Home by Rachel Grosvenor

It was not a feeling that she could describe with words. Rather, she just knew. That morning, when her mother called her from down the long corridor, she knew that there would be no moment of retreat. No retracing of her footsteps. Hermi lingered on threshold of her room, hanging onto the door frame with short, sharp, fingernails. She could hear her mother speaking to somebody else, the occasional sprinkling of her name in the conversation. She sounded ready for conflict.

            ‘HERMI!’ Came the call again, her mother’s voice battling with the wooden structure of the house, threatening to drag it to the ground.

            Hermi hovered still, awkward in the pale dress that had been laid out for her to wear today. She stared at the sickly little flowers that crawled up from the hem, the blue embroidery that danced with the yellow. This was not her usual clothing.

            ‘That child.’ Came her mother’s words, once more. ‘She is so –‘

            Hermi strained to hear the end of the sentence, desperate to know what she was, really. One socked foot crept into the corridor, and Hermi followed it with the other, displeasure crawling across her skin. She tiptoed gently over the uneven floorboards, carefully avoiding those that she knew creaked and groaned beneath human weight.

            ‘What are you doing child? What is taking you so long?’

            Hermi snapped her eyes from the floor to her mother, who now stood at the end of the corridor, with her hands on her hips. She was wearing, Hermi was surprised to see, a bright yellow sundress, which appeared to be around two sizes too small. The short capped sleeves cut into her skin, causing red rivets to form over her fleshy arms. She clicked her fingers, and turned swiftly, walking into the room at the far end. The conversation appeared to continue within.

            Hermi took a breath, and stepped forward again, paying particular attention this time to the patterns that covered the walls. Of course, she had seen them many times before, but it was only now that she realised that they were hand painted. Was all of the wallpaper hand painted in this house? She couldn’t think. There was a strange sound from within the room that held her mother, and Hermi reached deep inside herself for some semblance of courage. She continued forward, despite every part of her wanting to go back to yesterday, to earlier, to another time. Her fingers hovered over the wall as she moved, feeling the brushstrokes and paint beneath them.

            Suddenly, quite by accident, she had arrived. Hermi stepped inside the room, and saw her mother, nodding to her, beckoning her in further. There, sat on the bed, was a man. He was wearing a dark suit, though the jacket was folded beside him, a hat placed prudently on top. Hermi blinked at his colourful suspenders and white shirt, and then focused for a moment on his face. Ah yes, she thought. There he is.

About the Author:

Rachel Grosvenor is a British writer and tutor, with a PhD, MA and BA Hons in Creative Writing. She writes in various genres and forms, from travel writing to fantasy, and her work has been published in equally diverse places – from Cadaverine Magazine to the wall of the blue bedroom at the National Trust’s Baddesley Clinton. Rachel’s writing news can be followed on Instagram at @teachmecreativewriting, or on her website www.RachelGrosvenorAuthor.com.   

Shadow Puppets by Joe Williams

We cast shadow puppets  
on the bedroom wall,  
in the circle of light we’ve made, 
the lamp angled up so it beams across  
the single mattress, and us.  

I can manage an adequate
rabbit,  and a Homer Simpson
that’s good,  or bad, enough to 
make her laugh.  

Like this, she says, feathering my 
palms,  turning me into an eagle.  

Together, four-handed,  
we figure out ways  
to create fantastic creatures,  
alien worlds,  
visions of the future.

About the Author:

Joe Williams is an award-winning writer and performing poet from Leeds. His latest book is the pamphlet ‘This is Virus’, a sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. His verse novella ‘An Otley Run’, published in 2018, was shortlisted in the Best Novella category at the 2019 Saboteur Awards. His poems and short stories have been included in numerous anthologies, and in magazines online and in print. Despite all of that, he is probably most widely read thanks to his contributions to Viz. More at http://www.joewilliams.co.uk

This poem was first published by Sentinel Literary Quarterly, 2018. It also appears in ‘Play’, an anthology by Paper Dart Press, 2018.

