Monday, 21 January 2019

A Poem by Susan Elliott

El Hotel Fantasma

Our guide said they were making condos
out of the closed-down hotel, overgrown
with dried beach grass, shadowy white
columns flanking the vacant lobby.
Maybe a golf course nearby. A virgin beach,
he called it. Honeymooners in our group waded
into shallow water, took photos of themselves
with outstretched arms. I sat at the abandoned
beachside bar on a stool risen from the sand, shards
of iridescent shell, sharp coral making the bar front.
Behind the counter, stainless steel mixers were silent,
clean. I wished for a piña colada and remembered
that pineapple juice hurts my stomach.
I wished for a cuba libre instead and wiped
the dirt from my eyes. I wanted to relax,
like a newlywed should, carefree and waxed
clean for the week. I held my disposable camera
too tight, thinking of the warnings of our guide,
that local children might pilfer our buggies and steal
our sunglasses and money so quickly and silently
that we wouldn’t notice until they’d slinked away
behind a palm tree. Like phantoms, I thought.
I checked my finger again for my
wedding band and it was still there.

Susan Elliott is the author of the chapbook The Singing is My Favorite Part (Etched Press, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in the Best American Poetry blog, Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and Broad River Review, among others. Susan received her PhD in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she won the Joan Johnson Award for Poetry in 2014.   

Thursday, 17 January 2019

A Poem by Sarah Lao

Crossing Fields

We left with June still undressing in my mouth
like a wound, ripe as a
summer plum in harvest, exit
sharper than the limit of a switchblade.
School’s out, and there’s nothing
I want more than
      to forget.
Sure we’re driving through the countryside,
your hand stitched to mine, the pedal of the red
Cadillac rasping over the wind.
Look at the fields. You said.
And I
looked. It was nothing special—a
typical prairie ecosystem.
Coyote feeding on jackrabbit feeding
on grass feeding on sun.
Copied straight from Barron’s Biology.
But you shook your head. Look closer.
So maybe
you wanted to point out the clean
pair of sneakers left on the roadside. Give me
the chance to pick up some free knockoffs.
Still we already passed it and—
No. You said. Easing off
the pedal and unlocking the doors.
Touch the ground. What is it made of?
It was dusty, of course and hard to
breathe outside. The sun was out,
but I couldn’t     see anything.
everything was black.
There was a fire. I said. And
the fields burned.
Yes. You said.
But look again. What’s left?
A hint of green, scattered in the
dark, the first shoots of grass.

In September, we came home.

Sarah Lao is a sophomore at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. She currently edits for Evolutions Magazine and reads for Polyphony Lit, and her work has been published or is forthcoming in Sooth Swarm Journal, Eunoia Review, and the Inflectionist Review. 

Monday, 14 January 2019

A Poem by Katarina Boudreaux

Revelation Sings Sweetly

There are friends,
and then there
are friends who
will sing while feeding 
your baby sweet potatoes
with a neon spoon
cross legged on
a dirty, uneven floor
in a kitchen full of flies
while you stem the tide
of disaster with scrap
wood and old glue.

Katarina Boudreaux is a New Orleans author, musician, dancer, and teacher. Her first novel “Platform Dwellers” is available from Owl Hollow Press. She has two collections of poetry -- “Alexithymia” from Finishing Line Press and “Anatomy Lessons” from Flutter Press.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

A Poem by Holly Magill

The Bobblers are Coming

Initial sightings coincide with the first frost – spotted
on seafront dog-walkers, cyclists muffled against the raw.

An old woman at the front of the bus, shrunken head
nodding under one bigger than a snoozing Bagpuss.

Then suddenly they’re everywhere – a woollen pandemic,
spread from high-end boutiques and market stalls alike;

indiscriminate to age, race, gender, faith –
from old boys in the bookies to girls in Gap puffers.

In the corner shop, at the school-gates,
at the urinals in Wetherspoons.

Some say they shouldn’t be part of society –
the rise of the hoodie all over again.

