Thursday, 24 May 2018

A poem by Ceinwen Haydon

Lena Love

Lena’s off to church one final time.
Sweating, and shaking,
she shuffles off
down her garden path.

She sits in a pew at the back.
Incense fumes smoke roses
from the chasuble.
They catch her throat.

Dimly, she remembers Harry.
They’d wed in all their finery,
later he’d scarpered, for good.

He’s left her lonely, holding
only one keepsake. Love.
His surname Love.

Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in web magazines and print anthologies. These include Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Alliterati, Stepaway, Poets Speak (whilst they still can), Three Drops from the Cauldron, Snakeskin, Obsessed with Pipework, The Linnet’s Wing, Blue Nib, Picaroon, Amaryllis, Algebra of Owls, Write to be Counted, The Lake, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Riggwelter with work coming up in Prole, Poetry Shed, The Curlew and Atrium. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in December 2017.

Monday, 21 May 2018

A poem by Jeremy Decker


Where does all the going go —
and does it ever went?
I’ve heard the gray men whisper snow —
and seen the red invent

new weather for the coming time —
in blue — in green — in yellow —
construct the dappled paradigm —
four walls where go can go.

And round the square the going goes —
to sniff at every corner —
til gray men hang her with a rose —
til red men try to mourn her —

“Where has all the going gone?”
That’s all I hear and see —
But dead men know what’s done is done —
The red — the gray — and me.

Jeremy Decker is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet from Mountain View, CA. His poetry has appeared in Old Red Kimono, The Road Not Taken, Stepping Stones Literary Magazine, and others.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A poem by Jean Taylor


The edge of the high street
after dark

orange shadows
stretch over concrete

the stink of beer-breath hangs
in the air          you are touched

by the otherness of strangers
the thin crush of their  bodies.

Hold your head gentle
simulate indifference.

Fuck fuck knuckles bark
against bus shelter

two drunk men now
trainers jeans hooded jackets

a drunk girl aggravating,
scraping at the edge of anger.

They grapple on the pavement
topple over the kerb, flailing

onto the edge of the high street
after dark.

Jean Taylor belongs to Words on Canvas – a group of writers who work in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland. Her poetry has been published in a range of publications including Orbis, Northwords Now, Freak Circus and Poetry Scotland. She writes poems to explore what she is thinking or feeling, to express outrage or sorrow, or just for the pleasure of playing with words.

Monday, 14 May 2018

A poem by Julie Sampson

Piano lesson

to Keep time
she struggles
to time Keep
her ticking piano
teacher says
you keep running with the quavers you
Must Not
rush your Bach
the crotchets
need a steady beat
keeping time, the pulse

is like a walking man along the regular street
beat beat Beat

Julie Sampson's poetry has recently appeared in a variety of magazines, including, Shearsman, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Journal, The Algebra of Owls, Molly Bloom, The Poetry Shed, The Lake, Poetry Space and Amethyst Review. Shearsman published her edition of Mary Lady Chudleigh; Selected Poems, in 2009 and her full collection, Tessitura, in 2014. A non-fiction manuscript on the subject of Devon Women Writers was short-listed for The Impress Prize, in 2015 and a pamphlet, It Was When It Was When It Was has recently been published by Dempsey and Windle.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

A poem by Maureen Cullen

Strawberry Tarts and Swan Vestas

Rickety smile under the Ramsay beak.
Eagle… hawk… chatterbox bird,

ma clerty, ma flower, they chanty-wrastlers.

Clink of dimpled glass in a horseshoe bar,
brass rim holds up the camaraderie of strangers.

Sulphur scratch of a match, putter puff of pipe in palm,
coppers pinched from pockets for a garrison of grandweans.

Cap on tight for an early start in Clydeside smirr, trousers
braced to breastbone, wide enough for two city bakers.

For my first Holy Communion, though priest and penance shy,
best spread in the hall. Chocolate boats, strawberries in sweet liquor.

Maureen Cullen writes poetry and short fiction. In 2016, she was published along with three other poets in Primers 1, a collaboration between Nine Arches Press and the Poetry School. She has poems published in Prole, The Lake, The Interpreter’s House, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Reach Poetry and Salopeot.

Monday, 7 May 2018

A poem by Wanda Deglane

They Tell You It Gets Easier

How do I ease your worried mind?

My father, he tells me I’m okay now.
He says, It’s been years. He says,
What more could you possibly get out
of these pills? Of endless therapy?

But my mother is persistent now. Every day
without fail, she asks me, Did you take
your medication?
When visiting family,
she says, She’s just been sick, that’s all.
She’s getting better.
And my aunts and
uncles ask, Oh, sick with what? My parents
glance at one another with tight, thin lips,
and take another drink.

