“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still”
From 1st January 2022 until 28 February, we featured our first open submissions window, which was hugely successful. Each poet sent us 1, 2, or 3 poems, on any subject, to be considered for online publication in wildfire words. Submission was free, and selected poems are published as text, and as an audio recording if one is submitted.
Details of our second Submissions Window are here.
Thank you to all who submitted and made the selection process so challenging and interesting.
Poets selected for publication in Open Submissions 1 are: Annie Ellis, Carol Hilton, David Dixon, David Ralph Lewis, Eileen Farrelly, Frank Sharratt, Gail Webb, Gillie Robic , Helen Openshaw, Julie Didcock-Williams, Julie Stevens, Kelly Davis, Kitty Donnelly, Liz Bell, Lucy Heuschen , Mandy Macdonald, Marek Escribir, Matt Thomas, Neil Beardmore, Peter Wellby, Petra F. Bagnardi, Robin Fox, Sam Bartle, Sandra Howell, Sharon Webster, Vron McIntyre, William Wood, Zara Tagnac
Gillie was born in India and lives in London. Widely published in magazines and anthologies in the UK and the US, she has two collections, Swimming Through Marble and Lightfalls, from Live Canon. A third collection is in preparation. Website: https://gillie.robic.co.uk/poetry FaceBook name: Gillie Robic
dawn to dusk
day breaks across our bodies like a wand
casting spells on our distorted sight
till darkness falls upon us at the end
whatever we hold onto shifts like sand
still running through the hour-glass of night
day breaks across our bodies like a wand
wielding threat or magic in its hand
we climb the walls to gain a little height
till darkness falls upon us at the end
if there’s a message daylight tries to send
we ape whatever motion’s apposite
day breaks across our bodies like a wand
that prods us as a too-familiar friend
and puts our equanimity to flight
till darkness falls upon us at the end
wherein we seek oblivion to mend
the optical delusions of the light
day breaks across our bodies like a wand
till darkness falls upon us at the end
Chambers of the Heart
The chambers of the heart are filled
with shadows pounding
from atrium to ventricle,
returning incarnadine, trammelled to loss,
ghost whispers in the stream,
the body’s bruised memories.
The chambers of the heart are filled
with blackbirds’ twilit song,
fields of battle, falling stars,
the touch of the beloved,
creation’s cruelty and kindness,
incomprehensible as God.
The chambers of the heart are filled
with fear and the astonishment of love
clasped about the stillness of joy,
fine-painted and filigreed with gold,
set with cobalt-threaded glass,
fragile as life.
The ground glass windows
Every time I go back I realise I’ve never left
and if it’s gone am I a ghost
I see the stone water tank reflecting
a jigsaw sky
The gravel driveway encircling the lawn
its islands of rock
The banyan tree hangs out its aerial roots
combing through the light
Crows round my head even thousands of miles away
I hear them day and night
I sit on steps leading to the terrace wondering
if they are descendants
But if this is my dream they are the same inquisitives
cocking intelligent eyes
The same brain fever birds raising their scale skyward
in raucous panic
I pick up seed pods from the gulmohar tree
hear the burble of a comforting language
No longer forbidden I peer into the high dark kitchen
smelling of charcoal and childhood
Back in the safety of the nursery only if I don’t open the door
with the ground glass window
Beyond which maybe nothing exists but this time I open it
step through onto the verandah
Without breath I move to my parents’ rooms at the far end
open the door with the ground glass window
There’s nothing there and if it’s gone am I a ghost
and can I ever leave
Zara is a Jamaican-American author of primarily slipstream and magical realism. Her prose has been published by Writer’s Retreat UK. Her poetry has been featured in three collections published by Paper Pens, & Poetry, and a zine created by Black Quantum Futurism. She can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Instagram: @ztlovestoread.
Remember when your heart
was still beating? When you
held my hand as you kissed
the boo boos away after I fell
off my purple bicycle? I do. The
next day we chased the ice
cream truck because it barely
came to our cul de sac. Waiting
for the faint rainbows for as long
as we could despite our mothers
hollering for us to stop playing
in the rain used to be one of
my favorite things. Lightening
bugs meant everything to me.
Hugs, and no homework were
all we’d need. Before the times
I begged you not to go. I knew it
wasn’t your fault, but all I could do
was pretend. I really hoped you
weren’t scared despite knowing
the truth. I still do. All I have left
is the little bird necklace you gave
me for my birthday. I still think of
us from time to time. I’m so sorry,
I miss you
I lost my phone,
and with it went my superpowers.
I felt naked, and troubled by the extent
of my dependency. The pain
of withdrawal. But when one
grows accustomed to what was once
godslike, it’s hard to go back.
Especially without notice. Even
with it too. We’ve bonded with
impossible organs. Teeming
with electric rivers, much like
our own. Our mirror, our spy,
our extended eye. They are
us, we are them. I was it.
It was me. But without it,
I managed just fine. I
found peace in its absence
despite numerous times in
which I was reminded my
reaching for it became a reflex.
A phantom limb
for which I developed
proprioception. And with
it returned a calm that
was kept at bay until
I got my phone back
Burnt yellow leaves, crisp with decay, sail the sunlit breeze.
Acorn. Wool scarves. Cobblestone. Dia de los Muertos.
Dark and light eyes mouth suspicion from either side. Her wedding dress makes his walnut skin glow
He’s only in it for the papers! Making love on the morning of is bad luck… Who needs something azul
when I’ve got you?
I am her only friend. The lone bridesmaid. Someone she’s known for a year.
Cafeteria conversations between college classes. Just because the world won’t appreciate your beauty, doesn’t
mean it’s not real. Salt tears.
We step away from the rest to free ourselves from the crippling tension.
You alright? Seriously. Such a lovely day! I don’t know who I am anymore.
“You whores got a light?” says a disheveled man. I growl an indignant decline.
Foster care to homeless shelters. Stunted dreams. Why do they get a second chance, but not me?
“I’ll find a grave to bury you in.”
Petra F. Bagnardi
Petra is a TV screenwriter, a theatre playwright and actress, and a poet. She was short-listed in the Enfield Poets’ Twentieth Anniversary
Poetry Competition, and her work was featured in several literary journals including, Masque & Spectacle Literary Journal, Punk Noir Magazine, Poetica Review, Red Door Magazine, Drawn to the Light Press, Muddy River Poetry Review.
The whimsical reality
An alabaster Queen falls in love with a diamond King.
They live in a simple house by a loud pond.
They stroll down corridors lined with roses.
They swim in a lake of gentle murmurs.
The Queen makes love to her King – they create a spark of life.
But the flame perishes when it touches the light.
They consult magicians and physicians who cast complicated spells;
and use huge words like fetal infection and genetic disorder.
The King rides a crazy carousel of lawyers, papers and agencies;
while the Queen ambles to the lake to borrow its watercolors –
she paints a boat and lets it sail away.
She wishes every day.
At length, the merry-go-round ceases its mad spinning.
The King asks the Queen to rest her soul at home for a while –
just until the palace bells childishly chime.
The house doors open to a woman wearing whimsical shoes and a sensible smile.
She holds the tiny hand of an obsidian Princess, dressed with the tones of the earth.
The girl clutches a boat of blue and indigo paper to her chest.
The colors seep through her fingers and become a river.
Father, mother, and daughter trail the painted path and reach the lake.
They link hands and write their stories in the sand.
They beam like the perfect gemstones of a new realm.
Julie Didcock-Williams has had haiku translated and included in an anthology by Goldsmiths College and Yamanshi Prefectural University of Japan and published in Blithe Spirit.
Her first novel The Cove was published in 2020. She lives in rural East Sussex where the landscape inspires her work.
The Colour of Grief
When the colour of grief is yellow, it is her
jars of aji chilli paste tethering you to home
and when it is green, it is Wimbledon Park Cafe
where I sat with a coffee and held in my scream
and when it is red, it is that Birkin-like bag
restraining the one reason I never said
and when it is blue, it is the hard Andean sky
which cut through us, and you knew
and when it is black, it is infinity
which is how we were meant to be;
and when grief is all these colours mixed
into one, it is brown and brown is mud and
mud is fertile and alive and life is hope and
hope is the beginning.
This is where I am now
This is where I’ve landed.
Here, mist gathers in the Rother valley,
swamping the land in a cold, white shroud.
The past has fallen in on us
and its frozen face will not leave.
I walk around the silent pond
watching the changing winds
shift the slick of weed north or south:
this, at least, is solid and real.
Ghosts tear themselves from the surface
and gather at the feet of trees like a prayer.
The leaf litter rots and the air is thick
with the messengers of mould
disturbed by the deer twitching at the wood’s edge.
In the gloaming the air breathes bats
and somewhere off the church bell stills time.
All that matters is here and now.
Silent as a seraph the barn owl cracks open
the hinge between heaven and the field.
Its face is a way to reach the moon;
it is not a pathway back.
There is no fingerpost pointing there.
The sky is a glass dome, cold and sharp;
inside it we are shaken by treacherous hands.
I know there is no God: there is only Man.
His rotten actions dragging behind him,
ploughing the past into the present.
There was a time I believed in family –
but this is where I am now.
When the open mouth
of the washing machine fell silent,
the absence of its sound
disturbed the equilibrium,
but when I ceased speaking,
no one noticed the absence of my words,
the silent hole that bored
its way through me once my audience had faded.
I spoke when I had to,
asserting my existence,
then disappeared into the abyss
that gaped between the family’s world and mine.
Outside in the morning,
I pegged out the washing,
staring silently as the clothes
hung limp and uninhabited in the wind.
Then you arrived
in a clatter of chatter and song
and the cold dark silence that had stretched
into my corners, shrunk back and skittered away.
The next time I watched
the washing drying,
it billowed upwards in huge fat curls,
cracking and laughing in the breeze.
Peter read English at Oxford and then taught for 40 years. He has been writing poetry seriously since he retired on a very wide range of themes, forms and tones. He now has so many poems that he needs to publish some to make more room for storage.
A labour of moles
(Moldewarp: : Anglo-Saxon: molde = earth; weorpan = thrower)
The sow and boar
are both acutely sensitive to touch,
the slightest fluctuation.
Small wonder, when they meet by chance
in the dark underground
on a blind date
their passion is unbridled and ecstatic.
They’re picking up good vibrations, fibrillations,
such … ah … yes … such ravishing molestations!
Until, each March, the field behind our garden
is bivouacked with khaki bell-tents in their scores,
mountains of molehills,
camouflaged between nettles and thistles,
a siege army,
born in tunnels of love,
waiting on the skirts of the season
for the signal to advance:
the stuttering first mow of the green lawn.
Then swift, invisible, they come,
sallies of midnight velvet.
Barrows of brown earth heaved skyward
no longer mine,
but claimed by moldewarp’s Maginot Line.
Skeins of steepling starlings
weave your pale face across the sky.
I strain to see light in your eyes
but they dissolve in grained pixels.
Rain dots sift your presence.
Bothered by glints of mica,
I pan for fragments of our history
in the stream of the sky.
