Daughter – Joanna Ingham


Sometimes I love you like a jar of moles, breathless,
teeming, full to the lid. There are so many versions
of you I keep preserved in fluid, your tiny pink hands,
noses pressed against the glass. Sometimes there’s no
room for anything else, no sense or balance, just
collecting, and the memory on my phone is full
because I’ve taken too many photos of your face,
the face that keeps changing even though it’s always
yours and you used to have fur on the back of your neck
but it’s gone now, like your chin that was always wet,
the way you’d burrow into my side with your little head.
Today, in the museum, I love you like this. My skin
is aching with the thought you won’t always be beside me,
looking at the moles with your sad compassionate eyes.

Joanna Ingham’s pamphlet Naming Bones was published by ignitionpress in 2019. She won the Paper Swans Press Single Poem Competition in 2020. Her poetry has appeared widely in journals and magazines and has also featured in The Sunday Times.

A Bike Ride through Thame on the Anniversary of his Death – Pen Kease

A Bike Ride through Thame on the Anniversary of his Death

At first, there’s nothing but M40 snarl. Nearer,       
hollow town voices, crisp leaves under wheels,      
a quick rustle of wings, a baby’s wail, a click of gears.     
The equinox is past. The old sun blinds. Cold wind steals     
body-heat, freezes my face as I force legs to pedal uphill.  
There’s no birdsong. They’ve queued up on roofs, targets                                            
on a shooting range; mobbed, resettled, chattered. Now,  
shrill rain erupts, old ladies scuttle. Rain batters the market.  
Stallholders shrug, clasp hot mugs, watch the tartan trollies scatter   
into gift and coffee shops. They’ll pull up paper masks from throats,  
peer at ornaments, cakes, through foggy lenses. Above chimneys  
and shopfronts, the bruised sky swells. A gust knifes my coat.  
This town was too posh for Dad. Full of rich sods
he’d say. Not meant for the likes of us common clods.

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.

Finally – Tim Dwyer


On my daily walk along the shore
where the waves feather the strand,
humid air hints of thunderstorms
and swallows practice departure,
I find a lucky stone.

A pebble really, smooth
from countless tides,
deep green in overcast light,
oval, coined size.
How easy it disappears
in my wallet’s hidden sleeve,

and one day, my restless fingers
will recover the pebble,
lucky once again.

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.

Nana’s House – Joe Williams

Nana’s House

My sister says she’d always refuse
to give us any biscuits.
It still annoys her now.
But I don’t remember that.

On her own since ’79,
when Grandad fell, fractured his skull.
One way to end a party.
I don’t remember that.

We bonded over puzzle books,
Wordsearch and Logic Problems.
If there was anything else we shared,
I don’t remember that.

In her sitting room, in ’83,
Thorburn scored a maximum,
his mate Big Bill peeking round,
and I remember that.

Good luck, mate.

I’ll take my sister’s word
about the biscuits.

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. His latest book is ‘This is Virus’, a sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. www.joewilliams.co.uk

Sea urchins for Sophie – Fiona Cartwright

Sea urchins for Sophie

I carry her exoskeletons
six hundred miles. She says
I don’t mind if they’re smashed
but she doesn’t mean it. I keep them
in a cardboard reliquary, drive them
………………………………………onto the ferry
which rocks them all night
on a rollercoaster sea.
The waves leave me bruised as I fall
against the shower’s plastic
but the urchins are unharmed.
………………………………………At Aberdeen
I haul them to dry land, carry them south
like babies cradled in car seats.
I bring them to her
still in their cardboard coffin,
spiny as our friendship.
……………………………………..When lockdown comes
she stands with her urchins
lined up like blown eggs
at her beached window
and looks out at an ocean of soil
from her museum of the sea.

Fiona Cartwright (Twitter @sciencegirl73) is a poet and conservation scientist. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, including Magma, Mslexia, Under the Radar, Interpreter’s House and Atrium. Her debut pamphlet, Whalelight, was published by Dempsey and Windle in 2019 (Fiona Cartwright).

Ode on a Black Plastic Compost Bin – Caleb Parkin

Ode on a Black Plastic Compost Bin

………….after Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

O Mucky Dalek, sat cloistered in shady chrysanthemum corner, I lift your lid, your roof, your
scalp, its underside covered with the squiggled pink inklings of earthworms. Your very
mind is alive! Worms levitate above shrivelled deadheads, fur-green lemons, beetroot flashes,
in your breath. Your breath! You breathe: inhale our eggshells’ brittle edges, the bittered grit
of our coffee grounds, the potatoes’ luminous growths, the outer hides of butternut squashes
that our finnicky intestines cannot even attempt – but you breathe all of it in.

