Thursday, 28 December 2017

A poem by Marilyn Hammick

Tricks of sight

Today her mug of tea fills from the bottom up,
she notices the unopened tea bag packet
beside the pot from her Mother’s dresser
without the crack from when it fell from her hands.

She adds this to the list: head-high wheat after
the harvester had drummed the air for days,
a trap set with a blackberry hours after she’d lifted
the wire from across the mouse, the blue tit’s nest
from which five young had fledged last week
where yesterday she counted six eggs.

She re-reads her notes about the hotel where
the bedroom key turned inwards to unlock,
there was one upside down fork per place setting
and each morning tomorrow’s newspapers
were on the hall table. There she’d watched
for milk in lumps, sugar in a jug, waited
for square scones but none had appeared.

She wonders should she show her list to someone?
Are there enough details? Who might want to know
that her life has become like the lines she drew
with disappearing ink from the Magic Box
in her red Christmas stocking.

Marilyn Hammick writes (and reads) while travelling, during still moments at home in England and France, recalling a childhood in New Zealand and years living in Iran. Other times she can be found stitching, walking or on her yoga mat.

Monday, 25 December 2017

2 Christmas poems by Conor Cleary & Julia Webb

real tree          
by Conor Cleary

my nana told me how my aunt
got allergies one year suddenly
from the christmas tree

how she took steroids for a week
to no avail in hopes of keeping
a real tree in her living room

she had to give up at 3 am
on the 24th when it came down
to authenticity or breathing

she slipped out to the supermarket
open all night for christmas
and got a flat-packed tree instead

i can’t stop imagining her doing the swap
the silent undecorating
the indignant ornaments on the floor

i can’t stop being impressed
by this colossal sleight of hand

the next morning my aunt asked her family
if they noticed anything different
and her husband panicked and said she looked nice

it was almost new year’s
when he took out the vacuum
and noticed there were no pine needles 

by Julia Webb

On Christmas day Daddy makes us act out scenes from the bible. Daddy is Joseph and Mama is Mary, me and Alice are sometimes wise men and sometimes shepherds. It’s a bit like the nativity play but with no audience and at school I always have to be a donkey. Daddy takes it very seriously. Girls, he says, nativity is almost as important as THE RESURRECTION. I don’t know what resurrection means but Alice says it’s to do with Easter. Luckily the living room carpet is the same colour as grass so it makes an excellent hillside. The cat won’t sit still though, so she doesn’t make a very good sheep. After ages Mama says we have had enough now and she needs to cook dinner, but Daddy says we need to act out the story again so that we REALLY understand it. I don’t mind, I like dressing up in Mama’s old nightie, though I’m not so keen on the tea towel on my head because it smells like cabbage. I just wish we could have an Advent calendar with chocolates like my friend Samantha. Samantha had a chocolate Santa and a chocolate donkey. Daddy says that Santa is THE WORK OF THE DEVIL and I want to believe him, but I can’t help thinking that if Satan REALLY invented Santa he would have made him thinner and more handsome and given him a flying car like the one in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


Conor Cleary is from Tralee, Co. Kerry and lives in Belfast. He has recently graduated with an MA in Poetry from Queen's University, Belfast, where he was the recipient of the 2016 Seamus Heaney Centre MA Award. His poetry has previously been published in Icarus, The Tangerine, and Poetry Ireland Review. He was a participant in the 2017 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series.

Julia Webb is a graduate of The University of East Anglia's poetry MA. In 2011 she won The Poetry Society's Stanza competition. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse. Her first collection Bird Sisters was published in 2016 by Nine Arches Press. She is working on her second collection. She lives in Norwich where she teaches creative writing.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

A poem by Claire S. Lee


When I want people to hate me,
        I tell them I hate dogs.
                        Their glowing canines, shiny

with drool, happy-go-lucky
            pants, thin-lipped, bellies
                        curved and fat like the underside

of a boat. My goldfish spun
circles, vertigoed, flaunted
death again. Mom said to change

waters more frequently, but
            our neighbor’s dog was fired
                        from that laughing house’s gun,

shot into our hallway, some
            dane, some shepherd, some big
                        guy who wanted a six-year-old

between his teeth. To melt,
            or to pull tendons like strings
of meat. Hiding under table, goldfish

giving me side-eye, goldfish
            capsizing, one by one. All
                        five of those small yellow things,

puckering silent, dog retreating.

Claire S. Lee is a student from Southern California. Her writing has been recognized by Tinderbox Poetry Journal and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and can be found or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, Rising Phoenix Review, Blue Marble Review, and *82 Review, among others. She works as an editor for COUNTERCLOCK and as an editorial intern for The Blueshift Journal. Though she loves poetry and nonfiction, her favorite genre is historical fiction.

Monday, 18 December 2017

A poem by Ann Cuthbert


after Louise Bourgeois

Her head is wound in ropes,
rough-plaited worry skinning her forehead,
coiled apprehension grazing her cheeks.

