The Imposter – Catherine Redford

The Imposter

At first it was easy. I cloaked myself in the shroud
of his name, took up his old trousers with some tape
I lifted from the haberdashers on the corner. His car
was a manual, which took some getting used to. Not
one to be defeated, I levered forward the seat and
drove to his mother’s one Sunday afternoon.
It’s interesting that I knew the way.

The old woman had rheumy eyes, faded and
watering. Should I read that as significant? Offer
her to you as an oracle? Her cardigan was on
inside out. She nudged me with her nose as if
I were a blind puppy, knew the scent was off
yet kept me in her nest regardless – the deception
suited us both. But the flotsam started to bump

around me in the darkness before too long.
An ex-lover got in touch and she’d locked me in her
attic before I understood her reheated obsession.
I had to plead a case of fleeting genius when asked
to write a new forward to the book that made
my name. It goes without saying that crowds
flocked to see me, risen again, the stumbling miracle.
The limelight came to taste like chalk, clagging my
mouth, neutralising the thrill of return. I visited

his grave one autumn evening, part macabre curiosity,
part penance. Maybe to speak to him: ask for forgiveness
and the passcode for his phone. Before I knew it I had
lowered myself in, soil under fingernails, beneath tongue.
Burying myself in the relief of being unknown, I closed
my eyes in the confines of the coffin,
rang the bell, and waited.

Catherine Redford lives in the West Midlands. Her poetry has been awarded Highly Commended in the Sussex Poetry Competition and has been shortlisted for the Martin Starkie Prize. Twitter: @C_Redford_ 

The Haven: February – Robert Nisbet

The Haven: February

They drove her to the front, overlooking the Haven,
after she’d seen the specialist.
The Haven, across its miles of width, was still,
the water unruffled by wind, rippling little
on the greyest of afternoons.

Soon after three o’clock, quite unexpectedly,
a rod of sun pushed firmly down through cloud,
lighting hedges and rooftops on the Pembroke side.
Farm sheds, church steeple, brightly depicted.
Only over twenty minutes did the ripple
of sunlight edge across the water,
till their side also was in sun.

They’d drive her there again maybe, often,
while she came to terms with things.

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared widely in Britain and the USA. He won the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017 with Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes. In the USA he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times in the last three years.

Even Galaxies Consume Smaller Galaxies – Lacie Semenovich

Even Galaxies Consume Smaller Galaxies

Yellow squash and zucchini will burn
your tongue. If he starts to write poetry,
dump him. Answer your belly’s hunger.
Bananas fall to the ground, brown and bruised.

Hold your tongue if he starts to write poetry,
let him wonder at your number in the bathroom stall
and the bananas falling to the ground. Brown and bruised
hike your skirt for the next available painter.

Let him wonder at your number in the bathroom stall,
let him suspect the fiction writer down the street.
Hike your skirt for the next available painter
and piss all over canvas like turpentine.

Let him suspect the fiction writer down the street,
see metaphors looming over yield signs. Wear yellow,
and piss all over canvas like turpentine,
watch painted breasts run in darkening twists and bows.

See metaphors looming over yield signs. Wear yellow
in strip clubs of black and grey. Let lust consume you
watching painted breasts. Run in darkening twists and bows
toward your first home, like tracing the lines of your palm.

In strip clubs of black and grey let lust consume you.
Yellow squash and zucchini will burn
like your first home. Read the lines of your palm.
Dump him. Listen to your belly’s hunger.

Lacie Semenovich is a poet and fiction writer living in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.  Her work has appeared in B O D Y, Sheila-Na-Gig online, QwertyChiron Review, and The Best Small Fictions 2020.  She is the author of a chapbook, Legacies.

Living Garment – Matthew M. C. Smith

Living Garment

At this moment, when we’re alone,
we bring out the living garment and hold it to the light
witnessing, still, its lustre of yesteryear.

We don’t know how we made it, how it came to be.
We see its threadbare elbow, an unstitched seam,
a cuff that frayed itself to thread, unravelling.

And we look closely at threads. How they fur between finger and thumb,
their loose microscopic weave; how strands hold in the twist
noting differences in colour. Even in darkness, a stitch gleams

with any gifting photon. We count on thread, stitches,
textured to a weave holding together our living garment.

Matthew M. C. Smith is a Welsh poet, published in Barren Magazine, The Lonely Crowd and Icefloe Press. He one half of the Dylan Thomas Birthplace podcast and editor of Black Bough poetry. Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith Insta: @smithmattpoet Also on FB.

