On the Twelfth day of Christmas…Ray Miller and Neil Fulwood.





Bethlehem is bolted shut
and there no jobs in this England
the innkeepers hold cardboard doors
when he been on his bike so long
that say no room and we full up
for twenty, forty miles and more
an angel’s crying for her mum
and left and right his cycle turn
the shepherd cannot find his flock
where wise men have all been and gone
a donkey’s ears have fallen off
and I have seen his ears prick up
while fathers laugh and mothers blub
that night is peeling off the wall
who bring the living wages down
as heaven crashes to the stage
and I can’t bear to watch my own
as everyone holds up their phone
but there’s no call for you, my son,
and Bethlehem is bolted shut
for there no jobs in this England.



Ray Miller has supported John Cooper-Clarke, Attila the Stockbroker and many lost causes. He’s had poems in The British Journal of Psychiatry and, believe it or not, The Guardian.




Decorations of Mass Destruction

The majority opinion being that the traditional
timeline (twelve days before, twelve days after)
is for losers, it starts in earnest mid-November:
an arms race of Christmas decorations. The goal

is to deck the estate with boughs of tacky shit,
lights flashing on-off-crimson-gold, until (viewed
on Google earth) each street looks like a crude
tinsel-coloured version of a landing strip.

You fear for the aviator (or aviatrix)
in fog-bound descent from the Heaviside Layer
banking hard to avoid an inflatable Santa
and a giant snowman looming through the mist;

or, engine screaming to match the radio’s rattle,
a Cessna strafing a glowing Nativity scene
pulls up fast and roars away, the slipstream
stirring fag ends around the lowing cattle.

The plastic Mary holds the Christ Child to her
as radiance engulfs them. It’s a searchlight beam
from the police helicopter. The armed response team
are light on gold and frankincense and myrrh

but heavy on ordinance. Best do what they say:
switch off the Christmas lights and back away.


Neil Fulwood is the son of a truck driver and could never understand, as a kid, how come Santa covered the entire world in just one night when it took his dad all day to do two drops in London then drive back to the Midlands. He has since realised that Santa isn’t constricted by legislation around speed limits and tachographs.


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On the eleventh day of Christmas…Jan Harris





Brittle as a glass bauble
poised to fall from the pine’s soft tips,
or a wine glass perched on the table’s edge.

The season when everything glitters and sparks:
party people, sequinned and jewelled,
hands meeting like flint and steel;
garlands of laughter; cape gooseberries,
their golden fruits ablaze in paper leaves.

Guests arrive, shrugging off memories
that might dampen their light:
the cards they didn’t need to write this year,
a copy of The Sense of an Ending
still waiting to be wrapped.

Later, while seasoned logs burn long and slow,
they will place the old year in the embers
watch it flicker, flare,
turn from blue to gold.



Jan Harris lives in Nottinghamshire and writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories.  Her work has appeared in 14 Magazine, nth Position, Abridged, Popshot and Mslexia.






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On the tenth day of Christmas… Chris Michaelides and Reuben Woolley





Now that rain reflected lights refract the decorated streets,

with fractured ribbons, shivering through the darkening days,

obscure, tangential, liminal,

this ancient season sinks down into Earth;

its signs:

a sharpened flint,

burnt grain,

an amber bead.

Concealed by hide of beast and pelt of fox,

fur dew- beaded, falcon – watched,

its pact with time is held through fire and frost.

The heron flying east and west does not betray

the small and lonely corners of the field and wood and fen

wherein it lays;

waiting for the turning of the earth,

the turning of the year,

the second’s icy turning.


Water freezes in the well’s dark depths

and far away a Lullay whimpers in the briars, then is gone,

and standing at the high end of the darkened Hall

we see this season in its truth.

It wears a crown of bone and shale.

