Roy Marshall – four poems


Forgive me for using your life
as material, your mourning
as metaphor. A seam of grief
has opened under your feet,
a passage you must travel
without a candle or a torch.
Tonight you’re speechless on my chest
and for once I’m almost lost for words.
Maybe these lines will be enough
to carry what I’ve learnt:
the darker the night, the more
our eyes adjust to light, and stars
that shine in pitch black
are brighter than before.

Without Words

Evenings we would eat in the kitchen
while mum’s soap rumbled the wall.
He was silent as I raged at famine,
nuclear bases, spillage of oil.
I remember now what he said without
words; morning, my shoes cleaned
for me, and at my bedside sat the tea
he’d made before he left for work.

After the Gallery

Heading north again, yellow and orange leaves stream past
like dots freed from a Seurat painting.

We pass a plump brown river, the promise of another flood
held under its skin.

A horse in a green coat rolls in a field;
a wash of mist

blurs a ridge. Outside Chesterfield
I try to look away from a girl

studying the Highway Code.
You’re almost old, I reflect

to the tunnel-blacked window. She glances up
and through me,

luminous and assured
as a Leonardo.


It’s cold on the bike, and I’ve forgotten my gloves.
At work, the team are not playing ball.
But a pupil-searing glare

is glancing off the Mediterranean
where cotton-clad backs are pressed
to cotton-clad chests.

The coast is clear
and so is the horizon.

Roy Marshall lives in Leicestershire where he works in adult education.
His pamphlet ‘Gopagilla’ was published in 2012, and a full collection ‘The Sun Bathers‘ (Shoestring Press, 2013) is available from the publisher or directly from Roy’s website:

Imogen Forster – three poems

Ubi sunt? *

Where are they?

Beattie, in her dark shop. The smell of apples,
brown paper bags on a nail and the air
sweet, heady like warm cider.

The man who cut our cheese with a wire.
His fat fingers, and the ping and clack as the
numbers jumped up, counting the money.

Miss Lancaster, who planted wallflowers and lupins.
The green water butt that stood behind the house,
little insects always busy under its wooden lid.

Mrs G.O. Berry, in her printed housecoat,
hanging out Monday’s towels and shirts,
her round arms and round face as soft as flour.

Mr Watson, who once told us the Lord
had sent him a pork pie. How had it come?
By post, or down from the sky? Nobody knew.

The Misses Peach, their white hair that
smelled of pot pourri, their vases full
of dried honesty and blue sea lavender.

* ‘Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?’ (Where are those who were before us?)
‘A poetic motif emphasizing the transitory nature of life … found especially in mediaeval Latin poems’.

An evening incident

Rain sluices plate-glass as I
sit, watching the first leaves
wind-swirled from the churchyard.
A row of small houses, the National
School and the Church Hall.

Across the wet street, a row
of flags, tangled and faded,
limp remnants of summer,
and on the pavement below,
a man is being arrested

A checked shirt, too thin
for a cold evening, and a quick
cigarette while they wait.
Five officers, two vans with
strident blue roof-lights
and a car to bundle him in.

He seems relaxed. Perhaps
he knows the procedure and is
bored with the whole thing.
Handcuffed, he reaches out
as if in greeting, performing
his own gracious Namaste.

Not embarrassed, as I know
I would be, and ashamed at being
exposed as not the upright citizen.
I look down and watch
this banal occurrence from
my protected vantage point.

A warm bar, the smell of good coffee
and the rain scoring the glass, all
marks of unbridgeable distance.

Dog Days

Still air and bird silence,
fat, clamped-down skies.
Sharky, cartilaginous things
nosing through stalled traffic.
Crustacean coaches, their eyes
hanging from metal stalks
over bulbous windscreens.

Arriving from Gdansk and Gdynia
and beached here (no longer a thing
of wonder or comment) they disgorge
their burdens of hopeful travellers.

An ambulance, chequered,
dazzle-striped like a warship,
yelps its way through a chain
of lobster-red buses, sweaty
chip-strewn human containers.

