I’m lying face down letting
the water lap over me
I think of all the ways you were
gentle with me

I need to be more gentle with myself.

Soft kisses on my face
standing on Arranmore
You were my shelter on a blustery day

Let me go gently.

Emily Cave

The promise of death kisses

I thought his death kisses meant the sun could only shine on my side of the bed.

I lay her to sleep never to be pricked again
And woke myself up instead.

I took off my adulterous clothes and folded them neatly into piles of shame and guilt.

I handed them over to you.
Banished ivy from my body and invited purity to cover her
As my garden appeared above the rubble.

I stopped bathing in milk and drank honey,
Left sin for manna and their knowledge for your bread.

Yet still I feel this pounding renovating a home in my head.
It is going at the speed of Harriet’s tongues wishing for her master’s death.
Anansi’s feet racing across skin drums and my great grandmother’s voodoo spells left like an ominous ancient twitter thread.

It is homely, it’s pure, it’s dark and it hurts.
A pain deeper than hot oil pouring on sacrifices of awaited son’s flesh.

I am dancing in it.
Forcing nails into my palms in hopes that it will lay to rest.
Looking up at the sun and wandering if the moon ever catches its breath.
Because it goes on living,
Getting brighter and brighter
Whilst panting.
With tongue out, hair scraped back, to show its delight.

I’m living
Like tomorrow will be better.
Like time can promise me that at all.

I want to be the moon when I grow up.
Glow like it does.
I want to catch the tidal wave before man’s inevitable fall.

Naomi Sampson

Have you ever sat opposite yourself for breakfast?

‘Attractive people don’t eat’ he says, scraping the base of his water-into-wine glass against the edge of the formica table; wet, from being filled with an uncertain hand. Taking a sip, the butter in his moustache mixes with the water, giving his mouth all the appearance of ripeness.

Attraction dictates the season - in the summer, we glow with sweat; in winter, we shiver with songs. When these words fall from his lips like the crumbs of an imported bagel, freshly toasted and buttered up, what he means to say (and is already saying) is that attractive people are not caught eating. Therefore, they must not eat.

Attraction dictates the season - in spring, it is the future; in autumn, the past. His summer ‘tache is a dream of New York in the 70’s when being a kid paid better, and sickness was off the tongue - at least for little while.

When we move into a moment, it is attraction that rules that moment.

I follow the breadcrumbs in his moustache to a closed mouth: both a memory and a dream of home.

Frankie Blaus


Breathe free,
Feel the arch in your back,
Release in you neck
And pull open your chest

Draw in,
A cool drink of air,
A reminder of life
And the invisible gift.

Extend your arms,
Reach up to through the clouds,
Throw your head back
And laugh at the stars

You are vibrant,
Your body is sensation
And you have time to race.

Jasmine Taylor

In Another Life, a Farmer

It was the fecundity,
what brought you this way.
Your nature pushed you
toward the wild, the unmanicured,
the ample fields, the spread-out land:
the reproductive possibilities,
the thrill of taming.

Caitlin Johnson


You eat raspberries, pink and tangy, from the carton.
"Help yourself," your mother says, glad you like something healthy.
But you know a secret – that raspberries can also be blue.

You have seen them, consumed them, in the form of Slush,
which you drink at Alphabet Zoo, the local play centre. Of course
you choose mystical blue raspberry over old red strawberry.

You push your small self up the tall, soft cylinders, pad
proudly along the second storey. Maybe you braved the tunnel once
before becoming too scared of getting trapped in the dark.

At a party, you and the other kids clamber up all the triangles.
You only managed a couple before. You have access to the top storey,
now, where you run, chase the others, feel sophisticated.

You squeeze through the rollers, no longer the baby who cheated
and crawled under. You are great. You try to swing on the red spheres
that should carry you for miles – but you always fall off.

You scramble straight to the top now, even when it is just you
and your brother, so your mother and everyone else can see just how
gifted you are, how unafraid. How you can do anything.

Except, technically, go through that tunnel, or stay on
the swings, or do the vertical slide – but that is because your mother
banned you. But would you have slid down it if you could?

Do you remember in South Shields, at the seaside fair,
how you dragged your sliding mat to the top of the helter skelter steps,
then dragged it all the way back down them, unable to do it?

But at Alphabet Zoo you are a monarch, free and proud, ruling,
and then hopping back down to the café to order your blue raspberry
potion and sip your way through all that magic, that wonder.

Nobody expects raspberries to be blue, but in this world,
they can be. They can be how they want, do what they want, keep
surprising people. Maybe raspberries even surprise themselves.

Elizabeth Gibson


You might not know this
but her hair curls like scoliosis,
next to no notice:
she comes to tell tales of wife
she almost had.

I'd been long-walking
my head out:
from Zion Art
to Empress Street.

Now I watch
single tear make its blink
as she stem-twists
cooking apples,
(the old game of stem-break).

I am always the third person
I think of when she says my name.

They said I should have held
her tongue between my teeth
so she could only taste enamel
and me - tailless and head-blue
from walking lies,

but Old Wives tale;
don’t open umbrellas inside.

Roma Havers

Dear You

Dear You,
You are the one who has my heart,
You are the one who took it far
You and I have pictures together
You and I know that they will last forever
You fell asleep in front of my eyes
You felt comfortable as you closed your eyes.

I know I will keep you with me where I go
I know you will be there with me until I go
I know you loved me, through and through
I know you know I loved you, too
I know I held you one last time
I know I meant it for a lifetime
I know it wasn't your time but, you had to go to help those whom needed you even more so.

For my favourite person who I miss more than anything. Keep shining, my beautiful star.

Leah Johnson