Emma Simon – four poems

Good Advice is Like Sensible Shoes

but we’ve all spent nights under glitterball stars in red stilettos.
You’ll hurt and slip. But savour the deep bone ache after,
lying in bed alone, feet unfurling.

Flip flops offer no support. They’re giggly friends
who get you drunk, whisper untruths about colleagues,
for this they should be cherished.

Storm into a boardroom in snow shoes. Go barefoot
to a dinner party. Do not apologise.
Cultivate your inner winkle picker.

Wince through the skinned heels. Soon you’ll mend
broken hearts with elastoplasts. It’s not just ballerinas
who dance the impossible.

Warm your fluffiest slippers close to the fire,
near as you dare. Your thoughts are as fish-like as toes –
let them wiggle.

Season Finale
for Alison

I can’t remember now if Dr. Ross ever married
the dark haired nurse.

All I know is I was the first to arrive,
you listened, and poured the wine.

Then listened again, as Alex, then Jo, then Grace
each tucked into the crisps and outrage.

Some things in the Emergency Room are always the same
that rookie medic struggling with a central line,

so it must have been Rose who said
men are such fucking idiots,

and Eleanor who rolled her eyes to show
just how much she’d never liked him.

And by the time the defibrillators shocked
the man who’d had the cardiac arrest

– or possibly the carjacker caught in crossfire –
back to life, I felt a little loved again.

Dr Greene was still going to die,
but from the kitchen I could hear you muttering

bastard bastard over the end credits.


This is the year everyone forgot
to tiptoe round you. No warning look
shot at the kids: don’t play her up
No squeeze on the shoulder.

Six years. If it was a wedding
you’d be unwrapping iron
something wrought and heavy.
But there’s no present. No cards

saying I’m sorry for your loss.
Because it still is. The time between
loops back, dissolves
like surgeons’ stitches on such days.

She’d have remembered though.
Sent flowers or phoned that night,
found some excuse to chat
just to check that you’re alright.

Self-Defence for 14-year olds

We were armed with house keys
ready to jab a windpipe, poke an eye.
Don’t go for the groin Mr Akira warned
too predictable, as he grabbed
an incoming knee, slid his foot forward,
sent Lisa sprawling to the floor.

Taught to make a proper fist,
we’d pivot and kick with the grace
of prima ballerinas in Doc Martens.
Discovered diaphragms, how to expel
a HUH! with such force it could repel
any would-be bag snatcher.

Walk like you’re jujitsu Masters, girls.
We’d pace dark alleys spaced
between gym mats, light as cats.
Turn to face crouched muggers,
– a knife-thin glint of braced teeth –
as they charged with foam cushions.

I’ve not had any student raped
or murdered yet. So we drilled punches,
Tuesdays, in the rec. Something automatic
to fall back on, like French verbs or piano scales.
Marched out in outsized Wham! t-shirts,
confident we’d never let him down.

Emma Simon has had poems published in a number of magazines, including Obsessed With Pipework, Bare Fiction and The Interpreter’s House. She was an active member of Jo Bell’s 52 project, and this year is one of the poets chosen to be mentored as part of the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring scheme. Emma lives in London where she also works as a freelance copywriter.

Kate Garrett – three poems

Following the River Exe on a Wednesday afternoon

My son fixates on sailboats.
We both dream of riding the currents

out to open sea, so we breathe
in midday shadows, meditating
on the shimmer of the aqua
air. I tap his temples, wisp lavender

under his nose; I hold his hand
until he finds his peace. We walk
along the pavement, heading east.
This is not like our river: tamed

by industry, churned with purpose.
This river remembers smugglers,
the density of salt.

The boy tilts his head,
squints and smiles, while the pale sun turns
blue waves to a shiver.

Meeting Tink in a bar in Heaven
(for Tara)

When I sleep, she still exists.

Her face peach-bright
& more than just a pinch of skin;

my friend is a tattooed hologram who hugs
me tight & tells me she’s glad to see me

& how she’s sorry I can’t be a bridesmaid
as her wedding won’t be going ahead.

I won’t tell her when she left he changed his mind.
Most people do, when you go the way she did.

& she says she can’t wait for my wedding,
her corset is laced & her boots are shined.

She’s bringing her favourite lover, a leather-&-tartan
skirted sprite, curved in at the waist & out at the hip;

this one makes her feel more alive than ever.

I’ve been here all this time, she says, as music
blasts through black-light clouds – not a harp in sight –

& tells me how I’d love her new friends
because they are absolute angels.


