From 1 January until 28 February 2023, we feature our third open submissions window, specifically for poems not yet published in any medium. Submission is free, and selected poems are published in wildfire words as text, and in most cases, audio.
Thank you to all who have submitted. Here is the complete list of poets and audios published:
Afra Ahmed, Alshaad Kara, Alwyn Marriage, Andy Klunder, Anna Banasiak, Beau Beausoleil, Bridgette James, Cathy Whittaker, Chris Athorne, Chris Hemingway, Chris Scriven, Clare Starling, Dave Wynne-Jones, David Birch, David Willis, Doryn Herbst, Emma Wells, Frank McMahon, Frank William Finney, Gavin Lumsden, Glenis Moore, Glenn Barker, H. K. G. Lowery, Helen Openshaw, Howard Timms, Ivor Frankell, John O’Mahony, Jonathan Chibuike Ukah, Julie Stevens, Kate Copeland, Laura Payne, Leslie Tate, Marilyn Timms, Martin Rieser, Michael Parsons, Michelle Ellard (Chelle), Minoru Soma, Mykyta Ryzhykh, Nanette Tamer, Neil Douglas, Nicky Whitfield, Peter McCluskey, Philip Rösel Baker, Rabbitfeet, Rodney Wood, Roger Patulny, Sandra Howell, Sangita Kansal, Simon Monaghan, Simone Mansell Broome, Tricia Lloyd Waller, Vicky Hampton, Wendy Webb, Yvonne Crossley
indicates one audio of a poem read by the poet.
Next audio recording events for these poems are on 18 March
Our aim is to add audio to most of these poems by 25 March.
Wendy Webb loves nature, wildlife, symmetry and form, light and dark, and the creative spark. Published in Reach, Sarasvati, Quantum Leap, Crystal (and many earlier magazines); recently in Littoral, Lothlorien, Autumn Voices, Wildfire Words. Landscapes (with David Norris-Kay) is on Amazon.
Choosing Resolution 2023
Chose a New Year poem
arrived like a Tsunami
for my vigorous youthful swim
not self- just, you know, a name,
same age, wrong sex,
Chose TV viewing, food and treats,
before sleep-deprivation overwhelmed
like a solitary woman emerging from hell
coated in white dust
-self- an ocean away, while the rich,
the famous told their stories for years.
Chose clothes to wear,
so everyone would see a celebration
to a cacophony of light-sparking hope.
Flags in blue and yellow fade
in a garden expectant
with the joys of Spring,
while sunflowers bury their dead in shame.
Earth chose bright sunshine,
blue skies and wispy clouds of charity
in the West; in England; in blue Norfolk.
Self-counted the dead, the living,
the Thank You cards.
Opened the door wide, with Resolution,
counting bulbs/fiction/holiday plans/friends.
Swimming to Dye for
I would really like to dye our dying,
make it brighter (different shades of light),
so that it’s easier to consider, reflect, affirm
that I’m not dying anymore.
Because I’m living, and though I don’t want
to live forever… (Do you? Really? The same)
no-one can die their dying, make it vanish
like the Grim Reaper. Pretend. Distract.
Today I am living; who knows how long.
What traces are left behind, to declare life,
then face embarrassment if we’re gone before…
everyone else; or simply, publication?
So I will live my dying daily:
it’s not so morbid really. Are you sure?
I won’t make this dramatic; like a TV drama.
Nor lovable; like Vera.
Simply, my chronology expands to forgetfulness;
or silly numbers; or unverifiable memories.
Yours too? I hope your earliest years were happy;
the body ages, the mind gets youthful every day.
Awareness flushes slowly: remember when…
your first near-death experience (someone else’s).
Inviolable, your belief that you would live forever.
It was about somebody else; someone old. Probably.
You would never grow old; inconsolable, beyond 30.
Then, you took a little knock. That scythe wavered
far too close for comfort. Devastating. Unlikely.
Perhaps this was life-in-death; and random?
One day you saw the light – that long tunnel –
and no-one around you agreed it could not happen
again. To someone just like you. You grieved,
TV soaps may have helped before. Not now.
You were mortal: because your friend/neighbour/
relative from childhood: had faced the unthinkable.
Empty tears and empty chew-balls.
This life (fighting) in death (theirs), changed you.
Then one day – God forbid – the unthinkable
(like shite) happened. To you.
It was your death; though you were very much
alive. They weren’t. How could you go on?
How quickly everybody forgot:
or simply denied your chance to remember.
Memorialising every future moment, anniversary;
seeking feathers, or candles; or (hellish), music.
One day, someone close faced your mirror.
Really, the same? You learned death-in-death,
for no two grievings could reflect otherness.
Born in a crowd; dying alone.
A mirror-death; nothing they/you could share.
One day you said, ‘I’m too old for funerals.’
They’re the same? Can’t see the point?
Cannot hear the minister? Life is…
For the living. And the living are, always,
leaving their dying. (Theirs and everyone else’s).
Dyeing a shade of light… and a shade is?
Anyone who’s leafed their dying. Finis.
Marilyn Timms is co-editor at wildfire words. More on Marilyn’s bio
“Chang’an Boulevard, 1986” gives a voice to the iconic photograph of an unknown youth, halting a line of tanks after the Tianenmen Square massacre. News reporter Kate Adie’s words are taken from the BBC archives.
Chang’an Boulevard, 1986
“This is Kate Adie, for BBC News, Tiananmen Square, Peking …”
Blossoms tangle your hair, Fei Yen.
I tease one free and put it in my wallet.
First contact, new beginnings
innocence of youth
Can you hear it, Miss Adie?
“… A pro-democracy peace protest in Tiananmen Square
drew 1.2 million supporters. With no real police presence
and an almost free press, the atmosphere was jubilant …”
I love you, Fei Yen, little-flying-swallow-bird
so aptly named, swooping into my life
little frightened thing
nesting in my arms, small and warm
dreaming of freedom.
Are you worried, Miss Adie?
“… The noise of gunfire rose from all over the centre of Peking …
Troop lorries were moving down the road, firing indiscriminately
at an unarmed civilian population …”
Fei Yen, little-flying-swallow-bird
Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping
stopping you, mid-flight
tearing your feathers
gorging on the hope in your womb.
Can you forgive them, Miss Adie?
“… A huge volley of shots. The young man in front of me fell dead.
I fell over him. Two others were killed yards away … We picked up
a woman with a bullet in the head, took her to the hospital…”
I love you, Fei Yen
drooping in my arms, body cooling.
Where now our future?
Where now a son with your eyes?
Can you see them, Miss Adie?
… Tanks rumble through Peking’s streets, randomly firing
on unarmed protesters …”
Bullets shredding the cherry trees,
life-bright leaves untethered
little flying swallow birds
touching down gently
in a pool of her blood.
Can you free them, Miss Adie?
“… The People’s Army was in control … a line of tanks
was finally leaving Tiananmen Square. A lone man walked
in front of the tanks and halted them …”
The tanks are approaching, Fei Yen.
Approaching your blood.
I can’t let them do this.
I step into the road.
Are you crying, Miss Adie?
“…The Chinese Red Cross initially reported 2,600 deaths
but retracted under pressure. The official figure is 241 dead,
including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded … thousands are imprisoned
… many executed …”
Fei Yen, little swallow bird
wrap your ghost wings around Kate
smuggle her film far out of China.
The BBC’s waiting
all the free world is watching.
Are you ready, Miss Adie?
Michelle Ellard (Chelle)
The greatest channel of expression is Poetry. A glimpse into the deepest crevices of one’s soul, writing has given me an opportunity to share myself with the world. All of my poetry can be seen at https://allpoetry.com/Miyodo
Do you know what it is to speak and be heard, so loudly there’d be no misgivings?
To be understood, to have no regrets, no guilt that deserved your forgivings?
A vocal respect that is often denied, resulting in growing frustration
How quickly a chat goes from 0-60, destroying all communication
Growing demise and an ego now spent, lashing out in a moment of rage
To silence my voice is to quiet my mind, what is spoken should never be caged.
She wasn’t born a masterpiece
A rainbow of colors spreads across the pages of her life, a complexity of hues and shades
Each tint and dye reminiscent of time and emotions, sacrifice and tragedy
In the infantry of her artwork, the depths cannot be seen yet
Though through the years and fine mistakes, one begins to visualize her convalescent
Dark tones of deep and bleeding reds stain the page with her worries and rage
Complemented with a softness of tranquility and peace, bright yellows and faint blues that
overlap one another
Flecks of black and streaks of green showcase her jealous envy at times,
While violet wisps that flutter like butterfly wings bare the true desires of her heart
This colorful mural, landscape of her life
All that has broken her, all that has made her whole
This portrait is her, what makes her beautiful, a Remington of modern times
Mykyta Ryzhykh is a winner of the international competition «Art Against Drugs», bronze medallist of the festival Chestnut House, laureate of the literary competition named after Tyutyunnik. Nominated for Pushcart Prize.
Published in the journals Dzvin, Ring A, Polutona, Rechport, Topos, Articulation, Formaslov, Colon, Literature Factory, Literary Chernihiv, Tipton Poetry Journal , Stone Poetry Journal, Divot journal , dyst journal, Superpresent Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Alternate Route , Better Than Starbucks Poetry & Fiction Journal, Littoral Press, Book of Matches , on the portals Literary Center and Soloneba, in the Ukrainian literary newspaper, and Ice Floe Press.
ruins speak the language of stones
we are all giant boulders
beside the eternal river of silence
the temple stands opposite the garden
a hundred-hundred-meter garden opposite the temple
and above the heads of the domes
and above the heads there
is a free sky
we both have black eyes
four loving black eyes
my two eyes are born to live in the distance
your two eyes are born to live in the distance
our two pairs of eyes with you are born to live in the distance
Beau Beausoleil is a poet and activist (Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here) based in San Francisco, California. His most recent book is, Another Way Home (Blue Light Press, 2022).
If you find
Jonathan Chibuike Ukah is a graduate of English and Law living in the UK with his family. His poems have appeared in various publications and anthologies.
To whisper in your heart at midnight,
squeeze the day into your arms,
to make dreams wear rainbow colours
like a jacket with a million pockets;
to make you the master and the mistress
of another life devoted to a purpose,
to laugh, cry, moan and mourn with you,
when mourners gather at your place
and the falcons decree a time,
when there will be nothing but pain
following every step that you will take;
to watch light fall on dying leaves,
to scrap my time, mummify my body,
so that I will hear no voice except yours,
love is the perfect condition.
There is no such love as unconditional,
when love is a perfect condition
for the troubled to have healing,
for the poor to attract compassion,
for the rich to be rendered needy
and the proud to be humbled;
for the lonely to have comfort
raising their declining heads to the sky.
To follow you home this night,
listening to the songs of the stars,
hiding under the light of the moon,
to brace ourselves for the evening wind
and let my arms wrap around you
like a wool duvet, a warm blanket,
love is the perfect condition.
Like the rain with more force than volume,
I have given it all in pursuit of my destiny;
when I lie like a stone on a field of cacti,
helpless and lonely, flat on the marshy ground,
the wind blows over me; the pebbles, harsh and gritty,
pin me to the ground with unrelenting force.
I can neither run away nor fight
the roving deluge of rain coming at me.
Sometimes I watch the cruel brush of water
rush along the naked ground, soft and open,
into my parent’s room with a loud gale
that ploughed into their souls and faith.
I watch in horror as my sisters scoop up buckets
to throw some balls of grey water into the drain
where there is nothing but a flood of cold water;
I watch again as broken glasses, banana peelings,
sail on top of the sea ravaging my parents’ home,
mocking pieces of paper, threads of silk clothing,
brutal dead insects and a lifetime of ugly memories
hit the floor of my broken house, stalking my peace.
I know I have been there before with hanging jaws,
haunted by my past, struck down to the floor,
every little rain attacks me like an Egyptian plague,
when helpless, I succumb to breathlessness and despair,
like my life sailing above this valley of little rain.
Chris Scriven has been writing for a number of years and, to date, has had poems accepted by Dream Catcher, The Cannon’s Mouth, Asylum, The Frogmore Papers and Orbis. He lives in Weymouth with his partner and two children.
How Strong Is Hope?
I’m searching for a strategy to cope,
a fool-proof plan in which to place my trust:
I know the strength of fear. How strong is hope?
Enough to dry this mudslide of a slope
and pave a road a little more robust?
I’m searching for a strategy to cope.
A method that would give me ample scope
to reconstruct my dreams from scattered dust.
I know the strength of fear. How strong is hope?
Enough to weave a decent rescue-rope
With which to climb this pit of self-disgust?
I’m searching for a strategy to cope.
A way to change this samey horoscope
to something that could help me readjust.
I know the strength of fear. How strong is hope?
Enough to push ambition’s envelope
and brave a chance that’s only win or bust?
I’m searching for a strategy to cope.
I know the strength of fear. How strong is hope?
Is it Enough?
The student that sweats for the sound of the bell,
still writing their test, wrist aching like hell,
thinking ‘Have I done well? Have I done well?’
The teacher that works late to mark every test,
with some disappointed with others impressed,
asking ‘Who did their best? Who did their best?’
The local team’s captain screams last-ditch advice,
his team one-nil up with the cross-bar hit twice,
praying ‘Let it suffice! Let it suffice!’
The counterpart striker still desperate to score,
still desperately chasing the point for the draw,
questions ‘Could I do more? Could I do more?’
The author that’s striving to write the right stuff
wants genuine class not ridiculous bluff
ponders ‘Is it enough? Is it enough?’
The words are re-read by this same average Joe
who weighs up their merit with low wattage glow
musing ‘How can I know? How can I know?’
