Issue 24 March 2020

Editor's Comments

Welcome to the Issue 24, the first of two issues for 2020. I hope you enjoy reading the different poems. I'd like to remind readers and contributors that Allegro is now a biannual magazine. Issue 25 will be published in September and submissions will open on 1st June. For full details please see the Submissions guidelines.

Sally Long


Walking Towton Battlefield Trail

Beneath my feet blood sings and bones complain.

Above me broods a broad expanse of sky.

Wherever there is war it leaves a stain.

Only the rich wore suits of male and chain.

Poor men un-armoured must have known they’d die.

Beneath my feet blood sings and bones complain.

Lancastrians thought that day would be their gain

until the Yorkists let their arrows fly.

Wherever there is war it leaves a stain.

A blinding blizzard concealed iron rain

Wounded warriors, cruelly pierced, bled dry.

Beneath my feet blood sings and bones complain.

A bridge was formed with bodies of the slain.

Sometimes I feel a ghost is passing by.

Wherever there is war it leaves a stain.

The bloody meadow’s now a peaceful plain. 

I watch the pink tinged cattle graze nearby.

Beneath my feet blood sings and bones complain.

Wherever there is war it leaves a stain.

Judith Russell

The Sea’s Secrets 

Every sailor knew that Ursa Minor

contained the pole star;

they knew how to cope with gales,

tar their canvas clothes to keep

the elements at bay, trim the sails.

They could fathom the semaphore

of swooping gulls, the cry and pitch

of curlews, horizon anchor-light,

the breaching of sea mammals,

sudden sounds in the cave of night.

But they feared uncertainty, sights

beyond telling at sea or ashore;

old shellbacks who saw much

more than younger men, who went

below to pray in creaking holds.

The ship a church, and figurehead

a sacred being with all-seeing eyes

to chart the way. Athena’s breasts

once calmed the storms, scattered

sirens and put out Elmo’s fire.

Neptune driving a pair of seahorses

gave hope, or Jupiter astride his eagle.

Sometimes an animal’s head

under the bowsprit would suffice.

Any carving could become a god.

A gold coin in the keel gave hope,

A silver coin beneath the mast.

Michael G. Casey

This Dream
This figure in dark robes and wielding a scythe
appears in my bedroom and, with the mere
curl of a finger, a glare from his eyeless sockets,
leads me down the stairs, out the front door,
down a street of withered trees, dead flowers,
and bones that crunch underfoot,
then through a narrow alley where, from windows
of bleak buildings on either side,
ghostly faces shriek as if in diabolical pain.
Then I awaken, shaking uncontrollably.
You take hold of me, pull my body towards you.
“You were having a nightmare,” you say,
then hug me until I fall back to sleep.
It’s a preview of my own death.
It’s a preview of where you stand on the matter.

John Grey


These repeat-notes with step-change and

chorus, heard through glass,

tunester in a wall spot,

leaf-fringed, by blocks,

piped up from the roadside,

might be a recording

or snatches from a poem, sounding in the head. 

Old notes in darkness,

going out from a garden

led by a cellist and broadcast on the Beeb.*

Here, tuned in to shadow, by traffic,

love bird and instrument guesting unnoticed,

plays ad lib, impro and riff.

And the sudden change in set,

up sticks with listeners from chamber to outdoors,

to mid-May live,

as the on-air, breath-held woman

stirs dark sounds into wood

to coax up the birds.

Or poet in close-up, caught speaking low,

working the changes on a near-death experience.

Deliberate, we are there.

Still hear the dream-songs

in odd spots, build-ups, crossings

and stop-offs behind walls.

Or here, taking up position,

all ears at the window,

for lead-break, DJ, night bird, heart throb

(that song again, that song again)

encore and finale

to cut across the dark.

And not be interrupted.

