Ahrend Torrey – two poems

You Know

You know the way it goes —
you’re sitting at work and a coworker comes to you,
or you are at the start of a reception,
or even a party (if you go to parties),

and while sipping a glass of chardonnay, or merlot,
or while drinking a bottle of beer,
a random person starts a conversation
that you seem to enjoy at first,
until they take over the wheel

and veer you right into the wall of a theater,
and start talking about a movie
they think is hilarious, with actors
you can’t even pronounce, that they
assume you’ve watched a thousand times over.

And as we all have,
you stand stuck in the middle of a conversation,
about a movie you’ve never seen,
that you couldn’t care less about —

cramped in a corner like a clueless ape,
you nod and laugh: “Ha ha!” “Yep, yep!” “I know!”

My Partner’s Mother

for Ms. Susan

is from the Philippines —
Manila to be exact. She loves giving us snacks
from Hong Kong Food Market, shrimp chips,
siopao from Dong Phuong Bakery, and the occasional
bag of leftover donuts. She’s not able to visit much,
but when she does it’s always a treat — sometimes
the sweetest oranges of the season. Other times
a half eaten tangerine.

Ahrend Torrey is a poet and painter. He is a creative writing graduate from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. When he is not writing or teaching English in New Orleans, he enjoys the simple things in life, like walking around Bayou St. John with his partner, Jonathan, and their two rat terriers Dichter and Dova.

Annie Fisher – three poems

Paper Girl

I never spoke about the naked man in Castle Street (number 32).
I’d only seen him through the door’s thick-frosted glass, but still I knew
he knew that I knew he was willingly and wittingly undressed.
His was the last house on my round. He took the Western Daily Press.
In the quiet half-light of a school day dawn, my black-inked hands
would slip each morning’s tidings through the gilded slot to land
at his imperial pink feet. Only someone posh could be so rude.
No-one from Hamble Close would fetch their paper in the nude.


Not ‘chapped’
for that infers
a rougher splitting
of the skin.
‘Raw’ is closer
but not right.
What I mean is
which blows its
icy kisses still
on winter days
reminding me
of walks to school
that patch of skin
on inner thigh
between short skirt
and knee-high sock—
a crimson, coarse-grade agony
a throbbing shade of pain
my grandchildren
one in leggings
one in jogging bottoms
cannot understand.


She’s weighed herself again.
She’s six stone three and finds this
satisfactory. Tonight she’ll have
two eggs (hardboiled),
one orange and a cup of tea.

Midsummer and she’s sitting on
the college lawn, a notepad on her knee.
He’s told them to: Enjoy the sun.
Write anything. Come back at four.
But she can’t write at all.

The page gapes like an empty plate.
She tries to calculate the calories in birdsong,
the fat and carbohydrate in a flower.
She watches as her shadow on the ground
grows more obese with every passing hour.

Annie Fisher is a storyteller and a member of Taunton’s Fire River Poets. Her pamphlet Infinite in All Perfections was published by HappenStance in November 2016.

Jonathan Humble – three poems

Man Without A Pullover

He wore his usefulness like a threadbare garment,
an image of time eroded mettle, twenty years’ experience outmoded,
rooted outside the woman’s door, all action lost,
while overwhelmed, his daughter wept alone.

Time was, on these occasions he would don the knight’s armour,
have the skills to see off whatever demons had surfaced,
become the arms and chest in the woolly pullover;
a dad pillow for a sad head.

And though, given the choice, he would be that man again in an instant,
on these bitter days, these later days on the outside of the room,
he had no dad’s pullover to hand.

Then It Rains

You ask on my behalf to rise and leave,
to dress without the hindrance
of bootlace worms returning at our feet.

In vain we anticipate permission from spiders
who watch in shadows, spinning webs
that constrain all action.

Standing, squatting, sitting, we are opposed,
resisted. We are tangled marionettes,
linked with quantum string, each responding
with confused counter movement.

Blink my dears; so many eyes feel the tension
of our unseen bonds. These rainmaker thoughts,
connected across a web of reverberating nonsense
and countless coils, speak to me with jaded explanations;

there are no options again today. So you tell me
that we have to stay and wait.
And I have to listen. So I listen.
Then it rains.

