Three poems by Tania Hershman


I saw my mother’s
heart today. She pressed
up against the machine
while, a few feet away
I watched it load
on the computer screen.
Is that…? I asked. The radiologist
immune to the novelty
of inside views, nodded.

I’d helped my mother
get undressed, seen
for the first time
the vest she wore
to cover where her breasts had been.
I had not expected
several minutes later
to see her chest –
like wings unfurling –
open itself out to me.

Released, my mother stood
small and grinning
in her backless gown,
no idea what I’d seen
or what she’d shown.
I kept it to myself,
my mother’s heart.
It had not looked
as I’d imagined, but
like a star, shooting
through her ribs, that body
I used to be a part of.

(longlisted for Canterbury Poet of the Year 2014, published in the winners’ anthology)

Once, early on in my development,
some boy took me to the roof
to see Orion’s Belt, the Pleiades.

I listened, looked politely where he
pointed, but already then I knew – though
he had left the door ajar, and I

was not yet fully-formed – that this
had nothing to do with stars,
the tug of gravity.

(Commended, Ealing Autumn Poetry Competition 2014, published on the Ealing Autumn festival website)
1 & 2


Catch me, appled, love, oh catch me. Dimpled, I am sweeter, loves of honey, men and ministries. You talk me, peached; I sink. And sinking, trip; I fly. Summon me troops, warn me whispered, take me longing, fighting, sleepless.


Night will come and then the night will come and then the rain. The night comes, rained, and you are more night to my rain, darkened we are only shuttered, and after dark. And after: rain.

(published in Tears in the Fence, Winter 2012)
Tania Hershman is the author of two story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008). Her poetry chapbook Nothing Here is Wild, Everything Is Open, 2nd prize winner in Munster Literature Centre’s Fool for Poetry Competition will be published by Southword editions in February 2016.

Two poems by R. A. Villanueva

Two poems from Reliquaria

Mine will be a beautiful service


When you bury me, fold
my arms, neat

over the plateau
of a double-breasted suit,

the angle of the lapel
matching my now

permanent expression.
Pressed, chemical

I will look content,
but confused

as when you watched me turn
in my sleep, dreaming:

                of a Golgotha
in beeswax, a coffin

for swallows, a toothless augur
reading the flights and cries

of owls. You
will hear the cadence

of my voice, the snapping
oblique of my laugh. Among the votives

and canticles, you will trace,
with the tips of your thumbs,

lines of demarcation
between the fallow of my scalp

and the dunes of my forehead.
Quiet, you will paste

stray hairs back
into their place.

2. Memento Mori

All sod and taproot now, all bulb
and tuber and stemshoot        Mulch throb,
lush with worms and slugs—we are never worth
more than this

Thrum of the earth, clatter-bulge of cicada shells
along a coffin’s hinges         Teak and scented cedar
flushed with compost                       An elegy
of rot, this counterfeit reliquary

                 If you each day clutch
our pillows, press them to your face, pray
to take in some atom of me all
into the hollows of your chest, yes

I promise my ghost will find you
should you want someone else to love
After this, Loving Kindness and Asanga flew
for Phebus Etienne

These church gates are locked, like yesterday,
            and so I have not yet prayed
for you the right way, knelt in your memory, offered
            intentions or lit chapel candles in your name.

When John told me, I was an avenue away,
            reading on a gallery wall about Asanga,
who wanted Loving Kindness to meet him in a cave, who waited
            and waited to talk enlightenment over Assam tea.

On that painted cotton, he wears a halo of mineral malachite,
            is clothed in a dye of ground cinnabar, is flanked by the story
of his life. This is what I know now about the upper-right corner,
            where a miniature Asanga flies

with the found bodhisattva and both float buoyant without need
            for pinion feathers or ailerons, where they are weightless,
steering towards paradise with just their robes and arms:
            Loving Kindness and Asanga flew to the Tushita heaven.

It is what I was trying to understand before I took John’s call
            and he asked if I had heard about your passing
days ago, alone in your apartment, most likely from a collapse
            of the heart. It is what happens after Asanga lifts

Loving Kindness up and carries him through town on his back,
            the townspeople blind, as always, to the beatitudes among them.

R. A. Villanueva is the author of Reliquaria (U. Nebraska Press, 2014), winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize. New writing is forthcoming in The Wolf and American Poetry Review. A founding editor of Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art, he lives in Brooklyn and London.
Twitter: @caesura

Two poems by Niall Campbell

The Water-Carrier

I want to be the worst of this profession,
the one who makes it home half-empty, tipping
more air than water from the ringing pot,
and so late back the town’s already dark;

Oh no, they’ll say, that’s not the way of it,
and I’ll know their heaven’s brimful and undrunk,
their lips parched.
                  What do they know of the kiss
on the shoulder of that first spilt drop,

the tuneful drip, drip, drip on the stone path?
Midway home, midway from the source, my dream-sun
bleaching the sky, what could be better than
dry road ahead, my flooded road behind?
(previously published in Poetry London, 2014)
I Started

I started at the furthest point
telling the road it was a lie,
and on I went. I told the wall,
the kissing gate, the swinging sign,

then told the school it was a lie;
the woman and the men that passed
I told; each rock, and word, and door.
And I did not spare my own house.

