Elbow Room

We travel home
(ignoring that we lost it years ago)
in time for turkey, mistletoe,
for ear-worms to re-cast the brain.

We check out the reindeer hanging
on the third branch up, its always spot,
now single antlered and rubbed free of glitter
but still shining, somehow,

and grandma’s chipped celery jug centre-table,
its jolly holly now ghosting the porcelain.
We read the clock-propped
round robins – force grinning yawns.

There’s sherry, sugar, the sickly goo
of home-made Snowball, light waltzing
round the kitchen. Kisses automatically given
over the gathering up of wrapping

and we chat about how card glitter sticks
to the cheek for weeks, how nuts catch
in the teeth, how we can’t eat
like we did, how much more

elbow room there is
at the table these days.



Lesley Ingram’s first collection Scumbled (Cinnamon) was published in 2015. Her poems have appeared in online/printed journals and anthologies since 2010, and she has appeared at Cheltenham, Wenlock and Ledbury Poetry Festivals. She won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition 2020.




Walnut Home

The house is a crinkled walnut cracked open
for Christmas: our son in one half, rowing
this boat out to where the moon strikes
the ocean’s vastness and light skyrockets off
in an explosion of new directions.

His father and I rattle around the remains
like two dry beans in a broken maraca.
The roof is now lower but the space within
echoes louder, our footsteps no longer hushed
by the jump and thud of two stairs at a time.

‘Empty nesters’ the world calls us, as if to evoke
softness, feathers and flying. But it’s years
since our son was chick-like and I never had wings,
only claws for holding on tight and a beak more fit
for feeding than nudging fledglings or singing.

I still listen each night for the music of his key
twisting in the lock, the door’s shush open,
the creak by creak lurching to land snug in his bed,
or flutter and turn until restless limbs settle
into the small-hours quiet of a walnut home,
brimful with his breathing.



Sarah James/Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Friends, family, food, drink and sparkle are her favourite parts of the festive season. To read more and write better is her annual new year’s resolution. Website: http://www.sarah-james.co.uk.




Home for Christmas
The hospital bed was a tight fit in our flat,
though not the elephant in the bedroom.
Clearance of a foot and a half at the end
to wriggle round onto my single sofa bed,
two feet below it like a tug alongside a liner.

The hospital bed was part of a whole home kit,
not including the elephant in the bedroom.
The commode on wheels, shower seat,
electric recliner chair, as for the biggest of bosses,
and the folding wheelchair in the hall.

The hospital bed was amazingly high-tech,
certainly not an elephant in the bedroom.
We both fiddled with the control box on its curly wire
and I pressed the button on the end rail to 
start the air pump massaging your sore bum.

The hospital bed was yours for the two weeks
of avoiding the elephant in the bedroom:
the hospice beefed you up with drugs
and you made it home for Christmas
your face lit up by the blazing Christmas pud,

after which an elephant trampled us underfoot,
starting with you.



Ruth Aylett lives and works in Edinburgh. Her pamphlets Pretty in Pink (4Word) and Queen of Infinite Space (Maytree) were published in 2021. Her poems appear in magazines (eg. Prole, The North) and anthologies (eg. Scotia Extremis, Mancunian Way). See www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/writing.html for more.