Three Poems by Simon Fletcher

Autumn in the Quarry

Among the stifled green of late September wild carrots are no more than dried-up nets, umbrellas of seed and fragrant herbs no more than smudges in the grass, the marjoram a rattle of dust. The deep maroon of dog- wood stands alone, the swart and shining fruit, like elderberries, tempting on the branch. The leaf’s pale scarlet underside’s a stained glass sunrise framed by ribs of fresh-cut stone. ‘Chack! Chack!’ The constant call of smart jackdaws who’ve lived among these rocks since who knows when and thrive despite the falcon’s yearly cull. Bright harebells, knapweed, yarrow, clover are in flower; rowan berries vie with rose hips for redness; speckled woods are still about. This field was full of orchids not so long ago but now is breathless, hushed and waits the autumn’s chill and long decline. ‘Chack! Chack!’

Walking Man

Through the shadows of the woods
he notes the brambles’ early fruit,
young ash trees spearing everywhere.
His steps become more conscious now,
his heart is slowing to the pace
of ancient tracks when this was what
we did, the daily forage round.

He senses every breath of wind,
becomes more like himself again,
more Mesolithic one might say,
and hears the faintest notes of birds,
remembers as he goes along
the sites of hazel, crab and sloe,
accepts the wild fruit from the branch.

A Yorkshire Garden

For Rosa

The limestone bird bath stands coolly detached,
invites the sparrows to evening ablutions;
a nearby blackbird sings.

The roses cast carnelian light across the damp
stone slabs. Soft pink folds of geraniums
pillow the yard.

Lavender in neat lines enchants the passers-by
with whispers of Provence, the sleepy south,
and quiet pleasures.

Honeysuckle draws in moths, dipping down
the gathering gloom while bats flit through
the heavily-scented air.

Then a chamber orchestra of owls begins;
disturbing serenades, chilling fugues,
no easy cottage sleep.


Simon Fletcher’s widely published and is currently a ‘Poet on Loan’ in West Midland Libraries (ACE-funded). He runs monthly live literature events in Wolverhampton and Ironbridge, Telford. He also tutors for the WEA. Author of 4 poetry collections, his most recent, Close to Home, was published by Headland in 2015.

Two Poems by Michael H Brownstein

Singing in the Mesh

Poems sprinkle out from the spice canister
High yellow vowels, sand-scarred S’s,
Antigua blue cocktail beaches, Montserrat
Black rivers of ash, small consonants
And heavy wet K’s and clicks and slides.

Continue reading “Two Poems by Michael H Brownstein”

One Poem by Rosamund McCullain

No Damn Cat

Can I have a moment of your time?
Inventing connections in the particle accelerator,
Searching for the Higgs-Boson, a tiny spark
Of conversation, a little more action, the collective effects
Of a deceased discourse, diseased discourse,
Skivers versus strivers, we stand in line to be
Maligned, re-aligned, reassigned and who
Gets the black triangle, isosceles or equilateral, it’s all
The same to me, your collateral damage, visibly
Invisible, packaged up and risible,
New box, same old label.

And there he stands, rattling cans and sabres, gets his photo
In the papers, screeching to the perverted,
Attempting dialogue with the ideologues, the proscenium arch
His Achilles heel, but you know what?
At least he stands there to be counted,
Outside yet another discount store,
The same but cheaper, less is the new more.
Is that really what you want for your children?
A boarded-up High Street? Think
It’s not your business? Take a walk
Down my street sometime, in my shoes, and rest assured

That sooner or later they’ll come for you.
Continue reading “One Poem by Rosamund McCullain”

One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Gorilla and The Miss

What a guy he was,
That Darwin, eh? Who’s to say
He might have it wrong
All this time. Ask me,
Will I evolve into that?
I beg leave to doubt.


Edward is a lecturer and writer, mostly on business and politics. He often posts twittaku (double haiku in 140 characters) on Twitter, plus the occasional political limerick.

Two Poems by David Lohrey


Hope is faster than light,
its speed behind measure.
It’s alive, today, but what about
tomorrow? Easy come, easy . . .
I need something to build up
my courage.

One advantage is sleep, an endurance
test: a locomotive or a pillow. We
learn to calculate the commotion.
Suck the straw, hang out, hit the hay.
Who’s to say? One cedes territory, one
establishes boundaries, one signs along
the dotted line. Some choose Southern exposure.