Emma Wells is a mother and English teacher. She has poetry published with various literary journals and magazines. She enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories also. Her debut novel, Shelley’s Sisterhood, is due to be published in 2023.
Seductive seal skin is my coat –
zippered (a modern-day edge)
for ease of removal;
I slip in and out of worlds
both Human and mythical
praying that one day
my seal skin knots to backbone,
binds as spines to published pages
completing a bleary identity badge
of a true, life-worn selkie:
for I am no myth or fairytale fancy.
Man destroys, claiming all:
what is otherworldly
must be owned, chained down,
fastened hard as anchored ships.
I was captured on Kalsoy,
a fishing isle,
by a lascivious fisherman
who quickly stripped me bare:
pleasurable peeling back of silken skin
then burying it under lock and key
within an old pirate’s treasure chest.
I bore babes, two.
Skinless, like him.
Time ticked on.
I felt the panting pain of my fur
breathless in a torture tomb;
my selkie roots screaming for release,
growing bolder, louder by years of ennui.
Without my seal skin,
I am grounded, landed. Tied.
All too human.
He knows this. Planned it so.
One wintery night,
I listen harder, pressing
attentive ears to white-walled whispers;
I hear them echo my name:
“Selkie”. “Selkie”. “Selkie”.
With my husband fishing
and babes abed, I answer its siren.
I find the chest,
hidden well in attic dust
amidst the clutter of man.
Satin tendrils of seal skin
flutter to life at my nearness
rippling as silver waves –
awoken and eager to dress me
in selkie fur: my coat of honour,
reclaiming identity with the seas.
It fits as a glove.
I glide to shore,
forgetting legs, skirts, dirty dishes,
for a watery world is to be mine, once more.
I swim – freed…
In these waters, where I thrive,
fishermen are greatly cursed.
Revenge tickles salient fur.
I savour revenge,
bubbling as a stirred cauldron,
to deep water depths
where fishermen drown,
shackled to lost, watery prisons.
I dip my head beneath the surface
lose it there
sucked, held tight by liquid hands
allowing charcoal waters
to enwrap my mind.
Breathing as a fish
with gilled cheeks,
fluttering in watery waves;
I weave seaweed shores
where darkness is new vision.
I allow myself to calm
losing humanistic hearts…
Emotions bleed away…
as washing dirty hands
in purifying, obsidian waters.
A gothic spa
with exclusivity promised;
I’m a A-list celebrity
floating high upon onyx wings
of herbal meditation
where nourishing oils
soak water-born feathers.
Daily detritus is cleansed,
exfoliated away by scales;
dead skin is nibbled free,
stripping skin cells
in balmy steam.
Zen-like, I effortlessly tread waters,
unlocking blocked energy
as removed road traffic signs
from busy, arterial roads…
Spirit pours, forming rivulets
around my scaly, sequinned tail;
a new engine, rewired to turbo.
I’m a gothic mermaid
in no need of pedicures;
glimmer with black desire:
like Dracula’s wives.
I paint watery canvases
with midnight hues,
morphing with moonlight.
Michael Parsons has come to writing poetry later in life but enjoys the discipline. He is fascinated by words, imagery and the universal sense that personal writing may engender.
As a Child
As a child I longed to fly –
but not like a kite, with its strings taut against the wind,
strangled, dipping, plunging to the ground,
its colours crunching at our feet.
As a child I longed to fly –
but not like Icarus, with foolish contempt and pride,
circling downward, crashing with force,
the colour draining from his face.
As a child I longed to fly –
but not like a plane, scheduled, crammed with noise,
cumbersome, weighty, unbending,
its colour morphing into sky.
As a child I longed to fly –
to soar on the wings of eagles, uninhibited,
ascending on life’s currents,
my colours deepening, bright and clear.
As a child I longed to fly –
and perhaps I did.
Minoru Soma has been teaching English at public high school since 2020, after graduating from college. At the age of 20, Minoru started writing poetry in English, inspired by American folk or rock songs.
Step, step, seconds step,
Sane, or not, sane, insane,
Gone, gone, gone.
My hands twitched at the
red shady flame, giving them to
the neurotic fever. I felt a little good,
some seconds later, I puke an insult
to a person at a toilet: its avaricious
mouth, not allowed to speak
like a woman in the past
or in your bad dream, because
I speak the language of
sleepless as I am
Under pressure of
dead sun alive tomorrow
like the tongue of a devil, I am, I am,
asked which to heel, port or starboard?
Every morning I go to my wooden desk
arising from the sun-lit, clean comforter.
I start to speak, like a bubbling child,
about sea, horizon, the-end-of-the-world sky.
This is how to peel the heart like a fig, then I
go to the ritual of offering,
go to the ritual of sacrifice, and I just keep
finding myself out of reach.
To search for someone like me,
I fly above the crowd of mass goers
lined up in order. Pretend to hear
them scream out, shout out, as a phenomenal craze
of a certain age. Then, offering their words
instead of mine. Soon after, they all become mine
as well. The uncertain sense of accomplishment
somehow makes me feel certain about something.
Redemption and contempt, just a name given to
each act; everything is way too sad to do.
I am a believer of this ritual
Where I die and revive,
die and revive.
Paper and paper I pile, meaning nothing.
I strictly continue this ritual, even if
there is no one else but me.
The Summary of Love
a hot-blooded, lethal chemical
the labyrinth functions playing its own role
a tranquil blue flat surface
waves in miraculous control
stars in line and comets off orbit
in arms of the dark mercy
and maternity of war
to build a new house to reside in
to wreck a no-man cottage
you deny owning to believe in
your new religious, independent knees
the northern hemisphere and the southern
refuse to be split in half
even if there is any order
billion light years away
and the magnetic power
penetrating the unknown ends.
Peter McCluskey is a fiction and poetry writer from Dublin, Ireland and has published 4 contemporary novels to date. His first anthology of poetry, The Flickering Tide is due for publication Autumn 2023.
Actually Going Outside
We decide to do the cliff walk
from Bray to Greystones
even though the day is grey
and the heavy clouds are low overhead
with a distinct possibility that it will bucket out of the skies
but we don’t care
because we’ve set aside the day for this
and a few pissy showers aren’t going to stop us
from making the journey along the winding Wicklow coastline
because we promised ourselves we’d do it
and we want to stick to our guns this time
because we’ve spent too long putting things off
and wasting our time on Facebook and YouTube
and telling our friends
all the interesting things we do when in reality
it’s a virtual reality we’re fabricating that is more or less
an entangled mass of tissued stories and tall tales
and posed-for selfies
to delude ourselves and others
that we have an actual life
but not this time
we are actually going outside.
Crisis – What Crisis
The pubs were closed.
Do you remember it?
Will we ever forget, said my friend.
Human life at risk.
And the media telling us the pubs are closed.
We were stricken by the horror of it.
Our European friends were baffled.
The pubs are closed?
What about the hospitals, the vaccinations, the sick?
We clutched our Guinness beer mats to our breast, a tear rolling down our collective national cheek and wondered why our foreign neighbours couldn’t empathise with us.
You just don’t understand, we cried into our empty glass.
The pubs are closed.
So we resigned ourselves to a moral victory, a pyrrhic victory – we decided to tell them that everything would be ….. GRAND.
On Tonight’s Show …
She plays piano, maybe?
She’s an actor?
She runs marathons?
She’s an international Rugby player?
She has a radio show?
She writes books, poetry?
She’s a charity fundraiser?
She’s an architect?
No, no, no.
She’s an entrepeneur?
She’s one of the Royals?
She’s a mountain climber?
No, no, no, no.
She’s a concert violinist?
She’s a frontline healthcare worker?
She’s written a cook book?
No, no, no, no, no – she’s a Tik Tok influencer.
Tricia Lloyd Waller has always loved story since she first learnt to speak. She has recently had work published in The World of Myth, The Poet and Zombie Works Publications. She was last year’s winner of The Pen to Print poetry competition.
Into the gold tipped indigo sky
This poem is your first step to freedom
fly safely up into the gold tipped indigo sky.
But will it be safe up in that mysterious blue sky amid
frozen cosmic snowballs of gas, rock and dust as
you spectral sky -surf between slippery shooting stars
silhouetted against velvet pawed night time sky.
Leap frogging freely over Jupiter’s Galilean moons.
Consulting with the most ancient of constellations
and sailing languidly past Saturn’s sublime rings
as you consider your complex celestial futures
For you can no longer remain here upon this earth
a prisoner within his house of mighty myopic mirrors
where everything you are is seen and overheard.
And so your only escape must be interstellar.
Soaring upwards past the waxing crescent moon,
navigating an infinity of astral silver sprinkled stars,
you cartwheel over cascades of cinnabar comets,
tap dance daintily through antique amethyst asteroids.
Overawed by the howling and whistling of undiscovered
planets. Delighting in the raspberry metallic tastiness of
space and savouring the smoky bitter smells of burnt
almond and walnut cookies as you laugh out loudly
for the very first time in your long life and embrace
newfound freedom to fly and tumble to turn
and twist and marvel at the wonders of the
blessed heavens; fly safely my dearest fallen angel.
For this poem is your first step into freedom.
Fly safely up and away into the gold tipped indigo sky.
Vicky Hampton is founder and facilitator of Poets In Progress (PIPs), a peer-learning poetry group in the Forest of Dean. She is published in Graffiti, Eyeflash, Sarasvati, Red Poets, Wildfire Words, The Poetry Village and I’m Not A Silent Poet, plus other anthologies and ezines.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test
Vicky Hampton prefers not to have an audio.
Scientists fired a rocket into space
aiming for a kinetic rendezvous with an asteroid moon
that posed no threat to Earth
and in the year it took to travel the silence around the sun,
the fat-bellied orbiting the republics struggling with drugs
and insurrection, led the World’s lean young guns
to make something of themselves, carefully
keeping them from the truth of their age —
mothers squatted in African dust
making their last grains of maize into porridge for their sons;
sore-eyed paupers on Pakistan’s plastic archipelagos
scratting among a haze of smoking Western waste;
the disillusioned and war-torn clinging to the rocking horse
of a sinking dinghy —
pointing them instead to invest in the superstars
deflecting hypothetical disasters light-years away.
The upset rain
the strange light
on the frill of a daffodil
in a January flood,
parch, koala on scorch,
or landfill ransack
by bony polar bears.
the icebergs are dying.
Chris Hemingway is a poet and songwriter from Gloucestershire. His latest pamphlet is paperfolders, published by Indigo Dreams in 2021, and his debut is Party in the Diaryhouse (Picaroon, 2018). In the daytime, he’s a Finance Manager.
Mr D Saves the Days
Mr D’s diary looks like screenshots.
lost in blurs.
He likes it better that way.
Mr D keeps his memories
up in the clouds.
And fears the rain.
Till he’s gently reminded,
that’s how you move on.
Mr D puts down the camera,
picks up a ragged brush.
Placing pop art
within his stilled life.
We lay our roots among timeless things.
The hills, the valley,
the neck of the river.
The wood and the trees.
Static murmurs, observations,
from constant neighbours.
sketches on a map.
Limiting land with language and law.
These are words of guarding,
What is it they say?
we can’t see the wood
for the trees?
we’re the trees.
The wood was their idea.
Rabbitfeet is a queer and non-binary poet who draws experience from their studies of and work in nature, sustainability, and archaeology. Their work expresses the way they move through the world, and the interconnectedness of all things.
The holy spider understands her segmented legs;
She understands that, in spring, buds are hooves bursting from the bark to carry the tree to her web.
I am heavy with want, in spring; Tongue lolling, teeth blunt with disuse, Wolf at the feast.
I chew too fast,
My ragged lips tear at themselves:
Skin splits and I bleed silt.
Scraps speared and suspended from my jaw, I am two-tailed and tearing through the brake, Yelping and hurling myself wingless through the air,
Flying ﬁsh out of water out of air and into the river
Where the water is heavy with rabbit’s feet and rabbitskin and rabbitﬂesh.
The cacophonous world is rounder than ever, Snapping and shivering and shattering,
Fracturing into fragments and rupturing to rapturous applause Its edges are fraying,
Its seams to be picked at,
And my hands are just as frenzied as the rest. Paws in the dark earth,
Digging deep and baying for the joy of it:
The bifurcations of my ﬁngertip ﬁt perfectly into the ripples of this root; My nails are thick with dirt and sanctiﬁed;
The smell of intimacy is in my nostrils and it is rich and full-bodied and damp as my girl. I am salivating when I touch the little moving thing,
Snug within the sac,
Deep within the mantle that makes ash of my ﬁnding and uncareful ﬁngers. It is pulsing and amniotic:
Tails thread tails and the dray is empty, The hollow cold and chest-empty,
The last rattling cough long choked from the ridges of its throat. Ligneous column reaching with fevered ﬁngers rattling in the unquiet air,
The touch of the breeze against its ridges is a ﬁrebrand that has it burning for emerald and bare branches;
For bright sky and endless water, a river of cool earth to drip with straining slowness along its every twig and unfurling tender leaf;
For budding hills, lush and boundless and curved against the clouds, a great spine begging for the trawling touch of a ﬁngertip.
Its body is cut:
It falls in unbloodied ecstasy to lie among the mulch, Caressed by the bones of the earth,
And snug among spongy sedge. Its ﬂesh makes a violin,
Its strings tight and brittle, stretched and taught, Ripe for plucking by long and clever ﬁngers, Hogback knucklebones always just out of reach,
Desperation jinking around the hollow belly loud as a bell, Knocking against the ribs despite the closeness of the contact, The heat of the other throat.
I have always thought myself a violin; Can a tree be damned?