Under her tasselled standard lamp, your Nan clicks
patient needles over Coronation Street.

Soon you could be joining the ranks.

Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House and Bare Fiction, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She co-edits Atrium – Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing:

Monday, 7 January 2019

A Poem by Maurice Devitt

A False Dawn

You open the curtains when the day
is still half asleep, the eye
of a bleary sun just clearing the horizon
and the trees, so verdant in your dreams,
all dressed in black.
The street begins to well up with colour,
remembers precisely how it was left
last night, while taking care
to add an extra scratch to the paintwork
of the car outside number twelve,
knowing that it will never
have to explain how it got there.  

Winner of the 2015 Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition, he has been runner-up or shortlisted in Listowel, Cuirt, Patrick Kavanagh, Interpreter’s House and Cork Literary Review. A poet of international breadth, he has had poems published in the UK, US, India, Romania, Australia and Mexico, and has also been a featured poet at the Berryman Conference in Minneapolis and the Poets in Transylvania Festival.  He is the curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site, a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group and has just published his debut poetry collection, ‘Growing Up in Colour’, with Doire Press.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

A Poem by Sharon Phillips

* The following poem deals with the subject of miscarriages. *


She scrolls
screen after screen,
checks her body 

time and again for signs
this baby will be safer
than her last,

the scan’s moonscape 
by an empty sac.

to be done
to stop that loss,
little to prevent another, 

but she scrolls
through the screens
and performs her ritual.

Nausea. Sore breasts. 
No bleeding yet.
All's well.
Sharon is retired and lives on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset. Recent publication credits include Ink, Sweat and Tears, Algebra of Owls, The High Window and Snakeskin; poems are forthcoming in Eye Flash and Bonnie’s Crew.

Monday, 31 December 2018

A Poem by Jack Warren


When the river burst its banks
swallowed the cycling path,
and bloomed like a grey peony
into the dual-carriageway,
it raised his expectations of what
the elemental could accomplish.
He saw hawthorn hedges submerged;
the masonry of bridges falling
away like wet pastry and a navy
Honda-civic with it's interior
bloated from the flood. He began
to imagine a deluge. Water filling
the pubs and churches, pouring
into the stadiums and schools,
roads becoming tributaries, cities
becoming lakes and the whole
of his life straining and creaking
with the terrifying weight of it.
How wonderful to be so close
to drowning he thought, trusting
instead in buoyancy; reaching out
into the depths and choosing
simply to hold ones breath. 

Jack Warren is a British poet and long distance walker from Somerset. His work has appeared in Corrugated Wave, The Anomaly Literary Journal and he was recently selected as one of the 'Fifty Best New British and Irish Poets 2018' by Eyewear Publishing. In 2015 he completed a 224 mile hike following the River Severn from sea to source and in 2017 he completed sections of the 1056 mile Via Francigena Pilgrim route from Rome to London. He currently lives in Moscow.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

A poem by Susan Castillo Street

Old Rocker 

He sits in front of a blue piano,
ancient rhino in the cross hairs,
blinking in the spotlights.

He leans forward, touches keys,
eases into surfin’ safaris,
dreams of golden California girls.

Melancholy swirls around him
rising like blue smoke.
God he’s ancient I think. Time to go to bed.

I turn off the telly, head upstairs,
glance in the mirror,
grimace when I see

a strange old woman
glaring back at me.

Susan Castillo Street has published three collections of poems, The Candlewoman's Trade(2003), Abiding Chemistry, (2015), The Gun-Runner’s Daughter (2018) and a pamphlet, Constellations(2016). Her poetry has appeared in Southern Quarterly,Prole, The High Window, Ink Sweat & Tears, Messages in a Bottle, The Missing Slate, Clear Poetry, Prole,Three Drops from a Cauldron, Foliate Oak, The Lake, Algebra of Owls,The Yellow Chair Review, Poetry Shed,and other journals and anthologies. Her poem ‘Bird of God’ recently won first prize in the 2018 Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Competition.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

A poem by Paul Waring

Of All The Things

imagine me, Elvis
larger than life in Memphis
twitching lip and hips, hound
dog in shades on a Harley

or me on a mountain
high enough to see Marvin
and a constellation of stars
called Stevie, Diana and Aretha

and me moonwalking
like Michael back to Neverland
at the news Prince is alive
again at Paisley Park

and of all the things

imagine the day John Lennon
died. Eleanor Rigby and all
the lonely people on Penny Lane
in the pouring rain

it’s easy if you try.

Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in Liverpool bands. He is a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee whose poems have been published in Amaryllis, Prole, High Window, Atrium, Algebra of Owls, Domestic Cherry, Clear Poetry, Ofi Press, Marble Poetry, The Lampeter Review and others.

Monday, 17 December 2018

A poem by Skye Anicca

News On Your Birthday While Respirator Instructs Lungs, April, 2008


Canadian Red Beetles Devour Forests

first green then grey then red the voice said
it’s insects that matter of factly exhibit clues
the earth is softening, the seasons melting its edges
and there is no equation for which came first
just that there are beetles making matchsticks from forests
without time or flesh
there is no evolution no crisis
only this relentless crackling of branches this shell shedding
methodical munching
these red crawling tides


Balloon Flying Priest Lost

believers now require sacred carnivals
blessed ticket takers
and the damned— well, they seek a heavenly strike
solemn miracles and smoting
instead I choose laughter
and six hundred helium yellow blue balloons
above the pacific storm
a little bad weather
a touch of God


Impoverished Renegades Steal Cobalt

prices rise with the value of loosely bagged earth
fall when false claims of false cheating
float gracefully above calloused palms and sweat
miners night-pick cobalt while middle
men color houses with minerals
and mine bosses buy back what was carefully lifted
a five dollar bill for an airplane, a dishwasher, porcelain a brilliant blue
sediment hue dug from artistic trenches
strange-tinged, thieving lands


Father of LSD Dead at 102

medical memory’s problem child
a stop-heart human guinea pig
sight like a “warped mirror,” he said
while he was searching for fungus
to cure some unnamed disease
a ”horror show” of displaced movement
and time he said,
self-discovery, enlightenment, drug sprees, window jumping
though he mounted the mind lubricant defense:
“open your eyes”

Skye Anicca is the recipient of a Dana Award in short fiction and grants from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and from the Vermont Studio Center. Her writing has appeared in Santa Monica Review, Alligator Juniper, Puerto del Sol, and Passages North.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

A poem by Thomas Tyrrell


Now we are to begin a History full of surprizing Turns and Adventures; I mean, that of Mary Read and Anne Bonny; the odd Incidents of their rambling Lives are such, that some may be tempted to think the whole Story no better than a Novel or Romance…
—Daniel Defoe, General History of the Most Notorious Pirates

Ah, Mr. Author, our lives
were no mere amatorious novel,
unlike your Roxanas, Clarindas
and such drabs of the bookseller’s stall.

I was pirate and woman and all,
and I sailed with and slept with Jack Rackham,
who, if he had fought like a man,
need not have been hanged like a dog.

And still a warm glassful of grog
or a lungful of salt air recalls those
fiery kisses from Jack and from Mary
and the tang of hot blood on the deck.

We left many brave warships a wreck,
many argosies spoiled of their cargo.
We were pardoned by Governor Rogers
but returned to our old course the same.

Beyond law, beyond guilt, beyond shame,
slipped free of the cables of duty,
we sailed by the wind and the starlight
and lived by the codes that we chose.

When the pirate-hunters, our foes,
found us moored off the coast of Jamaica,
the men fled below, drunk and fearful.
Only Mary and I stayed to fight,

and our cutlasses gleamed and flashed bright,
and our pistols roared out like the thunder.
We fought, back to back, for our freedom,
with our teeth and our nails and our knives.

