Two poems by Marion Tracy

Two poems from Dreaming of Our Better Selves

Circular Breathing

I’m looking up rebirthing online,
how to do it best and I bump into a man with a beard

on You Tube. He’s breathing in circles demonstrating
how to do it, like a prince in a fairy tale trying so hard

to be the best at the test, wanting to win someone special
to love. He breathes down the tube of a straw

into a glass full of pink water. Bubbles rise up like spirits.
I watch the man with the beard gasp, his chest lifts from time

to time and I wonder is he doing it right? The trick is to do it
out of the mouth and in through the nose like giving yourself

a huge kiss under water. I’m very attracted to men who offer me
the key to superior powers, the same thing again and again.

I’ve been holding my breath my whole life, so I say
to myself, how hard can it be and reach for the kitchen tap.

Immediately, I feel quite light headed as I puff out my cheeks,
an odd feeling, as bubbles rise up, of being in a house with

something missing and also of something being there
which shouldn’t and a memory bubbles up of me being

taken to a service where a medium called for someone,
with a name beginning with M, to put their hand up

because she was getting a message from the spirit of a child
who was concerned about a missing watch and I was just

about to put my hand up but before I could she said it must
be a key and a woman wearing a wig in the third row

gasps and says was it maybe her husband who had passed
because the key to her kitchen door went missing the day

of his funeral and the medium said yes it was.
So I was disappointed, like that time I knelt by my bed

doing my best to make myself speak in tongues
but nothing came out and the lady looked superior

as we filed out, as if she’d won something. The music
was rising and falling with a faint bump in the sound.

Air in the cheeks is changing to air in the lungs and I see a pink
face with puffed out cheeks, pressed to the open kitchen window

blowing and sucking at once, playing it like a musical instrument.
Cups and saucers are tinkling and knocking into each other

glasses are moving across the table, the key falls out of the door
onto the floor and I’m quite beside myself, trying so hard to be

special enough to breathe the human spirit into life, that I start
to hyperventilate and faint instead onto the floor and then

I come round and that is when, I see the man with the beard
kneeling beside me with concern, his breath on my face like a kiss.
Blog of the Ninth Lady, Stanton Moor

Things I like about being a stone

I get to spend a lot of time with my circle of friends.
I can keep an eye on Martin the fiddler
and my best friend, Jane Wainwright, see
they don’t get up to their old tricks.
Us all sleeping with each other.
This yellow lichen on me because it’s the colour
of the petticoat I was wearing
the night I was punished for dancing around being happy.

Things I can’t stand

Being awake at 3 a.m. without a drink in my hand.
People I don’t like the look of who kiss me
and think that it means something.
Being pissed up against.
How tight it is in here.
When I wake up from a dream about my mother
and everything still looks the same.
The time a young man came up behind me
and touched my back
just gently
and me not being able to turn around and say:
Do that again, please do that to me again.
Marion Tracy has two degrees in English Literature and was a lecturer in Colleges of Further Education. She recently lived in Australia for seven years where she started writing poetry. She is widely published in magazines and previously published a pamphlet, Giant in the Doorway (HappenStance Press, 2012). Dreaming of Our Better Selves (Vanguard Editions, 2016) is her first full collection. She lives in Brighton.

‘Churchyard’ by Sue Hubbard


Maybe this wind knows

something we don’t, daddy;

a secret it hugs close

and won’t share

as it blows across

the village churchyard

and the vicar firms the edge

of the freshly dug hole

with her wellington boot,

opens the labelled canister

and tips you in.

It’s the plastic Evian bottle

that throws me, with which

she rinses the caddy,

swirling round the water

to make sure she has every

last speck, every particle

of ash that once was you.




(previously unpublished)



Sue Hubbard is a novelist, freelance art-critic and award-winning poet. The Poetry Society’s only official Public Art Poet she was commissioned to create London’s largest public art poem at Waterloo. She has twice been a Hawthornden fellow and published three collections: Everything Begins with the Skin (Enitharmon 1994), Ghost Station (Salt 2004) and The Forgetting and Remembering of Air (Salt 2013). Recently she was invited to record her poems for the National Poetry Sound Archive.

