Propagation – Maeve McKenna


They cluster inside spread-
eagled legs, hands bone
wings, faces pleading,


on palms. I know them,
these people, their
atrocious need,


breath of last night’s lust.
Still willing in the morning,
I relent for a puce


uprooted pubic hair. Or,
occasional understanding.
I adore the life in them, more


than mine; chiselled
from marrow, a blood-infused
platelet. How they dine to fill


on propagation. Oh! hero.
Oh! Lover. Oh, desire
from consequence —

unwill me.

Maeve McKenna lives in Sligo, Ireland. Her poetry has been placed in several international poetry competitions and published in Mslexia, The Haibun Journal, The Cormorant, Galway Review, Boyne Berries, Sonder Magazine, Skylight47 and widely online.

Last Sighting – Tim Dwyer

Last Sighting

……………………………………….For a friend

Now the age of grandfathers,
he hobbles to the dunes
for a last sighting of swallows
dipping close to the gritty strand.
They gather for the African migration.

Never much a dancer,
he sways with the pirouettes
as the swallows scoop
hidden nourishment from briny air.

Before they return in the Spring,
the bed becomes his camp.
His glance travels from the window
downhill to the lough.
Grey gulls and their shadows
cross the rooftops and the trees.

One day, the swallows
will fly up from the gritty strand,
careen outside his windowpane,
then circle back to the sea.

Tim Dwyer’s chapbook is Smithy Of Our Longings (Lapwing Publications). He will have poems in the upcoming issue of Cyphers, and in the Irish Poetry Chair Commemorative Anthology. He has recently moved from the U.S. to Bangor, County Down.

Flicks – Pen Kease


We never believed it, not really. All
that Technicolor. Searing purple pinks
of jacaranda splashed on whitewashed walls,
speedboats peeling foam through turquoise ink.

We sniffed in the dark with bundled coats, sighed
with sore knees, steaming slightly from the rain.
Didn’t want our own grubby Wedgewood skies,
oily grey streets, black-flied runner beans on sticks.

We yearned blues, greens – intense as actors’ eyes,
salacious as a lover’s kiss. We took it all home,
that Glorious Technicolor, every dream and lie.
And it kept us warm. On the bus. With chips.

Pen Kease used to be a secondary school teacher but now writes poems instead. Pen has a recent MA in Writing from the University of Warwick and her poems have been published in a range of literary magazines and websites, including The Interpreter’s House, The Recusant, Militant Thistles, and Prole Magazine. She lives in South Oxfordshire with husband and cat, and cares for a scattered family as best she can

The day the ice came – Julia Webb

The day the ice came

you were pick-axe angry at the world
you came in from school and kicked the dog,
then spent hours in your room sobbing,
missing out on Blue Peter and The Wombles.
The afternoon had been sunny and warm
but by 6pm a chill was falling
and tiny snowflakes whirled against the glass.
When you put the dog out for her toilet
she ran straight back inside whimpering,
you warmed her paws by rubbing them
with mum’s old hair dye towel.
Mum felt sorry for you for once
and let you stay up to watch grown-up TV
until Dad returned from the pub,
a leering snowman, his breath on fire.

Julia Webb is a Norwich based poet/editor, she runs online and real-world poetry courses. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse (a journal for new writing). She has two poetry collections with Nine Arches: ‘Bird Sisters’ (2016) and ‘Threat’ (2019).

And the curlews call – Niall Machin

And the curlews call

An almost imperceptible
Tinselfies the grass
Heralding another frost –
……………that time when I lose people, I think
And the curlews call

It’s my watch
You sleep like a dormouse
Layers of time, friendships, family and pets
Weighing you down
…………and keeping you warm
In equal measure

David sleeps in the next room
With a cold
His head cold too
Against the adjoining wall
………….far away but
As close to you as possible

Eva is motionless on the couch
Whilst Beth makes
The requisite phone calls
In this way we sleepwalk
Round this familiar old house
…………..rubik cube like
One down, one along

When someone has touched so many lives
We defend our family right
To usher in death
‘Bad weather always seems worse through a window’
…………..was one of your sayings
Railing at the storm clouds

Niall Machin lives in Bradford-on Avon and has recently had work published in Bath Magg. Find him on Twitter @NiallMachin1 

How do you split a washing machine down the middle? – Natalie Scott

How do you split a washing machine down the middle?

We’ve been told to divide items equally.
Fairly. Nothing about this seems fair.

Punching numbers on a calculator
works fine if we see the figures

not what they mean. Our equal halves
of the stock, or the shared life

we accumulated over twenty years?
We talk so readily of our ‘other half’

that we believe we can’t be whole
on our own. Some things just don’t split

down the middle. Apparently, we do.
But what about the toaster, the oven,

the kettle? We can take an axe to them.
Or not. Either way we get burned.

