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The Fringe Poetry Cafe












Published by SeaQuake Books

Copyright 2016. Individual contributors.

ISBN: 9781310650680

Shakespir Edition, License Notes


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors. Publisher contact: [email protected] Contributors contact: www.facebook.com/writinginsouthport














She Haunts My House


She haunts my house,

creeps through the door,

hesitates, hovers

on the stairs before


walking through walls,

shimmering on ceilings,

hiding her scars,

showing her feelings.


Dead hands in the dark

stroke my spine and remind me

of the way her fingers

would search, and then find me.


Last night I saw

a strand of her hair

curled on the carpet

in front of my chair.


Fear parts my lips –

makes me confess.

You killed her, didn’t you?

I whisper: Yes.


Bill Lythgoe



Halcyon days


In distant summers of my youth,

I picked with joy the crimson fruit

from fields where loose limbed

children played. Kissed by sun.

Halcycon days.

How quickly berries fall and die

when autumn clouds invade the sky

of powder blue that turns to grey

when children’s feet no longer play.

Make haste young men while the vine is strong.

For the season’s short and winter longs

to creep with stealth up to the gate where

nimble fingered pickers await

the return of the strawberries and the summertime

to cruelly taunt an old man’s mind.


Loraine Darcy



Waterloo Sunrise


Sunday morning,

I’m standing at the entrance

of a still sleeping tube station.


Last night’s litter lies forgotten

in the embryonic warmth

of early Spring.


Escalators emptily loop,

produce no commuters,

no blank rush hour faces.


Newspapers, stacked by the kiosk,

eager to spill tabloid bile,

wait for the hung-over vender.


I decide on a coffee

but the café’s closed.

Heading for the drinks machine


I bump into a girl,

she smiles at my stuttering apology:

I hope she’s called Julie.


Stephen Beattie



Billy five sheds gets married


Bleary from the stag night,

we reintroduced each other

and introduced the wives,

swayed in church to the blessings,

crowded the bar back at the hotel,

bought rounds of drinks,

were polite through the reception

and listened to speeches.

The bride’s father, still drunk from last night,

made little sense,

but we all banged tables and applauded anyway.


Then the best man with his prepared wit and wisdom


‘Our Billy, the bridegroom,

is the owner of the greatest number

of temporary wooden structures

In Lancashire.’


Again we applauded.


To be fair he could have mentioned the ex wives,

but it wouldn’t have been right.

Because after each marriage,

Billy always got to keep the sheds.

After all,

a man’s shed is for life.


Phil McNulty



Costa Del Crosby


How patiently we wait

for the reluctant tide and the slow setting sun;

seagulls have gathered by the bountiful sea,

their mollusc feast has begun;

and an old lady climbs steps from the beach,

laboriously, then she lingers,

pulls woollen gloves from her hands,

rubs arthritic fingers.


Are you writing a poem, she asks,

peering through small, wire framed spectacles.

I’ve always thought that poems were like miracles,

they come from inspiration,

and that comes from God, she says.

Then she turns and walks away,

quietly nodding her head.


She passes the chattering girls

playing with their mobiles,

their shorts reveal £10 tans,

their hair is the latest style.

Their glittering eyes don’t see her,

they will never grow old,

and the light of the setting sun

turns the world to tarnished gold.


Malcolm Terry



The Hook


Catch the moment before

Jekyll turns to Hyde,

Before the tipsy clown

Becomes the brutal drunk.

Try to read the signs,

The flicker of an eye,

The quiver of a lip.

Beware the tapping toe,

Waiting for you to trip.

Walk away before

The next smack in the face

For smiling at a stranger.

Remember the last time

He bathed your bruises,

Gave the excuses.

His penitent head resting

All night in your lap.

Plan your escape,

Then swallow the map.

It is harder than you think.

Invisible hooks are

Embedded in your skin,

At any time he can snag,

And pull you in.

Do not leave it too late,

Before the closing of the door,

The click of the lock.


Jacky Pemberton



Breathe here


I immerse,

plunge deep in baptism,

look for salvation in a silence

painted from a palette

of blue, green and turquoise.


In this cathedral quiet

comes revelation;

never again

will I break surface

into a world where words

fall sharper than mid-day shadow.


Stephen Beattie



Waking up, smelling coffee


Sunshine skulks at the gap between the curtains,

awkwardly apologising for her arrival.

Last night’s words simmer in the dust stream.

They can never be swallowed, forgotten



No building bridges over breakfast in bed.

The radio forecasts fog and you

have already claimed the kitchen.

I wait for a sign.

Your back is silent.


Slowly, seconds slide together.


And then it happens.

You turn, shrink the space between us, hand me hot coffee

but it’s in the chipped mug from the back of the cupboard

and that’s all I need to know.


