Simply having…

You’re only in Tesco for the milk,
already angry,
having to scrape the car
before your first coffee,
and then to hear Band Aid and Slade
before the end of November.

By the time you get home you are almost calm
until you see it,
lying on the mat,
like a square white turd:
“Our first Christmas card – and it’s not yet December!
That really ought to be a criminal offence.”

From upstairs come sounds of cutting and grinding
in the rooms where the kids used to sleep,
now a card-making workshop,
and muscling through a muffled shout:
“Do we have enough second-class stamps?”

First things first,
make that coffee.

Then you settle at your screen,
read a round robin from the ringleaders,
think warmer thoughts
and have another look at a baby face
in yesterday’s WhatsApp message.
How to begin?
“For us the highlight of the year…”



David Bleiman is an Edinburgh poet who writes in English, Scots, Spanish and macaronic verse on themes of family history, identity, politics and dinosaur socks. His Scots-Yiddish ballad, The Trebbler’s Tale, won the 2020 Sangschaw prize. On Twitter @BleimanDavid




Brockley Cross

Remember when life was at a crossroads?
How Christmas filled our window from October
to February, its tinsel-bright, streetlight level gaze.

How the letting agent left his motor running
when he took us to our viewing; the getaway
driver. How we woke to mice drowned
in our carpet of night-before glasses? How I

no longer flinched finding roaches in my underwear
drawer? How we slept on plastic and air
inside our festival dome tent to escape,
leant the rotten bed frame on the landing

instead? When we showered,
water rained into the dry cleaners downstairs.
How he would bang the ceiling, didn’t like this, didn’t like us
practising songs for our band in the daytime?

How the landlord never fixed anything?
How, at night, the orange walls turned black
with a scuttle of Kafka; how I had to skip college classes,

scrub until my fingers bled? How we were young
and happy, with our Poundshop December 25th,
our chippy dates, candles and cans, our flat-
roof ‘garden’ to look out at a London version of sky?
The light pollution hiding the stars?



Susie Wild is the author of Better Houses, The Art of Contraception, and Arrivals. She has recently published poems with Poetry Wales and The Atlanta Review. Her second collection of poetry, Windfalls, is out through Parthian in May 2021.




Switch off the Lights

I’m the last one at my work
And I switch off the lights
One by one I snuff them out
To let in the winter nights

Telling truth to passing shadows
As the stone hall starts to cool
That echo with the metal heels
Of the well meaning and the cruel

Leaving for a well earned drink
Or so they must believe
Walking past the empty plates
Of the ghosts of Christmas eve

It doesn’t do to think of them
Laid on unforgiving ground
For it makes the wine so bitter
As the beers go round and round

It’s so quiet in the basement
I can hear the river of my blood
Welling up with deathly humors
That threaten like the flood

I’m the last one at my work
And I switch off the lights
One by one I snuff them out
And I bid you all goodnight



Barry Fentiman Hall is a Medway based poet. He is one half of the literary organization Wordsmithery and the editor of Confluence Magazine. His books include England, My Dandelion Heart and Sketches which are both available at