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The Purple Haystack – A Sequence by Joanne Ashcroft

August 6, 2012

The Purple Haystack


Step Forward to Tell the Tale



not-doll sized neck-

cradled by over anxious


her image in the mouth forehead




3 to 4 and 6

separately at least once

children home and away 3

if local and previous partners

to panel


mirrored salted


and grin


perform-feed in a secure bucket change

rose buds   hoots a pass


equipped for independence review powers by whim their lack

a far miss her smirk

            to engage in public play


I heard

no-one is immune to

the use of emotive

language to edit

get strong




head to toe waist

being 16 is asked do you

drink cut yourself no

allergies medication


lay down that paper and


and write that

if you can


can renege

won’t retract


out loud

in writing


(numbers apply are turned away abort)


uninvited to

hear court jesting say we

are on


thing of pins itching

side-pitching in tongues

stitch listlongs

knit the eye cranial

tacking left to right

stinging ratworm

wrung and out in

casts dripping spit

divine lipsmith

puppet caster

forging glitter-traps

silence blown in

thorny breaths

beating cabbage whites

red drenched concrete

made paper

artless and lies

witless eyes raking

spring out

of time


baa baa cocker hoople doo


and still


the tug



Not on My Watch Tale


now love

we’ll bond

and I

shall show you how

to and how you

and no-one else can

do what I do


I make fives

top lunged

tic tack toe

goggle and


you can’t do


I can’t do



Too Far to Tell Her Tale


evil looks ruin

her luck

a slurred signature

incontinence (both)


the depth


arrive to woman leaving

the crackle of blister

as sweets

and washing


a face mostly eyes

a voice raising


clouds black rolling in rolling out

can’t say a difference

risk ruffling in a single number


a flea

minus sandwich

don’t crash


wished upon

the slipping surface

a hair away


give us her number so we can increase hope and confusion

no use to

ask who is prime minister



as breathing



guts see

clouds black

an abduction

out to lunch


Too Busy to Tell a Tale


sits opposite an ear

feeding a nose kissing

thick skin


who closest

was important


remember it

make changes

how do you feel


enjoy school

have any regrets

any qualifications

did you continue

value education

previous jobs / your current

how important

enjoy it


fit into family life


(she said she saw

her over-stepping her

words a bloody cascade)


what hobbies

and why

how much time

alone or with others


describe your personality

see yourself

with key words

(yours and others)

your strengths

aspects you do not like


marriages / relationships

give details


who leads

supports / strengths

stress / decisions

what effect


children   write briefly

how do they feel



is this end



Four Poems by Richard Barrett

August 6, 2012




What? Morning                                    Remember? Morning

And falling, almost                into the car to        Boost sales

I suppose, I mean           Why else give away        A free CD


                                                                                     Of 80s








See that settee? (We sat there together)

See that carpet? (We played Tetris on it)

And right out of bed it takes, precisely

Half an hour now to remember                        I’m out of bed


Disaster averted though

You self dramatising nob                                          Lurching


From one disaster to      A N OT H E R (indented randomly /


What’s a disaster?





See the shape of this – could it be better?                Well

Of course it bloody could             We could do it ‘open-field’





And in the kitchen –                                                       What


                                                                         In the kitchen?


We cooked omelettes together

Then ate them                                              Whilst T4 was on





This pub

Is not the only pub 

Round here. Or even

On this street


But this conversation

Is the only possible one

Now. Given the circumstances

Of just me, you and him talking


They’re the only circumstances


I want ‘another conversation’ please

In a different pub

I feel some distress

I am not famous

Nor are you

Though he was famous in the 80s


Me. At the bar

Me. Carrying two beers and a coke


Me. Thinking what to say

Me. On the subject of Lake District holidays

Me. Silent

Me. ‘Oh yes, I went there once

       With my girlfriend

       And we walked round Coniston water


       And it was fun’


In one of these pubs nearby

Some pub less ‘down at heel’

With a younger crowd maybe

Working in the media and IT

Would that have been an interesting thing to say?

Or is it just boring



From whichever direction?



for Cheralyn


Then you were stood, waving

And we hugged

We’re hugging here

This is us hugging

In a café, meeting up again

After several years

3, I think


Hugs will enclose the evening

In brackets


With, the other side of them

2012 to welcome





Can confirm nothing

From here, just that you could spit there

                                 (the precinct)

From here

                                 (the office)

Just that


To ask ‘what’s the news?’

When no one knows the news

Is stupid, no? See how warm it looks out

For Autumn


According to official sources

And GM police’s Twitter-feed earlier


2 cups of coffee drunk

12 sugars in total

1 packet of crisps consumed

1 banana, unfinished. As the news that I care about

Not The Money Shop



On Friday then, late, speak –

And speak properly

Not like that


Lose the word ‘love’

Or not

If not

Clarify your meaning


Look now –

Something 6 sided, heavy

And brick-like

Is probably a brick


Amongst desks


And desks and desks and desks

And amongst office-workers



This feels exciting

People are acting excited

And saying they’re excited

I am definitely excited

I don’t know if more or less excited

Than anyone else

In this network

In this excitement network


Extracted from this network

Would my excitement remain?


Is an interesting question

But one which at this moment

         I am just far too excited to ask


Maybe dangerously excited


It looks warm out

And it’s warm in as well

The air-conditioning is broken



A knot of

Downward pressure from the boss

And intuitive knowledge

Of who can be manipulated, plus

A tick-like flirt response

To the opposite sex

So, not ‘love’ then

Clearly not

The word was badly chosen


Unlike off-white lounge suits

Off the court

Kit stowed in a scuffed Head sports bag –


No, it isn’t ‘love’


I said that!

I said that!



Which might be true now but

Can’t always have been true


A contradiction exists


Between the sanctioned version

And that coming from the scene direct

A ‘re-imagining’


As of the precinct’s main tower


Having told the driver:

                                      You know the one

                                      With the arrow

                                      Pointing down

                                      And in red?


Obelisk-like, heralding the next big step

Up evolution’s ladder


This gorgeous day


Music playing                       

                        But those noticing it notice just


Its unfamiliarity, and wonder


Is this a prologue of some sort?







Five Poems by Steve VanHagen

August 4, 2012

a little knowledge

two tramps almost sober alongside us at St. Pancras as they put you in the ground


in my mind’s eye a young scientist determined

to discover; careless of the reality of discovery 

of the Price to be paid


turns to a life of being disappointed not surprised

by the duplicity of drunks   a final sad embrace in a Euston bedsit

of rusty scissors by the carotid artery                   everything given away


as earth hits wood, your epitaph: ‘killed by the dangerous pursuit of altruism’



honourable option

unreally crisp crunch of gravel as the auto leaves Herrlingen


the car leaving feels dangerously routine, mundane, but I see grains of sand

echoes of desert      some die some survive      


I know I must stay calm and not look back

my fingers on leather                      I feel my wallet in my coat pocket

and the breathing of Burgdorf next to me


the road will run out at the edge of woods up the hill where pills await

after twenty minutes the telephone will ring at Herrlingen


in Dallas

drizzle early morning           then bright sunshine         

cheering, waving crowds   we round a curve


a little girl catches, takes my eye

face cruelly disfigured but wearing stars and stripes pinned to her lapel


as sudden a flurry of firecrackers as ever heard from a school book depository

gala celebrations     ticker tape flying


let’s get out of here              men jump      cavalcade accelerates

Camelot lies bleeding slumped on the seat, cradled by a bundle of pink


window finger jigger

they must be Sainsburys bags you use

to prepare for window finger dancing,

bags gained, earned on weekly Monday

ventures out, past a door with no lock since

the police broke it down, past self-created

altercations on the stairs

with the gay couple from #54


the excitement’s in the ritual

of pinioning bags to the window

cutting out the oval, just big enough

for the finger, erotic touch of sellotape

against hands (like an origami-loving

Mrs. Doyle), anticipation

of unsuspecting pedestrians below


sometimes he wonders what mommy

would make of his inheritance,

the purchase of his unlocked haven,

den from which to launch finger affronts upon

the passing world; though not for long, too many

pedestrians, too much finger-raising

jouissance to be relished



Frank Randle RIP

Bombing bloody Blackpool with bogroll from an aircraft

would have been a good enough way of spending

a Sunday morning if I’d been thrown out of some

place in Blackpool for being pissed the night before.


But I wasn’t and I didn’t even though later they said

I was and I did. So I wasn’t bombing bloody Blackpool

with bogroll from an aircraft and it wasn’t a good way

of spending the morning after being thrown out for being

pissed there the night before.


It were bloody Accrington I bombed with the bogroll instead.


