poems and stories 

   scroll down to read poems and stories in our

Autumn  Issue

 growing weekly from October to December 2019


meet the poets and writers




Our first poem for autumn is by Lesley Quayle







Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, editor and folk/blues singer. She has a collection, Sessions, (Indigo Dreams) and a pamphlet Songs For Lesser Gods, (Erbacce) featuring her prizewinning series of sonnets of the same name. Her latest pamphlet, Black Bicycle, was published in May 2018 by 4Word Press.

Lesley Quayle – Fall











Now is the time for ripening plums and yellow grass,

maize shouldering the sky, hedgerows cut,

sharp and angular – the precise geometry of field edges.


I could lie down among vetch and rye-grass,

disturb tiny, starry moths, listen to the hungering

rooks and wait for the first leaf to fall.


I may squint at the low sun, hand-cast a shadow

over my brow, and watch the gauzy edge of autumn

fold over blackthorn, savour the chill of summer’s ghost,


let wilderness seep through veins, fill up the hollow heart,

a nest of root and twigs and stolen down, close my eyes

while drifting spiders weave their silk,


smirr my lashes to placate unfiltered light.

Stay there, ignoring tasks, the scratch and fret

of hour collapsing into hour, like scything nettles,


and maybe sleep, time marked by nothing more

than one leaf after another.



Lesley Quayle


Four Mornings  by Lesley Quayle









Jo Brandon is based in West Yorkshire. Her pamphlet Phobia and full-length collection, The Learned Goose, are both published by Valley Press. Her next collection, Cures, is due out in 2020. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including The North, Magma, Popshot, Strix, Butchers Dog and The Fenland Reed. You can find her at  

The Learned Goose is available to buy from  Valley Press.

Jo Brandon – The Fall



The Fall 


After ‘The Fall’, Hugo van de Goes, 1479





He was happy with my form

till he happened across yours.

Like any child the impulse is to play

not make; your limbs it seems

are more pliable and your hearts

more intricate.

So the fact that I could wind myself

into circles that inspired the sun,

tie myself into copulative knots,

make language in the sand,

meant nothing but more possibilities for you.

We lived together a good while – you wished

your tongue could read the air like mine,

I wished my eyes could talk.


We grew further apart.

Your hisses became syllabic,

you whispered to one another.

Tried to meet you in the middle:

hid in bushes growing legs

that lent no length, couldn’t bring me

any closer to your ear.

My face craved reflection,

stung with unread frowns and smiles.


I wish, I wish it were as simple

as a piece of fruit.

Truthfully, there was no taboo

hanging  from that tree –

it was just where we played,

but your ideas grew quicker than trees

and you imagined fruits

that would never grow here


and they still won’t grow here

just as I don’t grow and everything

without you stays the same.



Jo Brandon


Previously published in The Learned Goose by Jo Brandon (Valley Press, 2015)














Hilaire is co-author with Joolz Sparkes of London Undercurrents, published by Holland Park Press. She was poet-in-residence at Thrive Battersea in 2017, and has poems published in numerous magazines and in three anthologies from The Emma Press.

For the London Undercurrents blog:

Hilaire – specifications for an orchard


an old brick wall

as tall as a giant

bearded with moss and buddleia

curved like a protecting arm


a wooden door

in a throttle of brambles

its purpose long lost to itself


grass, wherever it can get,

each chlorophyll pennant

jostling for sunlight


a gang of pollen-traffickers

bizz-buzzing and flitting


a chair with no sitter

listing to starboard


and four fruit trees,

pear and apples,

left to get on with it.


their crop is bountiful.

there’s no sign in the orchard

against trespass.





First published in OL’ CHANTY – Chanticleer Magazine Online.


park yourself here by Hilaire









Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry has been published in several journals, such as Amaryllis, London Grip, Panoplyzine, Magma Poetry (online) and Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine. You can find out more about Lisa at

Lisa Reily – Greek Sunset



I have developed a patience for preparing food,

scouring markets in the heat

for the reward of pungent apricots, peaches and nectarines,

plump cherries and dirt-covered potatoes.


I love adding ice to a glass of retsina as we watch the sea in the evenings,

away from the thoughts and madness of the world,

friends and family;

a place to live, and just be.


We have a nasty colony of black ants under our backyard table

and other small ants of amber;

I spend hours watching them wrestle, bite each other to the death,

as I sip cool mineral water in the shade.


I have the time to see it, and sometimes I interfere,

or ache as I watch one drag its injured body across the concrete.



