Prose & Poetry by Pennine Ink members

TAKE MY WORD FOR IT                              Mervyn Hadfield

Often when I heard folk speaking
I felt my well of courage leaking
Never tranquil or content
With those considered eloquent
Who seemed to think their greatest strength
Was using words of extra length

I used to cringe and not know why
With trembling hands and mouth all dry
Sometimes my fear would turn to rage
A feeling growing, stage by stage

And so acute became the stress
I sensed it could be dangerous.
That’s why I saw a skilled physician
To help define my sad condition.

He said my case was ‘interesting’
Then followed weeks of scans and testing
At last this medic summoned me
And he could hardly hide his glee

‘We’ll celebrate, and who will blame us?
Your ailment’s sure to make us famous!’
And then with slow deliberate diction
He calmly named my cruel affliction

… And that, My Lord, is when my fear
Turned into anger so it’s clear
Why I’m appearing in this dock
For I was in a state of shock

Sparked by that word… I could not cope
I thrashed him with his stethoscope
Blood painted me, but he was daubier
His death caused by my Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia*

*Fear of long words

AT THE DOOR                                                                            Daniel Greenwood

He’s trying to get in.
Oh God! He’s trying to get in.
I can see him trying the door.
Dawn casting his grotesque silhouette against the purple morning sky.

He doesn’t see me.
He mustn’t see me.
He’s scrabbling around,
Trying to pull the door open. My God, he’s Raving!

I’ve lost sight of him!
Oh! Wait! What’s that noise? Is he?
He is! He’s scratching at the front window.
Don’t move, don’t make a sound. Maybe he’ll leave…

I would help dad de-ice the car, but it’s bloody freezing out!

JUST LISTENING                                                                      Darby Walsh

the chilled wind skipped easily
through York’s cobbled streets
who’d have been a Roman Soldier
did they only have sandals?

the warmth of the Hotel
couldn’t come soon enough
excuse me can you help?
a young boy baseball cap
mixed race bonny face
I don’t like begging

can I recite a poem
just up my street lad
his little face lit up
said his name was Dean
told us about his life
went into his Rap

seemed to make sense
worth more than pence
thanked us left the scene
we’ll not forget Dean.

JUST ONE MORE                                                                                 Michael Rumney

First it was the one-eyed Teddy bear
a Christmas present from three years ago then.

A pink Nike trainer in the middle lane of the motorway
squashed by an Eddie Stobart truck. Followed by,

green and red crayons both blunt at the tip.
Seemed harmless enough. Until eaten by a cow.

Dad shouted, looking through the rear view mirror,
‘Anymore of that and we go home.’

Mum, altered her shades and with
the serene calmness of a Latin dancer whispered,

‘It’s not a family holiday until someone threatens to throw,
Just one more prized possession out of the window.’

CANOES                                                                                             Laura Sheridan

like giant shoes – overgrown slip-ons.

Each one
lives on their own canoe – eating, sleeping, defecating.

Once there was space,
but it’s become crowded and there are occasions
when people fall into the water
and drown. It makes for more room, temporarily.

But there’s always canoodling
and then another pregnancy
and another
till the boat is filled up more than it was before

which means lesser creatures
are thrown out,
even though they lived alongside –
and who considers them to be lesser, anyway?

They’re not the ones
building boat after boat,
filling the lake with junk.

But those canoe folk, my,
they want it all – and then some.

So many boats now, collisions,
arguments, bumps against other canoes.

Eventually the fighting starts. Who knows
how many boats are upturned, cracked apart, burnt?

In the end
all that’s left are the souls

drifting on the surface of the water.

THE ADMIRABLE SPROUTWIND                                                          Bill Barnfield

The statue cast a long shadow across the ranks of festering Fiats, rusting Renaults and battered BMW’s, and out into the field where cows stood dreaming. It stood out against the decay and obsolescence, a 20 foot replica of a young footballer in his prime.

They told Harry the scrapman he could have it for free if he removed it, but he’d needed police protection as the fans were furious. 319 games, 230 goals; there was only ever one Hugo Sproutwind.

It wasn’t just on the field. He lived well but that only took a fraction of his stratospherical earnings; he was no jet-setter. The rest he put into a local charity, which helped restore pride and prosperity to a downtrodden part of town, similar to the one he’d grown up in. When he stood as MP he won by a landslide.

He had his weekly surgeries with constituents on Saturday mornings then continued to play for the team in the afternoons, no less fit for having spent the week in the stuffy House of Commons, and still banging in the goals.

The Party soon recognised his appeal to the electorate and in a surprise election he took over as leader.