Starlings pour through the wind;
they bank and swerve and hurl
like iron filings on a magic board,
settle in thousands on the skeletal diadem
of the gas storage tank, fidgeting,
churring flecked breasts to hush nightfall.
While stars prink and the moon sleeps,
the fletched multitude slip from their roost
on the Tower of Silence
hushed as owls.
All night they stipple your smile on the firmament
that the dull world might know
how you are loved.
Sam was born in Hull, England and grew up in the East Riding of Yorkshire. He began writing poetry as a response to the pressures of pandemic life but enjoys writing on all aspects of life and the world around him.
Everywhere is a moment
Every time is a space
Everything has an order
Everyone has a place.
Every earth has a sun
Every species, a race
Every creature is connected
Everyone has a face.
Every life is a canvas
Every decision, a choice
Every story has a maker
Everyone has a voice.
A result for every act
A deed forever done
A rise for every fall
A place. For everyone.
Gail Webb had a long career in social work. On retiring, she was published in Boshemia, 2019, feminist journal, and subsequently in several anthologies. Gail is a member of writing and performance poets’ collectives, Nottingham. Debut pamphlet The Thrill of Jumping In, published in Big White Shed, 2021.
It is not what I expect to see,
glancing from bedroom windows,
birds wheeling in the sky, fringed wings
almost touching as they circle,
autumn leaves eddying, warm currents.
The birds float over suburban streets,
seconds passing, watching for victims, prey.
I praise them, worship through glass
long greyed with city grime, opening the casement
to peer up further, past Victorian chimney pots
wanting to catch their eye, to join them up there.
Three buzzards manoeuvre over rooftops,
effortless mastery of aerodynamics. I wonder
why they are so close to city borders, perhaps
there are no small creatures left to kill,
countryside divested of bounty. Only town mice
to hunt, only humans to harry and blame.
Winner of the Richard Burton Poetry Prize in the nineties, Neil is a prolific writer and performer with poems published in Orbis, The French Literary Review, The Cannon’s Mouth and others. Painted Ghosts (three novellas) was published by Pneuma Springs in 2021. His website is at NeilBeardmore.com
It’s here already, when homo sapiens arrive,
hands on walls in graffiti — Neanderthal hands,
outlined in spit-breath for immortality,
hands that steer the being of life-force,
that image and symbolise an is-ness,
a recognition of time:
rock outlives us, but our hands
live on with the rock,
escape us into the unknown
oblivion of otherness we see
in the sands of stars
that shade us in the night.
Our hands are us,
living on, an importance recorded,
indelible for those behind,
He sits up, pillow-propped,
a faded grin holds up half his jowls,
the other, frozen by a stroke of bad luck.
In this ward curtains never shake
to the breeze that never comes.
It was Murphy’s not Guinness
he sold his soul for, the nephew joked,
said: ‘put it in his drip to keep the level up’
and it was sniggers all round
but the uncle did not know.
He had shares in the west side, they said,
cooked up all sorts of deals that persuaded police
and street punters to tow the party line.
He could not cock his hat now, let alone a gun,
half his brain being frozen
by a stroke of bad luck, the nephew joked
with bespoked men, colleagues from the show
who stood bowed now as if before a bishop.
They asked nephew if he would give up the degree,
follow in the footsteps of the frozen man,
and he was full of maybes, after his exams he said.
When they left the uncle kept his grin,
the nephew buttoned his coat
and the breeze that never comes
shook the curtains that never shake.
David Ralph Lewis
David Ralph Lewis is a poet based in Bristol who has been published in Marble Poetry Magazine, Flights Magazine and Neon Magazine. He has two pamphlets, Our Voices in the Chaos published by Selcouth Station and Refraction. He enjoys dancing badly at gigs and attempting to grow vegetables.
Under ghost branches
about to be reborn,
I bask in purple light,
eyes closed for protection.
Two voices close but distant
guiding the angle of my head.
One. Two. Three. I open my eyes
see only outlined spectres,
dark shapes silhouetted
by the unnatural glow.
A ritual to expand our vision
see secrets written on skin.
The atmosphere is a small line,
a smudge against cosmic radiation.
I am trapped in this spaceship
separated from all the nothing
by a thin hull of skin.
On a park bench,
I rest as the airlock
Filling a vacuum, the world rushes
into all the empty spaces of my body,
all the forgotten corners and veins
flowing with star light. My shell
more porous than I thought.
Frank has been shortlisted in the inaugural Soldier’s Arts Academy International Poetry Competition . He has achieved publication in Stepping to Eternity, Ekstasis Magazine and will be published in Dreich Magazine, June 2022 collection. He began writing poetry in the Summer of 2021 and is looking to build a first collection.
The Beginning Road
I have traversed many a road but none,
Quite so beautiful and arduous as this,
It is here before it has been and gone,
It has touched my lips like some fading kiss,
This road I step boldly over and to,
Make new creations, tasks and keep spirit,
Ask for courage, yet I already knew,
It is within, this resilience lyric!
Marred, tarred: the beaten hammer of bashed blood,
Echoes of might and struggles in battle,
One rising to claim a crown for the good,
Footsteps make windows and towers rattle,
I start here because I must at someplace,
The Beginning Road, I will know its face!
Kelly Davis lives in Cumbria and works as a freelance editor. Her poetry has been anthologised and published in magazines such as Mslexia, Magma and Shooter. In 2021 she came second in the Borderlines Poetry Competition and she has twice been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award. https://www.kellydavis.co.uk/
We tell ourselves stories in order to live
After Joan Didion
We tell stories to remind ourselves
that we exist in the world.
If we don’t tell stories
memories get blurred, distorted.
