“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still”
RIP Queen Elizabeth II
King Charles III
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.
“For the Fallen”
From 1 October to 11 November 2022, our theme for free submissions relates to acts or thoughts of remembering. Public acts of Remembrance are generally commemorating a death or deaths. But they can also be celebrations of happy anniversaries like national independence days or personal events like birthdays, engagements, leaving parties.
Details of how to submit Remembrance poems are here.
Thank you to all who have submitted. The selection process remains challenging but reading and hearing such a wealth of good poetry is very rewarding.
Poets selected for publication:
Abigail Ottley, Ama Bolton, Anna Banasiak, Bethan Manley, Brenda Henderson, Bridgette James, Christine Griffin, Dave Wynne-Jones, DW Evans, Eamon Carr, Eamonn Harvey, Emma Lee, Eniola Oladipo, Iris Anne Lewis, Ivor Frankell, Jean Cooper Moran, John Ormsby, John Poolman, Jonathan Ukah, Kate Copeland, Katherine Parsons, Kathryn Moores, Laura Grevel, Lesley Curwen, Louise Walker, Mandy Beattie, Margaret G. Kiernan, Marilyn Timms, Martin Rieser, Max Mulgrew, Michael Parsons, Minoru Soma, Nicky Whitfield, Olivia Walwyn, Patrick B. Osada, Robbie Martzen, Robert Rayner, Saili Katebe, Sam Egelstaff, Sandra Howell, Sarah Graham, Sharon Webster, Simon Maddrell, Simone Mansell Broome, Siobhan Ward , Wendy Webb, Yvonne Crossley, Zara Tagnac
indicates one audio of a poem read by the poet.
I am the patron saint of fools
who found communion
in the greasy spoons of a ghost
town granted immortality.
I sit with my gullible disciples
chewing on old books
photographs and bread
braiding guilt with celebration.
We are fed by nostalgia
forking through memories
to find the pantheons of glass
that pacify our indiscretions.
We chew through certainty with
Ordering the same meals,
sitting at the same table
polishing the same graves
that gave us exodus.
For what we are about to bereave
may the world keep us thankful
that we survive the plagues
invented by curiosity.
In the Place Where I Am Young
If I sit long enough in this still place
what has grown will recede,
will wind back the loose spool of youth:
gearsticks, everywhere, will regain their mystery;
my muscles will unbunch back to playtime;
my mother’s glass will fill with wine
to stain, for a taste, my fingertips.
On Learning Another’s Language
Standing half-asleep in the dark beside the canvas:
watching the lightning.
I am washing,
you are drying.
We are outside,
it is raining.
You say— how long is this going to take?
You say— you do this, I’ll wait.
You say— let the storm wash the plates.
Goodnight Cariad, Poem V
the village held its breath
each time the whistle blew
people crowded round
to see if the child pulled
from the rubble
was their own
ydyn nhw’n anadlu?
they listened for voices
a sign of life
passed down a chain gang
it blew again
they returned to the rescue
the shrill of the whistle still haunts
the school’s skeleton
wraps around each bone
harmonising with the wind
Zara Tagnac is a Jamaican-American poet, and author of primarily slipstream and magical realism. Her prose has been published by Writer’s Retreat UK and Sketel Magazine (Jamaica). Her poetry has been published by Wildfire Words (UK), in three collections published by Paper Pens, & Poetry (India), and Black Quantum Futurism (US).
How many bones rest beneath the sands of
How many landmines wait in the fields of
How many small hands reside in the thickets of
How many façades are erected to convince the world they’ve
How many wisps of ash sail the winds of
How many tears still bleed into the soil of
How many lessons learned must it take to prevent the next beginning of
How many acts of empathy and exchange
Before stinging wounds can truly
Flowing through veins no different from our own
Bearing wounds cut deep
Only to barely heal and be torn again
To this day, we feel you
We hear your cries to silent ears
Before we hear our own
Some things never changed
The world stays the same
In different ways
We don’t celebrate Halloween
Do you know what it means?
It’s the devil’s night
A Celtic harvest festival, with reverence for the dead
It has nothing to do with your devil, that’s all in your head
God is real! How dare you imply he is not?
What makes you get to dictate my reality?
Do you really know him? Or any other?
There is only one
I think not
They were thrown away, for they were sinful
They were burned, it’s an art
He’s what I know!
He’s what you’ve been taught! The art of colonialism, of the whip
And brands that singe both body and mind, but most importantly
He is more than bloodstained pasts, and historical rot
He has cradled me through my darkest moments
He gives me
Your scathing opinion of Halloween was on purpose
Your frightened disdain for Vodoun is on purpose
Ancestral amnesia has a purpose
I know what I know
And not what you don’t
I know what I know
How many thoughts?
I know what I know
Are not your own?
I know what I know
They cage our minds
I know what I know
And clutch our souls
Iris Anne Lewis is published on-line and in print. As a competition winner, she has been invited on several occasions to read her work at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. In 2020 she was the Silver Branch featured poet on Black Bough Poetry https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/iris-anne-lewis
No signpost to his grave
Only a chance wanderer
deviating from the track
would spot the headstone,
its inscription more shadow
Fingers trace along
each shallow groove.
A gallant hunter and
charger carried his
owner from 1913-1927
throughout the Great
Captain Holbrook’s horse
survived, came home
to graze in this wind-scoured
In a corner of an English field
this forgotten horse is now at one
with earth and rain and flood.
Time and Whelford weather
will scrub away all sign of PINK
until all that remains
is a limestone slab,
And I remember
that day on the farm –
the cow trapped in the cattle crush,
the vet wielding his instruments –
you rested your arm
on the steel tubes of the cage
as I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
Even the breeze, warm and south-westerly,
couldn’t disperse the smell
of cow dung and urine.
‘That’s what it’s like on a farm,’ you said.
Later that day in your lamplit kitchen
you asked me the question.
But I was a girl from the city
and so I said ‘No.’
And now I stand on the tube
crushed like cattle driving to slaughter
with the sweat of humanity,
this woman’s cheap perfume,
that man’s breath laden with garlic
assaulting my nose.
And I think of you
in the breeze-swept farmyard
or the soft-lighted kitchen,
still smiling and waiting.
And hope it might be so.
has been writing poetry and prose for many years and is widely published both locally and nationally including in Acumen, Snakeskin, The Dawntreader, Poetry Super Highway and Writing Magazine. She was runner-up in the 2022 GWN event and read her work at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
Whispers from the Dublin Famine Memorial
Pause a moment. Look at us.
We are your past,
walking skeletons haunting you,
sunken eyes following you
as you scurry by, diffident, distant,
shunning our strangeness.
Our faces torment you in the dead night hours.
You will shudder at our pleading hands
paltry bundles, rags of clothes,
a child slung like a dead sheep
round the shoulders of a stumbling corpse.
Our stink lingers
in the crumbling alleyways
our cries rise from the rumbling midnight trams.
When the green fields of Mayo turned black overnight
and the stench of rot filled the air,
we lay down on the ruined land,
walked into the stone-grey sea.
Lucerne Revisited 1991
Surely this is where the Café Rosa stood.
For a heartbeat I see him at our table,
two places set for tea,
a tiered cake-stand with my favourites.
I know he will be enunciating slowly
to the dirndled waitress.
I turn, and he is strolling by the lake
impeccable in linen suit, polished brogues,
uncrushable panama hat.
My ‘wait for me. wait for me’ is lost
among the knotted tourists groups.
I call again, but now he’s on the lake,
guidebook in hand, bound for Brunnen,
Fluelen, majestic Mount Pilatus.
Will l I see him later on the terrace of the Schweizerhof,
raising his hat with a courteous half bow?
Will he wave me over with his good arm,
pull out my chair, surprise me with gentians?
Rejoicing in his late-blooming love,
he lived for the day,
the mountains, lakes, flowers.
Always he kept hidden his wasted youth,
comrades blasted to oblivion
in a world gone mad,
his ruined arm, shot to pieces
in the carnage of the Somme.
Wendy Webb, prolific poet, experimenting with many modern and traditional forms and reading historic poets extensively. She ran a small press poetry magazine; won some awards; and is recently published with Reach, Sarasvati, Quantum Leap, Crystal, Seventh Quarry and online through Wildfire Words, Littoral Magazine, Lothlorien, and Autumn Voices.
Joint author of Landscapes
Remembrance in 2022
When I paint Remembrance on the landscape of my body,
no skin blushes crimson, nor bleeds where old scars grow
loud by absence and history.
When I taint Remembrance on the portrait of my face,
no varicose veins pop along the rail-network of my forehead,
quietly as blood pumping along old veins.
When I reacquaint the photocopier with all that has been
shot or framed, no postman strikes for better pain,
carrying a heavy sack over speed bumps, waving at the sky’s
fifty shades of grey.
When I faint at the price of stamps, longing for days when heads
were 19p (or penny black), no trains strike to deliver the male
overnight from redistribution centres.
When Remembrance finds Royalty quaint, demanding gaudy
paeonies and bare feet, no telegrams nor cards will rein the tide
of printed/minted heads (absenting Queen).
When all the saints of Paradise look down, sad and wondering,
at tempestuous Commons/spoils of wars toiled and lost
by rigging of storms … oh, then, remember fields of corn,
bleeding poppy skies, and blue, blue sunflowers.
Made to Last – Tales
Born blind, now over 70,
he still remembers the hand-sawn coffee table,
its legs, patterning, precise proportions.
Surviving a lifetime – in retirement –
as a TV stand; along with a bedside cabinet:
host to the immaculate… Bible and Hymn Book,
presented at village school; to Dad.
Books went walkabout in the Care Home;
his coins awaiting the Grim Reaper.
Blind and deaf, aged almost 93;
immobile with Dementia, Parkinson’s
and ‘old age’ (listed on Death Certificate).
He had learnt to tell tales to anyone
that couldn’t be seen nor heard,
so carers – holding his hands –
were surprised by such animation.
I heard – they didn’t; did they?
‘Me Mam was calling me
for me tea. I weren’t gonna be late,
not after first time… day I was born.
She missed her lunch then.
Hercules is stabled over the paddock.
I fell off him once;
kind he were – he knew.’
Animatedly arriving (fell off) without his Bible,
knocking on heaven’s door…
His Mam waiting; so long.
His first wife; uh-oh.
And soon, his second.
Gassing for England!
Any chance of a pint?
Or, ‘Gone Fishing’?
Margaret G. Kiernan, from County Westmeath, Ireland, is widely published for poetry and short stories in journals such as The Blue Nib,The Galway Review, Poet Head, Country Life. She is listed in The Index of Contemporary Women Poets in Ireland, 2020. Margaret has four grown up children. She lives with her dog, Molly. She paints landscapes and still-life.
On Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook as: margaretkiernan. Twitter: @kiernanmargaret
Seams of Gold
— Kintsugi visible
Autumn trees turn orange
crushed sloes sour
dark puce skies
Heartbroken you’re going
to another space
where souls dance in flurry
a tempered fire
where the woodsmoke
seam of gold
carving us two.
Eamon Carr, writer, musician, art historian. Work includes The Origami Crow (Seven Towers 2008); verse play Deirdre Unforgiven (Doire Press 2013); Dusk, verse play staged GPO, Dublin and New Theatre (2016); Seeking Refuge, poems and photography, presented Festival of Politics (Dublin) 2019; verse drama Cú Chulainn Awakes premiered 2021.
A Gift for Maureen McNamee from County Meath
(who died before she could pay her respects at the grave of
Francis Ledwidge in Flanders.)
Would they have known you,
these men who share
the field in which you lie?
On what command
did each one die?
I pluck a leaf from a small full tree
that grows most surely from your bones,
rub it between my fingers and thumb,
and, with the pagan sap of Meath,
anoint the Portland stone
Bled of compassion,
the November sun
above a flattened land
as a perishing breeze
blows across the graves.
Our connection made,
I sing your words.
“He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky where he is lain …
“And, as through a veil,
a voice that is not mine
stops others in their tracks,
to a flickering eye,
a moist lip,
a duty done.”
Hawk feather tumbling,
captured in stadium lights,]
a football drops, ghost-like,
to the frozen ground.
The land’s been cleared of those
killed or maimed and so begins
the jostling and the rush.
On Christmas Eve, a kick-around
near Messines, where today,
built with Irish Famine
workhouse stone, a Peace Tower
bears mute witness on the rise.
This solitary spectator knows
that no one’s going home, as,
on the plain at dusk, ribbons of mist
bind the landscape’s blinded eyes.
Still, they seek that ball and
wheeling, as in childhood dreams,
see starbursts of skill,
game-changers in their prime;
that the next whistle blown
will most surely signal slaughter
and, for most, the end of time.
Patrick B. Osada recently retired as Reviews Editor for SOUTH Poetry Magazine. He has published seven collections, From The Family Album was launched in October 2020. Patrick’s work has been broadcast on national and local radio and widely published in magazines, anthologies and on the internet
Uncertain that my memory serves me well —
my nose pressed to the window of the past
for images that flicker like old film
with action blurred and features lost to chance.
Like sound heard at the bottom of a pool
or distant tones that echo underground,
it seems your message now falls on deaf ears
as I strain hard to catch the words you owned.
So many ghostly memories remain :
the scent of Jasmine, like a lost perfume;
the smell and taste of cognac on your lips;
waking at night, as if you’re in the room.
I hold your ring with keepsakes from the past —
mementoes of the times and life we shared,
without your essence they can never spark
but memories persist though you’re not there.
Eamonn Harvey is a semi-retired gardener domiciled in rural West Suffolk. He won the Bread and Roses 2021 Poetry Prize. A collection of his poetry ‘Ballyheige in May’ is available by Mail Order. email firstname.lastname@example.org for details
Facebook page: Eamonn Padraig Harvey
The Day Room
‘A long, unfaltered gaze
In silent, upholding-longing.
My Mother … in the nowhere zone … of the tyranny of severe dementia
Holds my hand … with feather touches
Now at last
An unspoken bond
Reveals … as a wisp … gossamer like.
New neighbours for the sad, neglected old house.
She … of sunlight and sexual promise
He … boorish, loud
Shattering the surprise of the unseasonably hot April day.
My indifference puzzles them….these shiny, happy people.
I’ll sit awhile with the citizens of the Day .
Behind those hollow, ancient eyes
Wondrous stories waiting to be told.
I want to be an ASBO now
And play my music far too loud
And shake the foundations of shiny, new neighbours …
To the ground.
John Ormsby is a Canadian high school teacher in the north of England, by day.
Closet poet, by night.
No Fly Zone
Where do storks nest during a war
As spires tumble and towns are no more?
What will deer eat when tanks advance
Over sweet meadows of young, tender plants?
What drives a cub out of the den
Crying alone for its mother again?
Gone is the gold
Dark is the dawn
Ghostly and cold
Best to fly on
Brenda Henderson delights in making creative connexions, a new Renaissance woman. She self-published Jewels and More Jewels in the 1990s and became part of the Bristol slam Poetry scene, where she started the first poets’ e-zine ‘The Snowball Tree’ and produced a Buddhist event for the poetry festival. Now living in France, she is a successful screenwriter with her film Pas de deux due out in 2023. Meanwhile, she is organizing a writing competition for poets. essayists and an ‘Amuse Bouche’ section while getting her novel Frisco Bound ready for publication.
Dancing on the ceiling – a post-war child
Dancing on the ceiling,
the ceiling of the floor below that is,
that collapsed with the shock of bomb blasts,
paid for, not forgotten.
But I am five,
know nothing of the fear
that makes my mother caution,
‘Be careful, your world might yet collapse.’
Grandma loves me, Grandpa loves me.
I dance on.
They danced at five years old.
My mother’s jealousy grows,
a wartime childhood holds her.
‘Don’t dance, don’t sing,
the ceiling might fall in.’
Showing my latest steps
I pirouette, I twirl, joyful.
A moment of unconditional love
from those who have seen
a brother bugler, weaponless,
his name entombed in stone;
a father at Ypres, his child –
my mother – grown fatherless,
a bonding never mended.
Memories of the ground,
so permanent, so solid,
shifting below their feet.
These times may come for me,
But, just now, I am five years old
and I dance upon the ceiling
that might fall in,
and then again, might not.
Sometimes the body is stronger than the brain
His wife sits, powerless to stop the decay
as her son’s father mumbles, stumbles,
mindless through his latter days.
Avoiding the inevitable lingering loss,
Hans was round at the weekend,
garden saw in hand.
Now the yellow-grey of a new day
outlines the dying tree that lingers.
Caricatures of fingers clutch the sky,
ignorant of severance.
Life-low in grief’s winter, close scions huddle
while cutting sores bleed life away.
Hans lit a fire today,
the living dead just warm memories
and ashes, as the winds of time blow. . .
Robert Rayner joined Northumbrian Writers’ Group on retirement following a legal career. He has been successful in various writing competitions and his work has been published in print and online.
The stained walnut wardrobe grew faces,
flames licked up as I sweated and scratched
between candy stripe flannelette sheets,
weighted by blankets and eiderdown.
Mam worked now – so Granda enlisted.
He wore a shiny three-piece suit, removing
his flat cap and jacket, the rolled up
sleeves revealed blue-inked forearms.
He’d pillow-prop me for lunch,
soft-boiled egg and toast soldiers.
At first dip, a spurt of rich yolk
and later the tray cleared away
meant we’d play knockout whist.
How many tricks could I win today ?
Leaving, he’d pluck his gold watch
from a waistcoat pocket – tell the time.
Time, as they say, marches on,
and veterans are long since gone.
In my grandson’s hand I place
Granda’s medal for valour on the Somme.
Robbie Martzen lives in Luxembourg. He has published a small number of poems and stories in anthologies and journals, mostly in his native country, and has been long- and shortlisted at various competitions. Some of his writing can be found at www.blackfountain.lu and www.cahiersluxembourgeois.lu.
Ellis Island 17th August 2022
For a fistful of dollars
you get to buy
thirty minutes of the past
and your heart briefly jumps
when you realise
you’ve died before.
Like everyone else here,
you’ve arrived on a boat not from
the Old World but
where dogs enjoy their temporary
freedom under the watchful eye
of their walkers;
lines interrupted by the occasional
in the Great Hall –
nothing compared to when
a coughing fit
could put you back
on a coffin ship.
Here, arrival and departure melt
among salt-stained echoes
with the odds of what’s to come
while your hand cradles the comfort
of your cruise ticket.
Michael Parsons has just begun to write poetry at the age of 73! This is his first submission of a poem for publication.
An old man standing next to me
takes off his hat as a sign of respect,
or habit, perhaps.
The hearse passes us slowly,
black, long, well waxed – almost religious,
icon of our mortality and death.
Flowers in the side window
sitting on the coffin, living reds and blues, unaware.
She was loved, perhaps, or at least remembered.
The long stream of traffic behind,
moves past us, slow reverential pace,
moving grimly, unhurriedly:
we’re not in a rush to reach the finishing line.
It’s the most expensive journey she’s taken,
someone in the crowd reminds us,
lightening the mood for an instant.
Wasted on the dead, she used to say!
A day trip to Brighton doesn’t really compare.
The best rest she’s had, too –
what with the kids so young, and overtime.
When the cars irreversibly reach the doors
of the crematorium, the chaplain smiles
that grim, grieving, qualified smile,
a sorry for your loss smile, a
I didn’t know her, but I’ll do my best smile.
The service is the chaplain doing his best –
going through the book
offering hope in a hopeless situation,
referring to resurrection when she’s
so obviously boxed, so obviously dead.
Comfort will come slowly, over weeks
months and years – hope, a little longer.
For now, we simply need to know
that we’ve done our best for her.
She’s been remembered.
She’s now at rest.
The world that so troubled her
troubles her no longer.
She’s gone, but she leaves memories,
those identifying moments of tenderness.
Emma Lee’s publications include The Significance of a Dress (Arachne, 2020) and Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea, (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines, and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com.
Even small flames can be fierce
Lighting a candle felt feeble in a week
when wind wolf-whistled through eaves,
stalked around drainpipes, battered
against windows and left a familiar fear.
A woman’s remains were found.
A serving police officer arrested.
The flame gutters, leaves a shadow
at its base, unsure of its foundations.
Police warned a vigil would be against
the law. The court found otherwise.
The Duchess of Cambridge left
a bouquet. As other women
followed, the sun’s glow dimmed.
The later image all over the media:
the flare of Patsy Stevenson restrained.
The Met responded that enforcement
was needed because of women’s actions:
the ‘look what you made me do’ excuse.
It brings to mind Wilde’s quote “Each man
kills the thing he loves.” The thing he loves.
On Clapham Common bandstand, flowers,
yellow from the Duchess’s daffodils, orange
dahlias from women offering condolence, red
roses from Sarah Everard’s friends, form a blaze.
Yvonne Crossley, sometime poet of inspiring places, exploring how we interact with the natural world. Poems in three Scottish Borders anthologies – The Journey, Colour, Yes Arts Festival – A set of ribbons; also The Eildon Tree. Recent pieces appear online in Littoral Magazine. Joint winner of Hengistbury Head competition 2020, 2021.
We took Dad to New Zealand
the year before he died,
driving from north to south,
sharing the roads between us.
Our journey led us to
the giant forest trees –
those pockets of history
still rooted to native soil.
But Dad could only walk
as far as Tane Mahuta –
the largest Kauri pine,
2000 year-old survivor.
It was the first time
my Father of the Forest
showed his years to me.
There were other signs:
deteriorating sight, failing memory.
This was to be his last great adventure.
He detested being cut down a bit at a time.
His leaves fell quickly and his seedlings were left
to make the final decision: when to clear them away.
That was the hardest reversal of them all.
Guide to the Abbey ruins and the Story of the Healing Garden
1. Read the guide to know the layout.
2. The Norman wall, about 2.5m thick, is only an outline.
3. A foundation screen shields the chapter in the south aisle.
4. Make a note of the rubble piles and the piers, which support your writing.
5. Insert a patch of 14th century tiles: the words that pave the hallowed cloisters.
6. Remember the centre of the church is the altar.
7. Access passages allow those that read between the lines to do so.
8. Screens dividing west from east create mystery.
9. Chantries proffer spoken prayers for the soul of the sponsor.
10. Lessons read out from the pulpitum must be learned or ignored.
11. The central tower is supported by four massive piers.
12. A finely carved stone head, found here, is now in the museum.
13. Discard your edits into coffins; their life is done.
14. An empty grave once held the bones of a small elderly woman.
15. Items found in tombs include discarded gold rings and pins.
16. A modern library might keep your book in memoriam.
17. Work in the gardens is integral to a nun’s spiritual life.
18. She follows the Rule of St Benedict, by offering hospitality;
19. Travellers and pilgrims search for spiritual healing.
20. Each medicinal herb has its own special properties and uses.
21. ‘Healu’ means whole-ness of body, mind and soul.
22. A complete story is thus one of manual labour, discipline and success.
Ivor Frankell is a retired teacher of English and Media with a passion for writing and photography. He loves languages, including Cornish and Russian. Living in Cornwall, he has contributed to some Cornish poetry anthologies such as Modern Cornish Poetries and Dewhelans. His cultural background is Jewish on his father’s side and these poems explore some of the complex family history.
It is cold in the forest.
Under the trees, deep in the earth,
They lay forgotten;
The pine scent mixed with cordite.
Later, the bodies were dug up
To be burned. But the conscripts ran away.
Their stories left traces;
The crimes were uncovered.
Arie Brumberg was left there.
Doctor of Law, socialist,
A man who saved others;
His niece survived and had a son
Who recorded her testimony
And gave it to Yad Vashem.
September 1943, Paneriai.
Buried in a mass grave.
My grandparents had tried to find him
And Ida, his wife, in 1945.
But they were lost.
The forest speaks for them.
The wounded earth trembles
With their pain.
I belonged to Kommando 1005
The corpse units
Made to burn the bodies
Of our fellow Jews
Who had been slaughtered.
Our role was to “remove
All traces of the Final Solution.”
We dug a tunnel to escape
And a few of us survived
To offer our testimony.
I have no grave to visit no epitaph to read
Though I know you were buried near here.
They tried to destroy the evidence
And there’s only a collective memorial
To be your tombstone and to mark
Your passing. At least you were buried quickly
Although no-one came to say Kaddish
Or salute your soul on its way to God.
