Tom Montag – three poems

Look, Tricks!

Look, tricks! they say

their wares. I don’t
listen. It is not

a puzzle. For me
it is sky swallowing

the night; it is
a child asking

for milk; it is
the turn spring

makes to summer.
Put those in!

I say. But they
don’t listen.

The Poet Listens

He cannot hear
God’s whisper.

He listens, but
no — he cannot.

The wind, yes,
wind in the trees,

he hears that well
enough. The birds

singing behind
the leaves, he hears

them too. Yet not
God’s whisper.

All around him
they are shouting,

who think that
shouting at God

will make God
speak to them. No

wonder silence
then, at the end,

when we are taken.

The Turn

As if only falling
through the darkness,

falling through August,
towards autumn. The dry

scratch of loneliness,
and evening deepens.

Everything depends on
something. What I need

are these Perseids, these
fading streaks of hope,

this tearing up of sky,
these last Ahs and Ohs.

Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013 (MWPH Books, 2014), This Wrecked World (Bitterzoet Press, 2016) and The Miles No One Wants (a free PDF download from Otata’s Bookshelf, 2016). He has been a featured poet at Atticus Review, Contemporary American Voices, Houseboat, and Basil O’Flaherty Review, and has received Pushcart Prize nominations from Provo Canyon Review, Blue Heron Review, and The Lake. With David Graham, he is editing an anthology of poetry about small town America.

Emma Lee – three poems

Turn Up the Volume

She plays the same CD in her car,
matching junctions to specific songs
to monitor her speed to the same daily pace,
the volume always on a prime number.
Everything on her desk has its place.
She watches the soap operas and reads Glamour
so she can talk to colleagues.
Her wardrobe is divided between
pencil skirts and blouses, and block colour shifts.
Make-up from a neutral palette.
She holidays at the same hotel,
sunbathes after breakfast, shops in the afternoon.
Meals are weighed and measured
from a restrictive menu.

She turned down his restaurant invite.
But he knows she’ll marry him.
All he has to do is make small
adaptions to her routine, offer protection
and become familiar enough to be allowed
to undo the zip on her dress.
He thinks he knows what will be revealed.

But doesn’t know about the scar
under her left breast, under her ribs
or what might happen when a mouse roars.

Butterflies at Breakfast

The delicacy of the pattern
on his tee shirt contrasts
with the sleeve tattoos
hardened muscle tone
and callouses from labour.

She has wrapped a spacious
brown cardigan over an LBD.
Hair tugged into a scrunchie.
Make-up shows smoky, smudged eyes,
possibly last night’s toned down
then retouched. Her shoes the flats
that can be squashed into a handbag.

They order a full English:
brunch and a hangover cure in one.
The butterflies on his tee
crowd along the hem
and drift up towards
the neckline where they
become singletons in flight.

All Emmas have a tragic end

at least in pop songs: suicide, overdose,
injuries from a car crash, an empty house
left behind after drowning, sentenced
to hell and silence, the end of an affair
with the lover who saps her strength.
Emma found herself incommunicado,
falling like rain under grey cloud,
a red, Christmas flower under acid tears,
silenced in drunken streets and misunderstood.
She was a blonde angel, a princess, a blue-eyed baby,
who wanted to be a star, who wanted better
who couldn’t see she was all she needed to be,
who wanted to be human, to be loved.
Emma’s the girl known by everyone.

Emma Lee’s most recent collection is Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at

Chrissy Banks – three poems

All Those Parties

Someone trod smoky bacon crisps
and chocolate cake into the pink nylon carpet
and someone helped themselves
to all the bottles in her father’s booze cupboard,
drained them dry and lurched out
into the garden for a piss, threw empties
all over the lawn and into the pond
where the gnomes were poised for fishing.
And someone went upstairs
with someone else’s girlfriend
and wrestled with her
all over the gold parental candlewick,
but the boyfriend crashed through the door
and thumped the kid and thumped him again
till his nose bloodied the polycotton easycare sheets
and the girl screamed and ran downstairs
in daisy-patterned knickers and a flood of tears.
And close to midnight someone said ‘Who’s that?’
and the party girl’s parents marched in,
her mother speechless, her father barking,
‘God in heaven, what’s been happening here?!’

