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Lockdown – Best Poems & Pocket Prose

Author
Names
(alphabetical order)

POCKET PROSE/POEMS/BREAKOUT

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Adams

Daughter

By Ash Adams

 

I loved you like a pandemic,

like an emergency—

you, running naked in everyone’s yard.

Loving you started like an acid trip: one day,

you emerged from my body like a slippery fish

and the world breathed.

Things were always burning around you,

collapsing in a store because you got what you wanted,

laughing at the neighbors with sauce on your face.

You taught me to say hello to the moon.

I met you and forgot who I was, or I gave it up

to run my fingers through the knots of your bedhead.

I loved you on the brink of something,

and then one day, the doors opened,

and you walked through.

 

Allen

The World Has Stopped

By Myra Allen


The world has stopped
And I want to get off
The spinning has ended
Or – is it – never ending?
I have had enough

Yet, when asked the matter
I cannot find words to express
My emptiness

I greet the world confused
Blindly. My emotions tangled
Trying to remain alert.

Drink deeply
Lost in tea during the day
And some ruby-coloured liquid at night.
Seeking comfort with music

In the glint of the glass
A shining light
Struggles to heighten
My mood.

 

Altzinger

MATILDA (aged 93)

By Marie Altzinger

 

Not a word since lockdown and

the doctor doubts she’ll speak again

 

she doesn’t seem distressed but

there’s no sure way of knowing

 

this afternoon I found her in the

day-room, sipping from a carton

 

looking at a bird on the lawn –

his yellow beak angled towards

 

the sun, his wings spread wide

in two gleaming black fans.

 

She stared for a long time

the straw immobile between

 

pursed lips, then she whispered

‘What colour is my silence?’

 

before I could reply, she shook

her head, still staring at the bird

 

‘it’s not black, you know’, she said

with the wickedest of grins.

 

Armstrong

Between

by Alice Armstrong

 

This soundless waiting fills my ears – this roadblock

between here and there, then and now I am 

 

on the plane where everything is gray 

and I am crying. Everything is gray. 

 

My sisters make me laugh while I am crying, 

working something out in the wordless language 

 

of childhood. Through the gray roar my sisters 

point to a tiny round window, a 

 

sleepless blue eye, a world with no gravity 

that is home to no one. We are imprisoned

 

here with no time, suspended in the space

between places, between minutes, between 

 

the past and the future. In between.

 

Black

I Never Used My Smartphone Camera

By Sharon Black 

 

Two cancelled trips to see my parents.

Now I send them photos, themed:

the family; man-made objects on my daily walk;

the rail line of a disused steam train; trees. I ping

peonies, marigolds and tulips from the garden;

wildflowers from the field.

 

We’ve had no rain for weeks.

 

I learn composition, perspective; start

to highlight, filter, saturate; to isolate                                                       

a detail on a wrought-iron gate

wedged firm in knee-high grass leading to

a water mill, now someone’s second home.                                                            

I hike my skirt, climb over, photograph

 

a climbing rose, meandering, unpruned;

the millpond and a tributary hushing

through a sluice; the mossy wheel;

a small stone terrace, half-repaired.

That night, I sort and crop them,

entitle them Things That Used to Rush.

 

Blackburn

The Good, The Bad and the. . .

by Mark Blackburn

 

UK DEATHS HIT 10,000 – UK CORONAVIRUS HOSPITAL DEATHS REACH 10,612 AFTER 737 DIE OVER 24 HOURS. THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH FIGURES DO NOT INCLUDE DEATHS IN CARE HOMES OR OUTSIDE HOSPITALS / Off-duty nurse helps elderly Covid-19 victim after car crash – after a twelve hour shift, the 24-year-old called an ambulance then went with him to hospital to comfort him / Himalayas visible from India for the first time in 30 years as nature ‘heals’ during Coronavirus shutdown / “Doctor doctorI can’t stop singing Frank Sinatra songs! – Mmm, I think you’re suffering from Crooner-virus”

 

Boon

Recipe for a Perfect Lockdown Walk

By Maureen Boon

 

Ingredients

·      My dog

·      Sunshine

·      A light breeze

·      No other people

Method

1)               Put lead on.

2)               Ensure poo bags in pocket.

3)               Mobile phone – in case of problems

4)               Anti-bac wipes for gates.

5)               Start walk, allowing time for older dog to sniff.

6)               Identify as many wild flowers as possible.

7)               Spot birds, butterflies, sheep with lambs, cows and their calves,    

            cats enjoying freedom.

8)               If walkers spotted: stand back, wave, smile, thank.

9)               Smell the wild garlic, hedgerows, cut grass, horse droppings.

10) Breathe the clean air.

 

Boswell

Holy Bucket  

by Partridge Boswell

 

And the youngsters above all. Tormenting them with dreams

Of justice on earth… —Czeslaw Milosz

 

Demolition crews talk bricks and mortar late into the night.

One must read a book before burning it. To still believe

 

now that you have fasted and feasted doesn’t mean you’re tight

with Gautam, Chuy, Abu al-Qasim or he who was born of the lotus.

 

Grapes you planted a decade ago finally ripen, crepe-paper poppies

unfurl an urchin’s dark whorl. To inhabit a landscape one must

 

first imagine returning to the sea. Grief is another word for

love’s wave of utter darkness and blinding light. A wordless

 

climb above the treeline, where only gods still have breath

to administer mouth-to-mouth. Hear me out. The list of things

 

I never thought I’d live to see or hear fall is not long: the wall

in Berlin, then the towers. Yusuf singing again of the wind.

 

And now the same rain falling on everyone from

a leaky bucket, washing our skin until we glisten.

 

Boswell

Upon Waking Not Knowing What Day It Is

by Partridge Boswell

 

Despite our distance, spite recedes. A green light 

stubbles up and pirouettes. You shrug—abandon 

 

the long line around the block of what used to be, 

learn to ride the warp of less is more, remove pins 

 

and ties, let your sunlight tumble loose over bare 

shoulders. Dreams unravel from circadian sleep—

 

a space in which to weigh your wishes. You eat 

when hungry, walk when your legs itch. Breathe.

 

Every insignificance drifts away like movie set 

tumbleweed in a martini shot. A swarm of swallows 

 

winging home at dusk dissolves its tattered myth. 

Dollar signs slip down a bridgeless river and hey!

 

isn’t that you there waving on the opposite bank 

yelling What in the world was I thinking? Your 

 

cracked voice flung like a lifeline across water 

and wind carrying the news of your birth.

 

Brait

Reading the Spanish Flu, Lockdown – May 2020 (II)

By Richard Brait

 

Grosse Ile, 1919: the Irish

They were ballast –
ballast for the timber ships coming back empty from Ireland.

Did they know it was an even bet they were placing – a better life in Canada one side of the coin,
the largest Irish graveyard in the world, the other?

Did they know how desperate on the ships, crowded together and up to their ankles in bilge – the vessels lined up for miles at the harbour?

Blue flags on every ship showed fever on board. The dead were dragged out of the holds with hooks and stacked like cordwood on the shore.

The ground so bare on that quarantine island that soil was brought in from Montmagny
to create a thin layer for burial.

But the priests and clergymen were always there – the same mumbo jumbo, new world or old,
the only consolation that they were dying too.

 

Burnes

 Lockdown
(A British perspective on the Covid crisis)

by Geoff Burnes

 

We’re in lockdown. It’s ongoing, it’s slowing the clock down;

food queues now going the block round,

the markets are showing the stock’s down.

Some wretch suggests we inject disinfectant,

or vary with scary anti-malarials.

We’re in furlough, drinking Merlot, and we earn no herd immunity.

In our community, there’s resistance to social distance, despite the insistence

of persistence of the hideous, insidious virus that’s knocking the lot down.

Now people flock down, chock-a-block round the beauty spots – found

that staying in is wearing thin, while Hancock frowns and Johnson,

the poppycock clown – with Vallance for balance and Whitty for criticism –

is causing a schism. Their decision ain’t gonna knock down

the R rate, no ta mate – but Cummings can go in a car, straight

to Barnard Castle, the arsehole, to test his eyesight. It’s all shite,

but let’s clap tonight for the NHS. Yes, it’s a mess, and I guess

we’ll hear the shocked sound when, from the top down,

the penny drops down and there’s a shriek as we reach the second peak

and they’ve lost the plot, found we need another lockdown.

 

Byrne

Lockdown Sounds

By Dorothy Byrne

 

Lock Down’s silence was nearly deafening

Yet, the garden’s babbling brook added effect while

Noisy, shrill chirping families of flight and feather

Made the day loudly alive with feeding, fighting, washing and scratching in the earth.

Playgrounds of children’s raucous screaming and laughing were ominously quiet.

Time would restore life’s melody, wouldn’t it?

 

Lorries and various engines thumped dully along.

Bees hummed and zig-zagged.

Later on cars began the practice of whooshing by.

Voices across street and road were raised, socially distant.

Grass beds received their haircut courtesy of droning lawn mowers.

The world ground on its axis for all to hear, if they so chose.

 

Harry Potter played aloud on the podcast,

Reminding those who listened of magical times while clinking wine filled glasses.

Voices on telephones echoed the sentiment “please God the world will right itself again”.

Professional voices on TV and radio rang out the cost of loss, uncertainty and recovery.

The frailty of man and lachrymose tears.

The jingle in the pockets of the pharmaceuticals.

The lark singing tells of a new day and humanity abounds.

 

Cahill

Knocked Down

By Vincent Cahill

 

‘We’re going to be locked down’ she said.

Knocked down’ I asked?

No, ‘locked down’ she repeated. A little louder.

‘Army on the streets! Queues for supermarkets! Shortage of toilet paper and everything!’

‘Toilet paper!’ I said.

‘Yeah! Bleedin’ toilet paper.’ She exclaimed, getting agitated.

‘Oh! Better stock up then’ I said.

‘Too late’ she said ‘Its already started’

‘What’s already started?’ I asked.

‘The lock down!’ she shouted. Almost screamed.

‘No eggs. No toilet paper! People getting trampled in the supermarkets!’

‘Isn’t that what I just said – knocked down?’

‘Ah Jesus!’

 

Clarke

 Rambling in lockdown

A C Clarke

 

The knock of tools on metal, thin sheet metal – perhaps

a bashed car panel beaten to shape? – makes me think

how work goes on. The drying-line in the back court

over the way cries washing goes on too; and weather 

whispers the cloud that’s shifted briefly

across the sky’s uncanny blue. I search for inspiration:

inspiration a breathing in, just what we all

are trying to avoid just now. My hands smell 

of lemonflower soap, the only kind on the shelves. 

How many times have I recited happy birthday? 

Past walks flashcard my memory with scenes of wood and water.

A child’s voice, rare as traffic murmur, rises calm as a smokeplume –

a clue someone’s alive in the plaguey silence.

Birds are taking their afternoon siesta,

reliable as the absence of rain. I can’t gauge

my barometric pressure, the needle swings

from high to low in seconds. Is anyone listening?

I set down words one after the other.

It feels like writing poetry by numbers.

 

Clayton

 BABEL

By Julia Clayton

 

During lockdown, I’ve entered a strange world where unknown women collect antique forks, parrots regularly get bladdered and weasels don’t usually cook.  I’d only just retired, planning trips – Bohemia, Saxony, Trieste? – when the shutters came down.  My son said there’s a language app I might like: Duolingo.  So I travel vicariously, constructing mini-soaps in Esperanto (‘do you love him or me?’), experiencing industrial dystopias in Czech (‘I am not a machine!’), commenting on the eating habits of Norwegian moose (elgen spiser eplet) and criticising people in Latin for drinking wine before breakfast.  When that travel ban lifts, I’ll be ready.      

 

Clayson

 CLEARLY CORONAVIRUS…not!

 By Susanna Clayson

 

Don’t leave the house for any reason,to do so would amount to treason.

Unless you need to get a tan or simply want to, then  you can.

Face masks when worn don’t do a lot but may save lives (or maybe not).

Recycling sheets to make a mask is ultimately a pointless task.

Latex gloves give some protection from Covid cross-contamination,

make your hands sweat, because they’re hot and may save lives (or just might not).

 

Shops are closed unless they’re not, though essentials aren’t in stock

Stay in, locked down is the direction until we slow rates of infection.

It seems children are not affected, apart from those who’ve been infected.

Schools are shut and kids at home, by 10 mum’s in the drinking zone.

Baking cakes and household chores, making beds and scrubbing floors,

TV and inebriation constitute home education.

 

No animals have got the ‘lurg’, except one cat in Luxembourg

showed symptoms, without tests at all turned out his cough was a fur-ball.

Walk your pet in the pandemic but don’t sit down or take a picnic.

There were two tigers in a zoo, who showed some symptoms like bird flu.

Remember social distance rules, fighting virus these are our tools

Stay home, keep safe and please take care, 2 metres from tigers anywhere.

 

Cliss

 After five weeks in lockdown

The Bra Break-Up

 by Hetty Cliss

 

My bra is wondering what went wrong.
I grew distant so quickly and then I was gone.

I didn’t feel the need to explain the silent epiphany forming in my brain that saw my bra’s support as restrictive, its cutting straps, needless and vindictive.

My bra is wondering where I’ve gone and if I’ll ever be back.
My chest revels in the freedom, embracing chilled nipples, fearless of boobs going slack.

 

Cohen

In Memory of My Father

by Susan Cohen

 

Blue boat, where’s your fisherman? 

Gone to a faraway sea

All his rods and reels and lures 

Lined up for eternity 

Fish won’t land in the captain’s net

He’s not casting today 

‘I love my boat, the sea, the fish’ 

Is what he used to say.

 

Corrigan

What we found in the pockets of the drowned man.       

 By Michael Corrigan

 

                       First there was a rushing flood of undertow and river blood,

then a tiny sliver of morning sky all contrail streaks and duck egg blue.

A tight twist of final straws tied around an unending list

of best wishes and kind regards.

 

A steady drop of loss and regret into a deep implacable pool,

beside a plate of half eaten poems and all the “if only’s”.

A map of the world from its younger years when everything seemed possible.

A map of the world from its older years written on a coarser cloth.

 

A fluffy cloud of spiritual beliefs that didn’t stand up to the air conditioning,

a flickering net of neural synapse, each beautiful spark a lucent pearl of thought.

A horse head nebula in a gauzey sky comet flash across its twinkling depths

and buried in the debris of a fire damaged heart this small hard box which when opened gave

some words of hope and the song of a wintering bird.

 

Cottis

 Beached

By Tamsin Cottis

 

Small red-sailed boats weave past
accidental harbours, natural pools

Children crouch on sharp rocks, captured
by suck of anemone fingertip kiss

Black hulls strike damp sand,
proliferate at the shoreline

where girls cartwheel until breathless,
bare shoulders stinging pink

Backwash snaps at skinny ankles,
hand and foot prints vanish

Gritty-limbed youngsters
lost in the moment, pay no mind

While on the high dry shingle,
back against the sea wall, Grandma,

guarding the picnic, shivers, reaches
for the extra cardigan she thought to pack

In case it gets chilly, later

 

Cousins

 THE FIRST THREE DAYS 

by A M Cousins

 

Day One: he takes a ladder and his vertigo

 

in hand to investigate the noises in the attic – 

 

all the scratching, rooting, scrabbling around

 

that has been going on since the last century.

 

 

 

I hold the ladder for him – hold my breath too –  

 

watch him heave himself up, disappear.

 

I hand him a torch to find their entry point.

 

 

 

Next: a hazardous climb onto the roof 

 

to measure the dimensions of the hole.

 

 

 

Day Two: he saws plywood, then a final trip

 

with hammer and nails to batten it down.

 

 

 

Day Three:  the hammering starts at dawn:

 

an invisible squadron of stares head-butt 

 

the plywood, resolute as a battering-ram.

 

 

 

We agree it’s a matter of waiting it out,

 

replacing the barricades as often

 

as we need to. When the herd memory fades, 

 

they will forget we ever shared a roof.

 

 

Cox

Villanelle in Lockdown

By Deirdre Cox

 

I’ve been in lockdown now for forty days.

The same as Christ before he met his death,

But sun makes time pass in a pleasant haze.

 

I rise, I eat, I work, I walk, I laze.

I reach ten thousand as I count my step.

I’ve  been in lockdown now for forty days.

 

We sit in splendid isolation, gaze

Down at the valley, at its length and breadth,

But sun makes time pass in a pleasant haze.

 

Our house is cleaner in so many ways.

I now have time each meal to slowly prep.

I’ve been in lockdown now for forty days.

 

Each weekday passes in a kind of daze,

Of unreality, a leap of faith,

But sun makes time pass in a pleasant haze.

 

We miss the happy sound as grandchild plays.

We check each day for any lack of breath.

I’ve been in lockdown now for forty days,

But sun makes time pass in a pleasant haze.

 

Cundy

 The Waiting Room

By Josephine Cundy

 

I am in the waiting room.  I have been in waiting rooms before, with tatty magazines, or soothing goldfish tank. This waiting room is virtual.  I am cocooned at home with my laptop, waiting to share coffee and discussion.  We wave at each other, note the décor of other people’s rooms, hear the dog in the background. This is new normal. But it is not the same. No subtle body language, no frisson of underlying tensions, no gentle banter. Welcome to Zoom.  One day . . . I will be back in a real waiting room, waiting for real people.

 

Darling

EMPTY

by Josie Darling

I don’t care about anything anymore as my mum just died.  I walked up to the field to see my friend John who lives in a shed there.

He was varnishing the door and the varnish smelt lovely and sticky like toffee apples.  

I told him about my mum.

“It’s great being dead.”  he said.

The grass looked like it had been varnished too.  Coronavirus has made everyone stay in darkened rooms like moles.

There was no sound except for birds.

My mum was dead, the world had stopped, it was empty for me.

 

Ensor

LOST CONNECTION

By Jennie Ensor

 

Now we are all small squares on a screen. I can’t tell which one is me

till I move my hand. I dream of looking into the mirror and seeing someone else.

 

Now we are adept at keeping our distance. Sister at my front door.
We cringe apart. I want to grip her hand, crush her to me.

 

We ask each other who’d died, who’s survived. We stand in queues, alone.
We wait for what’s next. The hardware shop man bare-hands me a roll of bin bags.

 

I stare into lit windows, listen for splinters of conversation, yearn for ten minutes
of another’s life. Consolation in silk-soft baths, dance of early morning light.

 

Now we speak through panes of glass, smile through pains of separation.
So many slip away unheard, unseen. We’ll meet again? Don’t know when.

 

I sing alone behind my screen, muted. Memories of altos rehearsing for Easter,
shoulder to shoulder, not knowing this would be our last song together. Our laughter
at that odd phrase, When death takes off the mask and its sudden, unexpected fit.

 

Small blossoms drift into my lap, gifts from the horse chestnut. I touch a frail
yellow-dusted petal. Later I yoga-zoom, contemplate the assembly of soft cones
beyond my window – as if praying together, each stubbornly pointing to the sky.