She cannot reach up to unpick strands –
her arms are pinioned, hands lashed -
only her legs dangle free. Swinging

above ground, she’s a trussed parcel
ready for the spider’s bite. And yet,
held here, there’s calm. No need to do

a thing. She’s found, suspended,
you can be moved by whatever moves you –
no choice to make, nothing to decide.

She spins and waits.

Ann Cuthbert is one of Darlington’s Bennett House Writers as well as a member of the Tees Women Poets with whom she enjoys performing poems for live audiences. Her work has appeared both on-line and in print in publications such as Three Drops from the Cauldron, Ink Sweat & Tears, Paper Swans Press and The Black Light Engine Room Literary Magazine. Her pamphlet, Watching a Heron with Davey, was published in February 2017 by The Black Light Engine Room Press.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A poem by Bethan Rees

In Response to Everything

One by one by hundreds,
they started to pour out of the
and chew on our faces
to show us how ugly
we really are.
They burrowed under the top layer
of skin and
caterpillar crawled through
capillaries around our
systems. Our systematic
reactions now
controlled by the pests.

We tried to hot glue gun
the cracks in the wood,
catching some in the
burning lava as it poured into
the breaks, but it was
too late.
They had woven themselves
in DNA strands
and bitten chips
out of our nerves
and replaced the
disjointed semi-circular bite marks
with themselves.
They controlled our limbs and made
us stand in front of reflective
windows, mirrors and smooth waters.

And as we yelled
No! We don’t want to see
the ugly,
they replied within the
visceral pops of blood
and string dangling from their
burrowed selves,
by puppeteering bones to
crack forward
and point at ourselves.

Bethan is a dark and disturbing little creature that squats somewhere in Swindon, with her super supportive partner and rubbish dog Mitzie. She is originally from Neath, South Wales. She typically takes all the wonder and joy from her own life experiences and frequently hacks it to death in poetry. She has recently emerged to attempt to be published and has gained some successes, and hopes this will continue in the coming months. She likes horrifyingly dark humour, and making people happy, which probably explains her MSc studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic purposes. But then again, maybe it doesn’t.

Monday, 11 December 2017

2 poems by Ben Banyard

Poetic Licence

This laminated card entitles the bearer
to notice things in the world that others don't
and to find words to share them
to slice and dice and splice
graft with the craft of a gymnast
backflips with words previously unheard.

It will allow you to blur your focus
see the birds and frogs in Magic Eyes
tune out Neil Diamond on the radio.

With this card you will gain admittance
to lofty halls and poky little basements
penthouse apartments and draughty garrets
to read and bleed as decreed
on microphones by metronomes and Dictaphones
for teachers, lay preachers and fantastical creatures.

It will give you permission
to submit to literary journals
and enter competitions judged by bigwigs.

But you don't really need this licence.
It isn't the key to a magic kingdom
or proof of an apprenticeship.
You can write without it
share the words you unfurl
like boys and girls at play.
Your poems need readers to live.

Practice in the mirror stark bollock naked
pucker your sexy lips and kiss
say poet poet poet poet poet.

Ben Banyard lives and writes in Portishead, near Bristol. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016 and his first full collection, We Are All Lucky is due out from the same publisher in 2018. He blogs at

First published 29/09/016

Something in Common

So you meet
open up
and sometimes there’s enough

to make you laugh and sing
look at each other
beyond physical nights
feel that there might be hooks
sliding bloodlessly under flesh
to keep you together
even when you’re lying awake back to back
with a foot of cool air between you

That’s your hot beating heart
the always-fire glowing at home
with a half-life which will continue to react
long after you’ve both slipped into memory

Thursday, 7 December 2017

2 poems by Kate Garrett

She said there was a boy in the box

                                                            for Daphne du Maurier

And I fell hard for her black type scrolling,
rolling out the sword, the death of romance:
swashbuckling in drag, the English aristocracy
fucks a French pirate; a marriage shot down
by a woman’s rejection of manor and men.

Her accidental heroines, who mix
their fears with whisky and press on—

I have seen her shining in them, a heart-
glow bright between the slats of the trunk
where part of her was hidden. Now and then,
the boy uncurling: coaxed by ink and typewriter

ribbons, to splash saltwater words against their skin.​

(20th century suspense/romance author Daphne du Maurier reportedly saw her personality as both male and female, and believed the masculine side she kept secret from others enabled her to write the way she did.)

Kate Garrett is managing editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, and Lonesome October Lit. Her writing appears here and there, and her latest pamphlet, You've never seen a doomsday like it, was published by Indigo Dreams in June 2017. She grew up in rural southern Ohio, but moved to the UK in 1999 - where she still lives happily in Sheffield with her husband, 4.5 children and a sleepy cat.

