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.

Two Poems by William R Stoddart

The Shortest of Stories

On summer days long ago I walked
on creosote-impregnated roads that bled
sticky tar like ribbons of black licorice,
ran through a rolling, cool green cemetery,

over distended bellies of dry clay,
past rotting flowers,
under fast, dark clouds
birthing hissing silken shrouds.

I danced on the tense skin of water until
the sun appeared and I looked for a rainbow,
but there was just the humid slowness of summer,
and I welcomed the slowness of it.

Then years through the hourglass vein
in sclerotic years I navigate
a shortened course, dead reckoned
to this seemingly never-ending night,

like the sonnet sequence of immutable
born-died stones, I read the shortest of stories,
tiling infinite layers of earthy reflection
into the awaiting, yawning hole.

Unchristened Child

From catechism to church
my second grade class was led,

fire drill double file sheep
to the narthex as a small

white casket was wheeled past us.
Slow motion, silence, I see

figures on the side of the box:
kneeling angels, folded hands,

bowed heads, a lamb
in the middle lying down,

low relief cherubs. We were
led into the nave for the service.

I daydream the unchristened child
clutches a rosary with satin

first communion gloves,
anywhere but heaven or hell,

a snap of fingers,
I awake to the rattle of beads.


William R. Stoddart is a poet and short fiction writer who lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. His work has appeared in Neologism Poetry Journal, Adirondack Review, Ruminate Magazine, Pedestal Magazine, Every Day Fiction and other publications.

One Poem by Diane Jackman

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


after Pond at Ville d’Avray, With Leaning Trees, Camille Corot 1873

here I crouched that day
sky overcast wind blowing
cooling my shame-flushed cheeks
the little bundle so tightly wrapped
slipped its pale way into the pond
no one saw no one knows

only I come each May Day morning
and remember


Diane Jackman’s poetry has appeared in Rialto, Spillway, optimum, snakeskin, small press magazines and anthologies, and has won several competitions. Starting out as a children’s writer with seven books and 100 published stories, she now concentrates on poetry.

One Poem by Kim Whysall-Hammond

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Made manifest in evening gloom
she and her tree lean together
roots awash with flooding
strain and pain her
others reach branches
and grasping twigs
to the stricken one
but wood is not muscle
dryads are not women
to push and pull
nothing can be done
once upright and bold
they lean now together
until they fall


Kim Whysall-Hammond is a Londoner who now lives in rural Berkshire. She has been published by Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Amaryllis, London Grip New Poetry and Crannóg amongst others. Kim shares poetry on her blog (

One Poem by Rex Wilder

The Peanut Butter Party

It’s party therapy, a supervised Fourth of July
For patients who are sick in the head.
Grownups eating peanut butter and jelly,

A petting zoo, too. It’s all pretty silly.
We’re being watched like baking bread.
It’s party therapy, a supervised Fourth of July

In the parking lot. Balloons like big bellies.
One rule: No hugging, the director said.
Grownups eating peanut butter and jelly

And cups of sparkling Martinelli’s
Is evidently the opposite of suicide.
It’s part therapy, this supervised Fourth of July

Where fireworks shine in the eyes of a billy
Goat, though he slops around in the mud.
Hey, little goat — want some peanut butter and jelly?

A year ago, sober, our tears were of joy;
Now, sad, can’t cry because of a med.
It’s party therapy, a supervised Fourth of July.
Grownups eating peanut butter and jelly.


Rex has three books of poetry out, with one in the oven. He has poems published in TLS (London), Poetry (Chicago), Ploughshares, The New Republic, Poetry Ireland, the National Review, The Nation, Yale/Harvard/Georgia/Antioch/Southern reviews, and others, plus many anthologies.

One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Against the Current

Barely visible
In twilight and stained water
A lump of stuff
Drifting, turning in the current,
Snags for a time
On the branches that seem to lean out
For the sole purpose
Of snagging drifting, turning lumps of stuff.

Just a short pause
On the long slow, drifting, turning journey to the sea.
Just time, perhaps,
To peer in mild curiosity, vague alarm and, perhaps, dismay.
Whose loss is this?
That the river has claimed and the branches can do no more than delay.


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.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Not so far from gilded Versailles
she comes to the pond at Ville d’Avray
where a silver birch implies a frame
and a nearby bough goes out on a limb.

The cypresses stand in their proper spot,
far from this foreground niche where regret,
rich in brutal words and actions,
leans and turns to cooler reflections.

The mind drifts, and the afternoon
drifts with it. For now, she feels no pain –
for now. Yet some hint of that hits home
on the gnarled path as she passes him.


Michael Caines lives in London, and was longlisted for this year’s National Poetry Competition.

Two Poems by Federico Federici

Two Estuaries

2nd Estuary

All flowers held their heads
to me in thirst, their death was
something I could call mine.
Sifted blue pollen through
shrinking lungs, the branches
of vertebrae straining old
brown marrow, air seeping out
in short arterial pulses, upwards,
only harder by degrees.

Sleep was my last work,
that of flat red fields
abandoned to the wind,
colonised by black ants
that gather together
for the final hour, treading
on that perfect season
which separated days.

3rd Estuary

We saw the Moon
through the drowned
man’s eye, a dulled
opal. Water hid his
once brimming grin
under forgetful mire,
severed his breath-nerve
he had life-long stretched,
bleeding his memory
empty to swell the river.


Federico Federici is a physicist, translator and writer. His works have appeared in «3:AM Magazine», «Jahrbuch Der Lyrik», «Poet Lore», «Raum», «Sand», «Trafika Europe», «Magma» and others. Among his books: “Requiem auf einer Stele” (2018); “Liner notes for a Pithecanthropus Erectus sketchbook” (2018) with a foreword by SJ Fowler.