Poetry Drawer: Mist by Jan de Rhe-Philipe

The mist hangs heavy on the sodden fields,
A shroud cloaking the world in soft grey muslin.
Charcoal trees hold their bare branches up in supplication
And each blade of chilled grass drips diamonds.
A far off river of cold traffic is muffled thunder
But all else is silence under the dead white mist;
Only the sound of wetness seeping out and
Stillness loitering under the trees, wrapped in cloud.
Underfoot the mud is black and stiffly oozes,
Half released from its armour of hard frost.
Beneath the sharpness of jagged blackthorn twigs
The green of returning spring flowers has faded grey
And the grass shrinks back from the dark nakedness
Of the tyre-ravished path and hoof-trodden mire.
Only the tips of bluebell leaves and of arum lilies
Stand green below the weeping hedgerow.
A solitary robin hops from the blackthorn
Picking its breakfast from the livid green moss
And a chaffinch shouts his warning call from the ash tree.
Piercing the misty shroud with the sound of light.

Sadly, Jan de Rhe-Philipe passed away recently. As a fellow student of the Open University, her poem was chosen for the first Ink Pantry anthology, back in 2012. We send our deepest condolences to Jan’s sister, Fleur.

Books From The Pantry: Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan reviewed by Yang Ming

For years, the East Asians have been ranked among the top in the International Maths Olympiad. It is no wonder that this continuing success eventually leads many to assume that East Asians are good at maths. Well, although there is some truth in that stereotypical statement, it is still not entirely true. There are many prolific East Asian artists who have found success in their artistic and literary pursuits. As much as most traditional East Asian parents believe that arts enrich a child’s well-being, it is not a lucrative profession. But what if there is a positive correlation between arts and maths? That’s what British East Asian author Maisie Chan wants to explore in her latest children novel, Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths.

Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths is a delightful read. It’s funny, well-paced and heart-warming. The author invites us into the world of Danny Chung, a precocious eleven-year-old boy who loves drawing more than anything else. He would even hide under the duvet to draw his comic strips that document his daily life. His parents run a Chinese takeaway, Lucky Dragon, which is located in ‘one of Birmingham’s remote suburbs’, Longdale High Street. The only problem is, Danny hates maths and he has a maths project to complete at the end of his Easter holidays (yikes!). He is in for a surprise when his parents clean his bedroom one Saturday morning to make room for a bunk bed. Thinking he can finally invite his best friend and comic wingman, Ravi, for a sleepover, Danny happily makes plans for it. But his excitement dissipates when his surprise turns out to be a little, wrinkly, ex-maths champion grandmother from China. Nai Nai can’t speak a word of English. To Danny, she sounds like a ‘mixture between a baby singing and a frog’. Just when things can’t get any worse, Danny is tasked to look after her during the holidays while his parents are busy tending their takeaway shop.

Hilarity ensues when Nai Nai embarrasses Danny at a local grocer with her seed spitting antics and her surprise appearance at Danny’s school with her delicious braised chicken feet. Soon, he realises that both of them have more in common than he thought.

Throughout the novel, we are also introduced to the other Chinese family, the Yees, who live within five miles of each other. Clarissa Yee, also known as Auntie Yee to Danny, is the epitome of an Asian tiger mum. She sends her daughter, Amelia Yee, to a private school, various enrichment classes, and elevates her prized daughter on the pedestal. And Amelia doesn’t disappoint. She is a model Chinese high achiever who excels in both her studies and music. But beneath this intelligent and obedient façade lies a rebellious streak that is waiting to break free from her mother’s iron fist. Adrian Yee, also known as Uncle Yee, is an avuncular figure that Danny can relate to.

Illustrator Anh Cao does a wonderful job with Danny’s comic strips, which fits perfectly into the narrative. Likewise, there are many light-hearted moments to savour. One of them is the unlikely friendship forged between Mrs Cruikshanks and Nai Nai, and their bingo adventures. Despite not knowing each other’s native languages, their shared love for bingo is one that transcends all language barriers and often had me in stitches.

