International Literary Exchange: What I tried to tell you, yesterday, by Chloe Higgins

international literary exchange, Poetry



i watched a bird fall from

the sky was yellow and (a)round

the trees hung circles of


yours was yellow blood

that seeped into mine


even the blind could see

when seven thousand ribbons

were strung midway

between your ribcage and navel



i watched

a bird fall


(This poem is a response to Lina Sagaral-Reyes’ poem, The story I would have wanted to tell you had I met you yesterday. Both poems are about a young activist, Emmanuel Gutierrez, who was killed during the Yellow Revolution in the Philippines.)

International Literary Exchange: The Wanker by James Poole

international literary exchange, Poetry











The Kettlebrook Wanker

                                                   (An Introduction to Lorraine)


When the Wanker walked, he talked

and when he drank he talked

and when he talked you listened,

or bought him a schooner

just to give the air

a chance to stale.


He cornered me in Kettlebrook

the famous Wanker.

Wearing cowboy urban

with a pop shirt reading

‘rock of the eighties!’


And a blonde bleached macho grip

on his lip.


When he arrived the lip dropped

and dropped

and didn’t stop

until the air consisted of his posterior narration

and little else.

‘Capital B’ the witty blokes called it.

(bullshit to the simple)


Backs against wall, egos hold

their breath as the Wanker shushes


the crowd, beer stilted pause as he speaks


[takes a sip]

he spills his amber in gesticulation

before diving in-

to another anecdote.


This time, about Willow (maybe Wayne)

and the time their mate

Benny wasn’t half cut,

and found himself pissing

against a window:

mistook for a trough.

(where three girls were seated)

The yellow trickle rain

washed the glass (middle aged stain)


and the pub laughed

and cacked

and the girls,

unaware of Benny

behind, (like the Wanker)

couldn’t understand why

everyone was



But the Wanker doesn’t stop.

He just pauses, takes

another sip

and continues.


He’s courting the girls

in the pub. They’re

too young,

and he’s

too drunk.

Pool table insight fancies

him a quick grope,

before the birds move on

and the Wanker

Is left



“It’s not the first time”

He tells me.

Loudly. Yells at me.

“You’re fairly young


I bet you’re knocking around with

some spunk. What’s you’re name?” Russell “Mate,

let me tell you, these birds could have their wings

cut compare

to girls I’ve had, with all

their bits in

the right places.”

Before he concludes, I ask

for a name, he cuts me off quickly


and continues.



(From the Wanker’s Lips)

How love has never lost as much as I have lost Lorraine.

A gorgeous girl: the kind that made the passing bloke stop,

forgetting their private concerns,

and gather (against their very nature) a token:

grit and shells

to measure their humble



And when she’d finish

making boys of the men, and

men of the boys, she’d let the others

see her with her latest catch. So they’d

get to watch as

Lorraine shared another boy

with herself.


I lived next door to Lorraine.

Sometimes, late a night, I could almost

peak Into her window. I Imagined seeing

her naked, rounded and calm,

beckoning me gently

over the thin drain channel

that separated our



Oh how I’d have built a bridge for Lorraine,

just to have her for a night.

Paul McGuiness bet I couldn’t do it.

called Lorraine the ‘early bloomer’

a predator of a woman, not a girl,

who liked sea shells with grit

and not pearly guts.


But I was sixteen! (and never lost a bet)

And wrote her a poem, addressed as follows:

Dear Lorraine,

              Your name is gentle to the ear,

              You smell like grass and peaches.

              I’d cross my heart, and show no fear;

              If you’d be with me at the pictures.





          At the Pictures: Jewjella Chews and the Smell of Liquorice

(The Wanker Recalls)


You never smelt your best

the way you did at the pictures.

Fred Holloway took Janine Richers

there once. Told me after

the trick was a two part procedure:

One: get the right lollies

Two: wait for the romantic bit


He said he was smooth, bought

her Jewjella chews

and All Sorts

(that’s the trick he said)

and by halfway through

the interval

she was kissing Fred

and eating

from his hands.

He made it all the way

too, graduated man club,

and told us that

by the end of the picture,









I think they saw Doctor Zhivago .

It wasn’t showing when Lorraine

agreed to go with me, so I

took her to see

Son of El Cid



When we arrived

the theatre was dark

and Lorraine was

wearing maroon. I’d nicked

a tie from my Dad’s cupboard,

and some aftershave too.

I was done up like Gable,

Brill cream hair slicked and

globed on thick

I just thought ‘‘here I am:

me and Lorraine.

sitting next to each other

at the pictures’’

I didn’t know what to say or do.

She bought her own liquorice

for the show, and chewed it

loudly. Lorraine was a man eater: a shark!

What did she expect me to do?

I tried to think back

to my sex ed class,

or something Fred Holloway


‘Let her hold the popcorn.’

He said.

‘You can brush her arm

as you pass to grasp

the box in her lap’


I tried this, got nervous and


punching Lorraine

In the


She swore, then chuckled

Then laughed, then kept

watching the picture. I could

smell the liquorice on her



I waited some more. Hoping

The Son of El Sid, might give me

an opportunity to make

a move like Fred. Lorraine

was notorious for this

sort of thing and I

figured it couldn’t

be too hard.


Before I could decide

what I should


she swooped.

Caught me of guard,

liquorice lips

tasting of aniseed

and clammy hands

peeling back

my ears.


It was a hot, wet mess.

Lorraine was nothing

but tongue and my checks

were red, and my

hands gripped nothing but

the air.
It was like Christmas

or Easter

or both.


When it was over, she invited me

back to her house, we

walked there from the

pictures in silence.

It was dark when we

arrived. I still

tasted like liquorice as

we went up the stairs

to her room,

where we sat

on her bed

and said nothing.


If I was game I

would have said


charming or witty that

might get her to

move closer, or

at least get her talking.


But I didn’t.


And Neither did she.


We did not touch,


We did not speak.


We just sat there in quiet.

Stayed up all night

too, waited

till morning.


And to this day I swear, when

it finally came up:

that sunrise

never looked so good,

and never would




A Looker, Sticky and Gay

(My final thoughts of the Wanker)



I stand in awe of Lorraine.

Quiet by the bar, listening

as the Wanker keeps on talking

always talking

Like he can’t stop.

A compulsion

driven by some

maddening force

he can’t control.

Or at least

chooses not to.



I hear nothing but “Lorraine.”

I have to cut him off,

when I can,

pressing a question

in the space that

forms between



“What happened to her?”


He tells me they

got married, and

had a couple

of  kids together. He

Keeps talking after that

but when the Wanker’s

glass is empty he
leaves me

with a bloke

named Sticky,

while he’s off

to get a schooner,

and take another piss.


Sticky doesn’t talk

like the Wanker or

anyone else.

He just listens with a beer,

get’s the jist, and

nods politely.

I take a drink

so that the air

doesn’t feel so awkward


I ask if Sticky’s ever heard

of the famous


He nods, but says


As he does, I

can see;

the Wanker

stumbling back toward


Winding past

another pack

of girls.



He changes course

to meet them. Banging

his leg on a pool

table as he

crosses the room.

He seems to

ignore it and the girls


but he just smiles back and




I see him,

dribbling compliments

on the ladies. His

elbows cocked

and head



as he tries to form

a sentence

or a line

from a movie

he’s seen:

(before these girls were born)

where someone like


can have girls

like them

and isn’t



I turn away, and realise

it’s too late, and

I have to go.
I gather my things

to leave the pub,

look at Sticky,

and ask

before I go:


“Is he still with Lorraine?”


Sticky shakes his head.


“Left him for another woman.”


I look at the Wanker;

who is telling a story

to the girls

who are laughing,

but not at the jokes:

at the Wanker.

Whose just

standing there-

Trying to find


that sunrise








International Literary Exchange: Poetry by Tayne Ephraim

international literary exchange, Poetry

Carpe Diem

Under the cracked yellow walls

of movie sets

In the bar

by the old river, where candles

float away

in tiny paper boats

In painted wicker chairs


drunk on youth

In tailored boots, leather

denim jacket

4 a.m.  on dead streets

joy-riding with drug dealers

through curtains

of misted rain

crashing the bike

and making them cry


                        I took the ’67

                        for a ride in the paddies

                        dressed in sweat

                        & with cigarette

                        & with bloodshot

                        eyes we were quick

                        & covered in dust

                        the sun licked us

                        through the haze

                        from a dim room

                        & with wine

                        in my eyes

                        I watch myself go by

                        lost in a neon mirage

                        the unloving night

                        ebbs on

International Literary Exchange: Poetry by Donna Waters

international literary exchange, Poetry

Mother Ganga

       from the shores of the holy ganges

The sadhu squats low on the ghat.

