• Sewing

    I am reading a book for work
    and you are checking
    the camping equipment,
    the tin saucepans
    nestled into each other,
    plastic shapes of
    spoon and fork.

    A sleeping bag has a rip in it.
    I am still reading.
    You tell me there is a hole
    and I tell you where the sewing kit is –
    a rabble of threads, needles half in, half out
    of packets, you are amused
    by the show of how much I care, how
    often I sew.

    The next time I look up – you had gone quiet –
    you are sewing the tear
    with neat stitches

    with each stitch I feel something rip a little
    more
    as I read, and you sew.

    Soon you will nestle
    the children into
    bed because
    I have a
    conference call.

    Stella Hervey Birrell
  • By the Roadside

    As he waits for his turn
    at a dingy barber’s shop
    called ‘Lovely Saloon’,
    he watches the road,
    people moving up
    and down:

    An attractive girl, her left hand on her left ear,
    looks directly at him
    and exclaims, ‘Shut up!’

    A young man, his left
    hand holding his left ear:
    smiles and smiles at no one.

    A lone woman, her right hand on her left ear,
    her face to the sky, asks, ‘But where?’

    Another woman, her left hand on her left ear,
    suddenly thumps the air: ‘Yahoo!’

    A girl with long hair, her left hand on her left ear,
    briskly nods at the ground.

    A middle-aged man, his left hand clutching his left ear,
    raises a finger,
    and with eyes blazing,
    twists his lips agitatedly.

    Seeing these people,
    he recalls two old
    Khasi* sayings:
    ‘Do not talk to yourself
    like a lunatic’
    and
    ‘Do not mumble all alone like a sorcerer’.

    He thinks,
    either the maxims
    have lost their relevance,
    or
    this is an age
    of ear-clutching lunatics.

    * Khasi tribe from Meghalaya, Northeast India.

    Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
  • Pubes

    Across her lips, dark
    shiny locks interlock like
    a venus flytrap.

    Nat Steinhouse
  • Melted Girl

    Mixed girl microaggression
    at multiracial family gatherings.
    Mixed girl model America’s
    melting pot. No hate crimes
    if everyone melds into one.
    Golden hues pronouncing
    “This is your diverse America,
    where we lose all identity
    till our colors become one.”

    Christina Gayton
  • One of them caught him on the leg

    One of them caught him on the leg, one of the birds with the razors attached, when they were released into the ring. At the time he thought nothing of it. Just a little nick. He’d put a plaster on it later. Not going to distract him from the thrill of the fight and the lure of the money. And in the thick of the action, among the cheering and jeering, the pushing and shoving of the crowd, he completely forgot the slight twinge in his calf. Ironically, it was his bird that did it; the one he had backed, the one that won big for him.

    It was only later, when the crowd had dispersed and the adrenaline wore off, that he realised the extent of the damage. Someone applied a tourniquet, helped concoct a plausible cover story. They’d clear up after him, don’t worry. Just another bloodstain in the sawdust.

    Someone dumped him in a lay-by, far enough away, where he counted his money and tried to persuade himself he was only shivering because it was three in the morning. He went over the details of the cover story in his head again and again, but by the time the ambulance arrived he was in no position to tell it.

    Nick Lord Lancaster
  • Domestic bliss

    He gave her his name
    As much a gift as syphilis
    A tattoo that nobody wants
    Blood beading around pools of black ink.

    She lost her sense of humour
    He’s hidden it away between folded towels
    In the airing cupboard.
    He always apologised
    When she snorted
    As if laughter on the lips of a young woman
    Was a bad smell at the dinner table.

    In amongst the pots and pans
    She’d left her dignity somewhere
    Because now she acted out the scenes
    ‘Put it in there, then in there, then in there’
    The ones that she came to recognise
    After work on his computer screen.

    She missed her allowance for two months
    When they bought a new bed
    That they’d spent three Sundays
    Admiring in the Pine Warehouse
    Searching for a conversation.

    But when he said ‘this is where
    We will make our family.’
    Bile rose in her throat and stole her tongue
    She spent three hours boiling the sheets
    Hoping that she too could stay
    Clean clean clean.

    Maggie Dye
  • Dying is a warm beer

    A snap of the glove
    the curve
    of the latest finger
    reaching

    my pearls
    turn into
    black pools.

    With every thorn
    I squirm
    like the new child
    twisting,
    my pink face
    crumples like paper.

    Blue, blue
    this costume is mine
    until I’m new.

    I lay awake
    on my sticky bed
    with all my neighbours

    I’d never known so many
    shades of white.

    Dan Stringer
  • Dream sequence

    ‘Just do me a favour,’ he said
    ‘Check over my figures –
    Something just won’t add up.’
    I fix it
    in three hours
    and press my lips together.
    My smile is as convincing as his
    Toilet-bowl white teeth
    Mashing together
    Falling over his tongue
    As he races to affix it to
    A board member’s behind.

    Bored
    Is who I am now
    It’s embedded in my genes
    Maybe if I tried
    I could read this report in Latin
    But instead I make notes in shorthand
    A revered ancient language.

