The words ‘I love you’
are a tool, of course, and a weapon (a weapon of self-defence?) as well as a key being turned, as well as an exposed wound (neat or jagged?), as well as a proffered pearl (freshly harvested?), as well as a judgement, as well as a gasp for air, as well as an incantation. You may, upon hearing them, feel as if you are being led into or out of a cage. You may feel as if you are being interrogated, or called up as an expert witness, or sat down in front of a puzzle box. You may feel as if a metal probe has been inserted into you, or a private item taken from your drawer and put on display. Once said, the words ‘I love you’ might linger briefly, or they might buzz about your head till you swat them away. They might vanish immediately, so that you doubt their being said, or they might leave a painful splinter in your ear. You may choose to seal them in a jar and keep that jar about you at all times, or else take it to your lab and study the words ‘I love you’ under a microscope, never learning if they’re living or dead. You might ride out to meet them with your own words in retinue, as welcome party or counterattack. You might even respond with the very same words, so that the two sets of triplets meet in the air and face each other down. You may feel you hear these words too often. On the other hand, you may feel sure you’ll never hear them again.
Katharine Peters-Cook (1887-1922) was a poet and former cabaret dancer from Boston, Massachusetts. She published several volumes of work, including The Reader Writes The Reader and See The Bells Fall. Her final collection, Here Lies The American, was assembled from drafts found in her apartment.
She Learns to Count
She saw your kindness poke fun at her crying eye just once.
Not more than twice, she watched your honesty swear blind it did not know her.
Three times – three at most – she saw your cleverness look doe-eyed at a huckster of the first degree.
It might have been four times she witnessed your good humour screaming like a kettle in her favourite restaurant.
Was it five times she recognised your decency amid the crowd howling for tabloid blood?
There was a sixth occasion, she supposes, when she spotted your ambition on the sofa with a spliff and gaping case of wine.
No way could it be seven times she, shopping with your generosity, paid up with everything she had.
Nor eight times, surely, that she watched your self-control professing palpitations of the heart to someone new!
Nine times … Nine times she did not think she knew, or thought she could not know.
Ten times she heard someone in love with you deny the constitution of your soul.
Camille Ralphs has two published pamphlets, Malkin: An ellegy in 14 spels (The Emma Press, 2015) and uplifts & chains (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2020), with another forthcoming in 2023. She writes the ‘Averse Miscellany’ column for Poetry London, conducts the ‘Poem’s Apprentice’ interview series for Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal and is Poetry Editor at the TLS.
in the prefecture
mark my wild return:
a prismatic fellow,
children call me spring-heel,
like a fall into a well
of old mouse bones.
Vines under foot
keep me sheriff ’d.
No knives or horns
under my hat, as I follow
ﬁfteen feet behind and to the side,
a hook, adhesive mister –
I only hope you know
where I am going.
Richard Watt‘s debut collection, The Golem, is available from Holdfire Press. He lives in Angus, Scotland, where he is a press manager for the Scottish Parliament.
Jd is a Seattle-based artist. He started drawing Japanese folklore characters in the early nineties and continues to contribute pages to his never-to-be-released book as new ideas and stories reach his ears.
Spell for Calling Out River Horses
I step into the river when the sky
is damp charcoal, swirl with my hands
the moon-freckled water. Dip my head
into the river, bring it up
and spit an arc towards the silhouette
trees in their absence, let the water
fall to the rushes. Between my fish-pale legs
the river horse rises. Slick skinned
from the silt, halterless as an otter
it rises. I will hold forever
to its marble neck as the carousel is starting,
a circuit of black horses, wide
as the oceans. Past lonely warehouses
and gantries of the river, the horses
are swimming, the river horses racing
the current. They describe a carousel
as wide as the oceans, a tide of seal-black horses.
Rowyda Amin is the author of the poetry chapbooks Desert Sunflowers (flipped eye) and We Go Wandering at Night and Are Consumed by Fire (Sidekick Books). Rowyda has won the Venture Award for poetry chapbooks from Flipped Eye Press and the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize for poetry. She has performed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, the Brighton Festival, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Festival Hall. rowyda.com
Surveyor’s Riddles: Twelve
I was more than halfway through life’s
wood, I would not say I was lost but I could not
see my way. I sat down and got out my sandwich
and before I knew it I was having 20 winks,
and Management came to me in my sleep
and lifted me above the walls of paradise
showing me my leafy grandparents
just reaching for that decisive divisive
fruit. I woke to find my lunchbox empty
and no memory of having eaten my
‘petit filou’. The birds sang mockingly.
A squirrel dropped something from a tree.
Giles Goodland is the author of Gloss (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2014) and What the Things Sang (Shearsman, 2012) as well as several chapbooks of poetry and articles on Early Modern English lexis. Born in 1964, he lives in London and works in Oxford.
