Reader’s Choice (Leap Year): Leap Day

Leap Day

by Adele Evershed

On the leapt over day the milky eye sees what it wants in the tilted mirror.

Smears of a bloody living
Lie on the crimpy mat
As she licks the yolk
From a tawny just laid egg.

Outside, in the milking fold,
Rimy-mouthed litanies
Mumbled on bad breath
Drain the white cow
Until it turns to dun.
‘Blame the pigeons or the hag-witch
Craving bread and cheese.’

This is a could be time
Of rough bowls of milk
And crumbles of bread
Strewn on a flagstone floor.

Roast the unplucked hen
Tell the cobblestones to air
An oath of family lies
A changeling child
Nursed as his own.
‘Shoe the elf with gold
So he’ll live to be a hundred.’

The widow melancholy
Longing next for
Some indigo gloves
Swims to the bony isle.

Her frozen fingers clutch
The blue slip milkweed
But her icy lips
No longer blow winkle kisses
To smudge the glass.
‘You will never crave
What is easy in the getting.’

On this hidden day Queen Mab –
Splendid in her pussy girdle
– Treads blue buds under foot
Beneath the lopsided moon.

A gnarly shepherd
Throws down his crook
To join her in the dance
Pirouetting like a loon
To make a perfect circle.
‘Let’s gather on the hills
Beside Dina’s seat and sing.’

 As the splashy harp grows dim
And ploughmen bristle yawning
The fairy queen spinning hastily
Tips the glass once more.

On the day of David
Flinty evening blunders in
So widows and knights
With ashes in their mouth
And reeking of wild thyme
Pay the debt.
‘Speak ever softly as
Fay folk and love are dangerous.’

 Y Tylwyth Teg (the Fairy Folk).

Adele Evershed is originally from Wales transplanted to Connecticut. She dabbles writing poetry often based on myths remembered from childhood

Our Reader said:

I like this poem because its dark tone reveals the fundamental fact that new years do not always bring happiness (including leap years).

Reader’s Choice Winner for December (Leap Year): Déjà Vu, February 29, 2020

Déjà Vu, February 29, 2020

by Karla Linn Merrifield

At the confluence
of past and present
a shame-free woman
is poised: hands on hips,
legs astride the streams of Time,
one foot planted on the stone
of eager youth, the other
upon a slab of urgent maturity.

The boy who grasped her ass,
hard-pressed her closer,
shaft firm against her pubis,
trembled when she gasped
in surprise between bumbling kisses.
Soon comes a wise unabashed man
to her opened door, readied bed, bearing
seeds of adolescence to spume
in their ripest imaginations.

She’ll lean into the imperative
current of unadulterated waters.

Karla Linn Merrifield‘s 2018 Psyche, Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the newly released full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press.

Karla’s poem, Self-Realisation at the Library of Congress was published in our ebook and print anthology Museum Collection in December 2019.

Our Reader said:

I like this poem because it deals with tough subject matter in a subtle and compelling manner while also addressing the theme of the competition that is both indirect and effective.

Reader’s Choice: Golden


by Karla Linn Merrifield

It seems the humming birds
have departed for points south;
only desultory bees nuzzle
the feeder.  Its blushing sugar
water will sustain at least
the last of the honey makers
also making a quieter buzz
as autumn settles into the land
beside the inland sea and first
frost is a few nights away.
I pause,
stare, not yet chilled, not having
been startled awake.  Then I begin
to swirl like an apian dervish
in her slowly whirling sweet and viscid
dance of the season.

Karla Linn Merrifield’s newest of 14 books is her full-length Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. 

Our Reader said:

I was taken back to read and re-read this luscious poem several times. Lines such as: ‘to swirl like an apian dervish’, ‘sweet and viscid dance’ made this unique and powerful.

Reader’s Choice: Bees


by Margaret Gallop

‘Summer hummer
you buzz in the fuzz of the flower.’

Bees squeeze
into delicate depths
collecting nectar.
They shake their pollen decked rears
in the tiers of tossing blossom
and tenderly touch
bright trumpets of silk.

Zuzz to your hive.
Hoard and pour
in your hexagon store,
your amber decanter
the exquisite elixir,
of healing

Margaret Gallop: I enjoy finding the words to write about the world of nature.

Margaret is a member of Didcot Writers, and her work has been Reader’s Choice three times before: click through to read ‘April Wayside Blues‘, ‘Sour Harvest’, ‘Permission’, and ‘Mariella and the Singing Flute’. This last piece was also published in our print anthology, Compositions, which can be purchased here.

Our Reader said:

The talented word craft in this poem stood out to me. It presented extremely visual elements with a grace that seemed effortless.

Reader’s Choice: April Wayside Blues

April Wayside Blues

by Margaret Gallop

At the wayside springtime blues:
against the trumpet gold of dandelions
bright azure notes of alkanet
cerulean blue of speedwell
syncopated clusters of forget-me nots
and the ultramarine watery
saxophone swoop of bluebells.

Margaret Gallop: with a background in education and health I aim to putting words together to describe our beautiful and beleaguered countryside.

Margaret is a member of Didcot Writers, and her work has been Reader’s Choice three times before: click through to read ‘Sour Harvest‘, ‘Permission‘, and ‘Mariella and the Singing Flute‘. This last piece was also published in our print anthology, Compositions, which can be purchased here.

Our Reader said –

I love the way the poem explodes into the punchy metrics and sound patterning of the final few lines. This is truly a celebration of our colourful countryside.

Reader’s Choice: Mushy Peas v Avocados

Mushy Peas v Avocados

by Shirley Muir

Musical notes seep through the darkness,
not hostile, but enticing.
I’m not sure where the phone is
Who contacts me
In the middle of the night –
the bank, the tax man, scammers?