Or so someone told me later.
I was stretched out on the chintz three-seater,
for the first time
with that month’s crush,
the happiest girl alive

till the door flew wide,
all the lights in the room glared down
and A Groovy Kind of Love
scraped to a halt.

When We Were Manx

Manx meant we had sea in our veins,
pulsed with the blood of Vikings and Celts.
The sea fed us: kippers and cod as common as cake.
Our songs were of wrecked ships, our stories
of ghosts in the castle, fairies under the bridge.
In our throats, salt, mountain air, the hit
of burnt rubber and petrol fumes
flooding from motor bikes’ revving throttles.

In our teens, we took holiday work
in the rock factory. The stuff emerged first
in a long pliable strip of flamingo.
We aproned up and rolled it forwards
and back. Tourists traipsed in to watch,
glad to be out of the rain. We cut
the rock in regular lengths,
and after it hardened, packed it away
in a metal box, heaved it along
to the store-room, fending off Peter,
the sleazy storeman. The older girls
were mainly comeovers, from across,
there for the summer, then gone.
Fairy light towns threaded horizons,
called us away to the scattered places
where most of us live now.

The rock was such sweet, sticky stuff.
A three legs of man, like a vein
or a core, ran right through (still does)
the bite white centre,
from left to right, bottom to top.

The Pavement Shrine

I’ve watched it grow a life for months.
First, the flowers and one short note
identifying Jamie as the man who died.

It’s bred an armchair now. A football
and a paper lantern blossom in the tree.
Three books of photos, open.

Two motorcycle helmets offered up,
too late for Jamie, sit gravely on the triangle
of roadside grass where the biker hit a car.

A growing home – for whom? What is it for?
To call back Jamie from the dead? As if
a note, a football, might be all it took.

Or to reassure the living how the dead
live on? Chalked on the pavement’s blackboard
a message reads, See ya mate, Take care.

Chrissy Banks lives in Exeter. She runs a roving Poetry Reading group in Devon and Somerset and occasional Reflective Writing Days. Her last collection was Days of Fire and Flood. More recently, her work has featured in Agenda,the Journal, Antiphon, the Lake, the Rialto, The North and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Robert Ford – three poems

Clapham Junction

Men with hairy hands are falling
asleep on every blue train picking
its way through the wasps’ nest
of intersecting lines. The manger-like
rocking reminds them, sub-consciously,
of being babies, and sends their smug
newspapers, folded with debatable
truths, sliding to the floor from their
crumpled laps. At home, in placid,
unthreatening towns, anxious wives
are fidgeting all alone, while children
wrestle elsewhere in expensive schools,
desperate to become something different.
A gaunt November evening crashes
down outside, but nothing will interrupt
their slumbering. Whole worlds, apparently
managed yet rarely understood, are
slipping by, just beyond their reach.

Christopher became a chief constable

You once went to his house and
drank milk from plastic beakers.
His mother gave you one biscuit,
and kept the small house tidy,
and you never saw his father,
although you knew he had one.

What you didn’t know then was
just how handsome he would be,
a classical kind of beauty, like an
English actor from the nineteen-fifties,
always smouldering from a uniform;
dashing, yet incapable of empathy.

But you know it now. You see,
in your memory, his elegant nose
and immaculate skin the colour
of bones, the way his brown eyes
judged the world as if they were grey,
made of impossibly precious metals.

None of you noticed. You were all
too pre-occupied with teasing, and
something close to but not quite bullying,
with his bookishness – too dismissive
of the awkwardness in his limbs
to see where they were taking him.

Leningrad, 1990

Even with only seven mutually-intelligible phrases,
we partied on the overnight express north like it was
everybody’s birthday, making a loaf out of crumbs.
Come morning, the train lurched in, to a metropolis with
two heads, neither of them facing in the right direction.