    ‘Whose report is this?’ ejaculates Mr Board.
    ‘Outstanding!’
    A nervous brown tongue flicks over
    Those toilet-bowl teeth
    I am silent.
    ‘It’s mine,’ he says.
    Mr Board turns to me –
    ‘Just do me a favour’
    ‘Get that in the notes,’ he says.
    I press my lips together.

    In the doctor’s surgery
    My lips are parted
    For the third time this month
    In his endless quest to fix my insides
    By gently chipping away at them.
    I hand him the chisel,
    but he looks up, annoyed.
    ‘Just do me a favour,’ he says
    ‘And try to relax.’

    At home
    I try to relax
    but the phone keeps ringing.
    My mother is calling
    to check that I still cook her recipes.
    He asks: ‘do we know what we are having for tea?’
    We do not.
    He comes behind me
    and links his arms around my waist
    face in my hair.
    He says
    ‘Just do me a favour.’

    Meg Russell
  • Lullaby

    An unusually hot afternoon in mid- April. We are in the garden, amusing ourselves in companionable quiet. You are happiest with the earth, bedding fragrant French lavender into its new home. You work carefully, tucking the roots gently into the soil with your bare hands, contentedly sighing every now and again. I sit reading nearby, cocooned in the oval chair with its thick cream cushions. My dress is the colour of clementines, and glows in the hot golden sun. The pages of my book breathe on the breeze and I slip in and out of the words; one moment Nietzsche and the cries of the neighbours’ baby the next. Its wails rent the air suddenly, desperately, and my heart jolts. I listen instinctively, waiting for it to be soothed. The hush comes quickly, in soft Italian murmurs that my ears don’t understand. Softly, softly, lullaby, hush my love, you need not cry.

    Eleanor Harrison
  • Revolutionary

    Where are you going with this?
    Your passion is caught in your beard
    and she holds her breath,
    you might just take it from her.

    She is crushing on you:
    it is easy to do.
    Hungry for the stars
    and storminess and the pub at 2am,
    she will man your barricade.

    Having told her what it is,
    say the word.

    Hannah January
  • Adam

    He plays by his own tune, an inventor,
    investor in himself.
    To others he might seem like one at odds with the world,
    but there are no odds in his world,
    nothing to gamble or lose.

    He is the solo player of his own team,
    motivator, multiplayer,
    bricklayer of his own foundation.
    The harmonies of his life are rich and silent
    scorching the ears of those that hear.

    He sits alone but surrounded,
    a thinker,
    tinker of his craft,
    weaving threads of agéd phrases,
    polished relics, softening the edges.

    He listens like a broken watch waiting for the minute,
    the second,
    but he is always second to those who shout or howl or cry.

    A river runs through him.
    Gushing the tide of humanity flows fast,
    shaping those around him,
    voicelessly moulding us into his works of art.

    Olivia Olphin
  • Borderline poem 3

    Today, I shat very well without noise and easily.
    I shat thinking about you, and to be honest, I’m not ashamed anymore.
    (Understand this: pretty boys also shit)
    To think about intestines you have to understand that the blue ass of a Russian smells the same as a beautiful Peruvian soldier’s ass.
    I get drunk and think about my stomach’s clay.
    Sunsets.
    Then, I realize an overwhelming truth:
    Each morning I shit my heart out in pieces.

    Jorge Alejandro Vargas Prado
  • Sunglasses

    She wore the biggest sunglasses you’ve seen,
    ever.

    No sunshine in sight but that didn’t deter her,
    never.

    She thought the tinted lenses made her look smart,
    clever.

    Shrouded in mystery,
    a woman with no history, she would wear her Raybans forever,
    whatever the weather.

    Mark O'Loughlin
  • hostile.

    The lights are on
    and I am home,
    unfortunately.

    There’s a
    rap tap
    knock knock:
    someone.

    Outside shines night
    and birds sing silence.
    The moment grows
    and I cower.

    Anger fills
    and fuels the house.
    Violence follows
    like an erupting volcano.

    Children don’t work like adults.
    We have less to fear;
    but ours is double concentrated.

    There’s a
    smick smack
    crick crack:
    was someone.

    The lights are on
    but I’m not home,
    hopefully.

    Jamie Hardwick
  • Here

    Here, is not there
    nor anywhere
    but here in
    the sounds of the moment
    we are here in.
    Yet, here is also an echo
    of a moment before
    when here was not here
    but there waiting
    to be discovered by us
    and defined in the borders
    of our memories
    as here, where
    we heard the birds in the sky.
    Here, is only here
    to be heard by us.
    For others to hear here
    would make it there to us once more.

    Kristy Keller
  • SCOTT, SPIELBERG, IMMORTALITY AND ME

    A billion years from now
    or a billion billion
    will these words resound
    will these ancient feet print
    Could it be that
    Ridley Scott’s Alien exists
    will this make sense and how
    a billion years past
    or a billion billion
    will we be back now
    or stuck in hell. What
    will be remembered
    The Duellists or (the) Duel?

