Your Call is Important to Us
by David Mark Williams
Please be aware
all our operators are busy right now
but as you wait, enjoy your breath,
be lulled by Vivaldi. Rest assured,
it’s all happening beautifully,
the time will go in a heartbeat.
Once you’re connected
one of our colleagues will lead you to a life
where nothing happens,
a lovely limbo with a view.
Your call is important to us,
the potted plant at your side
which we shall never refer to
but sense the delicate fronds of,
is important to us also,
and the rain falling heavily through trees,
leaves pressed against the glass,
all this is important too.
We think it would please you to know
your conversation may be recorded
for training purposes and possibly beamed
to every corner of the galaxy.
We hope you are seated comfortably
or even better standing up straight
to give your voice the weight of someone
who knows what they’re about.
The slow leak in your life jacket,
that knocking in your pipes,
will be of no consequence,
figure in no equation.
You will be connected as soon as possible.
Thank you for your continued patience.
By David Mark Williams
I have forgotten how to sleep.
I have forgotten the spell to weave
to bring on sleep:
every night to lie washed up, watching
the restless scrawl of the dark.
There’s sleep out in the yard,
dream apples hitting the ground,
the sweet poison waters of refreshment
somewhere far off.
Then car horns split the morning wide,
the new day grit in my eyes
and I dream of places to sleep:
lying on an empty beach,
lulled by the white noise of the sea,
sand the perfect mattress;
inside a sun warmed garden shed,
on a bed of hessian sacks,
a trapped fly rasping at a cracked window;
in the shade of a tiny fir tree on the slope
of a sun seared hill, seeing yellow
before I fell;
nodding off on a train
to the end of the line;
and last of all
working through a doldrum agenda,
seated at a table polished to water,
tipping head first into it,
and before the eyes close,
speaking bubbles of conundrum
for the benefit of all those present,
who can only wonder: is that him
properly asleep now?
By Elizabeth Horrocks
Humankind was happy,
With fine skills –
Flint knapping, hunting,
Providing food and leisure.
Some tried settling –
More hard work,
And less time
For tales and singing,
But more security.
Roots could be put down.
The gods smiled:
This is as it should be.
And then some evil spirit
Whispered that happiness lay
In liquid rock,
Heated, shaped, cooled:
Better for hunting…
A bargaining tool
If you had it –
And others didn’t.
Others may wish to own it,
But it is yours,
And with those sharp edges
You can defend it
And decorate yourself
More than the rest…
And fight others who want
To equal or exceed you.
The gods looked down with dismay
At the ensnaring of the once noble race,
Now bewitched by cruel copper,
Bright bronze and cold iron.
Allowing the Light
By Sheila Aldous
It’s that time again when I wake:
no life blinks in the house across
the way, no small hand holds mine
but the moon rises in the sky
and a star falls to earth.
And I wish
laws did not take away
our rights to love.
And in the morning day breaks
with my heart, salt crystals
from the night dry into stardust
on my pillow, rays of sun sparkle
gold beads – flash my new beginning.
And I wish
this child was mine to hold,
where he would not be unfastened,
to float into a dark sea,
where his dust will cloud our eyes,
will burn into a million stars that
will look down and judge.
And I wish
to see him in the dew clinging to the petals,
to see his face shine in their mirror,
to see his footsteps in newly mown grass
where he never trod.
And I wish
to see him in a mother’s arms
where he is allowed the light.
[For Alfie Evans]
It’s the smell that I see and hear
Every time I open the door
Of the house you once lived in
The smell of hours in a flowery pinny
And little sausages brown with tradition
It’s the smell of a tablecloth
A gravy boat
The things we don’t have at home
The wondering of who will get to say Grace this time
Or when Grandpa will try to steal a chip
It’s the smell of butter, not margarine, in a dish
And lemonade in our little glass beakers
And, somewhere, amidst bread rolls and roast potatoes and puns from the head of the table
A plate of cold egg
Hard-boiled earlier today
And sliced with a little instrument I find thrillingly efficient
It’s the smell of saving my slices of cold egg
And eating the white first
The soft, ever-so-slightly grey yolk a final savoury treat
Before the inevitable, longed-for Viennetta
It’s the smell I’m after when I roast my own potatoes
And stand on tiptoes to reach my gravy boat on the top shelf
And peel my cold eggs
And unfreeze my Viennetta
Wearing your old, flowery pinny
That doesn’t smell of anything
Edges of Autumn
By Lynne Tlr
Rapunzel, you brushed your hair
as we overlooked treetops and attics,
houseboats on the Amstel. Four storeys
down, so busy looking, we didn’t see
roads honeyed with shops were traps
crossed by lanes like wires barbed with cyclists.
