On the Tenth Day of Christmas, we bring you Sarah Watkinson, Ciarán Parkes and Fiona Cartwright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

Now the sun knocks off early,
slinks away behind the garage.
You go out to catch the last rays
but he’s gone

so you head up the hill
to the still-sunlit top,
the cart track all mud and stones,
and watch the light turn green,
a star in the corner of your eye.

And the best part is
when you stumble down in the dark,
under a découpage of twigs,
settling hedge birds
and navy sky,

and you push open the door,
kick off your boots on the mat,
and the room is a blaze of light,
the day outside turned shiny black
like a shut-down screen.

 

 

Sarah Watkinson’s debut pamphlet Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight won the 2016 Cinnamon Pamphlet prize. Her work is published in Antiphon, Ink Sweat & Tears, Litmus, The Interpreter’s House, The Rialto, Under the Radar and elsewhere. Her twitter handle is @philonotis.

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve on the Moon

You’ve got telescopes. You can see more
than the Great Wall of China. You can measure
the moving coastlines like someone on a train

watching the landscape gliding by, imagining
themselves a tireless runner, leaping hedges,
trees and houses, or in your case, oceans,

continents. The night reveals much more,
like turning a light on, like x ray. You can choose
a city to focus on. It’s almost New Year’s Day

or it’s already been for hours. For one whole day
you can watch the flare of fireworks in the darkness
as cities come alight and, in the distance,

the brighter sway of sunlight sweeping in
over the horizon. On the moon who knows
what time it is, what day or year or month.

What’s to celebrate. What slow tides are moved
by the earth in all those dried up seas.

 

 

Ciarán Parkes lives in Galway, near the ocean, writing and taking photographs. His poems have appeared in The Rialto, The Threepenny Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and other places. He writes song lyrics for the Galway band, This Lunar Mansion.

 

 

 

 

Winterers

The ice in the lake can’t decide
if it will be water. It chessboards

into squares, opaquing the hills
and monochroming them out

of their purples and browns.
They are helpless against the freeze,

Scaup the colour of black ice
wait. They seem unconcerned,

unknowing, perhaps, of their place
on the edge of things.

A decision must be made. Get it wrong
and go, when they should stay, means death.

The ice rings their chests as a woodpecker drums,
a beating heart in a ribcage of bare hawthorn boughs.

There is no way to know when to go,
a confusion of clues. What do you choose?

 

 

Fiona Cartwright is a poet, ecological researcher and mother of two young daughters. Her poems have appeared in various places, including Mslexia, Butcher’s Dog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Interpreter’s House and Envoi. She tweets @sciencegirl73 .

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas, we bring you Reuben Woolley, Debbie Strange, Luigi Coppola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

another blue requiem

 

see this she says

my autonomous shadows dancing

distant

from any sun i know / a different step

& still

december

are lights

in all these histories &

children

grow old & die

just the same she says

 

 

 

Reuben Woolley has been published in quite a few magazines, such as Tears in the Fence, Lighthouse, The Interpreter’s House, IS&T, Proletarian Poetry, and in the anthology The Dizziness of Freedom. He has five books to his name, the most recent one is some time we are heroes with The Corrupt Press. Another book is to be published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press in 2019, this hall of several tortures. Editor of I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

 

 

 

 

*

fog deepens
the sound of rabbits
nibbling night

*

on the tundra
caging a winter sky
caribou bones

*

snowy field
the owls we thought
were stones

 

 

 

 

Debbie Strange is an internationally published short form poet and haiga artist from Canada. Her most recent books include the chapbook, A Year Unfolding (Folded World 2017) and the full-length collection, Three-Part Harmony: Tanka Verses (Keibooks 2018). :

Note: these haiku were placed respectively in the following competitions: Grand Prize, 2016 World Haiku Competition: 3rd Place, 2014 United Haiku and Tanka Society Hortensia Anderson Haiku Awards:Honourable Mention, 2017 Irish Haiku Society International Haiku Competition

 

 

The Harvester

There is a darkness coming
a little at first, just ahead of the rest

His breath is a slow yawn
it draws in a shade
a cold and a rustling
everything sleeping, drying

An idiot-ox striding
his March drawing blood from flower
herb from hand

The stampede lasts for months

He is the Harvester
hoof and horn
giggling and dribbling

with the sun on his back
and snow in his mouth

 

 

 

Luigi Coppola has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize twice, appeared in Worple Press’s The Tree Line anthology and has print and online publications, including in Acumen, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Iota, Magma and The Rialto  

 

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On the Eighth Day of Christmas, we bring you Cherry Doyle, Julie Maclean and Edward Heathman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Queen

The snow’s been drifting in her heart for years;
her hair’s the colour of flakes blooming
on the dark road through the valley.
She is the child of shepherds, and miners
with slate-crag shoulders.