Lisa Reily


nanna’s garden by Lisa Reily







Formerly an actress, Kate Firth is a voice coach based in Barcelona. She has had poems published in various anthologies and magazines. Passionate about poetry as an oral as well as written tradition, she has performed at Bristol, Cheltenham and Winchester poetry festivals.

Kate Firth – Fruity Competition


1: Blackberry


I could be a black fruit poem:

richness of darkest choicest blackberry ripe,

juicy my tongue,

liquid Blueberry Delight with billberry.


A wilderness of bramble and thorn

a wicked thicket

enticing my wild dark words

with fleshy mellow flavour.


Rounding my mouth,

swelling my lips, staining

my fingers, my tongue,

guiltlessly shamelessly

announcing my appetite

for purple, for blue

and for you. 


One word of me is not enough

you will want more

and more and one more

and just, perhaps,

one more. 


You will come with fingers ready,

with buckets and with your children

and you will love me. 


I will hide me in hedgerow,

and your children will find me

love me

and eat me before I am ready to ripe me.


And many times you’ll walk right past me

because you’ve forgotten


I am free for the picking.







2: Mango


I could mango my words with exotic twist

and tang and peel and stone and sucking stone

and hair and watering tongue and lick and dissolve

to sugar your flesh.


Mango with southern scent of Mexico, India, Africa

so sweet within one skin

to outwit your blue blackberry dark forest competition. 


I will win with mango slow go,

just wait for me to ripen, wait


for my words to arrive and surprise

and startle your eyes awide

and awaken your mind with tease and touch

and soft and silken sticky my caress.


Hold you my heaviness,

heavy my juice and catch me peel me

catch my liquid juicy in your cup,

slice me through or suck me whole,

but unpeel me first,

pierce me through my leather my skin my leathery skin

but wait for me first for my ripen

or I will not surprise and pleasure you. 



for my ripening

to drop from branch

onto your sunlit sill. 


Kate Firth


The Yew Speaks On St Brigid’s Day by Kate Firth

Crackington Haven on New Year’s Eve by Kate Firth

Strange Spring  by Kate Firth







Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, editor and folk/blues singer. She has a collection, Sessions, (Indigo Dreams) and a pamphlet Songs For Lesser Gods, (Erbacce) featuring her prizewinning series of sonnets of the same name. Her latest pamphlet, Black Bicycle, was published in May 2018 by 4Word Press.

Lesley Quayle – Gathering Mushrooms



I met her in the early morning,

muttering through a whitewash of mist,

each footprint a wet hollow of silver

leading from mushroom rings

which nudged the leaf mould

like a clutch of bantam eggs.


Old eyes, their spawn of cataracts

scavenging light in dismal pools,

and words, more incantations,

spooling from her lips like broken

threads.  She hastened by

with her cloth full of mushrooms.


She eats with the seasons,

gathers and garners as her folk did,

holds ancestors round her like a shawl.

She’s always known weather ways,

crush of snow on the blunt hills,

the tug and snatch of westerlies,

and spring igniting cold valleys.


Now she lives away from

the mother eye of the village,

with its carnival of light and noise.

Estranged by dogged pride,

deciphered like a seldom spoken tongue,

she clenches her world in a horned hand,

tight as the mushroom cloth.


Lesley Quayle


Fall by Lesley Quayle

Four Mornings by Lesley Quayle








Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry has been published in several journals, such as Amaryllis, London Grip, Panoplyzine, Magma Poetry (online) and Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine. You can find out more about Lisa at

Lisa Reily – sweet lemons







we climb the path, uneven stone,

reach the small wooden church on the hill;


we sit in the cool,

watch Bulgarian saints

eye us from ancient walls,

and small candles flicker

for those who have passed; I light one

for my mother,

and when I step outside, an old woman

plucks a plum from a nearby tree,

and gives it to me.


we travel on, over the railway track,

where a gypsy in a sparkling shawl waves to us

from a horse and cart,

a homeless kitten accepts my pat,                                             

and horses, untethered, eat wildflowers.


outside our apartment, there is music in the air,

sirtaki, the sounds of Greece;


outside, a stranger collects me in the rain,

and I am not scared;


a little boy talks to me at the bus stop,

waits by my side

until his mother calls him home;


the taverna owner rescues a stray dog,                                                             

washes it, indifferent                                                                                            

to his customers who leave at the sight

of fleas drowned in poisoned rivers;


and at our small room, the owner’s son

cleans our clothes for free,

hangs bags of lemons from our door.    