Gross indecencies stare us down. Our
calm is our rebellion. It’s the last frontier.
Benumbed, confounded, lost in space. We
escape confinement like water, searching, but
what of our aversion to chaos? Our taste for the
tranquil? Must we be held in contempt for despising
aggression, our preference for the impassive?

It’s massive: jest. Or condescension. We cultivate
superiority; we celebrate death: theirs, hers, his.
Inoculation. Innocence. Quest. It’s a matter of
combining ingredients, the right balance, justice.
Too much won’t do. There’s much too much parsley.
One less grain of sand. The handyman’s muscles are too big.
The phone keeps ringing. Where’s the drain?

There’s anguish in repetition. I prefer hilarity.
The monks won’t go. Offer them a martini.
Thelonious learned to tread lightly as one should.
Deer in the headlights, grizzly bear, a flamingo: there.
Notoriety ruins everything. Ask the Princess.
I like to stay in bed. Back to basics. Sunny-side up.
He refuses to remove his boxing gloves; he grunts
and the world stands still. Resistance begins with rest.


You’ve had Indian food, sure,
but have you tried chicken chettinad?
How about raan?
Or goat kadhai?
How about an enlarged prostate
or a prolonged bladder infection?
Are you passing blood?

These days, death is not a metaphor.
Like the Royal Delhi, my clinic’s offerings
can be described as an attempt
at encyclopedic deliciousness
from across the universe. It’s
a dive all right, a real cop-and-fireman
watering hole without the jokes.

Dishes are half price at lunchtime on
weekdays. Try the MRI; 10% off if
you schedule the EKG on the same day. My
doctor recommends the CAT scan with ultra-
sound imaging. He demands that I
try something out of the ordinary. The
nuclear stress test looks interesting.

The smell of masala spices that wafts
from the plate can’t be beat. A regal set of dishes
can be found in the dosa gallery section
of the hospital. If you crave heat, order the
‘very spicy’ version with direct intravenous
injections; no anesthetic. You’ll feel a jolt.
When the thallium begins to flow
you won’t be disappointed. I promise.

What about dessert?
It all depends on how long
you have to live. I wouldn’t recommend
ice cream. The strawberries look
divine. You can have two. Maybe you’d like
a cup of tea: brown, barley-flavored, and
lukewarm in a small Dixie cup? No sweetener.
Call the nurse when you start to feel pain.
Continue reading “Two Poems by David Lohrey”

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Yes     that is what I had said.
You heard me right.
You can look astonished.
Explode orgasmic.
Shriek holler.
Put your head in my face.

What did you expect?
Do you understand body language?
Did you read my eyes?
Have you seen my folded arms?

But that is how it is.
In essence reality.
Still plenty of questions.
A great deal unanswered.
A plethora of pondering.

Do not join the dots.
Do not project linearly.
The future will be different.
More of a random walk.

For I meant what I said.
My diction is clear.
My intentions honourable.
Do not blight me with bile.
The miracle is but mine.
Open your mind     and heart.


Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse achieving success in poetry competitions. He has featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. His influences extend from Burns to Shakespeare, Kipling to Betjeman, Dennis to Mazzoli.

Three Poems by Mark J Mitchell


They named her Larmes
for mother’s sorrow.
Tears bead her face like charms. She
stays joyful but keeps trying –
then through now.
She wanders, trying
to stave off rains that harm trees,
holding in perfect calmness.

Larmes always cries –
when the bay goes rough
or calm. She can’t stop wild eyes
from watering her whole world.
She stays tough –
still a tender girl.
When a stray hummingbird flies
past she mourns the grieving sky.

The Angel of Death Organizes Poorly

She made no plans for her own grave.
She liked to sketch stranger’s tombstones.
She knew the fallen from the saved.

Her dreams were dark roads, always paved
with black gems, dotted with pay phones.
They weren’t planned, but her own grave

mistakes were made. All hers. She played
at sermons but lost sins she owned
like her fall dress – the one she’d saved

for – perfect and new. It was made
of kisses from men she’d unknown.
They had plans of their own with grave

purpose, gray faces. Almost brave,
she mastered their mouths, lost their bones
where they’d fallen. They couldn’t be saved

like coins from her phones. So she laid
them out – sheets for shrouds, tongues for stones –
and made a plan that he owned. Graves
are hollow. Fallen souls aren’t saved.

Opera Matinée

Figaro the fixer
slouches on a chord
waiting for Susie
and watching some girls
glissand on by.

Fountains play
lightweight waltzes.
Various birds provide
their own ornaments.