 

Erskine

In Stranger Times

By Ann Erskine

 

I have turned into a nut,

a hard-case

covering up

the trepidation and

the vanished radiance

 

the trembling heart of the

dropped fruit that

cannot ramble and spread

its seed

but hollows out a retreat from

the world

 

A barren, tiny thing,

shriveling behind doors that will not open

binding me

giving no respite to breathe in life

 

Each day passed in this trifling cocoon

diminishes my span

Soon there will be

nothing inside

 

Ferran

Quarentine Poem #1: The Birds

By Annette Ferran

 

Birds built a nest in the windowframe.

They sit on a wire and chirp angrily at me:

“Stay away!”

 

Don’t worry, Birds,

I’m no threat to you

(but this is my house).

 

Meanwhile…

The moon and the sun keep rising.

 

Finnis

 

 

Home Thoughts from Home, April 2020

By Jane Finnis

 

“Oh to be in England now that April’s there.”

Would Robert Browning wish that now, with lockdown everywhere,

And troubles piled on troubles? Why yes, it’s my belief

He’d still recall the beauty of the greening brushwood sheaf.

For the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough,

In England, now.

 

And after April, even though

There’s yet more grief, Browning would  know  

He still could see a pear-tree in the hedge

Lean to the field and scatter on the clover

Blossoms and dewdrops; at the bent spray’s edge

Hear the wise thrush singing his songs twice over,

To prove that still, in spite of everything,

You can’t lock down the spring.

 

Fraser

 

 These Days

By Jane Fraser

 

Between dusk and dark,

a russet dog fox in the livered light.

Emboldened by these times,

he strolls beneath the blackthorn blossom.

 

He chooses my garden as the short cut, sauntering

across the paving slabs, passing through the cobble-stoned pigsty,

pausing at the back fence to take in the sight of the sun

setting over the ocean. I mark his every move as he forays

the field out back, his tail burnished in the April gorse.

 

I wait – seconds, minutes, I no longer know, or count –

a soft-furred rabbit clenched in his jaw, he streaks

across the yellowed grass.

 

Home before dark.

Going to ground.

 

Upstairs, my husband has been gone for

ever-stretching hours without a sound,

foraging for food in the clouds,

joining the endless queue for a delivery slot

 

said to be like gold – these days

 

Fry

 Present

By Susie Fry

 

To be there, or almost there

when the day lays down its gift –

a purple orchid pushing through the daisies.

 

Or lifting the lid of the compost bin,

how I find a tiny paper lantern, 

the beginnings of a wasp’s nest – and today 

 

a dragonfly has shed the skin from its mud-life,

its glimmering wings unfolding, 

preparing for uplift and for air.

 

Gallagher

Fran Lebowitz is not happy

by Emma Gallagher

 

Fran Lebowitz is not happy about not leaving New York.

Fran Lebowitz is not happy about that other New Yorker leaving New York to ruin. ‘Sloth,’ she says, ‘recognises sloth.’

Fran Lebowitz does not have a mobile phone, a microwave or a love of technology,
she is knee-deep in books, peeling cucumbers for salads that someone else should be making.

Fran Lebowitz doesn’t care for cooking, she cares for eating.

Fran Lebowitz is smoking cigarettes and missing tourists.
Fran Lebowitz hates tourists, but tourists are better than no tourists.
In the no-one else of her existence, Fran Lebowitz is the worst tourist she has ever had.

If a tree falls in Times Square, does a butterfly flap its wings in Wuhan? ‘Contagious unfettered capitalism,’ she says, ‘closed culture quicker than Corona.’

Fran Lebowitz’s concierge desk is a glimpse behind a velvet rope, see, New York society distanced before it was cool.

Fran Lebowitz says that the president is the stupidest person you could ever know and love to him is the algebra equation of someone who cannot add.

‘A smart woman,’ she says, ‘never had much of a chance.’

Fran Lebowitz loved Toni Morrison because Toni Morrison loved everyone she met,
and made two days out of one; wise and brilliant, she could teach you to think differently.

There are books she expects to finish but she’s at very high risk (of not finishing books).

 

Gilpin

lockdown weather

by Jerry Gilpin

 

mostly we watched the slow slide of sun along the wall

felt a shadow move over flesh like a cool caress

as we browned slowly on benches and balconies

and the sky put up a frail hand of cloud   translucent as old skin

 

one sudden day of rain   a few thin spatters angled

on the window pane   the soft crinkling of water on the sill

a percussion of drops   then broken gutters leaking from corners

everything shining and running   the city flowed into itself

but now the weather locks down into gloom

the immobility of waiting in the silver light

under blank skies where a single gull prospects

and the fig tree holds its green palms up

 

we are wrapped in water   its gradations of dullness

its suspension   the soft brightness that shifts

in the air   shapes move across one another like moods

ridges emerge and fade in the great slow stillness

 

of suspiring clouds   they mingle like breaths in a choir

in that haze of smoky music high above   and if

you stare long enough at this pale view you can believe

you hear the hidden blues within the grey

 

Granader

Funerals With My Father

By Robert Granader

 

On Sundays my father took me to funerals.

Sunday mornings were mine. Not for organized religion. Though we had our own rituals and rights. We’d pull into the Memorial Chapel parking lot just before ten o’clock.

“How are the numbers kid?” he’d ask.

“Not good,” I’d say.

We’d go in and sign the book.

An hour later over a salted bagel slathered in cream cheese we would talk about the dead person we just met.

“When I die you pack the place, you got it?” he said looking at me instead of the icy road.

“And you give ‘em bagels.

 

Halpin Long

We . . .

By Irene Halpin Long

 

We

touch hands through panes of glass,

 

            light berry scented candles 

 

on window sills,

 

                        stare at budding branches that sweep red streaks across the sky.

 

 

 

remember the phrase

 

our mothers sang about a red sky 

 

at night.

 

 

 

hope the phlox moon drags the tombstone 

 

like a tide, allowing a chink of light

 

            penetrate the darkness.

 

 

 

pray for the prick of a syringe in fleshy skin. 

 

 

Hand

Recipe for the Blues 

By Eithne Hand

  

Ingredients:

·       Ten spoon flakes of Cobalt, best picked at twilight

       (use Smalt if Cobalt not in season)

·       Two smudges of Aegean and two of Teal

·       One snatch of Lapis

·       Four dabs of Cornflower

·       A shade of Cyan to taste

 

 

Method:

1.     With the underwing of a Magpie, dip all in a warm bowl.

2.     Sieve the light of an April day until all is air.

3.     Let the confection sit.

4.     Turn the lights to royal, forget there were ever riches before this.

5.     Allow your eyes to feast.

6.     Hug your blanket of indigo.

7.     Wallow in iridescence.

8.     Swallow.

 

 

Hanifin

 Shadows

 by Trisha Hanifin

 

I’m already tired of live chat, skype and zoom, seeing myself on video links – alien face, ghost skin and hair, bleached shadow of a former self. Instead I sit at my desk and sharpen pencils, gathering comfort from older calligraphy.

Time should be savoured, step by word by breath. The birds are raucous, the trees in the local cemetery turn orange, yellow, maple red. Late afternoon my elongated shadow precedes me; I discover the memorial to the victims of the 1918 Spanish flu, touch the penumbral loop of history.

As we withdraw the world expands, trying to catch its breath.

 

Hannigan

YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE

By Des Hannigan

 

You are the ones,

The mothers, fathers, daughters, sons.

You are the promise of the dawn,

The sound of bird song.

You are the ones,

Who’ll turn the tide, restart the clocks,

Unlock the locks and raise the blinds.

You are the ones, who find

The strength of legions in your minds.

You are the ones in harm’s way,

The masters of our fate,

The guardians at the gate.

You are the ones who’ll win the race,

You are our saving grace.

 

Harley

I Wash My Hands

by Philip Harley

 

I wake, wash my hands, eat breakfast and wash my hands. FaceTime rings. I smile, nod, laugh, and when it’s over I wash my hands. I don gloves and walk the circuit of my streets. I return, drink tea and fight the urge to wash my hands. I miss hugging, touching, kissing, being alive. I forget the days, I dread the nights. I want to skip to a café, drink cappuccino, watch the smiles beyond the masks. Before I clean my teeth, I wash my hands and then I dream that when I awake all this will be a delusion. 

 

Harshman

PANDEMIC SPRING

By Marc Harshman

 

The mildest winter in forever continued on,
robins holding court with their winter cousins
and trees bending with sunny winds and no one seeming to mind: opening windows, undoing buttons,

looking for summer in a spring already here. Calendar ignored, old wisdoms scorned, and Lent’s penitential rites lip-serviced with a sneer. Still, some years are like that. Strike up the band,

make merry while you can; try not to remember the rest of that chestnut, how it soon turned dark, how soon came the unseen, the germ undeterred by wishfulness, all hope bet on a thin spark

that might or might not light, might, in fact, fizzle, find you shirtless, mortal in a wintry, icy drizzle.

 

Hay

The things Service Users Notice Now That I wear a Mask

By Bethan Hay

 

Doreen notices the green flecks through the brown of my eyes

which you cannot see without searching and it reminds her of

her mother. She is happy while I am there, a girl again,

remembering how those eyes cared for her as a child

before they belonged to me. As I say goodbye and turn to leave she squeezes my hand

within its unhuman blue glove, cold rubber where she hoped

for a long lost but never forgotten touch.

Victor sees the brown spot, a beauty spot he calls it, at the corner of my eye,

covered sometimes by the mask as it creeps up when my hands are not clean

or free to put it back in its rightful place. He does not always

know who I am and lives by the rule of flattery will get your everywhere. Which is

true, but everywhere is different depending on who you flatter.

