… a very passionate and visceral story – takes your heart in its hand and gently squeezes the tension into it physically
‘ON BEING GHOSTED BY A FAMOUS MUSICIAN’ had impact and this is one of the many reasons that this intriguing, suspenseful, ‘surprising, weird and wonderful’ poem from Kayleigh Jayshree is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for July 2021.
Kayleigh (she/they) finds comfort in memories, even as they twist and change. She is based in the North of England. Her work is published by Lunate Fiction and The Hearth Magazine, and she is forthcoming in The Bitchin’ Kitsch and Fruit Journal. She often writes about her mixed heritage and bipolar disorder.
ON BEING GHOSTED BY A FAMOUS MUSICIAN by Kayleigh Jayshree
Nobody knew he had a glass eye, but when we were alone he’d pop it in and out, like a cuckoo clock, as a sort of intimate party trick. I was surprised by how real it looked, how it followed you around the room, interrupted only by blinks. I always wanted to touch it, but he never let me. He stopped talking to me because of that. But I didn’t mind it. What put me off him was his hangnails, flicking out of his fingers. Pulling them out with his teeth, never bothered by the blood.
When I listen to his music, I imagine an empty swimming pool and a pink diving board with yellow polka dots that look a bit like patches of vomit. I see an orchestra playing his songs in the space where water should rest. Chlorine smell gone, I climb the ladder and prepare to dive. At the very least I’ll break my neck, but something about his music makes me want to hit the bottom.
Other voters’ comments included:
extremely poignant poem. powerful stuff
This piece moved me and one line has stuck with me since I read it “I see an orchestra playing his songs in the space where water should rest”
obsessed with the semi surreal blur between prose and poetry, unflinching storytelling and fragmented image
The imagery in this work is beautiful, I can’t get the image of the pool filled with musicians and the polka diving board out of my head
… Kayleigh is such an exciting talent
Love the prosaic-like style
Beautiful and haunting imagery, a mesmerising read which deserves attention
thought it was the most interesting perspective and innovative approach to poetic writing
The dream-like imagery is wonderful.
the narrative of the piece was funningly engaging
So much packed into such a short tight piece!
Kayleigh’s writing feels authentic and relatable and human to me. I think their writing has a more honest approach and find myself returning back to them time and time again
It’s a brilliant concept, The title of the Piece intrigues you straight away you wanna know why we also understand why not
I love the imagery, and fixation on particular details.
The writing technique produces a feeling of unease with the character, something I feel reflect the relationship between the two. Well portrayed emotion
Cleverly written I want to read more
THE REST OF THE JULY 2021 SHORTLIST
The Drowning by Julian Aiken
We slept that summer in the small house
Bedded in a meadow of foxgloves and thistles,
Just a cry from the ocean —
Everyone knew about the boy
Dragged from the water onto the beach,
His lungs pumped with kelp and fry —
You’d span the field to the shore
And enter the water like a flecked stone
Skimming the surface before a plunge.
The ocean loaded with new frequency,
You crackled through the surf,
Unwound like a cord lashing in the currents
You welcomed the dark pitch of the wave,
Jinking through the avalanche of water
Until you’re rolled and crushed
To the ocean floor, and a moment of stillness
As under a slide of snow after the fall,
Before you break elated into blue.
Julian Aiken’s poetry is rooted in family and landscape, and much of his work has engaged with the emotional resonance of place. Originally from the UK, he has lived and worked in Belgium, Spain, and the USA. He occasionally tweets @JulianAiken8.
The printer needs paper by Pat Edwards
We think we know what it means when this message appears,
but do we really. Dutifully we search out the half-used packet,
refill the over-complicated tray mechanism and carry on printing.
But, in what seems like so short a period of time, there it is again,
the same plaintive cry, the printer needs paper, or some dire warning
that the printer is low on link. What is it with printers and their needs.
We all need paper; we all need ink. Get over yourself; shut up.
