10th of October, Time Immemorial – Beth McDonough

10th of October, Time Immemorial

Revenge is sweet? My arse! You’ll suck it sour.
Go, lug fruit home – observe it breed a bowl
of maggot-writhe. My fly coachload, winged-black
with foul disease will batter down your panes.
Those jells will whersh, and piddle thin; your pies
will turn; your crumbles whiff of piss; your tarts
fall festering, and stink; they’ll dribble bloodied inks.
Do pour a wine – that rancid fruit shall make
mere vinegar seem fine, and any thought
of winter liquor – gone! Aground and bruised
I pluck out spines and curse. Of course you know
me, shit-brain! I spit my vengeance, darkest gob!
Hell won’t mend ye, bastard bramble bush!


Beth McDonough’s poetry appears in Agenda, CausewayInterpreter’s House and elsewhere; she reviews in DURAHandfast (2016, with Ruth Aylett) explores family experiences – Aylett’s of dementia. and McDonough’s of autism. She was recently Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts.


Featured Publication – How to Grow Matches by S.A. Leavesley

Our featured publication for October is How to Grow Matches by S.A. Leavesley, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Uncomfortable, powerful, and compelling, these poems demand to be read. And to read
them is to ride a discomfiting turbulent current expressed in images of clocks with disparate rhythms, clouds that dissolve into “dark angels of rain”, piles of spent matches that might make a bonfire. And burning is what these poems do: searing through skilfully controlled anger at the invisibility of women, their lack of a powerful role model to follow, they are ready to burst into flame, urging women to “reclaim their share”.’ Gill McEvoy

‘What immediately strikes me in Leavesley’s poetry is that sense of being spoken to directly, forcefully. The anger – at impossible advice, at the hidden and neglected work, at mere survival against the odds – is always balanced with craft and an impeccable sense of timing, and a vision which ranges from the orchestra pit to the research laboratory, via geopolitics, extinction and the recurring nested image of the matryoshka doll. An essential pamphlet.’ Luke Kennard


How to grow matches

Take the long matchsticks:
those like pink-tipped bulrushes,
those Gretel’s step-mum
might strike to light her oven.

Snap one – like a sharp blow
sideways behind a man’s knees.
Then another and another
for each jibe or slight.

Note how easily the wood splits
after years of hidden anger.
A felled forest at your feet,
and still the pile grows!

Lay the toppled pieces
against each other’s thinness,
rested on crumpled paper.
Now you have a bonfire.

Don’t think of Moses,
not Guy Fawkes or Jeanne d’Arc,
but of waking every day
to stroke your curves

into those clothes,
hip-sways and lip expressions
condoned for your office
as a woman.


And his open mouth is an olive grove

Imagine a green slope,
the neat rows of trees.
Sun pools in your eyes
and laps the hollows
of your upturned face.

Of course there are shadows:
a semaphore of leaves
tattoos the earth’s skin
as your passing bodies
sketch their form against grass.

Everything is a dance:
birds, flies, the cicadas’
accento, brillante.
Words are many, as many
as the grove’s virgin olives.

Take one softly in your mouth,
let teeth close on flesh
as if trapping the wafer trace
of a butterfly wing.
Hold it gently, gently

bite harder. Enjoy your tongue’s
flutter and tingle
until you hit stone resistance.
Stop dead, suck each word clean,
then spit out the pit.


Forget beef, forget chicken

On the day you decide, you open
the fridge and notice how his choices
have overpowered your tastes.

You take out the eggs.
Each shell cracked now
is a spillage whisked to lightness.

One finely sliced onion. The tip
of your knife presses down on a pepper:
the red curves of clean cuts.

Throw this in the pan’s sizzle.
Let pale cubes of potato fry
in these fiery Spanish juices.

Watch heat lick this to a moon
as big as your plate, thicker
than your paper tongue, softer

than his steak, and speckled
with spice. Reclaim your share.
Eat only as much as you like.


Publicity shots

Wear the pose as if born with it.
Don’t curve a smile beyond 45 degrees
for fear you’ll appear too keen.

Selfies are allowed on social media,
but spontaneity must be planned:
angle and light fixed for that natural look –
as if glancing up from a book in hand,
or somehow portraying that you have a life
outside your own pages.

