Poem, Poetry

Charley Barnes – 2 poems

Euphorbia | Milk and chocolate

You mishear me, mistake the word
for “euphoria”
and assume I’m offering
something like elation. But I serve
Wolf’s milk instead, chocolate drops
that blister the skin and blind the eyes
because what better way is there
to love someone
than to make them hurt?

“Euphorbia,” you say, through lips
split from sunlight sensitivity
and I shush you, persist
in pressing sap into the dip
of your tongue.
This is different to how you imagined.
“But aren’t you excited, love,”
I ask you, “don’t you feel something now?”

Euphorbia, also known as Wolf’s Milk, is traditionally associated with persistence and purification. The plant blooms with a chocolate flower at its centre. The sap and latex of the plant are extremely poisonous and can cause permanent damage to the eyes and skin.

Cactaceae | And then bury it

I pull out the spines,
feel my fingertip skin break
under the point of them.
They are hard-edged, appropriate,
then, for the root – for the word.

I carve as clearly as the cacti point allows:


This stem, I give back to the earth –
bury it as best as I can where I found it,
to disguise the magic and seal
the intention – make a treehouse
to keep the word safe.

But I take a vial of soil with me.
I will never come back. Only carry
a reminder – only remember the want.

Cactaceae – or cacti – have been used in magic practices. One ritual outlines using a cacti spine to carve a word or symbol into a root, or into wax. The root or wax should then be buried to seal the intent.

Charley Barnes is a lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. She has published several poetry pamphlets, and most recently her debut collection, Lore, published with Black Pear Press (February 2021). She also writes crime fiction as Charlotte Barnes, with Bloodhound Books.

Poem, Poetry

Mark Totterdell – 3 poems

The Choughs On The Cliff

A cry like a ‘ciao’.
For less than a minute,
we watch birds who wear
the black of a widow.

One goes into air,
one stays on pale granite.
One’s feather and bone,
the other’s all shadow.


The blackbird
who chink-chink-chinks in alarm
each time the sky falls,
as if night were
a great black cat
with keen moon eye,

is the same blackbird
who hauls up the sun
from under the horizon
with his pure gold chains
and sets each day in motion.


There’s been an event, here on the forest track.
A mass of stuff has dropped. Already a force
of small beings has fuzzed its domed surfaces,
while others dance, particles round a nucleus.

Here comes the dirt-borer, the true old dumbledor,
the lousy watchman, crawling like clockwork
on carbon fibre legs. Its back is a grooved shield,
its sheen a rainbow of indigo and black.

It comes in at an angle, then it hits
but doesn’t stop; asteroid striking planet,
slow bullet through flesh. It plunges its dark self
deeper and deeper into soft succulent shit.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018) http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/mark-totterdell/4594336680

Poem, Poetry

Adam Chiles

Sunday’s at my Grandmother’s House

By 4 it was already dark. The remains of the roast
put away. I’d wander the house then,
studying her walls, the faded brass of stirrups,
horseshoes, yellowed portraits of the dead.

Each visit, she’d lament the state of things,
the corner store open now on Sundays.
From her window, frown at the young women
in their Bombay silks walking home down

Westfield Road. That was 1975. The foundries
long closed. Their chimneys blackened against
Bradford’s millstone walls. My Grandmother
observed her late sabbaths, alone. The nearby Calder

running its metal through her veins. Her cadence,
hardening. Her face, the silhouette of another world.

Adam Chile’s first collection of poems, ‘Evening Land’ (Cinnamon Press) was nominated for the 2009 Gerald Lampert Memorial award for best debut collection in Canada. His second collection Bluff has been accepted by Measure Press and will be published in Summer 2021. Adam’s work has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2006 (Samovar) and has appeared in numerous journals including Barrow Street, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Connotation Press, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Magma, Permafrost, RHINO, The Threepenny Review and Thrush Poetry Review.

Adam grew up on the east coast of Yorkshire and now lives in Virginia, USA. He is professor of English and Creative Writing at Northern Virginia Community College and serves on the editorial board at Poet Lore.

Poem, Poetry

D. S. Maolalai

Dublin. Covid. Late afternoon.

the shops
all boarded up
with old plywood
and posters.

gone walking
and the faces
of shut shops. dublin
with an all-over
rustiness. carlight
on fox-fur
in a ditch
by the road. the sun-

set on flowers.
the collapse
of a lifetime. the world
all a detail
of fading
cracked bricks.

DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

Twitter: @diarmo1990

Poem, Poetry

Craig Dobson


Less a border than an end of choice:
marsh land, mists, cries to frighten any night.
Beyond are stone lands; beyond those: ice.
Law here favours the living.

Furs, amber, mammoth calves,
whale snout, slaves and dirt-strong
spirit, moving both ways
like souls uncertain of themselves.

Business happens quick, never alone.
Dogs smell fear, wolves and the weak.
Grey tomorrow, grey today.
What must is done, then stole away.

All the cold of stone and water
worshipping only wind: gulls for seraph,
moans for prayer, a god of storms
to wash off blood. Those with fire die for it.

Litter migrates north. Oils, plastic, the jitter
of nuclear spill. Currents pass on
what isn’t eaten by the starving shoals;
nothing is wasted save regret.

The real trade’s in ghosts, though:
the myths of myths of more. For those,
men go farther still, into cold so fast
they’re young again before they die –

just before – the flint kindnesses
giving in, the greed freezing their eyes
to dream the wounded time again,
striking nothing’s richest need.

Craig’s been published in Acumen, Agenda, Antiphon, Butcher’s Dog, Crannóg, The Frogmore Papers, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, The London Magazine, Magma, Neon, New Welsh Review, The North, Orbis, Pennine Platform, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Poetry Village, Prole, The Rialto, Stand, Southword and Under The Radar.