When ritual is lost, it’s a double loss
Leaving only the monument of words
To recognise you and lament your death,
The evil done buried with your bones.
Even in this place of speechless tragedy
I have come to remember your humanity.
DW Evans was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and lives in St Martin, Jersey. His poems have appeared in various anthologies and publications including Frogmore Papers, One Hand Clapping, Acumen, The Honest Ulsterman, The Journal, Madrigal and Dreich. He received second prize in Ó Bhéal’s Five Words competition 2022.
The year marches into blacks and greys,
paced to the death notes of Purcell –
the boom-step valediction scored for a Stuart queen.
Poppy shot lapels appear in ranks,
condole, close shouldered pals, rapt
in personal visceral memories of loss.
Cenotaphs and memorials come to notice,
garlanded, wreathed by blood-red flowers.
Coloured ribbons, string the chests
of veterans of the big wars,
and all campaigns thereafter
played out in theatres of conflict.
It’s a fitting season for remembrance:
leaf fall seems infinite, legions of brazen
goodbyes in golds, in copper, auburn ranges;
burst shells of chestnuts crater pavements,
bullet-bronze acorns cracking under heel.
Remembering the dead in a die-back period,
scented with wood smoke and cordite.
Louise Walker’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in anthologies by the Sycamore Press and Emma Press, as well as journals such as South, Oxford Magazine, Acumen, Foxglove Journal, Artemis and Dreich. Commissions include Bampton Classical Opera and she was Highly Commended in the Frosted Fire Firsts Award in 2022.
Nobody’s Last Memory
in the pine woods.
the red squirrel
and the robin,
the soft percussion
of pine needles
a pine cone fits
into a child’s hand,
twist up towards a sun
on a day
We seem to walk along that beach forever,
stopping now and then to look at the camera.
As the camera stops time for all time, we
smile into whatever hasn’t happened yet.
Look how our smiles don’t know what will happen
or how it will hurt to turn these pages.
Turning the first page, a name is written,
more vivid than this face in faded photos.
I see your face, but your voice has faded,
heard only now in fragmentary dreams,
fragments of memories that dreams leave behind:
car keys abandoned on the table by the door.
Pick up those keys, start the car. We’ve still
got time to walk along that beach forever.
Sarah Graham is a writer living on the west coast of Scotland. She has had poetry and essays published in anthologies. She self-published a young adult novel in 2021. She is constantly inspired by the beautiful natural world, and much of her poetry reflects this.
We were eight that summer,
Jenny and I.
When summers were hot
and long and full of fun.
We skipped down the path
hand in hand.
“Let’s look for frogs!”
Jenny cried, by the lily pond.
Flat on our tummies
looking into the water.
The frogs disappeared
under the leaves.
We watched the pond skaters
with their dizzy dance,
dipping our fingers in the slimy edges,
lost in our own little world.
Then, it was time for ice cream
(did we wash our hands?),
eating quickly before they melted,
whilst fending off the wasps.
Back at home it was bath-time
with chance to practice
those frog-leg kicks,
without any slimy weed.
I was glad the water
was not green, or
full of bugs
– just warm with soapy suds.
We used to have a secret club.
The members were
Mandy, her little brother
Colin, and me.
Our membership cards
had numbers on.
Not 007, as there were only
three of us.
If grown-ups asked
what we had played,
we always said “shops” or
Our HQ was in the garden,
Our own mini-house,
made of brick, built
by Mandy’s dad.
We were sworn to secrecy
in our world of spies.
I can’t quite remember
what we did.
I think we were mostly
on stand-by, in case
required as junior spies,
to Save The World.
Martin Rieser is a poet and visual artist, with interactive installations shown in Europe countries, China and the United States. He was published in Poetry Review, the Write to be Counted anthology, Magma Magazine 74, Morphrog 22; and Poetry kit. Martin was longlisted for Primers Volume 3; shortlisted 2019 & 2022, longlisted 2021 for Frosted Fire Firsts; shortlisted for Charles Causley Poetry Prize and Artlyst Art to Poetry Anthology 2020; runner up in Norman Nicholson Lockdown Poetry 2020, and won first prize in the Hastings Literary Festival 2021 poetry competition. He runs the Stanza poetry group in Bristol.
On Mulfra Hill, Cornwall
Once I found an expended 0.303 casing here
tarnished, but otherwise perfect.
Now the burnt moor stands naked,
and what was hidden is on full view:
deep lorry ruts where training soldiers came,
and everywhere slit trenches dug in haste
by conscript farmhands and miners, rushed
stumbling across peat in chafing khaki
before a rapid posting to the salient.
The lucky ones as sappers, the rest as fodder
for bursting shells at Wipers and the hungry mud,
where they lost both life and name.
John Poolman is a priest of the Church in Wales, retired from parochial ministry but involved in helping prepare those in training for future ministries. His background is in the agricultural industry. He is among the first generation of his family not to have been a farm worker.
All Hallows Eve in Chester
I feel November in my bones today
And in the bones of all who lie close by.
So too, the torn and maimed, who lie elsewhere
Whose names will be remembered in this month.
When Christmas lights are lit and days fall short
My life is shrinking too with shortening days
I’m ready to slip down into some crack
Within the sandstone, open just enough
To let me creep inside and fall asleep.
Abigail Ottley writes poetry and short fiction from her home in Penzance. A former English teacher with a lifelong interest in history, she is also primary carer to her very elderly mother. Writing is her solace and her strength.
On my Great Grandmother’s Hand Mirror
I see you turning it over in your smooth, un-calloused hands
tracing the outline of its curlicues and loops,
its finely wrought tumescence pressing heavily
into your palm’s soft flesh. A bridal gift
for a working lass at the fag-end
of a stultifying century, later brought to bed
of her first-born, a daughter.
The old Queen still on the throne.
Holding it now, it’s not hard to imagine
how your breath might have clouded
your own beauty. A single blow
might kill a man. You would have used it, too.
This perfect oval with its silvering untarnished.
A looking-glass without a fault. Yellow lamplight, your long hair
unpinned, tumbling down
your slender fingers braced to anchor this dull weight.
Starlings in Late December
Two days before Christmas
a miracle happens
so close it
presses on our ears.
What’s that noise? I say
as I rise from my desk.
You lay aside your guitar.
weedy, littered alley,
against a sky so blue this might
swooping and darting,
The arms of the ash
we can touch
from our window
bloom suddenly back into leaf.
Black as bats or
notes on a page,
fill every stave with
Click and whistle,
whistle and click:
Bird-Man Dreaming Flight
This last hour of lavender light
you liked to smoke a pipe
of strong tobacco.
You watched your budgies as they flitted
back and forth among shadows
a restless rainbow of flight.
Your ramshackle bird-house
was cheap wood and chicken wire,
a homely network of
roosting poles and perches.
Nesting boxes you fashioned after tea
with pale, arthritic hands.
Billy was your favourite. When he
alighted on your finger, you
bowed your head in mute adoration.
Your bristling lip bestowed
worshipful kisses on his horny
blue and yellow beak.
The old aviary went first. Soon
our house was other-peopled.
No more the sweet hush before tea-time:
on our high back step, you
in rolled shirt sleeves, imagining.
Up, up, and away.
Mandy Beattie’s poetry appears in: Drawn to the Light, Lothlorien, Poets Republic, Dreich, Wordpeace, The Haar, Wordgathering, Clearance Collection, Spilling Cocoa, Last Stanza, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Visual Verse. Poets Choice Marble Poetry. Shortlisted, Dreich Black Box Competition. Short story in: Howl. Forthcoming: Spoonie, The Pen Points North, Crowstep.
