Swans, by Sue Spiers


Pipe-cleaner necks twisting under tails
Mucky rumps of algae from the creek
They preen their plumage snowy pale
Pristined to clean by amber beaks

The grooming pair, male on the bank
Female in the water, ignore our cry
Of hello, we fetch a loaf and throw a chunk
Of soaring bread to catch their eye

The movement makes her stare and soon
She’s swimming to our grassy shore
Wings arched like an angel’s, the swan
Dabbles for the soggy crumbs, wants more

Her mate launches into her wake
And pleads mutely for his feed
But dominates, makes her wait, takes
More than he’s due, it’s plainly greed

The bread is scattered left and right
To even odds so she’s not robbed
Her feed is lobbed out of his sight
But really we can’t tell pen from cob.

Sue Spiers has a collection called Jiggle Sac, styled after the anthology Rattle Bag in that the poems are in alphabetical order. However, Sue doesn’t rattle and is not a bag. When not jiggling (rare), Sue is SIG Sec for British Mensa and on Twitter @spiropoetry

Two Poems from Rose Cook



extinguisher – used to be a good triangle player
coffee – a bronchial exponent of caffeine
Deptford – an old pickup truck ( preferably orange and rusty)
Greenwich – a mouldy sandwich
Woolwich – a knitted sandwich
socket – a rolled sock used as a missile
concomitant – accomplished with the vigour of a russian aunt
apprehension – the moment before realising you have forgotten something
kinaesthetic – the beauty of relatives
sod – a sod
maritime – the end of childhood
concentration – a game involving remembering things on a tray
detergent – protective perfume which repels men
counsellor – someone who listens sitting down
overcast – as performed by trainee fishermen with a tendancy to enthusiasm
predatory – a historic time before the custom of wooing became fashionable
tarnished – to be covered in a black glossy coat of tar
prickle – a small prick

Night City

The moon shines down on the city.
Romeo and Juliet dance in a car park,
silent, but for the swing of the sign.
Their bikes are parked next to Macbeth’s,
who is wishing he felt clear about where
he has been all night. He’s due in the City at ten,
in a meeting with some hip-hop Hamlet,
a cockney cowboy from Hackney, who knows Othello well.
Says he’s a buyer, sells art to robots in office blocks.

Three miles away, King Lear’s a zombie,
naked in a penthouse. He sits cross-legged
and chain smokes, desperate to think up a new ending.
In the distance, a figure limps homeward, alone.
It’s Richard III, off to his pacifist wife. He lives quietly now,
teaches Kung-Fu, plays with his sons. They love dinosaurs.

Rose Cook lives in Totnes. She co-founded the popular local poetry and performance forum One Night Stanza, as well as poetry performance group Dangerous Cardigans.

She is one of Apples & Snakes’ poets and has performed at many venues from the Soho Theatre in London to the Blue Walnut in Torquay.

Her latest book Hearth is published by Cultured Llama.

The Richard Dawkins Delusion by God, by Mary Dickins


Pray Richard, can you tell me, what purpose will there be
if you become a deity on earth
instead of me?

I’m here in every particle, every cranny, every rock.
I have endless manifestations,
I think you should take stock.

I spent several millennia shaping sky and earth and sea.
I’ve minded all creation,
enabled it to be.

It’s me who made the rational, the concrete all that kind.
And may I remind you Richard
I also made your mind.

I slipped up with the famine and the suffering and the war,
but then again it’s likely
that’s what humankind is for.

As regards the bigger picture you will never come to know
how and why you got here
or where you’re going to go.

It really doesn’t bother me that you do not believe.
You are the loser in the end-
for I could help you grieve.

Your expose was riveting- I devoured every line.
So I’ll cast off my divinity
when your books sell as well as mine!

I am the elemental force that forged your skin and bone,
but Richard when you call me
I’ll ignore the celestial phone

We must agree to disagree but just before we’re through
may I say that I don’t like you
or believe that you are true.

Mary Dickins has written poetry since she was four but didn’t tell anyone until much later. She has a tendency to rhyme for which she refuses to apologise. She performs in a variety of venues and circumstances and some poems have been published. She has recently been on tele and radio as part of the Nationwide Building Society poetry ad campaign.

