The Twelfth Day of Christmas – Maria Taylor, Stephanie Green and Karen Dennison

 

Flurry

Window panes bear the weight
of winter snow. Something unseen
leaves ice fingerprints on glass.

Inside the debris: torn paper hats
novelty shrapnel from crackers
screwed-up fists of wrapping paper.

Carollers sing of birds and gold rings.
You twist the band on your finger
where a vein runs to the heart.

His face returns, crisp as a snowflake.
Your hands want to make sense of him,
you won’t be able to hold him long.

 

 

Maria Taylor has been published in a range of magazines, including The Rialto, The North and Magma. Her debut collection Melanchrini was published by Nine Arches Press and shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. She blogs at: http://miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

Snowed In

Lying in bed, I listened to the muffled deadness
of falling snow, the world gone deaf,
blanked out, its heart shut close,

snow banking up, mutely filling the lane,
sweeping in waves, cresting the hedges,
miles of white stretching to the coast.

He came to me through the snow at midnight
like a dream. His car abandoned at the top of the valley,
he waded in oil-skins and galoshes through the drifts

to hammer and shout at my door. In such weather,
wouldn’t you, even a single woman
in an isolated cottage, let a stranger in?

I knew who he must be. No one but a doctor,
midwife or vet would be out in a white-out.
My dog stopped barking, as he let her sniff

his hand and squirmed in pleasure as he caressed her.
I did not know when I opened the door,
snow would continue to fall,

even when spring came, and summer,
a deep drift of impenetrable snow
we could not dig through, would not thaw.

 

Stephanie Green has an MPhil in C/W from Glasgow University (2004).  ‘Flout’, her pamphlet inspired by Shetland landscape, folklore and culture, will be published by HappenStance, 2015 and launched at StAnza.  Originally London-based, she moved, via Wales, to Edinburgh in 2000.

 

 

 

Closed Window

She finds the photo he sent her
of the leadlight window they slept under.

She remembers the single bed, the Surrey flat;
winter’s spectral morning creeping through
the rose-quartz and frostwork panes,
marbling his face;
how they curled
their hands around mugs of steaming tea,
felt bare floorboards under bare feet,
shivered under the coverless duvet;
how the still air held a faint trace
of evening’s bonfire, its damp remains.

Like children, they had puffed out
clouds of breath and steamed up
the mirror, shrouding their faces.

On the back of the photo:
the words to a song,
his smudged and faded writing.

 

 

 

Karen Dennison‘s poems have been published in magazines and anthologies. She won the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition in 2011 and her first collection Counting Rain was published in February 2012. Karen is editor and publisher of the pamphlet Book of Sand.

Read More

The Eleventh Day of Christmas – Ben Banyard and Sally Goldsmith

 

 

 

So, This Is Christmas

Your mouth’s stuffed with tinsel;
it bristles in your throat,
just as glitter cakes your eyes.

Holly scores your forehead
and you lose crowns on the
secret flaming sixpence.

You’re becoming obese:
heart’s wreathed in goose fat.
Fairy lights cable your ankles.

Quick, open a window, taste
the frost, be a mistletoe friend,
a mulled, spiced berry.

 

 

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, where he writes poetry and short fiction. His work has appeared in Shortlist Magazine, Sarasvati, Snakeskin, The Stare’s Nest, Ancient Heart, Nutshells & Nuggets, I Am Not A Silent Poet and Fry Your Friends.

 

 

 

A Satsuma for Ann Sansom

Instead, I bet you got a Terry’s chocolate orange
in your stocking. But hey – at least this year the snow –
like Bing’s dream – was deep and goosey, and the moon
was full, and when the sun eclipsed it on the twenty first –

it was Solstice – not Christmas, shepherds, flocks, the First
Nowell – and it was shot deep red like a blood orange
in the morning sky. The park was deep, crisp and even the snow
was brighter, whiter than the sulking, brooding moon.

On our street it soon waned to just a paring – dulled, mooned
itself over the sun on the 4th January when it returned it’s own first-
in-the-year eclipse, biting out hot flesh like a segment of orange
and the park was dimmed and  tried to remember the melted snow.

