Tone Deaf – Rachel Bower

Tone Deaf

Before you were born I was tone deaf
silently mouthing songs at funerals
afraid of voicing my breath.

But you love my singing
clapping along with starfish hands
smiling and laughing out loud.

I began to sing out loud.
Of the sea and cornflower blue,
of clotted cream and clouds.

Of mustard and saffron
of cherries and heat
of sage and olives and mint.

I began to sing out loud
of tears and crystal dew
of chocolate daisies and silt.

Of molasses and honey
of blossom and rose
of charcoal and ash and soot.

I began to sing out loud.
Of the sea and cornflower blue,
of clotted cream and clouds.

Of milk and pudding
of fairies and mice
and now I sing out loud.


Rachel Bower is a poet and research fellow at the University of Leeds. Her pamphlet, Moon Milk, will be published with Valley Press in May 2018. She is currently co-editing an anthology with Helen Mort entitled Verse Matters, out with Valley Press in November 2017. Her book, Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in August 2017. Rachel publishes and performs her poetry widely, and is the founder of Verse Matters, a feminist arts collective in Sheffield.


Twitter: @rachelebower

On missing dolphins, again – Mandy Macdonald

On missing dolphins, again

You’d think they knew in advance
that I’d be below in the cabin when they surfaced,
ten of them at once,
and played with the ship
for a whole quarter of an hour.

Yannis the cook called them
in their own language, late last night,
and told them to show up this morning, or else.

He’s falling in love
with one of the Cool Girls, the feisty blonde one
– excellent choice – and he thought
the dolphins would be an unbeatable present.

Ten at once! a really prodigious effort,
bounding along the ship’s sides, teasing her flanks
then slicing away into the silver blue,
but I had to be in my cabin, didn’t I,
doing some dumbfuck thing with sunscreen and hats,
so by the time I’d tumbled up on deck
they were gone.

Now I’m wedged tight in the bow, another figurehead,
speckled with spray, scanning the sea-heavens,
where constellations of sunborn scintillae
punctuate the wavetops,
waiting for them to come back.


Mandy Macdonald’s poems appear in print and online, in Poetry Scotland,  The Fat Damsel, Clear Poetry, and elsewhere, most recently in the anthologies A Bee’s Breakfast and Aiblins: New Scottish Political Writing. The rest of the time, she sings.

Tea Towels – Simon Williams

Tea Towels

After she had rejected the brushes,
cleaning agents and non-stick bakeware,
he got around to the tea towels
depicting Australian shearing techniques
and pandas in their bamboo glades.

These were much harder to ignore,
as you can never have too many
drying cloths. He gave the full spiel
about tea chests and cotton covers
laid on to protect the dried leaves.

With this fascinating history, my mother
knew she had something to say
at dinner parties, a conversation
starter, when guests offered
dutifully to do the washing up.

She took two of each design, a dozen
in all, washed them in the twin tub before use
to make them more pliable, dried them
in front of the storage heater in the lounge.
She wrapped tea pots in them, when she left.


Simon Williams has seven published collections. His latest pamphlet, Spotting Capybaras in the Work of Marc Chagall, launched in April 2016 and his latest full collection, Inti was published in July. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet.

The Girl of Paper – Kitty Coles

The Girl Of Paper

The wind blows through her, through
her thin white surface.
It rattles coldly in her vacant stomach.
It lifts and hurls her
hard against the walls.

On rainy days, she’s sodden,
pieces peeling
from her perimeters, leaving her frayed.

The sun curls up her edges,
turns her yellow.
It penetrates her lungs,
her cold white heart,
makes her feel cindery and light
as ash.

When she wants,
she can curl small,
fold up, fold up,
and slip between the pages of a book,
into a purse,
under a tongue, a foot,
slide silently away under a door.


Kitty Coles is one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, will be published in August 2017.

Up The Garden – Russell Jones

Up The Garden

Our slabbed path fixes again, petunia pink
on sage green through the soil of memory
and I imagine the season’s beans climbing,
a plot of lettuce heads. You and me
clasp hands like decades never passed us;
we roll by pansy pots and marigold beds,
past gravestones for long gone cats,
beneath the vine-heavy, white lattice archway.

We cast so many snails
over neighbours’ fences.
So many slugs were shrivelled
by our cobalt pellets.
So many of our kites flew
when others fell.

