Bethany Rivers – three poems

Persephone Awakes

We stand in circle,
holding hands,
and listen.

Echoing within
the bodies of trees,
from beneath the grass,

deep in Earth’s caverns,
we think we can hear

or the song of seeds,
like a faint flute
in the distance,

she is no longer
her mother’s daughter.

deep cut

you show me the deep cut
on your left forefinger
a transparent plaster
hangs from it

and like a telepath
with empathic powers
I feel the pain
rise through my body

I have to sit down
the world is shaky
suddenly my knees don’t work
and my temperature is rising

the swirled pattern
of the Chinese rug
in front of the hearth
zig-zags under my feet

the leather armchair
holds my trembles
the window blurs
and the sun is too bright

I heard what your cut said
all the messages you ignored
over three decades
and I want to save you

but I can’t
and you don’t recognise
that even though you were alone
he was the one holding the knife

Door of My Heart
(After Thich Nhat Hanh)

if the door of my heart
remains open to the dark within:
the fears of sweat-drenched three a.m.
the doubts of early morning rising
the insecurities of a rocky-road future
and the regrets of a rose-tinted past
greying to monochrome photos

then the door of my heart
can remain open to the light within:
the beauty of dew drops spilling from butter-cups
the elation of a painting or poem
moving through my body
the oneness of sharing a silent moment
of moonrise over a still pond with a dear friend
the river of acceptance as it runs
its course through the land and hearts
mouths and bodies of every creature

if the door of my heart remains open

Bethany Rivers, when not obsessing over writing poetry about Ophelia or Persephone, teaches Creative Writing and runs poetry healing retreats. She’s previously had poems published by Bare Fiction, Envoi, Blithe Spirit, Cinnamon Press, Ink Sweat & Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron. Bethany’s debut pamphlet, Off the Wall, is due out later this year, with Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Marilyn Hammick – three poems

By the Mar Menor

I walk to where the sea is full
of empty boats, turn towards
a tender kept on its spot
by a line to a mooring ball.

The sea gentles the boat – back,
away, back. Salt shapes appear,
disappear on the curve of its flank,
messages coded in lacey brine,

but, like end-of-the-garden fairies,
they are only there, only return
if I let them come and let them go
without holding on.

Chanel No 5

Months after Auntie Jean died,
Uncle Tom comes to stay,
a few days, a change of scene.

I listen to the list of what he does now
– daily paper, breakfast, lunch, dinner,
until bedtime with the World Service.

In the morning, I watch him shuffle
to my bedroom door, he pauses
as if he is on the promenade

and is taking in the air
scent of woman, he whispers
although I only use soap and water.

Play in Three Acts

in which I pour another glass of wine,
you lock the door, pocket the key,

and when you’re close to the station
I swap stilettos for slippers

finishing yesterday’s crossword
as you sit at the table, left of the window.

in which after half a glass of wine,
you lock the door and pocket the key

and I change again, this time into black,
running for the fast train so that

before you arrive, I’m able to see
who sits at the table, left of the window.

in which I put on jeans and a t-shirt
you lock the door, pocket the key,

loosen your tie, open the post
while I go into the restaurant

to wait at the table, left of the window.

Marilyn can be found writing, stitching, walking or on her yoga mat: follow her on Twitter @trywords and

Kevin Reid – two poems

I sang to no one today

because I could hear your voice
telling me I’m selfish, moaning
cause I’m wearing black, again.

You’re too hip-hop to ever know
the value of Johnny Cash or
solitary confinement. In here

it’s quiet, out there it’s Sunday;
when the faithful hymn together
and others hangover in silence.

I turn on the radio;
love songs, no thanks.

17th May 2015

We share our visit
with red carnations
and white roses.

Dad fills pots with water,
cuts stems, talking,
always talking.

Manna and me arrange,
Dylan waits
to lay his wreathed heart.

Photographs to share
with absent family.
Today is your birthday,

the first here,
the turf still healing.

