Amuse Bouche – by Finola Scott


I watch your soft mouth
swallow oysters from
misshapen shells.

I hear the suck
of tide, a wet smack.
Your plump lips shut firm
on the still living snack. You
gulp  slurp  brine. I hear
bladder-wrack slap.

In my mind an airlock slams,
heavy, final. Separate I watch
you suck   open     gulp
shut    lick    swallow  smile

Behind my sharpened teeth
stingrays dance fandangos.
My tongue quivers eager. Tonight
perhaps I will kiss you
long and deep.




Finola Scott’s poems and short stories are widely published in anthologies and magazines including The Ofi Press, Raum, Dactyl, The Lake, Poets’ Republic, Fat Damsel, and Snares Nest. She is pleased to be mentored this year on the Clydebuilt Scheme by Liz Lochhead. A performance poet, she is proud to be a slam-winning granny.

After the Catastrophe – by Clive Donovan


After the catastrophe
The grim shake down
Crying in the snow
Breaking hail
Rattle of rain
Spoilt straw
End of law

The inevitable occupation:
Refugees in ruins
Of castles, manors, bungalows.

First the food, then the clothes,
The furniture for fuel,
Looting expeditions – no –
Let us call it foraging:
For metal, tools, for pots,
For knives, cups, for picture books
And shampoo.

They wondered about the soaps and lotions
And shampoos. In tiled, white, useless bathrooms
Grimed with the last of unflushed shite so many
Bottles and tubes of salves and talcs and oils
And thick nourishing jellies.

Those who knew to read would entertain;
Horse-chestnut, jojoba, ti tree, chamomile…
Several on the go – how rich they were –
Those golden people of the cosmetic age,
With their never quite finished pastes and mascaras and dyes.

Here, behind a barricade of bricks and girders,
A brigade chief’s daughter lovingly lathers
Sainsbury’s own-brand washing-up liquid
Into her wild, lemon-scented, pink hair.




Clive devotes himself full time to poetry and lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon. He has had many poems published in poetry magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Salzburg Review, and Ink sweat and tears. He has yet to publish a first collection.

Peeping Tom – by Gareth Writer-Davies


this bath is six feet long and two feet wide
like an enamel coffin

the chrome shines
as the mixer splashes in hot and cold

it was bold
to leave the window un-blind

and there is no harm
in making, a small exhibition of oneself by candlelight

we are alone
amongst God’s acres, wrinkled from water

passing the supple soap
tempted to be the death of one another

we look out
to the dark beyond the window

wrap ourselves
in the faded knap of towels, that have known other bodies

names, dates
that etched upon panes, are what we see through, when seen by others

we are alone
but clothed in darkness amongst the broken frame of old lovers

not unseen we are not un-seen
and not unknown to each other



Gareth Writer-Davies – Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition, the Welsh Poetry Competition and the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition (2015).

Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize (2014).

His pamphlet “Bodies”, was published in 2015  through Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet “Cry Baby” will be published in 2017. 

The Colour of Faith – by Nicky Phillips


It seemed the noises in his nightmares
were the remains of his sanity exploding,

the last bullets of ambition rolling away.
When his dreams of flying planes

were dashed by colour blindness,
the cruelty and young blood of war

were witnessed at ground level
then locked away, too alarming to rethink.

Any god there might have been
was shot to dust in the arms of lost friends.

Death was a slamming door,
beyond which circled a black void.

Home again, he stayed unswayed
by frippery and fancy, took no delight

in the gentle pastels of first sweet peas,
silver moon-slivers, bluebells’ dense scent.

At the end, the very end,
believing his nurses were angels,

he struggled to shield his eyes
as he was drawn into pure white light

he alone could see.



Nicky Phillips lives and writes in rural Hertfordshire, where she’s a member of Ware Poets. Her poems have appeared in Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry, and SOUTH; at Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake and Snakeskin; and in various anthologies. She delighted in being involved in Jo Bell’s ‘52’ Project.