Susan Routledge – a Gift to See the Beauty around Us

Today we have a special pre-Christmas present to unwrap. We have the pleasure to introduce an exceptional international artist, Susan Routledge.

Susan was born in rural Northumberland, close to the Scottish border and the English Lake District. She was brought up with a love of country life that she captures in her paintings. After studying at Newcastle College of Art, she worked as a watercolour artist for Halcyon Days in London, which has a royal appointment as suppliers of objects d’art to Her Majesty the Queen.
In 1981 Susan came to California where she now lives and works. She has achieved her Master Signature from the California Watercolor Association and has studied under the late local artist, Jade Fon, as well as Tom Nicholas, Gerald Brommer, Betty Lynch, Frank Webb, Irving Shapiro, Leo Smith and Carrie Burns-Brown. She is the recipient of several “champagne awards” from Asilomar.
Each summer Susan returns to England where she spends time sketching and painting scenes of English country life.
Susan loves strong dynamic colours, and she enjoys challenging herself with complicated images and various textures. She has been invited to participate in national shows such as the Sand Diego Watercolor Society International exhibition, the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts exhibition in Massachusetts and the Sausalito Arts Festival.
Susan received the first-place award in the California Watercolor Association’s Twenty-Fifth Annual Open Watercolor Exhibition. She has received numerous awards from various artistic institutions. Her paintings are included in many private and corporate collections, including those of Genentech, Kaiser Permanente and the City of Vacaville.
Susan’s most recent work reflects her love of the scenic beauty of northern California and the Mendocino coast where she now has her studio.

Poesy by Beth Hartley

Your words come to me, handtied.
I am garlanded.
Milkvetch woven among pear blossom,
mistletoe between the honeysuckle,
oak leaf geranium forms a crown
and myrtle;
myrtle makes it whole.
I am overcome
by this shower of flowers,
intoxicated by the scent of sage.
My garden grows empty 
in these strange days,
when all I can plant
takes time to bear fruit.
My language feels stilted,
my mind overwhelmed.
My only reply;
to wreathe you in daisies.
Sun yellow eyes in bright white,
overlooked and trodden over
in lawns and verges.
I will claim 
every last one,
and cover you 
in petal kisses. 

(From the April 11th NaPoWriMo.net prompt)

About the Author:

Beth Hartley is a poet of people and place, the transient and the eternal. She makes: home, faith, work, words and dinner. Itchy Preacher, always Mama. Part of the Fen Speak team – Ely’s poetry and spoken word event. Find her at: www.facebook.com/PoetryBees 

What We Mean by Christopher Moylan

What is it that we meant to say when we say nothing? That we stayed up all night, huddled in blankets, while the children we might have conceived watched us from beyond the breakers, eyes black with reproach. Words like ships passing: some rigged with ice and frost, others with spark and flame, waves seething and bucking on the pebble shore, beside themselves. Memories composting somewhere out back by rivers of stained glass where oblivion receives its baptism. Bundles of once in a lifetime opportunity tossed from the high windows like stacks of newsprint in old black and white movies. Birds peeling from trees like dates from calendars in the same black and white movies. Tidal waves rising over coastal villages, sudden mountains poised on the mirror glare of the full moon. All of this real, none of it true

…when we say nothing. We maintain a certain equilibrium among us like stone spheres floating in outer space, free falling all ways at once, so, in a sense, not falling, but remaining in place—where no place exists. In this we maintain the appearance of a life the way dust drifting from an explosion maintains the appearance of a shape, cohering as clouds, mushrooms, or flowers, all manner of things, except what it is: a cloud of shards, bits, dust. Disbursing, flying in all ways at once, when, as for us, all we want is to establish a position. Each one of us must have a position, a point of reference, even if that points is, in essence,

Nothing. The times rife with trigger words and code words, rumors and conspiracy theories of uncertain provenance. A constant supply, more all the time. Fact weaponized, truth driven underground. Dark energy manifest in ambient decay. Thoughts drifting apart, conversations trailing off, the point lost at the start, if there was one, if that even mattered. Logic is a carnival mirror. The obvious is too subtle, insult preferable. Occam’s razor become Occam’s head shot become Occam’s hand grenade clearing the way in social discourse for the consolations of intellectual paralysis. No response necessary if no response possible. Nothing to say. Nothing to save.