How Bad It Is

How bad it is when every note you play upon the keys
sustains the void within the waiting soul;

when it is accepted that this flow will not stop
and bring an end to all these helpful faces;

when your scent assaults my senses like a bludgeon
and takes me to a day I want to bury;

when an empty chest refuses to give way
under the repeated blows of expectation

and all experiences in time coalesce into
a returning and enduring disappointment.

How bad when the abiding thought is that at this point
it could get no worse and then to be proved wrong
and wrong and wrong.

Jonathan Humble is a deputy head teacher in Cumbria. His poetry has appeared in The Big Issue In The North, Poems For Freedom, Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework and on BBC Radio. His short stories and poems for children have been published in The Caterpillar and Stew Magazine.

Ali Jones – two poems

How to Be Your Father

Comment on the speed of others
and suggest that it’s never necessary, until you put your own foot down
Develop a liking for tweed, wear checks and herringbone together for contrast
Realise that boiled sweets aid the concentration, while driving or attempting the cryptic crossword, always aim to complete it in less than ten minutes
Know the names and ways of garden birds and what to feed them, be the first to hear the Bittern booming when you visit waterlands at dawn
Play regular oracle games with your keys, divine them frequently in unexpected places
Covet a special tin, keep treats in it and hide it badly in plain sight from seeking eyes of others
Study the Telegraph with the attitude of a Guardian reader
Realise you are a socialist, and what little you can achieve might mean the world to someone, so do it with grace
Pour by the finger, a golden liquid, the peatier the better, savour it on your breath, because you know smoking is bad for you
Enjoy the RSC and Spaghetti Westerns in equal measure
Read every night until you fall asleep, never stop learning, always leave the lights on

How to Be Your Mother

Begin to bulk buy margarine, for baking purposes only
Know common flowers and garden weeds by their complex botanical names
Teach your children Latin and Italian musical terminology in equal measure
Talk about language roots and family roots, they all lie under the tongue
Great Christmas wrapping paper when it’s on offer in January, even though you have nowhere to store it
Fight prejudice at every angle, challenge the neighbours’ reading materials, give them something more suitable
Walk the same paths as the seasons turn, map the year in flowers and trees, have the social media evidence to prove it
Lose all self-control around confectionary, consider boxed Maltesers a good meal
Twine string round your fingers and coil in drawers, months later, smugly use it to anchor beans
Feel your vowels sliding due north to grey skies and dancing harebells
Smoke screen the past into fine sepia, skein it around your fingers, needle it into a pattern for others to wear

Ali Jones is a teacher and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three.

Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and The Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016 and has also written for The Guardian.

Paul Burns – two poems


just before your eyes open
when the dream has an intensity
that makes it real
but at the same time magic

because it is before spring
or in the last of winter when spring is sensed
and before the trees ran out
too fast to bud, leaf and fall
before the process is revealed

inked in and stamped
that is the time when your finger feel
they can clutch something
out of the air, diamonds from the light
on the sea, gold seamed among the trees

and you open your eyes

call box

in red kiosks
at the corner of a Bloomsbury square
and in the Isle of Barra,
in a Cotswold village, the cold

concrete bases with flattened butts
piss stink and a view onto
another slow twilight
the black receivers wait

each light a yellow signal
to blackness, in starfields
of other boxes, shelters for one
or huddled couples, waiting

the enemy is not recording them.
He is sheltering from a storm of shellfire
somewhere in the future and we
are futureproofed with vanity, past victories

quiet countryside and stolid boxes
our pale lights flickering now
through summer beech trees,
ignored by London traffic, and
the frozen billions of suns

Paul Burns lives in rural South Cheshire, working with his wife on their flower farm. He plays and teaches guitar and writes when not too tired from carting compost.

Mat Riches – three poems


I don’t mean to run on like a two-bob watch,
but when it hit me, I knew what I had to do:
I had to climb the railway bridge
at the bottom of the loke.
To ascend the embankment;
prove myself and go for broke.

Raiding the stores for supplies I came up empty
but cobbled the essentials together:
An old cycling helmet, a length of rope that went on forever,
a map folded to blindness, of the nearest town,
a life jacket in yellow,
and breadcrumbs to find my way back down.

All packed and ready,
the gate to the road remained closed;
the basecamp plans replaced by tea and toast,
no brio, too young for all the climb entailed.
My own personal Eiger
remained resolutely remote, and un-scaled.

Earlier, having put on my parts
over a load of old squit, after a cuff round the lug,
I declared I was leaving, to no one big.
Snuck out a single sleeping bag-
blue on the outside, pink in the middle –
my only luggage; nothing to drag.