The magi maybe came and went, but it came back, the snow,
just the day after, and with it the new we-will-rock-you moon.
Quick – take down flashing santas, snatch a mistletoe kiss, and first
eat up each slice of stollen, stilton and that Terry’s dark orange

before we can out the old, bring in a new moon,
welcome new epiphanies of snow. I’ll give you this satsuma.

 

 

Sally Goldsmith is a singer as well as a poet. Her pamphlet SInger was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and she was commended in the 2012 National Poetry Competition.  Smith/Doorstop published her first collection Are We There Yet?

 

 

 

Read More

The Tenth Day of Christmas – Mick Corrigan and Bethany W Pope

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to Cain? (ii)

A woman giving birth in the cow byre,
her agony loud in the cold night air.
All the bedrooms full to bursting
I slept out amongst the camels.

During the early hours
a fall of snow brought silence,
giving the lie
of a world remade,
of a world, somehow
reborn.

Later, I took the Jerusalem road,
keeping pace with a company of soldiers
loud voiced and coarse,
above me a hawk,
its shape cruciform
in grey winter air.

 

 

Mick Corrigan has been writing for years and has been published in a range of periodicals, anthologies, magazines and on-line journals. He is in his fifties (at least he thinks they’re his fifties, they could be someone else’s), and lives in County Kildare with Trish his lifer, Molly the talking wonder dog and Ben the far too clever collie. He divides his time equally between the islands of Ireland and Crete and the vast open space in the back of his head. His first collection, Deep Fried Unicorn, will be published in December by Rebel Poetry.

 

 

The Census at Bethlehem
After Bruegel

This version of the census is set where God
had never intended. The snowy town is full of men,
enjoying themselves, or bent to their work. A woman,
gently leads a child by the hand; others sweep streets, or pierce
resin-scented casks of wine or ale. The town’s edges
erupt with activity, unhalted by snow-fall.

A cluster of peasants, beside the full inn, fell
their fat sows one at a time. They are all gods,
eternal and mercurial, to the pigs who await the edge
sent to spurt their steaming blood into the pan. A man
tightens his grip on his long brown blade. It’s hard to pierce
the throat’s tough hide. This sacrifice attracts no weeping women.

Reliquary-like casks are clustered by the woman
undertaking to remain on her donkey without falling.
Their tops are crusted – caskets of snow a man must pierce
hard with a pick to start the sweet flow. God
seems far away, to him. It isn’t the Sabbath. Nearby, men
hang their heads, waiting for their work to be culled by Caesar’s edge.

In the distance, merchants skate on sharpened steel edges.
Deep into winter, the lake’s a glass that women
expertly find their faces in. One hunched man
readjusts his burden, watches his clear forehead sweat fall.
It’s ice before it lands. This worn-out child of God
grunts, and moves on, marring the lake; leaving it pierced.

Halfway to the ruined castle children shriek piercingly;
terrible in joy. Brought to ecstasy’s edge,
in pure delight, they pummel each other with snow-balls. God
never made a higher joy than this, thinks the woman
freezing by the barren oak. She says, ‘I hope no one falls.’
‘Relax, dearheart. They’re having fun.’ reassures her man.

One exhausted donkey trails behind a man.
Nazareth is far from here. The woman’s heels are piercing
the soft skin of his flanks. Still, he won’t let her fall
onto the ground. She’s heavier than she was, but the edge
fear’s lent her voice makes him protective. The woman
yearns for the end of pregnancy. She prays, ‘Please, God.’

Once, a man led a woman into Bethlehem’s snow-fall.
Under God’s eye, they rode through the town’s edge, pierced by cold.