What Worked – by Ken Cumberlidge


What worked? What did the trick, d’you think, for her?

Gossip-giggly phone chats with the girlfriends?
(gradually less often, as each one wed).
The cute-but-sporty runabout; the roadster,
to take her to the coast… the front… the edge.

The gym, perhaps? The fitness class? The treadmill:
running towards nothing, in a sweat.
Nights out on the town | the tiles | tequila.
The one-off “you’ll do/shut up/fuck me” sex.

A pair of must-have shoes; a bag; another.
The rom-com box-set evening in, alone and misty-eyed.
The fashion mags, the diet plans, the make-over.
The New Year’s resolutions cast aside.

The social network: microblogging, chat-rooms,
the twittersphere… the mobile gambling app.
The nightly glass – no, bottle – of supermarket Merlot.
The cigarettes she thought she’d given up.

The feng-shui re-arrangement; the spring cleaning:
this is IT – fresh start – no compromise!
Scrubbing out the drawers with disinfectant.
Counting – and re-counting – and re-counting – all the knives.

Decorating cupcakes! Getting bored with it.
Making quirky ‘stuff’ to sell online.
The drawer full of unopened brown envelopes:
payday loans; rent arrears; unpaid parking fines.

The mollifying, nullifying, synapse-swaddling cuddle
of those pills the doctor said would be her friends,
with the warning on the box that starts with ‘Never’
and goes on to say

Well… You know how it ends.



Birkenhead-born recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge has been writing poetry, songs and stories on and off for 40+ years, during which his work has popped up sporadically in print (SMOKE, Bogg, Ludd’s Mill) – and, more recently, online (Algebra Of Owls, Ink Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin). Since 2011 he’s been based in Norwich, where he can be seen, muttering and gesticulating in the company of an embarrassed-looking dog. Don’t worry – the dog’s fine.

Costume Warehouse – by Christine Stoddard

Somehow you tricked someone into employing you.

On your first day, you show up at the costume warehouse
in a black leather jacket with pants to match because this is New York.
Never mind that you will be populating spreadsheets
and handling paperwork day in and day out.
You will look glamorous doing it, dammit.

You could never be the fresh-eyed blonde
they find so pretty in Virginia, but here
in the Big Apple, you can be edgy and edgy surpasses pretty.

You refuse to cover your high-yellow complexion
with too-light foundation and powder.
You line your eyes in kohl to make them appear even blacker.
Then you apply (and re-apply) lip gloss so your lips appear even fuller.
To hell with anyone who thinks them too full.
You are biracial and you will not soften your blackness.
You are biracial and you will not privilege your whiteness.

After you’ve put on your armor, you’re ready for the battle
of production assistants who will swamp you for everything
on the checklists their bosses handwrote on scrap paper at midnight,
at their kitchen table, while they clutched their third glass of wine.
You know this because of the burgundy spots and smeared ink.

You feel powerful as you glance at the P.A.s’ pleading faces,
knowing you could get them fired or help them secure that promotion.
And that is the most powerful you have felt in a very long time.
You use that power for good because benevolence has bitten you.

You have a job in your industry in New York City, among bright lights.
You are contributing to theater, to film, to television watched everywhere.
This isn’t the dream, but you can feel the steppingstone firmly under your feet.

Now staple Form A to Form B, stamp them both, and file them away.




Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Christine also is the founding editor of Quail Bell Magazine, as well as the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series.

Twitter @cstoddard and online here.

Dotting ‘i’s and Crossing ‘t’s: Pedantry Personified – by Vince Borg


He rolls his eyes and tongues his tease,
Our watchful pedant who’s ill at ease
When an aitch is dropped or a guttural stop
Mushes ‘p’s and ‘q’s to a verbal slop.

He abhors the missing apostrophe,
‘Tut-tut’s the grocers who give one free.
Recoils when he types a web domain
With no capital letters…it’s not the same.

