Issue 32 March 2024

 Editor's Comments

Welcome to Issue 32 of Allegro Poetry Magazine which marks a significant milestone. As always it's been a joy reading all the submissions but hard to make a final choice from my shortlist. I hope you enjoy reading the selected poems.


'John Downie'


'John Downie', you are my dear friend.

Planted over forty years ago,

you accompany me to the end.


In spring, along each limb, you send

bouquets of flowers; how they glow.

'John Downie', you are my dear friend.


In summer, blossom falls to the ground;

fruits ripen: red, orange and yellow.

You accompany me to the end.


In autumn, leaves succumb to wind;

fall, whirl, skitter along below.

'John Downie', you are my dear friend.


In winter, you are greyed by lichen,

greened by moss, whitened by snow.

You accompany me to the end.


On each other, we depend.

I fear for you when I have to go.

'John Downie', you are my dear friend;

You accompany me to the end.


Terry Sherwood


My Favourite Shirt


has faded in the sun,

its shoulders turning lighter –


or is it greyer from the blue?

My shirt for best,


casual cotton, smart, at least

at first, the one I wore for meals out


in June and August. This party go-to

is the shirt I choose


for the reading. A poet’s shirt.

One pocket for a pen.


Jeff Skinner


Museum Heads

A field of heads

faced us squarely
as if the trademark

of a busy executioner.

Shoulder high plinths

were topped by athletes

and goddesses who stare

at us on eye level.

Identity tags noted

who had curated

or funded the exhibit.

But where were the bodies?

Turned into paving stones?

Lost in the blue Aegean?

Or melted down

in a kiln for mortar?

Were they portraits

or only perfect types

beyond pain or lust,

turning them to stone?

Imagine they might

levitate, floating free

from all bodies, bodies

that only wear us down.


Royal Rhodes



Each night she fakes her moans. I fantasise.
I lace her sighing prose with poetry
then hit precisely where the marks won’t show -
at line-breaks, plastering with heavy rhyme.
The paths I never took are part of me -
I’m never pulled by fate; space curves for me.
My rhythm turns her on, her moans grow real.
My body overtakes my straying mind
and once again it happens - facts retrieved
from myth. There really was a flood somewhere.
And yes, it once was love. When I invade
my privacy I find a homesick child,
a stray who wasted time by looking back,
and yet, we curl together as we sleep.

Tim Love




Sleep is a creature scarcely ever tamed,
a feral beast which must be nightly wooed
with offerings of herbal tea and food:
that’s how it is; its nature can’t be blamed.
Of course it is for you to be ashamed
of your revolving thoughts, your stress, your mood,
your sweating as you lie there in the nude;
be sure: it has you thoroughly out-gamed.
And when it sidles up and lays its muzzle
on shoulder or extended hand, do not
rejoice that it has yielded up its power;
be wary: even to return a nuzzle
scares it away, perverse and wild, to trot
beyond your reach at least another hour.


Damaris West


The Laura effect            

Our street had girls with whom we shared our free
range wandering through thistled fields on days
of crackling heat to wade in idle daze
the shallow waters of a creek. The tree
lined street was ball game space where often we
would play as one, until in dull schooldays
a blonde aged ten named Laura came to faze
my world - like Petrarch's muse, bewitchingly.

I can't remember if we ever spoke;
like Petrarch's, the acquaintance was within.
Of overwhelming joy—I recall none,
but learned a fleeting vision could provoke
a quickened heart, and force a sudden spin
into an orbit round another sun. 

Ron Wilkins 



I hold up the whites of my hands 

like a magician’s gloves. the city’s 

extra-terrestrial hum and diodes,

sky-glow surrounding skyscrapers 


and steeples, mistaken for sunset.

I imagine the Brecon Beacons 

or Galloway, the galaxy’s arm 

hanging free from its plaster cast. 


I follow the night-walk tour guide, 

a towline of fluorescence, words 

curling around twig snaps. foxes 

retreat to unsleeping high streets.


on the loam path leading us back

trees arch to form a tunnel of light, 

our pupils turn to needle points, 

shrink with the silhouettes of stars. 

Patrick Wright




The horses 

have been out each time I’ve climbed the hill

bending to grass in the paddock 

or standing still watching this stranger 

but not today, the day I’m leaving. 

Today they’re in the stables, 

only their heads visible, 

softly blinking eyes 

blinking goodbye.


Josh Geffin


Poem On The Underground


Sneaking out from under the wall,

hunched, stout, just an inch tall,

shock of soot in industrial light,

the perfect look of its archetype.


Long thin tail and scamper, check,

sampling the scale of grime and guck,

a speck of light in its shiny black eye.

I shuffle away like massive prey.


How many exist behind the wall,

just friends of his or thousands more?

What happens late when the humans have left,

do they all come marching to scour the decks?


