The Day I Turned Into a Bear – Joe Williams

The Day I Turned Into a Bear

There were funny looks at the station, and
gasps as I clambered onto the train.
I was pleased to secure a double seat,
and that nobody checked my ticket.
I had a perfectly valid one,
and don’t know of any rules that say
you can’t have bears on a train, just
I don’t like to cause any trouble.

At work we agreed it was probably best
if I didn’t see any customers, so
I spent the day answering emails,
making the tea and filing.
I took a longer than usual lunch,
which gave me time to go to the woods,
find a few berries and plants to eat,
and attend to some personal business.

By the time I got to Sainsbury’s, I
was getting used to being a bear.
With a satisfied growl I flipped a fish
out of the fridge compartment.
The queue dispersed. I said that I didn’t
need a bag, or help with packing,
thanked the cashier for their help, carried
my dinner home in my teeth.

I wasn’t intending to go to the pub,
but there was nothing on television,
nothing that would appeal to bears,
so I dropped in for a pint.
I knew I would get a ribbing, of course.
Everyone there was taking the piss.
I lost count of the number of times
I heard the “long paws” joke.

In the morning I was relieved to find
that I was no longer a bear, but
my porridge was far too cold, and I had
a very sore head.


Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. His verse novella, ‘An Otley Run’, published by Half Moon Books, was shortlisted for the Best Novella category in the 2019 Saboteur Awards.


Red Pencil – Jonathan Humble

Red Pencil

I am six years old, my pencil breaks
mid-word in Mrs Foster’s class.

So I turn to my friend Martin,
show him the pencil and whisper,

‘Martin, Martin, my pencil has broke.’
‘Use this,’ he says and passes a substitute,

secretly under our desk.
‘But it’s a red pencil, Martin,’ I say.

He smiles a smile. It is an ‘it’ll all be ok’
sort of smile and so I carry on,

copying lines of words I cannot read,
but which I try my very hardest

to replicate, as neat and true to the original
as I am able, at six, to do.

At the finish, I look down at my page
of writing; my teacher’s lines above,

with mine in red below and I wonder
about the words I have written.

I am happy with the result of my effort;
especially the esses which are

smooth and curvy and flowing and lovely.
They are the best I have ever done.

So, I walk twenty paces to Mrs Foster’s desk,
clutching my paper with pride,

and return ten yards with a slapped arse,
my work in shreds in a basket,

having a brand new perspective on the way of things
and on the reliability of my friend Martin.


Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. His poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and other publications such as Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework, Atrium, Riggwelter, Amaryllis, Eye Flash and Picaroon. His short stories and poems for children have been published in The Caterpillar and Stew Magazine.



If I’d smuggled you through the Search Tank, past the dogs – Avril Joy

If I’d smuggled you through the Search Tank, past the dogs

persuaded them, made them listen in their offices and their conference halls
bought a bicycle and a Tannoy, made the streets ours.
If I’d taken up your letting cup, tipped blood backwards to your veins
ironed your crumpled skin like a skirt smooth at its seams, like a skirt for dancing in.
If I’d opened the prison gates and let them swing
torn down fences, dug tunnels like POWs.
If I’d given you a notebook of swanskin embossed with your name
if we’d sipped tea together from porcelain,
the space around us grown to cathedrals.
If I’d shown you the lacing pattern of leaves, the still pillow of night over hills
bought the day like heroin and banished dreams
if we’d eaten papaya and mango fresh from their trees.
If we’d swum in the Indian ocean
thrown ourselves at waves resisting undertow.
If we’d stood on stilts like stilt fisherman, like Jesus on his cross
guarding the children lost; at sea.
If I’d shown you how the world can sometimes be.


Avril Joy’s poem Skomm won first prize in the York Literary festival, competition 2019. Poems have appeared in Strix, Ink Sweat&Tears, Dream Catcher and Snakeskin. She is currently writing a sequence of poems reflecting on twenty-five years spent working in a women’s prison to be pub in Sept 2019 by Linen Press

lipstick feet – Frances Jackson

lipstick feet

as a child she would have
given just about anything
for shoes like this

bright red
almost indecently so
flat but dainty
somewhat impractical
in the rain

she can hear her mother’s voice
the wise counsel
that was the soundtrack of her youth
what d’you want something like that for
they’ll only scuff and pinch your feet

it makes her feel rebellious
and out comes the purse
can’t wait to try to them out
take them for a test spin

walks to the shops
a slight spring in her step
proud of her shiny new shoes

hobbles back
of course
blisters on her feet
red angry welts
as if the colour had rubbed off
smudged like the lipstick
that other girls’ mothers wore


Frances Jackson is originally from the northwest of England, but now lives in Bavaria. Her translations and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in places such as B O D Y, Nine Muses Poetry, The Missing Slate and Your Impossible Voice.