Anna Mills



Moving the Veil


You stopped copying visible things-

colourful, real, rural scenes,

shy poems written to the rules,

template novels of war and romance.


And still your college-spewed abstractions,

Modernist, decorative and meaningless,

simply cluttered the flat. Hung out to dry,

you fought for space in café exhibitions.


When the veil moved you saw

the real people, backs bent in fields,

silent in unheated homes,

alone on dusty roads to sinking ships.


You wanted to make visible the mourners, not the dead,

the ripple, not the pond, the shadows, not the men,

the lack of good will, not lack of food while hunger

thrived as bread lay scattered,

mouldering in gullies.


You showed a leafless tree, above a damp bench,

where a man sat, with strong cider and cigarettes,

seeing accidental artistry in fallen leaves,

and you set out to explain his life.


Phil McNulty



The Fly That Skated


We sat in neat rows

behind smooth wooden desks

in our first week

at the new grammar school

and the teacher said use

your imagination

to write an original sentence.


I sought inspiration

in my two main sources

of reading matter:

the Dandy and the Beano:


Two horns stuck through the crust

of the cow pie.


Julius sneezed.


The strong-arm school marm

gave him the stick.


Dennis felt the weight

of Dad’s slipper.


Then I glanced across

at Simon’s desk and read

a sentence that I knew

I could not better:

The fly skated

on the man’s bald head.


Bill Lythgoe



Free your dreams


Free your dreams…

so that ripples rise up and become waves

and old ladies laugh out loud on buses;

factory workers become brain surgeons

and pin- striped people piss themselves,

as they sob into their brief cases.


Free your dreams…

so that girls in National Health specs can look into mirrors

and see sirens,

the boy without legs can climb a mountain,

and the woman in rags picks up her carrier bags

and goes home to her children, who can’t forget her.


“Free your dreams…!”

cries the man drinking white lightning

as he smashes the bottle on stained concrete

and dances on the crushed glass.


Free your dreams…

let blushes cool and fade to cream silk,

sewing themselves into party dresses.

Let fragmented dreams piece themselves together

to make pictures of people in purple hats,


while the mangy fox sits on a hill

laughing, as the huntsmen tumble

and the hounds plunge, baying,

into the curdling weir.


Linda Lewis



Sibling Rivalry


Your Teddy Bear was called Cuddly

and he was. Amber eyed, built for hugs

fur a delicate shade of cappuccino.


My bear was called Snowy;

he lived up to his name,

stubble coated in icy blue,

eyes that scanned with suspicion

and a truncated tail

that suggested mutation.


He was wintry in spirit too,

a creature not made for love or loving.

So you must understand that it was him,

not me, who did that to Cuddly.


Stephen Beattie.





Drop by tiny drop

The ice-cold water

Drips through a sugar-lump

And fills my glass.

Louche! louche!

Now fragrance blossoms

In that pearly-grey,

Now the Green Fairy

Caresses my shoulder.

Now I sit very still,

Watching the world on its first day.


My hands trembled

As I rambled down Cairo Road,

Problems unsolved.

But green has changed to white,

Emeralds have become opals:

The green turning cloudy,

Taking the mist from my mind.

I drink opaline!


The past was sweet.

Now I hold to-day’s hand

Like a little child,

Even tomorrow shines

Like a white star,

I feel tulips brushing against my legs.


I am seeing

Colours as never before,

Balance as never before,

Silence as never before,

And I long to live

Away among those glories,

Watching all things made new

Like visions from Van Gogh,

Or answers for Gauguin

Defying his mission-ridden dark.


Tomorrow waits

With tigers’ eyes,

But for a little while

– a little while –

(and how time stretches)

I am embraced,


Emeralds become opals,

And in the god’s ecstasy

I drink.


Mike Parsons






Set Her Free


A young girl is trapped

Her silent cries unheard

She remains out of sight

Far from where she started


Tightly tethered to her beginnings

Shackled by her inherited ways

Held fast by unheralded circumstances

Restrained by the ghosts of low expectations


Encased by cruel comparisons

Weighed down by procreation’s gift

Stifled by a prevailing testicular wind

Imprisoned by self-doubt


A girl is trapped

Inside the body of a woman

Woo her, dance with her, make her laugh

Set her free


Alan Potter



The runaways


This tidal wave of lost souls

whose cries are captured

by mocking seagulls

against a gathering shoal of sorrow.

A discordance of severed dreams

and splintered hopes.

Disbelief they went without us knowing.

Those early days of searching

for excuses,

Following trails that left us shivering in

sweat drenched corners.

Promises of well-meaning strangers

who tell us what we need to hear.

Hoping for a pearl in every ugly oyster.

