Prize-winning* poet and recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge was born in Birkenhead and cut his performance teeth on the Liverpool pub poetry scene of the 1970s. Since 2011 Ken has been based in Norwich, but can be lured out of cover by the promise of good company and an open mic - a proclivity that has led him to become an habitué of the slam poetry/spoken word scene. He likes it. A lot. If you've been to an open-mic on Zoom in the last year or so, there's a sporting chance you've encountered him. Ken writes about love, sex, nature, loss, personal identity and queerness, with an occasional foray into the eerie and macabre. Poke him with a sharp enough stick and he may even wake up long enough to get shouty about politics. Regional finalist at Hammer & Tongue Cambridge, 2018 and 2019. Published work can be found variously in print and online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / As Above So Below / The Fiction Pool / Impspired / Ink Sweat & Tears / Message In A Bottle / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Pulsar / Rat's Ass Review / Runcible Spoon / Songs of Eretz / Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin / Timber Ghost Press etc.) and on his SoundCloud and YouTube channels - you'll find them listed on his Linktree page. * the prize was a chocolate cake. He guessed its weight.
TELESCOPE The optics work their Galilean trick: refract you into nearness so convincing you might be but a table's width away. I could wave my arms, jump up and down, call out but I am too small to attract your naked eye and the mile between us swallows all my words. Wondering if perhaps a beacon might yet be the answer, I'm trying to think of where a can of petrol might be got when you signal to me, pointing at your watch. 'Best get back. Lunch again tomorrow?' I nod. We neck our drinks and leave the pub. (First published in "Allegro Poetry" Issue 19, 01-12-2018) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ CONTACTLESS You shouldn't, but you're walking into Subway. It's a festival of carbs you know you're going to regret and those gloves may be hygienic but they're single-use and they must get through hundreds in a day but hell, it's cheap and hassle-free and right now you're just not cut out for complications, not now you've seen him, the new boy behind the counter: the reason you're at this branch for the eighth time in two weeks; the reason you're at this branch, not the one in the arcade, in spite of that one being down the hill, not half so busy and a great deal more convenient for the bus; the reason you've hung back, let someone else get served before you, made it certain you and he will synchronise. It's the eyes. Of course! It's always been the eyes with you and his are proper drowners ‒ not that he lets you get to see them much: keeps them downcast mostly, busy, focussed on the job. Well fair enough, you think: that knife is sharp. Nearly as sharp as your own shame at what a punchline you've become. What is he... Nineteen? Twenty at a push? Dear God, you're tragic! When will you grow up? And now it's your turn, and you're praying maybe this time you won't stammer like you've done three times already, when he halts you with that shy half-smile: the one like sunlight just broke through a cliché. "Don't tell me, let me guess: the usual?" OMG he knows you've got a usual! He checklists the ingredients to be certain. No mistakes. You watch his hands, bedazzled, as he busies with the salads, deft and dextrous, like a close-up magic trick. The gloves come off; you notice that his nail-varnish is new, imagine an alternative reality in which you comment casually on this: the light, inconsequential conversation that might feasibly ensue... but now he's through, is done with you, already busy with the next one in the queue. Tapped in, checked out, pocketing your card, you call out thanks; he glances up. He smiles... and you head out to the waiting day ‒ glad, just for the now, to be hungry to be here to be alive. (First published in “As Above So Below” issue 7 - Summer 2021) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ BEZZIES Tomorrow let's take off, get lost, tip-toe the rails the mile or three of track to the old factory beyond the edge. Just you and me, a bottle of cheap cider from the offie on the corner, two bags of Ready Salted and a crafty lifted Twix, get pissed wrap fists round chunks of brick and waste some daylight breaking glass, set fire to shit and run for it, make a game of fuck-all-else-to-do and then as it's just us ‒ just me and you ‒ and seeing as how you know I'm minded to, I'll take you in my mouth and we'll forget. (First published in “Impspired” Issue 4: 28-04-2020)
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