Essentially, the themes of love, hope, intergenerational relationships and friendships are universal. This is exactly what we need during this precarious time. Chan develops her characters well with each of them having a strong distinctive voice. Nai Nai is such an endearing character that I eventually fell in love with at the end of the story.

But ultimately, what Chan does really well in this novel is her inclusion of the Chinese culture. When Danny’s parents remind their son about respecting his elders and looking after them, it highlights how much first generation Chinese immigrant parents have a need to reinforce these Asian values, for fear that their second generation British-East Asian children might forget about them. Likewise, when Clarissa and Danny’s mother compare their children’s academic achievements and extra-curriculum activities, it is a common sight, which most East Asian children experience during growing up. Such one-upmanship and boasting only illustrates the inferiority of one’s parenting style and the need to save face.

I believe Chan hopes to debunk the stereotypical statement that East Asians are good at maths, but instead, see each child as an individual – one who is special in their unique way, and skills. Despite being a children’s book, it surprisingly rekindles my memories of growing up in a Chinese family and helps me to reconnect with my heritage. Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths is one of those children’s books that will make you laugh, cry, and tug your heartstrings.

Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths is now available at Waterstones, The Rocketship Bookshop, Amazon UK and Book Depository.

Poetry Drawer: Crossing: Kolkata High Street: Tête-à-tête by Gopal Lahiri

Crossing

Somewhere there is laughter.

I roll out the mist and the moon
trickles down on my shoulder.

Each night I lose to another alphabet, another syllable,
The slapping of stars on the mirror
how all build this raga amidst chaos.

Your smile is like heart-shaped leaves
and the wetness is on my palm,
so many verses flower near bedside.

A solitary leaf waits with my words,
stream path
crossing is not as hard as you might think.

Kolkata High Street

Fine rain walks with the pedestrians,
mirror halls and amber rooms shine with the shadows
of back garden walls and noiseless leaves.

The flood of colours excavate the layers of the city,
the allure of words collecting, from inside out,
waits for a new language.

The footprints seek the light of a deeper place,
commoners talk about freedom without compromise
for good or evil- willing to be struck dumb.

Rumbles of cars on the street seek the meaning
of memories, each trope comes close to song,
the whispers write libretti,
the music embraces the alphabets of evening.

A solitary flower tumbles from the long arms of the branch
and then the ovation of the unknown birds
splits the rainbow of night.

Like the hum of a taut string in the dark
the city loves to sing his own words
taking us down numerous mystic lanes and bye lanes.

Tête-à-tête

Every time we speak of darkness
the metaphors are faced with the black and white lines
the syllables pass through the grills with ease.

The street identifies the follicle of shadows and then
becomes the domain of trivial,
the tiny rafts of refuge knock the door.

Rain-puddles chisel the grey clouds
the world dissects morning whispers
with the weight of gravity and gravitas.

The proverbial truth hangs in a frame
silent dawns rise above the bends of rivers,
the soft reel runs out in haste.

Images draw the sky-blue kingfisher
letting a little light in the dark chamber,
count minutes to converse in sunbeams.

Gopal Lahiri is an Indian based bilingual poet, editor, critic and translator, published in Bengali and English language. He has authored 23 books to his credit. His poetry is also published across various anthologies and in eminent journals of India and abroad. His poems are translated into 14 languages.

Flash In The Pantry: What is to be my place under the sun? by Zea Perez

Pandemic assents time and space for Drew to ponder. With stricter lockdown regulations and protocols, as Covid-19 cases soar to millions worldwide, Drew eventually finds comfort remaining home and works online.

Drew looks back to his younger days, remembering how he wanted to become an animator or illustrator. A passion meaningful to him than being an engineer. Ironic how the same youthful ambition keeps him going now.

