Bible Leaf – Elizabeth Rimmer

Bible Leaf

Another name for the herb costmary, which was pressed between the pages of a bible,
for times when the sermon exceeded the usual two hours.

Grey green leaf, as long as a page
of duodecimo, snag-toothed like
a goose-tongue, and scented
with a bitter dusty tang, a depth
between clean sage and mint.
When the preacher has droned
past the slow point of drowsiness
and your fingernails have dug
deep into the heel of your palms,
open the bible and breathe in.
Its fresh sting will wake you,
scold you into puritan shame –
remind you there is light outside,
sunlight, rain and gardens.


Elizabeth Rimmer has published three poetry collections with Red Squirrel Press, Wherever We Live Now (2011), The Territory of Rain, (2015) and Haggards (2018), which included poems about herbs, wild landscapes, and ways of knowing, social upheaval and regeneration.

Someone is speaking – David Calcutt

Someone is speaking

Someone is speaking out of the willow.
It’s a voice that doesn’t quite fit, a thin,
loose, high-pitched rattle, like a cough
that won’t clear. Others on the lake are
testing their instruments, trying them for size,
pumping, wheezing, shaking them free of
weed and grit. Squeezebox voices that grate
the nerves of the still-sleeping inhabitants
of bank and ditch, making them uneasy,
bringing bad dreams. Something stirring
down there in its bed of thick mud, something
poking about among the boatwrecks and
drownings, something unsettling that clouds
the water with an old longing, an ache that
can’t be eased. Rat’s face, hooked jaw,
the endless, empty, gaping throat. But still
that voice from the willow goes on, hesitant,
but more persistent now, like an attempt
at good fortune against all the odds, and
its notes strike a spark on the hard flint of
the water, shooting a thin line of flame across,
and somehow it lifts, and somehow it takes off,
with a cry like pain, and big wings thumping
towards the hard-won flight.


David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and fiction writer, the author of many plays for theatre and radio, five books of poetry and four novels for young people. His latest poetry collection is “The last of the light is not the last of the light” published by Fair Acre Press. He is currently working on two new plays with Midland Actors Theatre.

Saddleworth, 2018 – Kate Noakes

Saddleworth, 2018

Top story from the can’t/won’t remember moor –
fire tinders the heather in its dry mouth

and a boy sleeps in the dark. Not talking
to strangers, could have been, but wasn’t.

I have some sweets for you.

In its purple oven, fire dries wimberries
as bracken crackles, and the boy sleeps on.

I’ll give you a lift.

Fire licks the roots of flax, desiccates sundews
and hides in the decades of peat where he sleeps,

secretly turning him into chips of bone
and the ash that does not blow away.


Kate Noakes’ most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet, Parthian, 2019. She lives in London where she acts as a trustee for literature development charity Spread the Word. An elected member of the Welsh Academy of Letters, her website,,  is archived by the National Library of Wales.

Scarred – Penny Blackburn


Across the valley
the scar has healed,
its long-scrape-scratch softened
as the years have passed.

Ridges worn, edges smoothed
to gentler folds. Dormant
and forgetful of the pain
the glacier brought – its white-weight change
and indifferent cruelty

as it stripped this slice of hill
down to bedrock, left
the borders of itself
for the hardiest, most hopeful ones
to farm.


Penny Blackburn writes poetry and flash fiction and enjoys performing at local open mic and spoken word events. She has been published by Writers’ Cafe, Marsden Poetry Village and Paper Swans Press amongst others.

The Order of the Holy Paraclete moves next door – Sarah Mnatzaganian

The Order of the Holy Paraclete moves next door

It’s Saturday. The builders grumble to their wives
about their sunburned backs. The sack-cloth nuns
won’t look them in the eyes.

They dig up the convent car park, tip concrete,
sprinkle holy water. Arthritic nuns need to dwindle
somewhere small and practical.

The sparrows are on holiday in the cemetery hedge,
enjoying their fresh green curtains. They don’t know
that death walks beyond the hawthorns

where the sisters lie in a grassy dormitory, crucifixes
hammered over their heads. There’s space
for ten more, maybe twelve.

Their supervisor frowns down from his wooden cross.
The rain is getting to him. No whispering,
children. Listen to the birds.


Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet.  Shortlisted for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition 2016/17, her poems have been published in The North, Fenland Reed, London Grip, Poems in the Waiting Room, As Above, So Below, Write to be Counted and #MeToo a women’s anthology edited by Deborah Alma.  She studies with Peter and Ann Sansom, Heidi Williamson and Moniza Alvi. 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning – Jean Taylor

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

My children have begun to talk
of Swedish death cleaning –
the process of sifting and sorting,
of losing before you are dead,
those possessions they would
rather not have.

They tell me there is a book.

I will read this book, for I want to know
why I should part with the buttons
I saved from their shirts
the photos of them, taken,
when the thought of my death
would wake them sobbing in the night

looking for comfort.

Why I should part
with The Cat in the Hat
or Alice in Wonderland
the Monopoly set with the dog and the boot
their handmade birthday cards
the tooth fairy’s treasure box.

I check on Amazon.

The Swedish death cleaning book
is available in hardback.
If I order it today it should
still be in good shape to pass
on to my children, in due course,
with the rest of my clutter.

I hope they will find it helpful.