Guilt tattooed through the pore

and fibre of existence.

Yearning to unsay,

undo, all that might have made a difference.

Bitterness that you are safe in knowledge

and we are not.

Wanting to tear apart the sanctuary

of your untouched room,

then scared to disturb the dust

of your being.

Sleeping with your faded pop star

T-shirt next to our skin.

Our secret shroud ofsorrow.


Jacky Pemberton



Sunday Afternoon 1967


Cerise peaks of Angel Delight

stand to attention in stainless steel

dessert dishes. Mine is achingly close,

forbidden until the last curl

of egg and cress is consumed.


I anticipate the sprinkle of hundreds

and thousands; watch their colours seep

into soft edged rainbows.


We’re ordered to eat slowly with a teaspoon,

our budget doesn’t run to large portions,

I can’t help myself and it disappears

in a staccato of metal and metal.


I slyly lick the bowl, forgetting

that mothers are all seeing;

the single second helping goes to my sister.

I vow to hide her favourite doll.


Stephen Beattie



I know we’re on holiday but…


it’s pouring outside

Even the baguettes got soggy

on the short journey

from boulangerie to flat


It’s no day for the beach

you’d have to swim to the sea

and no factor of sun screen

protects against hypothermia


Okay there’s always the museum

exhibiting bored whiny kids

and their bored snappy parents

filling in time to lunch or tea


Every bar, café and restaurant

will be crowded and noisy

with the outside tables and chairs

stacked and anchored against the flood


Whilst here we have the makings of lunch

Several bottles of decent wine

at hypermarket prices

and a water resistant roof


It’s a day to curl up



Bob Eccleston





I have left the wool and

needles on the coffee table

next to her chair.

They rest on a glossy pattern book.

She will ignore them.

The cleaner will dust round them.

Eventually, tea or juice will spill on them

staining the white wool, orange.

I want her to remember how she felt

when she was knitting.

The energy of her clicking needles,

the pride when her garment was complete.

But the distance has become too great,

the wool remains untouched,

the pattern still unread.


Jacky Pemberton



Where did the money go?


The family were clustered around her bed.

He held her dry, nobbled, hand.

Stroked the painful, swan-neck, fingers

and she turned and looked at him.

Eyes dimmed, voice faint.


‘What happened to us?’ she said.

‘Where did the money go?

All those fights and accusations.

If I hadn’t cleaned,

the children would have starved.

‘You could tell me now.

You could tell me before I go.

Was it other women?

Were you a gambler?’


We waited.

He looked at the floor.

Her breath was shallow.

We waited.

‘I gave it to the poor,’ he said.


Phil McNulty



Cat Mummy. Liverpool Museum.


Cat with head covered up,

Pricked up ears like pyramids,

Whiskers flattened around pointed jaw,

Body wrapped up in a cylinder,

A roll of bagged flesh

Parcelled with materialled diamonds,

Feline spirit bound up

And captured in itself,

Its call silenced,

Its leap leapt,

Wanders among phantom pyramids

For mummified mice.


Neil Beardmore





All day prostrated on my sofa unwell -

To tell honestly not so very ill but

Sadly suffering lassitude and ennui.

While I’m glancing through writings mostly boring

What luck! Suddenly there was your new poem!

No doubt prize-winning, may it outlast life-times,

And your butterfly wing its way for ever

Muse-blessed! This little verse is sent to tell you

How I quite cheered up; at last I’ve met a poet!


Mike Parsons






Hospital Waiting room


Good natured groans

and growling bones,

windswept grey and spectacles,

chalk fingers flicking

pages of trashy magazines;

bikini bodies

six months out of date.

Soft flesh – scrunched

into faded anorak and crimpline slacks,

the uniform of age.

A grimace as if to say

you ache like me;

we can talk now

about how outside it’s bitter,

feels like snow.

Can’t complain though,

even when your buttocks burn

on callous seats

and you’re staring at white walls,

racks of leaflets, telling you

how to live

your life – patronising,

as if you are still

in navy blue knickers

and knee high socks,

as if you are stupid

and don’t already know.


Linda Lewis



Our Monument


Solicitor’s girl, pretty in black,

papers clutched, high-heels to bank.

Cabs stop. Pensioners bundle, back-seated,

with bags. Wardens prowl, note numbers,

photo cars. Drivers beg and threaten.

Buses nudge each other to bus stops.

Mavis, in purple scarf, feeds pigeons.

Community Police walk by in twos.


China Palace takes delivery. Cafe shutters

clatter open. Smokers sip coffee at outside tables.

Polish girls, slim blonde, rush kids to school,

then to work. Our guys, dishevelled, shuffle

to Boots, queue for methadone, sit for hours

with cardboard signs. Homeless and hungry.

