Two Poems by Belinda Rimmer

Stoke Orchard

Some orchards curve across countryside
or tumble down hills happy as boys.

This one has dips and hollows
no-one fills in, broken fence-posts, dead wood.

It has weeds and wild daffodils,
a clump of Highland Cattle

beneath the trees, warning off rain –
lonely, perhaps, so far from home.

An ancient orchard caught between urban sprawl,
the slippery smell of a toxic waste dump,

and close to where Fred West lived
before Cromwell Street.

I often think about those missing girls
never catching their buses home.

holding on

in a quiet place

with a solemn oath
of a stream
a hedgerow the length of a field
meadows wild and free
where skies fall into shape
into blue

is the last tree standing

a shiver of pink blossom
bark rough and ragged as a fisherman’s hands

a girl sits among its branches
like a bird
excited by the smell of leaves and rain

she’s watching out
for changing weather

clinging on
with the arms of a panicked child


Belinda’s poems are widely published in print and on-line journals. In 2018, she came second in the Ambit Poetry Competition. Recently, she was joint runner-up in the Stanza Poetry Competition. She is also joint winner of the Indigo-First Pamphlet Competition, 2018, with her pamphlet, Touching Sharks in Monaco.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

looking back

into memories is a loss leader
is much bigger than it appears
though you only remember essentials
on different days and quantities –

makes you look older
even if you are older and deny it
and would like to deny some times
that keep appearing from the past
the ones you don’t place on a pedestal
and revisit on darker now days

we all make mistakes in happiness
become sombre on the journey back
where you consider there is more to see
distance not an obstacle to recall
remembering which way to turn

have their own qualities – looking forward
has its appeal with all the space to fill
while looking back includes yesterday
last night or this morning – you can look
forward to the last falling leaf you might forget
or a butterfly on its way to an earthquake


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.

Two Poems by Seth Jani

New Moon

No theories arise when the wind
hits the centerpiece and sends it
toppling to the floor.
Things will be as they are,
and the snuffed-out candle
forms a heap of ashes for the
scavenging mouse to find.
He will mend his own darkness
whether we catch him or not.
And even when our civilization has ended,
geologically or in a fluke
of our own devising, that same moon
which flared through midnight’s window
will continue its age-old provocation.
Becoming the place where another
generation of sleepwalkers
send their light-rigged prayers.

Cradling Keats

I went to the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
It was a clear day. I was twenty-four.
I had come from many miles across
the Atlantic.
I bought a shovel from the nearby store.
I went to where Junkets lies.
I dug a hole six feet deep.
I hit a hull of rotted wood.
The sound was a kind of sadness.
Inside he was bare bones in a 19th
century suit.
Elegant. Dressed for dinner.
Still ready for the feast of living.
I held him forever in my arms.
Around us Shelley’s ashes danced
and flitted.
All that bright desirous being
just a minor pillage
for the old Italian wind.


Seth Jani lives in Seattle, Washington and is the founder of Seven CirclePress ( Their work has appeared in Chiron ReviewThe Comstock Review, Common Ground Review and Pretty Owl Poetry, among others. Their full-length collection, Night Fable, was published by FutureCycle Press in 2018. More about them and their work can be found at

One Poem by Judith Steele

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

All Is One

The old year looks back,
the new looks forward
both sculpted as Janus
according to convention.
Both heads are white marble,
share a neck and a skull and some hair.
The old is bearded, with sunken cheeks.
The young is bare-chinned, his nose a prow
to lead him ahead. To where?

I am old and look back at the good and the bad.
My grandchildren look forward in hope
and more fears
than my generation knew.
We share some genes
and the short warmth of life
eternal Janus never knew.


Judith Steele is Australian. Her poetry or prose has most recently appeared in the print journal Gobshite Quarterly (Oregon USA); and web blogs New Verse News and Plum Tree Tavern.

One Poem by Sheila Lockhart

Insouciance of Mink Pompoms

The forecast was for snow,
but still you wore those kitten heels
with pointy toes and pompoms
made from real mink.

When we left the bar that night
Prague was a fairytale.

Arms linked, we half-carried,
half-swept you, laughing,
through black and silver streets.
Dazzled by fairy light, we skimmed
the icy cobbles of Stare Mesto.


Sheila Lockhart is a retired social worker and lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands with her partner and two Icelandic ponies, tending her garden and writing poetry. She has been published in Northwords Now.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Two curmudgeons

I’ve never liked you much.
Still, I admit we share
some functionality:
a great grey area
of mind. Where we go Dutch.
And thus we can agree

one thing at least: this age
has rocks for brains! We both
contemn its follies with
all of our stoney rage.
(That said, to our collective sense
it’s clear that never once

was folly less, and never
can the world improve;
we see the past and the future
and would rather not see either.)
How to make things better?
You can’t. And we don’t believe

in fairy tales. The old
decade dies, and the new
comes in. St Petersburg
is monochrome, and cold.
I see a rising flag.
You take a longer view.


Michael Caines lives in London, and has had recent poems commended in the Battered Moons and Culpepper’s Remedy competitions.

One Poem by Anthony Watts


          Not love, but unlove’s blind:
behind its cataracts dim shadows breed
and populate a phantom world of dull
comparisons – while love, with x-ray sight,
pierces the veil, reveals the miracle.

               Not beauty, but old age is skin
deep: under its deceitful mask still gleams
the eternal spark – the fire beneath the frost.
The girl you are shows clearly in your eyes
and my twenty-year-old’s heart is lost, is lost.


Anthony Watts has been writing ‘seriously’ for over 40 years. He has won prizes and had poems published in magazines and anthologies. His latest collection is Stiles . Anthony’s  main interests are poetry, music and walking.

One Poem by Lynn White

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

To the Time of the Season

It’s that time of the season
coasting from
one year
to the next
from old to new
facing both ways
to move
a gleam of light
caught in the falling
all too briefly
before it becomes
part of the old
before it turns
to mush
and decays
like all things passed.


Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Find Lynn at and

One Poem by Ray Miller

In Death As In Life

Lilies and roses were thrown in to escort
her scattered ashes, but rather than sailing off
to the horizon, meandered and circled,
just like the carrots and sprouts she’d start boiling
at nine o’clock of a Christmas morning
to extract every sliver of flavour and goodness.

At last we used sticks to assist her departure,
stirring and driving her into the current.
Several grandchildren were over-zealous,
exacted revenge for a tongue fond of scolding,
laughed in the face of that liquid glare.

The flotilla cut through the glassy green river:
fallen branches and treacherous stones were skirted
as if she possessed the whirr of the hoover
and they were so many tables and sofas.
Over deeps and shallows the body fragmented,
we followed her progress unblinkingly.

While you pondered the nature of death and rebirth
and imagined those ashes as spermatozoa
racing each other to be first to the ocean,
I remembered her face down, blindly elbowing
a passage through the New Year sales.


Ray Miller, Socialist, Aston Villa supporter, Faithful Husband. Life’s been a disappointment.

One Poem by Paula Puolakka

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Are you paranoid, schizophrenic, perhaps,
or merely a victim of
useless information?

Everybody was born with the ability
to use telepathy, but you were told
that it is not true.
Now, however, the tech companies are telling you
that in the future, you can be telepathic by sticking
a tube or a microchip in your head.
Basically: they are ripping you off!

Are you truly divided in half,
or merely trying to hide the real you
the doctors never acknowledged as something real?


Paula Puolakka is a Beat poet, writer, and MA (History of Science and Ideas). Her latest challenge-winning poems can be read through The Ekphrastic Review (November & December 2019) and Poetry Potion. To read more, check out Thimble Lit Mag, The Reader/Author Connection, Spillwords Press, and Jerry Jazz Musician.