Eternal ﬂame burns wood as easily and thoughtlessly as skin.
I cut my teeth on rubies,
Pop their skin between my canines and laugh when the juice runs down your chin. There are horses moving along the spine of the world,
Their hair is wiry like your body; their smell sweet like yours.
When the sun warms the tack and the saddle is supple beneath my ﬁngers it reminds me of your skin;
Light-kissed impossible softness and a sweetness made to be experienced in the dim dust motes with hay in your hair.
Before you, I only wanted space, a meadow to carve up with my unshod hooves and grass so green it hurts your eyes.
You make me care about the herd; about the thunder of hooves and the sinewy beat of breath frosted in the winter air;
About the rhythm of community, about the water hissing on the stove and healing the bonebreak.
Your eyes are dark and deep as a brine pool, And just as full of life.
Their reﬂections show me equine wildness and my own eyes rolling white.
When your words are harsh, I remember her and marvel at the feather in your cap, But you pet me like a dog and i am transmuted:
The scratch of straw is enough when it’s your voice giving the order.
I follow after you, stepping into her canine paw prints and understanding her impulses; her desires; your appeal.
Howard Timms is publisher and editor of wildfire words. More on Howard’s bio
A new way, 1951
The princess smiled at us
while she was driven past
to see the building of her new road.
Our teachers had assembled
every infant and child to watch
and wave their own Union Flag.
We all saw her, but I knew
she was only looking at me.
Princess Elizabeth Way
was growing in fields near home.
Mum was thrilled, my father not.
Before the last tarmac was laid
Elizabeth was Queen.
Mum had been weeping every day.
Whatever was she mourning—
dying king or unfinished road?
Sent off to stay at Aunty Ann’s
I wasn’t told that my sister
was dying of cancer, like the king.
After the funeral, I came home
and Mum laid out a new highway
a private route from her to me
surfaced with memories of Janet
and not even on Dad’s map.
Kate Copeland’s love for words led her to teaching & translating, her love for art & water to poetry. Please find her pieces at Ekphrastic Review, First Lit.Review-East, Wildfire Words, GrandLittleThings, The Metaworker, The Weekly/Five South, New Feathers a.o. Kate enjoys assisting at literary festivals & poetry workshops, and housesitting at the world.
Ice cold rain drips down
the bathroom floor
the balcony chairs
bare, and over the ocean
to impede her withdrawal
to implore her unmoved.
and strategically dressed
in a thousand shawls
she covers the bitter with grief eating
the songs fill a day.
little flakes of cloudy breaths
from the top
a pale unrest
a coldness colossal
as the distance to him, them
palm trees choke on
their waving, break the sky
the water-cold won’t matter
her thoughts still sideline
the unappreciated monsters
here, the dark
of an empty room
while gone lights surround
kinds of happy
At the beginning of a year
Nothing needs predictable,
Not back before, not now here,
When snow subsides and blues rush silently.
Hold your breath and blow white circles.
All should impulsive,
Always ahead, always then there,
When winter breaks and wolves tread back,
Along the promise of planes and pines,
Along the reality of hopeful birds.
Will you ignore the cursing rules,
The untempered tides of lights and the year?
Repeat nothing past and notice all eternity.
Down the terraced hills, the greens wait silently,
When slow suns prove perfect views,
And January wins,
At the beginning of her year.
Glenis Moore has been writing poetry since the first Covid lockdown and does her writing at night as she suffers from severe insomnia. When she is not writing poetry she makes beaded jewellery, reads, cycles and sometimes runs 10K races slowly. She lives just outside Cambridge.
The last day
Glenis Moore prefers not to have an audio.
The stable is still
just the rustle of straw
as a rat noses his way
through the bedding.
Too late he sees the black cat
iron scent blends with the acrid stink
of horse dung and urine
swiftly discarded by the summer breeze.
I look over the half-open door.
The horses are enjoying
the sun, only Banner turns
and whickers. Perhaps
hoping for an apple or Polo mint
but today I have none as
it is my last. Tomorrow
I will be back in the city where
the sun bakes
concrete white and no
In memory of A. J. Heschel
Anna Banasiak prefers not to have an audio.
I hear the yearning in your voice
Rashi’s commentaries are hidden in
the rustle of trees
The stones are full of mystical light
Music seeps in the garden of sounds
The Psalms of David echo eternity
In the shadows of the past
I find the promise
The harp drowns out
The cry of war
Poem for Poetry National Day
slowly I grow up
I distort time
I turn the world
in the land of my childhood
‘When The Kindly Light Is Enough’
They were the thinnest shafts of light
Which crept in
Dreamy dazzling sensations of some kindness
Their silent anonymous patterns
The damp wooden
That rattled from side to side
Like densely packed boxes of frail matchsticks
Along tracks laid beyond the wide expanse
Towards Man’s ‘Final Solution’
You, poets of Elfis, of Jude, of Jehovah
Steeped in the benign
The silent and sacred ways of pen and breath, of comb and light
Who still see and still smell it
You, who hate Man still now
For his repeated repeatings
On the subject of hatred
Each of us under orders to be
In pressing times
Searching for the narrow shafts of light
Which might creep in
And send us elsewhere
Lies and falsehoods
The naysayers boisterous within
Before our broadest vision of Love
Anything to derail
This train of anguish, foreboding pain
To spin it
Before an impending ruin again
Oh poets! To sit with the biting tune of our collusion
That only sets it back on course
Along the wider expanse
Towards the fires and Man’s ‘Hell’
And yet, why should we poets hate and fear still?
An evil bolstered by a frailty, a fragility of goodwill
When we too know that a shaft of ‘kindly light’
Was once all it took
For Edith Stein to look
Into the eyes of the child
‘The Jewish Question’
And amidst the damp wooden
Raise a comb
There to softly smooth the threads of the girl’s dark shiny hair
And so release the daughter of Zion into the pale and sorry arms of God
Bridgette James was a Metropolitan Police Special Constable. Her work has also appeared in the Fib Review, Gutter and Wildfire Words. Her Poem “African Mimos” was longlisted for the 2022 Aurora National Prize for Writing. Two poems will be featured in Dreich. She has appeared in various Sierra Leonean anthologies.
No winners here
Roasted like a Barbecue
blade thrust in the chest
neatly concealed in youthful
ribcage: an archer’s precision
two down: one stabbed, one retaliation
drafted statement in a FED’s pocketbook
cinematic view captured on iPhones
Capulet’s rage unleashed; you grassed up
your comeuppance was long overdue
your obituary encoded in musical clues
our police tasers foil Montague’s rebellion
of hooded young blood, faces obscured
playground spat silenced by death’s call
no comment inhibits my Stop and Search
Officer it weren’t me
I swear it weren’t me
a plague on both houses
each postcode gang cinched
obituaries recited in YOUTUBE lyrics
toasted bro roasted like a Barbecue
Neil Douglas is currently a student of Life and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. His poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, North America and Hong Kong.
My girlfriend jumps at pigeons, is addicted to Korean soaps,
asserts that if afflicted one dark, wet, night by headache, blocked sinuses, broken bones
or heart, she should be conveyed to the Emergency Room.
Not blue-lighted. Not wrapped
in a red blanket, strapped to a gurney, oxygen mask in-situ, but taken
on the back of her beloved
through rain-drenched streets, across treacherous gyratories
by concrete underpasses, up sharp car park inclines
past pungent metal bins, via a yowl of alley-cats, across
and having negotiated the hospital’s huge revolving plate glass doors,
have her beloved collapse, a wheezing heap,
at the feet of a triage nurse.
Forget instant noodles, kimchi, she says
because only piggyback manifests as the genuine expression
of True Love.
Unicorn mounts the steps to the British Museum
sun gleaming on twirly horn / sun steaming the rain off damp flanks / sun creating rainbow loveliness / hoof echoes on marble floors / Unicorn snorts / admires reflection in ticket kiosk / flicks mane / slow-mo like Cameron Diaz shampoo advert / turns right into Egypt / left out of Egypt / tourists fumbling for iPhones / among Kleenex / bananas / keys in rucksacks / everyone craving a souvenir / uniformed attendant shouts whoa you can’t go there / Unicorn trots to Reading Room / on lookout for lions / a book smelling of animal skin and dust / concerning British Constitutional matters / Unicorn needs to learn but forgotten reading glasses / hungry / rustling tussle as opposable hooves unwrap / Unicorn swallows in two goes/ leaving melted chocolate on hairy upper lip and marbled flyleaf / a child in a red plastic mac / look mummy why is the unicorn eating a Mars Bar? / don’t be silly scolds mummy / it’s an antelope
Born to this Manor I was
the son of a ghost;
a peasant save for my teeth;
a willow with a Samsonite vest;
a Methodist in my sadness;
neither a hoarder nor a spender
with choice to see or not to see.
To weather the pings and narrows
of family fortune mum married
uncle Claude. Don’t ask.
Yes, there was something rotten
in the state of loan shark ̶ enmity
has the soul of shit.
And when they came for me
they said goodnight sweaty prince.
The rest is eggshells, violence.
Leslie Tate is a non-binary climate activist who interviews creative and community-active people weekly on radio and on her website https://leslietate.com/ Leslie studied writing with UEA, has three published novels (one of which has been made into a film) and has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Poetry Prizes.
Joining up the Dots
I’m on the high street holding a banner.
It’s an old, painted sheet
with poles across top and bottom.
My wife made it in a day
with brush and marker
crouched on the living room floor.
It’s an act of love.
Time’s short, we say, offering leaflets.
They’re something to hold onto. And give.
And hide behind. To produce with a grin
and a flourish like calling cards
or moves that end the game.
The shoppers don’t mind. Some stop,
a few look away, most take them for later.
We’re on their to-do list. They’d join us if they could.
We thank them. Each one’s a tipping point.
When our hour’s up, we take a photo
of us by the banner. It’s our frame and screen
and magic marked-out space
behind which the world falls away.
I’m at one corner, my wife’s at the other.
It’s a blue-to-red shift, a sketch to fill in; a memento mori.
When we take it down, we’re thinking of the Earth
as it is now – it’s old worn body,
stretch marks, blocks and deep connections,
and what holds it together.
Hanging on a wire above the Dartford Crossing
Who heard him?
All the birds of the estuary and the fish
hidden in creeks and waterlogged gardens
and the animals appearing
from secret dens and holes in walls
and the children, too, when their songs came round.
What did he sing?
Call and response. An aria with chorus, in hope.
A real, in-your-ear, this-is-happening litany
delivered from the wild.
Not for money but for life.
To be heard in the hidden backyards
and in the bare bright fields with gaps in fences
where leaves and insects dance
and in the woods with fungi, teeth marks and rot.
But mainly on the airwaves, loud and clear.
And how long did it last?
As long as the life-chain that stretches
from light to dark, passing on its way,
the tides and estuaries and mud flats
dug from under and returning to ground
with bugs and seeds and pollinators and homing birds
that appear out of nowhere.
Or here, on a bridge, on a highwire,
above blue light, shouts and cameras,
What Love Requires
My wife’s on remand.
For her, it’s a small, dirty, shared space
with bunkbed and toilet
where she’s between worlds
locked into time while doing it.
While I’m online, putting her story out there,
upping her ratings to where the numbers
take over and everything stops.
Because the last word on the net
when life’s sent down will be climate.
And whatever the smart talk,
promises to do better, or claims we didn’t know,
it’s an open and shut case.
But for now, she’s giving evidence
taking her stand in a cold, bare cell
to do-what-I-do by example.
I’m in the gallery, front row,
when she’s brought back to court.
With officers both sides, she sits
behind a screen like an at-risk witness.
It’s an edge-of-the-seat drama I’d like to end.
When her talk begins, I hear the words
emissions, justice and losses. Her theme
is compassion and what is due.
Delivered by heart,
it’s an appeal against harm and witness to life.
And to the Gods
who ghost-write everything she says.
They were the long-term listeners, advocates, mentors
and parents to our Earth
until we forgot.
For us, the judgement, when it comes,
will sweep away everything.
Or take us down to the one-way,
walled-in, no-return zone.
We’re so close.
And when our eyes meet across the room
it’s a moment of truth.
Nicky Whitfield lives in Pembrokeshire. She has spent her whole life working with words. From teaching English as a foreign language to working with communication-impaired adults as a Speech Therapist. Recent retirement is offering more time to express herself in the written word.
And just like that….
I pick up the landline
I hear you saying it and like a good moisturiser the news is slowly absorbed
You’re announcing a new birth, a new life
And just like that I become a new person with a new purpose!
My voice breaks, I stumble out the words how wonderful
As my heart fills with a rush of love for the family, the world and for everyone’s future
How loud shall I shout it so everyone can hear?
How large shall I paint it so everyone can see?
And the award goes to ……………………the new granny!
I place the phone down
I’m ready to make my acceptance speech now
But I see no crowds have gathered, no eager faces looking up at me
Instead I see I must keep the glory to myself for now
I’ll hold this precious candle-of-life news alight within me
And quietly and contentedly live off it’s welcome warmth.
The storm of Parkinsons
Shadowed by a heavy cloud that won’t move on
You muster all your strength to keep going.
Your wild spirit winning over the necessary servitude to pills,
Letting you live a little each day with zest and plans for the future.
Bright eyes looking deep into others
Making lasting connections in just a few moments.
Pressing on against the foe,
Battle weary and tired.
But there’s always a smile at the ready
Like the sun coming out to shine.
The weather may scream and tear at you
But I know it won’t break you.
Your soul finds shelter in people’s hearts
That will stay there long after the storm has passed.
The world is shrinking and
The horizon is creeping closer.