At the start of his high school years, his family encouraged his options in a course that he did not particularly have a passion for, like law, business, or engineering. He could not forget the day the entire class laughed when he wrote to become an animator in his chosen career.

These encounters shifted him away from his formerly desired choice- and interest.

Eventually, he stopped doodling at the back of his notebook and filled them with formulas; filled them with scholarly words; filled them with the knowledge he did not find engaging at all. But everyone seemed to praise him for it. Although not the best, he tried to top the class each time. Acing his way through high school- but at the cost of his passion for the arts.

Forward some years later, in college, where he was taking up engineering. He sacrificed a lot already. He did his best- working hard for something that was not his joy. Drew ended up failing. Sure, he must sacrifice for it, but there is only so much hard work for him to do, at least for him. It honestly had not been working out for him since that college life. He succumbed to depression now and then, without everyone knowing.

At the moment, he seeks redemption through improving his art. He takes it seriously with enthusiasm and passion. He is making himself up for it because he knew people come and go. It goes the same for their support. He must learn to stand on his own. No denying people have been walking out of his life. If he turns back away from himself, it will be over. Young as he is, he has some handful of regrets in life, and the biggest one yet is not believing himself!

Not to mention the complexity of the current pandemic, politics, state of the entire nation, and the world. It prompts Drew to ask himself, what is to be my place under the sun?

That’s why he is clinging so hard to this career. It is quite a demanding job in terms of time and skills. Competition is tough. Drew doesn’t have enough income. But Drew hangs on and struggles for it because it’s like him telling himself not to give up on himself when everyone else does.

He feels delighted when somebody says they like his art. Or if they commission him. Or even if they request free artwork. Because then he acknowledges that there are still people who believe and fuel his hope.

Pandemic times are challenging enough. People all flock online to find jobs and opportunities, but Drew is fearless now. He is confident with some time he will improve and make that break as an artist.

Zea Perez lives in the Philippines. She writes children’s stories. But only now did she dare to share some of her writings. She has some pieces published at Flash Fiction North, Literary Yard, and soon at TEA. She also writes reviews for Booktasters and Goodreads.

Poetry Drawer: Canary Island Singing: Desk Drawer Enterprise: Indifferent Lack of Initiative by Joshua Martin

Canary Island Singing

Thwack!
Performance piece disintegrates
toes pointing in stubborn candle wick
diary of a mad Madonna & child

Race to pomegranate shuffling
board games: whack a mole!

Zeroing in on skull fracture
summon enough airtight
desk lamps to strut
                         standing orange
                         grove grooving
                sounds of escape
                blaring bam!
                                 bam!

looming diaphanous
alabaster pole

Desk Drawer Enterprise

Carpenter bee dizzy
adolescent scrape scrape scraping
look at that woodwork!
whew!

                rope length hair
          lines         criss to the
                                 crossing
mannerisms spell
grief
       X Y Z

Indifferent Lack of Initiative

Yoyo diatribe
daughter of canned ham
never had it so good as
                           indifference

razor eyelash arm expanded
the quiet
            is the pulse
      shivering magnetic field

Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the book Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had pieces previously published in E-ratio, Nauseated Drive, Fixator Press, The Vital Sparks, and Breakwater Review among others.

Poetry Drawer: She is a Suffragette: A Woman Does Not Have To Wait: The Two Saltimbanques: Hopper’s Ladies: Oviri by Strider Marcus Jones

She is a Suffragette

her hair tumbles
blowing like unfurled cotton
through unforgotten
fumbles
in vegetation
of our own
interpretation
of each other
in the dark.

my desk grown
out of a tree sown
from my lover
where i carved these words in the bark
sitting in her branches
knowing what life is
all about
as i look out
of wooded windows

and absorb it’s shows
as it goes
through each obscenity
of extreme supremacy-
a woman must not let
a man forget
she is a suffragette
in her soul and under his blanket
so never kept

or chatteled forever
to the custom weather
of his debt.