Leslie Tate

* On May 19, 1924, the Savoy Orphean BBC radio concert was interrupted to go to the garden of virtuoso cellist Beatrice Harrison where she was heard playing, accompanied by local nightingales. The performance was so popular it was repeated annually until 1936.


The starling nests in a cup of feathers. 

The nouns come out like eggs.

Roosting in the holy synonyms of towns 

colonising common spaces,

the bird becomes grammar.

In the syntax of grass and pasture

there is a legend spooling wordlessly.

Suddenly in the air a flock of clauses 

lifts and drops like logic, silent over children calling,

silent over ears of corn silking by the road,

over the wood pigeon’s soft choke 

in the consonants of trees, over the bee 

devouring the vowel of a flower.

An autumn evening dives. 

The starlings write a novel 

on the eggshell  of the sky.

Ruth Taaffe 

When I was six, Paul taught me how to swim—
floating me in the terror of the pool,
bringing his arms up when I needed them.
Somewhat remote, eighteen, but he was cool.

Vignettes: Paul home from Basic at Fort Dix,
me at attention in his Army hat.
Much later, ’69 in Santa Cruz,
those Sunday Karmann Ghia rides were hot.

Fast forward. Forty years on different paths,
phone calls between Thanksgiving every year.
We built a friendship, helping Mom and Dad.
Paul’s ill? He wouldn’t call, but we were there.

In one short week with Paul, I had to grow—
learning to hold him, then to let him go.

Dan Overgaard

Put down

You were done for, love: half gone,
but who could tell you that?

Legless as you were, you fought the fact
‒ so hard, we had to feed at least a
double dose into your sluggard veins
before you'd deign to loose your grip,
let self-determination slip:

eyes glazing into gazeless;

all your lovely failed flesh,
no more now than the shape of you,
left leaden in my lap.

Ken Cumberlidge

Zinnia Cedar Shawl Sadness
                                                                Reminiscence of the Garden at Etten
                                                                Vincent Van Gogh, November, 1888

Two women pass flowers by the path, wild orange
in little clusters, scattered yellow bursts. Look,
he says, those women walking. I like
their clothes. I like their faces. I see them too.

Among Cedar and Hornbeam, beside a field
of yellow wheat, the wheat field's border curling.
One wears a shawl—dark purple-blue, dots
of orange and red—for the wind and sun, the mist

this morning that chills. Beneath it, a swoop
of long, straight, gray hair. Eyelids heavy, brows
looping upward into flesh. She leans, as if she is
tired, or distracted. By gulls, by pillars of

Cypress beyond the hill. Her friend, or sister,
or daughter—blue-black hair, part in the middle—
wears a shawl—red, yellow, black—head
uncovered. She has closed the shawl

about her shoulders, folded the hems together.
I will paint those woman, he says. They speak of
daydreams and boots. And see them weep.
If I could dry their tears I would paint them too.

William Snyder

Breakfast swim

Slope off, turn downhill at dawn,
soft pedal past a burst bin,
out-pecked by silent gulls.

Beyond a dead boy's backward bench,
pass where tide-defying bubbles
rise below the lifeboat pier.

Will haar behead or blockade Fife?
Can the compass spilled in one lion's mane
direct summer's coming months?

Should you wave at the mis-seen woman at the edge
or nod to rubber-skinned surf dippers
now off in the very far-off?

Or will you wait to be drawn into graphite calm,
pulled by the sonnet you're never going to write?

Beth McDonough

Calling Card

I wanted to let you know I was here, so I tried folding you

an origami crane from a scrap of the newspaper lying on your porch.

You would know I had been here, because I leave them everywhere at work

at home, at the park. Everyone knows that’s just something I do.

But the wind kept blowing the rain on my fingers, made the paper

thin and transparent, impossible to crease, made my fingers cold and black.

If every crane I tried to make you had been successful, you

would have come home to a flock of them on your porch

gray and white and covered with phrases like “war” and “linen”

faces of politicians half-seen in feather patterns.