Watching a Fish on a Cutting Board – Amanda Oosthuizen

Watching a Fish on a Cutting Board

Tipped, no fingers,
onto a white, plastic cutting
board, utilitarian,
not like the fish at all, it lies,

a glamorous bulging muscle;
silky, black fan of a tailfin; lipless
mouth; wiry tiara gills and a silver-
rimmed, lidless eye. An envelope slit

along its belly, awaiting
tarragon, seasalt, pepper,
a splash of balsamic, maybe
a dollop of crème fraîche.

It never lurked amongst swaying
ribbons of weed or battled the wash
of the river. It sprang to a feeder
with five hundred others.
One measly life with a plastic,
cutting board


Amanda Oosthuizen’s creative work has appeared in Under the Radar, 3:AM, Ambit, on the London underground, in galleries, Winchester cathedral, and Humanagerie amongst others. She earns her living by writing/arranging music and teaching woodwind. @amandaoosty

Museum of Illness – Angi Holden

Museum of Illness

Exhibit One: The Symptom
………….Last year’s exhibit has been removed for conservation.
………….The temporary replacement is an unseen symptom.
………….Place your hand in the feely-box.
………….You may experience some discomfort.

Exhibit Two: The Referral
………….Paperwork suggests the need for examination
………….and further investigation. There may be a delay.

Exhibit Three: The Consultation
………….Please take a ticket from the dispenser.
………….Viewings are strictly in numerical order and time-limited.

Exhibit Four: The Diagnosis
………….This may be figurative or abstract.
………….Select your gallery in accordance with preference.
………….Be prepared for ambiguity.

Exhibit Five: The Treatment
………….There is a range of guidebooks and postcards
………….available from the shop. Plastic bags are disposable
………….and charged at 10p, proceeds to charity.

Exhibit Six: The Outcome
………….The final gallery is close to the exit.
………….Please close the doors as you leave.


Angi Holden writes adult & children’s poetry, short stories & flash fictions. Her work explores family history and personal experience. Spools of Thread – winner of the Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize – was published in 2018.

Diving – Tim Love


The diver’s head then legs split the arms’ shaft
like aft oars breaking the stitched scars of the first
or an old junkie fearing detection, having to go deeper
until too scared to open his eyes let alone look up
he wrestles bubbles at the bottom.

Miming death he rises into brightness,
bruising not breaking the skin,
part of the mirror until he feels again
the edge he longed for, smoother than alcohol,
concave and clinging to the steep sides.


Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet “Moving Parts” (HappenStance) and a story collection “By all means” (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at

In a Forest near Strömsund, Sweden – Rachel Carney

In a Forest near Strömsund, Sweden

For two weeks
we walked in silence
hoping for bears –

deep from the forest,
turning, lumbering,

Make noise, they said,
as you walk.
But our desire

to see a bear
was stronger.
Bears are shy,

they told us, and so
we walked as quietly
as we could,

almost believing.


Rachel Carney has had poems published in several magazines and journals including Ink Sweat and Tears, The High Window Journal and The Ekphrastic Review. She is a book blogger at and has written articles and reviews for various magazines.

Sonnet for the Lost Girls from School – Pam Thompson

Sonnet for the Lost Girls from School

Awake, I think of Julia Pearce,
and her father – his bad moods, his prosthetic eye,

the way she made herself faint at break time, and worse,
how she hated me; the reasons why.

As the storm acts up, I put her in the maze at Wistow,
measuring corn with a retractable tape.

Near a space where seeds haven’t grown
I pull on her hood, switch on her torch and let her stoop

there, but not for long, in just this type of weather.
I see her smile that isn’t really a smile

as if she’s woken, or come round, to gather
thoughts of what? her car, parked nearby? I’ll watch for a mile

or so before she breaks down and I zoom out
of the rain, into sleep that’s disturbing and torchlit.


Pam Thompson is a poet and educator based in Leicester. Her publications include The Japan Quiz ( Redbeck Press, 2009) and Show Date and Time (Smith | Doorstop, 2006) and Strange Fashion (Pindrop Press, 2017). Pam is a 2019 Hawthornden Fellow.



Rocks and Fish – Marc Woodward

Rocks and Fish
(after Cavatina by Andy Brown)

“…becoming someone else, like rocks in rising tides”
you say – but I wonder if the opposite’s true:
that actually we emerge from swilling waters,
the ocean receding to leave us bare, exposed
to weathering. The sun and ice, bake and shatter.

Mine is a more obvious metaphor of course,
and on reflection I think yours more accurate.
Are we ever more perfect than when we are young?
Newly cleaved, salt washed and as yet barnacle free.
What then follows is our gradual dissolution
in the hydrosphere of energy and nothing.

Steam swirls and condenses as I lie in the bath
shaving with my right hand, while my Parkinson’s left
flaps mindlessly – like a fish urgent for the sea


Marc Woodward is a poet and musician resident in rural Devon. He has been widely published and his recent collections include  A Fright Of Jays  (Maquette 2015), and Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press 2018).
and is on Facebook at