Then it rained three days, in bands of withering judgment,
from a sky heavy with itself and a marathon of history.
Ageing boulevards, redundant with missing teeth, became
tributaries. Palaces gleamed, and naked-headed citizens
in zip-up jackets, streamed along Nevsky Prospect wearing

identical tennis shoes, unaware that another revolution
was rearing like a rodeo bull, in a future already
out of touch with the present. They would soon be
renaming the city again. Back at our hotel, the lights
flickered. They warned us against drinking the water.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US – most recently in Picaroon Poetry, The Lake, Liminality and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at

Scott Edward Anderson – three poems

Calculated Risk

There’s evidence accounting goes back to the days
of Mesopotamia, bookkeeping to ancient Iran,
even audits conducted by Egyptians and Babylonians.
Of course, Romans perfected rendering unto Caesar;
while the Brits made accounting a profession.

Computare is the numbers game,
compter is the one who counts.
An accountant reckons by calculation
and settles one’s accounts.

Acountancy is for neither faint of heart
nor eye; although the accounting firm
that accounts for my day job
doesn’t see fit to supply eye insurance.

Somehow, this doesn’t add up to me.
I mean, wouldn’t you want to insure
the one thing making sure all the numbers compute?

Alas, just as there’s no accounting for taste,
there’s no counting on such things as common sense.

My Friend Finch
(For Don Paterson, after his “House”)

My friend Finch visits me each Tuesday,
When he knows I ought to write a poem,
Telling his stories in an illuminated way.
A Samaritan, he once worked for Home-
Land Security, designed surveillance
Systems to guard against terrorists;
Now, a person of interest, helping freelance
In a way that, by and large, consists
Of violent measures ably performed
By three friends, Mr. Reese, Fusco, and Shaw.
And then there’s Root; she’s a nut-job, informed
By the system he created, a flaw.
Still, if I’m in danger or threat mortal,
I only hope it’s Finch who gets the call.

The Line Between Apocrypha and Truth

My mother’s parents were a handsome couple.
They resembled the young Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz:
Marjorie’s hair swept behind her ears, curly and fair, like her complexion;
Eddie’s pomade jet over hazelnut forehead and eyes of obsidian,
his rakish grin a razor, not yet succumbing to society.

(The line between apocrypha and truth is easily crossed,
but like the tree–line on a mountain top,
once you cross it, there’s no doubt…)

My grandfather’s sister told me a story
about my grandparents, about how they came together.
It seems Eddie was sweet on Marjorie’s sister,
pursued her, with his sad, dark eyes.
When she showed little interest, Eddie took Marjorie out to a dance.

Marjorie got pregnant. Eddie’s mother threw a pot at him.
“Vergonha! Shame on You!” she shouted. “You gotta marry her now!”
Some months later, Marjorie had a miscarriage.
(My own mother waves me away when I repeat this story.
I can tell I’ve crossed the line, but on which side do I stand?)

Scott Edward Anderson is the author of Fallow Field (Aldrich Press, 2013) and Walks in Nature’s Empire (The Countryman Press, 1995). You can follow him on Twitter @greenskeptic and check out more about him at

Gus Peterson – three poems


We rent a limo to take us
to the dance,

guys jockeying bravado,
girls leaning into each other.

Maybe it was a sly draw
of curl over your ear,

the dark coffee of Cuban eyes
beneath long lashed lids.

Tangle of tongue and cherry lips.
Gown blue as winter sky.

A week from now you’ll be gone.
Who else will remember

your brown hair,
the smell of plum blossoms?

Another Dollar Store

The day before
they break ground
I see a man onsite
digging up lupines.
He’s done this before,
the way he binds
each ache of dusk
and plum in burlap,
a bruise of beauty
secreted away
in the trunk
of an old Subaru
I’ll see parked
the next morning
by a bulldozer.


They come here to wilt
under an endless sun,
caravans of high buckle slacks
clustered in kaleidoscopic groves
of tucked in polo around
oases of sterile pools
and manicured putting green
with names like Valle Verde
or Casa Bonita,
spicy names full of vida
rooted in a soil of slowing,
as if there was something here,
subliminal in the purr of golf carts,
the unlined smiles of staff
that makes one dig in,
blunder on through a jungle
chasing myths.

Gus Peterson’s work has appeared recently online in Rattle and the Aurorean. He is still in Maine and figuring out a full length collection.