She’s seen some winters, this
queen in scuffed boots,
dragged toddlers through drifts – white
piled on white piled on white – frozen milk
and pale fingers in her grasp.

Her son recalls his father’s funeral,
the letter she never saw, the icy smart
of her wedding ring as he takes her hand in the chapel;
weeping into his daughter’s hair
as they lay flowers.

She leaves the armchair, zips her coat.
Ice spreads across the pavement like glue.
Snow blows up into the corners of the window;
feather-peaks that will fall away
and leave mountains in her blood.

 

 

Cherry Doyle lives near Cannock Chase. She works and runs a writing group in Wolverhampton. Her work has appeared in Presence, The Cadaverine, Southlight, and more. She has a degree in Creative Writing from the Open University. Find her on social media @ms_n_thrope.

 

 

 

What kind of humbuggery is this?

Via the black hole from heaven
she inches nervously

down the celestial ladder
/aluminium, installed

by the good man/
one cloud box at a time

Trawls through the galaxy
for the showiest bling—

birds in glass orbs, sleigh bells
snatched in the sales

Meteors of lametta
streak their glitzy wake

through her no-mess-
no-drop-needle forest

Last but never least
the Angel of Hope

braces for the conception
Wings shaken loose

at the pinions after
rough handling

impaled nevertheless
on the bristling spine

of old man pine
Cardboard crinoline

stiff with imminence
in a perpetual lean

 

 

 

Julie Maclean is the author of four poetry collections. Joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize with Terry Quinn her poems appear in BODY LitThe Rialto, Poetry Salzburg Review, Shearsman, Poetry (Chicago) and The Best Australian Poetry, among others. Born in Bristol she is resident in Australia.

 

 

Grinch

Their happy murmurs
crackle through the ceiling.
It’s so lovely it’s unbearable.

I’ve been up here all day
with the window aghast
to keep the warmth from downstairs.

Is that a laugh? A snarl
hunches in spidery fashion
and I feel the moody curl

of my sixteen year old fingers.

I could sneak down in my dressing gown
and ruin everything,
if I wanted to.

 

 

 

Edward Heathman was born in 1995 and grew up in South Wales. He is currently studying an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester.

 

 

 

 

 

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, we bring you Claire Crowther, Sue Finch, Sue Wallace-Shaddad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Party

Falling or rising, staring at my feet,
being so close
to the person who shares the lift –
not wanting to
see whose foot fixes against mine, who stops.
Look at me, girl,
when I’m talking to you. An address to
fair game in hell.

St Michael and the seven headed beast
join their battle
in the lift of heaven, from where a beast
must fly or fall
as must a boy who is feather-winged and
contented with
decapitating seven snarling heads.
We overlap
in a world of falling angels: heads, jaws,
claws, toes, tongues, swords.
Watch wings and tail make one oval, Michael’s
cloak wrap lightly
round the dragon, her biting with her fourth jaw
since her sixth and
seventh heads are severed. Barbara,
saint of arms, here
where your sanctioned guns tumble down, hear who
felled me head first.

He locked the door
and turned the music up. My drink was spiked
with Quaaludes or
something. They queued outside. Mike is no saint,
that tale’s a myth.
If I drop, my family fails with me,
their future falls
prey: kneel, pray for all drunk stumbling men.
They laughed so much.

 

 

Claire Crowther has published three collections of poetry with Shearsman. Her next publication will be a pamphlet of poems on knitting from Happenstance. www.clairecrowther.co.uk

 

 

 

His Gun

He shoots.
She is falling,
staggering,
clutching herself.
Her hip seems to disappear,
she stumbles, hits the floor, stills.
He watches
so silent he stops the air from moving.
her closed eyes flicker to find him.
He searches his words.
They both stare at it hanging from his limp hand.
He meets her gaze, speaks:
It’s just a banana, he tells her.

