The Queen’s Secret Siberian Sisters, by Bryan Franco

Bryan Franco is from Brunswick, Maine, USA. He is published in the US, Australia, England, Ireland, and Scotland, has featured for poetry events in the US, Canada, England, Ireland, and Scotland; hosts Café Generalissimo Open Mic; his book Everything I Think Is All In My Mindwas published in 2021.


Jacqueline Wilson Lives Under my Bed, by Paula Gilfillan

Jacqueline Wilson Lives Under My Bed

Jacqueline Wilson lives under my bed,
eating cherries and berries as she
reads my stories scribbled on crumpled
paper. At a book signing, I
lured her into my wheely bag
with a tin of stuffed olives,
for I’m a fan as great
as any hurricane. Then, secreted her
beneath the squeaky springs and beside
the dusty socks. But every so
often, she grabs my ankle with
her ring laden fingers and pleads
to let her go. I reply,
‘One more story. Just one more.’


Paula lives near Lockerbie with her family and an overly chatty cat. She likes scientific stuff, zombie films and books, and is partial to a slice of cake. She blogs on Twitter @paula_nicolson and Facebook as DeckyWriting.


Should I Take my Bumbershoot With Me?, by Rodney Wood


should I take my bumbershoot with the crook handle pimped with a sterling silver knob
& a rainbow of Swarovski crystals?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a sword, walking or shooting stick?
should I take my bumbershoot that covers the face of the newly dead?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a plant pot or a vase for hydrangeas?
should I take my bumbershoot that enters the forest of other bumbershoots?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a clumsy paint brush used with a puddle?
should I take my bumbershoot that stop drips falling on my head when painting the ceiling?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a film screen for say Fast & Furious 27?
should I take my bumbershoot whose ribs are used for drying my large smalls?
should I take my bumbershoot that makes me fly like Mary Poppins?
should I take my bumbershoot that points to the person responsible for whatever?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a symbol of protection & shelter?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s the gelatinous body of a jellyfish?
should I take my bumbershoot that breaks my fall when jumping from the 3rd floor?
should I take my bumbershoot that hangs from the ceiling as a decoration?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s covered with notes & phone numbers?
should I take my bumbershoot that holds rubbish & discarded poems?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s used when I’m a detective & under cover?
should I take my bumbershoot that cannot takes punches & just folds up?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a temporary headstone?
should I take my bumbershoot that protects me from bird shit?
should I take my bumbershoot that captures the sound of clapping?
should I take my bumbershoot that frightens tigers, dogs & cats?
should I take my bumbershoot that has a crest above its ferrule?
should I take my bumbershoot that prevents anyone seeing a stolen kiss?
should I take my bumbershoot that diffuses the light in a photo studio?
should I take my bumbershoot that danced with Gene Kelly & Rihanna?
should I take my bumbershoot is a lover, friend or partner with a wedding ring?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a boat?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a shopping bag?
should I take my bumbershoot that deflects bullets?
should I take my bumbershoot that’s a baton I lead parades or funerals with?
should I take my bumbershoot that displays magazines like Penthouse or Marxism Today?
should I take my bumbershoot that is always under the weather?
should I take my bumbershoot that shades me from the sun?
should I take my bumbershoot that keeps me dry when it’s raining?

But today I'm going by car to the shop to buy some milk
so I don’t need to take my bumbershoot

Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough, co-hosts a monthly open mic at The Lightbox in Woking and has published two pamphlets :Dante Called You Beatrice, and When Listening Isn’t Enough.


Me and Joanna Lumley, by Jennifer A. McGowan

Me and Joanna Lumley

I caught Joanna Lumley reaching
through the open window of a bakery for bagels
crisp and hot and frankly

much tastier than any dreams
that had consumed us
in our adult lives (as I said to Joanna)

and she agreed, then added, “Except for the Gurkhas.
I’m proud of that,” and I agreed,
then at the corner we went our separate ways

to stare at the sky, to dream of mountains,
of hot butter running everywhere, equally.

Jennifer spends as much time as she can in the 15th century, but comes back for hot showers and bagels.


The Naked Lecturer of Chorlton Cum Hardy, by Michelle Diaz

He targeted Catholics, female and busty,
he donned floral shirts, his hairline was dusty.

He invited me back for an innocent drink,
when my coffee arrived I was ever so pink.

For I came eye to eye with what looked like a nose,
but noses don't dangle. It hit me. I froze.

I tried to ignore his distinct lack of cloth,
when he asked me, quite brazenly,
Do you fancy a bath?

My coffee cup fell, up jumped a splinter.
The silence that followed was worthy of Pinter.

Then he wiggled and jiggled and willied about,
turned red in the face, then let out a shout;

I'd have thought there was more chance of winning the lottery
than slicing my love sack on Portmeirion pottery.
This damn piece of crockery's stuck in my scrotum!
His penis resembled a freshly felled totem.

I wanted to help, so I looked for a bandage
to dress his split bits and damaged appendage.
But my searching was fruitless, all I found was a sock.
And what use is that to a honeycombed cock?

Defeated, I left. I suppose it was rude,
but I'd started to tire of this fool in the nude.

So beware all young things of lecturer guile.
If he asks you to dinner, just say with a smile;

No thank you professor, I'd rather be dead.
If you value your testicles, quit, while you're ahead...

