Diminished Responsibility – Niall M Oliver

Diminished Responsibility

So, you are saying, when your son is sleeping
his legs bunch up by his sides like those on a roast chicken,
and when you hold him to your cheek
the hairs on his head prickle like a kiwi fruit.
Furthermore, his breath has a hint of buttercream,
and his chin is always dripping wet
as if glazed in a coat of honey.

“That’s correct. I would also like to add
that his little toes have even begun
to smell of camembert cheese”.
And these are the reasons you felt compelled
to tell him that you could eat him up?
“Yes, I’m afraid so”. And when you carried him
to the kitchen, did the boy cry out?

“Yes, Your Honour, he did. Tenderly
like a spring lamb”.

Niall M Oliver lives in Ireland, and is the author of ‘My Boss’ by Hedgehog Poetry. His poems have featured in The Honest Ulsterman, Fly On The Wall Press, Ink Sweat & Tears, Black Bough Poetry and others. 

Cantaloupe Follows Me Around – Ava Patel

Cantaloupe Follows Me Around

It haunts me,
lingers over me
when I eat breakfast,
lunges at me
when I take a shower.
There is nothing
Cantaloupe won’t do.

It rots in my fridge,
hangs out on my patio.
Refuses to pay rent
or bills,
doesn’t even wipe down the surfaces
of my kitchen
or take out the bins.

It steals from me,
wears my clothes
when I’m out.
Cantaloupe uses all my honey
to make face masks,

rolls down my stairs
in the middle of the night
and won’t even kiss me
when I wake up,
sweaty and confused,
from honeydew nightmares.

Ava Patel graduated from the University of Warwick with a First in an MA in Writing.  Her debut pamphlet ‘Dusk in Bloom’ has just been published by Prolebooks and she runs an Instagram poetry page: @ava_poetics.Her pamphlet is available to buy here: https://prolebooks.co.uk/

Shorty – Wendy Klein


Aunt Paula wore the highest stilettos she could buy,
would risk a broken neck to look as tall

as her sister, Lee. Aunt Paula piled her meagre black hair
into a chignon the size of a giant cep, her face

the shape of a wizened heart from living on black tea
and Pall Malls, ate little but half-raw meat,

hard-boiled eggs, grapefruit. Aunt Paula exercised each day
by vacuuming her house from top to bottom,

accompanied by her blind Cairn terrier, Shorty, who’d bitten
everyone but Grandmother. Aunt Paula dug her garden

with manic intensity, planted baby-tears moss between
the blocks of crazy paving she’d put in place

with her own green fingers. Nights, her foot pressed
down the damper of the second-hand upright

as she fought insomnia with Civil War Songs:
When Johnny comes marching home again.

She slipped away through the screen door at 45 – lean
as wire, will o’ the wisp. Her heart, they said.

Wendy Klein has 3 collections: ‘Cuba in the Blood’ and ‘Anything in Turquoise’ (2009, 20013, Cinnamon Press), ‘Mood Indigo’ ( 2016, Oversteps), and a selected ‘Into the Blue’, High Window Press (2019).  An illustrated film of her recent pamphlet, ‘Let Battle Commence’ appears on You-tube https://youtu.be/L2JlbpAdUcU

Westwood Park – Hilary Robinson

Westwood Park

I’m cutting back honeysuckle, keeping my distance
from berberis that could shed my blood.
Rising from my kneeling pad I close my eyes,
let the blood rush my head, see the bushes
of Westwood Park.

On our way to the park, up Westhulme Avenue,
we’d knock on the window of the porter’s lodge,
leave well-read comics for the children’s ward.
Mum would push Jill, I’d walk ahead,
eager for swings, for Mum’s hands
on my back, the wind through my bunched hair.
The roundabouts, spider’s web with painted poles
and rattling chains, the boring rocking horse,
the tall slide I came down with legs pen-knifed,
then off to explore toward the bowling greens
up the slope, perfect for roly-polies.

But never near the bushes. Always a quick dash
to the litter bin on the path then back to Mum.
I remember nothing said, just the thought


…………..men in bushes.

…………………………………………………..Men, waiting in bushes.

Hilary Robinson has an MA from MMU. She’s been published in Strix, Riggwelter, Obsessed with Pipework, Poetry Birmingham, Morning Star and the Interpreter’s House. 12 poems were published in a joint book, ‘Some Mothers Do,’ in 2018 (Beautiful Dragons Press).

Featured Publication – This Poem Here by Rob Walton

Our featured publication for April is This Poem Here by Rob Walton, published by Arachne Press.

