I’m Liz and I am very happy and honoured to be taking over as the Manchester Word Life editor. I love Now Then and have had a handful of poems published here, so being asked to edit was wonderful. I’m looking forward to bringing you some great writing from Manchester and beyond, and sharing news of upcoming local events.
Late January and early February saw Manchester flowing with colour and joy to herald the dawn of the Chinese Year of the Rooster. I therefore thought I would include my poem, ‘Rooster’, in this issue, and it happened to tie in nicely with Lydia Allison’s beautiful ‘Things you learn about rhubarb’, which also has an oriental theme. Our third poem is Roma Havers’ poignant ‘Little Brother’.
With regards to performance and spoken word, there are a number of exciting events on the horizon:
GIRL ISH Fri 10 March | Solomons Cafe Bar, Withington | 7.30pm | Pay As You Feel No Door Theatre presents a scratch theatre night made up of eleven small plays - link.
SPEAK! Thu 16 March | Jimmy’s, Northern Quarter Spoken word night.
DRUNK POETRY Mon 27 March | Solomons Cafe Bar, Withington Presented by Manchester Creative Writing Society.
ODE Thu 30 March | Oddest Bar, Chorlton | 8pm | Free Spoken word, live music and literature presented by Young Identity - link.
Please send any submissions of poetry or flash fiction for this page to email@example.com – I would love to hear from you.
Here’s to a good spring.
I took a decent photo of you once. You were white and your wattle and crest were scarlet and rubbery, like some kind of vital human innards. I titled it, “Rubies”. Hey, it was arty. But I did worship you. I wanted to see you in the way others did: a noisy nuisance, a fluffy
fool who waddled and couldn’t fly, couldn’t do much except court ladies and one day die. But for me as a child you were a respected member of the farmyard Big Four, with cow and pig and sheep. “Chicken”, that was you, never “cockerel” – I didn’t see any point in
separating female and male. When you made an effort you could be up there with the owl, wailing, but I wasn’t excited by your screech. I just sat and clucked gently away with you, giggled at your jokes. 1993, that year before me, was Rooster. I was Dog. Half the kids in
my school year had you. Some of them were not great, we both know that – hell, we know. But there were nice ones, remember? Rubies, and sapphires and jets. Some did learn to fly, some to make a lot of noise. Some make nice photographs. The camera dislikes you and me.
One bark from me, you freeze. Two, you turn a little; I see a glimmer of that long-ago red. You are white and feathery, you’d cut right through like butter. You sparkle. Blood and gems and glass. I bark a third time, you face me fully, smile weakly. You do not deny me.
The love between dogs is simple. Rough and ready, hot and angry, pure and open, we tear one another apart before collapsing together in a tired heap. My love with you will not be easy. You are so fragile. Thank god I am not fox. I do not devour you, but pad softly after
you, perpetually amused by the way you are.
Things you learn about rhubarb
when you open your local newsletter: another link to the East. The Silk Road you always meant to go to but never did. From your town to Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai
that skyline! The reason you say you must go back, as well as Xi Hu, the old towns and, of course, Macau - fusion food, egg tarts, and now (Leeds farmer Dave says) rhubarb too.
The tart fibres which are your memories’ sinew. The only food you never looked up how to cook. Never searched recipes, trusted your hands, believed it’s in your genes
that fruit that lends itself to pale sugar easily, having grown by candlelight.
When you are older you’ll understand why woodpeckers give themselves headaches, why there’s a sweepstake on the fate of our family tree, why we don’t name our earthquakes, but our hurricanes have free-mason handshakes, why I’m a fickle friend, not a hero in a red cape. I’ve left a couple of cassette tapes under our Wendy House, your friends won’t know their whereabouts or how to spin their ribbons like a roundabout, it’s paramount that you listen.
Listen, you ground-hog day my dreams, older but the face of what you used to be, when your hair twisted like a question mark; I hope you never park beside my memoirs and they’re impolite, I hope you’re old enough for an absent sister’s advice.
Here’s seven sins for seven years:
Let Pride win you over like a pullover sweater, sell it at lemonade stands to make the weather better.
Let Gluttony be malteasers in glass jars, better than fast cars and film stars but savour them if you need to.
Let Greed fall to the bottom of your coat pockets, pick it out between bus tickets, don’t let it surprise you, keep the receipt so you know where it comes from.
Let Wrath make maths of your shoelaces, loop it through rabbit holes, make catacombs so you have somewhere to walk it back to.
Let Sloth be blinking, one eye open, playing blackjack with your best wishes.
Let Envy play monopoly with your little brother, let him have waterworks, but you keep Mayfair.
Let Lust leave the crusts off if it wants to, meet it in the middle of your wrist, not in a fist, better be a near miss than reminisce over a wishlist.
Little brother, don’t let them sever you into seven sins, heaven is a lesser prize than earthly things.