Kevin’s work can be found in various on-line and printed publications including: Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry, And Other Poems, The Open Mouse and Ink, Sweat and Tears. He’s the instigator of the on-line multimedia collaborations >erasure and >erasure ii and Wordless, an image and text collaboration with George Szirtes published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. He edits Nutshells and Nuggets, an on-line space for short poems.

Angela Topping – two poems

Safety Instructions

Use email to aim
wait until you are alone
before replying.
Do not agree to meet.

Do not believe a word.
Take everything to mean
the exact opposite
but realise

one sentence in ten
will be true
and will punch you
in the gut.

Communicate through song
or any other code.
Take rage to mean love,
silence as missing you.

Harbour no regrets
not even on Sundays.
Take a kilner jar
seal up memories

bury it in the darkest
corner of the garden.
Do not mark the spot
with an X.

The What Ifs

not like unwrapping a present
someone you love gives for your birthday
knowing it’s a surprise you’ll enjoy

more like putting your fingers
into the jaws of a black velvet bag
because you have to, don’t want to.

anything could be inside, lying in wait,
to trap you or do harm. You ask yourself
what’s the worst can happen?

Sometimes the worst is getting
the wrong train or being late. Sometimes
there are ways to solve the problem.

But when the worst is death
you know you’re in trouble.
Nor can you stay home fretting.

You’re too young to box yourself up,
disappear into your own armchair,
so ease your hand inside the bag.

Sometimes what’s in there
is a lucky green jade turtle,
cool and composed, on a red silk thread.

Run your fingernail along its carved lines
you can die just as easily
at home without taking risks.

Angela Topping is the author of seven poetry collections and four chapbooks. She is a poetry addict.

Paul Burns – three poems

the little ships

returned each day to the blackened beach
and pulled oil- and blood-soaked men
away to the island where the sound of the guns
faded, and the country so green it hurt the eyes

and still hundreds of thousands thronged
in chest deep lines, desperate men
looking for the ships’ faint smoke
on a slate horizon

blankets and tea, and rum
and matter of fact voices
led them to mansions and village halls
ignoring their skin and language

because, they were told, you are home
now, we are all in this
together, we must all defend
our freedoms

looking to that greyness now
the same shelterless waves,
the edge of everything, thousands wait
and no ships come.

previously published on I am not a silent poet

An Education

until I walked through Bodnick Wood again
and saw where snow had drifted through the fence
three years or so ago, stilled white confection
a world of marzipan piled to chest height

and where bluebells thread the fallen branches
come the spring; and see now beech leaves spread
a copper blanket, feel the mist drops settle
on my face beneath the streaming trees,

until I stopped and watched the hills blur over
in November dripping dusk, and set this down
I might have missed some very simple point
I could have thought I’ve never learned a thing.

banks of the Humber; unlocked land

I passed a sawmill looking for the river
and found a brackish inlet choked with boats
a spinney of masts brushing the clouds

My eyes swam in the squalls
staring at the muddy waves, as a wild sky
worked its passage over me

I imagined breathing silt
flailing in the deep opacity; easy here
to be dragged out of the world

downstream, skeletal cranes
hunched over empty docks
the Humber’s cities murmured

as trucks crossed the long bridge,
ants over a bone. The river opened
to drowned church bells tolling in the current

and my feet sucked into the mud, welling streams
from what had been firm ground.

Paul Burns lives in rural south Cheshire where he runs a flower farm with his wife. He plays and teaches guitar and has recently returned to poetry, thanks to Jo Bell and her 52 group, after a 15 year break. His work has appeared in Staple, Tears In the Fence, Obsessed with Pipework and Ink Sweat and Tears.

Neil Fulwood – three poems


Broken security light. Some kids
clustered near the loading bay.
CCTV camera on a rusty bracket:
maybe it works, maybe not.
Everything’s a silhouette anyway.

Shadows. Wash of headlights.
A split second in the passing
of a car or bus; you wonder
what they’re doing. Want to
know? They mucking about, giving

each other piggybacks; laughing.

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver

A Japanese lady offers us tea.
Her accent soothes. Wisdom
enclouds her like perfume.