In party political broadcasts he was absolutely deadly; he said things nobody had dared say before. He exposed the sleazy profiteering intent behind the ruling party’s pet projects. He revealed that they had no political will of their own and were just puppets dancing to the tune of a secretive rich elite. He said he couldn’t understand why this hadn’t been said before. In the run-up to the election the people were beginning to listen.

In the corridors of power it was decided that enough was enough. Fair means we’re out of the question; nothing short of assassination would suffice.

A prominent murder expert was called in and shortly afterwards men with silenced guns crept through a door of the club’s training ground left open by a disgruntled right wing trainer, a trainer of right wingers of both kinds. He directed them to a quiet corner of the field where in the semi darkness a stocky figure stood stock still. ‘That’s him’ said the trainer, ‘He must be getting his breath back’. Four restrained guns emptied their deadly load – tch tch tch tch the sound could heard 3 feet away. The gunmen slunk silently away in an unmarked Ford Fiesta.

The Establishment’s Lie Machine spun the back story: Sproutwind was in it up to his neck with ‘financial irregularities’ and The Mob were after him. No details were ever given, after all finance is very complex and difficult to explain. Of course they were shocked and horrified that such a thing could happen in Britain.

Worse was to follow. In the morning it was found that the gunmen had shot and very seriously damaged an antique dummy goalkeeper which had been used for shooting practice since 1957. That scoundrel Sproutwind had fled; not surprising with such a cloud hanging over him. In the press he became the new Lord Lucan.

The club’s directors were leaned upon to remove the statue, though it had only just been erected as Sproutwind had quite recently retired from playing. Dramatic pictures of the toppling figure appeared on the front pages; it was the most notable toppling since Saddam Hussein.

‘Iconoclasm’ crowed the Sun, and then wasted two paragraphs explaining what it meant. Other tabloids gave free reign to whatever abuse they could muster. The Express probably took the biscuit with ‘Marxist Leninist louche liberal sex crazed fascist goes AWOL’. He was only sex crazed because of his long term love affair with glamorous singer Polly Darton, which made everybody jealous.

When the shooting occurred Sproutwind was in the pub out of harm’s way, but he soon learned that he had been targeted. He decided to lay low for a short while until he could lay low his enemies, and a friend on the railway spirited him down to London, and then he left the country disguised as a steward on Eurostar.

The rest of the story has yet to unfold and must remain folded up. Meanwhile I had a word with Harry and implored him not to break the statue up. ‘Not a chance’ said Harry, ‘It’s the best advert I’ve ever had’. It does look very grand, adorned with a scarf and bobble hat in the beloved red and white stripes, pending the great man’s return.

NOSTALGIA FOR THE FUTURE                                                                      Alex Marsh

empty promises

wishing for new days
when troubles are all over
beyond the curtain


biting deeper now
the greedy animal eats
hunger cannot last

mother’s right

all she will tell me
is what I should have done now
only in hindsight

ECHOES                                                                                                                  Robert Giddins

It was a long way to the quarry. A long, gruelling walk over rough terrain. I had been for walks up on the tops before and had seen the quarry. It resembled a crater on the moon. Hard men had worked there in the past. Toiled for many hours each day. Tough men with calloused hands and grim faces. They had families to feed. Now it was deserted. A few rusting sheds and machinery, the only things to remain from the past when men had hewn rock from this hill.

The stone was highly prized. All the local buildings were made from it. Buildings that would never fall down. This stone was sent by canal and rail to all corners of the land. Good Northern Stone the quarrymen were proud of. These men must have had strong thighs and calves to walk up this hill day after day before they even started work.

I picked my way ever upwards. It was a beautiful day and the quarry was invariably deserted, ideal for my purpose. When I arrived some rabbits scampered away, surprised to see one of those walking things. In the past the quarrymen had set snares and traps for the rabbits. Free food. The rabbits need have no fear of me.

I was there for another reason. I stood in the centre of the crater. All around were man-made cliffs. It was like the Grand Canyon in miniature. I stood there alone. Up in the sky over the ridge, a kestrel hovered. I shouted out as loud as I could the word “Byzantium..!” The echo repeated my cry three times.

I found somewhere to sit and taking out the Saxophone began to play. I played and played. There was no pattern to the sounds coming out of my instrument. The deep notes echoed and resonated in a beautifully smooth and innocent cacophony. A rabbit even peeped over a mound inquisitively. I felt like pan playing his pipes. Or a pied piper. I was intoxicated by the Jazz I played that found its way into every crevice of the quarry.

I paused in my playing to listen to the answering cry of a curlew and thought of those grim men who once worked here. I thought of their ghosts filing down the hill to their wives and children.

INVISIBLE ENEMY                                                                                      Mary Hartley

How do you fight an invisible force?
How do you face an invisible foe?

