Forsythia – a poem by Jennifer Davis Michael


Not rose or lily—lovely as they are—
but irrepressible forsythia
should be the quintessential Easter flower.

Rampant yellow, it basks against blue skies,
but leaps, exulting, on rainy days.
It clashes with your pastel dress.

Unruly, its branches arc from earth to heaven.
The cross-shaped flower shouts Alleluia,
heralding the green leaf,

hissing at death
with the force of its whispered name:


Jennifer Davis Michael is Professor and Chair of English at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Mezzo Cammin, Southern Poetry Review, Literary Mama, Switchgrass Review, and Cumberland River Review.

The Good Void – a poem by Alan Rycroft

The Good Void

Though I ride through flood and through flame
Through death throes and the birthing of a world
Through the battlefield’s roar and the
Peace of the ships of no thought
Crossing the windless sea;
Though I sift through sands of delusion
Boundless as the truth,
May I come at last
To the Good Void.

Though I journey vasts of jungles
And searing desert plains,
Through the savagery of cities
And the mute grief of the earth
Through the vortex of the mind
Pulled out to open sea
By stronger currents of the heart;
Though my ending be
Where I pristinely start
May I come at last
To the Good Void.

Through all I have done for the light
And the many wrongs I have failed to right
Though the flowers of enlightenment are grown
From the dung heap of self will –
Fell pride of Adam and the fall,
Though I climb the peaks of heaven
Down the stairwells of hell
Though I wrestle my way through the veil
And would tear it entirely from her face,
I cannot see the beauty of it all
Till I come at last
To the Good Void.

Though I am come with the wound of riches
From the wasted realms of ten thousand kings,
I am an old gentleman of the road
Who has nothing, and sleeps in a ditch!
Though I am that I am
Through the dreaming of dreams
And nightmares without end
Though I’d shine like an angel of light
To the elect on the crystalline walls of Jerusalem,
My flesh shrivels daily
On this bag of bones
Till I come at last
To the Good Void.

Alan Rycroft was born in London in 1957, though long based in Bristol with his family. His life has often taken him on a planetary odyssey being a qualified Lecturer with an MA in Applied Linguistics, he has been engaged in teaching English across universities and companies in the Middle East and Far East. He has been much privileged and enriched to imbibe and interact with so many faith traditions and cultural influences globally.  All the while he says poetry has been a constant comfort, companion and mentor, has quietly distilled a profound and rich internal dialogue of self understanding and realization, at once a form of therapy and illumination, as well as exacting taskmaster and craft. Simultaneously , the  poetic venture has been a conversing with inner Spirit, trying to catch that ever elusive resonance and the multidimensional voices of the heart, by turns, colloquial human and every day, mythic, shamanistic, high philosophical and spiritually enlightening striving for a universal authentic explication.  His Collection At the Steep Face of Your Heart is forthcoming; he can be contacted on :

Spirit – a poem by Julian Nangle


As the lock on life finally clicks
And the hand that held the key is held up high
When its fingers point inward from the mix,
Is there the chance the dance of death might die
Before the closing speeches on the day
Conclude the teachers’ teaching is for those
Who know there is no truth in what they say
Only for what each of us already knows
That, just around the corner from where the spirit breathes
Lies understanding that no love loves, dies, then leaves?


Julian Nangle is 70 years old, is married and has had 5 children, and now has 11 grand children. He is a poet, publisher (as Words Press), rare book dealer (as Words Etcetera) and psychotherapist. He has been writing poems since he was in his teens and published some in the little magazines during the 60’s and 70’s. He has produced 4 collections of poems, the last being ‘Windfalls’ in 2014. He is poetry editor for the magazine Self & Society. In September 2017 he lost his youngest daughter to cancer which has prompted many poems relating to grief and loss. The poem published here is just one of them.


The Oil Press – a poem by Fraser McDougall

The Oil Press


There were no olives in that press
And yet, the wheel was turning,
No one to witness such distress
Not flames, but passion, burning.

Nobody saw the olive sweat,
Great drops, like blood, descending;
No fruits were crushed that night, and yet
The oil still flows, unending.