Are platforms swarmed with pumping snouts,

scavenging teams snuffling about?

Does one hold court at maps of stations, 

pointer-tail bent to plans of migrations?

Josh Geffin


Like a fairground ride, the iron stairway
rises and descends all day between
two great stone floors. It concertinas
round, and down again to where 

the steps reform and people place their feet.
Passengers politely mob in rows
against the platform edge, as if they seek
some answer in the hollow absence 

of the vault above the ditch of rails.
A distant rumble grows, the tracks
spit out a thin metallic hiss the speed
of sound, then a subterranean wind. 

Now the hollow bangs of carriage slacken,
iron wheels squeal. Crowds bunch
knowing where the doors will halt.
Packed in so close, they need to face away, 

ignore each other in the snaking train.
Warping walls race inches from the windows;
the tunnel cries by like a hurricane.
But put your ear against that steel rail 

and you might hear an endless river,
one connected grid from Upminster
to Amersham, each lit stop, each journey,
every echoing announcement. 

Greg Smith


On not killing spiders 



lurking in corners, dwelling in shadows    

above and behind, look over your shoulder

ceilings and floorboards
are equally conquered;

all the six strong sides
and their eight tight angles

of our cubic lives
are revealed as illusions,

pulled into fragments;
unspun by your spinning.

I no longer harm you,
but my Buddhist efforts

have yet to result
in the clear lotus-gaze

that sees you as you are. 


living together,

I keep my distance.


Liz Kendall



I last saw my mother in a hospital bed,
her strange yellowed skin
accentuated by crisp white cotton
and pale green walls.
Her sallow lips tried on a weak smile.
She refused a sip of water
(would have preferred a pale cream sherry,
of course none of us said that.)

She raised her fingers slightly as I left.
I looked back to see dad,
his stick leant against her bed
as he bent awkwardly to kiss her.

A few hours later the telephone rang.
It was dark. The street light outside
projected a yellow square
on my bedroom wall.

Derek Adams


Kitchen Table 

Everything begins at this table
made of two half-circles of elm. We play it
like a piano: so many combinations
of notes making tunes of our lives. Everyone
has sat here at some point - babies thumped
it, children bashed out rhymes sometimes
with forks or knives. Here sonatas
of dough are kneaded, vegetables sliced
for songs and improvisations. 
This is where announcements are made,
on the scales of marriages, deaths
or who said what to who; here we sip
arpeggios at breakfast or watch and curse
the out-of-tune keys of the news together
where every decision is a chord,
every dilemma a theme,
every scrap of happiness a reprise. 

Rebecca Gethin 


The Phone Call


Suppose you’d been there, observing, all that day,

you’d have seen him tinker, clean the guttering,

sweep the porch. For nearly an hour later on

scratching at a note pad in the kitchen. He was quiet,

seemed used to being on his own, but often

would talk to himself in an undertone, soft curses

when, cleaning, he would drop, spill or fumble.

Endearments to a slowly simmering pan.


When the call came, the other speaker talked

and he seemed happy to let her. You’ll assume

“her”, but there’s no voice to be heard.

It just seems part of the tone, the atmosphere,

a mildness in the night’s unfurling. He asks

about Mattie and Bess, who seem to be animals,

and a seeming tradesman, “he”. Her day.


She seems to ask about his day, he tells her

of the apples simmering. His theatre notes

are mentioned, the guttering, the porch.

Even his soliloquies are described,

seem something they both know and cherish.


He nods now, quietly (something we all do,

even on the phone) and says, Oh yes,

everything’s ready. By now the warmth,

the tenderness, are almost palpable.

Yes, he’s ready, yes. Any time at all.

Just call me once you’re on your way.


Robert Nisbet 



Mary Wilson


Not the Supremes singer with the fake beehive

but my father’s first wife,


she’s the woman in the photograph marked Skegness



They walk along the prom, her curly hair blown

across her smile


by the east coast breeze, her hand tucked

into my father’s arm.


She has the look of a woman carrying a secret,

my half-sibling,


although my mother told me – too quickly –

there were no children.


Karen Powell-Curtis


St Hugh and the Swan


They walked together
Through the garden,
Where she shadowed
His white robe
Like a fresh fold
Outgrowing him.


I can see her now,
Held awkwardly in the arms
Of the adopted son,
Winding the neck around his.
The gesture is one
Of affection, welcomed
As a stranger's kiss. 


Thomas Larner 


Addressing the deceased


Forgiveness is mine to give

whether or not you repented

at the end

about to meet your Maker


Whether or not you repented

it cannot be forced.

About to meet your Maker –

mine to give or not at all.


It cannot be forced

as you forced yourself on me;

mine to give or not at all

standing at your coffin.


As you forced yourself on me

I call you to account,

now as I stand at your coffin

beside the victims and survivors.


I call you to account

for your death is not the end

to your victims and survivors.

