• White blossom

    In the gutter
    white blossom
    explodes.

    In dark skies
    clouds burst
    with menace.

    In a dream
    faces merge
    with yours.

    In a church
    voices echo,
    they echo.

    Mark O'Loughlin
  • Button, Inevitable

    She was an engineer and physicist with an interest in cosmology, an historical discipline forever looking into the past, which is itself forever. Over time and in secret she invented this thing: a device, a button. The kind that you pressed. The button was housed within a box that contained two half-lived and particular isotopes separated by a brittle crystal oriented to the vertical.

    The mechanics of operation were simple: depression bore the column down upon the upper isotope, crushing the crystal and bringing it into contact with its lower counterpart. Some might have described the process as brutal but this was refuted by the fragility of the crystal: a slivered boundary; the difference between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

    The physics of the mechanism were more complex. Certain calculations based on the properties of the isotopes – as well as those of the crystal – had been made and processed via particularly imaginative formulae, resulting in a number of different hypotheses, all of which arrived at the same conclusion, albeit one that remained untested (1).

    The box comprised a lead-lined inner cube and an outer aluminium shell, with four plastic nubbins on the base. The button was made of danger-red rubber and it was protected from accidental activation by a transparent lid that could be locked with a key. It was no bigger than a child’s picture cube and only a touch more weighty (2).

    If the existence of the button became known it would be referred to as something grand and destructive, or omniscient and all-powerful (3), but she believed it to be both more and also less than that. The button – like all good solutions – was simple and elegant and it wasn’t so much a question of would she or wouldn’t she, but when, because once such a button has been created how can it not be pushed?

    (1) Obviously

    (2) Early plans incorporated a factory reset option, but given the button’s function…

    (3) ‘The Doomsday Button’; ‘The ‘Atropos Box’, etc.

    JL Bogenschneider
  • Språngbrädor

    Språngbrädor – ‘stepping stones’ (Swedish)

    Some people slither around the corners of our lives
    They emerge from the silence of shadows
    to slip across the patterns of our roads
    and then quickly sidestep the narratives
    That pass as pavements and verbs
    They are simply stepping stones, as we are to them.
    Crossing lanes on motorways, jostling down highstreets,
    bumping shopping trolleys
    Like Tesco Trojans Asda Amazonians
    These close encounters count for Lidl else…
    We are gallous ghosts
    We shake rattle and roll our change
    as vampirical iridescent loaves of light
    I love scruffiness and the secret smells of dusty books
    Their words coiled in tea stains and vintage promises
    I love the dishevelled ambiguity of discarded t shirts
    and stepping around the toes of worn shoes
    Criss-crossing the crumbs of croissants, I love the absence of Sky
    Replaced by skies
    And when bastilled by bees
    I count amongst my number
    the alchemy of landscapes corralled within discordant colours
    ensconced in charity shops.

    Sharon Wilkie-Jones
  • Part

    That film was on last night. That film I only ever see in hotels. That film I watched for the hundredth time because the reception was poor on every other channel. I thought about reading. I thought about that paperback, that slim paperback I keep in my suitcase just in case I forget to bring anything else. I thought about reading, or just going down to the bar, or just having a wank and going to sleep. I thought about those things but I watched the film instead. I watched it for the hundredth time. I watched the film, for the hundredth time, and wished again that they’d given that actress a bigger part. Wishing again that the one part I associate with that actress was more than just a walk on part with a few empty lines. I watched the film again with the same actress wishing they had given her a bigger part and thinking again how much she looks like her. No, thinking again how much she reminds me of her except she’s taller, she’s blonde, and never plays any parts which remind me of her. Thinking again how much this actress reminds me of her because I saw her interviewed once on a talk show, and something in her mannerisms and sense of humour, something in the way she looked at the interviewer, reminded me of her. So I watch the film for the hundredth time, wishing they had given that actress a bigger part, and reminding myself that the next time I talk to her I’ll tell her about the actress who reminds me of her. but I know I’ll never tell her about that actress who reminds me of her. So I watch the film for the hundredth time, turn off the television when the credits roll, have a wank thinking about her or the actress who reminds me of her, and go to sleep, and wait until the next time I’m staying in a hotel to see the same film, and have the same thoughts again.

    Colm O'Shea
  • The Gatekeeper

    “Are you a Muslim?”

    Implosion on impact.

    Breathe.

    The man’s shallow gaze pierces my open eyes
    In this chasm my silence echoes
    Through the chambers of my soul

    There she lies, beyond that gate
    Her state and fate of late, it brings me to my knees
    It brings me to her shores
    Just beyond my fingertips

    “Sir, could you please answer the question?” he asks.

    She lies in wait
    Does her heart still beat?
    Her lips still whisper
    For the truth

    Will I outlive her everlasting love?
    For I shall die if I do not hold her breath
    One last time
    Yet she would never cheat death
    How could I cheat mine?

