Three Poems by James Bell

three river sonnets

your eyes seek a reason for a wrecked bike
in the river mud before your mind kicks in
while a girl forces laughter at a distance
and only you make this link

there is no other             only you
entertain a lack of order in everything
beyond stone or water or air

to live in the present you decide there must
be blurred borders around it to survive

there is a sense that a past existed
for today to arrive

this is your border of randomness
that needs to be crossed again and again
and again           when the laughter ends


the water before you
how it licks itself            is less
malleable than it first appears
feathers fall from the gull with a lame foot

the supermarket trolley               the bicycle
               are both half sunk in mud
have reached a final resting place
will be sucked under    in time

the gull does a stutter dance
on the one good foot as an acceptance

the sun appears from behind clouds
you watch the transformations take place
say a silent farewell to the gull and go
while trolley and bicycle sink microscopically


it is good to take the long view

you turn away from the wind that stings
your face no matter where you decide to walk
sit and notice how the gulls too have taken
positions close beside you near the old bridge

neither you nor the gulls feel closer
or could ever consider an entente cordiale 

opposite three people clear a boat from river silt

with spades they work in haste while the next tide
creeps in as bidden by the moon           shifts that
could bring floods
                                      the boat looks like an ark
though too small for all pairs to board               you think
maybe a signal to head for higher ground        you speculate
there is still time to indulge in the long view


James Bell is Scottish and now lives in France. He has written and published poetry for twenty years. At present he is at work on his first short story collection.

One Poem by Viv Parks

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Reaction, horror
Those skulls, well they fill me with fear
I shudder

May it be many years before
my skin shrinks, dries and
falls away

Leaving dark hollow sockets
where once I could see
the wonderful colours of life

No ears left for me to hear
songs of the song birds
buzz of the bees

A hole, a huge gaping hole
where once many
wonderful aromas were received

Teeth in jaws that can no longer clench
No soft tissues, no heart, no lungs
No brain to take all this in

I’m filled with horror that this
is what I will become
when my life is over and done

So, for now, if you’ll excuse me
I’ll look away, for I wish to live
without reminders of that day


Viv Parks is an avid writer, particularly enjoying poetry. She did not start writing until she retired and now lives near the coast in Southern England.

One Poem by Charlie Jones


once the worms get my body
and soil fills my empty chest
flowers reach down through my sockets
and root
in the pot that is my skull
what will they put
on the stone that sums my life
what will it say
my grave
resting there
laid flat to form a footpath
through some church grounds
my name worn and illegible
eroded by rain
what will be left
what said
once the wind has swept up dirt and dust
and covered my birth in grit
what will they have to put on my grave
that lasts beyond my thinking
proves I too once thought

no matter
for no one who walks this path each morning
would stop a moment to read


Charlie Jones is a poet from Merseyside. His poetry has been published in print and online with Acumen, Orbis, The Caterpillar, and Sentinel Literary Quarterly, as well as several other magazines and journals.

One Poem by Bob Marcacci

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge

a quill obscures the carpals

a quill obscures the carpals
        of one hand
in fact          appears          as a tear
in paper           the photo          or painting
a picture            of three skulls        or five
if you count the ones in the book
if it is a book          it may be a box
from the look of it
its pages are too perfect
too thick          you wonder
if          they may be
carved          in wood
they are so          flat
it’s how          it may
look          from beyond
the grave          without sound
or words


Bob has been teaching English composition and literature courses at the Academic Bridge Program in Doha, Qatar for the past eight years. A California native, he has been writing and publishing poetry for thirty years, and you can read his chapbooks from BlazeVOX, Dusie, and Unlikely 2.0.

Two Poems by Always Thomas

Dot Com

Anticipation licks my ears
We’re making love again.
Bound by the silver frame
Focused on its image.

Where do I begin?
I download a rush so heightened it blinds me.
The back of a hand falls gently to the bed
A web of veins pulse like a burning circuitboard.
My battery, temporarily, fried.

There’s an elegance to it
My beautifully predictable glitch.
Celebrating the innocuous nature of the thought
Casting a suspicious eye at the recurrence of my desire.
Killing me with its wit.

I’m so alone in these hazy days
Painting faces on my rock.
Choosing who and when to move
Shutting out the light.

Show Me How to Make Time for You

I run, vanilla cola
Across your shoulder, I come
Back into your room
Show me how to make time for you
An elevator to your neck
I cut the wires and drive
Past your open gaze
Show me how to make time for you
A heavyset lie, swollen
Trapped inside short notice
Glowing scorched-earth red
Show me how to make time for you
Vanilla cola, I try
Like I don’t know better
To fall between camps
Show me how to make time for you
Envy bent, over my hood
Driving like rational fear
Curling fallen leaves
Show me how to make time for you
Open-ended questions
Silkily delivered
Through strands of wet breath
Show me how to make time for you
I run, vanilla cola
Over tapered love, only
As I hope you’ll follow
Show me how to make time for you


Always Thomas is a writer and performance artist from Newcastle upon Tyne. You can find him on Twitter: @AlwaysThomasUK

One Poem by Joe Cullen

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The restaurant just round the block

These days I keep recalling
places where I’ve eaten.
Smoked pheasant.
Chicken braised in salt-fish stock.
Lamb tongue melting in your mouth
like snow in spring.
Table cloths white
as an altar boy’s first smock.

I noticed recently
a restaurant just round the block.
Early one evening as light was fading
and I had nothing else to do
I wandered round there
stepped inside.

There was no-one about.
The chairs were upholstered
in brown brocade.
The napkins un-made.
The walls painted ox-blood.
The tables made of coffin-wood.


