One Poem by Felix Purat

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Memories of Cirque du Soleil

An assault upon joy
Was mitigated every December
In San Francisco,
East of Potrero Hill
With a biting cold that
No longer bites me
And anyone else expelled from the tropics

An eco-cultural microcosm,
Like Ovo and its insect order,
Presented its philosophies
Within blue and yellow tents

Once Kings rode forth for the
Now we ride in from the firmament
Away from where family, friends and
             lovers destroyed our dreams -
or teased them out of existence
before laughing loudly and saying
“it’s all a joke” -
and into an alternate reality

where the clowns are serious this time
And the dreams are never truly fake


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:

One Poem by Simon Daley

Dawn at Bamburgh

The sun grows from gilded rose,
to pick each dangled dew drop,
on arching needles of grass,
that beknit the shiftless dunes.
There is no peaceful silence here,
rather a delightful incessant din,
punctuated by the blue-white noise,
of wave after heralded wave,
each curling its face into a slap,
before rushing to meet the sand.
The sky silhouettes the fall,
as feathered squadrons migrate,
from on high, sky to sea,
and become a foraging flotilla.
Once sated they return to flight,
flapping dry in the warming air.
The brine tang fills the void,
left by the slip of outgoing tide,
shy life is stranded, for a while,
confined to puddles and pools,
until the golden light of day,
becomes the silver of night.


Simon Daley is a police officer who aspires to write poetry that people are glad they read. He is studying creative writing with Open University. He may never be published but can live with that. He lives in Scotland between houses and a campervan and misses his daughter terribly.

One Poem by Gaby Bedetti

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Farewell to Jumbo

Hold your horses, let the acrobats descend.
Hug Eke, the clown, throw your hat in the ring,
The greatest show on earth has come to an end.

Leapfrogging big cats through hoops will not wend.
Neither Masai, nor Onyx, nor Cashmere will spring.
Hold your horses, let the acrobats descend.

Tightrope walkers will no longer life suspend.
No poodle to play Double Dutch with a string.
The greatest show on earth has come to an end.

Let the ringmaster to his alpacas bend,
Theatre of the impossible, wonder on the wing.
Hold your horses, let the acrobats descend.

No dogs will bark to the beat or lama kneel to attend.
Embrace the last aerialists, gone the trust they bring.
The greatest show on earth has come to an end.

Survivors, circus spirits the audience commend.
“We’ll see you down the road,” the artists sing.
Hold your horses, let the acrobats descend.
The greatest show on earth has come to an end.


Gaby Bedetti’s recent poems have appeared in FrogpondItalian Americana, and elsewhere. In June she blogs a daily poem on At Eastern Kentucky University, she teaches Comedy as an Artistic Approach. Though Ringling is gone, she has stepped into Cirque du Soleil’s cabinet of curiosities and joined the Corteo parade.

One Poem by John-Christopher Johnson


Previously known
as Quicksilver,

doctors thought it
would cure syphilis –

we’ll never know
for certain how

many patients died
of the disease or

whether the metal
poisoned them.

Our planet is getting
hotter. Mercury

is rising incessantly
in the thermometer.

Rainforests are
sweating, fish, turtles

trapped in a Thermos-
flask of sea and ocean

are starting to boil.
Have we left it too late

to save the patient?


John-Christopher Johnson has had poems published in The Journal, Other Poetry, London Grip, Agenda, Interpreter’s House, The Seventh Quarry, The North, Allegro Poetry, Orbis etc. He has attended creative writing groups run by Jan Moran Neil in Beaconsfield and has occasionally read his work at The Poet’s Cafe in Reading which is always fun and has many good poets who come along to read from their collections.

Pushcart Prize Nominations

Out of over 400 poems published in 2019, I selected the following for the Pushcart Prize (in no particular order):

Thank you to everyone who submitted this year, and good luck to all nominees!


Two Poems by William Stephenson

The Cut-Up Extra

You’re the star, so how do you want me to die?
Can we rough out a plan before take one?
Would you prefer my signature torso-twist
and agonized leer into the camera, fingers
bleeding ketchup as they grip the retractable
plastic sword you’ve thrust into my intestine?

Remember, you are the samurai.  Bushido,
the way of the warrior, clenches and relaxes
the muscle that pushes your blade, the axle
that connects our turning souls.  We’re fish
in the net of the universe – an invisible mesh
binds our senses, sewn by your pulsing needle.

Don’t get Zen on me, you sneer.  Just fall over.
Tumble, we’re done.  Cut.  I brush polythene
cherry blossom off my costume, metro home,
watch sweet blood swirl down the shower drain.
Shaven in my robe, I stare into the TV’s moonlight
and sneak into the last scene of Outlaw of Honour IV.

Winter.  The warlord’s courtyard.  A maple’s
backlit branches brush kanji across the moon:
Geinin, player, Yume, dream.  You hiss a challenge.
The warlord turns, draws.  The mesh tightens.
On the soundtrack, steel sings.  Goitsu, union.
For a single selfless beat I slip inside your skin.

Diary of an Engineer

As Earth receded it lost curvature and colour,
diminishing from sphere to star.  The bones
I’d seen from orbit whitened my memory:
the gold-capped incisor of the Sinai Peninsula,
the Nile a hairline fracture in Egypt’s skull,
the Himalayan line, fragile as a foetal spine.

