Simon Robson – 1 poem

BLUE SURGICAL FACE MASK

 

Your blue surgical face mask from China is in the post…
I hope it doesn’t get misdirected
like your last false nose and mouth,
a digital camera, photos of your heavy, congested lungs,
fish paste bacteria on toast.

Your jars of sticky raspberry jam coughing fits
are in the post, calming fluid between your toes,
agitated, hysteria, in your blue surgical face mask…
or dipped into a half-full urinal, smelling of piss…

More reusable bubble wrap plastic,
your nerves in little bits, tatters,
washing your hands and face,
hand cream, green gel…

I’m sitting on the warm vibrations of the
parcel sorting machine, no mech allowances, dust,
hand trap warnings, here at JMC, Hounslow heath,
when an opened parcel containing
a blue surgical face mask from China…

Sneezing into your pagan lentil Madras soup,
more yoga, more hair,
pet hair remover for your nostrils and dust,
and the blue surgical face mask you ordered on-line,
48 Tracked – beware of handshakes,
playing doctors and nurses,
back slaps – the neck of an ironing board,
ear lobes more comfy than a sofa from DFS…

Please if you need further instructions,
isolate yourself with a bottle of whiskey,
Downstream Access, next day delivery, mixed parcels…
your blue surgical face mask is in the post.

 

 

🍃

 

 

Simon Robson

Belinda Rimmer – Fiction

The Shrine Hunter

The idea came fully formed. Sue got straight down to business with a trip to the library and an Internet search. She packed light: a few warm clothes, toiletries, nightwear, pair of scissors, plastic bag, note book to catalogue the when and where of every stop-over, and some ordnance survey maps.

Sue stared at the empty roadside. She’d walked for miles, had she miscalculated her route?

A cheery dog walker stopped. ‘Are you lost?’

‘I’m looking for a shrine, it should be right here.’

‘What’s it got to do with you?’ His friendly tone had disappeared.

‘I knew the young man and wish to leave my condolences.’ The trick, she knew from watching murder mysteries, was to lie with conviction.

The dog walker seemed to weigh her up, making her glad she’d worn her best macintosh.

‘Sorry if I sounded aggressive,’ he said, ‘people forget these shrines are sacred. A few things went missing so the family had to move it to the other side of the road, behind the hedge.’

Within minutes, Sue had appraised the items scattered around a wooden cross: a blue and white scarf, a framed photograph of the deceased (a young man of about nineteen), a few bunches of wilted flowers and a stack of letters fading inside plastic wallets. Out of everything, the scarf would have been the easiest to conceal but was frayed at the edges and grubby – not at all fit for purpose. The bleached letters were useless too. But the photograph of the young man astride his motorbike – his dark hair like her own in its heyday, his eyes the same shade of brown – would suffice. She slotted the photograph into her plastic bag. An hour later, she was inside her hotel nursing the prospect of a hot bath and a pile of shortbread biscuits. It had been a good day.

Next morning, Sue moved on.

She was pleased to note that, unlike the previous one, this shrine had not been removed from

the side of the road. The pickings were of a lesser quality though. Worms had feasted on the six Terry Pratchett books and she didn’t care for the plastic bunch of daffodils. A red silk tie dangled from a nearby branch. Although it didn’t necessarily belong to the shrine, Sue counted it as a major triumph and slotted it into her bag.

By the end of the week she’d visited seven roadside shrines. Her finds included: the photograph, the red neck tie, a teddy bear in a mortarboard, a replica miniature surfboard, a full sized chef’s hat, three bronze swimming medals (she wished they’d been gold) and last but not least, a gilded baby’s shoe. She was ready to go home.

Sue chose her location carefully – a lane with a pretty grass verge adjacent to a hairpin bend. Risking life and limb, she erected her home-made wooden cross and arranged the items in the order she’d found them. She stood back to witness the person she’d created. A handsome young man who rode a motorbike, a smart dresser who took pride in wearing a red silk tie, a scholar with a degree, a surfer (with happy memories of family holidays by the sea), a gifted baker (every good son should know how to cook his mother a birthday cake), a strong swimmer and the bonniest baby in the world.

My son, she thought. The one I had for a little while then lost. I’ve so often imagined what he would have turned out like. And now I know. This is my place to come and mourn him. After all, it’s a mother’s role to keep the memory of her son alive.

She felt that something of what she was doing was keeping the others alive too, the other lost boys. She wanted to say sorry to their families. She could see the sharp sting of their sorrow in her collection. Even if you closed your heart, even if you thought you were getting better, the pain got in.

