The Display – Alison Lock

The Display

The tools are on the kitchen table:
scissors, shallow vase, secateurs.

Gathered in a trug:
two red peonies, lavender, rosemary, white rose.

She begins the arrangement:
cuts, trims, pushes each stem into the oasis.

Her apron strings are tied
– a bow around her emptiness.


Alison Lock is a poet and writer of short fiction. Her publications include three collections of poetry and two short story collections. Her first poetry collection, A Slither of Air (2011), was a winner of the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition 2010. Her latest collection, Revealing the Odour of Earth, is published by Calder Valley Poetry.



Late Autumn Light – Joel Scarfe

Late Autumn Light

How was that last view of the garden
in late autumn light, your last cup of tea
still warm in your hands?

Were you aware of what was out there
when last you drove the hair from your face,
a pin half-stitching your mouth?

The house is different now, they say,
no doubt divested of your style –
although I know your blood will move

again about its rooms – coursing
with the spirited, joyful limbs
of a child.


Joel Scarfe’s poems have featured internationally in magazines and periodicals such as The Moth, TLS, Gravel, Finished Creatures, Interpreter’s House, South Bank Poetry, and Gravitas. He lives in Bristol UK with the Danish ceramicist Rebecca Edelmann and their two children.

The Arse – Rob A. Mackenzie

The Arse

Everyone was talking about the arse.
Everyone talked in broken similes:
the arse was like no arse ever, like,
talked about. Everyone lit phones

like lighters, which hovered over
the arse to manifest light, dark,
like, to everyone. And everyone
talked to themselves when talk

stalled and online shitstorms
fell to average levels. Everyone
saw the arse onscreen. Everyone
hoped to see again the arse

they had just been, as no one sees,
like, everything. Everyone walked
the talk about the arse. Everyone
unliked their likeness to the arse.


Rob A. Mackenzie is reviews editor of Magma Poetry and runs Blue Diode Press. His most recent (second) collection is The Good News (Salt, 2013) and a third, The Book of Revelation, will be published in 2020.

Flying Horse Lane – Serena Trowbridge

Flying Horse Lane

Down Flying Horse Lane
we trotted at first, hand in hand
headed for school, and later
we cantered and galloped and jumped


one day

like ponies we flew,
skimming the hedgerows
and dodging the boughs, the wind
in our manes and our breathing like

It seems

if children believe they are
horses who fly, their galloping
canter and clattering hooves
can sail them quite close to the sky.


Serena Trowbridge reads a lot of poetry but has only recently started (admitting to) writing it. She lives in Worcestershire where she does a lot of walking and cloud-watching, and in her spare time she is a lecturer in English Literature at Birmingham City University.
Twitter: @serena_t

Owled – Jonathan Totman


He has found a roost in me.
Claimed a high-up hole,
a radius of undisturbed sky.

He has mapped out his orbit,
his beat. Made it known
he is ready to sink

his talons into any prowler’s eyes.
He has trained me to
his rhythms – a ruffling of feathers

at dusk, that stretched elastic sense
of how long he’s been gone.
Mornings, I feel for

the silk and down of him.
I turn to the woods.
I listen for his scream.


Jonathan’s pamphlet ‘Explosives Licence’ was a winner in Templar Poetry’s 2018 IOTA Shot competition. His first collection will be published by Pindrop Press in 2020.

The women with two handbags – Christine Michael

The women with two handbags

In waiting rooms,
in A & E, in corridors
hovering outside a cubicle,
we try to catch the eye
of somebody who knows,
but not get in their way;

instead we recognise each other,
shrug, and smile;
we are not our names now
but ‘the daughter of bed 6’
or ‘the woman who’s with the stroke’

in blood test units,
holding numbered tickets,
perched on plastic chairs
outside the X-ray suite;

we are the women with two handbags:

one our own, dumped
on the floor or nearest chair, stuffed
with domestic life support;
phones and tissues,
car keys, appointment cards,
KitKats and coins,

the other worn and almost empty,
lying flat, cradled on our laps;

we recognise each other,
holding on with both hands,
the women entrusted
with this one last, precious thing.


Christine Michael organises the Poetry Society’s Stratford-upon-Avon Stanza group. Her work has been published in Mslexia.

The Darker Side of Val Doonican – Rob Walton

The Darker Side of Val Doonican

O’Rafferty gets into his motor car
and thinks, This is great, this
but then he spots McGinty and his goat
leaving the shebeen
and O’Rafferty thinks again,
Will you look at him
with his fucking goat!
And so he puts his foot
to the floor and mows them down
then comes back for more
in reverse gear.

Word is he’s now got his eye
on Delaney’s donkey.


Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe, and lives in Whitley Bay.  Poetry and short fiction for adults and children published by The Emma Press, Butcher’s Dog, Frances Lincoln, Bloomsbury, IRON Press, Red Squirrel, Northern Voices, Arachne and others.  He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text.   He sometimes tweets @anicelad

Featured Publication – How Time is in Fields by Jean Atkin

Our featured publication for October is How Time is in Fields by Jean Atkin, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

‘How Time is in Fields’ explores the way place contains all times, as well as traces of our recognisable predecessors.   There’s a lot of walking in this book, and an alertness to our shared space – with other lives, other creatures, other centuries. The round of the year is divided into the Old English months, reflecting shifts of folklore, season and state of mind.

