Sally Douglas – three poems

Taking Her Out

I’d drive her out each Sunday, and we’d park
and watch the frigates sail. I’d buy her tea –
she’d add a nip ‘for warmth’. Sometimes we’d talk.

But often we just sat. We sat for years.
Long years of grey October skies. Destroyers
came and went. Tankers hulked on the horizon.
Radios tinkled from the beach. Children played,
and children drowned. She sat there with a rug
tucked round her knees. The sea was flat, the sea

was always flat; the sky a gun-grey arc.
The Café closed. Her eyes grew fish-opaque.
I never knew what we were looking for.

Cigarette Holder, Cocktail Length

When she died, they gave it to my father,
wrapped in tissue in an Asprey’s box
with her broken watch, her powder compact:
the only things not sold after the War.

Holiday gifts for her were always easy:
cellophaned bricks of Silk Cut, Duty-Free.
I never wondered – why not scarves, or gin?

My father had never mastered the forgetting:
how Granny played the long-since-gone piano,
while Grandpa sent him scavenging
for dog-ends in the street.

I don’t know why I keep it.
I touch it: ebonite, embossed
with lead-white flakes of skin.

After Equinox

One of those red mornings
……..sun scudding a salmon sky
my eyes filling with sound

……..planes trailing grey tunnels of roar
…………….birdsong scrawling on air
……..our words……beautiful frayed ribbons

I drop you at the station
…… home through wind-scoured lanes
prepare to binge on winter

Sally Douglas’ first collection, Candling the Eggs, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2011. She has been published in various poetry journals, most recently in Under the Radar and Canto. She was a winner in the 2015 Exeter Poetry Festival Competition, and starts her MA with Lancaster University in Autumn 2016. On Twitter she is @SallyDPoet.

Helen Freeman – three poems

In Transit

Airline tags hang on her freckled life
frayed with the residue of passage.
She empties her clutch bag, clatters
the tabletop with ghosts of presence:
a fingerprint, a strawberry-blond hair.
Pared down to her skinny nub, you might
find a mango stone from an obscure shore,
in need of prolonged soaking, trying to root.

She’ll be off again to the surge of the wind,
her passport bulging, her blisters leaking.
Maybe she’ll raise a toast some day
to a new home, but she’ll be turning
strange keys, doubtful if she can
remember her way back.

The Rock

The clunk of the rock tied to your ankle,
homespun traction, raised and lowered, draws me
onto the stone floor to watch. Rising sun
paints golden freckles on your injured knee,
rugby’s legacy. Desert boots fastened,

I follow you to work, onto my perch,
scrubbed with antiseptic soap, observing
as you hunch over patients, so focused.

Ring-necked doves welcome the night’s arrival.
I snuggle into your lap of stories,
Old Spice-scented hugs enfold me, salty tang
of day’s labour, our knees bent, giving thanks.
The brylcreem’s worn off and Mum stretches out
to coax your remaining strands into place.

Now here you are again, emboldening
me to let go of my zimmer and sway
across the decades into your open
arms, rock-like, steady, still held out for me.

At the keyhole of the master bedroom

Your top a t-shirt two sizes too big,
mango-stained, with the hem unravelling
into an ample skirt and pockets
most likely full of bees and glossy starlings.
From this angle, from the secrecy,
with Liquorice Allsorts (here, take one!)
you are a queen, dispensing
perfume, knighthoods, world peace.

I watch you prop your royal sceptre
in a bucket of Dettol bubbles and lean over
to pick a lipstick from my mother’s drawer.
You scrunch up your face like a rabbit,
your cracked lips and fingers smudge with mulberry.
From this angle, from the secrecy,
with aniseed breath (go on, have another!)
I can only imagine the scent of Chanel
on your walnut skin.

Helen Freeman published a collection of poems, Broken (AuthorHouse UK, 2011), in the recovery time following a severe road traffic accident in Oman. Since then she has completed several online poetry courses including ModPo and the Poetry School. A Third Culture Kid brought up in Kenya, she now lives in both Edinburgh and Riyadh.

C.J. Miles – three poems

Nothing Like Light Years

My sister will always be three pounds long,
And now I’m up to a pack a day.
In front of her shoebox buried six feet down
I am always telling her, Soon so soon.
I am always telling her, Nothing like light years.