How do I soothe your worry lines?

My father scours my room with
extinguished eyes. He finds clothes strewn
about the floor, my sleeping body littered
on my bed for the past few days now. How
do you live like this?
he screams, almost in pain.
Are you some kind of pig? Aren’t you ashamed?
And his poor pig daughter, I sit up, bleary-eyed,
confused and stare at him until he finally, finally
gives up on me.

How can I make everything alright again?
How do I stop you from looking at me
like I’m withering away, from searching for me
like I’m already dead?

My mother, she calls me one afternoon in
the middle of the week, and nearly chokes on her
own relief when I answer the phone. Oh, oh, gracias
a Dios, gracias a Dios, she cries. What is it, Mom?
What happened? Are you okay?
She’s sobbing
into the phone now, says, Nothing, hijita, everything is fine.
I just had a feeling, the worst feeling, I was so scared.
But everything is okay now.
I hang up minutes later,
and step back from the open window. My mother
wipes away her tears and wonders to herself
if it is finally time to stop hiding the kitchen knives.

She decides against it, locks them away yet another night.

Wanda Deglane is a psychology/family & human development student at Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming on Dodging the Rain, Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. She writes to survive. Wanda is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and lives with her giant family and beloved dog, Princess Leia, in Glendale, Arizona.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

A poem by Robert Nisbet


We read of them as boys, the Bunters, the Etonians,
the midnight feasts. We never really envied them.

Later there were many other bastions.
Wet socks slapped to the changing room floor,
the Clarbie Seconds’ football team, hot tubs
for dousing mud, then down to the Picton Inn.
A couple of grammar school masters’ staff rooms,
where the crustacean elderly and those, like me,
crabby before their time, sat be-gowned.

In a university hall at Clyne, I roomed with Dai,
and come eleven, twelve, my metaphysical poets
and Dai’s engineering were packed off for the evening.
We got to our beds, last fag, and the slow review
of days that played out the rhythms of a tango,
others measured like a professorial fugue.
We surveyed girls and pubs and gamesmanship.
Dai brought off-colour jokes from the Welsh Society,
then he was suddenly asleep. I lingered, wakeful,
for a while, as Clyne Castle, on a hill above a bay,
would strew night’s rain or a silvered moonlight
around my wondering head.

At ten and seven years old, I and my brother lay
in our bedroom in the well-named Merlin’s Crest.
I told each night a meandering fable (based,
I now suspect, on The Beano and Lord Snooty’s Pals)
of boys and games and trips and motorbikes.
A yarn, a thread, which ran for years.
A tale of mornings and the crests of hills.

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has been widely published in Britain and the USA, with occasional forays into Canada, Ireland, India and Mauritius. His short collection Robeson, Fitzgerald ad Other Heroes, has just appeared from Prolebooks.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A poem by Olivia Tuck

My 9:45 Has Borderline Personality Disorder

Why has this river cut me into an oxbow lake?

Help yourself to some tissues.

Why has the past grown talons?

The present should have a greater wingspan.

Why can’t I stop my sternum crumbling?

Make your exhalations longer than your inhalations.

Why am I a fat bramble: warped, ugly, hostile?

I just counted judgements as if they were beans.

Why has it been raining for nine days solid?

Depressions tend to come inland from the coast.

Why is the sky split across the middle?

I understand very little else about weather.

Why do you hate me?

Let’s play catch with these stones.

Why won’t God ever show Herself?

I have been telling you for an hour: I don’t know.

My 9:45 Has Borderline Personality Disorder was previously published in 'Please Hear What I'm Not Saying', a charity poetry anthology on the subject of mental health.

Olivia Tuck is twenty-one years old and lives in Wiltshire. Her writing has been published on Amaryllis, Lonesome October Lit and in Three Drops from a Cauldron, and is soon to have a poem included in Lighthouse. Her work (including this piece) also featured in Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, a charity poetry anthology on the subject of mental health. Olivia was thrilled to be a guest poet at the 2017 Swindon Poetry Festival. She is due to start at Bath Spa University in the autumn, to study for a BA in Creative Writing.

Monday, 30 April 2018

A poem by Sarah Law

We’re a man down, said the dentist

lowering herself carefully into my mouth:
you have some rough phrasing here, also
a couple of sighs stuck in the back molars.
I don’t mean to cause any pain, but the other day
I almost lost my daughters in Sports Direct,
anything pink and they vanish. I’ll polish
& then fill; could you pass a size three.