Fraser McDougall hails from Ayrshire, Burns’ country, and has been writing poetry for four years. He counts Norman MacCaig and Robert Burns himself among his influences, but also reads and enjoys a wide range of modern poetry.
Whilst it is his hope to see more of his works shared via both the printed page and electronic media, he rather more enjoys the immediacy and drama of live recital, since poetry is essentially an art of the spoken word.

To Be A Pilgrim – a poem by Tony Lucas

To Be A Pilgrim

Follow the dreamers, vagabonds,
the tourists and the true believers,
idly curious, always aware
your journey’s end may well
reveal a little less than
you were hoping to discover

– only a smallish hill,
worn stones, the trickling spring
filling a fern-hung basin,
buildings that enshrine
successive failures to contain
the dream in fluted stone.

The girl with Indian plaits
strums a guitar, cross-legged
on the grass. Unshaved,
a man with hungry eyes
gulps down the holy water
from a plastic cup.

You’re there among the families
with impatient children, groups
who sit in the sunshine talking
of money, music, the best place
for lunch. Once more
the grail has been withheld.

Always another destination;
the miracle will not be
any sudden healing at the waters,
or the touch of holy bones;
only persistence of elusive hope,
the appetite for journey.

Tony Lucas lives in London, south of the river. Stride published some of his early work, and he was a regular contributor to Ambit for a good number of years, among other magazines.  His latest collection, Unsettled Accounts, was published by Stairwell Books, two years ago.

Making the Road of Nine Days, Nine Nights – a poem by Rose Flint

Making the Road of Nine Days, Nine Nights
i.m. D.H.

There, beyond the gate
in the deepening cloudy shadows, there –
I am making a road of signs, way-markers

for you to follow, for I am told
there is a labyrinth to negotiate and evening
is fading quickly to blind black.

As the ancestors did five thousand years ago
I’ll bring the stars down to light your road
as white quartz pebbles; you will recognise

these nine small stones
curated from the granite dark, from knowledge
of tumuli and bone. Each names memory.

The first, for an old, trodden field, four-square
and sturdy with winter; the Hunter waits here
more luminous than at home.

The second, silvered with ice, a waterfall
that broke its neck. Three is shaped
by a red kite, wings alight over the blue hills.

Here is a stone to mark a frosted mountain
where even sour turf was glass. Here is another
that kindness has worn to a talisman.

Six is a hollow cup, held in our hands ring
all the stories, wild wine.
No stone for lament, seven sings joy.

The eighth is a far shore, flat and hot,
green rock for bronze; sun burning the sea
so blue it erases our winters.

The last one knows the way back.
It shines faithful as Sirius, on the jetty
where the boat waits with the ebbing tide

and as you row out into the dark, phosphorescence
surrounds you in a nimbus, a radiant blaze
bright as any meteor lighting up the years.

© Rose Flint


Rose Flint has worked as a creative writing tutor and was for 10 years Writer in Residence at Salisbury District Hospital, working in all areas of healthcare. She has five collections, including A Prism for the Sun (Oversteps). Awards include the Cardiff Poetry Prize and the Petra Kenney International Prize.

from ‘god is waiting in the world’s yard’ – paired poems by MTC Cronin



Right at the back of the world’s yard I am sitting. Happily watching the young woman on the balcony dangling a cigarette and a pink collar. She’s calling her cat who’s conducting a disloyal reconnaissance near a bunch of birds who’ve put down their shovels to have a smoke. Upright, black, in work hats, they swivel their eyes around, questioning the capacity of the clock. The girl yells that birds are ‘so obnoxious’. Hostile buildings shape the grey.



What is a doll like? To a three-and-half year old: “A doll is like an old saggy thing or a new thing.” To a six-year old: “A doll is like a mini person but it doesn’t walk or talk.” To a nine-and-half year old: “A doll is like a girl that’s stunned by the image of something.” A doll is the real mark of God. What we make of ourselves.


MTC Cronin has published twenty books (poetry, prose poems and essays). Recent collections include in possession of loss (Shearsman Books, 2014) and The Law of Poetry (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), the latter of which was written over two decades. Contact:

Five Annunciations – poems by Rupert Loydell

Five Annunciations


Angels are too good to be true, the devil has all the best tunes, although you are more likely to meet a stranger than an angel.

