Kate Murray  (2014 )

One More River

‘I’ll come water-divining, Dad,

I’ll gather magic hazel-twigs …’

‘Dowsing,’ Dad says, and out in the shed

hang two copper-rods – his means

of getting it into the head of

that knockroad bugger of a council man

that water does run under Jordan’s Land.

She’s let carry the rods,

Dad has the map, the pencil, the plan.

‘Can I go first? Please, Dad.’

He nods, ‘Reckon you can,

hold ‘em loose, mind.

Start at the rowan, I’ll find

the spot and mark it down.

Hushed, she treads buttercups and grass

in a hovering motion until,

ten paces on, comes the wonder:

a precursory quiver of oscillation, then

measured, irresistible pulling-apart to her silent chant:

‘Where Alph the sacred river ran

Through caverns measureless to man…’

Bless me!

If we haven’t got a Water Diviner in the family,’

says Dad.

Often it is difficult to highlight the workings of the School of poets and illustrate all of the changes and deletions leading to the finished poem. This case is special. Only one change was required. The original title was, ‘Going with the flow’. Kate herself was not too happy with this.

Oh there's one more river, and that's the river (of) Jordan,

There's one more river, there's one more river to cross.

Philip Hutton (2014)

Nature v Dentured Ruminants

That sheep may safely graze,

unslaughtered, exempt from meat en masse

lingering in damp fields

until from faults inherent in their unevolved design

their wobbled teeth would drop out on the grass,

gives pause to grinding minds.

Natural selection never got beyond

the passing on of genes. To that point efficient-

perfected physiology, fit for purpose tail to teeth

evolved to court the nod of evolutioners.

Mammals birthed, suckled, passed on life and breath;

that done, went forth respectfully to predators.

Should aged sheep be fitted with falsers

to extend longevity and repair their faces?

They’d chomp the sunlit uplands

mended, tended by dental Mr Fixit

till with disappointment evident in grimaces

they’d herd and huddle through the next entropic exit.

Even Dolly, clever clogs, got cloned by vegan boffins,

exempt from butchering, her chops untasted,

was pretty soon abandoned by her blood and breed

her species and her phylum. At her paddock’s end

though safe from wolves, grieved for her woolly friends.

So third age ladies, gentlemen, abandoned by our bones

our purposes pets and proteges, go forth to our creators.

There’s more provision made for stones;

where ivy’d ruins in the middle distance

are picturesque at least, romantic in persistence.

Sue McKendrick

Sue grew up in Birmingham.  After studying maths at Bath University, went on to become a statistician and works in Edinburgh, writing computer programs and reports on the results of clinical trials.  Her free time is mostly taken up with teenage children and volunteering at the Royal Edinburgh Community Garden.  She likes to base her poems on short, true stories with a humorous twist!

The Sting in the Tale

Spring is in the air,

new love fills their hearts

with desire.

In a moment of lust,

he flings his underpants

towards the open window.


Their bodies are interlaced,

skin tingling against skin.

The sun streams in

and stirs the passions within.

Completely absorbed by

the heavenly moment…aaaah!


Then, a clinking of cups

stirs them back to reality.

Is her Dad bringing tea?

“Shit!  Get back to the spare room -

that’s where Dad thinks you should be!”

He moves quickly but doesn’t see

what’s entered his pants.


The wasp gets a surprise too!


He muffles a scream

and faster than the speed of light,

faster than she thought a man could move,

he rips off his pants, and skips around.

“It’s not getting out of here alive!”

She laughs at him being mistaken for a flower.


Meanwhile, the clinking sound draws near…

Cynthia Stephens

Born in Edinburgh Cynthia grew up in East Lothian. After 30 years away she returned and currently works as a Spanish translator from her seaside home

On the Border (1973)

In Mashhad we camped

for a week. I was afraid

only of giant ants

that clambered constantly

over limb and shank;

boredom broken by a bazaar sortie

where the hordes stared,

and I stoned their touch.