Glimpses flashed memories of home: twin suns
rising, the glide of a bird on a gas-giant moon,
plains where purple fronds rippled, stirring
the spectre of grass.  I clung to bygone trivia:
the zing of ginger tea, a love song on the radio,
the way my wife coiled her hair round a finger.

I organized irrigation programmes, built dams,
bolted blades to dynamos to electrify our domes.
The Earth in my head shone brighter with each
strange planet we landed on.  Where oceans
glittered the red or blue of unfamiliar suns
I saw cut-paste imitations of a stolen gem.


William Stephenson’s first full collection Travellers and Avatars was published by Live Canon in 2018.  His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013), downloadable at:

One Poem by Daphne Milne

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Waiting for the Green

I tread the fine line of the present
strung between the twins
time past    time future

a kaleidoscope of colour
on the edge of spin
blue for night    yellow for dawn

the whole Scheherazade
beneath my dissembling
dangerous feet


Daphne writes poems, short stories, novellas, flash fiction. Work published in print/on line in magazines and anthologies internationally.

Daphne now lives in Fremantle, W. Australia. She reads regularly at Perth Poetry Club. She has recorded two podcasts for ILAA on Kalamunda radio.

Her pamphlet The Blue Boob Club is published by Indigo Dreams Press:

One Poem by Mark G Pennington

Morecambe Bay

Empty wagon blowing all that hot air, all that senseless noise.
A tongue sea-cracked, dressed as tarantula leg, flapping like kelp below the Stone Jetty where the moon left its teeth marks.
The empty, sallow moon biting like anglerfish.
In the sea I burrow there like sand rats. I see the birthmarks on the seabed.
Those pressed against the bones of seaweed still dreaming in amniotic sacks.

Morecambe Bay one Tuesday afternoon and effulgent stars are laying upon the sea top, swimming like pansies or pure diamonds. Sopping with its glitter bones.
Sunlight upon the silken surface is a lover’s rash, a coruscating carpet for small boats rocking in gentle hands, reposeful sounds from a ticking harbour – like sea clocks beating in the rhythms of a new dance.

I arrive here as a mayfly with its eternal birth and when in the sea I am deaf as those forgotten hoary bones.

Morecambe Bay I see a slow teardrop inside your goldmine eyes.

And that wagon rolls by, the sibilant empty wagon, empty for expelling all of its beautiful roses, they drift to the saltmarsh and die for lack of care, just like the footprints.
But before they perish, they prey on the ears of quiet heroes: the listless sea bathers who can hear only the death of roses among the seaweed.

The empty wagons are killing nature until it resembles skin that has lost its elasticity.
Morecambe Bay send to me your graveyard flowers.


Mark G Pennington lives and writes in Kendal, Cumbria. His first poetry collection, Barren Stories for Moonlit Mannequins was published by Dempsey and Windle in 2018. His second collection, That summer they broke the Birds, came out in 2019. His poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies all around the world. Mark has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Colour on Canvas


It started under canvas
in a washed-out tent,
morning rising like peaty breath,
heavy as highland haar,
squeezing eyelids and excitement
from days; but children
find ways to make colour.

I would rub my eyes, fists balled
creating sparks of light,
a kaleidoscope of acrobats
dancing behind curtains,
gaudy mouths of clowns
calling for applause,
and a circus would appear,

its big top flapping
in candy-stripe slacks.
My father, the ring master,
taming his fears,
my mother on tips of nerves
like an artist balanced on a smile,
lips as taut as the high wire.


Under Syrian skies,
in an un-named camp,
an unknown child
is caught in crossfire,
the rising heat fusing lids of eyes
into patterns of grey,
random as a spatter of gunshot.

He lifts a flap on the world,
feels the bone-chilling wind
as it sifts and scatters
a disease of refugees,
transient as thistle down
across a multitude of screens;
the child dabs wildly at canvas.


Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry and literature since childhood. Over the last few years she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in webzines in Britain and internationally. She particularly enjoys responding to Ekphrastic challenges. Kate is presently editing her work and setting up her website.

Two Poems by Gerry Stewart

Old Men

Stationed around the park,
rooted near pigeon-infested
benches and monuments,
all arched backs straining
and arthritic lumps,
the seasons taking their toll,
they linger on regardless
of weather or bad news.

Their faces scarred
in moss and lichen,
wrinkles telling stories
if we slow down to listen.
They ply us with coins of
sunlight and shade,
eavesdropping on whispers,
shake their heads at our indiscretions.
They tolerate our games,
offering footholds to boost us
or bend low to give support.

We notice them
only by their absence.

All the Orders of Angels

The sibyl enumerates
her prophecies on stubby fingers.
No need for a halo above her turban,
this pagan seer gazes,
not heavenwards,
but to the solid stars.
She reads our truths
beyond the cherub-filled clouds.

The museum guide lazily explains
the Italian Renaissance
picture by picture.
Each Madonna and martyred saint
struggles with the artists
through baptisms of fire.

In her corner the heathen smiles
assured of her place
among the constellations.


Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. In 2019 she won the ‘Selected or Neglected Collection Competition’ with Hedgehog Poetry Press for her collection Totems. Her writing blog can be found at and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.