It’s hard for us both
not to wither under the past.
Someone’s cut the gorse back;
the birds and butterflies have fled.
Your shattered legs won’t make it
up the steady steps to the shed,
where our tools have been unheld
too long, and rusted.

So our bones rest in the conservatory,
we see ourselves on plates of glass.
You twist yarns, make me a child again
before the aches end it at last. Somehow,
before we depart, you find enough mercy
to say, That’s nature, however much we hate it.


Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor. He has published 4 collections of poetry and edited two poetry anthologies. He is deputy editor of Shoreline of Infinity, a sci-fi magazine.
Twitter: @RussJonesWrites
Facebook: Russell Jones

All the Women Left – S.A. Leavesley

All the women left

Velveteened seats sprang back
like the thud of plush dominoes,
leaving the symphony hall quieter
than a shell which has forgotten
the sea, never dreamed of ocean
moonlight or the tide’s swell
and ebb. The auditorium’s
open mouth now missing half
its teeth. One man muttered,
“What the hell?” Others stared,
glanced around at each other,
shuffled their feet. Some shrugged,
then settled back in their seats.
The conductor rose, slowly,
unsteadily, began to move his arms
in a jolting black and white semaphore:
a violin started, stopped, started…
performance marked by an absence
of high notes and many silenced parts.


S.A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, photographer, editor. Her latest books: ‘plenty-fish’ (Nine Arches Press, shortlisted in International Rubery Book Awards 2016) ‘Lampshades & Glass Rivers’ (Overton Poetry Prize 2015 winner) and a novella, ‘Kaleidoscope’. Her website is at:

I Was Born As Bowie Sang From Mars – Antony Owen

I Was Born As Bowie Sang From Mars

In the babbling brook of my birth I knew that women were harbours
and I was the boat attached to a cord getting lost as they cut us apart.
In the deep blue sea of my birth eyes I drank the sour milk of night sky
and my Father swam there as he took in the salt of his shipwrecked son.

I know this of sons and daughters, they are islands claimed by sea
and why I am drawn to the pull of the ocean was never beyond me.
I know this of broken waters, they are violence maimed by breeze
and why I was torn from the hull of her ocean brought me to my knees.

On the earthquake of my Grandfather’s chest I heard his crow black heart
lifting mockingbirds drenched in tar from years of knock off cigarettes.
In the deep blue sea of his collar I floated like wild geese over Willenhall
where one of my friends was made by the lake in a stolen Ford Capri.

I know this of my birth I was born as Bowie sang all the way from Mars
and as I entered earth around dawn a snowy owl flew through burnt out cars.
I know this of my life I have yet to watch the geese fly over Willenhall Wood
Gonna take my wife and fall on my knees, yeah, she’ll dab away the blood.

In the cracked beds of my Father’s face I know why men are shipwrecks
they sailed by the Blackstar Bowie found in masts of deathbed cotton,
they floated away like Ford Granada’s down newly tarmacked streets
where lost boys like me always ended up with David Jones and Bowie in Mars.


Antony Owen mostly writes for forgotten people and events that define modern times we
inhabit that he feels art should bear witness to. He is credited with five collections of poetry with his latest, The Nagasaki Elder out with V.Press.

Featured Publication – Seal Wife by Kitty Coles

Our featured publication for January is Seal Wife by Kitty Coles, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Seal Wife uses stories and characters taken from folktales, fairy tales and myths to explore themes of loss, longing and transformation.

‘Kitty Coles submerges herself in the world of myth, fairy tale and legend to meld together personal, natural and supernatural worlds. Teeming with dramatic imagery, these poems reflect a remarkable, and at times, macabre imagination. An exciting first collection that will, like the persona in The Doe-Girl , ‘leave tracks, like tidy hearts, behind’.’ Maggie Sawkins

‘This is a confident poetry, dextrous in its unforced appropriation of allegorical and mythic tropes…Not unlike Ian Duhig’s ‘The Lammas Hireling’, Seal Wife achieves a powerful lift-off into the strange, the occult and the preternatural. Never less than convincing, this is an impressive debut highly worthy of our attention.’ – Martin Malone

seal wife



He will not go quietly, this old red autumn.
The sunsets burn like flares at the horizon.
The air is weighted with the stink of pyres.
Blight makes the leaves surrender, dry and fall.

The river has unseamed the banks and risen
across the fields, made moats around the trees.
Above the mountain, the clouds coagulate.
They turn themselves to blackness, choke the stars.