Time flies like the knife thrower’s daggers. The outline emerges with sharpened edges.  The life we failed to embrace gone with the ghost of transgressions we failed to commit. Words withdrawn like hands cupped around a flickering match. Some warmth persists, some light. What is it you were going to say? Nothing. What were you going to say? Wallpaper peeled away, plaster and slats gone. Curtains fluttering in windows that no longer exist.

Sadness. Regret. The louche menace of a forest cave wet with dream. Are we under an illusion. Or are we under arrest? What is it we mean to say when we say nothing? Sweetness and warmth. Unstated understanding in companionable silence like a plate passed down a table. Simple things. Strange things. Every blessing is a revolution. If it’s real. What is it we meant to say? Come into the water. It’s warm. It’s nothing. Come in.

About the Author:

Chris Moylan is an Associate Professor of English at NYIT where he publishes poetry and literary criticism as well as short prose. His prose poems and flash fiction have recently appeared in Flea of the Dog, Parhelion and Strata magazines. 

I’ve Watched All of You by Glen Wilson

How there are things 
you always do, in spite 
of the weather, the day. 

Like how the kettle is the
first thing you touch,
and coaxing its urgent whistle. 

You let the tea bag darken the 
clear, needing it strong but 
softened by one teaspoon of 

There are also things chosen 
seemingly on a whim, the rain 
freckles the window so you crack 
an egg, 

if it's a Friday two, in summer a 
smooth yoghurt, sliced 
grapefruit for bitter balance. 

It has been curiosity 
that brought me to you, 
distant at first, 

you wouldn't have seen me, 
still in the sway of the oak 
that overhangs your garden. 

I don't know if it was wise 
to come in through your
window but I chanced away 

to the trust of your hand 
running along my back 
and a full saucer of milk.

About the Author:
Glen Wilson is a multi-award winning Poet from Portadown. He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing  in 2017, the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018 and The Trim Poetry competition in 2019. His poetry collection An Experience on the Tongue is out now with Doire Press.
Twitter @glenhswilson

Ellen, Maggie and I by Tom Kelly


I am looking at a photograph from 1933 of Palmers, the great Jarrow shipyard on Tyneside. It had just closed making most of the town unemployed. My Great Grandmother Maggie is trying to making ends meet and failing. The Thirties are hard and it’s going to get harder. Maggie knew that better than me. Here are the notes and letters Maggie wrote. My mother gave then to me years ago and I didn’t read them until recently.

She lost two children in child birth, the infant mortality rate in the town was 11% in the Thirties, today’s it’s less than half of one-percent. I’ve not had a child. I don’t know if I will. Do I want one? My partner says I should make up my mind. My M.A. is ‘taking over’, he says. My dissertation is on Jarrow in the 1930s and Ellen Wilkinson, the town’s MP from 1935.