A mangle sits in snow-light
I am a yard of creased taffeta
cygnet-diving into the cervix
of the mangle, through the birth-tunnel
where my twin fell feet first — I inch
phalanges, metacarpals, carpals
wrist to elbow. Nudge
an ulnar nerve up to an oxter. Swallowing
my neck; pushing my head round
the hard shoulder. Forceps stuck
to anvil of newborn bones
and inches of obsidian hair — clamp
shoogle, pull. Squall, squint in snow-light
I bend an elbow. Squeeze
biceps, triceps through
the birth-tunnel; wriggle
my wrist; plunge
through pursed labia-lips. My pelvis
a limbo dance; deep diving
into a forward tuck — Rebirth
through the birth-tunnel of the mangle
that sits in snow-light. Weaving
into origami-kintsugi whatever I want
Ironing out creased taffeta
and umbilicus to re-wind, re-set
re-wild. Wing-woman with my twin
who fell in sunlight
after a trimester:
Stitch & Blether
I remember two of Da’ Bain’s daughters
casting on at six on Tuesdays & Thursdays
into three score years & ten. Joining dots
above griddle pancakes & triangular treacle
scones, wearing kitchen sink rhubarb or gooseberry
jam. Spilling slightly salted butter; sipping tar-tea
I remember trachled Fair Isle jumpers yanked out
Wool wound round arms stuck out like ley-lines
Hand-loom dousing rods dipping down, back up
becoming a big ball of gradients
I remember seed & long raindrop, tumbling moss block
& hurdle stitches; feeling rows & loops by heart
Kent from knitting-recipes in our Kin Tree & yarns
of waulking with wool, spindles & spinning wheels
I remember casting off. Then there was only one
of Da’ Bain’s daughters with knotted fingers
knitting a meditation every eve
Waulking: Scottish women traditionally singing Gaelic songs while rhythmically beating newly woven cloth against the surface of a table; enabling felting & shrinkage of tweed & tartan to make it more water repellent.
Glamping in a Sand-Midden
Bricks and mortar man tea-leafed sand from beaches to fabricate
human birds’ nests. Those hillock-stairs we’d clamber
like sand bubbler crabs. Marching to save scaling sand-faces
if only we’d known those dunes would contract into improper
fractions. Would we have been like Sisyphus rolling rocks near
smidgeons of wild pansies, primula scotica, couch grass-umbrella
against golf balls, sand-slides and gannets, guillemots, gulls who
netted Avian flu from a petrie dish pandemic? Cliff-stacks are
dominos without white spots, blethers — A bird-cide littered
like un-greening bottles on beaches with micro plastics found
for the first time in human inhuman blood. Returned to sender.
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.
the hands of my heart.
or drag me into the dark.
They are dreaming
while I’m sleepless.
They know I wish I was
dead in my bed
and never want to fade away
in my personal hell.
extend both their arms.
I throw them
into the scorching heartburn.
Like I, a child,
spoiled by the fireplace
know they are searching for me:
their own flame.
They are the other half of who I may be.
I saw a bony tree hunt down your shadow.
It is time to realize I should let you go.
There is one more thing to recall,
even after years slipped away,
I guess I love you in my memory.
You are my living leaf,
in my fall, out of my fall.
Simone Mansell Broome is Welsh-born, an optimist, businesswoman, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, lover of both stage and page, animals and the environment. She is a vegan living in rural Carmarthenshire, a poet and children’s writer, a regular performer of her work and is now working on her first memoir.
He’s a man now; doesn’t kick or pass,
dribble or play a ball any more,
toe to foot to knee to head, his love
of the game faded away.
Thought it would last always, thought the years
of sunlight and wellness would last too,
restless infant gone, substituted
by a gilded child – football, success –
team, school, friends then girls. Thinking of him
then, bloodied knees, a ball, I recall
those opening bars, Nessun Dorma,
that old ice music working its spell,
pulling the crowds, despite gondoliers,
usherettes’ trays, triteness of old TV ads,
overplaying, overworking, over-hyped,
in that time before Diana went, Luciano too,
when Pav was fab and football was king,
when the blue-eyed boy was beautiful,
his demons checked, ice music, football anthem,
music of hope, limitless possibility.
Elvis, an encounter
Darkness over ripe Welsh meadows,
las vegas, fretted
by strings of fairy lights, solar, blue,
along May hedges, elder-greening, blossom-bursting,
by cigarette glow,
by crackling and hissing of logs from the firepit –
where folks huddle warmed by blankets, chat, whisky.
Well met by moonlight, proud incarnation,
thrusting the King’s torch, rocking ‘n rolling,
owning that suit, spritelike guest
at this night’s nuptials, starblest,
incandescent, lighting up
the loin-lost gaze of his admirers,
who have seen a vision, divine
and otherworldly, (in fact from Malta),
shimmying gifts – lyric, liquidity
of hip, of lip, filling full his luminous leathers.
Now, far from home, awaiting his team,
he shivers in built-up shoes –
I AM NOT COLD; I HAVE PERFORMED.
Elvis takes his leave, cash, applause,
his black truck back,
not loving us tender yet still weaving
some chill, silvery spell,
as tail-lights reveal
sequins shed on bluebell, cow parsley and nettle
at the field gate,
our lane pitted with stardust.
A photo for Grandpa
He’d snapped them all – his choice of verb, not mine –
Queen Mum, Princesses Margaret…and Anne, stars
of chart and catwalk, the rich, the famous
and the bad. Now here he was, winding down,
in a modest studio close to us.
The natural choice for our task.
A happy families snap for Grandpa.
The op had gone well: we were told he’d make
a full recovery, yet Grandpa was beset
by gloom, could not face the world, had turned
his chair to the wall.
We were asked to stay away, give him space, so,
having summoned, drilled, scrubbed our wayward brood,
we posed – awkwardly, the first and only time –
for this. An image with a large remit,
to tell him that he’s loved, that life is good,
that his son’s made it, that grandkids scrambled
on the cusp of adulthood.
Things were glossed over, touched up, edited out:
the scene was staged. Not all was rosy
but did it work? Grandpa’s chair did turn back round.
No visitors signs were packed away. He caged
his demons, rallied, even as reality
unravelled, soundless, at the edges of our frame.
Kate Copeland‘s love for words led her to teaching & translating; her love for art & water to poetry. Kate’s poetry is published in Ekphrastic Review, Wildfire Words, First Lit.Review-East, GrandLittleThings, Metaworker, Weekly/Five South, New Feathers a.o. Kate sometimes assists during Breathe-Read-Write poetry workshops; she adores housesitting in the world all the time.
To my dad
Saturday 25th, 15:45
They settled his head on two pillows,
one extra for his back, supporting his weak smile, comforting straight fear.
Ill follows death
the fall-down, a failure to rise to old heights.
Sweet and ever considerate on his bed
like snow in sun when nurses, smoking doctors,
My alarm clock tells time, one kiss for my mum,
a matey for me.
An end to a world as was. At 2:00 too early.
But 3:45 just right.
A punctual big heart his way, to stay
in the end.
Thursday 30th, 23:59
I settle my pen on snow white sheets and don’t support time that much
as you, as much
mostly skipping lunch, watching telly,
at weird hours
in life, alive.
And you are there waiting
in a cold shade of satin
we just did
not ask for.
I keep shifting honour words
on 2 pages of thoughts, beyond tears, there
there, never cried
as I now.
In a world that might continue.
But isn’t it just right,
that the songs
are superbly sorted
in the end.
Olivia Walwyn’s poems have been published in a range of magazines and anthologies, including The Rialto, The North, Popshot and Lucent Dreaming. She gained an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from UEA in 2017. She has a pamphlet, En Route, and collection, Halcyon, published by Templar.
Yours was an end so gradual, we hardly noticed it.
As if you tried so well to evade death
you almost, scarcely slipped its net – your grim
claws hanging on, as you punctured the holes
of the tapestries’ mesh, and lugged yourself
from room to room, stubbornly clinging to routines
that in the end became the whole of you: what you did
rather than what you thought or said the all in all.
I’d look for twinkles, glimpses of the real you, as you
were subtly subsumed or lost in a foreign mist
none of us could really, properly read. You’d look
as through a break in the gloam, see me. I’d
only realise then how much the fading had become.
The daily fug that separated you and me; you
from the whole of everyone, as you sat on – aware
as some regal personage maybe that what they represent’s
become more than who or what they really are
or were, their image made an icon as a star
is seen as guiding, now whatever it really is
destroyed, abolished, distanced; leading yet.
Max Mulgrew writes poetry at home in Birmingham, UK, after many years working as a news journalist. His poems have appeared in online and print journals.
Lives are counted in empty glasses
placed lip to lip, not spoons. From bar
to sewer, drip by drip – sipped
and swigged. Measure by measure,
gone in a river of foam –
ninety miles lined up
on the tab, empties
cheek to cheek waiting like owls.
