Victorian Dollhouse

The Victorian Dollhouse houses poems that take us to different times, even imaginary times.

When Matryoshka Dolls Take the Runway / Rikki Santer


Like the Morton salt girl, they never wavered from a belief in infinite regression. Thou shalt covet the trajectory of babushka.  On the shore of the Volga, past daydreams of Venetian blinds, a pair of silk stockings with tender black seams curled through forest branches luring woodcutters from their benches. Finally they settled around the neck of a rooster girl like a timid scarf with a broom & basket thesis.  It was then that the Matryoshka dolls ripened into their universe:

When the Matryoshka dolls take the runway

​​ they whirl to Stravinskys The Rite of Spring & cup the borders of empty​​ dream of gauzy negligees, saucy slippers & catwalks carpeted with hay

nest robin eggs from government corruption

beckon endangered leopards to drink slowly from their halves

When the Matryoshka dolls take the runway

they masquerade as spice jars

pose as proletariats in the pantry

shimmy over Twiggish waifs while chanting fertility spells

When the Matryoshka dolls take the runway

their long black lashes launch like butterflies working attitude

as they wear folktale embroideries of magic rubles, sacred valleys

When the Matryoshka dolls take the runway

it is their red of reds that hums the hum     how easily we hide in one another.


Rikki Santer’s poetry has received many honors including five Pushcart and three Ohioana book award nominations as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.   Her eighth collection,Drop Jaw, inspired by the art of ventriloquism, was published by NightBallet Press in the spring. Please contact her through her website:

Kings, Queens, Jacks and Jokers

4 Poems by Reginald Johnson:



A nation under God
Where a checkered flag turned into a chess
Where many kings think they rule the land and want to stick out their chests
A race left divided and for years they think we were fools
Had us for years thinking we’ve progressed no matter who in charge rules
We live in the land of red white and blue
Yet that flag bleeds after every senseless death
And there’s people out there that will be happy if there wasn’t any of us bad ones left
Little do they know we are kings too
Of all different suits
There’s those that call a spade a spade
These upside down black hearted souls
Are done with the endless pain we’ve experienced
There’s those that are a diamond in a rough
Endured so much that they will ensure a change will come
Those that have heart will make a change
And there’s nothing you can do to stop us
We must avenge our clubbed Kings
We must bring about a revolution of thinking
Revolution of being
We cannot do it without the help of our Queens either
Just know we’ve been fighting with the hands we’ve been dealt since the beginning of time
The outdated way of thinking will have to fold eventually
And we’ll be there to make sure of it



This here life is like a game of chess
Many may see you as weak but you are strong beyond measure
We need you
That sense of nurturing and compassion is a necessity
Stand by the kings
You both are summoned to the battlefield
And have endured many quarrels
But the war is not over
The ones that watch over the spaded brethren
Guide them with wisdom
As they are mad and are doomed to be reckless
Keep applying the pressure to those diamond in the roughs
Nurture them
They are scared of their potential but you are key to helping them tap into it
Queen also have the heart to stand by the ones that are fighting the good fight
Your presence is all some need in order to keep on
We must avenge the fallen
And ensure that no one clubbed did not lose the battle in vein
We need you
There are some pawns that are waiting to become the next Queen
But a true one knows herself and doesn’t need to be told otherwise



Young royalty
Watch the throne
If Kanye & Jay Z taught you anything
They asked for you to keep going
Knave, there will be different things
You experience in life
That you won’t be able to explain
Defend or rebuke
We all have just look at history
In this age, you live in a time where
So much power can be held in 140 characters
In a video
In a recording
In a march
In a hashtag
They may think you’re too young to make a change
and that we’re just a culture
deemed to create entertainment
Like the new era of new jack swing
Our lives are not a movie
This is not a plot for the remake of New Jack City
So let’s keep them from thinking you don’t know jack shit
And when the cards are right,
Know how to use them