Maggie traces the straps as they wrap around my head

and teases me about the silver hairs, now two inches long

and asks if I will be the first to make an appointment

to regain my youth. I ask her how late she is for hers, she laughs,

and she winks

“too far gone for me now, my dear.”

I am not so sure, and nor is she.

 

Hayter

Changing the Locks

By Lesley Hayter

 

While we’re having to stay at home
I mirror gaze my straggly hair
and I can’t do much with brush or comb.

 

‘Why don’t you use some gel or foam?’
my husband asks when I despair
while we’re having to stay at home.

 

He castigates me when I moan
but Ed is bald so he soesn’t care
and can’t do much with brush or comb.

 

‘Get the scissors, I’ll have a go
at cutting it for you if I dare
while we’re having to stay at home.

 

I Skyped my friend who lives alone;
she has dreadlocks – it’s so unfair,
and can’t do much with brush or comb.

 

Loving my dreadlocks! Who’d have known!
I’m happy now, no thought of hair
while we’re having to stay at home
and can’t do much with brush or comb.

 

Heaney McKee

 A Normal Day

by Claire Heaney McKee

 

Imagine feeling suffocated in your own home

Can you ever remember feeling so alone,

Schools on-line and family face-times 

In our gardens trying to get tan lines.

 

The radio is almost always on, people saying this is a Government con

It’s just blurry voices ringing in my ear, while we are waiting for news we actually want to hear.

 

The nurses who fight to save our lives

For every one they save, another one dies,

Showing the population much needed guidance, brave or unlucky I haven’t decided. 

 

‘I miss you’ are words I hear more and more 

I miss when you used to show up at my door,

I can’t wait until we can have just a normal day 

I know you can’t, but I wish you could stay.

 

Maybe this all happened for a reason 

This is a change, a brand new season, 

The Earth’s seas are bluer and grasses are greener 

People are happier and the air is cleaner. 


A poem written by my 15 year old daughter, Aimee Grace, expressing her feelings during lockdown.

 

Horsfall

The Luckiest

by Kathleen Horsfall

 

I am the luckiest person on earth. Through the carnage and the chaos, I can stay home. Through the screaming of kids unleashed on harrowed parents, I escape to a quiet nook where I work in peace. I have all the free time I always wished for.

I’m learning a new language. I’m writing a book. I can learn an inexhaustible amount of skills throughout this bleak moment in time. Every day, I’m going to better myself. Every day is an opportunity.

But today, I can’t get out of bed.

 

Hunter

LAST THURSDAY

By Paddy Hunter

 

First came the rhythmic clapping of hands,

the beat of spoons on metal, rattled pans,

even dustbin lids would do,

and somebody played the maracas.

 

Subdued we clap softer now to the ripple

of pidgeons’ wings as they settle:

later as the last care-worker drives by

I give silent thanks for crayoned rainbows,

for covid-oblivious young lovers,

for the boy who cartwheels every sixth step

on the road home from the beach,

and for the girl who dances:

for the flicker of a fishing boat’s mast-light

as it heads back to harbour.

 

 

Ingrams

 This Spring

By Will Ingrams

 

It’s spring. I feel again that surge of hope;

Old ground re-worked for colour, taste and joy.

New zeal, my world washed clean with annual soap,

Unreeling skeins of skills to re-employ.

I build my pea supports when shoots appear,

Stretch tooth-proof netting round the sprouting bed

To fox the rabbits, scotch each stalking deer;

Sly slugs I track at night, bright torch on head.

The war with pests invigorates a spring,

But this year there’s a killer in the pack;

Coronavirus takes us on the wing,

Chokes breath and stretches healthcare on its rack.

Save lives by staying home, the headlines shout;

As thousands die, I set the squashes out

 

Joyce

Visiting Rites

for my mother

 by Breda Joyce

 

I saw the tears in her eyes when she asked the nurse

about her little boy and I squeezed my mother’s fingers

in the ward with the bad smell.

 

My brother stood red cheeked and crying in the corner,

hands raised above the gate of his cot.

My mother took an orange from a brown paper bag,

 

held its coolness against his raging cheek,

then peeled the hissing skin and sprayed

the air with a citrus mist.

 

She offered him a segment and my brother

squeezed its sweetness between his tiny teeth.

When visiting time was up, my mother unclasped

 

sticky arms from around her neck, laid down

her little boy among the oranges and from his cot

he threw each one out between the bars.

 

Now it is my mother who stands inside a gate,

and from her doorstep looks out across a vacant space.

My brother tells her she will be ok as he leans across the gate

to place a bag of oranges on the other side.

 

Kerr

Brown Rice

By Colin Kerr

 

The shelves are emptying. I’ve had anxiety for over thirty years. Life terrifies me. I need structure and every night for a decade I have eaten brown rice; and now it’s all gone. I’ve tried every shop I can find. I want to ask people with shopping bags if they have any. I see cars driving past, loaded with bags; I think about stopping the cars. I have a breakthrough at my therapy session; through tears, I say, “I can’t find any brown rice.” She is pleased I am finally expressing myself but all I want is some brown rice.

 

Kilmartin

Seed of Light

By Margaret Kilmartin

 

I am a simple seed planted deep in the soil, small and lost in the vast earth.  It is dark in the ground and I am still, uncertainly waiting.  Experiencing a stirring, I trust that something momentous is about to happen.  Feeling a sense of change and a flicker of fear, I burst open and a little shoot appears.   Alone and weak I look for hope. Noticing a tremendous heat coming from above, I sense something very powerful above. I stretch up to this warmth, pushing myself up above the surface to live in the light of the sun.

 

King

Recognition

By Abigail King

 

I ran into a friend at the fencing supply, a signmaker.   We crossed paths, masked, several times before realizing we didn’t just resemble ourselves, it was actually us.  

 

“It’s the perfect profession for a pandemic,” he said, with what these days passes for exuberance.  “I work alone, outdoors, up high.”

 

How many months, years will it be before I stop visualizing respiratory particles emanating from every open mouth?  Their trajectories, the pull of gravity upon them. 

 

The figs on our neighborhood trees are small, hard, green but changing fast.  What will the world be like the moment they ripen?   

 

Knight

Caravan

By Debbie Knight

 

Announcement: ‘All campsites are closed due to unforeseen circumstances, therefore, no loiterers, otherwise a €390 fine’. Holidays are cancelled – ‘make no plans for the coming summer’, stated Marc Rutte when he addressed the nation.

So, on a sunny afternoon many families venture to their redundant caravan in the backyard, fantasising an escape. Put on the CD of breaking waves and crying seagulls, assemble the deck-chairs and then you really are on holiday.

The wine on ice, salmon salad chilled whilst the children paddle in a bucket, granddad snoozes and mum and dad toast – ‘this is better than Benidorm’.

 

Knight

The Lockdown

By Debbie Knight

 

First the doctors and nurses are cheered
Then the church bells peal their solemn toll
Whilst the pallbearers stand in their rows
To carry the taken from the invisible foe

The sunny streets lie bereft
Under restrictions to stay at home
This is the modern year of twenty twenty
We thought it would be of growth and plenty

So strong and mighty we thought we were
Safe, protected and free with choices
One by one, ten thousands fold
A ‘new’ malady strikes of centuries old

The empty trams weave their hushed course
With just a few lonely on its path
Shops, restaurants, schools are closed
Our lives as we knew, come to a close

Orders are to stand six feet apart
And social gatherings of no more than three
People don’t share, nor do they smile
Recovery and resumption will take a stretched while

In our innocence we didn’t know
Such an unforessen quernstone should occur
Grinding to a halt to what we knew
Later to lament, rebuild and begin anew

 

Koffman

Self-Isolation

By Angela Koffman

 

There is no yellow wallpaper

Yet I am the queen

Of this hive of separate cells,

Individuals slotted neatly in each studio.

 

I do not miss the rain on my face 

But long for immediacy –

The glimmer of a jay in the hawthorn hedge, 

The dandelions that run unchecked along the verges, 

Their clocks telling the advance of summer. 

 

Everything here is parcelled for consumption. 

News and tins and puzzles. 

All words mediated. 

Blunt stabs at comfort and flippant humour. 

 

Beyond my window

The hedgerow will be foamy white.

The heron stands unmoving on the riverbank, 

Waiting too. 

 

Krizka

 Until We Are Delivered

By Mary Krizka

 

from the blight of potential infection, we are content

in our retreat to each follow our devotions: I potter

sedately in my garden, cloistered by the silver birch,

tend raspberries, blueberries, pick parsley. Mother,

as scribe, journals our time with calligraphy, paints

watercolour. Sister Jane embroiders. Later in the day

we emerge from our adjacent homes, pass through

the garden gate and commune together; sit in shade

between the white camellias, imbibe tea, break marbled cake.

 

We contemplate our Sainsburys.com order, pray together

for salvation from the scourge of substitutions, lament

the impending burden of plentiful plastic bags.

And we give thanks – for moisturising hand sanitiser,

for Tanya, down the road, who keeps us emailed

about bin and garden waste collections, who posts purple

potatoes through my letterbox for us to taste;

for the blessing of ethereal unions with those of similar

persuasions through the virtual chapels of Zoom.

Lala

On The Red Line

By Vidya Lala 

Standing on the platform
I saw a man
sitting
(without a mask)
feet dangling
on the edge
feet dangling
above the tracks
feet dangling
the train approaching
feet dangling
contemplating his mortality
feet dangling
I shuffle closer
feet dangling
almost disclosing my superpowers
feet dangling
train: one minute to arrival
feet dangling
“Maybe–“
feet dangling
“Excuse me, Sir!”
feet dangling
“Yes… OK.”
Both feet on solid ground.

