Prohibited to Touch You 

they were hidden in dying sunlight 
circles around your lips 
a pouted patch touched by age 
You — surviving like words on a page— 
delicately curl without intentions  
wanting to freak me in a passage 
it’s small effort to make me think  
shining stars and distant analogies 
a wrinkled cosmos on forehead— 
a prohibited room of imagination 
not a battle for silence  
just eyes trapped behind doors 
But in fact, I haven’t even come close 
to you. At least, I want to. 
 
 
Rizwan Akhtar works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his PhD in postcolonial literature from the University of Essex, UK in 2013. He has published poems in well-established poetry magazines of the UK, Wales, US, India, Canada, and New Zealand. He has also done a 5 weeks workshop on poetry with Derek Walcott at the University of Essex in 2010.
 

Knitting a Gansey. 
  
A gansey or Guernsey (from the Channel Isles) is the traditional woollen jumper worn by seamen. Usually kitted by their wives the tight twisted wool keeps out wind and sea spray. 
  
  
In flame flicker and kitchen light, 
she snicks, slides, dips. 
Needles tap like the rattle 
of dice or chatter of teeth. 
A twist, loop through. 
Thoughts in time to the click, slip 
and his fate hangs on luck. 
As did his Dad and his before. 
There’s a stitch for his life, 
one for his love, 
one for his ongoing safety. 
Hope twists into every loop 
as the gansey grows, 
on four needles in the round. 
a long woollen mouth, 
body-wide, cosy, and sleeves 
are muscled in, 
with her elbows tucked rib-tight 
needles like swords, clashing. 
She knits for his warmth, 
knits for his health, 
knits for his next return. 
As it grows she thinks of how 
it will encase him. 
Keep out North Sea wind and salt spray. 
She sees the garment grow, 
expand as they have grown. 
A stitch for a child, a stitch for a ring, 
a stitch for a long-held marriage. 
In flame flicker and kitchen light 
she holds his face in her mind. 
Knows his smile, his smell, 
his arms about her. 
Knits a stitch for his eyes, 
a stitch for his mouth 
a stitch for his fisherman’s heart. 
 
 
  
Michele Byrne 

SOUL 

for Grant Tarbard 
  
Northern kids, their futures 
predictable, they grafted dourly 
five days a week down pits, in shops 
and on the factory floor – 
paying their way with some left 
for vinyl, speed and threads. 
  
Travelling miles by train each 
weekend with a change of clothes 
and a box of classic tracks 
– minor hits and rarities 
by blacks the charts ignored – 
they kept the faith 
  
and stormed the bouncers 
– who lost their cool and didn’t get it – 
once doors were opened 
to another drenched all-nighter 
at Wigan Casino, the Highland Room, 
the Golden Torch, the Wheel. 
  
A four-four beat was all 
they needed, rock steady, 
relentless, and simple lyrics 
that told the truth. Hallucogenics 
and hopeless solos 
warped the walls  of bedsits 
  
in never-never-land, 
but lads in bags and polo shirts, 
their girls in swirling skirts, 
danced all night till morning. 
Doing splits and fancy tricks, 
they span around like dervishes.  
 
David Cooke was born in the UK but his family comes from the West of Ireland. His poems, translations and reviews have appeared widely in the UK, Ireland and beyond He has published five collections of his poetry, the latest of which is After Hours published by Cultured Llama Publishing in 2017. David co-edits The High Window.

 
 BUNTY 
 
She would submit fashion pictures 
– Spotty dresses, cut-off leggings, 
Cutely jazzy zig-zag tops, 
Off to Bunty Magazine 
And as I let her lick the stamps, 
I breathed hope into those envelopes. 
But she never won the prize, 
Never was publicized. 
 
The back page of Bunty 
Carried outfits with little tabs; A, B, C, etc. 
Which, carefully cut out, 
Might just about stay on the anodyne frame 
Of Bunty herself, 
Who wore only vest and knickers 
Waiting to be dressed. 
She was the perfect patient girl; 
Perfect with her bobbed hair and no tits. 
She had adventures with kittens 
And humorous encounters with deck-chairs 
 
...Unlike the Four Marys who thrilled us all 
With scary missions inside 
Weird crypts and secret corridors 
And there were plenty other tales: 
Orphan slaveys, acrobats, 
The sabotage of step-sisters 
And ragged ballerinas, shining, spiralling, 
Out from bedroom mirrors, 
Dancing on the pages 
– All of great but undiscovered 
Blue-blood and/or talent: 
Bullied by the worthless/jealous rich 
Until the mysteries of hidden, but 
Inevitable heritages unravelled. 
 
Yes, Bunty Magazine for girls 
Dripped with weekly cruelty 
And masochism but, 
Though badness ever lurked 
With sneering lips to keep apart 
Some poor girl from her darling horse 
And break her heart, 
Smart endurance 
And forbearance in the stories 
Got rewarded always by the sunshine ointment 
Of success and rapture in the fragrant end. 
 
I think I suffered more than disappointment 
When my stoic daughter's contributions 
Ended on the reject floor; 
Never won a medal once, 
Never got to dress the star, 
Never, ever caught the eye 
Of that ingrate Bunty editor. 
 