First published on 10/11/2015

I loved you once in silence

Dressed in charity shop velvet,
the girl steadies her hands,

places her right palm beneath
her ribs to guide the notes

up the escape hatch of her throat.
The sounds are her confession –

her teacher says that art
is the control of raw expression.

She stands in this grey church,
and releases the song. Six months ago

she was seventeen; how could she know
about lies and love? You’re gifted, they say,

deaf to her double bluff. Her smile
distracts them, while she remembers

last month, and a door slammed
in the face of the boy who sent her clichés,

by the man who said he loved her,
but she should never tell.

*‘I Loved You Once in Silence’ refers to a song from the musical Camelot, concerning the love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot. It was also first published in Kate's pamphlet "The names of things unseen", as part of the six-poets-in-one collection Caboodle from Prolebooks (2015).

Monday, 4 December 2017

2 poems by Rodney Wood


of arrangements or shame / about his marbled name
I was only 10 & knew nothing / of arrangements or shame
I was only 10 & knew nothing / about his marbled name

they'd be broken or cut / because he was different
I didn't know his legs lived in fear / they'd be broken or cut
I didn't know his legs lived in fear / because he was different

all I could see were his legs / caught in a zoetrope of buses
when we last said goodbye / all I could see were his legs
when we last said goodbye / caught in a zoetrope of buses

Rodney Wood is retired and lives in Farnborough. He is joint MC of an open mic in Woking. His work has appeared in many magazines including Envoi, Brittle Star and Magma (where he was the featured poet in issue 69). His pamphlet, Dante Called You Beatrice, was published by The Red Ceiling Press in 2017.

First published 08/03/2016

Dave the Bear

When Dave began to perform he was convinced
he would not like it because he'd be seen
as a sex object and would be pawed or worse
(he has a smooth and short haired bottom and back).

But he'd become rich so quickly so that soon
he could have anything at all he wanted
sheep and sex with the bear of his dreams
(cinnamon coloured with a cute little tail).

Now he can travel the world and pay respects
to everyone. All he carries are sunglasses,
toothbrush, disposable Ts and magic powders
(the bare necessities in a surf blue backpack).

Each day he gets richer, travels in luxury, drinks
bubbly, stocks his treasury with condoms, lubricant,
chocolate, water-pistols, love letters, dance steps
(but dreams of retirement with the Florida black bears).

Thursday, 30 November 2017

A poem by Amy Kinsman

production credits

while we fucked, your favourite music producer
watched and shiva turned his eyes away,
threatening to peel himself off the wall.

when i asked, you said i like the guy, he’s chill,
told me you believed in reincarnation,
tickled by the notion of the prime minister
returning, second son of a sow.
there on your sofa, naked next to
coffee table chaos, we spoke of the shrines
that our mothers built beside our fathers -
sanctified, desecrated, packed up,
prayers and rituals moved and reassembled:

things in the bottom of my jewellry box;
how you used to wear your hair;
all the aramaic i’ve ever known;
your sacred spliff-smoke;
where these gods have been all our lives;
their blow-out tours of cathedrals and temples
and us, the bastard children fathered on groupies,
homilies and hymns tinnitus in our ears.

listen to how they remix every song on our playlists.

Amy Kinsman is a genderfluid poet and playwright from Manchester, England. As well as being the founding editor of Riggwelter Press and associate editor of Three Drops From A Cauldron, they are also the host of the regular, Sheffield open mic, Gorilla Poetry. Their work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in many journals including Clear Poetry, Prole, Picaroon Poetry, Rat's Ass Review and Valley Press.

Monday, 27 November 2017

2 poems by Ceinwen Haydon

Turned Inside Out

I frisk the suit of your absence.
Can I sniff traces of you?

Will an old note fall from a pocket?
Will I find your watch – still ticking.

You were a conundrum
and often spoke in riddles.

That last day, did I hear the sun
drying out your damp heart?

and when I asked, you said,
like always, it’s nothing, nothing at all.

If that was nothing,
then what is this silence?

You were a private puzzle
and intended to remain so.

I’ve turned all your clothes
inside out since you left.

Ceinwen has worked as a Probation Officer, a Mental Health Social Worker and Practice Educator. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published on web magazines and in print anthologies. These include Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Alliterati, Stepaway, Poets Speak (whilst they still can), Three Drops from the Cauldron, Obsessed with Pipework, Picaroon, Amaryllis, Algebra of Owls, Write to be Counted, The Lake and Riggwelter. She completed her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University in August 2107 and will graduate in December 2017.