A Woman Does Not Have To Wait

under the old canal bridge you said
so i can hear the echoes
in your head
repeating mine
this time
when it throws
our voices from roof into water
where i caught her
reflection half in half out of sunshine.
that’s when i hear Gerschwin
playing his piano in you
working out the notes
to rhapsody in blue
that makes me float
light and thin
deep within
through the air
when you put your comforts there.
Waits was drinking whisky from his bottle
while i sat through old days with Aristotle
knowing i must come up to date
because a woman does not have to wait.

The Two Saltimbanques

when words don’t come easy
they make do with silence
and find something in nothing
to say to each other
when the absinthe runs out.

his glass and ego
are bigger than hers,
his elbows sharper,
stabbing into the table
and the chambers of her heart
cobalt clown
without a smile.

she looks away
with his misery behind her eyes
and sadness on her lips,
back into her curves
and the orange grove
summer of her dress
worn and blown by sepia time

where she painted
her cockus giganticus
lying down
naked
for her brush and skin,
mingling intimate scents
undoing and doing each other.

for some of us,
living back then
is more going forward
than living in now
and sitting here-

at this table,
with these glasses
standing empty of absinthe,
faces wanting hands
to be a bridge of words
and equal peace
as Guernica approaches.

Hopper’s Ladies

you stay and grow
more mysterioso
but familiar
in my interior-
with voices peeled
full of field
of fruiting orange trees
fertile to orchard breeze
soaked in summer rains
so each refrain all remains.

not afraid of contrast,
closed and opened in the past
and present, this isolation of Hopper’s ladies,
sat, thinking in and out of ifs and maybes
in a diner, reading on a chair or bed
knowing what wants to be said
to someone
who is coming or gone-

such subsidence
into silence
is a unilateral curve
of moments
and movements
that swerve
a straight lifetime
to independence
in dependence
touching sublime
rich roots
then ripe fruits.

we share their flesh and flutes
in ribosomes and delicious shoots
that release love-
no, not just the fingered glove
to wear
and curl up with in a chair,
but lovingkindness
cloaked in timeless
density and tone
in settled loam-
beyond lonely apartments in skyscrapers
and empty newspapers,
or small town life
gutting you with gossips knife.

Oviri (The Savage – Paul Gauguin in Tahiti)

woman,
wearing the conscience of the world-
you make me want
less civilisation
and more meaning.

drinking absinthe together,
hand rolling and smoking cigars-
being is, what it really is-
fucking on palm leaves
under tropical rain.

beauty and syphilis happily cohabit,
painting your colours
on a parallel canvas
to exhibit in Paris
the paradox of you.

somewhere in your arms-
i forget my savage self,
inseminating womb
selected by pheromones
at the pace of evolution.

later. I vomited arsenic on the mountain and returned
to sup morphine. spread ointments on the sores, and ask:
where do we come from.
what are we.
where are we going.

Strider Marcus Jones is a poet, law graduate and former civil servant from Salford, England with proud Celtic roots in Ireland and Wales. A member of The Poetry Society, his five published books of poetry reveal a maverick, moving between cities, playing his saxophone in smoky rooms. He is also the founder, editor and publisher of Lothlorien Poetry Journal.

His poetry has been published in the USA, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Spain, Germany; Serbia; India and Switzerland in numerous publications including: Dreich Magazine; The Racket Journal; Trouvaille Review; dyst Literary Journal; Impspired Magazine; Literary Yard Journal; Poppy Road Review; Cajun Mutt Press; Rusty Truck Magazine; Rye Whiskey Review; Deep Water Literary Journal; The Huffington Post USA; The Stray Branch Literary Magazine; Crack The Spine Literary Magazine; The Lampeter Review; Panoplyzine  Poetry Magazine; Dissident Voice.