Take their stories, mouth to mouth,
belly to belly, checking the depth –
cracked, slewing back into line.
Newer glasses reek of wilder tales –
weighing the words for balance,
finding phrases to raise the dead
Geography of war
When children in woolly hats came out of school,
crows rearranged their feathers and perched
high on the traffic lights. Hot sugar smells
oozed from kiosks between the blocks of flats.
Across the river, café staff cleared tables, flushed
out the coffee machine. The river linked places
that had trams and galleries, places where
musical scales were practised and fashionable
shoes scraped against heavy cobbles. Ministries
were alive with digital paperwork and video calls.
Now the ministries’ flags hang limp in the vacuum,
their stones weighing heavy on the bedrock
during the inertia of winter. In a square,
one of the children almost looks. She once
had sparkly pink varnish on her tiny nails.
She and her mother must have smiled
while they waited for it to dry. The crows
seem unsettled these days, blinking white lids
across their black eyes. They fly over frozen fields
to gather at the edge of the city, waiting.
Lesley Curwen is a broadcaster, poet and sailor living by Plymouth Sound. She often writes about the sea, loss and rescue. Her poems have been published by Nine Pens, Arachne Press, Broken Sleep, Green Ink, Black Bough and Icefloe Press.
(A‘Gram of &s’ anagram poem, after Terrence Hayes)
Nights were the wust. Bugs in t’palliasse made you scritch yusself sore
tho’ th’heat in them bites numbed wur bitter cold. Brakefast were best,
half a bun, tea med from brown watter. And later wur very own escort
arrived to tek us to wuk. One screw slapped me face, called me a filthy scrote
as we marched to th’ yard like tommies, though we wur nothin’ like, no boots
but brokken shoes and keks decorated wi’arrows. And t’Gov’nor, in sober
tones, told us hard labour were’t price of dissent, all strapped in his corset
as ‘e wur, wi’ a spot of gravy on ‘is collar. We ‘ad to break rocks by the score
we conchies, while murderers swanked on the galleries and tuk loud bets
on which of us wud finally crack, punch back at the uniformed boors.
None did. Brotherhood wuz our creed, and each on uz paid th’cost.
(for my grandfather George Frederick Brogden, 1889 -1972)
They came on a flimsy sheet, words about duty, the King, a marketplace rendezvous.
A hundred wool-capped lads joking in a spatter of trumpets, while you were at bay
by the kitchen table, quoting Bible texts as mother wailed about funk and shame
and father said you were dead to him.
Brown copperplate script conveyed the sentence of your uniformed betters:
hard labour in Wormwood Scrubs. Lice, slops, rotten meat, Cockney warders
roughing up conchies in memory of brothers shot in the trenches.
No letters from home. Ever again.
Returned to light, you embraced silence about the stand you had taken.
Job in a new town, never a word about war to the family you raised
from nothing. Today, white poppy in my coat, I whisper your name
George, as if you had been a hero.
Sharon Webster lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, writes mainly poetry and short fiction, gains her inspiration from the natural beauty around her and the lives that have touched her own.
yet more Mollie,
one of eight,
she lost two brothers in the war,
was born before everyone had
Descended of Welsh Mountain stock,
farmers, shepherds, animal healers,
she is the reason why I claim
“It’s in my blood”
the love of the outdoors,
the wild and green,
sewing, craft, creating,
because it was in hers.
For a while she lived with Grandpa
in our loft.
It smelled of proper dinners, Pond’s soap,
“baccy” smoke and
there was the sound of his gentle chortle
and her laugh,
grandstand on the telly,
Babysitting brought sweets
hidden in knitting,
excursions on the bus,
But they left.
Grandpa got ill,
needed his mountain
for his last breath.
She never questioned that.
and losing him lost just
a little of herself
I wish I could know her now,
hug her now,
she was so good, so kind, so strong
Bridgette James, author of Sierra Leone in The Diaspora was a Metropolitan Police Special Constable. Her poem “African Mimosa” was in the longlist for the 2022 Aurora National Prize for Writing. Two poems would be featured in Dreich Magazine; her work has appeared in the Fib Review and Wildfire Words.
STOP all ‘Garys’
As she yelled: Gary, STOP, my chandelier shook –
excessive force from next-door’s high-pitched decibels.
Gary must be big, burly, scary, angry; unstoppable – a hulk.
Green slime concealed underneath layers of svelte charm-
rehearsed, charm that gains your trust; the kind of trust that
ushered SARAH EVERARD into a constable’s vehicle.
Gary might be the dictionary definition of space-invaders in the pub.
‘Up skirters’ on the tube; wolf-whistlers when you are jogging, a
synonym for all who call you “princess” when you are not royalty.
#GarySTOP sounds like an activists’ mantra – a Twitter hashtag
Gary, STOP has filled me with an overwhelming urge to call out
all ‘Garys’ suited or not; uniformed or not; psychopathic or not, at
decibels loud enough to rattle all chandeliers.
Dave Wynne-Jones taught poetry for 20 years before leaving for health reasons to complete an MA in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, publishing Kidstuff, a booklet of children’s poetry and a book about Alpinism. His latest poetry booklet The Way Taken is published by Delfryn Publications.
Walking the Walk
In memory of Daphne Pritchard
Years ago, camping in the Alps,
a stranger looking for a climbing partner
dropped in on the meet – “What do you reckon,
Daphne, any good?” I asked in case she knew him.
“Oh yes, he’s a tiger!”
“How d’you know?”
“The way he walks, like you and Denis, Mike.
You can always tell.”
Surprising me; I’d never thought about it.
So all that balance and co-ordination
learnt on so many climbs found expression
in the simple everyday act of walking
with the poise of a predator. Really?
I remembered the supermarket where
one of my armful of bottles slipped into the air
to be caught by my free hand as all the rest
settled into a safe embrace again,
while the shelf-stacker froze, mouth open, unbelieving,
still waiting for the crash of broken glass,
until I winked and she laughed.
Now I remember Daphne in her eighties
still moving fluently from hold to hold
at the opening of the memorial climbing wall
dedicated to Mike, the marvelling kids
sidling over to ask how old she was
and her grin when I told her as she added,
“It doesn’t get any easier!”
Jonathan Ukah is a graduate of English and Law living in the UK. His poems have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies.
Remember me when I’m still alive,
When my breath beats on my chest
My blood flows through my veins,
Full throttle life; buoyant in joy.
When I am weary of my struggles,
And relapse into time-plunged cul-de-sac
When vicious silence breathes in interval.
Where triumphs cool; victories cease.
Between my successes and my death,
Is this inviolable chasm that drowns
All my previous celebrations and glories,
Into which I’m steeped in sterile space.
Remember me in those neutral days,
When the fateful gravy train descends
Down the hill into the cloudy valley,
When glory pause; celebrations cancel.
Do not wait upon the seagull’s feasting
To blast your trumpet on my diamond coffin,
Or raise my series successes to the loud crowd
Celebrate me when the breath is yet in me.
Of what use is your flamboyant, volcanic praise
To a man sedated by racing time and age,
When throughout life your silence throttles him
Like a swamp dried by speechless trees?
Ama Bolton convenes a Stanza group in Somerset, where she lives with a sculptor and two hens. Her poems have featured at festivals, on Radio 3’s The Verb, on local radio and in magazines and anthologies. Her e-chapbook Nines is due from Snapshot Press in spring 2023.
The Round Garden at Pityoulish
On the shore of the loch
he built a walled garden
crossed by two paths
I drew it for years
a cross in a circle
a spell to remember
a summer of wonder
a boathouse where sunlight
slipped in through the cracks
bright stripes in the darkness
a boat that he nudged
into open water
nosing through whisper
and chirrup of reedbeds
pines on the far shore
hills blue with distance
heat-haze and oar-creak
and the gift of kindness
from a childless man
Seventy years later
I discover his story
a young wife
a young son
both lives cut short
just ten days apart
heartsick and smarting
I scroll the Google map
click to satellite
zoom till the dark squares
follow the shoreline
no sign of a boathouse
no trace of a garden
‘Lest We Forget’
The granite glitters in late-autumn sun,
listing the wartime dead by name and date.