Women, expensive hair, step past

in Emilio Pucci and Jimmy Choo’s.


We know the names. When it rains

we check the prices, sip cider in doorways

‘til moved on. When it’s dry we’re here,

At the War Memorial,

amongst the beer cans, the litter

and the smell of urine. They should tidy up.

Foreign students stop and stare,

mess about, unaware of the wars, the sacrifice.

They disrespect us.

But we live here. It’s our Monument.


Phil McNulty





Triumph is a new country

Full of cascading rivers

And brilliant sunsets

Whilst ragamuffin days

Become garlanded

Fantasy becomes reality

Mundanity becomes memory

Fallibility becomes history


Until rivers run dry

Sunsets fade into clouds

Days become angular

With edges like knives

Reality banishes fantasy

Mundanity becomes normality

Fallibility becomes inevitability

The old country returns


Bob Eccleston





They came from other countries,

Flew over borders and boundaries

They could not recognise,

Drifted across lands

Where they were strangers,


Scared of locals, shy of speech,

They huddled in groups for food,

Had a language of their own.

Without passports they came,

In search of sustenance,


Driven out for food,

Refugees bundled over borders,

They fly with red underbellies,

Like a wound they carry.

Flamingos in a migrating flock.


Neil Beardmore



The Return


There’s a colliding of cooks

A carve-up of carcasses

A fingering of scars

He’s coming home today


There’s a settling of ceremony

A rectification of rank

An exploding of rancour

He’s coming home today


There’s a breaching of barrels

A bacchanalia of bottles

A whispering of plots

He’s coming home today


There’s a manoeuvring of maidens

A cheerfulness of chatter

A considering of battery

He’s coming home today


There’s a draping of dress

A fabrication of face

A smiling of grimaces

He’s coming home today


There’s a crimsoning of carpets

A waspishness of words

A pondering of murder

He’s coming home today


Bob Eccleston





Flesh of my flesh….

(a sentimental song)


A woman sat weeping under a greenwood tree.

Why woman, why? Why are you weeping?

‘From joy at this babe that my pain gave to me,

And from dread that I’ll lose him before he grows old,

But his bones, his bones will always be mine.’


A woman stood weeping beside an iron gate.

Why, woman, why? Why are you weeping?

‘My boy is conscripted, and this day is the date.

I’m giving his flesh for others to mould,

But his bones, his bones will always be mine’.


A woman stood weeping beside a church door.

Why, woman, why? Why are you weeping?

‘His flesh with her flesh shall be mine no more.

Those two, they are one, until they grow old.

But his bones, his bones will always be mine’.


A woman stood weeping by a windswept track.

Why, woman, why? Why are you weeping?

‘Torn in the battle, they’ve carried him back,

And his name on this granite will always be told.

But his bones, his bones, will always be mine’.


A woman knelt weeping amidst ice and snow.

Why woman, why? Why are you weeping?

‘For my son! My fine son who is sheltering below!

I am come here to join him, to shield him from cold,

For his bones, darling bones, will always be mine’.


Mike Parsons



A perfect star


It was a perfect star, not fallen

but washed up


on the beach,

stranded half way between sea and sand dune.

I stared a while, savouring sweet strawberry ice.

Sorry to see it

stuck there,

burning out in the sunshine.


Up above, alive and free,

dozens of dazzling coloured kites dipped and dived, whooshing as they went.

Spiralling, spinning, ripping downwards through warm, salt scented air

before breathing a moment on sandy beds, ready to rise again.


My brother found a forgotten key.

I prised the rough relic from his sticky, smaller palm, imprisoned it in my own.

He cried

until we started to build the city.

It took forever to carve out countless windows.

Then, as it stood resplendent in shells

we crowned it with a feather.


When Mum said it was time I nearly forgot

to scratch a keyhole in the castle door with the leftover lolly stick

and, while my brother wasn’t watching, I laid down the key

so that another star might see it and stay there safe

until the sea came back.


Anna Mills





Warmed by a seasons sun

the sea lies spread

before me, still as midnight.


Not looking back

I step into clear water;

grains of sand rise

and swirl in suspension

before sinking back

into unrepeatable patterns.


Heading further out;

seeking an alternative horizon,

I’m guided by a flotilla of fish,

scales flickering in refracted light.


Stephen Beattie



Black Stuff


It starts as a swirling cloud.

Given time the shape is set,

body dark as Satan’s soul,

a pure halo marks its head.


The impudence of Wilde,

the eloquence of Shaw,

Joyce’s sensuality,

encapsulated in a jar.


Each sip a honey-sharp recall

of that first illicit taste,

which, like the burgeoning kisses,

weaned us off childhood’s ways.


