Mister Bloody Christmas

Mam taught me to send his name
up the chimney,

let it draw away

before clawing it back
through embers and ash,

or to simply stand for hours
in the kitchen, peeling, raw

hands plunged into a bowl
of sorrow, thinking of him.

Cleaning the White Swan,
she pocketed the lost and forgotten,

conjured money
from under the bar stools
and pool table, dropped it in her purse

and murmured
a curse on Mister Bloody Christmas

and all his shitty wishes,
his glittering eyes
and megawatt smile,

his fancy suit
lined with midnight blue.

I sharpened my pencils and left
the shavings on a plate for him to use
as fingernails, a handful of tinsel hair.

The landlady left a glass of whisky
out on the bar. A big gold star.

How could we compete?

Wait and see, Mam said,
bundling me off to bed.

And the night before Christmas,
I trudged home through the snow
to the moonlit cottage,

and found her making him
comfortable in the big chair,

kitchen dressed with silver garlands
of breath, mistletoe everywhere.



Joanne Key won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition, and first prize in the 2018 Hippocrates Open Prize. She was the winner of the 2018 Mslexia Short Story Competition.




Christmas Eve

We stand on the decking
and sing the year into the dark.

Cobwebs frost the cabin slats.
Breath silvers in the air.

My daughter’s voice reaches
the treetops, out to satellites

and my husband’s will be heard
by frogs where they wait

under summer’s leaves
at the bottom of the pond.

We are three wise ones now,
three gifts. I hold their hands

and I’m still here.
Rooks roost in sycamore crowns.



Joanna Ingham‘s pamphlet Naming Bones was published by ignitionpress in 2019. She won the Paper Swans Press Single Poem Competition in 2020. Her poetry has appeared widely in journals and magazines, and has also featured in The Sunday Times.




Christmas Eve in the Far West of Ireland, 1967

Atlantic gales beating in panic the fuchsia bushes
to screech and scream.

We turn into the bay and are amazed
to see a galaxy of stars has fallen to the earth:
every cottage window holds a candle, lit
to keep a vigil for the Holy Birth.

Only our rented cottage is unlit this night
for we are strangers to this custom;
we stand astonished near the roaring sea,
two strangers, warmed and gladdened by this sight.



Gill McEvoy‘s recent publication is  Are You Listening? a journey through a grief, (Hedgehog Poetry, 2020). She was 2015 winner of the Michael Marks Awards, and is a Hawthornden Fellow.