The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Carole Bromley



If I’d been Santa Claus

If I’d been Santa Claus

I wouldn’t have lived in a semi

in a place in North Yorkshire;

I’d have set sail from

my fur-lined igloo once a year

over the whole sleeping world.


I’d have grown a wonderful beard,

slopped about in an old red dressing gown,

roaring my head off and left

a map of wet footprints.

My best friends would have been

Thunder and Lightning and Blizzard.


I wouldn’t have met my kids

but spent the whole year alone

in my glittering ice-house imagining

the thing they most wanted

and leaving it for them

to find when they woke up.


I‘d have met only the stars,

the moon and the velvet dark,

the owls, the bats, a curious fox

and the children of strangers

for one startled moment

before sleep claimed them.


If I’d been Santa Claus

there’d have been no

swanky play-stations,

no naff Disney spin-offs,

no carrots, no coal, no disappointment,

no wrinkled apple in the toe of a sock.





Carole Bromley’s first full-length collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, was published by Smith/Doorstop in 2011. She teaches Creative Writing for York University and writes a poetry blog at

(If I’d been Santa Claus was first published in A Guided Tour of the Ice House, Smith/Doorstop, 2011)




Read More

The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Agnes Lehoczky




from Siula Grande


 White night 1


The forecast is for newer snowfalls. For another fading face, another forest to be erased with transparent ink from the landscape and then forgotten. The last thing you would want is to freeze thirty thousand feet above sea level. Above cloud-level. Magnolia trees flower more than once a year, they say, their new leaves, the sprouts, fluffy nestlings, puffy squabs. These oval sentences always give you hope. It’s another sharp manoeuvre into the altocumulus mackerel-sky as if sleep-hiking above Siula Grande. It’s just another rock-craft, snow-craft, mountaineering with a single ice-axe by yourself. The plane perforates a blizzard finally, an insomniac face dipped into a pile of pillows. But the main thing is to trust the pilot, and pilots from that country are renowned for their reliability, you mutter to yourself, when Brno crops up on the satellite, the old town’s parched monks spring out of a hip flask, one by one, twenty-four Capuchin cocoons, in your pocket, curling like talismans of friendship. You too, shut your eyes, mummification is your intention. Pass me a pillow of bricks, you whisper. To strip off your old skin like a winter coat. Venice on the navigation screen is a throbbing dot. Canals stink, your text reads: wait for me on Campo Ruga, it is the rim of the universe, remember. When you get there, the square is empty, snowed up. The washing’s blown away from the lines. The lines, which crisscrossed the sky from roof to roof, are now only vapour trails, flickering neon signs above the boarded up entrance of the bar from where you once counted terracotta chimneys and tight laundry ropes. You’d rather think of Brno for now, its mummified brothers lying in rows, clad in robes, draped with rosaries, clutching a compass, deep cracks and craters  etched into their papery features although their snoring is near audible if you actually listened. There is a long and elastic queue for the bus, like an accordion panting in and out. A winter coat’s left sleeve lifts itself towards the altocumulus mackerel sky. Look, why do faces dissolve with the gloss of the glass? On buses and on trains and on trams. I breathe and because of that sudden puff, I wipe out the foliage of forests. I blow all the leaves off the magnolia tree. They scatter like black and brown Indian Runner Ducks in the snow. The North Wind creeps in and out through the nostrils. I pull my red suitcase after my shadow. You’ve now begun your descent, the airhostess hisses into my ears, a hysterical lullaby.





Agnes Lehoczky an Hungarian-born poet and translator, was born in Budapest in 1976.  She holds a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing from the UEA. She has two short poetry collections in Hungarian, Station X (2000) and Medallion (2002) and her first full collection, Budapest to Babel, was published by Egg Box in 2008. She was the 2009 recipient of the Arthur Welton Poetry Award and the winner of the Daniil Pashkoff Prize 2010 in poetry and has recently won the Jane Martin Prize for Poetry of Girton College, Cambridge. Her collection of essays on the poetry of Agnes Nemes Nagy Poetry the Geometry of Living Substance was published in 2011 by Cambridge Scholars.  Her second collection Rememberer was published by Egg Box in 2012



Read More

The Tenth Day of Christmas: Sarah Bower



An Epiphany


‘I can’t help you,’ says the guy on the desk. ‘Look at this place. The Israelis bomb it and then they drive tanks over the rubble, How would I notice one more lump of concrete among all the rest?’