The departing stench of a
refuse lorry, its maw like the
painted Hell-mouth in a fresco.
And a white van, carrying men
hidden behind small dark
windows, in a hot hell
of their own, eastwards.

Imogen Forster is a translator, mainly of art history. She publishes poems on-line and on paper. She is on Twitter as @ForsterImogen.

Holly Magill – three poems


In regretful morning
she had no choice

than to borrow
a pair of his too-big socks
to get home. And to spring

for a taxi: he had no cash.

He proffered the socks
like a rescuing
then turned
out his pockets
with hangover eyes.
wanted to spend more

time, to take her to lunch,
a sweet peace
for her lost shoes,
by his housemate,
as a “joke”.

But he was financially
embarrassed. Bereft.
He so wanted to be
with her

if she’d pay.
He’d make it up to her
next week, he swore.


Always a sensible girl.
I never expected
to burn so quick.

decisive line
where my sleeve ended
and the redness began
was the start
of it.
Then scorching raw
across my collarbones.

Now all coddled up.

It’s permanent,
half a calendar past,
drearest February.

I was caught off guard
that day with him:
it looked
too cloudy
to need proper protection,
especially in Aberystwyth.

kissed a sneak
of escapee ice cream
from my wrist.
Seagulls guffawed.

Sun breaking through,

And so I did. Burn.
The mark is still
Though he doesn’t feel
the warmth anymore.


You cover your glass:
but you’ve had enough.
He presses you
with the dessert menu:
love to see a girl
with an appetite.”
Refills your glass.

The bill is
folded discreet
and topped by two mints,
like foil-wrapped nipples:
wets his lips, lays down

Waves away your wallet:
“What kind
of gentleman
would that make me?”

“Besides,” his hand
at the small of
your back,
intimate like a cattle prod.
“It’s an investment.”

In the
cab’s rear-view he shrinks,
empty-handed on the pavement.

Holly Magill is a poet from Worcestershire. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham and has had poems appear in various publications, including Lunar Poetry, Nutshells & Nuggets and The Stare’s Nest. She likes snoods, cats and strong tea above most things. Holly blogs at

Pàdruig MacIllechiar/Peter Kerr – four poems

mouth of night (iv)…

the time when day pauses
before relinquishing
her slender tether
to unleash the
dark upon
a silent

uist moonshine…

arpeggios of light flood across the loch
as moon recalls her time on earth
in songs of silver

puirt-à-beul/mouth music…

caresses words into shapes
with tenderness of love
expressed in many tongues


with silent song
north pole serenades
the merry dancers

Pàdruig MacIllechiar (Peter Kerr) lives and works in North Uist, across the Sound of Harris from Strond where his ancestors lived and worked a quarter of a millennium ago.

He is a member of the Uist Writer’s Group and on the committee of Uist Arts Association at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, North Uist, where he also coordinates and presents a monthly live music event, Taigh Ciùil.

Smashwords author profile:
Goodreads author profile:
Facebook page:

Brian Johnstone – three poems


This branch to which I take
the running chain

is dead in that one sense
we cling to stubbornly,

believing stasis, dehydration
mark the loss of life;

dead the way no beech or ash
can ever be

set moving by the winds
that brought this limb to earth,

that aired it for a year
and made it ready for the saw

to section it,
the axe to split it into twins

whose life is kindled once again
in winter grates

that spark, spring into being,
wrest it back in flame,

and grow it, given
earth and ashes, given time.

In Pefki Gorge

all here are overshot
water from the mountain
converging on each drop

now piped away
from channels cut in rock
to needs more pressing

leaving each mill race
bereft of meaning
a husk of what it was

Dead Hare

Two side roads, neither one of which I take,
but keep the one I’m on beneath my feet

until the woodland track reveals itself
in stacks of timber, cut a year ago, marked up

and ready for the mill. I pass them all, head on
downhill through stands of larch and beech

and there, as perfect as the day it ran in fields,
a dead hare stares at me with one glazed eye,

the other thrust into the verge some vehicle,
in making haste, has cast him to. The care

that’s lacking in the urge to get somewhere,
in no time, at all costs, has paid no heed

to him, hare that might be running still.
Behind me crows, I see, are circling the hill.

