The Slip Inn / The Pub With No Beer

Walking home past the village church, I'm drawn
to the lamplit window in the cottage
opposite, the old blacksmith's — before that
a pub: The New Slip Inn. (How come, this far
from a waterway?) The interior
is bedecked with memorabilia
that materialise, hammer and tongs
in the glow from a fire, wooden bellows
pumping the vision into life. Then it
cools, but somehow softens. It has the feel
of something dimly remembered, windows
opened in an old calendar. I lean
in to put right one of the slipped horseshoes
that has spilled its luck, making the world turn

upside down, I've passed through a cupboard door
and walked out onto a bleached verandah,
not that of my own childhood but to where
another family has assembled
for a shot outside The Pub with No Beer —
except the father has a glass of it.
He rests his forearms on the railing while
his son twists awkwardly bored, and mother
stands back in her sunnies. You — on the edge
of your new beauty — smile to camera,
a little white dog between your bare feet.
You're already telling me that the song's
what this is all about: Old Billy, a
blacksmith; how and when the warrigals called.

Paul Munden (UK)

The Bulmer Murder cover
Paul's book The Bulmer Murder will be published in April 2017 by Recent Work Press.


Women of Disharmony

Disharmony is not only a state of being
But a colourless cube, built from converging walls
Bound by the mason's mortar between the brickwork
Solidified by the hot breath of weeping women.

Philosophise — believe this concrete clad room does not exist
It is simply an invention of the mind, a mental bondage
To historical inaccuracies. Or it is best forgotten, left that way
Just a square of walls in a silent, fenced-off field. But I

Heard about disharmony, in their voices travelling along
The barbed wires that now coil within my DNA strands
And their words were silenced outside those walls
Yet their last breaths were born in my lung tissue.

Have you seen disharmony? It begins with one wall.
It can build a city that stands a thousand years by a river's grassy edge.
Painted walls, cultural facades spread over the landscape. A colourful city
With sweeping designs of yellow stars smeared onto its doorways.

In that cube, that bare room, all the women were gasping
Running their hands along the concrete looking for cracks, trapped
By disharmony. Naked and brown, without sunlight or moonbeams
Not far from undivided Berlin, somewhere by a whistling train line.

Perhaps it was the same track that ran to the sea
Where families boarded boats, some never to see each other again. Separated
Sisters and cousins, children cast out like ashes from a furnace
They waved goodbye and said ‘Shalom’ to the ghosts they left behind.

Last night, I dreamed I visited Auschwitz.
A man in uniform smiled and led me through the gates.
He reunited me with the lost women of my family. They held me close
Crying as we showered in the space where those walls converged.

Wendy Beach (Western Australia)


Join the Library

let’s see sir
you wish to
join the library
you state that
your name
is God
also known
as Jehovah, Yahweh
Sovereign of the Universe
The all Powerful
Lord of Lords
and others
but do you have any
proof of identity?
yes I can see that
you have a halo
and can do miracles
thanks for that
my pain is cured
but no sir please sir
do not get agitated
and do not threaten
library staff with
those winged heavies
standing outside
and plague and pestilence
showers of frogs fire
brimstone and treacle
they would damage
our book stock
and no sir
the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse
had to fulfil the
same conditions
do you have a
council tax statement?
or driving licence?
or a passport?
no sir we
do not have
an original copy
of the
Dead Sea Scrolls

as it’s sadly
closing time sir
could you please
come back

Patrick McManus (UK)
First published in Phoenix, 2015