But because of the rain, there is just one crane on your porch

and a pile of crumpled, wet newsprint squeezed and balled

ripped in frustration at the task. I would have written you a poem instead

if I had taken the rain into consideration when I’d started

I probably should have done that instead. 

Holly Day

orchard's stillness —
beyond the angle of ladder
evening mist 

Goran Gatalica

Dead ice: the end of a glacier 

Winter’s snows are its inhalation; a freezing

draw, replenishment.

Water flows in summer as if from everywhere;

a thaw rich with minerals.

Moraine grinds bedrock in slow descent

and retreat; a seasonal breathing.

It’s been like this for twelve thousand years.

A new field is strewn with erractics; rocks 

perched on castles of sand.

Long summers now take more of the blueness

than late winters give.

And you, my beautiful daughters, will not 

marvel with your children at its depth,

will not hear the echoing melt-song, or

be shocked by coldness under your palms.

Storehouse of all our seasons, the ice is dying.

No, my darlings. It is already dead.

Kate Noakes

We are drawn to mutants

Desirable koi are painted orange, 

or white, or both 

as in the pool of greedy fish 

a firm of City accountants 

had in Reception.

They made a splash 

when investment in anything 

was a thing – bonuses 

paid in platinum dust, 

and for all I know, carp.

The grey ones in a stroll garden 

we ignore in their masses, 

even if they can swim upstream

in less than an inch of water. 

They’re living ghosts, 

save when one rises 

to break the surface 

under a crooked pine.

Kate Noakes



you dilute yourself
until they are able to see
their own reflections

fingers clawing at hollow eye socket
the eye scooped out by them
to make room for their whispers

we’re the same

lens placed over good eye
oh so gently
vision blurring

let me guide you

a hand grasps yours

play nice
join our movement

someone stands in front of you

let’s take a detour
i know a good route

they see chains
where you see roots
cut you loose
from yourself

now you’ll be able to grow

a prescription for freedom in a bottle
with no minimum dosage

don’t forget to come back

a scalpel held between practiced fingers

let me in
i want to see the real you

how pitiful

skin and muscle unravelling
woven into a web
for your words
to get tangled in

it’s okay if you’re one of the ghosts
that they don’t believe in
what they fear is the sound of your breathing
tracing strange patterns
in the air

Aaliyah Cassim


On How, Histories Are Made

When we were here,
we discussed histories with time mocking us,
we became the history.
We were here at dawn
telling the histories of our lives in roaring laughters.
Now, the day has passed,
here I am, at dusk
not in roaring laughter but
silent reflections and mind chaos
with crickets in my company
telling me the language of the world.
It doesn’t matter about the
time or where we were,
It only matters when we
leave, then history begins

Awósùsì Olúwábùkúmí A

These colours keep her here,
a cwtch of mossy walls.
Under the scraggy tree
a few sheep shelter.

This is a huddled habit,
like chapel. Not stubborn
or stupid. That moss will soak
up rain and green the greys.

Phil Wood

The Bonfire of The Collected Works

The final straw, that last rejection slip.
Its savagery left me in no doubt
as to the weakness of the works. Found out!
The editor, whose words cut like a whip,
was right to deal his harsh but honest blow,
despite the hours I’d spent, relentlessly
struggling to give my words integrity.
So ended all my hopes; they had to go.
One last read-through, then thrust into the fire.
Sometimes odd lines still drift into my mind,
nothing of substance, nothing to admire.
I try to grasp them, sensing on my hand
a chill, like memory of dead desire,
or flakes of ash on a November wind.

Gordon Gibson

Response to Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

Tumbledown, an ancient house to let,
this fabric that endures of you and me
attracts no offers; not for rent, not
even as investment to
guarantee us comfort in frail age. The
beams and rafters, bricks and roughcast of a marriage
now show decay, the wear and tear of
time; what once was regular, now out of true.
Still, we try to show that neither of us minds,
and even to best friends will not admit
that love and trust surrender to impediments.

