If We Had Met Before

Maybe on the first
day of first grade,
before we had money
and all that came with it,
before there were hand marks
all over both of us,
before we stumbled
like blind men without dogs,
it would be just me
standing behind you
in the class picture,
two of my fingers
making bunny ears
above your head
small but sure as soldiers,
it’s you, it’s going to be you.

Julia Wagner


I start today
Washing away
The wine stain
On my mouth

Leiah Fournier

My Mother Taught Me

My mother taught me to eke
out inherent goodness in others, even
if amounting to only a few drops and shower
them with waterfalls of praise, to behave
with books as with babies,
gently. I can now command reams of paper into to-
do lists that efficiently crumple
from ticks
and scratches
she told me, wound practical
people less. My mother taught me that the
kindest kind of kindness
is always spontaneous and unremembered,
but sings as silence would when
it comes back; I see the poetry
in her eyes when she hears it. My mother
taught me to exploit
discounts, fresh fruits and her
superlative cooking; my stomach grudges
being away as much as I do, but grudges,
like life, are not permanent she said.
Love is. Loving is.
Like oxygen, her love is life-sustaining but invisible,
My mother never taught me love, I
understood it the moment she cradled
me in her arms.

Anuradha Rao

At Barrio

Roll out,
in a sticky mass.
Whistling indistinctly,
we stumble on into a
round, circular night.
It’s a perversion of the bestest kind.
I open my mouth, with words
ready to defile the host.
But derision is an ache in my gut, just where I feel you the most.
A fine wind lands headfirst onto the solitary candle, and so I lose your face and your aquiline nose.
I weep up a storm cloud, spilling out on the asphalt.
I am an urban pomegranate.
I take to the Underground, just minutes before shutdown. I am here most of the year: a mole in search for a home.

Idil Galip

The Scotrail Lady

Not much is awake yet.
The train snub-noses into the dawn
and the dawn shrugs. It’s not warm.
Polmont November. Geese.
The gummed rails’ murmur.

I tell you about the documentary
I watched, in which
some smart person sought out
The Scotrail lady.
You don’t know her,

under the buffer of your border
river, in London, where everything
is spoken in the dialect computer.
But I tell you
one woman gives us this day

our daily bread: incantation
of Coupar, Leuchars, Dundee,
Arbroath, Montrose. I know
she recited each calling point –
Crianlarich, where this train will divide –

a magic three times. In a list,
the penultimate stop,
and each journeys close:
– and Mallaig. Bathgate,
where this train terminates.

She said she did it years ago –
Glaswegian actress with a gas bill
to pay – but that travellers still
write letters to tell her of kinks
in the sequence at Dumfries, Tweedbank, Drem.

There’s no more dawn at Croy
than there was at Falkirk High. I say
the word dreich for you to learn,
but you’re sleeping: lean and braced
as though facing a galeforce wind.

But in your weird and moving dream –
cold shuck of glass at your temple
and the tea-trolley’s ankle-break whirr –
you’ll hear her cast the glamour
of our impending arrival.

One day I’ll write her a letter
myself: say I’m thankful
for journeys she’s guided me on:
change here for the bus link and services to –
travel in the rear two carriages…

At Glasgow Queen Street you wake,
and it’s like she’s still guardian angeling –
take all your personal belongings
with you – knowing you’re precious,
your skeleton carefully made.

Take good care, she says, on the station.

Claire Askew