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The Manchester edition of Now Then is no longer publishing content. Visit the Sheffield edition.


Curated by Elizabeth Gibson.

Hello from Liz! Happy New Year!

I hope you had a peaceful and enjoyable time over the festive season, and that this year will be a good one. I have resolved to write poetry more often, and so far - touch wood! - I am managing to. I find it quite relaxing, and would definitely recommend making time for creativity, whether writing, art, music or whatever else you love.

One of my personal achievements as a writer in 2018 was becoming much more confident in performing my work, whether at journal launches, open-mic nights or festivals. This year I am aiming to do more of the same - there are so many opportunities around Manchester, and beyond. If you would like to share your work this way, too, do have a look at the events coming up this month.

Inspired by Kayleigh Jayshree Hicks, whose poem "To You" is featured below, I set January's Word Life theme as "Magic". This was something a bit different for us, and led to quite a few writers submitting for the first time, which was really cool. I hope you enjoy the poems and story below, which interpret the theme in many ways, from fantastical to humorous to poignant.

February's Word Life theme will be "Secrets" - if you have some poetry or flash fiction that might fit, do consider sending it in the body of an email to

Wishing you a positive and creative 2019!



Fierce, turbulent
first snow blows in
roils in the gale
circles our house
reaches from ground
to sky, the wings
of a winter
raven outstretched.

Heavy shovel
and sharp-edged spade
will clear a path.
Porch light, candles
reveal packed ice,
a brilliant gem,
raven’s gleaming
eye. Clear a path.

To gale, flurry,
daughter chants wild
shovel drums
to the howling wind -
raucous raven,
toc-toc-toc, kraw
from cedar branch.



You must come before 9 p.m.
(miracles can be quirky)
to the high way drug store
where pristine pharmacists
feed scripts into forked
tongues of computers.

Neat rows of sterile packs
and crutches wait attentively.
Herbal medicines, vitamins
pose with gleaming lotions.

One squat wobbly table
marked “Last Chance”
offers up my cure. I must
salvage a phenomenon now.
Here is a miracle I can believe in.

A tinted jar of aroma therapy
filled with flowers grown in California.
To be cuddled safely under my coat
taken home far from fists of winds.

My glass bottle of jasmine mist...
pink, yellow, white petals.
Night blooming jasmine
whispering perfumed nothings
at the 11th hour.



Love covers people as a magic blanket.
It falls into place at the right time,
laying over those who have need
of its enchantment and comfort.
All who feel its warmth
turning from lonely,
sad, cold-hearted sleepers
into wakeful witnesses to life’s joy
by virtue of its miraculous touch.



The cat climbs gingerly onto the sill
His mistress in black looks ashen and still
Day turns to night then a waxen moons shines
illuminating the cat's emerald green eyes

The cat sits and stares as the witch starts to stir
Flying above him, the cat starts to purr
An electrical current of light strikes her down
The witch starts to cackle, she clutches her gown

Weeping and wailing she utters a spell
Then off on her broomstick she bids him farewell
Up on his claws, his back arched in fright
He sees her dark shadow against the moonlight

Something feels strange, his tail starts to twitch
A spell has been cast by his mistress the witch
In a flash of pure magic he turns into a dove
On feathered white wings he joins her above



Oh so many years ago
As I walked upon this land
I did witness many wonders
Wonders countless as the sand

For I am an ancient soul
I transcend both time and space
It has been many eons
Since I came upon this place

The stars above are family
I wear the night as my cloak
I roamed this planet since its dawn
Before man ever spoke

The forests are my castle
The mountains are my throne
Where I oversee the oceans
From which all life has grown

My words have painted pictures
In the minds of those who heard
My voice gives flight to dreams
That soar high as a bird

There are angels in my future
There were dragons in my past
Many worlds will spring forth and die
Before I leave this life at last

I swam with creatures of the deep
And to the moon I gave birth
Within your hearts you know me
I am the spirit of the Earth.



Age collected around her eyes, her lips in great mounds of wrinkles. Every time she laughed, which was often now, they violently rocked up, down, from side to side as if trying to escape her face, abandoning their mistress before she abandoned them.

I bent down and kissed her cheek, she looked up as if seeing me for the first time, ‘Magic’ she said as her fingers playfully picked at the buttons on her cardigan.

‘How’re you today, Mum?’


‘Did you remember the ham sandwich I put in the fridge for you?’

She looked up, eyebrows locked together in a strong arch. I could see her eyes leafing through memories that were becoming less and less connected. I immediately felt guilty. Of course she didn’t and if she did she wouldn’t remember to tell me, why do I test her I thought.

‘I’m going to make some tea, Mum.’


I quickly moved around the small kitchen, the kitchen I had grown up in. Since I had left it had remained unchanged, save for the installation of a small dishwasher - of course they never used it. Dad always liked to wash the dishes himself and he didn’t have to bend. I wonder if she’ll remember him today? Will she remember he was ill? It was sudden. He was her carer. But after he left in the ambulance she didn’t seem to remember him at all.