I’m the only one now that survives.
The Revenge’s crew went to the gallows;
Mary’s dead in the jail of a fever;
I’m left with the memories alone,

the proud sins that I’ll never atone
for, adventures not found in the pages
of your idle romances and novels
poured upon by the leisured and bored

where the heroines find their reward
in making a dazzling marriage
to a cultured and virtuous husband
as their dainty and dutiful wives.

Thomas Tyrrell has a PhD in English Literature from Cardiff University. He is a two-time winner of the Terry Hetherington poetry award, and his writing has appeared in Spectral Realms, Wales Arts Review, Picaroon, Lonesome October, Three Drops From A Cauldron and Words for the Wild.

Monday, 10 December 2018

A poem by Liv Chapman

What To Expect

Over there
A black hand just out of reach, behind the curtain
Our daughter insisting it’s a monster
You, insisting it’s a shadow of the jasmine
That creeps lovingly around the door
I’m insisting...who knows?
A pitch for ambiguity.
A love of disquiet.

True, it looks like jasmine
But see how wiry, and suspect
It is, how it moves to and fro
(Blown about by
The wind, you tut)
Unsure of what it is, or where to go.

My daughter curls up in bed
Satisfied with your response
Perturbed by mine
Her body a knot, casually tied.
It’s important to know things at five you, the book,
Says. The difference between what is real, what is dead
What is fake, what’s alive.
You can’t go around making things up about
Shadows being real.
Do you want her to have nightmares?
Do you want her to expect the worst?

Of course not, I say. I just want to make a
Pitch for ambiguity.
The love of disquiet.
Stories with no ending, no beginning, no
Meaning that is taught, only felt,
The way a Shakespeare sonnet skirts
Thinking to ring deep down in the bones
Where nothing and everything hurts.

About Liv Chapman
I live in the U.S now but am originally from York, U.K. I earned my PhD in Art History there, and moved to the U.S. to get married. I now have a beautiful daughter, Arrietty, to whom ALL my poems are dedicated! Until recently I was a school administrator (having been an English teacher for some years) but I'm currently on disability due to chronic pain. Despite the pain, I still love warm fall mornings, coffee, reading, and writing, writing, writing.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

A poem by Jasmine Blackney


Grant me a grade
of blue light in the dark;
A torch that will lead
the leeches out and into
that black hole lake.

If you must, sell me the
Diamonds, fake and bright,
the white nothings,
the ideas, and leave
my hands empty of hers.

Tell me to choose,
Turtles or doves,
Sundays or silk ties.
Tell me to find
the exit –

I am blind in this maze.

Ask me for answers,
while I hunt for the questions.
Clouds behind eyes
Stars blinking
Heart wide.

Suit me up
In black
Sit me in a cube
A moving window
Pulsing, clicking.

Show me the meaning
Of a life
In the concrete.
I would rather
A lantern made of moons. 

Jasmine Blackney studied a Creative Arts Degree with Honours and is currently taking time to travel, read, blog, write poetry and finish her second novel. She has never been published before.

Monday, 3 December 2018

A poem by Clair Chilvers


is the colour of my psyche
of the all-year-round dark mornings
of tears
of Requiem masses - Requiem Aeternam-
Et Lux Perpetua-
of warnings of the abyss ahead
with no bridge
of the folded mourning clothes kept
in the tall dark chest
of the dread of loneliness on Sunday evenings
until one day
the cat with yellow eyes
may cross my path.

Clair started writing poetry at the age of 70 after she retired from the NHS. She lives in Gloucestershire and was inspired by the work of UA Fanthorpe who was Head of English at her secondary school. She is the author of Pilgrimage - a collection of poems written following a visit to Palestine. Her work has been described as ' powerful and moving' by Anna Saunders founder of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

A poem by Charlie Hill

In the city

There is an eerie wind
blowing glassy-eyed drops of rain
over a boy growing out of the pavement,
a girl sharing Nietzsche with a pigeon.

There’s nothing unusual about storms in September,
but the air is humid, and my neck is sweaty,
and it has been Autumn for a while now
– the leaves died in June; I also can’t help but feel
that the deep and shallow-buried roots of the city
are coming up through the concrete,
and like something elemental,
breaking it apart.