We set our sights on the hours close by
And pull back from making future plans
Each day matters as it should
From the unfurling fern
To the tender kiss on a dying man’s cheek
The secret is in the moment,
Not to be missed for fear it pass us by.
Gavin Lumsden lives in London, has written poetry for about five years and taken several courses at the Poetry School and City Lit. He has been published in Cake and On Hunger, a Poetrygram anthology. @GHLumsden..
Cuz, who are we shooting?
The range behind the gun store crackles with danger as my cousin’s ‘Dirty Harry’-style
Ruger 357 Magnum hangs
like a rod of plutonium in my right hand. We jump, when a cropped, thick neck, 60-year-old ex-cop, white,
as is everyone in the strip-lit, windowless hanger, unleashes a volley of shots
and wins a burst of applause from two women compatriots.
Though sound-proofed tiles on walls and ceiling cloak the cacophony,
they can’t mask its violence,
just like this tarnished silver shed off treeless Woodward Avenue,
with its shoal of semi-automatics pinned like flies, won’t hide its purpose with a flourish of ‘Sports’ in small, blue italic on the sign outside,
not when bigger blood-red words – ‘Target’, ‘Gun Shop’ –
make plain in the blazing Michigan sun
that the mission in Detroit is to learn about killing, and what to do if a burglar breaks in at night
bent on race revenge.
‘Raise, point and squeeze,’ repeats my cousin, as with both fists I grasp the brown handle, skin tingling with the future
its long steel barrel can bring.
My family’s eyes lock on mine, and I’m hit by a flashback of me in church,
holding my wife’s gold wedding ring, watched by our tribe.
The other surprise –
after he replaces my earmuffs,
sends me shuffling towards the plastic doors of what resembles a bowling lane –
is how his mantra works.
As the Public Enemy Number One paper target jerks on its wire thirty feet away,
reminiscent of hideous fruit on a lynching tree,
I breathe, lift my arm to line
the pistol’s sight with the silhouette’s chest, curl my second finger, beckoning it closer, watch the symbol shake
when the bullet passes through its thin, black skin, and I connect the muffled crack
with the small movement I made.
I tweak five more shots
from my body’s new extension, dismayed at the power
endowed by the revolver in my palm, I stagger from the cubicle,
wrench the hot pads from my ears and receive my cuz’s warm respect for a ‘kill’ score of 83 per cent.
Field notes on a honeymoon encounter
We’ve never seen a robin like him burst on our startled retinas, hop,
head twitching through the cottage door, a wary butler whose sea-coal eyes
vet us newlyweds washed up
on Anse Chastanet’s Piton-fringed shore.
This Caribbean cavalier,
cocky offshoot to Reepicheep’s swaggering genus, could, we think after googling, be a cross between Europe’s erithacus rubecula and America’s turdus migratorius,
except, punked up and funky in green top hat and tails, the red throat, yellow breast
and beak of our flashy busybody show there’s more than a streak of Africa in this bold bird.
Laughing in whispers, we call
him ‘Gutbuster’ as our sturdy guest grows in elan, his attention turns
to the crumbs of corn bread by my feet as I sit on the bed and gently offer him some,
delight becoming amazement when his trident feet grip a mid-finger and walk its bridge to my palm,
where suddenly I understand my power to crush and protect
the fluttering heart of my little man.
Oliver Sacks visits a patient in Crowland
A greyhound released
from steel traps of retirement,
you leap out of the hospital armchair, startling everyone, like when
you escaped fenland hutches,
diving down your mind’s hollow ways, where 40 years you coursed
over and over.
Now a dam burst of energy, you jabber and race and point to all corners of the room, door, window, light bulb,
dancing on one spot in your nightie, a born-again enthusiast,
whose arms raised celebrate
a miraculous reawakening. Hallelujah!
You turn to me,
your doctor and discoverer, as if to ask what next,
apart from the terror of returning? To preserve the moment,
I wonder if you could, with your Zygomaticus and other facial muscles,
coax a smile for the camera,
like ripples on a dyke reflecting geese flying south for the winter, and the thin face of a dog running to follow them,
jumps in the water,
back straight, haunches working, swims the long ditch
between fields of green beet, a blot in the evening sun slipping into the ebb tide
and out to the Wash?
Frank William Finney is the author of The Folding of the Wings (Finishing Line Press). His poems can be found in Noctivagant, The Raven’s Perch, Summer Bludgeon (anthology), and elsewhere. He is a former lecturer from Massachusetts who taught literature at Thammasat University in Thailand for twenty-five years.
Afternoon in Chiang-Mai
Bees buzz by the Bougainvillea.
Birds sing in the tamarind tree.
I sit on a bench
at the foot of a mountain
eating sticky rice
and sipping tea—
the bungling of the temple bells
betrays the century.
After E.E. Cummings
Young Sol chose fire to fool the worms.
No stone on Westlawn wears his name.
Lessons to be learned on Loser’s Leap:
He shunned the skunks. Refused to sing
(although the family claims
he kept canaries).
He was counting his chickens when
the barn burned down –
Nobody here suspects foul play—
Least of all, young Sol.
of the cobblestones,
they say the station
greets its ghosts
while I dream platforms
ranting with a raven
Tonight I crawl
the city walls.
Tonight the swans
float on the quay.
By this time tomorrow,
I’ll be Boston bound
unless I miss
Doryn Herbst, a former water industry scientist in Wales, now lives in Germany. Her writing considers the natural world but also themes which address social issues. Doryn has poetry in Fahmidan Journal, CERASUS Magazine, Fenland Poetry Journal, celestite poetry and more. She is a reviewer at Consilience science poetry.
Around the bend and there it was
at the side of a country road.
Beige canvas hung, a makeshift store,
a watermelon bar.
Tables and tables piled six layers up, five
layers deep with fresh, ripe, thirst-quenching
watermelon. How perfect for the hazy, lazy
warmth of an Italian afternoon.
We packed our bags to bring some home,
Crimson flesh to slice and cube,
soak in wine and sugar. A spiked delight,
we filled our bowls, more than once,
with the intoxicating mass.
The lake still blue, the sun an amber burn.
And far away behind the house, some singers
sweet if a little out of tune. I looked,
and looked again into your eyes.
Shifted my gaze to watch the heat go down
beyond the hills.
The scent of fruit, the taste of wine,
your thigh against the back of my hand.
This time with you,
this summer waltz,
this never-forgotten whirl.
Once, I said
I liked you, a lot.
You misunderstood my meaning.
I do not like you
instead of loving you.
I like you as well as loving you.
Love can be demanding,
like water, less costly,
no less precious than wine,
does not burn, does not bruise,
does not stain your lips,
can erode a space
through which love can flow.
My Time Will Come
I will give you more.
I will take you further.
I will push you higher.
My time will come.
Ivor Frankell is a lover of language and literature, writer and photographer living in Cornwall and writing in both English and Cornish. He enjoys being part of local poetry groups and getting work published from time to time, most recently on Wildfire Words, in Cornish Modern Poetries and An Gannas. His work explores identity, family history, Cornish landscapes and his own psyche.
“does he have Parkinson’s” they ask us
in the community hospital
as if he cannot hear them at all
their voices confuse him
as he remembers singing
in the Wesleyan Methodist chapel
and the long road to school
the Cornish Eistedfodd
the family around the piano
the childish armour of faith
the journey across the room
has become a long sea voyage
the waves shake him
as he navigates the narrow channels
at home once more
he sits by the window
looking out at the estuary birds
with their silent calls
and the distant ships
between memory and dream
sipping tea carefully
in the tall chair
he does not know
what tomorrow will bring
as time’s signposts
become harder to read
voices harder to hear
words fading away
it is the familiar formula:
the sombre introductory music
the favourite hymn –
feed me till I want no more –
recollections of happier days
the garish slideshow
of Cornish places
like vintage postcards
Then the Eulogy
tracing the departed’s origins
his work and married life
the good he did
his cheerful smile
his collection of shorts
And then his fading
into stumbling old age
the love he showed
and which we feel
as if we were not numb
with cold inside the chapel
longing to go home
to leave the masked ceremony
and the coffin bearers
shouldering his weight
the roadside brambles
thrust their spiny claws
through stinging nettles
as I bear the scratches
snatching clumps of dark
as blood and blackberry juice
run down my arm –
but brimming with excitement
I grapple with the wiry stems
reach and bend
to catch the berry fruit
as the harvest piles up
inside a paper bag
then my face comes close
to faded dusty fur
pale silver coat
a badger sprawled out
on the grassy verge
its paws outstretched in prayer
body hidden in the green
I step back sharply
into the empty road’s stillness
but the sombre badger’s shadow
hangs over the bushes
as the bright August afternoon
dims slowly towards autumn
Dave Wynne-Jones left teaching for health reasons, gaining an MA in creative writing at MMU, then writing articles for outdoor magazines and organising expeditions for time-poor mountaineers. He’s published two mountaineering non-fiction books and two poetry collections. His poetry has also been anthologised and appeared in magazines.
The ground rings like iron
as a pick bounces out
of a dent in its armour.
Eventually cracking, dark earth
upturns crystals of frost,
Too cold for snow,
all moisture is locked up
from wilting plants.
Wind whirls dust flurries from a surface
scoured by frost and the treacherous
burnishing of Winter sunshine.
ice bosses bulge over deep seepage,
rocks are clad in rime.
A crowbar, sledge-hammered down a foot,
suddenly meets unresisting earth,
Ptarmigan are mottled
like flakes of snow on spruce branches
but burst from snowy heather
in a clatter of wingbeats.
A white hare darts this way and that
in a patch of sunlit snow before
sitting up on haunches, twitching
nose and ears to sense us on the air.
Wind-driven specks of frozen snow
sandblast my hooded face, I keep
my head down. Boots trudge into
a giving of snow, following footprints.
Safe in our numbers, nine alone in storm
suddenly raise our heads as one
to see nine deer stopped one behind the other
turning their heads to look at us as one.
Weasels in the Snow
are a flash of brown, a snaking
undulation around boulders,
through chinks and disappearing
into deep shadow beneath bright snow:
are a neat head popping up,
a quick calculating stare,
squinting in the light
before ducking back out of sight.
Disturbed, they melt away except
for one, which flits awkwardly
like a wind-blown glove
skittering across a snowfield.
Andy Klunder is primarily a visual artist but finds it necessary to express himself through poetry, a medium which allows a more complex nuanced response to the anthroposcene world. A Modern Burial is a response to his Mother’s, and hence his, experience of dementia care. Andy recognised a link between her condition and care and that of Iron Age bog sacrifices as expounded by P.V.Globb in his book The Bog People.
Twitter @AndyKlunder www.klundera.net
A Modern Burial
Andy Klunder prefers not to have an audio.
Strangled by kin for offence
you could neither help nor know
you float among shadows,
a furled and fragile effigy
pinned down by cruel decline
that seeps corrosive residue
through familiar place and time,
sinking self into sediment
to be lost to me and mine.
Afra Ahmad is a writer, poet, and published artist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She writes about everything under the sun: from dark issues of society to problems faced by teenagers to imparting chunks of wisdom through her poems, stories, and write-ups.
Afra’s works have appeared in Blue Minaret, Her Hearth, Melbourne Culture Corner, Iman collective, MYM, and Broken Spine Collective.
Afra Ahmad prefers not to have an audio.
The wax of my life’s candle has melted
and I find myself utterly incapable of reconstruction.
Childhood traumas drone over my head:
my unhealed wounds bandaged with makeshift dressings.
Watch me attempt to replenish the veil of my hope
and fill this heart with alluring tenderness again.
You had whispered once:
“You possess no other skill but to douse in love,
anyone and everyone – angels or enemies.”
But love is better, more peaceful
than the thirst for vengeance
that Heathcliff nurtured till his death:
you will be left with nothing.
In the messy trench where hearts are hurled,
on closer inspection, you will find
my quixotic heart floating too;
Which pyre will be suitable to roast all the letters
penned and glued with the costliest adhesive in town
by a renowned scrooge, only for you?
I can share with certainty, you will declare this piece
as another puerile work of poetry.
Even though you’re an egregious liar,
we’re finally on the same page here.
Look at which forlorn juncture,
we’ve both agreed for the very first time.
For you to get over
the loss of your
I know it is so
hard as if asking a
man without hands
to hold a
bundle of timber
to lose a love
that was vaster
than the Caspian Sea
I know it is so
hard, for you are
used to a fragrance
not many have
had the chance
but when you
move on, for once
spare some time
to consider the
magnitude of my pain
and let me know
what is it like to
be caressed by
and just continue
when you know
the edifice of the
world you had
what is it like to be
cared and loved
for who you are
not for what you
can do, not for what
you can lend
what is it like
to place your
vulnerable head on
the safe lap
of your grandmother
and dauntlessly let
the tears drizzle
the way they prefer
even when everyone’s
eyes like eagles
I do not know
for my mother’s
mother died before I entered this world.
Alwyn Marriage’s fifteen books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction and she’s widely published in magazines, anthologies and on-line. Her latest books are The Elder Race (fiction), and Pandora’s pandemic and Possibly a pomegranate (both poetry). Formerly a philosophy lecturer and then Chief Executive of two international literacy and literature aid agencies, for the last 15 years she’s been Managing Editor of Oversteps Books. She gives lectures and readings all over Britain and Europe, and in Australia and New Zealand. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn..
Rain Before Dawn
It’s 4 am
I look out through
the pane of patterns
separating me from
the outside world
– Rain –
I open the window
stretch and yawn
sniff the petrichor
deeply, almost hear
the happy slapping slugs
and snails munching
my vegetables down below,
the hedgehog snuffling
towards them, the mole
finding his blind way
washed-out summer fêtes
a long walk once shared
from shore to shore, so
soaking wet our boots took
more than a week to dry
I can feel the earth
shift, as soils seek
to reconfigure themselves
in mini-avenues of mud
plants sprouting in delight
pushing up towards
what little light
permeates the cloud
where this shifting
pattern of climate
change will lead
– Give thanks
return to bed.
