A Cold Soil Waiting by Reuben Woolley

headlineImage.adapt.1460.high.Syrian_deaths_092915.1443561481518There are so many deaths in Syria that the United Nations stopped counting in 2014 because it could no longer rely on its own data. According to the pro-opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights, 222,114 civilians had been killed between March 2011 and September 2018

I drew a sad child because my brother died. When I am sad I draw.” (11 year old girl, internally displaced in Iraq)

There have been an estimated 85,000 child deaths in Yemen over the past three years due to famine. ‘For children under the age of five this situation is proving a death sentence’ (Bhanu Bhatnagar, Save the Children) 

Child casualties for 2017 in Afghanistan stood at 3,179 (861 killed and 2,318 injured) – a 10% drop from 2016.

We cannot sleep day and night due to the frightening sounds of firing,’ an 11-year-old girl told Unama (The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan)

Delphine says that three of her four children, ages three, four and six – as well as her 28-year-old husband – were shot dead when rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) attacked their village

‘If I close my eyes I think of my friends, the school and all my favourite places at home: everything there is better than here. They ruined everything for us. I just want to go to school, and learn a job and work! Here we have nothing, only this tent with no electricity.’ (Firas, 16 years old, internally displaced in Iraq)

A child soldier poses with a libyan helmAn estimated 2,000 to 3,000 children, sometimes as young as 9, are currently enlisted in the Somali armed forces. According to Unicef, the situation is currently getting worse because the militia have transformed schools into recruitment centres and forced teachers to turn their students into child soldiers’ 

My squad is my family, my gunis my provider, and protector, and my rule is to kill or be killed.”(Ishmael Beah, child soldier Sierra Leone)

‘Last week (in late October), over 250,000 children across Syria are sitting for their national Grade 9 exams, including students who have benefited from the UNICEF-supported remedial education programme in Tartous.’

“Aside from all the academic support I received at the centre, the teachers believed in me so much and lifted me up,” says Naya with a smile. “They became my friends and family,” (Naya, aged 16, internally displaced in Syria)

Me at Newcastle StanzaReuben Woolley has been published in quite a few magazines such as Tears in theFence, Lighthouse, The Interpreter’s House, the anthology: TheDizziness of Freedom, Ink Sweat & Tears, Proletarian Poetry, And Other Poems and The Poet’s Shed. He has five books to his name, the latest being ‘some time we are heroes’, published by The Corrupt Press (2018). He has a book forthcoming, this hall of several tortures, to be published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press (September 2019). He edits the online magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

 

a cold soil waiting

not dead i say not
yet.they deal in cold
bodies / hope
for some
                 disaster

                 i will
not lie
in such dark
matter.it is
short a
way & not to move

i lose a wrinkled
face no means is
this not human
                          a possible / a
slight stretch of poor
accord.tell them where
a child sleeps in cold
ground / where they fuck
a lost mother still
there are no titles.these
pages blank they
tremble
               never
a peace

& rain falls dry.bring
a life / a sickness
in this black earth

We Drink for Them by Casey Bailey

In 1999, we used to live in Camberwell, South London in a top floor flat that overlooked the Camberwell Road and all of its ‘activities’. Besides watching Concorde fly over in the late afternoon with my newborn son, there would often be exchanges of different points of view on the street below. Then into the night, the club across the road would see the usual overspill of happy/violent drunks. However, maybe it was because I had already lived in London for seven years, or had known violence from living in Coventry, but I never felt threatened or in danger. Up the road in Loughborough Junction, there was a number of gang related murders, but otherwise it felt relatively peaceful. (more…)

Spirit of ’79 by Stanley Notte

cov 2021In 2021, Coventry will be the UK’s city of culture; the second city, after Hull in 2017. I am sure there is an air of excitement in the city, and the times I have gone back recently, there is certainly talk but as yet little knowledge of what it will entail. Us poets are hopeful of getting a chair at the table, but what will be the shoe-ins? Theatre, with the figurehead being the Belgrade Theatre, will be a hub of the arts, as no doubt will the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum; both in recent times mixing the contemporary with the nostalgic. And I think it is nostalgia, that music will take as its starting point. (more…)

‘Unwritten’ Caribbean Poems after the First World War. Edited by Karen McCarthy Woolf, with excerpt of poem ‘Her Silent Wake’ by Malika Booker

black soldiersHistory is nothing without memory, memorials, and remembrances. And on such a day as this, the marking of the end of the First World War, there is a particular resonance to what it means today. As Hobsbawm termed it, this was the beginning of the short 20th century, which started with horrific loss of lives due to the power hungry international alliances, and ended in what at the time seemed a somewhat relative peaceful transition with the fall of the Berlin Wall. You could call it the slow death of empires. (more…)

Carrion Song for Major Tom by Bob Beagrie

post modernPost-modernists are smug bastards. They sit on their upside down, inside out sofas opining about how terrible things still are, with that ‘I told you so. Now come here, put this bandage round your bloodied head and get in the car, I’ll take you to a therapist.’ Enlightenment chaps, such as the voluminously silver-haired Steven Pinker, all ivory-towered up to in his corduroy trousers and leather padded elbows, will say, ‘hold on a minute, we are a much less violent society than we were. Yes, there was the First World War, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Cambodia, Rwanda, Syria, the Yemen, blah-di-blah, but in modern day developed countries, things have never been so peaceful.’ (more…)

in t’ George by Geoff Hattersley

cedars pubThe pub I spent much of my twenties in during the 1980s, is no longer. Turned into an Indian bar and restaurant. I’m not too down about it. After all that’s where people tend to end up after the pub anyway, so why not make it the pub. Better than some overpriced hipster bar where you can drink five pound craft ales that taste like toffee or coffee, and eat food called burnt ends. It is life’s transitions which challenge us – the old with the new. Our pub was separated into three age-based parts; ‘the bar’, where the family men went after work, then the ‘smoke bar’, where us teen/twenty something dole heads, sat at one end (with a pool table), and the ‘death end’, where the coffin dodgers sat and smoked their roll ups. (more…)

What about Bobby? by Saira Viola

stop and searchOne Sunday afternoon in 1980, on our way from Coventry to see Black Uhuru in Brighton, the Bedford police stopped us on the M1 due to the fact that clouds of collie weed filled the inside of the motor. I have only been ‘put’ in a police cell on this one occasion. I was locked up for four hours, with two mates who had done a bit of time so thought this was a stroll in the park. They decided to wind me up by shouting at the beasts, ‘you’ll never take us alive copper!’ as they kicked the mattresses and banged the door, before falling onto the floor in a heap of laughter. (more…)