• Open Windows

    There are so many tabs
    open in my head
    and none of them will close

    I cannot find the one that I need
    and I cannot remember what I came here for

    a song is playing
    but not all of it
    just one verse on repeat

    Charlie Bertram
  • Coffee Universe

    for Miska

    I’ll have a lovely, and a coffee
    in an attempt to override the
    down and grey with warm and black.
    No sugar.
    Huddled up in this black hole
    my spoon stirs words again, at last.
    Two lumps of lovely.
    If you are in need of some milk in
    your universe, kind eyes, have my stars.

    The expanse of my debt
    is far greater than two fourty.

    Anneleen Léger
  • Ever Been Turned

    I assumed people would notice. I’d been behaving weirdly, walking around in a bit of a daze – I could sense that much, even if I was unable to actually snap out of it. I thought someone would have worked out why, would have taken me aside and said, “I know that look – what’s her name?” like they do on television. But nobody did, so it just went on. I gradually returned to normal, eventually lost interest. At some point I realised she was never on the train anymore, she must have moved away or changed jobs or something but I didn’t notice it happen. By then I was back to normal, cosy nights in with the wife, forgetting my head had ever been turned.

    Nick Lord Lancaster
  • A Blackbird

    A blackbird bobs obscenely
    taps his toes on frozen asphalt
    listens to a chirping track
    of breakup music

    He tells the houses how
    he once saw lightning strike
    a tall tree
    and it paled and cracked
    before its shadows
    were interrupted by fire

    He beats a wing
    as if that is the punchline
    because really he knows
    the secret to breaking,
    which isn’t a secret
    but he’ll say it anyway:

    apply ice to stop the swelling.

    Madeleine Quirk
  • fantasy

    Aesthetic ecstasy,
    Driven by fantasy.
    Take a photo.
    Catch that
    Plain beauty,
    Cream,
    White,
    Baby blue,
    Gold rings
    And
    A fag for you.

    Nur Ceylan
  • The White Shroud

    Jigsaw pieces are cut
    From the clouds
    And dropped into place,
    Edges first.
    Lorries lower their eyelids
    Under a toffee-stained sky.
    There are shapes, hidden –
    Waiting for Michelangelo.

    Charmayne Pountney Board
  • genius

    he solved equations with his right hand
    and was tying a noose
    with his left and

    everyone said how smart he was at
    his funeral

    Oliver Hulme
  • Blind Prejudice

    Everywhere I look I see prejudice,
    You see a man with a turban that’s a terrorist,
    You see a guy in a hoodie you’re running from his fist,
    You see a black man on the stairs, you decide to take the lift.

    You see police and you feel safety,
    He sees police and he stands there bravely,
    you see man on a tube you’re not a questioner,
    She sees a man on a tube that’s a predator,
    You see a headscarf next to a bag that a bomb,
    She sees her bag and that’s a gift for her mum.
    You a see girl in a skirt as a slut,
    yet a guy without his shirt is called tough.

    Everywhere I look I see prejudice,
    I see judgment with no evidence,
    I watch people who see blind,
    Handing out labels when they’re unrefined,
    We’re in decline,
    We’re all confined,
    It’s like we’re inclined to have this frame of mind,

    And yet a child is somehow innocent,
    There brought into this world as a citizen,
    They see every person as equivalent,
    Then society diminishes this innocence,
    There now prejudice that no coincidence.

    And don’t get me wrong blaming this on society,
    It’s our own fault for creating a hierarchy,
    I’ts our fault that we see blindly
    And it’s our own fault for making this society.

    katerina joannou
  • Lobsters

    I have never eaten a lobster.

    I almost did once,
    but was told my country tongue
    would be unable to distinguish its
    rich golden hay
    from dust.

    I’ve seen them in glare-lit tanks
    banded together in their shell suits
    like a train carriage of businessfolk
    swaying to the metallic tide,
    banging eyes
    the colour of summer berries in labour
    and claws like coastlines.

    Is it true that some are blue?
    What a rhapsody,
    what a jazz. Rusted
    Gershwins,
    such trombones.
    Scuttle and cacophony.

    I have never eaten a lobster,
    but as a child
    I refused to face the beach barefoot
    in fear of blood-orange
    barbed wire.

    They are a story to me.

    Ellora Sutton
  • Between lightning and thunder

    frozen statue still
    into the void of my chest
    rushes excitement

    Chris Porter
  • Ice, Ice, Baby

    I love your smile always
    But with that white scarf
    And that blue dress and
    Your bright eyes, I feel wise;
    Not my usual mess of thoughts,
    Not even quite jumbled a lot,
    Not worried I’ll fumble or stop
    Impressing, not worried about
    Undressing eventually though
    That’d be nice, no doubt.
    Problem is I’m all ice,
    Like that blue and white gown
    Building seascapes for my heart.

