Thursday, 29 June 2017

2 poems by Carrie Etter


I find the heart’s bone carapace during a desert walk, pick it up. In this world, the heart isn’t a cute symbol; it’s like the skull, stark hollow white receptacle, the anatomist’s paperweight, a cardiologist’s memento. In one culture, the dead’s heartcase rests on an altar while all his relations pass and place a single hair inside to accompany him to the afterlife. Another culture collects the hearts of horses; the bone remainder gives swift luck. The case in my hand is a child’s, though no town or house is in sight, let alone the bones of her father’s hand.

"Heartcase" first appeared in The North. Her most recent publication is the chapbook, Scar (Shearsman, 2016), a long poem exploring the effects of climate change on her home state of Illinois.

First published 30 September 2013

His Pantoum

This is the West Country: if it rains, it rains all day,
winds as fierce as anywhere
sweeping hair into my eyes at every crossing.
When did my father get old?

The prairie winds were as fierce as anywhere
when he cycled thirty miles a day.
When did he get old?
This is his twelfth day in intensive care.

When he cycled thirty miles a day,
I went on with my life, unfearing.
This is his twelfth day in intensive care,
my sixth year abroad,

going on with my life, unfearing.
Sweeping hair into my eyes at every crossing
in my sixth year abroad,
the West Country, where it rains and it rains and it rains.

“His Pantoum,” first published in The Times Literary Supplement.

Monday, 26 June 2017

2 poems by Jonathan Butcher

Back Then

Those crisp mornings we would
move at our own pace; no need
for alarms drilled into our temples.
The newspapers skip-read at
our leisure, the hangovers almost

We would drift from each
room with perfect calm. Those tranquil
notes from raindrops and the tick of the
unfed electric meter, like a malfunctioning
metronome that would keep our boredom
in time with it's beat.

The evening was our only commitment,
our choice of business mixed only with
pleasure, our only hardship was planning over
glasses and ashtrays how to exit this glorious mess.

Jonathan Butcher is a poet based in Sheffield, England. He has had poetry appear in various print and online Journals including: Popshot, Ink, Sweat&Tears, Elbow Room, Your One Phone Call, Mad Swirl, The Transnational and others. His second chapbook 'Broken Slates' was published by Flutter Press.

First published 30 June 2016

Night Shift

We would walk through those narrow grey
streets each evening, oblivious to the
inconvenience of our presence. The houses
like sandcastles ripe for kicking, which when
unlit seemed to lose their purpose.

We could almost hear the twitch of eyelids
flicker, their faces at intervals plastered to
those pristine windows; we convinced
ourselves their heads slept in comas,
whilst we continued to scrape our heels.

Each one bound in holy matrimony; entrenched
foundations built with broken bricks. The premature
lines that danced across each face, filled with
blackened waters like neglected canals, in which
I would never dare (nor care) to swim.

That breeze passes slowly, indicative of these
streets, as we unbound those memories from
their corroded chains. As our feet sink into
our own foundations, we slowly peel our
smirking faces from our windows.

Monday, 19 June 2017

A poem by Jennie Farley

The Clasp

Is she human, that one?
Those brawny blokes
with inked forearms
and bruised knuckles
can’t look her in the eye,
that lass with purple hair.
She’s felled Big Mack
in two minutes flat.
No one offers her a drink.

Then he strides in, a stranger.
Gives a wink, pulls out a chair,
rolls up his sleeves. She crosses
black skull-patterned legs, offers
up her rubbed-raw elbow. He places
his thumb around her grip.

Then there’s this moment.
She meets his hard blue gaze.
She can sense his muscled arm,
she wants to lick the raised
blue vein throbbing in his neck.
Roll that wrist, pull backwards,
close in
, she tells herself.

She lets her elbow slip.

Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in many magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Prole. Her latest collection My Grandmother Skating is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016. Jennie founded and runs NewBohemians@CharltonKings providing regular events of poetry, performance and music at deepspaceworks art centre. She lives in Cheltenham.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

2 poems by Ryan Warren

Morning Business, In the Rain

Though I grumbled
into my jacket

and out to the dark morning
though it took some time

for an investigatory nose
to uncover the right

square inch to anoint
with the business of the body

as sheets of grey sky
thrummed my hood

wind whipped my jacket
fur quickly flattened

and I tugged irritably
on the damp lead


life takes the time that it takes
and all the while

what a wonder it is about water
that it can fall from the sky

that a thirsting Earth
can swell to receive it

yet still hide scents
to beguile low noses

what a wonder it is about dogs
to be as happy

in the sheeting rain
as any day of mildest blue

my impatience
is my business

not the dog's
nor the rain’s

nor the wind's
nor my socks’

which will always
eventually, dry.

First published on 02/06/16

The Ravens of Japan

The ravens of Japan
speak with a different accent—
deeper, more rich and throaty
than the high-pitched caw
of their American cousins.

Or perhaps, even
a language of their own, where
in sonorous raven Japanese
while circling the blossoming
peonies and plum trees
of Hama-rikyu Gardens,
or alighting atop the pungent eves
of Tsukiji Fish Market,
they dictate their commentary
on the civility of the humans
peopling the earth below:

crisp and ordered as folded linens,
elegantly dressed,
salting each day
with a thousand thank-yous
and quick, generous little bows,
the value of harmony
laid deep in their bones,
the knowledge that
courtesy shown to others
reflects honor back to you.

Of course the vigilant ravens of Japan
from above the sculpted trees
also spy the hidden currents beneath—
the inequality, the stricture,
the regard given to surface things.

Certainly. Certainly the ravens know
from their watchful perches,
but I cannot tell you
how I would have found this
as a younger man
when I loved bold, high-pitched words
and exhausting honesty
so much more than today.

Today, when I find that I thirst
for even a sip of courtesy,
that I've flown halfway around my life
to at last discover the cartography of restraint.
How we treat each other,
in even the smallest things
is everything, it seems.

A point as dark and fine as the ravens,
slowly circling the painted Japanese horizon.

Ryan Warren lives with his family by the sea. His poetry has previously appeared in numerous journals, including California Quarterly, Wilderness House Literary Review, Amaryllis, Poetry Breakfast and Your Daily Poem. Find more at

Monday, 12 June 2017

2 poems by Maggie Mackay

The Sand Settles and Unsettles my Pulse

The desert sand nestles in the cracks between my toes,
rests in the grooves of my nails. It blasts
the intricate geometry of the Persian rug you gifted me,
smudges, tramples me through the pores
of skirting boards which sandbag ground in the face of flood.
My dream castle lists beneath my feet.

Sand sifts into my books, blue, red, flecked with gold fire.
As their spines line up like sentries, I am a dustcover
wrapped by dunes pressing my shoulders to my toes.
Dream castles float in the damp tide-lap.
This intruder waits, deep store-darkened in the camphor chest,
column-stacked against my bedroom wall,
graining the white picture frame.

Imp-sand flows under the door like a river in spate,
splashes mesmerising patterns of an underground spring
fathoms deep in the earth’s crust that merge on window and sill,
washing your persistent voice from the stale air,
out of waves which wiped dream castles to nothing.
My heart is a sandpit.

First published on 31/10/16

How to Distil a Guid Scotch Malt

Separate the Gross from the Subtle
Hieronymus Brunschwig

Wrap yourself in Mum’s dressing gown, its envelope-hug,
pour a dram of uisage beatha, sip peppery Talisker peat.

Hear the barley grain grind in the mill, conjure a mash in the steel tun,
a flow into the wash, stroked by hushes and baloo baleerie.

Gloamings on salty coastlines, sweet kiln smoke, skin oil grams,
cloud the floor of the tumbler, climb the sides, pull you into the cask.

Acids blend with ethanol, transform into esters, fruity and aromatic.
A Hebridean sunset copper-pots your tongue, biscuit-beaches rise in your throat.

There’s a nip in the air, a lifetime of goodnights fermenting in a kipper fire.
Her arm entwines in yours. She comes home, full flavoured.

Task begun, the heart of the run is now, my middle years of fear and longing.

