First of Jan, affluent suburb. Stockbridge,
but it could be anywhere across the island,
in Ely, Richmond, Beauly. In place of regretting
they put their empties out, arranged by colour,
size, acoustic property. Scores of bottles,
neatened into a pavement installation.

Should those former containers of spirits
and wine have become aeolian and sung
in the rain of their seasonal journey from
Waitrose or Aldi, they’d have borne witness
to what happened in homes in the limbo
of the holiday, before sluggish inhabitants let

the new year in, started to move on, reluctantly:
like emergence from other innocuous absorption –
World Cup for something, general election, landmark
serial drama – that removed them from routine,
occasioned special buying in. Then they’d go out,
make art from their leftovers, half-full, begin again.



Helen Boden is an Edinburgh-based writer, educator and editor, with poems in magazines and anthologies including New Writing Scotland, Gutter, Antiphon, Mslexia, Lighthouse and Butcher’s Dog, and previously in Ink, Sweat and Tears. She also collaborates with visual artists.




For the dark days

I take the darkest shade of a January sky.
Yes, that one in the North corner by the gas-works
and place it in a box.
It squats, heavy and square.

I lift the mist
from the shingle,
lay this over the cube of sky.

I gather tendrils of hill rain
washing their busy path to waterways
and I put these in the left hand shadow,
they unravel and slouch their way across the base.

I fold fog the way my Mum taught me
and slide it down the side of the block,
gather up sturdy loops of greyed marram.
I cup my hands and scoop slate-coloured ice from The Colne
and lay it in the grass. Goose-feathers float in too.

I wait for these greys to hatch,
To bud, to sprout, to call.
Until they invest the landscape
With the scrabble of mustard yellow chicks.
This grey ice will feed the valley
with a hundred shades of green
once this place West of Huddersfield
swims in summer again.

A turned corner will bathe my mind
in the surprise
of the first bluebells.

If it doesn’t get light today,
think of this ice
the grass, the mist,
the feathers, the rain, the fog
and the way they nestle
in this box
that promises colour.



Sarah L Dixon lives in Linthwaite, Huddersfield with her son, Frank (10). She loves being by and in water and crisp winter mornings.  http://thequietcompere.co.uk/

Note: this poem first appeared in The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society, Maytree Press, 2019





It faces both sides, its cream painted doors
a border post between two countries:
one the kitchen sputtering fat, radio talk.

In the other, the dining room floats
in a gloom of ornaments;
dusty sunshine slants through curtains.

The chairs and polished table balance
on their moment: the day when the doors
are pushed wide, dishes of roast potatoes,

steaming brussels are handed through.
The room is dressed in green and gold,
bobs with paper hats, balloons, laughter.

Then it settles back into winter shadows,
a sprig of holly curling above a picture frame,
a red balloon puckering to a shrivelled heart under a chair.

The hatch doors stay closed,
waiting for the press on their handles,
for the world to open up again.



Penny Ayers lives in Cheltenham.  She has won prizes in the Wells Festival of Literature International Poetry Competition and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition 2013 and has been published in Snakeskin, ArtemisPoetry and Grey Hen Press’s anthology Reflected Light.  She helps run the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network.