‘Not concrete,’ mumbles Caspar. It’s the first thing he’s said all day. It’s not just his pallor that got him the name Caspar, but his freakish capacity for silence.

‘I told you,’ says Mel, ‘it’s not from round here. You get me? Just listen to that Geiger counter…’ Mel holds it up. It crackles away like a badly tuned radio. ‘Here somewhere, innit? If I were you, I’d let us look.’

The guy shrugs, one of those shrugs that ripples around the Mediterranean shore and could mean anything. Mel, Zar and Caspar take it as consent, replace their helmets and breathing apparatus and move off towards the guesthouse garden. The Geiger counter’s crackling crescendos as they clamber over smashed furniture and tumbled lemon trees towards a tool shed that appears miraculously intact. Mel Takes a blast of his oxygen and pushes open the door. Zar, whose gran brought him up a Seventh Day Adventist, invokes the name of the Lord in a voice that sounds like Darth Vadar because of the helmet. Caspar’s white and silent as ever.

The dusty light falls on the faces of a man and a girl.

‘Are you them?’ The man shows no fear, as though three blokes in radiation suits are just what he expected to see when the door opened.

‘Mate, are you?’ Mel waves the Geiger counter at him. ‘You can’t be human. You’d be coughing your guts up – literally – at these levels if you were.’

‘It’s not us,’ says the woman. She holds out a bundle towards Mel. ‘It’s him.’

Zar takes the baby. Zar’s used to babies; he’s got three sisters and they’ve all got kids. He folds back the scrap of sackcloth and gazes at the scrunched up little face that looks new and old, furious and full of wonderment all at the same time. ‘Looks human to me,’ he says.

‘No,’ says Caspar, and because he says so little, his conclusion carries real authority.

The man picks up some shards of metal from among the garden tools littering the shed floor. They have the changeable sheen of a starling’s wing and the edges are blunt to the touch, as though something has broken along pre-arranged lines. ‘No,’ he agrees. ‘We found him lying in the middle of all these, almost like he’d hatched out of an egg.’

‘Except we saw it land,’ adds the woman. ‘We thought it was a shell to begin with but Yussuf said it wasn’t.’ She flicks Yussuf a nervous look. ‘He knows more about that stuff than I do.’

‘Shut it, Mariam.’

‘We’re not interested in Yussuf’s politics,’ says Mel, snapping off the Geiger counter, ‘we’re interested in the baby. He needs our protection.’

‘Our silence,’ adds Caspar.

‘Bruv,’ says Zar, ‘what you most needs is to learn growing up different is a cross you has to bear.’



Sarah Bower is a novelist and short story writer whose fiction has been published in nine countries. A resident of Suffolk, she also works as a mentor and creative writing tutor and is a former editor of the Historical Novels Review.


Read More

The Ninth Day of Christmas: Paul Sands, James Naiden

Many A Hog


this twenty twelve
has not ended quietly

see dandelions of every hue
roar its surrender
and lanterns of hope carry prayers
to their oblivion

while ill attired and worse tempered
the Wife Beaters consorts
surge clanging and clattering
through a wide awake slumber,

where the revellers whoop and greet,
though behind the curtains of the lonely
there is weeping

and I cannot sleep
for fear of forgetting
yet I dare not write
for fear



Paul Sands was born in 1962 and spent his formative years close to the River Trent in Nottingham. He began writing in 2010 and recently self-published his first collection of poetry,” ego…ergo”. He is currently compiling a follow-up collection.