 

 

Bethany W Pope is an LBA winning author. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), and The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Information about her work can be found at www.bethanywpope.com

Read More

The Ninth Day of Christmas – Zelda Chappel, Charlotte Gann and Maggie Butt

 

 

 

New Year

Write to me and tell me how you long for snow, the crisp white
blank of new beginnings. I’ve watched you, enjoying the poise
of waiting, the rough edge of the cusp of it grinding at our skin
’til we’re raw with it. I’m giddy with the drug of it, want you
to be too. In the coming days I’ll be looking constantly to the sky
for anchorage, unable to predict her moods. I’ll learn to absorb
the grey slate wash and squalid days of pale blue light, decipher
the punctuation of birds coming home, leaving young. I know
you’ll be listening as I devour the silence of cold, cold air, trying
to pack it away in my abdomen so I can use it later when time
is hot and frantic. You’ll like the way the cold stabs at the heart
of us when we’re fighting it. I want you to think of us encrusted
with frost, cracking and spidery across every inch of limb until
we’ve refracted every piece of light we can. I want you to feel it
when it melts, the sun as it moves into spring, the dead skin
we’ve slipped and left for ground. I want us to count up all our ends
then bury them with the bulbs, long for the bloom, feel the wait.

 

 

Zelda Chappel would be an intrepid explorer if courage and money permitted.  Instead she writes, often on the backs of things.  Most recently her poems can be found in a handful of publications including Popshot, Bare Fiction and HARK.  She is the co-editor at Elbow Room and tweets as @ZeldaChappel.

 

 

The Other Girl

The girl who came to see you earlier
trailed around these busy streets after
she left your building. Crept along
the inside edge of pavements. Steadied

herself with one hand to railings. Kept
her eyes down, except for glances over
her shoulders, to check black-coated
others didn’t walk too near behind her.

When doorways gaped, throwing warm
yellow arcs across the paving stones,
she snuffled close, snorting the scent
of overcoats draped over the backs

of armchairs, trays of bright sherry
and chocolates; scuttled across stiff
Welcome mats, while automatic doors
slid open. Closed again. Let no one in.

The Christmas lights dragged her free
of the ground. Loosed at last, she drifted
and bounced like a grey dust ghost
against the crowd’s puffa jackets, bags

of late-night shopping. Listed along
between lanes of traffic; hopped across
the central reservation, pulled on
a jerky silver thread towards the lanterns.

While you reversed out of the mews,
dipped your headlamps southward,
she climbed up on the rail, lifted her face.
Her eyes, they said, were lit up, shining.

 

 

Charlotte Gann is a freelance writer and editor from Sussex. Her poetry pamphlet, The Long Woman (Pighog Press) was shortlisted for the 2012 Michael Marks Award.

 

 

1st Jan. 4am

The dry cough of a fox shocks us awake
announces this new year. The country comes
to town and something old as fear pads through
suburban streets with rasping, strangulated
cry. It hunts its mate. We lie and wait
for answering bark, between the bands
of drunken revellers. Hear the old year
turn tail and slope off into the dark.

 

 

Maggie Butt‘ first published this poem in ‘petite’ (Hearing Eye 2011) This is her website

Read More

The Eighth Day of Christmas – Hannah Linden, Marc Woodward and Gareth Writer-Davies

 

 

December

Time of water light. Air and earth light
spread so thin and dirty, washes of fishscales

autumn skeletons fill the sky and fade.
This the sad time. Parents worry their pockets

children dredge dreams for real smiles
gifted this one day of happiness wedged

between heavy sleep or worn-thin insomnia.
Fill the house with anything that shines itself back to us

fill the void of old religion. Don’t be-grudge these little
blessings: fairy lights, tinsel, glitter. For some of us

drenched grey by the weeping sky, it is all we hold on to
as we dog-paddle the deep waters to Spring.

 

 

Hannah Linden is a Devon-based poet. She has emerged this year and is published by Domestic Cherry, Apple Tree’s Speak! anthology and several online poetry magazines. She tweets @hannahl1n

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Gift

They walked beside the river,
swollen with heavy sleet.
He felt the matted grass
crunch beneath his feet.
In his pocket he knew
a secret, terrible and raw.
She said that she was freezin’
and what’d they come ‘ere for?

Her white throat, silly heels
puffer jacket, trinkets gold.
She said that she was going back;
his fingers tightened on the cold
blade, eager in his coat.
They’d come a little way now
he could maybe do it here:
he’d already worked out how.

There were no angels singing
a church bell didn’t ring,
he felt no warm compassion,
(he never felt a thing).
But he eased up on the handle,
said “Yeah, you’re right, let’s go”
and as they walked towards the road
the sky began to snow.