Matthew Dobson – three poems


The Natural History Museum, London

The bison skull behind the glass — as dense as iron
with rusting, pitted horns.
It’s an anchor
that stops the museum — this ark
for the dead — drifting off above headlights and rain.

The sperm whale skeletons soar like birds
plucked from the seas; spines quake;
tusks sprout beneath
the stag’s skull pinned to the wall:
its antlers spread and twitch like large antennae

tasting the air our bodies haul behind them.
Shark jaws quiver when
our throats walk past —
they’re biding their time as the building lurches,
tugs at its anchor. Warm crowds surge on board

and our breath steams up the cabinets of oysters,
fool’s gold, butterflies,
and feathered beasts
splayed on a slab of slate. Our ribs,
like restless wings, muscle against our skin

as though we had once learnt to fly but are now
keeping it secret from ourselves.

Rain on the Island

And through the darkness
my father follows his torch.
He’s found a lamb —
as lumpy as a spent candle,
sodden black

His hands are stroking its ribs
as though a pulse
were smouldering inside,
as though his heat
could spark one.

He kneels, unsure
of whether to drag it in
or leave it cold
among the damp crow wings
and fox eyes shining like fairies
in his torch beam. He stands,
looks past the beach to the sea,
the sea gently closing
door after door.


Our spreadsheets have colour-coded
the names of diseases
we may die from,
formulated the mean
of our daily breaths.

Our inboxes have collected names —
an algorithm
will show us their thoughts
like when you hold a finger
to a lamp
and see the bones.

Our photographs,
when we touch them,
live again.

Matthew Dobson lives in Surrey, England. He has been published in numerous print and online magazines, including Butcher’s Dog, Neon, and Agenda.

Gram Joel Davies – three poems

How Can I Mourn a Man Still Living?

At the edge of my ears, a single nerve
rings like a tungsten bulb.

All I have done is mention the orchard
where my dad would take us to buy from a man
who measured sugar into cider flagons.
Through planted rows awash
with a slow syrup of photons, I hear
the apple fallout of the branches.

Only a mention—but my dad looks to have witnessed
a flash over the horizon. A bottled
ferment from his centre rushes
staggered trees.

His face is fruit complete with rot
as the blast goes through but leaves him
standing, as himself, comprised of ash.

When his whimper finally breaks,
a ring of light hides everything.

First published in The Moth (ed. Rebecca O’Connor)

Die Back

Downpour. Over his ale,
he tells me, Ash wood burns wet.
Trains in disarray, villages
silenced. The English—
forever unprepared. To reach
a bus stop we needed waders.

That website showed us
how to spot the rot: patches
in bark like porter soaking
shirtsleeves; twigs’
black fingernails bared
above canopies.

We fought flash floods
on roads which closed like zips
behind us, to this inn fire
under these ceiling beams.
Some things appear changeless;
there are no tales of tomorrow.

Away in lanes, overhung by ashes’
banana-bunch branches, comes
a creeping flame. Another ale—
he tells me there were fewer
floods, back in his day.

First published in Bolts of Silk (ed. Juliet Wilson)

Sid is Material

Today, Sid is net curtain,
which is to say, he is flesh.

He steps from his doorstep
into light frost, as a man

billows into him, heading
for the launderette. The frost

is light, the man’s duffle bag
only shines. Today, Sid

is flesh, which is to say,
he is bus ticket, frozen to kerb.

He passes the window where now
the bloke loads a drum

among turning drums. Sid is 80%
water, which is to say, machine

turning memory of pavement—
of peppered suds—of light to net

memory of flesh. Some days,
all Sid can do is remember.

He turns toward the bus stop,
mechanical, which is to say,

a line scored into glaze. Someone
taps his arm like white pepper,

asks if the number 10 just passed.
Today, Sid is bus stop signpost,

a shadow across the path.

First published in Bare Fiction (ed. Robert Harper)

Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon. His recent poetry appears in The Interpreter’s House, Dark Mountain and The Fenland Reed. His first collection Bolt Down This Earth is to be published by V. Press in April.

Alongside fellow poet Hannah Linden, Gram will appear at Cheltenham Poetry Festival on the 9th of May, with a workshop beforehand.

This year he is also touring with #Trios2017 poetry/art project in the Southwest.