Ochre robes lull in your water as he scoops.

Three times bending and three times scooping.

Just before dawn.


Day brings rich paradox.

Crowds come alone for their baptism. Others wash,

the thwacking of saris wave the boats on.

Your gentleness laps destitute steps.


The noontide herd of rickshaws and cows approach

There is little room left to honour you. Still

men and women bow their offerings in

rhythmic genuflection.


Still, you welcome them, their brass vessels,

their minute vibrations and prayers.

You welcome also, the disoriented strangers

with their wonderment in camera bags.


It is long after dark now. The smell of flesh tangible

from the pyres offering their dead.

Red shrouded women and men in white

sit upright as the flames contort.


And they, the richer

are the fortunate ones.


You welcome them on their makeshift rafts. You mourn

for those left on the ghat. You weep

for those too poor for you

to carry them on their final journey. Still


You welcome.


Something About Her


‘So another girl eh?’ (nothing special, better luck next time)

Born on time and in the natural way,

her father held her screams and wondered,

waiting for her mother to return

with fifty-three stitches, drunk on anaesthesia,

he wondered what exactly was the natural bit.


She grew and its name began silent. Watching,

she waved and clapped and curled, and

its name took voice and became

Misery. Waking her one day with screams

it made plans to never leave. Her father bewildered, busied;

her mother’s days full of grieving minutes.


Age four, its name was Insidious. She grew

quiet and gentle and curious. And tired

at ten o’clock with a swollen belly full of fear.

‘Toddler diarrhoea – she’ll grow out of it. Try cutting

out sugar. Wheat. Dairy. Try cutting

Out -’


She stood at six, rotund and weary beside siblings, exuberant and

thin. Her parents listening to more specialist talks of

calories in and out until one listened back and

looked. Ten by fifteen centimetre homogeneous neoplasm.

Caught out by a scan but not yet given

name casting her mother and father mute.


Not pretty enough to don the glossy hospital

newsletter. Overlooked for the blonde angel

with the club foot whose mother grimaced and asked of

the scar dividing her in half.

G a n g l i o n e u r o b l a s t o m a:

a benign word with malignant intent.


Brave and strong, she endured legal Special K and

sent letters to her friends. She asked its name, the

lump in her tummy that shouldn’t be there and ate

the first Icy Pole like a banquet. Mother held her hand and

sister cartwheeled. Her father devoured

information and hope like a sunrise knowing with a

ferocity that despite the lifelong

monitoring and no guarantees – she will survive:

There’s just something about her.


Poetry: Villanelle by Tammy Daniels


Grown old, I let my garden overgrow.

A tangy fruit, a savory herb, oh! How

My flowers and my weeds together flow.


When I was young I planted in straight rows

And thought it clever to force blooms, but now

Grown old, I let my garden overgrow.


I cast my seeds now for the wind to sow

Or plant them through the gullet of a cow;

My flowers and my weeds together flow.


Those urgent lines begin to curve and bow

Both field and patio are dense with growth;

Grown old, I let my garden overgrow.


With necks outstretched and pert or heads hung low

Unbound my flowers do as they please now;

My flowers and my weeds together flow.


Through patient trials I have come to know

The natural wisdom of the world and so

Grown old, I let my garden overgrow;

My flowers and my weeds together flow.

Poetry: The Color of Coffee by Samantha Vealey


In the morning Mom would brew a pot

then pour the new day blackness

from our stainless steel percolator

into a clay, yard sale-captured mug.

She’d let the liquid settle for a moment or two,

hot as she herself could be, with a searing steam

that could surely scorch a daring tongue.


The tarnished silver spoon would clank

and swirl in a storm dark sea of grounds.

She would add the cream and just like that

black would turn to caramel, soft and weakened-

not quite as light as sun-stained cotton,

nor thick as the rigid bark of oak,

but colored the coat of a white tailed doe

merely freckled white, not fat-spotted as her fawn.


Sugarless sips left a scent warm as milk on her breath

which carried a bold trace of something baked too long

and cradled me tight as a womb when she spoke.


Far from home, my coffee now can’t match her color,

murk-muddy cups can’t rival the taste of her life,

the fierce-licked smoky smell of her love.