On the Tenth Day of Christmas we bring you Rosie Miles, Laura McKee



Take the stress out of entertaining

Taking our inspiration from chefs marinated in
spicy vodka we’ve got lots of intrepid sprout trends
to add a little sparkle as the centrepiece of a Boxing Day
hanging.  The traditional way makes it even more
showstopping.  If you fancy a sustainably sourced Middle Eastern
expert the last date for Christmas orders is 15 December.
The meat cooks on the bone but lifts away for easy carving.

If it’s the wow factor you want we’ll deliver more than
1000 different Belgian bakers to your door: they’re
soft and fluffy, wrapped in chocolate and impeccably traditional.
All over the UK and Europe small family firms lightly
dusted with gold are hiding in the middle, but
our selection of hand-picked Banana and Bacon Trifle
specialists can take care of everything.  Cheers!



Rosie Miles lives in Birmingham, where her poem ‘You enter’ is etched into King’s Heath Urban Village Square.  Her debut pamphlet CUTS was published by HappenStance in 2015.  She doesn’t like Christmas pudding but does like jelly.

Note: Take the stress out of entertaining is entirely constructed from the Waitrose Christmas Festive Food Guide 2016.




then at the end of the year

she had all of these words
that she’d never said
out loud

she could hang them on a tree
that pretended to be alive
in the living room

wooden soldiers
in brightly painted coats

some that shone
and curved
reflected the needles

one with a name
painted on in glitter glue

a string of lights
which stopped working
if one of them popped



Laura McKee started writing by mistake. Her poems have turned up on postcards to friends, in journals, on a bus, and in two anthologies. She has been shortlisted but hopes to get taller.  Contact her via Twitter: @Estlinin.

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas we bring you Rachel Burns, Sue Wallace-Shaddad





Damascene describes the field in moonlight
we have to look the word up in the dictionary

to ornament (e.g. iron or steel) with wavy patterns.
Your sister is colouring SpongeBob

in her SpongeBob Christmas colouring book.
She sits at my desk in the swivel chair and I tell her

she looks like a real professional. She concentrates
on keeping the felt tip within the lines

colouring the tiny fairy lights on the Christmas tree
and I carry on reading the bedtime story.

Your dyslexic mind understands words
like damascene but can’t read them on the page.

I was always hiding in books, hiding from things
my nine year-old self could not yet begin to comprehend

and I learned from reading.
Watership Down taught me about survival

that strength and resilience can be found
in the unlikely of places. I watch you, my children

learning the hard way, chipping away at words
like little birds trapped under the ice.

Rachel Burns is a poet and playwright living in the north-east and published widely in literary magazines including South, Brittle Star, Ambit, Obsessed with Pipework and The Interpreter’s House. In 2016 she won second place in The Writers’&Artists’ sonnet competition judged by Ruth Padel.






The ice has shifted
opened up a hole.
Glass hangs heavy
from the rooftops.
Small feet skate
in circles of time
as Siberian winds
descend, freeze
the edges of snow.



Sue Wallace-Shaddad now concentrates on writing poetry after a long career with the British Council. She is Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society (SPS), has had work published in anthologies, SPS and British Council in-house magazines.

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On the Eighth Day of Christmas we bring you Rose Scooler (trans. Sibyl Ruth) and Debbie Strange




in memory of Frau L.

This blanket of dark; perfect conditions
for our latest trip to the siding together.
A woman can’t see what’s next to her nose
as we clamber down, clutching bags and each other
by the elbow. Mind out,
it can’t be far from here. Shush.
There’s the pump. Our luck’s in alright:
we missed it by that much….
Move on again. Ducking and diving.
That stretch of cobbles
and then the passage. It’s lit up for once.
Now we inch along the middle
of the road, feeling our way forward
step by cautious step
till we reach the brewhouse by the gate.
Will the guards be asleep yet?
Better hang fire. See how the land lies.
Oh hell! Here comes the thunder
of great big boots. If we’re spotted,
let’s say we just fancied a little saunter.
Finally the coast’s clear
and we’re at it without wasting a second.
Already our bags are half-full
when a sudden door swings open.
Pure deadly light leaps out
all round us and we’re done for.
Hearts pounding in our throats, we run
for it. The game’s well and truly over
unless… Could there be extra time?
Thank God – it seems that no one’s spotted us.
Should we be content to slope away
with our bags half-empty? Don’t be ridiculous!
We’re getting straight back to work.
A Berlin girl doesn’t admit defeat.
She stands firm, sticks to her guns
and never surrenders. We shall not retreat.
Taking new heart, we edge up a second time
(isn’t Fortune supposed to favour
the brave?) towards Coal Mountain
that magic jewel-heap. And there we savour
victory, stuffing our sacks right
to the brim with hard-won treasure. Such
heavy riches. Staggering, arms almost breaking
with the sheer weight of our catch,
we reel home. Where everyone’s gobsmacked
to see the glorious loot that we’ve brought back.


