The Influenza Carol

A wreath at every advent calendar door,
no room to rest the oxen in my head:
I’m fasting to rebuild my stomach floor,
and celebrate my crawling out of bed.

The spruce is green until the needles drop,
its fairy and its lights will keep us holy:
after the darkest day, the world will stop
to sacrifice a bird and roast it slowly.

Holly can prick as if it would draw blood,
but I’ve seen cattle browse on it for choice:
a taste that sharpens up the jaded cud,
pleasure that makes their brutal tongues rejoice.

Ivy can cling as if it were the hand
that holds Jehovah’s Witnesses in prayer:
they reckon times and seasons less than sand,
for little lambs shall strip Jerusalem bare.

The mistletoe is hornier than all
the gay apparel of the druid’s wife:
it is the only bough that decks my hall,
magical parasite that lives on life.

The Christmas cactus flowers pinkly sprout,
but central heating doesn’t make a spring:
rounding the year, the tougher weather’s out,
down will come tinsel, trees and everything.

So chop the yule log, light it with a laugh,
to warm us with the burning of the old:
we’ve fed the seed-corn to the fatted calf,
I’ve starved my fever, now to feed my cold.


Peter Daniels’s publications include Mr Luczinski Makes a Move (HappenStance, 2011), Counting Eggs (Mulfran Press, 2012),  and selected poems of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian (Angel Classics, 2013), which was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation.This poem was published a very long time ago in an Oscars Press pamphlet called Breakfast in Bed, slightly revised since]




I hate all films that start with snow,
Christmas schmaltz, the lot of them:
Bambi, White Christmas, Love Story, Frozen

The cynical director, his assistant
with the snow machine
blowing fluffy cotton wool flakes

to muffle the cries of motherless fawn,
orphaned ittle girls in castles,
a young wife breathing her last.

I’ve nothing against a good cry
and I’ll make an exception
for Dr Zhivago and the ice palace

where Yuri will make a fresh start
despite the wolves, will write poems
in fingerless gloves, ice on his moustache

even though I know it won’t end well,
that she’ll get in that fur-lined sleigh,
that he’ll breathe a hole in the ice for one last look.




Carole Bromley lives in York. First collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, published by Smith/Doorstop in 2012. Poems recently in Magma, the North, Acumen. Prizewinner in 2014 at Torbay, Wells, Hippocrates Prize and Manchester Writing for Children Award.




The scene-setting’s irrelevant: icy
pavement, fogging breath, buses
grinding up through the gears;

the point is, I push open the door
and walk into my local, already
shucking my overcoat off,

and it’s not like I’m expecting
my own leitmotif or a smattering
of studio audience applause

(there’s a reason ‘Cheers’ wasn’t
filmed in Nottingham) but a path
to the bar would be a damn good start

without battling the six-deep battalion
of office-disgorged twenty-somethings
locked in self-competition

to determine what’s loudest –
the decibel level of their conversation
or the offence to the eyeballs

of their Christmas sweaters,
hand-knitted approximations
of reindeer and elves, rendered

in the blocky graphics of an arcade game
circa the year most of them were born,
as if their grans had used as pattern

a misremembered picture of Pacman
and decided to lumber him
with an alkie’s nose and a pair of antlers;

and in the instance of the door
clunking into its frame
and the swivelling of eyes

imparting the diametric opposite
of being where everybody knows
my name, the pop-culture radar

blips from the environs of Sam and Diane
and Norm and Cliff, and a real ale pub
on Canning Circus shifts dimensions

to a ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special
where rat-a-tat sci-fi exposition
posits reindeer-centric sweaters

as the vanguard of a global invasion,
the Cybermen having reflected on
their abject trouncing last time round

and formed a new and fiendish plan
based on this year’s John Lewis ad.



Neil Fulwood was born in 1972, the son of a truck driver and the grandson of a miner. Nobody’s quite figured out where the whole poetry thing came from. Neil is married, holds down a day job and subsidises several public houses. He hopes one day to be recognised in the New Year’s honours list for his tireless efforts in this respect.