Rejection in the Age of Twitter, by Melanie Branton


Bovver-boot bruised, your heart winces:
you’ve been given a good kicking
with your own unanswered DMs.

You’ve conditioned yourself to salivate
at the sight of the bell icon,
yet, unaddressed, unfranked,
the grey envelope never turns blue,
a litmus test he’s failed, but,
reluctant to accept the results,
you enter him for endless resits.

That blue bird promised to take your heart
on a water speed record-breaking ride,
but your target was too ambitious:
flipped over and smashed,
your hopes now lie submerged
in a cold, cold lake.

And you know you ought to put yourself on mute,
untag him, unfollow, but how can you when, at your age,
all the men in the world left worth having form
a dramatis personae of fewer than 140 characters?

Melanie Branton writes and performs poetry.

Her poems have been published in a number of print and online journals, including Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, Clear Poetry, Clockwise Cat, The High Window, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Light, Lighten Up Online, Message In A Bottle, Monkey Kettle, Obsessed With Pipework, Prole, Snakeskin, South and The Spectator.

She has performed headline or feature slots at (amongst others): Cafe La Dada, Bath; The Berkeley Square Poetry Revue, Bristol; Can Openers, Bristol; Hammer and Tongue, Bristol; Milk, Bristol; Raising The Bar, Bristol; Satellite of Love, Bristol; Cheddar Poetry Night; Taking the Mic, Exeter; Pucker Poets, Plymouth; Rhymewarp, Plymouth; The Front Room, Portsmouth; Hammer and Tongue, Southampton; Ooh Beehive!, Swindon; Poetry Island, Torquay; Stanza Extravaganza, Torquay; Word Mustard, Weston-super-Mare.

She came second in the 2014 Bristol Poetry Festival Open Slam and won the 2015 Bristol regional final of the Hammer and Tongue slam.

Two Poems from Michelle Smith


A Higher Boat Crew

The crumping noise and skreek of tortured steel
announced the presence of pretend pirates.
Around the bend they barged, with trailing ropes
and noxious clouds of rank dieselly smoke.
Decked to the nines in fine suits by Smiffy’s,
yellowed round the armpits from hire days of yore,
they were an anachronistic sight to see.
They waved beer cans and tired jolly Rogers
at kids and gongoozlers on the towpath,
and sprayed obscenities from red chump chops.
No high seas for the likes of those heroes,
yet! A galleons crew seemed crammed aboard.
They hung rudely from the portholes and hatches
and lolled on the roof of their hapless craft.
The drunken helmsman found forward again
propelling boat and crew pubward for more beer.
Then the canal was as before.
A bee buzzed in a bush; a mallard quacked,
A surprised fisherman mouthed, WTF!

The Canal Boat Boggart

It’s never fussy about about who to torment,
to wreak a bit of havoc is its main intent.
It won’t leave til it’s sent you round the bend,
the canal boat Boggart is nobodies friend.

This nasty beastie is a juvenile little scrote,
it’ll stand on the towpath and chuck poo at your boat.
It’ll put mould spots on all of the clothes you wear,
and clog up the waste pipe with its curly black hair.

In the dark of night its favourite thing,
is to scamper round the gunwales and make an awful din,
and when your porta potti is full to the top,
it loves to clog the elsan* with foul and stinky slop.

It’ll pull out your pins* when you’re not around
It’ll open up the lock paddles to make you run aground
It’ll tinker with your engine so you can only go in reverse,
believe me boaters,that Bogey is perverse.

It’ll steal your bicycle and hoof it down a thorny bank,
and then put some little bugs into your diesel tank.
It fiddles with the gas when dinner’s nearly done,
then messes up the pump so the water will not run.

When think you can’t stand anymore,
it’ll call up the slugs from beneath the floor.
Then it’ll invite it’s friend, the rapacious rat,
which will chew through your welcoming mat.

So, when things are really awful and the cat has begun to moult,
Just blame the boating Boggart, it was all its fault.

*A place where boaters empty their toilets and pins used to moor boats to the canal bank.

Michelle Smith is a 38 year old mature student who studies english literature and creative writing at Bathspa university. She lives in Bath with her partner, two children and a smelly hound. When not trying to drown herself on the waterways, she writes nonsense to amuse her friends and family.

Now, when you’re 60, by Mary Anne Smith


Now, when you’re 60,
you don’t get your pension
but the world (within the UK)
becomes your Oyster card.

Now, you can check the box
for ‘Concessions’ on forms,
and qualify for special rates
on certain dates in certain cafes.

Now, you can make a neat pile
of all of the ‘I’m 60!’ badges
and all but one copy of ‘Now You Are Sixty’
to take to the charity shop.

And now, when you think that life
just can’t get any more exciting,
at the sound of the postman
you fall over your feet
in your new discounted varifocals
only to find an invitation
to send a poo sample for screening
has plopped through your door.

Mary Anne Smith has been writing seriously since 2011, and her work has been shortlisted and commended in both national and international competitions. She has read at events in England, Ireland and Italy, and in 2017 co-developed a poetry and music event for the Wise Words Festival in Canterbury.

Moon, by Dan McLaryea



I am full tonight as the moon is full tonight
I am looking at myself with the reflection casted by the moon
A thing of splendor the moon is, with so deep a texture
The moon is so beautiful, so big, yet not perfect to the human eye
To my eye the moon is the most amazingly perfect creature ever
Unlike the sun the moon never remains the same in the sky
It has days when it is gibbous and when its crescent; changing to light
The encyclopedia calls it the natural satellite of the earth as it makes time to visit each and every one of us every single day
The sun sits and waits for us to come in phase with it; the moon moves with us so it knows us best
On my darkest paths, loneliness quickened to harass me and the Moon hastened to keep me company
Look at the Moon! Wait till it gives that wink that will set you apart from everyone else
We are part of a world that is part of a bigger world that is part of a bigger world
Let nothing escape your thinking gravity’

With These Eyes, by Stephen Park


With These Eyes

I have seen sandwiches and their wrappings
On the roofs of moving cars,
Beacons of forgetfulness.

I have seen brightly coloured swatches of evening dresses
Caught in the doors of moving cars
Rippling like low flags.

I have seen loose dentures
Of a sleeping old lady
Moving independently of her jaw.

Once, I saw my girlfriend’s sister’s vagina when euphoric twirling
Made her skirt rise and she was not wearing underwear.
I said, “I saw your vagina”, and was asked to leave.

I have entered cubicles
And found shocking brown truth
Of other peoples’ turds.

I once saw a man,
Worse for drink,
Urinate on his own dog.

And once I noticed a conjuror’s
Absurd plastic thumb,
Which, oddly, no one else saw.

Biog: Stephen Park is a middle aged artist on the edge of Dartmoor who used to perform his poems in the South West and may do so again. ‘With These Eyes’ won first prize in the ‘Off the Wall’ comic verse competition 2003.

Two Poems from Rhys Hughes


I Found It

Let’s be absolutely clear
about why I joined
a Sufi community
last year. The house
was small and cramped
and somewhat gloomy

But I found it very Rumi

because we were packed
in so tight no light could
get past our compressed
sweaty bodies. It was
such a squeeze that fleas
had to hug their knees

But I found it very Rumi

I whirled with a girl
named Pearl until she got
dizzy and fell down
on the ground and then
Lizzie who used to be a
clown fanned her with
her dressing gown

and she had to take it off
to do that but it was cool
she might have been a clown
but she was no fool
and instead of standing there

to stare I did the only thing
under heaven I felt able to:
I picked up the shoddy gown
and put it on and it was far
too small for my large body
but this was a Sufi community

And I found it very Rumi


That’s All for Tao, Folks!

The Taoists are out
to get me
I wish they would leave
me alone

If I was a woman they
would certainly
run back home
during my time of
the month.

Because they always
go with the flow


Rhys Hughes has written many stories and books and quite a few poems in his life so far. His one and only poetry collection is called The Gloomy Seahorse and can be found on Amazon and elsewhere.