Standing on the platform
the man stands beside me.
The train arrives
and we enter the same train car
through different doors.
Rows of seats between us.

At my stop
I leave. 

 

Lang

Like Solving for X

By Susanna Lang

 

We have not been careful we have forgotten the steps

We know what the constant is
but have lost track of the variables

We have chosen the wrong operators miscalculated the exponents misidentified the expressions

We have not been careful in our count we have forgotten the rules

Every number is now irrational
but we can verify that the numbers grow larger even if mythical, the curve steeper

We have not been careful in counting the dead we have forgotten the rules governing equations

The end point is vanishing
into the blank space outside the graph and we will each solve for x
with our own logic
in our differential time

 

Li

Ekphrasis

by Daryl Li

 

Despite their bright orange vests, they are often invisible to Singaporeans. But the sun embraces them. The lake, from which they remove weeds, acknowledges them. The trees behind know their voices.

Two “foreign workers”,

label for

street cleaners, construction workers

jobs Singaporeans refuse.

label

reinforcing distance

difference.

Long confined to dormitories by our collective lack of acceptance, surging COVID-19 numbers have left them doubly isolated. Perhaps the pandemic will force us to rethink foreignness and distance.

But this photograph is eight years old. Things never change.

Socrates on ekphrasis: “[T]hey go on telling you just the same thing forever.”

 

Liddell-King

Clearing the Attic
(For Kate who never fails to phone) 

by Jane Liddell-King

 

Kate says 

For days now I’ve woken empty as the tea shop 

Not the whiff of a single important thing I’ve ever done coming to mind 

 

Then yesterday I was clearing out the attic 

and I found a bundle of letters

I meant to bin them but put them in my bag

one enclosed a training programme covered in my usual scrawl

 

why can’t I teach my son to recognise his sister’s face

Jim must have been 6 or 7 

but Kitty was always beyond him

 

Days and weeks and a bunch of sleepless years spent teaching him

suddenly swept over me 

 

There was this one letter with boxes ticked in red and a picture of Jim 

                                                                        grinning

 

Can you believe it 

he’d learned to hold a spoon

 

And I thought 

Jim has been my life

And it’s been as full as anyone else’s after all

Wouldn’t you say so Dot? 

 

Lynch

a measurement of silence in one hundred words

 by Rosaleen Lynch

 

in-utero/ underwater length/ a night’s sleep/ tabula-rasa/dog whistle to the human ear/ reading a chapter/ listening/ silent movie/ hesitation/ bake for 8-10 minutes at 180ºC/ quiet/ Harpocrates/ the silent treatment/ power-cut/ outage scheduled for 3.15 to 3.45am/ 1000 piece jigsaw/ one minute’s silence/ texting/ a penny for your thoughts/ secret/ radio-silence/ a bath/ prayer/ meditation/ video conference awkward pause/ mime/ knitting 82 inch scarf/ shock/ the right to silence/ mute/ forty winks/ shhhhh/ conversation turn-taking indicator/ ghosting/ loneliness/ inaudible/ writing letters/ fear/ a comfortable silence/ 11 down seven-letter crossword clue/ peace/ a rest in music/ the rest/ ex silentio/ death

 

Marks

WEEKS

By Josh Marks

 

On clear evenings, she switches off the radio. She sits on the floor in the corner, and watches the sunlight trace its way across walls. It fills nooks that she had never noticed before. There are shadows where she least expects them, and Hockney was right: the shadows are purple. 

 

He stretches out on the rug and listens to the sounds of his settling bones, quietly hoping for rain. 

 

Mason

We’re Going Global

By Fiona Mason

 

I am claustrophobic when the PM declares

we must stay indoors. Walls slide in,

I scan the room, heart racing:

 

how will I survive in this tiny space?

With the puppy? With the cats? With him?

I’m hurtling through the five stages of grief.

 

An image develops by degrees

This tight two-up two-down dwelling

is now a super-deluxe motorhome,

 

a smart double-decker, with all mod cons.

And already I’m packing away

the crockery and glasses,

 

folding deckchairs, rolling in the awning,

settling the pets in their places. The

low turbo-diesel rumbles, Sat Nav set to lucky dip.

 

We’re going global. I breathe.

 

Mason

Navigation in Isolation

By Emma Mason

 

First things first, your Sat Nav needs to be activated. Now please wait – your route is being calculated. Start by taking the first left then immediate right, Then follow the bend, beware it’s quite tight.

Go past the kitchen that only bakes banana bread, And past the sofa that is now is doubling as a bed.

At the next exit there are reports of some road blocks, And beware of the flashing camera, set up for TikToks. Then climb over the bridges during live yoga hour, Then quickly accelerate to give you more power.

But if you start to hear the news then turn around! You’ve gone too far, please head back east bound!

Then take the next right where you will soon arrive,
At a time somewhere close to around five forty-five.
This should be in time for happy hour to begin,
So put the handbrake on and grab yourself a gin,
And follow the signs to where it says drinks station, Congratulations – you have now arrived at your destination.

 

Matheson

 After shooting the possessed farmhand

who had stolen my wife’s computer

five years before

by Spencer Matheson

 

I get up (all these people, needing killing!)

and enter an exceptionally empty kitchen.

Exceptionally, since Brexit, I put on the BBC,

wondering how Boris is faring in ICU.

 

But they’re talking about jazz

in that clueless way the British do,

it’s the 50th anniversary of Bitches Brew.

Grind some beans, rinse some strawberries, slice some bread.

And, bending down for my favourite mug

(90s textbook illustration goodness, a river, a mama bear and cub)

I begin to cry. They’re playing ‘It Never Entered my Mind’.

 

What to do? There’s no one here to turn my back on while I compose myself.

Compose my 1990 self, drunk on this sound, drunk on everything?

Lament Poetry’s scrawny 16 year-old body

being pile-driven into the mat by Music

over and over and over again?

 

Or just stay here.

With the coffee and the toast, the strawberries and the tears.

 

McGranachan

Out for a Duck

By Paul McGranachan

 

The only ashes to be taken are those that have been taken before; electronic ghosts in the scrying glass, batting and catching where now there is only the slow silent growth of the grass. Perhaps dandelions are gleaming in the out-field, daisies in the slip.

Re-runs, indeed. There are no overs, no byes; just a front room fossil bed of sixes and innings, while mirthless squares go for the wrong sort of run by the cricket ground. The sun shines down on emptiness. Where is the worth in the glories that were, when measured against those that could have been?

 

McGranaghan

You’re in the STASI Now

by Paul McGranaghan

 

No need for generals or tanks in the street,

Just an email to say you must stand back six feet;

And the news on TV, and the radio too,

Denouncing the selfish covidiot few

 

Who will get us all killed. Now,

Return to your homes. There’s nothing to see here

But check-points and drones.

You’ve been given your orders. Now,

Be a good sport. Now,

Do as you’re told or you’ll wind up in court. Now,

You’re not essential, so self-isolate. Now,

Shut down the churches and cheer on the State.

 

Now, where are you going? For how long and why?

If you don’t keep your distance then people will die. Now,

What did I tell you? Don’t talk back to me. Now,

Where are those papers I wanted to see?

 

Responsible Citizens! Obey These Demands:

Inform On Your Neighbours, and then Wash Your Hands.

 

McGranaghan

Out For A Duck

by Paul McGranaghan

 

The only ashes to be taken are those that have been taken before; electronic ghosts in the scrying glass, batting and catching where now there is only the slow silent growth of the grass. Perhaps dandelions are gleaming in the out-field, daisies in the slip.

Re-runs, indeed. There are no overs, no byes; just a front room fossil bed of sixes and innings, while mirthless squares go for the wrong sort of run by the cricket ground. The sun shines down on emptiness. Where is the worth in the glories that were, when measured against those that could have been?

 

McGuire

Legal Tender

By Karla McGuire

 

We stand 2m apart, together in the queue. The footballer, the businessman and I; the politician. Up front, a nurse, who, upon hearing the total claps furiously. 

 

“I’m sorry Miss. Clapping isn’t legal tender. “

 

“The HSE is broke, now they pay us in applause. “

 

He says again. 

“I’m sorry. That isn’t legal tender, but thank you for your service. “ 

And his two hands clamp together. 

 

We all join in. The footballer, the businessman and I. Proud that we can repay some gratitude. We applaud her all the way to the door. Where she leaves, empty-handed. 

 

McMahon

Covidelle

By Deirdre McMahon

 

Will there be time when Covid’s done

for us to grab each new day’s gift

to sit and watch the setting sun?

 

To laugh and talk, together run,

and roam on beaches, chase spindrift,

Will there be time when Covid’s done?

 

To plan adventures just have fun,

watch mist on mountain summits drift,

to sit and watch the setting sun?

 

The memories our love has spun

treasure for now too raw to sift.

Will there be time when Covid’s done?

 

To build our home with love fine-spun

and grow together with no rift,

to sit and watch the setting sun?

 

To laugh and party, pain outrun,

be gentle, soft, be slow, be swift?

We’ll make the time when Covid’s done,

together watch the setting sun.

 

Meehan

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

By Sighle Meehan

 

I take my coffee to the garden

a corner

isolated from the sting of March

 

I have sunshine, Heaney’s poems

Hadyn’s music 

Tuppy at my feet.  I have

 

Facetime, Houseparty, What’sApp

with seven groups. 

Sea spray salts the air

 

wren are busy in the ivy, a ladybird

lands on my hand

Summer is gearing up

 

I have cake with purple icing

ginger biscuits

all the time in the world

 

so why am I crying?

 

Mepham

There Is Nothing Wrong

By Alex Mepham

 

In these stressful times my father has started smoking. Seeing as it was my mother who was the smoker, I am surprised to find my father smoking. When I ask what is wrong he replies, There is nothing wrong, I am just unhappy.