Brian Johnstone’s work has appeared throughout Scotland, in the UK, North America and Europe. He has published six collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014). His work has recently been added to The Poetry Archive (see He has read at poetry festivals from Macedonia to Nicaragua, and venues across the UK. More information, poems, audio and video can be found at

Norman Hadley – four poems


A flapping leg beneath the summit
so I summoned help.

A dozen bobbing torches
slit the drizzle
so I blew my whistle.

I shouted names of all the saints
but they just looked right through me
and stretchered away the silence.

The Bracken Path

We ran and hid beneath these creamy-scented
fronds to raaar at slowcoach Mum and Dad.

Three decades on – a different ‘we.’
Our children know the game – they
crouch and pounce and we recoil
in terror just the same, the way
the fractal fronds self-replicate,
receding, ever smaller, till
you’re squinting – swear
there’s branching
in that final

Archduke Ferdinand Reflects

Lucky I wore
my bulletproof vest
in Sarajevo yesterday


In time, I learned my magazines
objectified. It wasn’t right; there’s more
to women than their skin.
I cancelled my subscriptions.

How I missed those Misses,
gambolling in unfigleafed Edens
sinking winsome, grinning teeth
in pink-fleshed apples, blushed with innocence.

It was explained to me her magazines
were better; true, the women wearing
not much more. The key distinction –
little pink – no human skin on show.

Instead, the make-up team
had daubed them all in shimmering
metallic sheens, concealing
any hint of raw humanity.

Goldfinger’s victims, suffering suffocation
turned to shopping-precinct mimes,
their faces blank as plates
and plated statue-rigid.

When not writing children’s fiction or short stories, Norman Hadley is a poet with five collections and an abundance of new material, having frenziedly participated in the “52” poem-a-week project that accidentally became one-and-a-half-a-day. As penance, he is now co-editor of the 52 anthology and prompt-setter for the extended project, “52+”.

Norman’s website is at

Pauline Sewards – three poems


Taking blood is science and art,
an act of will. Sometimes even robust veins disappear,
like worms chasing down into earth. Today I
am in control. I say Breathe out slow and you
don’t feel the needle sliding in.

Already liquid jewels fill the tube,
laquered red, packing darkness. I loosen
the tourniquet, press cotton wool, tilt the tube
to prevent clotting. You pull down your sleeve,
I take out my pen. We are both relieved,
a bit skittish, united in surviving this small challenge.

The way we live now

This town wears its heart on the streets,
in pound shop padded pink plush,
in metallic, shiny inhalable graffiti
and split face grins as wide as cush yams
This town has nothing and gives it away.

Was grandgrind Victorian factories, was
matchgirl sulphured lungs shouting.
Was suffragettes linked arms anger,
presided over by the Clock Tower.

Watch this town rise like a child’s playset
titanium tiles slotted to concrete
high rise. This town is high life and
low prospects. Raised corner has a name
you recognise from TV riot scenes.

Lost homes of the Great Aunts

Houses sleep deep underneath grassy mounds,
kitchens and bedrooms, cracked willow-pattern,
brown earthenware teapots, rosy chamber pots,
darned blankets, stiff frocks and winter jackets,
lace curtains, family bibles for pressing flowers
and curing ganglions on washer woman wrists,
all rolled deep into clay, into sandstone, moiling
deep of secrets, worms and seeds. Not bodies
and bones but the bright, light, laughter of girls,
the sweet sweat of days and gossip of dreams,
turned in the sound of wind and swallow wings,
a bulge in a field; grass blows like combed hair.

Pauline lives in Bristol and works in South London. Her poems have appeared in print in South Bank Poetry and Ariadne’s Thread (among others) and online at Ink, Sweat & Tears and I am not a silent Poet.

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe – three poems

Drawing Fig-Leaves on Michelangelo’s David

You took me away for a weekend,
dragging me round the art exhibitions –
staring transfixed at one sculpture
for the time it took me to see them all.