I feed sheets into its seething mouth.
Speechless. I watch them turn,

imagining a frothing fissure line
between your side and mine.

Natalie Scott is an internationally published poet and Creative Writing lecturer. Her latest award-winning collection Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison, published by Valley Press on International Women’s Day, 2020, received ACE funding for a West End performance.

My mother, at sixty, tries her first oyster – Cheryl Pearson

My mother, at sixty, tries her first oyster

You eat with your eyes: it’s why you refuse
the grey rice I fry with shiitake, the copper-smelling
steak cooked rare. In Copenhagen, we walk for miles,
stopping for glasses of gold beer. The light swarms
on Nyhavn harbour, turns the water to fire. Mother,
you have the bones of a sparrow, a whale’s hunger.
It becomes the running gag on the trip –
how you pad the hours between meals with waffles,
sneak the fruit from our cocktail sticks. Our last afternoon,
sun-flushed, drunk, we order wine in a yellow courtyard.
It’s happy hour, the waiter says, would you like to try
our oysters? Your face sours. You wouldn’t, no,
but my sister and I each order four. You are sixty this year,
you have always wanted to visit this city. You never thought
you would get on a plane, you didn’t know how pretty it would be:
the blossoms and palaces in the parks, the gold domes against
blue sky. It’s good to try new things, you say, and joking,
my sister offers up an oyster from her plate, trembling lightly
in its socket, wet, grey-white, and mucal. You hesitate, then take it
as we watch, amazed. You take the salt, a spoon of onion, finish
with a twist of lemon. This is an event – more of a surprise
than the March heat, the swan-shaped boats. We train our phones
to film your face. You won’t do it. Your throat works. And then
you take a breath, your whole face screws, and quick as anything
you suck it in, that well of slime, you grimace, chew, then gulp
it back. We cheer and clink our glasses; Actually, you say,
that wasn’t bad! This, all your life, is how it’s been: you’ve stayed
in the lines and away from edges, raw fish, fireworks, roller-coasters.
Now you are sixty, still risk-averse, but trying your feathers.
It’s joyous to watch: our cautious mother choosing fuck-it over fear.

Cheryl Pearson is the author of ‘Oysterlight’ (Pindrop Press) and Menagerie’ (The Emma Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, Mslexia, and The Moth, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Sleeping Through July – Siegfried Baber

Sleeping Through July

The grass grew tall inside our heads
to mark all the days we lost.
Your eyes were sealed like two buds
quietly refusing to blossom.
My shadow flattened a skylark’s nest.
Under a blanket of warm summer rain
our bones bleached the earth
and formed a pair of chalk horses
where kids trailed after hopeless kites
and someone’s lover
kept the engine ticking over
until they couldn’t wait any longer.
I don’t remember who woke first —
only your peeling skin, my urgent thirst.

Siegfried Baber was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1989 and his poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid is published by Telltale Press, with its title poem nominated for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. London Road West, an eBook of poems and photographs, is now available to download from 

Featured Publication – Lost & Found by Vic Pickup

Our featured publication for January is Lost & Found by Vic Pickup, published by Hedgehog Press.

‘Vic Pickup’s direct and empathic poetry captures moments, voices and relationships without a filter, finding that what is ‘normal was more beautiful all along’ – it doesn’t need any enhancement. Pickup finds an intense, sometimes painful, beauty in a whole range of
‘normals’ – from one man’s wartime grief, to a mother’s sense of loss, to a dog’s joy in
splashing.  To appreciate these many strange and wonderful ‘normals,’ Pickup says that all we have to do is stand ‘outside in the world and listen’ for what seems ‘like / the first time’ – and that’s exactly what her poetry does.’
Jonathan Taylor

‘Lost & Found’ is just the right title for this, Vic Pickup’s first pamphlet. In it the poems not
only echo with things lost and things found, but through a refreshing and original lens, they see the invisible and speak the unsayable. They are an anthem to humanity that focus in on the absolutes of life: war, dementia, lockdown, the need for sudden joy, loss in a variety of forms, and gain too. Even a daughter’s toys imaginatively consigned to history reverberate down the years insisting their presence in a new now – a world seen afresh – without ever losing sight of what the poet holds true. A stunning, thoughtful debut.’
Claire Dyer

Dylan Thomas said the mark of good poetry was language that lifts on the page and the
poems of Vic Pickup’s first pamphlet positively leap with the poet’s verve and originality of expression. Whether the author is trying to resist the urge to jump into a river with a playful pup, taking delight in watching bird peck, or describing a gardener tending a perfect pink peony – the energy of the resulting poem is irresistible.  This is a poet who has a rich palate to draw from, making each poem a vivid and luminous experience. A poet with great skill for both narrative and imagery. ‘Lost & Found’ is a joy to read.’
Anna Saunders

Lost and Found

You got up by yourself this morning,
put on your own knickers,
said you fancied eggs and bacon.

