One Poem by Annest Gwilym

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

shoes that walk the wire

on show nights my face is slick with pan-stick
eyes rimmed with thick black lines
cheek bones raw with rhinestones
mouth bright as an open wound

I wear a sequinned tutu and soft leather pumps
to grip the sleeping snake I must tame
show no fear   no doubt
smile for the screaming crowd

I learn to stand on my big sister’s shoulders
my suede soles grip them tight
as she pads across the wire like a jaguar
all concentration and stealth

he says anyone can walk in pumps
so I learn to walk en pointe
in ballet shoes tipped in thick chalk dust
tiny steps at a time   stiff as a marionette

he says I must walk in stilettos
you’re big enough now
red sparkly ones like Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz
at the end smile   click my heels

grand in red top hat and tails
black moustache taut as a highwire
white teeth sharp as a blade
my father the ringmaster
cracks the whip harder and faster


Annest Gwilym is the editor of Nine Muses Poetry.  Her work has been published quite widely, both online and in print. She was the Featured Poet in Caught in the Net, November 2019.

One Poem by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon


Pale shadows, anchored by lead weights
trash your prescient desire to turn blank pages
back to innocence, to jettison twisted meanings,
trade frankness for scribbled-out truths.

All this is denied. Hand-crafted innocence
is marred, scrawled words blot death. Hopes
are soon erased, scissored from simple frames.
You mash shamed to smashed by sleight of hand,
destroyed by your own snake and sinful alchemy.


Ekphrastic poem: Anselm Keifer ‘Die Himmel’/‘The Heavens’ (1969)

Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing [Newcastle 2017]. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

One Poem by Stephen Kingsnorth


fall in love
with hanging blooms,
racemes pale-grape brevity,
butterfly short-display flutters by,
as if impatient to die,
fresh petals gone,
mocking me,

My eyes saw a honeyed cottage,
dappled, amethyst necklace
about its frames,
against skin,
retiring, hidden
in exhausted deafened city,
panicked termites, nothing spare
would not dare lift, for pause, then stare.

whose searching
flex, trailing snake resents
control, direction, overnight whips out,
secret lashing, dawn regret, fail day-search modesty,
some frilly flouncing debutante,
beauty in stroppy staggering
bout, pollen drunk,


Stephen Kingsnorth, 67, is retired from ministry in the Methodist Church, living in north Wales.

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Contemplation in Front of a Marled Mirror

sits alone … pale
eyes glancing aside with sorrow
no tears or cries of hurt
just memories, precious dreams while
whispering solace ad infinitum

distraught by her self image
in the marled mirror of life’s trauma
at the front of a pink world
now out of focus
out of tune with her heart

will her lover return
on a white stallion or in a Ferrari for
to glide through the future
or now departed forever
a new beau hand in hand

but for the present, morose
nobody to talk with
no one to proffer comfort then
no point in proceeding
merely contemplation

while reciting ad infinitum
precious moments, memories with
no tears or cries of hurt
eyes glancing aside with sorrow
sits alone … pale


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 September 2019, he was Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.

One Poem by Jack Houston


for K, happy birthday

I like the same things we do, the world, its hope,
the lullaby playing in the spaces above our worries,

how a flurry of instincts follows my every footstep
through to where we’re sat by the campfire, having left

a space for the smoke to blow through. The soft sway
of evening has started to take us by surprise,

and in our ponderous hover for more there is little
but a lack of reaction, the way the day may well fall over lakes,

a haze playing into the slow fade of whatever
swims out into the centre. There is only ever the here

we have to tell ourselves is something as the light throws itself
around us, as if it will go on and on and on forever.


Jack Houston lives in London with his partner and their two young sons. Recent work in Blackbox Manifold, Brittle Star, The North, The Result Is What You See Today (Poetry Business) and Stand. He runs a council-funded poetry workshop at Woodberry Down Library, Hackney, the 2nd Tuesday of every month.