Don’t lose yourself
There’s been a lot of Gotham nights
And darkness looms as it’s been lurking in the shadows for centuries
It’s mentally disturbing
Before recently some people have become so desensitized
To the fact that we almost have to laugh it off that people are too engrained in the history of yesterday
That any means of progress is seen as a threat
There are literally people out there in this world that literally want us to sit here,
Mentally chained down
While they have a grin on their face
They want us to go home
Paint a face on of happiness
With a red nose and colored hair
And let us clown ourselves into thinking our life is less than
You want us to become Jokers engulfed in rage and want us to terrorize
Just so you can send in people you beckon with your “bat signal” as if the so called “good” in you will eradicate the evil
That’s when we remember this
Don’t let them win
They see us as a wild card
And let’s make a positive change in this history
We can do this as kings
We can do this as queens
We are royalty
These moments are just adding jewels to our crown
Let us continue to fight
To be liberated
Of physical,
Mental torment
This is not a laughing matter

Chaff / Barney Ashton-Bullock


The chaffy froth,

Fragments of the screes of anti-radar debris

In fathoms a-churn, dashed to smash in briny breeze

Cross foam-headed Esplanade flagstones,

Immured in seas brawny brio, yey!

But windsll not upturn

This coastal defence and yet

Quayside tramlines, tarmac sunk, traverse the years;

Transient, ever radiant in oxidising rustability

Or as new laid, sunlit, laser bright, fresh rail sheen

Keep clear othe edge othe seawall!

Dont drop litter!

Dont feed the seagulls!

Dont fear the reaper!

The yawling, soaring, craw, craw, scraw!

My shrunken head, pom-pom hat dressed,

A swooping gulls mess just misses my shuffle and yet.

In cooing, cyclonic collective,

In snippy, simper squall

Around a sea-sprayed, smulching, loaded, chip ndip cone

All hover; hover then dive; dive, gobble, gobble, go!

And whose hand then fed?

And whose hand now held?

And whose hand thence dipped?  

Presently, these eve-tide shaky hands

Grapple grip the bloomed ironwork; my surety.

This blanched, sepia promenade crossfades

To greyscale, to a bleak, blank, anonymous, at war austerity

Where now wan, throttled gulls shed their ack-ack frenzy

To merely bob steady.

Would it be this cross-haired breeze might ask,

Should this cratered town not crumble cry?

I am sanguine ready for sallow tearfall,

To salute the mist, to sea-spray effervesce, to expire, to die

As, brimful of recollections ofttold too tall, I

Elect to atomise from endgame life.

Then something belch-parps that the futures as bright

As the coastguards archaic cordite signal flares

Which suddenly burn again in sparkly, plucky array

Through all the knuckling klaxons of memory

To illuminate, strings of fêted future nights,

Tacked through all my rags of yesteryears

On which, though presumed drowned,

Though seen shot down,

I thought you might yet come back to me.

 Barney Ashton-Bullock, is a ‘regular contributing poet’ to the Wellington Street Review and has had poems published (or pending so) in the New River Press Yearbook, the ‘Avalanches In Poetry’ tribute anthology to Leonard Cohen, SPAMzine, Scab Mag, -algia Press and in the ‘Soho Nights II’ and ‘Soho Nights III’ anthologies published by The Society Club Press who also published his debut collection ‘Schema/Stasis’. He is the playwright/poet/librettist in the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ queer music-theatre collective and narrates his own verse on the current Downes Braide Association album ‘Skyscraper Souls’.  His current poetry pamphlet ‘Café Kaput!’ is with Broken Sleep Books. 




Kirkgate / David Walshe


Ancient trodden trackway,

‘a way’ 

for the country folk


A journey of over four miles

for coffin, babe or bride

from the end of Birtle Common

Until St.Cuthbert’s reside 



out of Charnley’s Hills

towards Snuttering Lane



for reflection, 

at the Breeing Stone

they take its rain


Romana Vistula trackway

dissecting North Meols

within sight their steeple 

as it cuts through the Steeles 



The Kirkgate or Churchgate was an ancient trackway believed to be one of the oldest in Lancashire and which connected churches in the South West of the county and linked up to others beyond. This poem focuses on the section which existed in the parish of North Meols (modern day Southport, UK) and how people that lived on the southern fringes of the parish had to walk almost four miles to baptise their newborn, attend weddings and carry the coffins of their dead. Birtle was a dialect term to describe Birkdale. Snuttering Lane is the name of an old Lane that followed part of the path. The Breeing Stone was a large boulder close to the Birkdale/North Meols township boundary which had a hole in it large enough to collect water which they sprinkled on the coffins. The Steeles was an area of open land of which the Churchgate passed through before arriving at St.Cuthberts church in Churchtown, the centre of the old parish. Part of the old track still exists today, and is still called Churchgate.