Pieces of Me by Wayne McNeish

Glitter ballPieces of me are not left
Lying around to be found
By strangers:

They are guarded.

Pieces of me don’t exist on this page
Because I don’t feel to share
With strangers
The pieces of me that are shattered
And broken,

Clunking to fragments, awaiting that day
I can piece me back together again.

No piece left behind,
Even the splinters must be swept
And kept
Because they are part of me;

Pain born from experience
Re-invites growth,
I have a place on my shelves
For my pieces of hell;

Every piece of me counts,
Without any I’m incomplete;

Destined to search,
To be whole,
I need every piece of me.

Solitude by Andrew Baker

Climping-David Wise
Photo by David Wise

Solitude, the silence that our thoughts
Drift through;
The quietness that seems to allow our brain to evolve.

The drifting sea dampens the shores
Yet sharpens the wit with its coolness
And dark sea sound.

The two old men seek the solitude of the prayers
As they bow to the East;
Traditionally, they have to follow their belief.

The sea birds drift on in the air, swirling,
Diving; always scavenging for a morsel of food,
Always hungry.

The horizon blends with the sky, never ending,
But showing that earth goes on for ever,

The life of the sea.
The silence of peace,
The beauty of solitude.

Off Season by Jim Holland

The West Pier, Brighton

I prefer walking along the seafront in winter. The sky is pale. The air is cold. There are no tourists. The sea air smells of brine, rather than the summer smell of coconut sun cream. I have time and space to think, or to avoid it.

This route is a favourite of mine: I reach the seafront by the café on Hove Lawns then head east toward the chimneys of Shoreham power station. Along the horizon, a black line juts out into the sea. I can just make out Worthing Pier silhouetted at the very end.

When I reach Hove Lagoon, I turn inland, slowly circling the pond shared by trainee windsurfers and swans, past the café owned by Fat Boy Slim, then back to the beach, heading west toward Brighton’s piers. The West Pier now is just a memorial to itself, leaving the Palace Pier to continue alone.

I hunker down in my coat and let my mind wander as I stride along the promenade. A seagull flies low into the wind and appears to hover at my side. I get a coffee at the cafe halfway along and crunch over the shingle beach, down to the sea to pause for a moment.

I remember when I was younger I’d walk along Southsea seafront – the Eastern side, by the small ex-naval swimming pool and the golf club – again when there were no tourists. When the summer season has ended, I walk down to the sea and pay my respects.

Singleton by Sue Birch

Weald and Downland MuseumYes, I remember Singleton-
The museum because one morning
Of late September warmth I drove there
Unhurriedly. It was Sunday.
The latch clicked. Someone checked my ticket
To rough-hewn buildings, lime wash cherished.
Boarhunt, Hangleton and Bayleaf fair.
Wisp smoked smell that clung like taste
From dampened hearth of Yeoman’s farmhouse
As along the jagged path I strode
To pagan holly, ivy and yew berry red,
Old man’s beard, beech masts and hawthorn hips
And Woodman’s axe tolling pure and true.
But no horse chestnut loomed so tawny proud
As that which sunlight kissed with gold
And as I lingered a minute more
Close by a blackbird sang with praise
And silence leant my soul sweet peace
And dappled shade my heart did lift.

Extract from a story by Kate Leader

Brighton pier in winterHe gripped the pier railings and stared into the sea. The cold wind chilled him through, but he did not move. It was still dark, on this, the first day of the year. Seagulls screamed and the sea rushed and sucked at the pebbled shore. The waves crested white. Under the pier the water crashed and thundered.
Would she have been found by now?
He saw her under the lights of the dance floor of The Connaught Hotel. So young. Was that her mother at her side? A portly but pretty faced matron in a shiny grey low necked, three quarter length sleeved, evening dress. Her daughter the delicate girl with the blue gown and pale skin? He thought he had never seen such fresh beauty. The whole room with its posies of pink and white and purple party dresses swirled around as he gazed at her. He took courage. He would ask her to dance. Maybe she would say yes.

My Pen Doesn’t Write by Pauline Suett Barbieri

pen-and-paperMy pen doesn’t write, it’s been acting like that small brat on the number 11 bus last night. It’s been dashing backwards and forwards, won’t stop until we hit a curb, then it backs up, rubs up the blond on the back seat the wrong way. On paper, it keeps turning over the page to start afresh and I’ve told it before, there’s no point in jumping ahead and getting off, the next one is not due along for another half hour or so. It clings to the pole, with its clammy hands, starts pressing the red bell. The driver and me are getting all hot and bothered. The driver stops, starts swearing, won’t move until we get off.

Now it looks as though we are heading for Eastbourne Library. The corner is dark but the lights are on. It goes ahead, opens the door for me (how can that be? why is it now so well behaved?) It goes up the stairs to the conference room, which has a notice on the door ‘Do not disturb’. It opens the door, I follow it in, feeling very nervous. It points to an empty seat, I sit down, it comes over, takes my hand and smiles….

Downs by Michael Challen

Chanctonbury-Ring-South-Downs-Michael Oakley
Photo by Michael Oakley

Half the age of the known World, this herd
this flock of green-fleeced sheep, sleep
heading forever East.
Bent to their toil, beneath skin of soil
a network of white-walked bones, homes
to ancient memories, a residue of lost time.
Heads in the sky, the sunlit height, sight
earth-worked lines of hidden landscape signs.
Then.
Clouds rush to greet the ground, bound
from broad back to broad back, gather round
fill the frowns of our valleyed, fort-crowned Downs.