‘How rife they are in the lost places’, writes Jean Atkin of nettles. How rife is Atkin’s sharpened imagination in this intelligent, alert and brilliantly-wrought collection, in which the lost and invisible places of human history and the natural world are brought to teeming life.’ David Morley

‘Jean Atkin reminds us we are all ‘anchored to the land’s grasp.’ Yet, this is not a collection motivated by tranquillity. ‘A wren like a dead leaf’ conjures up the mystical and transformative qualities of nature, where air smells of ‘dung,’ ‘dead stock’ and ‘gunshot.’’ Elisabeth Sennitt Clough



The snow years

For fifty years it snowed and no-one thought to ask why.
They were so used to it, they became like seals
and laid down fat. Like bears
they grew a pelt on forearms and faces.

Their fashions involved the intricate plaiting of long hair
to insulate necks and ears.
The regular creak of snow was a man walking.

The flump of snow falling from porches
was a woman humming inside a drift.
In their stories, trees leafed.


The not seen sea

Under cliff, under white chalk, Under Hooken
we walk down the throat of the harts tongue
and talk. Our boots are glossed with clever ivy.

Overgrown, overhead and soft under old man’s beard,
bosomy June leans down on us, up close
to cyclical drift, centimetre shift of earth.

While, sunk in its cage of feathers, a blackbird rots,
deflates into the flint step down to the beach.
Shingle rumbles in our ears. It hisses, passes, as we

wind the path between the cliffs, and only now
and then we catch the hill-high lurch of chalk in mist.
Keen in the nose, the salt and fret of sea.

All the while we twist a flint descent by rungs
of ivy root, and all the while a thrush repeats
repeats its song to coil to coil inside our ears.

And another blackbird sings, so blackbird answers it
in audible waves. By our feet a chasm of ash and fog.
Low in our bones, not visible, churrs the sea.


Nettle lexicon

……………………….1 nettle of the edgelands
So, the nettle dare – will you grip that hairy leaf?
…….Stand still and rigid for this ordeal
………….while they wait in a circle and watch your face?

……………………..2 nettle of the dens
Sharp flare of weals rising white on your skin,
…….a dapple of pain you soothe to a green smear
………….of dockens. Scrub-leaf. In dock, out nettle.

……………………..3 nettle of the beds
Older, gloved and kneeling, you hang and draw the soil
…….for them, their creamy guts, the hoary coil and pack of them.
…………..Them snapping, whipping back to test you.

……………….……4 nettle of the gone
O how the nettles do grow behind us, markers
……for our wiped-out villages, abandoned farms.
…………How rife they are in the lost places.


Jean Atkin is a poet whose work maps memory, work, loss, and place. Her poetry has been commissioned for Radio 4, and featured on ‘Best Scottish Poems’ by the Scottish Poetry Library. Last year’s National Poetry Day saw her become the first ever Troubadour of the Hills, thanks to Ledbury Poetry Festival, and she featured in March 2019 on BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings programme, ‘Walking a Poem on the Malverns’, presented by Clare Balding. Jean has also been working with Shropshire-based eclectic folk band Whalebone, writing a group of poems to explore the new lore of the county – the stories just within – and just out of – living memory.   Whalebone have composed music to weave through the poems. This Arts Council supported performance project is ‘Understories’. Jean works as a poet in education and community projects.  She is currently poet in residence for Hargate Primary School and is also working on a long-term project, Creative Conversations, funded by Arts Council Celebrating Age.  She creates lively, inventive workshops for schools, writers’ groups, hospitals, care homes, libraries and museums. She tutors for Arvon’s school groups and is an occasional tutor for The Poetry School. She often works in collaboration to develop projects and residencies with different organisations and partners.

How Time is in Fields is available from the Indigo Dreams Publishing website.

Shifts – Tamsin Cottis


I am almost Grandma, though myself
at twelve seems close enough to touch –
awkward body at the threshold;
still fond of dolls, unnerved
by the blood that speaks
of a real live baby,
now possible inside me.

My daughter is thirty now.
Startled, I hold her also in my mind
at two – our beauty. Picture her playing
at the sink; yellow sundress, fair curls
stuck with sweat to her neck,
thin cotton straps
across her perfect back.

I hope when the baby comes
I’ll be steady, kind, able to help.
I want a cot, ready in the spare room;
Bear Hunt, dusted, back on the shelf.
I hope for the chance
to bring my best love another time;
bring it unconfined.


Tamsin Cottis is a London-based child psychotherapist and writer. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck and her poetry and short fiction has been published by, among others, Mslexia, Rattle Tales, Verve Poetry Press and The Morning Star.

She is on Twitter @tamsin cottis




Washing Machine – Seth Crook

Washing Machine

You’d love me if I were a better man,
wiser, wittier, not so short of cash,
keener to live a life with much more dash
or slightly taller with a proper van.

Like socks, we’re fading in the weekly wash.
Our life’s a long and itchy rash,
and so much less than if we had a passion;
nights thinly slicing love, thick slicing ham.


Seth Crook is transitioning into a seal. His poems have most recently appeared in Southlight, Northwords Now, Stravaig, Firth, The Interpreter’s House, The Nitrogen House,  And south of the border in The Projectionist’s Playground, Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Prole.