 

Merrow

 

Turtle Island *
 for Gary Snyder

By S B Merrow

 

Those of us who came and learned to farm

learned to love the rocky soil, grow potatoes in sandstone, shale,

tuberous & tasty with mutton spiced or creamed & buttery—

nothing like a spud right now—its budding

 

solace in these lands we colonized with craft beer,

with islands of hot violence like popping corn,

            landlocked in surrender.

 

Back-paddling up the river’s story,

            our cars’ shelved engines stalling, or

            startled once a week into starting

            as squirrels scatter chattering—

a viral villain unmasks the capillaried continent.

 

Farmers and fishermen show us how, remind us

of terroir, the culture of dirt. Bivouacked in time,

and guided to action by our dreams

            (the familiar and strange),

faux smiles candy-brittle, we are foreign

 

orchestras silenced, the violin’s bowed neck

encased in shapely, holy darkness. But hear!

by the muddy pond,

            a child is singing

                        to turtles in the sun.

·      Turtle Island is a name applied to the North American continent by Native Americans, “based on many creation myths of the people who have been here for millennia” — from the New Directions poetry collection by Gary Snyder of the same name, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1975.

 

Meyer

Canoe

by Bruce Meyer

 

The dip of his paddle softly breaking the water, or a Bible’s thin pages turned by his hand,

or the eyelids of birds fluttering to sleep before he shut off his light only hours before –

I hear my grandfather in the silences now.

He is setting out in a wounded canoe before sunrise on a dead-still lake.

He often spoke of a shallow bay overhung with boughs of narcissus pines where rock bass waited on every breath,

and had I listened through his shroud of mist

I would would have heard his line tug hard to catch the dawn and release it alive.

 

Mitchell

Oh Sinner Man

By Geraldine Mitchell

 

Out of the blue

a sneaky draught

blows the door open

 

tumbles walls in a gust

of cosmic breath, a noxious

puff from god knows

 

where. And so we fall,

one by one, like weeping

beads of soldered lead,

 

dropped in an unmapped

zone where we stand

exposed as skinny dippers

 

caught in an island cove,

ashamed and shivering under

the searchlight’s hunting probe.

 

Murphy

Safekeeping (or Schrödinger’s Lunchbox)

By Gráine Murphy

 

My daughter’s lunchbox is not empty. Though it holds no banana peel or sandwich crusts,

no pips from grapes or the half-licked lid of a yogurt carton. No air-softened cracker crumbs

or rubbery carrot sticks, cut late last night with too much grumbling and too little gratitude.

 

I gather into the beeswrap, instead, the crumbs of resolve that remain

after the nightly horse-trading of screens and stories,

the weary backdrop of homeschooled tears and pleas for five more minutes

for the important things forgotten all the rest of the day.

A hug. A biscuit. The hind leg of the dog left unfondled.

 

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay positive. Above all, stay.

(We must succeed in this or miss the point entirely).

With endless hours in endless days, the stretch in the evening

is one more judgement. Conditioned to believe the necessary is contained

by the time available, we are betrayed when time becomes infinite.

 

Walking to other voices, I learn that our internal clocks are governed

by the eye. Absorbing daylight, godlike it smooths our rhythms. I live with

the knowledge that simply keeping my eyes open holds us on course.

 

There’s a strange alchemy in the word daughter. Say it aloud. Hear its soul of wish and regret.

Hear its both-ness. It is a promise, a vigil for and against. My daughter’s lunchbox is not empty:

it houses my wide-eyed hopes for her, neatly folded and placed in the cupboard for safekeeping.

 

Myers

To a Virus

By Jed Myers

 

You’ll fill me with such fire
the air will feel icy, and I will shake. Should I engage my lips to speak

you’ll have my teeth clack. And you’ll choke me
off from the sea of breath, my countless lagoons packed with your pale muck

till my gasps give out. You’ll be the host
who’ll introduce me again to the ocean I’ve rudely forgotten I rose from

in this reverie of a life. You’ll beckon me
into the earth, no mannequin’s contour left to reflect the light of our faith

in our tiny grandeur. And you might guess
what my marrow grammar’s getting at—you, with your spiked armor poking

my life’s fine lining, you will not claim
what I’ve lived. Be my strangler, period come to cinch my narrative down

to a silent dot—you will not revise
what my bones have scrawled, though my trail’s sand-swept cursive’s erased

and all whom I’ve known gone faceless. You will not ever unmake what will ever have been. I’ve wakened to kisses, had the wind

stroke my brow, shown a child the moon.

 

O’Brien

RARING TO GO

By Pamela O’Brien


Everything is hotsy totsy now
We’re out of the woods
In a New York minute
Go like the clappers
Pull out all the stops
Throw caution to the wind
Paint the town red
Take the bull by the horns
Beat around the bush
Turn over a new leaf
Bark up the wrong tree
Out of the woods
Head for the hills
The whole nine yards
Turn a blind eye
Rock the boat
Get your feet wet
Ruffle some feathers
Mask out

 

O’Carroll

My lockdown birthday

 by Rosie O’Carroll

 

On my lockdown birthday, my true love sent to me, A toilet roll, some pasta and a set of PPE,
An IOU for Nandos, a take-out from a pub,
Links to a virtual disco, held at a virtual club.

He painted me a rainbow, Blew kisses from the car,
I said to him, “Try harder, “This birthday’s crap so far.”

So, he emailed all my best mates, For a meet-up in the square, Saying, “Keep apart two metres, “No one will spot you there.”

Oh damn you, lockdown birthday, All celebrations cease,
Cos we all got reported,
And fined by the police.

O’Farrell

Sixty-four arts of a lockdown
(after Vatsayana, Sixty-four Arts of the Kama Sutra)

by Orlagh O’Farrell

 

Among the many skills a woman can have

(landscape gardener, sink-unclogger,

blacksmith, postwoman, and so on)

for giving home tuition the most sought-after

is undoubtedly the archer, chiefly for her

remarkable powers of eye-hand coordination.

Her arm is steady, her eye keen as an eagle’s.

She will be a good communicator, and when setting

up a position know how to give a beginner’s hips

a firm non-sexual twist. She will be a good pianist,

dispatching double-handed arpeggios with

speed and style. If she is also adept at

clay modelling, clay pigeon shooting,

flamenco dancing, swimming the butterfly,

and tighthead prop in a rugby scrum, she will

be in demand for team-building, after-dinner

archery, giving out the rosary, and family bonding.

 

O’Riordan

Metamorphosis

by Deirdre O’Riordan

 

Tweeting, warbling and chatting. The birdsong inhabits the vulnerable room. 

I turn on the radio and let the DJ pollute the air quality. I answer calls and listen to symptoms and queries and give advice. I’m learning. My vocabulary now routinely includes swabs, asymptomatic, apyrexial, self isolating and immunocompromised. 

Maybe I should have cocooned. I had that option. But how would I have emerged? Not as a butterfly. There’s no growth to be had in hiding out, not when I’d another option. I’m tucked away in a secluded room, not heroic, just helping. 

In my own metamorphosis.

 

Parry

Change

By Rachel Parry

 

“Cocoon” they said –
if such miracles are possible
I might grow wings.

 

Once I kept a caterpillar.
It nibbled privet leaves
and walked around – accordion style,
a shrinking and expanding bar of bright green music

which stopped the day it lost its skin
    – the way you might forget a tune,
and closed itself
in a hard brown lacquer case.

It might die” they said,
knowing more than I did
how hard it is to change.
I kept it warm and safe
                                   in case.

 

Peck

Lost

By Caroline Peck

 

I.
We listened to her footsteps above,
Searching from room to room
Like a wounded animal.
Padding over floorboards,
Creaking under low moans.
The weight of which laid heavy,
In her blood, and between her bones.

 

II.
Formed, but then transformed.
Your course was plotted in the stars,
And they traced your path unthinking
For in the universe they trusted,
But the rarest supernovas,
All collapse away to dust.

 

III.
I think of your substantial soul,
Working its way between worlds.
Wound free from blood and bone,
Into air now circling the trees.
I listen for you at the water’s edge;
Tiny breaths woven into the breeze.

Perrins

Hanging water

By Lesley Perrins

 

                    Outside our window, the laburnum is switched off,

                    the skeleton of each flower hanging still,

                    but last week’s yellow irretrievable.

 

                    There was a time your touch would light me up;

                    you brought me in the house to be your Christmas tree,

                    thought you’d paid for the kind which never drops.

 

                    When I failed, you took apart the wood of me,

                    hammered out of it this antiquated thing,

                    less woman now than mill-wheel to be pushed around

 

                    like those which left their ghosts for us to find

                    in better days, when we strolled the Porter Brook.

                    I grind your corn now, sharpen your knives.

 

                    Beyond our window, the laburnum flexes and greens;

                    I’m watching how she occupies her ground;

                    but there’s no one on the outside looking in

 

                    to where my face is frozen in the frame,

                    the endless now in which you might descend on me,

                    as I brace to take the weight of hanging water.

 

Pritchard

Before they locked the door

By Diana Pritchard

 

A slice of moon spilled light across the sea when first we met, before they locked the door.

The night was warm with fragrances of thyme engaged with pine before they locked the door.

We found new love that balmy night with arms entwined with promise as they locked the door.

The sun rose hot and strong as that sad day left us apart once they had locked the door.

We cannot know when we shall meet again to hug and kiss behind the unlocked door

nor if our love will last while Artemis
hunts down the silent foe that locked the door.