First Published 22/06/17

My Daughter

It’s a strange thing,
I’d die for you
yet I can’t find the words
to tell you what flawed place
I came from.
And you don’t have the patience
to listen to my reasons
for being less than the mother
you wanted back then: less
than the mother I wanted to be,
wanted to be so badly
I thought I’d die of love.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

A poem by Ion Corcos

Wild Tiger

You found a tiger roaming the streets,
its rust-orange hair rough against your thigh;
you didn’t see the eels squirming in a bucket,
grasshoppers burning in a wok, their scent
a waft over still water in the gutter. You lost yourself
after that, roamed the streets till they found you;
you put on weight, talked about the past
as if that was all there ever was.
But when I heard you get excited
about the tomb of Philip of Macedon, I knew you
were inside the future then;
a waxing moon, a snowmelt stream;
and even if it was too far to travel,
if you came on that long, long journey,
I would go with you, take you there;
show you the palace ruins, the sanctuary of Cybele.
It’s not like that anymore; you got caught
by a wild tiger, tore your mind out. Now, I wait.
I do not know if you will make it.

An extract of Wild Tiger was first published in Strix

Ion Corcos has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Clear Poetry, Communion, The High Window and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is and he tweets at @IonCorcos

Monday, 20 November 2017

2 poems by Nancy Iannucci

Target Rock, 1983 

We belly-flopped to the ground,
rolling over stabbing crabgrass
in fits of summer laughter
one eye open with caution for
the coiled ones,
the crooked ones

but we gazed up
at wild blackberry vines
crawling along railroad ties
Mother picked those blackberries
one by one
warming her tongue
with bursts of sweet seeds;
it was easy to forget
when we gazed up

& when she smiled,
toiling soil, whistling
at the clouds staging coups,
inhaling the noon air-

forgetting ourselves,
forgetting the dark
ground creatures
collecting our particles
on their tongues,
flicking reminders
like snapping fingers,
we looked down
weeds dropping
to the hot ground

Father descended
like St. Patrick
to cast them out
across the field
down a sandy sump

running with a lump
in our throats,
we knew then
our little hands
were next in line
to take up the rake
& push those demons out
beyond Target Rock.

Nancy Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. Her work is published/forthcoming in numerous publications including Bop Dead City, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Star 82 Review (*82), Gargoyle, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Poetry Breakfast, Rose Red Review, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, Yellow Chair Review, Dying Dahlia Review to name a few.

First published 14/07/16

Vicious Cycle

When our eyes met for the first time,
I heaved a sigh that I thought you heard.
You knew a simple hello and goodbye would never
do, so I dropped my weighty anchor into your palm
and you rubbed it seven times like a horseshoe.
When our eyes met for the second time,
I picked your words like berries while catching
chords that fell from your guitar strings; my arms
were open like a basket eager to carry your
lyrics as if they were meant for me.

When our eyes met for the third time,
it was in a delirious dream of whirling desert sand.
Yellow & tan, tan & yellow scenes of grit crusting
my sight, distorting your fair face like an omen; you
were a dark creature choking in a harmonica neck hold.

When our eyes met for the fourth time,
Alex Forrest gazed back at me on the edge
of psychosis sinking in paranoia quicksand
with arms flailing, gasping for air,
suffocating in your circle of games.

When our eyes met for the fifth time,
I willingly closed them; hoisted my anchor from
your palm and walked into the woods like an
emancipated slave where Anath took me in;
she placed a bow and sickle in my hand so

when our eyes meet for the sixth time,
I will have the skills and weapons to resist you;
And it will be you who will heave a sigh that will
go unheard at the sight of me- strong and dauntless.
But the day will come when you will hum

another song that will break me and the vicious cycle
between us will resuscitate, rendering us helpless- gyrating
like a red and yellow mane on a stallion horse. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A poem by Olivia Tuck

Things Only Borderlines Know

That whatever you are, you need to destroy it.

That going for your cookie-dough skin with a razor stings
more than acting against it with fiercer tools, but
it doesn’t matter: abandonment is what truly cuts.

That driving a dear weather-beaten psychiatrist
to earlier-than-planned retirement is easier than it sounds.

That you might see a rainbow when you wake up
at dusk; wonder if God won’t flood the Earth again. Of course,
by three a.m. you could be up to your neck in ocean; playing
Charybdis, hauling angry sailors down with you.

That when you end up in casualty of a Saturday night,
nobody will materialise with cards or Tesco carnations.
(However, if you’re a tad more experienced, at least
you’ll have learnt where to find a phone signal,
about the range of gourmet packed sandwiches on offer,
which nurse will smooth your hair, and which will scrawl
across your chart in biro blood: Manipulative.)

That other People Like You are the only sweet friends who know
how to defend the jagged splinters of a child-
woman. We are the covalent bonds in a fucked-up diamond:
dazzlingly inseparable as we carry on falling.

That you can love others without loving yourself.
That you want to be loved as much as you can feel.

Solar flares. Wild nights. Broken bottles. Hailstorms. Hollow,
chocolate girl for Easter; eyes dead, smile warped.