One Poem by Eva Silver

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


I put on the plague doctor mask in Pisa,
We drank a whole bottle of red, I found it
Hilarious, look at my big nose – I laughed,
Dust on my lips, I span around,
Tipsy, I remembered the golden Venetian
Masks, which I hoarded from Venice, promising
To wear them out, to a masquerade maybe,
I waltzed around the room, pretending to
Be royalty, pretending to be someone else,
I excelled at that, over the years,
I changed my hair, I dyed it every shade,
I cut a fringe, I got a tattoo,
I changed my name, to suit my mood,
Master of disguise, queen of camouflage,
I’ve never known who I really am.


Eva Silver – was inspired to start writing after studying English Literature at school. Her writing is influenced by her travels, relationships and spirituality.

One Poem by Judith Steele


I found a magic island once, or chose to think so.
I encouraged poor people
to tell me stories of old powers
who transformed trees into cages,
women into water, islands into mist.
Did I think I was Prospero
garnering magic?
The old powers knew nothing
of the world of money, nothing
of the power of dynamite
mass-killing fish once singly caught by islanders
gliding quietly in bark canoes.

The fishermen were transformed
into cleaners and cooks,
or gigolos telling stories
to lonely tourists.

Prosperity, like Prospero, transforms,
for better or worse.

On this large island I return to now
rough magic is performed
by smiling politicians
joyously extravagant, enriching the rich,
sternly parsimonious, depriving the poor
of hope. We are all transformed.
Either cruise ship wallowers,
or up the creek
without a bark canoe.


Judith Steele is Australian. Her poetry or prose has appeared in journals in Darwin and Adelaide, and on websites including Strange Poetry and Nine Muses; and with translations in past and recent issues of the print journal Gobshite Quarterly, (Portland, OR.).

One Poem by Bob Carlton

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Mirror Shock

I can never
get the eyes
right. Like grammar.

My hand shakes
worse with
each pass,

the lips
a grand red

If I stop now
my blush will
remain perfect.


Bob Carlton (Twitter @bobcarlton3) lives and works in Leander, Texas, USA.

Two Poems by Maurice Devitt

Driving Home

I leave the hotel early, last night’s
meeting still fresh in my mind, drive
the busy, rain-washed streets.
Traffic slows and I notice a man
in a grey wool coat waiting to cross,
picture him leaving his house
after a restless night, a hurried breakfast
and a quick goodbye. Maybe a neighbour
spotted him as she opened her blinds,
thought it unusual to see him so early.
The lights change, he pops his collar
and steps out, disappearing into
the morning crowd, and I
am tempted to follow.

True Romance

Rushing out the door to meet you,
I am already sitting on the bus
when I sense I have forgotten something,
just not sure what. Keys, money, cards,
all present and correct. I kick-start
my memory by silently reciting
the multiplication tables, one to twelve,
mentally slurring the answers
when I’m not sure, but nothing triggers
and, by the time I reach the restaurant,
I’ve already covered US State Capitals
and half the Periodic Table (a testament
to my mother, her love of Pointless).
When I arrive you are already sitting
at our favourite table – a special night,
months in the planning – your tanned
fingers splayed against the white linen,
and I remember what it is I’m missing.


Winner of the 2015 Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition, he has been runner-up or shortlisted in Listowel, Cuirt, Patrick Kavanagh, Interpreter’s House and Cork Literary Review. He is curator of the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site, chairperson of the Hibernian Writers’ Group and has recently published his debut collection ‘Growing Up in Colour’ with Doire Press.

One Poem by Felix Purat

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Pale, Bald and Blasé

Bloodlessness is fashionable
We see it in the harlequin
And therefore in ourselves
Even eyes are no longer bloodshot
Only lips remain red
And only when left un-kissed
No affection is in on this fashion
Lovelessness is fashion sense

Only eyelashes are permitted
They alone can be futuristic
In the baldy, nerdy, cyberpunk vision
Exemplified in plastic
Harlequins are uniform;
Logic dictates that all of us
Must do what we can to stay the same
Unless those lashes surpass our genetic reach

“Whatever,” roll fake green eyes
without motion in every language sizing
up the harlequin in third person;
No feeling affects the droll face
Indifference is all that is animated
We must all watch our feelings bounce
Off the skin of everyone we meet
No sword can penetrate our new plastic armor


Felix hails from Berkeley, CA but lives in the Czech Republic and travels frequently. In addition to three micro-chapbooks (all published by the Origami Poems Project), Felix has been published in numerous outlets and magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His webpage is: