Cailín Maith by Frances Holland

Maria Magdalena by Ida Saudkova, c.a. 2000



‘And WHY weren’t all of you at Mass this morning?’

Father Reilly loomed over the little ones as they stood in a grubby row, their faces twitching with an impulse to laugh at this enormous gargoyle with tufts of white hair sprouting from his nostrils.

Miss Cunningham, the priest’s secretary and driver, watched, embarrassed, from the threshold of the kitchen as the kettle shrieked and whistled on the stove. The children’s Aunt Kathleen poured the boiling water onto the tea leaves, muttering in the Cant the entire time. She was still muttering when she carried the priest’s tisane through in its dainty periwinkle-blue cup and saucer.

‘In ENGLISH, if you please, Kathleen; remember, we ARE in England!’ he bellowed over her curses.

‘That’s not what you said last week, Father,’ piped one of the children, seizing her chance. ‘You said that the Holy Father was mistaken to allow the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular.’

The priest turned his rheumy blue eyes on Deirdre, who was thirteen, and Jimmy, the youngest of the siblings, saw his chance to escape. But as he made a run for it, Father Reilly’s enormous paw clamped down on his shoulder, and held him fast.

‘So we can add listening at doors to the LITANY of transgressions you have failed to confess, Miss Connolly? That was a private conversation between myself and your brother, who, coincidentally, has also not seen fit to grace us with his presence at Mass today!’

‘He’s unwell,’ retorted Deirdre. Upstairs, she could hear the effort of Gerry trying to be quiet as he moved around his bedroom.

Father Reilly peered up at the ceiling. ‘The old injury?’ He drained the dainty teacup in one gulp.

Deirdre nodded. Gerry had taken a bullet in the Battle of Monte Cassino. It had never healed properly, and Father Reilly was not known to be sympathetic even to those injured in the course of their duty to King and Country.

‘Athract,’ began the priest, turning to Deirdre’s grandmother, ‘you understand that it gives me no pleasure to visit you here today. You, of course, are welcome to receive Communion in your home, on account of your age and infirmity, but when hale and hearty children risk the wrath of God, and imperil their immortal SOULS – ’

Bridget, who was only seven, began to blub. This was nothing new. At least eight children had been reduced to tears by him this week alone in Catechism.

Athract waved a bony hand dismissively. ‘The little ones were enjoying the snow. They all say their prayers before bed and do their bit around the house. I think that pleases God, even if it doesn’t please you.’

‘Might I use your lavatory, Mrs Connolly?’ asked Miss Cunningham. Athract shrugged, and jerked her head towards the back door. Miss Cunningham was used to less well-off families regarding her with suspicion and disdain.

‘Fetch me some more tea when you’re done, Miss Cunningham,’ barked Father Reilly, thrusting his cup at her.

She squeezed awkwardly past Kathleen, who was doing a reading for a neighbour, and ran into the outhouse, her teeth chattering. She was still carrying the priest’s teacup.

She locked the netty door behind her and thought of all the things she needed to ask her employer forgiveness for. How she’d casually scraped her door key the length of Father Reilly’s car when she’d seen him parked outside Mrs Lewis’ house, because he’d thrashed her son Michael for daring to ask if maybe God wasn’t real. How she’d let his tyres down after seeing  Morag Anderson wet herself in terror during assembly by bellowing to the whole school how he’d seen her sticking her tongue out during the Eucharist. How she and the curate had gotten tipsy at a wake last week and egged each other on to crueller and funnier impersonations of Reilly.

I’ll give him something worth absolving me for.

She pulled down her knickers, and aimed a warm stream of piss into the translucent china vessel. Before leaving, she shook herself, and genuflected reverently at the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that hung on the inside of the netty door. His warm, pale, oval face smiled down blandly at her own sharp features.

“Thy will be done,” she muttered.


About the Author:

Frances Holland has been writing ever since she was five years old, when she realised that putting an amusing caption on a drawing of her dad could get cheap laughs. Her inspirations include folklore and mythology, as well as the everyday lives of the people around her. She lives in Northumberland.