    “Sir, your refusal…”

    The words fall to my feet
    Before they reach my ears
    Is this my time?
    To proclaim my undying love
    Standing on the plinth of truth?

    For what is left in these mortal coils
    Without faith in more than myself?
    She gave me that.
    Let me save her
    Save for her, here

    My lips part
    Between them, one word
    My one heart, no longer in retirement
    Therein my verdict lies
    I shall see her again
    I shall live forever
    I choose immortality

    Rigormortis
  • 5 September

    5 September
    she was on a bus to June
    mourning her summer self that had not quite sparked like it used to
    was not scrubbed clean by sea and sand

    She tried. Remembered summers
    sleeping outside with friends
    dawn breaking something ephemeral
    settled during the night and left
    before they woke up. Magic
    maybe that’s what she used to believe.

    This summer her heart was broken
    but her iphone was fine
    so in keeping with expectations
    life continued. Renaud sings
    vivre libre c’est souvent vivre seule
    do the French never suffer realistically

    5 September
    all of her heroes are lines in a poem
    Her voice: on the quiet edge of panic
    Her striped sailor top: ‘a versatile style that can be dressed up or down’
    She doesn’t forget the simple things

    Nikki Ikani
  • Spike

    That weird spike by London Bridge
    was built to protect the city
    from intensely unlucky paratroopers.
    We don’t want their kind here.

    Jerry Turner
  • Crumbs

    my love for you is like crumbs
    it appears in small parts
    unexpected places
    you forgot to look
    corners and cupboards
    it will not go away

    Healah Riazi
  • Wabi Sabi

    Wabi Sabi: Japanese aesthetic. An appreciation for what is broken or thread bare or unfinished.

    Most lives are unfinished,
    we sit by a window where
    puddles fill with repetition and struggle
    to end a day, not with the same stare tasking sadness,
    but with knowledge of some new thing.

    We hear red leaves settle under the dying tree,
    if we could stop thinking and winnow out the motors
    to hear a cricket spill its night call,
    with no end in sight to the evening voice.

    The house cat knows to seek
    the same spot–underneath the dwelling—

    there is retreat and shade,
    and in the sea of broken lives,
    a threadbare promise.

    Laurie Kuntz
  • Willow

    The willow danced, her moves did not care about the crowd, they drew circles in the air, like caterpillars falling down from apples, they crossed over unseen faces, caressing their every pore, she twirled embracing human bodies only she could see, and the room was dark, and still, and the light was red, in the Theater-Podium bar, and only the little black cat in the corner watched and whispered through her purrs to the trees in the forest in which she thought she was, she said, look, although there is no river, and no human to cry next to her, here’s a willow with a female face, with long dark-red hair that falls onto stones like branches, a woman who forgot to dream but became a dream herself, forsaken by male touch and baby hugs, look, the cat said, there’s a woman almost taking off and leaving ground, rooting her hands deep into the clouds, but the cat was just a cat, and the forest did not listen, because there was no forest, and there was no ground, and the music stopped, and the willow was now asleep, with a little black blind kitten curled up at her feet, and the next performance, and the audience, they were nowhere to be found, and the willow’s voice was dreaming of a time when she used to sing each night, it was either opera or jazz, and the willow was young and voluptuous back then, she was nothing like a willow at all, and the willow’s voice fell asleep too, deep in her stomach, away from human sounds, behind the curtains, and never again was it to be found.

    Diana Radovan
  • Amen

    my mother says that god is not female nor male.
    i am not female nor male.
    so, in some ways, that makes me god.
    i realized that i do not need to look to the sky for god, but only to my genitals.
    and i pray.
    let us pray.

    True Lyons
  • The Unreliable Narrator

    The unreliable narrator turned up late.

    “You know what I’m like,” he said, by way of excuse.

    We nodded our heads unconfidently. Of course, no one actually did know what he was like.

    Mansour Chow
  • Kern

    I want to be shot by Kern
    his style – the less pornographic
    girls with their tits, in panties
    at home or outdoors
    on roller skates, brushing their teeth
    letting white foam spit, dribble, drip
    from tongues lips to sink, floor
    He could photograph my feet for
    fetish magazines,
    they are dainty I would offer ideas
    for series – girls with towels over
    their heads drying their hair
    girls eating cake. Icing, cream,
    jam, sprinkles elbows deep in
    the mess of it all

    Kat Franceska
  • The Cat Is Gone

    The cat is gone. One day already.
    The night is grim, the forest dark.
    I lean against a spruce’s bark,
    Afar I see the lights unsteady.

    The cat is gone. It’s all my fault.
    I thought that it would do him good
    To check out a new neighbourhood
    Now nature keeps the cat enthralled.

    The cat is gone. But I have hope
    That he will soon come back to me.
    His not returning home would be
    Disastrous. No, I couldn’t cope.