Forgiveness is ours to give.


Jane Simpson

migratory restlessness

they cross borders we cannot cross

the North Star alone their compass

even caged birds know this stirring


when beginnings feel more like endings

when the Arctic summer arrives early

they cross borders we cannot cross


non-stop, star-struck, moon-bound

burning muscles that beat their wings

even caged birds know this stirring


the Eastern Curlew breeds in Russia’s swamps

estuaries, harbours, lagoons & marshes

they cross borders we cannot cross


where once a wetlands nursery

now shrill steel and concrete’s conceits

they cross borders we cannot cross

even caged birds feel this stirring


John Bartlett 




The stamps showing scenes of colonial life

were the most interesting in my album –

Windows on the Empire, as my father said.


My favourites were vignettes of people at work –


loading sugar cane

(a greenish scene framed in brown, Jamaica, one shilling);

raking salt

(greenish grey, Turks and Caicos Islands, two pence);

tapping rubber

(grey framed in red, Ceylon, two cents);

plucking tea

(grey framed in indigo, Ceylon, twenty cents);

carrying mail

(orange, India, two annas);

harvesting rice

(greenish grey, Sierra Leone, six pence);

bringing in tobacco

(green framed in blue, Rhodesia and Nyasaland, one shilling).


And my magnifying glass revealed the precision

of the engraver’s art – the sovereign’s head and scenes

reproduced in lines and dots, demonstrating skills

printing technology no longer needs.


At school I was taught a vision of the Empire

ruling the colonies with benign wisdom – nothing

about the profits made from slaves, sugar and goods,

the exploitation of land, the indifference to starvation,

and the repression of communities seeking rights.


I saw my stamps as portraying people seeming content

to play bit-parts in a glorious imperial design.

Belatedly, I’ve realised the stamps were quietly political,

that the carefully crafted images distracted from realities 

governments would not have wanted seen.


Mantz Yorke




In a country where February

incubates me on the balcony,

where boats trawl silver messages

over the river while the basilica listens;

where eggs have status in the faith

since nuns who’d starched their robes

with egg whites had to heap and whisk

the yolks, dreamed up the vanilla-cream

that’s still poured each dawn into

pastry cups, small and generous;

a country through whose airy language

I soar and fall and rise as I learn

to surf the vowels between consonants;

a country where a single word saudade

fills chapters, books, with unresolved

longing but bears the country’s loss

and happiness as albumen bears yolk;

a country where people trust the sun –

here, in this moment, I am warmed

by a glimpse of the granddaughter

I will never have, by her name.  


Anne Ryland


Prayer for the Bodies of Those Who Died Violently

(Sutton Hoo)


In this place, a blank bank of sand

holds our broken bodies

like a breath.


forgive us


Acid ground has preserved us

in our final agonies, with grace;


all our sins


beached between our lives’



our trespasses


we are stranded in death

trying to find a path


lead us


from this earth we cannot leave

to a heaven


not into temptation


we may never reach


deliver us


And what can you learn from sand?


from evil


We all become echoes;

faint whispers on air,

shadows on this land

in the briefest brush

of sun.


Thy will be done


Louise Longson


(after a watercolour by Jehuda Bacon)


Here the angels hang,

a light well in this low room,

the green and indigo

of good will. They’ve seen

such things, scenes

that would shiver us,

and still they smile, calm

as the moon.

We are not

faith and line limned

with gold, issue of godship.

Though we bring the bright

breath of winter on our cheeks,

stir the still air with spirit,

we’re not vapour, grace,

we’re ruddy, our oil,

our blood, strong as muck

in our nostrils; no coronet,

no wings at our back.

The angels stare

and stare through a shield

of glass, its back story

of orchids yawning

in the heat, throats keen

for oxygen. The angels keep

watch as those fleshy heads

turn to the street above,

their little world of soil

cracking open.

Sue Rose



Limbless it rises through the woodland

half-dressed in its skirt of sycamore and oak,

warmed now only by the morning sun

that has bleached its blackened bricks.

A new workforce of buttercups, campion

and nettles crowd its base, birdsong replacing

the grind and hammer of industry.

Everything swallowed up by time

except the desire lines that run through the scrub,

made by those who come to touch

this obelisk, monument, minaret, lumb;

a smokeless stack that from this angle seems

to pump out clouds and clouds of green,

filling the whole valley with trees. 


Colin Bancroft




Derek Adams lives in Suffolk. He has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths. His poetry has been widely published in magazines in the U.K. and abroad. His most recent collection is EXPOSURE – Snapshots from the life of Lee Miller.


Colin Bancroft has a PhD on the Ecopoetics Robert Frost. His pamphlet 'Impermanence' was released with Maytree Press in 2020 and 'Kayfabe' with Broken Sleep in 2021. His pamphlet 'Knife Edge' (Broken Sleep) was released in April 2022. He is editor at Nine Pens Press and runs the Poets' Directory.


