Miss Sophie


She used to sit on my bed looking pretty
the doll my nan gave me, a cut above the rest.

With porcelain face & fine fingered hands,
she wore a flower-patterned dress & maroon

velvet bonnet, had real leather boots no less.
But it was her eyes that fascinated me. Full

lashed & lidded, they were endlessly blue,
as if twin galaxies were staring back, which was

probably where she wished she was, not stuck
between Tigger & Pooh. What happened to her?

Maybe she left, insisted on more suitable
lodgings, flounced out the door with a pout.

J V Birch



TY

The best compliments I’ve gotten
Aren’t on my appearance
Not like I get many of those-
ha!-
They’re nice.
I like to hear them.
They’re appreciated.
But-
They very best ones
Ring true on a soul-level
A rock splashing into a pond
Sinks to the bottom
Yet creates ripples on the surface
That expand far beyond the point of entry.
The best compliments I’ve gotten
Speak to me of a unity
of self,
an affirmation that
I’m not as torn and fragmented
As sometimes I fear.
“I admire your pep”
“You have great taste in music”
“You’re a good coffee drinker”
“You’re a beautiful soul”
Even when I suspect
I’m really not.

Margaret King



To give away autumn

Near, nearest a pond without reflection
I gave away my autumn
Every color had to go
The crimson, the gold, the brown, the orange
Reasons escape me now
Perhaps it was the smoke rising from the newly lit chimneys
Reminding me of what the Elders used to say
How we start from nothing and everything
With the colors gone
The lack of reflection in the water
The water that brings forth all
Finally I am seen
I desperately wished for a spring gift
Though it was taken
So I could not give
My autumn, I gave freely
Becoming all and nothing
Liberated .

Fee Thomas



We Are More!

We are the material
The thing dreams are made of
Made out of

We are the bones and flesh
The spine and blood
of granted wishes

We are the material
The beautiful Stone kept promises are cut from
Cut out of

We are the sweat and dust
The water and flour
Life is kneaded from then baked

We are the material
The gorgeous lively flames starry nights are polished from
Polished out of

We are living beings
For whom all this glory glows!

Gerry Sikazwe



The Vase

The kitchen looked tired and worn
like my mother did,
the last time I saw her there.
I felt no nostalgia for it.
It was not my childhood kitchen.
It held no special memories,
I thought.
And then,
I saw the vase on the counter top.
My friend found it on the King's Road.
Bought it and brought it home.
I’d asked her to buy me something,
a souvenir of swinging London.
She bought the vase.
I never much liked it.
Dark and bulbous,
it spent most of its time at my mother’s,
though she didn’t like it much either.
Then time stole it away,
took it from my memory,
erased it.
And now,
here it is again, sharp as ever
bringing the past home
as it stands empty
on the counter top.
It seems that her death
invested in it a poignancy
that it had not known before.

I took it home with me.

Lynn White



The gifts I'll never use

Nothing duller to the touch
than week-old Christmas presents.
The wrapping overflows the trash barrel.
Why not the gifts? Why not the givers?

Thankfully, I have twelve eggnog free months
to look forward to.
And maybe eleven before fake wreaths
are dug up from the cellar
and a tree sprouts metallic in the parlor.
And ten until the dreaded question,
"Why do I buy her this year?"

The spoils of Christmas:
a shirt I'll never wear,
a book I won't read,
a CD I can't be bothered listening to...
there is the life I lead,
and there is the life
that waits in vain.

John Grey



The lightest thing

Never did you learn who I was
never did I learn who you were
now you live in me
I do belong to you.

Beyond life, love
(moving target of arrows)
the lightest thing:
your life belongs to mine.

Anna Maria Dall’Olio

Wedding Gift


On their wedding day he gave her a tiny box
And said its contents matched his sibling promise.
The bells were going to chime, reminding uncles
Standing stiff and starched of older songs.
Indrawn breath rushed them up the central aisle.
A young man stepped up at the crucial moment,
Placing the gift's twin in his palm.
Present and the other slid onto two fingers
And she danced, two sun rays revolving on the walls.

They lived their lives as wind and rivers,
Pouring over fierce cascades, waiting in still pools,
Bathing in hot patches, pellucid blue lagoons,
Catching skin on sharpened stone, hitting shallow scree.
Sometimes, when their heads came out the water
They could glimpse the headland and its plain.
And always, far away, a sentinel lighthouse
Turning its back to them, staring at tomorrow.