I set off to the overgrown field behind home, unmissed.
Setting up camp, wrapping myself
amid the Cowslips and Lady’s Smocks, adrift
like a sobbing Thumblina, on my own.
I floated home later on a rippled corn breeze,
at my stomach’s call, to forgive everyone.

Notes on Norfolk dialect:
Slarver – Drool, dribble- talk rubbish; Run on like a two bob watch – babble; Loke – Short lane, alley way; Putting on parts – display of bad temper; Squit – Rubbish, inconsequential; Lug – Ear; Lady’s smock – Cuckoo Flower

Kübler Ross

I’m only now just starting to think
we made a mistake
in not burying you, marking a spot,

in committing you to the fire
and floating your dust
away and away to the Broads’ cold bed.

No place left to visit, to be sure,
or bones to check on;
be sure you’re still there, not gone off elsewhere

Stay there as something to remember
and mark with phone calls,
a brief hand held down on distant shoulders

Before the fog rolls right in again,
obscures the view, the way
forward in any direction at all

One solid gust with gusto to clear
and come to our heads.
We breathe in all of our ghosts constantly.

Horsey Seals

We disembark, desperate to air out lungs,
get ourselves halfway down this track.
Seagulls offer a pencil line shrug
on the skyline, following the last trawlers back.

The seals are writing hieroglyphics
on the cold sea-stretched canvas
spread out along Horsey beach;
a constantly moving language.

It’s hard to tell between rock,
driftwood and new parents.
We are kept at a distance
to protect the innocents.

Each being shelters the other
like a Russian doll.
I pull you closer;
spell it out in full.

By day Mat is a researcher for ITV. He has been published in And Other Poems, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and was longlisted for Primers 2 via Poetry School/Nine Arches Press.

Blog: https://matriches76.wordpress.com Twitter: @matriches

David Coldwell – two poems

High Summer

They found her by the canal
…..beneath the thicket of shrubs
……….that crowded the opposite bank.

Yellow flag iris, now smothered by a rush of bees
…..or hoverflies, I couldn’t tell which,
……….softened the edge of the ditch where

buried by sky, spikes of green disguised
…..pewter skin wet with rain
……….and the flush of red from a newsworthy coat

that the tabloids had copied for click bait.
…..The water was peat black. This was high summer,
……….the busiest time of the year.


Fact one – Morning
The early bird catches the worm.
Listening to birdsong but seeing
only magpies as passers-by watch mist
disappear to sky.

Fact two – Rust
Hinges made from an unacceptable alloy.
Knowing that rust is alive and making
a guess as to how long paint will survive
before red oxide makes another appearance.

Fact three – Letter
An unopened letter left on the dresser.
My name in black on white with no capitalisation
or sender information. The haves and have-nots of household maintenance
and a history of human kind in lists.

Fact four – Sun
The birds are now quiet.
The sun has moved to where I’m standing and the day has become
too hot to paint over rust. The colour, anyway,
I would suggest, would only be temporary.

David Coldwell is an artist and writer based in the South Pennines. His poems have featured in a number of journals including, The Rialto, Butcher’s Dog and Prole. His debut pamphlet, Flowers by the Road was published by Templar Poetry in February 2017.

Twitter: @d_coldwell
Facebook: @davidcoldwellart

Jim Bennett – three poems


after shopping at Tesco’s
built between
landscaped landfill hills
we struggle to get all our
plastic shopping bags
card crates of cans
and bottled water
in the car boot space

our shopping spills over
onto vacant seats
into foot wells
we maneuver
soft fruit, eggs,
cracker packs
to the top

all the time we
talk about poetry
and what we
for posterity

naming clouds

today I watch clouds
and I name them
stratocumulus is a raincloud
thick closely packed
gray dark to light
it IS raining
but just small drops
they come from that cloud
after falling for ages

if I lie on the ground
I can watch it fall
see a drop
in its last moments
the ground makes a point
about solidity
but what is the point
the rain is heavier now
thick cloud thickening
becoming nimbo stratus
dark grey to black

there are only
twelve main names for clouds
but this is black
and brings the night
before its time

today I am watching clouds
naming them
I think I’ll call this one


like Orwell’s crumbs
the disturbed dust moves from
one surface to another
marking time in textured

it covers all the people here as well

the room is cleaned,
the smells masked,
but the dirt is organic
it moves away from dusters
and vacuum heads
escaping to hang
in bars of light
and rest on people.