Michelle Diaz has been published in numerous poetry publications both online and in print. Her debut pamphlet ‘The Dancing Boy’ was published by Against the Grain Poetry Press in 2019.

She is currently working on her first collection.


Appearances of the Loch Ness Monster, by Neil Fulwood


“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-
from-the-eyes-of-the-world stunts,
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.


Corpus Christi College has no pastry chef, by Natalie Shaw


Also the gold pelican on the JCR wall has gone,
as I believe has the JCR itself.
This despite the fact that Jack Turvey
stapled himself to the pelican and the wall
to prevent its sorry loss.

I digress: without a pastry chef and with the sorry loss
of the pelican, poor Corpuscles
have sorrier options. Adam Spicer,
senior Corpus sous chef and Masterchef:
The Professionals quarter-finalist

has been blamed for the crisis.
With no pastry chef,
a dearth of formal halls; the passing
of the loving cup in a silver horn
must pause. Worse, students are forced

to breakfast at Catz or possibly Fitzbillies:
the sole college founded by townspeople
in 1352, site of the oldest living court in Cambridge,
home of the hideous Chronophage and Parker Library,
now with no cake to crumb in fledgling mouths.


Is Poetry Pointless?, by Alanna Hammel

Is Poetry Pointless?

I don’t write poetry
I don’t think I ever will
It’s a rotary system
It’s one aim to kill.

I admit I did once overdose
On Lowell’s polyphonic prose.
You don’t see that lot nowadays,
With your Robert Frost
Or your Terrance Hayes.

They have all moved on to screenplays
If they do write it is melodic phrase.
What does pointless even mean?
Without purpose or meaning?

Purpose in poetry is fairly drastic
Some just want a book to read quick.
I doubt most poetry would please the reader
Unless you care for iambic pentameter.
I can see the poet waving its beater
Easy to confuse with the grim reaper.

Poets are killers
I’ll say it again
From your Rupi Kaur to your Dickinson
On rhythm the poet stabs to death
That’s about as good as poets get
While the poet goes through the alphabet
And thinks for a minute about their next sonnet.
Being struck by lightning odds at 500,000 to one
But Increased massively by reading John Donne.
They say you are what you eat
You also are what you read I learnt that from a man with a degree in ‘filíocht’
Little did he know his future would have sucked.
Writing poetry is pointless
I’m telling you now
That’s coming from someone who doesn’t know how.


Five More Limericks, by Mark Totterdell


He was not one of life’s born attackers,
Just the gentlest and best of alpacas,
But he spat and he bit
And behaved like a shit
When the vet came to snip off his knackers.

The whale that is known as the Minke
Is ever so streamlined and slinke.
Though it isn’t to blame,
It’s a terrible shame
That its breath is so horribly stinke.

There was an old hippy from Warwick
Who dropped acid to feel all euphoric,
But he should have been stopped
As the acid he dropped
Was one hundred per cent hydrochloric.

‘So is this how I meet the Grim Reaper?’
Cried the junior elephant keeper,
As he fell in the pit
Full of elephant shit
And sank deeper and deeper and deeper.

There was an old fellow from Shoreham,
Whose trousers slipped down as he wore ‘em,
First revealing his crack,
Then his dick, then his sack,
Till quite frankly you couldn’t ignore ‘em.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines. His collections are This Patter of Traces (Oversteps Books, 2014), Mapping (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018) and Mollusc (The High Window Press, 2021).


Life Isn’t All Baubles, by Janet Sillett

Life isn’t all baubles

Who wants to win the bloody Booker anyway,
invaded by Yanks
Who wants to be longlisted with the cranks
the false prophets, the portentous
the simply crap
a novel in one sentence
what the fuck is that?

I could change my name to Hilary Mantel
or write a plotless endless novel in unreadable dialect, a hook
for the organic middle class and middle brow
riding on the zeitgeist of identity,
with requisite socio-political angst

Surely enough for the long list?

The taxi to the Guildhall, plague permitting,
smiling grimly at a table weighed down by hubris,
and quinoa burgers and beetroot three ways,
the BBC’s reverential tones on the big screen
selfies on iphones, rehearsing the perfect modest phrase

The Guardian interview in a Shoreditch bar
in battered leather jacket and trainers
keeping back the tears, haltingly, I expose
my childhood in a Coventry cult
and how, kept awake by culture wars, each night
I go through darkness to achieve light

all lies of course

A pay out for those dreary days, the barren room,
chain smoking in the dark, as the words die in mid air
the spent matrimony
the acrimony of failure

But do I really want to win the Booker
to choke on its self-congratulation high art pretention
the cattiness, the condescension,
when I can be signing paperbacks in a Luton basement
with the idlers and the curious,
dozing between the dysfunctional and exiles from the drizzle.

And later sprawled out drunk in the town fountain, trousers half mast
a dystopian baptism snapped for the local rag,
a late dog walker in her Barbour jacket turned away aghast,
whilst my face stares out from the sole shabby bookstore,
displaying my first, my best, my only hit novel?

Janet Sillett recently took up writing poetry and short fiction again after decades of absence. She has had poems published in the Galway Advertiser, Poetry Plus magazine, Green Ink Poetry and Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis, Paws for Pause and flash fiction in Litro. She works for a think tank.