Lisa Reily


Greek Sunset by Lisa Reily

nanna’s garden by Lisa Reily







Glenn Hubbard has lived in Madrid for 30 years and has been writing poems since 2012. Though fluent in Spanish, he is poetic only in English and has had poems published in a number of magazines. Nature and landscapes are often an inspiration for his writing. Spain has a lot of both.  

Glenn Hubbard – Fruit in the 60s



The grapes languished in a bowl in my nan’s living room,

losing their lustre as they dulled under dust.

They might have been ornamental, the stuff of still life.

Eating them felt like an afterthought.


Dinner was there to fill you up and puddings were entertainment. 

But fresh fruit lacked all purpose except, it seemed, to keep teeth clean.

Hence that chimp on the TV screen, brandishing a toothsome

apple as the plummy voice-over lauded its evident dental hygiene.


Fruit could come out of a tin, of course, a totally different matter 

as we gathered round the table to look on with drooling anticipation 

as the sweet syrup supplied the required lubricity and

our afters slithered slurpingly into the waiting bowl.


There they lay, expectant, those halved pears 

made in a place called Bartlett. Ice cream from 

Naples slipped in beside them in a scandalously

calorific act of consummation. It was only natural!



Glenn Hubbard


The Great Banded Grayling… by Glenn Hubbard

Ousel-Cock by Glenn Hubbard







Stephen Bone’s work has appeared in various journals in the U.K. and the U.S., and in numerous anthologies.

His first collection In the Cinema (Playdead Press) was published in 2014 and a pamphlet Plainsong (Indigo Dreams) was published in 2018.

Stephen Bone – Medlars 







From the cupboard under your stairs

you pick one from its tray.

A sort of apple, open-ended,

on the turn.


Try, you urge, a spoon waved

like a hypnotist’s chain. Reluctantly,

a child braced for medicine I open up

to be fed a scoop of decay.


Good ? You ask, moist rot melting

to the cusp of sweetness. I tremble a nod

as you slough off your snakeskin boots;

coil yourself into a chair.


Stephen Bone


First published in The Interpreter’s House


Ode to a Giant Waterlily by Stephen Bone

Sundews by Stephen Bone







Allen Ashley is co-editor with Sarah Doyle of the anthology Humanagerie (Eibonvale Press, UK, 2018). He has recently been published in anthologies from Black Hare Press and NewCon Press. He has previously appeared three times on the Words for the Wild website.

Allen Ashley – Strawberry Girl 



Strawberry Girl






Soon it will be time again to prepare our offering in thanks for the fruit harvest. Many belief systems teach that life is a recurring cycle and our abundant continuum of planting, reaping and celebrating through sacrifice would seem to confirm this.

We have asked that our religious practices be properly recognised through official channels. The probing, the gawking, the constant trolling and threats of interference have to stop.

Her lips this year shall be a bright cherry. Just a hint of a pout. Straw and trimmed vines for her hair. In keeping with tradition, pears and certain varieties of apple have been used to give feminine curvature to her body. I have chosen strawberries for her eyes, complete with the small crown of leafage retained so as to give an open, honest expression to the face. The verisimilitude of this year’s golem is both striking and convincing.

Which brings its own problems. You may remember the court case where our village was accused of murdering one of our earlier creations. The judge rightly ruled that: as she was not human there was no case to answer. But the stigma stuck. A pungent, fermenting stain like mouldering grapes or cider spilled on woollen clothing.

The following year we made a boy. Nature did not approve and we half-starved due to a resultant paltry harvest.

It’s a truism that even those who are spiritually unaware would still acknowledge: for things to live, other things must die. Move over Granddad and let me have the keys to your house, your job, your bank account… For everything that glitters something else must suffer in dullness.

The strawberry girl lives for a week. She moves but doesn’t speak. She smells divine and many become light-headed in her company. She seems to see, to gaze… but can she really be thinking? She has no brain. She is all pith, water, citric acid, seeds… and flesh.

She brings colour and vivacity to the swiftly shortening and darkening days.

She dances with the corn dollies, stands face to face with the scarecrows. She is a country tradition that some in our country would seek to dispense with.

They are narrow-minded, urban consumer-guts who have no knowledge of and who can make no link between their fortune at endless choice and availability and the sacrifices and privations necessary to achieve such a cornucopia. I tell myself this and I share it with you now: the pulping is necessary. The few – the one – must fall so that the many survive and thrive.

She’s not real.

She’s real.

She’s not human.

She’s as alive as you and me.

There will be another year, another harvest. Another strawberry girl.


(In memory of Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018.)


