The First Day of Christmas – Catherine Ayres and Ken Evans



Advent service

Three o’clock and the hall is a collapsed lung.
Candles glow through a fug of Lynx and condensation.
God is with us. He is ready for a song.

The boys in the back row are weary. They have writhed
through the rituals of celebration and now their necks rest
on the backs of chairs, legs splayed like scissors.

The piano uncoils its rusty spring and they sit up slowly,
like a ward of old men expecting medicine.
The boys don’t want to sing; the girls are watching,

filling the cracks in their voices with the edges of sly smiles.
But they know I’m unashamed, a fallen woman in a cardigan,
a God-fearing atheist swollen with strange devotion.

They tuck their embarrassment under my unfashionable voice
and we creak forward, a carnival float of dishevelled praise.
We open our mouths to bleak midwinters, fall on earth

as hard as iron, swallow the water that’s like a stone.
The candles flicker like departing lovers, like bald heads in the
hospital and I’m spiralling through alleluias, back to where all that’s past

is yet to come, untouched as a Christmas sprout, a little Our Lady
looking for the Lord in every bedroom ceiling light- streak.
The music stops.

In the needle’s eye that stitches silence to song
there’s a low thunder, the thump of a thousand hearts.
Sleet is veiling the windows in a desperation of grey.

“Bloody hell, it’s a deluge” says a small voice beside me.
Christ, I think, it’s like applause.





Catherine Ayres lives and works in Northumberland. Her poems have appeared  in Ink, Sweat  & Tears, Spontaneity, Domestic Cherry, Prole and The Moth. She recently came third in Ambit magazine’s “Under the Influence” competition.




The Man in the Street

A man in a Santa hat, not obviously out of it,
antlers on, tacks down the street,
fills our pavement with bandy-leg confidence.
No warning, he flings his sails wide,
sings out, ‘You’re beautiful,’ to the tarmac host
a shoal that swerves round his turbulence.
‘Don’t worry, mate, you’ll get over it,’ he laughs,
eyes me. Doesn’t even bother to warn me off,
I’m safe, no threat in tie, overcoat, a suspect lack
of bags. There’s the sudden gain of apathy, it’s Christmas again
and I’ve still let down every side there’s ever been.
I scramble for the tongue in my pocket
the shoal wheels round, expectant. I am sucking
in air in a too warm suit. The moment passes,
he walks off laughing. Now he’s gone I want to be him,
taking on the world for fun, singing because
it’s a sunny lunchtime in December, because he can
because he felt like it and no-one’s arrested
Christmas Eve unless they really want to be.


Ken Evans is a Creative Writing Master’s student at Manchester University. He featured in The Interpreter’s House and on Morphrog9 this summer and was placed in the Poets & Players Competition 2014.

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