Charlie Hill's poems have previously appeared in Under the Radar, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Prole, amongst other publications.

Monday, 26 November 2018

A poem by Erin Wilson

When I Hold You Red Bursts Through the Eye 

Something about holding one another
and all of the years of shepherding the summer born tomatoes.

And maybe the lamb finally coming together with them
cooking lovely and steaming, slowly brewing on the stovetop.

All of the blistering days before in the winters tending to the animals.
And then the one windy day when they were cudgelled.

Something about holding one another
through all the warming of the capillerous reds rising
and all of the brutalities befalling like hunks of coal.

Something about the holding and the steeping.
Something about time.

Erin Wilson has contributed poems to West Texas Literary Review, San Pedro River Review, New Madrid and Minola Review, with work forthcoming from Split Rock Review, The American Journal of Poetry. She lives and writes in a small town in northern Ontario.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

A poem by Cathryn Shea


She was born with a bad gene.
Penury they call it. Lack.
Passed through the blood,
indigence hidden in her DNA.
The mutation she couldn’t escape.

She belonged to one of those
defective family trees, a loser
in a fitter family contest.
She wasn’t a blue-ribbon baby
like a prize calf or grand pumpkin.
More like a bumpkin
that would devolve the species.

This knack for being poor
snuck through the gauntlet of heredity.
The state tried hard to keep her mother
from breeding. Before
they tied her tubes.

So here she is today, torn
from an expectant history.
She wears ripped jeans,
has no means.
Her brain may not be
bad. She learns
a new word

every day. Every day
a new word,
like riven.

Cathryn Shea is the author of four chapbooks, including “It’s Raining Lullabies” (dancing girl press, 2017). “The Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree” is forthcoming from dancing girl press in 2019. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and recently appears in Tar River Poetry, Gargoyle, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. See and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Monday, 19 November 2018

A poem by S.A. Leavesley

Aerial Landscapes

[Zoom in on the domestic setting, then shoot
the view through the kitchen window.]

Not one but two radio masts jab
at rain clouds, thunder, sunshine…

Too thin to own a shadow, these sticks
stake the roads and fields of home,

yet force Ilsa to look up to the sky,
shape-shifting all she knows below.

Standing at the kitchen sink, hands deep
in bubbles, she glances at her husband.

[After a slow close-up on Ilsa’s blue eyes, follow
her gaze, not his, in pace with her dreaming.]

In the window’s soft morning light,
his silhouette is hunched deep in thought.

Twenty years together, at far ends
of one space, not a word spoken today,

though they mirror silent stances.
Their love so different, yet so similar,

to the masts’ unbending metal.
Two poised arrows set to fly

were it not for their firm ground;
taut wires anchor them side by side.

[Hold the camera steady, focus sharp,
still and unwavering. Hold it, hold…]

She stares past him to the horizon;
the air pulses with hidden static.

“No matter what the future brings…”
Under their breath, they hum

distant versions of one song.

S.A. Leavesley (Sarah James) is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, editor and photographer. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she has been published by the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Forward Book of Poetry 2016; on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. Recent poetry pamphlets/collections include How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. She also runs V. Press, poetry and flash fiction imprint, and LitWorld2 photo-poem/flash journal. Website: V. Press: LitWorld2:

Thursday, 15 November 2018

A poem by Lorraine Mariner

Little anchor

For Sofia at two weeks

Tattooed to our sister,
little anchor
holding us steady.

Setting us to work
bailing out
any qualms we have

about the leaky vessel
of family.
Even your uncle,

sceptical pirate,
strokes your cheek
and swears allegiance.

Lorraine Mariner lives in London and works at The National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre. She has published a pamphlet with The Rialto “Bye for Now” (2005) and two collections with Picador, “Furniture” (2009) and “There Will Be No More Nonsense” (2014). She has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize twice for Best Single Poem and Best First Collection and for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize.

