Hoodie / English Major / Word Games, by Karol Nielsen


I dressed up for work because I was going to a play that evening. My office mate who always looks professional noticed. “That blue compliments your eyes,” she said of my navy blue pants. Usually I wear leggings and sweatshirts to work. My pink hoodie is my favorite. I was devastated when I noticed black bird poop on the sleeve and back and hood. When I tried to wash it out with soap the spots turned purple. I thought it was a goner. But I tried my father’s trick. I poured detergent on the spots and let the hoodie soak overnight. Unbelievably the hoodie washed clean in the morning. My other office mate who is a poet like me often tells me she dreads ever looking for another job. She doesn’t want to dress up. I chuckle in my pink hoodie, still intact.

English Major

I used to work until the middle of the night plugging data into a spreadsheet, analyzing the data, and writing articles based on the results. My journalism colleague always left at a reasonable hour and he once gave me advice. “Just make up the numbers!” He had an affinity for fiction, as an English major at my alma mater. I had wanted to study English, too, but my mother vetoed English as impractical so I studied International Relations and Economics instead. I always envied English majors until I realized we might end up in the exact same place.

Word Games

I never cheat at Wordle or the Spelling Bee—New York Times word games that I play on my iPhone every morning. I like to share my legit ups and downs with my brother in law, who excels at these games. But I sometimes google crossword clues—like the many obscure pop culture references—when I play the Times’ Mini Crossword. I also google word scrambles to solve problem words on WordScapes, an app on my iPhone. I never share my illegitimate wins at these games. Cheating is my dirty little secret, a harmless crime that keeps things fun.

Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Walking A&P and Black Elephants and three poetry chapbooks. Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her full-length poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her poem “This New Manhattan” was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize.


Not too Big, not too Blue, by John Lanyon


Yes, she said,
some art
not too big
“that big”
that’s what I’m looking for
something blue
but not too blue
it's got to go with
the paint on the wall -
it’s Farrow & Ball.

John Lanyon

John Lanyon lives in the Cotswolds. He works as an organic gardener, linguist, musician, and writer. Having failed his English Literature O Level, he came to love literature through reading it in French and German. He writes about art, the body, childhood, society, nature, the spirit of places, the secret lives of words. He believes you can create complex things from simple means.

Rider, by Mark Cassidy

From Birmingham via the Isle of Wight, Mark Cassidy is an almost retired radiographer now living in Bury St Edmunds. He writes in the gaps between family, birdwatching, and Oxfam books. His poems have appeared in various European magazines and anthologies, and may also be found online athttp://markbcassidy.blogspot.co.uk


Lemoga, by Heather Wastie


Get bendy with lemurs,
warm your belly in the sun,
look up from your downward dog
and see a lemur’s bum!

This is lemur yoga
Lemoga is fun
Lay your wrists across your knees,
meditate awhile,
ignore the piles of lemur poo,
these primates have style

This is lemur yoga
Lemoga makes you smile
Lemurs need publicity
to stop deforestation,
people hunting them for
food threatens their population

This is lemur yoga
Lemur education
Marvel at their stripy tails,
let them share your mat,
sit cross-legged and breathe with them,
support them on your back

This is lemur yoga
Protect their habitat

Heather Wastie is a poet and musician from the Black Country, living in Kidderminster, Worcestershire where she was Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet in 2013. She was Worcestershire Poet Laureate in 2015/16, and has published eight poetry collections. For more see wastiesspace.co.uk. On Twitter she is @heatherwastie


My dreamed hedgehog. The new-Celtic elegy according to Mr. Pawel Markiewicz, by Pawel Markiewicz.

My dreamed hedgehog.
The new-Celtic elegy according to Mr. Paweł Markiewicz

I lost the cute hedgehog in last summer.
I can just only dream overnight - mourn.
The amaranthine body lay on grass.
Moreover, it was dark time of Blue Hours.

My life became unending lunar-dark.
Then moon shone palely without enchantment.
The Erlking at dawn, morn, dew and star cried.
Dark dazzlingly ovidian for his sake.

Without the hedgehog the time is so sad.
The bards singing the song of tender nights.
The hedgehog sits in a fair paradise,
dreaming of enchantment of butterflies.

The choir: >O, bewitch soft bat, the ontology of night.
The mourning dreamery lies, with the pearl sparks - cemetery.
Long live ghost of hedgehog, in spirit of the dreamy ghosts!<
The choir, I and animal are drunk of the musing wings,
shrouded in tenderness of hereafter-fogs, moonlit stars.

Paweł Markiewicz was born 1983 in Siemiatycze in Poland. He is poet who lives in Bielsk Podlaski and writes tender poems, haiku as well as long poems.


Too Hot to Handle?, by Paul Francis

Too Hot to Handle?

Lea and Perrins were specific:
This should kick, just like a horse.
Far too much, though calorific,
so they shelved it, with remorse.
Ten years later, it’s terrific –
they’ve invented Worcester Sauce.

If your meal’s uninviting
do not file for divorce.
Don’t submit your plea in writing
don’t demand another course.
Make your diet more exciting
with a dash of Worcester Sauce.

Discontented with your ration?
Sometimes bland, and sometimes coarse?
You’re not dining in the fashion
that celebrities endorse.
Treat your palate with the passion
that you get from Worcester Sauce.

Would you like to be more scary?
Spell your message out with force?
Watch your enemies get wary
as you tap it out in morse?
Weaponise your Bloody Mary -
double down on Worcester Sauce.

Paul Francis is a retired teacher, living in Much Wenlock, who’s active in the West Midlands poetry scene and has won national prizes. During lockdown in 2020 he posted a sonnet a day on his website www.paulfranciswrites.co.uk. Recent publications include Rescue from the Dark and Poems for Ukraine.


The Poetry Reading, by Ben Macnair

Here he comes, again.
Our Graham.
With his big hands.
Big books.
Big words,
about buying Spoons in June,
about buying Forks in York,
about never gifting a knife, to your wife.

We will sit enraptured,
knowing he will never improve.
We ask why he isn’t published.
He says he is too far ahead of his time,
his words bending to his technique,
his stanzas, his line lengths are never uniform.
Still, it is only once a month,
and as bosses go,
he isn’t that bad.


Review of the Sky at Night, by Ruth Aylett

Review of the Sky at Night

An uneven performance with some gripping parts:
Orion a definite success, just a pity the belt
is used only once; but then there is Hydra,
a random line of faint stars with no oomph at all.

The Milky Way really needs more volume,
we can’t all visit a desert for its full effect,
just dial it up a little for we city types,
and remove some astrology duds like Pisces.

The arrangement of Venus, Jupiter, Crescent Moon,
was a bit of a triumph, more conjunctions please,
and more often: waiting some twenty years
strains the patience of your audience. And brighter comets.

As for the Northern Lights – very fetching indeed,
but what a waste keeping them so far north
where hardly anyone lives. Try them in London,
say every few weeks, and vary the colours more.

Ruth Aylett lives and works in Edinburgh and has been known to attend readings with a robot. Her poems are widely published in magazines and anthologies, and her pamphlets Pretty in Pink (4Word) and Queen of Infinite Space (Maytree) were published in 2021.


Back Up Girl, by Elaine Reardon

I have the soul of a rock & roller; 
I was born to sing. You started
in a church choir. I did, too.

The director told me to mouth
the words, not to sing them.
Sometimes I sang anyway.
He always looked baffled,
tried to figure out who was off key.

But Tina, you made it big,
from gospel music to icon, on
the cover of The Rolling Stone.

How did it feel when you first
belted out a song and people
shouted and swooned, when
you traded a choir robe for a short,
short skirt?
Tina, just for one show,
could I be a back up girl? I'm really
good at shoo be doo, doo wah
and I've got some great moves, too.

Elaine lives and writes in forest in Western Massachusetts. Her first chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, won first honors from Flutter Press in 2016. Her second chapbook, Look Behind You, was published in late 2019, and her third will be published next year. Her writing is published in a variety of journals and anthologies. http://elainereardon.wordpress.com.