First Poem I Wrote for You

When poets go extinct, will the birds follow? Every love poem is a fossil meant to be unearthed centuries later, from the cracked ribs of a skeleton, dusted and studied, stuck behind a sheath of glass. Thank God this is not a stupid love poem but instead just some words dedicated to the days that keep struggling to find their meaning. I have been thinking about you for so long my thoughts have piled skyscraper tall. I hope they never meet a plane. I hope you never get out of bed without looking both ways. I hope you are thinking about me while you pour your coffee, while you brush your teeth, while you condition your hair for a full two minutes. You are waiting for me to quit cancer and I am waiting to find something that isn’t a side effect of love. Neither of us will quit first. Still, I hope we never stop waiting. I hope we never stop wrinkling. I hope we reach for the prune juice at the same time. And I say and I say and I say, I hope the birds follow the cancer after it kills me.

How to Be a Poet

First, tie a waist around your rope.
Next, throw your waist over a canyon.
Smile more.
Accept that you are not human not beast not
Wilderness nor sound—you are the stick
The caveman scratches against the other
Stick. Yeah, that hurts.
You are every umbrella left at a restaurant,
A lozenge stuck down the neck of a giraffe,
A shotgun wedding to your second cousin,
A Taylor Swift B-side.
God, you suck.

C.J. Miles lives in Iowa with his wife. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Forage, Euonia Review, and Algebra of Owls. He is currently working on a manuscript about being an awesome movie star in a bunch of mostly mediocre action films. Follow him on twitter at @cjmilespoet.

Janet Philo – three poems

April Morning

The sun’s
pale pendulum,
stopped, silvers the water.
A single wader seeks worms, dips
and cracks

the discs,
of mirror-pools;
winter’s ephemera.
They glaze spring fields with pewter, still,
like ice.

Left ear
pierced by throaty
chips and whits of small birds
rising. Only grass tips tremble,

Slow train
grumbles, laden,
through her right ear, while cars,
insistent, edge her world with growls,
then pass.

Her left cheekbone warms.

Friar Gate: Derby

A city churchyard – he
beats time with his crutch;
alone in the world of
his black woollen hat.
He treads the same path
as the ghosts of fat friars;
footprints and crutch steps
thawing the hoar frost as

pools of warm colour
pour onto pavements;
the friars are feasting
inside glass cases
like Joseph Wright’s bird
trapped in the air pump,
fat-breasted, plumped feathers;
smiling and sliding
towards a slow death.

Spices at blood heat
tease and drift into
urine soaked doorways
where light doesn’t reach,
where bones fused to stillness
succumb to the cold,
where, in time with the crutch beat,
a sleeping bag speaks.

Morning on Skye

You said I must get up and
share this day with you…
But what if I had not?
All I would have seen, was grey.

Days had been wrapped in grey,
alpaca soft and dripping, but not today,
today’s firm skin is stretched and full
of colour; torquoise,red and royal blue

reflections of small boats, anchored
in moss green. A green edge to
the liquid pink of sunrise pouring
across a flat and polished sea.

Domestic strife of seabirds
shreds the silence. A hungry otter
threads quiet savagery through water
and, like a cardboard cut-out,

matt black, picture book still,
a cormorant’s neck is bent
to his breast, beak buried
in softness. His neck forms a circle;

a lens through which I see
as far as my world’s end.
You said I must get up
and share this day with you

But what if I had not?

Janet Philo is an adopted Northerner, originally from the Midlands, but lived in London long enough to love the space in Redcar’s sky.

She was first published in ‘Fulcrum’, magazine (2014)

Spoken word performances include work with the Tees Women Poets, and she also enjoys mixing up music and poetry accompanied by husband, Phil, on guitar.

Her work has appeared in The Black Light Engine Room Issue 13 (summer 2015) and online at The Fat Damsel Take 10 (issue 8 ) and in Issue 6 of ‘Poems to Survive in’

Her first poetry pamphlet, Under-hedge Dapple, was published in June 2016 by Three Drops Press.

She has recently had work accepted for a forthcoming Pankhearst publication, Deranged.

Melisa Malvin-Middleton – three poems

Spilled childhood

of chocolate milk
Fruit Loops sprawl the linoleum.

Fallen blips of primary color
bloat with heaving sweetness.

Willie Wonka river
swells into Quik cascade

ceramic daggers.

The crash and scream
make the boy shudder.

A macabre routine:
I’m sorry.

No visible blood
this time

unlike the punch
that stains the marble counter.