Rose Scooler (1881-1985) was a German Jew, whose early life was one of privilege and material comfort. She wrote this poem during the winter of 1944-5, while a slave labourer in Theresienstadt

Sibyl Ruth is Rose Scooler’s great-niece. Her translations of Rose Scooler’s Thereisenstadt poems will be published by Five Leaves Press in 2017.  She sometimes tweets at @SibylWrites.




Living Above Ground

not allowed
to have bird feeders
or flowers
on the balcony
I am withering


cars racing
down the main drag
on humid nights
squealing tires anathema
to my wintering heart

a skyscraper cages
the harvest moon
freedom comes sooner
for some than for others


my third floor window
six deer
with snow on their backs
the warm blood of stones




Debbie Strange is an award-winning Canadian short form poet and haiga artist. Keibooks released her first full-length poetry collection, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads, in 2015. Debbie’s haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding, is forthcoming from Folded Word.
Website: www.debbiemstrange.blogspot.ca

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas we bring you Joanne Key, Holly Magill



The Snows

They arrived overnight, gossip
fogging the lane in muffled footsteps,

heavy breath. Silver-tongued
and ice cool, the knitting club

cast off Mr Snow as another fool
who could break the heart of a mirror,

turn the sky into a swan’s feather
and have the neck to whistle it down.

Beautiful, wraithlike, the wife wafted
around town, rising and falling like water.

She never spoke to a soul. It was clear
what flowed through both of them. Some said

they’d seen The Snows drifting naked
through their gardens. There were rumours

of translucent skin. Two hearts fluttering
like lovebirds, half starved, snowed in.

All winter they worked on the dream house,
tore its doors off, ripped up floors, stripped

everything bare. The body of the old boiler
laid out on the front lawn while sterile fibres

webbed the windows. On the coldest nights,
neighbours watched for signs, reported

silhouettes grabbing handfuls of each other
before falling to the floor, tall shadows

melting together. Women sat and cried,
rocked themselves silent in the corners

of warm kitchens infused with whiskey
and cinnamon. Men stared at the moon

through bedroom windows, and later,
tucked deep inside the fleece of Christmas Eve,

they all dreamt of rolling downhill
with The Snows. Tumbling with them,

they unwrapped their bodies from sheets
of white silk, only to find them gone,

slipped through the fingers of first light.
By morning, all that was left were teardrops

frozen and scattered on the lane,
flickers of wings looking for skin.



Joanne Key lives in Cheshire. Her poems have appeared in various places online and in print. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.





The Spectral Penguin

He is almost invisible, silvered in plain sight;
feathers glisten in ultimate camouflage white
– we forget his eyes as they track
our trudges through bleakest
austerity. He rather fancies a tasty fish.
We muse on turkey, stuffing , who will spear
that coveted last roast parsnip. Tell children
Father Christmas will know each sneak pinch
of their little brother’s arm, each choccie filched
from Nana’s Milk Tray – but they’re savvy,
the kids, they know a bribe.
The spectral penguin waddles against adversity
– no matter to him the failed John Lewis audition,
and that Attenborough chap cutting his finest work –
he bobs strong from webbed foot to webbed foot
outside fake-snowed windows, ready to plunder
unguarded fish fingers. He watches – his time is nigh.
Holly Magill is from Worcestershire. Her poetry has appeared in various publications, including Poets’ Republic, Clear Poetry and The Morning Star. She has no shelves for any elves.  Twitter: @HollyannePoet

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On the Sixth Day of Christmas we bring you Stella Wulf, David Van-Cauter




Follow the Star

How you were wished upon
in your stella nurseries,
luminous heavenly bodies,
your play held in thrall.
How brightly you twinkle
in the eye of the gods.

‘Come to us, little stars,’ they cajole
‘we’ll teach you to bend
your fervent untrained light,
funnel your pool to a beam,
to slant on your goals.

Come, play our beautiful game,
bring us the glow of your dreams
to cover ourselves.
We’ll wrap it around us
like a winter coat,
buttoned up tight,
to the throat.

How you are wished upon!
Come to us, little stars,
come, play our beautiful game.

We’ll set you at the top of the tree,
you’ll dazzle like supernovae.’
And when your light slowly fades,
you’ll teeter on this spinning point,
collapse in on yourselves,
grist of the gods.


Stella Wulf lives in South West France. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her work has been widely published. She is also an artist and her work can be seen on her website: stellawulf.com




I come from the north. You won’t see me
wrapped in fur on mild days. My skin
is thicker than most. Your harpoons will not
quickly bring me down. I walk a straight path.

I come from the south. I find you hard
and hostile. I bring warmth into your nights
and colour to your shrouded stares.
I bring history and sand dunes.

