Prose & Poetry by Pennine Ink members

DON’T WEAR BLACK   Mary Hartley

Don’t wear black
When you say goodbye
And don’t cry
Smile and wear pink
You look nice in pink
And think
of good times we had
when we were young

Stand up straight
Take a breath
And read a verse for me
You choose the one

BIG SWEATY MARTHA     Laura Sheridan

She trundled round from store to store,
unsure what she was looking for.
Behind their hands, whispers went round:
Big Sweaty Martha’s back in town,
Where does she live, what does she do?
But no-one had the slightest clue.

A constable moved in next door.
He hadn’t noticed it before,
but chanced to see, one windy day,
all Martha’s washing (mostly grey).
His boggling eyes took in the size
of Martha’s bra – what a surprise.

He’d seen her leave the house, quite dry,
and come back sweating – wondered why.
Her meagre buys, by observation
could not have caused such perspiration.
But what confused him more than that,
she left the house, her bustline flat
and came back sweaty-bosom-bloused.
His copper’s instincts were aroused.

He waited till she’d gone inside,
crept to the window, where he spied
her plucking items from her bra –
a clock, a mug, a dinky car,
two sets of knives, a toilet brush,
a can of strawberry-mango crush.
This haul of mixed paraphernalia,
told him that she had kleptomania.

I should arrest her now, he thought.
No wonder that her bra was taut.
He knocked and yelled: ‘Come out now, please.’
But at the door, with trembling knees
she stood so pitiful and scared.
His words dried up – and he just stared.

Though big and sweaty she might be,
he’d fallen for her mightily,
and realised she wasn’t bent,
but needed help, not punishment.

He took her hand, his love to swear –
then went and burned her brassière.

WISHING Darby Walsh

I find it really hard to breathe
No I haven’t got a bug
I’d love to have a new nose
I’m just a little pug


LINEAGE Laura Sheridan

Old has scent, patina,
the caresses of a thousand hands.

New strides in and stands, waiting
to be admired,
but his skin is false, his insides
balsa chips, his face fashioned
in a factory.


She’s a right little madam, when she goes to school
Keeps tricking the teachers and playing the fool.
She keeps out of trouble, she’s clever you see
With a face like an angel, she seems to be
Always innocent – just six, and I don’t know who taught her
Just a moment, she was here – now, where is my daughter?

She’s a ten year old flirt, she teases the boys
Then when they chase her, she makes lots of noise
She makes up wild stories, and shares them with friends
All girls in a circle, she makes them attend
They laugh and they chatter, as little girls ought to
In her fanciful flights, just where is my daughter?

She was fifteen last week, and exploring the world
With her mobile and laptop, like so many girls
In her bedroom, she’s texting, spending hours on-line
with friends by the hundred, how does she find time?
On Twitter and Facebook, they tweet and they like her
Is it all in her head? – And where is my daughter?

She’s eighteen and beautiful, she’s going out much more,
Meeting people we don’t know – then came a knock at the door
The girl she met on the net, it seems, was not a girl at all
But a man who masquerades and lures, with subtle mobile calls,
The police had come with ugly truth, we are much worse for knowing
Of other girls who’d fallen foul, his victims numbers growing.
Can you call her mobile now? We hope there’s time to warn her
We tried, we texted, no reply – exactly where is my daughter?


Detective Inspector Woodman carefully wiped his favourite paring-knife and cut precise cubes of cucumber, neatly piling the rind to one side. He used his special, favourite tool to pry the last remnants of meat from the crab’s shell, poking it out from under the crinkly rim, excavating each claw clean.
Twenty years he had been married to Stella and he still couldn’t believe his luck. At 43, she was one of those women whose beauty never actually fades; it merely matures into gracefulness. He wanted to make her a really nice meal to express his devotion, and his gratitude. His laptop pinged.
After their meal, Woodman turned his attention to the message. Commander Sikorski had been most helpful, looking up old files on Reeman from right back to the siege of Warsaw. He wondered how to repay such generosity, within the rules.
As he had suspected, Reeman had had a raw time of it, during the occupation and then in the Uprising. Both parents summarily shot, most of his extended family sent to slave-labour camps, his sister forced into the “Joy Division”– prostitutes servicing the soldiers.
One brother had perished with the Jews in the final desperate weeks, and another had survived only to be liquidated by the Soviets when they took over from the Nazis. You couldn’t call it liberation. Reeman had served eight years in a labour camp for being his brothers’ brother, then had managed to get work in Gdansk, loading cargo. No record of his joining the crew, but it was known that he jumped ship in the Port of London and melted into the swelling Polish communities of the East End.
He quickly assimilated. He anglicised his given name, learned the lie of the land, and within three weeks was running a stall in Portobello Market, selling black-market clothes to the dowdy inhabitants of post-war austerity London. He was an early dealer in the new fashions, new fabrics. Polyester, drip-dry, permanent crease. Philpott found himself urging the boy on, rooting for him as he scrabbled his way to prosperity, security. “Go on, lad” he heard himself say out loud when Reeman made his move into property.
The East End was a goldmine only he had noticed, acres of worthless terraced houses and a swelling population of coloured immigrants who couldn’t get a room at any price. “No dogs, no blacks”. Reeman cleaned up. He did not look after his tenants, why should he? He ruthlessly scared off any rivals, even the established gangs who didn’t want to soil their hands with his line of business anyway. Jackie “Chopper” Roberts made the mistake of trying to scare him off, but “Chopper” had not survived the Nazis, nor the Soviets. His foolishness cost him both his hands.
The headlines branded Reeman a Master Criminal, and his name became synonymous with underworld viciousness, taking advantage of the weak and vulnerable. Unfair? Wondered Woodman, that you escaped state-imposed oppression only to founder under the laws of this, free, country.

