David Cooke – two poems

Getting it Taped

When I couldn’t keep up with the cost of music,
I found a solution: the second-hand
reel-to-reel I picked up at a snip –
a Philips most likely or maybe a Grundig,
some brand I thought would last.

Its clickety counter gave no insight
into the digital age. It couldn’t remember
or shuffle a thing. Pre-CD and pre-cassette,
it lacked a remote or any inkling
of the bells and whistles to come.

To make a start you wound the tape
onto the empty spool, then let it
run to take the slack. Engaging
its five sturdy controls
required decisive pressure.

And once you’d hooked it up to the radio,
you only had the space of a song
to change your mind and reset it,
ready for the next one, your dithering clunks
recorded in that seamless stream.

So I gave up on Pick of the Pops
and ‘Fluff’, its pop-picking deejay,
but left it purring quietly to the John Peel show,
his musical taste consistent,
his mumbles, yeah, laid back.

In Search of Lost Time

From the north of France to Mayo’s a stretch,
but in the way that often one thing leads
to another I got there reading Proust –
or, if I’m honest, by failing again
to read him beyond his hero’s bedtime.

Buttoned up, fretful, a delicate child,
he had never dammed a stream with sods
or pulled up a ladder into the hay
where he had his lair and listened to rain
clattering down onto a hayshed roof.

Accumulating his endless pages
– an invalid and a scribbler, cooped up
in his cork-lined room – it wasn’t the smell
of bread, baked in a pot in the embers,
that took Proust back to his earliest years

but a madeleine soaking in a cup
of weak tea. Free-falling into the past,
he never mentions creamery butter,
eggs with shells streaked in dirt, or the sizzle
and spit of sausages seasoned in smoke.

Lights out plunged him into creaks and shadows
and, on the nights he missed his mother’s kiss,
an agony of sleeplessness. Voices
climbed the stairwell. In a three room cottage
I awakened when the craic was mighty.

David Cooke’s poems have appeared in many journals, including Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Manhattan Review, New Walk, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stand. His most recent collection, After Hours, was published in 2017 by Cultured Llama. He is co-editor of The High Window.


Michael Bartholomew-Biggs – two poems

Feeling the cold
Edwardstone, Suffolk, Winter 2012
For Daveron Mulberry

Whatever may be true, I’m sure
enough to tell myself
I’m treading where my forebears used to
trudge across hard fields
towards the sandstone certainty of church
to huddle in a winter congregation,
pinch-faced and jostling like penned cattle.

I guess the chancel’s barely changed.
Dust drifts among the sallow smells
of wood and wax. It carries memories
and remnants of their breath
to mix invisibly with mine.

Snow and gospel, visiting again,
disguised as new arrivals,
hide the graveyard’s hardened scars
and dress its half-healed wounds.

Sharp cold’s a pain that’s eased
by stamping feet and fire
and meat and ale and company
when squire and parson sanction them.

Blunt grief must make do
with less substantial consolations:
a father’s hasty, muddled blessing
muttered in a husky voice
with a hand laid on the shoulder
of a rough-made coffin.

When The Photograph Was Taken…

…. he was almost out of shot
and standing in that other room,
whose shelves were packed with almanacs.
He clasped a chair back in both hands
while staring through the leaded window.
…………..Snow was melting down the glass
…………..but clung to kinks in twigs, like sherbet
…………..scooped from pre-war paper bags
…………..in the crooks of small boys fingers.

… the women wore bright summer frocks
yet it was wintry where he stood
and gripped the chair with shoulders shrugged
in very far from unconcern.
His back was hunched against a cold
refusing to explain itself.
…………..Frost and mist had turned the house
…………..across the road to black and white –
…………..a mirror-image doppelganger
…………..mockery of home from home.

… he was drawing breath to tell
a story, waiting for his opening
sentences to come along
the gravel path between the graveyard
and the hospital, like parcels
in a Christmas postman’s sack.
…………..Behind him there was choral music
…………..spread across a piano stool
…………..positioned so it blocked a door
…………..which no one was supposed to open.

And while his back was turned he missed
that failed attempt to document
his absence and he never knew
a wish to show he wasn’t there
was why the photograph was taken.

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is poetry editor of London Grip and helps to coordinate the Islington reading series Poetry in the Crypt. His new pamphlet collection The Man Who Wasn’t Ever Here is due from Wayleave in late 2017.