And then it rained – and I told the rain,
and told the rain that I was cold.
Niall Campbell is a Scottish poet originally from the island of South Uist, one of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Moontide, his first collection, is published by Bloodaxe, and was named inaugural winner of the £20,000 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award (2014), and received the Saltire First Book of the Year (2014). Moontide was also shortlisted for both The Forward and The Aldeburgh Prizes for Best First Collection, and given a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Two poems by Zelda Chappel


It’s the ways our tongues get folded, stealing
away my speech. It’s open mouths writing

letters, lipped words placed softly in ears
precisely. It’s shadows that aren’t what they

used to be and my fetish for transcendence.
It’s easier. These days it’s slipping through

flesh which we know can be done in silence.
It’s knowing this is not how you’ll have

imagined it. It’s not dark except for the door
we’re caught behind and my room’s heavy

curtains hung drawn, sad, apart for more than
mere sunlight. It’s glass making a show

of transparency while I learn the ways to be
opaque. It’s shrinking as you fill the space

I leave between my skin and bone. It’s waiting
for you to cover me, your skin a fine-spun web.
(previously published by Bare Fiction, July 2014)
Girl in the dog-tooth coat

The last of you was seen wandering the hills

a few weeks later, your red hair loose and wild
flung in every direction. I thought you might

be looking for sky. I didn’t tell on you though,
don’t worry, I kept your secrets sewn inside

my ribs for safe keeping. Now when I walk
through slate and bog cotton I know my feet

have found your footprints, that in breathing
this wind, the song of you is almost audible.
(previously published by HARK, March 2015)
Zelda Chappel is published in, among other places, Popshot, Obsessed with Pipework, Lampeter Review, HARK and The Interpreters House. Her debut collection, The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat was published July 16th 2015 by Bare Fiction. @ZeldaChappel

‘Llandudno’ by Kate Wise


The cries of seagulls smell of salmon sandwiches.
Tinned. On white; juice-soggy in their teeth-setting silverfoil.
Plastic bag jellyfish sculled the pier’s shadows.
We sat in the morning’s goosepimples,
park-bench thigh-marked, waiting for you to finish your
in matching turquoise shorts because it was
the Summer.
Harvey and Hector stumbled us gloomily
over the pebbledashed sands.
A boat bumped the grey to pick up Some Idiots
stranded on the rocks.
There was a big hill that like so much
we couldn’t afford to go up today maybe next time. The Great Orme, from where
Uncle James said he dreamt he saw a great white swan leap
the night before
you know
and we all thought him maudlin, but still,
he never came home.
On our way home,
you stopped at a newsagent and bought us badges,
mother of pearl
esque, our names in gold lettering,
and mine, so rarely, spelled just right.
On the pier I’d bought one of those keyrings
– crab/ tuft of seaweed/ shell –
suspended in a deathly aquarium of Caribbean-blue plastic
to capture Llandudno forever. I gave it to you to say
thank you very much for today though my fingers itched to say no keep it take it back.
I expect I will, though, when you’re gone, from
the drawer you still keep it in
with your church hankies and
holiday cigars.
The smell of salmon sandwiches,
and somewhere in a striped tent
a man beating a woman
who beat a dog
but here there was a crocodile
and it made
no sense.
(Commended in the Cafe Writers competition 2014)
Kate Wise @kwise62 has been published in various magazines in print and online, including StepAway, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Proletarian Poetry. She was commended in the 2013 Cafe Writers and 2014 Manchester Cathedral competitions, and placed third in the 2014 Ware Poets competition. In 2015 her work will appear in two Emma Press anthologies.

‘Something Understood’ by Edward Doegar

Something Understood

Be seated. So much silliness. Go in fear
             of imperatives. Love,
as much as anything else, as little.
             Stop trying to touch
the stained light, it’s not for you. Feel
             the wood instead; use
has polished the grain, this is not good,
             this is not evil. Wood
is also stained. And so on. Deliver us
             from this, from that.
From our petty convictions. Is it true
             that belief makes
something true? If only here? If
             only. Listen: the hinge
of restlessness caught in a pew, a child
             itching to join in. Give
us this day our daily bread. Forgive
             us our trespasses.
How many mouths has this mattered to?
             How many has it fed?
Enough. Find the light, the door. Be sated.
(first published in the anthology Ten: The New Wave (ed. Karen McCarthy Woolf; Bloodaxe 2014).
Edward Doegar’s poems have appeared in various magazines including The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto and Poetry Ireland Review. He is a Complete Works fellow and six of his poems appear in the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: The New Wave.

‘Not turning the light on’ by Emma Lee

Not turning the light on

As I wake in the dark,
the neighbour’s son returns with his girlfriend
before spending what’s left of the night in her arms.

I’ve not forgotten teenage insomnia, day-dreaming words
into poems not daring to switch on a light to write them
but silently reciting them to memory.

