I Don’t Want to Dance. – Lesley Quayle

I Don’t Want to Dance.

I don’t want to dance.

Coralled by your youthful strong-arm,
pinned against the wall’s sharp corner,
and your red mouth ajar, breath smoky,
soured by lager, a threat pending on my cheek.

I don’t want to dance.

Your half closed eyes are feral.
I bleed panic, like a wounded bird,
your oiled entreaties wheedling in my ear,
sleekit through the wild lark of music.

I don’t want to dance.

Your leg against mine, slight, reinforcing pressure,
and your drumming heart, a carnal encampment,
brimmed with intent and there’s nothing between us
but eyes and breath so you close in to taste my fear.

When I push you, there’s scant resistance,
only a wink, lips stretched over a sneer,
‘You’re a disappointment, darlin’ so you are.’


Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, living in deepest, darkest Dorset. She’s also a folk/blues singer and co-organiser of a music club, wife of one, mother of four and grandma of three (and a half.)


Recalculating – Kathy Gee


His kindred spirit died at far too young.
There was a time I hoped to be his next;
I didn’t try to kiss him, I’m not daft.
Take slip road left then enter roundabout.

I watched him leave the highway, go off-road
to some seductive forest where a princess
chased him and he wanted to be caught.
I was the voice of reason down the phone:
Perform a U turn when it’s safe to do so.

So glad he’s found a wife to wed,
without him I might not have traded smiles
with you along that backroad in Missouri.
Enter roundabout and take third exit.
Everything is burgeoning – that springing
willow, him and her, and us. And us.
Drive for thirty years along the bypass.


Kathy Gee’s first collection – Book of Bones – was published by V. Press in May 2016:  http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/book-of-bones.html. In the same year, she wrote the spoken word elements for a contemporary choral piece – http://suiteforthefallensoldier.com/ .

Snow – Anne Milton


If you were here I’d say,
‘Lean on the window sill
with me and see how clean
the world looks.’
And you’d reply,
‘It’s a fresh start.’

On a new page
we would rewrite our story,
leaving out the parts
where voices rise
and anger
spews out words
that can’t be taken back;

then I would never hear
my mean voice say,
‘I hate you,’
or see you crying
as you walk away.


Anne Milton lives on the outskirts of Worcester with a large collection of books and several well-read cats. She is a member of Worcestershire Stanza and enjoys Worcester LitFest Speakeasy.

Featured Publication – Oysterlight by Cheryl Pearson

Our featured publication for December is Oysterlight by Cheryl Pearson, published by Pindrop Press.

In her poem ‘Girl as Star’, Cheryl Pearson writes about ‘a girl held together/by her own gravity’ and it seems to me that this book is held together by its own beautiful and finely-crafted gravity. The poems are built with care and love and with a deep conviction that language not only helps us to survive, it helps us to dance.” Ian McMillan

Oysterlight is a shining debut, filled with nature, love, mythology. Cheryl Pearson gives a voice to angels, Daphne, Orpheus, Medusa, Penelope and Persephone in beautifully crafted poems of startling clarity. I loved it.” Carole Bromley

From interviews with angels to glimpses of selkies, Oysterlight is a magical collection which makes the familiar strange. Cheryl Pearson guides us through landscapes where ‘ghosts are pressed in the print of our boots’. Enchanting, enchanted.” Helen Mort

Oysterlight - Cover 180px


Pre-dawn I wake, and your breathing finds me,
places me into this bed, this room, this
sudden not-quite-morning. You won’t mind me
folding into your side, so I fold; kiss

the tangled mat of hair on your bent arm;
smell the yeasty smell which makes your skin taste
of wheat. Once, in Wales, we went to a farm
where a similar smell rose from the waste

of horses – a homely smell, redolent
of good earth, heat, sweat, physical labour.
I tucked myself into you, nonchalant.
Breathed you in as I do now, bed-neighbour

on this dark dawn, as the clock enforces
order and you dream – perhaps of horses.


Things That Can Be Broken

The road’s back, under boots and drills.
A bad tooth on a peach-pit.
Silences. Mornings. Sleeping-spells.
Stars shivered up in a kicked bucket.

A sick fingernail, ridged with infection.
Mirrors, and windows. A weak lock.
Sandcastle-keeps when the sea returns.
The braid of a fish-spine on a cutting block.

A Christmas wishbone in a pincer-grip.
A voice under fathoms of bad news.
A soft, dropped apple, coughing its pips.
A slow snail under careless shoes.

