Mars – Fiona Cartwright


We walk on water-swelled soil
studded with earthstars, skins

pierced by rain, spores already erupted,
and I tell my mother

Now is the closest Mars will be until 2035
and she says

This Halloween moon’s a blue one.
The sky’s been deleted

by the sun, so when dark comes
I try to remember to look

for Mars’ orange seed briefly fruited
into a tangerine, clinging close

to a mistletoe ball of a moon
and I try, and fail to remember

the feel of my mother’s
small bent body in my arms.

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).

Beluga at Mystic Aquarium – Bex Hainsworth

Beluga at Mystic Aquarium

For Juno

You hang like a stalactite
in the blue, a carved bone,
walrus tusk. Creature of cold,
ethereal, angelic, with the white
curves of a Renaissance maid.
Goddess, I envy your confidence
as you sway towards the glass.
Pale hips, hints of knee joints
sunk into your tail, blubber
in all the right places. No wonder
sailors wrote songs about sirens.
Your milky dome wobbles with the tilt
of your head as you ponder our echoes,
our symphonies. Mercurial, messenger
from a deeper realm, silent as an iceberg,
heavy with cow-like docility. It is mirrored
wonder when your beaked lips form
a gentle bubble in greeting, peering
at us like a child in front of
a television screen.

Bex Hainsworth currently teaches in Leicester. She won the Collection HQ Prize as part of the East Riding Festival of Words and her poetry has been published following commendations in the Welsh Poetry, Ware Poets, Beaver Trust, and AUB Poetry competitions. 

Uncle Reg – Sarah Wimbush

Uncle Reg

had two Gloucester Old Spots named Reggie and Violet,
bantams in the kitchen, three fingers on one hand,
and an earth closet you could see all the poo and wee in.

He loved my grandmother even though he’d just been the lodger,
and for years after I’d receive a £1 Premium Bond on my birthday,
all of which I still have, but none of the millions hoped for.

At teatime, I’d watch him scurry about like Alice’s rabbit,
then later, drowsing in the collapsing chair, he’d rest the metal
of his pocket watch against those two unlucky stumps.

Sarah Wimbush has published two pamphlets: Bloodlines (Seren, 2020) and The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster (Smith|Doorstop, 2021). Her first collection Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands will be published by Bloodaxe in 2022. 

Bumper-Stickers – Sue Spiers


It was the day after my second miscarriage.
We stood in a queue for fish and chips.
I didn’t feel like cooking.
I didn’t feel like doing anything.

Two women ahead of us were deep in conversation:
‘She’s getting a cot from my sister, clothes from Jane’,
‘What a chubby little boy…’ his weight, his date, his toes.
How friends rally to a birth.

I thought, how easy for some to drop a sprog,
of all our preparations, discussions of names,
trips to Mothercare. All that excitement turned
into silence and I-don’t-know-what-to-say looks.

Outside we walked between parked cars
loathing the Baby on Board bumper-stickers.

Sue Spiers lives in Hampshire and works with Winchester Poetry Festival and the Open University Poetry Society. Her poems have been published in 14, Acumen, Fenland Poetry Journal and Stand, and on-line at Ink, Sweat & Tears. Sue tweets @spiropoetry.

Zest and Other inhibitions – Zoë Ranson

Zest and Other inhibitions

It’s Tuesday. The big match
The Whirlpool engineer glazes over
For dinner, something pre-made, easy to heat through
rips in the centre of the soup plate

You really gotta try the raspberry volcanic
from the nonlinear past where food is presented on the laziest Susan
Shirt tail/syntax/unbreakable chain

The Vegas quadrant in Morecambe Bay an opulent public space
Back in the nineties, this whole area was a theme park
with a theme of an unsightly Red-eyed
Hamburglar or a Funny Fry friend from a frieze

Rides have astral/fairyland names
like Vespertine and Nebula
You remember how Olaf had a star named for him once

You know who else was here? Elsie. Elsie was here
in a brick red shade of lipstick
the ghost of her kiss blotted on tissue

Zoë Ranson is a writer and performer from Hackney, via Walton-on-the-Naze. She makes work from micro to epic, sometimes for the stage. @zooeyr @tentative_line

I recognise the date – Becki Hawkes

I recognise the date

and I recognise that today is a bruised sky blue
and purple day: everything readying itself, steadying  
itself, tasting the turn in the air. Squirrels attack me
on my lunchbreak: scale my legs and dive head first
into my Pret paper bag and I cannot even pretend
to be annoyed: they are so unapologetically sure
that I am here to sustain them, so gleefully confident
they won’t be harmed. I recognise the date and I want
to say that the weather, the sky, the wildlife; that they
were all exactly like this – except of course I don’t
remember the weather. I don’t even remember the time
of day. All I know is that they told me it had happened
and that for hours and hours I pretended that it hadn’t:
assumed there must have been some ludicrous, laughable
mistake. My brain is so good at saying oh, no thank you,
not today: it makes everything slippery and lilting
and diluted. Even now I can stand in bubbling light and mud
and rose green amber splendour, five, no six, no seven
years on, covered in fearless squirrels, a nudging ocean
of pigeons at my feet, and wonder what you might be
up to this weekend: decide I should check in, give you a call,
tell you about these squirrels.