Laura McKee – four poems

the button tin

I remember that I had forgotten
the button tin

full to the brim
I can feel again

the pulse of a hard wave
that would break up

in the scoop of my hand
fall into spume pieces

….RAF brass

all with the loop waiting
to be threaded on to something
to slot again through a button stitched hole

we notice the stars are all dying at once
(in memory of 2016 and all who were lost)

It’s like that thing
that year

where everyone started dancing
and couldn’t stop

except now
it’s dying instead that they’re doing

All of the stars we look up to
one by one by one
with hardly time to catch our breath
in the space in between

The dancing plague seems more appealing
on the surface of things

but they all died too in the end anyway
from exhaustion

So then it’s true to say everything leads to it
A gravestone I passed said the person was
suddenly called
For a while I worry whenever the waiter has my number

she jumps in the air

grains of salt
grains of sand

a backdrop of something
maybe sky

it has no colour
and it’s not clear

where it starts
where it ends

she jumps anyway
I can’t see where she’ll land

I disappear down Love Lane

here lies love of olden
here lies love of then
here lies our love
if it had ever been

in the long grass
beaded with rain
in a small black and white bird
she opens her throat

calls out three times
in a nettle’s stubble kisses
in a gurgle over a boulder
in a pink ball still caught up

in the river’s wind
in the cars’ moan close behind

In another life Laura McKee worked in a record shop. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Rialto, Butcher’s Dog and Under the Radar, anthologies including Mildly Erotic Verse (Emma Press, 2013), and on a bus, as a winner of the Guernsey International Poetry Competition. She has been twice shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and was nominated for The Forward Prizes. Laura is mysteriously known as @Estlinin on that there Twitter.

Mark Connors – four poems

Today’s post

The usual glut of take away litter,
a brown envelope with my new tax code.

A letter about PPI which states
I’m running out of time to make a claim.

A CD from Amazon (Thrash Metal Classics)
to remind me of simpler times.

A letter I should not have sent, sent back,
three letters for someone no longer at this address.

A Decree Nisi.

After the fall

You lose your pack to local girls
unsure who has hunted who
as they pair up under strobe and mirror ball.
You leave for the murk of an undead city

where small hour ghosts give you giant berths
but you’re only a threat to yourself,
negotiating cobbles in the un-consoling fog,
a lone wolf walking like a lame duck.

You find your solace by the train station,
a kindred griever behind glass, displayed in white.
She beckons you with weary eyes.
You just want to talk but have no concept of the cost.

Every woman reminds you of your mother
so you stumble in to work it through.
She pats the bed, like an apology;
it takes an age to reach her outstretched arms.

For Whom

Forty years.
Always one on the go.
Why? Brevity, he said.
My father, who doesn’t know me,
reads Hemingway again,
for the first time.

Another dawn like this
for Gill Lambert

My stepson joined me once or twice;
the novelty wore off. I can’t recall a single time
I was accompanied by a lover on a morning jaunt like this.
But when a postman’s lad meets a baker’s daughter
they’ll be out there, catching worms.
We’re too early for the sun, too impatient
for the dawn to break at Ingleton.
We are too late for the stars.

But look, look what’s coming in above the viaduct,
A big black flying thing from Lord of the Rings,
that some would think a heron;
But never has one sported such enormous wings,
and black, black as the night we hardly slept through
in the B & B. We watch it land on a stepping stone
far too small to host it, watch it calming into balance.
It stills itself, begins its one-eyed-peer into the monochrome.

We walk towards the falls, giddy-wired, our stinging eyes
from lack of rest, adjusting to the pre-dawn light,
and there’s little else to see but one another.
But day is bleeding in. We hear a rumour of a deer
above the tree line of the river. Nothing transpires
so we impersonate that other early riser, still ourselves,
peer into a landscape of fading silhouettes, waiting
for colour, movement, waiting for something to reveal itself.

Mark Connors is a poet and novelist from Leeds, UK. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, both in the UK and overseas. Mark’s debut poetry pamphlet, Life is a Long Song, was published by OWF Press in 2015. His first full-length poetry collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken, was published in 2017 by Stairwell Books. Mark is also a managing editor of Half Moon Books based in Otley. For more info, visit www.markconnors.co.uk

Simon Williams – three poems

Small Dean

Just up the road in a dusty pull-in,
he stopped his car and ran a tube in
from the back. Perhaps he couldn’t face
the blank end of his garage, wanted
to stare up at Bradenham Woods,
as the sun dropped into the early leaves.

She and I walked up, under the trees
one day when the sun veined the sky,
lay down off the track, made love
among the ants and leaves. She said,
‘I can see you silhouetted’. I could see
the garden and my mother pruning roses.

By the end, I’d moved away, visited
occasional week-ends, while my mum
and dad got ready. Don’t remember
who left first, don’t know if he or she
went downhill to the railway halt, or up
the hill, past the lay-by, heard the falling leaves.