“You are a businessman,” she says,
nodding towards my father.
And they speak of business:

the building up of things,
investment and effort and self-
abnegation. “And you –

you are not a businessman.”
This without looking my way,
a regrettable expectoration

between soft precise syllables
as if she’s seen the poet in me
and wonders if he knows already

or whether she ought to warn him.

The Following Previews Are Appropriate to the Feature Presentation

In a world
where painfully thin volumes of poetry
get the gravel-voiced movie trailer treatment

one man
stands between the hard-earned tenner
and an eighty-nine pence resale value on Ziffit –

the critic.
Some call him mean and cynical, some say
he’s haunted by Carol Ann Duffy’s sales figures.

A maverick,
a loose cannon, a man out for revenge
on editors and adjudicators and the Times

Literary Supplement.
He’s out there, watching, waiting, sharpening
his pencil. He’s had enough of the hipster trends

and the beards.
He’ll take your quinoa and introduce it
into an area of total eclipse. Forcefully. Just pray

he doesn’t find
your notebook, your pamphlet-length manuscript,
your heavily fingered acceptance letter from The Rialto.

Neil Fulwood is co-editor, with David Sillitoe, of the anthology More Raw Material: work inspired by Alan Sillitoe (Lucifer Press, 2015). His poetry has appeared in The Morning Star, Butcher’s Dog, The Lampeter Review and The Interpreter’s House. His hobbies include touring inns and taverns of architectural interest. Some people confuse this with pub-crawling.

Mary Norton Gilonne – four poems

Day Care

Pavements here are earth, quiet water, sky.
We push up slow through last night’s wet,
runneled wakes of grass wheel back behind
each claggy step. Poodled trees, pollarded
to fluffs of leaf, lean spindled limbs, lead on
to low light buildings, careful shoulderings
of hedge that pass, contour, contain.

This is shawled land, he wraps it round him tight.
A winding-sheet of path, wide forgetful windows
searching clouds as if glassed days are somehow
lost behind clipped privet lines or nunnish lily stems
while dark doors stand, full of tepid tea and waiting.
We’re sensitive as chameleons to all this in-between,
know life is neither here nor there, like estuaries and sea.


It wasn’t that you ran to the river
as women might do, back to
the birth, a breaking of waters.
It wasn’t that I could picture you,
thin and urgent as a may-fly.
It was the time of day, when sky
was bursting with trees and promise,
and I was choosing apples for
your red bowl.

We hadn’t left you long alone, too long
as longing is, I didn’t see
the river flowers, blue speedwell wet
about your eyes. I never thought that loss
could be as white as skin
to touch. It was the time of day, when
all was taut with now and then,
and I was choosing apples with
heedless hands.


Ruckles, rhytides, he soaps his face by rote,
dabbles under-down pools of shallow cheek.
My eye maps the stippled skin, a shaved stutter
of capillaries, jowls dripping thin like chapel wax.

I mirror-trace the line of lobe, soft as ox-tongue,
sudded, ears curlicued like nesting birds each
temple pulse a hesitating pitter. How old words fail
him now, foot-notes fast fading. I’m listening to water.


This is where the living wait.
A city’s distant cubes and soarings,
our old local on a cobbled quay,
your boat and a little sun belying absences.
We’re ashed from the morning scattering,
emptied of sea. Talk circles your leaving
like a buoy and we long for certainty of land,
our beer flat and warm as tilled brown fields.
How to explain that hush of listening glass,
a rush of greening light, as if somewhere
the very water of you turns to leaves.

Originally from Budleigh Salterton in Devon, Mary has been living in France near Aix en Provence for many years and is a freelance translator. She won the 2015 Wenlock Prize and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She has been published in anthologies and online magazines and is working towards her first collection.

Tom Montag – four poems

Stars Tonight

An astonishment of stars
again tonight, pulling at me.

As if home is never far.
As if darkness is nothing

to fear. As if all I need
is leaping here between us.

Among the Grasses

What the grasses
have been is what
the world is.

We follow the line
of sky and wonder
if a storm

is coming. The
grasses do not

about tomorrow.
Today is enough
for them,

with its gold shining
wind, the promising
morning dew.