On the day she dressed in black she got another box,
And heard that it was full of dust and secrets.

Andrew Nowell



Vincent

Vincent Van Gogh didn’t pick up a paintbrush till he was 28 years old
So I’m told
Brushstroke, after brushstroke, after brushstroke –
The world was always there:
The starry night,
Sunflowers
But only with a paintbrush could he seem to care.

Or make sense of it all.

Sarah Hulme



Grace

Liv lay on the sofa wearing mismatched pyjamas that hadn’t seen the inside of the washing machine for something like a fortnight. Two bras and four crumpled socks lay in various positions across the floor, flung half-heartedly to be picked up some other time. The room was dark, lit only by the shifting glow from the TV – some old reruns of her favourite programme. A man and a woman chased down a perp, guns out. Freeze, FBI. Liv’s face crinkled slightly, remembering the giddy tingle she’d felt as a teenager when she watched it. She’d bought every box set. Posters of the duo had lined the walls of her childhood bedroom. When she was seventeen, her first boyfriend looked like the male actor – much older than her, well-dressed, sophisticated. She remembered how he’d kissed her goodbye so tenderly the night he left to go on vacation. He never came back. A month later, she’d found out from a friend that he’d married someone else. After that came the boyfriend who’d had the affair with his ex. Then the good one who just wasn’t the right one. Then, finally, the gaslighter.

The volume on the TV was low. The characters shouted quietly to each other. Someone drunk shouted not-quietly from outside and Liv’s wife stirred. She was curved sleeping between Liv’s thighs, her heavy head resting on Liv’s abdomen. Grace. Her eyes stuttered open for a moment, half-focusing on the screen before dropping closed again. Liv’s fingers snaked through her wife’s silky hair, gently teasing out knots where they found them. Liv remembered how she’d been just before Grace. Hollowed out. Carved. Pumpkin grotesque. And then Grace walked into her life like a candle, lit her up from the inside. It came as a surprise, this new love, an unexpected gift – and she melted into it like butter. Two years later they’d married beneath a warm summer sky, stars glittering above them as they promised each other a life of love and laughter.

The red-haired actor was raising an arched eyebrow at her partner, and Liv smiled. I should have known, she thought, as she drifted into sleep, the tingle was always for her.

Kristi Rose



Birthday Present

I wanted to bring back the
best gift from the country
for you, just for you.
I wanted to.

Some sky would be nice,
lots of lovely sky with
light fleecy clouds.

So I rushed through
stores and bought the
biggest shiny box and
looked for a perfect bow.

All shades of blue, violet
with red and yellow.
An entire rainbow of
colored ribbons for the
box to put this sky into.

Then on the bus my bow
fell apart. Somebody
stepped on the box. It's
all crushed and dirty.

By the time we got to
the city it was late. Did
my sky fly away?
The box is empty now.

I wanted to bring back the
best gift from the country
for you, just for you.
I wanted to.

Joan McNerney



This is our night,

so we dampen down
stars onto pavements
which sleep on the other side
of the city's eyes.
The long slow slope of the hills
stretches away
into the dark
and home.

In a park, the mouth
of a streetlamp gutters
and laughs. We are grinning
through a candle hour,
kicking back history
in the arch of our backs, the distant
chant of childhood a train wrecked
far off its tracks, a shadow lost

in some long-corridored past.
Cross the dark hills and
you hear them calling -
the other us -
the children down the hallway,
scrawling a sentence
which one day will speak
in the thawing smudge
of a kiss in this street,

where here and now
we are fizzing
and laughing
and dancing
when it is our night.

Laura Potts



Sweet Heart

He’d seen it glint earlier
when a shaft of light hit
the open box.
He kept watch till they left.
Back now, still watchful.
Turn his head this way,
then that.
No cats.
No humans.
Upturned the box
and seized his prize
glinting gold among the dull
browns and creams.
Carried it off.
Then carried it home,
a home now fit for his new lover,
his sweet heart.
But he didn’t unwrap it.
Didn’t discover the greater prize
lying under the surface glitter.
Didn’t find the jewel
of sweetness in the centre.
Soon life dulled the surface glitter,
screwed it up.
And the sweet heart
melted in the warmth,
Melted into sticky goo.
Melted away as
sweet hearts do.

Lynn White