Bob Eccleston



Humming Birds. Liverpool Museum


Lined up with wings pinned,

Broken heads back against the wall,

They hang up in turquoise and carmine,

Beaks beaten of scooping nectar,

Dead up in a line as though executed,

Even the young ones are mute,

(the smallest is only just over an inch long).

Nobody waited in a jungle of flowers

For them to fall in their hands, did they?

Surely they were assassinated for science

Well-meaningly and somehow

Superglued to museum walls

For children?


Neil Beardmore



A Cot-Side Sonnet


Your dreams are yours, they will never be mine,

paths you follow I’ll not be dictating,

So that when you travel up life’s incline

it will be your own steps you are taking.

Your journey will have falls and rises.

Despair and hope those constant brothers

will court your mind at every crisis,

while friends become foes, foes become lovers.

You may feel the need for aid and comfort,

at times when you struggle in life’s embrace,

and all endeavours seem bound to abort.

When brain needs answers and heart needs solace,

I will give you help and understanding,

underpinned by love that’s undemanding.


Bob Eccleston



Death Row


Another night


another day

another night


another day

another night

another day


another night

another day


another night.


Another day and the dawn

stains the sky with its light.

Then the walk to the chair.

No more day.


No more night.


Bill Lythgoe



She Shouldn’t Have to Wait


“I’ll die in this room, shan’t I?” mother asked.

It startled me to know she knew I’d called.

She named her favourite flowers. I stood appalled

By drips and pans and tubes, my feelings masked

From all-day-smiling nurses, who were tasked

To restore life to patients who lay sprawled

In high-tech beds -while Nature’s engines stalled.

“How wonderful is death; in vain I’ve asked

To let his soft hand break this strand I reeve…..

Set wide his gate to Nothing. Please make plain

That when I’m gone, wrack and pain go too.”

When dogs in busy traffic leap and weave

We’ll harm them if we frantic shout their name:

Then why call her? She bravely wanted through.


Mike Parsons








Revenge is a dish best served cold they say,

but it burns,

it burns like frostbite in the chill,

consumes with a hungry fire,

perpetrator more than victim.

Revenge is a dish that devours the diner,

the gourmet becomes the meal,

a feast for the starving.

Revenge is poison in the glass,

the knife in the back,

the blow that was never expected;

pain begets pleasure,

it’s best concealed.

Revenge is the dish that never satisfies,

and how bitter it is

when the victim has forgotten his crime,

moved on,

but you are caught in hatreds trap

with no release.

Roses for revenge

are the flowers for your table,

the perfume and the thorn,

forever your choice.


Malcolm Terry



Just A Few Lines


Line up

they said

at my old school,

ready for inspection.

When you crossed the line

they gave you lines –

I must not

a hundred times.

When you sinned

and broke the rules

they broke your skin

with a ruler.


Rulers drew lines

wherever they could;

dividing people into tribes,

classes, castes, religions. They

built parallel lines

of stone and steel

that crossed continents

and met at infinity.

They hammered

poetry into lines

and locked music

behind bars.


Neil Beardmore



Return to Southport Beach


I stood here more than sixty years ago,

a child in thrall to legends from the past,

imagining a one-legged pirate board

the ship to take him to his Treasure Island.


I watched Greek soldiers build a wooden horse

and fishermen cast nets in Galilee.

An ark saved all God’s creatures from the flood.

Tall camels swayed across an empty desert.


And then we caught the train that took us home

to life away from castles made of sand.

I left my dreams drowned in the summer waves

that ride the evening tide towards Atlantis.


I face the setting sun, the fading day.

The sands, deserted, stretching to the sea,

are measured by the mile-long pier that ends

where black gulls arc above a dark horizon.


Bill Lythgoe





What Dreams may come

When you close your eyes?

Or will it be nightmares

Come to haunt you and your lies?


When you awake

What will you recall?

Hopefully very little

Or nothing at all?


Or maybe a dream

That your love had returned,

Holding you tight-

Though your fingers were burned.


No sensory endings

The blood won’t flow round,

Too far now to travel

Your feet are well bound.


Then the awakening

A sense of unease,

Night terrors still linger-

So many gods to appease.


Olga Reid



Limelight Robbery.


“I hate you” I mouth

at the bun on your head

as you snatch centre stage

and I’m chorus instead.


Since when did being tall

translate “Move to the back!”?

And what is it you have

that I seem to lack?


I simply can’t see it.

You’re not up to much.

More gob stop than show stop,

no graces as such.


Your eyebrows plucked mean,

your hair dragged into place.

Your leotard’s so tight

it shows on your face.


A violet, that’s me

while you’re brazen red

but be sure to tread careful,

I’m wishing you dead.


So I’ll send you a plague

and concoct you a curse.