    The cat is back. I am delighted.
    He didn’t tell, where he has been,
    I didn’t want to make a scene.
    My state is happy, but benighted.

    Sabine Magnet
  • love awry

    never judge a book by its cover
    but do judge a lover
    by their books

    Luke Lewis
  • Myself and the Sad Clown

    When you’re drilling your mind for a little more gold,
    Ideas spilling from tangled-web old
    Memories catch the tails of today.
    The endless to-do’s, and making hay
    In case the sun shines on,
    Well hold on
    Just a little longer.

    Sad clown twitches sharp jokes that ached,
    Fragile nights, the ideas were half-baked
    Of a self-deprecating manner,
    That concealed all things and all manner
    Of sins.
    He dug within,
    So they could laugh a while.
    Clocked up mile upon mile
    Of the ties that are cut with righteousness of youth.
    It’s a long, twisted journey, the pursuit of truth.

    And freedom is only a state of mind,
    Stick with me here, don’t think me unkind
    When I say we spend a lifetime settling into a skin
    Get to know yourself, it’s all buried within.

    Myself and the sad clown tonight walk along
    A dark twisted road, the night is long.
    And we laugh to the aching and to the breaking,
    And sing to the spirit yet in the making.

    Kirstin Maguire
  • The Cucumber Plot

    I have a large knife in my hand
    and I’m not afraid
    to skin this mother
    to sliver away at the
    stiff upper lip of a
    toughened epidermis
    banish wrinkles, dents and prickly bits
    and behold it
    cleansed, stripped, unveiled…
    If you ask me again
    I will plainly chop
    the thing in two
    while I wonder what I could be

    This repast, the fourth of the day
    mentally diarised between
    broken blinds and fresh air
    changing light bulbs and toilet bleach
    interrupted by
    pencil shavings
    polka dancing
    a stubbed toe for you and an ice pack for me
    will be ready when it’s ready…
    If you ask me again
    I might lose my thread
    While I wonder what I am

    The uses of a cucumber?
    Well, it’s staggering
    With a whole one
    brought to room temperature
    there’s no guilty sniff of an affair
    grate it for tzatziki
    slice it into Pimms
    twist a piece to garnish
    baton lengths to dip
    pickle in a jar or two
    refresh tired eyes
    pack on shine
    pack on an allergic reaction
    like mine

    This repast, the fourth of the day
    mentally diarised between
    identity cravings and learning to share
    bathroom scum lines and out of reach
    interrupted by
    dead batteries
    sing-along-songs
    a melody for you, a harmony for me
    will be ready, when its ready…
    I have a large knife in my hand
    and I’m not afraid
    to dice this mother
    expose jellied innards
    vital organs
    while I wonder what I was

    And when you’re ready
    I’ll see waves of laundry
    finally dry up
    breakfast and supper
    mute on Sunday
    the last marmite stain
    wiped from the wall
    that secret bogie stash cemented
    to your bedroom shelf
    I’ll post off to your house
    cucumber cool
    with a note that says, touché

    Anna Ghislena
  • Train to Cornwall

    Sailing on the thrum and steel,
    westward the silver, sure line eases.
    Each boxcar at a smooth delay,
    as voices in a choral round.

    In sliding frames fit for St.Ives
    a landscape airs its carousel:
    brushstrokes of woodland, gold-leaf sea,
    the sudden, muffled shock of tunnels
    with explosive horizon each end.

    Flying true, as pen to rule,
    surely we ride the veins of England;
    surely all other is reduced now to blots;
    surely all other is but busy-ness bleeding,
    bruising such moments as this.

    Joe Hedinger
  • Black Beach

    A Rachmaninoff whirl
    the wind and the waves
    and black puffins and a black beach
    and nothing between us and
    the south pole
    but this swirling soup.

    Let’s stay here
    and live in a cave
    and at night light a big fire
    and remind the rocks
    of where they came from.

    We can fish with the birds
    and roam with the horse
    and sing to the sea
    and wash in waterfalls.

    Feel the warmth of Basalt
    absorbing the sun
    Listen for ancestors in the wind
    and keep on the right side of trolls
    and never throw a stone.

    Joanne McLaughlin
  • Sleeping with the Classics

    I cannot sleep.
    Restless.

    I’m thinking of sleeping with the Classics.

    Where should I start?
    With the vulnerable Pound?
    The clumsy Thomas?
    The mystical Rainer?
    Blake? I certainly loved his technique.
    Maybe Bukowski could be somewhere in the middle…
    I bet he’d last an entire five minutes.

    Perhaps I could finish with
    Sade Marquis.
    It could be my punishment-
    for all of the sinful fornication,
    the moral blasphemous
    of such casual carnage–
    each lash of the whip a bit
    of forgiveness.

    Yes, yes, yes!
    I will go out not with a bang

    but a whimper.