Poetry Drawer: Eventually: The Councilman, in his tutu: The King James Version: Alpenstock by Mark Young

Eventually

Acrobats abound on the benches
of the transit lounge. Everyone
else is staying clear, washing their
hands in rosewater or anointing
their brows with the blood of
pygmy possums. Curtains are
drawn across the picture wind-
ows, dampening down the noise

of luggage trolleys, keeping out
the sun. It may be we are all
waiting for flights out; but since
there are no flights scheduled out
into the future, this may be where
we have decided to make a stand.

The Councilman, in his tutu

The tractors have all escaped
& run off into the forest, or
so the mayor tells me. They’re
John Deere, green, which makes
them hard to see though I do
hear them turning pirouettes
at night. The elephants are
annoyed, & jealous. Not be-

cause the tractors are destroying
most of the foliage available for
foraging. Turns out the
tractors can perform a plier-
retirer far better than even
the most delicate of pachyderms.

The King James Version

It becomes obvious
that saving your sex
life is more important
than saving your soul
when you see in a com-
posite advertisement of
available titles that the
price of a book on breast

augmentation is over six
times the cost of the Bible.
Mind you, those perky
nipples on the cover do
make it the more attract-
ive proposition of the two.

Alpenstock

Today the postwoman
brought me an elephant.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Wondered if you were
interested in a pet,” she
replied. “It was thrown
out from a house earlier
on my round. A big guy

lives there, named Hanni-
bal. Apparently he’s down-
sizing after a trip across
the Alps, & there wasn’t
room in the room for
both him & the elephant.”

Mark Young’s The Toast will be published by Luna Bisonte Prods in a few months time. Recent poems have appeared, or are to appear, in Word For/Word, Die Leere Mitte, Home Planet News Online, experiential-experimental-literature, Utsanga.it, Hamilton Stone Review, & BlazeVOX, amongst other places.

You can find more of Mark’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Pantry Prose: My Insatiable One by Sabrina Mei-Li Smith

         The breeze releases Ceris’s hair. It tumbles down her back as the artificial wind subsides. Trains vanish into the miasma of tunnels and eyes adjust to a world not ruled by sex, absinthe and narcotics. Her world is private. Ceris exists between the setting of the sun and every new dawn. She’s separate from the smells of drying wool, from commuters who move around like water. Ceris tugs the fur tighter and strides the length of Hackney Downs platform. Adverts meet her eye line, maps for long-forgotten tube stops, overflowing rubbish bins and polystyrene cups live on the floor. Stuff that doesn’t matter. London offers anonymity. Somewhere to hide but no privacy. The freedom to be a nobody within its own contradictions.

And she loves it… like an infatuation with a terrible boyfriend.

The poison and

Love

Of London.

          A boy shoots Ceris a curious glance from the British Telecom phone booth. She glides by with hands thrust into her white, fur coat. Ceris checks out his brown chin-length hair and needle-thread cords. He’s one of her people, somebody who wears second-hand coats and walks the streets with holes in his shoes.  His brown eyes follow her slow walk. One knee-high boot in front of the other.

        “Hey?” he says. Maybe into the telephone handle, maybe to her? Maybe they’ve met? Maybe not? Ceris ignores him and carries on. Night people vanish by now.

        Stepping on the escalator, daylight, rain, headaches await. Two teenagers brush past in school blazers.

        “It’s what’s-her-name? Courtney?” one says, over his shoulder. The other tugs his friend by the bag strap.

        “Courtney Love?” he laughs but they’re up and away, barging past suits and up. Ceris ignores them and their stupid half-insults. She stares at every advert on the ascent: musicals, paper cups, televisions, and pure black T-shirts… Ceris smiles to herself, like a private joke.

         There’s a newsstand at the top. Commuters buy chewing gum, tissues and cigarettes. They stand in a single-file line to pay the frowning Indian man. Sometimes Farrand says ‘hello’ to him but today the newsvendor is busy. He digs his hands deeper into the pockets of the stripy money belt.