Two Poems by Eileen Carney Hulme


Amy McCartney- Church window
A Church Window by Amy McCartney, 2019


If Clouds Could See the Cracks in Stones

Watching the Oklahoma sunset, Donald

writes I Love Your Ghost and his heart

skips a beat until it reaches the Leachkin

to sit by the cradle stone where he lets

his words escape. He is travelling light

as dandelion clocks, finds himself in odd

unfamiliar places sipping whisky while

his heart, often out of kilter, finds its

touchstone in the North. This is like

the day you left, he thinks, but the words

are out there, away with the breeze. He searches

his pockets for a knife, a scrap of paper,

an answer to a question never asked.


From the Great Book of Distances

Donald tells me he is afraid

of leaving and having left

wakes in the night, thinking

of trees and roads and ghosts.

He wants to telephone, to know

we are ok but trees have no

numbers, roads are circular

and the ghosts do not reply.

So he gets up, puts the kettle on,

remembers Dan and his music,

wonders why the distance between

here and there is never less.


i.m.of Dan 1980-2007


About the Author:

Eileen Carney Hulme lives in the north east of Scotland. She has three full collections published as well as having many poems published in  anthologies, poetry magazines and online poetry websites.  She has won or been placed in a number of poetry competitions. More info can be found on her author page at Indigo Dreams Publishing


Introducing Kasia Grzelak

Our regular readers will be familiar with Kasia’s work. You can learn about her inspirations and background in her personal statement. We love Kasia’s work: both playful and satirical in its reflection of the world around us.

Inspired? Try writing something in response to one of her pieces!

Meet the Artist!

Kasia Grzelak paints on canvas and paper. She explores the concept of Polish Identity in England after immigrating to North West England in 2006.

As a Polish immigrant Kasia Grzelak has been using painting as a translatory form of expression throughout her experience of two cultures. Her large scale work on paper attempts to convey emotions through form-making, often placing Polish women against a symbol to represent individual experiences they had during immigration. She creates these large drawings to convey a certain vulnerability and alienation that Polish working-class women feel in the North of England. She is particularly fascinated by how psychological states can correspond to physical and social spaces. Through conversations with her subjects, she uses pets, reflections and objects to tie to an individual and become representative of their experience.

Her work on canvas captures a sense of moment in the painting. The scenes depict everyday life whilst capturing aspects of her culture in the details. Through her position of figures you will get an idea about the relationship dynamics between the people portrayed and what they represent.

Knives and Forks by Sarah Leavesley

Red in the Morning by Stela Brix, 2018

“There’s no milk!” Luke slams our fridge door closed, then tips his bran flakes back into the packet as noisily as feet stomping on shattered glass. “Didn’t you sort the shopping?”

“Oscar had two bowls of Cheerios this morning. I thought I’d get some on my way back with the kids, as I’m dropping and picking up again!” I try not to shout but my tone is unmistakably barbed. These days whenever we talk about money, work and chores, simple sounds, letters and gestures are suddenly as sharp as knives, pierce like forks.

Luke growls, then clunks two slices of bread into the toaster, clangs the cutlery drawer open and loudly pulls out a knife for the margarine. The kids have finished that too, I think. Though neither happening is my fault, that doesn’t stop the sliver of guilt, as I gulp my last mouthful of milky coffee.

“I’m sorry, Tilly finished the spread with her toast.” I say, putting my arms around Luke’s back before he opens our near-empty fridge again, twists to throw another jibe or I have to look him in the face and see his tired disappointment. But he doesn’t move, doesn’t say anything, simply rests there in my hug, swaying slightly.

When he finally turns to look at me, his exhausted expression mirrors how I feel. We’re like two ghosts living on the memory of who we were ten years ago.

“Do you want a cereal bar?” I rummage through my bag and pull out a green packet. It’s a little squashed and crumpled from weeks of being carried just in case, but Luke swallows it in two bites, then crunches through one slice of dry toast.

Oscar bounces into the kitchen with his book bag, followed by Tilly.

