Three Drops from a Cauldron: Issue Five

Welcome to Issue Five of Three Drops from a Cauldron.

This issue feels pretty special to me for a few reasons. One, we’re well into October now, which means the days are getting shorter and the nights feel darker – and so, by extension, does the poetry I’ve selected for publication. The other reason I’m excited about this issue is that alongside the widely published and the prize-winning writers, we are bringing you work from folks who are just getting started.

We have more witches than you shake a broom at (not advised anyway), a cheeky nod to Lovecraft, and an unsettlingly modern urban take on Leda and the Swan, amongst others.

I hope you find something to enjoy in the ten poems that follow, which were written by: Grant Tarbard, Spangle McQueen, John W. Sexton, Maureen Hall, DJ Tyrer, Rachael Smart, Dennis Robillard, Colette Colfer, Nico Solheim-Davidson, and Derek Coyle.

Grant Tarbard

A womb of smoke whispers through my thin lips,
venting from the retching distance of lights.
The darkness is etched into the scarred trees,
staggering onto the stage of evening.
I move through myself, paunch full of cinders,
warming the rags of my flophouse body
with the noisy intimacy of Scotch,
a taste of soot about it, connected
to the mechanics of death’s moving parts.
I bury my trinkets in the crawling
earth; a sucked thumb, a piece of birthday cake,
a stale tongue, the fire which I surrender.
I glimpse veiled a carnival of witches
amongst the forest of slender birches.

Grant Tarbard is the author of the newly released Loneliness is the Machine that Drives this World (Platypus Press). Follow him on Twitter at @GrantTarbard.

Spangle McQueen

Gatecrasher One was gutted by flames and now
a river’s rushing towards Wicker Arches.
A half-submerged ambulance’s lights
still flash crazy-blue and she thinks there’s a disco.
Ecstasy-fuelled she discards her white fluffy boots
and wades into the chilling waves.
A piece of shit floats by.
She sees the swan and she thinks that if she’s Barbarella then
this must be Pygar. She strokes his glistening throbbing throat,
in awe at his elegant form, safe in the knowledge:
An angel doesn’t make love. An angel is love.
His yolk-yellow beak bites at her nipples and swollen,
unfurled wings ensure his rapture, her rape.
Her mother sits at home and watches it all on BBC News 24.
‘Oh Leda,’ she sobs, ‘Oh Leda, my child.’ She watches it all as
her daughter washes away the slime and swims off to await the hatching,
clutching a torn-off feather.

Spangle McQueen is a happy grandma and a hopeful poet, living in Sheffield.

In Her Clothes of Self Destruction
John W. Sexton

She asked for a ream
from the torn grey sky
so she’d make a dress
of weather; so cold the moon
would stand its ground
and she could bleed forever.
No boy or girl would she
conceive: just fret and fever.
And she asked of me
three yards of the sea,
so she could sew a raincoat.
Her hands in its pockets
would be wet with despair,
so she might cough forever.
And when she was dressed
she ordered some shoes,
and I cut them from shadows
deeper. Her feet snuggled in,
and she trod the grave
and her hair was as green
as copper. A horse as grey
as a dead man’s flesh
stood at the gate of slaughter.
And men brought meat
and severed heads, and
offered them for barter.
She said she’d swap her heart
for some; she said she’d swap
her sorrow. And that is when
I saw her last, the day before
tomorrow. The birds came
down and sang a song
that chilled me to the marrow.
And that is when I saw her last,
the day before tomorrow.

John W. Sexton was born on the moon to Irish parents in 1958. His most recent poetry collection is The Offspring of the Moon (Salmon Poetry, 2013). His sixth collection, Futures Pass, is also forthcoming from Salmon. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records.

Song of the Green Witch
Maureen Hall

There is magic all around us
In the woods and in the vale,
And even where the traffic flows
In Man’s endless travail.
But few there are who find it,
And fewer still who know
That deep within the forest’s heart
The magic thrives and grows.

For the summer rain is soft,
And the winter rain is sharp,
But the magic’s still there growing,
Deep within the forest’s heart.

I have feverfew for headaches
Apple Cider for the gout,
And if you need a lover’s spell
There are rose petals about.
But the magic goes much deeper
Than the root and leaf and flower,
For it’s only in the heart of man
You can release its power.

The eyes of man are darkened now,
His heart is cold as stone.
He thinks the gifts of Mother Earth
For his sole use alone.
But the Wise Ones know the secret,
That sun and moon and stars,
And all that runs and all that grows
Is not for Man – it’s Ours.

And Wolf, and Bear, and Wild Boar
As well as Fox and Deer,
Are sheltered in the dark green shade
Where there’s no Man to fear.
For what I take, I leave a gift,
To balance out the scales
And thank the Gods for what is here,
Or else the magic fails.

And when human kind has vanished,
And the Earth lies quiet and cold,
The Old Ones will be free again
To weave their threads of gold.
Then, although it may be different,
Yet again it all will Be,
And the Magic spread through fire and air
To beast, fish, fowl and tree.

For the summer rain so soft,
And the winter rain so sharp,
Will keep all things a-growing
Deep within the forest’s heart.

Virgil’s Ongoing Researches
DJ Tyrer

The wizard Virgil
Long having abandoned poetry
For more arcane pursuits
Successfully completed the occult formulae
Necessary to achieve a research grant
To fund his studies
Into the secrets of Quantum Gravity
At the Innsmouth Institute
An annex of Miskatonic U.
Where he achieved a quantum success
That unleashed the Old Ones
In a flurry of febrile tentacles
That allowed no quantum of solace.

