A Network of Writing and Community Publishers

February 2018


After Jefferson Airplane/Starship’s “Surprise”

The health is a matter of pain
It has lasted 525 years
A face to say all is fine
Yet the body is in decline
We say
it is way
past time
for no atoning
for the crime

© Ángel L. Martínez 31 March 2018
The Bread is Rising Poetry Collective



Comrade William E.B. Du Bois

Like a morning star born at Great Barrington,
as the Sun shines and the water rises over the Housatonic River
besides Monument Mountain
An intellectual giant, like a milestone in our heart
A teacher, a warrior that taught the souls of Black people
and the ABCs of Color
Poisoned by lies of stolen history of oppressed people
that they should use their talent, their intellect, as a human right
as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
He stood as a torchlight for world peace
A scholar who founded the Pan-African and Pan-Asian movement
A historian that taught real history
From the falsehood that the slavemaster said that people do not have history
With faith and love, Brother Du Bois had pride in his people
With the equality of humanity
And today on this Friday morning, on this cloudy moment
We celebrate the 150th anniversary of his earthday
into a jazz melody of “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane
Dr. Du Bois united people, filled with the stars of hope
with the humble of our land
Forget how long tears stream from our eyes
Against the poison merchandise of hatred
Let’s lift our verses and march, sing, smile, and laugh
In unity with humanity
As we stand in a circle, reciting this poem
At the Great Hall of the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia
in our own words, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois has left us, but his legacy lives forever
throughout the world

© Carlos Raúl Dufflar 2/24/18 City of Philadelphia
The Bread is Rising Poetry Collective


Surprise - No Surprise

It's winter, the Met Office tells us there's been a dramatic shift in the jetstream, it shifted around a bit and went Eastwards taking the shortcut along the southern part of the Arctic Circle, turned south into Siberia and came the long way back to the West, gathering all that cold air, and moisture, sweeping it all across the Russian Steppes, got all the way to Eastern Essex and – SURPRISE – it snowed in Jaywick Sands …

Apparently, – SURPRISE – a few drops of snow fell in a few other places too.

And of course, the inevitable reports purporting to show that it's a Russian Plot designed to disrupt the good workings of our Great British Workforce, keeping us Eastern Essexians indoors, after all, it can be clearly shown that this Russian snow stuff is cleverly designed to obscure the white lines on the road, leading to confusion as to what part of the road you are on, and – SURPRISE – drivers are getting lost on the way to work!! This, augmented by the fact that Greater Anglia re-assessed it's train timetable, cancelling a number of services, hence the report – SURPRI

SE – London is cut off.

Don't travel anywhere unless your journey is really necessary, and take precautions. Like carry extra blankets, carry a hot drink, carry food, keep a variety of digging, shovelling tools in the boot in case – SURPRISE – you have to dig yourself out. The blankets and food should keep you alive until you get back to where a road should be.

Finally, check the roof of your house, if there is not an even covering of snow over the whole roof, take a note of where you can see the roof tiles, or slates. This will be useful information when the the dodgy geezers come round showing you pictures of your roof and offering to sort your insulation with the latest greatest stuff (for a price), you can tell them it's not your roof, it's 'is round the back … if they insist, just tell them you don't do business with Russian Mafia, tell 'em to get lost …



Lovely Cuppa
Thanks Luv

Pass the Hobnobs … …

Dave Chambers
Newham Writers Workshop

An Element of Surprise
(A reverie of Soulcard and the Elements)

I see you again, showing me the way
through the breath of spirit
as it falls like cloud around me.
You are silent but I feel the space within,
a hidden fire waiting
to light the darkness.

I am surprised at your endless patience
listening for the sounds of the sea
and the songs of our sealskin sisters
calling us in.
They will come, and awaken the
elemental essence of our beating hearts.
Our fires will burn rich and bright
for the Old Ones to warm themselves
and the Young Ones to listen.

I am learning to love the deep peace of being and the scent of earth and apples enfo
lding me.

Lucia Birch
Stevenage Survivors

Ghosts of Past

Ghosts of past still haunt
Some lowered to dampened soil
Encarcerated in wooden tombs
Others enflamed in furnace fire
Scattered to wind and sea.

Ghosts of past still haunt
Faces envisaged in memory
Calling out in despair
Getting inside my soul.

Then the scented flame
Trusted feathered wand
Wishing them well
They go away.

Sylvie T
Stevenage Survivors

Man in Man's Mind

Man in man's mind
eyes shut tight but looks like this man in man's mind.
Feeling the pressure of water and fire in dark places.
The whooshing of warm heated water going round making me dizzy
Feeling so dizzy and wierd in my mind.
But what I want is this man
set me free
out of my mind
as it's driving me crazy.
Get me back to reality so I can chill.