      “I can’t change that,” he says with a raised eyebrow at the fluted five-pound note waved under his nose.

      “It’s money isn’t it?” says the suit. He slams down The Sun and runs to catch his train. Ceris catches the vendor’s eye. He shrugs.

      “Prick,” he says. Her eyes become wide but she doesn’t smile back.

      “Is he a prick for buying The Sun or not having change?” Ceris asks.

       “Both,” he says. She gives him a half-laugh and turns towards the concrete grey of the early morning. “Wait,” he calls.

       “Why?” she asks with a frown. She can do without the vendor’s ‘funny’ banter. Farrand isn’t with her so she doesn’t see why she should chat if she doesn’t feel like it.

         “Don’t be an on-your-period little madam. There’s something,” he says gesturing to the overstuffed wire racks of papers. Out of habit, Ceris eyes gaze to the top row. The women with blank, pornography faces stare back.

        “No thanks,” she says. Rudeness is a mode of defence. She turns on her heel.

         “Oi, Ceris, isn’t it? Speak to your boyfriend, then. He got it already,” he yells after her.

        “Farrand’s my manager,” she says under her breath and walks through the doors of the tube station. Taxi drivers try to park up, swearing escapes car windows in the nose-to-tail crush. She steps onto Hackney Road and its puddles, chalky dog-shit, potholes. For a moment, she looks up at the pigeon-coloured sky. She loves days like this, where she can do fuck-all and watch time pass. Ceris takes a turn home, south down the concrete road, avoiding splatters of multicoloured vomit and MacDonald’s cartons and watches newspaper dancing in the wind. She pulls fur. It’s freezing.

        Ceris crosses the road, past a greasy café, past grimy Chinese takeaways and stops by the flat. Her keys have vanished. The shop underneath her flat is open. The yellow sign reads ‘PATEL’S POUND SHOP’.  Another new blue-tacked advert sits in the front window.  She fishes through her suede handbag and her fingers brush change, tampons, broken eyeliner pencils, loose matches, and gum. Her eyes study the advert as fingers hunt… 

It’s not an advert.

Ceris sees something that looks a bit like her face. A shock of blonde, a crystal blue eye? There’s a weird moment of mental disconnect as she looks closer. It is her face. But she doesn’t recognise the person staring back. It looks too polished, too alabaster, too perfect than the everyday face she sees in the mirror. Ceris takes a deep intake of breath.

It’s the front cover of Knight– a soft porn mag.

          “What the fuck?” she asks nobody. Lorries zoom and expel gas. Cars swish past. The world goes on but Ceris stands still. Nausea rises up from the feeling of surrealism. Is this shock? This is weird. So fucking weird. Ceris gawps at herself. Herself? On the front cover of Knight? Underneath her head and printed in bold capitals is the legend ‘AMATURE PHOTOGRAPHY SPECIAL’ and in smaller letters ‘COVERSTAR: CHERYL ‘CERIS’ LEWIS’. The wind blows her hair with waspish energy. Holy Fuck.

          “Ceris, babes, it’s too early. My bones feel like fucking glass,” says a voice. She doesn’t turn around. She doesn’t have to. Farrand seems to just know when she can’t find her keys.

          “Did you do this?” she asks, staring at the picture.

          “Nah, nah. Mrs Patel stuck it up first thing,” says Farrand.

          “No, I mean… Knight?” she asks.

         “Knight’s reputable, it’s a photography mag,” he says. Farrand’s warm hand touches her shoulder and she turns. Ceris looks up at Farrand’s androgynous, cat-like face. She shrugs his hand away.

            “Fuck sake Farrand, what if my mum sees this?” Ceris says pushing the door to the Pound Shop. Sitar Tabla and incense warm the skin. Farrand follows her, holds the door to stop the tinkling wind chime. 