Her friends bound her with corset laces,
moulding a shapeless chemise
up and out over post-adolescent
breasts, outside a tent pitched
among strangers between the Midwest
and the East Coast.

A pair of Celtic woven
sandals cut through her ankles,
burst blisters she brought
along from the twentieth century,
thanks to last week’s chunky

shoes, not yet softened. In
the chirurgeon’s tent they wiped
mud from her feet, examined them,
and handed over a traditional
Tudor cure – band aids –

and her instructions: stick cotton
and plastic between leather and skin,
a barrier to be discarded
in bins with ye olde tampons and tissues
after she wakes from nights on the mead,
after cold communal showers
in the dull creeping heat of August mornings.

Kate Garrett was born thirtysomething years ago in southwestern Ohio, but has lived her entire adult life in the UK. She writes poems and flash fiction, and edits other people’s poems and flash fiction. Her work appears here and there, from webzines to books – her flash fiction and poetry collection Bewitched and Other Stories was just released in August 2015 from Pankhearst, and her latest poetry pamphlet The Density of Salt is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2016.

Kate lives in Sheffield, England with a cat, a man-poet and three trolls who call her “Mum”. Her website is www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk and you can find her on twitter too – @kate_garrett.

Virginia Farrell – three poems

The Little Things

the mattress folds from your body weight
next to mine through the years. It is vanishing
because you now weigh less than me, a wisp

Other people or strangers could do this better, lying next to you
I feel your bones rattling
for someone good to fix them

broken this, busted that, we are always breaking
out a list, a honey-do
for the disappointments that beat

endlessly. Disease is real, fleshy and full
of ectopic blood
unlike a soul or a ghost which both require a belief in magic

but it’s September and everything is dying, like the Bee Balm in our yard, I curl
into the nest of your smell, kiss the salt of our shared memories weeping from your skin
press against the thorns of your spine and roll into your worn-out crevice, sinking low

and the fog hangs even lower. Through it I see
you turning over, facing me, a specter in white underwear, scruffy beard, undone eyes
big belly, smiling

Buddha from all the pills
but still, you are good
at not changing too much for me

in the dim light
of curtains drawn across the afternoon
we manage to find

the little things, the sparks
behind the funny, sad little things
your blue eyes, my blue smile, the blue feeling

when we share the last bowl of cookie ice cream
me spooning it into your mouth and then mine
both of us knowing the sweetness on our tongues is the taste of time ending

The Discovery

the monarchs and the moths feast
in the ditch on milkweed above
burnt grass curling its fingers around
the blue-flake carcass of a car, sunlight and smoke looping

through glass webs, shattered windows holding back
the beating orange and black wings
blood thickens in the shadows
a lone butterfly pauses to rest on a girl’s raw pearlescent bone

impossibly she is breathing
in a way that is not breathing
but more of a floating in and out
when the cops drag

the tin can car up the embankment
peel the girl from her place
painfully her gauzy moans drape
the brilliant sun to sleep

Renoir’s Girl

Let me believe that I am
Renoir’s girl with russet curls
kissing the small of my back
wrists and knees
the brown of my round
eyes turning the colors of
French flowers, lips open, breasts quaking
with my lavender-scented laughter
when I cartwheel and
feed the bumble bees honey-infused Brandy
Renoir asks me to lie down and spread
the Provincial gap between my thighs
and all the beauty tumbles out
the magical white-maned Camargue, small clouds of chouquettes,
Debussy’s Clair De Lune, fat-cheeked babies,
buckets of salted water, silks, and sorrow too when he says
to die is an art

Virginia Farrell is a poet and writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. For months, deep snow blankets the Canadian prairies and it is the absolute stillness found in such a long winter that provides her with a stage to write. When she isn’t writing, you can find her tobogganing down the banks of the Red River with a toque on her head and her family in tow. To escape the formidable weather, she dreams of, and sometimes travels to, warmer places. There she finds inspiration in ruins, lush overgrowth, cheap wine and a view of the sea that drops from the earth.

Currently, she is working on a novel-length manuscript and, as always, writing poetry. Clear Poetry is the first to publish her poems, and more are due to appear in the forthcoming issue of the Yellow Chair Review.

She tweets @theferalfarrell and her website is at virginiasarahfarre.wix.com/virginiafarrell.

Susan Taylor – three poems

Leap Hour

There is a time in October
when stars unfold like a broadsheet.
Air becomes dangerous with something unreadable,
some things unsayable.