A fast. A heart. A sapling split
by axes, lightning, rot, disease.
A talcumed grandmother’s chalky hip.
Ice under boot-heels in a winter freeze.

A confidence. A promise. A fever. A skull.
A jilted bride, glittering like dew.
A horse’s leg on a difficult hurdle.
Bread, and circles. Me. You.


Joan Of Arc Waits For The Flames

They burned her horse first, made her watch
as they hustled his gleaming furniture into flame.
His tail, his mane, gone in a shock of sparks.
She hadn’t known a horse could scream like that.
Hadn’t known that pain came in layers, like an onion –
as one was stripped away, another, larger, moulded on the last,
gleamed underneath, brought burning water from her eyes.
When the fire reached his centre, she felt her own heart catch.
How soft then seemed the plates of her armour. How thin her skin,
through which grief flooded like sunlight through glass.
The thought of her own death, so close she could taste it –
fat-spit, lung-burn, sooted rib. Then out of her mind: the rope
of her Voice. Think cold as the flames peel away from your bones.
As her wrists were tied. As the torch-flame leaped. As her hems
and ankles lightened. Think snowmelt. Think
stalactite. Think ice-storms. Think stone.


Insurance Policy

Let my blood run backwards twenty-four months
to the source of this, the source of us. My salmon-cells leaping
back to the dark. Let my heart collapse softly
on the sack of itself, a balloon expelling you
breath by breath. Let my neck forget the syllables you left
with tongue and teeth; let my hands unlearn held
and remember release. Let my bones come loose
from the shape tucked into the sheets at night,
let the moon print newly minted light along my spine.
Let me rock shut like an oyster over the pearl
of what this has become. Which is everything. The world
I cannot conceive of losing. Let me go back further, just in case.
Stars, carbon. A universe of blank space.


Pre-Dawn and Things That Can Be Broken were both previously published in the Best of Manchester Poets anthologies (Puppywolf Press).

Cheryl Pearson lives in Manchester, and has been published widely in the UK and abroad. She won the Torbay Poetry Competition 2017 and the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016. She has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first collection, “Oysterlight”, is available now.

Oysterlight (Pindrop Press, 2017) is available to purchase from:  http://www.pindroppress.com/books/Oysterlight.html

Cold War – Stella Wulf

Cold War

In this cold war
a blustering wind presides
over the house; in his element,
storming up walls, battering sidings,
bluffing and huffing at trees,
tearing strips from roofs,
bellowing down chimneys.

In this cold war
she floats her white sheets,
letting them settle like feathers
over the beds, tucking in the edges,
making pillows of the box hedge,
an eiderdown of the puckered earth.

She likes the steady fall of a still night,
to spread herself on the rise of hills,
to lie in the limbs of trees, enfold the roofs,
melt in the chimney’s breathy whisper.

In this cold war
she favours gentle persuasion,
the irresistible pull of a full moon,
a frosting of stars to anneal her gravitation.

This cold war
is a quiet gathering, a crystallised accretion,
billowing the streets, flocking in corners,
a swelling drift, majestic, primordial,

Tomorrow, waking to a new world,
children will revel in her body,
impress her with angels
while men curse, push her aside.

In this cold war
she will harden her resolve,
fold the world in her wings,
until the hollow wind
blows out.


Stella’s poems have been published both in print and online magazines and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops from a cauldron, and the Clear Poetry Anthology.

Metallic butterflies can’t fly – Emma Lee

Metallic butterflies can’t fly

The robin chirps a warning: I’m in his territory.
I don’t leave so he flies down to investigate.
I wonder what he makes of me using a picker
to transfer sweet and cigarette wrappings from the ground
to a black sack. Relief this unnatural stuff
is gone or the robin equivalent of an eye-roll?
There’s nothing here he can nest with.
The picker clangs on something metal
and I drag it out from the shrubs for a better look:
a tea light holder designed to be hung like a lantern
and decorated with metal, white-painted butterflies.
The robin cocks his head, his eyes watch me
now he’s close enough for me to grab.
I get the wrappers: redundant, they’re just
dropped by people too lazy to use the bins,
too idle to think of consequences.
But this lantern took planning: someone
purposely brought it to the park, searched
for somewhere to hide it and dumped it
probably rearranging the shrubbery as cover.
I wonder why whoever it was didn’t use
their ingenuity to photograph it, stick it
on a boot sale app and earn a little extra
money instead. It must have been an unwanted
gift, the butterflies too frivolous,
the white too bright to fit a desired image,
‘lost’ a better explanation than ‘sold’.
It doesn’t fit here either: too small to house
a nest, too flimsy to support food and birds.
It goes in the litter bag. I move on.
The robin returns to his tree.


