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Reflections on 2022 - A Poetry Anthology

Updated: Jan 5


lessons// on learning to live by Maïs Bouteldja


On love//

This is my philosophy:

Love is art, and art is love.

I hope to lace these words with love

in the manner Van Gogh captured

stars on a canvas.


On the moon//

Always watching:

Watching the day

I raised Romeo's vial to my lips

and the night

I kissed Juliet.


On inventors//

O creators,

Fashion into your image

something new

and despair at the copy of a copy of a copy

for there is nothing truly new,

there remain no more fresh iterations.


On kisses//

The drowning of a sob pools in the base of my neck

like the words I swallowed down at six years old.

My love, please cleanse that feeling,

purge it from my past,

leave me with a taste I'd willingly

live forever for.


On long nights//

I pluck the words out of the air,

cut them out of my head and

stick them in my journal,

paint them all in capitals.


On kissing again//

Did you know?

Bitter kisses taste like burning,

Like ash falling from the cigarettes

he lied to me about.


On regrets//

Time is relative(ly complicated. The days are short and then long.

You blink and it blurs Monday's "how was your weekend?"

into Friday's "see you next week!" —

It's already next year

by the time I count all the minutes

in last month.)


On lies//

Maybe I'm not a poet. I'm a fraud.

A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.


On truth coming out of her well//

She always will.


On philosophy//

What use is wisdom once you are dead?

What use is death once you are wise?

Paint yourself a purpose and pray that it is enough.


On all the things you wish you had said,

but the conversation you practiced in your head went in a completely different direction

so now you've immediately forgotten everything

you wanted to discuss

and now the moment's gone//

Sometimes I have to redraw the line

between where I end and somebody else starts.

I stick post-it notes on my bedroom mirror

so I can remember what I'm supposed to look like.


On kissing once more//

All it takes is a little kindness

And I breathe back to life.

I remember this for every bone in your hand,

For every cyber kiss goodnight,

For every three hour WhatsApp call.


On the ruination of the moon's lovers//

I look up into the abyss wherein resides truth

and blink into existence the love of the stars,

feel their timeless kisses melting into my body

imparting unto me, the wisdom of poets

and philosophers long since departed.


On conclusions//

Even death cannot hope to sever

the bond between our souls.


Maïs Bouteldja is a young queer Muslim creative from the UK. They have previously been published online at Second Chance Lit and A New Direction. They are currently working towards their first poetry collection and posts a mixture of art and poetry on Instagram (@poetryghostmais).


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Another Year 2 Long by Adam Khan


Drearily rolling into another year

Like water escaping the hands of its potential captor

2022 could have been a new chapter

Yet all of the bullshit continued to appear


Hoping the COVID-19 pandemic would deflate

Yet the Omicron variants now dominate

Now quadruply vaccinated as I’d have to wait

For some normality but I just become more irate


The continuing impact of post Brexit trade

Post-pandemic stagnation

And Russia’s decision to invade

All helped to peak inflation


Resulting in the cost-of-living crisis

Hiking up food and energy prices

And with so many sectors striking

Adds to the UK’s disliking


Rampant hate crimes against every marginalisation

Thousands upon thousands of incidents of discrimination

Not surprising with people welcoming white Ukrainians without hesitation

While accepting ethnic minorities drowning as they escape persecution


Climate change being ever present

Devastating floods in Pakistan, South Sudan, and Nigeria

Record breaking heat waves, wildfires, and droughts torment

And polar cold snaps like those felt in Siberia


As the world population exceeded 8 billion

Famines, wars, and genocides still take place

With the loss of life costing millions

But most are still unaware in their headspace


Closer to home is the same old turmoil which makes me pissed

Three Prime Ministers all with the same agenda

And the death of a privileged colonialist

Yet mourners are so quick to defend her


With all of this going on in the world

Like many I have been trying to survive

Trying to comprehend what the future holds has my mind twirled

Yet I can still see myself thrive


Drearily rolling into another year

Like water escaping the hands of its potential captor

2023 could be a new chapter

Or all of the bullshit will continue to appear



Adam is a non-binary, neurodivergent social activist and community leader. Since graduating from University, Adam has been exploring different methods marginalised people can express feelings, experiences, and stories. Poetry has been one of these methods.


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Sick Pay by Cameron McAllister


Avoid any risky activities

while you celebrate the festivities.

Overcrowded A&E employees

striking over pay and seeing

being key workers unlocks nothing from

politicians with promises principled

as the putrid parties they present.

Calling us lazy workers, taking the piss,

talking about ‘productivity’ in a country crippled by chronic illness.

A decade of austerity

was the conscious choice to inflict harm.


Hospitals spending double on debt than drugs,

paying six hundred percent what was lent.