Cleo White
Stevenage Survivors



inspiration for offering this writing challenge, strangely enough, came from a sermon given at Bakewell Parish Church on Easter Sunday, some years ago, by the local Canon. He was a lovely character who, as part of the service, proceeded to facilitate an Easter egg hunt around the church, exclaiming to the children, when the Easter eggs were discovered: 'I don't believe it - the organist is hiding them!' He also exclaimed that he knew that the Easter bunny had been there that morning as he had left GIANT footsteps in the snow outside the church. He then started playing with balloons, encouraging reluctant children to assist him in shooting them across the church.

During his sermon on the theme of Jesus rising from the dead, i.e. the apparition which clearly astonished the apostles at the time (even though nowadays it is a widely accepted view that all 12 of them were hallucinating) he highlighted how surprised they must have been, and then went on to say that surprises, either good or bad, were good for you as they kept you on your toes.

I have thought about that sermon very often since then, and realised how profoundly wise it was, and concluded that it was the best service I had ever been to, a very pleasant surprise in itself, as I was expecting one by a stuffy old boring Minister telling us how sinful we all were. I have had many surprises since then, both good and bad, as well as in the past, some of them really shocking experiences which I could never have predicted. Nearly all the surprises have been quite a revelation, showing an aspect of a person's character, in some cases, or discovering a hidden part of myself.

Louise Glasscoe 





Back in 2013 - I had an operation on my left eye, my sighted eye. At the same time, I was gifted with eye tissue from an organ donor. A surprise. I didn’t hear that this was to happen until I arrived the day of the operation at the Conquest Hospital, when initially seeing the eye consultant to make sure all was ok to go ahead. It was.

As my right eye is blind, except for a little light drifting in from the right, it is blind with regards sight. As I had to keep an eye shield on until that evening, members of my family got me home by wheelchair.

Since those days - I have had problems still - I am light sensitive, have had severe uveitis, and now the tunnel vision is progressing which I was informed will gradually now get worse. Glaucoma hit me in 1993, so with quite a few operations, the NHS, has kept my sight with me, although with some difficulty. As you can imagine this has helped me psychologically, as I was informed in 1993, if I didn’t have these operations, I would be blind in 6 months.

I have and do have many health issues to endure also - Ménière’s Disease has increased deafness for me, also I am now undergoing treatment for seemingly an on going infection in my left ear where a biopsy was taken, and now found a mass in the wrong place, they hope it won’t touch the bone.

I have to now wait for a scan and may have to be referred to an OTOLOGIST. I wear hearing aids. Losing hearing and sight can be so upsetting, but I’m a creative soul, I love words, and writing. My main creativity - I am a poet.

My mobility is very poor.

Throughout all this, I have endured a pituitary benign tumour, operated in 2009.  Small now, but monitored, as could grow again. It sits near the optic,nerve, so this could cause problems with regards the eyes.  I have endured at least 2 mini strokes (TIAs), this I found out left me with ‘visual neglect’. I thought it was my eyes at fault, as I keep losing the right side of sight, but then the ‘sense’ people told me it’s a brain factor. Left after Stroke. Sometimes, this also is frustrating.

Since the surprise of the eye tissue gift, I joined the organ donor list.

(C) Josie Lawson
All Rights Reserved


While the man’s away...

With beady eyes he watched, as the milkman whistled up the path. The curtains twitched all lace and negligee. The milkman looked furtively over his shoulder and gently knocked. The curtains fell still and the negligee answered the door, openly smiling.
He froze in camouflage.
‘Two pints of full cream, Mrs Shawberry – thought I’d knock with that pesky blue tit on the prowl.’
He had been rumbled! No milk today!

Jan Hedger


It’s for you, the boxed whatnot wrapped
in brown paper; someone has done for you
in blue letters that swim out of a muddy trough.
Maybe, it’s a cold louring sea you are in
that doesn’t float birthdays but untoward
flotsam and the rough tissue of hope.

Grab it -anywhere crackles, catching
the racket of someone’s hospital corners,
their scrabble to tie a sheet down before it
unravels, the scratch of nail on knot.
A granny for you, ‘all fingers and thumbs’,
a bow to the frisson of undressing,

there is an edge to what you are getting,
a dozen of them at least, with their corner
rounding surprise that finds the other self
sharpened by what you didn’t know.
There’s a stacked shelf going way back
of creased paper, ironed to do some time,

I could go on but go on- unwrapping,

it’s your party and you to receive,
to hear the crackle music of another layer
then find a quiet that nobody could send you.
Maybe, it’s the last sheet that’s a lapping sea
and you are buoyed by your new box,
flotation enhanced by the surprise of it all.