              “Ceris, baby, you said ‘modelling’,” Farrand says, running a hand through crude-oil coloured hair. Twiddles it. Mrs Patel’s in deep haggle with a local landlord about the price of tiles. She pays her upstairs tenants no attention.

                 “I said no porn. Singing yes, modelling, ok. This can’t stay,” says Ceris striding to the window and peeling BluTack off the glass. Farrand’s hand lands. He pins glossy front covers down.

               “Baby, you’re not topless,” says Farrand. His tone implies boredom.

               “That’s not the point,” Ceris says, pulling at the paper. Farrand’s hand remains. A huge tear rips across Knight– Ceris’s eyes.

               “You’re being stupid. Where you been, anyway?” asks Farrand. He knows Ceris had a date.  He knows where she went and who with. He knows everything. He’s trying to humiliate.  

               “I’m not embarrassed by the number of men I’ve slept with,” Ceris says through a yawn. Her eyes yearn for sleep.

           “Babes, I’m embarrassed. By the fucking quality of them. You’re giving it away. Try escorting,” says Farrand. You. Cannot. Believe

-the shit that comes out his gob.

             “A singer, not fucking porn! You said you’d find me a band, a recording contract,” Ceris says. Farrand told her it would be ‘fun’. It’s not the first time he’s lied to her.

             “Hey, hey? No swearing. No trouble,” says Mrs Patel, looking up from tile-based conversations. She waves her fingerless gloves to waft Ceris and Farrand out of her shop.

              “Sorry, Mina baby. Ceris’s annoyed” shouts Farrand with a smile designed for Mina Patel alone. Mrs Patel says something in quick Hindi to Farrand and they laugh.  Ceris’s face feels flushed, reddened, shameful.   

             “Pretty white girls use looks to make money. Won’t be around forever,” Mrs Patel says, she makes a face, wraps tiles in a newspaper, and rings prices through tills. Ceris looks up at Farrand’s achingly green eyes. He’s so serious. Too serious.

             “C’mon, babe,” he says and grabs. Ceris shrugs him off. Mrs P raises an eyebrow but says nothing. Hindi sitars whine but give no answers.

              “Nah,” Ceris says. Farrand raises his palms up. He grins from ear to ear, looks at Mrs Patel and says:

            “White girls?” to laughter.

           “What do you think you are? Some sort of pound-land Pimp?” Ceris spits, blood thumping through her temples, crimson spreading cheeks and chin.  Farrand aims his fixed Cheshire cat smile. All teeth and nails.

              “Baby, your choice. Let hysteria pass and then we’ll talk,” he says, spins heel. Gone. The smell of unwashed sweat, patchouli and spice linger. Ceris shreds glossy paper into confetti shoves Knight-trash deep into pockets of her second-hand fur. Mrs P and the landlord whisper behind hands, firm eyes glued to her long, tall figure. Ceris feels like shit stepping out in the brittle-cold street, confused but never alone.

Sabrina Mei-Li Smith is a PhD scholar, writer, lecturer, and researcher in the discipline of creative writing. She lectures on De Montfort University’s undergraduate Creative Writing B.A. Her first play, The Holy Bible, received Arts Council funding In 2019. She specialises in writing with marginalised individuals, and challenging accepted narratives, through writing residencies with Writing East Midland’s Elder Tree project, and Leicester City Council’s Memories into Healing Words project which documents the narratives of Leicester’s elderly, street-homeless, and Irish Traveller communities. She runs specialised and mainstream creative writing workshops for Leicester City Council’s Adult Education College and has been a writer in residence for Coalville Writes 2019. Sabrina was part of De Montfort University’s National Writing Day Creative Writing and Practice Research Conference in 2020. She writes for Feminist Trash Store on topics such as intersectional feminism and is a reviewer for the Chichester Centre for Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction. 