We look forward
to prepare for what lies ahead.
We look backwards
to learn from our mistakes.
But the hardest story to tell
is the story of where we are now,
holding this pen, tasting this coffee,
feeling this pain, this joy,
this fear, this love,
asking if it means anything at all.
Kitty Donnelly lives in West Yorkshire. Her passions are poetry & animals. Her first collection, The Impact of Limited Time is available from Indigo Dreams.
Thoughts tail themselves to the edge of a cliff.
I’m all for private endurance:
how the cat vomits carefully out of sight,
how the doe survives in the limping wood,
one ankle trap-snapped.
In this liminal space, an unknown language
translates me: palm prints pressed
to frosted glass, shroud-imprinted features
like a half-remembered face
unremitting in its absence.
Sharon lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. She is a doctor by trade but in recent years has been able to indulge an earlier passion for writing, to date short fiction and poetry.
The cracks on the pavement,
they don’t trip you up.
It is not the ice,
the dampness of the leaves,
the small dog on a thin lead.
It is not the child,
the old lady in the crowd,
the sudden stop,
Nor the noise,
the boisterous boys,
the guy late for his bus,
the funny story overheard,
it is not us.
You just trip up,
and then we trip up.
The softness of grey
the morning mist,
a honeyed haze,
the storm weathered,
a deep impression
in the frantic rush
And I am
with this softness
shrouded valley paths
into the new.
Helen is a Drama and English teacher, from Cumbria. She enjoys writing poetry and plays and inspiring her students to write. Helen has had a short monologue commissioned by Knock and Nash productions. Recently published and upcoming poetry work includes Secret Chords by Folklore publishing, Green Ink Poetry, Words and Whispers, The Madrigal, Fragmented Voices, Loft Books and The Dirigible Balloon.
Twitter – @Pocket_rhyme
The edges of the night –
Folded paper on a page I dread
A choice of looking –
Either forward or back toward the lesson
I refuse to learn.
Light bleeds from the edges –
Hands reach but cannot touch
The silence I quietly crave.
Eyes wide shut –
The suitcase snaps. The decision
I will take to the grave.
The old man and the fox
He woke early one morning,
and thought he had forgotten something.
Only when he draws the curtains
And sees the fox asleep on the lawn
Does he remember the question.
Standing for a moment,
The thought comes to him,
As the fox slumbers on in contentment,
Its face a pool of light in the morning shadows.
His question pressing urgently
the fox awakens, slowly uncurls,
So he can take the moment offered to him now
And whisper “yes”.
The tree in the paddock
I am told that I lay in my pram as Gran
pegged the washing out to dry.
The sturdy oak tree held the line,
as the wind shook and stirred
the leaves above me.
As the years passed, we played games and it provided
an ideal hiding place for treasure.
We shared the sweets, fizzing memories on our tongues,
as we laughed and danced under the afternoon heaven,
splashed by the falling sunlight.
Now I sit under the dancing branches,
looking out across the patchwork hills.
I hear her whisper; it’s time to go,
but I will never forget –
my perfect tree, where I have grown.
Rock hoppers of Mars
Way out here on the ‘Red Range,’ you can kick up your heels in the merle,
While searching for witcheye black diamonds, sapphires, moonstone and pearls.
You could think yourself back in the ‘Outback,’ or some other vast desert on Earth,
If it weren’t for the cold and the silence, and the air in your tanks to conserve.
Look out to the Martian horizon, where the solar winds shimmer and play,
We call’s em’ the ‘Blackpool luminations,’ to remind us of home faraway.
Preserved in the dust lies the ‘Moa,’ its bones pushing up through the ground,
There’s ‘Sabre Toothed Slothe’ and ‘Great Ares Snake,’ prehistoric remains in the sand. Twisters spring up out of nowhere, while dust storms blow in from the dunes,
We’ve dry quicksand lakes, sinkholes that wait, and geysers that spout acid plumes.
Exposed to this hostile Red Planet, is an occupation that most would avoid,
For if I was to puncture my spacesuit, my blood and my head would explode.
The dune buggy I ride I’ve dubbed ‘Bertie,’ we-ll, you can get sentimental out here, Three years from our friends and relations, and living in a complex of spheres.
There ain’t much to do on your off time, cept watch old movies and eat,
While ‘some are building ships and boats,’ I practice my karaoke technique.
The company sent us a memo; which enquired our religious ethos,
I replied “May the force be with you, I’m a ‘Jedi’ disciple of course.”
The cooks gone a little bananas, he’s shacked up with a drone chambermaid,
He won’t let anyone near her, “I’m the warthog of love!” He’s proclaimed.
She’s dressed in a little black number, he beamed up from ‘Primark’s’ new range,
Then he borrowed the 3D printer and proposed with a ring that he’d made.
Laid down in the terms of employment, set out in bold! Is the phrase,
“Fraternisation is strictly forbidden, with the androids that clean up the place.”
Beneath the ground floor in the basement, we’ve constructed a still in the stores,
We’ve made up a mash from fruit juices and distilled a French brandy of sorts.
The word went round in a whisper, inviting those in the know to come try,
The third engineer got blotto, and then he went blind in one eye.
The maintenance man was legless, telling all “I’m as sloshed as a newt!”
Then he got a fit of the giggles, whilst performing a ‘Vulcan salute.’
Night skies on Mars are a marvel; shooting stars fall while Martian moons rise,
Scholars named them ‘Phoebus and Deimos,’ but we call’s em ‘Morecombe and Wise.’
Armed with my little rock hammer, I criss-cross these alien plains,
Prospecting for mineral deposits, where fortune favours the brave.