Two poems by Pippa Little

Self-Portrait as a Last Meal

Me in this found world.
Mother and father, horned, pronged,
point due north,

guards of white meat on a grey plate.
Lone glass, all mouth
is not my sister.

Here murderers wait to eat
the clot-dark looming thing
I am

with its one eye
that hides in plain sight,
stares back at itself.
Inventory of Things I Know Nothing About

One/the land mass of me, un-named, the map slant-lopped,
indecipherable due to sabotage and sea damage

Two/the smallest of worlds and so many: salt grains, a drop
of sperm, a bird’s heart, stone that slips between skin and shoe

Three/what might be inside, an unwrecked ship with spiny masts
or the conventional gift, red around red, retrieved from our father’s roof:

Four/the not inside, the sleek backs waiting in rows for slaughter,
striations observed on the moon, a bullet’s trajectory

Five/all least-observable existences (those walking towards Europa
who carry children; soldier-unravelled razor wire)

Six/what is it worth? Time; the labour of my maker; forces used to form
the earth and all that has been taken from it:

Seven/how distance makes everything immense, even this tiny grey-blue speck,
broken, inconsolable, of us.
Pippa Little’s latest publication is Our Lady of Iguanas from Black Light Engine Room Press. A full collection, Twist, is forthcoming from Arc. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University. Twitter @pippalittle1

‘At the Station’ by Imogen Forster

At the Station

For a moment, the sharp smell
of roasting coffee is like tobacco,
a time when the air in public places
floated carcinogenic blue
and men in overalls, forebears
of the two who are passing me now,
would give off a dark industrial reek,
as if they were fume-pickled.

One of them could be my Grandpa,
the dry, pencil-shaving sweat-scent
of his flannel shirt after work,
his fingers contracted into claws,
unable to grasp a tool’s handle.

And my father in his white coat,
a hospital aroma, memories of cumin and fennel
under the disinfectant, coming to meet me.


(previously unpublished)


Imogen Forster is a former university librarian, freelance journalist and literary translator, now living in Edinburgh. She is about to complete the first year of a part-time MA in creative writing (poetry), taught jointly at Newcastle University and in London, at the Poetry School. @ForsterImogen.

Three poems by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The House of Rest
A History of Josephine Butler, feminist and social reformer, 1828-1906


Then you were here
real as a wound.

They placed you in my arms
with such care I thought you a parcel of feathers

that might fly away.
I stroked your face –

Your eyes were midnight blue.
Time bended to you,

language re-strung its instruments
to sound your name.

Visitors admired your lace-
ears, your peony fists, but they

could not see you as I did –
you slid from your skin

just as you had slipped out of me
and became a shard

of morning light, turning
cobwebs to crystal thread,

the windowsill to a gold bar,
dew on hedges constellations

of delicacy. I knew then
this love was alchemy.

Our bond is not made of that loose
wet rope they cut

but of instruments that show
the unseen and sound the silent,

the heart’s infinite missions
harnessed in flight.
The Telling

Lord, I told Charles this morning about Eva.

Lord, is there anything in this world worse than a boy of seven
watching his beloved sister, his almost-twin, fall
to her death during a game, and learning that she later died?

Lord, his beautiful face was the face of an old man’s,
still as a saint’s, emptied of childhood.

Lord, I pleaded for you to fill my mouth with words to heal
his silence, and I held him tightly and promised him that You
were holding his sister just so.

Lord, he asked if there were games in Heaven.

Lord, I thought on this and told him that yes, there would be games
in Heaven.

Lord, Charlie asked if Eva would be fine during the games in Heaven
or if she would fall as she had fallen yesterday, and the terrible
shriek that had pierced me rang again in my ears, and I jumped.

Lord, I told him that she would never fall again
but was in Your arms. He quietened at this,
looked away, and asked in a voice that wrings my soul:
How could He have let her fall?