Poetry Drawer: Incendium: Vorpal Glades: Zeroes On The Right by Hibah Shabkhez

Incendium

Laughter sets aquiver
The cane, sends a shiver
     Of anger, pure

As melting gold, that cuts
Through eternal darkness
     But it stops. Shuts

Off, with gentling sadness
Into smiles laced with rain.
     Tell me again,

How did you learn to flee
Sorrow like a perched thing
     Cawing and free?

Vorpal Glades

They kept faith with memory, stayed the same;
     While I did change to forge ahead

Queenly Cathy of the bench-shack palace
     Where each day my toe I stubbed
Scarlett, proud victor of all the races
     In which I came a panting last;
Ellen, the laughing ghost of the graces
     To which custom nailed my life’s mast;
Marian who outside class-windows dwelt
     To save my aching head from sums;
Anne, who beside the best-lit window knelt
      Reading on through the P.T drums;
And Darrell, with her wild temper of flame
     That made her all my bullies’ dread

The hardest goodbyes are from friends more real
     Than those whose grins are flesh and blood.

Zeroes On The Right

Mellon, ride forth with us on our quest for
      True poems to drain the rot from our land.
Poems to treasure like elven-lights or
Zeroes on the right, like the smallest strand
      Of cellotape, that needed, heeded thing.

Poems awaited like tomorrow’s toothpaste
     To dissolve the debris-prison and free
Our teeth to smile. Poems sweet to the taste,
Fashioned from good words like a good fruit tree,
     With the promise of freshness and cleansing.

Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Zin Daily, Litbreak, Broadkill, Rising Phoenix, Big City Lit, Constellate, Harpy Hybrid, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.

Poetry Drawer: Sleepy Whale 385: Sleepy Whale 417: Bluest Irish Eyes: Portugal Red Brick by Terry Brinkman

Sleepy Whale 385

Alabaster rich silk crucified shirt
Fan shoals above oval face
Playing her acoustic Base
Ghost woman’s maladroit silk skirt
Sitting on treeless grave dirt
Tobacco shop-girl’s stocking’s lace
Blue Irish blue eyes embrace
Shattered window pane insert
Gyasi unshed tear drop, eyes
Twilight walking in her sleep
To find pouter perfect lies
Tide over sand sheeting sweep
Jess of sunshade, sunrise
Over her shoulder Bar Keep

Sleepy Whale 417

Her boat left stuck in the mud last fall
She allowed her bowels to ease without compromising
Smelling like fresh printed rag paper from Budapest
Darkness shining in the brightness from the touch of the nurse
Shadow lay over the rock hiding her Purse
Fly bristles shining wirily in the weak eyes light infest
Her hat left hanging on the floor of the Hearse

Bluest Irish Eyes

I met her at the Wayside Inn
Her Ilk Horns Parrot Zodiac tattoo
Was on her breast
Half-life awe whenever we met
Her Bluest Irish Blue eyes
She left my love Pollinate paraphernalia
Limp as a wet rag
Her alabaster white navel jests a totty grace.

Portugal Red Brick

For Sale Cotton-ball Barron’s Moccasin
Humours in the morning after being Catholic
All wind and piss in the air like Arsenic
Third race gloaming grey muddler did win
The sun rises in the west of Berlin
Timeless as Portugal Red Brick
Fashionable exquisite charmingly low music
Nobbling with her beer grin
Red Bank Oysters for the bride
Gullet and gob are still his
Largest trees found world wide
Where the booze is cheaper quiz
Beamed Mud Cabin between the divide
The beer that tastes like Bear Wiz

Terry Brinkman has been painting for over forty five years. He started creating poems. He has five Amazon E- Books, also poems in Rue Scribe, Tiny Seed, Jute Milieu Lit and Utah Life Magazine, Snapdragon Journal, Poets Choice, In Parentheses, Adelaide Magazine, UN/Tethered Anthology and the Writing Disorder.

You can find more of Terry’s work here on Ink Pantry.