On the Twelfth Day of Christmas we bring you Laura Davies, Marc Woodward and Debbie Strange



Spinning tops in Bethlehem

Pa was keen to be rid of me
gave me the little boat
just a board really
told me to enjoy myself.

Ma said I looked
like a walnut
all bundled up
on half a shell.

Me and the other kids
out on the lake
sliding on the ice
spinning tops.

Pa had to register us.
We came on the cart
it wasn’t far –
some came from across Judea.

Romans and their questions-
who we knew,
where we lived.
Who knew they cared?

Soldiers came
with the lists.
National security they said.
No spinning tops after that.



Laura Davis travels a lot. The people, landscapes and stories of the places she visits – and, in this case, as Bruegel imagined them -inspire her writing. Her poetry has previously appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears (November 2017). @LaDaBel




Winter Blues Club

Tonight I’ll play slide
in that pine floor
bar down town.
The sea will hurl pebbles
on the street outside
and the storm will
hit and swing
the hanging sign.

January darkness
wraps a reason
round the flatscreens,
fires and hot dinners
of front rooms,
and I know the crowd
will be slimmer
than a Mississippi chance
but, hey…
my fingers need the dance.

And it’s alright
for there are stories
to be sung,
and only a rough night –
   a night for Rojo
   at the crossroads,
   rain on tin shacks,
   engine house hobos;
   a night for black
   dog harp howls –
can stand witness
with any wink
of honesty.

So I’ll forsake the fire for
the pick and pull of strings,
the rattle of brass or glass
over rosewood board,
while pebbles clatter
at the shaking door.
Robin lifts his dobro,
Bill clears his throat,
no one plays Summertime
not even as a joke…



Marc Woodward is a musician and poet living in the rural West Country. He has been widely published and his chapbook A Fright Of Jays is available from Maquette Press.





Debbie Strange is an award-winning Canadian short form poet and haiga artist. Keibooks released her full-length poetry collection, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads, in 2015. Folded Word released her haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding, in 2017.

Note: This haiga received the World Haiku Association’s Haiga Award of Excellence in 2015


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On the Eleventh Day of Christmas we bring you Terry Quinn, Mick Corrigan and Maggie Butt





don’t fly
don’t drive
vacuum regularly

concepts my dog can’t follow
because, well, she’s a dog
and I’m human, capable of reason
even, especially, after three pints
on New Years’ Eve

though sometimes
the harder the resolution
the easier it is
while merely thinking
no more Lemon Drizzle
has me twitching
by January the 2nd

so if I ring Jen
it will only be to ask
how her garden is doing
with all that snow in Scotland
and if she happens to ask
did I enjoy my Christmas Cake
( I don’t do marzipan and icing )
then it would a lie
to say that I didn’t
and if she says
shall I bake you another
it would be rude
wouldn’t it

so isn’t it better
to be truthful and nice
to be able to use reason
to change one’s mind
to make someone happy
even if it does mean
a saturated Lemon Storm
hopefully by the end of the week.



Terry Quinn worked in the NHS as a Medical Engineer. His collection The Amen of Knowledge won the Geoff Steven’s Memorial Prize. His joint collection with Julie Maclean To Have to Follow was published by Indigo Pamphlets in 2016.




Home for Christmas

Never sure whether it will be
a warm welcome or a hot reception
from the ties that bind fiercely.
Your fellow eggs all tiger eyed,
forever fighting for the same breath,
snug claustrophobics wing stretching
in to each other’s face.

Midnight mass on Christmas Eve,
broadsides of boozey breath
and gritted teeth goodwill to all,
with, of course, all the exceptions.

On Christmas morning, a long pensive walk,
then back for your dinner, table groaning,

and all the family
wolf waiting.



Mick Corrigan has been published in a range of periodicals, anthologies, magazines and on-line journals His first collection, Deep Fried Unicorn was released in to the wild in 2014 by Rebel Poetry Ireland. His poem Snowbound has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2017/2018 by San Pedro Review/Blue Horse Press USA. He plans to do dangerous things with his hair before it’s too late.




New Year Resolution

Once I dived headlong into-the-year
sure I’d arrowcleanly into tropic water
as lithe boys off-the-cliffs at Acapulco,
aware of jaggedrocks but rush-drunk
twisting to swimhard to the surface,
gasp sweetscented air.

But I became one who dips-a-toe in pewterwaves
tremulous-tentative,  with bluemottled legs,
the chill Januarywind whippingup doubt,
stumbling on pebbles-underfoot.

My new resolve is to gallop-ungainly
into freezingwaves, hallooing-and-gasping
at the shock-of-ice.  Laughing, readyforanything.