While We Slept

I dreamt last night
and in it
Susan was dreaming.

The dream she had
was my dream
and mine hers.

Like two mirrors
held facing each other,
the dreams reflected.

They tailed off
to infinity,
so the two points

were the whole
and both.
Is this love?

Burning Old Books

Fire is Gracie Fields,
homed coal in the grate
as it starts in this tub of a burner.
We clear shelves of biographies,
these houses of biographies,
surplus into damp mornings.

Fire is Marilyn Monroe,
instants in the smoke, crepe skirts,
Bernard of Hollywood in the eyes.
The pages curl, turn blonde leaves brown.
Draft blows up from
near the ground.

Fire is Charlotte Bronte,
when wicker suddenly flames,
old varnish governing the heat. Step back.
Here is the bad of it, lighting words
out in the middle of somewhere,
reassembling ashes.

Fire is Byron,
wood on the brazier and the flames
grasp it, climb on it to propel themselves
into the depleted air.
This affair of heat burns greedy, dies
before all pages are complete.

Simon Williams has seven published collections. He latest pamphlet, Spotting Capybaras in the Work of Marc Chagall (Indigo Dreams), launched in April 2016 and his latest full collection, Inti (Oversteps Books) was published in July 2016. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet.

Caroline Am Bergris – three poems


That will be me

in a hovercar boot sale
two hundred years hence.

A middle-aged woman
with red curly hair,
smelling of vanilla musk,
setting out her stall
of curios and books.

A girl
with smudged mascara
flicking through a yellowed volume
of Sara Teasdale poems

out of which quietly falls
A4-sized printouts
of Asda online shopping orders.

On the back
are notes for poems
from an untidy fountain pen:

attempted assonances crossed out;
lists of Googled synonyms;
experiments with line

They will be me.

Promised Land

We rot
in brownfield relationships
vacant of respect,
rust-coloured contempt
contaminating scrub,
habit hanging
like a hole-ridden fence,

because we see a clump of verdancy
on the spoil tip,
love and kindness poking
like rosebay and dandelions
from poor soil,

convincing us
things can be good,
that this tiny patch
is how the site can be, really is,
if only the derelict buildings
could be demolished,
the waste cleared.

Not noticing the expanse
– vast, abandoned,
melting into the horizon –

we kneel on the gravel,
inhale pollutants,
stare desperately at petals.

The Phone

She screamed to the woman,
“he’s not breathing!”

I was more used to hearing his screams
during the four long years of his life

-beaten in the front room
or thrown on the ground.

Worse were silences
-locked in the box,

shivering, starving, unconscious
after she tried to drown him.

I flinched when those hands
gripped me,

laughing and talking to friends, high
on amphetamines, drink, a mother’s power.

I longed
for his little hands to pick me,

call for help,
but he didn’t know how.

Social workers sometimes came –
I watched their belief,

told of eating disorders, clumsiness.
They could not ask me.

Now I can do nothing as she acts
for the ambulance centre,

knowing that my boy has already gone
-a final blow to his head.

But I feel guilty. Because
I knew.

Caroline Am Bergris has been a musical director in the theatre, a trainer in communication strategies, a stand-up comedian and a Phd Theology student. She is physically disabled after an accident, has suffered domestic abuse and has lived on the streets of London following bouts of severe mental illness. She has been mentored by Cinnamon Press and has been published by several other journals.

Órla Fay – two poems

“I’ll Call You…”

When the leaves fall like snow
heavy with their death to the ground
and the light bounces off the rivers and lakes
in the breath of the Arctic air
Skadi’s last kiss to Njord
is remembered by firelight,
a farewell by her, who loved the ice,
to him, who loved the sea.

The Sky at Night

I do not know why we fell in love
and out of love
when the swallows built their nests
and left
when the tide took your name away
when the spiders appeared
and disappeared
when the mountains were clear and beautiful
when the meadows were tall and sweet.

Like a laughing magician the night
pulled away his cloak, our stars and planets.
I pleaded for it all back,
to have those grains of sand again
and knew only the agony of the wound.

And then past storms and moonlight,
eclipses and meteor showers,
purple midnights and teal dawns
the time returns sharply,
glassy or diamond-like,
jagged-shelled and vicious
from a monstrous sea
or a universe we know little of,
except our flesh, our blood
and our connectedness to it.