    Sarah Hardin
  • Captive

    I want to keep you captive
    Like a book upon my shelf
    That I will not lend to anyone
    And won’t read for myself

    Luke Norton
  • The Last Lemon

    ‘This is it, you know.’
    ‘Is that so?’
    Flo holds up a dull tin, the label warped and peeling. Smoothing the paper, she reads:
    ‘Sausages and-’
    Flic joins her. ‘Beans. Best til last.’ She sniffs the metal with exaggerated relish.
    ‘Well then.’
    ‘Shall I?’
    A pause.
    ‘Yes, you do the honours Flic.’
    ‘Are you sure? Come with me.’
    ‘Wait… Let’s cook this first.’
    Flo walks to where a low sun casts through the glass. It reflects off a loch, red with algae. With arthritic hands, she turns the gears of the can-opener. Slow.
    ‘I’ll get the knife.’
    ‘Warm the pan too. We can spare the gas, after all.’
    ‘Get it piping.’
    Flo chuckles. It is always hot now.
    While the flame burns, blue on black, Flic goes over to the other window. On the deep stone sill sits a stunted lemon tree. She spits on a cuff and polishes its crisp leaves. A broken residue comes away on her sleeve.
    ‘To think Flo. We grew it.’
    ‘From just a pip.’
    Flo prises the can’s lid with a knife, scrapes congealed innards onto the heat. She joins Flic, looking out over the raw dark hills.
    ‘What’re the odds?’
    ‘Not good. But it lived, alright.’
    ‘Now?’
    ‘Now.’
    Breath held, Flic pulls the lone lemon from its branch. In the palm of her hand, she eases through the soft pith with blunted blade. Zest. Flo leans forward, inhales for them both.
    ‘I’ll get the bottles.’
    Fast on stiff hips, Flo makes for the cupboard. The tonic lets off the barest hiss and the gin cap is almost rusted stiff.
    ‘Glasses, Flic.’
    One. Two. Yellowed liquor slipped in both. Flo throws the remaining dram to the flagstones.
    ‘For the dead,’ she laughs. Flic smiles with her, eyes rheumy in the acid air.
    ‘Here.’
    Flic cuts over the glass, but the dry fruit does not drip. Three slices and a hard navel each.
    ‘Pull that pan.’
    ‘Plates?’
    ‘No need.’ Flo holds up their spoons, passes the least bent one over. She stirs, prising charred meat from the pan bottom. Takes a bite.
    ‘Well then, Flic.’
    ‘Flo.’
    The two friends lock eyes, cheers.
    ‘To health.’
    ‘To health.’

    Eleanor Matthews
  • To Kit, who I haven’t seen for years, on the day I went to get an abortion

    You’d lap this right up, Kitten.

    I can picture you performing torture
    – all wringing hands and wrenching hair,
    poetry and punches –
    in the waiting room.

    Oh, you’d luxuriate in all this:
    the tragedy, the loss, the unloved life
    (and that was meant to say unlived,
    funny what phones’ll make you admit).
    Yep, you’d lap it up
    like cool cream, warm milk, thick blood
    pouring round the basin
    and down the drain.

    Why I’m thinking of you, I don’t know.
    You’re just something to think about, I suppose,
    while I sit on this bloody train to nowhere
    I want to go.

    Laura Powell
  • infinity commutes

    faces
    like knots on a diseased oak,
    we huddle together
    not like rotten planks
    of a fallen floor
    but rather
    like something alive;
    apples in a farmer’s market
    or flowers
    gasping from a pavement crack,
    hands
    reaching towards God
    and grasping the crossbar,
    eyes dodging from faces
    or staring at them openly,
    minds on work
    or the press
    or some drifting zephr memory;
    a million infinities
    touching eachother uncomfortably,
    as many as there are fish in the sea,
    and all on their way to somewhere,
    and all with something unshareable in their heart

    DS Maolalai
  • A room of one’s own

    One is afforded the luxury
    of a jumper and no pants;
    sitting on my feet
    with a bare bum
    makes me feel like a child.
    I like to wriggle my toes and
    relish the rare innocence
    of a naked body;
    to curl up foetal around
    soft folds of tummy
    and nestle down to sleep
    in the gap between two pillows.

    Poppy Turner
  • The drawing I’d draw if I could draw

    It would be a pencil drawing.

    It would be a cartoon of a man doing a head stand on a surfboard on a wave. It would be sunny. He’d be skinny, wearing shorts and with oversized hands and feet. His feet would be facing the sky, but drawn at enough of an angle that you could read what was written on them.

    It would say Soul Tan because the bottom of the man’s feet would be getting a tan; and because surfing and the sun and being upside down are good for your soul; and because Boots (the chemist) used to make suntan lotion called Soltan and that’s what my memories of family holidays on the beach smell like.

    micl