Head to toe warmth seizes you, diffusing
into the world you were wrapped in,
where small parts are warming: a table,
and toast crumbs on a breakfast plate.
The dining room blushes and sings,

‘why that is just what I wanted!’.

Bruce Barnes

An Unpleasant Valentine

I had just seen Laura back to the door of her flat, but I could not face up to my resolution to tell her the relationship was not working. Instead I gave her a peck on the cheek and said I had to dash. I did a very effective dash, so effectively dashing was I that I collided with a girl coming up the stairs, almost knocking her over. In trying to ensure she did not fall, I tumbled down the stairs myself, banging my funny bone.

She invited me in to her flat in order to recover my composure, and to soothe my elbow with an anaesthetising glass of wine.

“You don’t live here,” Lucy said. “What brought you?”

I told her I was seeing someone home.

“Serious relationship?”

“Not really. It’s not working out.”

“But you chickened out of telling her.” It was not a question. Perceptive person, I thought. She then asked, “Not the permanently guilt-ridden Laura, by any chance?”

I admitted it was, but I did say I had resolved to break it off.

“Of course the guilt thing is because she’s such a devout Catholic.”

“I don’t have a problem with Catholics,” I responded.

“Oh, I’m not saying I do. It’s just they seem to divide into two sorts; there are the permanently guilt-ridden, and the ones who think they can do what they like, because confessing to it means they’ve atoned for their sin.”

“I’m not sure that’s quite fair,” I responded.

“I wasn’t being totally serious. But I find Laura a bit clingy, well a bit clingy doesn’t really cover it. I think she’s looking for a man who will provide for her, and who’ll keep her as a home-maker and breeder.”

Lucy was quite pretty, and I was rather taken with the dimples in her cheeks when she smiled. We moved on to less serious topics, and we ended up chatting for far longer than I intended. When, my elbow fully recovered, I stood up to leave, Lucy gave me a long lingering kiss.

Leaving work a couple of days later, I happen to bump into Lucy, though this time not literally, and we went for a coffee. It developed into an evening, we went for a meal at a little restaurant Lucy said a friend of hers had recommended.

We were the only customers in the restaurant. We soon discovered why. The waitress took twenty minutes to come back for our order. The house wine tasted like an insult to vinegar, the starters took forty minutes to arrive, and when they did they were utterly tasteless. The main courses arrived an hour after we discarded the starters, and they were cold.

We skipped dessert and decided to stop off for coffee at a Starbucks, where Lucy showed herself to be a great sport and laughed off the whole experience, and said she would slate her friend for the recommendation. As we finished our coffees she said, “What now?”

I said, “I have some nice ice-cream at my place if you fancy a dessert. I’ve got bananas, so I can offer you a banana split.”

“How can a girl refuse such a tempting offer?” Lucy responded, so we ended up at my place and Lucy stayed the night.

After that we met up quite regularly, and Lucy stayed over with me most weekends. Because it was quite a way out we never went back to her place. Our relationship was really blossoming, and in the late autumn an invitation for a weekend with my parents seemed to confirm we were making a definite commitment. Mum enthused over the box of expensive chocolates Lucy handed to her on our arrival, and Dad loved Lucy – ‘Not at all like that last girl.’ The next thing was an invitation to spend Christmas with Lucy’s parents.

Lucy’s mother gushed her thanks for the bunch of flowers. She was also very solicitous, wanting to make sure I was not offered food I did not like, even though Lucy had told her my boarding school upbringing meant I would eat pretty much anything.

Lucy’s father and I got on very well. He kept plying me with different scotches, all single malts. He was quite an expert, saying things like: “Do you find this one a bit too peaty?” and, “I think this one’s a bit light.” Not being much of a scotch drinker they all tasted pretty similar to me, but he took my rather sloppy grin from too much booze as agreement. Her brothers took to me as well, the elder taking advantage of his father’s generosity with the scotch, while the younger was delighted at me playing Christmas Carols on the piano and kept demanding more, and after hearing me Beethoven’s Für Elise, he asked his mother why she couldn’t play like that.

We followed up Christmas with a New Year break in Prague, and while exploring the city Lucy asked me, “Do you think we should move in together?”

“Great idea,” I replied. “You could stop paying rent on your flat. Anyway you’re hardly ever there.”

We did start the process of Lucy moving in with me. We went over one Saturday afternoon to collect a load of her clothes and other essentials. I stopped outside the door to her flat so she could open it with her keys.

“My flat’s on the next floor,” she said, giving me a look. I realised this was Laura’s door.

Back at work on Monday my boss called me in to tell me he had sacked my incompetent superior and was offering me the post. I found myself staying late most days as I caught up on piles of uncompleted work, and also I expended time and energy trying to retrieve lost orders from aggrieved customers. Then Lucy was asked to cover a maternity leave in another branch, which meant she was out of town during the week.

