On the Third Day of Christmas we bring you Nikhil Nath, John Paul Davies and Maggie Mackay




Growing gifts

A church spire
pricks the dull

sky and it
starts snowing

birds have gone
into hiding,

the flowers
will wait till

spring, the milkman
finds his,

a thankless job
and the snowman

is forced outdoors
while the coniferous

comes indoors
growing gifts

in its branches
on the night of

twenty fourth.


Nikhil  Nath has been writing poetry for eighteen years. He has been published in various magazine in India, the USA and the UK. Nikhil Nath is his pen name. He lives and works from Kolkata, India. “Write rubbish, but write”, said Virginia Woolf. This is Nikhil’s maxim for writing.  Allegro, Aji,  Laughing Dog (Poem of the Month), Ehanom, Ithica Lit, Germ Magazine, Leaves of Ink, Linden Avenue and Pif Magazine have recently accepted his work



A Commuter’s Prayer

In the frosted dark of Market Square,
hours before Supermac’s opens,
the camel-backed Magi spark to life.

Stealthy council workers drape streets
with pearls of light, flashing Santas, sleighs;
star of Bethlehem crowning a twelve foot tree.

Beneath the Chemist’s neon crucifix
a hooded commuter sways,
cradling a polystyrene cup.

Gazing at the electronic display,
he offers up a silent prayer
that ‘Delayed’ might defer to ‘Here’.

Suspended between penitent streetlamps,
a fibreglass angel traipses across
the tinted windows of a bus – not his.

Angel unbound in departing Plexiglass,
the 104 lumbers towards its guiding star.



John Paul Davies was born in Birkenhead and has been published in Crannóg, Manchester Review, The Frogmore Papers, Orbis, Smoke and Grain.  He was runner up in the 2016 Cheshire Prize for Literature, and placed second in the 2017 Waterford Poetry Prize.




Malawi Christmas

Evening meal shared, sun bled beyond the horizon,
the stone step draws you to the shuttered night.

One poor candle emits yellow light. Christmas stars soak it up,
leaves you sightless and as off-balance as a one-year-old.

Generous hands guide you. The air fills with giggles and hyena cackle.
Under Paul Simon’s African skies you squint as the space grows,

falls into your whiteness, close enough to touch,
a blur of radiance, a liberation. You know not what is below your feet.

Above a perigee moon sheds a spotlight, the inky black a backdrop
to silver fury and smoky glow. Flighty besom, stretch out forever

parallel to the heavens, counting stars, drawing constellations,
walking on your back, drunken with possibilities. You long for a star bed




Maggie Mackay, a jazz and whisky lover, has work in Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, Atrium, Prole, The Everyday Poet, Southlight and Three Drops Press. Her poems have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and the Pushcart Prize in 2017.

Note: A version of this poem was published on Angela Topping’s blog: Poetry about Hygge, 29/01/2017

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On the Second Day of Christmas we bring you Carole Bromley, Stuart Pickford and Pauline Rowe




Boar’s Head

We were passing through Borley
and I was thinking, as I changed gear
to go up the hill, woods either side,
of the wild boars that lived there
and gave it its name and whether
there are still boars there and, if so,
how big they might be and whether
they have tusks and if they are shy
like bears and, if they can, steer clear
of man and, when they sense one,
gallop off, cloven-hooved,
into the depths of the forest.

And I remembered Jantac
that first Christmas
and my long pink dress
from Richard Shops and how
I never noticed the cold
as we followed the boar’s head
across the quad, singing that carol
and how sorry I felt for it,
its mouth stopped with an apple.



Carole Bromley lives in York and has three books with Smith/Doorstop, the most recent, Blast Off!, a collection for children.






Grey children are moving across no-man’s land
on the astro. I turn back to Alistair catching up
with ‘Lord of the Flies’ coursework through lunch.

His tanned face is smiling: Have you ever
been to Antigua or island hopping? I look out
at the rehearsal of the truce on the Western Front:

During that Christmas, the Queen’s Westminsters,
wearing top hats and with umbrellas up, cycled across
the frozen sludge to the German trenches, but

after they’d exchanged gifts of Tickler’s jam
for schnapps—or, in our case, bags of Haribo
and Sainsbury’s commemorative chocolate bars—

they scouted the snipers’ positions so next day
they’d be ready for when the Hun raised his head.
Alistair’s staring at a present stuffed in the bin.

What’s that? he asks. A brown paper package
tied up in string is, in this case, just a prop,
I explain. There’s nothing in the battered box.

Can I have it? I shrug. As I check my diary
for our next catch-up session, Alistair holds it out
in both hands. Sir, your Christmas present.



