There’s Always Someone Messier – Olivia Tuck

There’s Always Someone Messier

Her anger caused an avalanche in the centre of Bath
and all the zopiclone in this hemisphere wouldn’t let her sleep
and the spell of her name makes psychiatric nurses scream
and there’s a ward in the Priory
just for her exes
and she flickers in agony
when the boy next door chops turnips
and she binges-and-purges
as often as she smokes
and her debt is deeper than a catacomb
and her Smirnoff tears burn throats
and the heat from her cuts melts tungsten
and last week she kicked off when an old man was sleeping
in the corner bed in the A&E observation ward
because that’s her bed
and she never knows how she’s got home when the search lights
of morning smack her in the face, like Betelgeuse dying,
and the bonfire in her back garden is stoked
with letters, negligee, bridges, bridges, bridges
and her parents buried themselves under the patio
and the poltergeist in the attic avoids her
and the Devil spends Friday night on her sofa,
watching Breaking Bad and painting her naked
thighs with tracings of pomegranate seeds
and her baby is a haunted doll: chipped,
with lunar eclipse eyes, unblinking,
when she leaves it – as she was left –
cold, in the sink.


Olivia Tuck’s work has been published on Amaryllis, in Three Drops from a Cauldron and in Lighthouse. She is due to start at Bath Spa University this autumn, to study for a BA in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites

Fire and Bees – Bethan Rees

Fire and Bees

A low hum as the gas oven
flicks into ignition. We leave the door
open because the dog
is cold. A house filled with
warmth. A little log fire
of a man lies in bed, pillows to be
shook, hearts to burn into flames.

He sets the house on fire, and we drown
in trouncing flames, together. We are close, closer,
closest until we are ashes and then we are one.

The dog didn’t make it either.

Dull crackles turn ember to smoke,
as a crowd of bees fill the open space
where our house once stood.
We, as ash people, keep
them. The queen is adamant that we
are hers, and as long as we are
together we are content.

When everything is back to everyday,
I am a furnace
that encases us both in heat
as we sleep, and in the shuffled
awakenings we both can hear,
that dangerous buzz
on my breath.


Bethan Rees has been published in Three Drops from a Cauldron, Fly on the Wall Poetry and Amaryllis and studies MSc Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. Her successes are owed to her elderly dog, Mitzie. (and partner Reese, she supposes).

Holiday treat – Jackie Biggs

Holiday treat

It is far too tall,
bigger than a secret she can never know.
She looks up and up
and still can’t see the top.
A tiny Alice in a bad dream,
she has no hope of reaching the starting place.

With a hand clenched tight
she tries to control the longest spoon she can ever imagine.
Windows stream with the hot breath of damp customers
and the noisy steam of the coffee machine
in the plastic-clad milk bar.

Inside her misty glass
bright cherry sauce
curls around pure white ice cream,
sticky with tiny splodges of fruit
and layers of red gloop –
all the sweetness she cannot taste.

He finds a smaller spoon,
holds the glass lower,
watches her.

Melting ice cream
dribbles down the outside
over her fisted fingers,
sticky as glue.
She needs the long spoon
to forage.
She wants to consume it all,
for him,
every last glob,
right down to the cherry
at the very bottom.

Syrup is
a cloying mass in her mouth.
Her big teary eyes look up to him
above lips smeared with red.
She so wants his approval.


Jackie Biggs has had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies, both print and online, including Clear Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon, Poetry24.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first collection is The Spaces in Between (Pinewood Press, 2015). Blog:  Twitter: @JackieNews

It’s 3am – Karen Dennison

It’s 3am

and the seagulls are screeching, insisting
I think of you in the photograph
racing past seaside chalets,
hair swinging.

I run us backwards,
emptying shoes of sand,
days of beaches, nights of stories.

Your house at the end of our road
has become a legend, like a film star
who died too young. It rises
brick-by-brick around me.

We’re in the dark mouldy basement,
discovering the corpse’s hair
is just a mop propped up at the grating.

I’m holding a miniature bottle of rose-petal
perfume we decanted, neck closed
with a rubber stopper; our promises
scrolled up tightly inside it.


Karen Dennison’s ( poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, Counting Rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. She has designed several poetry collection book covers and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Making space – Sharon Phillips

Making space

When I woke in the night, there was Mum
sat on the edge of my bed.
Shove over, she said, make me some space.