There’s one hour out of the usual twenty-four stretch
that doesn’t properly exist;
a bat flit of an hour, gifting us time
to rearrange the furniture of our souls.

This hour is lavolta turning a leaf.
It shakes out surprising wings
and launches into matchless blackness.

This done in the depth of the night,
the well of stars whispers what’s out there:
everything easier to tell.

Installation Artist

We have a mental picture of our son
hanging light into arches of paper-clips
and testing the tension of rubber bands,
with crazy handmade machines.
He creases enormous white cards
into fortune-teller bases
and teases his way
out of the structure we built by folding
him into the valley of our arms.
His chains of thousands
and thousands of paper clips drift under
the sculpture canopy’s outlandish sails
at Falmouth. He gets to play tag
with light that zings in coastal air,
shinier than words.

Cadenas sur le Pont des Arts

This bridge in Paris is swarming with couples,
its mesh sides carrying garlands – thousands and thousands
of brightly coloured love charms.
These are not the kind of blossoms the architects,
Jacques and Louis-Alexandre, envisaged – they’d thought of
suspended gardens, trees, benches,
most of all, embankments of flowers, their blown petals,
deliciously rippling in slow rhythmic kisses on the Seine.
But instead, the river is clogged with keys,
forced to gorge on them – Yales, Chubbs
and all kinds of cheaper trash stowed in its snake-brown belly.
The plan is to sanctify love,
snap it together with padlocks of steel.
They are heavy, weighing down the bridge beyond reason,
splitting its sides, making it artless.

Susan Taylor writes about love, stars, darkness, rain – elemental things. She’s trying to capture essences from these and guesses it’s a bit like homeopathy, which she also believes in. She lives on Dartmoor with poet, Simon Williams, where they run Trade Winds open mic sessions and a new Totnes cabaret evening, Café Culture.

Together Susan and Simon edit an annual journal of poetry by poets in the West Country, The Broadsheet.

Susan has quite a back list of poetry publications. The latest are A Small Wave for Your Form (2012) from Oversteps Books and, this year, a limited edition pamphlet, This Given.

Hugh McMillan – three poems

The Nymphaeum

The stream glitters
through the trees like eyes,
all is hush and moving,
the birds, the breeze,
the girls’ hair.
I could stay here
I say, in this shade.
See the light on the water?
Hear its voice? They nod.
Jasmine is talking
of the Goddess’ skin tone
while Lydia searches for 3G.
We share many times like these,
spinning below the sun and stars,
staring at the same space
and seeing different things.
I could stay here some more,
but to the nymphs,
it’s just another door.


The trees are in the water,
knots of bleached roots
and branches,
and green is everywhere,
swollen from deep to lie
on the the loch, on the hills,
on the land that fans away
in the wind forever.
Green has clawed back
masoned stone, pile over pile,
covered our scratch marks,
the monuments to the dead,
the dreams of the living,
all is the same to green:
the colour of sap,
the banner at the foot of the bed.

Today in the Festival,
we will bake our bread,
use our portaloos,
and see the landscape
in songlines,
crafted space and therapy:
tonight we will dance like crabs,
and make shrill noises
through our teeth;
it is our way of showing we are one
with the land, though it sloughs us off
as if we were nothing.
When light comes up once more
like a thin blade we will strike our tepees,
write some applications:
in the studio, make a film called Green.

The Shades of one Shade

When I got up this morning
I saw the glint of a sea loch
in the cup’s meniscus,
in the mirror behind my big head,
on the dank hillside like a mirage,

the sheep moving like buoys.
It’s the stab of autumn.
Now sick summer’s gone
with its smoke and mirrors
we can come into our own:
all the shades of one shade;
our stones, our seas,
our mountain tops,
our cold coming home.

Hugh McMillan is a poet from South West Scotland who has won several competitions including the Smith/Doorstep Pamphlet Prize, the Callum MacDonald Prize and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition. A substantial selection of his poems, Not Actually Being in Dumfrieswas published by Luath Press in September 2015.

Hugh’s blog can be found at drumsleet.blogspot.co.uk

Robert Ford – three poems

Naughty Boy

You’ll know when he’s back on the whisky,
because the taxi comes all the way out
from the town carrying the bottles, on the days
when the postman brings his cheque.

You’ll see it bump back down the muddied road
from the far end of the glen, to where the shell
of the family house huddles in its broken square
of unmown meadow, wire and pebbles.

His skinny dogs – the bearded collie
and the mongrel – chase its spinning tyres,
their sharp rasps spilling over the hillside
like too much water over a bath rim.

