Laura Hoffman – three poems

Cotton Ghosts

we were more loaded
than cotton gins
on that airless
southern night
beside a fire
in a wheelbarrow

he forgot where
I was visiting from
but this time I didn’t
even give a shit

off the dirt road
in a thin bed
of pine needles
pale lips twitched
eyes found mine

he staggered off
to vomit in the woods

leaving me empty on my back

pine needles sticking
to my legs
I was still

thinking about cotton

The Wasp

your big
Roman nose
touched me first
before your lips
and your Marlboro Red tongue

its suntanned tip
pinioned my cheek
with all the frenzy
of the wasp that watched us-

from between
glass & blind
escaped love

Stone Fruit

the flesh of our marriage
is rotting away;
a forgotten plum
that has come to reek
in defiant, purple fury.

I’ve already opened
my soft legs
for sweeter harvest,
but still
the plum sits
in a Pyrex bowl
by the stove

so I wait,

for the decaying pulp to part
and give its pit away

Laura Hoffman is a United States Marine Corps veteran currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in English at The University of North Florida. Hoffman’s work is forthcoming or appears in: Bop Dead City, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, and The Bangalore Review. When she is not studying or writing, Hoffman enjoys spending time with her son Nathan, and performing improvised comedy.

Chris Hemingway – three poems

How it Starts

as a prompt,
a current,
mis-spelt glances
borrowed words.
Like a spot of dust,
surrounding itself with ice.
Which will melt,
unless chilled to paper.

But writing “a snowflake”
isn’t easy.
“It’s like this” you say,
tracing honeycomb webs with your fingers.
And hail is harder still,
tapping at the tightwound windows,

So you document the flakes and stones,
and hope to be discovered,
stored and catalogued,
in a prestigious freezer.

5.45 pm, The Cross

Neustift Goats have gone.
Now it’s more tumbleweed
than artisan cheese.

Terry lifts up his collar
to keep out the rain.
Thinks about Susan, and the evening ahead,
the Early Bird Special at the Korma Chameleon.

Each passer-by is darkened by the dusk,
he tries to find the middle ground
between alertness and eye contact.
Cashpoint vigilance.

He glances down
at the rainbow streaks in the gutter.
And wonders what a diesel spill
is doing in a pedestrian zone.

The Twist

“Ok,” he said,
“we could dream of childhood homes.
Till some miserable vicar
bashes on the cell door
with a bible and breakfast.

We could hide from shadows
in misty mansions,
or oddly-magnetised islands.
More haunted than haunting.

I could be a giant statue
buried in the sand .
As you approach
with a horse and loincloth.”

“Steady on mate,”
she said,
“I was only asking you for a dance.
It goes like this.”

Chris Hemingway is a poet and songwriter from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He has self-published two collections on The Future, a prose collection, and Cigarettes and Daffodils, a compilation of song lyrics and poetry.

He is on the organising Board for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and co-runs the Squiffy Gnu blog and Facebook poetry prompt group.

Cheryl Pearson – four poems


For weeks, you work knee-deep with pans
and water. Pour and shake. You know
the silt like a lover, have undressed
every particle twice. First fingertips, then eyes.
Once, you read that every atom of every
Thing was fired in a star. The wet metals
of your long body. The gold the water works
so hard to save. When finally you see
that shock of light through muck, it’s like
you found your own heart after a lifetime
away. Your whole body beats with
recognition. The flush of your wrists,
your throat going like a hummingbird –
and see how your palm has the sun in it,
now, how the light blesses you. How you hold
it, up, shining: the rest of your life.


The way a shadow, falling from a birdwing,
moves winter along: this is how
the small bells ring in the coming light
as they follow the white violets into spring.

One foot in Winter, one on the turning
carousel of seasons: the Christmas hymns
are still fading; the daffodils
are tuning up underground.

Break a snowdrop at the waist, and the cap
will tip its simple scent to your wrist.
A flush of sweetness with each tick
of your pulse. And the white heart ticks

like the wood’s clock. The geese are back.
Listen as they split the clouds
with their sound, as the flowers count
towards long light, towards equinox.