We escaped à la Shalott, cruised
along Gentleman’s Canal, Amsterdam
the expected perspective:
Patrician houses with an origami skyline.
On terra firma we were shaken by a crash,
our legs grazed by a terracotta roof-tile
destined to become a pile of daggers,
needed the sedation of coffee
at a pavement café. You ate a Piece of Heaven
with all its angelic calories, and I,
a Torte of Summer Fruits big enough
for several summers. The temperature was 24 degrees
but edges of autumn scraped the air.
In a forest of artists’ stalls and a maze of alleys
we got lost. No trail of breadcrumbs to follow.
We chilled in the pool, simmered in the Jacuzzi,
curdled with hunger. Caution to the wind
were caught in a thunderstorm, struck
by uncertainty – was a bus shelter safe?
Hotly showered we lay side by side,
thirty years between us. Told different stories
from the same history, remembered changes
to look forward to.
At the airport there was a theft. A happy ending
stolen; your seat double-booked.
I may have to leave you behind. Fate
waved a magic wand. Midnight was delayed.
On This Summer Day
By Sue Kauth
Sleeping cats curl like commas
on windowsills in sun
and summer’s rhythm is measured
in cricket commentary and bees buzzing
in boarge and foxglove.
Meadowsweet and strawberries scent the air
and the garden is fecund.
Produce spills across kitchen:
beans, peas, tomatoes fat with sun’s ripeness,
and jars of jam gleam from shelves.
But the past is sneaky,
and ghosts of earlier summers
creep in with evening’s shadows
bringing a chill to the air.
We shiver, reflect on years piled behind us
then shrug, grow sentimental and speak
of children on beaches and walks
down country lanes.
We let mist cloud our memories
and pretend to believe
winter will never come again.
By Susi Clare
First thing he says, You dolled up for Carnival or what?
Does he mean my Twiggy eyes, or the pink spray-on highlight?
Whichever, my face feels like a smacked bum and something’s
doing a bungee jump in my stomach.
OK, so he is a bit of rough and my mum’d have kittens
if she knew what I was up to, but there’s the thrill, that
and his blue eyes, black hair, pale face, which, let’s face it,
is kind of rat-like in daylight but nicely chiselled by night.
Plus he doesn’t go to my school.
He slides his tongue over the Rizla, studies me through smoke
as if I’m a prize heifer. The pinkie nail he files to a point slices
along the streak in my hair, flicks it away, like dandruff.
He hefts the front of his drainpipes, grinds the dog-end
with a fake-snake winklepicker, says, Oh well, come on then,
and sets off down the alley, not waiting to see if I follow.
He pushes me against the wall of the Variety Hall; I feel
the pulse of band music through bricks on my back, his pulse
on my stomach; I’m encased in throbbing.
His tongue laps my ear, delves, twirls;
when he takes it out, the skin turns cold.
He moves to my lips, they part without a second thought;
I taste the bitterness of wax.
Let’s get these buns out of the bag, he says to my teeth;
bra wire digs into my chest.
His fingers zipper along the bulge at the top of my nylons;
Time to put the Roger back in rabbit, he says, fiddling with his flies.
I’m thinking, rabbit? What rabbit? Then twig.
I’m not that kind of girl, I say, clamping my knees
tight enough to crush an Aspirin.
You’re a bleedin’ tease is what you are.
He spits the words at me. For a minute I quail, but he pulls out
a steel comb, tweaks his quiff; the Zippo flares behind his palm.
See you around then, he says.
It starts raining; pink leaks down my face
like the bloody tears of a plaster saint.
By the time he reaches the corner, he’s shrunk
into perspective. In the lamp-light, he squares
his shoulders under the baggy red blazer, making ripples
in the logo, almost turning the final exclamation
into a question mark.