‘Here’s your tea, Mum.’


I sat back, I was caught in the gap of two cushions but I didn’t move. I studied her eyes.


She looked up and broke into an enormous smile as if I was an old friend she hadn’t seen for years and was slightly shocked to run into here. I shifted from the crack, she sipped at her tea.

‘Mum, Derek died this morning.’

Her mug swayed in her hand, her eyes searched.

‘Derek, Mum, your husband. Remember you met at the village hall, he asked you to dance and you refused because he wasn’t wearing a tie. You’d been married 61 years. My Dad, Mum, Derek.’

She sipped her tea and then beamed,




I believe in magic’s power
to shut guilt’s unproductive pits,
to steer my ship through drunk seas
to rest by silent slipways.
Time after sporadic time,
magic flattens regular methods.

I believe that magic happens,
perhaps showing its face as love.
It gets me up in the morning
and occasionally kisses my eyelids
with less imperfect sleep.

Here come waves of self-loathing.
I'm still floating
in hope of magnetic navigation.
Magic visits as salvation,
even on the way to the breakers.



(footnoted as a last, not a first)

For my friends, thank you for saving me. Thanks to my parents. Lets get this bread.

“The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it” - Walt Whitman

For inspiration, love, hope, toehair and unpublished with hope intent
By you
death of shape is memory
the world is based in

satan-sweet deterministic child
memory, the shape’s death
squiggles and wiggles
death of the memory shape
to smiley face potato

have a craft
hand shape fit the key
jiggles and tv
turning sideways
waisted in bed
sloped over mouth

memory in shapedeath
please no death shaped memory
Found her? You
Stop looking.

O r i l v y - the tentative space
Petal up, woman!
Sparkling between honeyed air
She likes drawing. I love her.
What do,
Wants to draw
Wait I say Alice
Flora or Sylvia-Sylvie
in last two seconds of more than important
the poet expels breath with you
lets you know
he believes everything he says
doesn’t know but will
thinks he’s up
so she makes him hallucinate in frostbreath

Words, Orilvy!
Her hairline lovehearts off centre
eyes naked in forest brown
screams sshelter full of lifes but means to
whisper ‘breathemore’ strangle
whisper slowdown she shouts
But means to whisper.
"Freckle the air yourself",
She loves the alive from nosetip to neckbase
Sprited cry before speckling the city and handwarming the rain
She shares loves
to sing
Sprites across page in hospital lava light, once more they are shapes
smell the honey
thankful no touch texture she flits to you

For you
Her hair might not heartshape
Could square. Run
Or be buzzed down to rice

Shaping glitter as she walks
waiting for you to listen
she sprinkles squiggles
onto your toehair, happiness and love
for Alive - wanting the alice spell wrong
Stored in moths. Fought for space
between now pre-cracked sofas
alive terracotta jars
Want to love her breathe thank
I thought I killed her by adding years to
self. the sprite dispelled into sneeze dust
But she is more than you.
Alive. You can be too, if you choose.

She’s leaving
I kiss the browed air by her
Grabbing her is lesseninG
Taunt arrog
Do not make your sweet child satan salt
your sweet yourself
be the grasp
grasping and gasp of find.

Relying on self makes her spread
needle thins, red arrow on her tips
Diverging rope pathroad
and cemented water
waits for you to step on them printing
⥁◡⛣⨮⟅ဩఋဣഌỼᑒ on your feet
walk in arms
have craft move handshape
gesture against fitkey then fitkey finish
the find you used to have

then find the finish
Turn sideways and bump your waist to the bed or sofa, laugh, chase
become yourself

let Her memory revive the shapedeath
Please. No death shaped memory ANY MORE.

After the end
You will worry for the stay.
I can’t wait for her to go

allways iwill.



A twilight, hard as it tries to disparage,
shall always remain dazzling in my mind.
The Sun, down, down, into the dark of night
carried off by the gloaming, gently it goes;
glaring, blazing, and impressive to the eye.
Never forget the astral stellar winks skyward,
from the ever-present celestial constellations.
The dark is cloudy; the dark is opaque, much
like the closing curtain during the end of a play.
The zany mists of morning, but a lazy sonnet,
as rising smoke from a snuffed out candle.
A sunrise light is gnomish; smaller, shorter, but
full of the light of day. Incandescently yours.
Tarry along now, the night a glorious memory,
a magical one-act play that awakens your day.
The teapot whistles, a toaster pops, time for
a muffin with blackberry jam and green tea.



I am
looking for a magical coat
when windy,
to stop me from flying away
and keep me
under wrap all winter.
I want
a coat of many colors
to shimmer
in sunshine but glow hot neon at night.

It must have
an easy zipper which never snags and
fleece lined
deep pockets to warm my icy fingers,
with a fuzzy
hood in case my hat blows off.

You can pull
doves from scarves or swallow swords.
Just be sure
there’s enough abracadabra left over for my coat.


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