In August 2016, a herd of over 300 reindeer were killed by a single lightning strike in Hardangervidda, Norway. Scientists explained that this was likely caused by the fact that reindeer tend to group together when spooked, and the close proximity of their bodies would have allowed the lightning strike to travel. through the herd unobstructed.

Lichen under tongues, still;
it was that quick. The boiled world split,
and caught the spooked group
in its lights.

Perhaps they found brief shelter under
the marvellous branches of their antlers. The way
a girl in a dress finds a tree in the rain
before she surrenders to translucence.

The lightning cut its teeth on a forest of blood.

Imagine the sound of their bodies
as they fell. A sigh as they peeled
out of formation. A pop and a spit as their fat
cooked where they stood.

A tangle of crowns in a brown field. A drift of smoke.

The metal lick of light that kissed
the metal in them; particles, perhaps,
from the same original star, an inevitable return
to lips and teeth. So that this, the collapse, is not a death,
but only those two old lovers meeting –

Here you are. After all these years.
And they leave, together. Not in the scavenging mouths
of foxes. Not in boxes in the scientists’ cars.

The Calf
(from the longer sequence, “A Selkie’s Tale”)

Three babies he put into me;
not one of them took. They went out
like small flames I tried to cup
but snuffed to smoke instead. He thought
they were stones to weight my bones
to his house. They never were.

This night, I wrestle the landling creature
from the glove of its mother,
place the slick and intimate slip
on the straw before her. An offering.
She licks and fusses it up to a stumble – a bit
of a thing, all eyes and bewilder.

Imagine my fires, if they had burned.
My two sons. My daughter.
They’d have split the world along its fault,
like the line
between sky and water.

Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, The High Window, Under The Radar, Poetry NorthWest, Crannog and Envoi. She won first prize in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016, and third prize in Bare Fiction Magazine’s national poetry competition in the same year. She has been shortlisted for the York Literature Festival Prize and the Princemere Poetry Prize, and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her first full poetry collection, Oysterlight, was published by Pindrop Press in March 2017.

Gareth Culshaw – two poems

Mixing Things Up

We would stand there waiting, hoping,
our grip on a wooden handle, ‘T’ shaped,
with the other hand on the mid life,

ready to lift something weighty
off the mind, not that we knew it back
then. A mix of sand, water, cement.

Tumbling along, moaning, groaning, as
you tilted the shovel plate, hearing the
sloppy sigh of release from the turn of things,

Ticking by with every mouth load, kneed
the mix. Then wait for the chance to
bond, build from what it gave you.

Before a shoulder lift and fill,
grip the handle, raise the hope along
with every bump of the one tyre wheelbarrow

Field Skittles

The sun has taken enough light
for the streetlights to pop open.

There is commotion in the field
two men try to gather sheep

like catching marbles on a hill.
One of them does star jumps

but only with his hands. The other
whacks his leg with a flat cap

like he has a hiccup in the muscle
and he wants it to go away.

The sheep scatter, tumble along.
They are evading the metal

trailer that waits like a suitcase
on the last day of a holiday.

I watch the streetlights dink
while the farmer and son

keep the moon at bay
and sheep break like skittles

unsure of the meaning of flock.

Gareth is an aspiring writer who hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen. He has been published in The Reader, Limestone, Magma and Dreamcatcher plus others.

Colin Will – Six garden incidentals

These notes were found in the desk of our former garden writer Colin Will some time after he stepped down as our regular columnist here at The Trendy Garden. Unfortunately the flowers he describes do not bear any scientific names which would help to identify them more precisely. Dr Will has not responded to our enquiries on the subject, but we thought you, our loyal readers, might like to see if any of them are growing in your gardens at home.
Thomas Culpepper, Editor, The Trendy Garden


Bummerty’s one of those flowers
that always brings out a smile.
Their wee blue and yellow petals
are like faces, with black eyes
and a jammy mouth.
You have to hunker down
really close to see them.
Most of the time you come across
a Swedish carpet of them
in a woodland clearing.
See – you’re smiling. Knew you would.

