‘Imp’ by Gregory Leadbetter


On the bad days, I shooed her mews away
out of nothing but an absence of joy.
I never installed a back-door flap for her,
so she would patter all night to get in at the window
while I lay wide-eyed and sleepless, pretending not to hear.

I know it was a blessing
when she landed like a fly on my forehead
as I was trying to write,
her cicada rustle scribbling in and out
before the flick of my hand sent her to hide
in the plumbing, where she whined for weeks
until I found her, toad-shy and morning-blind
in the kitchen sink. I held her, for the first time then,
revived her with what has become her favourite wine.

It has often been her game
to go missing. It is where she thrives,
as if she delights in being imagined –
looked-for in the fading light,
or at the beck of a buzzard’s call.
In the garden, I would find her spraint,
stinking of rotten fruit and putrid grain,
the tang of iron and the fume of honeycomb.
She would announce her return with a black-out
bite through electrical cable, then creep in close, dab
my eye with a spider-leg to see if I was awake.

She could drive me mad
with her cuckoo blink –
then I remember how she would
pull me out of the O of a dream
when I couldn’t breathe
and make me a day-bed from her sloughed skin.
She would lap at whatever saltwater
leaked from me. It wasn’t right
for her to see me cry,
but she would tongue my tears away,
curl me a rabbit-fur snake
for a pillow and blow through my ears.
Her opalescent gaze could break
the world-egg open
over and over again.

Tonight, I will leave out a bowl
of blood and marrow to tempt her back,
fall asleep on the sofa, wait
for a child’s hand to touch my face.
(previously published in The Poetry Review, Summer 2015)
Gregory Leadbetter’s debut full-length poetry collection, The Fetch, has just been published by Nine Arches Press in October 2016. A pamphlet, The Body in the Well, was published by HappenStance Press in 2007. He is a regular contributor to The Poetry Review, and his poems appear widely in journals and anthologies. His book on Coleridge’s poetry, the transnatural, and the dilemmas of creativity, Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) won the University English (formerly CCUE) Book Prize 2012. He has written radio drama for the BBC, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013.

‘A Brock Geology’ by Jean Atkin

A Brock Geology

Night falls & ………………………………………………fills the dingle with badgers
badgers pressing grasses…………………………………………………to bent curves
they feed & drink  ………………………………………………play, they trail their
piebald noses low ……………………………………………..to flow of brook & deep
below, taste all the cold ………………………………………….then warming rocks
red iron beneath their ………………………………………………………paws & pads
they follow glint of mica ………………………………………………….in their skulls
unlock the parish scents ……………………………………………..fling back its soil
behind their claws ……………………………………………………then shoulder one
another on towards …………………………………………………….midnight & have
no questions ……………………………………………………………….for their deaths.



Jean Atkin lives in Shropshire. Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time is published by Oversteps Books. Her poems have won various prizes and she has also published five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel, The Crow House. She has held various residencies in both England and Scotland, and works on education and community projects.  Twitter @wordsparks

‘The Data Quality Analyst’s Lot’ by Hilaire

The Data Quality Analyst’s Lot

For every if, an else, a then.
For every cursor, a loop that ends.
Each open bracket must be closed;
so single quotes must come in pairs
and double quotes—ditto. Her joy
is found in datasets, in structured queries
and parsed syntax. Wild cards flourish
within her fields, while table by table
she builds her joins on left or right,
eschewing Cartesian product for defined
results. No variables are undeclared.
These are the parameters of her daily grind.
Before the screen her face is blank.
Outside the binary, her life is null.
Hilaire has published short stories and poetry in magazines such as Magma, Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry and Under the Radar, and in several anthologies. Triptych Poets: Issue One (Blemish Books, Australia, 2010) features a selection of her poems. She is currently working on a poetry collection with Joolz Sparkes, London Undercurrents, unearthing women’s voices north and south of the river. Twitter: @Xilaire

‘The Red Shoes’ by Joanne Key

The Red Shoes (for Karen)

Dead on my feet, I watched those shoes
flounce through the churchyard, dance
on your grave, all vamp and platform.
Flashes of red infected the corner of my eye
as they tiptoed over my face. As I tried to sleep,
I heard them clacking away the early hours
like drunks stumbling on the cobbled streets.
With nobody left to stand in their way, they shone
with the light they stole from your eyes.
Now that’s vanity, Karen. That’s pride. And poor,
lifeless ghost-you, wooden feet clomping
in time with mine, haunting the supermarket
looking for polish, every night in the bar
asking strangers for a light, sorrowful face
reflected back at me in the optics – hair knotted
into laces. I cried every time I saw those shoes,
free as larks, their nimble high kicks
splitting the air like knives.