John Bartlett is the author of eleven books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He was winner of the 2020 Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize, Highly Commended in the 2021 Mundaring Poetry Competition and longlisted in several competitions in 2023.  His latest poetry collection, Excitations of Entanglement was released in November 2023.

Josh Geffin is a musician and writer from Dorset, based in London. Currently studying a Masters in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, his poems have been published in The Rialto, The Friday Poem, and the forthcoming issue of Acumen. In 2023 he won second prize in the Jack Clemo Poetry Competition.


Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and 2 novels. She was a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Vanishings was published by Palewell Press in 2020.  Her next pamphlet will be published by Maytree Press in Feb, 2024. She blogs (very) sporadically at


Liz Kendall’s poetry is published in the Almanac 2023 from Candlestick Press, and two Stickleback micro-pamphlets from The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Her co-authored book Meet Us and Eat Us: Food Plants from Around the World will be published in 2024. She is on Twitter and Facebook @rowansarered.


Thomas Larner was brought up in Cheshire on the Wirral Peninsula. He currently works as an archivist in Bedford. He has been writing poetry since 2018 and has been published by the Coverstory Press, The Littoral Magazine, Crank Magazine, The Cannon’s Mouth and many others. 


Louise Longson, West Oxfordshire poet, widely published in print/online, authored chapbooks Hanging Fire (Dreich, 2021) and Songs from the Witch Bottle (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). She won the Kari-Ann Flickinger Memorial Prize 2023 with soon-to-be-published collection These are her thoughts as she falls. She was Pushcart Prize nominated in 2023.


Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at


Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has published widely in Britain, where he has two pamphlet collections with Prolebooks, and in the USA, where he has had four nominations for the Pushcart Prize.


Karen Powell-Curtis has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Leicester. Her poetry has been published in various anthologies and magazines including Welcome to Leicester: poems about the cityThe Interpreter’s House, Silver Birch Press and Thanatos Review. Her website is


Royal Rhodes is a retired educator who taught courses on global religions. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals: Allegro Poetry, Ekphrastic Review, Quaci, Last Stanza, and others He has been nominated twice recently for the Pushcart Prize.


Sue Rose works as a literary translator from French and has published three book-length collections with Cinnamon Press: From the Dark Room (2011), The Cost of Keys (2014) and Scion (2020). Her fourth collection will be published by Cinnamon Press in 2025.


Anne Ryland’s third poetry collection, Unruled Journal, was published by Valley Press (2021). Her previous books are Autumnologist, shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and The Unmothering Class, a New Writing North Read Regional choice. She lives in Northumberland and leads writing workshops in community-based settings. 


Terry Sherwood hails from and lives in Northamptonshire and has taken to poetry as his creative outlet late in life. In 2023, his work has appeared in Acumen, Orbis, The Cannon's Mouth amongst others and is upcoming in Dreich.


Jane Simpson, a New Zealand poet, has two collectionsA world without maps (2016) and Tuning Wordsworth’s Piano (2019). She won 2nd prize in the NZ Poetry Society’s 2023 International Competition, Open Section. Her poems have appeared in Allegro, London Grip, Poetry Wales, Hamilton Stone Review, Meniscus and Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook.


Jeff Skinner’s poems have been published in competition anthologies and in journals including Poetry Salzburg, Fenland Poetry Journal, Orbis, Acumen, and The Alchemy Spoon. He received a “special mention” in this year’s Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition. 


Greg Smith is a retired Technical Author. He completed the MA in Writing Poetry at the Poetry School in 2018. He is the treasurer and membership secretary of Ver Poets. Recently, he won third prize in the Enfield Poets competition and was commended in the Folklore competition.


Damaris West's poetry has appeared widely in publications such as Writers' MagazineSnakeskinShot GlassinScribeThe Lake, Dreich, Blue Unicorn, and Spank the Carp (featured poet). She was highly commended in the Scottish Association of Writers summer competition 2023. Originally from England, she now lives in south-west Scotland.


Ron Wilkins is a Sydney-based earth Scientist. His recent literary work has appeared in The Shanghai Literary Review, StylusLit, The French Literary Review and Quadrant. A hobby he enjoys is the identification of the more than 900 species of Eucalyptus trees. His poetry website is  


Patrick Wright has a poetry collection, Full Sight of Her (Eyewear), which was nominated for the John Pollard Prize. He has also been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. His poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland ReviewThe NorthSouthwordPoetry SalzburgAgendaWasafiri, and London Magazine. He has a second collection, Exit Strategy, which will be published by Broken Sleep Books in 2025. 


Mantz Yorke – a scientist by training – lives in Manchester, England. His poems have been published internationally. His collections ‘Voyager’ and ‘Dark Matters’ are published by Dempsey and Windle.