Your appetite is grandiloquent. Gingerly, with fingertips, I lift at your hatch, trapdoor
to your lower world, where ants reimagine our teabags as hillforts; where woodlice
hurry data between them, a stock exchange of putrefaction. Your great cylindrical
belly rumbles with remaking! The fruit-flies launch their fleets skyward, rocketed
with rotting nutrients. You have become a home for masses, a city which
mulches itself back into the ground like a delicious and urgent degrowth.

Our Stout Dinner Guest, on this garden’s silver platter, we promise you the endless
amuse-bouche of all which transcends the plates of the louche and lavish landfill of our lives.
We will avert our flimsy noses and submit to your writhing depths. At the allotted time,
Pungent Lodger, we will draw out the gift of your earthy laughter. We vow
to witness your pastoral song in municipal waste: Oh passionflower! Oh gladioli!
I proffer my long-held longing, this love to your ground: be giddy with butterflies!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Hysterical with bees!

Caleb Parkin is a day-glo queero techno eco poet & facilitator, based in Bristol. His debut pamphlet, Wasted Rainbow, is published by tall-lighthouse in February 2021 (launching on Saturday 13th). His debut collection, This Fruiting Body, will be published by Nine Arches in October 2021. From 2020 – 22, he’s Bristol City Poet.

Tweet: @CalebParkin | Insta: @couldbethemoon | Websitewww.couldbethemoon.co.uk

Featured Publication – Subsidence by R.M. Francis

Our featured publication for February is Subsidence by R.M. Francis, published by Smokestack Books.

The ground gives, the walls crack and our foundations are laid bare, revealing fragments of history, myth and memory we had forgotten once were ours. Subsidence is about the post-industrial Black Country landscape, where houses sink into old mines and the present collapses into the past beneath our feet. Written just before and after the 2016 Brexit referendum, these poems are love songs to the dialect and culture of the Black Country, odes to working-class communities, and laments for the unwanted and off-kilter.

A love letter spoken in his mother tongue, refusing to be a second language, a vernacular ripe with the heart and soul of everyday people. This is an observation of both strangers an’ kin, sometimes smashed glass of people’s lives reflecting a beautiful constellation under a Black Country sky.’ Roy McFarlane

A glorious musical score of Black Country dialect with all its complex tone colours and rhythms. Borderlands of class, the liminal aching space occupied by those who are not easily categorised are cracked open and witnessed.’ Roz Goddard

He is our Black Country guide to the relics, rituals, coping strategies of a defunct working class. Defiantly vernacular, written in dialect, we encounter the mythic, Germanic smith Wieland and his descendants in their haunts of pub, car park, footy pitch and wasteland, held captive and hamstrung by a tyranny of class and prejudice.’ Bob Beagrie

‘E grew the best runners in Bilbrook,

‘E grew the best runners in Bilbrook,
always ‘ad a grin an’ an ‘ow do, cock?
always ‘ad handshake
for stranger an’ kin
an’ e’d drive us mad with ‘is cantin’
‘e’d never leave anyone loney.

‘E grew the best runners in Bilbrook,
‘Stan’s Patch’ marked ‘is plot
an’ ‘e marked plots with poppies
for ‘is muckers who fell in Malaya,
an’ ‘e’d tell tall tales
of guardin’ the palace
an’ blartin’ with the Duke
about cheeky ales
down the Bag O’ Nails.

‘An sometimes
with a bowl-gut a scotch
you’d ‘ear ‘im singin’
Johnny Cash laments
in slurred baritones.

When Nan an’ Mom
went up the bridge
‘E tipped me two fingers
of whisky an’ said:
You know, our Rob,
me an’ ya Nan, we always
say good mornin’, every
mornin’, thass right, that is.

‘E grew the best runners in Bilbrook
an’ ‘e ‘ad a jab to go with left hook
an’ ‘e beat back death in the jungle
an’ ‘e beat back death in a truck crash
an’ I wish I could lay my knuckle
on that cruel, twisted curse
that steals minds before their time.
But I kip it locked in,
an’ lock in
on ‘ow even at the end
‘e’d force ‘is tired mouth to grin
at the sight and sound
of ‘is great grandkids.

Sleepin’ beasts

Skies mirror coal seams and slate of cinder smoke –
tethers grey birds to its oil slick,
cloaks wenches’ washing lines,
hanging out failed whites
for blokes on the box
who doh know how to clear
the cloud in their eyes.