I courted those shoes and they grew used to me,
I drew them closer until they felt they knew me,
and as soon as I could, I inched my feet in
and took off, waltzing them through farmyard
and outhouse, past the kicked-in doors
to run the gauntlet of boots and bruises,
through the sting of fists and blisters,
back to the cottage with the bloodstained floors.
You should’ve seen me go, Karen, through fields
full of old crows and cows, on and on, ignoring
all the doe-eyed lowing, dancing through barbed wire
and bull shit. Damn fool shoes didn’t know the half of it.
Oh I danced them, Karen. Over lambs tangled
in afterbirth, across the skins and rotting bodies
back to the abattoir where those shoes stopped
dead in their tracks like two startled hares.
I pushed them hard, forced them on, right into the hands
of the slaughter man who danced them into a corner,
heels scuffing against the white wall, their red ribbons
unravelling into silent tongues that now follow them everywhere.

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems have appeared in various places, online and in print. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.

‘The songs’ by Choman Hardi

The songs

These are the songs which were played
in the background of our days
in the taxis and shops
in every house we set foot in.

These are the songs
that suddenly disappeared from our lives
or we disappeared from them
when we left our homeland behind.

We carried them in our memories
and sang them on family occasions
to remember our innocence,
those days when things were beginning
when we were full of timid dreams
when we were in love, passionately in love
but didn’t know with whom.

15 years later I go to a music shop in my hometown
searching for what displacement once took from me.
The shopkeeper smiles,
‘They’re old songs,’ he says,
not knowing how for me they never grew old.
I wasn’t there when the process took place.

I listen to them in my room in Britain
and remember that spring when they were first played.
I remember being fourteen years old.
At that age I knew what it meant
for a brother to survive the other’s hanging.

My husband says: they are nice songs.
He says he likes listening to them.
(from Life for Us, Bloodaxe 2004)
Choman Hardi‘s most recent collection is Considering the Women, (Bloodaxe, 2015) which was shortlisted for this year’s Forward Prize for Best Collection. Choman Hardi has read her work at many festivals, including Winchester Poetry Festival in 2016.

‘Miracle’ by Stephanie Norgate


In supermarkets, strapped
in a trolley,

on the motorway,
belted in the back of a car,

under the foundered houses,
open mouthed and fed by drips,

in a box drilled with holes,
in the hold of a boat,

in fish crates and on cardboard,
on pallets and straw,

on a bed of needles
on the forest floor,

in the curve of a rosy scarf
tied to a woman’s back,

in a line of walkers
along railway tracks,

under a tarpaulin
on mud and sand,

a child is sleeping,
a child is sleeping.

(This poem was first read at the Chalk Poets Reading at Winchester Poetry Festival, Friday 7 October 2016)

Stephanie Norgate leads the Creative Writing MA at Chichester University. Her most recent collection is The Blue Den (Bloodaxe)

Two poems by Sohini Basak

They have more to say

Mud on their mandibles the wasps
are carrying around my anger —
expensive black limiting the gold.
I am chewing paper, processing
letters claiming that put in the wrong
compartment these part bee part ant
creatures of summer can bring down
aeroplanes. The wasps take earth to air
and build their stalactite organ pipe
where they will choose to birth stingers,
daughters over sons, who are expected
to live for a year aculeate in half slumber
and answer to the name marginata.
(previously unpublished)
the stains on the tablecloth are trying to say something
Again I have taken to listening to conversations
I don’t understand, languages I will never learn
I tell myself that this eavesdropping
is for research only, perhaps it will
generate some poetry, language begets
language and — immediately the world
swells up, and I begin to see how syllables
can bounce out of toasters, or are dropped delicately
to dissolve in tea cups, how vowels fall through
the fine holes of a colander, phrases you want
to swallow whole made of sounds that shine,
a globule of light at the end of spoons, those
bits of table talk I try very hard to catch between
my fingers or chopsticks, delicious amateur nothings.
(previously published in UEA MA Creative Writing Anthology, Egg Box Publishing, 2015)
Sohini Basak has poems and short stories in journals such as The Missing Slate, Ambit, Lighthouse, Paris Lit Up, Helter Skelter. She was one the recipients of the inaugural RædLeaf India Poetry Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize in 2014. She is a recent graduate of the creative writing programme at the University of East Anglia, where she was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Continuation Grant for Poetry.
Twitter: @Sohini_Basak

