On the Third Day of Christmas we bring you Alison Binney, Kathryn Alderman, Carole Bromley

 

 

 

Christmas Eve in Dad’s kitchen

and now only I know which bits of Delia
we follow, which we skip, and what

The Dairy Book of Home Cookery (1968)
still knows best. I know to find the stump-handled

jug for the cranberry jelly, and why eight pints
of milk is probably just enough, factoring in

bread sauce and white sauce and people
wanting extra cups of tea because so much

rich food is bound to make them thirsty.
I know how to arrange the little cottage

on the cake beside the bald tree, and Santa
listing up the piped path, know even to dib

the two sets of hoof-prints behind his reindeer.
I know when to fetch the turkey from the garage

to warm up, and what she would have done
with the giblets, which I won’t.

When everyone’s asleep, only I know
I open the jar of cloves she sealed last year

and breathe her in. It almost works.

 

 

Alison Binney is an English teacher and poet from Cambridge. This year she was longlisted in the National Poetry Competition, Highly Commended in the Bridport Prize, and had two poems published on buses in Guernsey. Her website is: https://alisonbinney.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Season’s Greetings from the Heart

When you greet me at Arrivals
I see that you are broken.

Outside Aeropuerto de Barcelona-El Prat
rainy streets hemmed with aerial lights
Shopping Gods gorged on good cheer
relentless, joyous tunes –
but we’re indifferent
to their raucous carolling
press on past cutsie gluhwein huts
glutted shop windows –
their Chi Chi headless manikins.

I match your step – feel
your arm seek mine – know
all you want for Christmas
is him.

I tell you that a promise can dissolve
as a passion on the lips
can turn to mist
what’s real is life dropped at the doorstep
to come running.

We leave the glitz
for alleys silvered in puddles of moon
forage for lost scraps of heart –
we’ll pocket them.

 

 

Kathryn Alderman:  Publication online and print includes: Amaryllis, Atrium, Bonnie’s Crew, Eye Flash Poetry Journal, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Cannon’s Mouth. She won Canon Poet’s ‘Sonnet or Not’ (20120. She co-chaired Gloucestershire Writers’ Network (2016-19). https://kathrynaldermanwriting.poetry.blog/

 

 

 

 

Feast of the Epiphany

And any minute now those kings will come
crashing in with their unwanted gifts.

Today our beautiful daughter is twenty-one
and we are having a party. You have opened

far too many bottles of wine, I have bought
the wrong flavour of crisps. Her tearaway years

are over. She’s a woman now, there’s no denying it.
Soon she’ll be a wife, maybe a mother but always

she will be ours. She has your hair, my legs,
our sense of humour. She loves the sea,

like a mermaid on a warm rock,
she loves Keats. I read it to her in the cradle

because no lullaby would pacify her.
She loves log fires, badgers at nightfall.

She is in love, you can see it in her eyes,
she cannot hide it but then, we didn’t raise her

to deceive, she has that innocence that, if you breathe,
the bloom is gone. But she does not breathe,

never did. She did not happen. She is only
a fairy under a hedge, the first snowdrop.

 

 

Carole Bromley lives in York where she is the stanza rep and runs poetry surgeries. Winner of the 2019 Hamish Canham Award, her most recent publication is a pamphlet, Sodium 136, about the experience of brain surgery. https://caldervalleypoetry.com/book-shop/ https://www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk

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On the second Day of Christmas we bring you Roberta James, Carol A. Caffrey, Maeve Henry

 

 

 

Christmas Cards

I posted them. Piles of envelopes into
a letter box alive with curls, mouth wide.
I pushed them in, then skipped a beat, startled
by the thud, that ricochet of drum and heart,
before they settled, each envelope in wait,
their flaps fixed by spittle of my dead mother.

They’d sat beside the phone when I toured the house.
I’d hesitated, wondered what they were,
then halfway down was mine, my name inscribed
with rounded Ds and Bs, the fullness of her As.
My envelope was plumper than the rest.
5 days later it arrived as if she lived.
I scored the top with care, removed the card,
the single folded note, delicate as skin.

 

 

Roberta James lives in London and works in television. She has had poems published in magazines and online. Twitter @Robertawriter

 

 

 

Snowblind
I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept

Hoar frost on the trees.
Breath clouding the window pane.
Listen.
Squeak your fingers across the glass to
scrutinise the sky, an astronomer in ankle socks
deciphering the stars.

