Anthony Watts




Interrogation at the Womb Door

(with a nod to Ted Hughes)

Who goes there?  Body and Soul.
Anything else to declare?
Before you pass through the eye of the needle,
You can leave them in our tender care.

We’re sending that equipment to the Centre of Research
To see just how your lifelines scan.
If the parish priest can’t use your soul,
We know a lot of guys who can.

There’s a man with a scalpel and he’s hungry for love:
He’s heard your heart is full;
And your brains are on the menu in the restaurant above,
Where they serve them up with fine electric wool.

Hurry along now; there’s plenty of room;
We’re taking you all for a ride.
We’ll sign your birth certificate then show you to your tomb
When we get you on the other side.

Who goes there?  Body and Soul.
Anything else to declare?
Well, we want you travelling light through our legislated midnight
And it looks just like you’re hiding something there.



Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for over 40 years.  He has won prizes and had poems published in magazines and anthologies.  His latest collection is Stiles .  Anthony’s  main interests are poetry, music and walking.

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, we bring you JS Watts, Kerry Darbishire and Nicky Phillips






White Blessings

The moon looks down from her bed of winding sheets.
Her glance is white, both a blessing and a curse.
It howls of weddings and funerals,
vast icy distances;
impersonal, chillingly serene.

Great snowfields reach up to kiss a bleached bone sky.
The white hare runs with speed and grace.
Whatever you do, don’t look at her.
Veil her eyes with the soiled nets
of winter fog crawling in
on gusts of inertia.

Unsullied potential glares defiantly
from the new year’s calendar;
smooth as untouched cold cream.
It could be anything, many things, nothing
reflected in the blankness behind sheeted eyes.




J.S.Watts’ books include poetry, Cats and Other Myths and  Years Ago You Coloured Me, plus multi-award nominated Songs of Steelyard Sue and a shiny new pamphlet, The Submerged Sea. Her novels are A Darker Moon and Witchlight. See




The Twelfth Day

Before glittery robins, deer and pines
laden with snow flew through my door,

before tree lights sparkled the dead-air days
and tinsel decked the corners, I was writing

a poem about you – wrapped
in the joy of cards slipping

off their strings, hoovering pine needles
the man on the market promised wouldn’t

drop, the spit and crackle of parched
holly dismantled in the grate, you

glowing in the satisfaction of taking Christmas
down, snapping shut the rusty hinges

of an old leather suitcase brimmed
with paper chains, lanterns, the nativity, then

from underneath a bed, lifting out
the scent of blue and white hyacinths.




Kerry Darbishire lives in Cumbria. Her poems appear widely in anthologies and magazines and have won several prizes, including shortlist Bridport 2017. Her two poetry collections, A Lift of Wings 2014, and Sweet on my Tongue 2018 with Indigo Dreams.Twitter: @kerrydarbishire




Changing the calendar

Squalls bluster recycled streamers
up into spirals; rain, relentless,
drives as puddles deepen;
muddy streams pour off fields;
lanes flow like rivers;
clouds hang low as skies close in.

Yesterday, similarly soggy,
was last year, last day,
speeding to midnight’s ringing in.
Today, with everything new,
feels old – no herald of change,
no stirring under water-logged soil.

I ditch December, with its unused
prompts for procrastinating poets,
substitute a flawless year,
a gallery of vintage typewriters,
each date, each key poised,
ready to deliver the unexpected.




Nicky Phillips lives in Hertfordshire. Her poems have been published in magazines and online. In 2017 one was nominated for Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her pamphlet Jam in Aisle 3 was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018.

Note: This poem was first published in Benington Parish Magazine, January 2017


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Last Taboo

The one certainty in life.
One word we dread to mention.
he made frog noises
caroled with the cygnus
kicked off his wooden working shoes
applied his foot to the pail, hard
toppled off the budgie support
removed the taught spring of life
lies seventy two inches down
is bench pressing the bellis perennis
and entertaining the annelids for lunch.
Though you need to be careful with Latin.
It’s a language that has tumbled
well away from awake.




Books by J.S.WattsThe Submerged Sea (poetry), Dempsey & Windle – ISBN 9781907435591; Witchlight (novel), Vagabondage Press – ISBN 9780692406908; A Darker Moon (novel), Vagabondage Press – ISBN 9780615706528; Cats and Other Myths (poetry), Lapwing Publications – ISBN 9781907276644; Songs of Steelyard Sue (poetry), Lapwing Publications – ISBN 9781909252028: NOMINATED for BOTH SFPA and Saboteur Awards Best Poetry Pamphlet 2013; Years Ago You Coloured Me (poetry), Lapwing Publications. Website:

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A Brief Analysis of Soup and Soup Making

I invite you to consider
this pot of broth.
Neither meal nor beverage,
it side-steps categorization
with a gentle, but jaunty slop.
Mistress of disguises,
it can sometimes be
stew, chilli, gravy.

Good soup is not made.
It evolves
slowly, lovingly
after multiple simmerings and stirrings,
plus surgical removals of the skin.
Tasted, sampled, consumed,
re-heated and augmented,
absorbing equally
the old and the fresh,
the abandoned and the rediscovered.

Soup can last a lifetime,
granting hope
to cast-aside dinners,
rejected repasts,
the forgotten vegetable hiding
at the bottom of fridge or freezer,
unnamed, unadorned animal parts
your grandmother knew intimately.

Tended, it is a flavour
that keeps on giving, a heritage
of choices and second chances,
bubbling with life
and hidden secrets
and of such potential longevity
it is almost
primeval, eternal soup.
Who knows what
it may become next?



J.S.Watts is a UK writer. She has published three books: two poetry, Cats and Other Myths and Songs of Steelyard Sue and a novel, A Darker Moon. Her second novel, Witchlight is due out in Spring 2015. See  or   

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J S Watts' 'Skin'

This started out taut
as some notes upon skin
but my skin’s too thin
and let’s other things in.
It’s a form of osmosis
new words just soak in
so the poem I finish
won’t be the one I begin.
The hide on this poem
is like a balloon
that expands and expands
‘til it rivals the moon
that fat angel face
who’s long lost her chin
so how many angels
can fit on a pin?
But each month she diets
and grows painfully thin
her guts fade away
the outside leaks in
until she becomes
size o again.
I’d like my own dermis
to shrink to a grin
to laugh off the chips
the red wine and the gin
but the leather’s too old
to flex like a fin.
Too much weight lost
and this bag starts to sag
‘til it hangs on my scaffold
like a weather worn rag
so I’ll flaunt this old pelt
like a well practiced sin
and just learn to love
the skin that I’m in.

*J.S.Watts’ poetry appears in British, Canadian and American publications including: Acumen, Envoi and Orbis. Her collection, Cats and Other Myths, is published by Lapwing Publications.   

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Gloria Watts is attending a yoga class

The Yoga Class

Stretched arms, hands,
fingers upwards, heads erect
as if pulled by string to heaven’s sky.
Legs taut, knees bent
in stillness with breath
that marks time, one, two three.
In slow motion, their graceful moves
to music soft and low, alongside flickering lights
that paint the floor.
And I – and speckled sunlight
from dusty windows,
look on in silence.

* Gloria Watts lives in the UK. She is a retired college lecturer, many of her short stories and poems have been published online.

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Sarah Ann Watts is down among the books

One more time

‘This is the place where they house the dead books. This is where we store the tales that no one reads any more. It’s like a graveyard though paper is slower to decay than flesh. I am the guardian. Let me show you around, help you settle in, make you feel at home.’
I blink, coming in from the sunlight. ‘No really, I think there must be some mistake. I took a wrong turn. Maybe you would show me the way out?’
The guardian shrugs, rustling cardboard sleeves. His laughter is the crackle of flame. I can feel heat in the air, a dry tinge to the air, the scent of burning. Suddenly I am afraid.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘I’m sorry. It’s just that everyone says the same when they first arrive. No one ever means to come here. One slip of the pen – that’s all it takes. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all friends here.
I can feel the ink dripping from my eyes. ‘It wasn’t my fault.’
The guardian enfolds me like a parcel in a brown paper embrace. He hands me a wisp of tissue paper and delicately dabs my pages.
‘Am I smudged?’
‘Only a little. The marbling suits you.’
I gather myself together. ‘I am signed you know.’
‘And illustrated?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. I am a serious work of art.’
He mutters something under his breath. ‘Literary pretensions? Let me tell you something, love. We get all kinds here, paperbacks and first editions, yellow pages, embossed covers and spot gilding. You know what? They all burn in the end.’
I cover my ears. Flame! Is this broken backed remainder threatening me? Does he know who I am? I was the fast seller of 2001.
‘And now you’re ‘lightly used’ – I like that. Keep me warm and I’ll shield you from the heat, sweetheart.’
‘You read my mind?’
‘You’re an open book.’ He leers. ‘Be nice and I might just keep you from the fire.’
I close my cover tight. Like me it has seen better days. He paws at my title and it’s all I can do not to scream. I can hear the roar from the furnace and I want to live another day.
Read me baby, one more time?

* Sarah Ann Watts writes fantasy with a dash of science fiction – or possibly the other way round. It’s all relative?

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