We went to the home improvement store
for paint brushes and rollers.

Didn’t know that joint compound
was a good patch.

A weekend of planned painting
turned into a month

of holes that never
seemed to fill or dry.

Cracks from earthquakes past
spread across our asbestos sky.

Lavender everywhere
stuck to strands of hair

and those old Converse
that I can’t seem to throw away.

Martha Stewart says to add
a drop of black to the white paint

to keep the trim from yellowing
as if it were dress and veil

sealed in the hermitage
of a cardboard box

from discount dry cleaners
under piles of clothes

on bottom closet shelf
to be sorted one day

by Goodwill.

Schism of My Maker


“Flores para los muertos.”
Love of theatre
my mother gifted me.
Dust mites in Samuel
French script,
Summer and Smoke.
I stumble upon her script notes.
A piece of her as I read, a study.

The bare minimum.
Works defy logic,
painting glorious pictures
for rich and heartbreaking figures.

The writing I adore, I am drawn to write
…………………these tragic figures who almost make it out unscathed.


I am a master at unearthing our humanness,
our flaws in raw honesty.

Trying to understand that which makes us human,
that which makes us flawed—

how we can be an amalgam
of contradicting emotions and morals;
…………………good people sometimes do terrible things;
……………………………………………………………….and so on.

Making sense of ambiguity.
Writing and being raw, tragically flawed,
is to ascertain the impossible, and in doing so,



May I be well.
May I be happy.
May I be free from suffering.

May you be well.
May you be happy.
May you be free from suffering.

May we be well.
May we be happy.
May we be free from suffering.

Melisa Malvin-Middleton is a Los Angeles poet, playwright, and musician who teaches writing at California State University, Northridge and College of the Canyons. Her poetry appeared in the latest issue of The Ofi Press Literary Magazine, and her plays have been performed by Fresh Produce’d and Savage Players. This fall, her chapbook will be out with Yak Press.

Sharon Larkin-Jones – two poems


He hovers inches from my forearm,
gunmetal grey, whirring like a model
of a military drone, mechanical,
but, for all that, an ancient presence.

I’m in a land-ringed cove, equatorial,
mid-ocean, yet so sheltered and stifling
that the sound of rough waves
cannot penetrate.

Except for Schistocerca‘s wingbeats,
nothing disturbs the shroud wrapped
around these cemeteries named after ships
that patrolled East Africa centuries ago.

My new friend’s a desert locust, gregaria,
the kind that swarms in tens of thousands,
the species of biblical plagues,
but my companion today is a singleton,

rocked up like me at Comfortless Cove
where vessels once were quarantined
with typhoid, yellow fever, dysentery,
contracted on the coast of Senegal.

Ships limped back here for sailors
to find food, fresh water, to recover
or die – to be buried at sea
or find rest in these lonely plots.

My eyes return to the shallow graves
just for a second and, when I look back,
with a great emptiness I see
my fellow traveller has gone.


I never knew what I would be getting.
Every time you showed up in a fresh outfit
as if experimenting with a new wardrobe.
Each combo came with a different persona,
a whole tribe of them.

The success in the city in pin-stripes,
preppy loafer in argyle sweater,
hipster in lumberjack shirt,
shapeless shorts – and sandals,
for heaven’s sake.

And then, the rocker in black leather,
God help me.
Yes, I liked that look best
but found it hard not to snigger
when you creaked at sleeve and knee.

It wasn’t until you’d shown me everything
that the filters across my lens proved a distortion.
All versions had been blurry reflections,
two dimensional, temporary, untrue.
Naked, you were magnificent.

Sharon Larkin has been published in magazines (Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed with Pipework, Prole, Here Comes Everyone, Reach); on-line (including The Stare’s Nest, Open Mouse, Clear Poetry) and in anthologies (Cinnamon, Indigo Dreams, Eyewear, Fair Acre). She chairs Cheltenham Arts Council, chaired Cheltenham Poetry Society 2011-2015 and helps run Poetry Café – Refreshed in Cheltenham. Blog: Coming up with the Words

Jennie Farley – two poems

Grandma Jenkins

Grandma Jenkins stirs her porridge
the wrong way. She doesn’t feel

the need for teeth. Her eyes
are sharp as tin. On warm days

she sits at the cottage door, her skirt
stretched wide, shelling peas.

I hurry past on my way to school,
but can’t resist a backward glance.