Gordon Gibson

notes (berkhamsted castle, march 2019)

freshly-mown grass: two
crows in the centre like

umpires, waiting – no
more! – for the mag-



modern moments,
outer moat: bee’s
cursor over nettle &

dock-; hide-&-seek
kids, coordinate
by phone…


shadows, posted, ring
the boundary: flint sight-
screens, more harm
than good

Sean Howard


Aunt Spinster

With laboured hands

she paddles the treadle of a spinning wheel

and pulled by its thread, the floor, its walls and 

the town itself

seem to chime and twirl

like a carousel under her command.

In its motion, you laugh a sea of hearts, as the

puppeteering faces, their chins on strings,

gaze vacantly, ticking and tocking

from her salted chestnut hair

to her scraggy weathered boots and back.

Later, when the swaying soothes, your hand

entwines with hers and 

in frowning whispers

she swears to you that

no other man will ever have her

wrapped around his finger

Michael Burton


I am afraid to say no

to his proposal.

There was never

a moment

when this marriage

was not spoken of,

even among the servants,

as my mother’s dearest wish

and the gentleman

is always generous

with his compliments and gifts.

It is an honour

to receive the brooch

(in his family for centuries)

although it drags a little

at the fabric of my coat

and as he bends over

to fasten it on me,

I glimpse a faint thinning

of his crown.

Before he takes his leave,

he gives a careful bow,

shakes my father’s hand

as though

he’s already heard

the answer.

Julia White

Marine Lake

One last visit

where the tide breathes

in and out from the Irish sea,

smells salty and green.

The estuary bed scalloped,

dips water filled

reflecting the sky

sand like silk.

A leathery hooked thing

on the causeway

a shark egg,

mermaid’s purse.

People walk in the wind-

chopped sea, white sails

against the sky

like music, like memories,

a suggestion of someone.

Was that your sigh I heard

your fingers brushing mine,

will we kiss like lovers

after so long, to miss

the dark

and the light of you.

I felt you there,

it was just a moment

on the breeze at West Kirby.

Julie Mullen


Ten collared doves huddle down
together on a telephone wire,
feather-breast a southwester,
clutch the trembling line until,
one by one they take their moment,
fly low into the wind. Above, gulls
see-saw, hammered seawards.


Rooks storm-scatter. Fallen branches
lay like black clock hands wrenched
from too-complacent faces. After dark,
the moon relates cratered stories
shining onto pastures
through rook branches
half-dead half-green.


A dream wanderer coming home
in dusk, finds ten collared doves poised
on branches one above the other,
sheltered in a tall windbreak
of cypress, holding peace
as if given to them
to hide, to keep.


Michele Waering


Michael Burton is from East Lancashire but is living in Beijing currently. Recently he's had his poem published by the Spittoon Collective and used as part of the Urban Fragments Event which was held in four major cities in China.

Michael G. Casey is a writer of poetry and prose, based in Dublin, Ireland. He has won several domestic and international awards for poetry and short fiction. He has published five novels and a volume of short stories. A collection of poetry--Broken Circle--will be published next spring by Salmon Press. 

Aaliyah Cassim is a twenty-one year old South African writer who writes both poetry and prose.

Ken Cumberlidge is based in Norwich, but can be lured out by decent company and an open mic. Recent work can be found variously online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / Ink Sweat & Tears / Message In A Bottle / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Pulsar / Rat’s Ass Review / Runcible Spoon / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin).

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and The Tampa Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (, Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), while her newest nonfiction books are Music Theory for Dummies and Tattoo FAQ.

Goran Gatalica, born in Virovitica, Croatia, 1982, got both physics and chemistry degrees from the University of Zagreb, and proceeded directly to a PhD program after graduation. He has published poetry, haiku, and prose in literary magazines, journals, and anthologies.  He is a member of the Croatian Writers’ Association.