Susanna is, of course,
late by two whole
rests but Figaro
doesn’t mind.

He watches the high
Spanish sunlight
and hatches plots
that will make
every cavatina
come out right
just as soon
as he sings them.


Mark J Mitchell’s novel, The Magic War, appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied at Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work has appeared in several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. He lives with his wife, Joan Juster, making his living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco. A meager online presence can be found at

Two Poems by Michael Estabrook

From Nothing

Physicists, astrophysicists, geophysicists, astrobiologists,
astronomers, cosmologists . . . all of them
state it like it’s clear, obvious,
irrefutable – in the beginning
of the universe there was nothing, nothing at all,
no space, no time, no matter, no energy, only emptiness.
Then suddenly out of the darkness
out of nowhere for no reason
like someone flipping a switch
an infinitesimally small speck of something-or-other
appeared then immediately exploded
into the Big Bang BOOM!
And the universe – everything there is
or was or ever shall be –
spiral galaxies, dwarf stars, planets, comets, asteroids,
black holes, quasars, quarks, dark matter, neutrinos,
gravitons, photons, mesons, and the Higgs Boson –
was formed just like that, from nothing,
absolutely nothing.


I try to keep up but the youngsters walk faster talk faster work faster eat faster play faster learn faster . . . “Becomes harder every year doesn’t it” quips another old man at the beach in his floppy hat and "Growing Old Ain’t for the Faint Hearted" T-shirt watching me taking up the rear clutching onto my towel and chair. Sure does but at least I made it to the ocean again this year, best place in the world to recharge the old batteries.


Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small presses since the 1980s. Hopefully with each passing decade the poems have become more succinct and precise, clear and relatable, more appealing and “universal.” He has published over 20 collections, the latest being Bouncy House, edited by Larry Fagin (Green Zone Editions, 2014).

One Poem by Philip Burton

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Gorilla and Girl Under Each Other’s Wing

A David Attenborough moment

Informal, squatting forward, sharing a joke
the gorilla and the girl, meet in a clearing
among the diary of banana skins, recall
they shared the family tree (literally) till half broke off
across the elephant grass, lost in the waves
of green spears and stalking cats.

Maybe this is a mutual moment of recognition
of a cugina in una gabbia a cousin in a cage.
The light joke half fits each in turn;
the punch line is violent, to tickle the human –
while the more fruity simian version is,
Ooooghhghoohaaoo – lady as fruit-stone . . .

The photo further traps them. They pose
at absolute ease, as though the jest
were understood equally. And no doubt it is.
The beast’s forest is on fire. We label the smoke as mist
and thus fake a certain beauty, I suppose.
Those mighty hands hang heavy.
Those human hands hold an empty water hose.


Philip Burton, aka Pip The Poet, won two national poetry competitions in 2014-15, and was a prizewinner in the Ilkley Festival poetry competition 2013 and the 2005 Lancaster litfest. Philip is widely published in literary magazines, including Stand and PN Review, and in anthologies for children.

Three Poems by Sammi Cox

Silent Thoughts in an Empty Churchyard

I sit on the bench
Drinking tea from a flask
Before me is a line of gravestones
Standing at odd angles
Like wobbly, jagged teeth
Each one belonging to a person
I’ll never know

I see their names
Carved into the stone
When they lived
And for how long
I know who they married
Who their children are/were
Sometimes there’s more
Something noteworthy
Something worth remembering
According to the one who
Commissioned the headstone

But it’s what it doesn’t say
That interests me
That gets me thinking
I wonder what they saw
What they heard
What happened in their lifetimes
Were they happy or not
What events did they live through
Did they live a quiet life
Or yearn for excitement, adventure

So I sit there, sipping tea
Trying to answer these questions
But never any closer to discovering
Who they really were


The garden’s overgrown
I know I should
Take shears and secateurs to it
Cut it back
Tame its wildness
But there’s something
Enchanting about
This explosion of green
Growing more than it should
Reclaiming what once belonged to it
Long ago, before the house was built
Or maybe that’s just
My agoraphobia
Telling me it’s all right
Not to go outside today
That the garden
And my battle with open spaces
Can wait for another day


I want to be still
To be quiet
But the world keeps moving
Distracting me
Pulling me further
Into its drama
A bell rings
Children laugh
Someone shouts
A dog barks
The traffic rumbles
On and on and on . . .

And all I want
Is to be still
To be quiet
Continue reading “Three Poems by Sammi Cox”