Lord, as Thou wilt: answer him.
The Women In My Bed

I am no suffragist
but a womanist, and if there is anything
I cannot abide it is the selling
of virtue for tuppence, and if there
is anything I abhor it is the selling
of virtue for tuppence else a woman will die
of hunger, and if not hunger, she will die
of cold in the street, her feet bare,
her soul too heavy for her body.

                So they are here: five destitutes under our roof,
                five incurables, as we explained to Cat,
                Henry and Charlie. Our friends think me
                quite mad and George even madder
                for permitting it. It is obscene! Five
                prostitutes! They are girls, I replied,
                children of God, and they are dying.
                An acquaintance of George refused to cross
                our threshold in protest. Where are they? he
                demanded, and
                I could not help
                myself. I said,
                upstairs, I should imagine,
                asleep in my bed.

The irrepressible flicker of zeal before
he turned on his heel.
Carolyn Jess-Cooke is a poet and novelist published in 23 languages. Her latest poetry collection Boom! was published by Seren in 2014.

Two poems by Ali Thurm

Home birth              


Sun seeps through
crab apple blossom

and I lie on the sofa
exhausted but complete.

She’s sleeping next to me
wrapped in her blanket.

It feels like birthdays
when I was a child

when the whole day
was entirely mine.





The first night he was mostly mouth,

a hole of noise

to stopper, a picture book chick

beak hinged wide open.


He couldn’t get enough of me,

wanted to suck out bones,

dissolve teeth down through that O –

loose change spiralling.


And when lights dimmed

to yellow pools above each bed,

he watched me with his old blue eyes –

a new intimacy, I’d learn to lose.



(both previously unpublished)


Ali Thurm‘s poetry has been published in anthologies, on the Tate website and in magazines. Her poem ‘It only takes ten minutes’ was highly commended in the 2016 Aurora poetry competition. She is working on her second novel, Jacob’s Ladder@AliThurm

Three poems by JT Welsch

The Market

Thank god, the past
is free from commodity,
free to occupy more reliable abstractions.
O, to be a tourist of one’s own life,
a gift shop full of all the things
I always deserved as a child:
the graphic novel of my Punic Wars.

What could they ask that wouldn’t still be cheaper than
experience, and wouldn’t still put interiority on every relic?
Somewhere: my ponytail and other grotesque
trophies of mere survival. Losing
our luggage was the best thing
that could have happened.
I hardly remember burying it.
The Village

how even now the boy the desert fox
the father even the wind draws even
round lone and levelling sands how
even now who will come if even if
now by coming we do harm the wind
even now destroying will preserve
what even is a dune except what
chases as he chases a village quietly

sinking a half sunk visage even now
where no one even lived but where
even now he chases off its lead like
a little scene what even is a scene
except what chases quietly singing
round a hollow half sung village
and even now the hollow wreck
a desert in hollow longing knows

almost sea even now how slowly
he looks back now dreaming tidy
oedipal structures now even driving
others out dreaming inescapable
sequels where even now he gestures
over lone and level sands he knows
how almost a village almost a boy who
even now his little fox his father now
The Ghost

Is this how who felt, in some cases
literally sick to their stomachs?
All those stomachs. I’m a stomach guy.
I dig the concrete image of spiritual death.
Lean the camels and fat the tails.
It’s not the crushing, but how crushable
one makes oneself, like a hotel, like a living thing.
Then fall for the fake coin on boardwalk.

A desert is a desert, if the money’s right.
I have half-seen The Shining.
Even if your tank top were made
of actual tanks and actual barbed wire,
and you were at it all night in a scary tongue,
they couldn’t stay me. Not their
worst dot trip dot ever,
and I wish I could give no stars.

I catch you reading your phone on
the other sofa and want to
tear my windows out. Never again. Again.
Every room includes a North-South divide.
Just look at the thousand
and one holes
where a thousand
and one beds and toilets shine on.
(All three poems are from The Ruin, published October 2015 by Annexe) 
JT Welsch has published six chapbooks, including Hell Creek Anthology (Sidekick Books) and The Ruin (Annexe), both in 2015. Other poems have appeared in 3AM, Boston Review, PN Review, Stand and Poetry Wales. JT lives in York, where he is lecturer in English and Creative Industries at the University of York.