Here is a photograph of her in Jarrow during the 1935 election. I have written how she must have felt, ‘My first time in Jarrow. I had just turned forty and thought I had seen poverty but not this defeat in people: it made me ill. My heart was wrung out. I saw knots of worn-out men hanging round corners, lined faces told their stories: hunger, cramped lives, hearts and heads held in a giant vice, locked in pain. I looked again at these old men and women and they were young and trapped in cramped life cages. The government had closed ranks on them. It had decided, in the words of the President of the Board of Trade, Lord Runciman, that Jarrow, ‘must work out its own salvation.’ I was hungry to change their lives. I held a meeting on the Pit Heap at Jarrow and saw men’s eyes glisten in the blue-black-gas-lamped night and was lifted. I was guided by their pain. I was carried. The government has closed its all-seeing eyes and decided not witness the devastation it was causing. An entire town does not deserve to live like this.
I could hear the emotion in my voice and held-in rage as I spoke, “I will do my utmost. You will be my witness, if I fail you must tell me. My failure must not happen. Let’s reach for the stars….”
After the meeting I talked to families and they revealed the harsh realities of their lives, these were not mere statistics. Their demands for the bare necessities were being denied. I had a burning hatred for all in power, but I knew I could not allow that to rule.’
I have read so much about the 1930’s and marching as a means of protest was not unusual. The blind marched from Edinburgh and miners from Wales, all saying the same thing: what is happening can only be wrong. Jarrow Council organised a march to London in October 1936. I could hardly believe when I read Maggie’s notes but she was at Ellen’s meeting. Here is what she wrote in pencil. I had to photocopy them to save them:
‘I was on the Pit Heap. There were hundreds there. When Ellen got up to speak, she was wearing red, that’s one of the reasons she’s called, ‘Red Ellen.’ Aa’ll never forget it. Aa was lifted.  Aa thought she can do something; we can escape this. You know we had nowt. TB in Jarrow was aa scourge. Aa lost aa sister through it; she was only thirteen. Aa was hungry all the time. The walls in our streets were filled with beetles we would squash and see blood splashing on the walls. We felt our blood was being taken and wasted.
Our lives were being wasted. Do you know hunger? You can think of nothing else. Nowt. Don’t talk to me of problems, until you’ve known real poverty. You can’t even look at me. On the night of Ellen’s meeting the stars seemed to be sitting on me head, the air had aa bite but was fresh, it smelt of hope. She gave me a sprig of hope and that’s something aa’ d never known. Never. I loved and breathed something new, it made me forget about me empty belly.’
I felt Maggie was writing directly to me. I have cried over her words more than anything else in my life. I suffer from asthma, so did Ellen. Medication’s more sophisticated now, I use a spray. At the time they thought it was psychosomatic. She used tablets. There were doubts about her cause of death. She was only fifty-six, and the Minister of Education. Some intimated she committed suicide. Do people die through a lack of love? Is it enough for life to just drift on? Is that enough? We must need more. Ellen was a passionate woman and has stayed in people’s hearts and minds eighty years later. But was she really loved? She had lovers but was she loved?
I love this photograph, of Ellen in full-flow. She was not some bloodless, passionless facsimile but the real bloody thing. My partner says I have become too engrossed in Ellen, to the detriment of everything else. What he means is that the flat is a mess and why has he got to come home to a darkened room with me on my lap top looking at, ‘Ellen bloody Wilkinson photos?’  
This is a Jarrow Crusade photograph. Do you know who has the copyright on the photos? The Getty Foundation. The irony is not lost on me. In this photo Ellen’s leading the march. She didn’t walk all the way from Jarrow to London. She joined the march when she could leave The House of Commons. Here she is having a break with the marchers. And it wasn’t just a photo opportunity. This was the crusade to save a town. And what happened?  Defeat’s a bitter pill and it’s hard to swallow?
Their petition was ‘presented’ to Parliament and that was it. No debate. Some of the marchers were all for going back into the House and causing a disturbance but that would have been undemocratic and Ellen spoke to them and persuaded them not to. What did the marchers achieve? What were they given?  A second-hand suit and a third-class rail ticket back to Jarrow.
Here is another note from Maggie. I will include it in my dissertation. This is her during the Second World War. She must have written it in the shipyard, the back is covered in grease.
‘Aa got aa job as aa Lady Driller during the war. It was bloody hard. When aa first started aa couldn’t lift the drill, men would stand around, watching me struggle, laughing their socks off. By the end aa could throw it over me shoulder as if it was aa bairn. They stopped laughing. Mind you’ve got to be careful when the drill bits snaps, they fly all over the place. One flew off and hit the foreman right up the arse! All the lasses screamed but he never said aa thing. Just walked slowly to the lavatory, where he screamed like aa stuffed pig.
I’m expecting an’ aa pray it’s a boy. That’s what me man wants. Not that he has ever said. It might make him happy and pigs would definitely fly.  He never spoke much about the march. Except when he had a drink. He said they had been sold down the river. He used to get really mad but he was never good with words and they would spill out and aa would end-up battered and bruised and aa’d go ti bed with the bairns.’
I picture Ellen alone, after the marchers have had their boat trip on the Thames, after they have picked-up their second-hand suits and after being been waved off from Kings Cross.  Do you know that feeling? Not just the way you feel when you have the kind of loneliness that lasts for days. It is corrosive, drags its heels for years through your heart so you settle for second best, for anything rather the emptiness that brings such pain. You endure anything after that.
Is that the way I feel about my partner? Ellen and Maggie’s lives have made me look at my own: I have to do more. Maggie, on one of her notes said, ‘Me father could neither read nor write.’
I am writing this for Ellen, Maggie and me.



