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).