The river’s slow brown water strokes
the cow who stands self-consciously
half-way between the banks,
bending a patient neck to taste
the honey flowing past,
licks her fore-leg, raises gentle eyes
– deeper than the collected swell
of water from the highlands –
to watch the busy action on the banks,
the hurrying passers-by.
The man who stands beside her,
Baptist fashion, lifts the amber liquid,
lets it fall to cool her back and flanks,
the hide delighting in his gift.
She knows that she is holy, set apart
and so accepts solicitude and reverence
as her right.
She bows her head again, the river
endlessly moves onward, seeking
meaning. She stands alone, eternal,
accepting her fore-ordained position,
basking in inward light.
A bundle of bones crouched shivering
on my doorstep, lips and finger-ends
a delicate shade of blue.
When I spoke, the child shrank
into a tight cocoon and glared
defensively. I’m sorry, I said,
I didn’t mean to frighten you.
Would you like something to eat?
Receiving no response,
I opened the door and entered,
leaving it ajar. He didn’t follow,
but neither did he run away.
Only as the smell of toast and marmite
wafted out and gently wrapped around him
did his body’s tight grip on the doorstep
slacken as he gradually uncurled;
and when I put a plate of food
on his side of the table
he edged towards it, ate it
hungrily, while all the time
he watched me warily.
A sudden noise outside made him swing round,
revealing lacerated strips of shirt
clinging loosely to his blood-soaked back.
It took more than an hour
to persuade the boy to let me
bathe his wounds;
he flinched, but made no sound,
as water softened the caked cotton
and the bath water turned crimson.
Angry welts were gradually revealed:
white ridges of raised flesh and deep
red runnels in alternating stripes.
In the days that followed,
I never even learnt his name
and all my questions were unanswered;
but he thanked me frequently
and even gave me a bedtime kiss
the night he disappeared.
H. K. G. Lowery is a writer & musician from Gateshead. He gained a Distinction in his Masters in Creative Writing from Graduate College, Lancaster University. The department of English Literature & Creative Writing awarded him with the 2021/2022 Portfolio Prize for his writing which received the highest mark in the faculty.
Pathos For A Bee
H. K. G. Lowery prefers not to have an audio.
on a sunlit windowsill, I was
petrified of carcass
winged & withering; honey
porridge, paranoid sugar
might resurrect this spawn of Satan –
but then, there was pathos
for the perished pollinator: I know
there is Rembrandt, Monet
& da Vinci,
but Nature is my favourite artist
into quilts, nightly – & silence: no time
to sit on the shore, watching water.
The tide touching sand was a heartbeat of Tynemouth.
He smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, & threw
salty chips to seagulls & the King Charles.
Shore always follows storm.
The waters will take you,
The son reveres father; & next to them,
the flowers for a grandparent wavered
in the fresh, gentle sea breeze.
I cried in the car,
circled with wrought & rusted gates,
black, & blossom trees breeze, beams
of low, February light,
flickering between branches
to touch headstones
& remind them that light still cares –
grape-green, & faded names,
they must’ve been wonderful people,
& this must’ve been a wonderful place
Alshaad Kara is a Mauritian poet who writes from his heart. His latest poems were published in one anthology, Love Letters in Poetic Verse, two magazines, 100subtexts issue 7 and Prodigy Magazine-February 2023 and one journal, Orion’s Beau Winter 2023: A Love Worth Losing.
Seas of Dreams
Sometime I ask myself about your whereabouts…
Love was so beautiful with you,
Heavily guarded from the seas of dreams.
If you did love me so much,
Why are you no more in my life?
If you loved me a lot from the bottom of your heart,
Tell me what was so beautiful in leaving me,
From the depths of the seas of dreams,
Love was so beautiful with you,
Heavily guarded with so much fondness.
I was an angel in heaven.
If you really existed,
Why are you not in my heart anymore?
I have shielded my soul,
Which was so beautifully hurt,
Only for you to come back with so much love again and again.
Do you know the frustration of missing that person who used to be by your side in the bed at night?
Too much severance made my smile wave away…
These are the heartbeats that cataclysms the soul…
Do you know how it feels to miss that person who used to be next to you?
There are nights that capture my nightmarish love,
And other nights where I am serene like in a dream…
I crave for that constant warmth that we shared…
All those gone,
Like a missing piece on the other side of the bed.
Cathy Whittaker won The Second Light Poetry Competition, was short-listed for the Bridport Prize, and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. She enjoys lying on the sofa dreaming poems when she can find the time.
You should be living in Yorkshire on a farm
rooms stacked with books, plates, coffee cups,
you’d have dogs, scruffy ones, terriers.
You’d have left your sit straight darling
mother far behind, dumped the elocution lessons
found someone to share your life with.
But none of this happened.
One of your cousins told me
you were locked up in a hospital ward,
growing ravaged, navy-blue eyes fading.
The life you should have had
She comes in like a storm
bustling, clanging doors
throwing her coat
onto the nearest chair,
bouncing on the sofa
stirring her coffee, rattling the sides.
Words like foghorns
the walls of our small house.
Her hands shooting
up and down in time
with her jokes.
I sneak off to my room
leave my mother sharing
tears rolling down her face
the rooms hadn’t heard much
of that before,
even the clouds crossing the moors
are blown off course,
until she whoops goodbye
slamming the front door
and my mother returns
to worrying about meals and money
and silence gathers in the corners
settles like dust.
Gradually the gaps have filled up
where once we might have got through.
She was someone who lit a fire
too close and you burned.
Someone who’d dive into rivers
not scared of stones.
Someone who could wake you
make you roar with her words.
Someone you wanted to be near.
But now she’s sealed inside
as if it’s too cold in the world.
She’s decided not to open the door.
Chris Athorne. Most of Chris’s published work is in Mathematics. He has lived in Glasgow for over forty years.
Chris has poems published in: Beyond Boundaries (Liminal Ink, 2018); From Glasgow to Saturn, Issue 38 (2017); the Lightship Anthology 2 (Almabooks 2012) and, more recently Dreich 5#3 (2022) and Magma 84 (2022). He has been shortlisted in one or two national competitions.
This creature’s trying to seduce me
in the manner of une grande horizontale,
stretched out on her chaise longue,
her elegant limbs displayed
with entitled nonchalance.
She is not one to avert her gaze
when it’s returned. Her bedroom eyes
are stones of peridot
pupilled with dollar signs.
She knows her wants, her needs:
a flat with servants, cushions
comfier than the kitchen lino.
after Graham Greene/John Boulting
She called it
unwinding the tight black strands
from the basin’s sphincter,
her lips like clothes’ pegs,
as if to read to mark to learn
were to digest.
Cleanliness of the mind’s
next to godliness of the body.
All that accumulation
of organic waste
in the u-bend of the soul
needed outing with the bleach
of a Mother’s love.
So I read carefully, wondering
where all the dirt could be
in Ida’s “full blown charms”,
my mother’s voice repeating
what was surely true:
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
On the open window’s ledge
your snagged shell resists
the wind’s gentle persuasion.
You dream of the nest,
now hammocked in silk,
dead leaf and dust: a hull
vacated by the heavenly stranger.
Your kind’s unwelcome, guests
known by your earworm
of conversation, inviting
death by the blunt instrument
of the daily news or slow
asphyxiation in the bell jar;
your kind’s revenge, catastrophe,
the monstrous thorax,
throbbing in the thin frame;
the cavalry of a swarm
drawn over the face like a garment,
David Willis is often described as gloomy, though his poems show flashes of humour. An agelast and winner of The Ictus Prize for Poetry, he writes about living with dissociative personality disorder. David often examines relationships and family deaths, finding new ways to express the hurt and love in them.
We went out walking
I find another corner of the room to sit
brush the dust-webs off your coat
your scarf and woolly hat are still on the radiator
they both dried out months ago
the perfume you wore has long gone from both.
Your shoes have newspaper stuffed inside
you insisted that helped them to dry out quicker.
I saw the yellowing date on it the other day,
the mud you scraped off them when we got in
left a shadowy footprint on the WELCOME mat
I still haven’t brushed that off,
your shoes might need a polish sometime soon,
I’d do that with you, or now someone never quite like you.
You said when you’re gone to clear out all your old tat.
I have yet to accept that sorrowful conclusion.
The Deepest Scars
I saw them last in those wooden boxes,
cotton gauze shrouding their heads
bloodless on white silken casing
strong arms and hearts now wintered
that awkward gaze at the dead,
not them here anymore
I wanted to say one final goodbye
no courage could be found back then
there is a burn never to be lost.
The cold-veined loss of their lives.
those shapes, those forms,
those natures missing
silence, and then come tears
when a tree falls in a forest there is extra light,
these trees were felled before their time,
what brings the dead alive?
I cried to these sudden unkind deaths
like wading unclothed in an ice floe river.
Grief hides in the heart’s wild pain,
leaving two brothers in those wooden boxes.
Patterns. (The Mother in Law’s Blanket)
Brumal cold now not needing me,
I look out of place against her age-drawn body,
now she lies still, robbed of my warmth and comfort
tucked in the bed as she always liked me to be.
Draped across her half-size wasted frame
I am left a chocolate earthen shroud
my raspberry stars equalled her gilded glow,
her aches and pains she said I dulled
I cheerfully helped her love her life again
my vivid pink blossoms equalled her rosy cheeks
before this, my pattern matched her gliding stellar wit
sighing as I enclosed her in body-hugging heat.
Snuggling down beneath my dark brown folds
‘Oh, my cover of red raspberry flowers’ she said
naming me her Cadbury Roses blanket,
she looked to me every day for comfort.
She looked to me every day for comfort,
naming me her Cadbury Roses blanket
‘Oh, my cover of red raspberry flowers’ she said
snuggling down beneath my dark brown folds
sighing as I enclosed her in body-hugging heat.
Before this, my pattern matched her gliding stellar wit
my vivid pink blossoms equalled her rosy cheeks,
I cheerfully helped her love her life again
her aches and pains she said I dulled
my raspberry stars equalled her gilded glow,
I am left a chocolate earthen shroud
draped across her half-size wasted frame
tucked in the bed as she always liked me to be.
Now she lies still, robbed of my warmth and comfort
I look out of place against her age-drawn body,
brumal cold now not needing me.
Julie Stevens writes poems that cover many themes, but often engage with the problems of disability. She has two published pamphlets: Quicksand (Dreich 2020) and Balancing Act (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021).
At My Side
Love will lift, steady a walk
so the steps tread easy.
Love stands next to you,
talks you through your journey.
A sudden trip will be caught
or a dropped word, fixed.
A move too far, too heavy
brings hands to push that chair.
Love doesn’t fix a time on the day
but lets you wake, when you’re ready.
They cancel hours, find only seconds
to roll with your mood.
If you wake in the night, love calms,
tucks you back in when you return.
When the morning comes, love will fill
your socks with electric speed.
The clouds have gathered, there’s a storm ahead,
hold my hand and this pebble.
The trees are swaying, the grass shivers,
clouds won’t drop, if we hold this pebble.
A dog cries out, cats run to homes,
my pebble will let us reach our café.
Hold my hand and soothe this pebble,
clouds won’t fall, if we warm it well.
We’ll make it there, dry and together,
this pebble knows how to ward off the sky.
I was now the wood: bark heavy, splintered,
sunk. Climb, climb, my mind spoke
and in that moment my engine roared,
propeller spun and I raised the sail,
hair beating the wind.
If it wasn’t hard enough trying
to venture out, the road ahead
had disappeared under the flood and
here I was, a boat on wild water,
riding the swell.
I could see my past self: sodden,
weighed down, trying to grab a branch,
the top of a fence, a gate (open to let
the healthy through). I couldn’t haul myself up
to mount this wave.
I’ll stay on board and sneer at the broken land,
steady my sail and ride, ride, away from
appointments, hospitals, people who can’t
help, won’t help and drop my anchor
when they find a cure.
Nanette Tamer lives in Maryland, USA, and is a professor emerita of comparative literature, with publications primarily about the influence of the Roman poet Horace.
Nanette Tamer prefers not to have an audio
As if there could be
to build the earth:
my hair not red,
the sky not blue,
we two unmet.
As if there could be
to build the earth:
What the Body Wants
She felt sheltered,
as if in a hidden glade.
He saw that the branches
weren’t thick enough
She felt nothing, heard nothing,
He saw the picnickers and amblers,
intent on their own ways,
but not blind or deaf.
Her foot slid along his leg.
He wanted kisses only,
The blood chooses.
Frank McMahon, from Cirencester, is published in, Riggwelter, morphrog, Brittlestar, Cannon’s Mouth, Dawntreader, Persona Non Grata, Galway Review, Sarasvati, Acumen and 4 anthologies.
Frank’s collections are At the Storm’s Edge (2020); A Different Land (2022), both Palewell Press; second prize in Wild Nature Competition (Indigo Dreams); reading at Cheltenham Poetry Festival; Winner of GWN Poetry prize 2022.
The held note of this river
cannot be heard unless you kneel
upon the bank, lower your head to within
a finger’s length;
The held note of this river may be
the pause between the breaths
of an infant in sleep profound
a bow poised above strings
vibration of a spider’s web
heads bowed towards the catafalque.
The held note of this river
is molecular, contained
until it knows you give attention,
concentrate as if a tongue-tied child strives to bring
the painful weight of words to lips.