Please, do break a leg

or something much worse.


Anna Mills



Southport Community Emergency Response Team


With cheerful chatter at the garden wall

They check their notes, confirm the proper place,

Janette and Kerry on a first-time call.

Their journeys lead to heart-aches they must face

In halted lives; but hopes that they embrace

Will chase the bird of sorrow from its nest,

Dispelling gloom by their mysterious grace

And practiced skill. They glow with healing zest,

Since by Pandora’s Hope their lives are blest,

Sure-footed on the fragile crust of grief.

They come to aid the homebound and distressed

Whose spirits fail, whose weakness needs relief;

Our flow of blessings on them never ends -

They come as strangers but they leave as friends.


Mike Parsons



Some appropriate music


We sat at the back.

Curtains closed.

They played Swann Lake.

No prayers.

No eulogy.

Nothing of importance.

One man on a bench,

with nothing to say.

Nothing to do but sign the papers.

It is what it is,

seeing to the end of things.


Phil McNulty





Fold me in your manly arms,

your constant strength,

your love and care,

your musky maleness – hold me;

hold me together – keep my parts safe.

I long to kiss your lips, for you to swallow me whole,

to fuse with you into one; melt into you

and lose myself in the holiness of your embrace.


Linda Lewis



Village life


The village ladies venture out of doors

As morning dawns upon another day,

They gather round the pump, but do not stay

To gossip, just fill up their four by fours.

Down in old Smithy green no furnace roars,

A block of flats now towers where it lay,

The spreading Chestnut has been cleared away,

Light industry would breach town-planning laws.

There’s Ploughman’s lunches in the Farmers Arms,

No ploughman lunches there, there’s no more farms

And he has plodded on his weary way

To find another job with better pay.

He drives a digger now, through green meadows

And tills the earth to plant the redbrick rows.


Mike Rathbone



A Knock on the Door


In retrospect it was nothing but

the first warning stroke of the brush

starting but not completing the cross


At the time however it seemed

more akin to the thundering rake

of cannons in full destructive force


Then came rush and bustle and control

followed by an unexpected awakening

to an electronically guided existence


where facsimiles of those early waves

from which our ancestral life first sprang

charted the current viability of living


The gradual release from that unscheduled womb

led me to this marginally different world

where taking for granted is no longer an option


Bob Eccleston



Esperance 1945: Return!


My head is full of uninvited guests

Who make their way from deep within my heart

Each one of them I try to greet and bless -

So many that I know not where to start


Who make their way from deep within my heart:

Places, friends, my teachers who wrought their lives

Most earnestly that youth might play a part

To build their better England. What survives?


Each one of them I try to greet and bless:

Each lives within my blood, each still awaits

Accounts of wrongs that I’ve yet to redress

For some whose lives I’ve met at heart-ache’s gates.


So many that I know not where to start,

But honour the remembrance of their lives

Who checked greed’s juggernaut with truth and art.

They served right well: for me that hope survives.


Mike Parsons



The Parade


Those eyes that first beheld him,

scan the khaki tide that swirls

with countless mothers’ tears

and swells with fathers’ pride.

Those arms that gently held him

ache in memory of the years.

For all the tears she rocked away

along with childish fears.

Within the breast that nursed

him grieves a lonely heart.

For all the secrets left unshared.

For all the years apart.

Was it for this she bore him.

Her precious only son.

That those tiny perfect starfish hands

might grow to hold a gun.

The ceremony over,

the National Anthem sang,

she seeks the boy she knows so well

but finds instead a man

who stoops to hold her tightly

and she sees with a mother’s eyes,

the cord that once had bound them

wasn’t broken. Just untied.


Loraine Darcy



An Elephant in The Bloom


It’s unseasonably warm,

we’re sitting in your garden

and I’ve brought you red roses.


You ask how I’ve been;

Good. And you?



My cellophane clothed

statement of intent,

lies unnoticed on the table.


If you were to take them inside,

trim stalks, seal sap

in boiled water


and arrange them in a vase

it would be a sign.

They remain unmoved.


Over weak tea we prune

at the past, seeking meanings

to words behind words.


At some point,

during this desperate banality,

I notice a petal fall


and another and another

revealing the thorned stems

of what we really want to say.


Stephen Beattie



Drip dry


We woke between Brentford sheets,

watched TV on Draylon suites,

wore Crimplene dresses

over nylon underwear

and polyester socks.

Stepped out in ‘Stay-Prest’ suits,

under Terrylene coats,

with Rayon shirts.

Which, when faded,

We ‘Dyloned’ back to life.

We were quick wash, drip dry and non-iron

but our family never got on.

I thought it was the lack of ironing.

No bonding through household tasks.

I realise, now, there was just too much static.