My head held high;

my pretty face, I now know,

as I gaze at an old photo.

Claustrophobia, how they crowded,

staring and invading my space.

I was in their space, that July.

Still unafraid, still unabashed;

at twenty, who would be cowed?

And the stones that I threw

were so small.

On my map

I look up Mashhad.

To the south "Plateau of Iran",

to the east "Afghanistan".

South east, along the border,

there lies Pakistan.

There went our cranky bus,

through tribal lands of Baluchistan,

through deserts, dirt track, and war.

At Quetta they watched us with guns;

without water we waited, and waited.

What crisis was this we had stumbled upon?

The World Service was guiding us on.

With skin of gooseflesh

and bowels of water,

the first fear drew near

like a noose of slaughter.

I had crossed a new border;

now August,

I had changed and was older.

More than three decades on,

I gaze at a photo of a girl who is young.

Wonder if she was me!

I remember the hordes

as they watched and touched.

I fear for the girl

on her border.

I’m invisible now,

free to see, only see.

And it seems a wild dream,

a Surreal imagining,

to have crossed

the tribal lands of Baluchistan,

Ignorant of map or politician,

free of defence or weapon,

with just youth and its beauty and joy,

and its fearless, innocent expression.

Betty Green (2014)

Shed Culture 1

Our shed

through the arch

in the shade of the willow,

beyond the bird box on the old tree stump,

Dreams, honeysuckle, clematis and roses,

a dull, dark green;

when summer has gone,

and the roses, clematis and autumn have passed                           

our still cold shed stays;

and a dark spell descends.

A quiet winter spell

Sentinel shed

companion for birds,   

our dull, dark green shed,

A shed for affection;

A poem?

A painting?

A part of our landscape.

Part of our childhood,

Part of our golden years



without which

we would stand


Shed Culture 2

Shed culture!

Shed culture!

That dominant voice in the babble of words.

To spread or discard

or to muse on a life with no books and no art.

Shed culture and what will be left ?

Hewers of wood

drawers of water again;

no rhythms, descriptions;

we will never shed culture,

We will not!

We will not!

Then, a poem once chanced on,

Sheds and their culture;

spread culture




she thought.

Angus Ogilvie (2014)

Natural Trajectories

He remembers how, with calculated will,

He’d kicked the stone and watched it rise predictably

to crack the glass that kept the pressure building

In that room the day his father up and left

And how he’d ran to set the wind against his hair

To feel the onslaught of his heart invade his ears

Along the scent trail of the only road he knew

Until the farm dog stopped him in his tracks

Erupting from the bowels of McWhirter’s yard

And streaking at him with a seasoned snarl.

He’d seen the flash of unknown history

Surging there behind the eye, its register

Of buried pain, and walked away,

Hot breath worrying  at his heels.

Now as he wanders back through all the years

Towards the very spot he wonders still

If he’d have kicked that dog, had it been chained.

Rhoda MacKenzie

The Lost Hundred and Forty

Acres, that is,

unmapped. A mistake.

Josiah and his mates

sent from the Survey

lost the place

charting a lake

In 1882, in November’s

cold wastes, and

with a taste of jerky

and beans and failure

to dog their days.

The fact remains

Centuries old trees

Were saved, waters

Could rise and drain,

Deer nibble, beavers

Play, loggers scracth

Their pates and say,

‘No felling here. Acres

Have gone astray’,

Later the State

Located them


And magnificent.

Angela Blacklock-Brown (2014)

Forest Trail

I leave the comfort of the lodge,

Slide into snowshoes,

Slipping into a rhythm,

A slow shuffle through the woods

And in my head, melodies.

‘The Sound of Music,’ tempered with

The poetry of Frost, deciding whether

To chose the blue arrowed route

Or the yellow squared slope.

Behind me trees creak as

Snow cascades to the ground.

An avalanche of branches blocks the trail.

Stepping out of the dark. I push on upwards

Into the sunshine.

