‘Papers’ by Roy McFarlane


The day I was called into my mother’s bedroom
the smell of cornmeal porridge still coloured the air,

windowsills full of plants bloomed
and dresses half-done hung from wardrobe doors

and her Singer sewing machine came to rest
like a mail train arriving at its final destination,

foot off the pedal, radio turned down, she beckoned,
touched me with those loving hands.

Shrouded in the softness of light from the net curtains,
her eyes filled with sensitivity, hesitated as she spoke to me,

sit down son, there’s something I need to tell you.

She picked up her heavy Bible with gold-edged leaves,
turning the pages as they whispered and somewhere

in the middle of Psalms she removed a sheet of paper
which read, ‘In the matter of the Adoption Act. 1958’

and I’m lost in the reading of a name of an infant,
sinking in to the cream background, falling between the lines.

Only the tenderness of her voice drew me out of the margins;
words fallen now echo through the years.

We adopted you from the age of 6 months,

enveloped by this revelation I couldn’t move,
imagined it couldn’t be right because I knew my mother;

the aroma of her Morgan pomaded hair, her olive oiled skin,
the Y scarred throat that she hid under buttoned up blouses

and like a hymn I found myself telling her, it’s alright, it’s alright.
Roy McFarlane was born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage and spent most of his years living in Wolverhampton. He has held the role of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate, Starbucks’ and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Poet in Residence. Roy was highly commended by the Forward Prize for ‘Papers’, published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2017. He is also published in Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe 2012) and he is the writer and editor of Celebrate Wha? Ten Black British Poets from the Midlands (Smokestack 2011). His first full collection of poems, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was published by Nine Arches Press in September 2016.

Two poems by Laura McKee



cows do have best friends
and become stressed
if they are separated
how do they know
who their friends are really
or if it’s going to rain
but still they lie waiting
bent at the knees


(First published in Obsessed With Pipework, November 2014)



the sweat bee


he had this craving
never wanted
to hurt you

only to lie
against your warm skin
collect pieces of you that shine


(previously unpublished)



Laura McKee’s poems have appeared in various journals including Other Poetry, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, Morphrog, Obsessed With Pipework, Butcher’s Dog, and The Journal. Last year she was a winner in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition, nominated for Best Single Poem in the Forward Prizes, and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. This year she has a poem in the anthology, Mildly Erotic Verse (Emma Press). Twitter: @Estlinin


‘Her story’ by Abegail Morley

Her story


Inside where the darkness stops,
her bones are soft, pliable, her head

half her weight. She curls in the curve
of the crescent moon. Week 28,

she feels pain. Inhales, exhales;
downy hair covers her skin, like his.

Waters break.


Her room’s changed shape, dimension.
No longer measured crown to rump,

she stretches her length, cranks up
Amy Winehouse, reads To the lighthouse

in her bed at night. She meets pain.
Inhales, exhales; dyes her hair, like his.

Opens The Waves.


Outside the morning blisters. I feel
her shift. Away. Resist.

She submerges, airless. Week 936,
head full of dreams half her weight

she buckles under, greets pain.
Inhales, exhales. Her hair skims

the water’s skin.
(Commended in The Frogmore Poetry Prize 2012)

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How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon Press) was shortlisted for The Forward Prize Best First Collection. Pindrop Press published Snow Child in 2011.