Jean Taylor is a writer and paper lover living in Edinburgh. Her poetry has been published in a range of publications including Orbis, Northwords Now, Firth, and Envoi as well as online on Snakeskin, Amaryllis and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Kind Stranger – Alex Josephy

Kind Stranger

The old girl I am now
comforts the young woman
I was then

a veined hand
placed lightly
on a trembling hand;

the young one
is on her way home
with stories she will never

be able to tell her mum
or even herself, not
in words, only

in flashbacks,
wrong turns in the pit
of her stomach,

inexplicable tears.
Now she’s in the vortex
of a panic attack

on a train, somewhere
in the Midlands. Is this train
out of control? The old girl

listens, considers,
as if that could be true.
No, I think we’re all right.


Alex lives in London and Montalcino. Her pamphlet Other Blackbirds was published by Cinnamon Press, 2016 and her collection White Roads by Paekakariki Press, 2018. Her poems have appeared quite widely in magazines and anthologies in the UK and Italy.

Pissabed – Pen Kease

Pissabed [1]

They’d said not to pick those dandelions –
but she did. A tiny bunch tied up
with daisies, buttercups and string,
a bright reminder of his garden days
among weeds and roses, carrots and bees.

Today, wreaths and crosses are laid,
a coffin lurches on big boys’ shoulders.

Never pick pissabed, it brings bad luck –
she knows that now – awake and small, squashed
under blankets, coats on top, between
big sisters, in the middle, in a panic –
pants, vest, petticoat, black wool stockings soaked.

When the big ones leave for the factory,
she’ll dress. Make tea. No school. Again.


[1]  The folk name given to the dandelion. Children were often told that if you picked it, you would wet the bed. It does however, have diuretic qualities.

Pen Kease holds an MA in Writing from the University of Warwick. She is currently interested in family myth and 20th century social history, some of which is reflected in her poems. Currently, her hair is pink.

Featured Publication – Maps of the Abandoned City by Helen Ivory

Our featured publication for May is Maps of the Abandoned City by Helen Ivory, published by SurVision Books.

Maps of the Abandoned City imagines a place deserted by its makers. Mirrors are starved of human life, creatures cut loose and the Dark comes home and takes off its boots.

“Ivory’s epigraph – the Serbian proverb ‘Get your moustaches together, you’re going on a journey’ – certainly captures the imagination at work here, but there is something disturbing coming towards us from these poems.” William Bedford (The High Window)

“Helen Ivory’s surreal collection of poems taps into this fascination, using a kind of archaeology of the imagination. It articulates our worst fears about climate change, system collapse and the consequences of our negligent trashing of the natural world.” Kathleen Jones 

mapsfrontcovernew3 Webjpg


In a Time Before Maps

Long ago when the city was an infant
it lay on its back on a big white sheet
transfixed by the tiny articulations
of its own small hands.

Constellations of eyes beheld from the sky
the city grew vivid, grew hearty,
grew schools and grew graveyards
and when these were replete, it grew more.

Straw begat sticks then sticks begat brick
so the wolf packed its bags
and decamped to the forest.
The city sprouted a gate and then locked it.

Even the city became lost in those days –
took itself for a wander inside its own head,
and simply vanished. Something had to be done.
The cartographer stepped from a fold in the sky.


The Cartographer Invents Herself

Thunder loped across the sky’s wilderness
and clouds stumbled around,
then fixed upon an almost-shape.

The Cartographer feels her hands
for the first time, lifts them to her face
and then expertly moulds her own eyes.

She draws the roads that will carry her blood
and the pathways to order her ribcage,
then hollows out a playground for her breath.


The Cats and the Mice

When all had been absent of human noise
for three turns of the moon,
the cats and the mice came to an understanding.

Mice would reign in the cheese shop
while cats would claim sovereignty
of the fishmongers.

There will be no Tom-and-Jerry-style
absurdities. No sticks of dynamite applied
to the rolled-out tongues of sleeping cats

and no mouse need squander a bead of sweat
on hefting irons to rooves
in the hope a cat would mosey by.

Thus, began a golden age, which like each golden age
will soon prove itself to be composite metal
with gilding shown greenish as it rubs away.

A mouse in a cloak stands on the last cheese wheel.
A cat in a cloak holds the last sole aloft.
It’s the cats’ fault! said the mouse. Greedy mice! said the cat.

And so, the Battle of the Grocery Shop began.
The mouse shouting orders with a mouth full of brie.
The cat screaming attack! spitting sole at the ranks.


Nights in the Abandoned City

Dark comes home to the abandoned city
and heaves off its boots by the fire.
It is astonishing how weary the dark is from its work,
its commute through choking towns and encampments.

It talks to the flames of the things it has seen
of the stilled hearts it has held
between finger and thumb.
It unburdens itself of all human sorrow.

And the fire, pretending for now,
it is a hearth at the centre of a church house,
listens like a priest and bites its own tongue,
imbues the parlour with cloying incense.

In the shadowplay, the dark is a plague doctor’s mask,
a bone-saw, a gathering of spat-out teeth.
Soon, fire will describe a still life of eyeglasses –
their tiny infinities – all their dashed lenses.


Helen Ivory is a poet and a visual artist. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is a tutor for the UEA/NCW creative writing programme. Fool’s World, a collaborative Tarot with Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press) won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me is published by KFS.

Maps of the Abandoned City is available to purchase from the SurVision website.

Warmth – Matt Nicholson


She puts her hand on the radiator
every time she passes by.

I hear it from all the way upstairs,
when her wedding ring taps

against the glossed metal,
the sound of it makes me smile.

She is never really cold, not really,
she just fears that, one day,

she might be,
and she is not prepared for that.


Matt Nicholson is a poet and performer from East Yorkshire…a very cultured place of late.  His latest collection, We are not all blessed with a hat-shaped head, was published by Kings England Press in April 2018.  Twitter: @mattpoethull