Two poems by James Goodman

The Great

He who arrives to a fan of turning
in the most exquisitely peopled room,
a train of rodents and gulls in tow,

will magnetise coincidence, entrap
the future, may leave his mark in stone –
he lolls through all the solid facts,

building with them empires of agreement.
Or he whose name became a noun
passed, like a gene whorled in fingerprints,

from history book to history book –
the great are loved as easy explanation,
unmoved movers, as those who took

the risk. But they’re just chance, the great,
functions of form and phase, like rogue waves
that rear up in calmish seas to derelict

the liner caught side-on in the hole.
And we are the whiskered and diffident turtles,
we are the O-faced fish held in their swell,

who rise and fall as they pass. They wash perhaps
an inch above the far tide-line
and take an arm of saltless pebbles back.
[previously published in Poetry Wales, Spring 2015]
The Making of The Great

1) Tracked by sky

Verified in satellite photos, snags in the water-fabric seen from 5000k up, winking mid-ocean and vanishing, the water that made them great still there but sunk into moderation, the standard patter and swell. The swarm of them – not hundred-year waves, ten-minute waves, summoned and dismissed, focusing and shoaling, fast daggers stabbing sky.

But weeks of tenebrous lines in the north North Sea, bouncing between the grey variety of platforms, their steel hostility and boredom, convinced us the rogues could not be captured. The ocean geometrician jerryrigged one in his hotel-room bath. The cruise-liner was his boy’s.

2) Bonaparte

Bonaparte’s shades of blue sandstorm over the line. Poor Bonaparte! left behind, encased in being a General. Fulcrum of the fields, a map of Europe spinning on his back, tearing like tattoos, liquid fingers pulling at his coats. Too great for his coats, too great for fiction or fact, all his plans were implied and severely derived by his lieutenants.

3) In the library

The weight of names, the great names worming through the pages of every book along the shelf, boring a tunnel from bookend to bookend. The wormhole strayed across the settings of each sucessive page, hitting margins then recoiling as it burrowed through digestible mesh. Joining and erasing, leading from Plato right through to Bacon, nigh-on nineteen hundred years of hole.

4) Bufo Japonicus

Big old toad, posing busty on the pebble beach, waddled here from the sodden peak, stubbled marsh and brushwood crown. Temple toad, came down the following brooks, through dunks of bilge, padding through the rice-paddy swathes and knots of thorns, turning the shore-locked kale, the line of cuttlefish bone and seaweed muck, to dip his claws in the dissipating froth of one bold wave.

[previously unpublished]
James Goodman works at a sustainability charity as a futurist. He published a collection of poetry with Salt in 2011 called Claytown. Twitter: @jamestgoodman

Two poems by Richie McCaffery

The white horse

I was born to curses, my hooves
headed the wrong way and I know
I will die to the sound of blessings
the way I was broken with both.

So many once believed in me,
they all backed me. I was worthy
of their faith because I never
arrived or ever proved myself.

To be a white horse lost in snow,
the snow which I love, for it falls
with such a sure fresh sense that
it is needed somewhere on earth.

Back for Christmas

All over Christmas, I think on how central
the tree is to us all, and how rootless too.

I walk along the river, in a hawthorn hollow
I see a wreath for a dead angler and feel
a sudden, sharp tug that doesn’t let me go.

I was born in this village, yet even now
I’m not sure which path will take me home
Richie McCaffery lives in Gent, Belgium but is from Warkworth in Northumberland. He is the author of two poetry pamphlets as well as the collection Cairn from Nine Arches Press, 2014. His next pamphlet is forthcoming in 2017 and his is busy working on a manuscript of poems on specifically ‘Belgian’ themes.

‘Eleven days’ by Natalie Shaw

Eleven days

I was on Wikipedia looking for something
and I found eleven missing days, imagine.

I spent a couple as a man
in his early thirties. I had a convertible,

I wore sunglasses. I parked wherever I wanted.
I had fun like people in adverts have fun, Lynx for example.

Then I went back to the stately home we visited
and had tea on the lawn. I was

Isabel Archer at the beginning of
Portrait of a Lady, except this time

I knew to avoid the grand European Tour
and instead I stayed at home,

and practised the pieces
that normally I don’t have time to,

now I can play them all really well.
I learnt how to cha cha cha too,

all those dances we were going to dance together
but never got round to, you’ll be amazed

when you see me. It went really quickly,
on the whole. All those beautiful, empty minutes

to spend in the sun, drinking espressos
and eating ice creams in Venice, Siena. I’m sure

any one of you would’ve done the same,
but I found them first and I’m sorry, they’re gone.
(first published in Lighthouse, February 2015.

Natalie Shaw works as a user researcher, and as a mother of small and large children. Her work has appeared in various print and online journals and anthologies, most recently Angle and The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press). She tweets @redbaronski