Jeff Kemp ( 2014)

A Slow Float Through Synapses

Cigarette in one hand,

drink in the other;

it's no surprise that

he painted with

his mind:

let abstractions

shape design.

Impounded on a throwaway island

at the dog end of empire,

it’s little wonder his canvases

encompass both proximity

and distance:

intricate lines shanghai’d

to surround riotous ideas.

Eventualities are delicately

balanced across the

full stretch of images,

all framed with

deliberate simplicity:

directing attention inward,

time and again.

Notebook in one hand,

pen in the other,

I stand then sit, beside then before,

these walls installed with their

uncompromising elements,

less paintings than fables

told by foundling children

of chaos and order who

refuse to repudiate

their unruly parents.

Drawn through a gauntlet

of impressionistic views,

effects infused with causes,


my waking moments are infiltrated

by brush-strokes making them

fluid as oil poured on water,

purposes intoxicated

by process.

Ghosting along halls

devoid of windows but

busy as a museum with

insights waiting for

an audience.

Sunlight outside

trembles on the threshold.

Maurice Franceschi (2014)


The sun scratched out of the day a red of a distant burning,
bus headlights twitched on, the face that is no reflection looked

in, unable to influence decisions but the true receptacle of grace,
my guarantor should I dissipate in action and inaction,  
but even he looked done, ready to travel home with me,

rather than cross the border, where I had once sought
resurrection, or love of a kind to seek continuance
in,  eke out moisture carefully to see me through.

So in the end transfigured place, the survivors
of my unmet group of friends, family and familiar beasts,
the sharing of food, regular opiate of art

but which does substitute religion, would prove mineral
enough from an abandoned seam to mine, blacken me afresh.

So I turned with the weasel and out  
of the wood, unlocked the oubliette of my flesh,
washed my soul down, shouted twice

to hear a kind of human voice again, to say
a prayer of sorts, asking intercession by our lost,  
that the divine that subsists in all things restore me.

I had no regrets other than it was late in the day,
and travelled on, checking for my knife,
the notebook and pen, and those photographs
I always carry (but find hard to look at, even now).

Before I arrived, I called ahead, and someone
said they’d be there at the station, and I thanked them
without mentioning I had forgotten what meeting

was like, if it was just a thing of touch and kisses,
some bookend of friendship, or something more.

Tony Lawrence (2014)

At the Cosmetic Counter at Boots

Shapes rose from the deep

into diamond-white light

and ice-cooled glare,

and mirrored

or miraged,

with colours unreal

poised hovering fish

lips waxed

not warning

the sweet bloodless blush

and could be


and hidden

but smiling their welcome

don’t come,

do not go


sea anemones

lodged in the coral


full facing face-wards

the true consummation,


the question that could not be passed

then the answer.

Transaction completed,

we drifted away,

with sweet scented oils

in bright coloured glass.

The advisory group had trouble with the implied transition from a coral reef to a perfume counter in the opening lines. This has still to be resolved.

James Spence

The Greener Grass

They say the grass is greener

on the other side. But why?

For when I took myself there

I wouldn’t have said it was.

So I fixed to a fence post

a close-circuit camera,

to keep a watch after I’d gone,

But the grass stayed dull as ever.

Mum whinged ‘ It wasn’t natural’,

When I turned up the brightness.

Shampa Ray (2014)

The man who laughs

2 am, He laughs now

to himself, face pink

as he trundles the zimmer,

the parquet living room,

open plan, giggles with him

as never before.

He’s on his way

to the downstairs loo again.

Two doors kept open, lights on

for ease of transport.

He laughs all the way there,

this man, my Dad,

and back again to bed,

as though he has saved up

all his joy for the end.



Kate Murray

Philip Hutton

Sue McKendrick

Cynthia Stephens

Betty Green

Angus Ogilvie

Rhoda MacKenzie

Angela Blacklock-Brown

Jeff Kemp

Maurice Franceschi

Tony Lawrence

James Spence

Shampa Ray