 

Lunar Eclipse by Gary J. Oakes

Lunar Eclipse 2014-Reuters/Gene BlevinsIt was midnight again, the time of day Trevor hated the most. Since Val died, every single night he just could not get off to sleep yet if he got out of bed he felt so tired, his body ached but in bed he just lay there thinking: thinking of the past; thinking of Val; thinking of how empty and pointless his life was now. Generally Sunday wasn’t so bad as at least they played music he liked on Radio 2 until midnight when that awful woman came on!

Sometimes he would give up trying to get to sleep and go out into the road and walk about – it was better doing that at night as his neighbours were not out there then. None of them spoke to Trevor anymore as, when Val was ill, he had not been able to look after the garden and that made him public enemy number one in the little close of bungalows where he lived.

And so it was, at 3am that night he got dressed and went out into the road. To his amazement, he found that he was not alone as, standing in his garden in his dressing gown, was the young father at Number 28. Val used to talk to his wife, so she knew his name and referred to him as “Ginger Pete”.

Seeing Trevor, Ginger Pete spoke. “What an incredible sight,” he said, pointing up at the sky.

Trevor looked. Where the moon usually was, there was a large dark red object, it looked like something from a Hollywood film in which another planet comes and crashes into the earth.

“It’s an eclipse,” explained Ginger Pete. “The shadow of the earth is over the moon making it look like that.”

At that point the Colemans at Number 26 came out also. They did not speak to Trevor!

“Anybody fancy a glass of Chardonnay?” offered Ginger Pete: “I’ve got a bottle in the chiller, and I think we should all have a glass to celebrate this once in a lifetime moment.”

Trevor quickly accepted the offer; after a moment’s hesitation Mrs. Coleman said that she and her husband would have just a drop in the bottom of a glass each to toast the occasion. After drinking some Chardonnay, Mrs. Coleman did finally speak to Trevor just to say that she had been sorry to hear the news about Val, and Mr. Coleman nodded his head in agreement. Twenty minutes later Trevor returned to his bed and went straight off to sleep.

The following night at 7.30pm, Trevor was looking out of his front window and he saw Ginger Pete arriving home from work in his car. He put his shoes on and hurried out. When he got to Number 28, the Colemans had also come out to speak to their next door neighbour.

“Hello everybody,” said Trevor eagerly, “wasn’t that just an amazing sight last night?”

The Colemans ignored Trevor; they acted as if they were deaf, and he was invisible. After briefly speaking to Ginger Pete they went back into their house to the accompanying sound of a slamming door.

Ginger Pete did speak. “Look old chap, my kid goes to bed at eight and I don’t get much quality time with him in the week so no time for small talk – yeah!” he said in a semi-aggressive manner. And, with that, he too vanished behind a slamming door.

Trevor looked up at the sky: tonight the moon looked like it usually did and so did the soulless cul-de-sac beneath it.

On the Verge by Johanne Ball

coca-cola litter
The blades obey
the elements, while
seeking to be upstanding.
Carbon dioxide invisibly
gluts by day
tailing by night –
terrestrial carbon sequestration;
the highway factory
operates without so
much as a sabbatical.
The debris of life strewn on her –

7UP – ‘naturally’

Duck wrap with hoisin sauce –
‘no additives’

Coca-cola –
‘You can’t beat the feeling’

Coffee cup –
‘Eco friendly’

KFC –
Hen party, buckled bucket –
f a s t food chain.

Sod it.

Four pieces for Reading the South by Kara Mazumdar

Lonely horseThe Journey.  Mental Health Drop-In in a middle of an industrial estate. A brief encounter with a German shepherd. Car journey from Hampden Park to the centre of town. Passed the roundabout waiting to be sponsored, and my friend wanted it to be filled with shrubs.

Down Kings Drive, past the formerly flooded fields that are now newly built affordable housing. I will miss the cows and horses that used to pasture there, God bless the grass munchers.

 

A Place You Don’t Want To Go To.  The sea is morbidly quiet, small ripples signifying an intent to arrange a date with your guts later. The sibilant repetition of ‘S’s issues forth from the foamy lips of potential oblivion, a pregnant invitation to a place to which you don’t want to go. Mesmerising still to stand and watch, you are poised to make a leap, like thousands before you. You observe the crosses and ultimately turn away, to be swallowed up by the grasslands.

 

Sterile rooms.  Clinical waste, not yet disposed of. Nurses tutting at the mess. It was my waste, and I was sitting, quivering, in the corner. I held a scalpel in my sweaty palm. The words ‘my pain is political’ were carved onto my arms and legs. I am a sculptor and a pain addict. I was sick of being demonised by the government and society. They wanted to gouge my eyes out because I had to live by different rules. If I had been a suffragette, I would have chained myself to iron railings. Instead I would punish my non-productivity with dripping blood and the scream of the silenced.

 

A Place You Do Want To Go To.  Bonsai trees sit in a row, petite and pruned. The sun showers them with love through the pristine glass. White metal struts stand proudly from the conservatory foundations. Exotic cretaceacous ferns blossom from the sidelines, ready to erupt in ripples of polite applause to the bonsai newcomers. The warmth of the sun is absorbed by the sandstone paving slabs, gently heating them to a comfortable temperature, so one could lightly run over them in bare feet like a sprite.