Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

October 2020 Competition Winner

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Two Minutes 

Ruth Taaffe


Notes fired crack against our ears,

fill the air like smoke after gunshot

blooming over a field.


He leads our collective stumbling

with his solo, shuffles us into respect

at the ricochet of his tune.


The young bugler lowers his instrument,

approaching the climax of his task.

We are silent already needing this axis

this poppy-black pistil to focus our woes.

In our separate myths of war assembled

we feel something like peace rise to heat,

breathe as he breathes and cold brass gleams

silver in November air. Against the warmth

of each jacketed heart, an explosion

of red reports how a bullet

will spread blood across the chest

in a tiny flowering of hurt.


We hear him collect his tone with his tongue.

Lips purse against the promise

of notes then plucked air trembles out


gold, rings like glass and blood flows back

into the rip between us and the button-worsted drab

lying across the breasts of the dead.

CWI September 2020 Winner

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020


Riley Sutton


If there is peace to be had in this world, it is next to a clear windowpane

as a thunderstorm beats its drums in the distance.

With water slicing through the sky

in a diagonal marching line,

unbeknownst to the rules of physics and even gravity,

you can watch the sky turn from white to blue and every blurry color in between.

Foggy droplets cling to your window-

and if you put your hand up to the cool glass,

it leaves a warm, smoke-ringed handprint, like you can touch the storm after all.

But the only way that you can really join

is if you step into the rain,

and the cool scent of petrichor and greenery

fills your empty heart.

You look heavenward, covered in clouds and light and erroneous sunbeams,

and close your eyes.

Let the water crack across your head,

dripping down into whatever crevices have formed in your

stony exterior.

There is something so free

about being mercilessly, hopelessly drenched.

Now run inside, before the lightning snaps you into dust.

August 2020 Winner

Friday, September 11th, 2020

The Woman Vegetable Vendor
Fabiyas MV


She pulls her handcart through her dream-debris.

Now her PhD is just an agonizing adornment.


She’s been denied white-collar jobs for religious

reasons. Even a name is flammable in the fanatic

drought. Here religion doesn’t purify, but petrify.


Yet she surfaces, scuba-diving through her secret

sorrows. The toot of hunger from her children’s

stomachs keeps her installed in the masked street.


They come again to drive her away – this time,

under the pretense of the pandemic protocol. She

protests vehemently in English . The crowd is enticed

by her fluency in the foreign language. Her molten

emotion spurts. Hers is never an artificial countenance

of a contestant in a beauty pageant. Her words are not

tomatoes and potatoes, but the hottest red chillies.


Will the dark rubber eyes see her close-cropped life?

CWI July Winner

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

The House Plant

Fabiyas MV


Her possessor won’t let her grow

beyond his conservative outlook.

Her taproot is chained in the pot.


Even her pale patches

are decorations.

Living among the plastic plants

is choking.


She’s denied sunny kisses.

Rain’s romantic whisperings,

she’s never exposed to such ecstasies.


Her wound attracts insects.

But she cannot allure any butterfly.

Flowering is not even in her dream.


Same sand.

Same experience.

A humdrum existence.


If she’ll deviate from the fixed pattern,

a callous trimmer is always ready.

June 2020 Competition Winner

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Northern Lights

Sue Hoffman



a blessing;

a child to unite tribes.



a gift;

a child to bring joy.



a mystery;

who knows the child’s fate?


But I was born

when the night was black,

when the sky-dancers slept,

their coloured capes folded to cushion weary heads,


and nothing could waken them;

not my father’s yells

nor my mother’s pleas,

not even the dance-drums of the Elders.


And so we live

by sufferance,

cast out from the clan’s heart,

forbidden to sing.


May 2020 Competition Winner

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020


Rachael Barnes-Powell


My father collects model trains


Engines, stations, trees – all miniaturised

populate his shed


His own personal paradise

over which he is god


Plastic bodies lie cold

Waiting for him to bring them to life


I was allowed to watch

as he worked in mausoleum-like silence


Sending engines hurtling along

metal heartlines

back to their homes to sleep


His own bed lay empty


My mother chose to ignore

the universe hidden in her garden


Preferring to spend time with the worms

making homes in the soil

of her chrysanthemums


Planting rose bushes before the shed

in the hope their seasonal bounty

would hide her permanent shame


I think I was the only visitor

to my father’s world

before moths moved in


Now the door is swollen

rain drips through the roof

But those trains wait for him


Itching to come back to life

Creative Writing Ink April 2020 Competition Winner

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020


Tomos Dargie


We came to a meadow by where the sea crept in,

where her breath was light with marram

and the meadowsweet danced.

There was an Island, left on a shell-strewn

strand once the tide had ebbed away.

There were terns, their shrill cry she carried

down the long summer days.

She brushed aside the long sweet grass and

sang along the pebbled stream, its waters

cool and clear and pure.

She whipped our eyes with salt and grit,

her white horses hoofbeats bitter and then,

once we understood her,

she gave to us her soul.

So few we are but blessed.

March 2020 Competition Winner

Friday, April 17th, 2020


Ruth Taaffe


Panic in the aisles. Unmasked together in a queue

we breathe discretely in opposite directions

no eye contact, ashamed of this synchronised thinking.