Phil McNulty



Smile, Smile, Smile


We don’t know if he ever used

a lucifer to light his fag

but we suspect he never packed

his troubles in his old kit bag –

he’d far too many.


We don’t know if he ever asked

what’s the use of worrying

but when we read the diary

they brought back in his old kit bag

we knew he worried


about his loved ones back at home;

about the boys who went over the top,

the comrades he knew would not return;

about the hissing mustard gas

that would one day find him, cause

his slow and agonising death.


Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq;

it never is worthwhile

but we still hold great grandad’s old kit bag

and try to smile.


Bill Lythgoe



War Brides


We shared only the briefest moment in time

Vowed to love each other for ever

Promised never to forget

Have no regrets no matter what

Fate may bring


But like so many others

You were taken far too soon

And the pain and heartache

Have not diminished

With the passing years


Now only a cracked

And faded photograph

Reminds me of your smile


Neil Goldstraw



Washed Clean


Baby clean, haloed by the

Pink haze of disinfectant,

Hair capped back,

Face blank.

I’m marked with the sign of the cross,

The place where the knife enters,

Cuts through bone and nerves.

The surgeon said the scar will be ‘this big’

Stretching his hand, wide as it would go.

My unblemished skin mourns

Dancing frocks I will never wear.

Blue hospital nightdress folded

At the end of my bed,

Balloons into life with

Frayed white tags,

Mimicking modesty.

Three hours until theatre,

This is the unknowing time,

A dubious bliss of ignorance.

On waking I will be told

News I cannot

Refuse to hear.

Trees wave outside my window.

One nurse told me you can hear Blackpool Zoo;

Cries carry both ways by the wind.


Jacky Pemberton



The Storytellers


Sing me the song of your homeland, the legend of dark Kare Kale,

Sing to me of basalt towers, of spiced lamb and apricot groves.

I’ll tell you the tale of my people, a fable of merchants and slaves,

I’ll talk of sea mists and rootling for blackberries in hedgerows.


Speak of grey minarets and your aunts washing clothes in the river,

And of worn men and women, protecting the land of their kin.

I’ll tell of echoing coalmines and sledding down hills in the forest,

As flames embolden your fingers and sandstorms veil my limbs.


Read from the book of your father, written in honour and blood,

Tell me of rhythmic drumbeats and the tournaments you won.

I’ll sing from the verse of my mother, a timeworn and sacred oath,

I’ll sing of rock pools and of crabbing in the afternoon sun.


We open our mouths but the words are gone, shattered like stars,

Hung aloft in the darkening sky like a map of our souls.

We lay, as embers fade and supple winds unclothe us, we sleep

As the crescent moon wanes and the sea shudders, wise and old.


Jan Machin



A Year Ago


Was it just a year ago

The vicar said ‘do you?’

Faces lit with a loving glow

We both said “we do”


Was it just six months ago

We stepped from the migrant boat

Passports proclaiming man and wife

A new life and high hopes


Was it only a month ago

We sat on a fallen tree

Planning all our tomorrows

A dream couple you and me


Was it only a week ago

A car came through the rain

Putting you on the mortuary slab

Never to kiss me again


Was it only yesterday

The vicar spoke your name

Sending you away from me

Never to see you again


As I travel through the years

I’ll lock you in my heart

So no matter what becomes of me

We will never be apart.


Joe Forshaw




Fun guy the Bogey Man


The Bogey Man is coming

He scares us to the core

By staring through the window

Or rattling at the door


We huddle in our beds at night

And try not to make a peep

We whisper out a silent prayer

Each time we hear him creep


But he hasn’t come to hurt us

As off to sleep we drift

He’s there for our protection

He’s working the night shift


He’s kind and warm and lovely

His manner’s sure and calm

He chases away all ghosts and ghouls

And things that would do us harm


He loves all happy children

And pleasant adults too

He had to show how nice he is

Just to pass the interview


So if you see or hear the Bogey Man

And think your life’s a ruin

Remember he’s a kindly soul

It’s just a job he’s doin’



Alan Potter




Getting older is inevitable – ageing is optional…


Do not define me

by the number of years I have lived and loved,

by the decades I have danced,

or drowned my agony in vodka.

Time rips me from the playground wall,

against which I cried

unseen tears from the hollows of my eyes.

It places me here on the threshold of another mystery,

petals unfurling, emerging

from the crumby blackness,

the polished hope

of a virgin leaf.

I want to climb mountains,

not ride on stair lifts,

slow down, stop,

or take out a funeral plan.


Do not judge me

when you happen to notice

the hand brushing the strand of hair from my eyes

is a crone’s claw,

the skin fragile as cobwebs.