The held note of this river
carries a message which only you
can write and then and only then
will it release its music.
Is the offer of apology a formula for an easy pardon?
Or will they push through the broken gate, move from place to place
where they brutalised the ground, stop, mark, acknowledge,
draw deep from pits of guilt, empty their contrition
at the feet of the wounded?
Will they go further, agree to plant
an orchard here where pain has tunnelled deep,
so deep that hope had expired,
ply the tools they’re given to turn and purify the soil?
A border is crossed.
Together they set bush, plant and rootstock,
heel in their permanence. Is there now enough forgiveness
to share the sweet and bitter fruit?
“I have a dream”
Pictures, black, white, grainy
yet that baritone voice, perhaps the first
I’d ever heard, held me as it rose
to each repeated peroration, subsided,
rose again and each prayerful image shook,
stone by stone, the walls which had surrounded me.
“I have a dream,” picked up and echoed by the crowd,
marchers through billy-clubs and mace, three thousand miles away.
Echoes, knocks on our door, lyrical, insistent.
“Come, come, join us.”
Philip Rösel Baker is half-German, so his genes have travelled, like the people in these poems about travel.
One is at a bus stop in London, the second in a tuk-tuk in Laos, and the third in the mind of a seven-year-old travelling back to Jurassic times.
pale grey pinstripe,
white shirt unbuttoned,
grey tie pulled loose with pale pink flowers on curling stems,
he has his
black leather laptop bag hung casually from his shoulder,
threading quickly through the bus queue.
Got a meeting to attend.
The 435’s still waiting –
doors are closed but it’s hesitating.
He slips into a run and makes the front door, still in time.
Knocks on the door politely,
shifts his laptop bag more tightly,
tries to call above the engine noise,
then falls back on mime.
The driver sits oblivious,
a master of impervious,
his mind clear and focused on the zen of regulation.
The rules are unambiguous,
the doors are closed, that means the bus
is cleared for take-off, second thoughts
could lead to litigation,
were something to go wrong.
The driver checks his offside mirror,
revs the engine, indicates.
The young man’s mime becomes frenetic
it’s this bus, or be late.
Galvanised by desperation,
by the driver’s obstinate negation,
he leans right out across the windscreen
in rage against the dull machine,
a goalie stretching for the ball,
on tiptoe reaching from the kerb,
leg poised behind, his arm balletic,
arcing through the air in free fall –
the bus queue gasps,
one breath for all.
He almost falls,
but somehow calls his body back,
his whole form clenching like a fist.
His muscles tense and then go slack.
His shoulders sag, he holds his wrist.
The driver, pale, cannot resist
just one look, then he guns the engine,
pulls the bus into the traffic,
snarls off up the road,
curses, invokes the holy code
of highway rules
to his startled front seat passengers
– bloody fool.
The young man’s left, his arms stretched wide
– centre forward contesting offside
– appealing for justice, sanity
– whatever happened to ordinary kindness,
to a sense of shared humanity?
He drops his arms,
checks his watch,
sighs and turns to meet the eyes
of the whole bus queue. To his surprise,
a man says – bad luck mate,
he should have let you on.
Another agrees, a woman nods
kisses her teeth with feeling loud, expressive, long.
She says – if them’s the rules, they’re wrong.
The morning’s changed
into something more,
than it had been only a minute before.
The day’s got somehow brighter
and my burden, somehow
Every day I wait in my tuk-tuk
in the street by the hotels where the tourists stay,
with their sunburn, sweat stains, expensive cameras.
I speak a little English and that goes a long way,
when they ask me to take them to the Pha That Luang Stupa.
They never know how to say it the way Lao people say it.
Their tongues hesitate – or they say it with bravado –
like a dare. I don’t care – I take them anyway.
Often, when they climb in the back of my tuk-tuk,
I can smell the sun block on the womens’ skin,
can’t help but notice knees, even bare thighs.
Our womens’ Sinh skirts prefer hints to displays.
I like our womens’ way. Except the odd day,
when my wife’s face grows thin with impatience
and I leave for work vacant,
my heart ringing hollow as a beggar’s tin.
They like to haggle the price of the ride
to the Stupa – they’ve no idea of the distance
or the price of petrol. I ask for 60, they say 40
pointing to other drivers. They know I can’t afford
to insist for long – I clench my fist on the brake
and take less. They can afford to fly round the world
and still they say my price is too high. If I play my cards
right, 20 can buy a bowl of catfish and rice
at the corner shack. At the Stupa, they take so many selfies.
To impress friends at home with the gold, I suppose.
I go there not to take, but to hold out my offering,
for the eightfold path (that I don’t keep to so well)
and listen to the monks’ words, the stories they tell
– stories first told by ancient bodhisattvas, to show us
the way. Do the tourists, through their camera lenses,
seek transcendence through stories without a past
– all made in the now? Every day I wait in my tuk-tuk
in the street, where sequestered by the afternoon heat
the tourists take naps in air-conditioned rooms.
I lie in the hammock in the back of my tuk-tuk
and my wife phones me and I can tell from her tone
that she loves me and, just for a moment, it feels
like I’ve made enough money to buy the whole street,
though the purse near the beat of my heart weighs little.
But I know I have just as much right to be here
as the rich Lao man in his twin-exhaust car,
because no-one truly owns anything (the monks say).
I relax in my hammock, watch a plane moving far
between my tuk-tuk roof and the temple gateway.
We are all connected (the monks say). And we must
try to understand those different from ourselves.
This is part of the hard path to awakening.
I watch them leave, some with airs and graces,
some helping taxi drivers struggling with their cases.
I imagine them landing – another taxi home. A big house
in a row – all painted white. In my mind’s eye, the streets
there are white – always. Don’t ask me why.
I wonder, when they show their friends the gold leaf
and tell how they haggled the price of the ride, will the selfies
they show with pride on their screens have anything to say
Ethan at the museum
Ethan enters my bedroom like a whirlwind,
whisking sand from the corners of my eyes,
raising the blinds of my sleep-dimmed mind,
leaving them wide, expectant.
Scant attention paid to breakfast – porridge congeals
as we head for the door. The lure of knowledge
of ferocious creatures, safely extinct so they cannot reach us,
and the prospect of an entire day without teachers,
is fuel enough and more for his seven year old energy stores.
By the time we make the main road, we’re convinced
the cars all woke up as velociraptors,
hatching scaly schemes to run amok in the streets,
hatching devious plans to evade human captors.
Only Gladys, the lollipop lady,
has the power to defeat and tame them. She shames them,
stares them down, authority conferred by arching eyebrows
and the talisman she holds in her right hand,
immovable as the staff of Abraham.
Grudgingly, they grind to a halt, as close
to the crossing as they dare, narrowing their eyes to stalking slits
at the children, walking unaware, across their field of vision.
The mirthless derision of reptilian glares, the rattle of gap-toothed jaws,
slavering above the steaming tarmac, a faint scraping of claws,
giving the lie to their intentions, thigh muscles flexing,
eager for the off – none of this is lost on Ethan.
But the school’s become a polling station
and Gladys isn’t here today,
so we take the risk, swagger across the street,
a display of bravado (barely skin-deep). Desperados,
counting the stripes to the other side, ready at any moment
to end the pretence, drop our macho masks
and hear our panicked voices croaking – Run! Fast!
We make the tube by the skin of our teeth,
settle breathless in our seats, as we plunge into a wormhole
and funnel through the inky darkness.
The tunnel’s clatter dies away
and silent time flows past us – backwards.
Lights go out and pale electric flashes snap our faces,
hanging motionless in space while the co-ordinates of place
are subtly changed around us.
A million years subtract themselves in seconds from the tunnel walls
and disappear, as fossils re-emerge like Escher lizards
writhing, flexing and reviving. Bone reconstitutes itself
from stone to come alive. Flickering tongues expel foul air
from lungs fresh sprung from sediment, re-learning
how to salivate at the wind-borne scent of prey,
lubricating eager jaws, while lightning crackles like a claw
across the desert, causing sand to turn to beads of glass.
We materialise at last beneath the ghastly, grim, forbidding skies,
the skies of the Jurassic.
Invisible, cloaked in time that’s paused,
Ethan strolls among the dinosaurs,
unperturbed by the roars of lumbering beasts.
He ducks huge leaves, skirts steaming swamps, he believes
could well prove fatal. A confidence trickster of the mind
and sole representative of humankind, he feels his way
through pitch dark caves, crawls between narrowing slime-lined walls,
self-hypnotising to simply ignore the screams of prey with pleading eyes,
trapped in nutcracker jaws.
He captures a few, confining each in a magic pokéball.
Roars inaudible, they scratch the round impenetrable wall
with sudden ineffectual claws, mutating. into Relicanth, Gastrodon
and Bulbasaur, a highly trained praetorian guard who will fight
to the death against fearsome foes, at the order – Pokémon: go!
And later, much, much later, when time has been restored, at home,
the emperor takes his seat and parades them round the amphitheatre,
as the creatures lumber past and the sounds around him fade away
and once again he’s beneath the vast copper skies and anvil clouds,
where the great behemoths are yet unbowed
and he can walk among them.
Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough and has been co-hosting an open-mc in Woking since 2016. He has been published in many magazines including most recently in Black Nore, The Lake and jerryjazzmusician. He was also published in Wildfire Words in Summer 2022.
Dancing in Greece
I can’t remember where it happened could have been Greece
maybe Croatia, an island somewhere around there or even
a resort by some beach. I can say say exactly when it happened
it was either before or after Diana’s death. I’m certain there
was folk music pouring out just for us tourists, performed
by a band wearing, more than likely, traditional pleated skirts.
They were on a stage or by the bar or by the pool and I didn’t
see the dancers as they were hidden behind a screen
or was it a sun-hat pulled over my sheepish eyes?
It took place I think before it got dark as I remember fireworks
in the sky or perhaps it was distant airplanes, even stars.
The feet dancing belonged to my neighbour but I can’t remember
seeing his feet before. I thought at the time or maybe later these
feet could have been carved by Rodin as they were in motion,
were enjoying life and were gnarled like an old olive tree.
There was a group of 10 or 30 tourists dancing in a circle
left foot crossing right or vice versa and the music got faster
and faster still or slowed.
My neighbour and I passed this morning,
he was wearing a thick broom moustache, sandals and I was pulling
a multi-coloured shopping trolley. I almost stopped and told him
I saw him dancing, kicking up the sand, perhaps I was wrong
and it was on the beach I saw him dancing, not on stage,
by the bar or the pool. We didn’t say anything as he went one way
and I the other, to Asda. I really didn’t want to tell him this important thing
about that time years ago and those spectacular Rodin feet
as I like to keep some secrets, even if they are probably wrong.
At the filling station
When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking Ralph Marston
I can’t be bothered bringing a book or Kindle so just sit
in the dentist’s waiting room. Opposite me an old couple
from Nepal. She’s wearing a printed long skirt, Kurti tunic
and shawl, while he’s in a Sherpa jacket, tracksuit bottoms,
and a cream bucket hat. Both wear cheap trainers. He’s
aloof, making eye contact with no one. It starts to rain
and he’s thinking of home, where there’s flooding, landslides
and death. A woman comes in with a pram, talks with
the receptionist before wheeling it to an alcove by the window
and starts talking to the old woman. The baby’s astonished.
A man with a rucksack passes outside, stops and bows
to the old man before making exaggerated ruining actions.
He bows, and leaves. Over the next half hour he passes
several times but doesn’t look in this direction. It’s because
of Joanne Lumley they’re here. She fought to make sure
Nepalese soldiers got their pension and they chose to live here
because they’re familiar with the area and have friends here.
From the waiting room I can see a sushi and bento
restaurant, a bubble tea cafe, and a few doors down
an Asian supermarket. Their children go to the Tech
and like the other students today ignore the rain
as they have more important things to worry about.
Life’s bushtucker trials are only just starting and ahead
there’s slime, venomous insects and various penises
to chew over. And there’s Olive, as I call her, with
a trolley wheeling it past the Pound Shop; and my neighbour
who I saw dancing in Greece. I wrote a poem for both of them
and should really give them a copy.
Tomorrow I’m playing dice games with my granddaughter.
Rolling and drawing a cuddly cat, minion, monster, Picasso, Basquiat.
Over from the dentist’s a middle-aged white couple have set up
a little display of bibles and pamphlets
in the doorway of an empty shop. A large poster says
God will forgive all sinners, even homosexuals. But I can’t think what’s there to forgive.
I hum to myself Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, S.O.B.
A woman and her son enter. I move to the other side of the waiting room
so they can sit together, She nods to me.
My mind goes all over the place, like one of those pigeons outside
deciding whether to fly, or cakewalk away from a two year old
who is delighted to have come across these soft toys.
There’s a row of pride-of-India or China tree outside
and I feel guilty I have never talked to, embraced
or sat beneath them as Olive is doing. I decide to join her
but then, the receptionist says the dentist will see you now.
I’d just ordered a Woo Woo
that’s vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice
with fresh lime and ice from a waiter
in the Neptune Lounge when Oliver,
the Cruise Entertainment Director,
came to the microphone and said
We may not have found the Christmas Market
but we have a real treat for you all
ladies and gentlemen. The Stilla Natt
Vocal Ensemble from Sweden. Lights were cut
and then, to the words to Santa Lucia,*
a seven-piece choir walked down
the aisle led by a girl with long blond hair
wearing a golden crown studded
with seven lit candles whose light
painted the room. They stepped up to that
expanse of stage and formed a line.
Each wore a long white robe tied with
red ribbon, the ends of which fell below
their knees. This sash formed a Tau Cross.
