November and everywhere turns mouse,
garden no longer good enough though
the compost heap smoulders with rot of apples.
The mice brush by inside discharging dark
pellets of shit, nips of urine, craze
of footprints. The air grows furred, weighs
heavy with whiskers, a particular brown-grey
colour scheme, rushing of small rodents.
He is frightened to open cupboards, too scared
to sleep, to become part of the scurry.
He puts down poison, traps, peppermint spray,
packed up clothes for a holiday.
The last item to sneak into his steamer trunk?
A wee sleekit beastie—mouse.
Lynn Valentine’s poetry collection, Life’s Stink and Honey, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2022 after winning their literature award. Her Scots language pamphlet, A Glimmer o Stars, was published by Hedgehog Poetry in 2021. Lynn is on Twitter @dizzylynn
What's that rustling in the trees? It's the Disco Badgers strutting their funky stuff
From their lofty perch high amongst the foliage they just can't get enough
They have a fondness for the 70s disco groove
You can tell that by the way they sway and move
They hang their transistor radio from a lower branch, tuned to retro golden disco hits
They party through the night shaking their badger bits
In the early morning light they retire to their underground homes
Clearing up their empty beer cans, burger boxes, and southern fried chicken bones
Bio diversity responsibilities matter to these funky types
As much as their chest hangin' medallions and perma tanned facial stripes.
They hold each others front paws for support as they stand on their hind legs and groove
In hip swingin' disco fashion they rhythmically move
You'll notice I've used move and groove twice now but you can never have enough
They have to concentrate and not let go otherwise they'll tumble to the ground luckily these badgers are tough
With plaintive 'eek thump eek thump eek thump' echoing in the dark, as gravity takes it's toll
They land with a wild yelled 'Geronimo!' and perfectly executed parachute roll
They traipse back homewards using the zebra crossing, road safety is their primary thought
'Now you see them, now you don't' as on the cctv they're caught
Carefully passing the convenience store the bar code faced badgers creep
Desperate not to set off the till scanners bip bip bip beep
They keep to the shadows, dropping their litter in the relevant receptacle
They recycle responsibly of course but remain global warming sceptical
They're eager to do their bit, it's what climate conscious creatures do
They're just happy the badger cull's been vetoed and banished to the back of the animal killing queue
Neil Windsor is a Writer of children’s short stories, Artist and Poet from Leeds who produces and performs all his work with an absolute passion and a slightly slanted off – kilter view of life.
He also plays extremely bad left handed blues guitar.#neilwindsorart
The Cat Lives Rent Free
This black and white cat arrived in the garden one day
and I made the mistake of feeding them.
I say them because I don’t know the cat’s gender
– or is that sex? –
and who’s to say they’re not sensitive about these matters.
You have to be careful these days.
I mean: not to offend…
Careful too about feeding a feral cat.
I didn’t go looking for a cat.
I don’t love them.
But they’ve got the idea now, of course.
The habit. Calling by each day -
sits patiently at the back door
licking paws in anticipation.
I open the door, and the cat seamlessly,
at the last second, shifts to one side.
Examines the food with multiple sniffs.
There are days when only the sauce will do
and the sardines get left behind.
Especially if they’re not John West.
What is it about John West?
Is it that they get John West at the house of the other neighbour,
the other one they’ve trained…
Or maybe more than one?
Bill Richardson’s poems have been published in a number of magazines. He is Emeritus Professor of Spanish at the University of Galway and has re-engaged in recent years with his passion for creative writing. He enjoys swimming in the Atlantic and practising tai chi to the music of Arvo Pärt.
Despair at the arrogance
of the paleontological diktat
“sauropods ate leaves.”
Instead, give thanks.
100 million-year-old sauropod
footprints have now been found.
At a Chinese restaurant.
We applaud the little ant
for its strong community;
we venerate the bee
for its firm autocracy.
We might commend the wasp
for it also has a grasp
of the above.
Alas for it, its sting
makes us want to kill the thing.
My name is Gill McEvoy, previously published by both Happenstance Press and Cinnamon press, now with Hedgehog Press. I won the Michael Marks Award in 2015 for my pamphlet “The First Telling” (happenstance Press 2014. I currently live in Devon which hasn’t been a bit warm and sunny of late. Probably a bad choice!
…are hermaphrodites, and much addicted
to venery, and consequently very prolific.
History of Selborne Gilbert White
Be as jealous as you like,
worms have it both ways
without shame, or guilt –
check them out,
any warm damp night
going at it hammer and tongs
all over your garden.
Do old worms complain
about the morals of the young?
You bet they don’t –
there’s no age of consent
if you’re a worm,
no tabloid worms digging dirt,
bugging other worms’ phones.
Every single worm is busy
having as much sex
with as many other worms
as he/she/they can possibly reach
and making as many new worms
as he/she/they can manage –
good news for gardeners.
After a misspent youth in libraries and museums, and some time in between, Sarah has finally achieved her dream job in Lichfield working for the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum (and book shop). She writes for fun and enjoys swimming.
APPEARANCES OF THE LOCH NESS MONSTER
“They spoke ... in a desultory fashion of current events. The news from abroad, events in the world of sports, the latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster.”
- Agatha Christie: ‘And Then There Were None’
The latest reappearance of the Loch Ness monster
was at a book launch by a sceptic
who had scientifically proven its non-existence.
The old saw about no such thing
as bad publicity was applicable here: the book
sold more than it might have
without the headlines and hasty, half-blurred photos
but the author wasn’t best pleased.
Prior to that, it had been spotted in a phone booth,
a call to a bookie to place a bet
on its own newsworthiness. Whether the bookie
paid out has gone unrecorded
and sightings of it dropping in at the Dog & Duck
on the way back for a swift half
and a whisky chaser made a minor buzz on Twitter
but remain unsubstantiated. And prior
to that, well it had pulled one of its remain-hidden-
decades having past since it was noticed
at a White City dog race, wearing
a trilby and a trench coat, a rolled up copy
of the local sporting fixtures paper
tucked under one fin. Some say it had a fag on,
others that it was a pipe smoker.
All so long ago it might have been in black and white.
Those were the days it preferred, anyway:
stentorian Movietone voiceovers, fleapits fogged
with cigarette smoke, bored usherettes
doing the intermission rounds. Walking back
through misty streets, the last bus
swallowed by distance. Night falling as the monster
disappears into familiar waters.
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham where he still lives and works. He has published three collections with Shoestring Press. His latest collection, Mad Parade, is due out with Smokestack Books in July.
At first I thought it next door’s saw
starting on their stack of tree trunks.
But it was a queen
buzzing over open books
as if searching for an exact word
on which to light
– somnolent sluggish drowsy –
anchor her middle legs over her wings
and not turn a page until spring.
She would pare the words
and shred their letters, roll around
her regal mouth re-write them as a nest.
Her temporary rest on Margaret Atwood
stung me to respond. Clive James, I thought,
is not long gone and Seamus would not
conscience such a deed,
so in the end the Oxford’s weight of words
in common usage circa 1983
was brought to bear, pupating her into a
yellow (colour between green and orange in the spectrum) sticky (tending or intended to stick to what is touched)
splat (crush or squash).
Nikki is originally from Northern Ireland and currently lives in Scotland. She holds an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study from Dundee University and has had poems in journals and anthologies in print and online including Poetry Scotland, Acumen, Northwords Now, Under the Radar, the Lake and Scotia Extremis.
You won’t bloody believe this. It’s his best stunt yet.
He’s only going to drive it back to Derbyshire in the car!
We live in Bristol, mind, so it’s a bit of a trek.
I really think he’s lost his mind this time.
It has one of those rings around its foot, apparently
so that’s how he made contact with the owner
and I guess when he offered to drive the thing back.
I wasn’t privy to that conversation, so I’m surmising.
But I’ll tell you this and you can call me cruel if you wish.
I’ve been to the Cat Rescue this morning and come home
with a muscly ginger one, who has an intense stare and licks
his lips alot. I’m not risking all this fucking nonsense again.
Hilary has been writing for many years. Her poetry has been published by Templar Press, Bristol Poetry Can, Obsessed with Pipework, Leaf, Velvet, The Exeter Broadsheet and Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis. She has also been shortlisted nationally.
Earthworms Are Awesome
I mean, they literally feed the fucking planet. Take our fermented banana, yellow miasma and crap it out as wise-man’s gold. And I feel impressed with my morning turd! But that needs hours of processing, by loads of people in hazmat suits with fancy gizmos, before it turns into anything useful. I’d rather be a worm: take a shit, and boom, job done; it’s warm and ready to be laid into by a seed-bean or bulb. Maybe I’d be more fulfilled without a human brain to contradict my purpose. I’d find my way into a middle-class compost bin, spend all day eating potpourri detritus, and be a rent-free master architect, redacting common land law. I’d be humbled by my legless body, my simple ways of building, mindful of camber structure instead of grey velvet sofas and Mrs Hinch. I’d be at home in dirt, throw my gender away and bag the kinky night-time rendezvous’ amongst an orgy of grass with wet breath. The human hand would be no more risk to me than it is now, maybe even less, and mother Earth might forgive me for my flesh. I just hope being swallowed by a bird is a quick death.
Holly is a mature student currently studying at the University of Leeds. Her poems have been published since January 2021 by Ink, Sweat & Tears, Anti-Heroin Chic, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Dreich and more, as well as appearing in anthologies. She is currently working on her debut collection.