Poem, Poetry

Mike Farren

(for Tom)

He is cycling down a canal towpath
late. Always late – limbs appearing to push
in contradictory directions but
he’s fast – until he sees me and either

stops for a brief and breathless greeting or
hails me, without breaking his staccato
rhythm, in a voice I half expect to
doppler as he passes. He is wearing

a work suit with narrow tie and a shirt
whose tail has unmoored itself with the strain.
The towpath takes a day to turn from mud
to dust and fifteen minutes back to mud:

whatever the weather brings will cling to him
through the day as he speaks patiently to
small children and thinks about rain, falling
and ruin. Later, he will shrug off as

much of the day as he can, wear the dark
blue jumper over coat-hanger shoulders
so that it falls as if empty, climb up
to the woods, with the dog who has to learn

about gravity for the first time each
time he meets it. At last, he will return
to her, in the house where they had ship-wrecked
themselves and they will not need text-speak. One

day, there will be a different city –
perhaps even a different canal.
He will worry about whether horses
will actually be there for his own child,

while I will still be walking down the same
old towpath, trying to work out how life –
how friendship and poetry – whistled by
so fast.

Mike Farren has authored two pamphlets: Pierrot and his Mother (Templar) and All of the Moons (Yaffle). He won the Saltaire Festival and the Ilkley Literature Festival Walter Swan poetry prizes (both 2020), and was Poem of the North ‘canto’ winner (2018). His poems appear widely in journals and anthologies.


Janet Hatherley

The children who lived in a barn

managed very well by themselves
when their parents disappeared. It’s my favourite book.
My Mum’s gone too, she’s in hospital.

I’m ten years old, in charge of the baby. I have a list
—feeding times, nappy change, bath time, bedtime,
Mrs Mockler’s address and when to visit her.

Dad has his list too, in charge of everything else—
food on the table, making sure my brother and sister
get dressed, helping me.

I carry Michael upstairs, Dad’s not able to—
fill the baby bath with warm water,
check it with my elbow like Mum does.

Dad puts the potatoes on, the greens in the steamer,
the Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie in the oven—
comes up to the bathroom, watches

as I lift the baby out, wrap him in a towel.
Downstairs, he warms the bottle in the saucepan.
I feed Michael, lay him carefully in his carrycot.

He cries—and doesn’t stop. How long do I leave him?
I check Mum’s note, pick him up,
rub his back like she does.

Round and round the bedroom,
Rock-a-bye-baby on the tree-top. What now?
Wish I could ask Mum. When the bough breaks

the cradle will fall. It’s dark outside, no one about,
no phone box nearby. I’m up twice in the night.
Next morning, I put Michael in his pram,

wheel him down the road to Mrs Mockler.
She’s young, has dyed blond hair cut short
and false teeth, tells me not to worry, all babies cry.

She takes the dirty nappies, soaks them in a bucket,
sterilises the glass bottles and rubber teats,
watches me feed him, says You’re doing great.

I feel grown-up.
It seems that Mum’s away for ever.
Then she’s home and everything’s back to normal.

I hand Michael to her, strap on my roller skates,
call for Rita. Coming out to play?
Back to being a big sister—

don’t think I want to live in a barn, after all.

The children who lived in a barn, by Eleanor Graham

Janet Hatherley is from London.  She has had poems published in several magazines including The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Stand, Coast to coast to coastThe Poetry VillageBrittle Star.  Commended in Indigo Dreams Collection Competition, 2019, she was shortlisted in Coast to Coast to Coast’s portfolio competition, 2020.


Poem, Poetry

M. E. Muir

There’s a Tree on my Terrace

My shrub pretends to be a tree
called grandly stagshorn sumac,
glowers behind his fingered leaves
offers his flimsy scrap of shade.

My terrace asked me for a proper tree;
this is my best, I cherish every inch,
spray him with cans of miracle-feed,
and wait through summer till a glint of red

marks on his fifteen leaflets autumn’s touch.
Sad when they drop, I press them close,
a memory in case I fail his needs.

I long to lie below his gift of green,
cherish at last his trunk of velvet bark,
let terrace swop the blue umbrella screen
for my almost proper tree.

M. E. Muir is a Scot now living in London, former teacher and business consultant, whose work has recently been published in eg Dawntreader, Morphrog, The London Grip, Ink Sweat & Tears, Porridge, and of course in the Poetry Village, with a first collection  EX SITU just out from Dempsey & Windle.

Poem, Poetry

Maggie Reed

Blue and White Cup

On the shelf in Granny’s bungalow in Jodhpur
part of the tea-service trembling in the earthquake,
sole survivor on the mantelpiece at Barton Vicarage.

You could swallow only two mouthfuls of tea
from this porcelain, straight-edged cup,
hold it with your little finger straight.

The keys it holds have lost their locks,
under the ivory elephant a safety pin,
a black and white photo of me, aged 14.

When I’m gone it will be found by the grandchildren,
dropped, perhaps, on the footpath, smashed,
scuffed under a bush, unearthed by developers,
collected by a writer with new stories to tell.

Maggie Reed, originally from Cumbria, now lives in the Malverns, Worcestershire. She has been published in The North magazine, Pennine PlatformOrbis, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Poetry Birmingham, Unpsychology, The Lake, The Beach Hut and Message in a Bottle, as well as numerous anthologies, including Places of Poetry.

Poem, Poetry

Aziz Dixon

Rebecca Jones
inspired by O! Tyn y Gorchudd by Angharad Price

Now you’ve read my story
you can see we might have met
that day you came down
off the mountain
in a storm,
with your dad.

You saw a roofless cottage,
sheep in the parlour,
bracken sprouting from the stove,
but I was quilting
by the fire.

Now you’ve seen my grave
you know when I died,
not in Mametz Wood
but here, of diptheria,
like my brother.

I slept a hundred years
until an author gave me a life,
peace, old age
that ends in rain
in the farm where it all began.

Aziz Dixon is drawn to landscapes of the heart, and to Wales, and searches for poem seeds in stillness and in daily life. 

He was excited to publish his first pamphlet as a Maytree Press, Three Trees edition.