His muted, rheumy eyes gaze through them
and the lowered window, and for just a moment
he’s all his accumulated ages at once, and then
the man he is, older than his whispered years.

And when you finally call by at the house –
the days it’s taken him to drink it all having passed –
he’ll stand there sheepish by the missing front door,
and tell you how he’s been a naughty boy.


No clean hand waved a child off to our school.
The dads of all the kids I knew did filthy jobs,

and mine worked ghosters at the power plant,
cruel shifts pressing deep into the small, dark hours.

On his return, a poltergeist crashed into the backyard
beneath my bedroom window, like a coal train

hammering the tracks of a deserted station,
somewhere off in the full stop of an empty night.

More than once, his aching, splintered hand
pushed right through the thin panes of the door,

having expected – for some reason – to find it open.
I fell asleep again to the careful crunch of his footsteps,

and in the morning, a black sheet held on by tape
sealed the broken spaces, the glass all spirited away.


The sun will flee again soon, following its divine angle,
to fall beyond the hill, before the cool flow of night arrives.

The last car will leave the village and argue its way back up the road,
its driver tapping out a rhythm of fidgets on the steering wheel,

and all that will linger is the clong, clong, of the bell around the neck
of a goat, beckoning to its partner in the darkness,

and the slow, slow clap of the waves, studded with pebbles,
one by one, eating into the rounded belly of the bay.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland, and writes poetry, short stories and non-fiction. He blogs at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com

Marc Woodward – three poems

Lost boots

When I called on you
I saw a Wellington boot
lying in the road.

A kid’s Wellington
dropped from a passing push chair.
It was a fine day

with no chance of rain.
Later, when I left your house
the small boot was gone.

It was still sunny
but the wind had swung around.
I sometimes wonder

if there are signals,
small coded indications,
little messages

that I simply can’t
decipher or understand.
Perhaps we’re all like

lost boots in the street
waiting for our retrieval
when the wind swings round.

The Poem

I completely cracked it yesterday.
Everyone I showed it to agreed.
The Director of Creative Writing
covered his mouth and ran from the room.
It even made my sceptical wife swoon.

It wasn’t just the best poem I’d written.
It was the best poem ever written.
An Aurora Borealis in your heart.
A Niagara word-fall gushing in your head;
the wild moon: there! – at the bottom of your bed.

I folded it up, put it in a tin,
buried it deep behind the compost patch
near where we interred the family cat.
No poet wants to see poetry like that.

Seaside Conception

When he said goodbye
near the holiday flats
and the wind flipped away
her Kiss-me-Quick hat

and he laughed that “No!
It hadn’t been crap’!”
– he couldn’t tell then
that if he had snapped
her slim waist in two
his name was inked there
running all the way through.

Marc is a poet and musician from Devon. He’s been published in numerous magazine and web sites including Ink, Sweat and Tears; Otter; Stride; The Broadsheet; The Guardian Webpages; The Poetry Society Website and in anthologies from Ravenshead, Forward, OWF and Sentinel Presses.

His chapbook of lyric poetry A Fright Of Jays is available from Maquette Press and he blogs at http://marcwoodwardpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/.

Howard Debs – three poems


Hiding in even the far

reaches of
his mind

guilt, swarming
like locusts in a

biblical verse
preparing for the

Armageddon he
knows is sooner
or later coming

starting with no
intention of
becoming de rigueur

spinning itself
into a coat of
sodden colors over


this mantle wearing
upon his every thought

stings as if a poultice
counter to the source
of pain

the shreds,
the torn pieces
of his life

pooling for the discovery.

Sliver Of A Moon

Like an opening
of small proportions,
just sufficing
to signify there is
a shimmer of light
out there in the ether
in the darkness of the
night sky to show
there remains even at
its nadir a slender
hope out there

My Friend Is Leaving
in homage to G. Samwick (1939 – 2014)

He is going away;
while we wait,
he is lying in a bed
in a hospital
hospice wing
barely hearing
my plea
go peacefully.
Death, the
other side of living—
watching dying trying
to reconcile
the vibrant life
you led with the
way I see you now
I remember memories:
the drive down to
Coconut Grove, our annual
trek to the art fair down there
all the time on the way
debating some inane point of
politics yours right mine left;
your finding the singer Eva Cassidy
who also left too soon—
melanoma as I recall, her
Over The Rainbow
reinvented the original, the final
cut on her album Songbird,
you gave me that;
you showed me the value
of tenacity of purpose
from our early days together,
you helped me understand
the merit of the good fight
and the stories that you told
of the characters in your
past kept me laughing
will keep me laughing.
A particular favorite in my mind,
has me smiling even now.
You are on your way, out
of time, out of strength
you have bravely borne
an anguished later life
no one deserves
the last few years
you were dealt
you had your run
to say the least
but I saw your tears
well up the last
visit you were sitting up
and we talked like in times
before, as friends do.
Your wife gave my wife
an embroidered pillow
some time back
on which is written
“It takes a long time
to grow an old friend”
indeed, and then it is forever.

