Stop Motion – Paul Wooldridge

Stop Motion

I concentrate on them,
my scaled down figures,
sculpting them with clumsy, adult hands.

Such small adjustments.
Incremental actions,
indiscernible in real time,
made faithfully to larger plans.

I trust that, over time
as lives play out,
they’ll come to life.

They’re products of a childhood
filled with tiny changes,
course corrections,
painstaking work behind the scenes.


Paul writes in a restrained tone on ageing, death, children and other mundane ponderings of a married father of young girls. The New Humanist, The Cannon’s Mouth, About Larkin, The Dawn Treader, and Graffiti magazine have all published his work.

Breakfast at the Infinity Hotel – Rebecca Bird

Breakfast at the Infinity Hotel

…………Ask me what would happen
if there were infinity more hotel rooms

……and inside them, infinity more versions
of us. Would each couple still drift

between the sheets like passing taxis
…….ordering room service under the pseudonym

…..we’re so bad? Yes it’s great to be dripping
this midnight oil around your navel

but there are other uses for it, it descales
…..the eyes like a dream. Last night, slammed

…..shut as a clamshell, you nuzzled my tattoo
of a fishbowl – why isn’t there a fish

you asked as I let you kiss the water
…..the water that sustains the rooms above us

millions of you
…..sagging in the gutter
……….of millions more of me.


Rebecca Bird was born in 1991 and grew up in Devon. She has previously been published in journals including The Rialto, Cake, The Interpreter’s House, Envoi, The Bakery and Poetry Quarterly.  Her debut chapbook Shrinking Ultraviolet is published by Eyewear Publishing. 

Tobacco Harvest, North Carolina – Gill McEvoy

Tobacco Harvest, North Carolina

All afternoon we laboured bunching leaves.
Black ooze glued our fingers to our thighs
each time we wiped our hands off on our jeans.

‘Tobacco cu’in’ sheds’, the foreman flung
the barn-doors open to a brimstone stink
of bunches hung in twos, like pairs of lungs.

The bright greens slowly grieve their way to rust.
‘Killin’ sheds’ I muttered to myself,
examining my hands – thick tar and dust.


Gill McEvoy has  2 full collections from Cinnamon Press: ‘Rise’, 2013, and ‘The Plucking Shed’, 2010; 3 pamphlets from Happenstance Press: ‘Uncertain Days’, 2006, ‘A Sampler’, 2008, and ‘The First Telling’ 2014. -This latter won the Michael Marks Award 2015. Gill was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2012.

I Don’t Want to Dance. – Lesley Quayle

I Don’t Want to Dance.

I don’t want to dance.

Coralled by your youthful strong-arm,
pinned against the wall’s sharp corner,
and your red mouth ajar, breath smoky,
soured by lager, a threat pending on my cheek.

I don’t want to dance.

Your half closed eyes are feral.
I bleed panic, like a wounded bird,
your oiled entreaties wheedling in my ear,
sleekit through the wild lark of music.

I don’t want to dance.

Your leg against mine, slight, reinforcing pressure,
and your drumming heart, a carnal encampment,
brimmed with intent and there’s nothing between us
but eyes and breath so you close in to taste my fear.

When I push you, there’s scant resistance,
only a wink, lips stretched over a sneer,
‘You’re a disappointment, darlin’ so you are.’


Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, living in deepest, darkest Dorset. She’s also a folk/blues singer and co-organiser of a music club, wife of one, mother of four and grandma of three (and a half.)

Recalculating – Kathy Gee


His kindred spirit died at far too young.
There was a time I hoped to be his next;
I didn’t try to kiss him, I’m not daft.
Take slip road left then enter roundabout.

I watched him leave the highway, go off-road
to some seductive forest where a princess
chased him and he wanted to be caught.
I was the voice of reason down the phone:
Perform a U turn when it’s safe to do so.

So glad he’s found a wife to wed,
without him I might not have traded smiles
with you along that backroad in Missouri.
Enter roundabout and take third exit.
Everything is burgeoning – that springing
willow, him and her, and us. And us.
Drive for thirty years along the bypass.


Kathy Gee’s first collection – Book of Bones – was published by V. Press in May 2016: In the same year, she wrote the spoken word elements for a contemporary choral piece – .

Snow – Anne Milton


If you were here I’d say,
‘Lean on the window sill
with me and see how clean
the world looks.’
And you’d reply,
‘It’s a fresh start.’

On a new page
we would rewrite our story,
leaving out the parts
where voices rise
and anger
spews out words
that can’t be taken back;

then I would never hear
my mean voice say,
‘I hate you,’
or see you crying
as you walk away.


Anne Milton lives on the outskirts of Worcester with a large collection of books and several well-read cats. She is a member of Worcestershire Stanza and enjoys Worcester LitFest Speakeasy.

Featured Publication – Oysterlight by Cheryl Pearson

Our featured publication for December is Oysterlight by Cheryl Pearson, published by Pindrop Press.