Stuart Pickford is the recipient of an Eric Gregory award. His first collection, The Basics, was published by Redbeck Press (2002) and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish (2016), was published by smith/doorstop. Stuart lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school.




The Confusions of Father Christmas

The spring morning smugness in his ears
full of humming pigeons on the roof.

His mouth is dry and though the copper kettle
is still warm to touch, it holds no water.

Tears of dirt negotiate his beard,
he searches with his fingertips

for the small cruel lice he feels
dancing on his face.

The green velvet jacket does not fit
over his frayed and friable shirt.

A creature lows at his door
but does not know the designation – guide.

Without any care, how might he gather
these many sacks of sanctifications,

sufferings in every room
all over the house, if this is his house?

He sets a most reluctant course, closes his front door,
leaves an arc of unpaid bills around the mat.


Pauline Rowe works as Writer-in-Residence at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and as Poet-in-Residence at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.  She is a Creative Writing PhD student at Liverpool University and has 2 full collections.

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On the First Day of Christmas we bring you Gareth Writer Davies, Gillian Mellor and Joanne Key



Christmas Lights
after Anne Sexton

is turning on the Christmas

I am waiting
for my diagnosis

crowds have gathered
on the memorial green
for the white

explosion of light
with a ho-ho-ho baritone

thumps down the switch

I will try to be good

please don’t send death
in his fat red suit



Gareth Writer Davies was Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017) and the Erbacce Prize (2014) Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition (2015) and Prole Laureate for 2017. Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition (2015) and Highly Commended in 2017. His pamphlet Bodies, was published in 2015  by Indigo Dreams and the pamphlet Cry Baby came out in November, 2017.





Mrs Winter Comes Home

A whisker above zero, she appears
on Slaughter Lane. Glass-winged
in the glow of fairy lights, she falls to Earth
as a dark, silk slip of a thing, drifting in,
soft as baby breath. Poor lamb.
Her body pools on the floor
outside the Christmas Factory door
where she hardens into the dark mirror
we daren’t look into. At sunrise,
I watch her come alive. Bright eyed,
she sharpens her icicles into knives, polishes her hooks.
Some folk try to chase her away.
They glove up, crack their knuckles
and salt the lane, and counting the days,
they shudder at the thought of her star-flecked
footprints on the factory path,
a sackful of feathers left on the step.
The factory steams day and night, spewing
warm light from its windows and tinsel
from its chimneys, but still she slips in
through the systems – a constant lowing that moves
through the pipework, refusing to be bled out.
Poor cow. She hasn’t got a clue who she’s dealing with.
As glitter fills the air like blossom,
her fingers tighten their grip on me. I creep down
to the cellar and open my chest for her.
Come now, blue wisp. Feel free. Fold yourself
into my cold storage, sleep
with the dead meat until it all blows over.



Joanne Key lives in Cheshire. Her work has been published online and in print and won prizes in competitions including the National Poetry Competition, Charles Causley, Prole and Bare Fiction.)





All the little humans were graded by size and behaviour
in the small assembly hall decked out
as the Large Hadron Collider.

Walls were plastered with tin foil and draped
with copper tinsel. Accurate? Who knows,
but Mrs Boyle hadn’t had so much fun in years.

Today we’ll be hearing about the detection
of the Higgs Boson said the headmistress. The God Particle
was Martin’s cue to begin: And it came to pass

that the parents were trying hard to follow the story,
but it was so long since any of them had studied
particle physics that they couldn’t remember exactly

who had annihilated who, which gifts the protons
provided and what flavours the quarks were.
It colder in the collider than outer space,

but this, sang Year 6, is how it all began.
Each kid waved a magnet in the air
(the parents joined in with their smartphones)

and the consequence of a billion collisions
were repeated as Gospel. Even Gospel has different versions.
So when Lindsay came on as antimatter

in a tea towel he was booed like a pantomime villain
though no-one could remember if this was appropriate
and the Supercomputers continued on glockenspiel

until the announcement that Higgs boson was found.
By the time the He had been wrapped
in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger

He had already disintegrated. (Applause.)
With a lifetime of 1.56×10-22 seconds
we keep faith the data proves He really exists.



Gillian Mellor wrote this poem because it was fun. And because it was about the kind of nativity she never knew she’d always wanted to be in.

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Richard Biddle





Naked, unseen and alone; a belligerent bullfrog, I squat
among reed-mace, amidst a fog of grey gnats. Watching
the water for whirlpools, heartbeat, steady as a millstone.