A diversion would be welcome
from the scalding pain that shrieks through my arm,
stiffens my shoulder and fingers.
I long to hear from my writing friend
thousands of miles eastward.
I hope for a poem or lines of prose
to chew over, feast upon.

I slither snake-like from under the duvet
so as not to wake the other, snoozing, occupant.
My warm fingers fumble over the bedside table
for the smoothness of the smartphone.
Not there.

‘What-you-do-ing?’ a sleepy voice slurs.
‘Shhh’, I whisper.

On the floor I locate my capacious writer’s handbag.
My right hand sifts through its contents,
a sightless, seeking mole.
Among the lipsticks, painkillers, notebooks
and packets of tissues
two fingertips make contact
with the glassy gadget.

Its pale light offers me the time,
four twenty-seven.
Three more hours till a wintry Scottish dawn
slices through the night.
I gather phone, specs and notebook,
stuff them into dressing gown pocket.
An online assignment awaits,
I pad carefully down the dimly-lit stairs.

I brew up steaming tea.
The large mug has an hour’s worth of reading on its
white porcelain, tourist talk
about scenic Scotland, images of Glen Coe,
an Aberdeen Angus observing me
through its thick, woolly fringe.

My brain evaluates shiny new words
from my distant friend.
She ponders in prose on the class-ridden conflict
between up-market avocados
and working class mushy peas –
what a dilemma for discussion by a feisty Yorkshire woman.

Just as dawn breaks over her walnut trees
beneath the snow-capped Turkish mountains
– I know because I have stood there –
I type ‘Yes, there is merit in this discursive prose, send me more.’
How clever is her pen!

Through the dark hours before
golden streaks of a Scottish dawn
ripple the surface of the cold North Sea
I can taste on my tongue the superior salty guacamole
and the powdery greenness of mushy peas in their flat caps
each fighting for supremacy.

Shirley Muir writes poems, flash and short stories. She spends her time between the Scotland coast and the Turkish mountains.

Our Reader said:

I enjoyed the atmosphere of this poem, where a woman in pain reaches for her phone in the dark early morning to read messages from her friend in Turkey.  Playful analysis of British class structure as epitomized by food choices.

Reader’s Choice: Sour Harvest

Sour Harvest

by Margaret Gallop

The seed is ripe to break into new life,
Where is a cause that’s worthy of their love?
A call with zeal and passion in its tone,
beyond the box, the film, or the iPhone.
In darkened bedrooms YouTube teaching calls
for sacrifice. ‘Our daily living palls.
Our hearts can feel compassion for the pain,
the bombed and blasted under metal rain.’
Now in their hands a different trigger clicks,
one made of steel that kills with easy flicks.

The wind whips up the seed to other lands
Eager avengers, terror in their hands.
The field’s on fire. What could have fed
is burnt to charcoal, where the zealous led.

Margaret Gallop is a member of Didcot Writers, aiming to try different forms of poetry.

Our Reader said:

I would have liked this poem to continue with its evocative and powerful language on a very serious subject.

Reader’s Choice: Underground


by Sheila Davie

Underground is moody
It sneaks around
Wrapping its tentacles
Far and wide.

It sulks
Below cities that never sleep
And frowns

It feels the coldness
Of corpses
Alone and forgotten

It hates
The fears
That daylight brings

And squints
In blinding sunshine
Fearing the yellow monster
Penetrating, penetrating

Then smiles
As anxious creatures
Check their young
Safe inside

Suddenly it churns and spews its guts
To give the brightest show on earth

It tastes
The blood
Of death

It will not, cannot, retreat
To the abyss
And gloats in awe
Of itself.

Sheila Davie is a member of Didcot Writers and divides her time between rural Oxfordshire and coastal Kent. A keen walker inspired by recent walks in the mud!

Our Reader said:

This poem is so vivid and rich, it makes the underground feel alive as I read.

Reader’s Choice: On the Verge…

On the Verge…

by Alan Issler

Are you doing this on purpose?
Pushing at our sound barrier?
Banging that saucepan like a gong?
But it’s just dinner cooking,
The hob is made of metal,
In silence it can’t be done.

Why did you do that?
What were you thinking?
Throwing spaghetti at the wall?
But the strands stuck there and stayed
Meaning its cooked fine line al dente
As everyone should know.

Why did you say that?
What’s with your sniping?
Trying to take me for a fool?
But by sticking to that story,
Watching all day for strangeness,
Limits everything I do.

How can you think that?
When did I do that?
Knowing the lines I crossed for you?
But being stuck in this moment,
Stranded in your narrative,
Is like a sentence being served.

What are we doing?
Where are you going?
Crossing a threshold on the floor?
But does my straining at these chains,
Mean the strongest link is breaking –
While the weakest one remains?

Alan Issler: Trying to write regularly and work out if ‘rats live on no evil star’ read backwards will reveal life’s meaning.

Our Reader said:

The utilisation of the question and answer form is highly effective. A memorable and impactful poem.

Reader’s Choice: Permission


by Margaret Gallop

Halfway across the road in East Berlin

the small red man tells me to stop.

A real man beside me hesitates,

his wife defies the order and walks on.


She crosses two more roads and finds

a seat on the old canal bridge.

She seems triumphant as she waits,

the water underneath her drags.


She looks away from where we stand

with broken glass around our feet,

a ridge of tar and complicated lines

telling the bicycles where they may go.


At last the waited for green man appears,

his bowler hat a sign of East Berlin,

his arm and leg thrust forward, ‘Go ahead!’

Permission, we may cross the road.

Margaret Gallop: I write poetry to respond to the world around me and reflect on what I have seen and experienced.

Our Reader said:

So much is said in so few words, I am in awe at the author’s ability to reveal a great deal in only four stanzas.