‘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

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: http://www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or https://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.

‘Lover>Girlfriend’ by Frances Mulholland

I rifled through your overnight bag,
The one you’d been so proud to leave,
Pride of place, in his en suite.

Cheap everyday unguents,
Paraffin and lanolin,
Those things would not pollute my skin.

Relics of a birthday gift 
From a wealthy colleague, sister, friend,
Now sampled by the woman driving your man round the bend.

Blonde Kirby grips (he prefers Brunettes),
Your shampoo, at least, is cruelty-free,
Shame the same can’t be said for me.

I replace the bag, shake my head.
I return to your man, return to your bed. 

Meet the Poet!

Frances Mulholland lives and writes in Northumberland. Her debut chapbook, Indifferent Desserts, was published in July 2022 by Bottlecap Press. When not writing, she can be found spending too much money on gig tickets and baking cakes.

Slovakian Spring – Part 2

Dear Readers,

We’re not certain how, but our second instalment of Slovakian Poetry from our Spring season has disappeared into the aether – which is a pity, as these poets are well worth the read! (You can still see Part 1 & Part 3 under Translations, so make sure to check those out whilst you’re here.)

Today we are publishing Part 2 afresh, and hope it brightens your Tuesday – we know it has done so for us! What a gorgeous way to kick off our Autumn Season of the magazine!


people / clays / permafrost’ by Ola Glustik

I was seven when my neighbour / father 
of four children decided to leave / at his home 
in the living room / and then the other / in the barn a shot 
in twelve other / a rope in an apple tree 

it was always minus twenty outside / beaten,
barren land /an economic crisis
and at home at the table the presence / a tea 
spoon you can’t bend 

We / the children of this street had the courage 
to play only in the cemetery / to prepare 
a grave space / to serve a simple 
ceremony / the end 

We remained silent for a long time / To this day 
we don’t speak /since childhood, we’ve had our mouths full 
of dirt and stones

Translated by Natalie Nera

The Inextricable Blade’ by Erik Markovič

The salt of the earth, unbroken 
I can vouch for forgiveness in the woods, in the lakes
in the shells of oysters, and in the womb of a lightsaber.

I am without the earth; I have not grown roots
with my hands in your hair, with my tongue
in your mouth, not on the Moon, I only fly
and pity the wide and clear field beneath me
Your field, that is neither tasteless nor flavoured with spices,
unbroken by my grace, untainted with my blood.

You cannot separate your arms from your body, and stretch them towards me,
although you would love to fly after me, like your soul, whose dove
I caught under my shirt when the body gave up.
And from her into the earth it flew until it got rotten during the flight and turned into black fertile soil.

From the breast of your burnt hills, you speak of your desire silently
high up in the trees, Seeds in whose name the branch does not sprout out, 
for only above your head, unmoving, it grows wild in brambles.  

Translated by Natalie Nera; from the collection ‘Ikoncikosť. Prestupovanie Slnka’

Weight of the Balance’ by Erik Ondrejička

Weight of the balance
in quiet dance of leaves
in a body of ash

in orbital curves
of a path in rough sketch
that’s vanished in a flash

Decodes delicacy
so it may be pure
with hardly a word said

and from lead creates
like an alchemist
ever newly lead

Translated by John Minahane

sulphur’ by Martina Straková

touches our sun-tanned bodies
in the spots
where shingles
impress their shape we go barefoot
to make us feel again
that we’re still living
that nothing of this is sham
we sink our roots at the most trusty points
where salt means pulp
and water is dim and cold

Translated by John Minahane

Meet the Poets!

Ola Glustik (b. 1987, Slovakia) is a poet, publicist and media specialist. Currently working on the manuscript of the third poetry collection called Body and (con)text. Part of manuscript was awarded in prestigious czechoslovak competition Básne SK/CZ 2021. Ola is going to participate in the Spring Edition of the Visegrad Literary Residency Program in 2022 in Bratislava.

Her second book Atlas of biological women (2017) was awarded with the premium prize by the Slovak Literary Fund and with The M. Rúfus premium prize. This book was published partly in Czech (in anthology Být knihou a v rukou se ti otevřít, Nakl. P. Mervart, 2019) and in Romanian (Atlasul femeilor biologice, frACTalia, 2020, transl.: Mircea Dan Duta). She debuted with the collection of poems called Placed into trees (2014).