    Andrew Cocktoe
  • Dinner in Paris

    I have no idea why, but I thought the Mona Lisa would taste better.

    H. Victory
  • BMI

    “For those
    that have been asking,”
    she announced
    for all of Facebook
    to read or ignore.
    “My BMI has
    dropped from 26
    to 22.1.”

    I’m suspicious
    that anyone
    even asked.
    And if they did,
    surely she could have
    told them directly.

    Mansour Chow
  • The Look in Its Eyes

    “It’s the look in their eyes when we hit them, people and animals, that bothers me most,” the engineer said.

    I don’t miss those conversations with engineers and conductors about the horrors of their jobs.

    I don’t miss the three-hour delays for suicides, accompanied by fists pounding on windows when passengers realized they would not make graduations, weddings, and job interviews.

    I don’t miss the café car attendant, who sang over the intercom in a shrill voice his invitation to the café car.

    I don’t miss the cat lady, who claimed she kept her meowing cat zipped in her jacket for emotional support.

    I don’t miss passengers with croup-sounding coughs asking to borrow my phone.

    I don’t miss the sunburned faces and liquor-smelling belches of people boarding after a day at the horse races.

    I don’t miss the nosy tax guy, who seemed to take pleasure in hearing about our pay cuts and layoffs during the Great Recession.

    I don’t miss those things on 785 northbound.

    But I miss the happy-go-lucky dog, that for years ran full speed alongside us every day at the same place and time, like clockwork, trying to keep up with our train.

    I wish I could stop missing that dog, and wondering about the look the engineer last saw in its eyes.

    Michael Carter
  • Bela

    a black lab mix, she
    sat next to me
    on the front seat
    of my truck.

    Before I hit the gas
    when the light
    turned green,
    I always said —
    here we go now —
    so Bela would be ready.

    And damn it
    if I didn’t say
    the same thing
    when the vet came
    to give her the needle.

     

    Jim Zola
  • Leidseplein

    You told me that all love goes to die at Leidseplein.
    Back when your face was on mine,
    your curled hair around my harsh fingers.

    In that anti-squat, full of damp.
    Our gas heaters of perpetual mourning.
    where our life was filled with promises, overseas disasters and Albert Heijn carrier bags.

    So this is my goodbye to you.
    Here, by the edge of Leidseplein,
    Where the terse policemen breathalyse drunken tourists.

    The cold lamps swing blindly from the dead trees.
    And I wait willingly despite it all,
    to watch you move off sweetly into the world.

    Gemma Morrison
  • The Fox

    Monday‘s journey to work was proving to be even slower than usual. Gavin sighed, gripping the steering wheel in both hands as he inched along in the traffic queue. He stared at the commuters on foot who passed him in the opposite direction, willing one of them to look up and smile – anything to break the monotony. None did.

    It was then that he saw it. The dead fox was sprawled across the pavement in a comedic pose; legs akimbo, gore spattered across the white fur of its belly, tongue lolling. Passersby stopped and stared, confused, before giving it a wide berth.

    The woman on her phone saw nothing, until too late. She shot one leg into the air as if dancing the Can-can and span on the toe of her stiletto, narrowly avoiding landing in the oncoming traffic. Gavin caught a glimpse of red underwear and smiled as she met his gaze.

    Rebecca Field
  • I want to hold you in my mouth

    Like a secret.

    My lips, sealed, will shroud you in darkness.

    Sometimes you’ll move to remind me you’re there

    warm tremors on my cheek and tongue.

    Sometimes you’ll sleep for months

    curled up in the cold corners of my thoughts.

    Sometimes you’ll grow and choke me

    like a wild thing.

    Always I’ll want to spit you out.

    Francesca Tomlinson
  • Barman’s Fat Hairy Arse Crack

    The barman’s fat, hairy arse crack opened itself up nicely, poking free from the top of the belted, faded denim.

    Bent over, big blue catering roll in hand, the freshly spilled Guinness was mopped up professionally and painlessly by the workman-like barman.

    Double apologies ensued between the regular, once brimming cup holder and slightly embarrassed, less regular and younger glass nudger.

    A microclimatic dramedy of conflict, revealing sexual body parts, reconciliation and resolution. Early January post Xmas perils are unavoidable but rarely navigated so beautifully.

    Making up and moving on… with all of us having a little less black stuff in our vessel and the floor a little more stained than it was before.

    LAZLO KOVAX
  • Quesadillas

    Before the first pitch of the game, Savannah asks Nathan whether he’s ever been in love. Mouth full, he shakes his head. Savannah delicately bites into her quesadilla, ponders for a few moments, and decides she’d much rather date somebody who’s never been in love than someone who has.

    Lori Cramer
  • Lilly Misses The Point

    “He wasn’t an ugly duckling at all. He was an ugly swan!”

    Nick Lord Lancaster
  • Midnight in The Stationery Shop

    It’s so quiet,
    So still,
    So stationary,
    You could hear a pen drop.

    Neil Laurenson