perhaps this is new dust
perhaps there is more dust here
because skin is dryer
hair looser, more fragile,
in this made up place
than outside
where time still moves
in an understood way

I run my finger along
the dark oak mantelpiece
disturb a million lives
and learn to measure time
as the space between breaths

Jim Bennett has written 74 books and numerous chapbooks and pamphlets in a 50 year career as a poet. Jim lives near Liverpool in the UK and tours giving readings of his work throughout the year. He is widely published and has won many competitions and awards for poetry and performance. He runs www.poetrykit.org, one of the world’s most successful internet sites for poets.

Bryony Littlefair – three poems

Tara Miller

doesn’t have Facebook. I half think I made her up.
If I mention her to my mother, she sniffs, says
that’s the girl who threw your shoe in the toilet.
The one who scribbled on your school report. Her,
who chased me with dandelions; dandelions meant
you wet yourself. But her, too, who threaded daisies
and wrapped them gently around my head, leaning back
to admire the effect. I never went to her house.
A very strange family. Best not. Being friends with Tara
was a desire I couldn’t understand, like wanting
to touch dark, wet paint. Her hair fell all the way
down her back: coarse, wavy, almost black. Once,
when we were changing for PE, Connor and his friend
walked through the classroom: Tara was topless,
in her lilac training bra. I blushed. Tara stared
straight out at them, hands on her hips, unmoved.
I found it interesting, how she wanted me to suffer.
It was a new experience. I spoke of the incidents
as if of a poltergeist, all the time knowing.
Later, I had nicer friends, good blonde girls like me
who put ten pound notes in birthday cards.
Yet when I remember Tara, I remember
her thin white arms around me, her warm,
Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit breath on my neck.
I remember her licking her finger,
and very quickly, almost tenderly, reaching
and rubbing a mark from my cheek.

Sunday mornings

The truth is I’m not sure what I did
those mornings they’d leave, my mother
always in a floral capped-sleeve shirt.
I wish I could say I graffitied the newsagent,
or met with a nicotine-fingered boyfriend,
or learned Bertrand Russell by heart. I didn’t
do any of those things, nor the homework
I’d invented to excuse my godlessness.
Alone in the hefty silence, I felt loose
and endangered, like an undone shoelace
or an open rucksack. I’d pace from room
to room, hands tucked up my sleeves.
I’d play snatches on the piano, or make
elaborate little snacks – crackers piled
with quartered grapes and shavings of cheese.
I was like a blunt knife, failing to cut
and apportion the hours. I’d spin
on the office chair, or curl up on patches
of carpet, pretending to be dead.
I might have put on a CD, shaken
my hips to Run DMC, a jerky
figure of eight. I might have filmed myself dancing.
I’d be choosing another colour for my nails
when the key would turn in the lock:
my parents, whole and returned,
having sung their hallelujahs
and walked back through the cool light rain.

Dear Anne Monroe, Healthcare Assistant

I’m sorry that my sister will not let you take her blood
for the operation that will save her life.
Sorry for her ratchety stubborn fear,
which will make you late
for your next appointment. Sorry, also,
for the 16k a year, for the commute
from Clapham North to Archway
where the light is piss-yellow
and everyone is angry. Sorry
for the overtime, for the man who asked,
offhand as if in your living room,
where it is you’re from originally.
Sorry for the ten-minute lunch break,
the gulped-down cheese and lettuce
sandwich. Sorry she is snatching
her arm from your grasp,
and leaping up to leave. Because
the way you kneel in front of her now
is so perfect, how you fix her with
your steady yellowish eyes, fierce
with your short hair and scrubbed bare face
and piercings. You’re just the sort of person
who can get away with calling someone
sweetheart, which you do, and my sister
(not a sweetheart, all bones and edges)
blinks like a newborn animal,
slack now from all her jumpy breathing.
Sorry, because it’s not even 8.30, Anne,
and you’re already magnificent
knowing just how to grip my sister’s knee
so her breathing slows and deepens
and she barely feels the needle as it enters

Bryony Littlefair works as a support worker, carer and fundraiser in London, where she also runs her own creative writing group. Her work has appeared in Popshot and The Cadaverine and is forthcoming at Ink, Sweat and Tears. Find her at learningtointerrupt.wordpress.com or on Twitter @B_Littlefair.