 

 

Sue Finch grew up in Herne Bay. She now lives with her wife in North Wales and enjoys exploring the countryside and coast. Her first published poem appeared in A New Manchester Alphabet in 2015 whilst studying for her MA with Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work has also appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears and in The Interpreter’s House. She tweets as @soopoftheday and her blog can be found at: soopoftheday-soo.blogspot.com

 

 

 

The Lodger

Every bit of holly
every red berry
a sharp reminder
of pain
and pleasure
as Christmas moves in

another season
of good will
strained cheer
mince pie indulgence
before this guest
bows out to New Year.

 

 

Sue Wallace-Shaddad has poems published by The French Literary Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Poetry Space, The Dawntreader.  She is studying the Newcastle University/Poetry School MA in Writing Poetry and is Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society.

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On the Sixth Day of Christmas, we bring you Pat Edwards, Marc Woodward, Alison Binney

 

 

 

 

Mary and Joseph

I saw them in two bottles of cleaning product,
with a stripy cloth thrown over their heads.

I saw them in a swirling cloud formation,
streaks of white and grey becoming figures.

I saw them in the frozen patterns of leaves,
glinting at me in December’s fallen debris.

Mary and Joseph together, not quite touching,
red and brown sauce standing on the table.

They are about as far away as a reluctant carol
sung by tots and teens, by seniors and carers.

They are as distant as the Pound Shop presents
stuffed into charity show boxes for the poor.

They are as out of reach as peace on Earth,
as unlikely as goodwill beyond the festive fun.

But I know I saw them. She was too young
and he overwhelmed by his responsibilities.

 

 

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has appeared in Prole, Magma, Atrium and others. She hosts Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.

 

 

 

Midnight, mid-December, in a fake railway carriage diner at JFK

Zoltan Leonardo tells me his spectacular,
improbable name. Says Call me Zolly!.
He’s a painter, a drummer, and Yes, I’m an alcoholic…
Like it’s obvious and beyond his control.

Gaunt and brown, face like an old satchel,
dark hair lashing his forehead. Shirt unbuttoned.
Says he’s owned his scarlet leather trousers
for twelve years, never washed them.

He turns to the bar to order a bourbon
but the waitress bluntly refuses.
She’s already weary of December drunks
and it’s still a long run of night shifts to go.

She says the top bar is closed
but he can have a beer from the bottom.
He stands four bottles of Michelob
on the table like a row of toy soldiers.

We’re not the only ones in the place.
There’s a backpacking couple in the corner booth
their heads down on the unwiped table;
two suited guys at the bar swiping phones.

So you ain’t gonna believe me,
this old girlfriend calls up after thirty years,
says she’s been holdin’ a candle,
wants to see me. Thirty years though..? I mean….

And the big red cherry in her Christmas cocktail?
She’s inherited half a million and a house in LA.
Can you believe that? It’s insane man –
a fuckin’ pad in the city of angels!

So I’m thinking maybe she’s an angel
– but where’s she been all these years, hey?
Whatever…  I’m flying to LA in the morning.
I ain’t got a ticket yet but I’m going, you know?

At this point I’m expecting a request for help,
a contribution to the fare – a ‘loan’ of course.
I’m preparing my rejection but it doesn’t come.
Instead he reaches forward, unscrews two beers.

I mean a house and half a million bucks.
Did I tell you I’m a painter? Palm trees no problem.
So…hey – what’s your name? Let’s drink a toast:
To old angels and monied lovers!

 

 

Marc Woodward is a poet and musician living in Devon, England. He has been widely published and his recent collections include A Fright Of Jays (Maquette Press 2015) and Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press 2018).

 

 

 

Opening

Every Christmas I wonder what my aunt is thinking
sending us separate cards, in separate envelopes,
with separate stamps, to the same address.

Perhaps the allure of the burly postman,
sweating under the double weight of mail,
will turn my gaze, at last, from your smile.

Perhaps the extra reaching down, picking up,
opening, reading, means today
I will leave for work without a kiss.

Perhaps we will fight over whose card
takes pride of place, fall out, fall silent,
fall into separate beds, separate. Yes, they know

what they are doing, these separate-card senders,
and therefore so must we, sharing cards, homes,
wounds, opening ourselves out.

 

 

Alison Binney is an English teacher from Cambridge who has recently created more space in her life for writing poetry. She has been published in ‘Magma’, ‘The North’, ‘The Fenland Reed’ and ‘Under the Radar’.  This poem was mentioned in the recent Seren Christmas card competition write-up.

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas we bring you Marie-Louise Eyres, Belinda Rimmer, Andrea Holck

 

 

 

 

 

Limbs and leaves

Escaping the dry heat of the house
we step into the mild, Boxing Day damp.
Our noses fill with the sweet stench
of silage and fallen fruits at the end of the garden.

Lying beneath bare trees,
a brightly coloured apple blanket
unraked after the Autumn storm,
rots by design, into the soil.

We stroll past the old piggery full of pruned back roses,
the cow sheds crammed with firewood,
too heavy to lug into the house this year,
too dusty for our eyes.

The greenhouse shelters a forest of geraniums
bowing to greet us, limbs and leaves gathering mildew.
Under these windows angled to the sky,
rumours the scent of decay.

 

 

Marie-Louise Eyres is a London poet living just outside Washington Dc. In 2018 she has been shortlisted by the Bridport Prize, the Myslexia Women’s poetry competition and Moonstone Arts Center Chapbook competition.

 

 

 

Drift

Snow on the ground, patches of green forewarn a slow melt – no white Christmas.
Eager for another ride before snow turns to slush, my son has stopped mid-sledge
to pose for a picture. I hunker down beside him. My arm rests across his knee,
easy, natural. I’m wearing pink wool – hat, scarf, mittens – and heavy boots.
Our eyes squint into a low sun. We smile in different directions.
Beyond the picture – cups of cocoa, slippery chips, stars in a darkening sky
and an icy path home.

The lake already frozen, leaves like shark fins pushing through ice.
Different this year, the house now empty – my boys out in the world.
Stacking clouds promise a storm, maybe early snow.
A robin settles, tiny under winter feathers.
I was trying so hard not to think of Christmas.

Between the branches enough mistletoe to decorate the doors.
I reach, no longer ballerina-elegant. I still believe in kissing under mistletoe.
What would it be like to kiss a stranger? What taste? What wayward tongues?

 

 

Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse, lecturer and creative arts practitioner. She recently came second in the 2018 Ambit Poetry Competition. Her first poetry pamphlet will be published next year by Indigo Dreams.

 

 

 

The Gift

It was snowing, and my pregnant wife Nell was making pancakes in the kitchen when Loni arrived to drop off Rosie. It was Sunday, the day we switched. I asked her to come in. Christmas was in a few days, and a house filled with carols had had its effect on me; I was feeling kindhearted.

“Thanks,” she said, taking one big step over the threshold. She bent to untie the laces of her snow boots. I began to regret the invitation immediately. Loni and I had shared a brief encounter behind a row of sky-blue porto-potties at a neighborhood event I had been hired to photograph four years earlier, and our relationship had declined quickly from there. We had never gotten along, but we loved our daughter and affected friendliness when she was around.

“Um, let me take your coat,” I said, and as she stood and unzipped, I noticed the sheer fabric of her blouse.

“Is Nell here?” she asked. She had put on perfume

“Yeah, of course, she’s making pancakes in the kitchen.”

“Pancakes!” Rosie squealed and ran toward the kitchen, wet tracks following her. Loni and I watched her go, still wearing our empty smiles.

“So.” She turned to me, running a hand through her hair. “Your driveway’s snowed in. You should plow it.”

“Yeah, Jackson, next door is going to come over later to do that. We like to keep him in business. He’s saving for his first car.” Her jacket hung heavily over my forearm. Putting it somewhere felt like a commitment.

“Plans for Christmas?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I said, and stopped, reluctant to go on.

“Sounds great.”

I cringed at the cheerful sarcasm. Pointless. I gave in. “Yeah, Nell’s parents are driving down from Chicago, so we’ll have a big dinner, go to midnight mass. Her dad likes ham, so…probably have a ham.” I heard Nell telling Rosie to be careful and pictured them in the kitchen, placing chocolate chips one by one on the bubbling batter. Loni stood in her unlaced snow boots. She placed a hand on the wall, the other fingering a silver crucifix at her collarbone.

“Jack,” she said to my shoes and took a step closer. She brought one hand to my shoulder, looked at it there, removed it. “I brought you a gift.”

“Oh.” I shifted. “You didn’t have to do that!” It came out bright, nervous. I put the smile back on my face.