You thought I would enjoy
touring the museums. Dinosaurs,
precisely wired into poses, and you,
recounting historical context at me
as we walked through military displays,
and the Blitz, recreated in Styrofoam,
with poppy wreaths entombed in the dust.

I got bored of remembering it that way,
so I changed it.
In my version,
we ran through the galleries,
hot-wired a WWII German Panzer,
stole dinosaur bones,
and drew fig-leaves on Michelangelo’s David.

Train Ride

My grandmother hands me crayons
tells me to draw.

I search for pictures,
barely able to see out of the window,
even kneeling –
I draw halves of things.

A curve of sheep-wool,
standing on the scribble of green
that I know must be there.

The sound of the tracks
become a scratch, scratch, scratch,
dark orange crayon scoring out against the green
in short jerky lines.

I imagine the lines being chewed up
and spat back out by my half-sheep.

The ocean blows onto my paper
as great curls of blue,
drowning my half-sheep.

I turn the page,
watch my grandmother
sitting opposite,
unaware of my eyes on her,
as she crunches an apple.

I do not know how I should draw her,
draw the suck of the apple breaking
or the patterns of her chewing wrinkles.

Making Tea

Being small, I would climb
up onto the kitchen unit, walking
the tightrope of the sink-edge:
balancing barefooted, amidst clean plates.
The only way for me to reach the shelf,
where your cup sat.

Then sitting cross-legged beside the kettle,
I would fill your cup – teabag, two sugars, milk.
Waiting for the bubble then click of the kettle.

Once, when I made you tea,
I missed the cup – hot foamy liquid
making bubbles in my flesh.
Pushing my ankle into the sink,
I let the cold tap gush over my ankle,
patterns appear – a learning curve
etched red raw on pale skin.

Your cup sits for awhile, forgotten,
half-poured tea cooling in bone china;
when I limp into your bedroom,
You ask why your tea is cold.

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe is a poet and Mum from Dukinfield. Her work has appeared in Magma, The Interpreter’s House and The Lake. Zoë also enjoys wargaming and scrapbooking.

Jeff Skinner – three poems


An uneven finish. Wrinkled
like milk skin but glazed
as hard as twice-fired clay
no brick could break.

It isn’t like a lake you can
skate and look back on,
no rink. It is post-industrial,
a hardened artery,

ghostly bike after Hirst.
Landlocked like kayak, duck,
narrowboats mutter in queues.
Primordial fish move slowly

waiting for sun, its chink:
they are deep,
conserving energy. No Eskimo, I must be
patient to hook one.

Those Nasturtiums

Three days they dazzled
Petal-suns printing air
Orange, copper, gold
Only to fold, burnt-out,
Like stars extinguished
As fireworks in water.

The fuse, green-wired,
You cut with care
In case the blooms
Exploded in your arms.
Then dropped them in a vase
To fix the colour,
As I do now
With words for flowers.

The Percussionist

The harpist’s beautiful hands, food, a new high-hat –
is this what he thinks about – stranded at the back
of the stage like a bouncer biding his time?

Patient angler, a twitcher
on the shore, he leans to turn the pages
of a score; waiting for a movement, the sign

which brings him, tails lightly flicked,
to his feet, legs planted shoulder-width apart:
to pick the silent planets from a stand

(careful that their paths do not cross)
poised to wake heaven with applause
or skim it with a plasterer’s kiss –

and just as soon sit down
as on a pew. Resting, between gigs,
he’ll give you the old glockenspiel,

how he’s filling in with a trio now,
cymbal-riding, cooking and shuffling,
no triangle. Perhaps it’s that.

Jeff Skinner lives in Exeter, where he plays old blokes’ football once a week and volunteers at the local Food Bank. He retired in 2013 after a career spent as a librarian in the NHS where he also acted as a union rep for Unison.

Jeff’s work has appeared online at Morning Star, The Stare’s Nest and Crowsfeet, as well as on buses thanks to Guernsey’s Poetry on the Move competition!

He tweets occasionally @JeffSquibby.