Contact Lens – by Kirsten Luckins


My mother is blinking like an owl treading water.
She has spatchcocked her palms, is strip-searching
the carpet, patting the sofa down, looking for her sight.

The world, transparent and the size of her pinkie-tip,
has fallen out of her eye and now, out of malice,
it will not be found. Or worse, it has sailed away,

intrepid coracle, to the dark side of her eyeball.
She tents her lid by its guy-rope lashes. I see inside her
it’s as red as a desert noon. A morbid rolling

hoves the fugitive into view. Retrieved, she lathers it
with spitwash, pinions again her Clockwork Orange eye,
deftly launches the tissue-thin glass bowl. It floats,

meniscus on meniscus, world upon world.





Kirsten Luckins is a poet, performer and theatre-maker based in Hartlepool. Her first full collection of performance poems, The Trouble With Compassion, is available from Burning Eye Books. She has been published widely by magazines including Magma, The Interpreter’s House and Ink, Sweat & Tears, and was shortlisted for the Wenlock Prize in 2015.

Chicken for Dinner – by S.A. Leavesley


When Mum chops, it’s her dreams
on the slab. She wipes blood
from the blade, then washes her hands.

Chunks of paled flesh wobble
like stale jelly slapped in a pan
where greedy oil sizzles and spits.

She places bland plates before us:
husband, sons and the ghost
of her younger self, waiting,

hunger poised, sharp as a knife.




S.A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, and editor at V. Press – fitting words around life, life around words! Her latest books: ‘plenty-fish’ (Nine Arches Press, shortlisted in International Rubery Book Awards 2016) ‘Lampshades & Glass Rivers’ (Overton Poetry Prize 2015 winner) and a novella, ‘Kaleidoscope’. Her website is at:


Editorial – Minor Changes at AoO

Keen followers will know that earlier this year we reduced the number of poems we publish from around 25 per month to about 15 per month – to make the magazine more digestible and concentrate the quality somewhat.

This has worked as we had hoped.

However, it has meant that both the monthly Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards have been made from a smaller pool of poems. Therefore, this will now only take place bi-monthly. The next poll will be to pick a winner from all poems published here in September AND October, and so on. 

It also means that the print anthologies would be rather less selective if we continued on a quarterly basis as before, so they too will become less frequent. The next one (issue 5) is now planned to come out in November, featuring poems published between June and October this year.

Biscuit Factory – by John Short


Here one learns a new vocabulary,
tinwash, tray off, mopcap
swiping in and stacking down.

Some of us arrived for a month
one spring and stayed forever
like jaded nomads finding pasture,
needs met, horizons ending here.

In old ghost-infested rooms
the newcomer gets lost; disoriented
by the sprawling tangle and pulse
of peculiar machinery

whose failings have produced
a grim, resilient folklore –
and we endure its unexpected power
to mess with natural instincts

until finally we grow indifferent
while paying lip service
to the gods of health and safety.




John Short was born in Liverpool and studied comparative religion at Leeds University. He spent years living around Europe and can’t wait to escape again. Stories and poems most recently accepted by Prole, South Bank Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Frogmore Papers, The French Literary Review, Under the Fable and Orbis. He reads poetry on Vintage Radio in Birkenhead and at Dead Good Poets in Liverpool.

beanbag – by Sarah-Jane Dobner


the other night at band practice we
had a whole discussion about the exclusivity of
velvet and how corduroy was the
string of the king

the beanbag was my throne
wide velour stripes off-white king of the desert like
ozymandias on the beige
carpet of my loft

brand new just carved i filled it myself with
a helper its not easy two vast bags of
polystyrene balls getting everywhere going everywhere
like sand

the cat sleeps here it took her a while to get used to
the way the sides shift she experimented with
steady backsliding progress and
huge astonished leaps

two days after i locked the catflap exit by mistake
she came all the way to the top of the house to
do a giant shit on my beanbag. The king is dead!
long live the queen




Sarah-Jane Dobner turned 50 this year and thought she’d better try and get something in print. She has been writing poetry and songs for 30 years and performed music and spoken word at many venues in her hometown of Bristol and beyond. A single mother, ex-lawyer and keen rock-climber, she is mid-way through a masters in gender studies, intersectionality and change at Linköping University in Sweden.

