Freedom: Maggie Mackay, Bethany W Pope, Richard Biddle for National Poetry Day




What Every Rusholme Housemaid Wants

Sarah, get yourself to the boating lake. They take a turn each day.

Granted an afternoon’s relief from dust and grates,
Cook wheeshes me out the basement door to Platt Fields
where the lake is an ocean of rowing boat bob
and a brass band is playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.

Soft smiling Miss Esther Roper, grave Miss Eva Gore-Booth,
my secret crush, I blush at the thought,
of a glimpse, the couple arm-in-arm,
pinch-waisted, faces moon-framed by spectacles.

Ah, see them now,
by purple lavender, lily of the valley snow,
lime trees fanning in the breeze.
I catch their conversation,
snatch words, ‘rights’ ‘flower sellers’ ‘suffrage’.

Mother’s always telling me to mind my ways.

Maggie Mackay has an MA in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University with work in a range of poetry magazines. She is a co-editor of Word Bohemia. (




Small Heaven
First, you ask the manager to open
the store room. The company won’t provide
a trolley to carry your supplies, but
someone nicked a wheely-basket from
the Matalan next door and you can use
that to carry two twenty-kilo bags
of kernels and raw sugar. If you’re strong,
you can sling the three-gallon oil cannister
under your armpit to save yourself a trip.
The white-plastic bag of popping corn is stamped
‘America!’ across the side in large
red, white, and blue letters. The brown paper
sugar-sack is discreetly marked ‘product
of Britain’ in a small square on the bottom
left corner. The oil is bought from the lowest
seller and every week the container
is different. The kettles look like a pair
of Kentucky stills, the ones your uncle
hid inside a tree stump. Those burnt corn, too,
but the product was different. They’re mounted
high up on a metal platform, behind
the retail counter. The popcorn you serve
is always a few days old, but the smell
of the fresh stuff never fails to boost sales
and people like to watch you work. Fill the drums
beneath the kettles, switch on the rotor,
the heat, and the pump. Add a scoop of corn
and a full cup of sugar, and write your name
and the date on thirty blue, ten-gallon
storage bags while the oil heats up. Do not
forget to wear your goggles. Sometimes hot,
greasy seeds shoot out from under the rims
of the kettles. The next seven hours are
free and just a little magical, filled
as they are with rhythmic, hypnotizing
sound, a hot, white flurry, and the sweet smell
of the kind of fairs you never visited
when you lived at home. Spend the time scooping
shovelfuls of someone else’s happiness
into bags you stack beside the ice-machine.
Let your eyes unfocus, just a little,
while you work. There are whole worlds, hidden here,
behind your heavy eyelids, stories, just
waiting, for you to come and explore.
You’ll stop, an hour or so before quitting
time. It takes about that long to clean up.

Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program, and her MA from the University of Wales Trinity St David. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns,(Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles(Lapwing, 2014). Her collection The Rag and Boneyard was published last year by Indigo Dreams and her chapbook Among The White Roots was released by Three Drops Press this autumn. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren last June.





I’m letting the spiders hold sway above my bed.
Their fine webs foreshadowing the grey hairs
that have already begun to age my dull skull.

Past times, I would have cupped them or sucked
them into a vacuum. No more. I’m letting their
eggs, hanging loose in spooled buds, hatch.

They are my teachers, my eight-legged gurus,
my no-self. I am becoming intimate with
their weaves, their watchfulness, their ways.

Asleep, my ceiling glitters minutely with the
black stars of their pinhead bodies. Awake,
I welcome these arachnid broods as friends.

As fantasy, they spin me a suit of silken yarn, in
which I lucidly mummify while they gratefully
gorge on the slow minerals of my stopped blood.

Now, as I slip into a deep, deep sleep where
this woven tapestry unravels, stitch by stitch,
I return once again to a single, seamless thread.




Richard Biddle teaches Creative Writing at Chichester College. His poetry has 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. He tweets as @littledeaths68.

Comments are closed.