He turns his head when he hears the rustle
Of a toffee wrap as the Macbeths tussle.
He sets the tone of his theatre box
Finetunes disgust with disdaining looks.

The pedant picks paper from pavement and path.
Alludes to alliterates, relishes wrath.
He doesn’t avoid a challenging scene
Where a less picky person might not intervene.

The pedant in science never relents.
He spots a smudge that changes events.
Hears white noise on a TV set,
Proposes theories, while hedging his bet.

The pedant in law would have us believe
That truth is his pigeon, like tricks up his sleeve.
He makes a fine point with case history of old,
Advocates mildly that lead’s really gold.

The pedant, of course, may well be a she,
Who welcomes pedantic precision with glee.
Most pedants enduring love’s tortuous embrace
Will travel the earth for their loves, face to face.

They’ll sail away for a year and a day,
As they strive for clear meaning in word, work and play.
They have found their true love, these charmed OCDs,
Through the doting of eyes and the crossing of seas.




Vince is a retired Maths teacher. His family has lived in North Leeds and enjoyed the Yorkshire countryside for over 40 years. He performed in open-mic at Wicked Words in Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, for many years, and produced an unpublished anthology Running Down the Up One in 2012.

Rate – by Jane Blanchard


Listen! Do you hear it? Count the
chirps it makes in fourteen seconds,
then add forty—there you have the
temperature in Fahrenheit.

Evidently such a method
works precisely with the crickets
known as snowy, found in trees.

But results may vary with the
species fond of fields, where factors
such as age and mating matter.

Maybe Dolbear’s law applies to
poets—most of us who filter
life for inspiration do chirp
faster as the air gets hotter.




Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in Blue Unicorn, First Things, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and Third Wednesday. Her first collection Unloosed is available from Kelsay Books; her second Tides & Currents is forthcoming from the same.

My Father Comes Back – by Steve Klepetar


He returns in the snow to teach me
to fly. I don’t know when he learned
because when he was alive he walked
everywhere, striding with his hands
crossed behind his back like someone
marching to his own execution,

or he took the subway,
where he would sit, or stand
and read The Times, folded perfectly,
an origami book in his huge hands.
I think he’s chosen this snow day
for the fresh wind and hope of soft

landings, but I would rather be inside
with him, drinking scotch or cognac,
smoking cigars. We’d have the radio
on softly, Bach, maybe, Glenn Gould
playing the Goldberg Variations
on piano, tinkly and beautiful and strange.

And he’d tell me about riding the train
from Budapest to Prague, a world
of trains and time that spread out all day
like butter growing soft in a dish.
But here we are on the roof with snow
pelting down, and he shakes his feathers,

but his face has nearly vanished
in the sweep and swirl of flakes.
All my plans for the day lie broken,
thick and black as branches in the snow.
Below us a white world, silent and formless,
at this great height, small and fragile as an empty glass.




Steve Klepetar has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, including four in 2016. Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems. Family Reunion and A Landscape in Hell are forthcoming in 2017.

Howard, I Relate – by John Findura


I too would sit naked watching movies
endlessly, obsessing over one stray
stitch of Jane Russell’s blouse, but I
don’t have that kind of scratch.

Howard, we both know the difference
between eccentric and fucking nuts lies
somewhere near the check book and your
stock options, the vast controlling shares,

the ability to make problems go away
with the wave of a germ-free hand,
an air of debonair righteousness, a thin
mustache and a closet of tailored suits.

I have none of that, except for the need
to sit alone in the dark, focusing on one
detail invisible to everyone else, making
that one fault the heart of my existence.




John Findura is the author of the poetry collection Submerged (ELJ, 2018). He holds an MFA from The New School as well as a degree in psychotherapy. His poetry and criticism appear in numerous journals including Verse; Fourteen Hills; Copper Nickel; Pleiades; Forklift, Ohio; Sixth Finch; Prelude; and Rain Taxi. A guest blogger for The Best American Poetry, he lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife and daughters.