 

Reynolds

Touch (Things I Miss)

by Esther Reynolds

 

Hand brush, exchange of warm coins. Close to strangers, smoke in the air, shaking hands, can you reach that for me? Fingertips on skin, squeezing my arm. A bump on the shoulder, apologies, excuse me, warmth, laughter, nearness. I feel the air move when you gesture. Laugh in my face. Lick the spoon, pass a beer. ‘Scuse fingers. Hands collide as we go to change the music. Have some water, bless you. Should you lie down for a bit? Hot forehead, dampness of sweat, a kiss, it’ll be alright. Sleep it off. When you wake up we’ll all feel better.

 

Roberts

 Co-vid 19

By Tanvi Roberts

 

Already the earth was groaning with them. In between them
I threaded, a child slipping its hand from its mother’s. Within hours,

I was on their tongues like saliva. Streets emptied, cemeteries filled, planes stopped mid-flight. Overnight, they chose where

to end up. Those who no longer wanted to touch
texted their break-ups. And in times like these, what could they do

but buy? Tinned beans, toilet paper, hand sanitizer. Someone said that drinking water every fifteen minutes would stop me;

they drank. Someone heard that holding your breath would starve me; they held. They began scrubbing

their hands, they wrapped the ends of sleeves round handles, they did not rub their eyes when

when they cried. Slowly, they recoiled from fingers, from breath, from air

itself. Then, they grew further

and further               and irretrievably apart,

like a planet which detaches

from a cold star’s             orbit.

 

Said

The Distance Between Us

By Ali Said


We used to be long-distance. London and Paris. Must be so hard, they said, being apart. Not really. Togetherness and independence at the same time. And those baguettes.

He moved to London two months before the virus. All day, we stare at each other across the table, laptops back to back. The things we used to talk about have fled my airless flat. Can you plug this in, I say. I’m going to have another beer, he says.

I watch the birds in downstairs’ garden. They come and go.

Distance feels like a luxury taken for granted. Like the baguettes.   

 

Sharman

Keeping Faith Good Friday 2020

by Penny Sharman

 

In today’s prayer book all the doors are closed.
I’m on my knees burning sweet sage, banging my drum, lighting candles in every room for my sons. I’m cleansing air in every corner for the world’s children.

For today’s passion all the doors are locked.
There are no palm leaves under our feet, no crosses to carry, no sanctuary from this strange death, a daily mantra
of stay at home—stay at home.

This is the great shut down. The Eternal City is empty, pilgrimages to Makkah cancelled, and I sit in a blazing sun under a parasol of hope.

I wonder about trapped birds and butterflies, the gathering of mice
and rats in churches, mosques, synagogues, sanghas, temples,
and gurdwaras. I sit in solitude, give thanks for the concerts of birdsong from dawn to dusk, everyday a different composer.

Sheehan

27th of April 2020

by Maresa Sheehan

 

The harrow runs its fingers

through the field’s hair,

 

the dandelions’

gossamer globes

 

the earthworms’ periscopes,

they too want to soak in the evening,

 

the birds bellow out tunes

unconcerned with complicated harmonies.

 

Perfect, constant, cruel,

over the ditch from the yellow bungalow

 

where strictly only family due to Covid-19

wake their father alone.

 

Neighbours stand at the tops of lanes, inside walls,

along ditches, maintaining social distance,

 

as the hearse drives past,

bow down dandelions, bow down.

 

Smith

Have you a fever? Do you cough?

By Bee Smith

 

It is really very tiring waiting for the other shoe to drop. We unlearn our helplessness by training ourselves
with endless YouTube tutorials. We remember, vaguely, how to sew and cook without a recipe book.

Though what shall we substitute for an avocado?

We queue and are let into shops two by two.
We are re-creating The Ark in our new Anschluss. In the supermarket we cruise the one-way aisles where no one makes eye contact.

It is very tiring to have to sanitise all your groceries
along with our worry and uncertainty. Inside, we lifestyle
our bunker’s décor for diversity, celebrating our make do and mend individuality. The avocado, grown from a pip, fails to fruit.
It droops and quivers on the windowsill each winter.

It is really very tiring despite all the sleep I get
in ten hour shifts. I dream of Sleeping Beauty, her castle. I feel climbing in my chest its choking vine.
And when I awake, I feel tired. All of the time.

 

 

Spiro

SWANNET

By Greg Spiro

 

Throned on last years nest, eggs descended,

Her neck charmed by the reeds to coil

Among them while her cob forages a few feet away,

Refurbishment the task from which they do not stray.

We onlookers on the pilgrim-punctuated path 

Cast peas, potato peels and too much bread.

Clicking like well-intentioned paparazzi

Marshalled by an eight year old, “Two metres please.”

Her sibling pleads indignantly, “Why can’t I play football on the grass!”

Brushed by sweating runners as if speed defies effect

We shuffle nervously to adjust our line.

Suddenly, she’s fending off a rat attack, wings raised,

A gasp till eggs all counted and regained,

Their living has become our life-sustaining aim.

 

Sriskandarajah

My Pawn Gently Sleeps

By Shamini Sriskandarajah

 

Easter weekend. The weather’s gorgeous and my disabled sister has been in an uncharacteristically good mood for the last few days. In a fit of optimism, I dig out the old chess set from the garage and start to set it up.

She takes over, putting the white pieces on black squares and the black pieces on white squares in an aesthetically-pleasing, social distancing pattern. I move a pawn one place forward. She does the same. What a miracle! She instinctively knows how to play.

Then she turns every piece on its side, as if it’s bedtime.

 

Sriskandarajah

Six Feet Away

By Shamini Sriskandarajah

 

We check the small print: graveyards aren’t an exception, even if you keep six feet away.

So we cut spring flowers from the garden, arrange them in vases, and share photos with each other.

The flowers intended for the ones we love who will always be six feet away.

 

Thomas

In the mythology of my life

By Toni Thomas

 

I have always been rolling down hills in a box with splintered seams looking for agates
thin skinned to the cold
bundled in layers of sweater, scarf, jacket that date me.

Outside Newport, the sand holds crushed shells, crab, pebble
a cigarette wrapper, one rubber wade shoe with a boy’s name missing. And I want to believe in the holy roller school of redemption
where even the broken find a handhold, smooth bridge
no one gets displaced, stricken with premature death
because of their age, the color of their skin, a virus.

But for now we keep our distance
travel along the beach like a series of totems solitary among the gulls.
I scratch the sand. Pocket two agates.
As if treasures can still come in a small parcel. It is not too late.

 

Tobin

Scrubs NI

By Gráinne Tobin

 

They peg cloth torsos out on washing lines

like bunting, or unfolded paper dolls,

 

each one released in turn with pinking shears

from a pile at the back of someone’s hot press –

 

put-away duvet covers unrolled and cut and stitched,

scrubs boil-washed in a hundred women’s kitchens.

 

The givers could name everyone who slept

under their reclaimed sheet-and-cover sets,

 

discreetly white with pale acanthus leaves,

or brazen blooms of orange or cerise,

 

hot pink flamingos in a turquoise pond,

turbo racing cars on a grey-black ground,

 

a patchwork print from the seventies

off a bed that was a raft for runaways –

 

for kisses don’t dissolve with washing or with time,

and promises are sewn into the tunics’ hems like coins.

 

Tough

Enforced Nesting

By Kate Tough

 

The yellow-legged gulls are tolerating me. Granting

watchful passage to this wingless biped who appears

through a gap in the box on which they slate-skirmish

at dawn. Allow access without hassle, so long as that’s the reach

of it no: laying on the lawn, or approaching the back decking

with the bench which offers the full horizon as the sun lowers,

nor lingering at the washing line, because the stout white

sentries at both nests would start whimpering and the aerial

squad start circling. How quickly they forget—

that I’d listened as they pecked off metal chimney spikes and didn’t

refit them; that I’d spent my lunchbreak following one of their own

up and down the main street while carrying a washing basket and a

heavy stone, hoping to shelter it, with its bent and bleeding wing, got

the postie involved, while the animal rescue made the hour-long trip

to transport it for a euthanised reprieve, rather than let it drag

itself in and out of gardens, until northern mid-May darkness

came and a fox finished it— or maybe they do know, and that’s why

I don’t get dive-bombed, only warned,

reminded whose world it is, and who just lives in it.

 

Tucker

Small Joys : 7th May 2020, A Loaf of Bread

By Gail Tucker

 

Today I rang the baker, I do so every ten days or so,

he bakes different loaves at random, he’s called

“Le Pain Tranquille” and speaks with a smile in his voice.

I love his bread. I keep it, it keeps me.

 

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, he has an unclaimed brioche

but if I want a tiny overfilled empanada, I must be sure

to order one; of course, it’s never only one.

Since Covid, I have never been without bread.

It calms me to think of it.

 

I slice it very thin and the re-assembled big loaf

sits in my freezer. This has become a ritual.

As I let the long-bladed knife work its magic, I think of

parents who taught me how to carve, contemplate

their patience in the face of another kind of pestilence.

 

Today, I rang the baker, his name is Miguel, he said,

“Tomorrow. I shall bake tomorrow but not today;

today is my birthday.”

So, patience. Tomorrow, I shall call in and collect

my calm bread and four fat empanadillas.

Wadey

LIKE SWALLOWS

By Maggie Wadey

 

                   They came like swallows, the young ones,

       eighteen that year, beautiful, quarrelsome, absurd,

powered by desires as yet unspoken

       and everything, everything, still to play for

                     even in their own doom-heavy, tech-laden, anxious times.

 

                   They came like swallows, the young ones, choosing

       to win, to lose, to speak out, or some to keep

to the narrow path of personal ambition,

       of love or study, holding faith that their future must surely deliver

                 something at least of pleasure, treasure, a measure

                         of the plenty lavished on their parents’ generation.