Spool back to the letter on the fire,
sucked up the chimney in a flash –
A-doll-a-pram-and-a-tea-set,
a pair of skates, a skipping rope –
the dash outside to catch the ashes on the wind,
smoke signals drifting over rooftops.
Roll forward through the years
and other words gone up in smoke –
We went to your mother’s last year;
not in front of the children.
It’s bad news, I’m afraid;
the first Christmas is the hardest.

All the Christmases roll together, all the voices
that have gone, blown skyward on the wind,
always snow at Christmas.
Memories gather
as a snowball gathers snow.
I hear them
as the child hears sleigh bells in that
close and holy whiteness.
I wear them
like a coat, turn my face towards the sky,
accept the falling flakes of snow.

 

 

Carol A. Caffrey is an Irish writer and actor living in Shropshire.  Her work has been published in a number of journals and anthologies and her debut poetry chapbook will be published by 4Word Press in 2020.

 

 

 

Christmas Day, 1848. St Michael’s Church, Haworth

She sits in the family pew, head down.
Her father’s words fly from the black rock
of his pulpit like fieldfares, chasing up the nave
high above bonnets and caps, quarrelsome, lively,
ignored. She will not listen. Not today. A space
of cold air in the church where warm bodies
once pressed her close. Hidden in her glove
the withered spray of heather searched for
on the moors, too late. Those fierce eyes
were grown indifferent, unrecognising; the fight
was lost. No need now to tremble for the hard
frost and the keen wind. Her sister does not feel
them. She will write, later of God’s comfort –
today the new birth in the bleak hill village
is unaccompanied by any light.

 

 

Maeve Henry lives and works in Oxford.  Her poetry has been published in various magazines and anthologies.  She was shortlisted for the inaugural Brotherton Prize in 2019, and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize in 2018.

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On the First Day of Christmas we bring you Beth McDonough, Chris Hardy, Jane Burn

 

 

 

Walking to the Solstice

I raise you a bunch of haws’ tight fists,
darkly reluctant to quit thorns.
I compliment you in frosted drips,
mash, sticky from orange-bright hips.
I give you hard burgundy brambles
never destined to grow soft or more ripe.
I slip down strange chocolate-bittered fruits,
hungover by tenacious crab apples.

All your light sharpens these short hours
ignites, then doubles the Tay.
You flare in the rip
fired through the lifeboat pier.
We curl into your copper bowl news,
keen for the year’s last turn.

 

 

Beth McDonough’s poetry appears in Magma, Poetry Salzburg Review and elsewhere; she reviews in DURA. When not writing she is to be found year-round, in or by the Tay. Lamping for pickled fish is newly-published by 4Word.

 

 

 

Midwinter Invitation

Though the sun stands still and cold
darkness seems to lengthen, deepen,
despite being trimmed a fraction.
On a foggy morning, barometer rising,
almost invisible sparrows play in the wood
like small falling leaves that sing.
They don’t mean to teach me but they do,
so I’ve hung a hotel on the shed for them
next Spring, or sooner if snow comes.
In due course the sun will pause again,
but this time overhead at noon,
and the busy team chasing
across the road will still be here,
living on scraps of dust and air.

 

 

Chris Hardy lives in Sussex and has traveled widely. His poems have been published in many magazines, anthologies and websites. He is in LiTTLe MACHiNe www.little-machine.com ‘The most brilliant music and poetry band in the world’. Carol Ann Duffy. His collection Sunshine at the end of the world, was published by Indigo Dreams.”A guitarist as well as a poet Chris Hardy consistently hits the right note, never hits a false note”. Roger McGough.

 

 

 

The Advent Calendar of Most Useful Things

Behind door no. 1   A stranger’s smile cut from a magazine.
Behind door no. 2   The feeling of approaching rain.
Behind door no. 3   A healthy mushroom dome.
Behind door no. 4   A bradawl’s point.
Behind door no. 5   Broth mix.
Behind door no. 6   Some obsolete currency.
Behind door no. 7   A tawny owl’s inclination.
Behind door no. 8   Your favourite carol sung tuneless and loud.
Behind door no. 9   A lucky horseshoe.
Behind door no. 10  An atlas of made-up lands.
Behind door no. 11  Permission slip for a pantomime.
Behind door no. 12  One outlandish moustache.
Behind door no. 13  Two slices of wholemeal toast.
Behind door no. 14  A dish of trifle with no calories.
Behind door no. 15  A squished Chapstick stuck with pocket lint.
Behind door no. 16  Empty (to encourage Seasonal Perplexity).
Behind door no. 17  A genuine vintage Babycham glass.
Behind door no. 18  Your child’s first tooth.
Behind door no. 19  A unicorn made from driftwood.
Behind door no. 20  A matchbox full seaglass from the beach.
Behind door no. 21  A stout torch.
Behind door no. 22  The brackish taste of an icicle.
Behind door no. 23  A friend’s name from your past.
Behind door no. 24  The smell of a blown-out candle.
Behind door no. 25  An Arctic hare the shape of your mind.