Do not blink, twitch or admit
to an un-identical twin beyond this image
who can’t control their own ageing.

Do you see now, Dorian?

Look, here’s where we’ll start,
just as I did with Becky Sharp.
Tilt your face to one side,
then shoot from above
to minimise shadows and chins.

Don’t be downcast if it’s tiring.
Youth is a hard art to master
at the time, now past.

Above all, practise your nonchalance.
I taught Narcissus well
but he still changes his profile pic daily.


Previous publication credits for these poems are Magma, Synaesthesia, The Chronicles of Eve Anthology (Paper Swans Press), respectively. 

S. A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor, fitting words around life and life around words. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she is author of four poetry collections, two pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and two novellas. Her poetry has been published by the Financial Times, the Guardian, The Forward Book of Poetry 2016, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. She runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint.

How to Grow Matches is available to purchase from the Against the Grain Poetry Press website.

Internal Combustion – Ian Glass

Internal combustion

Daughter number two stares at me in mock horror:
eyes wide, mouth wider. She wants to know
why a car engine makes such a lot of noise,
which is not easy to explain when you’re driving.

Explosions? she says, real explosions?
Perhaps the horror is real: arms folded tight,
legs pressed hard against the seat,
retreating from this unexpected threat.

How many explosions?
………………………………………………I calculate roughly,
and miss the roundabout exit.

A hundred!
……………………….She says, as I go round again,
a hundred explosions every second!
What sort of death-wish madness builds machines
that explode a hundred times a second?

Traffic lights change to red:
a perfect opportunity
to explain the four stroke Otto cycle,
and while she’s not entirely gripped

by my discourse on compression ratios,
adiabatic expansion, temperature,
pressure and entropy; moving off
I sense her interest in the variations

of these mad death-wish machines:
the delicate sparking that animates
a petrol engine; the self-reliant
auto-ignition of a diesel.

Given a choice,
……………………………she says,
I would rather ignite spontaneously
than wait for a spark.


Ian was raised in Northumberland, lives in Worcestershire and has two grown-up daughters.  He trained as an engineer but when not writing he works as a programmer.  Ian’s poems have appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears and Algebra of Owls.

Alistair – Kirsty A. Niven


With big brown eyes,
like a Labrador’s, he gazes up at me –
a male echo of my young self.

His impossibly little hands
enveloped in his tiny pockets –
a miniature man.

He talks away excitedly,
in his own hybrid language;
English with a hint of gobbledygook.

He goes to fetch something –
a sunshine yellow iPod toy.
Gleeful, he pushes its plastic button.

Out bursts music,
the Black-Eyed Peas,
“I gotta feeling.”

He explains to me the song’s meaning,
swaying the whole time,
how exactly to have a good night –

“You have a bath and you soak Daddy
and then you go to bed with Sookie
and kiss everyone goodnight.”

Confused by our laughter,
he naively smiles –
his baby teeth like glittering pearls.


Kirsty A. Niven is from Dundee, Scotland where she lives with her husband and cats. Her poetry has appeared in a number of places including Artificial Womb, The Dawntreader, Dundee Writes, Cicada Magazine and Laldy.

Chashitsu – Kathryn Alderman


*Japanese Tea Room

The grown-ups will talk in long whispers today
and I must play with Little Green Geisha.
Aunty M switches on the chashitsu lamp
and slips next door with two steaming cups.

Green Geisha folds her camellia parasol and bows.
She lays out rice straw mats,
draws back paper shoji panels and enters
the tiny house. Her shadow gathers tea flowers,
heats water over fired charcoal
and warms the flowers to bloom.

She brings me a tea bowl painted with owls.
I bow, take it with the right hand,
cup it with the left and twist it two quarter turns
to the right; this is the Way of Tea.

Green Geisha kneels back to watch me sip at the rim;
the amber mist, a drift of jasmine on the tongue.

Next door, two silhouettes framed in the shoji’s glow;
the glint of spoons on china,
murmurs, now just beyond hearing.

The proverb on the chashitsu scroll says –
the speaker may be a fool but the listener is wise.
Green Geisha’s eyes narrow and crease,
she presses a finger to her lips.