Monday, 12 November 2018

A poem by Marisa Silva-Dunbar


A person is not a battle.
If you are already raging war
against a lover—they must scorch
the earth to survive whatever
terror you want to bring
to their home.

Poison isn’t always accompanied
by a pungent smell and warning sign—
a picture of how it will eat away flesh and organ.

Sometimes it arrives in pretty
glittering bottles with sharp edges
to blind you when you push it away.

Sometimes it’s swift as dust, and shiny
as piece of glass in sunlight, it’ll seep
into your chest until you lay in bed
one night and find you can’t breathe.

Your fighting is flattery,
but they have already sought
safer harbors—havens you don’t
even know how to dream of.

Maybe you were never the poison
(but let’s not kid ourselves),
but you never learned how to be the antidote.

Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in Rose Quartz Journal, Awkward Mermaid, Spider Mirror Journal, Mojave He[art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic Magazine, Poetry WTF?!, Better than Starbucks Magazine, Redheaded Stepchild, Words Dance Magazine and Gargoyle Magazine. She graduated from the University of East Anglia with her MA in poetry, and has been shortlisted twice for the Eyewear Publishing Fortnight Poetry Prize. She has work forthcoming in Mojave He[art] Review, Sixfold, Pussy Magic, Midnight-lane Boutique, and The Same

Thursday, 8 November 2018

A poem by Rachael Clyne

That Was The Downstairs

The Toilet, spiteful and ice-boxy,
disapproved of warm seats.
It preferred smelly, germicide paper
that crinkled and slid off bottoms.

Lounge had crushed-velvet occasions
on cocktail sticks, dusty sofas
for headstands, radio programmes
in real foreign and books for escaping.

Backroom, snug with mottled shins,
ponged of coal fire. Toys slept in a cupboard.
I stood on a chair, Listened with Mother,
ear pressed to a wireless on the bureau.

Kitchen had a twin-tub, a Kenwood Chef
with bowls of licky cake-mix
an angry housewifemummy
who made chicken soup, with garlic.

Bathroom was a bastard, an old geyser,
that swore in your face.
An adapted scullery that stank
of dandruff-shampoo and vinegar.

Front bedroom had a grandma and trolley
full of pills. She spoke foreign English
and ate olives for breakfast. Each morning
the house shook with her sneezes.

Back-bedroom cried when big sister left home.
Branches smacked its windows. Little sister,
in bed with measles, made plasticine Vikings,
kept watch for bogey men behind cupboards.

This poem is from Rachael’s new pamphlet, Girl Golem, published by Rachael’s parents were toddler migrants from Ukrainian Russia, arriving, with their parents, in 1912 & 1914. Heritage and sense of being other, are her main themes. Rachael is a familiar figure on the poetry circuit. Her collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, is published by Indigo Dreams. Her work appears in anthologies & journals including: Tears in the Fence, Prole, The Rialto, Under the Radar, The Interpreters House, Obsessed with Pipework, Lighthouse. She will be reading at various events over the next few months.

Monday, 5 November 2018

7 poems by Sara Backer


On the seesaw fulcrum, tiny muscles quaver.


No one can tell grey cats apart unless they are together.


A taker forgets every gift.


Keep listening for any chirp or trill or tap or growl.


For a moment, one hand will hold the other shut.


What we know is always less than what we don't.


Blue herons synchronize into a silent biplane.

Sara Backer, a composition instructor by day and MFA student by night, has published two chapbooks: Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork), which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award, and Scavenger Hunt (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, New Welsh Reader, Crannóg, and more. Her poem "Coal, Crow, Shark" received commendation in the 2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. For links to journal publications, please visit

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A poem by Catherine Baker

Borrowing a mother

First I borrowed my father’s mam with her starched pinny,
false teeth, watery eyes and hard, lovely kisses. Kittens and me
under her arms and laughter always round the corner.

Wil Snot’s was smiling and polished to platinum with nails.
A cabinet locked with pretties, from her sailor husband,
never home but a doll found in every port.

Auntie Vi let me stay, sleeping in eider. Made cakes so light
she said they’d float out the window. Drank black tea
which was odd and had learned to drive, very badly, in the war.

Mam Brynderw, her cheeks as soft and furry as a chinchilla.
Her house smelling of the sweet Welsh cakes she fed me,
until the bloody cancer ate her up, slow and skinny.

Alison’s mum only wore black. Arms like a wrestler.
I saw her pull a calf out of a cow, no trouble.
She smoked a pipe in secret and taught me how to spit.

Mrs. Phillips, up the lane, always bought my Sunny Smiles
babies, and gave them names. Let me plant her
vegetables and told me never to marry a man.

Sian’s was exotic, they called her Esmeralda
She read my palm, said I’d grow up fat and happy.
Said not to wear short skirts or I’d have to powder my bum.

Bessie Butchers gave me Dr. Whites, said Hooray, babies!
Then introduced me to amazing Black Magic,
I liked Montelimar best, although it took a filling off.

Flossy Pop, ran the pub and in between pulling pints ironed
everything, even knickers and socks. Let me have a go
while she had a fag and gave me a swift drag or two.

Last of all I borrowed my husband’s mum. She could
make beds with hospital corners. Knew the value of a
stiff drink and how to tell you she loved you without saying it.

Catherine Baker’s poetry is often about people and places – reflecting the love she has for the language, history and landscape of her native West Wales.

In 2018 she was chosen to read a selection of her poems at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Monday, 29 October 2018

A poem by Marion Ashton

Hot-Night Houston

Breathe in
and catch its essence
in the soupy air: oily sweat
from construction sites,
sweet-sour, deep-fried scents
from fast-food diners,
spluttered, high-octane emissions
from super-sized trucks.

Listen -
beneath the hum of planes,
the pulse of endless traffic
bumping over concrete joins,
wails of distant sirens,
rumbles of cooling systems,
and that rise-and-fall rattle of cicadas -
you will hear the city sigh.

Marion Ashton’s background 

From home in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, she has spent much of the last fifteen years travelling back and forth to Houston, Texas. The contrast between very different lifestyles plays a big role in her writing as does travelling itself.

She has had poems published in a wide range of magazines, enjoyed several Arvon courses and gained an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway in 2010, with Andrew Motion and Jo Shapcott as tutors.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

A poem by Katherine Wu

a couple in water

at the first point of fracture, you dived
my skin retained your red and my blue
and at the lull, i could only admire the diluted hues

although i liked learning how to drown
and you are a magnificent cesspool, your love fetters still
the thin fingers that search for something to hold

mama saw me sinking, and whispered that you might just be quicksand
a pitcher for my blood and tears
steady when the world's other oceans danced violently,

but the rippling light tells me your love is illusory
the puddles on the floor at home have no edges, only ends
so i'd like to breathe the dry air one day.

mama, i am leaving him tomorrow.
dry skin is far away,
but i am already free.

Katherine Wu is an avid lover of creative writing, and believes that writing and reading poetry is one of the best ways to discern the world around her. She is an advocate for women in STEM, and enjoys learning about the environmentalist landscape in her local and global community. She is currently a high-school senior, studying in Hong Kong.

Monday, 22 October 2018

A poem by Lu Lin & Dawid Juraszek


it gets dark too early
earlier than i expected
than i'm comfortable with

it rains
it's supposed to
still too much

maybe that's good
i can say i don't want to go out
i want to stay in and learn
i believe it

but also it's better this way
it's safer this way
for me
for them too
as they shout and scowl

i want to believe
no child is left behind
like i was told
not as long ago as it seems

the world described to me
i want to know more about it
i want to help build it

even if it gets dark too early
if it rains too much
i want to learn 

Lu Lin is Chinese, Dawid Juraszek is Polish. She lives in Norwich in the East of England and he in Guangzhou, southern China. In their lives, travels, and writing they try to grapple with the lived experience of being an outsider. Their work has appeared in various outlets in Poland, China, Japan, USA, and UK.