It’s your absence that keeps me awake now
and I still don’t turn the light on. I like the dark:
light shows dust gathering, brings obligations.
In the dark, I can imagine the bedroom door open.
(previously published in Under the Radar)

Emma Lee’s Ghosts in the Desert is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing available here. She blogs at and reviews for Sabotage Reviews, The Journal and London Grip.

Two poems by Leah Umansky

I Heard the Sparrows Aging

I heard the sparrows aging
a devouring call
a broken spring, there, turning.

a sputtering of what sounds like keys
the lost just within a-reach
Tenants of the past nearly a-hold

Oh, the horse and the rapture;
The horsefly and the rupture.

               to a sleepy pungent
               a beautied terror
               a backward giving
               and the rain coughing…

Let the gutter turn operatic.
I will sing of the heart
(previously published in Forklift, Ohio, Spring 2015)
It’s Nice To Be Understood, Right?

            we would sing,
in moments odd and

I discouraged the fear
I faced the thrilled heartless

that hop
            that rise
that stranger faring fine

I gloss for you; I do,
and I, too, please the remnants.

Remnant A
Remnant B
            See, all my remnant loves.

I want to kiss this freely.
Scent it into shape.

What faint?
            What clap?
What tangle of eternal?

leave me to wiggle in it

Leah Umansky is a poet, collagist and teacher in New York City. She is the author of the Mad-Men inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream and the full-length collection Domestic Uncertainties. She is the curator of the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as POETRY, Thrush Poetry Journal, and MAGMA. Her Game of Thrones inspired poems have recently been translated into Norwegian by Beijing Trondheim. @lady_bronte

Two poems by Michael Brown

Water lilies

We are watching the sun’s slow dive
into the Wirral. You want to touch
the water-stars of its last light.
Soon it will be time for us
to separate .

Outside this frame of hush
that weightless walk back
from the Tate —
where I had wanted to fall
inside the green water lilies
that lay like time
or surface tension.
Do you remember them
caught in paint,
their lawlessness of oil ?

And here a ferry from Ireland
skulks home to Birkenhead,
its gentle wake of damage
some force fetched to land.

Welcome to Liverpool

I want you to stay
like this. In the time
that remains before the train —
I must hold, hold this.
(placed third in the York Poetry Competition, 2015, judged by Carole Bromley).
The Exhibits at Helmsley Castle

Arrowheads that pierced an armoured man in 1644.
A bodkin tooled to perforate a civil creature’s heart.
Ochred iron earths (thunderballs) lobbed into the heat
of a siege and then there’s these —
monstrous keys for unremembered Keeps
their cleft teeth outlandishly unique
and unfeasible.

Ludicrous, then, that I think of you here.
Your soft turmoil in this green dead world —
that smile that has locked me in its strange history —
Just what are you looking at now?
(published in the Live From Worktown 2015 Anthology )
Michael Brown’s work is widely published. In 2014 he won the Untold London Brazen Valentine Competition. Recently he has collaborated with Maria Isakova Bennett and The Walker Gallery in Liverpool for Light Night. His pamphlet, Undersong (published in 2014) is available from Eyewear Publishing. @Mike_Brown65

Two poems by Maria Isakova Bennett


It’s November and half way through the Our Father
when Richie lifts his head and slurs ‘Halloween

be thy name.’ We serve plates of food –
little rescue rafts on an uncertain sea.

Even the homeless centre reminds me of you:
the way you talked to the man on the street in Dublin,

bought him a meal in The Bleeding Horse and told him
you’d just lost God. I didn’t know who was helping who.

Richie shovels bolognese, his head hits the table.
Coaxed into standing, he slides

backwards and forwards in unlaced shoes,
‘Come on lad! Come on mate!’

A bruise for a face. He falls and rises, slips
and staggers away between unsteady men.

The chairs are wiped, the floor is brushed,
we wash our hands, and the room steadies.

I remember O’Shea on the steps of The Merrion Hotel –
clean-shaven, his hand out for money, his soft voice.

I gave him five euros just to listen to his story
and wondered if he knew you:

the Good Samaritan from Fermanagh
clutching National Geographic shouting

‘There is nothing. Only this.’

(‘Adrift’ won first prize in the 2014 Ver Open Poetry Competition judged by Clare Pollard, and is published in Maria’s first pamphlet Caveat)
Loch Súilí

with its palm open
holds an island of folded red flowers,
bowed heads a halo. The shore is an edge,

a border between, water set low
in the landscape –
every reflection a prisoner

between bars of birch. Red flames
are forced out of shape
by a waft of breeze. I lost the way,

but a candle remains –
a solitary flare, a call for help,
a lone whisper faltering.

I try to return: to the path tasting of salt,
to a wood full of laughter after tears,
to the genesis of light.

Loch Súilí: Lough Swilly.
Lough pronounced, ‘Loch’. Translation: Lake of Shadows

(‘Loch Súilí’ was published in 2015 by Abridged 0_38, The Never Never Issue)

Maria Isakova Bennett is an artist and poet living in Liverpool. During 2014 Maria was highly commended in the Gregory O’ Donoghue Poetry Competition, and was awarded first prize in the Ver Open Poetry Competition. Earlier this year, Maria’s debut pamphlet Caveat, was published by Poetry Bus Press in Ireland. @MariaIzaB