Parenting Book

I wrote it down when they woke me at 3am
to tell me they didn’t like ham anymore,
only jam and cheese. How on the toilet
is the best place to sing.

I kept a notebook for years: the sore throat
bad as three arrows sticking into it.
Rosanna in the Highest
who went to church.  It didn’t last –

they learned eventually
to not ask visitors
Did you have a good Christmas?
when they came to our house in June.

Stopped shouting comments
on the bus
about disgusting perfume.
How their teacher looked beautiful

but was horrible inside.
Before I knew it, they were buying
condoms on the internet,
marching for Human Rights,

and I’d fall asleep
who’s dancing in a club,
who’s buying chips from a van,

and I’d wake up
to the smell of toast burning,
a voice calling
I’ve stashed it! Everything’s fine!

While Shepherds Watch is playing on the radio,
a tea towel headdress lies in a drawer.
The final page, they scribbled me a note.
Some kind of map. Half a silver star.



Josephine Corcoran’s poetry collections are What Are You After? (Nine Arches Press, 2018) and The Misplaced House (tall-lighthouse, 2014). Her website/ blog is Twitter @And_OtherPoems.  Instagram @andotheritems




The Long Sock

I hibernate balled in the sock drawer
with frills and flannelettes, cosy in the corner.

I unroll for long walks, get strapped in boots,
endure the spatter and flood the sweat of toe meat.

Sometimes I am skinned on bulbous legs, paraded
in the Sommes of pitches for the sake of a ball. Tossed

in baskets, I fester with armpit and gusset, until the balm
of flowers spins me pure to breathe on the line.

Tonight under the Bethlehem star, they stuff me with walnut and clementine,
like a goose waiting for the holy table, the sacred knife and wine.

My mouth is gagged with tinsel, trinket and truffle.
I hang from the bedpost for my crimes.



Nicholas McGaughey is a Literature Wales Mentee. He has new work in Poetry Wales/Atrium/Dust/The Island Review and The Poetry Archive Now (Worldview 2020)




Merry Christmas!

with a nod to Keith Douglas

So, these are our new though unacknowledged rulers:
the mysterious illness just this year appeared,
the floods, the storms, the shortages of toilet paper,
the worry what’s been ripped asunder won’t reshape as
a weather satellite crashes through the atmosphere
that might have revealed the heat has cooled off

enough for us to forgive booking that cheeky flight
to Bordeaux. Certainly never the twenty-four thousand
or so individuals that will starve to death today.
Poor, mostly young; queued up, watch them snake
all the way to the next postal code like some bland
charity mail-out featuring a too-slight crying child.

Pop it in the bin. The sun is up and the day too fine
to care about such unfortunates. The sky is clear,
not a cloud in it, and there’s the fresh perfume
of apple-blossom or whatever that is. You
are a precious cargo. Don’t let anyone else near.
Except me, of course. Are you opening that wine?



Jack Houston runs a free, online poetry workshop with Hackney Libraries, but you don’t have to live in Hackney or even have one of our library cards to join! For more details email: