Two Poems by D S Maolalai

Croke Park, July 14th

crowds roll like rivers
or beetles from a broken log,
showing heads upward
and catching in a wake.
streets all blocked
and I maneuver
around blue jerseys, around
red jerseys, angry

it’s summer, july
and halfway through the year – six months
since snowmelt
and the spiked souls
of dead christmas trees. winter for holidays,
summer for sports; every season
a reason to see family. and families flow

around me, all eating hotdogs
and ham sandwiches; children
holding flags, fathers
draining the last
of a warm bulmers can. I push up into mountjoy,
and leave the crowds, then make
a 3 pointer. pulling space
like a man
working at a logjam,
trying for home
in any direction.

The tired animal

the cut came
somewhere around 7:30. I wasn’t used
to the van yet –
it was raining, I was distracted
and hadn’t noticed
I needed petrol. I was on a roundabout;
things were going slow
and luckily
we were near a station. I pushed to the verge
under the orange lamp
of streetlights,
out of the way
of traffic
and jammed it in, ramming the handbrake
upward. I was sweaty, wet with the rain
which bounced off the surface
of the van,
the embarrassment,
and effort
of getting it up the slope. the creature stood there,
stubborn as a tired animal
with its ass out
and I kicked the wheel – I’d seen people
do that.
bought a gas bottle
and filled it up,
dodging spots
of gasoline.
they flicked at my legs, jumping like rain,
like fleas.


DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019).

One Poem by Lynn White

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


I’d expected the aching muscles
and the sore, deformed feet,
that the applause would numb them
and hide them away temporarily.
But the expectations
of the well dressed and well connected
lurking in the back stage shadows
to transport dreaming feet into a nightmare.
They were unexpected.
They were the low points,
the bass line when the music played.


Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Find Lynn at and

One Poem by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Firebird

It has come to an ultimatum
it’s either him or dance
the dilemma that chips at them –
he craves progeny
continuation of his name
while she fears childbirth
the damage to her art

today he shows up backstage
with an air of finality
the image of the sorcerer –
Koschei the Deathless
gone are the smiles
of the prince she once saw
when he pledged his heart to her
those days when he gazed
from the front rows
long-stemmed roses in his arms
her mythical Ivan
as her feet blazed across the stage
the pirouetting Firebird

today he’s come to tell her
that he’s leaving for good
the double bass watches
mute in the shadows
strings wound taut
to snapping point
like the muscles of her calves
tensing, trembling
throbbing beneath the shroud
of her net and tulle

his footsteps echo and fade
in the dimly-lit alley
and she watches him blend
into the charcoal night
a distant bulb crackles
and the shucks of her spirit
ebb and vaporise
like the warlock’s eggshell soul.


Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney artist, poet, and pianist, of Indian heritage. Her recent works have been published in numerous print and online literary journals and anthologies including Nine Muses Poetry, The Pangolin Review, and Poetica Review, and are forthcoming in Unlost Journal, Ethel Zine, Otoliths, and elsewhere.

Two Poems by Michael Estabrook

Dealing With the Muse

As far as that
pesky Muse is concerned
she’s there, feeling lazy
and sleeping inside you somewhere
all you need do is wake her up
and this is how you do it:
just start writing something,
doesn’t matter what.
Sit in a quiet place,
let your mind wander,
pluck something out of the air, anything:
school bus, blue bird, toothache, King Henry 8. . .
Doesn’t matter,
just pick something and begin writing.
Once you begin writing
(here’s the fun part)
the Muse will see you
are having fun without her,
she’ll be jealous (and probably pissed)
and she’ll jump into the action.
Trust me, give it a try.
Good luck.


If Becky got out she’d make a beeline
to the Shop-N-Bag in the center of town
let herself in through
the automatic door
head straight to the meat counter
help herself to chicken cutlets
or beef kebabs. Easy for her to reach
being a large St. Bernard.
Burt the store manager would call Herb
madder than a wet hen,
“Come get this damn dog pronto!”.
But never was Burt as upset as Herb was
that night Becky
gave birth to 10 pups
one of which came out deformed.
Herb held the quivering lump in his hands
cried and cried
buried it out behind the barn.


Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. Hopefully with each passing decade the poems have become more clear and concise, succinct and precise, more appealing and “universal”. He has published over 20 collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


 Towards the back of a makeshift orchestra, conducted
by a makeshift fool, I swipe
at the wrong notes,
of which
some sound nearly
tuneful, while the worst ones reach
the rear of the empty stalls, where no one is expected. . .

The mind drifts back, years back. All’s black and white. As usual,
I am struggling to tune
my instrument;
and you two,
just introduced,
are talking shop. (My cue. . .)
You nod in time. Your feelings – “like our friends!” – are mutual.

“I’m not – but sorry, you were saying –” “Only that
I didn’t know; my fault. . .”
“Oh no, it’s nothing –”
that eight-bar section. . .)
It’s getting embarrassing
for both of you. Rehearsals are about to start.