Tom Kelly’s Grandmother

About the Author:

Tom Kelly is a Jarrow-born poet, short story writer and playwright. He has had eleven books of poetry, short stories and a play published in as many years. His new poetry collection THIS SMALL PATCH has recently been published and re-printed by Red Squirrel Press. 

Wuthering Heights by Rachel Burns

I thought my lover was like Heathcliff.
You had a temper, like my jealousy.
Sixteen, I’d sneak out in the middle of the night,
the owls hooting. Oh, it gets dark, it gets lonely
and return to the sound of the milk cart,
the milk bottles clinking on doorsteps,
starlings pecking at the silver tops.
The smell of morning dew on grass,
burning up in the early light.

About the Author:

Rachel Burns lives in Durham City, England. She has short stories published in Mslexia and Here Comes Everyone. Her poetry pamphlet ‘A Girl in a Blue Dress’ is available from Vane Women Press and The Poetry Book Society.
twitter @RachelLBurnsme

Poetry in Photography by Carl Scharwath

Carl Scharwath is our regular contributor in prose, poetry and visual art, and there is a reason why we select his work. He has the gift to see things differently, seeing the unusual in the ordinary, which is what artists and writers do. The world changes because of the way we see it.

About the Author

Carl Scharwath, has appeared globally with 170+ journals selecting his poetry, short stories, interviews, essays, plays or art photography (His photography was featured on the cover of 7 journals.) Two poetry books ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press).and ‘Abandoned’ (ScarsTv) have been published. His first photography book was published by Praxis. His photography was also selected to be in the Mount Dora Center For The Arts gallery and their show “Be A Part Of It.”   Carl is the art editor for Minute Magazine, a competitive runner and 2nd degree black- belt in Taekwondo. 

All The Things I Could Not Say To The Fallen Baby Bird by Priyanka Sacheti

I am saying them now.

Of how smoothly you slipped inside the new nest
of soft flesh and phantom bone on picking you up.
I know, I know: 
I should have waited for your mother to return, 
I should have known that you were trying to fly,
I should have known, I should have known-

But it was a blue winter morning,
the kind that postcards make their living out of,
the air smelt unbearably sweet,
and I needed to rescue someone other than myself.
Carrying you in that makeshift womb,
I placed you in light, 
turning you over from flesh warmth to stone cold.
And then I walked away, never to look back.

I remember still the softness of your black down,
your trembling dissipating into a folded sleep. 
In my saviour hopes, you flew again.
You tasted sky currents
and cloud-pillowed your head
when you were too tired to fly any more.
And your feathers, unimaginably soft still,
would shelter and birth life too.

I think the above because 
this I cannot and will not consider:
you marooned inside that circle of light,
wondering if this was it, then,
your first and last flight.

About the Author:

Priyanka Sacheti is a writer and poet based in Bangalore, India. She grew up in Sultanate of Oman and has previously lived in the United Kingdom and the United States. She has been published in many publications with a special focus on art, gender, diaspora, and identity. Her literary work has appeared in Barren, The Cabinet of Heed, Popshot, The Lunchticket, and Jaggery Lit as well as various anthologies. She’s currently working on a poetry and short story collection. She can be found as @atlasofallthatisee on Instagram and @priyankasacheti on Twitter.