I practice minor scales on my knuckles, thinking
that at least to be prone is to be flat; when
my heart syncopates I try an Ave. Yesterday
I felt like a bird perched high above a crag
with no reason to doubt & plenty to fly.

Your tongue has some scalloping which fits exactly
to the cut of your jib, do you juggle? drink wine?
I’ll pack the caesurae with snow, it will last
until your next kiss. Is there anything bothering
your soul? Facial exercises do work wonders.
The dentists of past centuries had to be inventive
with anguish and brandy; you do wonder what’s
going on when they keep changing the recipe.

Sarah Law lives in London and is a tutor for the Open University and elsewhere. Her last collection was Ink's Wish (Gatehouse Press) and she has had recent work published in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Stride, Eunoia Review, Psaltery & Lyre, and Allegro. She edits the online journal Amethyst Review.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

A poem by Andy Stallings


One wishes to write a letter,
more than to receive one.
No one knows what formed
the grooves in the bark of the
Louisiana Live Oak, but then
again, no one’s asking. He
kept a catalogue of unwanted
things, discarded things,
forlorn spaces, dead things,
and attended to the rhythm
of the garbage trucks
spreading out from the
landfill into the city. The
sexuality of concrete, beneath
the police cruiser’s rotating
blue disc. Glamour was
elsewhere, a bundle of dried
leaves burning. I’m waiting
for the dusky lyric. Rhetorical
blind spot.

Andy Stallings lives in Deerfield, MA, where he teaches English at Deerfield Academy. His second collection with Rescue Press, “Paradise,” will come out in 2018. He has four young children, and coaches cross country running.

Monday, 23 April 2018

A poem by Jennie Farley


Mighty Imps, those little black devils.
We pass the tiny silver tin beneath
our desks as Miss Bradshaw strides
about, gown billowing, barking
numbers chalked on the blackboard.

When Miss Bradshaw’s back is turned
Susan sticks out a blue-black tongue.
My mouth’s on fire with the taste of sin.

We’ve all become flying angels, straw
boaters turned into haloes, gymslips
unfurled like wings. We are floating high
above roofs and hockey field and Chapel.
No one can reach us now.

JENNIE FARLEY is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has
featured in magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s
House, Prole and several anthologies. She has performed her work at Cheltenham
Literature Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Swindon Poetry Festival. Bristol Poetry
Revue, The Everyman Theatre, and various local venues. Jennie founded and runs
NewBohemians@CharltonKings providing regular events of poetry, performance and
music. Her collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams) was published in 2016.
Her new collection Hex (IDP) is due out 2018 .

Thursday, 19 April 2018

A poem by Hannah Linden

The Cape

Red is the colour of the weeping night – 
colour you can't see but can feel
on your tongue, feel it wrap itself
around your shoulders: all those nothings
wrapped into red somethings.

This poor child carries it as if it were a gift.
For all the longing in her eyes, I have no answers for her.
It is always luck. I can only sew wishes into stitches
and leave holes for her to find. These are my knots
and I tried to make them beautiful.

I am tired of knitting red at night. But what else
could I have done? She is a wolf-daughter
caught between forest and cottage. There
was never a path. There were only well-trodden
mistakes and seeds scattered to cover them up.

Based in Devon, Hannah Linden has been published online, in print magazine and anthologies. She was highly commended in the 2015 Prole Laureate Competition; and, with Gram Joel Davies, won the 2015 Cheltenham Poetry Festival Compound Poetry Competition. Over the last couple of years she has been putting together her first collection, Wolf Daughter, which explores the impact of parental suicide and this poem is part of that collection. Twitter:@hannahl1n

Monday, 16 April 2018

A poem by Paul McDonald

Three Oncologists

(After the painting by Ken Currie)

I stumble on the trio,
eerie masterminds of cancer,
performing in the space
where cells mutate,
proliferate like fungi in the night.
Each brings his own abnormal light,
spectral in the theatre of fear.

Surgeons called to arms,
they rise from the unconscious
like sprites trailing photons
through the dark.
They’ve been to work:
observe the bloodied gloves,
autoclaved utensils of dismemberment,

faces talced with doubt.
They hear my pulse beating
in the stalls, turn as one,
surprised by my spectatorship:
mortals shouldn’t witness such a show.
I stumbled on the trio,
now tremble as I watch them glow.

Paul McDonald is Course Leader for Creative Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. He is the author of several novels, critical books, and has poetry collections with Flarestack, Cinnamon Press, and Indigo Dreams Press. His poems and stories have won prizes and been shortlisted in numerous competitions including the Ottakars/Faber and Faber Poetry Competition, The John Clare Poetry Prize, The Sentinel Prize, Bedford International Writing Competition, the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize, and the Bridport Prize.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

A poem by Hannah Stone

Derek is typing a message

Derek is paid £9.78 an hour
to write polite messages to customers
who choose to use the chatbox.