It burns to come close enough to breathe
your smoke. That as much as you can feel is too much
to ask, but perhaps you could settle for the love of anyone
who would tattoo their initials over Ribena-dark scars, feed you
Turkish Delight promises, with steadfastness that echoes
through space and leaves marks that heal, and do not
ruin. A moon you can keep on a string round your wrist,
to linger. Although…face it. You are the satellite.

That shadows gain weight when you are alone. No power
supply. You reach out to touch what it means to be ash.

That if you try to leave, they’ve got thread. Water. Charcoal.
When you hear your screams, you want to disappear, yet
you keep this secret safe. In case you change your mind.

Olivia lives in Wiltshire with her parents, her sisters, her Cocker Spaniel – and her issues! She won her first writing competition when she was six and hasn’t stopped scribbling since, creating short fiction and poetry. She was a 2014 ‘Wicked’ Young Writers’ Award finalist, has had pieces published in Three Drops from a Cauldron and on Amaryllis, and has recently had a story shortlisted for the 2017 Hysteria Writing Competition. Olivia was thrilled to be a guest poet at this year's Swindon Poetry Festival, and she owes everything to her friends at Poetry Swindon and the Richard Jefferies Museum.

Monday, 13 November 2017

A poem by M. Stone

Renewal (Shadorma Poem)

I shed men—
a delicate act
like peeling
sunburned flesh
to reveal raw pink layers
unsullied by want.

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes fiction and poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poetry will appear in the September 2017 issue of SOFTBLOW. She can be reached at

Thursday, 9 November 2017

A poem by Paul Waring

On Bedsits

three flights up
threadbare arthritic stairs
in damp stale air
a vase-less jumble
of nicotined furniture
sepia-tinted peeling walls
and clogged lungs of carpet

ill-fitting dentures
of sash windows rattle
as shivering lips of curtain
beg warmth from
a one-bar electric fire
that eats fifty pence pieces.

cracked elbows of pvc sofa
sprout corn-coloured foam,
tangerine acrylic of seats
singed and stained by careless
ciggies and TV dinners.

on a stripped bed a sagging
mattress reads like a dna history
of real and imagined sex.

'Tomorrow's World' on a grainy
black and white TV peddles
dreams of futures
in a language we've yet to learn.

Paul Waring, a retired clinical psychologist lives in Wirral, UK. He once designed menswear and, in the 1980's, was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. His work has been published in Reach Poetry and will feature in forthcoming issues of Eunoia Review and Northampton Poetry Review.

Monday, 6 November 2017

A poem by Jude Cowan Montague

The Salt Escape

'Where are you going?' I shouted.
‘You know you can’t find him again!’
She walked out onto the sodium flats
where sour ghosts scour the plain.

I followed her onto the ground
where she’d slipped herself inside a crack.
I wrapped my emotion around and around
and buried my eyes down her back.

The snow-lace wind whipped to shivers
our flesh through the forest of fur.
I dreamed death was wading the rivers.
I knew he was looking for her.

I had forgotten my orders.
Nothing was left but the night
We shook from the thunder of runaway horses
shuddering into the light.

Jude Cowan Montague is an artist and broadcaster who produces the hybrid creative journalist show 'The News Agents' for Resonance FM. She worked as an archivist for ten years on the Reuters television archive and has created work in response to that experience. Her most recent book is 'The Originals' on Hesterglock Press.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

3 poems by Gareth Writer-Davies


go on
and on eating, anything

loaves of bread, baskets of fish, the washing upon the line

there is much in nature
and wonderful

but by God, the goat's hunger

as if
punished for theological blunder
the goat
must eat and eat, the long buffet of salvation (un-tiring)

his cloven-hoof (MORE, MORE, MORE)

Gareth Writer-Davies; Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition, the Welsh Poetry Competition and Commended in the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition (2015)

Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize (2014)

His pamphlet "Bodies", was published in 2015 by Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet "Cry Baby" will come out in 2017.

He is the Prole Laureate for 2017. 

First published 22/09/16

It Was a Big Decision to Paint the Cupboards

I like white
but imagine what it would be like, to paint the cupboards yellow.

It would have to be a subtle shade (not daffodil or lemon)
something, Austro-Hungarian perhaps, as you see in Vienna or Budapest.

This will be a departure, catholic even, for my room is modest
and having taken the walls back, to lath and plaster, colour (seems) unnecessary.

Maybe a tone (like the sun on a snowy day) could be painted on the cupboards.
A yellow which goes with white.