WINTER WHITE Laura Sheridan

Snow. Its silent blessing
covers the foetal crocuses,
evens out inequalities, allows the imprint
of boots, whitens the world in a whorl
of Tippex, sins erased,
sounds softened.

THE BEARDED MAN Bill Barnfield

I couldn’t get the hang of wet shaving. Under my chin I came out in a rash, so I just didn’t bother any more.

Stubble turned into a wispy beard and then it grew and grew. It was a bit aggravating but better than shaving. In the end it was like Father Christmas only with a reddish tint. At work I was known as Beardie Bill.

I also had a rumbling appendix which caused constant indigestion. One Friday night we were going out on the town and I was really looking toward to it. The first pint didn’t go down well but I thought things would improve. The second was no better and by number three I was ready to explode.

I made my excuses and caught the bus home thoroughly peed off. For no real reason I decided to take my disappointment out on the beard, and it nearly blocked the sink.

Next day I went to work – it was a six day week at the station cafeteria where I’d drifted after Art School – and the Manageress, who came from Aberdeen, said ‘Yesterday you were a man; noo ye’re just a wee boy’

I’ve used a Phillips electric shaver ever since.


Carousel, candy floss,
waltzer – We will rock you;

onions frying, hot potatoes;
burnt sugar and sweetness
spun onto sticks; dodgems

driven by grandads, goldfish
in tiny bags, spent condom
by the ghost train

and behind the fortune-teller’s caravan –
a child’s body.

FAN Christine Potter

Wail demon lover of loss and pain
coal-black, blue-black
moods to match mine

Got the posters and the ticket stubs
from every single gig
Got the albums both in vinyl and CD
the MP3 Player and the DVDs

Got the fanzines and the membership
of the best Fan Club ever
Got the tee shirts and the baseball caps
the sweat shirts, and the mugs

Got the Tour jackets with the gold thread
and the programmes costing a bomb
and the magazines from Rolling Stone

Got the bootleg posters on sale outside the gig
and a beer can supposed to be one of his
Got a pillow with his face on and a matching duvet too

Got a bedroom, memorabilia
and not much left for me, so

Wail demon lover of loss and pain
in blue-black, coal-black
moods to match mine

THIS IS US Barbara McHallam

Pennine Ink Writers
Monday night from eight til ten
To read, write, laugh, chat

A GREY DAY Christine Potter

a grey day
an everyday sort of day
going about its business
not special but not raining
cold but not crisp
not an indoor day
but a do the shopping
walk the dog sort of day
NOT ENOUGH Mary Hartley

He held her close
And stroked her porcelain skin
He reached for a cigarette and lighter
And noticed her gossamer nightdress on the floor
She stirred and opened her eyes
‘Smile for me, please
You have a lovely smile,’ he said
‘Smile for me, please. Smile – please don’t cry
Not on our honeymoon.’

‘Have to leave, now.’
And gently kissed her
‘Stay in bed all warm and flushed with sleep
This is how I want to remember you
Just say I love you
Don’t ever say Goodbye’
She listened and shook with sorrow
As she clung to his pillow
And savoured the sweet odour of him
And her tears flowed again
She heard him dress and walk down the stairs

He was gone

He was not to be a soldier
Not a fighting man – not rough or tough
But quiet and shy and funny
One night was not enough
He had so much to offer
He had so much to give

And no, his 21 years was just not enough.

LOST ALONG THE WAY Sylvia Gartside

a ginger guinea-pig
two hamsters
five white mice
a green budgie called Peeko
several friends
lots of relatives
my Mum
a million memories

Sand dunes
Solid waves
Created and re-created
By windsongs too deep for human ears

Sand dunes
Moving waves
Shifting and re-shaping
In slow time dances for a thousand years

Sand dunes
Hungry Waves
Covering, devouring
Overpowering pyramids


She said I was Salt, and smiled.

We met on a blind date, through the net.
She was bright, bouncy, full of life,
going through the usual – friends, family,
hobbies, jobs, likes and dislikes – ping-pong.
She slid the salt across the polished table;
‘You’re Salt – steady, reliable, trustworthy.’
‘You’re Pepper.’ I slid the pepper swiftly to her.
She laughed loudly, stopping it falling on the tiled floor.
I was Salt – a slow waltz, a barn dance, potato pie.
She was Pepper, the rumba, the Paso Doblé, hot chilli,
opposites attracting, somehow mixing perfectly.

The pepper ran out, the salt went damp.

I’m still Salt, she’s still Pepper
but on different tables.


you think you are safe
we are ghosts haunting your homes
playing silly games
so you question sanity
perhaps one day you’ll meet us

ALL THAT’S LEFT Laura Sheridan

a strand of hair
a button from a houndstooth coat
a small handkerchief, cotton
printed with yellow flowers
a crocheted bedspread
that must have taken months to make
and lies folded and crushed in a bed drawer
and a handful of photos
that I had enlarged so I could see her
in as much vivid detail
as she had in life


In an age of double talk
with truth in short supply
Tommy Penpast stood apart,
a bloke who couldn’t lie.
Although it might be easier
and keep him out of strife
to lie, he’d answer honestly
– even to his wife.
It happened once too often
and caused his sad demise,
a life devoted to the truth,
yet here poor Tommy lies.