Someone spoke of divine interventions, of redemption, but we are beyond saving. These days there are not many stories left that I have confidence in.

I can tell I am not greatly interested any more, may be speaking just so I can speak: phonetics meet semantics.

Open your mouth and words come out.



Models of appropriate female behaviour, doomed to fall short of their goals, madonnas are often glitzed up and a bit sexy, but all have human needs and wants.

Focus on sensuality and postponing parenthood, excluding women from the inevitable phenomena of nature, in order to represent the variety of ways women live today, confronting the conflicting roles they are expected to play.



Mary’s living in a bunk house in the woods, open to the elements, hung with flowers and lights. She’s a good girl, puts her shoes in the corner, prays each night, is not surprised when an angel wrapped in a red blanket leans through the window and offers her a lily. Light streams around, from and through him. She is suddenly scared and shy, knows summer is at an end. She kneels beside her bed and tries out the words ‘mother, ‘god’ and ‘son’. Feels the small, square rug beneath her knees, then packs her things and goes to look for Joseph. He’ll know what to do.





‘My icon status is that of the mother. Artemis and many others precede me,
no doubt back to the stone age. The difference with me is passivity and sorrow.’

– Mary the Mother of God, Art Review


The art critic invents a voice for Mary the Mother of God and interrogates her about contemporary art and her role in the grand scheme of things. A friend of mine is more concerned that the why is missing, that the annunciation is simply a given and that our protagonist is caught up in something there is no reason for.

Perhaps she doesn’t know either, but doubt, confusion, incredulity are not enough. What is God’s motive? Does he have a convincing rationale? Do the angels never question? Perhaps asking questions of ourselves is enough?
Do not forget that these are poems about paintings, not a philosophical or theological debate.



‘Even on impossible journeys, we are not alone.’

– David Rothenberg, Sudden Music

The angels are leaving, taking a boat across the water, perhaps to find a country where people still believe.

One has already lost his wings, because they said he was an impossible idea, a religious metaphor for messages from heaven.

Neither angels nor heaven exist, of course. Watch the empty boat drift away from shore.

© Rupert M Loydell 2018


Rupert Loydell is a writer, editor and abstract artist. His many books of poetry include Dear Mary (Shearsman, 2017) and The Return of the Man Who Has Everything (Shearsman 2015); and he has edited anthologies such as Yesterday’s Music Today (co-edited with Mike Ferguson, Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2014), and Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: manifestos and unmanifestos (Salt, 2010).

Grail Ride – a poem by Caroline Shaw

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Caroline Shaw began her career as a journalist, later changing to a naturopathic health practitioner. The spiritual and the search for absolute truths have always underpinned her life’s journey. She also has a deep love of words, which she expresses in short stories and poetry. She is part of the thriving Stroud Poets community and is mother to a grown-up daughter.

Song for the Beloved – a poem by Thor Bacon

Song for the Beloved

I remember leaves above my cradle in the April sun.
It took all these years to find again the simple door
inside the light. I don’t expect to be understood.

Like Moses we were entrusted to the current
at an early age. I hope sapphire coffers await
any friend I’ve ever disappointed.

A luthier cuts outside the line, working inward.
A scared armadillo can outrun a man. They’re drilling
in Alaska! I cried and the Buddha kept smiling.

Arjuna the Archer takes aim and answers,
“I see the eye of the bird.” And what color, my son,
are the feathers? I see only the eye of the bird.

Singing your name on my drive home I saw
a doe nosing stubble corn; when I stopped she flashed away.
The grass grows warm where she beds in the grove.

Oh, Thor, why weep at another failed poem?
The Teacher says there’s no way to describe the ocean –
only sighing waves, and this taste of salt.


A native to Minnesota, Thor Bacon works as a goldsmith in his adoptive home of Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared, or will, in St. Katherine Review, The Aurorean, Scintilla, International Times, and elsewhere. His chapbook Making the Shore is forthcoming from Red Dragonfly Press, April 2018.