Bound by the terms of our contract, inured on this world that we share,
You may ask me why did we come here? We came because it was there!
London-born poet Lucy Heuschen is based in the Rheinland in Germany. Her pamphlet We Wear The Crown will be published by Hedgehog Press in 2022. Her poems have appeared in Sarasvati, Reach, Dawntreader, One Hand Clapping, Irisi, Black Bough, Dreich and Green Ink.
A weaving of stars
Uneasy suitcases totter
on the roof. Legs, as yet
unaware of their length,
vie for restricted space.
The ferry stinks, yes, but
it’s dead cheap. One of us
throws up on a plastic seat.
Our skin is vinyl-beaded.
The tape-deck is broken
and Dad’s a new driver,
swerving close. We cling
to our vertiginous sleep.
We pause for sandy churros,
drenching almond horchata.
Parents doze; we whisper
secrets to the viridian sea.
Under plane trees, a thrum
of guitarra; each bright note
bears witness to toiling life,
of attention to softer things.
We steal some sidra, sweet
apple magic. In its trance,
we wait for the cool dawn
among a weaving of stars.
Elegy for an Owl
i.m. Manuel Jato Macias, 1929 – 2016
Professor Emeritus, University of Portland, USA,
tea afficionado, world traveller and our dear friend.
He is a pink-striped, bespectacled owl-man: neat
as a preened wing. His smile though is expansive
as the waters of the Sound stretching at his back.
Manuel can see the story in anything. He sends
airmail to the Señoritas of London Town: blue folds
carefully concealing a stowaway stash of stories.
There are packets, too: rainbow foils of polverón,
a Pilots t-shirt, a Great Blue Heron stamp, a book.
A sharing of the spoils from his latest adventure.
I visit in 1997. He brews Lapsang Souchong, but
when I ask for a splash of milk – Mi querida, please!
I drink it plain while we talk about impeachment.
Looking at his faded photo, I can hear a rustle
like paper unfolding, or a name of the softest vowels.
We are children again, taking turns to read aloud.
Years ago, Matt read in slams in Seattle cocktail bars, published poems on city buses and in long defunct zines. Now, he reads and writes in Plymouth. He runs Royal Adelaide Art & Yoga with Nic, a Yoga teacher and collagist. Facebook: @evanonrev
Love is slippery
The world, and by that
I mean my world, and by that
I mean this moment, is fraught
with inconsistencies, lumps, cracks.
The possibility of absence,
the possibility of presence,
I crave this condition,
I pursue what I know as if
it was unknown to me.
You’re there, next to me,
breathing quietly, I know that.
My grandfather was disappointed
in the God he loved, for creating
a world that failed to live up
to his expectations.
My grandmother loved unconditionally.
They gave me those gifts.
You gave me this moment.
Tomorrow after the rain,
I’ll walk out, find a place
to watch leaves travel
along the gutter toward
the corner where they’ll
gather and spill over
the street with the water
that carried them there.
Today Has No Need For Ghosts
Hours ride the breeze that
whips up under the bridge,
through gaps between pylons
stretched like teeth across
the mouth of the river
whose real mouth is further
downstream and mixed up
with other waters
from the mouths
of other rivers
and the sea.
Today has no need
for ghosts, the wind spins
its own scary stories, crowds
eyes, ears, pushes like echoes.
The wind takes things:
scarves, hats, breath, tears.
It wants umbrellas,
it wants to want.
It finds hollow,
to fill, to howl
into gauzy flesh,
with no windows,
and weightless bodies
made of grey racing
across the sky.
Vron is a member of Nottingham’s DIY Poets Collective, and performs regularly at open mics. Her work has been published by DIY Poets, Poetry & Covid, anthologies Geography Is Irrelevant and Spirit Of Fire&Dust. Her debut pamphlet Random Trail was published by Big White Shed in 2021. https://linktr.ee/vronmcintyre
In awe of rubber bands
With that heightened sense that everything has meaning,
even the things that don’t, skating close to the line
between inspiration and madness, even rubber bands
become charged with significance. I keep finding them
in my path, like magic, as if the sacred universe
that now includes branches of Office World
along with stone circles and the beauty of nature,
is speaking to me in its own language, leaving clues
for me to decipher. They mean I am on the right track,
keep on doing what I’m doing, this is the right way to go.
Also, put it in your pocket, you might need a rubber band.
At times like this life is studded with odd synchronicities,
clustered together, after a fallow period, awe and mystery
invoked by something as ordinary
as the postman’s stretchy leavings.
She has a secret deep inside
all the stars and all the galaxies
run through her hands like beads
– camp fire chant
sunday supplements scavenged,
cut, torn into long wedge shaped
strips, wound round knitting needles
wide end first and glued to make
a multicoloured oval with a hole.
when dry, varnished, painted, slid off
to become a bead, ready to be strung
lump of rock, chunk of clay or amber
carved to suit, moulded from paper, plastic
anything. Seeds, stones of fruit, small shells,
rosaries strung to pray or play,
counting beads, abaci, beads to tell the time
or day, or time of month, or moon
bead as eye, as many eyes
the beads, all the beads,
rippling, cascading through her hands.
A Polytheist Encounters Gods
after Alan Pelaez Lopez
I saw God the other day driving the number 28 bus,
city bound, she got out and lowered the ramp
for my chair, said the exercise was good for her.
She drives that route often.
God walks this way most days, delivering post
or drives the ambulance for disabled kids.
God brings parcels, prescriptions, thin crust pizzas
with black olives, red onions and pineapple.
God takes a photo these days so we don’t have to sign
runs nimbly back to the van, tightly scheduled.