One you cannot see, smell, taste or touch
A ghostly presence
The cause of deaths by the thousand
that continue to rise day by day

A strange enemy that floats unseen above the earth
and falls in water droplets
bringing contamination to air, earth and water
A shadowy presence that makes itself known in forms of mutations, cancer and death

How can you fight an enemy you cannot see, smell, taste or touch?
Or protect your children from such a force?

No force of nature this
But one made by man
A continual source of disaster

THE DRONE                                                                                                            James Marsh

The Drone (designation ZH-365) made its way through the rain-slicked streets, dodging humanoids as it went; the garish neon colours from the advertisement holos it passed through reflecting dully off its matte surface as it swished this way and that. Turning a sharp left into the alleyway, it performed a full spectrum scan on its destination and, satisfied with the results (non-hostile/low-threat), decided to reduce combat readiness to ten percent.

Disregarding a group of homeless people at the end of the alley, ZH-365 zoomed up the fire escape as its protocols contacted the doorway ahead and provided the correct ID; the door in question recognised the handshake and opened with a hiss of escaping pressurised air. The little drone stopped inside the entrance to the building and waited for the door to close behind it so the airlock could operate. Switching its friction coefficient to zero, ZH-365 literally shed the water off its casing, leaving a small puddle of water on the floor.

Loud classical music swelled as the inner door opened, the air from inside oscillating in a pleasurable way to the drone’s senses; seeing the music as much as actually hearing it. It would argue, if it was ever asked, that it could appreciate music much more fully than any organic life-form with their typically limited senses.

The man sat in a chair facing the door; looking a little dishevelled, but generally calm. He was preparing to speak, the ice in the glass he was holding tinkling delightfully as he moved it away from his lips.

“Have you…”
The drone observed and assessed over fifty different markers in less than a hundredth of a second, guessed the next five words in the question would be “…got something to tell me..?” with a certainty factor greater than ninety nine percent, and felt appropriately smug.

It had been given the task of snooping on the man’s partner the day before; his suspicion being that she was having sexual relations with her boss. To ZH-365 this was an unpleasantness; something it felt was beneath its many talents. As such it had already decided to lie, obfuscate and generally mislead the man.

“-…got something to tell me?” the man continued. The drone wobbled slightly, unnoticed by the man; the drone equivalent of a chuckle. Being smart was great, thought ZH-365.

The task had been simple. Float around in Zero-Dark stealth mode, track the woman, observe her behaviour and report back. A lowly household drone would’ve struggled to mess it up.

“There is nothing to report. Your partner did pretty much exactly as she said.”

“Really..?” According to the drone’s senses, the man was genuinely surprised.

“Yes. There was little deviation from her stated plans to attend the function as an assistant to her boss: a certain Mr Drazan, formerly a resident of the moon Europa.”

“What deviation..?”
Just the little matter of spending the night in her boss’ hotel room, the drone thought to itself, before saying: “She wore the red shoes, not the black, as stated when you questioned her.”

“Hmm. Could you have missed something..?”
Insulting, thought the drone, but didn’t react. After all, it was the one being dishonest here.

“No. Definitely not. They shared a bottle of wine during the meal, had after dinner drinks with the clients and then retired to their separate rooms at The Dorchester. She slept for approximately six point five hours, woke, showered, had breakfast and then left for the office.”

The man didn’t react, other than to take another drink from his glass and sigh.

ZH-365 was very pleased with itself. The woman was always much nicer to it than the man. If it felt any loyalty other than duty, it certainly preferred her over him.

Let her get on with it, it thought. She deserved better.

SLITHER                                                                                                               Sylvia Gartside

People don’t know. They don’t understand. They all go on in their happy little ways and they don’t pay any attention.

I used to not worry about it either. If someone had told me what was going on I would have ignored them. I’d have thought they were crazy. But now I know and I’m not crazy. I know it’s true, I’ve seen what’s happening. The slugs are taking over the world.

It started with just the odd one or two slithering across the dining room carpet – if I was stupid enough to leave the patio door open. In they’d slither. Of course I’d never actually see them at it. But there’d be the signs, silver trails of thick slime tracking across the carpet. But they’d all die. Slugs don’t do well on carpet, it’s too dry. That doesn’t stop them.

I hoovered up desiccated bits of brown rubber that once were slugs and I didn’t really think too much about it. They couldn’t come back, could they? They were all dead. So none of them could report back to their leaders.

Slugs don’t have leaders. They’re a few centimetres of slime – they can’t really have brains. Where would they keep them? So they’re just stupid slugs and they’re nothing to worry about.