Clive Donovan  devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Pushing out the boat, Prole, Salzburg Review and The Journal. He lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes, Devon, often walking along the River Dart for inspiration. He has yet to make a first collection.


Swallows 
  
They’d perch on phone wires near the house 
to twitter sub-Saharan words, 
red-throated, hectic immigrants. 
  
We tried to welcome them, spell out 
our joy at their return, but like 
confused hoteliers we mumbled. 
  
They’d flown for days, five thousand miles, 
across dust deserts, mountains, sea, 
to occupy old nesting sites 
  
and through high summer skim around 
our chicken run and hoover up 
their prey, then bolt into the dark 
  
where tiny mouths demanded food; 
loud-gaping purses of attention; 
insects tendered on the wing. 
  
And then a blue-black shoulder turned 
once more to greet out there, the endless 
blue of summer skies, their home. 
 
Simon Fletcher has had 4 collections of poetry published, the last Close to Home, Headland, in 2015, and poems in many magazines including, recently, Orbis, Envoi and The Seventh Quarry.

THE HANGMAN’S TREE REPURPOSED 
 
You can’t keep history – its darker secrets – 
from bursting out all over Main Street. 
The Hangman’s Tree saloon, built on the stump 
of the actual tree, drew locals and tourists 
like moths, the dummy cowboy George 
swinging from the façade like a dusty flame. 
The old Gold Rush mortise-and-tenon 
building at last declared unsound; boarded up. 
City managers said it had to go. Our town’s 
most famous landmark? A fixer-upper, 
it was retrofitted, spiffied up. Preserved, that 
ponderous front door swings open 
on its legendary groove, calligraphy of Time. 
But on the polished bar, sparkling 
spoons, bowls, and saucers instead of beer mugs. 
What will the raucous swinging ghosts 
do, in a Hangman’s Tree that’s family-friendly, 
serving ice cream. 
 
Taylor Graham is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the California Sierra, and serves as El Dorado County’s first poet laureate (2016-2018). She’s included in the anthologies Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University). Her latest book is Uplift (Cold River Press, 2016).
Weight 
  
Round a friend’s house 
(Who once saw a dead man standing at a window) 
I remember a soul weighs 21 grams 
according to a film I heard of. 
Half a Mars bar, she says. 
  
There are too many mirrors in her house 
refracting through cold surfaces 
different identities revealing themselves in each one 
Shadows at the edges. 
  
I walk around wandering 
By how many souls 
Am I now overweight? 
I could sanctuary lost spirits 
In my flesh. 


A community worker, artist and writer Andrea Mbarushimana suffers acutely from being interested in everything. She has just had her first short collection published with Silhouette Press. Other credits include the Development Education Journal and Soil Biology and Biochemistry. You can find her on www.andrea-mbarushimana.c

The Number of the Universe 

 
In the beginning sky was cut from earth 
water from land; 
binary sliced out of uniary. 
 
Let there be a tossed coin, one and zero. 
From them destiny follows. 
 
From the beginning, luck is trinary: 
intended, 
past 
to come; 
you float or drown. 
 
Let there be thimblerig, three way chance 
the zero, the one and the coin. 
 
Whether sailing three ways 
or infinitary 
the number of fortune’s unknown. 
 
Let the dice, poly-sides for poly-choice, 
roll into binary: win or lose. 

 E. A. M. Harris has been writing for some years and several of her poems and stories have appeared in print and online magazines and anthologies. She blogs at http://eamharris.com/ and tweets as E A M Harris @Eah1E.

 Chill 
  
 these 
lone 
words 
of 
chilled 
desire 
are 
on 
parchment 
scroll 
unravel 
them 
one 
future 
day 
when 
your 
skin 
is 
dry 
your 
secret 
past 
unfolds 
before 
your 
tired 
limbs 
to 
thrust 
and 
surge 
again 
back 
to 
the 
thrill 
of 
the  
crackling 
fire 


Julie Sampson's poetry is widely published online, in small press magazines and in anthologies. Her work has been short-listed and placed in several competitions, including Wells Festival of Literature poetry competition, the erbacce-prize and The Page is Printed competition. She edited Mary Lady Chudleigh; Selected Poems (Shearsman Books, 2009). Sampson's full collection, Tessitura, was published by Shearsman, in 2014 and a non-fiction manuscript, Voices from the Wildridge; Women Writers in the Devon Landscape, was short-listed for The Impress Prize, in 2015. 

Little White Lie 
 
 
Mother has sewn a white lie  
into the hem of my breast pocket,  
 
a finishing method for a voodoo doll boy  
folded narrowly. The white lie will grow  
 
in my pocket as an egg, my blood  
will be an incubator, my marrow  
 
will be fed to the bones of her dead son  
made in me, a little ivory lie scattering 
 
into the fledging feathers of a goose. 
The goose will merge out of my back  
 
giving me the appearance of having angel wings,  
the goose’s beak pecks my cartilage.  
 
This piece of cloth is sewn to prevent 
the unravelling of mother's fabric heart. 
 
Grant Tabard is an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron and a reviewer. His new collection Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams) will be released soon.