On Tuesdays God empties the bins, sending our rubbish
to the communion that awaits it elsewhere.
God likes washing windows and trimming hedges
when the weather’s fine. At night God moonlights,
laying tarmac with the fires of hell. Maybe God
will fill in our potholes. We should pray.
Robin is a 16-year-old autistic poet from Sussex, who started writing to express things they weren’t very good at saying out loud.
Their first pamphlet, ‘A feeble attempt to save the world’ is available to read online
rebellion against the modern worker, or sir robin battles the pinstripe knight
i will not wear your suit and tie
show up at 9 am
dance for coins in half baked air
piccadilly line, circle, victoria, monday to friday, rinse and repeat.
we cannot have lived through impossible things
born a glimpse of life in a dark universe
to complain about tim and susan while your wife serves you supper
learn to dream in bar graphs
pick up the pieces
is it not enough to bake
make soup and sing badly
call friends round for tea; watch sunsets and swim
cool water on my skin is worth more money than selling the sun
my body was forged of a million others; these hands are not idle if they can darn socks and
pet cats like the universe meant them to
it is still the same earth that went round with king arthur;
i’d take my chances with any old dragon
than drag out my life till i die.
when the mists set in
in early october
i go to the chapel,
in the evening.
i have never believed
in a world beyond this one
nor felt and presence
of a god among people,
i go for the gravestones
to make sure i remember
every last person who’s lost in their slumber
and i go for the moss
that grows between cobbles
and over the headstones
and inside the chapel,
the pews are all cold.
old wood for old souls
and the mould on the paintings
is only the earth
coming back to reclaim what’s hers
and right in the middle,
there’s a boy on the wall.
pierced like a pin cushion,
glowing in the sun
his mouth is half-open
and i hope he is singing
or reciting some poem
and i feel like i know him
i come here so often
and sit with the soft light
and watch him singing,
one note, for the rest of time-
but i think i know
the line he was stuck on.
what a martyr would call
as he dies for his people,
as he dies for a reason
a fight or a freedom,
‘may love be the death of us all’
song for Wilfred Owen
double you oh,
i wish that i had your own hands to write with
and your secrets to keep
i wish i could kiss you once on each cheek (for luck)
i wish i could tell you, never again, all war is over, and its all your fault
i wish i could speed up the 1918 postal service
i promise i’ll get around to it
and i really wish there were more photos of you smiling
but maybe i would just be sadder now
and its awful nice to know that someone of your perpetuity, darling
still fucks up poetry
and crosses out every other word
and i hope you know somehow that your anthem is drunk by every generation
we are not alone in our futility
and you, you
are not alone now
do you know that?
do you know?
and even though i refuse to believe
in even more life than there already is
i would curate a heaven just for you to go home
change the world, why don’t you?
beauty in terror, my love
your book is on my shelf
your words are on my wall (and in my bones)
Liz is a writer based in the Forest of Dean. Having worked as a freelance journalist and copywriter for several years, she has only recently summoned up the courage to begin publishing her own creative writing and poetry.
News in Brief
Turns out, the PM was drinking G&Ts at a BYO party at HQ, while the rest of us were getting FOMO because our social lives were MIA.
Number 10 tried to keep it on the D-L, but it ended up on the BBC.
Of course, BJ gets a roasting at PMQs, with even his own MPs saying he needs to GTFO ASAP.
(As this is all going on, FYI, there are still question marks about who paid for his DIY.)
Elsewhere in the UK:
nobody can get an appointment with their GP, so they end up in A&E – then get shifted to a B&B because there’s not enough beds;
teachers are up in arms about GCSEs, because thanks to COVID, exam results now mean sweet FA;
and every day another PC is being caught on CCTV doing the unmentionable to someone with a DUI.
So, in brief:
the government’s gone AWOL,
the whole country’s F’d
and we can’t even blame the EU.
Dark stone slabs peer out at a cold wet dawn.
Mist hangs low shadowing zombie figures
as they creep between steel trees.
Sun tears at smoky clouds, ripping seams
for light to force through,
turning a smile on the congregation as they
approach up the drive.
The church feels sombre, wrapped in the mood
of the overcast morning.
Doors open lifting spirits of smudged charcoal faces.
Ladies in their seats, a rainbow of colours
to brighten the day.
Carrying top hats and wearing tails, buttonholed
men fidget waiting for the music to start.
A bride enters in white, all grey flees,
banished to the shadows
of her creaseless dress.
William, a Cumbrian recluse, has published poetry, fiction and non-fiction in English and in French. williamwoodswords.wordpress.com
Browsing a fleamarket in Bruges
I was hailed by a woman in black
Who from the depths of her rags
Spoke out with malevolent mien
You are welcome, Monsieur to my stall
I’ve waited here years for you.
She handed me a wooden flute.
But I have no musical skill .
Take it, she ordered, you’ll quickly learn.
With reluctance I accepted it from her
And like a child with a lolly I tongued it.
All at once the flute started to play me,
Sucking my breath and pumping for more.
My fingers danced over the holes in the stem
As though compelled by superior force.
And everyone there in the market
Stopped spellbound and listened to me.
As I marched on my way down the street,
A child, then another, a veritable stream
Gathered and crowded and followed behind.
Then down to the river we flowed.
Waste not, want not, eat up the windfalls first.
So they placed fallen peaches on the window sill to ripen,
Nibbled one side of bruised eating apples,
Cut rot from cookers, cored and sliced them for the freezer,
Wiped the slugs from wizened pears, quartered quinces,
Bottled bloated plums, always saving windfalls first.
But the good fruit ripened faster, dropped and rotted
In its turn. This fall of blemished fruit
This shower of imperfection so abounded
That they had no time to suck, to savour a warm ripe peach
Bite an apple such as Eve would offer, a sun-drenched pear
Intact from tooth of wasp and blow fly’s eggs. Perfection
They never tasted.
You passed me the matchwood box
Thin as paper, light as air.
“Open!” you said.
I lifted the lid
With a rasp as scarcely audible
As the snip of butterfly wings
Across a summer garden.
Nothing in it but disappointment.
“Taste!” you commanded, dark eyes
Glittering black gemstones, “Like this.”
You moistened a forefinger between red lips,
Dipped it in white soft cushion
Raised the sugar coating to your mouth
And licked it delicately like a cat.
“My turn,” I said.
And again you thrust your finger
Into the fragile box, stirred it
In the rose and lemon scented powder
And smeared some on my lips
As though applying make-up.
Before I could taste the sweetness
You smacked your lips to mine.
Tongue to tongue we invented
Turkish Delight all of our own.
Eileen is a Scottish poet. Her first chapbook Some things I ought to throw away was published in 2021. She is currently working on a collection of poems based on memories of spending much of her youth in pubs around her home town, Glasgow.
I ought to give you that picture…
Your first portrait, a masterpiece
in light and sound
a ghost ship, as yet un-named
caught on the radar.
mollusc heart pearl eyes
life precarious on the swell
of the amniotic sea
cradled not yet constrained
by the strictures of the womb
Perhaps on some significant birthday
but eighteen and twenty-one have passed
and still I hold on.
Carol, a former MA Student from the University Of Gloucestershire is a short story competition winner, with her entry, ‘Henry’s Seagull’, published in Fresh Leaves: Short Stories by New Writers. Her poetry has featured in four of the university’s anthologies and in the online magazine, Snakeskin.
Fight or Flight
It was bad.
It was bad.
The news spewed
Covid, Corona and then the Greek alphabet came into play.
China Virus or Kung Flu, a jester suggests.
Facts, figures, advice, fear.
Frozen, I switch off.
Our ancestors, when great storms roiled, would bare their lips,
throw rocks at the sky.
But we wait for the tempest to pass
and share memes with amusing themes
of lockdown habits.
Plague victims begged for potions, burned herbs, daubed their doors.
But we groan about Scotch Eggs with our drink,
and moan when asked to mask, again,
To jab, again.
The clouds have yet to part
but today, I slicked my nails a Merlot Red,
and booked my escape
to a land of warm spice winds,
where waves will tickle my toes
as I skim stones.
Sandra started creative writing after retiring because of ill-health. She turned to poetry after writing flash fiction and theatre reviews. Her first publication was in 2020, poems read by actors on You Tube. Collage Arts then commissioned a Lockdown diary, published online as Life Cycles at www.collage-arts.org/the-lockdown-diaries
I could bake you a cake
I could cook your favourite meal
I could take you boating on a lake
Or just tell you how I feel
I could hold your hand
I could hug and squeeze you tight
I could tell you what I planned
Or we could just not fight
I could sing you a song
I could share your favourite track
We could both sing along
Or you could just come back
I could give you a red rose
I could send you a bouquet
I could even propose
If you promised you would stay
I could think before I speak
I could listen and wait
I could believe this is unique
Or just hope it’s not too late
Pain is the soundtrack of my life; except I never sing along and I hate when it increases in volume
It is like standing next to a bass speaker at a gig or in a club, it distorts:
It can be muted, but I cannot switch it off
It can stop time and suspend my life
It is the only alarm to cause me harm.
Julie writes poems that cover many themes, but often engages with the problems of disability. Her winning Stickleback pamphlet Balancing Act was recently published by Hedgehog Poetry Press (June 2021) and her chapbook Quicksand by Dreich (Sept 2020). Website: www.jumpingjulespoetry.com
A New Wardrobe
I am scared of where it’s going these days,
how flesh stitched together will start to unravel
find threads that slowly fade,
Tiny holes have stretched apart
catching storms and threatening tests,
each void waiting for the next pour
of wasted hours and attempts to take part.
This walking suit no longer fits,
tired legs are lost on crumbling paths,
whilst memories of youth
chase every trial.
I stand here naked by the wardrobe,
coat hangers now hold hands that help,
walking sticks and tongues that know better.
Clothes taken by battles they didn’t win.
I didn’t cower in a corner and inhale their air.
There was always something inside
that wouldn’t stop throbbing.
The voice of the dare would constantly prod
until I’d scream from the rooftop,
I saw the twist of flames, the fire then the rug,
paper in hand, I wanted to try.
One scorched hole later, the stench of fear.
That stare from pink ted, the devil in those eyes.
It hurt when they didn’t find me.
I yanked them out. Can you see me now?
The egg on your door, a trick or a treat?
A morning glow, the sun would scream.
They warned me about playing with boys.
I caved in. There’s still a loud cry
from childhood years that found a voice.
I can still hear them hollow.
The cleaner has been up all night
polished those roof tiles,
made that grimy car shine,
coated leaves with a slick sheen.
Cold has given me a youthful zest.
To the dustbin, a balanced walk,
to the door, a path shortened,
for these legs, the thrill of ease.
Being watched is my downfall though −
the low sting of sun’s floodlit eye,
a glare that will blister my view.
The curse of winter in both eyes.
It is hard to hold joy with such a crime
to gift my legs, yet to take these eyes.
The case of cold warrants two answers −
glide to the window and unleash the curtains.