“Time to go!” she announces, looking up at her dad and me with expectation.

I glance across at Luke. He’s still frowning, forehead puckered by lines as if his whole essence of being were buried deep inside his mind. Sometimes, the unspoken thoughts between us feel sharper and more piercing than any hurled words.

“I’ll be home around seven,” he offers, smiling briefly before he kisses us all on the cheek and grabs his car key.


Later, as I unload the shopping after my shift, I realise I used the wrong bank card. I’m not sure it matters much; I know they’re all close to maxed out. Maybe that’s what Luke’s not telling me. I try to bite back my tears, wondering how it got to this – crying over milk that isn’t even there to spill.

I switch my phone on and it buzzes a backlog of messages.

I’m sorry. Neck massage later. Xx Luke’s text must have been from this morning, but with work rules, it’s only now that I get to read it.

There was a time when I’d have made his favourite lasagne and he’d have bought me cherry ganache to savour while he flirted with what to massage next – turning even a row into romantic foreplay.

But these are not those days.

Ok, me too. See you later. Xxx I reply, then cut two small sandwiches for Oscar and Tilly, who are beautiful and funny and cute but always hungry for something.

There’s no text back. The conversations in which neither of us want to say goodbye or stop chatting belong to different versions of ourselves, in a different relationship.

I take out the ‘Non-Stop Red’ lipstick I slipped into my pocket just before the checkout. It’s wrong, of course; I felt it as soon as I left the store. But it’s not like I can simply return the lipstick. And the colour looks so good, as if it were invented for my kiss. I examine ghost Claire in the mirror: my lips are the only part of me that’s still alive.  Simon says my smile’s the first thing he noticed. But smiling comes naturally when I’m around him.

I pull away from the mirror and these thoughts. While Oscar’s busy playing and Tilly’s sorting her homework, I might have an hour to prepare something different for dinner. I’ve not tried homemade tomato soup in a while, but I think I remember everyone loving it. Besides, it’s quick, will slip down easily and only needs spoons.



About the Author:

Sarah Leavesley is a fiction writer, poet, journalist and photographer, with flash published by journals including Jellyfish Review, Litro, Spelk, Ellipsis, Fictive Dream and Bending Genres.

Keys by Tohm Bakelas

Who Is the Clown? by Ida Saudkova, ca 2000



i’m sitting in a

treatment team meeting

listening to a

floridly psychotic patient

speak absolute nonsense

and watch him

shake from the years of



and self-abuse


and as he rambles on

laughing to himself

i begin to wonder

what separates

him from me

and me from him


i only figured it out

after he reaches

under my chair

picks up my fallen keys

and places them

in my hand


About the Author:

Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a psychiatric hospital. He was born in New Jersey, resides there, and will die there. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, zines, and online publications. He is the author of several chapbooks and a full length book of poetry. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and he intends to conquer the small press and exclusively publish within. More at or Instagram: @flexyourhead

Tackle and Tootsie Pops by N.T. McQueen

A Childhood Map by Stela Brix, 2018

A rod, a reel, a tacklebox and a bag of Tootsie Pops.

In the complex relationship with my father, only one shared activity remains hallowed. Moments where I am afforded the ability to look back without questions or doubts or quixotic lenses.


These moments remain hallowed, untouched by lies and replacements and fruitless applause. These moments, whether in folding chairs or on the jagged edges of the Mendocino bluffs, the bodies of water drowned the demons if for a few hours. In retrospect, I think I understand why my father always ordered us to spread his ashes into the Pacific Ocean off “the rock” in Makerriker State Park. To this day, his affinity for this one rock still has a shroud of mystery. He never caught some massive fish or held an epic tug-of-war with a mighty behemoth of the depths still shrouded in legend. It’s just a damn rock.

For a son, the first fishing trip with your father is one of those pivotal initiation rights. Not just going with your father while he fishes but being a capable participant. Someone who can rig up their own line. Tie a hook with a blood knot, clamp on sinkers and a bobber, untangle a rat’s nest in the reel, dislodge a hook from tulles without snapping your line. Casting without snagging a blackberry bush or tree branch. The autonomous fisherman. The moment you become a peer and not a source of hook tying practice for your dad.

