2018 and for the Pushcart Prize last year with one commendedrecently  in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her first pamphlet will be published this year by Picaroon.

Jim Bates “I am retired and live in the small town of Long Lake, Minnesota. For many years I worked as a course developer and training instructor for an electronic controls manufacturing company. My writing includes: haiku, poetry, short and long fiction. In addition to CafeLit, my stories can be found posted on my website”
http://www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com

Steve Carr has had over 180 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. Sand, a collection of his short stories, was published recently by Clarendon House Books.He is on Twitter @carrsteven960.

Tina Cole’s main writing focus is on the psychology of relationships.  She is a keen art gallery and museum visitor and also enjoys writing that stems from images. Published poems have appeared in U.K. magazines and journals such as, (Mslexia, Aesthetica & Decanto) and one in The Guardian newspaper.

Mark Connors is a poet, novelist and writing tutor from Leeds, with a pamphlet (OWF Press, 2015), a full length collection (Stairwell Books, 2017) and two novels to his name (Armley Press 2016, 2018).

Jackie Biggs’ first collection, The Spaces in Between, was published in 2015. She has also had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies, both in print and online. She reads her work at spoken word events all over west Wales, where she lives.  Blog: http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk Twitter:@Jackie

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

Rosemary McLeish is an outsider artist who has been writing poems for about 20 years now. Some of them find themselves becoming works of art and some have been published in anthologies and magazines. She lives in Kent and is currently writing a book of memoir, ‘Not Doing The Ironing’.

J. J. Steinfeld: Canadian fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published eighteen books, including Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2014), Madhouses in Heaven, Castles in Hell (Stories, Ekstasis Editions, 2015), An Unauthorized Biography of Being (Stories, Ekstasis Editions, 2016), and Absurdity, Woe Is Me, Glory Be (Poetry, Guernica Editions, 2017.

Virginia Bach Folger lives in Schenectady, New York, USA. She has worked as a gas station attendant, paralegal, claims adjuster and corporate learning and development manager.   Her recent work is published in Constellations:A Journal of Poetry and Fiction, The Fourth River,  Lumina.

Fabrice Poussin “I’m the advisor for The Chimes, the Shorter University award winning poetry and arts publication. My writing and photography have been published in print, including Kestrel, Symposium, La Pensee Universelle, Paris, and other art and literature magazines in the United States and abroad.”

Pam Thompson is a poet, reviewer and creative writing tutor based in Leicester. Her publications include The Japan Quiz ( Redbeck Press, 2008), Show Date and Time, (Smith | Doorstop, 2006)  and Hologram(Sunk Island Publishing, 2008). Her second collection, Strange Fashion, was published by Pindrop Press in December 2017. Web-sitepamthompsonpoetry@wordpress.co.uk

Stephen Watt: Dumbarton FC Poet-in-Residence and The Hampden Collection Poet-in-Chief, Stephen Watt is the author of the poetry collections “Spit” and “Optograms”, with two further titles expected out in late-2018 and 2019.

Rachel Collinge is a storytelling word nerd living in Gateshead. Obsessed with maths, books and bagels, you’ll often find her performing spoken word in venues across the North East.

A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, fourteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses.  Her most recent releases, The Pyre On Which Tomorrow Burns (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers.  She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2600 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya.  She is the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.  You can find more of her personal work here:  https://ajhuffmanpoetryspot.blogspot.com/

Paul Waring is a semi-retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in Liverpool bands. His poems have been widely published in print journals, anthologies and online magazines. Paul’s blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com

Kate Garrett is the founding editor of four online journals and a micro press, and her own work is widely published. From rural southern Ohio, she moved to the UK in 1999, where she lives in Sheffield with her husband, children, and a sleepy cat.

Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Magma, Orbis, The Interpreter’s House and elsewhere. She won first prizes in the Poetry on the Lake Competition 2015 and 2018. Her pamphlet Family Division was published by in 2015.

James Gering has been a diarist, poet and short story writer for many years. His poetry and fiction have garnered some awards and have appeared in a number of journals, including Rattle and The Lake. James has an MA in Creative Writing. When not writing, he rock climbs and works at USYD, Australia.

Owoh Ugonna is a writer and poet, his works has being featured in so many literary magazines.

Rachel Coventry lives in Galway. Her poetry has been published in many journals including Poetry Ireland Review and The Shop. Her debut collection Afternoon Drinking in The Jolly Butchers (Salmon Poetry) was published this year.