She was all done up to go out,
her face Max Factor fair,
lips slicked vivid coral,
red hair shiny and newly cut.

Put auburn, she said, not red,
or they’ll think I’m ginger.

She was scrawny when we last met,
mouth agape, skin yellow, eyes sunk.

You’re never going to put that, are you?
Cheeky mare, showing me up so much.

Stilettos clacked on the floorboards.
Come and see, she said,
look at the snow.

Snowflakes whirled so giddy fast
I thought I was falling up.

It’s only a dream, my homing pigeon.
Let me see if you’re hot.
Her hand rested on my forehead.

That’s better, she said,
that’s a nicer thing to write.


Sharon’s poems have most recently appeared on Bluepepper, The Open Mouse, Amaryllis and Ink Sweat and Tears. In 2017 she won the Borderlines Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Tales of Doggerland’ and was also shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

What’s Your Story? – Angi Holden

What’s Your Story?

My father was a Goldfish.
My face betrays amazement.
Not literally, she laughs.
He was an airman. His plane ditched
somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
That’s what they called them,
the survivors: Goldfish.
She turns to walk away.
I swear the air she leaves behind
is misted with salt-water,
the carpet trailed with golden scales.


Angi Holden writes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions. Her work explores family history and personal experience. Spools of Thread – winner of the Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize – was published in February 2018.

Pelt – Jennie E. Owen


The cold cream, thick and white as melting meringue
smells of my grandmother and I find
I do not mind, shrugging off my old skin
and trying on a new one, even a second hand pelt.

There’s comfort in the longing and the lines to come
catching spiders webs around the eyes, the mouth.

Comfort in the grandchildren, who will one day,
rub their own faces on the cool pillows
of my cheeks. Building wrinkles of their own
with bunched fists and buttered kisses.


Jennie Owen is competition winning writer and has been widely published in anthologies, magazines, and online.  She is a University Lecturer in Creative Writing and lives with her husband and their three children in Lancashire.

Jim – Belinda Rimmer


Squashed inside the shed,
six of us – The Invited.
The club is in full swing.
We’re up to our tricks,
pin-pricked skin: Blood Sisters.

On a shelf, cigarettes
from my mother’s pack
sit like Snow-Queen fingers
alongside a bottle of lemonade laced with gin.

Rat-a-tat on the door.

My father’s voice,
crab-apple sharp.
Where’s Jim?

Pins and blood-soaked tissues
shoved into an empty plant pot.
Inside my sleeve, tobacco tendrils.

Only my brother has my father’s attention.
Are we holding a secret,
hiding Jim?

He’s found quickly
in the neighbour’s garden,
lost in a game of make-believe.

For a moment, I imagine myself missing –


Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse, counsellor, lecturer and creative arts practitioner. Her poems have appeared in magazines, for example, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, ARTEMISpoetry and Obsessed with Pipework. Her poem ‘water’ won the Poetry in Motion Competition and was turned into a film and shown internationally.  Website: @belrimmer

Bardo – Charles G Lauder Jr


All night the TV flickers off and on again,
broadcasting a signal that all darkness
is temporary. A tiny, flashing green light
and then the story resumes,

though the plot’s moved on. What words
were spoken while our eyes were shut?
Was it the meaning of life
and where does that fella in gray fit in?

Even the white noise of the washing machine
takes a moment, then continues spinning.
We could call out a repairman,
but he’ll only recommend a new model.

Snow is forecast for Dumfries tomorrow,
double digits for London. No clue
what’s to happen here,
except that I have to bury the cat.


Charles G Lauder Jr is an American poet who has lived in the UK for several years. He has published two pamphlets: Bleeds (2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (2017), and he is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.

Featured Publication – Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma

Our featured publication for July is Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma, published by Nine Arches Press.

