Mary Ford Neal





Jane shapes the town to herself. Of the spire, the pond,
the iron bridge and the bandstand,
she is undoubted queen.

She cooks and eats, she feeds and clothes the world,
folding bodies and souls into comfortable communion.
She is a ladle, stirring.

She brings back treasures from sun-hardened places,
gives them up to the damp fingers of grass-stained children.
She is a shell haircomb.

She plays cards, quickly. She smells of cocoa powder or of lilac
and vaporises priests with a raised eyebrow.
She is a raised eyebrow.

She hardly writes at all, but when she does
the lines she makes go through to the pages underneath.

She fixes herself to the spot; she pitches tents for the lost. Are you lost?
She is a compass, pointing.

And then she moves away.

She moves away in all her beauty, in all her how-dare-yous.
She moves away in all her certainty, her life its own eloquence.
She moves away in all the crimson of our still-warm love for her.



Mary Ford Neal lives in the West of Scotland and is an academic based at the University of Strathclyde. Main themes in her poetry include the physicality of emotion, sacredness (in all its forms), and the intersubjectivity of human life.

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Tim Dwyer




Social Distancing  
March 2020

A lone kayaker skims through
smooth waters of Belfast Lough.
Yellow legged gulls
circle his blue craft,
their cries echo along the strand.

I want to believe these streams
of late morning sun
will purify the sea breeze.

Cupped in my palm,
I jingle green sea glass,

ready to cast the dice.



Tim Dwyer’s chapbook is Smithy Of Our Longings. His poems have appeared in Cyphers, Orbis, Poetry Ireland Review, Southword and The Stinging Fly among other journals. He retired as a psychologist from a women’s maximum-security prison in New York and now lives in County Down.



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Oscar Stirling Payne





You are a Rottweiler
and the hand
holding you back
straining your voice
and collared throat,
wanting to rush
into the long
grass of desire.
You are aware
of ticks, the
inevitable choice: do
you love yourself
enough to pay
the vet’s bill?
Or will you
let yourself sleep,
(so gently)
after getting what
you wanted, after
feeling the wet
freedom of running
through want, sacrificing
yourself to the
cycle of dogs?



Oscar Stirling Payne is a writer. You can find him in Hertfordshire, where he sometimes works on a Lavender Farm, and occasionally performs his poetry live. He graduated Lancaster University’s Creative Writing MA program, and has been published in Flash Journal

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Richie McCaffery




Going without

It’s only when I heave myself
out of the bath
that I begin to feel wet.

It’s only when you come
out of the biblical rain
I see you’re crying.

It’s being apart from you
makes me see all the time
I thought I was depressed
I was actually happy.



Richie McCaffery lives in Alnwick, Northumberland. He’s the author of two poetry pamphlets, including Spinning Plates from HappenStance Press as well as two book-length collections from Nine Arches Press, Cairn and Passport. In 2020 he’s to publish a pamphlet with Mariscat Press as well as an edited collection of academic essays on the Scottish poet Sydney Goodsir Smith (Brill / Rodopi).

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John-Christopher Johnson




Picking Blackberries

My grandfather told me to look
under the leaves as many of them
were hiding like fugitives.

Protected from the spines
wearing a coat or thick pullover,
he’d nonchalantly part the brambles

so that we could enter a channel;
a Yorkshire Moses. Each berry
was placed in a cardboard tray,

nestled together they resembled
miniature black grenades.
Corkscrewing back in time my mind

opens a bottle containing images
of pain and sacrifice. We have
the thorns and the purple venal

blood and now the Bradford sky
is getting dark with thunder clouds
as gradually we make our way home.



John-Christopher Johnson has had poems published in The Journal, Other Poetry, London Grip, Agenda, Interpreter’s House, The Seventh Quarry, The North, Allegro Poetry, Orbis etc. He has attended creative writing groups run by Jan Moran Neil in Beaconsfield and has occasionally read his work at The Poet’s Cafe in Reading.

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Carolyn Oulton





The windscreen’s dusty, I forgot
to turn off the lights
and now the car won’t start.
I won’t I assure the man by phone
try to hug you when you come.

My mother comes forward,
I take a few steps back.
She cuts the fish and chips in half
floppily, I dance a second
plate for her tomorrow’s lunch.

Letters crawl under their envelopes
like seed. I’ve sent you books,
I’m sending news, I’ve washed
a first class stamp with my tongue.
One chance to post today.

Online laughter, like
your sense of humour.
On the phone to work,
Love you, darling / Sorry,
I wasn’t – sorry – talking to you.



Carolyn Oulton is Professor of Victorian Literature and Director of the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her most recent collection is Accidental Fruit (Worple).

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Bojana Stojcic




In My Dream You are Not Cold

I’m not shrouded in a blanket of smog as the first
of the winter’s heavy pollution hits the city
schools don’t shut and there are no warnings for
pregnant women (in my dream, there aren’t refineries
and power plants to start with). Your mother doesn’t
burn your clothes, dispose of the needles, doesn’t tell me
where she’ll bury you and what flowers arrangements
are appropriate for the funeral.

In my dream, there are no rules:
candles for the living up, for the deceased down
wear black for 40 days (preferably for a year)
don’t dance, don’t celebrate and don’t you dare
laugh, you’re supposed to mourn. Spirits are not
comfortable seeing their own reflection, she’ll say
covering the mirrors. We should allow you to depart
freely and make offerings on the day of the dead
to facilitate your transition to another life.

I am in charge in my dream so when I say
you can’t leave the house, I mean it.
There are no priests and religions, and
you are forever trapped in our mirrors
getting undressed, shaving, hopping in the shower.
I don’t awaken the following day.
The needle is in your vein when your snoring
startles me awake in the dead of night so
I pull it out, take the tourniquet off and apply pressure
with my fingers to stop bleeding. You sleep through
until noon and when I pinch you, you tell me to stop.
I don’t know what the wake is in my dream and
I don’t say, I’m not making any promises with
a smirk when you ask me not to let go of you.
You lie warm and cuddly by my side
your leg on mine, my arm on yours, and I feel
your pulse against my naked heart when we fuck
making offerings to the gods of love
till death do us both part.



Bojana Stojcic teaches and writes. Her poetry and prose have appeared in 30+ online and print lit journals and anthologies. She is @BoyaETC on Twitter and is currently working on a collection of short fiction/prose poetry.

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