Three Poems by Tony Cullen

August 2, 2012



waving limply through

smoke without any kind

of determination the dead

appear to have no zeal


a reaching hand

a signpost

a frozen oath

a reminder


of what has been

stolen by deities

here only

as third officials


training a fleck

grey pony to count

by stamping a hoof

on the dusty ground


you said you saw you

said you lied you saw

nothing but nothing

edging toward absence


you saw absence

and you lied

and the dead watching

waving to attract


attention to warn

a warning wave goodbye

because of words

withered to a whisper


in sacrificial incantation

recited from a dead

book holding the palm

print of millions watching


the unfortunate shredding

of parades of triumphant

loss set in the bones

of un-thought generations


unhook the humans

charge a realistic

price for the ride



Border War Blues


articles of time scratch

by trailing tedious


latitudes \ mindless bits

and pieces trace


a clue in the mud \

illustrating essential 


nature\ mood

and perception dread


their task \ hence

the sensation \


and gone is her traveller by the singing shingle sea

whittling its way between dunes

consuming the leisure of pilgrims and stranger


articles of time beat

by \ dawdling crawl sneak


and slink \ extruding Lady

Lazarus through that early


morning theatre \ mood

and perception dread


their task \ hence

the sensation



Behind the Hand


Lych gate locked

and hinged grade

2 listed homeless

June wanders east


A grove one

hundred years vertical

sleeved in vine

provides cover


Dappled and gone



Granite and clay


and fallen blossom

Tilted gold lettering

Mad-logic logo

a third scale


I imagine a

blooded brow under

moon shade the

sound of soldiers


approaching lanterns flicker

wind chimes chance-

child cherub without

choice who fell


asleep and sadly

missed free from

leaf mould silver

and wood Birdsong


composed on the

tongue Jam jar

jug set aside

holding time and


weeds The flap

of something black

behind heavy leaf

Car doors slam

2 reviews

August 1, 2012

A couple of reviews of Steve’s and JT’s pamphlets from Sabotage.

Poetry as a Blog

July 31, 2012

I’m looking at ways to diversify the press and one of these is to open up this blog to submissions of poetry, critical reviews and general poetic chatter. I’m hoping to move towards an annual published journal and the poems published on the blog (not mine) will go towards that. To start with I might as well put up a couple of my own poems seeing as I haven’t had a sniff of publication for months. The first is a response, in a way, to WH Auden’s September 1, 1939. It’s sort of a political and tongue in cheek poem. It’s from a collection I’m working on called Zenzizenzizenzic. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I lost a few poems from Zenzi (as I call it, just me) when my computer died – mainly the title poem which now exists on a scrap of paper in my illegible scrawl. The second is an older, more abstract poem called Pelham’s Eye and the third is called Patience Is Bitter, But Its Fruit Is Sweet and is me being a bit of an arse about poetry. I think it’s sort of semi-satirical-Michael-you’re-being-an-arse-and-aren’t-most-of-these-references-incorrect-and-you’ve-never-been-to-Paris-and-can’t-speak-French-and-if-your-French-is-bad-like-you-expect-it-to-be-then-that’s-ok-because-it-just-adds-to-the-point-and-the-character-of-the-poet-or-type-of-poet-you-imagined-writing-it.


Patience Is Bitter, But Its Fruit Is Sweet

What Rousseau said about patience was true;

if you wait long enough you could find yourself

on the Boulevard de Sébastopol biting into a nectarine.

Bitterness must be sitting across from a Hungarian girl

on the Métro between Châtelet and Hôtel de Ville

and only being able to think of Sarkozy’s Bergerac nez.

Surely patience’s reward is being this kind of person;

I’m in Paris for the year painting nudes,

young women on the precipice of sensing lust.

And biting down on a nectarine’s stone is this;

I’ve only ever seen William Etty’s The Judgement of Paris

and that had nothing to do with joie de vivre.

Let’s imagine instead that I saved, I waited, I bought

a plane ticket and came to Paris, found an attic room

on the Rue Rambuteau where I drank litres

of Cotes Du Rhone and let my brush stroke out

burgeoning loloches and smooth moule all day,

woke early each morning tasting sweet nectarine.

The Villainelle Poetry Club

July 21, 2012

This Wednesday sees the first of Holdfire’s poetry readings.  I’ve decided to call the night ‘The Villainelle Poetry Club’. That’s meant to say Villainelle. The name came from the new logo I’m working on for the press (a blindfolded convict called Miccollo) and the idea of villanelle/villainelle came to mind. Maybe I see poets as villains too.  No, I don’t think I do.  Anyway the night starts at 7.30, upstairs in the Ship and Mitre. There are four poets reading.  Three are sort of the main readers and I thought I’d offer a small slot to a poet who hasn’t much experience at performing.  I’m hoping that each reading will offer a similar slot to an inexperienced but talented poet.  The poets are Eleanor Rees, Evan Jones, Neil Addison and Erin Fitzgerald.  All the poets are in some way connected to Liverpool whether that be academically or geographically and I think that’s a good way to start, by grounding the readings in the city.  The next reading will be in September.  Hopefully we’ll get a decent turnout for Wednesday but I imagine the attendance will grow in number over time, hopefully.I’m looking forward to the poetry and a nice pint of Paulaner anyway!