Would she put a spell on me?

Once I dared myself to stop
and say, Good morning.

Grandma Jenkins beckoned me
close, I could smell her baccy breath,

she leaned forward with a cackle,
chucked me under the chin. I ran

and ran. I haven’t yet turned into a rat
or an owl, but I go to school another way.

Tea Candles

There was this woman – let’s call her
Maud – who went about helping herself
to things in shops. She was the kind
of person should keep a cat, eyes the blue
of a child speechless with joy at a birthday party.
She wore a flowered frock with lots of smocking.
She left her large shopping trolley in the hall.

Her front room was a tottering tower
of glorious booty, jewelled slippers,
velvet gowns, fur capes, things
she’d never wear.
There was a drawer full of tea candles,
a small table laid with lace doilies,
fairy cakes, sherry in tiny glasses
to welcome visitors who never came;

and no one would ever see inside
the airing cupboard on the landing,
each shelf heaped with bootees,
knitted baby bonnets, plastic
rattles in pink and blue.

Jennie Farley is a published poet and workshop leader.  Her poems have appeared in magazines including New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Lunar Poetry, Prole and have won several awards. Her collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is due out later this year.

She has performed at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, the Swindon Poetry Festival and at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre.

She runs The New Bohemians at Deepspace Community Art Centre, Charlton Kings, providing writing workshops, performance, poetry and music events, and is founder/leader of Picaresque, a troupe of women performance poets.

Amy Schreibman Walter – three poems


There was a time when I traveled
in the dark, sheer across 21st street –
pyjamas, padded slippers, quarters jangling
under my winter coat, as though a homeless person,
or a crazy, only to wash my sheets.

There was a time when I delivered my laundry
to a large Laundromatic drum, sat on a plastic chair
waiting for the cycle to finish, squeaky brown seat
upon bright orange linoleum. I wrote letters to you
on formica countertops as people were sorting their
whites from their darks.

There was a time when the operatics of soap suds
dying against a plastic porthole
distracted me from reading Great American Novels.
On Sundays I talked about the rain with the Chinese lady,
the one who had an endless supply of change in her jar.
New York was a hard place to live.

This is not New York. Today
our dirty linens have no duffel bag to contain them.
I carry them down carpeted stairs in bare feet.
The arms of our sweaters reach to each other,
your socks spin inside my socks.

Disavowing Barbie

You insist
she has to go.
You’re kicking her out.

You’re ten;
she’s bringing you down.
She’s babyish,
woefully out of fashion.

So you start with drowning,
but she won’t sink –
her blue painted eyes
smile knowingly at you,
defying submersion.

Her thin frame resists
your hands –
her plastic body drifts
in the ocean of your childhood
blue bathtub.

She floats back up to you
mermaid-like, bobbing,
unphased, apparently
overly optimistic.

Still she doesn’t die
when you put her
in the microwave–
even as her plastic legs burn.

The timer rings,
you scrape her out –
still fully intact.
There’s no explosion
like you’d hoped,
no combustible parts.

You eventually
decapitate her –
girls always do.
You chop off her hair,
pull off her legs.

Even then –
headless, legless
all her doll parts
in bits, scattered –
she stays afloat,
of a complete death,
a kind of decaptitated Ophelia.

The Last Time I Went To The Movies With Ida

A new hairstyle, wisps of her
dyed blonde hair falling
onto her thin eyebrows.
Beads, a scarf, red nails,
French tips. I wheeled her
an Avenue and a block.

At the Quad, she befriended
the usher, popcorn crumbs
scattered on his shirt, a whizz
with wheelchair brakes. Winking,
she told him: This is Manhattan,
of course they have a section for wheelchairs.

It was a Parker Posey movie –
some low budget New York independent
thing. She fell asleep
halfway through. I debated
whether I should wake her,
watched 40 something actors,
self- indulgent dinner party dialogues.

What did I miss? Ida took my hand,
stroked my palm with her fingers.
On screen they were drinking
vintage port.

Amy Schreibman Walter is an American writer and teacher living in London. Her poetry and articles have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her latest poetry chapbook, Houdini’s Wife and Other Women, was recently published by Dancing Girl Press. You can find her here.

Pam Muller – three poems

A Scarce Decade

Thorny stems claimed my late neighbour’s home.
Grabbed what ground they could, crept under the eaves and pushed in.

The rising path John once walked, now belongs to the hare.

