Issue 13 June 2017

Issue 13 Space

Editor's Comments

Welcome to Issue 13. There is a selection of poems below which explore different facets of the theme 'Space'. It is good to welcome a number of poets new to Allegro as well as to read work from familiar names. Enjoy this issue.

Sally Long


Black Sheep

Beneath this country seat, on parkland fringed
by garden, ha ha, woodland, wilderness,
footpath to village, ornamental lake,
the flock’s moved in to civilise the grass.
They’re strangers this lot, wiry, smaller than
the sheep we know. What’s worse, a third or more, 
are black. And yet, within one week, square peg,
sore thumb, I hardly notice when I pass.

What people dread’s uncertainty, their well-
worn ways at risk, tradition, neighbourhood.
At times like this, it’s understandable,
they beat retreat, dig in, seek space to breathe,
habituate. Where change is crushing like
an avalanche, resentment breeds and thrives.

Peter Branson

The cauldron of sunset
Slight rain across the forest
A tree’s calm presence, its roots
deep under the surface of things,
hidden within earthen mold
and a mightier silence
A tree’s calm presence, 
a tree’s calm presence
A mightier silence of earth. 

Ayaz Daryl Nielsen

The White-Washed Cottage

I open the door
enter the house
the bold closeness
of the silence clots the air.

His army fatigue hangs
on a hook, elbows creased from
use, his Donegal cap laps over it.

At any moment you expect him
to grab the tweed and slap it
on his silvered head
tug the fatigue about his shoulders
his gravelly treble echoing,
I’m off.

Liz Rose Dolan


Pensive, I hold both
light    and  shadow,
pass from   I to  I as
on stepping  stones
across        mirrored
water.               inert,
wheeling,     orbiting
the    flare    of    my
dwarf     star.     One
hand     tuck      and
grooves      between
curves   to  catch   a
breast  ripe  enough
to   fall.   All   of   me,
Composed   as  any
tombstone,         any
orator,     briefly     lit,
darkness       ringing

Devon Balwit


Space Junk

After the breakup, our phone conversations
become space debris, steel pieces hardly
discernible hurtling haphazardly at five miles

per second. Where do the scraps go?
The gold taste of summer will impact the brain
and puncture, enflame. We wish to assist

the start-ups who seek to construct
machines to eliminate wayward spares
of satellites trapped in the gravity of a body,

propel its dust into the atmosphere to burn.
We drift wary of small artifacts
from failed missions to emerge

in the distance of night to strike
and make split into fragments
we will never assemble again.

James Croal Jackson

More Moon than Moon

bamboo curtains are said to enhance the moon
I am deeply troubled
why would anyone think the moon needs enhancing

Keith Richards says that he survived heroin
when so many others didn’t
because he recognized
you can’t get more stoned than stoned

we’re not going to have the moon forever you know
with each passing year its orbit
gets a little larger
it’s just a matter of time until it drifts off into space

I say we bask romantically in the unfiltered
moon-glow while we have it
you can’t get more moon than moon

Bobby Steve Baker

Grammar Lesson

This subject objects itself
to any verb of action or intransitive
breaking of the link to wisdom

What is space between words
except the whiteness of harmony
separable in the wind I speak?

The noun of golden October lies
beneath itself in the rotting leaves
where nostrils syllable future tense

Each of us alleges adjectives adverbially
made more or less entire
while winds speak actions with the leaves

The noun (wind) itself an acting (verb)
sentences the participles of me
into apostrophe hanging without word

David Anthony Sam


It will pass to the East of the Earth,
Always going East,
Singing across the sky always,
Though the sky is beyond listening to sound,
Is beyond the song of a throat made of dust,
Carrying dust in its song to the stars,
Lit for a moment like a rope between the stars,
East of the Earth, just for that moment.

Deborah Binstock

Questioning a Ream of Paper

Wearing a dress at the time, I sent a ream of paper into
outer space: the impersonation an assumption such

feminine charm would prompt aliens to their written replies,
no inherent macho confrontation in expecting them to have

their own pens and ideas and a willingness to put all of
this down on such a forthright, archaic and twee mode

of communication. 192 GSM to survive the flight, though
in reality it was teleported, I might have requested all this

be handwritten in cartridge ink, like a proper Declaration of
Interdependence – bug-eyed [aren’t they all?] scrawls

as confirming signatures – but when sending messages in
the dark of sleep and night you don’t remember everything.

Why a whole ream you might well ask, but my response is
can that be the only query in such a gendered encountering?

Mike Ferguson

The Poem of the Oort Cloud
            After King Chicago by Boo Howerdine

If I could get away with it.
I’d love to go smashing windows with you.
Running down the empty streets
With our bats
Spraying crunchy diamonds against the black pavement.

I love you a little bit more than I love myself
And that terrifies me.
I’ve never really loved anyone else.

We sparkle you and I
In my mind-
The way the fuse on a
Fire cracker sparkles just before it explodes
The way a toddlers eye sparkles
Before she tips the cookie jar off the counter
Spraying crunchy rubies across the linoleum floor.

What terrifies me about love
Has nothing to do with you,
It’s messy regardless
And completely about me.

I knew this is where I’d end up
Alone and cold
Broken into a thousand pieces
Floating past Pluto
While you ring door bells
            And run away.

Marc Janssen

Toward the Unknown Region

After Vaughan Williams’ composition based on Whitman’s Darest Thou Now, O Soul

As stronger palliatives eased your pain,
you whispered haltingly about being
stranded on a sand bar in Morecambe Bay,
like a father and son a decade ago,
and how rescuers called through the fog
as the chilling flood rose up your chest.
Confused, you couldn’t find the route
back across the runnels and quicksands,
and your mobile’s battery was dead.

Hallucination or half-remembered truth?
It doesn’t matter now.  Propped up, dozing,
your breathing is becoming shallower, 
slower, as fluid creeps further up your lungs. 
You’re casting off the ties that bind us,
soon to sail alone across that fathomless sea
without a further shore.  Where will you end? 
In depths we cannot chart?  Or, borne aloft,
trembling before the majesty of your god?

Mantz Yorke

Signals from the Cosmos

Seventeen years of excitement
from radio waves arriving in fast bursts:
theory suggested they might have fled,
billions of light years ago, from collisions
between black holes or neutron stars.

New equipment has checked
our observations. We’ve found peaks
of signals around midday, but only when
staff have opened the microwave
before it has properly switched off.

The kitchen’s interference has diverted us
(and colleagues at observatories elsewhere),
but the fascination of trying to understand 
strange phenomena is our spur
to untie the knotty puzzle of the bursts.

Mantz Yorke

Pandora’s Box

I opened Pandora’s Box
and a terrifying new world
lay before my eyes.

I unleashed desires
I’d never
felt before.

I set free
of emotions.

I ripped my heart open
and filled it with
terrifying new sensations.

I burnt a
hole inside me
that charred my soul.
I drowned
in a river
of feelings.

A life I’d never
knew existed was
suddenly my own.

I opened Pandora’s Box
and there’s no
turning back now.

Pamela Scott

Going Home

Falling asleep on our journey back tonight,
you didn’t see how the sky was starred with a thousand geese,
spearing off in confused fragments to all directions;
some the usual south, others west, others even north-west.

Your eyelids flickered at the horizon instead, painting yourself a brief dream,
far away from the violent uncertainty of these last three days,
the astonished air still bruised with unspent cloud, above the washed earth,
the rivers of angry traffic still fighting their way home.

Robert Ford

Empty nest

First fragile buds, then a downy cloak of
new leaves emerged on the old willow,
destined to rule over the sky again, and –
hastened by the elemental – the blackbirds

began their clumsy dance, more like a
Friday night spat between drunken cowards
than a lover’s introduction. They landed
now every hour or less, always with a full

beak of twigs or thatching gathered from
the woods, disappearing into the canopy,
away from cat attention and a watchful
sparrowhawk, patrolling regularly overhead.

Only winter’s bitter march fully revealed it,
the home they’d made, become all hollowed.
Wedged between the naked branches, a wiry
hemisphere, intricately-bound, tinselled with

streamers of silver foil, cosied with dry moss
and found hair of the neighbourhood’s dogs.
Resuming our cold war of attritions, it made us
yearn to have been the hatchlings raised within.

Robert Ford



There is a crust over the human eye,
and death is the moment of its tearing.
But there are experiences
of the infinite within life—a miniscule piece
breaks off and the light shines 
the way the sun does through a cloud—
And you become the electric edge
in a vertiginous machine
which turns the sky
upon its head with levers,
cranks and gears.
I am speaking of lightning
bolts, arrows to the heart—
your arms erupting, goose flesh
pimpling the window to your soul,
your body.


Body—as window; Window—as candle;
Candle—as symbol; Symbol—as siglum;
Siglum—as code; Code—as pattern;
Pattern—as legend; Legend—as story;
Story—as building; Building—as ending;
Ending—as a stairway; Stairway—as memory;
Memory—as sensation; Sensation—as body.


Not knowing the sand from
My bones grow older than
Yesterday I was a blue
Bird whistles from the
Tree roots reach like
Fingers brushing friendly
Faces glancing softly
Nowhere in particular
But here


Have I yet explained
the ways in which I am like
sand? Alas, the glass.

Noah Leventhal

there was death in the sun today      

a long line of recollection
images held in living tombs
eyes upon an ocean
it was life
parading for death
bumper to bumper
the graveyard near
with its gnarly
glinting teeth
and open throat
and as a spotted bug
crawled across my window
and a cyclist felt the heat
of flexing limbs
I thought of shells
within velvet wood
deep breaths at the edge
of warm earth
bony fingers knotted
against things inexorable
and those sudden
looks behind

Adam Middleton-Watts

Museum of Nothing


There is a shape that absence creates.

Yours was on the bed –
the firm press of your buttocks on the linen,
placing in it a tea bowl of hollowness –
a broken pottery of yourself, laced
with the odd golden hair, fallen
from your shoulder.


A boat capsized becomes a relic
when reclaimed, whereas a man drowned
grows into a museum of nothing –
his unfettered bones calcify into nutrients
for phytoplankton.

For body is not wood –

a piece of wood disintegrates
into pieces wooden, whereas a body rots
into something unnameable.
This page has not been intentionally left blank

Shriram Sivaramakrishnan

Divorce Courts

‘Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.’ - Randy Pausch

they sit in pairs alone
couple after couple
row after row

now and then
a sneeze scratch yawn  fiddle
or the occasional murmur like people do
at auction houses before they call out the bid
except here the two heads sitting beside each
other never interleave, secrets get spoken
as a matter of fact

and they wait
with the urgency of their decisions
for their turn to confess before the black coat
what they have rehearsed umpteen times
and sign the dotted line on the white paper
that they are in fact the dotted lines –

dots that are nearly lines nearly so
but a dotted line is a euphemism –
dot gap dot gap dot gap dot gap gap gap
there is nothing coherent about it
nothing that says I am a part of a whole
like the individual strokes do in a proper

then they go their  separate ways
leaving the room together
one last time.

Shriram Sivaramakrishnan

Chatting with the Void

The girl at Moonlight CafĂ© 
makes buckwheat salads with panache.
Her fingers softly brush each grain
and leave sparkles of her kindness.

Tuesdays, I wait there for my lunch,
watch her batik skirt festooned with symbols
rustle back and forth from sink to till.
Hope that the magic in her eyes
will dust starlight on my sandwich.

I venture small talk. How I’d had a rude intruder
in the dead of night, who’d walked off with
my wallet and my Breville toastie maker.

Oh these things happen for a reason.
The Universe was giving you a message.


I think next week I’ll get my lunch at Greggs.

Paul Vaughan

Laika at the Fair
The juggling boy drops a ball
It’s one of those shows
You feel embarrassed
Hoping he’s good
Either way it’s riveting
The crowd inches in
Meanwhile a little dog trots trots
Along the edges as if lost
Around and around
It’s white a terrier
A brown blotch on her face
Like a domino mask
Like Laika the cosmonaut dog
That the Soviets shot
Into space that was 1957
Now the boy is
Juggling eight balls nine balls ten
Not dropping any
And the dog it’s plain now
Seeks her master
And the blue-eyed boy
He’s eitherhanded
He’s nimble he’s got us
So that nobody notices the dog
Orbiting orbiting
The boy catches a knife in his teeth
They say Laika in a cage alone
Perished of panic and heat
Just after takeoff
Circling earth for five months
Until the shuttle reentered our atmosphere
The crowd erupts!

John Wall Barger

After My Divorce

Faced with hard evidence that I wasn’t
the gentle creature
I’d thought, I learned yoga,
read Krishnamurti
& Homer. A scream
boiled in my chest
impatient as a kettle.
The merry fop, where had he gone?
What were the new
frontiers? I collapsed.
In bed, eyes closed,
I saw something
very close to nothing, a meteor shower
of nothing. The mind
a rock in space. I gripped the rock,
climbed it. It elongated,
shifting under me.
Unknown things—
like joy, or how fate is set
—exist, maybe,
on the other side of the rock, in darkness.
To get there I pushed
the rough surface with my hands,
stupidly. I slept for weeks.
The rock shifted. I crept my blankets
as if through sand;
I sat upright, eyes shut.
I gripped the rock,
cursed, heartsick,
like a movie astronaut
on a digital asteroid. I opened my eyes.
My room was a shambles:
a marsh of clothes,
papers, unwashed plates.
Out the window, a moonlit tree.
Then the room shifted.
It spun, slow.
The room was moving.

John Wall Barger


Underskied, glow wormed light with stars
And family constellations and
Five bright Orions belted,
To keep his belly tucked,
Only one reedy child scream
From shaking itself loose,
From Cancer to Capricorn
In the roof of one belly,
The colon of the whole
Gourmandizing Earth.

Hymns and carols here
Are meaningless as prayers
On mountaintops, empty
As night-gorged embers
Swallowed whole.
This stalagmite pulpit stands
The silence of closing-time
Its only heartfelt sermon.