 

 

Jane Burn‘s poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies, have been placed in numerous competitions and have been nominated for the Forward and Pushcart Prize. None of this is as important as love for each other and for the positive power of words.

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Lucy Ingrams

 

 

 

moonrise

new chevrons   chalking
the wind   – two terns   re-
turned north   re-
vise the estuary’s    silvers

rollers   far out   lumpen
with seals   the links
hump   with bronze
hordes  of whin

the copters’   relay
belfries   the cloud
peels   & slices
half-hours

a mussel shell   tips
on a cake   of sand   – chink
of wave   in its bows   still
waiting   to be bailed

the horizon   offers
its quiet practice   its
diffuse gaze   a tanker
breaks    my meditation

&   I am   night-
startled   I—

over   the boatshed
flushed   & full   how
did I   miss
the peony   moon

– sways eastward   now
out towards   Norway

its sun-mirror’s   mirror
rusting   the current

 

 

Lucy Ingrams won the Manchester Poetry Prize (2015) and the Magma Poetry Competition (2016). A pamphlet, Light-fall, is published by Flarestack Poets. 

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Matt Pitt

 

 

 

Rain Dog

Afterwards, the pool table (cue ball
chalk, two stripes) posed for Paul Cezanne.
The drinkers who were plunged in conversation
seemed suddenly and simultaneously
to lose their train of thought.
I fixed my eyes on the wall above the bar
where they were screening a montage
of your finest moments.
A year passed.
Tom Waits walked in and put a snakeskin
boot through the jukebox.
He signalled the barman.
He sat down beside me and said
Son, I’ve ordered you a bourbon. Lean
in and I’ll tell you how to win her back.

 

 

Matt Pitt is a poet and screenwriter. He has previously published in Acumen, Ambit, London Magazine and Prole. His debut feature film, Greyhawk, was shortlisted for the Michael Powell Award at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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Penny Blackburn

 

 

 

Lake Swim

Though I don’t like to put my head under,
I want to follow the thin nylon line
that tethers the marker in place;
finger-tap the concrete block anchoring
the buoy to the lake bed.
I would continue into the soft-plock mud,
stir depths of silt to cloud about us like the waste of years.

We tread water. We ripple out
through surface spiders and the shit of ducks.
We watch the steady drill lines
of serious swimmers – capped and suited
for their three stern miles around the course.
Black bodies sleekly purposeful under frivolous-coloured tow floats.
We are casual, we came without.

We discuss what we would do.
“I would hold your face up. I’d shout.”

 

 

Penny Blackburn lives in the North East of England and writes poetry and short fiction. Her publications include pieces online in Bangor Literary Journal, Atrium and Picaroon and in print with Paper Swans Press, Reader’s Digest and Maytree Press.

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Katherine Collins

 

 

 

Beauty and Despair on the Rail Replacement Bus

The journey is a mural etched in hazy relief
on the outside of the windows, viscous
and not at all malleable. It reflects your fatigue
in a pinched face set as a stubborn witness
to insular interests. Snow, painted with a palette
knife, clings to stunted black branches; it preserves,
in pale twisted shapes, a fragile history of the wind’s habits
during the night. Streetlights bloom like peonies, petals
bursting with sleet that will harden into rain that will freeze
in deathly black patches. Road signs coalesce from the syrupy
darkness and their retroreflective surfaces untangle and release
the colour spectrum from the beam of our headlights and display
the light’s intimate form: of fern breath frozen to a pane
of glass; chromatographic crystals split along visceral planes.

 

 

Katherine Collins is a poet, writer, and academic. She spends her time between Bristol and Oxford, where she holds a Leverhulme Fellowship at the University. Her writing has appeared in Finished Creatures, Life Writing, and Oxford Writers’ House.

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