Ivy seals the windows, a tree grows from the chimney.
Winter winds have lifted slates and knocked the leaning shed.

In the slant of sun, slow cattle moved in the bramble field.

Fallen stones lie scattered where the wild goats leaped a wall.
The rusted gate still hinges on twisted wire and twine.

Fuchsia bells droop over the fence his grandchildren climbed.

The hedge he trimmed is tall and wild with purple flowers.
I pause as I pass his door, where he leaned his blackthorn stick.

Been years since a dog came out to join me on my walk.

After All

The calloused grandfather tells us of hard times,
mixing concrete with a shovel, digging foundations by hand.
How he kept joking when he felt like walking away from it all,
drinking the health of another newborn.

The grandmother tells us, we had nothing, we did
the best we could and made soup with the bones.
Children collected berries in jars to make jam.
They played with a skipping rope and stones.

Every year she knitted seven woolen jumpers,
The children chose the colour wool they wanted,
got from the jam money she made with their help.
She crocheted a shawl for the baby with the scraps.

Now her gnarled hands fold rugs, often mended,
loyalties recalled, embroidered in careful stitches.
When they were young they sang, danced and loved.
That is what they had, after all.

Granddad’s Weekend Break

Heart attack
two stents more
that makes four
In Friday
out Monday
good as new
or nearly
How was your
weekend break
Some holiday
he said
the bed
the food
inedible, no butter
no salt, but
the nurse was
I almost lost
my heart

Pam Muller was born in South Africa in 1958 and has been living in the South West of Ireland since 1978. She has been writing poetry since she joined Clan na Farraige,
‘People of the Sea,’ a small writer’s group in Kenmare, Co. Kerry over twenty years ago. She won the Speaking for Scéine Poetry Chapbook 2014 prize and poetry prize in 2015. Her early poems appear in Perspectives (Askif Press, 2005), a self-published collection which she shared with her husband Etienne Muller and son Michael Muller.

Charles G Lauder Jr – two poems

The Hideout

Far from the madding crowd you must build
a hideout—treehouse, hawthorn den,
village hovel across the sea, whatever.

Stash there a lifetime of loot, starting with
the Stratocaster and amp, blunt picks as bookmarks
in passages of Lawrence and Hardy you meant

to return some day. Cover the walls with silk
valances from Oman reeking of cinnamon
and men beheaded in Saudi market squares,

Audrey Hepburn’s portrait, and sketches
of past lovers asleep in sunlight. Cut
the doorway low and arduous, crawl in

as if at the end of a seven-year pilgrimage.
Preserve each room with stems of lavender
scattered on sofa and window sill,

sealed with turquoise shutters stitched tight
with cobwebs. Share this place with no one.
Already woodworm bore into Aunt Laura’s

pine sideboard and your love of Dad’s Army,
pigeons desecrate the bed through holes in the roof,
mice make nests out of the half-baked manuscript.

The Search for Sustenance

Lost amidst fourteenth-century city walls
there has been a schism. Steps chipped and marked,
the home of Lady Day parades and bishopric feet
with Cross held high, lead into the papal palace
swept by the sway of rouge robe and censer.
How small and diminished beneath this vaulted
painted sky of cherub couples waltzing
on bowed heads. Mass is still mass
in any language, comforting yet claustrophobic
like the houses’ approach in the older
purer districts, half-shuttered and not speaking
to strangers. The travel guide has been stolen,
petals of letters home pressed inside
have been torn apart and scattered,
half-formed thoughts that will soon perish
in the rain, beneath shoe and tire tread.

There is peach orchard after peach orchard
beyond the gates in the wall. Corpulent
sun-baked flesh dangling from branches
stretched out towards the road, a gift
to be plucked before anyone notices.
The first bite sends rivulets of hot juice
trickling down the chin. Pickers in Speedos
or cut-offs and bikini tops dart
amongst the trees like industrious nymphs.
But each farm says the same: pas de travail.
Ripe with blisters from day-long walking
and no sanctuary to be found
we finish on the riverbank shrouded
in sleeping bags, still not speaking,
feet pointed toward the water,
waiting for the rising tide.

Charles G Lauder Jr was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and has lived in the UK since 2000. His poems have appeared internationally, and his pamphlet Bleeds was published in 2012 by Crystal Clear Creators. Most recently he was highly commended in the 2015 Poetry Society Stanza Competition. He is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.