You went outside – first time in two years,
to breathe the dawn air and
survey the world since you left it.

In a few days, you remembered
your name, the dog’s, who I was,
that the postman wasn’t your Dad.

You exchanged pleasantries
with the woman next door, no longer
suspecting her of plotting your murder.

The hairdresser turned your flat feathers
into a helmet of curls, in the mirror
igniting a glimmer of recognition.

We chucked the grab rails and Complan
drove the zimmer to the tip, turned
your pill box into earring storage.

Weeks went by, you took the car out,
joined the library, had a stab at calligraphy,
tried your first chai latte.

Then on Sunday we came home and there
you were on hands and knees under the table,
looking for something; you didn’t know what.

Previously published on Runcible Spoon

Social Distancing

With gloved hand, I place the shopping bag
on the shedding coir mat and ring the bell.

One pint of milk, half a loaf, two tins of soup,
tissues, your prescription

and a packet of Tena Lady
(though you didn’t ask).

I see you there, standing suddenly so small,
marooned in the middle of the kitchen floor.

You wave from behind the glass
with a hand that goes untouched.

Previously published by Mslexia

My Mother Told Me

to live in fear of solitary magpies / dare not repeat Friday night’s dream / if a bird
flew into the house / there’d be nothing for it / move out

never put shoes on a table / be in a situation / where there is no escape
but under a ladder

I recoiled at the gifted purse with no coin inside / black cat slinking from right to left
I’d turn around / tempt it back

she had me lopping the ends off bread / smashing through the bottom of an egg
with a spoon /to let the devil out

if I pointed at the moon / she’d gasp in horror / a broken mirror had me
in tears /I spent days searching / for a good omen / to reverse impending doom

I winced when someone opened an umbrella indoors/ spilled salt/ raised a toast
with water/ dropped a knife or gave the gift of a blade

a passer-by would not have known /a pivotal moment /.. the morning I saw the black
and white bird on a gate /and did not salute it.


There’s the one who was here within four minutes
then comes back the morning after with biscuits, thick and chocolatey.

Another, who stood in the doorway, shocked to see me on the floor
whose face is the first I remember.

There’s the one who cycled round with a pot plant balanced on each handlebar
jabbed the air with her finger and, quite rightly, put me in my place.

There’s the one who posted a card with so much to say
she’d gone over the Get Well Soon.

One who told my daughter they love her
when they didn’t know I was listening.

There’s the one who left banana bread on the mat —
started messages with ‘don’t reply, just know that’.

There’s the one who sent her husband out for baking powder because
I’d run out — and she knows I like to whisk troubles into oblivion.

The one who goes way back and usually lets his wife do the talking
but sent me a kiss at 10pm.

And there’s the one who was here, who put me in recovery and did all the right things
and says we’ll work it out and tells me five days after to put some make-up on

and brush my hair and he’s going to say a word and I might not like it but

and that is all.

Vic Pickup lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and three children. A previous
winner of the Café Writers and Cupid’s Arrow competitions, her poetry has appeared in
anthologies, magazines and online, including Mslexia, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Reach Poetry. In 2019, Vic’s tongue-in-cheek poem about motherhood was shortlisted for the National Poetry Day #speakyourtruthpoem competition.
A keen reviewer, Vic regularly writes for Sphinx and Everybody’s Reviewing; she is also a
regular on BBC Berkshire radio. In 2018, Vic co-founded the Inkpot Writer’s Group near
Reading, where she is an active member of the town’s poetry circle.
Lost & Found is Vic’s debut publication. She is currently working on her first collection, The Omniscient Tooth Fairy, due to be published in 2021.

Lost & Found is available to purchase from Vic’s website.

Home – Sharon Phillips


red brick and roses
on a hill’s green shoulder

jam tarts and rice pudding
the gas fire’s stutter

her iron thumping on its board
a whoosh from the cistern

sun on polished pale blue lino
seed trays in the kitchen window

sugared almonds in a cut-glass bowl
pills she hoarded in a cupboard

the sizzle of a Sunday roast
her hand shaking as she smoked

the suitcase she packed
the bus she caught

Sharon lives in Otley, West Yorkshire. Her poems have been published in print and online, most recently in Five Words Vol XIII, About Larkin, Ink Sweat and Tears  and Places of Poetry.