Allen Ashley


The Teatime Tarzan by Allen Ashley

Wildflo Wers by Allen Ashley

Greetings from the British Countryside by Allen Ashley








Maeve Bruce is a professional storyteller – a writer, editor, journalist and poet. She writes about place and the unseen stories buried in the landscape, in nature, history and folklore. She draws a thread between the past and the present, reconnecting people with places and a sense of belonging. When she is not wandering around the Cotswold countryside where she lives, she can be found exploring the wilder landscapes of the British Isles or travelling to more distant places, notebook in hand. Read more about her work on her 

Maeve Bruce – Apples 







At my childhood home in Somerset, we had an acre and a half of old orchard, bound on the west side by the churchyard, on the north by a brook. In the spring, snowdrops and daffodils grew under the trees and when the weather got warmer, I took root there too, back against the bark, book in hand, dreaming beneath the leaves.


I read of saints and soldiers, wolves and witches, lost worlds, golden days. Those stories are bound in my memory with lichen growing on gnarly branches, the smell of wood and grass, earth and apple.


The harvest brought us all together. When it was fine, from the youngest to the oldest, we went out from the house in the morning with ladders, chattering and picking, gathering up windfalls, loading the trailer and hauling it back, calling across the field and bagging the yield into hessian sacks. We sorted the good fruit from the bruised, the eaters from the cookers, the bittersharps from the bittersweets. We ate bread and cheese on plastic plates without napkins at a trestle table in our wellingtons, normal rules suspended for one day, for just this one shining day in the orchard.


Afterwards, good apples were wrapped in paper and spread out in rows in the loft in the barn, gifts for the year long. The cinnamon scent of apples simmering on the stove filled the house, as my mother in her apron stewed fruit for the larder. My father made cider from the imperfect apples, the disappointing ones, with a press he built from a landrover jack just before he chopped the end off his finger splitting logs. I remember his shout and searching in the rough grass by the wood shed for a bit of flesh with the nail still attached. We never found it.


Some of the apples went to a big cider-maker at Burrow Hill. The man gave us a pound a sack and said they weren’t worth any more, apples were two a penny in Somerset. Any dreams we had of making our fortune quickly faded. He has gone now and the cider press closed and they built over our orchard, the people that came afterwards. But the apples stay ever sweet in the memory and their names remain, wonderful strange, like an old incantation – Beauty of Bath, Dunnings Russet, Curry Codlin, Fairmaid, Hangdown, Hoary Morning, Slack Me Girdle, Tom Putt,  Sack and Sugar, Kingston Black, Rough Pippin, Whittles Dumpling, Green Pearmain, Mealy Late Blossom, Burrow Hill Early, Sheep’s Nose.




Maeve Bruce








Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry has been published in several journals, such as Panoply, Magma and Foxglove Journal. Lisa is currently a budget traveller with two bags, one laptop and no particular home. You can find out more at

Lisa Reily – wild strawberries 



two hard pears that will never ripen                                                

left on the table, beside the thermos your sister sent us.                        

outside the mountains, stolen by autumn;

it is time to move on.

there is peace here, in the river beyond the trees,

the courtyard fountain, the old bus that seems to be there

whenever we need it, and the little stray dog

alone now by the bus station,

his mother who knows where.

they were a gutsy pair who lunged into dirt

and the shadows of the day,

chased a car or two, over the night railway without fear,

barking freedom.

I pat him one last time,                                                                            

feel his dirty face pressed against my legs;                                                     

I am glad for the bus drivers who feed him,

for his nous to keep away from the mean ones

who pass him only to piss in the bushes.

I recall our walk to St Spas’ grave, the moaning it took to get me there,

our first taste of wild strawberries, the two of us

only game after watching gypsy children

crouch low in the grass, pick their tiny red beginnings.

I will miss the spring water taps on every street,

the kitten at the tosteri drinking from a dirty mop and bucket,

her tiny face licked and satisfied.

when we arrived the air was green,

crisp with pine needles and apple trees;

now chestnuts fall, and walnuts fill crates at the markets,

the boxes of berries slowly diminishing.


Lisa Reily


sweet lemons by Lisa Reily

Greek Sunset by Lisa Reily

nanna’s garden by Lisa Reily







Inspired by her mother’s death, and a life-long dream of writing, Pratibha Castle completed a BA in English and Creative Writing in 2011 at the University of Chichester. Graduating with a first class honours degree, she continued exploring on their MA in Creative Writing. Winner of the NADFAS short story competition 2009, age range 13 – 17, long listed for the Pighog Poetry Competition 2010, her work has been published in Eunoia Revue, Poetry and All That Jazz, Wales Arts Review, Thresholds Short Story Forum, a Hedgehog Press Anthology, Postcards from the Edge, and Fly on the Wall magazine Chaos. Further to her love of words, Pratibha, a former singer and holistic therapist, loves to garden, walk in nature, swim in the ocean, and experiment with food. She is currently working on a poetry collection, and a novel set in 1960s Notting Hill and India.