Purple Anstruther

Purple Anstruther, as the name suggests,
is a seashore weed, thriving beside
those tidal streams that run both ways,
pumping smelly water up and down
from farmland to saltmarsh,
in and out to sea. It’s tall,
as it has to be, for when Moon,
Sun and Earth are in alignment
their stems are submerged. Some years
storm surges wash them all away.
Pity. They’re bonny things.

Lesser Musket

Often confused with Common Musket,
this hedgerow plant likes full sun
and a well-drained soil.
A metre tall in favourable spots,
the flowers are mauve, not the deep purple
of the Common kind. Ripe seed-pods
burst open with a sound like gunshots.
Not Kalashnikov or automatic pistol,
maybe a small-bore Mauser, more a crack
than a bang. But loud enough
to startle blackbirds, frighten wrens.

Lady’s Fankle

Rambling, spreading, giving good
ground cover, this can be thuggish
in the suburban garden.
The stems are wiry, tough
and knotted. As the name suggests
it can catch the careless foot
on a summer walk, but this releases
such a sweet scent it’s almost worth it.
Pink flowers in delicate panicles
rise above the clumps, soft candles
on a green birthday cake.


A plant of sunlit uplands, mountain moorland,
the sunbristle nestles in the lea
of tough tussock grass. It’s carnivorous,
specifically arachnivorous, preferring spiders
to any other food source.
Ground-hunting spiders, seeking height
from which to launch an ambush,
climb its long red bristle where,
at the tip, a sticky droplet,
more tenacious than superglue,
leads to remorseless digestion.

Herb Snoddy

Opinions are divided on the plant’s benefits.
The old herbals pronounce only
that it wards off serpents
and may cure whimsy, but
no medical effects have been proved.
Dr Snoddy, in his apothecary shops,
sold a tincture, an alcohol extract,
for treatment of the scruples.
Crushed stems release the smell
of vigorous sex – one trusts
between consenting adults.

Colin is a poet, short story writer and saxophonist from Dunbar in East Lothian. His new book of poems, The Night I Danced With Maya, will be published by Red Squirrel Press on 22nd July, his 75th birthday.

Finola Scott – three poems

Black Guillemot, Uria Grylle, ZE023

Sun cracks shadows where coffined cases crouch. Layer upon layer, in drawer
after sectioned drawer, eggs burrow from light, safe in cardboard, cotton-wool
protects their fingerprint patterns. The curious prise the cabinets’ handles. Heat
will never hatch these, sucked and blown dry. Collectors with mutton-chop
whiskers, peer through pince-nez, arrange their spoils with precision. English,
Latin, reference number. Death reduced to copperplate details scribed on each
label, on each egg, in each compartment, in each stack.

Book marked

He creeps round, in about stalls, ignores
sweated lino, beer odoured mats, hunts down
man-handled pages, inky. Fingers labels, rough-strokes
choclatey chapters, thumbs words. Overloaded
nostrils tremble and quiver type. He grubs
Garamond, eschews Times Roman. Perfumed
palms slide beneath flaunting jackets to caress. He craves
floppy picture books, sucks their lollypop tales. Inhales
baby powder, exhales jam-sweet memory. Acid-clean
toilets stink-block his path. He swithers waddly, rubs
aniseedy hankie over wide-open pores. Rustles
for curd scones dark deep in secret pockets. Mid aisle, he
hesitates, loose laced leather soles squeak. He catches
a whiff of Foolscap or is it Imperial? Woody
paperbacks waft to his left, sticky annuals behind.
Brain swivels, pulled by poetry’s perfume.


The weight of rock
between head and larks.
The hole in the clog
to set drip-water free.
The tease of sparkle
along ebony faults.
The wrench of oxide
from miser stone.
The chill of geology
scraping at skin.
The stench of tallow
crowding the space.
The scramble when short
straw is pulled.
The laughter at bait,
the suck on clay pipe.
The bargains we strike
with bosses, pals and God.

Slam winning granny Finola Scott’s poems are published in The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework, The Lake, And Other Poems as well as many anthologies. She was mentored by Liz Lochead on Scotland’s Clydebuilt Scheme.

Caitlin Thomson – two poems

Clocks are Circular

My grandmother has not forgotten me. My daughter,
a toddler, eats a clementine, does not remember
meeting her great grandmother a year ago, half
a lifetime from now for June.