Sandra wants to expedite her tax rebate.
She does not want to access the website
for a quick and speedy solution to her problem.
She despises tautology,
and the practise of using nouns as verbs,
and couldn’t give a flying fuck
about acquiring Government Gateway Credentials.

Derek is sweating alcohol,
downing Red Bull and Fanta.
While he waits for Sandra to finish composing her query,
Derek is typing a message
on whatsapp to last night’s date.

Sandra is gratified at the personal attention she receives.
On the feedback form she ticks ‘exceeded expectation.’
Derek is nominated for a ‘target-meeter of the week’ badge.
He does not get a second date.

Hannah Stone has two collections published, Lodestone (Stairwell Books, 2016) and Missing Miles (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2017), and has contributed to numerous anthologies and journals including Envoi, The North, Frogmore Papers, Snakeskin and Prole. She convenes the poets-composers forum for the Leeds Lieder Festival and co-edits the poetry e-zine Algebra of Owls. A Londoner by birth she has lived in Leeds for decades and in other lives is a hill-walker, OU tutor and forager.

Monday, 9 April 2018

A poem by Tristan Moss

Moel Hebog

I approach through bog
and grassy mounds,
from Beddgelert.

It’s a slow unrelenting slog:
the only way up
to look back

how far I've come.
Then on bare rock,
my feet find grip

and eventually
reach a plateaued top,
where a cairn breaks the blasts

so I can eat my pack-up,
watch bits of frozen grass
swirling in the air

and hear the only other person say
'this beats Christmas TV, any day'.

Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two young children. He has recently had poems published in Snakeskin, Lighten Up Online, Open Mouse, and Picaroon Poetry.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

A poem by Reuben Woolley

removals & other pantechnicons

i’ll leave this page

he said

elsewhere there is sky
& skin
  all clear

tell me
the hard stories
the steel rain
i don’t know

these wounded children
show him

a dust of tears / a yellow storm
i gather

  the walls
come rising
come falling
& flags don’t warm
this frozen ground

Reuben Woolley has been published in Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter's House and Ink Sweat and Tears among others. Published Books: the king is dead, 2014, Oneiros Books; dying notes, 2015, Erbacce Press; a short collection on the refugee crisis, skins, 2016, Hesterglock Press; broken stories, 2017, 20/20 Vision Media Publishing. Forthcoming, some time we are heroes, The Corrupt Press.  Runner-up: Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and the Erbacce Prize, both in 2015. Editor of the online poetry magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

Monday, 2 April 2018

A poem by Sonja Nelson

I Dreamed There Was a Fire on the Moon

I dreamed there was a fire on the moon.
And it hung glowing in the sky
like a jack-o-lantern’s crescent smile.
I could see it
and inside time was ticking,
ticking. I don’t have much time left.

I don’t have much time left;
the moon is your home,
and somehow I must save you
before the flames engulf,
before the smoldering surface melts
when the moon falls from the sky.

When the moon falls from the sky,
I would see it like a rip
tear across the fabric of my black-out curtains,
because even in my dreams
I hunker in a bomb shelter.
The world is not my home either,
but then neither is the moon.
The moon is a place people go when they die.

The moon is a place people go when they die
and you died
long ago now but
our spheres are only separated by outer space,
and in my dream I have a rocket.
I might not often brave the world down here
but for you I’ll brave the sky.

For you I’ll brave the sky,
this time
I’ll catch you before the moon burns.
Next I would take us to a planet where we both belong,
but we both know I’ll wake up
before we get there.
We both know I’ll wake up before we get there.

About Sonja - I live with my boyfriend in Oakland, California, and though I am currently disabled, I’m looking forward to soon being able to return to school, where I hope to continue studying clinical psychology and creative writing. I have enjoyed writing poetry since I was a child, and it has since remained a great passion of mine.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A poem revisited by Richard Skinner

Black Water Side

Your mind is a house full of people running through rooms
looking for keys. Doors slam, but far away,
so softly you’re not even sure you heard it. Turn
the door knob and step into the freezing landscape.
Notice the weeping willow bending over the beck.
The black water now runs red.

Your life is here, made up of minutes, hours, naps,
errands, routine. The little things have to be enough.
The valley is reduced to the side of a fell and cloud coming in.
The sheep are cragfast, the deer keep falling down.
You’ve nowhere else to go and you’re sure of it now—
this is the wrong mountain.

