Petra Vergunst

Orcadian Reflections

After Sylvia Wishart’s painting Reflections in Pier Arts Centre, Stromness

As a kestrel hovers
above muted bere fields
terns rasp cliffs
across harp bay

From beyond the frame a bonxie
hoists in, braids its way between
the blue vase, bottled ship
and glassed welks
in front of the painted window

In the light of the lantern-moon
Chopin’s nocturne rolls in
spread chalks across the shingle
retreats as shipping forecast

Copyright © Petra Vergunst 2015

Petra Vergunst is a Scotland-based freelance community artist, composer and poet currently writing on the themes of music and sound. Her poetry has appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Stare’s Nest, The Open Mouse, Poetry Scotland, Nutshells and Nuggets and various anthologies.

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Mark Ryan Smith

Darth Vader’s Christmas Card

Dear Obi Wan

Is it really a year since I last wrote you?  How time flies when life is so full and busy.  Work is so demanding at the moment and I can hardly get time to myself.  Sometimes the  days we shared all those years ago seem so carefree.  But, one can never turn back the clock, I suppose.  The minutes always escape us, even with the power of the dark side so diligently mastered.

You might be interested to hear that the work of the Empire continues apace.  We are getting on with a few big projects and will be rolling out our programme of interstellar  initiatives in the near future.  Some of our ideas men are the most clever people, you know.  Even the most out of the way corners of the universe will soon begin to feel our power.  Yes, such is the way with the Emperor – he will strive after total domination.  I, for my part, am happy to take my place at his side and serve him as best I can.  The pay and conditions are excellent and I do enjoy the chance to travel so widely and in such comfort.

I expect destiny will get around to our old quarrel shortly.  I know we’ve had our differences but, when one knows it’s all part of a grand cosmic scheme, it is easy to keep personal malice and canker out of it.  Don’t you think?  I look forward to the end. It will be something of a relief to, at long last, lay aside our ancient enmity. Don’t you agree?

I expect that my son will soon be taking his first faltering steps in the great dance.  It has been a private vexation of mine that I have, from necessity, been absent during his childhood.  Part of me, I admit, a part of me so deep down I hardly even believe it really exists, would have enjoyed changing nappies and reading stories at bedtime.  My choice was to work away, however, and with that choice I must live.  I tilted for the great purpose.  Domesticity was never for me.  Some men are destined for great things.  Never mind.  I shall enjoy making his acquaintance, and renewing our own, in the not too distant future

So, that’s my news for another year.  Until we meet again,

Happy Christmas,

Your old friend,


Copyright © Mark Ryan Smith 2015

Mark Ryan Smith lives and works in Shetland.  He has published poems, stories and essays in various magazines, and a book about Shetland’s literary tradition.

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Matthew Macdonald


the best of his work
is done on islands
specifically those
on the west coast
where the sun falls
into the sea, carrying
the rest of the day with it

there is more sky
to catch them
he watches
as they pour down hillsides
playing swallows
in the glens

he has a small
brown, leather notebook
filled with dates
axes of longitude
and latitude
that pins each cloud
to the map in his head
he can remember
every cloud he has seen
and where
but he forgets his anniversary

every year

without fail

she doesn’t mind
he names every cloud
after her

Copyright © Matthew Macdonald 2015

Matthew Macdonald has been writing and performing for 6 years now, and recently celebrated the publication of his debut pamphlet Who Are Your People? by Red Squirrel Press. Having just completed his second solo show in the PBH Free Fringe, he is currently working on a show for 2016 and his first full length collection.

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Greta Yorke


I step out into a night
whose sharpness steals my breath
replacing it with salty fusion.
No conch trickery,
the white noise of distant ebb roars gentle
golden grains erased of transient print.
The lighthouse glows
in haunting persistence for lost souls.
Hypnotic log burn draws my nostrils skyward
and I dream of joining its sparkling specks
creating fantastic forms to punctuate its splendour
while salty bubbles
relentless in my ears.

Copyright © Greta Yorke 2015

I am a retired teacher living in Prestwick. I have had poems published in Scottish Memories, Word on the Street and Litereight publications.

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Lesley Quayle

All the Pretty Children

One million of you there in the beginning,
calling, crying, whispering. I couldn’t hear.
I didn’t know to listen then, swaddled
in infancy. By puberty, hushed away,
rocked in seashells, snug on the lullaby breeze,
only three hundred thousand left still bedded
in ovarian cots. Then, lathered, prinked
by the larking of hormones, three or four hundred
gathered, orderly now, for the monthly harvest,
ripened, rosy pink, small fry ready for the off,
into the dark red darkness, shipwrecked on bloodstained
seas. All the pretty children never shawled or shimmied,
never a sleepless night or wakeful day, never a sock
with a toe peeped through, never a curl cut and stored
in a locket, never a milk tooth to swap for a coin.
Shushed and hush-a-byed, all the pretty children.

Copyright © Lesley Quayle 2015

Lesley Quayle is a folk/blues singer, poet and author currently living in rural Dorset. Her latest poetry collection – Sessions – is published by Indigo Dreams.

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Catherine Lang

Train Times

“She’s a lassie,” cried ma granny,
glarin at ma dad.
“Whit she wanted wis a dolly,
no a Triang train, ma lad.”

But the ingine wi’ its carriage,
an’ its shiny smokin stack,
meant sweet oors wi’ ma daddy
as we raced it roon the track.

Pentit fields, cahoochy trees,
a matchstick watermill.
The station wi’ its signal box,
we cried it Corkerhill.

“There ma faither had his ingine,”
Mither smiles as she recalls.
“He drove thon train tae London
in the years atween the Wars.”

Ma’s stories o’ the chapper-up
wha roused them frae their beds;
the breathy wheeze o’ smoke an’ steam,
wi’ shunters in the Sheds;

The bath-hoose in the Institute,
that helped the weans tae thrive;
Kick the Can oot in the Square.
They brocht thon toy alive.

Noo it sits in silent splendour
wi’ Ma’s Dresden china dolls,
a relic o’ a childhood
that nane but me recalls.

Copyright © Catherine Lang 2015

Catherine Lang has enjoyed creative writing since her teens and is a founder member of the Ayrshire female writers’ group, LiterEight.

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Joan Johnston: Two poems

Ada in spring

comes out when she’s ready and not before.
In a lilac fleece, risking rain showers,

she hangs her washing – two bleached tea-towels,
an embroidered tablecloth – in the back yard first thing

then sits for a moment on the rickety chair before going
back in, carefully leaving the door half-open behind her.

Ada in autumn

in her old sandals, her favourite gold earrings with the turquoise stone,
is coming down the lane from her overgrown allotment,

heading for home in a rising gale with two plastic carrier bags
bulging with windfalls. We meet by her gate where she leans her stick,

steadies herself, then fills my coat pockets, my rucksack, my arms
with bronze pears and green apples, saying ‘Here pet, have some of these’.

Copyright © Joan Johnston 2015

Joan Johnston works on Tyneside as a part-time adult-education tutor and creative writing facilitator. Has three published poetry collections from Diamond Twig, dogeater, and Red Squirrel presses. A pamphlet is also coming from Red Squirrel Press next spring.

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