Her poems and publicistic texts were published online and in magazines in Slovakia (Rozum, Fraktál, Glosolália, Knižná revue), in the Czech Republic (Ravt, Revue Weles, Cadena Magica, Poli5), in Romania, Peru and Serbia. They were also read in Slovak national radio and published in numerous anthologies.

She is one of the founding members of the Bratislava author’s club BRAK, which is an incubator for the young writers in the Slovak capital city. In 2019 worked as a secretary of the Slovak PEN Centre.

She worked as a journalist in the regional newspaper and in the economic daily newspaper. Nowadays she is working as a media specialist for two big construction and industrial companies.

Erik Markovič (1972) – poet, philosopher and songwriter. He has published a set of 7 collections of poetry: Ikonickosť. Prestupovanie Slnka. (LN Studňa, 2014), from philosophy Po-postmoderný princíp palintropickosti 1 (LN Well, 2017). Through his writing and work, he seeks to identify post-postmodern aesthetic principles. From 2018 to 2021, he was the president of AOSS, The Association of Authors’ Organisations in Slovakia.

Erik Ondrejička was born on May 1, 1964 in the Old Town of Bratislava, where he still lives and works. He is a graduate of Bratislava’s Technical University, Department of Geodesy and Cartography. He has been writing poetry for more than three decades, however, he made his publication debut in 2004, with the collection On the Inner Side of the Eyelids. Five of his eight books have been awarded literary prizes (Eyes and Rhymes, On the Inner Side of the, Eyelids, (e)Pigrams, Say Just a Word) and Happygrams. Eyes and Rhymes, the revised version of On the Inner Side of the Eyelids, the bibliophilic collection IM PULZ – Waiting of Substance, AB80, Happygrams and Abecedári received honourable mention in the competition for the Most Beautiful Book of Slovakia in 2010-2019. Abecedári was also awarded the Bronze Medal at the Creativity International Awards (USA) and in the national competition for Best Children´s Book of Summer 2015 and Most Beautiful Children´s Book of Summer 2015. Erik Ondrejička is a member of the Slovak PEN Centre and the Club of Independent Writers. More information at https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_Ondreji%C4%8Dka

Martina Straková (Slovakia) studied cultural sciences and graduated from the Faculty of Arts at the Comenius University in Bratislava. She received scholarships at leading German universities and her PhD title in Philosophy. For her poetry debut Postcards from Invisible Places (Pohľadnice z neviditeľných miest, 2019) she received the Bridges of Struga Award for the best poetry debut in 2019 awarded annually under the auspices of the UNESCO by the world’s renowned poetry festival, the Struga Poetry Evenings Festival in North Macedonia. Since 2013, she has been co-organizing the International Poetry Festival Ars Poetica, where she holds a free creative writing workshop Bring Your Poem offered to the wide public as a regular part of the festival program. She is dedicated to writing poetry, fairy tales for children, painting and artistic translation from/to German and English language. She lives and works in Bratislava. www.martistrak.sk 

Video-poem “I’m Sheltering from a Storm”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmVM8f4DKCE 

The poem sulphur comes from the poetry collection Martina Straková: Postcards from Invisible Places, Ars Poetica Publishing House, Bratislava, 2019, translated into English by John Minahane.

‘Christmas Eve, Hope Street, Jarrow’ by Tom Kelly

‘Suburbia’ by Stela Brix, 2018

I keep going back to the same two rooms, with the dying widow below and darkness that eats me. It is Christmas Eve with the smell of snow in the air. There is an ominous muffled thud from below. I slip deeper into the bed awaiting his visit and feigning sleep.

Mother’s anxious voice hissed in the dark, ‘You’ll have to come downstairs with me, your dad can’t.’ Dad couldn’t, he had an accident in the shipyard a few weeks earlier: ‘Left his toes in his boot’, someone cryptically said. 

Creaking down wooden stairs, cold bit me stomach. An early Christmas present – a bicycle torch – led the way, dancing down the stairs and diving to the ceiling. The key skated across the barrel before connecting and the torch eventually settled on the widow’s cream mask face which faced the floor. She was dead. 

The rest was formality; women in the street would ‘lay her out.’ The identity of Santa Claus forgotten in light of more pressing matters.

Meet the Author!

Tom Kelly is a Jarrow-born writer. He has had eleven books of poetry, short stories and a play published in as many years. His new collection ‘THIS SMALL PATCH’ was published and re-printed by Red Squirrel Press in 2020.