When Rob Walton went into lockdown, he didn’t know that he would also go into
mourning.  Here he writes about the life and death of his dad, and how sadness seeped
into various aspects of his life. He also manages to find cheap laughs, digs at the government, celebrations of the young and old, unashamed sentimentality and suddenly disarming moments of

Walton is a master of musical, looping, refrains as he gets closer and closer to the troubled heart of
” Deborah Alma

This unusual collection, is, in its well-crafted way, a parcel of the sad, funny, unfair and beautiful
aspects of ordinary life… as irreverent as it is poignant, this is the ideal collection for you if you want
your deepest forebodings about the state of the UK confirmed, with a side helping of big belly
” Kate Foley

Walton’s lines are expressed neatly and sparely, yet hold such purity and poignancy beneath them
that they stop you in your tracks.
” Jane Burn

this poem here

Christ, if I went through all the regrets
I have about my dad and the things
I could and should have done
I’d write poem after poem after book
and it would be a full collection
dissected in some online journal
or some blog and recommended
to someone’s 167 twitter followers.

God, if I went through all the regrets
I had about my dad when I was a full-grown adult
it would make an award-avoiding pamphlet
that one person would ask me to sign
and I’d spell their name wrong
even after I’d carefully asked them.

Jesus, if I were to write about the fact
my dad saw me in some strange pantomimes
and acting the goat on other stages
and even telling so-called jokes on the boards
of Kinsley Labour Club and how I regret
he never saw me reading poetry
never saw me reading poems
in celebration of him and my mum
well that

That would be a poem.
That would be this poem here.
That he’d never read.
That he’d never hear.

and in lockdown

and in lockdown
it seems perfectly reasonable
to get tearful
over the Jersey Royals
untouched and forgotten about
in the cupboard under the sink

and now the girls
have gone back to their mum’s
you’ll have the Jersey Royals
on your own
on their own
or with a bit of butter
but snide Lurpak
won’t help them pass
the lump in your throat

June 1 st

What did you do on your first day back, darling?

Lick Yusuf.

Oh, right, and what did Yusuf do?

Nothing. Him on top of Shira.

Mmm. And did Ms Key do anything about this?

Couldn’t. Twins stuck on her legs.

The Alton twins?

No, them in helper’s hair,
play with him mask.

And how do you feel about going back tomorrow?

Stay home. Watch stupid men on telly.

Prime Minister’s Questions

Are there any other countries you’d like to break?
If you grow it out a bit, would you like me to cut it into a bob?
Do you miss the good old days of racist newspaper columns?
Is the dandruff cultivated to evoke sympathy?
Will you answer the question about the inflatable Cummings?
Do you understand the difference between a million and a billion?
Who’s your favourite bully?
How about a nice lie-down?
Who’s spaffing now?
Could you tell the House which of his houses your dad is in at the moment?
Is it the Ready Brek that makes you glow inside?
Have you got Brexit done?
Do you miss the good old days of the zip wire and the flags?
Are there any other countries you’d like to break?

like in the olden days

I want my daughters’ friends to come for tea
I want to serve them uninteresting pasta
with a jar of Aldi tomato sauce
and some veggie parmesan
and maybe
I don’t know
a coke float
or an ice cream
or pretty much anything really
I just want my daughters’ friends
to come for tea

like in the olden days
you know
like in the olden days

Scunthorpe-born Rob Walton lives with his daughters in Whitley Bay.  His poetry is published by The Emma Press, Strix, Butcher’s Dog, Culture Matters, Atrium and others.  His short fiction is published in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand.  He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text.  Twitter: @anicelad.  

This Poem Here is available to purchase from the Arachne Press website.

The Appointment – Angela France

The Appointment

The room is decorated in muted colours,
a thick carpet to muffle the feet, a bed
outline softened under downy quilts.

She’d expected a blank room, a steel table,
a solemn figure behind a mask to draw
the white sheet back and uncover the face.

She didn’t expect the velvet armchair
angled close to the bedhead, a lamp
pooling subdued light over the pillow

which swelled like cumulus either side
of the quiet head. She didn’t expect
to see the arm laid over the quilt,

as if waiting for a hand to hold,
two rings shiny on her third finger,
a papery-white sleeve fluted at her wrist.

As if she should believe death is nothing
to concern us; as if it is temporary,
a hiatus to be easily mended.

Angela France’s publications include ‘Occupation’ (Ragged Raven, 2009), ‘Lessons in Mallemaroking’ (Nine Arches, 2011), ‘Hide’ (Nine Arches 2013) and The Hill (Nine Arches 2017).  Angela teaches creative writing at the University of Gloucestershire and in various community settings. http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/the%20hill.html