Howard Richard Debs received a University of Colorado Poetry Prize at age 19. After spending the past fifty years in the field of communications, with recognitions including a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America, he has recently resumed his literary pursuits, and his latest work appears or is forthcoming in Calliope, Big River Poetry Review, Poetica Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Misfitmagazine, Star 82 Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Dialogual, Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, Remarkable Doorways Literary Magazine, Indiana Voice Journal, Blue Bonnet Review, China Grove, Yellow Chair Review, and On Being, among others.

His background in photography goes back many years, both creative and technical, and his work can be found in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” where he is both an artist and guest editor. Born and bred in Chicago, he now lives in sunny South Florida with his wife of 50 years Sheila, where they spend considerable time spoiling their four grandchildren. Author listing Poets & Writers Directory: https://www.pw.org/content/howard_debs

Julian Dobson – four poems

Home run

Like a cat, I beat with sweat
the bounds of home: it is the stride
on flagstones, gravel, city road;

it’s the capacity of lungs
to hoist tired legs up to the moor;
the lift of stinging eyelids

to observe goldfinches flurry
from a dry stone wall, watch swallows
dart between taut wires;

it’s to grasp these sheets of sky
and stuff my vision with the hills:
own none of it at all, and call it mine.

The border

A scrunch of rusting wire, a wonky iron gate
wedged open, rooted in place by brambles.
An apple-yellow afternoon. We arrived
at a huddle of houses where the track forked,
dead-ending alpine meadows. September
crocuses pinked the pasture, cows ambled,
plaster peeled from a police post.

The Rhodope mountain trail petered out
like the summer, all oozing plums
and idling wasps, rakia fermenting on the farms,
a skitter of lizards. This was the border.
On one side, bristling pines, the other –
just the same. We jumped from side
to side – Bulgaria! Greece! Greece! Bulgaria!

There was no difference. The air was limp
in either jurisdiction, an afternoon made
for meanderings of boot and conversation.
We found a mural of a guard, Kalashnikov
at the ready, face merging into mouldering render.
A cowbell tinkled. The sky was blue as sleep.
Once, someone would have shot us if we’d crossed.

Night drive

The shudder always happens in my sleep.
Road signs, junctions, cat’s-eyes; pairs
of red squares in the night crawl closer.
A hypnotic hum of tyres on tarmac.

Never a hospital bed, never the blazing white
of surgery. Only a flickering of eyelids,
silent swish of metal, an exaggerated swerve
as brakes lock. An endlessly repeated motion

half a second before impact. Half a second
with the verge two yards too close,
the darkness two degrees too warm, the letters
on the tail-lights curiously readable.

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006)

A waking town. The ballet of the streets.
A window, and her glasses thick
as Hudson River ice. She watched.

She noted Mr Halpert. His particular flick
to unhook the wooden laundry cart, the way
the sheets and blankets billowed in its wake.

She saw the barber step out, swapping hearsay
as he placed his folding chair out in the sun.
Joe’s son-in-law stacked crates and trays

at the Italian deli. Mr Goldstein’s coiled wire shone
outside his hardware store. Like a hymn
each morning ritual said we’re here, we’re open.

Greenwich Village breathed out, stretched its limbs.
The toddler on the step drank New York slang,
drew neighbours’ smiles with a toy mandolin.

She saw dancing in it all: the yells, the bang
of hurried doors, a stroll across the grass.
Everywhere she watched, the city rang.

Bourbon in hand, perched at the White Horse,
ash dropping from a cigarette, she’d check
the city’s temperature in a single glass.

One watching woman, with thick specs.
A mayor, a plan, big bucks. Jane understood
and stood. She stopped expressways in their tracks.

Jane Jacobs is remembered as one of the seminal thinkers in 20th century urban planning

Julian Dobson, who lives in Sheffield, has been known to walk into lampposts while his mind is elsewhere. He recently won Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (April/May 2015). Julian’s poetry blog is at 52poemsinayear.wordpress.com