Catherine Ayres



Christmas Eve tea

5 o’clock.
Light silvers the sill.
This is the season of curious moons,
when we’re lost in the velvet of ourselves,
undreaming the deep nights
 between tomorrow and the past.

Rooms flower slowly, like stars.

Here are steep steps,
a hexagon of doors,
two china dogs guarding
the gas fire’s slapped cheeks.

I find the Smarties tube of tuppences.
I shake the Virgin so the Holy Water swirls.
I am allowed to sink my face
into the Sunday furs.

In the kitchen,
a clutch of pinnied women
makes the china clink.

Cold meats,
salad from a tin.

This is not a photograph –
it’s the warm edge of the past
where the women I love
are still alive.

I thought life would slot
into a snug line
by the sink.

My kitchen is neat and cold.
Light silvers the sill.
At the window, stars.

Catherine Ayres is a teacher from Northumberland. Her debut collection, Amazon, was published in 2016 by Indigo Dreams.

Read More

Luigi Coppola



The Harvester

There is a darkness coming
a little at first, just ahead of the rest

His breath is a slow yawn
it draws in a shade
a cold and a rustling
everything sleeping, drying

An idiot-ox striding
his March drawing blood from flower
herb from hand

The stampede lasts for months

He is the Harvester
hoof and horn
giggling and dribbling

with the sun on his back
and snow in his mouth


Luigi Coppola has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize twice, appeared in Worple Press’s The Tree Line anthology and has print and online publications, including in Acumen, Ink Sweat and Tears, Iota, Magma and The Rialto.

Read More

Laura McKee




Since it was all about a son

I ask my son now that he doesn’t really believe in everything
what’s Christmas all about then? I mean what does it mean to you?

there is still a hole in the roof to follow a star through
but we have just had the boiler fixed

warm and sleepy he stretches out his body
and his answer      er            er         er      cold      but warm

because you wear
I don’t mean just you
but you wear
way too many layers of clothing

I ask him does that make you just right
or too warm then
too warm he says assertively
half asleep and fully a wise man



Laura McKee knows the handwriting of all the elves but doesn’t have the teeth for sellotape. Find her spearing the Turkish Delight, or on Twitter: @Estlinin and newly hatched on Instagram: @pretendpoet1

Read More

Angela Readman





The pelt drags me across sand like a drown animal.
I walk miles, eyes fixed on Birling Carrs, a lime light
of seaweed and coal. Birds nesting in cliff face ,
a chorus stuck in a skull. I didn’t know what was here,

buried by tides. I almost missed it – a packet of pills
at nineteen, another at thirty, yet I’m here.
Salt-slapped and grit toothed, sea glass in pocket,
a blister pack of rock pools in my hand. I kneel

to the fur of pondlife, stroke dulse- a strap
bright enough to tie me to this moment alone.
The sun steals a peek of itself laid on the ground.
I sit with it a while. Lichen observing me breathe,

water and shadow a snakeskin boot on my feet.
Snippets of rock pipits popped in my mouth,
I suck an almost song and head back.



Angela Readman is a twice-shortlisted winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Her debut story collection Don’t Try This at Home was published by And Other Stories in 2015. It won The Rubery Book Prize and was shortlisted in the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She also writes poetry, and her collection The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in 2016. Her first novel Something Like Breathing will be published next year.

Read More

Jenny Hope



On becoming a bee

Choosing when was difficult. What time of year?
Winter could get me five months or so, if you were lucky enough
to make the cut, to be spent mostly in the hive. Bee Hygge?

Honey-scented? I’m over romanticising. It’ll be clustered
together for warmth. And besides, these bees aren’t Danish.

Spring to summer might be best, a six-week stretch,
but I’ll pray for decent weather. I’m reliably informed
I can go in at cleaner level – (accreditation for prior learning they called it).

My children wanted to know – Why?
Children always do – especially when full-grown.
Why? Because my job here’s done. You don’t need me now.

I tell my children I have to work my way up before I get outside.
Cleaning, nursing, building, guarding – “Oh you’ve done all that already.”
I know, (but marvel how they do actually remember this)

“You’re old enough to do it for yourselves.”
They’re not impressed. “I’ll always be your mother…”
Of course I’d let them watch the process of me becoming bee.

God only knows they’ve seen the worst of me already and besides
they need the closure.

Will it hurt? What will happen? What will you do?
They’re still asking the “why?” My heart buzzes.
They look unsure.

“When I do get out…” “You’ll look for us?”
“Yes…” they’re happier now. “What else will you do?”

“Oh…I’ll have to learn to shit mid-air. They both thought this funny
especially when I told them I’d get on-the-job training.

So the day came. We went into the garden. Yes, the sun was out,
a warm mid-spring day. I wouldn’t see the sun for a while.

“Here’s where I turn myself inside-out.”
I pause for effect, and to lighten the moment.
“ and I officially become hard-arsed.”

A dandelion clock rolls between us.
“Mum…” My daughter’s hand holds mine.
My son catches the clock.




Jenny Hope is a writer, poet and workshop facilitator. She lives on top of a hill in wildish-Worcestershire. Her websites are and

Read More

Clive Donovan



White Blues

The icebergs float in stately queues
Cracked off from a continent fringed by blue.

Come close, the boatman says,
You can tap them, make them speak.

We drift by nearer, scraping moiré ice
And I strike the giant block and it trembles with song

Deep and groaning with great hollow voice,
Recollecting aeons of winter and snow,

Its flakes compact and densely crushed;
Frozen and firm, this antique slab.

Tight bound, for now, in bright orange mesh,
Throbbing engines launch its brisk northern dash

To the harsh and thirsty melt-lands of Arabia.
Mournful sea lions flap goodbye,

Penguins slipping off like oiled fish
Scramble back to their unstable shore.



Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon. He has had many poems published in poetry magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Salzburg Review, Ink Sweat & Tears. He has yet to publish a first collection.

Read More

Ali Whitelock



the cumquats of christmas past

you hailed your taxi tuesday the eight––
eenth of february 2014 at four twenty seven p.m.
i watched it approach swerve to the kerb
its back doors fly open––if this was death i saw it
crouched behind the wheel & jaded as a night
shift driver full of red bull & no doz & cheap 7/11
coffee ten thousand cigarette butts spewing
from its ashtray’s filthy mouth
the driver bundled you in––no fanfare
no prayers no bach cantata sung in sotto voce
that might accompany you on the fresh black
tarmac of your new road ahead––& nothing
soft for you to lay your head on
just a cracked vinyl seat stale cigarette
smoke a strawberry scented christmas tree jiggling
like a tea bag from the rear view mirror. i lay my
hand on yours leaned in whispered something like
i’m sorry made sure your pyjama sleeves were clear
of the door before pressing it closed as the first
bubbles of fermenting sadness rose in me
and i forced them down like cumquats into a jar
filled with brandy in preparation for christmas
which was still ten months away & for weeks i kept
cramming till the skins of my cumquats tore
their flesh bled out & you could no longer
tell where one cumquat ended & another
& when finally christmas came i half
decked my halls whispered infrasonic compliments
of the season too low even for a passing whale hung
empty stockings from the mantle their gaping mouths
speechless by the un-kindled fire & when finally
lunch was served & those of us left were gathered over
turkey & ham i took my jar of preserved cumquats
from the dark of my pantry, made my way around
the table & heaped everyone’s plate with a side of my
compressed orange grief.



Ali Whitelock’s poems have been published in several magazines and journals. Her memoir, poking seaweed with a stick…. was published to critical acclaim and her poetry collection, and my heart crumples like a coke can will be released in 2018.

Read More