Who? – Beth McDonough


Aye. Ye do. She pops in quite often.
The wumman wi the handicapped son.
Sometimes he shouts oot during Mass – what a laugh!
Canon doesnae mind of course – the young lad says things
we cannae quite make oot. Funny, even so.
But that’s ok. God’s fine wi fun. Bless them aa.
They say God gies you nuthing ye cannae manage.
Eh believe that too. They’re special, folk like that.
They’re verra nice. Usually they sit
twa pews up frae Mr McNee the St James heedie
and Susie, his docter wife. She knit s such lovely hats.
Somewhere near to Jean. Jean frae the cafe at the docks.
Ken she’s bought a new caravan at Inver?
He’s getting right big now. Bigger than her. And strong.
But they urr strong, urren’t they? The handicapped.
When they decide to go, they damned well will!
Well, must be hard. He’s gettin a gey big lad.
Eh see them (her an her man), catch him
by the rucksack straps when he’s breengin for the front.
He wears yon pack a lot. No, Eh’ve no idea why.
Must be a struggle in that hoose. But bless them aa.
Lovely folk. Been in this Parish for, uh… years.
In fact they had him Baptised here.
I see he takes Communion now. Oh bless.
God is good. Part of oor Church femily.
Aabuddy kens his name. We aye say hello.
Never make a difference. Ken.
I see her recently daein stewardin duty.
The young lad isnae ayeways there.
It’s guid they get a break.
Eh like to ask her fur her son. Ken she’s pleased.
You ken her fine. The wumman wi the handicapped son.

Beth McDonough’s poetry is widely anthologised and published in MagmaGutter and elsewhere. Lamping for pickled fish is published by 4Word. She swims year round in the Tay, foraging nearby.

Storm Arwen – Zoë Green

Storm Arwen

It was six countries, twenty-four hours
and fifteen hundred miles away that we
dined upon lamb jalfrezi,
paratha with fenugreek,
smoked tandoori aubergine,
and aloo matar with cardamon rice, whilst you
were buried in the dark. Afterwards,
I awarded Bombay Palace 5/5 on the app:
‘Really appreciate you delivered so far out’ –
and settled to a del Toro flick, the dog on my lap.

My mind’s eye sees you rootling through cupboards
searching for candles and paraffin, and watch
the fire’s flames kindle your parchment face;
hear the squeal of the red kettle
on the huffing stove as the wind
tantrums the petulant trees and the waves rush
against the teeth-gritted rocks and Ken’s dinghy
spooks her chains in the harbour.

I’ll hear on the news tomorrow how, in Inverbervie,
gusts reached 81 miles per hour,
which means that particles of smoke
from your fire, or flakes of dandruff, or a fragment of leaf
from the beech hedge by your door
could have reached me here about the time
I set off on my morning run.
But the wind blows another tune;
the air stays sullen and snowflakes run through it
like lice, and now my phone’s gone quiet
so I have to imagine your voice.

We have weathered storms before:
Charleton Maternity, 1978, the snow’s plumage so complete
it wouldn’t let Dad register my birth.
Or Ardmore campsite, 1989;
after the fray, ours the only tent standing.
And now we weather storms apart.
Is the red kettle boiling yet?
Please, pick up.

Zoë Green was born in Scotland, and now lives and works in Vienna and Berlin. Her writing has been published in the London Magazine, Harpers and Queen, bandit fiction, and New Linear Perspectives.

Monsters – Jean Atkin


Now there is only the sound of the street lamps
for those who can catch the breath of them

hissing, like cats doing build-up to a fight.
They bend their long necks and look for us.

In the sitting room the all-night rage
of standby lights so commonplace, we shrug

and blank each mad red eye, put out the bin,
take up a cup of camomile to bed.

Overhead we know the space stations are circling,
those slow hyenas of the night. We bank on it all

put right, our night-terrors extinguished by the sun.
Although it never tells us how much time is left to run.

Jean Atkin published ‘Fan-peckled’ (Fair Acre Press) and ‘The Bicycles of Ice and Salt’ (Indigo Dreams) in 2021.  She has won competitions, been commissioned, anthologised, and featured on BBC Radio 4. She works as a poet in education and community. 

Featured Publication – In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered by Chaucer Cameron

Our featured publication for March and April is In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered by Chaucer Cameron, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Chaucer explains: In an Ideal world I’d Not Be Murdered is part memoir part fiction. The poems explore the impact of prostitution. Each character has their own story to tell. The sex industry has its challenges, it is a contentious area and is deeply divided. One of the aims of my work is to bridge the gaps and enable conversations to take place, by addressing some of these difficult issues, through poetry and poetry-film.

“These poems ring out like gunshots in the night; they will wake you from your sleep. Yet despite its distilled directness, this book is lifted by both mystery and surprise. Listen for the songs emerging from the dark centre of this transformative work of experience and survival.”  Jacqueline Saphra.  

In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered

In an ideal world I’d buy a bigger place, a place where us girls could
work together. There’s safety in numbers. Not afraid of getting busted
or being murdered.

I refuse to compromise my safety, said Crystal, inviting strangers back
to her room. But nights were always hard for Crystal, there’s a safety
in jeopardy, ain’t there?

Crystal loved art. Her bedsit covered in posters from the sixties.
Blondes, semi nudes, mostly murdered women. Her favourite chair,
just a knock-off imitation, she called her Keeler chair.

Crystal could’ve been a hoarder, but in fact she was a hooker. She
was lucky, never murdered, she understood erasure, turned it into
artforms, pinned it to the walls.