I was torn between crying my heart out
and being reduced to the dolefuls
as the perfume of angels broke through
and I breathed in light and shadows
feeling loss, sadness and failure
as well as riches, rebirth and completeness.
For twenty minutes these sirens kept me
under their spell as they sung carol
after carol before taking small steps
from the stage back down the aisle.
My tissues were sobbing as well
and I was at a loss thinking of
the faith I’d lost, how all things are
only temporary, how I should
live in the moment and breath in
the colours of it all.
Forgive me I wanted to tell you this
as I can’t forget I entered
the door of tears, stayed there awhile
and couldn’t find my way back out.
* You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2-Q_ObdE-4
Yvonne Crossley is a sometime poet of inspiring places, exploring how we interact with the natural world. Poems in Scottish Borders anthologies – The Journey, Colour, Yes Arts Festival – A set of ribbons; also The Eildon Tree. Recent pieces appear online in Littoral Magazine and Wildfire Words, Cranborne AONB, Words in the Landscape. Joint winner of Hengistbury Head competition 2020, 2021.
Dust in my Mind’s Eye
My thoughts are not yet dust;
they rust in brain cell soup –
neurons firing randomly
within a mindless darkness.
Sometimes they spark into life,
travel down my hand
and flood words on to a blank page.
Some say words are weapons;
I say words are only weapons
once they are written down,
once they are remembered by others;
otherwise they might as well be dust,
rusting in brain cell soup.
Visit me with an open mind and you will never be disappointed
Explore my stones, my bones unseen.
Look at my Roman arches and wonder what has altered.
Where did the first church begin? Where will it end?
I have worn many coats, all chosen for me.
Fashions change, the message constantly rewritten.
The dead lie in unknown graves.
Only memories decide what will live and what will die.
And who records the facts?
I am your anchorite, walled up inside.
Inhale my perfume;
It is the incense of intellect;
Only you can breathe it in and then decide.
Sandra Howell. After retiring due to ill health, Sandra began writing flash fiction in 2016, theatre reviews in 2017 and poetry in 2020, when her trilogy of poems was published by Collage Arts on YouTube and Soundcloud. Her poetry was shortlisted for the Lascaux Prize in 2022. Read https://blog.writingroom.org.uk/2022/05/16/get-to-know-sandra-howell/
I wasn’t like a carpet that had cake crumbs care-freely trodden into it at a children’s party
I was an old doormat with the world’s detritus and street waste
every fibre of me
But you never asked how I felt
I would wallow in the squalor of my hurt feelings
and muddy thoughts
like an elephant having a mud bath
remove the parasites
of your negativity
and protect me
from being burnt
by the sun
you once were
‘Do you write poetry? If not, why not?’
after reading the theatre review of ‘Misty’ I wrote in verse
You name-checked and dropped me links to
sharing your knowledge of brilliant poets
I could learn from
Caring enough to gently guide me into writing poetry
‘No I don’t write poetry
I’ve never seen myself as a poet
Or being able to write poetry
Perhaps I should try?’
you saw my potential
You knew what I could do before I did
I have been rereading your emails to me
praising my poetry
encouraging me to
apply for mentorships
lifting me up
You’ve been my mentor all along
What is it like?
Not to have to think about how others will react
to the very sight of you
Not to hesitate about raising your voice or laughing in public
because of how you will be perceived by others
who do not look like you
Not to avoid making sudden movements to prevent frightening people
who do not look like you
Not to be expected to be representative of people
who look like you
Not to be aware that how you act will reflect on others
who look like you
Not to have to brace yourself, at work or in social settings, to be the only one
who looks like you
Not to know that you will always be disbelieved by people
who do not look like you
What is it Like?
Not to be in pain
when you move
Not to be in pain
when you do not move
Not to put on a happy face
when you feel low
Not to have to check step-free access to visit a theatre, gallery, restaurant, music or open mic venue, park, hotel, or friend’s house
Not to have to plan a step-free route
to every destination
Not to have to ask the bus driver to lower the bus
to get on and off
Not to have to risk pain and injury getting on or off a bus
because the mechanism to lower it is broken
Not to have a well-meaning person grab you by the arm, shoulder, or waist
to ‘assist’ you on or off public transport
without asking you
Not to have to get taxis
when all else fails
including your body
WHAT IS IT LIKE?
John O’Mahony is a journalist who has written for many prominent UK newspapers, where his articles have covered theatre, music and Russia. He has also directed documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Discovery. His journalism and screenplays have featured in various awards and prizes, including a nomination for the British Press Awards.
I grew on this grassy Euclid,
where cattle pitch their hooves
into the slanting, scalene pasture,
while the honeysuckle briar
struggles against the gradient, sweats
brief reticulate drops, sweetly.
I grew on this drunken geometry,
where the hurtling hillside
cuts across the trickling brook,
dissects it into falls,
where quadrilaterals of men
swing from the scrawny nape,
harvesting the last of the hay,
carving glittering arcs in the tilting plane
with their bright right angles.
I took my first steps
on this listing back-field,
surrendering to its vectors,
legs flung out behind
like fluttering rags, falling
into the gaping green.
I grew on this scrubland Pythagoras
where the evening sun threw dusky intersections
across the potato-drill hypotenuse,
where Grandfather built his ricks,
trapezoids of shining ripe gold,
like a mathematician.
Before I even met you
I loved you before I even met you,
a swirl of pixels on a mobile phone screen.
It will take so much longer again to forget you.
The flame-haired temptress of your profile picture,
on that Zheldor hillside, you had just turned nineteen.
I loved you before I even met you.
I felt every curve and crevice before I ever touched you,
the agony of infidelity before you even kissed me.
It would take so much longer again to trust you.
I forgave you, even as I cursed you,
cascade of chats, pleading just to come clean,
I still love you as if I’d never lost you.
It’s a tumult I will never get through,
destroyed my life, my wife and everything I’d once been.
These wounds alone make it impossible to forget you.
Every moment of that night I savagely regret now,
abortion pill and horrific, gut-strafing, desiccated scream.
I love you though I wish I’d never met you.
It will be an eternity before I finally forget you.
Is That John, My Firstborn?
Is that John, my firstborn? My John? Is that you? Oh, it’s great to see you, John. Oh, the joy, the joy, the joy, the joy. Sure, I love you more than practically anyone, I do, more than practically anyone! When were you last here? Must have been more than a year? Five years? Twenty? Last Tuesday? Don’t be coddin’ me! Last Tuesday? How could I have forgotten that? Jayzus, amn’t I the fool? Did you bring the horse? The horse? To ride outta this place, why else? I’m fed up with it in here! No horse? No horse! That’s a disappointment. Are you married? What, divorced? DIVORCED? Jesus, Mary and Joseph, how did that happen? And what about the children? No, children? Well, that’s a fine state of affairs. Who’s going to take care of you when you are old and wrinkly and grey, like me? Where’s Dad? Whose Dad, your Dad, whose Dad did you think? Oh! When did he die? Thirty years ago? And was I aware that he was getting sick and dying? And I did nothing to stop it? Nothing? What was his name? Joe? Joe O’Mahony? Oh, my lovely Joe. There is something going wrong with me, not knowing more about you! But we can’t go back in time. We’re stuck where we are. That’s for sure! And where is Gavin, my favourite of all? In America? Where in America, does anyone know? What do you mean, he’s really been gone for twenty years? Oh, it’s terrible that I lost track of him. Shameful. Shameful! I’ve certainly done a lot to contact him, but I mustn’t have done enough. Does he come to visit? Why not? Aaaaah, I wasted my life a little bit away, didn’t I? Do you think so? No? You can fecky-doodle around with your life too, you know, can’t you? Did you get married at all, my John? DIVORCED? Jesus, Mary and Joseph, how did that happen? And were there children? No? That’s a lovely state of affairs. Well, there’s not much time left now, my boy, you better hurry up! Find some lassie soon or else. It’s never too late, you know. Oh, the joy, the joy, the joy. You’ll stay the night here, won’t ya? Ya will? Why not? It’s a what? Sure, I love you more than practically anyone, I do! When were you last here? Must have been more than a year? Five years? Last Tuesday? Really? Oh, it’s great to see you, John. It’s great to see you. Is that you, my John? Is that really you, my child? Is that John, my firstborn?
Glenn Barker, a late developer, started writing during the pandemic, drawn to the dislocated dynamics of the human psyche in this age of anxiety. He grapples with the blurred edges of reason and perception through his poetry. Born in Worcestershire, he now lives in South Yorkshire.
Tilting into the Sky
How this gram weight of feathers
bends to strew winter hedge,
a scorched and broken mutation
this being, pulling itself coarse
and close, through screw ice teeth.
Heaven names the day,
under the wings and over the lips
of green edged spike and curl.
Habit and the hunter are locked
into slow rhythm feather beats,
and a spindle legged splay
of three and one, three and one
to touch the harsh shade of winter.
Another rhythm of push and pull,
Tilting an aerial cast into the sky
To endure another earth spin.
Listen to the song of rare earth silence,
imprisoned in the atmosphere
of hollow steps, retreating
to the far edges of this mute,
consecrated church vessel
Arched and prayerful poise,
and heaven held reaches,
have closed their tall arms
to voice and incantation, a warmth
now lost to stubborn grey stone,
and frozen into the eviscerated
shadow traces of soul.
The air is stone dry.
Catch only the spirit of music,
its distant keys and choruses
trapped in the finger cracks
and gossamer grains of faith
amid a sallow winter dusk.
The Euclidian geometry of
the master mason, magician,
is all stiffened despondence;
Gothic Revival hubris converted
to cavernous rib rustle, starved,
and frozen to January touch.
Why Did He Say That?
Why did he say that?
Like a knife flashed before me, showing the silver glint of his pain
drawn from a long held memory scabbard,
drawn from decades pushed down into silence,
his knife sheathed and airtight, until now.
Why did he say that?
Like one of those drama doorstep clichés.
As if it was just innocent word tipping
held aloft for a few moments, blank voiced,
to see if it would fly.
Why did he say that?
Just those words, nothing more;
his curt confession, sour-simmered for decades,
then suddenly uprooted from the deep.
Was it to slough a coarse and worn skin
at last, now that she was dead?
Why did he say this:
“I didn’t have a happy childhood.”
A release of haunted wuthering and acidity,
given a free tongue to release his resentment,
voiced on hard and bitter-edged teeth.
This, at the moment before he left for home,
at the end of her funeral.
Helen Openshaw is a Drama and English teacher from Cumbria. She enjoys writing poetry and plays and inspiring her students to write. Published in Words in Green Ink Poetry, Words and Whispers, The Madrigal, Fragmented Voices, Forge Zine, Acropolis Journal and The Dirigible Balloon magazine. She has just had her first chapbook, A Revolution in the Sky, published by Alien Buddha Press.
An Unlikely Friendship
It didn’t feel like friendship.
The corners and angles sharp,
points signposting them to an unknown destiny.
They worked through the uncomfortable silences
with raucous dinners, too much wine and unholy confessions.
It took its toll,
draining them until they reached a point
where a bridge was crossed,
building an understanding that
created a bond they weren’t expecting.
Years later they laughed at the early memories,
Comforted by the now familiar routines.
Sometimes it takes you like that,
A difficult path you learn to navigate,
the map shaping us.
Today I saw where you
Used to live.
it’s where you grew.
It looks so strange
Without you there,
No heartbeat sounds
Echoing off the walls.
The way I saw you wave,
Not realising it was
Listening to the sounds of home
I hear a dog bark,
And all I can think of
A door slams shut.
The click of plates,
Gathering of cutlery,
The opening bars of The Archers.
It must be time to eat,
But your news is the meal I crave.
I phone so I can listen to the
In the pauses it is there.
I put you on speaker,
Strain to hear, catching
The lift of a gull, riding a past.
You ask why I’m whispering,
But all I’m doing
Is listening for you.
Clare Starling started writing poetry during lockdown, after leaving a role in public policy to support her son when he was diagnosed with autism. She particularly loves writing about our connection with nature, and about how neurodiversity can give different perspectives on the world.
It’s always when you are alone
the terraces crammed and blank
you and the fox stop still
the fox says,
this is my time
I am doing my mysterious work
cross me, dare to disagree
You go home.
Later, in the very deepest
part of the night
when your heart is dead slow
the fox will find the sour smell
of your delivered bread
rip it open with its teeth
eat half and piss on the rest
in the morning
you will not see the fox
but you will know he is close
the weedy embankment
Battersea Power Station Public Piano
never intended for leisure
pumped with money
outlet for luxury brands
prize for high spec buyers
architect’s tiny mannequins
not the beanie-hatted
munching franchised street food
one of whom now plays
the public piano, his jaunty song
making a godawful clashing
echo in the emptiness
you have to help me
find this one Lego piece
it’s gold, three studs
sort of like a wing
the Lego sea stretches
across the shores of the house
white and red and orange
and blue and clear and black
the pieces of everything
I want to build
my gold armoured mech
my bad guy with his army
he is missing this one piece
the left side of his chest
I cannot go to bed
I cannot sleep
Until it is found
Simone Mansell Broome rediscovered poetry in 2005 spending six years being published in ezines & magazines, having some success in competitions, running an open mic, performing & ‘slamming’. She was published by Lapwing in 2010 (plus two slim volumes – one self-published & one a rather flukey competition). All stopped in 2011 when the family business swallowed her up till Covid, only bailed infrequently for occasion poem requests & a few commissions. Simone re-rediscovered poems in 2020 & is playing catch up.
Here all eat well, except for the one
who rearranges food on her plate,
but copies down the recipes
in classic copperplate
and something close to fervour.