Gordon Gibson is a Scottish writer, living in Ayrshire. Forced by disability to cease lecturing in higher education, he now writes full-time. His poems and stories have appeared in a number of print and online journals and anthologies. He blogs at

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dalhousie Review, Thin Air and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Chronogram and failbetter.

Sean Howard is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently The Photographer’s Last Picture (Gaspereau Press, 2016) and Ghost Estates (Gaspereau, 2018). His poetry has been widely published in Canada and elsewhere, and featured in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope Books, 2017).  

Beth McDonough's work connects strongly with place, particularly to the Tay, where she swims year round. Her poetry is published in Gutter, Stand, Magma and elsewhere. In Handfast (with Ruth Aylett) she explored autism, as Aylett examined dementia. McDonough's solo pamphlet, Lamping for pickled fish, is recently published by 4Word.

Julie Mullen is a poet and writer living in Hertfordshire. She spent her working life in a library and has a deep love of reading, she also sings and attempts yoga. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University and has work published online.

Kate Noakes' seventh collection is The FIlthy Quiet (Parthian, 2019). She lives in London, where she reviews poetry collections and acts as a trustee for writer development organisation Spread the Word. Her website ( is archived by the National Library of Wales.

Awósùsì Olúwábùkúmí A. is a Nigerian, living in Ìbàdàn, a student of the University of Ibadan, Department of History. His works have featured in the Nigeria Student Poetry Prize, on Merak Magazine, Kalahari review & forthcoming on Naluubale review and elsewhere.

Dan Overgaard, a third culture kid, was born and raised in Thailand. He attended Westmont College, dropped out, moved to Seattle, became a transit operator, then managed transit technology projects and programs. He’s now retired and his poems are available at

Judith Russell began writing poetry  2 years ago when she was seventy. She studied online at The National Writing Centre, Norwich with Liz Berry and Helen Ivory and is now working with Roselle Angouin ’s ‘Elements of Poetry.’ She has recently had two poems accepted for publication in Allegro Poetry online magazine. She lives between Leeds and York with her husband and dog. She teaches Pilates as a retirement career. Writing poetry feeds her life-long love of Literature. She taught English for 33 years. 

William Snyder has published poems in Atlanta Review, Poet Lore, Folio, and Southern Humanities Review among others. He was the co-winner of the 2001 Grolier Poetry Prize; winner of the 2002 Kinloch Rivers Chapbook competition; The CONSEQUENCE Prize in Poetry, 2013; the 2015 Claire Keyes Poetry Prize; and he was awarded the Tulip Tree Publishing Stories That Need To Be Told 2019 Merit Prize for Humor. He teaches writing and literature at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.

Ruth Taaffe is from Manchester and lives and works in Singapore as an English teacher. She is taking an MA in Creative Writing with Lancaster University. Some of her poems have been published in the online journal Creative Writing Ink, in print in Acumen and are forthcoming in Nine Muses and The Poetry Village.

Leslie Tate studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. Leslie wrote the fictional trilogy Purple, Blue and Violet and a non-binary memoir Heaven’s Rage, now turned into an indie film shown at 32 international festivals.

Michele Waering gained an MLitt in Creative Writing from The University of Glasgow in 2010. Her work has appeared in A Thousand Cranes: Scottish Poets for Japan; Envoi; The Interpreter’s House; World Haiku Review, San Pedro River Review; From Glasgow to Saturn; The Ghazal Page, Red River Review and Fuga No Makoto. She lives in Renfrewshire.

Julia White lives in Northamptonshire and has a lifelong interest in words.  She has been concentrating on poetry for around five years and has recently gained an MA in Creative Writing from Leicester University.  She has previously been published in East Midlands Poets, Captured Creativity and Nine Muses Poetry.

Phil Wood was born in Wales. He has worked in Education, Shipping, and a biscuit factory. His writing can be found in various publications, including: The Poetry Shed, Ink Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Califragil