Featured Publication – Dawning by Mary Ford Neal

Our featured publication for December is Dawning by Mary Ford Neal, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Dawning is an uncanny landscape in which people, events, and places are charged with magic, danger, and confusion, and nothing can be trusted. Against this background of fragmentation and threat, the poems lead the reader through a tender narrative of damage, grief, enlightenment, and alteration.

Dawning is full of delicate dances with ghosts; not just the departed, but the never-were, the should-never-have-beens. Mary Ford Neal sketches these moments, of grace and sometimes redemption, with elegance and warmth, reminding us that magic can be found in unlikely places: a pavement, a coffee cup, a glance.” Rishi Dastidar

The poems in Dawning ‘boil here quietly’; with a sure use of form, they channel undercurrents of unease with a deft touch of craft and an intelligent use of white space. Meetings, departures, journeys to and from, the most brutal of truths find their home in the everyday and the strange. This is a significant debut.” Claire Dyer

Intriguingly, this collection starts and ends with the question I told the world I didn’t love you. Why? We’re drawn in to explore the intensity and often contradictory complexities of desire, intimacy, and love. Neal commands an impressive range of poetic forms, deftly capturing passion and regret with a wry touch.” Jay Whittaker

My husband is losing his shit

Previously published in Dodging the Rain

The Sea-Wife

I tried to marry a wave.

He came so softly, twice a day, bringing me gifts,
seaglass and songs,
and his devotion to me was a wonder of the world.
And over time, through painstaking erosion,
he gently shaped my heart into a small boat.

I found a ring left lying on the sand,
and knew he meant to marry me.
But next time, he came in as weak as water,
towed by an emaciated moon,
and somehow his devotion was lethargic,
and lacked the power to lift my boat and take it.

I tried to put my arms around him, vainly,
and as he washed away I tasted saltwater;
he must have wept at being made to leave me.
And he whispered, and I caught it on the breeze,
that I should place the ring on my own finger,
and take great care to keep my heart in boat-form.

And he is out there now, swirling and crashing,
his crest festooned with broken bits of boats;
then calming, gently finding foreign beaches
that remind him of the beach where he once found me.
I know how it must pain him not to find me now,

and I sit here,
sea-wife for fifteen years.

Previously published in Janus Literary

Street magic

I don’t believe in magic. But something
hovers along these streets, something
like dust not settling hangs just above
the slippery cobbles, and it’s more than
the messy flash of reflected streetlight
and it’s more than the colourful spill from some
long gone car, lying now in the gutter
as though someone had pierced a rainbow
and let it fall sighing down to die here
in the dark, by a drain, with the swollen fag-ends
and the dog urine and the spit of the loud lads.
This is something else – our shoes splash through it
whatever it is, and I swear it makes our stepping lighter.
My feet might fly, and any second I might be gone
unless I grab your arm to stop myself,
which I never would.

Previously published in Dodging The Rain

Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic from the West of Scotland, where she still lives and works, teaching and researching Law and Medical Ethics. Her poetry is widely published, and has been Pushcart nominated. Dawning is her debut collection.

Dawning is available to purchase from the Indigo Dreams Publishing website


Husband, this will be hard to hear, – Mary Ford Neal

Husband, this will be hard to hear,

but you’re dead, and I hate your ghost.

You died in such small increments that I think
you may have missed your own last breath, but even so,
it was no less the shock to me. Fetal with grief,
I felt such eiderdown relief that anything of you remained
that I encouraged him to hang around, a charm against
the solitude that seemed to seep in under every door.
I thought it might be a bit like having a cat. But
it’s nothing like having a cat.

The blow was realising that he’s really nothing like you,
darling, he’s cold, and when he slides between the sheets
at night, I inch away. OK, I more than inch:
I now sleep in a different room, with lights on, and
he sleeps in what was formerly our bed.
I’ve steadily yielded whole rooms to him, but still,
somehow, he’s always in my way.

I tried with him, truly I did –
I crept from my sleepless room
to ice myself beside him two or three times, but
he was never hungry, like you.
Eventually, I remembered that, of course,
ghosts never are.

Worse still, he does some things that frankly creep me out –
the crawling, the shapeshifting.
And this will be the hardest thing of all for you to hear:
your dog detests him too. I’m sorry,
sweetheart, but you always had two rules:

We must be honest with each other.


We don’t involve the dog in our delusions. It has its own life.

The first of these applies, I think, and so,
although this must be very hard to hear,
I knew you’d want to know.

Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic based near Glasgow. Her debut collection Dawning (Indigo Dreams) will be published in August 2021. She is assistant editor of 192 Magazine and Nine Pens Press, and was Pushcart nominated in 2021.