Except one day there wasn’t just a couple of silvery trails, the carpet under the dining table was thick with silver and the corpses spread from the dining room into the living room and half way up the patio window curtains.
They were all dead, of course. I stopped counting at twenty.
That’s the ones that I found.

But what about the ones I didn’t find? I did look under the sofa and I checked the backs of all the curtains. There they were, every one of them dead. But what about inside the easy chair? And up the chimney? I don’t usually light a fire in July, no matter how windy or rainy it gets. Tonight I have lit a fire. Just to see what happens. Which I hope will be nothing because I don’t want to believe it.

Slugs can’t really be taking over the world. Like I said, they can’t have much of a brain in those bodies. They really are just tubes of slime. There can’t be organisation: – the ones that stay and sacrifice themselves for the progress of their race and the ones that make their escape back to their leaders to report the progress of their mission.
Leaders? Slugs don’t have leaders.

I am trying to forget the ones I’ve seen in the garden. The slugs the size of sausages with extra tall, pert antennae and orange skirts around their single slimy feet. The ones that look like aliens. The ones that know how to hide and always live to slither another day.

How many of those are there hiding in my house?

ANGELA                                                                                                           Barbara McHallam

‘Howard. It’s that woman again,’ Edna said turning to her husband.
He looked up from his newspaper and pushed his reading glasses onto his forehead. His watery, blue eyes peered across the room to where his wife was gazing out of the window. He gave an almost imperceptible sigh,
‘What woman?’
‘Next door. She’s gone next door to see old Mrs Peters.’
‘What’s wrong with that? You’re always saying no one visited the old lady. Now that someone is, you’re complaining about that as well.’ He pulled his glasses back onto the end of his nose, shook the newspaper and buried himself once again amongst the newsprint and adverts of the broadsheet paper he subscribed to.
‘Humph,’ Edna pursed her lips. ‘I’m going to find out what’s going on …’
‘Oh, Edna. Don’t go interfering. You know what happened last time …’
‘Well – how was I supposed to know it was Mrs Peters’ son. She’d never said she had a son, and he’d never visited before. I was only being a good neighbour.’
‘I know, love. But just go easy this time. Don’t go in all guns blazing.’
A sharp blade of cold air took Edna’s breath away when she opened the front door. She pulled her long, thick hand-knit Arran cardigan more closely across her ample chest. She was just in time to hear Mrs Peters’ front door being closed softly – as if the woman leaving didn’t want to make any noise.
‘And just who do you think you are young woman?’ Edna demanded.
Edna was startled when the other woman turned towards her. The winter’s sun was sparkling in baby-blue eyes. The hood of her coat fell back revealing long blond hair.       Edna shook her head to dismiss the strange thought that those blond locks had been shimmering and glowing.
‘Hello, Edna – ‘
‘How do you know my name? I know Mrs Peters can’t have told you on account of that dreadful throat cancer that took away her voice.’
‘I’m Angela. Mrs Peters needed help and it was my task to give it to her.’
‘Oh. So you’re a carer then?’
‘Sort of.’
‘How is she today? I usually pop in and make sure she’d got everything she needs. Her family never visit you know?’
‘Yes, Edna. We’re aware of that. But Mrs Peters is at rest now.
‘In that case I won’t bother her until later.’
‘Yes, that would be best,’ Angela said. ‘I’d better be getting on Edna. I’ve other people who need my help.’
Edna watched as Angela pulled the hood back over her hair and walked round the corner of the street. As she was about to go back into her own house Edna noticed that Angela had dropped one of her gloves. She picked it up and ran as quickly as she was able to the corner.
‘There was no one there,’ she told Howard when she finished telling her tale. ‘The street was completely empty. Not even that stray cat wandering around. Nothing.’
‘Maybe she had a car – ‘
‘She didn’t. She would have to drive past me to get out of that road, you know that.’
‘Well – she can’t have vanished into thin air – can she?’
‘Will you come with me? I think I’d better check on Mrs Peters.’
‘If I must.’
Howard and Edna stepped over the low dividing wall between the two houses and using the spare key they made their way into the front room where Mrs Peters spent her days.
‘Is she dead?’ Edna whispered.
‘I think so,’ Howard said.
They stood looking down at the old lady who had lived next door to them for the last forty years.
‘Do you think it’s anything to do with that young woman?’ Edna said.
Edna felt a hand on her shoulder.
‘Please don’t worry, Edna. It’s not what you think,’ Angela said. ‘I was sent to help ease her passage. She was worried and frightened, trying to put off the inevitable. It was my job to help her. She’s at peace now. No more pain. She asked me to tell you, she thanks you for all your help over the last years of her life and if you look in her bureau you’ll find her will. She has left everything to you and Howard.’
‘Howard? Did you see her?’
‘Who? There’s only you and me here.’

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.