‘Baton’ by Andrea Holland

There is something of rain to you I could say
to my brother if anger was bite size and not
a baton to be wielded to a plum.
I want you to want an available peace,
an acquittal of ire, a way out of fiery
words, a little less of seizure with tongue,
the way you bang out the bass of each
sentence in staccato, fresh vowels and
a kind of relentless precipitation: Is there
a razor stuck behind your teeth? Is there
anything you won’t do to hide the twelve
year old boy left behind? You beat him
up, you put me down, oh clever clever
things are in your words. There is so
little in the way of sun through the window
of your car, which each day, feels the force
of your foot on the clutch, the hot grip on
the wheel, the rain which rubber wipers
hopelessly smear in an arc the shape
of a rainbow, the shape a mouth makes
in the emoticon for sad.

(previously unpublished)

Andrea Holland works part time as a lecturer in creative writing at UEA. Her collections are Borrowed (Smith/Doorstop, 2007) and Broadcasting (Gatehouse Press, 2013) which won the Norfolk Commission for Poetry. She has collaborated with visual artists and is currently learning to ride a motorbike. 

Poem to Ivor Gurney by John Greening

To Ivor Gurney

A clear Spring morning. The G20 leaders
assembling in London. An announcement about
the abolition of the old county names.
And we head down towards the Somme, like you

at your second attempt: leaving the organ pipes
to play their fugues without you in High Wycombe,
you whistle with the Gloucesters out across
the channel to Le Havre. You were no soldier

and yet they marched you through the famous arch
of names – Laventie, Neuve-Chappelle and Grandcourt,
Aveluy and Ovillers; and on to Arras.
Then Passchendaele. And all the while you dreamt

of Severn meadows, Cotswold hills, of Crickley
and Leckhampton, where the chimney fell – till you
too fell, were gassed. ‘Mist lies heavy on meadows…’
or on rape fields either side the M11

as we drive to Dover, ‘as ever on Ypres’.
But dawn comes up on London, over the crawl
through Dartford tunnel, over the barricades
to keep the day’s protestors in their place.

Your voice calls back from the heart of Stone House.
It calls that you are Shakespeare, you are Beethoven.
It tells you to keep your body clean, it cries
for the map that Edward Thomas’s widow brings you

and its fluid notes rise up above the parapet
like silhouetted heads, to advance, spread out
through mist towards the chattering future
where critics wait to question your sanity.
(published in 2014 as preface to an essay on Jon Silkin in Poetry in the Blood, ed Tony Roberts, Shoestring Press)
John Greening has published more than a dozen collections (notably To the War Poets, Carcanet, 2013), and several studies of poetry and poets. His edition of Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War (OUP) appeared in 2015, along with a music anthology, Accompanied Voices. His 2016 publications are Nebamun’s Tomb (Rack Press) and the major collaboration with Penelope Shuttle, Heath (Nine Arches Press). TLS reviewer and Eric Gregory judge, his awards include the Bridport Prize and a Cholmondeley. He is RLF Writing Fellow at Newnham College. Twitter @GreeningPoet

‘First the Music and then the Words’ by Jeremy Wikeley

First the Music and then the Words
Listening to Strauss’s ‘Capriccio’

I dreamt I was decked in dark furs and running
down the colonnades of a deserted town,
one time the capital of a great empire, now
in flames. I smashed statues, slashed tapestries
and stripped the gold. I pissed in the silverware
and forced it down the wine-taster’s throat
while my brothers roamed the streets in packs,
broke into the homes of chamber musicians,
plucked the violas from their clammy hands,
tore the strings off with their teeth, broke their backs
across their knees and laughed, tunelessly.
(first published in the Pembroke Gazette, 2015)
Jeremy Wikeley used to be a postgraduate historian in Cambridge. He currently works and lives in London. His poem Little Things won The Interpreter’s House competition (2016). He tweets, rarely, @jbwikeley.