Black Water Side was first published on Amaryllis in December 2015 - it is taken from Richard's new pamphlet 'The Malvern Aviator'

Richard Skinner is a writer working across fiction, life writing, essays, non-fiction and poetry. He has published three novels with Faber & Faber and three books of non-fiction. His poetry has appeared in the Faber anthology First Pressings (1998) and in anthologies for William Blake, John Berger and Médicines Sans Frontières. He has published three books of poems with Smokestack: ‘the light user scheme’ (2013), ‘Terrace’ (2015) & ‘The Malvern Aviator’ (2018). Richard is Director of the Fiction Programme at Faber Academy.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

A poem by Peter Daniels

Self-Portrait with Quiche

With my face in the mirror at the back of the shiny cabinet
full of quiches, you can see me inside the street reflections
that have almost fallen apart as they catch the shelves,
the glass front, and the mirrored side along the shop window
which is pulling the view of the High Street backwards:

more cubist than simple paired infinity mirrors. The straight
street the Romans built has been shattered to these facets,
and a quiche has embedded itself under my chin, like
an Elizabethan ruff. Quiche was significant when the menus
exploded and Real Men Didn’t Eat Quiche (though they did)

but the menus have exploded far beyond that and now I’m
reflected eating my avocado on sourdough toast like a hipster,
– I test how they do it in all the cafés along the High Street,
some of them already closed down and new ones opened
since the avocado started its reign of smooth satisfaction.

Quiche isn’t my dish, now I keep off both egg and cheese,
though I could be once more tempted by a true quiche lorraine,
continental Europe’s egg-and-bacon pie: one sunny day between
Baden-Baden and Luxembourg I treated myself in a Strasbourg café
out of a cabinet reflecting the backwaters of the Rhine.

Now we’re becoming stranded from the shores of Europe
over our Channel, that once was the lower Rhine valley before
the sea rose and Doggerland sank, and David Cameron, splashing
around like a would-be Etonian Triton, troubled the waters with
the last ripple of the inundation of where we were once joined up.

And now this cabinet of quiche stands as my place of reflection:
do I belong with the bold quiche-eaters or with the suave
avocado mashers? Is that a choice? Do I have to eat it? There’s
Theresa May striding around in her heels like a vicarage Boadicea.
Someone should give her a quiche in the face. Maybe me.

Peter Daniels published his second collection, A Season in Eden, with Gatehouse
Press in 2016. His first collection Counting Eggs was with Mulfran Press in
2012, and he has had pamphlets from HappenStance, Vennel Press, and
Smith/Doorstop (as twice a winner of the Poetry Business competition). He has
also won the Arvon, Ledbury, TLS and Ver poetry competitions. His translations
of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian (Angel Classics, 2013) were shortlisted
for several awards, and as Queer Writer in Residence at London Metropolitan
Archives he wrote the obscene Ballad of Captain Rigby (Personal Pronoun, 2013).

Monday, 26 March 2018

A poem by Ali Jones

Spider plant

She pots it furtively, five minutes before you leave,
presses your hand with afterthoughts, a little bit of green.
The engine calling, she wipes her nose on her sleeve,
turns back to the house and the spaces where you’ve been.

It journeys with you, hall to house to home,
a presence to hold feathers, and fragrant joss sticks.
Surviving in high windows, caprice keeps it alone,
a guardian of parties, studies , the ones that stick.

Yearly, pot changed and plate polished, it stands,
you eye its roots, wonder why it hasn’t died.
Green tendrils, spreading, ever hopefully, reaching,
where you are, she can always touch you, you cannot hide.

And you wonder if one day you’ll hand it on,
press cuttings into their hands as they are gone.

Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Green Parent magazine and The Guardian. Her pamphlets Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Press in 2018.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

A poem by Kevin Reid


and pre-heated,
I was the kink
that had to get out the kitchen.

Hand on the back
of my tired neck, nodding,
always nodding. Yes. Yes. YES…

…the en-suite was to fuck for.
Everyday I showered
with a different goose.

They all came with a voice,
hard, soft, like back home.
I'm not one for saying ‘No'.

Kevin Reid lives between Scotland and other lands. He is the founding creator of the online multimedia collaborations >erasure and >erasure ii and Wordless, an image and text collaboration with George Szirtes published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. He’s also the editor of Nutshells and Nuggets, a blogzine for short poems. His work can be read in various journals such as, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Under The Radar, Seagate III, Scotia Extremis, Domestic Cherry, And Other Poems. A mini pamphlet Burdlife (Tapsalteerie) was published in 2017.

