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Showcase: The Gannet + Alone + Death And Beauty On The Heswall Shore + Endings And Beginnings + A Pregnant Pause + An Eternal Circle

Edited by Helen Aitchison

It’s the final showcase of January, and what an incredible collection of diverse pieces we’ve had this month. It’s been an honour to edit January’s showcases, with our theme ‘Beginnings And Endings.’  I hope the pieces have inspired you, evoked myriad emotions, and perhaps motivated you to write yourself.

Our first piece this week is The Gannet by Ray Miles. This compassionate, beautiful poem highlights that beginnings and endings don’t just impact humans, they also influence nature and the animal kingdom.

The Gannet

The Gannet stands with stoic calm, his gaze fixed out to sea.
It is now time for him to mate, where can his one love be?
He waits till dark but still no sign, he settles down to sleep,
Until the sun comes up again, and then he’ll vigil keep.
They came to this same place last year, and many years before,
But he is now alone, bereft, his mate will come no more.
He cannot comprehend his loss, for him, it isn’t true,
But, like so many on the rock, she died from avian flu.
It swept around that blasted place, the one they call the Bass,
And left a thousand just like him, for whom the time will pass.
So slowly now; alone, unloved, for these birds mate for life,
With one half gone, they stand and wait; it cuts them like a knife.
All around them, nests are built, and eggs are laid and hatched,
The young are fed and fledged and gone, but they stay unattached.
They scan each bird that lands nearby, hope to find their lost one’s face,
But all the time their hopes are dashed, there’s nought that can erase.
The loss they feel so keenly now. Their nest sites are still bare,
There is no reason there to build, no young for which to care.
It will be so until the time when they once more are one;
Then new life will replace the old, for this is how it’s done.

© Ray Miles, 2023


Our second piece is by Alex Mayberry. This wonderful poem created a visual where I could see myself walking through an abandoned block of flats, wondering what could have happened in forgotten rooms and to the people who once resided there. The description and emotions absorbed from place to person.


How many doors exist unopened, for 5, 10, 20 years or more?
Abandoned buildings, structures decorated by squatting spiders,
No longer under the bed,
Whose taste for home furnishing predates the sheen of the modern web.
Each door, once closed, contains a scene where death and life had met.
The end of a chapter, or a dream, a livelihood, or a regret.
And once shut, how long before they would know the feel,
Of breathing fresh air again.
To matter, be somebody’s real,
Instead of being left to deteriorate in a forgotten, neglected state.
How many people, ultimately, live to share their fate?

© Alex Mayberry, 2023

You can connect with Alex on Instagram: @alexmayberrythefirst


Thirdly, a poignant poem by Pete Taylor, who uses objects to express transferable emotion. Broken love – deserted and lost – as time, traditions, and industry change. Evolution with a bittersweet ending of the past.

Death And Beauty On The Heswall Shore

They lie like something from The Somme,
Like fallen soldiers failing in the fields.
In meadows veiled by mud and thrift,
A slit and gutted scattering — this stranded haul,
This bloated corps of dead and dying driftwood boats.
Aurora / Lola / Esmeralda / Maggie / Lesleyann –
A Lloyd’s List of frustrated sailors’ long-lost or imagined lovers,
Bleeding the last oozing’s of their former industry,
Into the salt flat rivulets that feed this steel-and-paper estuary.
“That’s sad”, writes someone on my Instagram,
Below a carousel of ravaged hulls in disrepair.
Their masts awry, slack guy-ropes,
And a shroud of sunlight breaking through the slate of cloud.
“But beautiful,” is my reply.
Across the water – Wales. The Flintshire coast from Holywell to Mostyn.
Maybe destinations well beyond these holed-out mayday keels,
Who’ll never see the lighthouse at the point again,
Nor ever reach the sunny beaches of Prestatyn.
Funny how decay can please the eye — though far out in the river’s mouth,
A flock or gulp of cormorants is blackening the sandbar.

© Pete Taylor, 2024

Connect with Pete on Instagram: @petetaylorpoetry


Next, this emotionally charged piece of prose by Elaine Gardner caught my breath. I felt every word of this personal, profound, powerful short story that depicts such painful endings contrasted with the hope of a new beginning.

Endings And Beginnings

“Travel the world!  Write a book.”  I’ll never forget those words.  My eyes searched her face for some chink of hope, a tilt of her head, a slight hesitation,

“Maybe you could try..?”  It didn’t come. “Write a bucket list.  Do what you always wanted to do,” she added. When all I ever wanted was to be a mother.  To cradle my child in my aching arms, breathe in the powdery smell, love and care for that tiny person with every sinew, pore, and bone in my body.

I’m sure she meant well and, as the senior doctor in the Centre For Life, she knew her stuff, but each word felt like a punch in the gut, knocking the stuffing out of me. I felt like shouting, pleading with her, “Please give us one more chance!” It was no use. As we thanked her and left the room, our feet dragging, a grey mist settled over my world. This was it, the end of the road; our dream was over.