They appoint a monitor to feed and tend
the fire, while disparate groups dissect
house moves, changes of career…and more,
and the yoga teacher recommends
a pillow to support the neck,
align the spine, silk pillowslips
for skin and hair.
It’s not cold, she says,
stroking the demonstration model,
and it avoids complexion crumpling.
Chat ebbs and flows. A pop star’s wed again.
How does he find the energy? A woman yawns, flicking fast
through pages of ‘Hello’. Her sofa partner
is off on shoes and ankle boots, sartorial floss.
There is no reply
but all sit up, attend and watch when one tells
tales of her South Africa trip, at forty,
the search for a surgeon,
how she quizzed three, as you’re meant to do,
asked each what they’d suggest;
how one drew so many lines on her she froze,
fled his rooms;
how another asked ‘what kind d’you want?
The sort that prompts people to gawp, gasp, ask
for details of the man who wielded the knife?
Or do you just want them to say how well you look?
She chose him.
There is chitchat about
experimental psychology, a little riff on cheese,
the rain, today’s walk, last night’s sleep, last night’s dreams.
But mostly silence,
an unlocking, an unwinding,
a breathing in…deeply.
No, no dessert thanks – we’ll have the bill now –
one Californian pizza, extra large,
half with chillies, (they left them off until reminded),
we’ve been to a birthday meal; he wasn’t there,
two calzones, garlic mushrooms, goat’s cheese,
house salad, small, elderly, tired, no dressing
till we ask her, gat-toothed girl with willing smile,
then a pot of scarlet goo arrives, ‘red French dressing’
she calls it, bringing juice with lemonade
for nursing mother, two Peronis, one so-so glass
of warm white wine, high levels of noise
so no-one can hear the baby cry. The lights go out
and we get a Happy Birthday blast down by the bar,
cake, sparklers, helium balloons tied to cream curled ribbons,
followed by Cliff’s ‘Congratulations’. Everyone sings,
for everyone loves a celebration. We’ve been
to his unlocked flat and he’s not there. Maybe he’s lost
his phone as well as his key, so we’re taking it
in turns to ring, to text, to jiggle his infant niece,
taking it in turns to go outside to look, just in case.
Whatever the twist in the plot this time, we’ll be
at fault. No, no dessert, thanks, we’ll just have the bill.
We’ve been to his birthday. He wasn’t there.
We’re here for a rest, end-of-the season.
They’re here rediscovering old haunts, warm,
together. A crisp, silvery couple
we can’t not notice. Tables move closer.
In the thickening dark, he speaks, we listen,
she smiles. We all drink a bit too much.
He was stationed here.
Back then he’d buzz the end of this island;
they all did, testing their skills, boys, young men
at most, with their metal toys.
Only a handful of monks left, a farmer
or two, scraping subsistence from this hostile soil.
Donkeys, of course, who would voice their ire.
They’d fire rockets as well, into the sand,
flexing muscle and nerve, while this man’s wife
and children picnicked in the dunes.
Wave to Daddy and his friends. And they’d watch
a small boy dash from nowhere to grab
his spoils, the brass shells, take them home
to his village to be pooled, then sold. Timing
was everything; run, drop, collect, retreat
before the jets returned. There must have been
accidents. She doesn’t remember,
just her girls in flowered dresses,
the wicker hamper, happy times.
Roger Patulny is a Sydney based academic, writer and poet, and Chief Editor for Authora Australis. He has published fiction and poetry in numerous outlets including The Suburban Review, Cordite, Poets Corner InDaily, Dwell Time, The Rye Whisky Review, the Mark Literary Review, and Silver Birch Press.
Twitter – @rpatulny
A boy thirteen
discharges sweaty coins and
streaks the counter with his coppery reflection
small and slender
puckered lips a tilde
shoulder blades unknotting
cinnamon … scroll
the barista sprays and swipes the change
sunlight glares upon a paper bag
his thirteen-year-old smile
hangs like a wire coat hanger
he backsteps on a spoodle
barking banging awkward angled elbows
poking packets of granola
wobbling the eggs
adult glances slide off him
as he fades back into
Burn the phones
Regrettably absent under distant sail
your eulogy, a montage of
awkwardly named flowers
little wedding bush
grevillea banksias prostrate
white peduncles of billy buttons
I yearn to burn your words like paper
a debauchery of emissions
the embers of sundered pages
ashes weeping teary endings and firings
memorials grand pyres of letters and gifts
red flowers and fiery ships
but we cannot burn the phones
or set fire to the cloud
we must endure frozen flowers now
tears exchanged for likes
I watch the ibis lift its beak from the council rubbish bin
flap its wingspan to rise above the library
and for a moment
ride the cloudy air in stately stillness
white arches glowing like a seagull
before it freewheels and dives mindless
into a shock of traffic
the high street erases the day-dreaming scavenger
in a cloud of feathers and engine revs
the ute accelerated I’m certain
need to go
where I’m going
Laura Payne lives on the South Coast and is a psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She writes poetry as a healing practice and has just started venturing out with her work. Laura has written three art journals and a book Under the Lime Tree: Nine Steps to a Mindful Life Without Meditating.
The Mother Scattering in Malvern Hills
We chased around the lanes.
We could see the hill.
We just didn’t know where to stop.
Like the rain.
Somehow one way didn’t feel quite right so we doubled back.
We found a car park where others had stopped
To venture up.
As we climbed Bredon we knew this was wrong.
This was not what she meant.
We paced back and scooted across the drag and down
To another now emptied parking space.
To race against the blackening mount of cloud.
She would have said, ‘The rain falls on the righteous.’
She would have been right.
Instead it hummed and drummed and stung the car roof.
We cowered inside.
And then. And then. The beat stopped.
Just the odd pulse off a tree.
We clambered out into the birthing light and bunched up the slope.
Children, grandchildren, climbing up to see.
What? We didn’t know.
A thought, a dream, a memory.
A landscape of life spread out before us.
A vista, whole, complete
Of towns and spires and family history.
The crying wind whipped and whistled and flecked rain spit in our face.
The hill slope stretched on to the final distant Cross.
Well trodden but just then strangely wasted.
Inclemency had seen off potential detractors.
We were left with private painful thoughts of how and when.
Nature called time.
A rainbow arched across the little land below.
Water married sun.
The wind briefly died.
He, her only son, had cradled that pathetic, plastic casket in arms,
days later to bear the mewing of his first born boy.
Carried her gently up there. A light but weighty task.
Silent he unscrewed the lid and we knew.
Spewed smoke funnelled.
Dust to Dust.
Come unto me.
An unspoken pact. We all took blame. We all took hold.
One by one we shared. We took our turn.
To toss ash to the wind.
Gritty bitty pearly stone of bone gustered, blustered back.
We swallowed in her host.
Clumps fell to the ground. Some took flight.
Returned home, above and below.
And then another spectrum rented open the greying sky
A further rainbow echoing the first
As colour loaded colour, double hooped and glorious.
And into the aching wind a skylark sang,
The sweetest note to silence all torrents, all gales.
And in that arching moment we drank the chalice of our thoughts.
And then Death wrapped up the cathedral light and was gone.
Life sprang back.
Murmuring groups braving the new found sun marched towards us.
A brief joke. A final gulp of the panorama
Lofty glimpse of a great coherence of how all things are linked: rivers, towns, roads.
Then we descended back to the car
And the rest of our lives waiting below.
David Birch’s poems frequently explore the relationship of people and their landscape. He is fascinated by what we hand down within family and community, both for good and ill.
For my father
When I light a fire, I scrunch the paper carelessly
and lay the kindling in a clumsy tower. It works fine:
The flames draw, the warmth is almost instant.
But this morning I come up short, a fortnight
after you left us. I stop, kneeling at the hearth,
remember your precisely fashioned spills.
You taught me how to make them, as I sat
beside you on the floor, five years old,
studiously folding those brief concertinas.
And they worked fine, especially when you held
a paper across the fire to draw the flames.
I worried it would catch alight. You laughed.
I light my fire, the kindling catches
in a yellow burst. It works fine.
Mary Cameron leaves Aioneadh Mor
What there is, shall go to those who are good for it…
The valley to the waterers, that it yield fruit. (Brecht)
The fragments of a shared endeavour
the runrig – their strips of common grazing
and their tools, barns and kilns
were left behind on Aoineadh Mor.
Fifteen homes dismantled
to make way for sheep
in a single day.
In the stolen glen she turned to hear
“the hissing of the fire
on the flag of the hearth
as they were drowning it”.
She gathered her children and followed her man
with his mother in a creel on his back.
A persistent spruce has taken hold
in the angle between two ruined walls:
and two hundred years too late.
The Hollow Way
“A route that centuries of foot-fall, wheel-roll and rain-run have harrowed into the land”
We duck into the steep tunnel of the hollow way
to shelter from a summer shower, and gaze up
the bone-dry path to a gate to the open sky
suspended between banks and overhanging trees.
Rain filters through branches, barely reaching
the dusty floor of leaf-skeletons and hazel-husks,
boot-broken and pestled into gritty fragments,
where sett-spoil spills across the narrow track.
Scant scraps of life survive in this netherworld:
Exposed bones of bleached and twisted roots,
wreathed with ivy, fern and nettle, stripped
by scouring years of frost and flood.
Once through the gate, the rain has cleared,
the sun warming the wheatfields and gleaming roofs.
We are poised between the dark and the golden:
the track behind us and the open fields below.
Martin Rieser coordinates the Stanza poetry group in Bristol. Published: Poetry Review, Write to be Counted,The Unpredicted Spring 2020, Magma 74, Morphrog 22; Poetry kit; Primers Volume 3, Artlyst Anthology 2020. Alchemist’s Spoon 2022, Shortlisted: Frosted Fire 2019 /2022, Charles Causeley Prize 2020; shortlisted in the Wolf Poetry Competition 2023; runner up Norman Nicholson 2020; Winner of the Hastings Poetry Competition 2021.
The Family Factory
My family was a factory
assembling new people, forging flesh
between the anvil and hammer
of warring parents.
My brother was bent in the press of polio,
pickled in the acid of hospital days,
Years of manipulation and my birth
began the long resentment.
I was turned on a lathe of jealousy,
overcooked in the kiln of mother-love
scorched by the breath of my father’s anger
and I hardened to iron
Some factories turn out a perfect product:
silent, calm, streamlined, well-adjusted,
kind heart, clear eyes. Metal has no memory,
so may my grandchildren be annealed
in the fires of their making
Instructions for Writing a Poem
Make your mind a blank
Wait for words to arrive in a murmuration
When they first appear, ignore them
others will soon come, having scrawled themselves
across the sky.
When the poem is in place
breathe out a loud sigh, all the words will rise as one.
Wait for them to resettle
Repeat until each one
has found its perfect place.
Thanking the Night
Thank you Night for your cool consideration
of Day’s disappointments.
My gratitude goes out to the birch talking with the wind,
all its complaints and secrets.
Thank you to the room’s black fur, grain of other worlds
seeding our air
Appreciation to the corners for nesting no demons,
swept clean of horrors.
Love to the bed, holding our marriage on a shoulder,
still warm together.
Most of all, thanks to Dawn for her catch of silvery dreams,
flexing in Night’s black net.
Sangita Kansal recently started writing poetry and has been published a few times and presented on BBC Radio Upload 3 times. Sangita was a finalist in IFLAC Peace Competition.
The empire of poison
In 1984 Doomsday cast its spell,
Lethal chilli fumes blighted slumberous Bhopal.
The machinations of a foreign corporate emperor
Caused a blasphemous industrial disaster.
Nauseated, asphyxiated, thousands met a tragic end;
Lamenting survivors convulsed and bled.
Bodies of bestial decay, pain heaped on streets.
Headlines flashed globally.
The Satanic Plant Union Carbide
Hid behind its deadly clouds of cyanide;
Blaming others, protesting innocence.
This Angel of death ignored prior omens.
Mendicants suppressed, profiteering giants sheltered,
Justice shrouded, measly settlements.
A heinous crime downgraded to ‘negligence’,
Twisted deals with sniggering politicians.
Water remains shamelessly contaminated-
Birth defects from mothers’ milk toxic.
God Yama agonises watching his folk languish
In a city muted for aeons; its ebullience vanquished.
Bury it into the files of history.
Who cares? it’s only a third world country!
A ghostly apocalypse pierces India’s conscience.
Unsung heroes are damned; the thugs have won.
Mother Ganges the weeping Graveyard poem
The Ganges undulate in turmoil,
suffused with deep anguish.
Here the spirits of the dead do toil,
insidiously trapped by the Covid curse.
Hindu deities thunder in damnation
At life destined for annihilation.
Gasping to stay alive, no salvation,
Allah and Christian angels join in unison.
Indifference and oblivion of Satan prevails
with screeching sirens and panicked crowds in chaos.
Families of loved ones’ cry to no avail.
The sick abandoned like vermin in squalid hospitals.
No dignity in death for the wretched,
but a morass of decaying bodies dumped in the Ganges.
The sky weeps at the ill-fated.
God loses all faith in humanity.
Its shores flooded with unsung humans,
Dogs savagely gnaw corroding flesh!
Carnage is concealed by holy sheets of saffron,
and scant coverage by venal journalists.
This river famed for spirituality,
where Hindus happily pay homage,
is now an eerie graveyard of atrocity,
tainted by sad historical imprint.
Echoes of tortured sounds and weeping loss,
children orphaned and hearts broken,
yearn to exit an ungodly world where the heavens cross,
leaving behind a fiddling Nero Sovereign.
The hapless soldier on with sordid reality.
Kindly stars and a healing moon offer the illusory,
yet survival through dreams remains a fantasy,
drowning out the bleak Covid misery.