Allow brevity. Allow sweetness.
Allow smudged ink.
Do not use exclamation points.
Do not speak in the third person.
Bring your best paper. Tolerate
the passage of time. You may
drink water. Try not to drink wine.
Write alone, but imagine
others in the room.
Use adjectives if you like,
and end sentences with prepositions.
Do not repeat yourself. Invite
generosity, permit humour.
Avoid sarcasm, but accept grief.
Draft the letter as if
you could only write it once.
Use a long salutation
and a short goodbye.

Amy MacLennan

Lines and Squares

January 19, 2020

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street,
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

And the little bears growl to each other, “He’s mine,
As soon as he’s silly and steps on a line.”
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe the talk;
It’s ever so portant how you walk.
And it’s ever so jolly to call out, “Bears,
just watch me walking in all the squares!”

A. A. Milne

Love is All

January 19, 2020

 

From buildings painted grey and blue like wedding spoons,
we fell out like teeth. How desperate of it to stick, to become

the aftertaste of itself, this love. The dog wags himself out
of your daughter’s arms. We holed up with boxes, without hangups,

putting the animal down. We let eyelet curtains turn to ghosts.
In the old movies, someone smiled wide through their tears

and was received like a parade of pageant girls. But we just cry,
inglorious, ever the picture you never noticed in the living room.

The slogan of lovers is briefly debated. Stage fright, someone says,
nailing their hand to the wall. Forgiveness, says another.

And there is a pause. It is enough. Pages curl away into nothing,
you hold onto your breath and my coat. There is a pause. It is.

Suzanne Highlan

Shark Bait

January 18, 2020

(written from a watercolour by Michele Webber)

Hoisted high, I gape
mouth open, skywards.
My teeth flash white
instilling fear
in unprepared passers-by.
I could dive off
the fishmonger’s frontage
take a satisfying bite.
It is a sad end
to my glory days in the deep
but at least I am remembered
amongst the shrimp and bait.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad

Looking Glass

January 18, 2020

I want to be the woman
who pokes her fingers
through a canine
skull in the woods
and can divine
what killed it,

how long
it was panting blood
before its heart pulped,
how acute the teeth
that skinned it.
I want to be

the lady who presses herbs
on open wounds, knows
which tree to lick
as antiseptic.

I want to come
clean,

not this tuft of fur greying,
picking bourbon mid-shelf
not because of cost,

but for a hue that
holds a hint of rabid.

Megan Merchant

Antilamentation

January 18, 2020

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve travelled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken axe. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it.
Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Dorianne Laux
The Book of Men

Girl is the warmest colour

January 16, 2020

two girls kissing in Paris, ignoring the politics in this
a film about two girls who are not depressed because they are gay
a film about two girls who are not dead because they are gay
they give each other flowers
there is no grave in this
no scene in which the heartbroken walk back down the street, away from the camera
the end is not elegy
the end is not blue
running cornflower
fistfuls of cerulean
cold sky
they know how to love each other
there is no choreographed sex
no brief infinite tenderness
they learn how to use their mouths
a folding of soft
no crash
no broken windshield bodies
no tears
just imagine: a movie about two girls where neither of them have to cry

Lydia Havens

Needing pain

January 15, 2020

I need a pain to pierce
To strike me cruelly down
To rip me into myself.

Else Lasker-Schüler

Chaos
tran. Eavan Boland

Welcome Home

January 15, 2020

Every mouth you’ve ever kissed
was just practice
all the bodies you’ve ever undressed
and ploughed in to
were preparing you for me.
i don’t mind tasting them in the
memory of your mouth
they were a long hall way
a door half open
a single suit case still on the conveyor belt
was it a long journey?
Did it take you long to find me?
You’re here now,
welcome home.

Warsan Shire

I was like so bad

January 14, 2020

I was like so bad. Like
I was on the sofa with a bucket
Shit wankered man
I was like so wasted
I mean 87% shit. It was sick man
I spewed in the bath
That shit was like brown
And the towels were like everywhere and I shout
Guys! I got a surprise for you all in the bathroom!
Classic times man. And like
The sound track to that would’ve totally been Morrissey.

Becky Fawcett