Jacquie has had 87 years. She can remember every one
only as part of a whole. A past filled with woodstoves,
dogs in from the rain, children back from the mainland, doctor’s
examining her chest, a field full of sunflowers, a summer filled
with labor, an endless cycle of planting, of weeding.

Jacquie asks “where are your parents?” once and then again, again.
Every time she hears the repeated words for the first time, maybe,
with her new hearing aids. But she can remember us entering,

remember how much June ate at dinner last night. The lines
that memory makes are not straight, her childhood is there,
my father’s childhood, her other children now all parents themselves.
Other things go anyways. Just the other day I forgot

the word for glass, just for a moment, I pressed my hand against
the window as if that would tell me anything.
June just learned the word glass, but she still prefers to call it
window. My grandmother gleams with pride at each word June

offers her, even no and mine. With Jacquie’s memory it is hard to
tell what is gone, and what is always as it was.
She flooded the bathroom twice in two days, now and thirty years ago.
I still bathe June. Jacquie can still bathe herself.

The Love of My Life is Making Coffee in the Next Room

This is the way life works — the time one wakes up in the morning,
the dishes one washes, the smudges one wipes down, take on a repeating
pattern over time. The occasional things — attic visits and movies in
the garden, or just space alone in time, stand out.

At one time each cup of coffee you made for me was notable.
There was the learning of the machine, the purchase
of a better steaming wand, the testing of milk, the occasionally
ongoing search for beans, but slowly, over time, even the search became routine —

became comfort, became part of the glow that lights the house
I live in, even when I forget to flip the switch.

Caitlin Thomson is the co-founder of The Poetry Marathon, an international writing event. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals including: The Adroit Journal, Rust + Moth, Barrow Street Journal, and Killer Verse. You can learn more about her writing at

Daniel Bennett – two poems


I know the moment you were born
or can at least offer one of them
because all of us are ideas
before we ever breathe
and the idea of us is what remains
whenever we slip away.
It happened on the Tube, a place
I would find myself in those days
in that it was no place at all.
When I did read, I slept
and when I didn’t sleep I thought
of ways out of that situation.
(Do you see what I mean about ideas?)
On the opposite seat, I saw a man
and at first I only noticed
the warning signs from my teenage years:
the swallow tattoo on his jugular,
his knuckles pipping out
Morse code rage. A shaved head
and sideburns, Doc Martens
bulging in their leather glossiness,
and I remembered the men
who would scrawl graffiti runes
on park benches and bus stops,
their china blue stares and knives
bound in electrician tape, their promises
of violence which always held
an ambivalent geniality. This man sat
with his smaller version:
a boy in jeans with rolled cuffs,
boots not reaching the carriage floor
and as I watched him cup a hand
to the whorl of a buzz cut
and a voice I had never heard
spoke one little word.

Distance Badge

Swimming. She grows stronger,
more incredible. Head first
into deep water, strokes matched
to the instructor’s demands. Water
is never given a chance to seal,
the lane markings distorted
into chains. When she won her last badge
I returned her home through winter dark
before my journey back to the city,
the gravity always pulling at me
in these moments, the distance.
She asked questions, and countered
with opinions about the world
which have the fluid logic of dreams.
The sky and its curve, the moon
and its high longing for the seas.
And when we talked about the stars,
and how long light takes to reach us
both of us experienced the wonder:
that these far-flung spheres
– arranged into a hunter’s belt
a lions paw, fish shimmering
in a school – are all oblivious
to the patterns we make for them
and are really so far away.

Daniel was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been widely published, most recently in Structo and The Literateur, and he has work forthcoming in Under The Radar. Daniel is also the author of the novel, All the Dogs (Tindal Street, 2008).

Danny Earl Simmons – two poems

Subtracting Forty-Seven
while reading the obituary page, February 23

Mr. Anderson, 93.
Jackson would be 46,
Alisha would be 76.
The grandkids, unborn
now, grown by then,
won’t miss my phlegmy
coughing, my spots, wrinkles,
nursing home smell.
Maybe those grandkids will love
their Nana Isha enough
to mow the lawn, trim
the tall trees we planted
just last year. It says
Mr. Anderson had a smile
when they found him.