Chris Michaelides was born in a village that gradually became an outer London suburb. She now lives in as small  and remote a village in East Anglia as is compatible with the daily journey to work. Music and time to look around are precious.






here I am


in a quiet room

writing these words

in a diary I never keep

here alone in December

writing in May



time is not a relevant factor

the when of these words

can be forgotten

but somewhere

there’s you

not here

somewhere else

so place can be factored out as well

it seems

the only significant things

are this ink

on this paper

and your eyes

on these words

your head

my pen

your thoughts

our words




Reuben Woolley: born Chesterfield, 1952, now living in Spain, started writing poetry in 1968 – 6 poems published in Numbers 2 – 6 of Candelabrum Magazine, Volume1 1971/72. For reasons he is ashamed to confess, stopped writing in 1980s. Now writing again and determined to continue.


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On the ninth day of Christmas…Ira Lightman and Helen Kay
























Ira Lightman makes public art in the North East (the Spennymoor Letters, the Prudhoe Glade, the Gatesheads) and lately Willenhall and Southampton. He devises visual poetry forms and then asks local communities to supply words that will bring them alive. He is a regular on BBC Radio 3′s The Verb.  Find out more here and here.







The Night Lisa Riley got knocked out of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ 2012

Mum is glued to the I player where Lisa’s

rumba  sweeps  the glassy  floor.

We fear the judges  want to  vote her out.


Ann  hangs  lights  on the  tree;  tiny glass

moments , then snowflakes and birds; each one

unfolds  our history in its own.


The TV shows  photos of Sandy Hook

School which will  shape the way

we hang  this December. A peacock


butterfly  falls open  on our  hearth,

soft as a rainbow resting on sky

forced to live through  its own dying.


Mum finds  a shoe box . On the I player tears

shine on Lisa’s face. This is the  pure  Christmas

intensity,  the pulse of Led lights.


The glow that we survived .



Helen Kay comes from Cheshire. She has been busy filling up her memory stick with verse including loads of poems about chickens. Following successes in minor poetry competitions, she has made a New Year’s resolution to seek publication.












































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On the eighth day of Christmas…Rosie Brown




Dec. 5th. 2013

We did wonder.
People were laughing, it was human nature,
just another day.

But Darkness came, we thought it would.
A dribble at first,
liquid toes dancing, teasing.

But beyond,
his vast seething body was approaching,
silent through the screaming wind.
Wrenched from the fireside, eyes turned heavenwards
but Night didn’t care.
Light was dead as if for ever.
We couldn’t see her blue dress ripped to shreds
like seaweed, guts and broken fish tails,
soft sand gold limbs crushed. Tossed away,

Fangs widened to engulf bodies of concrete and
lovingly made models of tiny homes.
He brought his gifts and hurled them through windows
smashing goodwill.

One perfect birth of morning, Light came back.
She saw her reflection in the mirrored calm
of virginal water and smiled:
Peace on Earth.

Rosie Brown is a busy artist, writer and grandmother. With a degree in Fine Art, she has since taken UEA courses in Creative Writing and has had poetry and prose published in various anthologies in the UK. Her main inspiration comes from the beautiful North Norfolk coast where she lives and which on this day was ravaged by a huge storm.






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On the seventh day of Christmas…Dick Jones and James Naiden





Stille Nacht


On the night
that I was born,
the bells rang out
across the world.

In Coventry, in Dresden,
the cathedral bones sheltered
worshippers with candles,
witnessing the ruins.

In Auschwitz-Birkenau,
the story goes,
the death’s-head guards
sang, “Stille nacht,

heilige nacht”.  Their voices
slid across the Polish snow.
The sweetest tenor was Ukrainian,
the man they called Peter the Silent.

He never spoke and he killed
with a lead-filled stick.
In the Union Factory, packing shells,
they dreamed of Moses.


In Horton Kirby, fields froze
and ice deadlocked the lanes.
My father rose in the cold
blue-before-dawn light

and cycled sideways,
wreathed in silver mist,
to the hospital.  Each turn
of the track betrayed him

and scarred by thorns and gravel,
he bled by our bedside.
My mother laughed, she remembers,
as the nurse administered.

“Been in the wars?” she asked.
Outside, across the Weald,
from out of a cloudless dawn
the buzz bombs crumpled London.