Maggie Mackay, a retired additional support needs teacher and lover of jazz and whisky, lives on the east coast of Scotland and is enjoying life as a final year Masters Creative Writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University where she is currently working on her poetry portfolio.

She has work in various print and online publications, including Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Indigo Dreams Publishing and in several Three Drops Press anthologies.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A poem by Roz Goddard

If Merthyr called me back

(after Paul Henry)

I'd need a map to walk its spidered streets,
find cousins scattered across town.

A woman washing her dark front step
might ask, are you Cyril's daughter?

There's like him you are. The image.
Cill we called him, does he still sing?

I'd wonder what picture she had
as the cloth went cold in her hand.

Did he pull her to a doorway for a kiss?
Did they kick through snow, look at rings?

The map won't show the crazy angle
of the streets, terraces collapsing to

the river Taff, back-ways full of damp
November afternoons. Or a woman who

remembers my father singing, her face
softening at the mention of his name.

Roz Goddard has published four collections, three pamphlets and a full collection, How to Dismantle a Hotel Room. Her most recent collection was The Sopranos Sonnets and Other Poems published by Nine Arches Press in 2010 which featured on BBC R3’s The Verb. A further pamphlet collection is forthcoming from Flarestack in 2017/18.

Monday, 5 June 2017

A poem by Kim Whysall-Hammond


Upon the ancient plain the army sits in perpetual siege
Waiting for Achilles to unsulk
To leave his tent and re-enter the fray
What goes through their minds?
Those who have forsaken lives and families
To spend years on this foreign beachfront
Waiting for the final bloody end
What of those who look down from the city walls?
Watching the byplay
The dramas of those who
Have come to slaughter or enslave them
What of Helen?
So much older now
Than when those thousand ships were launched
Does she look at her face in the mirror
Bronze is more flattering than our glass
Does she still see the beauty that brought her to this pass?
Is that defeat in her eyes?

(Illium was previously published on on 8th November 2016)

Kim Whysall-Hammond lives in southern England. A scientist by training and a poet by necessity, she shares poems at and has recently had poems published by Ink Sweat and Tears, Three Drops in a Cauldron and Your One Phone Call.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

2 poems by Bethany Rivers

silence of anger

forks a tongue to sear
a new east and west
I pulled the duvet of silence

down over my ears
cotton wool of unmentionables
stuffs my mouth up

depths of blackness grows
like dead moss
my voice falls through

rotten floor boards
spittling the spider’s home
where the sun forgot to

shine – my wounded bird trapped
in a shrouded cage
though you can’t hear her

she’s still there
at night my teeth
grind my gums into gulps of glue

in the bottom drawer
of my desk I keep jagged
envelopes covered

with lipstick bites rescued
from the door mat – love notes
from a previous self – paper cuts

a breaking point where your pain
admits nothing outside of itself
my truth is a sky stretched to snap

(First published by 'Obsessed with Pipework' January 2016)

Bethany Rivers’ debut pamphlet, ‘Off the wall’, came out with Indigo Dreams Publishing, in July. She has been widely published by: Envoi, Cinnamon Press, Sarasvati, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Clear Poetry, Obsessed with Pipework. The Ofi Press, The Lampeter Review, Bare Fiction, Blithe Spirit and many others. Bethany mentors writers through writing their novels, short stories and memoir. She has taught creative writing for ten years and runs poetry healing and inspiration days:


First published on 3rd November 2016


Laughter flings itself on the walls
of a derelict Spanish village.

He stops on the steps
between two tumbling cottages,

sperm leaking down my leg.

He turns his palm to the sun blenched wall
and listens, as if with a stethoscope

to the baby in my womb
two years from now –

before we know it dies.

I want to be his hand against the wall
skin against stone, warmth of ages

the generational laughter
trapped in horse hair crevices.

I watch the caress of the wall –
those fingers that slid inside

and made me cry out not an hour ago.
I listen to my stiletto heels echo

as I climb up the sandstone steps
to where he is, I catch his glance

lilting between sun and shade
and I forgive him, everything.