Joe Cullen, aka ‘Bard of Dalston’, has been published in a number of poetry magazines and journals including ‘South Poetry, ‘South Bank Poetry’, ‘Other Poetry’, ‘Long Poem Magazine’, ‘Decanto’, ‘The North’, ‘Stand’, ‘The Projectionist’s Playground’,  ‘Snakeskin’ and ‘The Delinquent’ as well as ‘’. Poetry awards and commendations include: ‘Poetry Pulse’, 2012; ‘Rhyme & Reason’, 2012; ‘Sportswriters Awards’, 2012; ‘Four Counties’, 2015. He has given poetry readings at Torriano, London, RADA, London, Salisbury Arts Centre, Barbican Arts Centre, Poetry Café, London and the Crystal Palace festival. He was nominated by ‘South Poetry’ for the Forward Prize 2010/11 in the ‘best single poem’ category and received a 2012 ‘Poetry Kit’ Award for best poem of 2012.

One Poem by Liam Martin

The Sleeping Lady

I had nearly given up when I saw her
From out of my window, the perfect muse.
She lay asleep on a park bench,
To be so uninhibited
So at ease with herself.

The autumn’s sun had just begun to set
The sky was stained gold,
The trees around the park swayed,
People came and went,
Some even sat beside her
But all the while she slept.

I watched
I was entranced.
It inspired me.
I went over to get my sketchbook
And began drawing what I saw.

When I had finished,
The lady still slept
Drenched in the final hours of sunlight.

And later when I lay in bed,
All I could think of was her.
Over and over again I played the scene in my mind
And in my dreams
I dreamt only of the sleeping lady.

But now when I look out of my window,
She is gone.
To me she
Can only exist in drawings
And in my memory.
She has transcended my dreary world.
She is a bygone imprint I never want to forget,
An image as ethereal as an apparition
yet every bit as perfect as grace.


Liam Martin is a poet from Nottinghamshire in the United Kingdom. He has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Derby and is currently studying a master’s degree in English Studies at the University of Nottingham.

Two Poems by Zack Rogow

No One Congratulates You

No one congratulates you.
No one throws you a party
with mirrory invitations.
You don’t get to try on a floorlength
or new jet tux.
No marquise-cut diamond
or 24-carat dream.
No shower with ooh-and-aah packages,
or a frou-frou gâteau several stories high
with just one figure on the top.
You hear no toasts over bubbles and smiles,
sacerdotal blessings,
Pachelbel on the buzzcut lawn,
or sendoffs to a colada destination.

When you end a relationship,
no one congratulates you.
All you get is the delicious ozone of freedom,
and shadows growing ever heavier.

Solo a Venezia

The sloshing of the boats at night on the Canal Grande,
the blue thread of daylight at the end
of a narrow waterway,
the windows of the palazzi
with their honeycombs of glass circles
and their pointed arches like the negative
space under hands in prayer—strange
not to share these with anyone,
to be alone here in Venice.

And how odd to wander this
labyrinth all day,
not part of the world
of couples posing together
for selfies on the Rialto,
trading licks of amaretto gelato,
or lifting strollers up and
down and up and down
the marble bridges.

And if one night
I pass another solitary face
and we exchange an unmasked glance,
I wonder if she might be the one
who would fancy a minotaur,
the woman who could also find
a minotaur’s cave.


Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of twenty books or plays. His poetry collections include, The Number Before InfinityTalking with the Radio, poems inspired by jazz and popular music. He is also writing a series of plays about authors. The most recent, Colette Uncensored, had a staged reading at the Kennedy Center in DC, and ran in London and San Francisco. His blog, Advice for Writers, has more than 200 posts. He serves as a contributing editor of Catamaran Literary Reader

One Poem by Dominic James

Beside the river

The evening’s air in summer, warm
by moorings of the pleasure craft
gently knocking, hull on hull,
when I encountered Joan

in Kingston, on the esplanade –
soft ripples tap the wharf’s ledge
dark by cherry trees, where bats abide,
where the smaller boats tailed off –

Joan, settling her last account
as wife and mother, a crab’s claw
diagnosis pressing thought
on currents of departure;

resigning to the water there
her husband, son and daughter,
balancing a husband’s loss;
that of her growing children.

One of the parents’ school run crowd,
Scots, likeable, reserved that night
(I hadn’t known) albeit more
approachable in her quiet, calm;

we said a short hello. When I glimpse
the end of life, what the parting is,
I think of Joan at one step back
within the river’s shade.


Dominic James lives near Stroud in the Cotswolds and has been writing poetry for the last is it really 10 years. He visits Open Mic nights up and down the Thames Valley and his collection, Pilgrim Station was published in 2016 by SPM Publications. His blog needs feeding at:

Three Poems by Mark Totterdell

Wood Pigeon

We startled a just-fledged pigeon
so it took a wrong turning
in through the open kitchen door,

flapped across the room,
tried to escape through
a closed window,

panicked on the sill
and knocked off ornament
after fragile ornament.

We were picking pieces
of glass out of the rug
long after the pigeon

had found its way back
to where the air was fluid,
the sky properly unroofed.

Moor Grass

This air has lent
some of its blue haze
to the distant forest
of conifers.

their needled tang,
the dank
of their dark avenues.

Above, beyond,
the shock of moor grass,
the miles of it,
each dry blade bleached

of its green.
See the whole high moor
as wide and palely bright
as that fulfilling sky.


I rambled back
from ferny fen
with this thing stuck
fast to my skin.
I’d felt no prick
as it latched on,

a pinhead speck
that pierced my skin,
began to suck
the blood within
and bloated thick
on what was mine.

How to unlock
it from my skin?
The tweezer-trick
just squashed it thin
and pumped its sick-
ness in my vein.


Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).