December Brings the Holidays

Of course, I mean the Christmas holidays,
Although termed otherwise by others –
Jews, Muslims, non-believers. Who says,
Then, it doesn’t matter what bothers
Us, such enjambing thoughts above the waist,
Only in the head – one’s brain – where denial
Lurks as a ghost, other people’s bright haste,
But we need to adore, without trial,
A world beyond our constant fighting,
Elections meant to calm but do not –
Just look a century ago, the fling
With Roosevelt and Asquith, quite unsought.
Will Obama, Cameron, Merkel ring
Cheer in or out? Will they smile? Will they sing?



James Naiden was Born 1943, American, currently in Minneapolis, MN.  His most recent book The Chafings of Mortals, a novel was published December 2011.  He is a regular reviewer for IS&T.


Read More

The Eighth Day of Christmas: John Regan





This evening’s clouds capture

The private imperative of prayer.

The impossible confluence

Of sky, water in air.


There is something in them of us-

Our bending toward silent speech.

Bearing at an event horizon,

To each, an ever-escaping purchase.


Cordite, rain and oilseed rape.

The shrill train, the rolling voice.

The city is that way- this,

The village. Past tense.


Oh I would lie among

The field’s cool stalks

And listen for you along

The branch continuum.



John Regan  is a Glaswegian living in Cambridge, where he is a research fellow in aesthetics, historiography at Clare Hall. He believes that poetry should be spoken aloud.



Read More

The Seventh Day of Christmas: Adam Warne, Zelda Chappel



A Christmas Carol From Ovid

He dumped her by text.

She sat outside Costa and read the message:

“i don’t think we should see each other anymore”

What a dick.

She wasn’t going to let him make her cry.

She started to cry.


As she cried

the tears flowed down her cheeks

in burning rivulets.

As she cried

the tears began to burn away her skin.

Fur pushed towards the surface,

a pair of antlers sprouted,

her nose went red.


She cried and cried

until she had forgotten herself

and off she galloped,

leapt into the night

heading north.



Adam Warne: In the past Adam was part of 28 Sonnets Later and performed at Luton Fringe Festival with The Poetry Choir. He got a degree from UEA, organised cabaret nights and his poetry appeared online and in The Rialto. Following these successes, he’s now employed to push trolleys at Asda.




Afterwards we found


space for whiskey-stained ghosts to pass between our lips.

Tonight we’ll mark the days’ shortness with our breaths

and taught skins.  Touching, clouds of whispers dissipate

slow, linger cold as orbs

hung low.


From the pavement, streetlamps pick out laughter with

precision, watch it dance with night ’til we fold mesmerised

by our own noises.  Tonight we are caught moving just out

of reach.  The cold never felt

so warm.



Zelda Chappel is a poet and occasional photographer living halfway between the city and the sea.  Slightly obsessed with fountain pens and tea. Previously published in Popshot, South Bank Poetry and Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2012 (and a couple of others).



Read More

The Sixth Day of Christmas: Penelope Shuttle




London, December

I only love London in winter



Daybright city darts in

for an evening paper,

comes out dark-savvy, neon-wise…


trace the city

in your tilting eye, river

cocking its snook through the post-codes,


idling past fiscal towers,

great  see-thru  slabs  of executive toffee,

shrugging off this faff of a city without a second glance


as one rose-red bus

half as old as time

wheedles its way down Threadneedle Street


and bridges lie low for fear of burning

and a million mobiles raise

their home-bound voices


and forests of Xmas trees,

chopped off at the root, encircle London,

closing in…


Once I knew a man

who wished his house

had two magical doors,


one leading to London,

one to Cornwall –

‘think of the travelling time we’d save…’


But London, my love,

has so many doors

all hitting the nail on the head,


London in its mysterious cloak of dark

not much darker than the light,

city where a painter


can only work on his ‘Crucifixion’ canvas

when he’s blind-drunk,

yes, that’ll be London, I think



Penelope Shuttle‘s most recent publication is Unsent: New and Selected Poems 1980 – 2012, from Bloodaxe Books.  She will be giving readings from Unsent next year at Bristol Poetry Festival, the Charles Causeley Festival and other venues.  She lives in Cornwall.


Read More