Ridiculous whims in the baskets, beans for protein

chocolate for morale. The thought of weeks

without fruit pinpoints an island of claustrophobia


inside, a notion of scurvy voyages east

or west on some wooden clipper. If only they’d had

the Piña des Indes back then. ​The tin sits


plucked from the shelf, adopted pet in the mesh

stack of yellow halos on the label. We are foreign

to each other. They grow just metres away


in fields, attract hummingbirds and bats. Fierce thistles

becoming flesh, only pickable with thick gloves

then stacked on the back of pick-up trucks


but these would ferment too soon with a smell

brown as vinegar. I’m after something more robust,

some buoyancy aid we can cling to, a sun’s corona, life ring.

Creative Writing Ink February 2020 Winner

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

An Alabaster Knight
Kathryn Ratzko

Still as stone,
hands on your chest,
an alabaster knight;
protector, warrior
who once
slayed dragons.

Dawn is here.
The ferryman still waits;
a bittersweet relief.
I stretch.
Cramped on
a makeshift bed,
I ache.

I lean in close
to hear your barely breath
and whisper that I have to go.
An hour I say, an hour.

I’m holding on to selfishness.

I turn away;
the journey is not mine.
Perhaps you need
to sail the lake to Avalon

Creative Writing Ink November 2019 Competition Winner

Friday, December 13th, 2019

In Waves

James Croal Jackson


It comes in waves, the grief, though you laugh

as you say so, because we are in the Atlantic,

children again, uppercutting large tides,

and I never learned to swim, but the saying–

the metaphor– is true, the water is relentless,

and we were states away from the hospital,

where your father was, when you got the

call, and later, in our hotel’s game room,

there was a balancing act– you, your family,

the ping-pong paddles on the black table,

the plastic balls rolling slowly onto the floor

at the end of another meaningless game, the

bouncing, then physics, entropy ending–

how else to reconcile lost time? This dusting,

this airing out, now, swimsuits soaked from

the salt of the sea, this fabric, this residue

dripping off of this vacation into the old

Civic, the broken A/C, the windows’ open

breeze, silence of the road lodged between

green hills, so endless, our breathing.

October 2019 Competition Winner

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Sleight of Hand

Ruth Taaffe

You were thirteen and crooked, about to embrace

the retainer, conjure your own face from the pack.

An x-ray then you lay supine against stuffed leatherette

waiting for the show to begin. Behind the scenes 

the assistant prepared tricks of the trade for the maestro

who appeared in the snap of a glove, like that!

As though she’d pulled herself out of a hat.

One eye looked blind, beyond, as white as the tip 

of a magic wand but, god, that smile!

She began with the routine illusion – brush and floss, 

all smoke and mirrors, but two molars lay in her way.

Her wink revealed she had something up her sleeve:

the swan song of your baby teeth. She swiftly tugged  

then showed me her sleight of hand with a flourish, 

cupped in there like two bullets caught mid-flight. 

Creative Writing Ink September 2019 Winner

Friday, October 25th, 2019

Kaci Skiles Laws is a writer and artist living in Dallas—Fort Worth. Her work has been featured in The Letters Page, Bewildering Stories, Pif Magazine, Unlikely Stories, The American Journal of Poetry, and a few others. She won an award for her poem, This is How it Ends, by NCTC’s English Department and is currently working on a children’s book called The Boogerman. Some of her acoustic music and visual artwork can be viewed on her and her husband’s YouTube channel listed under Kaci and Bryant. Facebook link:

My Fictitious Faberge Bee


I revisit the past in pictures

and think that looking back means

memories never change,


that my cling could never skew

a still frame,

but like a biting hand clasp—

my recall is a dying flash.


It’s my inability to let

childhood elude the fluctuating lens,

to attune to sepia decay,


the over-exposure, the gray-rimmed

ream of descending white,

to ask—Who am I?


I can still make out my heart sweater,

Willie the sheepdog of the litter I chose,

our smiles

under orange descent, red dyes,

rose gold glasses, and the

wisdom in the photo’s whitewash.


Somewhere in a light wave I see

my grandmother catch a process in a scurry,

a mark of eternal progress that fades

but stays a pixel the same,

each piece a fleck of peach. I hold


two reflective surfaces curtseying,

each tendril—dust of us.

Do we keep pictures to remember or forget?


I inherited a bouquet of dandelion parachutes,

the woman who took the photo—

her brooch and pearl white

skin to stick it in


to feel the sharp end.

I want to bend its brittle counterfeit wings,

to remedy my intermittent memory.


Creative Writing Ink August 2019 Winner

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Falling Angels

For my mother with love

Peter Branson


The conjuror behind closed doors, she mine,

me hers, she scrubs our mangled family life

starch-white; stems tears, irons creases out, darns holes;

small miracles – makes money stretch the week.

Her present tense is all I know and we

are doted on, consumes her too, except

she talks, obsessively with age, the friend

she met at school and worked with till she wed.

