One Poem by Melanie Branton

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Staccato of Wings

The sky is pack ice. She is stuck in the tree’s
cleft, she cannot lift her head, supports herself
on a toppling branch, struck out on its own,
hanging over deep water, a bony, wiry thing
that stabs. Dark fuzz clouds, trailing black
creepers choke the side of the lake, trip hazards
hem her in.

Deep inside the tangled copse
are small, startled twitching things.
A sudden staccato of wings ambushes her,
something stirring, some unknown.

Everything is shot through sepia. Stained
by the stuff coming out of the trees
her clothes merge with the bark. The shadow
of the trees seeps into the water. It sours,
like cold, milky coffee. The leaves crust over
the sky, a rash of tiny scabs, damp spots in an old book.

There is a landing stage in the middle distance,
on the other side of the lake, fresh green leaves,
a house, a sheltering gable, family, laughter,
a warm hearth. From where she is sitting, she cannot see it.


Melanie Branton is a spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her published collections are Can You See Where I’m Coming From? (Burning Eye, 2018) and My Cloth-Eared Heart (Oversteps, 2017).

Two Poems by Ben Rasnic

At the Cafe

Notes scribbled
on cheap paper napkins
sometimes grow wings
to form poems,

sometimes condense
illegibly, a blue ink blotter
beneath an ice chilled mug
of Molson Golden.


As the young nurse
in the azure blue scrubs
scans the barcode
embedded in my white plastic
wristband, I am paralyzed
by the debilitating sense
of complete helplessness.

Buried beneath networks
of tentacled gray cables
fastened to snap
electrode patches pasted
across my shaved chest,

purple splotches tattoo
the crook of my forearms wired
to clear plastic bags dripping
a cocktail of saline
& crystalloids
into these bruised & battered
desiccated veins.

Soon they will be firing jolts
of electric current
into my atrial fibrillated
arrhythmic heart,

my twilight consciousness
levitating like a wispy fog
into the ice blue
stucco sky.


Originally from Jonesville, Va., Ben Rasnic currently resides in Bowie, Maryland. Author of four published collections (three available from, Ben’s poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Misplaced Love

It was ours, that copse
on Kentish Downs,
the glorious weald,
pond waiting, fertile.

I read you my poems,
you sang me a song:
‘Every Breath You Take’,
words blending, drifting

on whispers of leaves
falling as fragments
soon to be trodden
in damp-russet mulch.

You spoke of Gorbachev,
the scrap of Cold War,
I clutched at secrets
trapped within walls,

we inhaled our fears
like a gas, invisible,
while pond skaters hovered
on surface, rippling.

I caught your smile
like a seed in my soul,
nurtured the rooting,
thought it was love.


Kate Young lives in Kent with her husband and has been passionate about poetry 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. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.

One Poem by James Bell

hands in the clouds

one day I had to photograph
a woman without a face though
one that resembled a face with eyes
still able to express feelings
the only parts unreconstructed by
a wild impasto of the plastic surgeon’s art –
we discussed her pose for a passport
yet had no discussion on how her situation
came about or where this black and white
photo would take her – she smiled with difficulty –
complied with what needed to be done –
I sensed in her familiarity with performance
how this image was only official
not a gift for a lover to go in a frame
and how she knew there might never be
a special caress for this same face
unless it became different by some new art
that exerted a fresh transformation – it took
only a minute a long time ago –
afterwards it was also
the first time I climbed to the top of a hill
and stuck my hands in the clouds to be cleaned
in their unearthly texture and tried to gain
a semblance of meaning from what
I had seen – have found since that life
can often be difficult on clear days


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.

One Poem by Mathew Wenham

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Painter and the Peasant

I have to pretend
to embrace with my frame
the wide, mottled sky
and its uneven floor of trees.

I pretend to stir with interest
to life the copper silt
of the sullen pond and knot
the pale birch
with careful brush.

The distant pitch of terra-
cotta roofs are supposed to spill
their clays across the canvas
and walk the eye
to the waterside path beaten
with feet and time.

I probably shouldn’t set the poplars
forever apart on the precarious hill,
I shouldn’t stroke dark their leaves
with the knowledge that to hold
the other with gentle limbs
the structuring soil must fall away…

And I shouldn’t paint her.

Even melting into the deep
greens and flecked golds of the bank,
I shouldn’t paint the rose
nape of her neck, the whispered tuck
of her peasant’s dress.

And I shouldn’t lean
like a desperate willow
across the cold pond
to a forbidden shore.


Mathew Wenham is currently the Head of Senior English and Literature at a secondary college in Melbourne, Australia. He has previously worked in multiple Australian universities as a teacher of philosophy and psychology. Mathew is a long-time lover of poetry, and is now in the early stages of his path as a poet. His work has been shorlisted for the 2020 Ada Cambridge award and his poems have appeared online at Nine Muses Poetry, Better Than Starbucks and The Society of Classical Poets.

One Poem by Ann Weil

511 Frances Street

At Curry Lane and Frances Street
A chartreuse bungalow sits
Behind a white picket fence,
Bougainvillea branches arching overhead.
Gate swings on rusty hinges
Its song plaintive yet welcoming.
Bags dropped at the old porch door
Key in lock, I am home.

Like an impatient child with an advent calendar,
I open all windows at once.
Gentle breezes rustle palm fronds
Twilight crickets chirp.
Dusk wears the perfume of plumeria and jasmine.
I feel my skin come alive again
In the dew-drenched air.
I breathe in renewal,
Restoration, replenishment.

In this place of sanctuary,
Where my feet are not bound by the rule of gravity,
I am most joyously, deeply, rooted.


Ann Weil is a retired teacher whose poetry can be read in forthcoming issues of Young Ravens Literary Review, Lucky Jefferson, and Amethyst Review. She divides her time between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Key West, Florida.

One Poem by Louise Worthington

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Even the trees lean away from me
The silver birch won’t offer a single love letter
It has been so long since I was touched.
Does the bark feel my hand or am I invisible?

We preferred to walk here on an evening
When the temperature was cool
And the light a half-gloom –
A dark-room I thought to sepia-toned affection.

You liked to watch eddies in the river
While I loved your profile
Imagined cupping your face in river-soaked hands
So you would love us both.


Louise Worthington is an English tutor and writer in the West Midlands, UK. Her debut novel is called Distorted Days and her poetry has been published by Fresher Press and Muddy River Review.

Two Poems by Julie Stevens

Always There

You gave me the sunset
neatly wrapped in a flaming cloth
with golden ribbons lacing its warmth
I can rest tonight knowing
tomorrow will rise with me

I hear your call through foggy windows and
know you hold my hand to gather strength
before your cinnamon brown wings sail on to
find another song, or two, or three
that you’ll nestle and cherish until our next meet

The air I breathe will wrap
my aching body in fresh life
full of hope that I’ll carry with me
As the day’s troubles gather
you never leave my side

I Know

My clothes are singing stories
of vibrant shops inhaling customers
whilst my hair projects a message
of restless sleep and scampering brushes
My face delivers today’s news
spoken and mapped in generous tones
But there’s a truth hiding inside me

My freshly washed car dazzles in the sun
dripping froth in tempting pools on the drive
My lawn, so neatly cut, stands to attention
marking a path, playful feet need to follow
A fiery picture has been painted in my sky
with a burning brush warming a blackened night
But there’s a truth hiding inside me

Something’s there that you cannot see
latching on to my thoughts wherever I am
Full of excitement, ready to burst
or a nervous tremble swirling
It fills me with dread during my worst days
or sings an exasperating song, repeat repeat
I’m the only one who knows


Julie Stevens lives in Cambridge, UK. She has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 30 years. She used to be a teacher and was a successful athlete. Her poems tend to reflect the impact MS has on her life. She publishes under the name Jumping Jules. Her website is

One Poem by Viv Parks

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Daily Trudge

I stop to rest to catch my breath
`Tis but a small detour I take each day

I lift my skirts to tread carefully through the morning dew
for it would not do to arrive bedraggled

This is the highlight of my day as it feels so delicious
giving myself permission here for a while to dally

Just for a while I’ll take in the view listening to the dawn chorus
as I watch the mist begin to lift to greet another day

For in a short while I’ll have to shift myself
and leave the comfort of resting upon this leaning bough

Make haste for the Lord and Lady will not abide
a maid arriving late nor with mud upon her hems

My return will be as the dusk begins to descend
at the end of a long hard day

By then I will be too tired to dillydally
so to be sure I’ll not make this detour

Instead I’ll be in haste and head for home
where I’ll thankfully flop to lay my head upon bed

Sleep will soon come and with my strength regained
I’ll again return to my favourite riverside dell tomorrow


Viv Parks very much enjoys writing and reading poetry in her retirement.

One Poem by Nawal Kishor Sharma

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Poignant Palette

The wind-buffeted beleaguered tree
Leans to tell his story to the pond
Of yesterdays, tomorrows and beyond
The wind sighs in sincere sympathy

The silent pastoral of sombre shades
Where earth, water, sky meet
The girl can hear her sad heartbeat
As dusk approaches and sunlight fades

The falling leaves paraphrase the scene
As they are shed one by one
A parable of loss and days bygone
They annotate what the colours mean


Nawal Kishor Sharma teaches English at a university in Gujarat, India. He has published poems in Visual Verse, an online anthology of art and words. His areas of interest include comparative literature, translation and history of art.