Winter Showcase – December 2022

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Archive of all previous showcases

Edited by Susan Jane Sims

Photograph: Chris Sims


Learning to love


A mother grows a guinea pig in her uterus. It thrives on the

nutrients transferred via the placenta, and scans show its 

viability. Its claws poke out, making strange patterns in her belly

she does not suspect abnormalities. When it is born it squeals, 

cries Wheewhee. Wheewhee. 


The doctors are surprised

by the body hair. And the teeth, shaped as they are for

grazing. Of course, there is the guilt that she cannot breastfeed,

the panic when her baby scampers wild across the lawn on its

first day home. The difficulties with the car-seat and the constant



Women at playgroups give her odd looks

when she twitches her nose, mirroring its tiny movements.

Perhaps conventional within-species adoption

would have been better than this budget

version of experimental IVF. And yet 

her love is uncaged, delicate as fur, tickling her stomach with 

four sets of clean nails. Her

baby is happy, she is happy. He does not look like the other

children, but he shall always be hers. 


Wheewhee, she says. Wheewhee.


Ella Walsworth -Bell


Spot sea swimmers on land

They are the cormorants in the office,
drying their things above the heater.
Stashing their neoprene selkie skins
in the boot of their car, for later.
Their tea-cup rattles on the saucer,
and they wrap it tight with narwhal-white hands.
Watch for –
silver scales falling from their hair,
a flash of gaping gills at the nape of the neck.
wide flare of swim muscle across their shoulders,
ripple of breasts for insulation,
tiptoe balanced footsteps,
salt bleached ends of their hair.
The horizon blinks blue in their eyes,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           glints in the suntanned wrinkles spreading
across their temples as they smile.

Ella Walsworth-Bell



The fish bowl on top of my head
The fish bowl sits on top of my head.
My own personal, portable aquarium.
Too shallow to drown,
Too deep to swim.
Looking through a very dirty window,
I can make out the noises,
I can make out the shape of the words,
I cannot make out their meaning,
I cannot make out their reasoning.
The fish bowl sits on top of my head.
It fills up with water when I stand in a crowd,
It drains when I find my exit.
It bubbles to a fog when I speak my mind,
It calms when I bite my tongue and close my eyes.
The fish bowl on top of my head is my biggest burden,
And my greatest relief.
Frosted glass as my own social shield.
The fish bowl sits on top of my head and I wish it would never leave.

Jo Iveson 




When I first met you,
Unpacking your things,
you smiled cheerfully.
But it’s the eyes.
The eyes always give it away.
Your hair, short, blond – greasy.
Beard, bushy – something to hide.
That night in the club in Birmingham.
80’s music, the hall like a holiday camp,
cheap lager, warm, flat but … cheap.
You sat next to me as Spandau played.
We joined in the chorus with arms in the air.
Always believe in your…”
A change of song.
You start to talk – something to say
about your dad in jail.
Done for rape, you begin.
It’s not his… you continue
know you cannot justify.
Then that Christmas you stayed all
Beans on toast you told me you ate.
Listened to music, smoked some weed.
After that, you didn’t stay long.
Packed your bags and then,
were gone.

Paul Truan


The Secret

In a box, in my room, at the back of the cupboard
lies a secret, I have never seen.
There amongst the badly filed paperwork
and bag of odd socks still waiting to be paired,
a black and white film, 35 mil.
From a second hand shop in a small run down town,
I bought a camera like the one Ansel Adams had.
A Minolta, slightly battered, but worked.
In that I found the mystery,
of which I am the guardian.
I’ve always wondered what’s in that film:
Great landscapes, portraits, family snaps,
intimate photographs, erotica.
Never developed though I had a chance,
I’d prefer to imagine rather than perceive.

Paul Truan



click closed secret
fears unseen:
parasites not to be
spoken of.
Keys jingle hope
of solutions
coursing through veins,
cleansing hearts.
A walk through whispering woods
or past the pounding waves of the sea
or through mountains or even just
along the street can loosen locks,
for the key may be
smiling, befriending,
shifting clouds,
letting the sun beam.

M. Anne Alexander


My father


He annoyed me,

Heard, did not listen.

He did things his way,

As always.

He tried to walk,

without his stick,

without holding on.

“Not safe, you’ll fall”

I almost shouted.

“Does it matter” he asked,

“If I go, I go,”

“You may not go” I said.

“If you break your bones,

You’ll lie in bed

for a long time.”

He heard, wasn’t listening.

Tottering like a toddler,

He tried to walk, only to fall 

back, again, and again.

I closed my eyes for an inward scream.

Then I noticed the determined eyes,

on the parchment face.

Once supple hands,

now gnarled and trembling,

Those were hands that held me when I fell,

again, and again. 

I looked at him,

holding tightly on

to a precious life.

“Of course, you must try ” I said,

“Let’s try, together.”


Leela Gautam



He taught us to dig for gold in edgelands.
But edges shift and ripple like sand-dunes,
rise and fall as regularly as hems.

Station Road has lost its sense of purpose.
The respectable Victorian terrace –
No rear access but room for a live-in maid –
now ends, not in a level-crossing,
but in a cycle-track
renamed a linear park. Across the road,
Millionhairs Grooming Parlour
promises to ‘enhance your dog’s beauty
with a warm, massaging bath’.
The dairy has changed into a vet’s offering
check-ups, vaccinations
and health insurance, including twenty
percent off neutering.
But the dogs have got their own back, marked
the edgelands as their territory.

Was I a receptive student? I don’t know.
I do know a graffiti artist has returned to
the white-washed wall beside the art college.

And this time she has signed her handiwork.

Ann Preston



The Peak Flying from Afar
Hangzhou, China

I would have preferred to visit the two thousand
year old temple to see the Buddha, twenty metres
high, carved out of gilded camphor wood.
Then I could have bought a map showing
all the pathways up the mountainside.
But I knew my student guides would rather
climb the stony track to the top of the peak.
They would work late that night to make up
for the afternoon spent escorting me.

I lagged behind in inappropriate shoes,
my eyes level with their sure-footed heels,
his in over-shiny shoes, hers in dusty sandals.
At a place where the path diverged, they stopped
and, more to catch my breath than anything else,
I said that it reminded me of a famous poem.
The young man turned and, in a language
not his own, on a path that was not grassy,
recited flawlessly the poem’s final lines.

I was glad then I had no map,
had taken the road less travelled.

Ann Preston


Thanks so much for all the submissions. It was hard to choose but I loved the above and a definite theme emerged of paths not taken, secrets concealed and revealed, as well as compassion for others. You might have noticed that there wasn’t an Autumn Showcase this year. This was because once again my family was hit by serious illness.  Things are looking brighter once again and having a delightful little grand daughter is helping enormously as is friendship and the love of family.

Please submit for Spring Showcase by February 10th 2023.