Daniel Pearson


Bobby Steve Baker grew-up in Canada, now lives in Lexington Kentucky with his family and two insane Airedales. Recently published in, Amaryllis, Kentucky Review, Cold Mountain Review, Prick of the Spindle, Picaroon, Cloudbank, and Into the Void. His latest book is This Crazy Urge to Live by Linnet’s Wings Press.

Devon Balwit is a teacher/poet from Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks: how the blessed travel (Maverick Duck Press) & Forms Most Marvelous (forthcoming with dancing girl press). Her work has found many homes, some of which are: The Inflectionist Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Stillwater Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Red Earth Review, Timberline Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry.

Deborah Binstock has loved poetry since she was very young.  She has not written for a career, but has had occasional poems published in small poetry group collections. Her poems will always be in memory of her mother, who encouraged her.

Peter Branson has been published in  Britain,  US, Canada,  Ireland, Australasia and South Africa, including Acumen, Ambit,  Agenda, Envoi,  London Magazine,  North, Prole, Warwick Review,  Iota, Butcher’s Dog, Frogmore  Papers,  Interpreter’s  House, SOUTH,  Crannog, THE  SHOp & Causeway. His latest collection, Hawk Rising, from Lapwing, Belfast, was published 2016.

Liz Rose Dolan's first poetry collection, They Abide, nominated for The McGovern Prize, Ashland University, was published by March Street. Her second, A Secret of Long Life, published by Cave Moon, was nominated for a Pushcart. A nine-time Pushcart nominee and winner of Best of the Web, she was a finalist for Best of the Net 2014.

Mike Ferguson’s most recent poetry is the sonnet chapbook Precarious Real [Maquette Press, 2016]. A retired English teacher he co-authored the education text Writing Workshops [Cambridge University Press, 2015].

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Picaroon Poetry, The Lake, Liminality and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at

James Croal Jackson's poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Isthmus, and elsewhere. His first chapbook is forthcoming from Writing Knights Press. He is the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest winner in his current city of Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at

Marc Janssen has worked as an ad man, a pitch man, and a salesman. Climbed the corporate ladder and fallen off it. Currently he is employed as a bureaucrat for the State of Oregon. He writes when he can, which is most days. You can find his work haphazardly scattered around the internet and in printed journals and anthologies such as Off the Coast, Cirque Journal, The Ottawa Arts Review and Manifest West.

Noah Leventhal is a gumshoe literary detective. He recently graduated from St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he managed to avoid nasty juniper allergies for three out of his four years. He enjoys dissolving dream into reality, even when he is talking or eating food with his fingers.

Adam Middleton-Watts is a British expat writing out of South Dakota. When he’s not dissolving in the midst of a savage summer or fattening up for the next brutal winter, he’s writing poems and stories on the backs of unpaid utility bills, and drinking flagons of dark ale.

Ayaz Daryl Nielsen, veteran, hospice nurse, ex-roughneck (as on oil rigs) lives in Longmont, Colorado, USA.  Editor of Bear Creek Haiku (26+ years/135+ issues) with poetry published worldwide (and deeply appreciated), he also is online at:  Bear Creek Haiku  poetry, poems and info. 

Daniel Pearson is originally from Sunderland and studied English Literature at Lancaster University. After spending several years living abroad he has returned and lives in Cardiff. Having just begun to take writing seriously, he has, so far, appeared as a runner-up in Into The Void magazine's 2016 competition.

David Anthony Sam lives in Virginia with his wife and life partner, Linda. Sam has four collections and his poetry has appeared in over 60 journals and publications. His chapbook, Finite to Fail: Poems after Dickinson, was the 2016 Grand Prize winner of GFT Press Chapbook Contest.

Pamela Scott lives in Glasgow, UK with her partner. Her poems and stories have been published in various magazines including Peeking Cat Poetry, The Cannon’s Mouth, Sarasvati, The Dawntreader and Toasted Cheese Literary Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies including LOVE – A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love published by Collections of Poetry and Prose and Crab Lines Off the Pier and Visible Breath, both published by Indigo Dreams Press. She has completed two novels and is working on a third novel.

Shriram Sivaramakrishnan recently completed his MA from Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, UK. His poems have appeared in Bird's Thumb, Softblow, Uut Poetry and so on. 

Paul Vaughan is a Yorkshire poet. His poems have appeared in Agenda, Prole, Poetry Salzburg and Obsessed with Pipework, among others. Edits the e-zine Algebra of Owls.

John Wall Barger’s work has appeared in Rattle, The Cincinnati Review, Subtropics, Hotel Amerika, and Best Canadian Poetry. His third collection, The Book of Festus (Palimpsest Press), was a finalist for the 2016 JM Abraham Poetry Award. His poem “Smog Mother” was co-winner of the Malahat Review’s 2017 Long Poem Prize.

Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England.  His poems have appeared in a number of print magazines, anthologies and e-magazines in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Canada, the US and Hong Kong.