Outside a town in the Ardennes
Private Taunitz hung
like a crippled kite
high in a tree.

A cruciform against the sky,
he seemed to run forever
through the branches,
running home for the new year.

Outside Budapest three men
diced for roubles
in the shelter of a tank.
Fitful rain, a moonless night.

Sasha struck a match
across the red star
on his helmet, the red star
that led them to this place.

Extra vodka, extra cigarettes,
a rabbit stewed,
the tolling of artillery
to celebrate the day.


The blackouts drawn,
December light invaded.
We awoke, slapped hard
by the early world.

Our siren voices
climbed into the morning,
a choir of outrage,
insect-thin but passionate.

Through tears our parents
smiled: within the song
of our despair they heard
a different tune.

And as our voices
sucked the air, swallowing
the grumble of the bombs,
only the bells survived.


In addition to thirty-five years of teaching drama in progressive schools, Dick Jones has been an avid musician all his life, playing bass guitar in rock, blues, and folk bands. He lives outside London with his wife and children, and blogs at: Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages.


First published in Ancient Lights by Dick Jones, Phoenicia Publishing




 Christmas? Xmas? The New Year?


The symbols, words, for these days are stars,

Gliding in the stratosphere, abating the cold

& not letting us sleep the winter away.

The pig’s foot, the goat’s face, the fox’s twitter –

All these are a reversion to human plunder

Of other creatures’ identity, even the mule

On which Mary is supposed to have ridden

To the manger – to give birth, what else?


I am less sure of the story than of my capacity

To believe what I was told by those with cons

In their heads, outrageous fables of glued references,

Mortification, glorious state-induced suicide.

I celebrate with everyone else, but not the death wishes,

The inferred damnation of dissenters’ red-&-white faces.




James Naiden’s third novel, The Chafings of Mortals, was published in 2011. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a regular reviewer for IS&T.

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On the sixth day of Christmas…Jeff Phelps and Seth Crook




Round Robin.


(delete as appropriate)



Dear: Uncle/ Cousin/ Nephew/ distant friend ,

How are you?  Where’s this year gone?  Already at its end

and Christmas upon us.  Please excuse the lateness of this note

I’ve had a bad: shock/ memory/ dream/ bank balance/ throat.

Doesn’t time fly?  Next year I promise I’ll write

and arrange to meet up.  How about: Wetherspoon’s/ Tesco’s/ The Isle of Wight ?

Jason/ Kevin/ Tara/ Kate did the GCSE’s this summer,

got: twelve/ six/ none/ other.  Well done to him/ her! / What a bummer!

Family hols. were in: Tenerife/ Tenby/ the Transit/ Korea.

We: swam/ golfed/ argued , got: lucky/ arrested/ lost/ diarrhoea.

Peter/ Alice/ Richard/ Jill says she/he loved/despised it there

so we’re: suing the company/ emigrating/ buying timeshare.

Mother is still: living/ grumbling/ snoring in her: chair/ attic/ retirement gîte,

but I suppose none of us are getting any: younger/ older/ nookie/ vegetables/ meat.

That’s all from me here at home.  I’m ready to send

from your loving: nephew/ niece/ cousin/ uncle/ auntie/ friend

wishes for a Christmas that’s: joyous/ fantastic/ festive/ neat,

and stuffed with seasonal: love/ love/ love  (no need to delete)





Jeff Phelps has recently co-edited The Poetry of Shropshire for Offa’s Press .  His novels, Painter Man and Box of Tricks, are published by Tindal Street Press.  His poems and stories are widely published.  He lives in Bridgnorth.  This is his website.




Compulsive of December

He tries to stop, never succeeds.
Always red, with a white trim.
Relations reason with him, friends hint

huge expense,
all his free air miles used up,
but every year he does it,
same day, same suit.

Even when the kids are grown
he’ll be flying through the night,
stumbling on the roofs, breaking tiles

getting caught in chimneys,
still asking “If not me, then who?”
Won’t even consider wearing blue.



Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry. But he does like cod, poetry and philosophy.


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