Twitter: @eyeosphere

Monday, 19 March 2018

A poem by Sonja Besford


i drink wine in a dank bar on the bank of a brown river
i drum on the table with my left thumb
five beats in a bar simultaneously (that’s what i hear)
thinking about a woman who doesn’t belong
to anyone, anywhere, perhaps doesn’t even exist
it’s not relevant, no, it is relevant, so-o-o relevant,
i pray no one will find me in this hell-hole
intent on confessing his real or imaginary sins,
demanding my understanding,
my pauses and grunts taken for wisdom;
that is why i’ve come down here to the wrong river-bank
so i might become invisible, saturated with the smells
of fish soup, vinegar and the live infection sitting
at the table opposite, her face lit by a cigarette;

on the stained table cloth i project that woman who doesn’t
know that she exists, who doesn’t belong to anyone but me,
i see eleven ways of our skins meeting,
a free entwining of ghosts, subsiding shyness, togetherness,
i am a thread on her supple spool, bewitched executor of her
flights, she is the map-maker, the key holder to all my locks,
the opener of my unyielding secrets and the stories i’ve had
no one to tell, not until i imagined her listening to me —
i inhale the kitchen stink, feel real and possible, even cheerful,
but someone opens the front door and the inward draught
brings familiar voices, anxious, hungry, eager to find
my listening presence and reinstate my void

Sonja Besford was born in Belgrade (Serbia). She now lives in London and has thirteen books published. Her work has appeared in many magazines, and has been translated into various languages.
She is president of the Association of Serbian Writers and Artists Abroad (ASWA).

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A poem by Marg Roberts

Role reversal

or what I wish had happened when dad nearly missed the train to visit Grandma…

Wouldn’t it have been grand, Mum
if it had been you, in your fawn coat
hat like a squashed cushion
who had jumped, at the very last minute
into the carriage to join us
five tickets waved aloft

wouldn’t it have been fair
if, just once, Dad had nursed
my baby sister on his lap
her snot dribbling down his jacket
his stomach clenched from waiting
his hand swotting my other sister
he had picked and wrapped in newspaper for Grandma
while I chanted, she’s gonna’ miss it
miss, miss, miss it
and the engine chuffed steam
clouding the platform and his mood

and what if
instead of you muffling the thought:
how unreasonable of you, my husband
to leave the house ten minutes after
his family, so having struggled with the baby
a toddler and a little girl uphill
to the railway station, Mum,
you’d let him have it
full on

if it had been you who pulled the communication cord
because the guard, an old man
was left standing on the platform
and when he leapt into our carriage
with his flag
it had been you, he’d thanked and shaken by the hand

wouldn’t that have been grand?

Biography: I am a poet and fiction writer. My poetry has been published in magazines (Orbis, Reach, Cannon’s Mouth) and on-line (Ink sweat and tears, Algebra of Owls). My first novel was published by Cinnamon Press in October 2016. I have an MA in creative writing. I love reading and writing. My website:

Monday, 12 March 2018

A poem by Deborah Alma

That Summer of Rats

they came, four or five big ones
their tails overlapped,
slipped around the chicken feeder
outside the window where we sat

one in each of our mustard yellow chairs
his and hers, yours with its straight back
and mine with the fluffy red rug
and you raised an eyebrow

and laid out the poison
and we watched as the babies took it first,
with our own satisfaction
at the sweetness of the trap.

Deborah Alma is a UK poet, with an MA in Creative Writing, taught Writing Poetry at Worcester University and works with people with dementia and in hospice care. She is also Emergency Poet prescribing poetry from her vintage ambulance.

She is editor of Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology, The Everyday Poet- Poems to live by (both Michael O’Mara), and her True Tales of the Countryside is published by The Emma Press. She is the editor of #Me Too – rallying against sexual assault & harassment- a women’s poetry anthology (Fair Acre Press, March 2018). Her first full collection Dirty Laundry is published by Nine Arches Press (May 2018). She lives with her partner the poet James Sheard on a hillside in Powys, Wales. website is:

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A poem by Steve Xerri

poem : machine

after William Carlos Williams

a glimpse of the welling and unfurling
of what we cannot then have known
it would come to mean / once the days
had notched on a bit and you gamely
took up the pen in spite of misgivings /
to set down facts no-one else in the room
would assent to / swearing so help them
there was no frame to the picture
only some strips of masking tape
holding its corners / no single rose
dropping petals from a long-necked vase /
but a jamjar with some marguerites
shoved in / the scene a painter might
have called interior with painting
and flowers / this wrenching moment
complete with actualité

when you said / what you said / but this
does not make it real or about love

Steve Xerri has been a teacher, musician, illustrator and web designer but now prefers writing poetry and making pottery. Published recently in Acumen, Clear Poetry, Stride Magazine, Brittle Star and The Interpreter's House, won the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017 competition. Poems forthcoming in The Poetry Shed, Ink Sweat & Tears and Envoi.