Kathryn Alderman was an actor before starting a family. She won Cannon Poets’ Sonnet or Not (2012) and is published online and print including: Amaryllis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Eye Flash Poetry Journal, I Am Not a Silent Poet. She Co-Chairs Gloucestershire Writers’ Network.  

Lead – Jennie Farley


She wore shoes of lead to keep
her grounded. They were ugly,
heavy, gave her blisters.

One day in a fit of pique
she tore at the leather straps,
tugged off the buckles.

She rose up slowly, a wash
of cool air bathing her feet.
Upright, straight-backed,

her arms stiff by the sides
of her frilly pink frock.
There was no going back

to Mum and Dad and Chloe
the cat, the house and garden,
busy streets. Shoeless,

she rose above the steeple,
through a flock of birds,
through air balloons,

through clouds,
through the rays of the sun,
through midnight stars,

and kept on rising …


Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House and webzines. She runs events for an iconic arts club, NewBohemians@CharltonKings. Her first collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Pub) published 2016. Her new book Hex (IDP) out 2018.

Nomenclatures – Kate Garrett


If I could find a real life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.” – Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Our cat was called Eve before we met her.
It was a name I changed in the years when I
believed she would be all I knew of daughters,
amidst the day-to-day mothering of free-running
sons, whose constant bounce off brick and stone
kept me earthed. And when our girls found us,
their flickered hellos on screen from the small
ocean inside me, we willed our wishes into their
new patterns of letters—freedom, grace, beauty,
a honeyed life. We teach them mutability. They will
know to drift downstream is not only forgivable,
sometimes it’s necessary. I learned the same lessons
slowly, hard-earned, my own name’s gift unattainable
for so long – a mother’s cruel joke: pure, worthy of love;
a smattering of abbreviations always falling short.


Kate Garrett writes and edits. She was raised in rural southern Ohio, but moved to the UK nearly twenty years ago, where she still lives – in sunny Sheffield – with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat. Twitter: @mskateybelle / www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk

Cutting Back the Tayberries – Edwin Stockdale

Cutting Back the Tayberries

In her head, Granny hears Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1,
the CD Grandpa bought her.

She is pruning the tayberries away
from Galloway Beltie cows.

The stalks beginning to brittle.
She sits on a stool to garden.

She shuffles back to her bungalow
with tiny feet that shrink over time.

Time for her tot, whisky and ginger ale,
with not too much ginger.

She sits on the patio, her back supported,
sips her drink, watches the sun fading.


Edwin Stockdale’s debut pamphlet, Aventurine, was published in September 2014 by Red Squirrel Press.  He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham with Distinction and is researching a PhD in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.

The Boat – Sam Payne

The Boat

I don’t expect to see his boat
moored amid the feathered plumes
of the pampas grass.
Paint flecks rising in the breeze
like rowers lifting their oars.

He used to tell of sirens and sea ghosts,
taught us how to navigate by the stars.
Warned about the swell and how
it could toss a little boat like a wet rag.

He’d be there with his pipe and yellow hat
and we were his sea-licked urchins
with sand in the gaps between our toes
and the brine of the seas clinging to us
long after we went home.


Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing with Teesside University through their distance learning programme. Her poems have appeared in several places online including, Ink, Sweat and Tears and The Open Mouse.

Battenhall Fair – Ian Glass

Battenhall Fair

I knew this place, this hill, this sky;
not long before the fields were buried.
I stood where you are now.
There was a stile as high
as my shoulder and a hawthorn
whose shade I borrowed.

And Sam sitting on Persephone
our cow asked why and why
and why does grass grow upwards
and why is the sky blue?

And Mam smiling said: God’s love
is reflected in the sky; the grass
reaches up to touch.
And Pa said: starlings
paint the sky with cornflowers;
the grass is scared of worms.

And scraps of laughter drifted
up the hill from Battenhall fair
and beyond the stalls
the tall cathedral tower stood
golden white
and the river twisted
silver blue
like the ribbon in my hair.

And Sam was singing, so I shouted: why
did they build so tall?
And Mam said:
to touch God.
And Pa said:
because we are scared of worms.


Ian was raised in Northumberland, lives in Worcestershire and has two grown-up daughters.  He trained as an engineer but when not writing he works as a programmer.  Ian’s poems have appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears and Algebra of Owls.