On the Second Day of Christmas we bring you Gill McEvoy and Jinny Fisher




A high price to pay at their journey’s end,
they travelled a long way; he on foot,
she on a mule
and she heavy with child.
All doors were closed against them.
No welcome anywhere.
And the night bitterly cold.

There are others travelling now,
paying a cruel price
for unsafe boats, or crowded lorries;
men, children, women heavy with child.
Many die on the journey.
No welcome anywhere
and the nights bitterly cold.

How they would be glad of a stable,
the warmth of beasts,
the small comfort of straw.


Gill McEvoy is a Hawthornden Fellow. Her second Cinnamon Press collection is  Rise  ( 2013.) Gill runs many poetry events in Chester where she lives.




Christmas Eve

They had always dressed the tree together—
surrounded by gold-sprayed pine cones
and evergreen wreaths.

Each year, a new ornament, marking
a shared city break or afternoon stroll
around a craft fair.

Tonight, she uncurls her fist, sloughs off
her ring, considers the imprint
that remains.

She swings the ring a moment from her finger-tip,
slides it over a drooping branch.

The fairy, impaled on the tree’s top stem,
stares paint-eyed across the room.




Jinny Fisher was a classical violinist, and is now a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She lives in Somerset and is a member of Juncture 25 and Wells Fountain Poets. Magazine publications include The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, and Prole.





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On the First Day of Chrismas we bring you James Parris and Catherine Ayres




The Alchemist

The house was strange without one.
Corners where it could be swelled
daily in their emptiness
and threatened to topple the festivity.

Contrary under her gaze, he determined
that a squat bought thing just wouldn’t do,
and, shedding skeptics,
picked me as acolyte for misadventure.

And so in speckled overalls, like skins,
treading dampness into itself,
we left Crosby-carolling
for the trees who shivered at garden’s end

and saw in hand and hand on trunk,
he hoisted me into the twiggy innards
and spiced stench of sap
to amputate a branch or two or three

that we might puzzle together
in counterfeit of Christmas.
Metal teeth chattered bark to pulp
until my knuckles roared.

Then on the grass he laid our loot
and crouched and bent and sculpted,
rehearsing imperfect forms
gloveless, beneath the limbs’ original,

and twisting out an edifice, like origami
patterned from some secret
blueprint, invisible to me,
he stood content over his design.

Inside, we propped our patchwork nature,
boughs shot out like a mad star,
where he hoped it might not
shout its own lie loud enough

for her to tear it all to pieces.
Still, she came, and stood, tramadol online no rx and, silent,
circumspected for a hanging second.
And she smiled.

From one angle it was almost a tree.
But from every side his alchemy
now seemed to warm the house,
fuller in its strangeness.




James Parris writes from East London. He has just begun to turn his mind to poetry





The single woman and the lights

They’re bunched in the bag like an addled brain.
Last Christmas it was easy: he shook them free,
or maybe it was the mulled wine, the thought of his hands.
Now each strung head is desperate, locked in a final kiss.
I spider them apart, an afternoon lost to unpicking,
set them straight as graves on the living room floor.
It’s dusk. I take them in my arms and we slow dance
round the tree. When they wince through the tinsel
my eyes swell. These plucky buds. Another year.




Catherine Ayres lives and works in Northumberland. She has a pamphlet published by Black Light Engine Room and a collection – Amazon – to be published by Indigo Dreams Publishing next year.

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Matt Black





I don’t know how long I’ve been planning spoon rebellion. Maybe it’s just come over me, thinking about you once again, and carefully drying all those spoons in the cool drawers in your house. I know it’s too late now, you’re gone. And yes, we’ve wept and drunk champagne and scattered your ashes in the ocean, but it does satisfy something even now, the idea of getting drunk and spoons rebelling. Spoons up in arms leaping out of drawers, spoons laughing and jumping up and down on your polished tabletops. O mother, what would you say? Spoons doing spoony tap-dances up the walls and over the ceiling like upside-down Fred Astaires.

But that’s the way it comes over me, and it makes me giggle, when I think about solemnly drying up your spoons and putting them away under the shadow of your clenched lip. Your silence, your busy busy busy behind me in the kitchen somewhere. The spoons we must use for your family-famous puddings, gooseberry fool, windy pud, the silver spoons we are meant to be grateful for inheriting. Here they are, in the frayed wooden drawer in the kitchen barn at the back of the old house. In the romantic south of France, where very un-romantically you have no money. And very impractically we have to travel all the way from England to even see you. And then we have to dry up those spoons so carefully.

But the wine is cheap, and it’s good to be here with you. Even like this, you busy washing up, clenched lip, thinking about your paintings and having no money and looking worried. Ok, so maybe I haven’t dried them up the way you wanted, and I think I will get drunk. And in the back of my mind, yes, spoon rebellion is well begun by now. I’m twenty-three, and I have no idea what I ‘m doing. The pressure’s on, and my tongue is about as articulate as spoons. As your own, as your own zone of silence behind me, busy busy busy, there you go. You flatten your tongue and I’ll flatten mine.
Anyway, for now I’ll just dry them up and put them away. Why not? After all, they’re only spoons, aren’t they. It’s no big deal. And we’ll do something different in a minute. Have a cup of coffee and talk about something jolly. Yes, that’ll be better. So there they are, spoons all put away now, lying in the cool shade, next to the knives.