Monday, 5 March 2018

A poem by Roddy Williams


I think I would like to die in July
but not this year, not just yet, not so soon.
July is a pause at the apex of joy
before the swandive to Morrissey world.
So if I must die I’ll die in July
while the sky’s filled with rolling Simpsons clouds
and trees on heat are Mexican-waving;

when the air is treacly and dormant,
not keen to move itself out of the way
and light is sluggish, clinging to the
undersides of leaves slipping downhill at
dusk to sleep as day dissolves into night
sticky with promises of a naked moon
perhaps, to dance me through the last few days.

Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams lives and works in London. His poetry has appeared in 'Smiths Knoll'. 'Magma', 'The North', 'The Frogmore Papers', 'The Rialto', 'Envoi' and other magazines. He is a keen surrealist photographer, printmaker and painter.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A poem by Michael Dwayne Smith


I do experience loss, a sense of one’s own illness,
and I don’t like idle talk or being judged. Probably

I’ve visited her twenty times. I didn’t want to be
invisible in California, or sadly surprised, so she

taught me a different way of working, challenged
play to become something more. Look, this is just

fucking madness here, Ted Kaczynski not a disease
but a symptom and all they do is blame Islam now

because Scientology, Marilyn, and Rock ’n Roll ain’t
workin’ anymore. You only need to take a cab in L.A.

to understand the many intersections here, straight
white men trying to steer through HIV, assault rifles,

Tijuana, Big Pharma, Black America, Hollywood
playgrounds, Playboy sans nudity, Red Lobster,

bankruptcy, hecklers, open questions about Queer.
I’m here, lodged between the Airport Hilton and

homemade fear, and she’s driving down to save me.
I’ve given her nothing, deserve nothing. Imagine

dragging yourself, she said on the phone last night,
So then you’d get to decide where to be pulled…

pre-9/11 simplicity, pre-Katrina NOLA, anytime
anywhere pre-Internet…

I said no, none of those. Maybe something in a new
comic book hero, with a noir passion for isolation,

a future-sick sense of here, now, of one’s own loss.

Michael Dwayne Smith lives near a Mojave Desert ghost town with his family and rescued animals. His most recent book is Roadside Epiphanies (Cholla Needles Press, 2017). Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, recipient of both the Hinderaker Award for poetry and Polonsky Prize for fiction, his work haunts many literary houses--including The Cortland Review, New World Writing, Skidrow Penthouse, Word Riot, Heron Tree, Pirene's Fountain, Gravel, San Pedro River Review, Monkeybicycle, burntdistrict--and has been widely anthologized. When not writing or teaching, MDS is editor of Mojave River Press & Review.

Monday, 26 February 2018

A poem by Claire Walker

Red Plans her Escape

An axe fells the forest a little more each day.
She knows the sadness of this:
The branches that will miss facing sky;
leaves cut down before they have a chance to fall.

And yet there is the thrill of dark
fear that blazes through her.
Every sawn trunk is a notch on an escape plan,
each new stump a hop-scotch pad to freedom.

Yes, she knows the sadness:
That wood will be planed from natural shape,
made to hold the weight of a roof.
But for now there is space – all this space –
to feel the sun and test new paths.

Claire Walker's poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and webzines including The Interpreter's House, Prole, Ink Sweat and Tears, Amaryllis, Clear Poetry, The Poetry Shed, and The Chronicles of Eve. She is a Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry webzine. She has two pamphlets published by V. Press - The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile (2015), and Somewhere Between Rose and Black (2017).

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A poem by Kitty Coles


These trees have eyes deep in their green trunks:
we feel them creeping on our skin, lifting
the fine hairs on our arms, making
our scalps shift. We are silent under them.

There are no paths. We walk and push aside
thin whip-like branches that spring back
in our wake, creepers that hang and move
like hanks of hair. There are holes

in the trunks, odd gaps that gape and o,
filmed thick with webs, stuffed with a muttering
of leaves becoming mulch, a stink of rot.
An apple rests in one, shiny and clean

and green and startling in its virulence.
The birds that scuffle in the canopy,
run in the undergrowth, won’t pierce its flesh.
It burns, a jewel in the tree’s dark throat,

and the bark sloughs itself in sunburnt strips
that drift, translucent scales, through hazy air.
The old roots break the earth, impede
our progress. We falter under

the arch of this cathedral, which lifts
its arms to the sun and shadows our way
so we receive light sieved and secondhand,
only that apple bright for miles ahead.