Megha Sood lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is also a contributing author at GoDogGO Cafe, Candles Online, Whisper and the Roar and Poets Corner.Her works have been featured in GoDogGoCafe, Whisper and the Roar, Duane Poetree, Visual Verse, Poets Corner, Modern poetry, Spillwords, Indian periodicals Literary heist, Poethead, and coming up in Modern Literature and many more. She recently won the 1st prize in NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Mental Health Poetry contest. She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/.

Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich is the author ” We Are Beautiful Like Snowflakes” and “Opening the Black Ovule Gate” both with http://www.finishinglinepress.com. She is a volunteer writing instructor with The University of the People and teaches poetry and screenwriting at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y. She has her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her poetry blog is http://www.lisarhodes-ryabchichpoetryblog.wordpress.com

J. A. Sutherland is a writer and performer based in Edinburgh, widely published in pamphlets and online, producing work in a variety of forms such as art-books, exhibitions, theatre, spoken-word performance, and on a blog, throughtheturretwindow@blogspot.com

Mark Hudson is an American poet and writer, who has 50% ancestry from England, thus the name Hudson. He has had poems published on-line, in books, and internationally. In England in particular, he used to publish sci-fi poems in the English sci-fi newsletter “The Handshake,” which since has gone out of business. From there, he discovered Atlantean publishing U.K. and it’s sister publication, Tigershark Magazine U.K. where through both he has had some luck publishing. He loves it when the English accept his work, because he knows how bright they are, based on some of the British television shows and books he enjoyed. He has been trying to get published on The Writers’ Cafe website several times, and this is the first time his poem got on. He wants that to be an inspiration to any struggling writers out there as if to say, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Alex Williams is a 23 year old writer from the south coast, one day he hopes to make a living telling stories that intrigue, delight and illuminate. He hopes you enjoyed reading this and if you want to see more of his work then you can head over to mralexwilliams.wordpress.com

Toby Buckley “I am a trans poet living and working in Belfast, about to move to Glasgow.I recently completed my MA in Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast as the first recipient of the RuthWest Scholarship for Poetry. My work has been published in a number of journals including TheTangerine, Firewords and The Stinging Fly and is soon to be published in The Coil and Footnote: ALiterary Journal of History. This year, I was selected for Poetry Ireland’s Introductions Series, aprogramme which promotes the work of emerging Irish poets.I’m also the editor of Bombinate, a zine which publishes writing and illustration from all over the worldand organiser of Demand Change/Poetry with Pride, a set of poetry readings and pamphlets which focuson queer poetry from Belfast and beyond. Right now, I’m working on organising the Belfast Zine Market as part of the Belfast Book Festival, the first event of its kind to happen in Belfast.”

Mark Blayney won the Somerset Maugham Award for Two kinds of silence. Story collection Doppelgangers and poetry Loud music makes you drive faster published by Parthian. Mark was a Hay Festival Writer at Work 2016 and 2017. www.markblayney.weebly.com

Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen. Her poems have appeared in Songs for the Unsung (Grey Hen, 2017), The Winter Solstice Anthology (2017), #MeToo (Fair Acre, 2018), and Dusk (Arachne, 2018) and in numerous other places in print and online, including Causeway/Cabhsair (2018, forthcoming),The Writers’ Cafe, and Coast to Coast  to Coast. She was commended in the 2018 Vernal Equinox competition of the Federation of Writers (Scotland). When not writing, she makes music.

Linda Goulden is a Derbyshire based poet. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, magazines, online publications and the odd poetry competition. She can’t draw or paint.

Charles Joseph Albert is a metallurgist in San Jose, California, where he lives with his wife and three boys. His work (the poetry and fiction, not the metallurgy–that would be pretty cool!) has appeared recently in CafeLit, Here Comes Everyone, Asissi, Ibis Head Review, MOON, and The Literary Nest.

Megha Sood lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is also a contributing author at GoDogGO Cafe, Candles Online, Whisper and the Roar and Poets Corner.Her works have been featured in GoDogGoCafe, Whisper and the Roar, Duane Poetree, Visual Verse, Poets Corner, Modern poetry, Spillwords, Indian periodicals Literary heist, Poethead, and coming up in Modern Literature and many more. She recently won the 1st prize in NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Mental Health Poetry contest. She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/.


 


12 thoughts on “The Writers’ Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 10 ” Portraits”

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