Crystal knew what she wanted and that was somewhere quiet, but
not so quiet I get murdered
. Then she’d giggle, try to disarm you with
laughter, but not really.


It’s funny what you think of when you’ve had a near miss/ I
don’t think my nose is broken/ could’ve been much worse/
no time to check it out/ it doesn’t hurt/ anyway.

It’s funny what you think of/ when you’re gagging/ for your life
when you hear the car doors/ click/
when the music is turned up/ and you put on your disguise.

Tonight/ it was the Flintstones/ I watched them as a kid/ you
can watch it on YouTube/ it’s a sort of animation/
they used to call them cartoons/ but I can’t tell the difference.

The Flintstones were a family/ there was Fred and Barney/
Wilma/ and a Betty/ I had a crush on Betty/
what a beauty/ lovely legs/ she was a real animation.

Fred and Wilma had a kid/ every family had a kid/ named
their daughter Pebbles/ oh/ there was a Bamm-Bamm/ I’m forgetting/
Bamm-Bamm/ they found him on the doorstep/ then took him in.

I loved that show/ I loved the way they loved their kids/
it’s funny what you think of/ when you’ve got a dodgy punter/
bloody Flintstones/ bloody Pebbles/ hell/ a broken nose.


Coup de Maître

I lay you on your back, twist off your claw-legs,
crack them with a heavy implement.
I will not allow you to shatter into small pieces, yet.

I will extract the bones of you,
place them with care into a metal bowl.
I will insert thumbs on the base of your body
push upwards to release you from your carapace.

I will pull away and discard your lungs –
they are only dead man’s fingers;
you know them intimately, don’t you?

I will press your mouth with such force that it snaps
from its shell. I will raid your stomach-sac,
cut you in half, scoop out the meat of you,
fork out the white from your carcass.

You will be left hollow, your cavities
will shimmer thinly, rocking back and forth,
open, empty, ready to be stuffed, dressed, put on show.

Then we will dine. You will be picked, hand-held,
lifted high on a fork, ready to be savoured
by tongue, swallowed down into the gut,
where you’ll rest for a moment, before clawing
your way back through every orifice imaginable.

128 Farleigh Road

I find him at the bottom of the stairs, the strange thing is
his eyes are blue with flecks of grey. I could have sworn
they were brown, a dull sort of brown, but then again
the mask, which often hid his eyes and always hid his face.
Apart from one-time years ago when I caught him naked
and alone. Now in death that face looks so serene,
clean almost. I’d often worried that the rubber marks
on his jawline, forehead and just beneath his eyes,
would pit his skin so deep he’d be scarred for life.
But here we are, just he and I gazing at each other
the way dead people do when caught together intimately.
One thing troubles me. I say this in a whisper so not to disturb
the dust that’s gathered. How did this come to be?
This flat, these walls, they’re crawling with dead girls.

I know the rules: no names, no dates, just numbers.

Chaucer is author of In an Ideal world I’d Not Be Murdered (Against The Grain 2021) Her poems have been published in various journals. She was shortlisted for Live Canon 2021 International Poetry Competition. Chaucer is creator of Wild Whispers an international poetry film project. Website: Twitter Chaucer @ChaucerCameron

Copies of In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered are available to purchase from the Against the Grain Poetry Press website.

Pleasure Yourself Whilst I Watch – Wendy Allen

Pleasure Yourself Whilst I Watch

It is the way you don’t buy my favourite chocolate anymore,
it is on the list of specified items, but you say it is out of stock –
that it must be Brexit, or the fact we are over.
That night, we eat milk chocolate, and it is the purple of the wrapper
which makes me taste copper circled resentment when
I think about the red wrapping of our first night.
In bed, I look at your eyes fucking me, I break into six squares,
and I want to say you forgot my chocolate bar,
you forgot my chocolate bar,
but you are too busy in your own orgasm to notice.

Wendy Allen is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. Her first pamphlet was published as a Legitimate Snack by Broken Sleep and her poems published in Northern Gravy, Dear reader, and Poetry Wales (Winter 2021)

Obituary – Tamsin Cottis


Subbing memories. Below the man.
Friends and lovers knew. In letters.
They told me. Your words and music.
Their children. You gave them.
Attention and time. I mined sentences.
Adapting. 87 years into 400 words.
Remembering. I imagined your pride.
Once. You said to newly published me.
The girl’s got it! I stored your words.
In my thesaurus of ways. To describe.
Love you mostly did not show or tell.
Cutting. Through the view of you.
At piano or desk. Back turned.
Hour after hour. I chipped at syntax.
Looking for you. Indent line-break edit.
Insertion omission errata. I made.
More from less. Though I lost you.
At the end of breath. I found you.
Dad. In the full stops.

Tamsin lives in east London. She is a child psychotherapist who has written widely about her work. Her poetry and short fiction has been published by, among others, Mslexia, Atrium, Rattle Tales, Flashback Fiction, Verve Poetry Press and Brittle Star. She is on twitter @tamsin cottis