The first trip with my dad didn’t actually count. At six, I remember waking up at 5:30am in the dark, hopping in the Toyota truck, picking up Grandma Olive and driving 35 minutes to Lakeside Park along the channel before the county let the weeds and hydra consume it. Grandma had her plaid folding chair and her nine- foot bamboo rod rigged and ready for any bottom feeder that might snag her nightcrawler. As for me, my rod of choice (actually the rod of my father’s choice) was a three-foot, nail thin reel and rod combo of Superman equipped with three pound monofilament.

Truthfully, I didn’t care much about what rod I used. My heart was in the moment, not the outcome. Perhaps my heart was set on the bag of Tootsie Pops my dad religiously brought on fishing excursions. In a sense, they acted as his communion, his eucharist to partake within his sanctuary from the mysteries after him.

As the sun crept over the oaks on the opposite side of the channel, I sat by my dad on a short bank with my Superman rod and my line floating on a bobber. Maybe a bluegill or crappie might have some interest to the wiggling redworm. Blue jays shrieked in the branches and mallards and their brown mates swam, often dipping with their tailfeathers jutting skyward. The faint hum of boat motors carried from the lake.

To be honest, my six year old mind began to wander and boredom set in. The dreams of reeling in

my first fish faded and I wondered if maybe I should have stayed home with Splinter and the turtles. Closer to my sanctuary and all the characters awaiting my imagination in my toyboxes.

As I sat beside dad, tossing pebbles into the water, I failed to notice my bobber dipping before being sucked under the surface.

“Nate, you got a fish!”

I held the rod which no longer danced but bent in my paralyzed grip. Dad leaned over and tried reeling and I sat, intrigued but not enough to take ownership. Perhaps the battle seemed not worth the fight.

But then the moment erupted in a chaotic burst of water and spray as a massive carp breeched, jerking and kicking. Without a hesitation, my paralyzed grip let go and I fled. I scampered up the embankment and away from the lake’s edge as my dad, along with Superman, wrestled with the beast. I watched from a distance, heart racing and resigning myself that this would be my last fishing trip.

A minute later, dad walked up the bank with a piece of Superman in each hand. The line snapped and curling where it broke. He tried to assure me that was my first fish but, even at six, I knew that if you don’t land it, you can’t name her.

Later that morning, Grandma caught another carp with her bamboo rod. Dad told me to stand next to her as she held it up with both hands. As he wound the disposable camera, I looked eye level with this carp, face to face as its narrow mouth pulsated before spitting a wad of mud and mutilated worm into my eye.

The next trips in the early dark yielded much better experiences. As a family, we’d gather our rods and tackle and Tootsie Pops and fish for bluegill in the reservoir where the Hidden Valley Lake dam released when it overfilled. Dad, Sarah and I would stand on the concrete wall, just high enough from the water’s edge and dangle our lines writhing with worms, watching the bluegill peck and investigate until one fish’s greed consumed it. Fish after fish would take the bait and dad would show us how to grip their lip and pull the hook without getting a palmful of sharp spines from the dorsal and pelvic fins. Then they’d return to the water and we’d fish on. When the bites slowed, Sarah and I would walk the concrete embankment up the hill to the lake and survey the nestled paradise of homes lining the lush golf course.

Sarah contributed to fishing sometimes but, for the most part, the trips became a father and son event. However, even I had my limits on patience. The camping trips to Fort Bragg where dad and I sat on the bluffs, lines taught in the water and moving with the ache of a ship at sea, sucking on Tootsie Pops and waiting and waiting and waiting held a magic and banality my young mind could handle so long. After an hour, my legs would take me to the tidepools, trying to snatch crabs scuttling into crevices, attempting to catch gobys with some fishing line on my finger and searching for starfish before humans committed an accidental genocide against them. Then I practiced my ninja moves, jumping from rock to rock and seeing how fast I could traverse the jagged terrain.

Two hours later, ready to start something new, but dad sat so long on that rocky seat, I wondered if part of him had become stone. Bites or no bites, he stared across the waters, rod and reel at attention, striving to catch something. As if he were in competition with the Pacific Ocean or the God who created it.

Throughout the years, those fishing trips became more sparse but they happened. We’d even have the opportunity to try for salmon in the Sacramento River or off the Mendocino coast in a boat where we’d troll our lines in eight foot swells. My gut handled the river but those swells defeated me and my involuntary duty involved chumming the waters with my breakfast and soul. Even snagging a 27 pounder couldn’t mitigate my misery. But dad fought the sea and always seemed to win.

Maybe the Tootsie Pops were his secret weapon.

I’ve scoured the past for faults in these memories. Agonized and analyzed the minutiae of the trips that stood out as insincere moments. This scrutiny of memory has become normalized in my relationship with my father. But these memories have remained hallowed, untouched, sanctified and pure for some reason. The bluffs, Lake Cleone, the Russian River watershed, Hidden Valley Lake, Rodman Slough, Mather Lake. These bodies of water somehow cleansed him of the pressure of his choices, his demons, his fears. The act of fishing, for a moment, taught his to be a father who taught his son how to bait a hook, tie a blood knot, reel a bass lure, hold a fish. A man who stood at the bow of a charter boat as his son lay on the seats, fighting nausea, waiting for the unmistakable dance of the rod tip and then calling me over to real in his fish on his line.


In later years when the lies he fed became more and more voracious, those moments where he sought cleansing and catharsis from them at the water’s edge became more desperate. One summer when my middle daughter was young, my family camped at Mackerricher State Park (except my mom who loathed camping and stayed in a hotel). Aunts, uncles, cousins, even my in-laws all set up tents and played badminton, horse shoes, catch and drank beer. One of those days, dad spent some time fishing off the bluffs. I joined him for two hours without so much as a bite and I wanted to see my family. So I walked back to the camp with my wife and girls and my mom. Six hours later, dad roamed the edges of Lake Cleone, desperate to not be beaten by the water. My mom complained and ranted about how crazy he was but I felt sympathy for some inexplicable reason. His desperation to validate his time, effort and actions seemed the moves of a man on a precipice. A precipice, at the time, I had no inclination he stood on.


From bluffs to lakeshore, he fought all he could not control for six hours. The trail around Lake Cleone worn even deeper from his incessant and stubborn pacing, trying every reed clearing, rig set up, reel and bait he could muster to catch a trout or bluegill or crawfish. Anything to validate this choice. To attempt and fail, losing hooks and bait and weights in the name of victory on his own terms. When does determination transform into pride? Or perseverance into obstinacy? Or when does a lie become a truth?


When dad finally returned, walking along the narrow road between Ten Mile Beach and Lake Cleone into Makerricher campgrounds where his children and grandchildren and brothers and sister-in-laws all sat around the campfire, laughing and eating, he emerged from the redwoods empty handed save his rods and reels. The flippant promise of fish for dinner that night faded from everyone’s memory but he must have still been back at the water in his mind, wondering what he did wrong. Why all of his efforts proved fruitless.


Whether he ponders all those fishing trips with empty buckets in his prison cell, I can’t say. And if he tells the few left in his life those thoughts, can you trust the words of a pathological liar? Perhaps the foundation of his memories lies in those empty buckets or the one that got away, not on the fish I landed or those moments at Mather Lake helping my daughters reel in bluegill and watching bobbers.


As a father now, my daughters speak of a desire to fish but tremble at the early morning wake up call or the empathy for the worm. They may join me in the early dark and watch the sunrise over the mountain. They may go through a metamorphosis from boredom to anticipation as I did, but maybe not. My oldest just practiced casting a lure into Honokohau Harbor as I directed her on how to flip the bail, hold the line, when to release and all the subtleties of the cast. Maybe the spark lit. Maybe not. Maybe using Tootsie Pops creates the incentive for them.


Regardless, if that is the memory given me, I will store it with the others. Canonized for the remainder of my days.


About the Author:

N.T. McQueen is the author of the novel, Between Lions and Lambs and The Disciple. His writing has appeared in issues of the North American Review, Fiction Southeast, Entropy, The Grief Diaries, Camas: Nature of the West, Stereo Stories, and others. He has done humanitarian work in Cambodia, Haiti and Mexico and teaches writing at several colleges and universities in California.

Cinderella by Alwyn Bathan

Catch by Stela Brix, 2020


In the back of the Ford Transit, Karam was cold, wet and bloodied. His heart beat in his throat. Every bump in the road hurt. The gaffer tape binding his wrists and ankles cut into his cold gooseflesh. The gag choked, forcing his breath through his nose. Only able to sit upright until the next corner or when the van braked, he rolled, braced himself.

The van came to a stop. Karam shuffled to the back doors.  Lined with plywood, covered in paint and dirty scuffs, the windows were covered in reflective foil. He looked down the length of his body to work out what was causing the pain. His black bomber jacket was pulled up to his shoulders, his fingers and hands covered in scrapes and scuffs, his jeans wet in large patches. He was grass stained and mud spattered. One foot was colder than the other, his right foot shoeless and sockless, throbbing with pain.

Tariq’s face was bloodied and wet from tears. He looked across at Karam, who shrugged.


In the cab, spindly roll-ups were lit and passed between the occupants of the bench seat. Amidst the tobacco fug, they exchanged congratulations, slapped one another on the back.

‘Can tell you’ve been working out mind…picked him up like a frightened rabbit, that skinny ‘un. Clean and jerk. Thought you about to press him up above your shoulders!’

‘I’ll do it for you when we get there. Always happy to get the guns out.’

‘Where now? Should I follow Billy’s Golf?’

‘Nah. Take the A38. MacDonald’s anyone? Carbs for when we get there?’

‘What about the, erm…cargo?’

‘No full English for them tomorrow morning, I’d be thinking.’


Flashes of blue light illuminated the motorway. The patrol car slowed, pulling onto the hard shoulder. Raindrops on the grass were picked out by its headlights.  Reflected light skimmed the wet tarmac. Every nobble and bump in the surface, visible. Beyond the guard rail was a drop, sudden and steep. Opening the vehicle door, the officers put on their caps and silently surveyed the scene. Sharp shards of rain furrowed their brows, their eyes narrowed in the darkness.

The police radio on Burden’s lapel crackled and spat.

‘Charlie-delta-six to base. Exact location of this incident please?’ he asked. He looked at his colleague, whose eyes darted around, scouring beyond the guard rail. Plumes of frozen breath unfurled from the officer’s nose and lips.

‘Incident reported beside emergency phone, ID 767.  Four IC1 males handling two IC6 males on hard shoulder. One vehicle nearby, red VW Golf, index November-delta-one-five-golf-yankee-foxtrot. Believed stolen plates. Running checks on ANPRs in vicinity to locate vehicle. Report when checks made please.’

‘Weird,’ muttered Malik, his warm breath funnelling from the raised collar of his service waterproof. ‘We’re in the right place. And only one person rang it in?  A scuffle at the side of the motorway?’

Approaching the guard rail, the officers shone their torches across the grassy drop in front of them.

‘No tyre marks.  Bit of road rage between boy racers?’ speculated Malik. ‘God, my stomach is rumbling. Is it buttie o’clock yet?’

‘But just the red Golf?  For six guys?  Must’ve been a second car, especially the way they’re built around here.  You and your stomach. Like that plant, Audrey! Feed me now! I don’t have a good feel about this. Let’s look down the slope. We’ll call time if there’s nothing else.’

Slicing the soles of his boots into the incline, Burden smiled.

‘This is how mountain sheep feel,’ he muttered. ‘And, by the way, it’s your turn at The Greasy Spoon when we’re done.’

Malik disappeared, landing with a bump at the bottom of the slope. His grunt echoed through the darkness. Burden smiled, until the cold hurt his teeth.

‘Yes, I can confirm that I am OK, thanks mate. Found this, tripped over it.’

Malik produced a black Puma training shoe. A man’s, worn and muddy, its laces still tangled in a tight knot.

‘You were right mate. Looks like we’ve just missed our Cinderella.’


When the engine stopped, the van was in total darkness. Karam could hear the hoot of an owl close-by. Tariq cried beside him. The padlock securing the back doors rattled against the outside as the key was turned. The door-handle creaked, the door opened. Karam squinted out into the darkness.


Moonlight illuminated skeletal trees lining the brow of a distant hill.


And the silhouettes of his captors.


About the Author:

Alwyn  Bathan was a teacher for 39 years before deciding to return to formal learning through the MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. She works for Unicef UK, promoting children’s rights in education settings. She is a keen on social justice and work-life balance, not necessarily in that order! She won the Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition 2019 and is considering her post-University options, but is certain that creative writing and the persistent purchase of stress-related handbags will feature in her plans. This story featured in the Bridges 2019, published by Bandit Fiction this February.


Two Poems by Penny Blackburn

A Lady by Stela Brix, 2020

One Day at a Time

Each day brings a new tide.

Imperceptibly, our grief is washed away;

broken up – broken down

into its smallest parts.


The beach looks clean;

wet sand smoothed, packed flat

ready to be walked on.

We leave careful footprints

along the ridges.


A stray piece will catch us,

scratch us unaware –

the razor edge of a shell

or Lego from a cargo-fall twenty years ago,

that will not stop washing ashore.




I do not dream the sea anymore.

Its shoreline exhalations do not call

into my dormant mind to bring

me word of gulls and shoals of fish.


I track the waveform paths

through a Tower scope that restricts me

to a given axis of rotation and permitted

range of view.

My surveillance of the watercalm


is wasted; shredded nets

and broken lobster pots

trail uselessly through my sleep.



About the Author:

Penny Blackburn lives in the North East of England and writes poetry and short fiction. Her publications include pieces online in Bangor Literary Journal, Atrium, Black Bough and Ink, Sweat & Tears and in print with Paper Swans Press, Reader’s Digest, Poetry Society News, Broken Spine  and Maytree Press.

She is on Twitter and Facebook as @penbee8 


working pattern internet abstract
Photo by Markus Spiske on


Dear readers, authors and supporters,

I would like to apologise for technical issues we have been experiencing, which resulted in many of you not receiving any email responses. We do reply within two weeks to all submissions, however, on this occasion my server decided to act in an arbitrary manner and not send and deliver my emails.. It has been brought to my attention that this has not been the case for many weeks, or even perhaps months.

I am very sorry for the inconvenience it has caused. I have re-booted the whole system, which seems to have fixed the problem. I have also contacted all authors that are going to be featured in our publication until the summer break. It concerns prose writers, creative non-fiction writers, essayists and visual artists.

If you have not been contacted by me in the last week or so, it means that unfortunately your submission has been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, I would like to assure all of those whose work has not been accepted that there are many reasons why it happens and that they should not give up. Please keep writing and keep smiling.

And finally, poets do not need to panic as they will be contacted after 30 June regarding their submissions for Love Poetry Anthology. Many thanks.


Thank you for supporting our independent press.


Best wishes,


Natalie Nera

Head Editor





Introducing Victoria Holt

Northumberland artist Victoria Holt studied Fine Art at Camberwell College of Arts, London, where she experimented with multiple approaches and media: from stop-motion animation to conceptualism. Since graduating she want back to basics, rediscovering her love of drawing and figurative painting. In the last four years, she has collaborated with poets and writers, which culminated with her illustrations appearing in three books in two different countries and two art exhibitions in The Forge, Allendale, and Queens Hall, Hexham, United Kingdom.

We hope that the illustrations, many of which you have seen in our online publication already, will, in return, inspire poets and writers to create something new. Today’s prompt: Search.

Left to right, top to bottom: A Lost Shoe;  A Child’s Hand; Friends;  The Shoe of Childhood; In the Cage; The Rutting Stag; A Moth to a Flame; Queen of Hearts; A Swallow