Emma Lee’s recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She was co-editor for “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015). She reviews and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com

In Red and White – Gill McEvoy

In Red and White 
You could helter-skelter down their columns on a rug or tray,
pretend they’re giant sticks of rock in red and white –

slice thought their middles and you’d surely find
the names of places where they stand:
Strumble, Needles, Bardsey, Portland Bill.

In the wind you’d hear the thin bewildered sighs
of long-forgotten keepers drifting round
the eerie robot systems that transmit the beams;

men amazed that no-one has to trim or light the lamps.


Previously published in Agenda, Vol 50, Nos 1-2.

Gill McEvoy has  2 full collections from Cinnamon Press: ‘Rise’, 2013, and ‘The Plucking Shed’, 2010; 3 pamphlets from Happenstance Press: ‘Uncertain Days’, 2006, ‘A Sampler’, 2008, and ‘The First Telling’ 2014. -This latter won the Michael Marks Award 2015. Gill was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2012.

The Man Who Invented the Fish Bowl – Neil Fulwood

The Man Who Invented the Fish Bowl

Did the man who invented the fish bowl
extend the patent to cover illustrations
in pulp sci-fi mags, a square-jawed
Buck McMacho, Hero of Mars type
striding across rock-edged vistas
of red dust, alien femmes fatale
(green of skin but still Miss Arizona
material) swooning in his wake

and did he wonder, the man who invented
the fish bowl, whether these illustrators
of the future before the future was fact
omitted oxygen tanks and tubes
and mouthpieces the better to accentuate
Buck McMacho’s rippling muscles
and the rigidity of his manly jawline

or did it puzzle him, the man who invented
the fish bowl, that Buck McMacho
would wear a sphere of blown glass
and not traverse the galaxy
with it three-quarters full of water,
two unimpressed goldfish for company?


Neil Fulwood lives and works in Nottingham. His hobbies include visiting inns and taverns of architectural interest. Some people confuse this with pub-crawling. Neil’s first collection, No Avoiding It, is published by Shoestring Press.

One Bottle – Six Glasses. – Lesley Quayle

One Bottle – Six Glasses.
This row seems more serious – we have decided not to forgive.
I’m down here with the expensive bottle I was saving

for Christmas.  You’re upstairs, in bed, restlessly asleep, a frown
in your dreams.  I pull the cork and pour myself a full glass,

red as an open heart.  Those things we said, we meant – when hurt
we strike out like snarling strangers then crumble into remorse.

It’s commonplace. This time – another glass of wine – we didn’t
make things right,  bumped away from each other, bruised, sad,

your eyes rejecting mine like an awkward stranger.  A refill.  My pain
rearranges itself into rage.  I scavenge your selfish bones, pick your

arguments bare.  Guilt settles on me like a bad debt.  Reach for the
bottle, fill up the glass.  There’s a chasm between us, the rift grows wider

by the hour but I am moulded in stone and hard and cold and slow.  Your
familiar, gentle face is set for war.  More wine. I’m drowning wounds

in wine.  It stings like brine. I want you to wake up.  I want to want to
wrap my arms around your familiar feel, your smell, your skin.  But

I don’t.  Here in the dark, alone seems necessary.
The destroyer in me is out, the last glass spilt.


First Published in The Interpreter’s House

Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, living in deepest, darkest Dorset. She’s also a folk/blues singer and co-organiser of a music club, wife of one, mother of four and grandma of three (and a half.)

Mr Bairstow lives alone – Kathy Gee

Mr Bairstow lives alone       
The doorbell rings. A squelch of friendly boots
and insults brings him cake from the village shop.

Where cold spaghetti did for lunch, he casts
an artful tea towel on the pan for one,

then kicks aside his pile of laundry. Mustn’t trip
his neighbour, eyes far-focussed on the yard.

He smells of bubble bath, of mocha coffee
from a sachet that he hides from posher eyes.

Alone is how he likes it. If there’s ever wine
in the afternoon, that doesn’t mean he’s lonely.


Kathy Gee’s first collection – Book of Bones – was published by V. Press in May 2016:  http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/book-of-bones.html. In the same year, she wrote the spoken word elements for a contemporary choral piece – http://suiteforthefallensoldier.com/ .