Dr Maggie Butt is the Royal Literary Fund Fellow, University of Kent, Canterbury and Associate Professor Creative Writing, Middlesex University.

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On the Tenth Day of Christmas we bring you Josephine Corcoran, Grant Tarbard and Rosie Miles




New Year’s Day Pantoum, 3am

When the singing in the street has stopped
I dream the year in fields
Cowbells tip as baubles drop
Each hoof returns me to a kissing gate

I tramp through fields of years
My footprints waiting in the mud
Each thud returns me to a kissing gate
And trees are dragged from fields to streets

My heart is slipping in the mud
My dream is later than the last bus home
There are dying trees in every street
And lovers sleep in moon-bright rooms

The streets are later than the last bus home
Fireworks glittered past our windows
Though babies slept, lit up by moons
Untroubled by love or kissing gates

Years have glittered past my windows
Now town clocks chime as baubles drop
I snagged my heart on a kissing gate
The singing in my house has stopped



Josephine Corcoran is Writer in Residence at St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath.  She edits And Other Poems and is a Poetry Society Stanza Rep in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.  She has published one pamphlet with tall-lighthouse and a full collection, What Are You After?, will be published by Nine Arches Press in June 2018. Twitter @JosephineCorc  @And_OtherPoems




Smoke Signals

The blessed hiss of silence escorted my lax mouth
full of the feathers of gulls that might be voiceless angels.

I drip the ash of fragrant scripture from my cigarette,
tobacco colour’s the barrels of my lacquered synapses.

A tinker with all his brass has made camp in my breast
forming a tethered yoke moan sung between the sky and a Moravian star.

I’ll gladly throw Christmas morning onto the bonfire as an offering
not to go back — a vibration, a tingling, an ivy taste,

my desires are a reflection of my charlatan gouged flesh —
an assemblage box of lights, tissue paper fibre and cut twine,

a collage containing all the colours of the world,
in the gnarled nooks of priest holes. God was in that box

with just an apple and a rosary, embalmed in lacerations
swallowing churches with a country dance of do-si-dos.

We fed Him up on milk sop, hinted at bodies beneath the land,
suffered His nudity out of politeness as he spoke pandemonium

giving land to the innocent, added wiseness to dizzy love
as a waltzer of telephones rung in the New Year.



Grant Tarbard is an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron, a reviewer & the author of Loneliness is the Machine that Drives this World (Platypus Press). His new collection Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams) is out now.





The woods have been sliced, not coppiced
to make way for road and rail.
The corridors of hedge are gone.

But shy chestle crumb still makes her nest
near the rough common’s edge
near the hazel copse.

Her berry-red blood slows to cold, and yet
she’s safe as leaves here
beneath protective ground.

She is fat as a nut, golden as winter sun
and she sleeps and sleeps
while the earth so darkly turns.



Rosie Miles’s debut pamphlet is CUTS (HappenStance, 2015).  In 2017 she was recipient of an Arts Council/Nine Arches Press Dynamo Poetry Mentoring Award.  She lives in Birmingham.  She really likes radishes.

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas we bring you Tom Kelly, David Charles Gill and Sarah Watkinson


Deluge at the Angel of the North

Rain petals the car windscreen, carnations appear
near-translucent as if holding the world’s tears,
takes them with dignity, asking for more as they fall
on concrete and are lost like the past I meant to call.

The air is stifling; everything is here and soft breath love
is whispered to someone, somewhere, their hearts rise above
the sky and refuse what the day will bring as rain broods
then clatters on my car roof in this sudden deluge.



Tom Kelly is a north-east poet and playwright with eight collections, his most recent, Spelk, published by Red Squirrel Press.




Yule Tree

The storm that stayed a day ago
has found the shaping done last year.

It’s taken until now for lifting limbs
and walls of blasting ocean air
to set the apple thinnings free.

Each fork and knot and swollen joint
the frictions found in cracking bark
ancient bleeds which would not part
refused to help the hanging dead.

It’s taken weeks of pagan sun
winter-weakened     hour-starved
to crisp the tined and ripened moss
and breeze each roll of thatch away.

It took last Tuesday’s sudden snap
to show the blackbirds where I spiked
stored fruit on paring stumps
along the nearest of the trunks.

It took a closing afternoon
the third before Epiphany
to find the silence in its shape
the forest in a festival
the stand above a patient scent
the circles in its frozen height
the verses in its ornament
the setting of each winter light.



David Charles Gill studied with distinction on the creative writing MA at UEA where he held the 2016 Bryan Heiser Memorial Bursary. He has been published by Haverthorn Magazine and Holland Park Press. His first play Nineteen Short Scenes for Sons is being produced in Norwich next February.





