• The little parcel

    Here’s a tiny one for you. It might be worth telling, I can’t tell.

    I was wandering to the post office, a package swinging in my hand. A snug, fine, perfect little parcel: wrapped-up neat, stamp set straight, handwritten address just so.

    It struck me suddenly: how splendid, how simple and splendid, to walk with something swinging in your hand. A cap, a suitcase, or the patient weight of a book perhaps… maybe some sweets (in one of those small, slightly waxy, brown paper bags). Better yet, another hand: the fingers, the palm, the touch of a friend or lover.

    And I thought – and I thought – and I decided, without thinking: this was a moment worth writing about. So here we are.

    Fritz Kocher
  • A Toast

    Birdsong,
    shrill heartbeat
    of the bushes.

    How each note,
    each struck glass,
    is like a toast
    to that worn muscle
    in your chest.

    How they set it off,
    to sound out above
    the undergrowth
    of these days.

    Hazem Tagiuri
  • Keep Them Closer

    Under those pressures that we deemed
    impossible, we managed to retain both
    our heads and backs. That fuzz of doubt
    blocked by the disintegration of any
    appointments, whose responsibilities
    we ensured remained silent.

    We then shook off the excess lies
    like spilled ash. We resided in those
    back streets and bars; the seats just
    a little too comfy, the beer just about cold
    enough as we allowed the knuckles of our
    ideology to eventually heal.

    Back outside, drenched in rain we regrouped,
    embossed in that grim, damp light; unable
    to strike matches or conversations. Again, we
    repeated those mantras that seemed by then
    to have grown somewhat stale, yet still capable
    of retaining an echo.

    Jonathan Butcher
  • Breakfast

    They sat in each day waiting for the news, an ear cocked to the radio, dipping spoons towards the milky upsetting of their cereal bowls.

    For the main part, their lives carried on under that mild temperate sky that did its best to convince you it wasn’t there. No news settled in like damp air.

    But the bad news, the really bad news which everyone agreed was bad, they would savour. It was on those days that the toast had more crunch, the butter a more viscous appeal. The same toast, the same butter. And just when they were thinking of switching.

    Aaron Head
  • Bike

    There is a bicycle, propped against a post,
    halfway along Clermont Road.
    Classic features: sprayed green of colour –
    military – mud guards warped but still
    cutting a half-shimmer on a startling
    January day, two hours past dawn.

    The seat, you could say old-fashioned,
    oversized and cushioned; the handlebars, a
    chic cream plastic, once immaculate –
    it’s all retro here.
    The wheels are caving in,
    it’s been here for what seems like years –
    since before I arrived South.

    A regal-looking bird (stork or crane?)
    for a cross bar crest.

    But it’s the khaki I like best;
    pride to the fenders, the coating
    fends off the Brighton winter –
    now the bitty-looking bike can
    become one with the wooden telegraph pole –
    tree-like.

    At high-commuter times, briefcased men
    and umbrellaed women, bound to and from
    Preston Park,
    pass by and think nothing of it –
    the bike.

    Christy Hall
  • Blythe

    The water dazzled him with the whiteness of sky, the hulking black shape of the mangled Buick quivering below his elbows. He shattered the image in his thrashing attempts to scramble out of the ditch, but the mud beneath him was too wet, too yielding.

    One final spasm like a netted trout, and he too relented, sinking beneath the water into the murky clouds he had churned up.

    Perhaps it was better this way, he thought. Virginia could remarry; young Bill would still have a father to look up to.

    Who knew, he might even grow up to be President.

    Daniel Gooding
  • The First Death in England

    She deceased, her doctor says. He shows me the dictionary he checked the definition in. We’re astonished. We’ve heard of death, obviously. But we’ve heard of unicorns and alien invasions, and know they’re not real. BBC Breaking News says, There’s been a death in the country. It confounds the public. Nobody understands how a person can just stop. Why can’t she stand up? Why can’t she be repaired? How does a photograph of her exist if she doesn’t? We don’t know. I wail, gouge my hair, poke my eyes, but the corpse is motionless, won’t get up, remains dead. I confess regrets to it, but its skin is green and peeling. I tell it things we should’ve done, but it’s acquired a caustic smell. Communication with the corpse is impossible. Sex with the corpse is impossible. I’m invited on TV but nobody understands a word I say. I try to explain the grief conundrum but I’ve been caressing the corpse willing it to move, and it won’t move, ever again apparently, unless I attach strings, dance it like a puppet. That can’t be explained. I say, Grief is like sand everywhere. The Prime Minister attempts a reassuring speech but she’s a famous liar. Then pundits posit the question of another deceased, who it might be. I finally agree to bury the corpse. People that never knew it are weeping, not because they’re devastated, but because they’re newly scared for themselves, the bastards. After something called a funeral, emissaries from other cultures visit. We’re so terrified of death, they say, we invented absurdities. Music, to drown out the noise of it. Money, to forget it. We invented war, which is a fight not to be the first to die. They teach me heaven and hell, various afterlives, resurrection, ghosts. An emissary says reincarnation and sand slips out of my ears and eyes. Now I’m roaming the earth, shouting her name at newborns, puppies, lion cubs, piglets, tadpoles, ducklings, fledgling owls, dolphin pubs, vapour trails, sapling trees. Until I find her again.

    Daniel Edwards
  • Death > Telesales

    Do you want a death without dying?
    Try telesales.

    Death without the key benefit:
    Unconsciousness

    Just the no going back
    Soul-flowing away
    Ring-a-ring-a rigamortis

    No official funeral
    If your friends want free drinks
    From your wages they must come

    If given this choice and only this
    I would prefer to live out
    The dying death

    Feel a little something
    Before the eternal stretch

    Give fewer the call
    They never wanted to receive.

    Gary W. Hartley
  • Your majesty procrastination

    i’m so sorry to bother you again
    it’s me –
    your majesty.

    i live inside you
    like a seed in avocado
    like a belief against killing animals in a sensitive vegeterian’s mind
    like a last sip of lager in a loser’s glass
    in a gloomy Belfast bar
    at totally unimportant night

    this is me
    i am your majesty
    i am your sense of procrastination.

    ieva
  • I miss

    your long
    dark
    eyelashes.

    Freckles like water on your skin.

    Thoughts written on irises.

    Melancholy smiles.

    Will you let me in

    again?

    Francesca Tomlinson
  • 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