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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