(Originally published in The Supplement and subsequently republished in Worlds of the Unknown.)

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was placed second in the 2015 Data Dump Award for Genre Poetry, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, in issues of Cyaegha, Carillon, Frostfire Worlds, Handshake, Illumen, The Pen, Scifaikuest, Sirens Call, Tigershark and Anthology 29, and online at Makata, Staxtes English Wednesdays, Poetry Bulawayo, Poetry Pacific, Scarlet Leaf Review and The Muse, as well as releasing several chapbooks, including the critically acclaimed Our Story. DJ Tyrer’s website is at The Atlantean Publishing website is at

Red in the Woods
Rachael Smart

Sugared smiles and cotton string legs are so bijou,
a hooded anorak takes the nip out a crepe black night
hides curves from wolves that sulk,
not many girls can carry vintage off like that
a basket and gingham-lined, too.

The hub of the forest hides
inside wicker plaiting –
red as an apple, shiny;
stubby tree-branch aortas
fat undergrowth chambers.

Mother’s heart:
see how it’s still jerking.

Rachael Smart is a writer from Nottingham with a thing about words. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in LITRO, Ink Sweat and Tears, Prole and other places. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Nottingham. Rachael is addicted to the writer’s website where she goes wild about poetry and is also Associate Editor at the literary e-zine Cease, Cows.

The Witches of Albay
Dennis Robillard

The witches have returned.
Up in Albay her brother saw the noise
Walking across the street
Like a fat pig strolling in the morning.
Then the unexpected sound of a thud on the roof
Another broken spirit hitting the TV antenna awake
She once spotted a half body
coming home from a dance
Waiting in the bushes.
The quack doctor told her to put a salt shaker near the bed
To sprinkle it on half the frame
So the witch will feel it, then wither off and die.
When she was still pregnant for her daughter.
At Rachel’s house in Manila
she made a mixture of holy water, garlic and lemon
Placed it at the bed side table to ward off evil.
To guard against miscarriages and wretched witch wings
carrying off her baby’s body.
The neighbors came to visit her during her sickness.
Kept silent vigil with their own holy water
sprinkled near her dead father’s coffin
You never leave the dead body alone she once told me.
The devil is waiting to swoop the soul of the
Diseased away from you.

Dennis Robillard is a published poet from Windsor, Canada.

Colette Colfer

Take pieces from your rag-bag of fabrics
with scenes, shadows and worn out holes.
Sew them together with bright cotton thread
and honeysuckle stems strung on needles of bone.

Collect aluminium cans and tin pots
for armour. Melt or hammer them flat
and use molten stitches from a weld pool
for strength when it’s cool.

Cut bits of leather from old shoes and bags,
stitch with thorns from a blackthorn bush
threaded with tendons. Tack odd arms and backs
of knobbly jumpers with hair in a holly needle.

Take pieces of cloth, metal, wool and leather,
stitch a patchwork cloak, embroider with silk
from dead pupae and solder on stories.
Whisper tunes and strew rose petals into the seams.

This cloak is an all-over second skin
which once crafted gives the maker protection.
Stud it with quartz stones and circles of mirrors,
then choose your new lover before luring him in.

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Bonnie Isobel
Of Gaelic blood
By Hecate’s grace
And Liltih’s hand
Black arts she claimed
From woman to hare
Under night’s veil
She would go
With sorrow and care
‘Til home she came again

Nico Solheim-Davidson resides on the coast of East Yorkshire. He works as a care assistant in a nursing home just outside Bridlington. Nico is an avid lover of mythology, cats, tea and poetry, as well as history, corned beef and music.

The Tiger of Annam (strolls through the Chelsea Hotel)
Derek Coyle

It was like
he had crawled out of
La Guernica, the Black Tiger
who strolled through the lobby
one fine Monday afternoon
that summer. Mr Normal,
the Midget Man, didn’t notice,
distracted by Mr Zolt
humming a gypsy song
about love lost. Mr Zimmerman
missed him too, his vision
of Johanna leaking through
broken gas pipes,
and crawling across
the roofs of hazy
sunlit apartments, sultry,
captivating, and lost,
distracted him. Mr Warhol
was too busy filming
a woman weeping quietly,
curling her hair,
lost in her looking glass,
to notice a black tiger
staring intently in the corner.

If the Black Tiger knew
how to express dismay
he would. He wanders
up the stairs,
out the fire escape,
across Chelsea, down
by the waterfront,
and the last he was seen
was this morning
walking down by Woodie’s,
Costa Coffee, Tesco, heading
toward the Barrow river,
in search of water
and a truer North.

Derek Coyle grew up in the shadow of the Hill of Allen on the plains of Kildare and Fionn MacCumhaill and Bran, Na Fianna and Cu Cuchulainn belonged to his imagination as much as Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy and Mother Theresa. Derek has published poems and reviews in the U.S., Britain and Ireland. He has been shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award, the Bradshaw Prize, and he has been a chosen poet for the Poetry Ireland ‘Introductions Series’. Most recently he has had a selection of poems published in Assaracus in the U.S.  He is a member of the Carlow Writers’ Co-Operative.

Thanks for reading, and we will see you again at the end of the month!

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