 

                   They came like swallows, the young ones,

         out of the traces and into the race,

torn as they were between fight or flight,

           high-hearted even in this damaged place

                     that we, like careless thugs, have gifted them.

 

                 They came like swallows, the young ones, flying,

                                           into the mockery of this year’s spring

 

Wall

Flattening the Curve!

by Mary Wall

 

I am self-isolating,

I am socially-distancing,

staying solitary,

to flatten the curve.

 

Strange times,

strange feel,

being cocooned

on an Easter Sunday.

 

I have overdosed

on Sanitizer, television,

and the tin of chocolates

left over from Christmas.

 

If this doesn’t end soon,

I fear

the curves will be 

beyond flattening.

 

Walsh

Dáil Speech in a Time of Pandemic

By Clíodhna Walsh

 

Vivid faces slide      along a glass green

tube, their wigs of kelp coolly stood on end;

tiny fish swim through such strange hairstyles

in Venice; swans return to the clear and calm

canals of Venice. I commend the Taoiseach on his speech.

Is something there?                        Unknown shapes slip by

like shoals; a glowing coal under the ash of memory.

Sweet God, I do not lie, in that video of a Saturday

night, wild voices sang Sweet Caroline,

hands holding hands,                    a hand around my neck

I cannot see, touching me, touching you,

so out of tune.                     

       I see dust leap

back to be a stick of chalk, the sum erased

I cannot tell. I thought we chose to behave

best on this planet & not like the hooligans

of other people. When I watched that video

so I wondered. No hands touching hands

but shoulder to shoulder, we’ll answer Ireland’s –

 

(sounds of coughing, harsh, offstage)

 

– Deputy, kindly resume –  

 

– Oh please excuse

me, for my thoughts have all gone loose;

just remember: don’t touch, don’t spit,

keep your distance, uncork your fuel cap

& return that black stuff to the muck. I’ve lived

life through waves of fog. The wind’s an international

scream past knowing. I know that people ask

when we shall tire – but listen, at an antiviral

Olympics, the gold is ours. My own mother

will give this virus a good hard belt. Something

sticks – COUGH – in my throat; no, you’re very kind;

fine, thanks. Now – we are going to be good at this,

 

take it on, pull together, follow

Taoiseach’s orders – yet, like        headlamps flinging light

on branches wet with ice, spectral thoughts

pass me by. But let’s           speak of hardware shops,

let us paint the back of the house,

plant our seeds on every windowsill,

may our salads spill over, be ready to go.

I refer to each and every windowsill.

At night I scroll through      fake stories of wild

animals running riot through quarantined cities.

At night come workers dressed in bin-bags,

wanting what I cannot give; a papery old

hand goes cold against me. Such bad dreams

are mine. This world is worse.

I feel it in the chest.

 

Walshe

On the Easing of Restrictions
By Dolores Walshe

It’s said Wrestler Dunne sleeps in a coffin since his wife died, he longing for the vertical six foot drop, incantating for it nightly.

Today I make it past Provence where Patsy proposed and we instantly honeymooned among buttercups and meadowsweet sixty years back. I’ve the whiskey Patsy took a gulp of before the grim fella took him that wind-blasted night, leaving me with arms of empty, a Provence I couldn’t look at again. 

I’m going to walk into Wrestler’s farmyard keeping the six-foot horizontal

between us, slide the bottle across the cobbles, in the hopes of a small chat.  

 

Warwick

Mask

By Rowena Warwick

 April 22nd

 There is a moment 

this morning

 

before I realise 

that the cut across my bed

 

is not the twelve-hour sore

which harried me

 

through the night,

is not the indent,

 

sunk, red as an assault,

across the nose

 

of the end-of-shift nurse,

who tweeted last night

 

that both her patients 

wouldn’t make it.

 

It is simply the gap

in the curtains

 

letting in the sunshine,

the light.

 

Wrigley

CHURCH IN MAY

By Stephen Wrigley

 

Now, Queen Anne’s Lace

arrives at every lane-side bank

to show a floret face

 

Her smock is hemmed

shy Speedwell blue, else under sewn

with white-topped Stitchwort stems.

 

She sports a sash

about her waist, Red Campion,

a modest scarlet splash.

 

In closed door days

lanes become church. They offer up

another route to praise,

 

easing our pace

and granting time to pause before

the shrine of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Young

Coronalupa

By Angela Young

 

I want to tell my two-year-old daughter the truth, but I don’t want to terrify her. I begin a conversation.

Do you know why you’re not at nursery school?
It’s closed.
Do you know why we haven’t had picnics in the park? It’s closed.
Do you know why Dad and I aren’t at work?
It’s closed.
Do you know why you can’t go to the playground?
It’s closed.
Do you know why you can’t see your friends?
All the families are closed.
But do you understand why everything’s closed?
She nods. I smile.
She understands. I wait.
It’s wolves.

 

 

Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2019

These glorious pieces have spun across the globe – pit-stopping in Japan, the Aussie outback, Vancouver, Paris, Amsterdam and our own Hibernian shores – traversing times past, present and imagined future as deftly as they mine the secret tunnels of the human heart. Enjoy the cavalcade. – Mia Gallagher


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Fish Anthology 2019

Fish Anthology 2018

The standard is high, in terms of the emotional impact these writers managed to wring from just a few pages. – Billy O’Callaghan

Loop-de-loopy, fizz, and dazzle … unique and compelling—compressed, expansive, and surprising. – Sherrie Flick

Every page oozes with a sense of place and time. – Marti Leimbach

Energetic, dense with detail … engages us in the act of seeing, reminds us that attention is itself a form of praise. – Ellen Bass


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Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

Dead Souls has the magic surplus of meaning that characterises fine examples of the form – Neel Mukherjee
I was looking for terrific writing of course – something Fish attracts in spades, and I was richly rewarded right across the spectrum – Vanessa Gebbie
Really excellent – skilfully woven – Chris Stewart
Remarkable – Jo Shapcott


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Fish Anthology 2016

The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.


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Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco

Sunrise Sunset

€12  (incl. p&p)   Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Read Irish Times review by Claire Looby Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination.  An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, […]


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Fish Anthology 2015

Fish Anthology 2015

How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.


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Fish Anthology 2014

Fish Anthology 2014

What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
Ruth Padel

I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
Claire Kilroy


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Fish Anthology 2013

Fish Anthology 2013

The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.


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Fish Anthology 2012

A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.


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Fish Anthology 2011

Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart


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Fish Anthology 2010

The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.


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Fish Anthology 2009 – Ten Pint Ted

I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCann


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Fish Anthology 2008 – Harlem River Blues

The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo Gebler


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Fish Anthology 2007

I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael Collins


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Fish Anthology 2006 – Grandmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories

These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane Fountas


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All the King’s Horses – Anthology of Historical Short Stories

Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber


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Fish Anthology 2005 – The Mountains of Mars and Other Stories

Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank Delaney


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Fish Anthology 2004 – Spoonface and Other Stories

From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo Hamilton


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Feathers & Cigarettes

In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe


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Franklin’s Grace

It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher Hope


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Asylum 1928

There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’Riodan


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Five O’Clock Shadow

I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology ­ these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms ­ the short story. – Clem Cairns.


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From the Bering Strait

Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskey


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Scrap Magic

The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn Sweeney


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Dog Day

Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’Connor


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The Stranger

The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy Doyle


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The Fish Garden

This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.


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12 Miles Out – a novel by Nick Wright

12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.


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Altergeist – a novel by Tim Booth

You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.


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Small City Blues numbers 1 to 51 – a novel by Martin Kelleher

A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.


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The Woman Who Swallowed the Book of Kells – Collection of Short Stories by Ian Wild

Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?


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News & Articles

Lockdown – Best Haiku/Senryu

2nd July 2020
  Author Name(Alphabeticalorder)   HAIKU / SENRYU   ——————————————————————– Allen Sunshine brightens the day By Myra Allen   Sunshine brightens the day Walking lightens the moodTalking provides solace for the soul   ——————————————————————– Askew American Sentences By Claire Askew   First full day of lockdown   Murmuration of late snow: no company here but stove, […]

Lockdown – Best Poems & Pocket Prose

2nd July 2020
Author Names(alphabetical order) POCKET PROSE/POEMS/BREAKOUT Hit this Link for HAIKU/SENRYU Adams Daughter By Ash Adams   I loved you like a pandemic, like an emergency— you, running naked in everyone’s yard. Loving you started like an acid trip: one day, you emerged from my body like a slippery fish and the world breathed. Things were […]

Lockdown Prize: Results

2nd July 2020
From all of us at Fish, we are delighted to announce the results of the 2020 Lockdown Prize. Thank you to all the writers who entered this prize which resulted in a torrent of great work and a donation to OXFAM’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal of €4,308. We were looking for authentic, interesting, insightful reflections on […]

Poetry Prize 2020: Results, Short & Long-lists

14th May 2020
  Winners Short-list Long-list   Winners Here are the 10 winners, as chosen by judge Billy Collins, to be published in the Fish Anthology 2020 The Fish Anthology 2020 was to  be launched as part of the West Cork Literary Festival  (July 2020), but the festival has been cancelled for 2020. Top 10 poems will […]

Flash Fiction Prize 2020: Results, Short & Long-lists

10th April 2020
  Winners Short-list Long-list   Congratulations to the writers whose memoirs were short or long-listed and to the 10 winners.   Winners Here are the 10 winning Flash Fiction Stories, as chosen by judge Tania Hershman, to be published in the Fish Anthology 2020 The Fish Anthology 2020 was to be launched as part of the West […]

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