Aberdeen-based writer Mandy hopes that music and poetry will help her survive the 21st century, but cultivates an allotment just in case. Her work appears in anthologies and journals in Scotland and beyond. Her pamphlet The temperature of blue is available from Blue Salt Collective. http://bluesalt.co.uk/the-temperature-of-blue/index.aspx)
Stylites: Pillar dreaming
I saw them! I was there,
with those people.
Not very many, no,
but standing in a line, shoulders touching, as though for
a group photograph. Some kind of ceremony.
They – we – were well dressed,
quiet dark suits, not-too-shiny shoes, unassuming heels.
Pearls for the women. I was there, I tell you. I gazed down at them,
a long way down, for a while,
and then I flew. Flew down and joined them,
stood in their midst. No one spoke. There was no music.
Was it a celebration of joy, or grief?
I couldn’t tell. But I was close among them.
Don’t talk nonsense. You’ve been on your own
too long. You’re delirious.
Get back to your post.
Here, look at this photograph.
Is that what you saw? That figure at the bottom left,
the tall blurry one, seems to have turned his head
just as the shutter opened –
do you think that’s you? Surely you can see
those creatures are from another age.
St Simeon Stylites was a fifth-century ascetic monk born in Cappadocia in Syria. In 423 he took up residence in a little hut set on top of a pillar (Greek: stylos), devoting himself to continual prayer and fasting. Simeon had a long series of imitators in the following centuries, mostly in Syria and Palestine. They became known as the Stylites, or Pillar-Saints.
moonlight & waterlight
meet on your brow
their meeting a blaze
which of your faces
will turn its gaze upon me now?
behind my raised hand
i hide my eyes but you
shine through the bones
how my language glances off
your marble surface
I have begun to say no.
A list of the things
I am not going to do
trailing after me
like French knitting.
You don’t need to know
what those things are,
just that deciding
not to do them
is my freedom,
perhaps theirs too.
I wean them, tenderly
kiss them goodbye,
close the door after them
and lean against it
for a moment, resting.
other things will come
that can’t be sent away.
Old age. Illness.
That other one.
They will wing me
with swansong shots.
But I have things
to do before then.
Shining, singing things,
things that sail, that fly.
in warmer climates,
new to me. Things
I haven’t even
Marek writes short fiction, poetry and theatre reviews on contemporary social themes. He has published in Epoque, Source and Night Writers. Sometimes he performs self written political punk rant songs with three chords – and is proud of having been banned from several local pubs.
An Urban Sight
I think it is January. I am sure it is January. It must be January.
‘It’s all coming down on us. All those bombs. Old rockets. Shrapnel. It’s a disgrace.’
Who is that speaking? Where are those words coming from? What is that noise?
‘Those people who never move when they’re asked to. Can’t they see we’re waiting in line ?’
I can’t move yet. I would like to say something.
‘They like their drink round these parts. And drugs and knives and guns. Always have. Always will.’
I would like to know where those words are coming from. I’d have some things to say.
‘And tuck the end in will you? Nearly done.’
It’s all gone quiet. I don’t know how long. It must be late.
There is a ruptured umbrella lying in the gutter. Broken spokes. Torn fabric. Empty cartridges.
There is something important to say. I forget what it is.
There are no voices. Stark dark all around.
‘So, have you seen what they’ve done to the High Street? It’s a right mess.’
‘They’re out of their heads, petrol bombs and beers. I wouldn’t go down in the dark.’
‘So we’ve changed the dressing.’
‘Will you do the drip? Then we’re done.’
A bell is ringing, ringing, ringing. No-one comes. The lights are out.
The walls are deformed. Broken bricks, tangled wires. Which way?
He shoots off down that lane! Giant dogs are galloping on corrugated iron.
There are voices and then there is nothing more.
Beep. Beep. Beep
‘More light, please, yes, just there, perfect.’
Beep. Beep. Beep. ‘This won’t hurt.’
‘He hasn’t opened his eyes yet.’
‘He’s stable at present. It will take a while.’ Beep. Beep. Beep.
I can feel the sun.
I know it is January.
I can’t open my eyelids.
I can’t see a thing.
‘They’ve taken you off the oxygen.’
‘That’s a good sign.’
‘It was touch and go.’
‘I’m sorry there was nothing we could do for your eyes.’
Nina is a former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, her poems are published in a variety of magazines, anthologies and online including Abridged, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Under the Radar. Her pamphlets Fragile Houses (2016) and Patience (2019) are published by V. Press. Twitter: @Neens07
At six, I could tell the fox was in agony
after the stork tricked him.
I was mesmerised by his orange coat.
My Aesop puzzle bricks taught me;
one bad turn may deserve another
but without forgiveness, we can’t live.
I loved the small, hand-stitched booklet
which introduced tales
I would one day pass onto children
who were not my own.
Never leave yourself hungry.
Find a way to compensate,
comfort a life which is not perhaps
the one you wanted to build.
Flowers for the Frail
The house fills with flowers,
bright dahlias suggest an Indian summer,
sun colours force feeling of health,
pink rose petals as delicate as skin
It takes a few days to empty the dead ones.
Weary stems contort into the kitchen bin,
rest on top of wasted food
and empty blister packets.
All things die –
the trick is to capture beauty
whilst they’re living.
I have always been obsessed
with my mother’s hands.
I remember her skin –
soft, moisturised perfect.
Her hands holding mine.
When I was ten, she worked
a lunchtime shift and wouldn’t wash
her hands until I was home.
I would prise her palms open,
smell the beer. She’d smile.
When I think of hands I rarely consider
mine. How similar they’ve grown.
Deep in soil, planting seeds,
in bubbles with dishes or on piano keys.
I don’t consider how they’ve been gripped
with love my whole life –
or the babies they’ve held.