Kitty Coles lives in Surrey with her husband and works as a senior adviser for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. 'Seal Wife' her first pamphlet was published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams.

Monday, 19 February 2018

A poem by Emma Jenkins

Do You Stock it in Any Other Colour?

you are either sick or,
you’re not.
You’re either better or,
you’re not.’

So, depression is a newspaper.
It could also be a zebra.
Grazing, nibbling, running,
fast from
invisible lions.
It’s a blob of ink on a pristine


But it isn’t black and white.
It’s not even grey,
is it.


It’s a purplish wine stain
on a white work shirt.

It’s the mottled patchiness
of old skin.

It’s my paint brush water in
a small glass jar.

Regret, shame,
creation, pain.

Is that a colour or a shade?

Can I buy it in a tube?
Can I wash my canvas in it?

What if I go to Homebase?
And scan the home décor aisle,
could I find it in a drum?

I wonder what the name on the label would be.

‘Eggshell despair’
Subtle, cold overtones of,
Overtones of fear of
dying alone.
Hues of
‘I’ll be fine’

I’ll dip my brush in
that bucket.
Slather my walls in it, with
a sodden roller.

I’ll bathe in it.
I’ll drink it.

It’s so very becoming.

Emma, originally from London, currently lives and writes in a sleepy village nestled in the hills of Kent where she was fortunate enough to work alongside fantastic poets during her degree in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent. Since graduating, she has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live and work in Japan, teaching children English through creative writing and poetry, while also learning about the art form of the Japanese haiku. Emma is hoping to begin a MA in creative writing in 2018.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

A poem by Marissa Glover

Truth We Cannot Tell 

Before they burn down our house
our bodies singed, the beds black dust

before they drag us 3.8 miles
behind a pickup truck down gravel road

before they tie us to a barbed wire fence,
beat us with baseball bats and a cattle prod

before they anoint us with honey
and plant us in the ground for ants

before they hang us from the southern
magnolia—wind chimes, a warning to others

they will break into our throat and rip out
the words too close to the tongue.

Marissa Glover teaches and writes in Florida. She shares her thoughts more than necessary, which she considers a form of charitable giving. If it counted as a tax deduction, she'd be rich. Her work has appeared in various places including Gyroscope Review and Solstice Sounds and on her parents' refrigerator.

Monday, 12 February 2018

A poem by Louise Wilford

Love me like a wake

Love me like a wake:
the sweetheart’s eulogy, the fizz of beer
across the tongue. Revere my form,
laid out on the bier of your gaze,
twenty summers gone, as I was
when I wish you’d known me.

Cheer me to a new heaven,
elsewhere on this mindless ball;
spin me out a new thread
as I fall.

               Love me like a feast,
mouth greased and juices rising, ready
for more than the dessicated core
thrown, thoughtless, to the floor.

Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 50 poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshots, Pushing Out The Boat and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children's fantasy novel.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A poem by Tina Edwards


The capitalisation of words hang
within a frame  like a rhetoric painting
on the gallery’s closed doors

people push past without a glance
even the polite please is not noticed
hold glossy foolscaps  stroke glass stems

a tall red haired woman wears McQueen
her tendrilly hair a nod to Guinevere
in black leather boots   minus her ride

stands back from the huddle  stares hard
at canvases hung on exposed brickwork
responds with a mix of facial contortions

bites of salmon  beluga  grace mother of pearl
mingle with Dior   absent linen napkins
a subtle reminder not to touch

before the night’s over and lights dim
Prosecco fuelled limbs stagger
hands reach out to walls for support

Tina Edwards lives in the rural and coastal county of North Somerset. A keen walker and keeper of ducks she is a new Poet recently published in Reach Poetry, Visual Verse, Clear Poetry and Poetry Super Highway (USA) amongst others. Her first collection of ekphrastic poems was recently long-listed for the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet prize 2017.

Monday, 5 February 2018

A poem by Susan Richardson


You hid a diamond in an old jar of
vitamin E, a glimmering secret that
you showed me only once a year.
You said it was valuable, payment
from a client who was suspiciously
low on cash and lacking in character.
As the years passed, it took on the
distinct scent of fish oil, slick across
edges that cut grooves into the moon
and sparkled against the tips of fingers.
It was supposed to be a legacy, passed
to me on the bitter tongue of death, but
I sold it to pay my rent and buy booze.
The diamond was polished and displayed
under glass, in a case filled with guilt
and heirlooms from other dead mothers.
I hope it still smells like the vitamin jar,
and that you forgive me for letting it go.

Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry and short-fiction, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”. Her work has most recently been published in, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal and Literary Juice. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize.