Two Poems by Brandon McQuade


The distant smoke of burning leaves
and the heavy scent of gasoline 
smothers the late-summer air. 
He stops to watch wings scatter 
aimlessly from the trees. His forearm 
glistens in silence and the mower 
grinds to a halt as he wipes his brow, 
seated on a bench in the half-mown 
grass. Nothing but the wind 
to witness his chest tightening 
like a fist around his heart. 


in memory of David Bowring

A bright red tractor sputters and dies 
on the yellow horizon. The spider plants 

on our kitchen table died years ago—
green leaves spilling from the bowl 

like milk tongued from a saucer, 
until they folded in on themselves

like immolated sheets of paper—
the way you can almost hear them

screaming and curling like singed hair, 
the crumbling ash of something living. 

Right now, chemotherapy is tearing
at your uncle’s vitals like a controlled fire. 

The red tractor may yet turn over,
and the farmer might save his field. 

But the fire inside your uncle’s pancreas 
will never extinguish or ignite again. 

Meet the Poet!

Brandon McQuade is an award-winning poet, and founding editor of Duck Head Journal. His poetry collection, Bodies, was the recipient of the 2022 Neltje Blanchan Memorial Writing Award. He lives in Northern Wyoming with his wife and their children. 

‘Newcastle Morning, Early September’ by Tracey Pearson

Had ya horses man, the day’s in no rush to start,
Mrs Kelly’s shooing next door’s cat oot the yard.

Morning still wears its dressing gown,
tied tight round the midriff,
grey and downy, soft and fluffy, Tyneside foggy.

September sighs in the back lanes,
bairns and mams bicker their way to school –

If I’ve telt yi once, I’ve telt yi a thoosand times,
don’t poke ya sister in the eye.

The weather changes when the bairns go back,
baking taties on offer at the Community Grocery,
a 45p tea, for me and Olenka, a Ukrainian refugee.

Meet the Poet!

Tracey Pearson is a poet and flash fiction writer from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Her work has been published in print anthologies, magazines and online. Tracey’s recent writing appears in Poetry WalesDreich, Culture Matters and Visual Verse, and is forthcoming in Briefly Write.

‘Experience’ by Gareth Culshaw 

There was a time inside a lettuce leaf 
I found the crinkles enjoyable to walk. 

I traipsed songs lost in headphones 
found trees upside down in winter. 

Heard birds in the yawn of a cat 
and caught a train for a bus for a hike. 

It led me to this, a place of rock and stone. 
Nothingness sits outside a window 

until you leave the vehicle and walk. 
Things appear in the nostril before 

your hands have left the crust. 
Your soup stays on the lips, cola burps 

a crow, and crisps wear away fence posts. 
But each walk brings you closer, closer 

to the life you live inside. The life you live 
before you found this place in the crunch 

of a carrot one salad afternoon. 
Watching a sun biscuit-dunk into a mountain 

wait for the warmth to leave you behind 
then see your fingerprints smudged 

on the moon, the end of your nose.

Meet the Poet!

Gareth Culshaw lives in North Wales. He has 4 poetry collections, most recent by Hendon Press called Memory Tree. He is a winner of Backlash Best Book Award 2022. 

‘Climate’ by Mike Doherty

That yellowing mould of surrender

Like soft vows

Subsides on the kerb as a light wind makes the leaves


With those most recently released from the bough

Falling through shafts of sunlight and forming, casually

A duvet against the stone, against the cold of a coming night

This heat has made the trees distress and shrug off their ornaments

Those leaves

Fluttering dependents in need of drink and so they are

Expendable. It is the rule of law. 

Long grass warped into dry and brittle threads

Susceptible to fire. All these indicators of change

Gather here in plain sight to form a queue of warning signs

Do Not Proceed. One Way Only. Danger of Death

Another turning point goes blind to history

All the common sights forgot and nothing left

But burning twigs

Meet the Poet!

Mike Doherty says: “I have always tried to express myself. School reports exhort you to “try harder”. Poetry is the only medium I have found to reach into the corners of my soul and shed some light. It’s never easy and often not terribly good. But, I love it.”

‘Canals of the Back Streets’ by Martin Potter

Glints in the city sun and
Town-breeze ripples rainbow
Touches in the oily film
Running behind and under-street
Brick-sided trough canals
Floated industry wall-screened
But inconspicuous door-gaps
Disguise steps down to the tight
Towpaths that shelve over
The patient loitering waters
Down-flow interrupted  
Waiting on sleeper levers
To be wrenched hinge-swing
Circulation rebooted
Veins in need of dredging
Drear-grime to dark heart’s blood

Meet the Poet!

Martin Potter ( is a British-Colombian poet and academic, based in Manchester, and his poems have appeared in AcumenThe French Literary ReviewEborakonInk Sweat & TearsThe Poetry Village, and other journals. His pamphlet In the Particular was published by Eyewear in December, 2017. 

‘Leaves’ by James Mulhern

That fall day we raked leaves from behind the shed.
Smell of earth and wet decay rose in the cold air.
We could see our breath.

Worms and beetles scattered through a fence.
I saw dirt and thought we had finished.
“Not yet,” you said.

The gray sky grew darker and the wind chilled.
When your flashlight showed not a speck of leaf,
you said, “We’re done.”

Today I look at the wet leaves below.
I kneel and clear your grave.
Again, I smell the earth and feel the biting cold.

The damp leaves shimmer like tears, not many,
that drop on the yellowed grass.
“We’re done,” I hear you say.

I say a prayer, cross myself, and rise.
I see my breath and imagine I see yours.
I should leave, I think, but not yet.

Meet the Poet!

James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over one hundred and seventy-five times, and has been recognised with many awards. In 2015, Mr. Mulhern was granted a writing fellowship to Oxford University. That same year, a story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Two of his novels were Finalists for the United Kingdom’s Wishing Shelf Book Awards. His novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019. He was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2021 for his poetry.

‘Conversing with Stars’ by Katarina Xóchitl Vargas

Dad died in the spring
    in the brown reclining chair, 
        without morphine, 

         before sunrise, 
    as elliptical galaxies 
retired to cosmic caves,

like whales into deep sea.

Yesterday, I learned 
     that space recycles stars—
          That when one burns out, 

           it splashes out sparks 
     of elements, that birth new stars,
traveling in clusters, like fish.

Maybe, if I look long enough

into May’s night sky, 
    I might catch a glimpse
        of Dad, swimming in space, 

       25 million light-years away:
   his giant fins causing constellations 
to sparkle, with each sweep. 

I empty my heart to Ursa Major tonight. 

For, every cell in me, 
    wants the trio of time, 
         dementia and distance

         to return Dad to me, 
    so that we may contemplate 
the minutia of our ebbing existence, 

and the edge of the universe,

and what’s beyond, 
    and what’s beyond the beyond,
        as we once did

when I was thirteen.

(April 21, 2022) 

Meet the Poet!

Katarina Xóchitl Vargas (she/her) is an emerging Xicana poet, originally from Mexico. After her family moved to the U.S, she began composing poems to process alienation. A dual citizen of the U.S and Mexico, today she writes resistance poetry and lives on occupied Tsenacommacah territory where she is working on her first chapbook. Xóchitl is the first-place recipient of the inaugural Mulberry Literary Fresh Voices Award. Her poems first appeared in Somos en escritoThe Latino Literary Online Magazine, Cloud Women’s Quarterly JournalThe Acentos Review, Penumbra and Barrio Panther. Follow her on Instagram @Cantos_de_Xochitl

Translation Tuesday – Poets in Prague!

We love bringing you our Autumn translation segments. We have something a little different for you today! Last week saw Crick in Prague for a week of exploring, good food, and (of course!) poetry, with a reading especially organised in the Czech Republic’s bustling capital. Despite that busy schedule, Nera and Crick found time to sit down in one of the city’s cafés to discuss translation, and to share Crick’s own poems in Czech!


Two Poems by Lorraine Caputo


As the days pass, those roses – one 
white, another red – slowly unfold their petals
from bud to full blossom, growing wider 
with each night, their scents swelling beneath
the stars, in the moon’s light …but
one day, their petals will loosen their 
grasp & begin to carpet this table.


On that distant mountain
fire snakes down its slopes
acrid smoke drifts ‘cross miles

wrapping around words we
weave in a blue house
drinking wine & feasting

on this birth day eve

Meet the Poet!

Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 300 journals on six continents, and 20 collections of poetry – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Caribbean Interludes (Origami Poems Project, 2022). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. Her writing has been honoured by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels at: or

‘Kaliadne’ by Eva Maria Spekhorst


Perfectly clean white tunics. 
Short naps on moss in woods. 
Echoes in empty temples. 
Newly polished arrows. 
Looking out at a full moon. 
Letting your feet dangle while sitting on a high cliff. 
Feeling the cold wind on your face. 
Holding a person’s hand you love dearly.
Discovering old and crumpled scrolls. 
Making art on hot summer days. 
Dancing at midnight. 
The sounds of the sea.  Pastel coloured skies. Foggy mountainsides.

Hello, my name is Kaliadne, and this is my story. 


As I sat there, legs crossed, I could only hear the sound of waves hitting sand and my own breath. 

I used to go there often. It calmed me. I could finally let go of everything and watch the sun slowly descend behind the horizon. 

I go there still. It gives me hope. Hope, that there is more out there. More to be discovered, more to be learned, more to be known. 

“Kaliadne, dinner’s ready!”

Maybe I’ll disappear behind the horizon, too.


She was like colourful clouds stretching across the Mediterranean sky. Never staying in one place, never taking in a form for more than a short moment, shifting into a deep coloured drizzle raining down on the ground. 

She was the wittiest person I knew. 
She was the fairest person I knew. 
She was the bravest person I knew. 

I hugged her one last time before she sailed off to Delphi. 

I couldn’t bring myself to say the three words. 

I still regret it. 

I love you, 



It was a cloudy day. Silver glitter fell down from my fingers, landing on the frost-strewn ground. The mist swirled around me, making me shiver. 

My bag was slung across my shoulders, its weight the weight of leaving my hometown. 

It was for the better. 

I was going to be a priestess!

Yet the morning air stung at my throat. 

As I looked back towards the hill, I saw the shadows of what my life used to be.

I saw my mother, waving at me from afar, my father, resting his hand on her shoulder, and my little brother, who didn’t have the chance to meet his bigger sister yet. 

I saw six figures in white linen clothes floating in the distance and I turned around.


The sunlight blinded me. 

My feet were tired and scarred, but my mind was buzzing with excitement. 

The mountains around me hummed with adventure. 

The wind swirled around me, dipping me into the summer heat and the smell of fresh bread. 

I beamed as I looked up into the crystal blue sky, a tiny ray of sunshine wreathing itself across my fingers. 

There, up in the distance, I saw a majestic temple shimmer. 

This was the place I’d soon call home, 

but for now, 



I looked up into the illuminating light. 

I could feel its warmth making its way through my veins, setting me on fire. 

I took in the beautiful scenery. The misty forest all around me, the river flowing relentlessly, beckoning the beginning of a new day. 

Breathe in, breathe out. My legs carried me towards the hurtling water. It was luring me in. Talking to me, hushing me. I wanted to be nearer. The cold gripped my hand and wanted to take me with it, but the warmth kept tugging at me, making me resist the water’s urge to carry me away. 

“Kaliadne,” a soft voice spoke “come back to sleep.”

Isn’t it all about balance anyway?


Her hair was flowing around her as she stared into the distance.
Freckles visible on her face, she finally smiled at me. Her auburn eyes shone brightly with happiness and pride. 
Oh, how peaceful she looked. 
Peaceful with no one but herself. 

She was the definition of “carefree”.
She was the definition of “soulmate”.
She was the definition of “naive”.

That carefreeness I always admired was taking over her life. Somehow, very slowly, the word “care” dissolved. The only thing she was left with was her freedom. 

Did she ever care about me? 

I didn’t care.


Water droplets on grass. 
Twigs, turning and twisting, forming a pathway through the woods. 
The shadows of trees and bushes, dancing with the sunlight. 

The wind making leaves flow through the air, landing softly on a patch of moss, dissolving into green colors. 
Tiny huffs of air turning to silver smoke. 
Feet hitting the ground. 
Adrenaline pumping through your veins. 
Your head spinning. 

You’re falling, my brave one. 
Do you know why?


She was like first fallen snow in winter. 
She was like forest rivers, flowing calmly at dawn.
She was like the moon in the sky, guiding nature. 

She was recklessness, yet she kept her cool. 
She was wildness, yet she struck with precision. 
She was loyalty, yet she stood alone. 

She was as bright as the day and as mysterious as the night. 

She was Artemis.


He was like the sound of birds singing in the morning. 
He was like ancient texts written on stones. 
He was like the sun, lighting up people’s lives. 

He was foresight, yet relied on the past. 
He was poetry, yet didn’t need words to speak. 
He was intuition, yet trusted his plans. 

He was music, filling people’s hearts with joy. 

He was Apollo. 


It was getting colder by every passing second.
I took out the blanket Kalipso gave me and went to sit near the edge of the boat. 
It was a calm night. The moon was out, giving the water a silver coat. 
“Hopefully she’ll protect me on my journey,” I whispered to myself as I wrapped myself in warmth and the familiar smell of home. 

The waves chose a steady rhythm, racking the boat so softly it was lulling me to sleep. 
I didn’t feel like the clumsy little girl from Troia anymore. I felt like a different person.
My sisters called me a “mature, serious and confident leader”. I didn’t feel like that either. 

Maybe, I would reach that kalokagathia someday. 

But now, it was just “me”, and that was enough.


The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of my boat was the overwhelming smell of fresh watermelons. It was surprising to say the least. The coast was full of people, brimming in their extravagant clothes, bargaining, chit-chatting, and in the worst cases, fighting drunkenly. I was nervous. I’ve never liked it to be around this many people. The sun was now up in the sky again, shining majestically, giving everything a nice warm tone. I grabbed some of my golden drachmas as I went to stand in line for the famous watermelons. An old lady sat on a stool nearby, smiling at me in an almost crooked way. 

“Came from afar, haven’t you?” Despite her thick accent I understood and nodded reluctantly as I gave her my money. I tried to leave as fast as possible, still feeling her eyes boring into me from behind. 

I certainly did enjoy my watermelon that morning.


She was like dandelion puffs flowing through the air. 
You could never touch them while they were flying, only observe and admire them from afar. 
She was like snow melting in your hands by the fireplace, cozy and tranquil, safe from the outside storm. 

She was the epitome of intelligence, fierce yet understanding. 
She was the epitome of wisdom, all-knowing yet still learning. 
She was the epitome of calmness, sending you into slumbers with a smile. 

She was just like a dream. 
Are you still asleep? 


I sat on the grass, back against a tree, and closed my eyes. Serenity.

I breathed in the smell of figs and pines, the grass and the trees, the sea breeze that was gently blowing the hair out of my face. I was alone and for the first time in my life, I enjoyed it. I was thankful for it. This place calmed me in a way no place has ever done. I could forget my worries, my fears, myself. 

I could just be. 

Exist. Imagine myself as the light sea breeze, flying across the magical mountains overflowing with colorrs of orange and green. 
I could become one with the trees around me, their ancient spirit binding me forever. 

For now, I could enjoy being nobody. 
For now, I could be free. 


As I lay there, unmoving, on the cold ground in the middle of the woods, I counted stars.

It didn’t matter to me if they were big or small, alone or in a constellation. Each and every one of them was beautiful and unique in their own way, taking in a position in the night sky. 

If I reached out my hand far enough, would a star fall down on me? 

Or would it stay put with the others, awaiting the right moment?

Then I realized. I didn’t need a star. I already had one. It was rooted deep inside of me, guiding me my whole life, lightening it up. 
Maybe, just maybe, I could be one of them someday. Maybe, I am one of them. And maybe we all are, even if we are too blind to see it.

Trust the star inside of you. It will show you the right path.

Meet the Author!

Eva Maria Spekhorst, 18, is a student at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany. She is studying Middle Eastern archeology and Mathematics. She writes poetry and prose, in addition to illustrating. She has illustrated her upcoming novel “Drachental”. She can speak 28 modern languages and 20 extinct ancient languages.