Mr. Gibbs, 53.
Jackson would be six,
young enough to love
a different Daddy.
Would he run to the window
smiling and watch him walk in
from work? Would Alisha
join him there? What if
they’re not smiling?
Son of a bitch!
Mr. Gibbs chose cremation.
Mrs. Morgan, 83.
Church deacon, bridge club,
investment club. In lieu of flowers,
donate to the Humane Society.
Jackson would be 36 –
wife, kids, getting along.
The grands still young enough
to love baking cookies with Alisha.
Mrs. Morgan’s husband died
20-years ago.

Mr. Gregg, 63.
My greatest fear.
Jackson would be 16
and hard on Alisha.
Her weeping
would be all for him.
Mr. Gregg ran marathons.

Andrew, 3.
I was wrong
about my greatest fear.

Barely Platonic

They head straight for the highest point,
run up the stairs, floor after floor,

until they reach the top, spin around
on the flat black roof, enjoy the dizzy rush

of height. They hold hands and pull
each other this way, then that. Their eyes

wide open, they take everything in
and laugh at each other’s laughter.

Eventually, things get serious.
Their grip gets tight, they head for the edge.

They look down, look at each other,
leap. The ground closes-in, hearts thump.

Their hands slide apart, fingertips cling,
release. Chutes pop and drag.

Danny Earl Simmons currently resides in Lebanon, Oregon and is a member of the Lebanon Arts Council.. He is also a friend of the Linn-Benton Community College Poetry Club and serves on the school’s Poetry Advisory Committee. His poetry chapbook is entitled The Allness of Everything (Maverick Duck Press, 2016).

Mandy Macdonald – three poems

Grimes Graves

we went there decades ago
walked the pockmarked heath
in the long slanting shadows of afternoon

no visitor centre then, nor guidebook
to tell us we were looking at flint mines, not graves at all
just the inside-out tumuli, the
shallow shell-holes in dimpled grass
threaded with pathways traced out
five thousand years ago

around our careful feet
grayling and skipper quartered eyebright, wild thyme
stripes of heather
light grazed the pit rims, skimming
the grassy quincunx of circles

straight up above, skylarks
doing their damnedest to untune the sky

in the air around us, time pleated, shimmered aurora-like
it seemed things were happening just out of sight or hearing
flicking away
swift, brown things, and the faintest pure ringing
of flint on flint

to avoid discussing our failing marriage
we talked of earthworks, godstruck neolithics
that ‘Venus’ statuette they’d found probably a hoax

and four decades on
on the telly
another story

of farmers turned miners, industrial minds
knowing that the finest flint, the best for shaping
the most precious
waited for them underground

of young ones chosen to enter the earth
like lovers
climb down out of childhood
claw out warrens
forty feet deep
with stone, antler and jawbone
unimaginably slow
and then bring up with triumph
from those cold chalk-white shafts
the music of the flint

it was when she fell

in the laundry downstairs
with a sound that might have been a shout
but floated up to me
whiteish, fluting, a wounded butterfly
or a lovesong carried faintly on the wind
from several streets away

that i noticed
the egg-slicer
still in the kitchen sink
though it was well past

no goodbyes

that year, in the spring,
it rained for weeks –
you remember it, surely –

that was the year we saw the last of him

surely you remember
his coming in, ramshackle, slicking
rain on the sittingroom rug

climbing the stairs, silently
before anyone could say a word –
you remember, you looked at me,
eyebrow quirked, as though
I might have a clue

then, front door clicking
brief crescendo of rainwhoosh, sharply
snicked into silence

and we never saw him again

never knew how
he could have come downstairs and past us
without our catching a rustle of him

don’t you remember?

Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer and musician living in Aberdeen and trying to make sense of the 21st – and earlier – centuries. She returned to poetry after many years via Jo Bell’s path-breaking ‘52’ project. You can find her in excellent company in A Bee’s Breakfast, Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry (Luath Press, 2016), Poetry Scotland, The Fat Damsel, Triadae, Rat’s Ass Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing, she sings, sometimes while gardening.