In her poem ‘Girl as Star’, Cheryl Pearson writes about ‘a girl held together/by her own gravity’ and it seems to me that this book is held together by its own beautiful and finely-crafted gravity. The poems are built with care and love and with a deep conviction that language not only helps us to survive, it helps us to dance.” Ian McMillan

Oysterlight is a shining debut, filled with nature, love, mythology. Cheryl Pearson gives a voice to angels, Daphne, Orpheus, Medusa, Penelope and Persephone in beautifully crafted poems of startling clarity. I loved it.” Carole Bromley

From interviews with angels to glimpses of selkies, Oysterlight is a magical collection which makes the familiar strange. Cheryl Pearson guides us through landscapes where ‘ghosts are pressed in the print of our boots’. Enchanting, enchanted.” Helen Mort

Oysterlight - Cover 180px


Pre-dawn I wake, and your breathing finds me,
places me into this bed, this room, this
sudden not-quite-morning. You won’t mind me
folding into your side, so I fold; kiss

the tangled mat of hair on your bent arm;
smell the yeasty smell which makes your skin taste
of wheat. Once, in Wales, we went to a farm
where a similar smell rose from the waste

of horses – a homely smell, redolent
of good earth, heat, sweat, physical labour.
I tucked myself into you, nonchalant.
Breathed you in as I do now, bed-neighbour

on this dark dawn, as the clock enforces
order and you dream – perhaps of horses.


Things That Can Be Broken

The road’s back, under boots and drills.
A bad tooth on a peach-pit.
Silences. Mornings. Sleeping-spells.
Stars shivered up in a kicked bucket.

A sick fingernail, ridged with infection.
Mirrors, and windows. A weak lock.
Sandcastle-keeps when the sea returns.
The braid of a fish-spine on a cutting block.

A Christmas wishbone in a pincer-grip.
A voice under fathoms of bad news.
A soft, dropped apple, coughing its pips.
A slow snail under careless shoes.

A fast. A heart. A sapling split
by axes, lightning, rot, disease.
A talcumed grandmother’s chalky hip.
Ice under boot-heels in a winter freeze.

A confidence. A promise. A fever. A skull.
A jilted bride, glittering like dew.
A horse’s leg on a difficult hurdle.
Bread, and circles. Me. You.


Joan Of Arc Waits For The Flames

They burned her horse first, made her watch
as they hustled his gleaming furniture into flame.
His tail, his mane, gone in a shock of sparks.
She hadn’t known a horse could scream like that.
Hadn’t known that pain came in layers, like an onion –
as one was stripped away, another, larger, moulded on the last,
gleamed underneath, brought burning water from her eyes.
When the fire reached his centre, she felt her own heart catch.
How soft then seemed the plates of her armour. How thin her skin,
through which grief flooded like sunlight through glass.
The thought of her own death, so close she could taste it –
fat-spit, lung-burn, sooted rib. Then out of her mind: the rope
of her Voice. Think cold as the flames peel away from your bones.
As her wrists were tied. As the torch-flame leaped. As her hems
and ankles lightened. Think snowmelt. Think
stalactite. Think ice-storms. Think stone.


Insurance Policy

Let my blood run backwards twenty-four months
to the source of this, the source of us. My salmon-cells leaping
back to the dark. Let my heart collapse softly
on the sack of itself, a balloon expelling you
breath by breath. Let my neck forget the syllables you left
with tongue and teeth; let my hands unlearn held
and remember release. Let my bones come loose
from the shape tucked into the sheets at night,
let the moon print newly minted light along my spine.
Let me rock shut like an oyster over the pearl
of what this has become. Which is everything. The world
I cannot conceive of losing. Let me go back further, just in case.
Stars, carbon. A universe of blank space.


Pre-Dawn and Things That Can Be Broken were both previously published in the Best of Manchester Poets anthologies (Puppywolf Press).

Cheryl Pearson lives in Manchester, and has been published widely in the UK and abroad. She won the Torbay Poetry Competition 2017 and the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016. She has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first collection, “Oysterlight”, is available now.

Oysterlight (Pindrop Press, 2017) is available to purchase from:

Cold War – Stella Wulf

Cold War

In this cold war
a blustering wind presides
over the house; in his element,
storming up walls, battering sidings,
bluffing and huffing at trees,
tearing strips from roofs,
bellowing down chimneys.

In this cold war
she floats her white sheets,
letting them settle like feathers
over the beds, tucking in the edges,
making pillows of the box hedge,
an eiderdown of the puckered earth.

She likes the steady fall of a still night,
to spread herself on the rise of hills,
to lie in the limbs of trees, enfold the roofs,
melt in the chimney’s breathy whisper.

In this cold war
she favours gentle persuasion,
the irresistible pull of a full moon,
a frosting of stars to anneal her gravitation.

This cold war
is a quiet gathering, a crystallised accretion,
billowing the streets, flocking in corners,
a swelling drift, majestic, primordial,

Tomorrow, waking to a new world,
children will revel in her body,
impress her with angels
while men curse, push her aside.

In this cold war
she will harden her resolve,
fold the world in her wings,
until the hollow wind
blows out.


Stella’s poems have been published both in print and online magazines and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops from a cauldron, and the Clear Poetry Anthology.