Step by step, I enter my element at a somnambulist’s pace.
Each foot, carefully placed, sinks ankle-deep into the mud’s
puckering sphincters, leaving no trace of my transition.

As my knees, thighs and groin disappear beneath the flow,
I know myself as buoyancy and become my own tide, a shoal
of myself, fluid, alive, as though I’m of the river, not in it.

And now I’m eel; sleek, black and muscle-packed, writhing.
A scribble of orgasmic spasms. Feet, fast as flippers, I
bubble-up a froth and flip to where the green weeds cling.

Craving caresses, I swim through the silky sensuality of these
liquid ribbons. Soft fronds stroke my chest, belly and genitalia
causing a thrilling chill to domino-run along my vertebrae.

Envious of fish, my lungs wrung dry, I rise and inhale. Then
once more, baptise myself into the Church Of Aquaphilia.
Rolling as a wave might, I kick and strike, like a pike taking prey.

Finally, gagging on the churning swell, my strength waning,
I gargle the dying notes of my gill-less song and guiltily return
to the dry discomfort of my abandoned clothes.




Richard Biddle teaches Creative Writing at Chichester College. His poetry been published online and in the journals: Urthona, Brittle Star and Dream Catcher. It has also appeared in several anthologies. In 2013 his poem ‘Transparency’ won The Big Blake Project’s William Blake Poetry Prize. You can find him on twitter as @littledeaths68.

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Duncan Chambers




Rivers of Switzerland

My geography teachers are dead:
their mountains, forests, oxbow lakes,
the small hands that could squeeze
the life out of anything.

Even the student with the boots
she said were crocodile
is terminal moraine now, like my books,
like all I ever knew of calico.

Only the rivers of Switzerland remain:
tucked discreetly under bridges
in Geneva, racing white-flecked
beside the Rhaetia Bahn:

the Rhine, the Rhône, the Inn, the Aar,
the Ticino: and those whose names
only the locals know, their sources
lost in the heart of boulder fields,

seeping into meadows where the cows
still wear bells; or just round the corner,
flowing from the mouth of Bacchus
behind a gate marked ‘Private’.




Duncan Chambers is a University researcher living in York and working in Sheffield. He has been writing poetry since the 1980s and has been published in various magazines including Ambit, The Rialto, Stand, The Interpreter’s House and The North. He was shortlisted in the 2016/17 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.

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Ian C Smith



The Night, the Possum

Giant starry sky night behind an illegal beach shack
in a rickety add-on caravan he calls Steptoe’s Castle,
broken window wedged open for cooler air,
a possum squeezes its way inside, his bed adjacent.
He stirs, wind a banshee, half-wakens to noises.

Here among fishermen of the Roaring Forties
he trawls the roar of his past before he shook the grog,
to make sense of his footprints in the sand vanishing
into a cloister he tries to treasure for calmness.
The possum scents fruit, a dietary compromise.

Lists mulled over: jobs held, the dead, names whispered,
places lived, airports landed in, lovers lusted for.
He sometimes rouses hard, limbs creaky, tantalised,
wanting total dream recall, not glimpses, re-entry.
A kitchen tin clatters, sounding in sleep, outside.

Tiptoeing over soldier crabs on his crescented walk
he ogles a ferry balanced on the horizon as if painted,
recounts ferries boarded, turbulent straits crossed,
the excitement, enigma, of expected arrival.
Wildness crossed his sleeping form to reach that tin.

Now it employs his naked thigh as a trampoline,
claws gripping to launch back to the window ledge.
He wakes to his own shriek, kicking out, bloodied,
possum scurrying into the shack, a havoc of curtains,
both shocked by how it came to this.



Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in , Antipodes, Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Journal,  The Brasilia Review,  Poetry Salzburg Review,  The Stony Thursday Book, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He lives in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, Australia.

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Charlie Hill




When I die

When I die, I want it to be just slowly enough
that I can leave something to those I cherish:
my recipe for chipotle sauce, a lily or two,
perhaps some worldly pith on love, or booze.

When I die, I want it to be just slowly enough
that I can share my pique, my morbid shame,
the regrets of a life lived bursting, straining
at its bounds and yes, complicit and bowed down too.

When I die, I want it to be just slowly enough
that I can go into the nothing grasping a handful
of this gloriously shitty earth, cocking a blasphemous and
unhappy snook at your piety and grace.




Charlie Hill is a writer from Birmingham. He has written two critically acclaimed novels, a novella and a pamphlet of short stories. His poetry has appeared in the magazines Under the Radar and Prole and the webzine Ink, Sweat and Tears.

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