The Vision of St Eustace in a Wood near Witney

I’m in Cogges Wood, on the land of a vanished abbey,
in rain and the A40’s Christmas shopping drone,
the last hour of daylight. I loose my Labradors
to nose the dying bracken for a scent. Then

in a mist-hollow down where the stream floods,
high in the hedge, a tree-crowned head
takes shape from winter-darkened quickthorn
and locks me in its gaze. I feel judged

like Pisanello’s hunter Placidus, when,
lymers at a loss, horse spooked, alone
with no one to gawp at his extravagant pink tack,
draped golden cape, or the yards of azure silk
elaborately twisted on his head,

the stag turns at bay, in splendour,
and puts him in his place.



Sarah Watkinson’s prize debut pamphlet Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight appeared in 2017. Her work appears in magazines including Antiphon, The Rialto, Litmus, Under the Radar and Well-Versed.

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On the Eighth Day of Christmas we bring you Bobbie Sparrow, Frances Browner and Mike Gallagher





There were men with fat wallets
in our Christmas eve kitchen
they sat with legs spread    hands in pockets
caressing car keys    their laughter
competing with Frank Sinatra on vinyl
and the clink of ice in Gin
they would see two roads on the drive home

I played good daughter
to make parents proud    I went
to pour and hand    smile
gaze drops from eye
to breast
to waist
to knee
familiarity an excuse to put a hand on lower back

I slip away to hunt for brothers    but
turn to see him grinning under mistletoe
too polite to run    too young to make a dance of it
I see my fear in his sweat
Happy Christmas!    his alcohol lips assault

the cold wall I back into is small relief
a punch line bursts my shock
raucous roars swell from the kitchen
as he returns to the party



Bobbie Sparrow is a poetry writing Psychotherapist.  She was long listed for the Over the Edge new writer’s award 3 times and short listed for the Galway University Hospital Poetry Competition 2016. Her poems have been published in both national and international journals including Orbis, Picaroon and Skylight 47.  Bobbie was the Featured reader at the Over The Edge open Mic August 2017.
She lives on the shores of Lough Corrib, Co. Galway with her husband and their two fine sons. Bobbie finds a good poem to be a good friend.




Fairytale of New York

Thanks Ma for the twenty Christmases
You rushed forward in Arrivals
When I burst through the sliding doors.

For the drive home to Dun Laoghaire
The two of us like chipmunks chattering
The sky a fiery gold.

For the rasher and sizzling sausage breakfast,
The hot water bottle and electric blanket
Toasting my bed.

For the sneaky hot ham sandwiches after
Midnight Mass and a surprise under the tree
Long after Santa stopped coming.

For the fruit cake topped with almond icing
The sherry trifle shivering on the sideboard
Mince pies flaking in pastry.

For soaking the plum pudding with whiskey
And lighting a match to see my face glowing
In the blue flame.

For saying that Christmas began as soon
As the Pogues were played on the radio
And my flight was booked.

Fairytale of New York used to remind
you of me
This year, it will remind me of you.



Frances Browner grew up in Dublin; spent twenty years in America, and now resides in Wicklow. Stories, poems & memoirs have appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies; short-listed for competitions and broadcast on radio. She tutors creative writing & history.



Christmas Morn, Dulwich Irish Club

Shortest session of the year,
that gathering between twelve and two.
Queuing up for opening time,
pilgrims from afar; a brother,
down from Manchester, a sister
from Dumfries; Danny’s estranged
daughters, all the way from Birmingham,
‘How’s your Mum – tell her I miss her;
Ah, no, I wouldn’t expect her
to have me back’. Paul’s father,
crosses the city from Stonebridge Park,
like every other year, see the grandkids,
‘My, oh, my, how they’ve grown’.
Three wise men from Cavan came,
bearers of no gifts,
babes in swaddling clothes, their first showing
‘Aw, isn’t she lovely’ or
‘He’s surely got your dimple!’
Bridie’s two, home from Uni –
‘They’re doing great’, says she,
‘If only their father could see them now’.
The gathering of the Hickey clan,
The Boyles, Hartney’s, O’Keefes
O’Mahonys, Gallaghers, Ryans,
old stock, came off the cattle boats,
second and third generations now
more Irish than the Irish themselves;
Joe Thornton in the corner; ”Do you know
Mulranny at all – my grandfather came from there,
settled in Yorkshire; amuses the kids
with his now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t
mouse-in-a-hanky. Tralee Patsy
reminisces on a town of horses, carts
and Black and Tans – never went back;
you remember those who have gone,
and those that you have left behind.
Frank Becker speaks of crazy times
on the road with the Pecker Dunne,
sings ‘Sullivan’s John’, Henry plays
the box, lashes out some mighty reels
with John and Mary, a military two-step
for Micky and Peggy – I see them still,
gliding across the maple floor.
But only in my dream. All gone now;
The Jims, Shannon and Burns,
have shooed us out the door one last time,
‘Let’s have your glasses, boys and girls’.
No home from home to go to, anymore.