Pratibha Castle – Pumpkin Blues 



Pumpkin Blues



We collide at a pumpkin stall down Portobello Market.


You caress the silverblue

lustre of a Crown Prince,

I investigate the green mottle

of Kabucha, skin  craggy, crumpled 

as an old crone’s hopes 

or rocky crevices about Olympus.


Yellow peel Turk’s Turbans glower in a pile. 


We twirl, we swirl 

beneath a hunter moon

into a dew glazed gloam,

tranced by the keen of a penny

whistle, banshee yowl

of a turf-fire fiddle.                                                                                           


Mammy cautions me not 

to flaunt my heart upon my sleeve, 

so I sit till after midnight,

illumined in her third degree 

and first love’s fluster, 

embroider right across my tit, 


which you and later I will feel, 

a plump crimson pumper, 

brethren to the thorn snarled 

muscle of the plaster Christ 

enshrined beside the sapphire 

Mary on the parlour mantle.


You wild eyed Ulysses. The twang 


of your finger-lickin’ Gibson

plucks from me a young girl’s fancy

as the plight of your jeans, frayed

as nerves, suggests a stitch-up. I oblige

with bird track tack of rainbow hues infused 

with moon-curse fantasies, disenchanted 


come the morning 

when I find you gone.


Pratibha Castle


First published in Eunoia Review








S.A. Leavesley is an award-winning poet, fiction writer and journalistOverton Poetry Prize winner 2015, her pamphlet, How to Grow Matches, was published by Against the Grain Press in 2018. She has been published by the Financial Times and The Guardian, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. An occasional climber and surfer, she also loves swimming, cycling, walking and being outdoors.

S.A. Leavesley – Still the Apple 

His mouth moon-craters my flesh,

curves tiny ribbons in flushed skin.

After gorging, he holds my skeleton

to the light, peers through small slits

between the ribs in search of a heart.

He does not find one, only the rust-

brown of the scalloped wounds left

by his teeth. Later, I’ll bleed black.

For him, little change now, except

his lips’ sometimes strained shape,

weighted down by past sweetness.



S.A. Leavesley


First published in Envoi, then in plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press)


The Disappearing River, Stream, Trickle by S.A. Leavesley

A Planet Where  by S.A. Leavesley

Ensemble  by S.A. Leavesley

Seasonal Adjustment Order  by S.A. Leavesley










Jo Brandon is based in West Yorkshire. Her pamphlet Phobia and full-length collection, The Learned Goose, are both published by Valley Press. Her next collection, Cures, is due out in 2020. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including The North, Magma, Popshot, Strix, Butchers Dog and The Fenland Reed. You can find her at  

The Learned Goose is available to buy from  Valley Press.

Jo Brandon – A Fruit Basket




I won it

at this year’s garden party raffle,

afterall, this is the sort of village

where fine fruit is prized above

cellophane-wrapped chocolates

and cheap wine.


Cradled in a thick-woven wicker basket,

blanketed with muslin, tied with ribbon,

the kind you can put in a drawer

and use again. Pretty as a picture,

a shame really, to dismantle

and rummage.


Frog-skin melons nestle like eggs

in their straw lining, stony passion fruits,

a rudeness of pomegranates, green bananas;

a risk, could have spoilt the whole haul,

but they knew what they were about  

putting all this together, the pears are perfect,

ready to eat, kiwis moulting softly, lychees peek

between loll-draped limbs bearing grapes:

a bacchanalia of treats.


How many markets did they visit

to accrue all this?

I had only ever seen cucamelons on television,

never held one, cool in my palm, like this.

I have a tin of Jackfruit in my cupboard,

from last year’s tombola, nothing akin

to this tight-curled hedgehog of a thing.


Sweet, putrid, syrupy, olid – a durian bristles

like a giant conker; a vanitas perhaps?

I peel, chop, slice, stew the stillness from my hoard.

I would have chosen a few more familiars

were it my role to select the prizes this year;

punnets of berries from my garden,

oranges and grapefruits, things to simply start the day,

apples too, of course, a lemon and lime for garnish,

but I am the recipient, not the donor,

I will be gracious, no point getting the pip

when I have the pith.



Jo Brandon


Previously published in The Learned Goose by Jo Brandon (Valley Press, 2015)


The Fall by Jo Brandon




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