This poem was first published on Amaryllis 24/11/2015


the tafarn is cosy
warm-ish to
the English who pass through

hogiau bitch
the ffwclyd
shit Seisnig

but Iolo is friendly
and happy
to chinwag with anyone

a pint of Red Dragon
in his hand
the overt vowels of Welsh

playing upon his lips
the bi-fold
brand of economics

the reason he is sat
here watching
the English beat themselves

but that is how it is
the two tongues
in the one thirsty throat

the twofold
of the mouth

the grating chord of one
country hard
up against another                                     

Previously published in The Journal #46

Monday, 30 October 2017

A poem by Joanna Nissel

Nocturne from the Respiratory Ward

Though it doesn’t feel like night with the lights still on low, I keep my eyes closed and earplugs in. As the cylinders of red foam expand in my ears, the sounds of the ward sink into quietness. The fan’s undulating whir reduces to a vibrating insect as its cool air helps allay fever. If my fever comes back, the sweats start, the sheets stick, and I won’t sleep. The doctors said sleeping is important. The bed is bent upright to help me breathe; all the beds are like this, facing one another so we spend all day avoiding each other’s stares. With my eyes closed and my earplugs in, I try to pretend that nobody is watching me. But machines beep, slippers slap, and nurses’ voices creep through. A ventilator whooshes loudly beside me. I open my eyes. A new girl is wheeled in, her body heavy with pipes and tubes. I turn over. Find sleep. Some time later I open my eyes to the half-light and through the earplugs’ red foam I realise a weak voice has been calling out, “Help me”. I don’t know for how long.

Joanna Nissel begins Bath Spa University’s MA in Creative Writing in September, having just graduated from the undergraduate degree where she won the Les Arnold Prize for the most outstanding second year student. Joanna was first published in Irisi magazine in March 2017. She lives near Brighton and interned with Tears in the Fence magazine. Her poems tend to lean towards themes of grief, family, and religion, with occasional lilts towards the environmental.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

A poem by Gale Acuff


At my father's gravesite I remember
a joke he once told me, about a man
almost deaf but too proud to admit it.
It was poor then but I'm listening now

and laughing, even though I don't recall
how to tell it. And there's no one else here
but us. If you tell a joke to the dead
and they don't respond, is it a bum one?
If you tell it right but they don't react
is it no longer funny? No, they're just

out of earshot. He buys a hearing aid
and is glad that it works well. A friend
asks him, What kind is it? And the man looks
at his watch and replies, It's 10:30.
It's funny as Hell now, and I mouth it
like kind words at my father's funeral.
And I laugh, as I should've laughed back when
he told it to me, ten years ago, as
I sat on the porch steps, crying for my
divorce and unemployment. What he meant

I'm still trying to figure--Life's funny,
perhaps. Don't take things so seriously:
look at me, I'm dying--you don't see me
all broken up. The closest I come to

the present again is through memory
--I shut my eyes and there it is again,
the present updated, a second chance
to say the right thing. It will last as long
as I want to live in the past, forget
that it isn't real. It was, but it's dead,
and it's risen, and it cannot remain

but must dwell in another place, if it is
a place. Heaven. The bosom of God. At
the feet of the Christ. The hymns of angels.
I don't know, but I'm sure of one thing: love
is all I know and all I need to know

--but then, he'd have a joke for that, too, so
perhaps it's laughter and not so much love.
I open my eyes and the water flows.
I love you, Father--I'm sorry I was

a shitty son. What the hell, a voice says.
I ain't gone yet, so mind me in future.

About Gale Acuff

I have had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Desca nt, Poem, Adirondack Review, Coe Review, Worcester Review, Mary land Poetry Review, Arkansas Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. I have authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

Monday, 23 October 2017

A poem by Deirdre Fagan

The kindness of strangers

When I think of the tenderness of airplane travel
I almost cry

Seated in rows, often six across, among strangers

there is so much courtesy in the passing of a cup
civility in abandoning a seat so another can relieve himself

There is beauty in the every day action of not reclining a seat

In the handling of another's trash

And then there is this. This other thing.
On the news.

And we cannot close our eyes to sleep among the strangers
and we cannot close our eyes

and yet we still do

We sleep soundly 10,000 feet in the air

Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, and mother of two who has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in Connotation Press, Corvus Review, Ink Sweat& Tears, Mothers Always Write, Words Apart, and Yellow Chair Review, among others. She teaches literature and writing at Ferris State University where she is also the Coordinator of Creative Writing. Meet her at

Thursday, 19 October 2017

A poem by Ashley Farley


The summer has ended,
Peppermint men with alstormeric bouquets
And lavendar women hiding it under their arms,
leaving the scented breeze as their ransom note.
the tiny hairs creeping from the crease
of their underarms (that their mothers never told
them to shave) reeling back in the summer
never forget the face
Wandering through empty
creeks rocks and stones
the souls against the padding
under worn feet. Prayer for a flood
That Noah never knew,
to watch the veins slowly fill
Within the creek
stream through, overflowing to drown
out the sound of autumn’s shrill
winter’s chill. But still smelling lavender
and peppermint: that september holding on as
The sun dragging itself across
the floor, leaving a blood-stained path against the sky.

