Left Over Christmas Trees

Paper never refuses ink,
no matter how hard the words
it just absorbs. In the same way
the eye never refuses the blue
of sky, the fish water, the bird
never spurns air.

In the wind leaves of eucalyptus
show their silver undersides,
you can predict rainbow weather
by the way light flattens itself
and turns chrome, or like
metal filings and lake-water it looks
dense and eloquent like mercury.

Against the bow of colours
birds are tossed about and luff
off into a wreath of gathering
darkness. Passing a forest
in January left over Christmas trees
stand rootless, bound tight
in shrouds of white netting,
swaddled in failing light
they look sinister, grey people emerging,
the sequence of time slipping.
I drove on — my wheels welcoming
the tarmac and the journey home.



Author of six collections, Jean O’Brien’s latest one is Stars Burn Regardless (Salmon Pub. 2022). Work is regularly published in magazine and anthologies, she won the Arvon Award, The Fish Award and placed in many others such as The Forward (single poem).  Website:www.jeanobrienpoet

Note: first published: Merman (Salmon Publishing Irl.)




after a line by Louise Glück

Christmas presents when the tire blew
got thrown about the boot,
novelty gadgets and gizmos, a gift-wrapped
perfume of iris root

whose stopper in the swerve unstopped
and frosted flacon smashed – airing
buttery-soft and earthy scent
all over the spare.



Paul Stephenson’s debut collection Hard Drive was published by Carcanet in summer 2023. Website: paulstep.com / Instagram: paulstep456 / Twitter: @stephenson_p




New Year

Be here, now. My feet crunch frosty grass
the steel-cold air weaves a wavering
brilliance into the sting of my watering eyes.

Up there, the crescent moon with evening star,
an ice bright brooch, new glasses sharp, burning
with the lucidity of a blackbird’s song;

the moon climbing hornwise from Venus,
its descending actinic point-flare gripped
by orbital mechanics of separation.

Here, now, it’s all in our mind’s eye. Gravity
not jewellery; masses not beauties,
contingent composition not assemblage.

The illusion of making a beginning:
my mouth steams dragon breath
into the shapes of story.



Ruth Aylett teaches and researches computing in Edinburgh. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines – for example The North, Agenda, Butcher’s Dog, Prole – and anthologies such as Scotia Extremis, Mancunian Way, Hallelujah for 50 ft Women.  She was the winner of the 2016 Poets meet Politics Competition. She jointly authored the pamphlet Handfast with Beth McDonough in 2016(Mothers Milk) and her two single author pamphlets Pretty in Pink (4Word) and Queen of Infinite Space (Maytree) came out in 2021.




New Year is no cliché

Never think, not snowdrops again.
Smile when you spot a sunny aconite.
Celebrate the transparent crocus
come to light through heavy clay.



Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet.  Her debut, Philosophy Revision, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press won the 2022 Saboteur Award. Poems have featured in PN Review, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review, and The North.