The Fifth Day of Christmas – Penelope Shuttle, Alwyn Marriage and Julie Hogg





Instead of a short poem
a sonnet say or a villanelle
I’m writing a very long one
perhaps about Christmas
perhaps not
forged out of iron words
and irony
and when I send it to you
it will arrive not by email
but stashed on a big low-loader –
you’ll know my poem is on the way
by the swirly blue watch-out lights
of its mile-long police motorcycle escort
approaching Norwich



Penelope Shuttle has published ten collections since 1980. UNSENT: New and Selected Poems, 1980 – 2012 appeared from Bloodaxe Books in October 2012.  Redgrove’s Wife, (2006) was shortlisted for The Forward Prize and for the T S Eliot Award.  In the Snowy Air  (Templar) is her most recent publication




Not three wise men


There’s more we know about what
they were not, than what they were.
For instance, they were not from
the West, were not completely
uneducated, and rather than existing
in real life, they might have been
metaphors or symbols.


The bible story certainly doesn’t claim
that there were three of them
or any other number.
The plural noun is used, and so it’s fair
to deduce that at least two were involved.
But any number of people can arrive
bearing three sorts of gifts. Maybe half a dozen
were needed to carry the gold – or perhaps
a single individual gave the baby a golden ring.
The original idea of giving frankincense
to suggest a priestly function could have occurred
to several romantic, rather religious visitors,
while others just liked the smell. As for myrrh,
it was probably borne by someone who suffered
occasional deep depressions. I only hope
it didn’t frighten the child’s mother.


It all depends how wise you think it was
to set off across the desert, following a star.
Certainly the gospel story would suggest
that despite the difficulties and dangers
the choice they made turned out to be
a wise one.
But wise in the conventional sense?
No, I don’t think so.


There’s no suggestion in the bible
that all these eastern visitors were male.
If they were sages, astronomers or intellectuals,
then it’s more than possible
that some of them were women.
After all, which gender is more likely
to travel miles to visit a new baby,
and shower him with gifts?
It’s a great story, which like the magi
has travelled down many years
picking up various particles
of dust along the way;
but whatever else it’s all about
it’s surely not three wise men.



 Alwyn Marriage’s poetry and non-fiction are published widely. Following an academic career and nine years travelling the world as Director of international NGOs, she is now Managing Editor of Oversteps Books.



Happy Birthday

Early evening dusk
was closing minds up
when we found a door
in the wall which could
always keep a secret.

The garden was deserted
except for us and we
stepped into in-between
times, rushed through
bushes, you tripped up

skidding on silver tinsel
stones under branches
filled with flimsy frost
where red bauble berries
hung, clung like a life-

blood laden laquer,
possibilities plastered
the air, new words
intermittently studded
the sky, we rolled them

up on our tongues,
you blushed. Well, it
wasn’t like that really,
until our imaginations
collided and it was.


Julie Hogg began writing poetry following an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Teesside and can’t stop. Published in magazines and anthologies in her native North East of England, she also is featured in a chapbook from the Black Light Engine Room Press.

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