Boxing Day Party – by Jinny Fisher


Her father looms towards her.

Brandy breath engulfs her face
as he prises the soda can
from her fingers –

wraps them round a glass:
raspberry gin –
it’s sweet, like fruit gums.

She watches the open bottle tilt
in his hand. Acid slides
to the back of her tongue.




Jinny Fisher is a member of Wells Fountain Poets. Magazines include The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Tears in the FenceProle, Strange Poetry, and Ink, Sweat & Tears. Commended and placed in national competitions, she is  committed to pushing her outreach ‘Poetry Pram’ around festivals for random readings: 

Merry Christmas…

…to all our readers and contributors, and a big thank you to everyone who has been a part of Algebra of Owls in whatever way. That includes my co-editors, past and present, who put a lot of hours into this project.

Without all that, I would just be a bloke sat in front of a computer muttering to himself.

We have one more poem to publish in 2018, on Boxing Day, then a week off before we start publishing poems again in January – with a Readers’ poll due and the Editor’s Choice Poem of Ian Harker to look forward to.

Finally, a quick reminder that the current submission window is slightly longer than usual and ends on 15th January… for poems we anticipate publishing in March next year.

May your season be joyful.


Zippo – by Steve Deutsch


I was six when
the corner hardware store caught fire.
We were chased from our apartment
by smoke and heat
and the staccato pop of flammables bursting.

I remember the sudden burn
of winter and my mom’s blue lips,
as my dad, muttering and cursing,
tried to coax
the old Packard Eight to life.

The world outside
was ice and ash.
Sirens bawled and
yellow jacketed men
wielded axes like arms
and strained against hoses
struggling to break free.

Mom told me years later
that she had wrapped me in an old fur.
She said it was the coldest night
of the year and only the heat
from the car kept us from frostbite.
Try as I might
I can’t remember that.

I remember I shared the back seat
with my brother –
thirteen and the source of all knowledge –
and that he’d found a cigarette lighter that week
and showed me how to make a fire
of rags and paper,
and that his terrified face
flickered all night in the flamelight.




Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, and The Ekphrastic Review. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” will be published next year by Kelsay Press.

River Beck – by Rachel Burns


Wearing plastic jelly shoes, stroking grey underbellies of young trout to stupefy
scooping the silvery fish up with cupped hands, dropping them plop into jam jars.
We sit on the sandy river bank, watching our catch glint in the sun
as we eat peanut butter and jam butties curling at the edges,
a bottle of Barr’s lemonade cooling in the stream.

When the sun begins to fade, we put the trout back,
half-submerging the jam-jar in the stream, the sound of glass chiming
against river stone, our feet unsteady balancing on loose pebbles,
watching the trout hesitate, uncertain, circling the mouth of the jar,
before swimming away, beyond Esh Winning, Rag Path Woods, the river beck.




Rachel Burns poems have appeared in SOUTHLIGHT, HeadStuff, Marble Poetry, Arfur, HCE, The Fenland Reed, Crannog and Poetry Salzburg Review. She was commended in HeadStuff poetry competition 2018 and shortlisted for Primers Volume Four.

The Journey – by Joy Winkler


The driver whistles, sluices his teeth with birdsong,
hefts the bus around the corner,
briefly mounts the pavement
by the Clinic for Cranial Osteopathy.
The woman with a cochlea implant laughs nervously;
a cackling hen, her mouth opening and closing
like a hatchling.

Kenny who calls me my lady, can’t remember names,
is drunk, talks about his job in the steelworks;
a fairy tale a long, long time ago,
a house built of girders, his broken jaw.

I try to sit outside myself, see who I am.

A man gets on with a hat like a nipple.
He has the face of a wart hog, tough grey beard,
long teeth. He sits next to the beautiful boy
who has a streak of lightning tattooed
on his cheek like an angry tear.

The bus races its schedule, tilts on the adverse camber
by the cemetery. Someone squeaks with alarm,
the beautiful boy touches his tattoo as if it’s a talisman.

Kenny announces that his phlegm is the size of hailstones.
They’ve rationed his fags, ordered tests; his booze-edged
breath travels like an oil slick down the gangway.

Getting off the bus is a bare-knuckle ride.
We play chicken with the driver’s sudden application
of brakes. He’s still whistling with the persistence
of a skylark.

A Guide to his Premonitions of her Young Death – by Jane R Rogers


The guillotine is quick. Shutter down. A cut with clean blade.
An historical terror. Spills little of her blood.