Pat Edwards is a writer, reviewer and workshop leader from mid Wales. Her work has appeared in Magma, Prole, Atrium, IS&T and others. During more normal times she hosts Verbatim open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. Pat has two pamphlets: Only Blood (Yaffle 2019) and Kissing in the Dark (Indigo Dreams 2020).
Extended Magic Cat Metaphor by Katy Evans-Bush
Once you disassemble it
it’s all fucked up.
Turns out just
despair held it together.
Blinky the magic cat
laid sweets —
coloured or plain,
familiar or unknown
like eggs for years,
then one day
Child lurched, or
moved. One shudder,
ripple and nothing
ever went back.
from break to mend.
Even glue only works
where the pieces can
touch each other.
After all this business
three weeks lying in bed
I got up one day
and moved the bed
across the room,
ghost that I am
—just like that—
who can barely move myself.
Now it’s just the phantom
pains. The opposite
of that Japanese
gold repair thing:
kintsugi. Who has gold
anyway? I have to
live with it, darling.
in the kitchen
surveys me in my
solitude, light streaming
through his cracks.
Katy Evans-Bush is a poet, blogger and essayist. Her latest book is Forgive the Language (Penned in the Margins). She lives in Kent where she is a freelance poetry tutor and editor. katyevansbush.com
Black Carr im by Finn Haunch
I shall not want…
Greensleeves shunted through an ice cream truck
in the boroughs, & leaf-gagged noise in
this snug gorge….under the corporated ruins
of Leeds & Bradford, the mayflower is
stage-managed here: spectacular fists
of white foliage opening….opening
over the clay pits. I’ve sat at this crossroads,
smug, where the horse shit hardens under the
cow parsley, & finally once the quad bikers
sod off & leave me in peace, you see
that for whatever reason some bloke
is stood in the thorn bushes….snaps polaroids—
the click & whirr on his pretentious antique
annoys me. & then there is the angelus
of the ice cream man, the tinny resonance
reaches me…hail mary, full of grace…
& soon enough, a polaroid is spat out
from the ejection slot: the pretentious
bloke wags it about, and what forms out
from under his fingernails is a
catherine wheel of thunderflies sprocketed
through the clean air: so ends the account of celluloid.
& what comes after, what is there to say
aside from that I didn’t know him,
that I thought he was prick, that we met
once at a party, maybe twice: what else
is there to say? About a month back,
seeing mates over a pint, I heard
that he died: & that was that: no one knows
what happened…hail mary, full of grace…
& now, up the beads of a broken rosary,
ecstasy comes in on an image of
myself prostrate to the straw god of crossroads:
I pray in my room tonight, & tomorrow
my knees shall be bent on a steel footbridge
& my fat thighs shall be printed with
cross-hatching—& when the beck is churning
backwards, there shall come a moment when
the martyrdom of the catherine wheel rises
& becomes clear over black carr: & before
you turn to look beside you, his tortoiseshell
glasses shall have been laid out on a chevroned
bull-stone, & in the canopy another
click & whirr—the sound of pissing in the bushes.
…surely mercy shall follow
Finn Haunch is a bloke from Leeds. He mostly writes about where he grew up and people have said that his poetry is alright. He has been published by Eggbox.
Queen Wealhtheow: Cup-Bearer by Laura Varnam
I watch her pacing the patterned floor,
Passing the cup to punch-drunk brawlers,
Side-stepping swords, the too-familiar fumble.
A mead-hall manoeuvre so mechanical
I can tell: she’s done this before.
And tomorrow? Until the footfalls measure out
Another winter, when enough will still be too little,
And the chink of a blade sets frosty tempers stirring,
Spoiling for a fight. That familiar footfall spells shelter.
Left out, sleet-struck, a single sparrow scoffs.
This, here, is what you should fear. The ritual dark.
Laura Varnam is the Lecturer in Old and Middle English Literature at University College, Oxford. Her creative work is inspired by the medieval poetry that she teaches, in particular the Old English epic Beowulf.