To some the NHS is an embryonic asset

and if you own an abode in the right post code

you’ll be profiting from what was borrowed,

reaping the riches that PFI sowed.


PPE finance pouring from our pockets to offshore,

for masks nobody wore.

Protective equipment that didn’t pass the tests,

that as wasn’t protective as the name suggests,

that we had to pay to store.

Money that roamed across the world, while we couldn’t leave our homes.

Money for nothing, politics for a fee.


Downing Street still gleams with gilded Yellow Wallpaper,

while our health service lives on

barrel scrapings,

stopgaps,

standbys,

leftovers,

and offcuts.

Powerful people protect powerful people

while normal people are implored

to ignore with distractions galore.

But without distraction what do we have to live for?


A private ambulance from the warm space to

a bed on the floor of a corridor?


No. We won’t be cowed by cowards,

or walked over by bootlickers.

We won’t bleed for the leeches that lie to our faces.

We won’t dispute the disruption,

or complain about the inconvenience.


This strike has set alight a powder keg of frustration,

a burnt out bummed out nation,

prepared to fight louder for fair renumeration.

It’s taken a match to the mighty Thatcherite ideology,

That has written its own eulogy.


We’ll stick up for those that have stood up for us,

not those who drained our NHS of its blood.

We’ll play no games with hypocrites sprouting shit.

There’ll be no doubting what folks are thinking

when we’re shouting in unison:

“There is power in a union.”



Cameron McAllister is a PhD student in physics by day and writer interested in science journalism, poetry and short stories by night. He is on Instagram @ccwmca and Twitter @ccwmcallister. In his spare time, you will find him reading, writing, or running. We're still not quite sure what he's running from.


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Home/Love/Death by Tom Osborne


Home

Don’t ask me to describe it. That feeling I get when that particular skyline slides into view in the train window. The way my lungs feel fuller breathing in the air that first time, as if its oxygen content is higher than that of where I’ve been. I walk taller, rejuvenation flooding through me, my mind clears and suddenly the weight baring down on my shoulders, not completely, but enough, as if the hands of this place were adding their strength

These streets twist and wind like veins and arteries, all leading back to the undeniable centre of what makes me who I am. A beating, pulsating heart of warmth and restoration. It does not ask me to prove myself to it, it knows its own, and holds no judgement, only relief

The surface may change, updated, and altered to cover the passing of time, but beneath it all remains an unapologetic, unwavering defiance. It demands to be taken for what it is. This little city, which has watched kings fall on its fields and inspired artists in its hills, has not just stood the test of time, but passed with flying colours. There is no palace or manor, no seat of royalty that could surpass its hospitality. It welcomes its own back to its borders but doesn’t mind holding the door to let a stranger in, providing they thank the bus driver.

It doesn’t look like much. But it is mine. And it will remain so until the day my bones return to its earth. So no, I can’t describe it, that feeling I get when I see that skyline. But I know the word that encapsulates it all. Home.


Love

I’m a stranger to it now. I know not its intricacies, it’s quirks and oddities. I closed my gates to it, left it battering at my walls for fear its tenderness would turn sharp and destroy me from within. I learned a fierce resistance to its charms, forcing it into a rout from my heart, and only claiming victory once numbness was all that remained

But a bitter enemy oft morphs to a beloved friend, and switches back again, forever existing in the space between. The spectrum that places it in opposition is not a straight line, but a circle, making it simple to drift between the two states. I have raised my drawbridge on sight of its advances, and brought about a steel edge to ensure it remains outside.

And yet my gates fall, my ramparts fade to nothingness, with no siege, no prolonged battle costing life or limb. Just a touch, a smile, a gesture of pure affection has the affect of a thousand men at arms. A wave stronger than any invading force washes over me, and I am left open once more


Death

For someone I’ve never met, death is an old friend. A companion I often have wished to check in on, exchanging words and comfort with. Whether man or woman, old or young, I don’t know, and yet in some ways, death is more familiar to me than any other I know. They don’t scare me, instead lingering just at the edge of my conscience, ready if needed

Occasionally I feel the need to defend them, to insist their embrace is warm and comforting, not cold and final. Or to bring them up in conversation, trying to discern if others have chased this familiarity in the way I have. Or to think on them when I’m alone, believing it would appreciate knowing somebody had them in their mind.

The desire to visit my old friend is less regular now. It sits further back in my mind, buried under other things that create distractions. But every now and again, when it’s quiet, or I’m alone, I think again on my old friend, and wonder whether it’s time to visit. And it’s almost like I hear them say, quietly, gently, “not yet, but don’t worry, I’ll be here when it’s time”


Tom is a writer, actor and trainee stage combat instructor from Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Growing up with a huge interest in politics, music and sport, he often combines all of these in his performing work. Follow him on Instagram @Tom_M_Eastwood.

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