 

 

Marc Woodward is a musician and poet based in the West Country. His work, which often draws on music and rural life and is frequently underpinned by dark humour has been published in various magazines and anthologies.  This is his blog http://marcwoodwardpoetry.blogspot.co.uk

 

 
Yarn

our decorations were glass
but a wagging tail
shattered them

and bought down the tree

so with needles
you wove a Noble Fir

and with hooks
crocheted soft unbreaking baubles

a lovely tree
that may be bent
but never broken

 

 

Gareth Writer-Davies was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014, Highly Commended, Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize in 2012 and 2013. He is having his pamphlet Bodies published by Indigo Dreams in 2015.

Read More

The Seventh Day of Christmas – Peter Daniels, Carole Bromley and Neil Fulwood

 

 

 

The Influenza Carol

A wreath at every advent calendar door,
no room to rest the oxen in my head:
I’m fasting to rebuild my stomach floor,
and celebrate my crawling out of bed.

The spruce is green until the needles drop,
its fairy and its lights will keep us holy:
after the darkest day, the world will stop
to sacrifice a bird and roast it slowly.

Holly can prick as if it would draw blood,
but I’ve seen cattle browse on it for choice:
a taste that sharpens up the jaded cud,
pleasure that makes their brutal tongues rejoice.

Ivy can cling as if it were the hand
that holds Jehovah’s Witnesses in prayer:
they reckon times and seasons less than sand,
for little lambs shall strip Jerusalem bare.

The mistletoe is hornier than all
the gay apparel of the druid’s wife:
it is the only bough that decks my hall,
magical parasite that lives on life.

The Christmas cactus flowers pinkly sprout,
but central heating doesn’t make a spring:
rounding the year, the tougher weather’s out,
down will come tinsel, trees and everything.

So chop the yule log, light it with a laugh,
to warm us with the burning of the old:
we’ve fed the seed-corn to the fatted calf,
I’ve starved my fever, now to feed my cold.

 

Peter Daniels’s publications include Mr Luczinski Makes a Move (HappenStance, 2011), Counting Eggs (Mulfran Press, 2012),  and selected poems of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian (Angel Classics, 2013), which was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation.This poem was published a very long time ago in an Oscars Press pamphlet called Breakfast in Bed, slightly revised since]

 

 

Snow

I hate all films that start with snow,
Christmas schmaltz, the lot of them:
Bambi, White Christmas, Love Story, Frozen

The cynical director, his assistant
with the snow machine
blowing fluffy cotton wool flakes

to muffle the cries of motherless fawn,
orphaned ittle girls in castles,
a young wife breathing her last.

I’ve nothing against a good cry
and I’ll make an exception
for Dr Zhivago and the ice palace

where Yuri will make a fresh start
despite the wolves, will write poems
in fingerless gloves, ice on his moustache

even though I know it won’t end well,
that she’ll get in that fur-lined sleigh,
that he’ll breathe a hole in the ice for one last look.

 

 

 

Carole Bromley lives in York. First collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, published by Smith/Doorstop in 2012. Poems recently in Magma, the North, Acumen. Prizewinner in 2014 at Torbay, Wells, Hippocrates Prize and Manchester Writing for Children Award.

 

 

Invasion

The scene-setting’s irrelevant: icy
pavement, fogging breath, buses
grinding up through the gears;

the point is, I push open the door
and walk into my local, already
shucking my overcoat off,

and it’s not like I’m expecting
my own leitmotif or a smattering
of studio audience applause

(there’s a reason ‘Cheers’ wasn’t
filmed in Nottingham) but a path
to the bar would be a damn good start

without battling the six-deep battalion
of office-disgorged twenty-somethings
locked in self-competition

to determine what’s loudest –
the decibel level of their conversation
or the offence to the eyeballs

of their Christmas sweaters,
hand-knitted approximations
of reindeer and elves, rendered

in the blocky graphics of an arcade game
circa the year most of them were born,
as if their grans had used as pattern

a misremembered picture of Pacman
and decided to lumber him
with an alkie’s nose and a pair of antlers;

and in the instance of the door
clunking into its frame
and the swivelling of eyes

imparting the diametric opposite
of being where everybody knows
my name, the pop-culture radar

blips from the environs of Sam and Diane
and Norm and Cliff, and a real ale pub
on Canning Circus shifts dimensions

to a ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special
where rat-a-tat sci-fi exposition
posits reindeer-centric sweaters

as the vanguard of a global invasion,
the Cybermen having reflected on
their abject trouncing last time round

and formed a new and fiendish plan
based on this year’s John Lewis ad.