Good Catholic girls and ballroom all the rage,

their petticoats’ live bubbles in champagne,

they soar as light as air. The tenor sax

outplays his luck – she’s got enough to go

professional. Bait, line and hook she shies

from at the time sustains her all her days.

July 2019 Winner

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Job No. 1621

Gaynor Kane


Once, a carpenter on the Canberra.

Now, Rheumatoid anchored aground for years.

Got thrown off after a week, you said –

caught having tea and a fag. Shipped to a tanker,

as your own boss you skipped off early

on Fridays to smooth talk girls and dance.


I asked what you’d crafted?

You rubbed your face, buying time,

wiped cheeks veined in seaweed purple

with barnacle knuckles. I offered suggestions:

A mahogany cabinet with dovetails?

An oak bar with carved scrolls, acorns, leaves?


No, you laughed, the porthole edgings.

I Googled terms: King stud, appeared –

(wood either side of window) I pictured you

Elvis-like, easy come easy go, with a

Tony Curtis curl. The, now white, wave shook.

You said, you’d trimmed them with cripples.

Creative Writing Ink June 2019 Winner

Friday, July 26th, 2019

When My Mother Was a Giantess

Avra Margariti


She let me sit on her shoulders,

fed me spotted eggs

plucked fresh from mountaintop nests,

flew me like a girl-plane through the clouds

to gather their moisture on my tongue.


When she got sick, she shrank and sank

while I underwent a stretching metamorphosis,

all 206 of my bones a stranger in my body.

I carried her from bed to couch and back again,

spoon-fed her oatmeal and chamomile tea.

I tried to remind her of the times I rode on her shoulders

and she on the shoulders of the world,

soaring through wind and cloud.


In the end, a mechanical ventilator had to pump air

into her lungs.

Now, she’s a giantess in the clouds,

a shape I can trace with my finger

against the sky.

Creative Writing Ink May 2019 Winner

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Ruth Taaffe


This was the date that should’ve been.

It catches me every year

like the gasp of a plot twist I almost forgot.


While all the world waited

on an inhale for your first big cry

you were reserved, belated, biding your time.


‘Not yet cooked’, your Grandma joked

as if I really was the oven

and you the bun


or like a library book I wanted to keep

for perhaps

just one more week.

April 2019 Competition Winner

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019


Sue Morgan


I was at Crewe station

between trains.

I had a call to make

from one of the old pay-phones.


After, I went to sit on a wooden bench

to wait for the onward connection.

A nun came to sit beside me.

An omen I thought.


I wondered whether to ask her to pray.

But decided not to intrude

on her silence,

the black and white of her habit.


My Mother’s death caught instead

between the insistent rumbling

of the tracks

and the cooing of feral pigeons.


Creative Writing Ink March 2019 Winner

Thursday, April 25th, 2019


Charles Leggett


The water tumbles down the conical

Coal-dust-coloured fountain; after trickling

Between up-jutting stones it stands, a pale


Penumbra, rendering a flickering

Of streams of light from the nearest of the lamps.

This park’s guitarists, lovers, frolicking


Dogs. Its shirtless would-be Frisbee champs.

Its joggers, strollers, chess combatants, moss-

stubbled boulders, and its child who stamps


His feet and wails. The mixture, there across

Eleventh, of façades both new and old—

The nineteen-twenties brick alongside dross


Heaved up five minutes ago as condos, sold.

These lines, of trees and benches, lamps and pathways.

Illiberal zoning lingers to withhold


Construction of much anything that strays

Above the generous canopy of trees

Lining Eleventh. This, in effect, arrays—


Excepting for the mild trajectories

Of spires, antenna towers—a subsigned,

Whole other line. Or else it’s that one sees


The whole park mounted, framed; or feels confined

In someone’s morbid science fiction zoo

(Both Vonnegut and “Star Trek” come to mind).


The fountain, as it gathers darkness to

Itself, transmutes, and now a whitebeard drools

In wind. The water only stays in view


When moving through the lamplight, which now pools

Upon its surface: one discerns a swell

Of soldiers, as in old fast-motion spools


Of wartime battle footage, as they pummel

Forward, are cut down by the pursuant

Gloaming. Then the stillness: aquarelle


Of silence as a skin of depth and scale,

Impervious, a living death in oil.

CWI February 2019 Winner

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

A Home for Christmas

Kathryn Ratzko

Socks and a hat,
a scarf, thick and bulky.
Throat sweets tucked
down the side.
Wipes to wipe away dirt;
nothing to take away pain.
Room for a razor, or maybe not.
A torch for wakeful nights.

The tiny space left;
soap or shampoo,
toothbrush, toothpaste
or chocolate
or pastilles?

My decision is made,
the lid is placed on,
my conscience contained.

Your home in a box.

January 2019 Winner

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

A Cauliflower Farmer

Fabiyas MV

He still stands

in the back row

with the traditional misery.

His plants

always get his carbon dioxide.

But his hope

trapped in the collapsed price


Farm Aid Package orbits

over his life

like a malfunctioning satellite.

His debt thrives

among the dream debris.

The farmers’ dry voice flames

in the street.

He too

throws his produce.

His cauliflowers scatter

on the road

like the baton-charged protest.