Exit Poem (For a Film) – by Grant Tarbard


Love, I can’t go, we never existed,
only in fragments, abattoir clinches
of cold embraces, imagined, listed

“fling” in the telephone directory.
Love, I can’t go, my laces are untied,
I don’t have the fare, I’m in penury.

Love, I can’t go, the neighbours are noisy,
someone has to bang the broom on the floor.
The cat’s fur is unnaturally oily,

the dog’s swallowed the sea and all the ships,
you don’t want me. I preach in flophouses
to get fed. There’s ink on my fingertips

from reading all that Marxist literature.
Love, I can’t go, I’ve sold my signature.



Grant Tarbard is an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron, and a reviewer. His new collection Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams) will be released soon.

Winners! August Poems of the Month

Lots of votes again, but the clear winner of the August Readers’ Choice Award is:

Blue Baby – by Susan Castillo Street

The Editor’s Choice Poem is:

Anosmia – by Kitty Coles

selected by Rob Miles who said:

“What an honour to be asked, and initially an unequivocal treat to undertake: ‘here are some poems, pick one.’ Then it gets harder. Unless I’m in public and threatened by confinement to a specialist unit, I recite or at least mumble poems to myself. I was able to live with these for a while, and every one had something to recommend it: moments cannily caught, memories evoked, some really nicely handled imagery and refreshingly ambitious play with sound shapes, presentation and traditional form. Such a selection is bound to be subjective, but if I have to say what really stood out about my choice of Anosmia as ‘winner’ it has to be its combination of some of the elements already mentioned, but moreover its unforced fusion of means and meaning (all the best poetry does this for me). Like the scents it describes, calling on a range of nicely strung synesthetic and imagistic tropes, it has layers like a perfume with top, middle and bottom notes; some darker than others, including the informing suggestion or sillage of a much bigger and more sensitive narrative relating to illness and treatment that is only partly masked by some intimate and wry married couple talk. Well done to the (to me anonymous) author, but also to all those whose work I read.”

The Studio – by Ted Mc Carthy


Hands flow through gestures –
half-moon, peacock,
flag, mountain-peak,
then the body dog-folds
and the back like Atlas holds
the world in posture.

Noon in the studio.
The floor is warm
to the toes and palms
of those who wish to go
into the East, or into a self
that will endure, as if

their own world, cleft
from shoulder to heel,
could be made whole
by the crane, the flower,
and a stretched, held hour
would heal that rift.




Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’. More here


For the Girl in the Grove – by Ryan Stone


You won’t recall that ride through the walnuts,
one fey afternoon in fall – a city boy
on penance in the country, I’d never ridden before.
You were kind in a time of rough edges,
shared your saddle along spice-scented rows.
I swayed behind you, astride your palomino,
never more aware of a girl. Heat rose
in places where the lines of us blurred,
flared when my hand brushed your breast.
I almost kissed you when you turned to talk,
wish I’d kissed you instead of still guessing
just what you meant when you told me
not to let go.




Ryan Stone is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. He shares his home in the Dandenong Ranges with his wife, two young sons, a rag doll cat and a German Shepherd. His poetry has recently appeared in Writers’ Forum Magazine, Algebra of Owls, Eunoia Review, Black Poppy Review, Napalm and Novocain, Poppy Road Review and Pyrokinection.

Thank you for sending us – by Andrew Turner


Thank you for sending us

your work which we read
with interest particularly liking
‘There’s a marketing opportunity
in your desolation’
however we didn’t feel anything
was quite right for this issue
you may want to consider
taking out a subscription
at a special reduced price?





Andrew Turner has been writing since 2015. He has appeared in a number of print and online magazines.