Becki Hawkes lives in London, loves being outside and butterflies, and has poems published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Shore, Rust + Moth, Brittle Star and Perhappened, among others. Her first pamphlet is published next year by Survision Books. Her Twitter is @BeckiH_678.

Featured Publication – Erased by James McDermott

Our featured publication for January and February is Erased by James McDermott, published by Polari Press.

Erased deploys found and erasure poetry to answer back to decades of censorship and homophobia. Removing ‘not’ from Section 28 legislation makes it a riot of celebration; the pluralised UK national anthem, an invocation to ‘save the queens’. Through selecting and reversioning these texts, we see that ultimately, in the witty words of Pride placards, “love is/power/love wins” Caleb Parkin

McDermott’s new pamphlet quivers with political tension and confirms him as a vital voice of queer British poetry. McDermott changes the narrative of homophobic documents, revisits their language and moulds it into a glittery powersong of wonder and unashamedly queer joy. ‘God save our gracious queens’ indeed” Serge ♆ Neptune

Erased is a crystallised gem of a collection. Emotive, evocative, and ingenious. Using central conceit that keeps on delivering, James McDermott has uncovered something truly special, an iridescent revision of the canon and our received wisdoms” Rick Dove

Erased is an act of reclamation and fabulous impudence. The whole pamphlet empowers and validates” Simon Maddrell


after Al Parker Productions Gay Porn Video Intro Guidance

the following is being presented
as a visual fantasy
as a viable alternative
to actual sexual contact

some of the precautions
taken by the producers in
the preparation of this fantasy
have been visually omitted
for editorial considerations

this is intended for viewing
by a special and limited audience
namely adults who request and desire
material for their information
education and entertainment

GENESIS 9: 12-13
after God

and god said this
is the sign of
the covenant
I am
making between me and you and
every living creature with you
a covenant
for all generations
to come
I have set my rainbow
in the clouds and
it will be the sign of
the covenant
between me and the earth

after Pride protest slogans

James McDermott’s spoken word collection ‘Manatomy’, published by Burning Eye, was longlisted for Polari’s First Book Prize 2021. James’s pamphlet ‘Erased’ is published by Polari Press. Their poems have been widely published in magazines including Poetry Wales, The Gay & Lesbian Review, The Cardiff Review, York Literary Review, Popshot Quarterly & Atrium. James was shortlisted for Outspoken’s Poetry Prize 2020 in the Performance Category and has been Commended in the Verve Poetry Competition, Winchester Poetry Prize & York Poetry Prize. As a playwright, their plays published by Samuel French include ‘Rubber Ring’ (Pleasance Islington) and ‘Time & Tide’ (Park Theatre). James is also a writer on EastEnders. Follow James on Twitter at jamesliammcd and on Instagram at jamesmcdermott1993. Visit their web site to read more about them and their work here:

Signed copies of Erased are available to purchase from James McDermott’s website.

Bedroom Wardrobe – David Thompson

Bedroom Wardrobe

I see them as they really are
bright pink and slick-clean when,
in the start-light, they come to me,
choose their veneers for the shine-time.
I display their selections in my silver-side;
she decides herself, always so well finished,
but he needs both our help.

I tend to them faithfully, always ready,
not like that upstart, bed, lying around,
neither providing nor holding a thing,
until they give-up, in the dark-time,
go pale and shivering to that lay-about;
though sometimes I hear them
gasp and moan like they never do with me
their treasured veneers tossed to the floor.

But I know they love me,
they spray sweet-scent,
massage my sides until I gleam.
It is me they trust with memories
kept in a box at my top,
though the lid stays closed.

Sometimes children visit and play inside me;
they know me better than I do,
find whole worlds in the back of me,
their laughter echoing in my chest.

David Thompson is a poet from Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. His work has featured or is upcoming in MagmaOrbisThe Cannon’s MouthThe Seventh Quarry and New Contexts: 1 (Coverstory Books, 2021).

Be Mindful of Mud – Rachael Clyne

Be Mindful of Mud

Step warily my dear,
on slippery earth-paths
that thread uphill
past ivied trunks
away from a world
of dull-crack gunshot
and quadbike roar.
Lift your head instead
to light that catches
silver on hazel bark.

If, my dear,
you find yourself
wire-barred –
backtrack down,
bottom-slide, clutch
each handhold branch
offered by
soft-eyed strangers.

Learn, my friend,
to avoid the glisten
of sticky opinion.
If its mire sucks you in,
wave your wing tips
and let the pull of air-tides
uplift you all the way
to the hillfort crown.

Rest there, my love,
on an old horse-trough.
Gaze at dainty deer track
by your feet, scrutinise
badger sgraffito.
Listen to rook chatter
and feel your body fizz.
Now you are human-imal,
mudful of mind.

Rachael Clyne’s collection, Singing at the Bone Tree (Indigo Dreams), concerns our relationship with nature. Her pamphlet, Girl Golem ( explores her migrant heritage and sense of otherness. She is currently expanding this work into a collection.