Ashley Farley is a senior in The College at Brockport pursuing her B.S. in English Literature. She is an active member of Phi Sigma Sigma, and several other communities on campus. Ashley has been passionate about writing for most of her life, her first published piece of writing being from when she was 11 years old. She has had work published in Poppy Road Review and forthcoming in Calamus Journal. She plans to continue her passion in all things English, and hopes to one day live on the beach and write children’s books.

Monday, 16 October 2017

2 poems by Melanie Branton

Tales of the Unexpected

"It will happen when you least expect it” -
that’s what people have been telling me since I was sixteen.
I lie in bed at night thinking about all the times and places
when I wouldn’t expect it to happen.

Maybe it will happen on a train journey?
When the ticket inspector asks “Single?”
he won’t just be asking about my travel documentation.

Maybe it will happen at Asda?
When the man on the checkout says,
“Would you like any help with your packing?”
it will be obvious exactly whose slot
he wants me to put my green tokens into.

Maybe it will happen at work?
Although hopefully not at my current work,
because that would incur a maximum seven-year prison sentence
and I’d be barred from teaching for life.

Maybe it will happen in the middle of the night:
a burglar will break in and our eyes will meet
through the hole in his balaclava and
We’ll Just Know?

Maybe it will happen when I’m on the toilet:
the Man from Atlantis will swim his way up
past the U bend and surprise me
from below, or someone will ooze his way in
in aerosol form through my shower head, like frigging Zeus.

Maybe it will happen at my funeral -
there’ll be an unexpectedly enterprising necrophiliac
in the congregation (also vindicating
that other staggeringly unhelpful piece of advice:
“It’s never too late – it’s not a race, you know.”)

But, then again, maybe where I’ve gone wrong is in
imagining all these “unexpected” scenarios,
so now I’m expecting them,

which is why it hasn’t happened yet.

Melanie Branton is a spoken word artist and poet from North Somerset. She has had poems published in journals including Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, The Interpreter's House and Prole, and has a collection from Oversteps Books due out in late 2017

First published 28/07/16


Loving you is ridiculous
like ardently supporting
the football team
of a small town in Argentina
where I’ve never been
and don’t know anyone
and I don’t even speak Spanish

but still I wear their colours
and pore over their match reports
and call them ‘Our boys’
cheering on their goals on the radio
or what I infer to be their goals
seeing as I don’t even understand the commentary
and don’t even like football

Loving you is ridiculous
like following a stranger in the supermarket
because I want to be a gumshoe
but only know how to be
a childish approximation of one
watching them through holes
cut out of a newspaper
making notes about what they put in their trolley
deducing dark secrets
from their preference of Shredded Wheat
to Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
and their ominously inexplicable purchase
of that fifth bottle of sauce

Loving you is ridiculous
like suddenly performing a sex act
on the person in front of me
in the dole queue
because he or she happens to be there
and everyone else seems to have someone
and it’s Tuesday
so why not?

And on good days
I get aroused by
parallel possibilities.
Tonight, I haven’t got a headache
‘cos I’m in the subjunctive mood!
‘Should you love me,…’
‘Had you kissed me,…’
‘Were you to touch me down there,….’

And on really good days
I feel purified by you
as by a non-evangelical God
from someone else’s religion
knowing I’m not of your flock
and can never fall within the ambit
of your miracles
but worshipping you, anyway,
without self interest
feeling blessed
that such intelligence
such intensity
such beauty
exists somewhere in the universe
though I will never be touched by it

And on bad days
the fact that you have a girlfriend
seems an act of deliberate spite
something you’ve been carefully planning
for the past ten years
just to piss me off

And writing poetry about you is ridiculous
I’m like a woman with no legs
knitting herself a pair of socks
so she can vicariously experience
what it’s like to have feet

But still I do

Thursday, 12 October 2017

3 poems by Grant Tarbard

Then Raise the Scarlet Standard High

I'll peel away my skin and be a Trotskyist,
under all the lax brawn I am red meat.

I'll make you proud, Trotsky, I'll decry cereal
and toothpaste, I'll bemoan the bourgeois bakery

making phallic loaves, leading proles by the nose.
I'll steal baskets at the checkout, dumping the contents

into a communal pile, making a vermillion bonfire
out of blue cheese and Highgrove biscuits, now £4.95.

I'll be a pirate of the high streets, raising the scarlet
skull and crossbones high, shoplifting red knickers

and strawberries, sneering from over the pages
of Lessons of October. I'll degrade old ladies in vulgar hats,

kicking their canes out from under them,
spilling their vegetables onto the pavement,

stealing their apples, appropriating them for the cause.
I'll throw bricks through windows with lewd poems attached

and shatter the bourgeois notions of decency.
No fear shall taint our gullet of laughter,

tangled in a tongue of manifestos,
burping through the national anthem. 

Grant Tarbard is an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron and a reviewer. His new collection Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams) was released in 2017.

First published on 29/12/2016

The Process of Becoming Smaller

When the days go timid as a blind mouse
my goose flesh will sag like a rice pudding.