Mike Gallagher, an Irish poet and editor, has been published and translated worldwide. He won the Michael Hartnett Viva Voce award in 2010 and 2016, the Desmond O’Grady International award in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Hennessy award in 2011.

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas we bring you Geraldine Clarkson, Alexandra Citron and Jay Whittaker




Through Sludge to Nirvana

Let us go sludging then, the sledges put away,
the snow a dirty sorbet over city streets
and suburban hills. Let us sludge to our hearts’
discontent, Mr Frost tweaking our toes in spite.

Let us manufacture brief heat as we flit, and flirt,
between sheltered spots, plant kisses
on numb-sore faces, chapping lips. And if I stop
on a drear deflowered path, losing my nerve,

you can chivy me on, a step and a step,
in the hope of a sudden valley over the brow,
beyond now, where easy and smiling the old ones
pour sunlight like tea from voluminous sleeves.



Geraldine Clarkson has published two pamphlets: Declare (Shearsman Books), which was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice, and Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament (smith|doorstop), a Laureate’s Choice.




Let Streetview take you home for the holidays

Hitching a white arrow up Saffold Way
the trees are all too tall. It’s garbage day.
The blue door to the old house stands ajar
but should be orange and the street wider
where in summer small feet ran over searing
asphalt for a dare. The birch in the front yard’s
gone with the brown Toyota and begonia beds.
A man in shorts is heading to go in,
his chores complete. I shadow his retreat
back to the kitchen on his left. Ahead
the L-shaped room and stairs, perhaps a cat
scratching the corner of a chair. You are
outside on the balcony, let’s say,
just out of sight, calling us in from play.



Alexandra Citron was born in Washington DC and moved to the UK at 12. An editor by day, she is a Poetry School student, member of the Blue Side Poets and published in Mslexia, Visual Verse and New Boots and Pantisocracies. @AlexaCitron




Happy Christmas, 1978

Not expected: a glossy book
with satisfying new-paper tang,
The Human Body. I am ten
the year my parents gift me sex ed.

Respectable, published by M&S,
although it contains pages
of blood vessels, skeletons, brain,
what rivets me

(sitting amid ripped-off paper,
posh chocolates, tiger-feet slippers,
hoping no-one spots my interest)
is a diagram, cross-section: fucking.

Edinburgh-based Jay Whittaker’s debut poetry collection, Wristwatch, was published by Cinnamon Press in October 2017.  She writes about transition, resilience, grief, breast cancer, and LGBT+ lives (including her own). Her poems have been published in a wide range of magazines. https://jaywhittaker.uk @jaywhittapoet

Note: this poem was originally published in Wristwatch, Cinnamon Press 2017

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On the Sixth Day of Christmas we bring you David Van-Cauter, Seth Crook and Laura McKee





The snow has come
my car wedged in

its inches of icing
pockmarked with bird tracks

Under blanket and dressing gown
I watch others graft

with shovels
enabling my escape

They scrape away cold scraps
hack at raw earth

I feel friction in the window pane
and through the net

I and my cats assess
the pickings of the day

Above us, countless flakes
breathe in a holding shape

until slowly
they release their brakes



David Van-Cauter is a personal tutor and editor from Hitchin, Herts.In 2017 he was runner-up in the Bradford on Avon festival competition and highly commended in the Bare Fiction competition. He was shortlisted for the last IS&T Cafe Writers Commission.





Like deft officials of some secret order working on The Bigger Plan.
As if all will be revealed, but only on the final Boxing Day,
when the loch drains away, seals flop, crabs scuttle, moored boats

drown in the dry; when their majesties stretch out into true form;
when we glimpse, at last, the point of the beaky plot–shout
“Oh God, No!”, look for holes of hope in their mesh, flap like sprats.



Seth Crook loves puffins, has taught philosophy at various universities, rarely leaves Mull. His poems have most recently appeared this autumn in The Rialto, Envoi, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Scotland, in the Noble Dissent (Beautiful Dragons) and Landfall (Federation of Scottish Writers) anthologies.




battery dead watching the snow

thinking how I was missing out
on a slomo film

three days before
I had found out I could do this

and turned a wave
into a slow waggle of fingers

anyway I tried
to just slow it down with my eyes



Laura McKee has some serious boots for the snow. Her poems can be found in journals including Under the Radar, Prole, The Rialto, Molly Bloom, and Pouch. You can contact her on Twitter: @Estlinin.

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