 

 

Neil Fulwood was born in 1972, the son of a truck driver and the grandson of a miner. Nobody’s quite figured out where the whole poetry thing came from. Neil is married, holds down a day job and subsidises several public houses. He hopes one day to be recognised in the New Year’s honours list for his tireless efforts in this respect.

Read More

The Sixth Day of Christmas – Sarah James, Sarah Watkinson and Joanne Key

 

 

 

With Persimmon

Little things catch in my throat at Christmas:

noticing more cracked mugs, the concrete

corner of our kitchen which is still unlinoed;

the matchsticks that still prop white tiles.

 

At the table, I lose tally of our daily

uneaten fruit: a still life of shrunken apples,

hardened oranges and dented melons.

The ghost-thin space between them widens.

 

We no longer need to count places.

Sometimes now it’s easier to pretend

tears are invisible. Unleashed words

stop laughter; absence grows bigger.

 

But when I hoover this year’s tinsel

from the carpet, the vacuum refuses

to choke down its silver glitter

with the tree’s loosed needles.

 

Later, I choose a persimmon and cut

the crisp-skinned flesh into thin circles

that reveal their petalled hearts.

I lay them out just as my Nan used to:

 

an offering of sliced stars on each plate.

 

 

Sarah James is an award-winning poet, short fiction writer and journalist. The Magnetic Diaries, a narrative in poems, is published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in April 2015 and her fourth poetry collection, plenty-fish, by Nine Arches Press at the end of 2015. Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk and she is editor at V. Press

 

 

Star of Light

The moon came ten miles home with me
after Aladdin at the Alhambra.
Must have left Bradford in the dark.

And later she followed me back two hundred miles
from King’s Cross, gliding past lit kitchen windows
and the glimmer of villages, reappearing after every station.

A comet sailed alongside Finnair when I flew to you
across Siberia, eight hours of dark snow,
and vanished as we met in the morning light of Kansai.

On the Anatolian plain I understood
only fixed stars are beacons, landmarks
between us and Infinity.

 

 

Sarah Watkinson is a scientist with a 2012 Oxford University Diploma in Creative writing. Her poetry can be found in Pennine Platform, The Poet’s House Oxford  The Morning Star online:
Nutshells & Nuggets and The Stare’s Nest.  She tweets  @philonotis

 

 

 

The Light Collector

You wait in shadow, face upturned
and luminous, resting in the palms of a day.
I hope the first pale kiss of sun wakes you
before morphine finds work for an idle mind
and calls you deeper in, to follow the arc of a falling star.
Last night, I dreamt of you as a Light Collector.
You told me how you loved your work, how happy
you were trapped inside yourself. God only knows,
it broke my heart to see you grabbing at thin air
for every glowing rat’s tail that scurried
past your eyelids, away under the door.
I cried when I saw you, waist deep, wading out
to skim that thin skin of varnish off a body
of black water. In the dark field, your frantic hands
rubbing the floor, looking for buttercups.
How skilled you were at splitting a straight line
of shine from every rod of cold steel, expertly
bending it back on itself, making a grappling hook
to swing out into nothingness.
Later, when the worry inside me
became rowdy with neon monsters,
you slipped through that small window
in the bowl of my wine glass and I watched you,
so strong and tiny, casting yourself out
onto every bubble making its own way up;
those small balloons of light, popping,
and me topping-up just to watch you drop
back down to the bottom, start again, no end in sight.

 

 

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire. She writes poetry and has recently completed an MA in Contemporary Arts at MMU Cheshire.

Read More