Our local limestone’s memory is short:
the words would fade, erased by acid rain.
Each scarlet poppy is a blush of shame
for shattered men who begged on London streets,
for victory bought with personal defeat,
for body-parts buried without a name,
for Grandad with his Military Cross
his nightmares and his whisky-happy days,
for horror hidden in a hackneyed phrase,
for each November’s litany of loss.
Memories are short. Smart-bomb and drone
make mockery of letters cut in stone.
Marilyn Timms is a chocoholic grandmother and co-editor of wildfire words. She is excited by the wide variety of poems that arrive in her inbox every morning from our contributors.
French November winds sharpening to ice,
muddy overcoats mimicking cement.
My Yorkshire lad, summer in his heart,
carrying despatches along the Somme.
Man and metal, symbiotic voyagers,
bucking, jumping, sliding sideward,
almost stalling. ‘Trusty Triumph
stumbles, buckles, regains its balance
breathes and soldiers on;
racing like an Arabian
across hard, bare rock.
Seasoned soldier, standing tall on his stirrups:
hurling to heaven news of the Armistice.
Knife-sharp winds, flensing the horror,
exhuming his dreams.
In his nostrils, mislaid scents
of elderflowers in an English spring,
blue bonfire-drift of autumn leaves,
poignant essence of Christmas trees,
soap-and-talcum kisses from his Gran.
Against his fingers, the smooth, cold river:
the silken caress of mesmerised trout.
On his tongue, pickled onions and home-made cheese.
Eighteen years old, more alive than he has ever been.
Beyond the wire, a German sniper takes careful aim.
Remembering my father
I replace the receiver with stiff fingers,
climb to the centre of your empty bed,
rest my head on my knees.
Dawn creeps into the room like an apology,
unwraps the horse brasses on the wall,
fire irons in the hearth,
ignores the rest.
My eyes collect movements that my brain
declines to process.
A tiny mouse is in your doorway.
He makes a jagged circuit of the room,
selects a patch of thinner darkness,
pauses and grooms his fur.
He sees me, stares.
I tell him you will be setting no more traps.
His eyes are as dark as yours,
This is not my son.
Not this mishmash
of broken bone
and shredded flesh
sent in a box
to Wootton Bassett.
My son is a child
of the sunlight,
crafted of dreams,
pressing his footprint
on Gloucestershire’s hills.
My son is the peace maker,
the giver of music,
fashioned of rivers and trees,
as young as the May fly,
as old as the yew.
Not in my name.
Voice of the people,
outflanked by egos.
where opium poppies
are the colour of blood.
My son is a father-in-waiting,
a teacher, a child,
with just a king’s shilling
to spend on the peace.
Poppies ripening, wilting,
spreading their poison.
My son is a sleepwalker,
lost in the profits
of your armaments deals.
Vultures are circling.
Contrails from bombers
serrating the sky.
high in the mountains
living in tunnels,
lost to their families.
self-seeding like poppies.
Snipers, killing my boy,
getting shot in return.
Squandered lives buying a ceasefire
more fragile than flowers.
Who wields the power?
Not the mothers. Not the sons.
Jean Cooper Moran is a member of Forest of Dean group ‘Poets in Progress’, and her work has appeared in anthologies Survival (Hammond House), Dean Writers’ Resilience and Ways to Peace. She won the 2020 international Hammond House Poetry competition and co-judged their 2021 competition. Her love is word-building in poetic forms.
Two minutes of silence
Days stretch into long skeins of time.
There is a ‘No’ in this month.
Much has been made of that
and the deep, dark well of reflection
that comes with our remembrance of brave souls.
We open that door in our hearts again
and let them in, trailing their banners, their sorrows,
their songs, their litanies of past lives.
And we say ‘yes’ to that communal celebration.
We ring the bells, stand in silent salutation.
We honour the hour, the day, the minute of their dissolution
and all the departed lives.
Battle Honours of the Forest
He will never forget, never forget,
how war takes you and makes you ‘other’,
how the word ‘brother’ means more than family.
Cluster-fly memories crowd in the brain,
driving the search for solitude, quietude.
And so, his steps take him to the wildwoods,
easel and palette slung on his back
turning his mind to the changing season,
and the splendour he thought he’d never see again.
Crude, bloody colours flare as forest trees
let fall their lingering last leaves.
Blazing yellow, orange and searing reds
illuminate a startled landscape.
Autumn’s fallen to the cold axe of winter
reaping a harvest of fallen fruits, discarded growth.
Old gods renew their hold on the scoured land
as summer’s growth stored in autumnal harvest
sinks to the forest floor, to degeneration and defeat.
He touches fallen fern fronds, shrouded in the silken strands
of fungus stamped into mulch by hoof and foot.
Where else can he walk, his feet kicking up riches
of leaves of burnt flame veined in green
as life leaves them to a dissolution of colour,
a winding sheet of startling shades of autumn.
On his palette he mixes blue and brown, candid yellow,
sharp piercing tones of flame and fire.
And tries to paint a leaf.
Sam Egelstaff lives in North Wales. She has performed at the R.S Thomas Literary Festival and is published in Counterpoints: In response to poems by R.S Thomas (2015). Her MA Creative Writing led to her collections ‘On the Couch’ (2015) and ’Carneddau Colours’ (2017). She tweets as @SamEgelstaff and her blog is samegelstaff.wordpress.com.
In Spring there were woodpeckers, robins, blue-tits and finches, through our cottage window.
Summer ceased and we paused while you melted
into the air, above our heads.
The Autumn arrived to this vacant house. Spiderwebs cassocked a silken ceiling.
We lit the fire, crackling wood breathed and walls exhaled
in this ignored abode.
Winter chokes now as the willow wilts. There are no birds through our window.
The table is empty but like those birds, we will forage and wait. Spring will soon come.
Laura Grevel is a performance poet, fiction writer and blogger. A Texan, she has lived in Europe for 21 years. Her work is eclectic, tackling the immigrant experience, narratives, and character sketches, and has been published in anthologies, podcasts, and zines. Her poetry performances can be viewed on YouTube.
The Chapel at Avesa
“Per favore, il chiave della piccola chiesa”
The man smiles crustily
The ancient key opens the door
To the smell of prayers
Soft, sharp, piercing, poignant, burnt
1100 years of prayers
Swim crowd swoon
In that square, plain room
1100 years of prayers
Stand and bow their heads
Sweep a hand across their brow
Ponder faded frescoes
Shuffle across the years
Light a candle
Expand with breath
Kneel and genuflect
Contract with blue veins
Exhale with sighs
Stare at the floor
Wipe dust from a knee
Carry the whispers
See the dark circles
Touch the worry lines
Hear my plea
Repeat my hope
For my mother
Who will die in two years.
In Verona we would walk up into the hills
Past the syringes and dog faeces
On ancient paths
Walled by high stone
Where we came upon farms
With vineyards and orchards and oleanders,
And barking dogs tied to trees—
Though we knew no one, for we were strangers.
And at the crests of the hills,
We looked out past the nunnery
To see below the vale of piccola Avesa,
And beyond, the valley of Verona,
With buildings shining like gemstones in brown murk,
And the hill air was just a little better
And the breeze called us by name and we were free.
And other times we rode our bikes out of town,
Rode past the abandoned house,
Where work had stopped 25 years before,
And we wondered if they refused to bribe someone, that’s why,
And we passed little farms with vineyards and vegetable gardens,
And rode out to the woods of Robber Hotzenplotz,
(We named it that after a mean robber from a German children’s book.)
And we rode into the woods
And the children were scared of robbers
And we walked the hiking paths
Through woods young and thin,
And we wondered where the big old woods went
And we knew no one there, for we were strangers,
But we smiled at hikers and admired the creek running through,
And we took the thin woods,
Held it against our chests,
And loved it to bigness.
(The robber ran away.)
Simon Maddrell is a queer Manx man, thriving with HIV. He’s published in fifteen anthologies and publications including AMBIT, Butcher’s Dog, The Moth, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, Stand and Under the Radar. In 2020, Simon’s debut, Throatbone, was published (UnCollected Press) and Queerfella jointly-won The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition.