I come from the west. My horse has faced
a long and painful journey. Listen, there is danger
at every turn. I follow my own guide,
although I do not know the way.

I come from the east. People are different there.
I balanced on a tightrope, traversed high cliffs
to reach this place. I bring understanding,
wonder, books and spices. I bring fear.

I come from nowhere. I am invisible.
I crouch here, still, in half-unrest.
I wait for the alarm.


David Van-Cauter  is a personal tutor and editor who lives in Hitchin, Herts. He has long been involved with Poetry ID in Letchworth and Ver Poets in St Albans. Recent publications include the London Progressive Journal. A new pamphlet is forthcoming.

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas we bring you Sarah Watkinson, Stephen Daniels


Boxing Day

The old year blew us westerlies, earth-scented
and lively until the solstice. Now he sighs
out his last five days in a whisper of frost.
We walk in the park

round artificial water and landscaped hills.
Sleek birds at home in cold carve widening wakes
that stay too long unruffled by any breeze.
The car park is full

whole tribes emerge and walk slowly through the mist
kids tagging along on wheels from ToysRUs
like some necessary migration. Not too soon
New Year’s wind and rain.



Sarah Watkinson  has been writing poetry since 2012, following a career in science. Her work has won prizes and appeared in magazines including Antiphon, Ink Sweat and Tears and The Rialto. A debut pamphlet is due out in February 2017 with Cinnamon Press. She co-organises SciPo https://jennylewis.org.uk/2016/06/15/scipo-2016/ Website: https://sarahcwatkinson.wordpress.com/




Time of goodwill

The elf on the shelf won’t stop staring
we bought him from marks & sparks
and he seems to turn
a few degrees each evening

I first noticed on the 5th December
when his glare moved
towards the newly constructed tree
we got from b&q

But lately he covets my oak furniture land coffee table
while we sleep he uses the dusters from waitrose
to slide around its surface

I’ve noticed during the day
how the sabatier kitchen knives
have tiny hand prints on their blades
and wonder if he has been juggling them
or testing the edges for their sharpness

It was just three days ago
exactly one week before Christmas
we awoke to find him clinging
to our kenwood blender
the kids said he was trying
to make a smoothie
but I wonder
if his interests were more sinister

He even surprised us one morning by cooking
using our homer simpson donut maker
which we received last year from aunt carol
the burning smell stirred us

It is now only three days
until he leaves
And I can’t sleep –
I shall buy a sleep aid lamp
from lakeland tomorrow
that will help
and some nice cushions

maybe a new elf



Stephen Daniels is the editor the Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His poetry has been published or is upcoming, in numerous  magazines and websites. You can find out more at www.stephenkirkdaniels.com Twitter:@stephendaniels

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On the Fourth Day of Christmas we bring you John Mackie, Sally Long




The 25th

How the hell
do they do that
year after year
on the morning of
this Decemberfest purloined
from Mithra;

timed to perfection
best bib and tucker
yellow beaks gleaming
posing for presents
promising nirvana
if I feed them now
tip tapping my conscience
and memory of you?

it’s a bit of a struggle
I am still in Jajouka
seeing off the goat boy
with the screaming of pipes
or lost in the Latin
some other God mumbled
to justify incense
and the rose window at Chartres

but hey here you are
at my feast for one and his cat
even though it’s been years
since I laid you a place,
how do you do that,
turn up
without smelling as bad
as you did
when we burned you
at Buckie on medical advice?

the children are scattered
London, Bonn, Rome
they remember you differently
as careless of them
as though your cancer was wilful –
was it so hun? I know that it forced me
to a series of metaphors
still point, rock, tower of strength
I never wanted, am trying still to melt them
as much as I loved you please go away
and take your Christmas blackbirds
with you



John Mackie, who, sadly, died Friday (23rd December), lived in Aberdeenshire. He had been published in a range of media since the 1960s and you can find his more recent work in Scotia Extremis, Poetry Scotland, The Poets’ Republic, Clear Poetry and Spotify. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.





Bethlehem’s sky was busy with stars
when we first saw him –
an old man leaning on a staff,
an improbable visitor making his way
wary across the fields.

Next minute the sky was on fire –
arrows of light; gold, silver,
scarlet. Nathaniel yelled we had better
make a run for it. No one has ever seen
the glory of the Lord and lived.

The only one not quaking
was the old man. He stood there
tranquil telling us not to lose it,
to go to town to find a new born
baby. It sounded a rum story to me.

Suddenly there was the sound
of singing. We looked up at the sky;
saw no-one, only the sound grew
louder, louder. Then before we knew it
silence. Bethlehem’s sky was busy with stars.



Sally Long is a PhD student at Exeter where she is investigating the influence of The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius on contemporary poetry. She has had poems published in magazines including Agenda, Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg Review, Snakeskin amongst others. Sally edits Allegro Poetry Magazine.

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