The bullet – it whizzes past him. Sprints to plot a hole in her flesh
and before he blinks she is done in.

He prefers the fencing sword – known as Flynn’s épée –
to slash air, have artistry when expertly thrust at her heart.

Not the noose – rope choker – too rough. Almost banal it tightens,
winches her up with a jolt. Asphyxiation without restoration.

And being burnt at the stake is no better an end –
heated smoke and liquid flame – reduces her to ash and fat.

Then there’s the coward that is poison,
hiding in disguise as something too palatable, even for her.

           But she knows
it will happen another way –
by nature, by ripple, by suction, by weed-clogging,
by swallowing a tide of water to her lungs.

           The missing premonition –
the skin of the witches’ fable,
water stretched over the pond,
is this daughter’s death reflected in its mirror.




Jane R Rogers has been writing poetry for seven years. Jane is a member of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop and was a member of the Magma Poetry magazine team where she co-edited Magma 65. Jane’s poems have appeared in Atrium, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, Long Exposure Magazine, Obsessed with Pipework, in Greenwich Poetry Workshop’s anthologies and in the Tate Gallery Website poetry anthology 2012. Jane lives in London but misses the West Country.

We found – by Andrew Turner

We found

the strangely folded woman in the woods. She was under a polished white rock. We took her home and opened her out very carefully, dried her by the fire. She had eyes like a surprised crow. She told us tales with a language that sounded like black wings circling winter trees. When she fell asleep, we pressed her flat again and took her back to the forest, pinning her down beneath the same stone. It was then we noticed the elaborately carved sign. It said ‘Do not -’. The final words had been scratched out.

When we got back home we found her stories sitting in our chairs, warming their huge boots by the fire.



Andrew Turner has been published online and in print. He lives in Staffordshire.

Nail Artist – by Maggie Butt


Masked like bandits, surgeons, or Chinese
commuters to evade the vapours, dusts and mists,
the ethyls, methyls, butyls poisoning our air.

We make muffled small-talk, ever smaller and smaller
while clients’ fingers spread under magnifying glass
huge as hands in a child’s painting.

Then I am miniaturist, Hilliard and Holbein;
each nail’s a canvas for op art, Bridget Riley,
neons, tribals, foils and stripes. Pop-arrazi Pose.

When I look up, Brunelleschi invents perspective,
these fingers join to a figure which stretches,
stands and walks from my here into distance.

Outside the salon window, evening: Midnite Moonlight
Sky High, Out All Nite, slashed through with Confident Coral
Sweet Sixteen and Some Like It Hot. Sunset world.

I draw my eyes back in and down, bending
my head like a nun. Recite my rosary:
Foxy Roxy, Guilty Pleasures, Standing Ovation.




Maggie Butt has published five poetry collections and a novel. Her most recent poetry collection is Degrees of Twilight (The London Magazine 2015). She is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Middlesex University where she’s taught Creative Writing since 1990. Previously, she was a journalist and BBC TV documentary producer. Her poems have escaped the page into choreography, a geo-locative mobile phone app, and live musical accompaniment.

Dark – by Patricia Nelson


The dark opens
like a bird or a refrain,
makes loud the forest.

They speak in calls and whistles
who come to the unfamiliar dark:
The death apart from speech.

They gather the meaning
not with tooth or voice or claw,
but with a savage wonder.

The light is small and subtle
that moves in the branching dark
like finch or aspen leaf.





Patricia Nelson is a retired environmental attorney who has worked for many years with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird (Poetic Matrix Press).

Kwa-Zulu Natal, late August – by Fiona Cartwright


All afternoon we drive
past No Hawking signs beside
orange sellers in full sun, dust
coiling round their toes, unsheltered
by the bony branches of the trees.
There are only oranges to sell,
the fruits clinging to each other,
an outbreak of harvest moons,
the tiny navel hanging from each apex
an ungrown twin. No-one can buy

such an overflow of oranges,
although we try, squeezing
the last taste of a dry season
into our mouths. All afternoon,
I pass you segments, the juice gluing
your hands to the steering wheel.
I lick at the sap
dripping from my lip,
let you spit pips into my open hand.




Fiona Cartwright is a conservation biologist, poet and mother of two young daughters who lives near London, but wanders elsewhere as much as possible. Her poetry has previously appeared in various publications, including Mslexia, Butcher’s Dog, Envoi. Under the Radar and Ink, Sweat & Tears.