You laugh. A ribbon’s tied. (Now twelve bars’ rest. . .) I wrestle
with a wooden pig of a peg,
stretching a string.
A tilt
of the hat. (You can’t
conduct for toffee, you dolt. . .)
At last: a speaking silence falls. No words, don’t rustle –

just hear it out – a proposition that both of you
have been rehearsing since
you learned to gaze.
(That’s flat. . .)
Such dancing days
and nights in black and white
ought not to end. I play on for a company of two.


Michael Caines lives in London, and was longlisted for this year’s National Poetry Competition.

One Poem by Anna Teresa Slater

A Heaviness

When his arms enclose her there is always
a hurricane surge, like a child bewailing
the catastrophe of an eternally shattered vase.

She inhales deep penance in his hugs
as if the three hail marys at sunrise merely reverse
last night’s circling sins ―the hugs reserved

for darker, denser things. Engulfed, she wonders
for which fault he seeks pardon. She’d choose, of course
acts the Magdalene might approve: His fall

from red rose grace. The midnight strays.
Their barefoot vows buried in backstair sheets.
His tighter, longer embraces glazed with much more

are for god-gaps harder to excuse: The bruise.
The belt used behind henchman doors. Even on days
of rest. Each time he lets go, the window to sanctify shuts

closed. She whispers amen, a heaviness
sinking, twisting harder around her chest.


Anna Teresa Slater is a high school teacher from Iloilo, Philippines, and a postgraduate student in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in a variety of print and online journals, as well as in anthologies by Kasingkasing Press and Hedgehog Poetry Press.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

candid monochrome

you wonder what they talk about
as the camera shutter clicks which
would have been a loud one then
dark shadows too in available light
from the stage – has to be candid
to call it art later with the head
of the violoncello offering elegant
curved lines slightly out of focus
to the depth of field – not good on
plate cameras – gives a sense here
of romance at this casual meeting
we guess of hearts is being generous
then what happens later when they
hear the sudden noise from a dark
corner of backstage – whether there
are others about and they are not
alone – whether this is just artlessness
and a moment of no importance now
or then – the ballerina merely has sore
feet and needs to sit before going on
again and again during the theatre run –
here she becomes a focal point in this
composition her unwitting Degas pose
a bonus as she becomes centre of
attention as perspective leads our eyes
to her in the light – or the violoncello
just bows a Bach Prelude to the mood


James Bell – returned to writing poetry over twenty years ago and has not yet left. He is a regular contributor to Nine Muses’ Special Challenges. His third poetry collection, Here At The End Of The World, is forthcoming from Lapwing Poetry.

Two Poems by Kip Knott

Ding-Dong Ditch

A memory of life before
“Shelter-in-Place” became the norm
rings the doorbell,
then rings it again as if forgetting
it had already rung it once.

The man on the inside
of the door peeks through
the peephole, his pupil shrinking
in a pinpoint of light,
then dilating at the sight
of the memory waiting to come in.

The man sees something familiar
in the face of the memory
that leans closer to the door
as if trying to hear
if there is anyone at home,

but he steps back nevertheless,
unsure of whether to welcome
the memory in or send it packing
with a warning to never come back.

The man stares into
the mirror hanging next to the door,
but the reflection on the other side
just stares back, blank-faced,
unable, or unwilling, to help.

The doorbell rings again.
The man inches up to the peephole
for one more look. With a blink
he tightens his focus on nothing
but a tempting yet empty
patch of sunlight.

New Moon

Someone steps out of my body
muttering that the time has come

to live his own life. My shadow
pools under my feet, formless,

hopeless, unable to unloose
itself and join the person who has

declared his independence
from me. I take one last deep breath

and sink into a darkness
not of my own making.


Kip Knott’s work has recently appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Ekphrasis Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. His full-length book of poetry, Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on, is forthcoming later this year from Kelsay Books. More of his work can be accessed at

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Not a Stradivarius

Émile, it’s not a Stradivarius.
Please don’t sulk any more.
Some will say you are an eccentric
but let time do her work.

I know you paid big Francs at
Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen.
The dealer was duplicitous
but I told you so at the time.
Chance is the enemy of the entrepreneur
for you goofed once again.

Our dreams of a château on Côte d’Azur
of partying all summer
and swimming in la mer Méditerranée
are gone. I will

just keep on dancing
corps de ballet for little money
but I put baguettes on our table
brie and pâté in our larder
help towards Paris’ exorbitant rent
and the tux on your trunk.

Pierre’s pix have been examined at
Conservatoire de Musique.
Sure, they say it’s a fine cello but
Émile, it’s not a Stradivarius.


Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges. In 2019, he was a Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.

One Poem by Kim Waters


with a clipped-on,

see-through, plastic visor.
A winder at its appendix point

setting the bob in motion. Back
and forth. Back and forth

like a stern teacher’s
finger warning. Another dial –

for tolling bell-shaped bar lines
according to a sliding scale

that measures speed
from grave to prestissimo.

How easy it would be to ratchet up
the lever through the gears

of golden numbers and slow
down time and growing old.


Kim Waters lives in Melbourne. She has a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Deakin University. Her poetry has appeared in The Australian, Shanghai Review, Verge, Offset 16, Communion 5, Tincture and Antithesis.