Órla Fay is the editor of Boyne Berries Magazine and the secretary of Boyne Writers Group. Recently her work has appeared in The Ogham Stone, A New Ulster, The Honest Ulsterman and is forthcoming in The Rose Magazine and Amaryllis. Órla had poems long listed in The Fish Poetry Prize 2017 and The Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award 2017. She recorded her poem Lau Tzu at the Door for Lagan Online’s Poetry Day Ireland Mix Tape 2017. Órla keeps a blog at http://orlafay.blogspot.ie/

Roy Moller – two poems


Boy caught on a motorbike
bolted to the metal
of a carousel rendered
static in an instant.
Sunbeams are frozen
in earthbound spiral.
The air is surely
transistorised super pop,
and candyfloss perks
the Burntisland breeze
with the stench of singeing sugar.

The spool will be wrapped,
dropped off at the chemist’s shop
basking behind a mortar and pestle.
In a dark wood drawer
date-stamped colour prints
will rest in an envelope,
tucked next to negatives,
waiting for collection
and casual preservation
on paper by means
of adhesive corners
ever more prone to slipping.


Old man Varnham,
ninety, landed in Lambeth workhouse,
pauper nurses fetch you water
lunatics border your bed.

Old man Innis,
peppered by rust, sulphur and slag-dust,
mapping escape from Barrow ironworks,
a route through steamship spray.

Earlier settlers,
farmers, barbers, leather stitchers,
all you vigorous sepia grafters,
I’m your heir with two left hands.

Born in Edinburgh of Canadian heritage, Roy’s work has appeared in the likes of And Other Poems, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse Literary Journal and the anthology Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. He now lives in Dunbar, East Lothian.
His website is http://www.roymoller.com

Janette Schafer – three poems

When I was Seventeen
after Laura E. Davis

My mother slumped on her couch
eyes clouded with Jesus and
ecclesiastical frenzy, fingers fluttering,
fervent fear for my virginity. I did not date

or learn to drive. Always the visions.
They were of my doom or downfall,
a clutching of hand to heart.
I believed in Jesus

but He did not believe in me.
Could he whisper to my mother
of some good to come? Tears
and choking, a laying on
of hands, a casting out

of demons that oppressed
me. They spoke through her voice:
I would fall to the wide path
watching life as it passed by
and hoping one day to join it.

On the occasion of buying a used copy of my own damn book

Reasons why you should not Google yourself. Ever.
My book was on Amazon marked,
“Used. Good Condition.”
Arriving media mail, it pleased me
that it was read; dog-earred pages,
name of the most recent owner
in pristine cursive, bright pink highlighter.
The first owner was Susan—I had signed
that it was lovely to meet her and her husband.
Louis, the second owner with
the beautiful signature, I am glad
my words were with you for this long while,
and pained that you decided to let them go.

Found Sonnet #1

He seemed to be Hemingway, living life
as a strengths-finder; ready to confront
pencils on paper, blankets made of psalms.
Ladies could not put him down; he was a
real page-turner. Traveling a long trail
of captured landscapes and all-powerful
testimonies, he sojourned alone through
dark valleys, jukebox car alarms, all while
braiding the storm. He learned to act quickly,
fighting the bulls, dining on oranges
and Scotch neat. He was not a big sailor
but a shell-shocked soldier, difficult and
lost, a tightly written nuanced story.
Don’t make him a heartland; he is not home.

Janette Schafer is a freelance writer, photographer, and opera singer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a 2017 Maenad Fellowship winner in creative writing through Chatham University. She was a 2015 Arts MODE Fellowship awardee in playwriting through New Sun Rising LLC, and the resulting theatrical work “northeastsouthwest” won the Spirit of the Fringe award at the 2016 Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. Upcoming and recent publications include: Calamus Journal, Eyedrum Periodically, The Woman Inc., Zany Zygote Review, and Chatham University broadsides.

Hélène Demetriades – three poems

The tenderest offering

Morning rises
from the softest bed,
the tenderest of offerings
you can put your arm
or body through

No captain at the helm
to navigate his way,
no boat gliding us,
just a spontaneous
unfolding pouring
as the heart of all things

And silly scarecrows
dew drenched
in their fields
stiffen in rusty futility
at the sparkling
cackle of life

The world is a music box

The world is a music box
wound up with a universal key.
Birds call
traffic drones
people chatter.
Each town, each land
its own signature tune,
while the silent heart
of the earth
thrums through it all

A life of papers

A life of papers
in my hands
Reams of years
held to account
Frothing white
and shredded loose,
bulging in
the black trade dust bin.
Father’s script is
characters blown apart,
like my mother’s ashes
in my hands
that caught the wind
and flew away

Hélène studied English at Leeds University, trained as an actor, and later as a transpersonal psychotherapist. She lives with her family in South Devon, and is soon to be published in Reach Poetry, The Dawntreader and Sarasvati, (all Indigo Dreams Publishing).