The lines etched on my forehead,

drawn around my lips,

are scratches on slate,

and crumpled tissue reaches

into the secret valley

where once my breasts swelled,

and dripped the elixir of life

between the pursed lips

of my newborn.


I am not ready to wind down, take a rest

from a life it has taken me years to begin;

to give in to cracking joints

and old lady groans;

or sit in the doctor’s surgery,

revelling in the shame and agony

of wasted flesh and irritable bones,

exchanging anecdotes of pain and woe

and laughing at jokes

about getting old

and falling apart.


Blood still gushes through my veins

and I feel the joy

of a spring day,




of life,


nature’s replenishment……..






I will


along the pathway towards my dreams,

singing and dancing

like no one is watching.


Linda Lewis





On a humid July night

under the halogen haze

of city street

we walk and talk.


Behind us, unseen,

our shadows conspire

and shape-shift;

one minute entwining

on the dented side panels

of the last bus,

next satelliting railway arch walls

before scattering

like hunger riven wolves.


We reach our place of parting

and in that moment

when lips first touch,

when windows start to open

and the journey from where we are

to where we need to be


in that moment

shadows merge;

become as still as night’s air.


Stephen Beattie



King for a day


‘Where have you been?’ She said.

He looked at the floor.

’The ship docked three days ago.

It said so in the paper.

So where have you been?’


He mumbled something about, ‘the ‘South End.’

Having people to see.

Favours owed. Treating family right.’

And, ‘this being no kind

of a homecoming.’


’How long are you here for?’

’Three weeks. Then back to West Africa.

Iron ore, groundnuts, molasses.’ He said.

As though the cargo mattered.

Could make any kind of difference.


’So, where’s the shore pay?

What do I keep you on?’

He put a handful of coins on the table,

stared hard at the kitchen floor.

’That’s all that’s left.’ He said.


There was silence.

She turned her back.

Moved to the stove

to boil water for tea.

The days of screaming were long gone.


Phil McNulty





One day I will sing with whales

Swim dive and spout with whales

But oceans are deep and courage is shallow

So let this not be the day


One day I will howl with wolves

Hunt through moonlit forests with wolves

But my blood does not roar through my veins

So let this not be the day


One day I will fly with eagles

Soar swoop and hover with eagles

But to reach such heights is beyond my conception

So let this not be the day


One day I will recognise ultimate truth

All doubts and conjecture will accede to that truth

But my mind is unready for such comprehension

So let this not be the day


Bob Eccleston






There are no excuses,


mitigations or justifications;

no explanations

to stand defiantly

in defence,

or to beg forgiveness

for this pain she inflicts.


She is seeking solace

as always -

slipping, sliding,

sucked into sadness

and immersed in the self

she seeks to suffocate,

to squash,

to obliterate.


She grasps the neck,

cold in her trembling hand

and coughs

as she unscrews the top,

feeling it click,

hearing the scrape of metal

on glass

as she lifts the rim to her lips.


She is exhilarated

by the burn

of the liquid

as it hits the back of her throat

and she senses a furnace behind her face,

the dulling of her thoughts,

another quest for oblivion,

and one more sweet death.


There are no excuses

for seeking escape,


in this way -


no reasons,

no mitigations,

no justifications,

only a way out -

only a slow exit.


Linda Lewis

Other titles from the same publisher include-


The Fringe Poetry Festival One

The Fringe Poetry Festival Two

The Fringe Poetry Festival Three

CQEC Journal, Inter-Agency Working

One True Thing

CQEC Journal, Regeneration in the North West

The Fringe Poetry on the Move Three

The Fringe Poetry on the Move Two

The Fringe Poetry on the Move One

Darren and George

CQEC Journal, building well being at community level

in the north west


The Fringe Poetry Cafe

'The Fringe, Poetry Cafe' is an anthology from poets based in the North West of England. Some of this work has appeared in poetry pamphlets distributed in pubs, cafes, libraries, shops, buses and trains. In fact, anywhere the public may have time to read some interesting pieces of writing. There are many prize winning poems here. The pamphlets and ebooks are published by SeaQuake Books. The idea behind the initiative is to bring poetry to a wider audience. The poets included in this particular pamphlet are Bill Lythgoe, Loraine Darcy, Stephen Beattie, Phil McNulty, Malcolm Terry, Jacky Pemberton, Anna Mills, Linda Lewis, Mike Parsons, Alan Potter, Bob Eccleston, Neil Beardmore, Olga Reid, Mike Rathbone, Neil Goldstraw, Jan Machin, Joe Forshaw.

  • ISBN: 9781310650680
  • Author: SeaQuake Books
  • Published: 2016-05-01 23:20:30
  • Words: 6884
The Fringe Poetry Cafe The Fringe Poetry Cafe