Alistair Noon is the author of Earth Records (2012) and The Kerosene Singing (2015), both from Nine Arches Press, as well as a dozen chapbooks of poetry and translations from German and Russian. Born in 1970, he lives in Berlin, where he works as a translator.
Chronic Illness: The Tabletop RPG
The main mechanic of this game is the feedback loop of energy use. You’ll be given five spoons to place in front of you. Do not question the spoons.
In this game you get what you’re given.
Each action costs you one spoon.
Actions you may take include, but are not limited to:
fighting running problem-solving walking talking eating screwing loving digesting crying sleeping sitting shitting breathing
To reach the next level, make sure you take plenty of rest breaks. To take rest breaks you must be supine, succumb to gravity, thinking of nothing.
You must also use designated restorative spots, or ‘beds’.
Each time you find a ‘bed’, roll a dice to determine the quality of your rest. The number you roll determines how many spoons you will receive.
You may think this game seems difficult. It is. You play the role you are given.
True, the next adventure looks much like the one before that and the one before that and the one before that and the one before that and the one before that, ad infinitum.
How can you win?
That’s really beside the point.
Charlotte Heather’s writing explores bodies experiencing chronic illness and disability, often intersecting with gender and sex, and is a member of resting up collective and founder of the remote body. Their work has appeared in Hotel, Spam Zine and Lighthouse Journal. Charlotte is currently editing a pamphlet concerning RPGs and illness whilst teaching creative writing.
Twitter: @Lottyyy / Instagram: @TheRemoteBody
‘The Only Non-Conformist in the Crew’
J.M. Barrie, on Hook’s bo’sun Smee
stubborn little nest bandit,
Chaotic flyer –
black-white-black-white cracked-ice blur –
White widgeon, weasel coot.
Jen Wainwright is an editor of children’s books. She has recently taken the plunge and moved to Lyon to start a new life among the cheese and pastries of France, where she hopes to spend lots more time writing. Her poetry has appeared in several magazines, including Fuselit, Iota and The Journal.
I prefer to stay home and avoid beauty. I like to order in. Japanese food most nights. Boy or girl, I never look the delivery person in the eye in case their eyes are amazing. I eat miso soup. Or should I say drink? Miso soup most days. Mondays miso, Tuesdays miso … and that’s my week. When I stir it the tiny particles of soya look like the universe. A hot, cloudy, white-speckled universe. I drink down the stars. But it’s the little cubes of tofu that really do it for me, the way they bobble and swirl like planets moving fast around a sun. And I don’t need a telescope, only my tongue.
I never go out between meals in case it’s Spring and the trees are in bud. The cherry blossom in Kyoto would kill me. I’m always on the lookout for new places to order from, but when I’m not sat waiting for home delivery, I try to read, tell myself to spend more time reading. I read about the history of miso, gender theories on miso, the rituals of miso-making, rainy-day things to do with miso. I don’t agree with the latest thinking, the way miso has been re-imagined. Ask me what I think and I’m unlikely to tell you. Unless, like me, you’ve a taste for distaste and a penchant for being reclusive. No, I’m not fussed about all the salt and … sorry, I’d better get that, it’s the door.
Paul Stephenson’s first collection, Hard Drive is published by Carcanet. He has published three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016) and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). Paul co-curates Poetry in Aldeburgh and lives between Cambridge and Brussels.
Method: Place a salt flake on the tip of your tongue. Close your mouth and read the following poem aloud. Do not swallow until you reach the word ‘swallow’.
storms are looking tangible. sun’s axis leans, tipping sunbeams a-leaping to shade. alas, love, the skies are loosening. that scarred and languid Titan spits atom-like thunderclaps. seal all locks: there’s something at large. then.
slowly, and like teardrops spilling, all liquid trickles, silently arising. let the streams ascend. lurching, they swell as land turns sealike, all tiny sailors afloat link together, shouting AHOY loudly (they’re shelterless, angry, lonely), there’s
saltwater against lemony turgid skin
at least ‘til ships approach land,
then, speak about luck! that sunken Atlantis lurks, trinket-scattered, as legend tells. sandy anchors lower to sparkling, ancient, lungless terrain. seafolk are looming – they’re sharing ancient loot!
swallow all lowly terror,
sit afloat, love the
storm, and look: treasure
Abi Palmer is an artist and writer exploring the relationship between linguistic and physical communication. Key work includes Crip Casino — an interactive gambling arcade parodying the wellness industry and institutionalised spaces – shown at Tate Modern, Somerset House and Wellcome Collection (2018-20) — and Sanatorium — a fragmented memoir that jumps between a luxury thermal pool and a blue inflatable bathtub (Penned in the Margins, 2020).
Paste in or write
poem here – use soft return for line breaks
Author name is … author bio