 

🍃

 

 

Belinda is a poet and short story writer. Her poems and stories are widely published. She is a joint winner of the Indigo-First Pamphlet Competition, 2018, with her pamphlet, Touching Sharks in Monaco. One of her flashes made it into bestmicrofiction 2019, and the TSS Publishing list for Best British and Irish Flash Fiction 2018-2019.

 

Ian Stuart – 2 poems

Biker Boy

 

Slips like a minnow

through the stream of cars,

pulls a wheelie, slews

across the traffic flow

and flashes a finger, then

up on the pavement,

missing the old bird in a grubby duffel

by the thickness of a ciggy skin

hands free,

he’s off again up the road

to a fanfare of car horns.

 

And I’m wondering if

I’m angry

or  just envious.

 

🍃

 

 

An old man to his cock

 

That branch now droops, which once stood straight and  true.

The summer plums which hung upon the bough

are shrunk and shrivelled in the orchard now.

 

For I am old and, sadly, so are you.

 

Now irrigation is your only function,

the time to broadcast seed is long gone by.

We must accept the truth without compunction-

 

You can’t stand up, however hard we try.

 

🍃

 

 

Ian Stuart

Glenn Hubbard – 1 poem

The Early Spider Orchid And The Mining Bee

 

“Look. Look here. These are Ophrys sphegodes.

They are waiting for bees, pretending they

are keen to please, sending their chemical

cocktail out on the breeze. It’s an act of

sexual deceit. Brazen. Beyond mere

flirtation. None of your blushing maiden.

The full come-on. Hits the spot. Shall we watch?”

 

 

“Here comes Andrena nigroaenea,

all ardour and impatience. Needing to

mate. Can’t wait. False pheromones have done the

trick. Afraid of rivals he needs to be quick.

He grabs the sought-for prize in brutish haste.

He hasn’t a moment to waste. But it

all goes sour, his would-be mate a flower.

Ecstacy resists. Romeo desists.

He leaves to persist elsewhere. Still on fire.

But apart from the weight of unsated

desire, he carries unregistered freight!

Made to look a fool in a fake tryst, our

male is now an unwitting pollen mule,

outwitted by an orchid. Shall we go?”

 

🍃

 

 

Glenn Hubbard lives in Madrid and has been writing poetry since 2012. He has had around 70 poems published in digital and printed magazines. Nevertheless, something prevents him from completely accepting the idea that he is able to write poems that people enjoy. But it seems he can.

Gary Beck – 2 poems

Odds Are

 

Double or nothing
always seems a daring bet.
Unless you have nothing to lose,
and if the value of double
is not life changing
the rush is ephemeral,
the reward minimal,
results concluding
with smug victory,
resentful defeat.

 

🍃

 

Assault Team

 

Traffic clogs the roads
cars, buses, taxis, trucks,
many driving recklessly,
all emitting toxins
courtesy of
the oil industry
more concerned with profit
than the human condition,
survival of the earth
a matter of indifference,
as long as the wealthy
maintain their comforts.

 

🍃

 

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 26 poetry collections, 10 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 1 collection of his one-act plays. Published poetry books include:  Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays, Perceptions, Fault Lines, Tremors, Perturbations, Rude Awakenings, The Remission of Order, Contusions and Desperate Seeker (Winter Goose Publishing. Forthcoming: Learning Curve and Ignition Point). Blossoms of Decay, Expectations, Blunt Force, Transitions, Mortal Coil and Temporal Dreams (Wordcatcher Publishing, Forthcoming: Redemption Value and Fractional Disorder). Earth Links and Too Harsh For Pastels (Cyberwit Publishing: Forthcoming: Severance). His novels include a series ‘Stand to Arms, Marines’: Call to Valor, Crumbling Ramparts and Raise High the Walls (Gnome on Pig Productions). Acts of Defiance, Flare Up and Still Defiant (Wordcatcher Publishing. Forthcoming: Until the Bell and Pirate Spring). Extreme Change will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. State of Rage Cyberwit Publishing. His short story collections include: A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing) and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing). The Republic of Dreams and other essays (Gnome on Pig Productions). The Big Match and other one act plays (Wordcatcher Publishing, Forthcoming: Collected Plays of Gary Beck Volume 1 and Four Plays by Moliere – Translated and Directed by Gary Beck)). Plays of Aristophanes will be published by Cyberwit Publishing. Gary lives in New York City.