Eyebrows of a thousand motions,
as alive as a galvanised corpse.

The reanimated quiver of a left eye,
adjoining muscles contort into an ox jaw grimace.

A morel nose designed to shatter,
fighting the solid shade of it's being.

The cadaverous contraction of a smile
is in the process of becoming smaller,

callous as a rosary
beneath a bistro of greasy hair.

First published on 15/12/2015

Winter Garden

The lover, wrapped up in a snug blanket, 
a cocoon she'll prize apart when paper 
cut sheaths of a late dawn break over the 
mechanical tick of the horizon.

Her tangle of eyes, compressed tight into 
the sofa cushion, ignore the chalky 
pigmented powder of a diffracting 
winter, loyal to an image of the 

past. I worry about floating, how long 
do I sit here? I dangle on a string 
of ears listening to your chest rise and 
fall as if its attached to a ballon.

I ignore all sounds but whispers of ghosts, 
thrushes singing in their winter garden.

Monday, 9 October 2017

A poem by Brendon Booth-Jones

For Ami

Thrust close your smile
that we know you, terrible joy.
                   ––Denise Levertov
heaving open that ancient door to the vast windswept night
snuffs the candle flame
leaving a thin grey plume quickly dissolving into murky silence

to understand the inner workings of the humming bird
dissect the silken tapestry of its breast
with a twinkling steel blade

to capture the lurching witchcraft of a dream
take a screenshot of your brain
in the full flight of sleep

now to capture authenticity,
I whisper thunderously through a loudspeaker
in the silvery glow of the moonlit woods
halting the critter-rustle under bush,
dispersing bat and owl into unreachable shadow

Brendon Booth-Jones grew up in South Africa, and currently lives in Vietnam. His poetry has appeared in Botsotso. His prose and photography have appeared in Zigzag.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

2 poems by Arlene Antoinette

The Elderly Man & His Nurse

She glides in;
unseen angel wings
adorn her.
His grimace curls into a smile,
when he sees her.
Heaven has
released one of its own to him
for these few hours.

She whispers to him
in Spanish.
He doesn’t understand,
but still, he laughs.
She laughs.
Two foreign languages
bridging the gap
with smiles.

She calls him 'papi.'
He takes it as respect,
she uses it for endearment.
She wipes his nose with a Kleenex,
he responds by kissing her hands--
an unequal exchange of

The hours completed,
she waves as she leaves.
His smile is erased again,
until tomorrow
when she returns.
His earthbound

Arlene Antoinette is a novice poet who enjoys writing poetry and song lyrics. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and spent many years working with the developmentally disabled community.

First published 29/05/17

Birthday Loss

I didn't know him well, but
Ben was a close friend of my
parents. Born on the island
of Barbados, he lived most of
his life in England before moving
to the U.S with his family.

Ben was a quiet man who wore a
sheepish grin that hinted of
scandalous things that ought to
be kept secret. I always smiled
when I saw him, my own thoughts
filling in those unrevealed tales.

My parents often told me of those
Sunday afternoon domino games at Ben’s
house where Bajans warred against
Jamaicans while sharing platefuls
of codfish fritters and fried plantains.
Ben was always the victor, a feather in
the cap of the Bajans as the Jamaicans
went home with full bellies and happy

Ben died on my birthday. He laid
frozen and silent in a hospital
bed unable to say goodbye to his family
and friends. As his life faded away
I was driving to the beach searching
for answers and a new start.

I cry not for what he meant to me,
but for what he meant to others. I
weep not for my loss but for theirs.
We are but vapor that ascends upwards
mingling with the air until we are no
longer a singularity, but part of the whole.
Ben, may you climb ever upwards
no more alone, but part of completeness.

Monday, 2 October 2017

A poem by Jinny Fisher

The Art of Staying Dry                                           

You don't take an umbrella to a music festival. As the first drops fall, I remember that people argue about whether it is better to run fast or to walk.

The science says
it all depends on
                  the type of rain,
                                     the angle of impact,
                                                             the distance to cover,
                                                                                        and the width of the body
travelling the storm.

The rain is large, it is vertical, the beer tent is a ten-minute walk away, and I am not thin.

I shelter under an oak tree festooned 
with wishes in balloons. 
A few fat drops
splash from 
the leaves

I would be able 
to dodge them—
if I could just
their when,
their where.

Jinny Fisher lives in Somerset and is a member of Taunton’s Juncture 25 and Wells Fountain Poets. Magazine appearances include The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Domestic Cherry, The Broadsheet, Tears in the Fence, and Prole. Online appearances include The Poetry Shed, Strange Poetry, Clear Poetry, and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She has been three times shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and Commended in Battered Moons and Fire River competitions. In 2016, she gained 2nd Prize in The Interpreter’s House Competition. She likes to push around The Poetry Pram, preferably at hard rock festivals.