Deborah Alma’s debut poetry collection Dirty Laundry is raucous, daring and honest, drawing contemporary women’s lives and those of our foremothers into the spotlight. It voices bold, feminist songs of praise: of persistence, survival, adventures of sexual rediscovery, each reclaiming the space to speak its mind and be heard and seen. A perfect remedy for the heartsick and weary, Alma’s intimate and particular poems are resolute enchantments, a form of robust magic. The collection brims with poems which are unafraid of airing secrets, desires and untold stories. From growing up mixed-race and learning to survive as a woman in the world, to tales of the countryside and themes
of escape and finding joy, this book of poems is as vivid as it is frank and fearless. There’ll be no need for any tears, it’ll all come out in the wash…

These poems stand firmly on the page in torn silk stockings; they are voluptuous, defiant and hedge-witch earthy. Dirty Laundry glimmers with sequins; a speck of blood on a canine tooth; with bright new love after a season of showers” Helen Ivory

Here is a debut collection that will sweep you away in its generous, welcoming arms: poetry that bears witness to the twin faces of pain and pleasure. Dirty Laundry is a boldly poetic treatise that examines with a stern, clear eye the ravages of male repression and violence but refuses to break faith with the human capacity for healing, growth and love. Electric with metaphor, glorying in friendship, everyday joys and the sensual delights of sex and the natural world, this collection will ambush you with sudden and surprising epiphanies gleaned from a life well lived: immersive, thrilling and redemptive.” Jacqueline Saphra

This is a collection which glitters with keen observation: ruby slippers, bangles, sunlit, tender moments. The characters in Deborah Alma’s poems are uncompromising and unapologetic: a therapy client tramples over the eggshells of an analyst’s metaphors in Doc Marten boots. These are poems that invite you in and – when you’ve finished reading – invite you to walk a little taller through the world.” Helen Mort

Haunted by violence, yet refusing to be silent, rooted in the body as a way of experiencing the world and unafraid in their sensuality, these are poems that examine women’s lives in all their complexity, woven through with imagery that lingers in the mind and the heart long after you finish reading.” Kim Moore

Morning Song

An open-windowed church-belled morning
chimes of loss and mine; water pipes sing,

and I bring back to bed a blue enamel
pot of hot coffee, as silk as the slide

of skin on sheets, and rough hot bread
warmed in an oven kept in overnight

and bite into a grape and lazy eyed
the women I have been no longer fight their corners;

cocks-crow, black throats thrown back with old songs,
flown back to all of these edges of me,

they stay and stare, these women, across the hazy
sun-strewn wooden floor of my dreams

and my ageing; the mirror crazed
and hung with beads, the pink and the red

and the purple of the stocks I have grown
and the white of the daisies.


Nearly Love

I nearly fell in love once.
He came round and found the list on the fridge,
leant over to read it carefully, winked,
picked up a pencil, and ticked and ticked
and ticked all the boxes.

After I told him it wasn’t working,
my friends and family, astonished,
pointed to the list. But I said,

I will not drink from the cup
that comes up in small tiptoes
and black shoes, that sits
at the end of the bed, waiting;
its mouth an oh of ordinary;
comfort and safety and sex;
a drug of slowing, of rest, like death
already come.

They could not see this.
They knew what was best.



Three quarters of the way into my name,
there’s Roshan, roshni, light; that seems to me right,

a silver of bangles on a wrist, round mirror chips
embroidered into the hem of my clothes,

my white skin seen tiny times over,
sequins sewn into my childhood.

This is my light; a cloth weighted
with five bright beads over an English lamp.

And me now, turning on these lights in the dusk,
move still with a shake of bells at my feet,

not quite heard, the light not quite seen.


Deep Pockets

I sit in the kitchen
in a yellow-striped dress
with deep pockets

thrusting my hands deep,
there is string, a pin,
garden wire and three sweet-pea seeds.

I sit sullen like a child.

On the table a rough grey
plate with flecks of blue and four
chocolate dainty cakes
and five of us in this house.


Deborah Alma was born in North London, and has lived on the Welsh/Shropshire borders for the last 25 years where she brought up her 2 sons and now lives with the poet James Sheard. She teaches creative writing, works with people with dementia and at the end of their lives and is the Emergency Poet in her 1970’s ambulance. She edited The Emergency Poet – An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology and The Everyday Poet – Poems to Live By (Michael O’Mara Books) and was the editor of the landmark #MeToo poetry anthology, published by Fair Acre Press. Her first poetry pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press. Dirty Laundry is her first full collection of poems. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University.

Dirty Laundry is available to purchase from the Nine Arches Press website.