“It’s just there, in my coat pocket.” She pointed to the coat on my arm. I held it out, and without taking it, she dug in the pocket, pulled out a small gold cardboard box, the kind they give you when you buy someone jewelry. She’d tied a red ribbon around it and written Merry Christmas Jack in tiny cursive letters in one corner. She waited for me to take it.

“Thanks, Loni.” She stayed silent. “Do you want me to open it?”

“Oh, you could,” she said. “Just a sec.” She took slipped out of the boots and crossed into the house toward the kitchen. There were enthusiastic words, an exaggerated kissing sound, and Rosie’s sweet

“Bye Mommy!” and then Loni was back.

“Right, open it,” she said, slipping her bare feet back into her boots, and bending to relace.
My stomach pulsed. She rose, looked me in the eye. “Well, open it Jack.”

I pulled at the ribbon, lifted the lid, folded back the tissue paper, the kind you blow your nose with. Inside was something fabric, red; my finger touched a bit of white feathery and I pulled it back. “What is it?” I asked, staring at the box.

“Merry Christmas, Jack,” she said, and took her coat from my arm. As she walked down the steps toward her car, I lifted the panties from the box: red lace and white fluffy trim.

“What’s that?” It was Nell, who’d heard the door close as Loni left. “Everything all right? You coming, sweetie? What is that, Jack?” My tongue was a weight in my mouth. Nell walked over and took the box, opened it, poked at it. “Jesus, are you serious? Are you fucking serious?” she whispered,

“Jack.” She laughed, then lowered her voice. “Jack, she’s insane. What does she think she’s doing?”
From the kitchen, Rosie called to us for breakfast.

 

 

Andrea Holck is an American-born writer and teacher based in London.

 

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On the Fourth Day of Christmas we bring you Laura McKee, Amlanjyoti Goswami, Gareth Writer-Davies

 

 

 

 

 

Since it was all about a son

I ask my son now that he doesn’t really believe in everything
what’s Christmas all about then? I mean what does it mean to you?

there is still a hole in the roof to follow a star through
but we have just had the boiler fixed

warm and sleepy he stretches out his body
and his answer      er            er         er      cold      but warm

because you wear
I don’t mean just you
but you wear
way too many layers of clothing

I ask him does that make you just right
or too warm then
too warm he says assertively
half asleep and fully a wise man

 

 

Laura McKee knows the handwriting of all the elves but doesn’t have the teeth for sellotape. Find her spearing the Turkish Delight, or on Twitter: @Estlinin and newly hatched on Instagram: @pretendpoet1

 

 

 

Christmas

The sun god has come home
more a viking than pastor

We welcome him, hug him, call him home
The last train has reached the station

The cold huddles in blankets on the empty platform
We make our way in the dark

He sleeps deep, now, shh, the house all quiet
Watched carefully, in turns, by those kind spirits

When morning comes, he stretches, a maharaja in lambskin
And lolls about the duvet till evening

Awakening at last, to a grim noise at the back of his head
College is over, over, over, and no job is in sight

Behind us, the battered radio whispers, silent night,
And hope is baked in tiny morsels that have come to stay

 

 

Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poems have been published in India, Nepal, Hong Kong, the UK, USA, South Africa, Kenya and Germany, including the anthologies, 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala) and A Change of Climate (Manchester Metropolitan University, Environmental Justice Foundation and the University of Edinburgh). His poems have also appeared on street walls of Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg and buses in Philadelphia. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.

 

 

 

Cormorant

I open
the window on Christmas Day

and there’s a cormorant
moving like a snake beneath the water

no doubt after crayfish
the bird makes mind-bending turns (against the current)

surfaces
like an iron ship recovering its buoyancy after long submersion

has evil been charmed
into the birds turquoise eye and the haught of his feathers

quick says the bird
leaping onto the wash stones and spreading his wings

one shot
and I am gone for ever

 

 

 

Gareth Writer-Davies: Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017)  Commended Prole Laureate Competition (2015) Prole Laureate (2017) Commended Welsh Poetry Competition (2015) Highly Commended (2017)  His collection The Lover’s Pinch (Arenig Press) published  2018. He is a Hawthorndon Fellow for 2019

 

Notes:

*the cormorant was an early Christian symbol, resembling a cross as it dried its wings

** as a side note, last Christmas I saw a cormorant on Christmas Day in the river at the back of my house. Haven’t seen one before or since…

 

 

 

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