One by One after Ash Wednesday
in memoriam Paul Douglas Maddrell (1960-1990)
after the Tenebrae service & Lamentations of Jeremiah
In a river of fifteen candles pinched
life that would not be quenched
three piped voices throttled
a boxer in my belly strangled
the soldier at my back shrouded
that joker in my ribs stifled
the seventh weeps in pools burnt out
sanded lungs slowly suffocated
grief settles on the chest muffled
exhausted on your cross doused
shadows gather like mist blown
around your feet stubbed
even tears have a silent drip expunged
the remains of your breath choked
light wanes to a black spill snuffed.
After that day
your light went out
a candle appears
in another room
after Wayne Holloway-Smith
in memory of my father
covered in poop
i never thought it would come to this
i hadn’t seen dad’s dick
in forty-three years
and now it’s twice a day
reminds me of when i lost all feeling
below the waist & shat my pants
they thought it was MS
gave me a lumbar puncture
like when they named dad’s cancer
gave it an expiry date
what i’d do to wash his dick again
just the once
Kathryn Moores’ writing is anchored in the perplexing nature of her life, from rural Cheshire to academic research involving parts of Antarctica and tiny pieces of the Moon.
Kathryn’s poetry has been published in the UK and USA, most recently up in Scotland.
She is working on her first novel.
Flowers to Hospital
I took flowers to the hospital, to thank a nurse for helping me.
She cried and said “Love, take them to your mum,”
and I reminded her that she was gone,
laid out there, two days ago,
and the woman cried, and thanked me,
said she was sorry for being silly,
that she wouldn’t have the same grace to conduct herself as well as me.
I walked myself insensible, round in circles,
at once my mind, both empty and full,
had propelled itself to safety mode,
to that safe place that used to be my mum.
When I come to wonder where all of the flowers have gone,
after the cars have left, the people with them,
I remember they’re being admired by the nurses,
who carried on, when I thought everything had been done,
and in whose eyes I saw what it takes
to close the eyes on a person’s night whilst their daughter still looks on.
Anna Banasiak is a poet, writer and occupational therapist who loves helping people through art therapy. Her poems have been published in New York, London, Surrey, Australia, Canada, India, Africa, Japan, China, Cuba, Israel. Anna has won poetry competitions in London, Berlin, Bratislava, gold and silver in Kamena, gold, silver and bronze at All Poetry and more.
I’m escaping from my Land
with the baggage of torment in hand
with a sick mother in my head
in a burning house
in the grave of ancestors
I run away blinded by fire
stunned by the howl of sirens
by bombing raid of hate
in compartments and on tracks
death validates tickets
without mercy one by one
takes its toll
from the waiting room of life
I run further
with children with the baggage of hope
Siobhan Ward lives and works in London. She was commended in the Segora International Poetry Competition 2020. Her poetry has been published in B O D Y and Porridge.
duplex, after Jericho Brown
There are some things you can’t tell your mother.
You can’t tell her about your sadness.
It’s part of your sadness you can’t tell her.
You need her to notice, ask what’s wrong?
You need her to turn her head. Look at you.
But she asks Have you seen our heron?
There! Can’t you see it? Follow my finger!
The outline is unmistakeable.
Its pale scalene stands out against the trees.
You say I can’t see, can’t make it out.
You can’t see the heron she’s gifting you
on this last walk alone with your mother.
These days you walk alone beside rivers
and find yourself searching for herons.
Wherever there’s water, herons find you.
There are some things you can’t tell your mother.
The Great Vine
A bright man, but not a blowhard, your modesty
was an expression of self-confidence. Your ways
were country ways. You treated your wife with respect.
You liked a glass of Riesling and the rugby. You
knew how to write a good letter and how to tell
a good story. To watch your mind at work
was to swim in one of those mountain lakes – the water
so cold, so clear, all those little brown fish scooting
about between and through pounding legs and feet.
We went once to see the Great Vine at Hampton Court.
I see you now standing next to the massive girth
of its twisted trunk, looking up at its sprawling
canopy. You told me its story – how every year
it produced hundreds of pounds of black dessert
grapes, and about its great age – it had outgrown five
greenhouses, outlived kings and queens, popes and poets.
And yes, predictably, it outlived you. I am
grateful for the Great Vine’s fruitful longevity,
but you, you had as much right to life as a plant
safe under glass. You were cut down too soon.
We squint in the late summer’s watery sunlight.
Behind us the forest green of ancient Irish yews.
Young, pale, we are china ornaments on a cake.
Guests wander in and out of the frame, spot
the camcorder, look surprised, back away.
The photographer ushers the tribes into groups.
I watch the long dead hitch up their trousers,
grip their handbags, smooth a fluttery skirt.
My three maiden aunts arrive centre stage,
costumed to perfection, these women who
had cut and stitched in the shirt factory.
Moving as one, they reach to shake your hand,
then mine. I’d forgotten they were like this.
The backs of their permed heads nod and bob,
wave and tilt, as they lean in to hear me speak.
My face opens to their attention. I can almost
hear their old lilt, the rise and fall of each
of their remembered voices, as they ask
is that so and wish us every happiness.
Then the photographer bounces back into frame
and I watch them take their places in a row
on my left, eyelids half-shut against the sun’s
low-lying glare. Now we all smile out at future
me sitting here watching our wedding video.
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/
It’s all over now
There was no white light
My life didn’t flash before my eyes
Just one thought
It’s all over now
My bicycle skittered away from under me
My cycle helmet was snatched off my head
A policeman found me screaming, wailing in pain and disbelief
broken and bleeding
sprawled beneath the refuse truck, driven by a negligent driver who, the police later said, was very upset that he had accidentally run me over
this didn’t make me feel any better
Child rubberneckers in school uniforms watched me when they peered underneath the truck
At this distance of time and space I am not so sure
although the memory of those fascinated children is as strong
as the dreams, nightmares and flashbacks
Lucky the Road Traffic Collision happened 16 years ago
If it was now, I might have been witnessed by hundreds and thousands, in a live stream, on a social media platform, howling in shock and terror
The policeman kept me company, as if he was casually chatting to me, instead of gleaning important information about me, to inform my next of kin
and of course to keep me alive
I was bleeding out
He was the first in a chain of emergency workers to keep me alive
He calmed me down
I didn’t feel so alone
I was still scared
when he held my hand
I knew I was being looked after
I just wanted to escape from being pinned under the truck
I had shouted and screamed at the driver to reverse back over me because my leg was trapped
He must have heard as he did as I demanded
How could he not see you?
You were lit up like a Christmas tree
the policeman said
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.
You are here but I can’t find you
I crouch and look under closed doors
I glimpse a fleeting shadow pass the window
I hear a noise upstairs and want it to be you
I open the door slowly but you do not show.
I will stop searching soon
I will rest gently
And feel the comfort that you have not gone
You are within us and around us.
You are the rim of my teacup
And the floorboards I tread
You are the coat on my back
And the breeze off the sea
You are not gone
You are in all things and you are in me.
Eniola Oladipo was published in Cornell University’s 2021 Global Anthology on Race Across Borders. She was shortlisted in the Leeds Peace Poetry 2020 Competition and is a recipient of the Channels Television Book Club Prize for Literature (2013).
A mottled pink tongue peaks into the crevice of a bottle.
Weary drags of spittle lace its circumference. Undisclosed sits
in his mother’s lap, sucking on his newly sanctioned toy,
hurling the last bead of sun-warmed water down the bottle’s tunnel
and into his mouth. Squalid satiety, tear-flecked eyelids and hazard,
he gathers stares from strangers. He barters them for smiles.
End of the line. Departure from station.
A fugitive trolley entreats his attention.
He mutters morsels of gibberish to his mother,
gorging the air of its eeriness, plundering it
with the scent of talcum and tantrum-esque squeals.
At home, she is dressed like a day that is over
and ready to hide. Inflating her lungs with quiet sorrow,
she renders bipartisan smiles to wall-taped pictures.
The troubled kettle falls asleep. She stirs the tea as if to drown
some memory. Some muscular rhythm of ocean’s coarse skin.
Last year’s emigration mulled over with the stroke of her mug.
His yawn suctions her from the warmth of her drink
and the walls of her drear and she kneels by her son
to put him to bed, the listless bob of his head affirming her ritual.
Although he had drowned in the tide of that day,
she imagines him sleeping: an immaculate phantom of sorts.