Wild grasses, you
understand? Upon
a hillside,

not tended,
making their own
way from

dim and distant
swamp to this lifting
of these

high plains. Here,
in this place
where God lives.

Another Coyote

Another coyote
spirited to heaven,
another sadness
where I live.

In the woods, darkness.
In the sky, wonder
at the day’s wideness.

Everything settles back
and asks forgiveness.

Coyote leads the prayer.

The Weight

All night the stars,
a road in the distance,
some wind.

Things fly away
from us at astonishing
speed, as

if gravity is greater
out at the edge
than here

in the center of this
universe, as if what
we want

was always meant
to be lost to us.

Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013 (MWPH Books, 2014). He is a contributing writer at Verse-Virtual. In 2015 he was the featured poet at Atticus Review (April) and Contemporary American Voices (August) and at year’s end received Pushcart Prize nominations from Provo Canyon Review and Blue Heron Review. Other poems will be found at Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, Little Patuxent Review, Mud Season Review, Poetry Quarterly, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere.

Joanne Key – three poems


There’s no easy way out of today and I’m glad of that.
The computer has a mind of its own: a touchscreen
caught in a free-for-all of false light, spiralling thought.

I used to think there would never be peace for me
stuck in this thumbscrew town. A scruffy Rapunzel
locked in a counting-house of hangups with you

stitching Loser into the collars of our hand-me-downs.
I have nothing to show for you. The day of grabbing
scraps from a handful of promise is five years gone,

along with the stranger who held me to ransom
every time I tried to rewrite history and start again.
I can’t change what will happen to you later today,

or every year from here on in, or explain why you cut
yourself away back then like a man dangling
over the cliff edge, tangled up in a flat spin.

I can’t redefine, undo, unpick, any more than I can
settle myself, kick back and slip my shoes off
in the middle of telling our story.

Time to call the stars out on their promise. I rip them
from their constellations without even looking,
watch them fizzle out. I put a knife to the moon.

You would be so proud of me now – holding grief up
to the camera, full weight draped across my arms, dark muscle
relaxing under my touch, its mouth frozen open in shock.

The Lost and Found

They wander for hours through aisles of lost property.
Here life is hard, nothing has a place or patience,

yet everyone is busy practising the art of waiting,
collecting the slow drip of days. We leave windows open

for all the yesterdays, knot photographs into rope.
We encourage the sun to rise over the beds and hope

that a stick of light will strike against a memory.
We are all frightened by what we no longer know,

bury ourselves in work, sorting hints of histories
and bags of clothes, looking for clues of a beginning

to cling to. One man empties a case, extracts
the contents with the care of a surgeon. All his stories

start with a stranger’s pain, a loss, something stolen.
He pulls out scarves and hats that he says are not his.

He stretches a wallet wide as a scream, a mouth
that can’t get its words out. The woman loves

open-ended things and so a rolled newspaper
becomes a telescope where she can watch the birds

flutter and migrate across the plain of wallpaper.
She finds comfort in the silence of objects –

a cracked cup is happy enough to be just that.
Ear to the Get Well cards, there are voices stuffed

into envelopes, demanding to be sent out
in the next post, back to their true owners.

Here we learn how quickly happiness can turn
into loss, how easy it is for people to leave

something behind and then find themselves
too far away to turn back.

Enchanted by Outside

You peg the last of your failing sun
into a groundsheet and twilight nestles
on your skin, settles around your feet.

Now only silence matters as it flutters
into your living space, warming its wings
on your thoughts of a fireplace.

You stare, wide-eyed into the night.
Here, is loneliness and there are processes
to go through, adjustments to make

in a place where it is normal to see
shadows on every corner and a storm
hovering, about to unleash in the kitchen.

There is always a threat breathing
down your neck and the stress of your home
hanging by a thread, clinging to ground

that’s barely level. You look at the world
on the inside with your eyes shut tight.
The outside opens its mouth and feeds you

foxes and owl-speak, rocks you to sleep,
so slowly you feel your coat of darkness
thickening into fur, soft and deep.

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her work appears in various places online and in print. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.