It had been ten years of trying. Tests, mechanical sex, healthy diet, folic acid, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, exercise, researching information. Hoping each month, then disappointment.  Month after month. Friends and colleagues were having babies. Prams and babies everywhere we looked. ‘Unexplained infertility’ was our diagnosis. Women were becoming pregnant all over the world, some without wanting to. How was it so difficult for us?

By the time my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, we’d had two failed rounds of IVF. Nothing else mattered but him. I abandoned everything to be with him and Mam. He fought as hard as he could.  My brothers and I were with them as much as possible; administering medication, taking his temperature, feeding him ice cream when he couldn’t stomach anything else. Fetching a bucket for him to vomit into, holding his hand, feeling sick with worry wheeling him in for results of scans. He lasted nine months before it overtook him.

After a few months of recovery, I knew time was running out for us. I was 42. We decided to have one more attempt, this time using donor eggs as mine were too old. We couldn’t believe it when the blue line appeared on the stick! At the seven-week scan, two little kidney beans swam around the screen. Twins! We were ecstatic. As we shared the news, our smiles were as wide as the Tyne bridge.

“Take it easy,” everyone said, and I did. My boss sent me home from work, my mother came to help, I stroked my small bump, standing sideways to admire it in the mirror.  We started to make tentative plans, think about names.

A few weeks later, I felt twinges. Deep inside, I knew something had happened, had changed. I kept quiet, nodding, smiling, but the smile didn’t reach my eyes.

At the 12 week scan, the doctor moved the probe around my abdomen, his frown telling me everything I needed to know. “I’ll just try something else,” he muttered. “Sometimes we get a better result this way.”

Whichever way he tried, there was no denying it: there were no heartbeats. They were still, dead, floating around in the darkness, as though lost in space. Ian held my hand; tears pooled in his eyes.

A few days later, the foetuses were removed. A sympathetic doctor told us he could find no reason for the miscarriage. His gaze dropped as he left the room. There was no support, not even a leaflet. The crying of babies along the corridor resounded in my ears.

Stunned, we came home and I retreated to my bedroom. My mam came: held me, fed me, sighed, wiped her tears. lan carried his sadness around like a heavy backpack. Word spread; people stayed away. My brothers rang. I was like a robot. Breathing, eating, but I couldn’t speak; I was mute.  My mind chasing away any future with babies like shaking a mat to rid it of dust. I hid in my sanctuary, a thick black blanket smothering me.

After a while, I realised I was being selfish. Ian hadn’t smiled or laughed for weeks, the light had left his eyes, his shoulders sagged. He was feeling just as sad as I was and needed me. I started to pull the tendrils of my life back together. So, a few months later at the Centre For Life the doctor’s words, although blunt, hit home. I realised she was right. I couldn’t put my body through the hormonal treatment, and we couldn’t go through the emotional rollercoaster again.

Was it the end? Was there a different way?  We talked about it into the night. Next day, I rang local adoption teams. The voice from the Gateshead team sounded welcoming. Their course was starting soon. We smiled at each other for the first time in weeks.

© Elaine Gardner, 2023


The penultimate piece for January’s Showcase comes from Amanda Brophy. This flash fiction with its open-to-interpretation ending felt real, engaging, and entertaining.

A Pregnant Pause

Clunk, the door closes behind me. As I enter the Ladies, I realise the nearest of the three cubicles is occupied, so I head into the one furthest from the door.

“That’s just a test line, you have to wait and see if another line appears,” says a woman’s voice from the other cubicle.

“God, this is killing me,” says a second voice.

“It shouldn’t be long now,” reassures the first woman.

I dash to the sink and swiftly wash my hands, keen not to intrude on this very private moment which must have felt like an eternity.

Bzzzz—my hand dryer kicks into life, interrupting their assumed solitude. I pull the door to the outside world, wanting to get out as quickly as I can. But I also want to know more. At least, I think I do. I hesitate, but the heavy door gives way to my escape.

One of the women excitedly shrieks: “Oh my God, that’s amazing!”

Then clunk, the door closes behind me.

© Amanda Brophy, 2024


Our final piece is the stunning poem An Eternal Circle by Bharti Sharma. Insightful, expressive, and emotional — a poem that feels relatable.

An Eternal Circle

The zigzag movement between different times and spaces,
The act of going back and forth.
The paradox of an ending and a beginning,
An uncertainty that remains undefined.
Standing at the starting point,
I wait to embark on a journey,
That will take me I do not yet know where.
Dreams in my eyes, courage in my heart,
A step forward leading to another.
A journey that has no destination,
But extends itself in different directions.
The beginning of a new phase,
In the ending of an old one.
Is what I keep looking for forever,
My heart does not know,
How to sit quietly.
My mind does not want,
That moment of inactive peace.
Fascinated by the possibility,
Of a beginning that has an end.
And an end that is the harbinger,
Of a new beginning.
I sit on the edge of both,
Anticipating the moment of arrival or exit,
My movement in a circle.

© Bharti Sharma, 2024

Connect with Bharti on Instagram: @poetic_kaleidoscope


Connect with Helen on Facebook: Helen Aitchison Writes, on X: @aitchisonwrites, on Instagram: @helen.aitchison_writes and at her website: /


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