Valentine’s Day approached, and I said it would be lovely if Lucy was back for it. Lucy agreed, but later phoned to say she had a friend in need of consolation over a failing relationship, so she would be spending the night of the thirteenth in her flat. I told her I was planning on a meal somewhere really nice, though I did not tell her where as I wanted it to be a surprise.

I decided to splash out, booking a table at my favourite, albeit very expensive, restaurant. I also arranged delivery of a bouquet of three dozen red roses along with a card that read: ‘To L. With all my love for ever and ever. P.S. Fernando’s 8 tonight.’ In addition the florist agreed to attach the jeweller’s box containing the engagement ring; I had secretly purloined a ring of Lucy’s to make sure the jeweller gave me the right size for her slender finger. I was sure she would be impressed, and I spent the whole day hardly able to work, as I kept thinking about how appreciative Lucy would be.

Having nipped home to shower and put on my best clothes, I still managed to arrive at the restaurant early, just as I intended. I had asked for a nice corner table where Lucy and I would be able to sit on adjacent sides instead of opposite, but not the one by the kitchen door that kept banging and where conversation was constantly interrupted by the flow of waiting staff. Fernando gave me the very best and, not wanting to start the bottle of expensive champagne before Lucy arrived, I sat down with a glass of orange juice, nibbled a complimentary olive and then my mobile rang. It was Lucy

“You said we were going out for a meal, but you haven’t told me where.”

“I wrote it on the card.”

“What card?”

“The one with the flowers.”

“I haven’t had any flowers.”

With horror I realised my mistake, as just then Laura walked into the restaurant, dressed up to the nines. She was holding her left hand ahead of her in a rather ostentatious manner, and there, stuck between the first and second knuckles of her podgy finger, was the engagement ring.

John Malcomson

How I Surprised a Halford Fitter.

My dad took one look at my new car with its naked wheels and told me he was taking me to buy some nice, shiny hub caps.

So we go to Halfords. I choose the ones I like and ask what size I need. "It's written on the wheel," they say, so I go out, with a torch, get someone else to confirm there is nothing written on the wheel and go back to buy a tape measure.

I go back to the car, measure the wheel (15 inches) and Dad insists on measuring it again himself (13 inches) so we ask an assistant to check (14 inches). We buy the 14 inch ones and another assistant comes out fit them.

"You won't recognise your car after I have put these on" she said, cheerfully, as we walked towards my car. How very right she was!

She tried to fit the first one but it was too small. "You need to get the 15 inch ones" she said. So we take them back, exchange them, and go back out so she can fit them.

"Isn't it funny how the car looks green in this light" I remark, as she fits the cap to the first wheel. '‚ÄčThat's odd. I never noticed those fluffy dice hanging from the rear view mirror' I thought, as she fits the cap to the second wheel. "I'd have thought the colour of my car was more like that blue car over there" I said, as she fitted the 3rd cap. I looked a bit closer, saw the Vauxhall logo on the car she was fitting the 4th cap on to and yelped "OH NO - THIS IS NOT MY CAR!"

So she had to take the caps off all 4 wheels. She'd zip-locked them on tightly and had to cut them free first. She moved them over to my Ford Fiesta parked in the space next to the Vauxhall and which was indeed undeniably blue!

Unfortunately my wheels really were 14 inches so my dad had to exchange the hub caps again!!! (I hid in the car that time because I couldn't go back in there!!!)

The only thing that could have possibly made it worse would have been if the owner of the Vauxhall had come back while we were still messing about with their car!

The Halfords staff will doubtless be laughing about the idiot woman who didn't know her own car for years to come. This story will probably feature in their future staff training sessions.

At least it gave me something to write about for this month's challenge.

Ashley Jordan


Artwork by John Joseph Sheehy

Staring in my face

After checking my lottery numbers
On my ticket
Twice over
Against the winning numbers
Oh rubbish
Just in case
One never knows
Run it thru the shop machine
Up comes twenty five pounds
What a touch
Nice one

John Joseph Sheehy

down below down

Lower than down
Unwell in the struggle
A visitor called
Unknown to me
Left a cake in the fridge
What a wonderful surprise
When I came across the cake
The following night
What a delicious treat
A surprise lift treatment

John Joseph Sheehy

Mouse House

Walking through the hall
In my flat
Coming towards me
Close tight to the skirting
A mouse
Suddenly both of us stop in our tracks
I was very surprised to see this mouse
The mouse looked very surprised too
In that flash the mouse done a Uturn
Disappearing act
Another surprise
Who rang me over for a decent
As I left couldn't descend
Myit' show moves

John Joseph Sheehy


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