And we, revolving in our draughty heaven,
dwindle like wasps when winter thins their stores.
I will see you again on the other side of the water.
Our sustenance will be the morning dew.


The Doe-Girl

She had always been timid,
reticent, secretive,
wide-eyed, easily startled
by sudden noises,
thin-legged, fond of woodland,
prone to running.

One day, she sensed a pressure
in the skull. Antlers
emerged, puny at first,
Her ears lengthened
and her eyes, once blue,
turned black all over,
like ink spreading through water.

Now, we glimpse her sometimes,
moving between tree-trunks,
across clearings,
wary, at a distance.
Her hooves leave tracks,
like tidy hearts, behind.
She vanishes, silent,
among leaves,
dapples of light.
We don’t think she knows us
any more.


The Seeds Of The Pomegranate

have a perfumed flavour, biting and luscious,
streak the wrists with fluid.
Their juice marks cloth almost indelibly.

We share a fruit. You halve it and the blade
forces apart the grisly mass of jewels.
You hack, they bleed, fight to retain their wholeness.

You feed me arils from your guilty fingers.
Their smell is winey, green, but I think
of my flesh, the cysts beading its centre.

My mother scours the city
as we lie here. I am lost to her light.
My mouth is full of your gift.


Seal Wife

The weather turns.
A wind from the north has flown in,
with its violent curse,
and it raises the waves
till I cannot shut out their yowling.

The old scars itch on my flank,
The hairs on my spine rise up
in the chill that presses
itself under the door,
an insinuating ghost.

The cat has wound herself
to an endless running
from one end of the house to the other,
poor bristling devil.

The grass is aching with frost.
Birds fall, small toys,
from the trees in their deaths.
The cold is murderous.

In the churchyard, the drowned
walk at noon as if it were night.
They return to old beds,
slip in by their frozen wives.

And I am numbing myself
with my baking, my stitching, by washing
the floors till the stone begins to thin.
I hide my face from the mirror:
its enquiry threatens.
If I could forget, the water could not claim me.


Previous publication credits are ‘Ragnarok’ – The Cro Magnon, The Seeds of the Pomegranate – The Interpreter’s House, and Seal Wife – Obsessed with Pipework. 

Kitty Coles lives in Surrey and works as a senior adviser for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She is one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her first pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. Her website is

Seal Wife (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2017) may be purchased from:

Winter in Italy – Ion Corcos

Winter in Italy

I remember when we landed in Rome
and the road into the old city was grey.
Narrow streets, signs to art galleries
and ruins. An espresso we shared in a paper cup
near the Pantheon,
the pasta and wine we ate standing up.
The church we sat in after a long day.
I remember the streets of Florence,
walking to the Arno river, wandering at night,
eating a samosa.
The basilica of Santa Croce,
its tombs along the walls in the quiet dome.
We huddled close to listen
to a recording, one headphone
tangled between us,
saw the names of artists and poets,
knowing we too were already dead. I remember
chocolate gelato from a tub, the taste
of the one in a cone in Padua.
I loved the drizzle and clouds
in that northern city, how we walked
in history. I remember the pizza we ate,
twice, and that I ordered in Italian.
I remember visiting Venice, the train
on a causeway over a lagoon, the mist and gulls and ducks.
Following a tour group
to find our way through the maze of streets.
How we stopped by a narrow canal,
talked about the humid air, rooting its way
through old bricks. The damp corners.
I remember mum asking me to call her,
while I was in Italy. I remember that I didn’t.


Ion Corcos has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Clear Poetry, Communion, The High Window and other journals. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Website: Twitter: @IonCorcos


Items that weren’t on the shopping list – Rob Walton

Items that weren’t on the shopping list

John got an Elvis Hawaiian throw
with a fringe
for two pound fifty
at a car boot sale in Hornsea.
All the way from Memphis that, love.

Steve got a Bruce Forsyth album –
Bruce was singing, not dancing or gurning –
from that second hand shop in Hinderwell.
Are you a big Bruce fan, like?

I got a Dewar’s whisky water jug
at the Gala in Buckden
when Mark and Stefan did the fell race.
There’s a little crack there, love, but none of us is perfect.

Apparently, one of Simon’s friends
got an axe from the flea market at Tynemouth Station
but this is going back a while.
That’s just blood: shouldn’t take much shifting.


Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe, and lives on Tyneside.  Published by The Emma Press, Butcher’s Dog, Firewords Quarterly, IRON Press, Red Squirrel, Northern Voices, Arachne and others.  He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text.