Down on The Wrenner land is littered –
winds clip used cans through estates,
passed scorched out sofas weedy teens
use to toll the day.
This land –
nesting tumour in a cold parish.

Iss like our Tim keeps cantin’:
weem cut from ‘ere in all iss umber,
like the cut was cut from clay.
We ay nature’s sons,
just med of it, someway.
‘Cause weem cut that way,
weem cut away.

Down on The Wrenner air is soiled
with unwashed pets, cigarettes,
dried booze, pizza crust breath.
This air –
pricked silica leak of rotting cells.

Tim treds the towpath to ‘is ESA review,
over grit and sand ‘e used to alchemy to glass
but now just plays a part
in weathering muck.

They doh know
wass under theya –
our earth’s rotten
with trilobites.
Weem stompin’ on sleepin’ beasts.

Previously published in the Nine Arches Press anthology Spake

Herring Gulls of Gornal Wood

Territory echoes in a coop-caw chorus,
clattering terrace rows
as machinists break fasts,
hectic parents scrum passed
speckles of teenage barks,
baby squawks. The coop-caw rasps
in snare drum claps – a guttural kaa-kaa
over this morning’s scraps. Raptored beak –
yoked with blood spot – snaps to yodel leftovers,
snaps to strike at smugglers
trying the same game.

……………..Why am they called Seagulls, Mom,
………………when we ay by the sea?
……………..Should call ‘em Gornal Gulls.

The neighbour no one speaks to
wrestles through the dew
to the recycling bins,
pitched on the car park
where teens spit and swear
at the lack of new models –
‘E’s bin pickin’ on little Sammy,
‘Er’s bin pickin’ over glossy bones of celeb mags

the neighbour no one speaks to searches for plastic intimacy.

Soon, taupe spans
soar to another spot – do it all again.

Previously published in Raum and Eunoia Review

R. M. Francis is a lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of
Wolverhampton, where he also completed his PhD. He’s the author of five poetry pamphlet collections. His debut novel, Bella, was published by Wild Pressed Books and his collection of poems, Subsidence is out with Smokestack Books. In 2019 he was the inaugural David Bradshaw Writer in Residence at the University of Oxford and is currently the Poet in Residence for the Black Country Geological Society.

Subsidence is available to purchase from the Smokestack Books website.

Tied to the 90s – Ben Banyard

Tied to the 90s

She’s kept all her tapes, CD singles, scratched vinyl.
The t-shirts she bought at gigs at toilet venues
where sweat poured from the walls and tangled her hair.
Refuses MP3 players, iTunes, cloud content
which she cannot hoard, keep safe, archive.

She remembers personal stereos slowing to sludge
when the batteries wore out, cassettes unspooled, devoured 
by the mechanism, tape heads which muffled sound, 
had to be cleaned gently with a cotton bud.

It’s a small rented house in a town you don’t visit.
She has young kids, a son and daughter who share a room.
They know Oasis, Pulp, Manics, Ride, Neds,
Carter USM, Pop Will Eat Itself, The Wonder Stuff.

Know too that their mum draws strength from those bands,
comes alive when they ask her about those years;
there was a brief moment in the spring of 1997
when the world caught fire and possibility shone through.
She likes to stay there some days, doesn’t go in to work.

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead on the Severn Estuary. He has published two collections of poetry, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018) with a third, Hi-Viz, due out from YAFFLE in Spring 2021. He blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com

A retired Shipyard Draughtsman hears the Ghost-Pilot’s song – Bob Cooper

A retired Shipyard Draughtsman hears the Ghost-Pilot’s song

He stands, blueprints now memories, grips the rail tightly, sees
the current’s strength that forces brown water as mist solidifies

drifts downstream, to become self-fulfilling shapes of ships
longer than warehouses, masts tall as cranes at Cammell Laird’s

then hears a ghost-pilot sing as they pass the floodlit Three Graces
mentioning trade routes, merchandise, vessels’ names, their owners,

while the moon’s light gleams on their stones, long-dark windows,
shimmers on the river, reaches him. Watery-eyed he turns, walks

having heard in the breeze on the Mersey’s not-yet-dawn flow
laments that float over its surface. He sings their echoes.

Bob Cooper has had 7 pamphlets published – six of them winning pamphlet competitions. He’s also had two full length collections published, one by Arrowhead in 2002 then another with Pindrop in 2017 see:  http://www.pindroppress.com/books/Everyone%20Turns.html   He lives on the Wirral.