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.