Matt Black lives in Leamington Spa, and was Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2011-2013). He invented the world’s first Poetry Jukebox, and works in schools and at festivals.  Website http://www.matt-black.co.uk/

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Lana Bella


Eleven Years Tasted Like a Thousand Year Old Chinese Egg

eleven years tasted like
a thousand-year old Chinese egg
doorway cracked
windows rusted at the seams–
the nights grew thin and red
summer gripped me in its fist
then winter tricked your shadows into my eyes
leaving imprints on walls
the tall looking glass
with rain and snow poured heavy like the China sea,

I went to your house
ghosts roamed behind the chiffon curtains
faint but they left me breathless,
distance was a skeletal landscape stirred in smoke–
this was heartache I knew
still I came
and grieved
woke to eat the black preserved egg
slept when the sky broke into yellow yolk on my lips and skin,

back to front
I was narcotized with the kernels of your excess
your painful sincerity
your articulate cold–
now I smoked your cigarettes
tasted the chemicals
I blew out wisps of clouds
the whiteness sat at the tips of my fingers
resolved to leave me near invisible.

Lana Bella  has a diverse work of poetry and fiction anthologized, published and forthcoming with over ninety journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (2015), Aurorean Poetry, Chiron Review, Contrary Magazine, QLSR (Singapore), elsewhere, and Featured Artist with Quail Bell Magazine, among others.  Lana divides her times between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a wife of a novelist, and a mom of two frolicsome imps.

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Graham Buchan





Al Hillah

The young woman is smiling in my photograph.
She points to a picture of her father.
He is smiling, but he was murdered.

The young woman is smiling in my photograph.
She points to a picture of her brother.
He is smiling, but he was murdered.

The young woman is smiling in my photograph.
She points to a picture of her grandfather.
He is smiling, but he was murdered.

Graham Buchan graduated in Chemical Engineering but worked as a freelance filmmaker. Two books with the tall lighthouse and individual poems in the Express, Morning Star, Rialto, Dream Catcher, International Times. He has read in New York, Austin and Iraq.

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Michael Bennett





Paint cakes the bristles in thick lumps
It tears
It pulls
It refuses to detach
The sink bleeds slowly
In slate grey
In Blue Lake
In Red Ochre
In Yellow Light
On the table the painting lies
Fields are blocks
Skies are bare
Trees are lines
The brush won’t paint
The knife is ready
To scratch life into oil




Michael Bennett was born in 1987 and grew up in Suffolk. His short fiction and poetry have been published by Litro, The Lampeter Review, Jon McGregor’s The Letters Page, and several online journals. When not writing, he plays the viola, paints, and makes things out of paper. Outdoors, he tries to learn the names and ways of plants.

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Bridget Duquette




Dog’s Eye

On our way to Quebec City, Alex decides to track down a friend from his past life so we turn off the highway and drive through the suburbs of Longueil until we find this guy’s apartment, off-white and dingy. Sylvain answers the door wearing a sagging wife beater and sweat pants, eyes half closed, lopsided smile on his face.

“Hé, ça fait longtemps qu’on s’est pas vus, man!”

I watch them shake hands like guys do, clenching each other’s fists and pounding one another on the back, hard and dry.

“This is Bridget,” Alex says. “Elle est anglaise.”

I flinch.

“Oh yes? You don’t speak any French?” Sylvain asks.

“I do, but English is better…Je me sens plus à l’aise.”

“Hé, elle est bonne! You’re good!”

In the living room a bearded dark-skinned man is slumped in a bean bag chair, Game Boy held up to his face. He does not look up when we enter and Sylvain does not acknowledge him. We sit. Sylvain pulls a bag of weed out from under the coffee table and begins to assemble a joint while Alex looks on hungrily.

“You smoke?” Sylvain asks me, and I shake my head.

“She doesn’t do anything,” Alex says. “She’s a good girl.”

From the hallway there’s a clicking on the tile floor and a small black form emerges from the shadows. A French Bulldog, panting cheerfully. I beckon to him, snapping my fingers, and he comes running towards me, tongue lolling out of his wide mouth, eyes bulging crazily from his head. His eyes –

“He banged his head. Right here.” Sylvain taps the corner of the coffee table. “Fucked up his eye real bad.”

The dog nuzzles my feet, my knees, looking up at me expectantly. His right eye is swollen and puckered, like an overripe grape, covered with a thick film. He wags his stumpy tail and rubs up against me, eager for affection.

“That’s nasty,” Alex says, holding his lighter up to the end of the joint. The dog’s ears perk up and he turns towards Alex, panting, drooling, hopeful.

“I’m not gonna pet you,” Alex sneers, grimacing as he takes in a huge cloud of smoke. Unfazed, the dog returns to my feet and I tentatively stroke his back, unable to look directly at him.

“Did you bring him to the vet?” I ask Sylvain, who is sucking at the joint with gusto. He shakes his head, coughing.

“No. Too expensive, you know?”

Smoke wafts over me, stings at my eyes. I keep petting the dog, hoping to convey through my touch that I’m sorry for all he’s been through and that it’s not his fault he’s repulsive and that even though I can’t look at him without gagging he’s a good boy.

Across the room, the guy in the beanbag chair has passed out, his Game Boy resting on his gut as he snores and wheezes. Alex gives Sylvain twenty bucks and Sylvain gives Alex a plastic baggie stuffed with weed. More than twenty dollars worth, but they’re old friends after all.

We don’t stay much longer after that. I scrub my hands in the bathroom before we leave, feeling somehow infected by the dog’s bad eye, needing to cleanse myself of its hopeless curdled gaze. The dog trots after us as we head for the exit, whining and yipping, desperate for a touch, a stroke, a kiss. I can’t bring myself to look down at him. Sylvain and Alex say goodbye in the doorway, smack each other hard on the back, then we’re back in the car, driving along potholed roads, the trailer behind us weaving and shaking as we make our way to Quebec City, to the home we will share.




Bridget Duquette studied English Lit and Translation at the University of Ottawa. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and watching her peers flourish in their chosen fields while she stares at the framed art degree on her wall. She can be found on Twitter @Bridget_Writes.

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