Way Past Bedtime, by Zoë Siobhan Howarth-Lowe

The shouting has brought me
without thought, to the foot of the stairs.
Eyes too heavy with sleep –
and head still full of dreams.
I do not recognise the adult voice
harsh with tobacco and vodka,
that echoes across the hall. The shouts
fill the space around me. It is one that I
somehow don’t quite belong in…

I pause by the door-handle –
staring at the cold brass. Listening
with a strange fascination to words
I cannot understand…

The door opens and my mother stumbles out
into me – her face is wet. What…?
The words barely leave her lips before
she is pulled back inside. A hand clamps
around my bare arm and I’m dragged
unresisting into the light…

Purple livid pain cracks on bare skin –
you little… how dare you… spying…
My Mother’s latest boyfriend stands there. Glaring.
His words fade as my head hits the floor –
hard – he threatens to crush – to drop –
to punish – and I cower, ashamed.
Beneath the shadow of the lifted chair.

Bridge Over St. Mary’s Way, by Zoë Siobhan Howarth-Lowe

In her dream,
(the recurring one)
she is walking towards town,
with her granddad, sister and step-dad.
Walking over the patch
of waste ground:
a scrub field littered with bike frames,
backed onto by factories
and split by the river;
pumped full of the chemicals
from St Mary’s dye works.
They are forced to cross the bridge
– the narrow one
with spiked railings.

Granddad always crosses first,
while the bridge is still a bridge,
then she follows
trying to drag her sister
to the safety of the bank,
their step-dad following
too close behind.

Then the bridge distorts –
footpath and railings
weaving into rope,
swaying under their feet.

She tries to keep a grip
on her sister
keep her at least one step
out of their step-dad’s reach:
but they stumble
and are twisted apart
her sister’s ankle caught in his fist –
his other hand reaching out for her.

The ropes contort
entangling her but pitching
sister and step-dad down
past the rocks and into the river
running red with dye from the factory.


Zoë is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. She has an MA in Poetry from Bath Spa University.
Her work has appeared in Magma, The Lake, Atrium, Curly Mind, Picaroon Poetry and The Black Light Engine Room amongst others. She also enjoys wargaming, painting models and scrapbooking.