    Liam Keating
  • Hardly sins

    Sometimes I get lost in what Kaveh writes in the glass jar at 3 am
    The stretching search terms
    The orders filling in the basket
    The length of film I had taken to get developed
    My father carrying negatives
    Only to find the sweltering sun he misses
    Has singed the only picture of his
    Youth and his leg wide open
    And cut from the time God had marked him for
    Death and he had narrowly escaped
    Through a broken window on a bus
    And his whole leg is a shining oscillating tale
    Thin as onion skin
    Thin with tears
    Growing soft with disuse
    The nerves that have curled up and died
    I press his leg and he doesn’t know I’m there
    Couldn’t tell if I was air or nothing or a needle stitching what fell apart again
    I spend money like it belongs to me instead of it being borrowed
    But each note is so sweet I fold them as small and as thin as I can
    Feed them into the camera and tell my father I can bring his youth back if he smiles
    I can heal his leg with my lens
    But my length of film is empty
    There are these two spots where something tried to be born
    And I can’t face my father’s defeated face
    Thinned with tears
    So I avoid him at noon, the sunset in the living room
    At night, 2 am, fair, dawn, father forgive me these little things

    Asmaa Jama
  • Gathering

    In the middle of the birch trees,
    he calls out the opening of her name
    which is Olia, and in this round emptiness,
    she writes between the lines of birch
    on her fingers in berry juice
    why and how she will feed him.

    Silenced by her silence, he walks in
    his new and unaccustomed greys,
    tracing back to her the lineage
    of the swampy grass, marked by
    severed trees and the absences
    of earth their feet had made.

    In a hollow by the brook, he finds her
    sitting in the moss, caressing into falling
    bunches of berries. “I’ll wait for you
    in the boat by the mouth of the river.”
    The lines around her lips, etched in dark
    juices, dark years, smile “I will come.”

    For forty years he has waited at the mouth
    of some river for her – gathered with her
    and then separated. He counts his crop
    of mushrooms four times before calling again.
    She calls back his name, half an hour passes,
    and she joins him.

    Madeleine Pulman-Jones
  • time? don’t know her.

    the morning mist meanders,
    the soft sun surfaces,
    and Lana lulls us slow.

    i realise that the sky tastes like
    peach lollies in my mouth
    i rest my head on yours
    and
    your smoke
    and fresh linen,
    that was the scent of the day.

    Harley
  • A Great Writer

    Is entertaining a friend at her home when there is a knock at the door. It turns out to be a delivery: her latest book is back from the printers. The friend, far younger than she is and not particularly bright, is anxious to get the box open. He keeps exclaiming at the size of the package and all the books that there must be inside. The great writer is reluctant to open the box as she’d much rather go through the book later, when she’s alone. The delivery of a new book from the printers is an event filled with trepidation: she has learned over time that mistakes are inevitable. One hopes that they will be minor – the odd missed comma or extra space between words – but occasionally there is a gross, unpardonable error that will inevitably sour the relationship between herself and the publisher, making things especially awkward when the editor is a friend, as is the case in this instance. Her companion, however, begs and pleads like a child trying to winkle an early Christmas present from his parents, and eventually the great writer gives in. He gleefully plunges towards the box and tears at it feverishly, emitting a little squeal as the first book emerges from the bubble wrap. After regarding it with a strangely ravenous look in his eyes, he passes the book to the writer and delves back into the box. His groan of disappointment confirms her worst fears:
    “What is it?”
    “They’ve made a mistake!”
    “What?”
    “They’re all the same book!”

    Kit Maude
  • adaptation

    we used to sing “adap- adaptation…
    changes in the body to fit a location”

    to remember why we can’t breathe
    underwater but your fish can.

    in the playground, all our bodies made tender
    by play, by fingers interlocked, and your bite,

    your breathmarks on my wristbone,
    you wished away offences caused when

    you threatened to tell everyone about me
    stealing your crisps. now I mend myself

    for a different you. cast my limbs just so that
    I might fit more comfortably under your arm,

    in the palm of a friend, when I am just so
    small, hooked on and impossibly breathless,

    sprouting gills in the guilt of coming to know
    the impossibility of my environment.

    Madeleine Pulman-Jones
  • Appetite

    “You won’t always have this appetite.” Jane McKie

    Wooing her is like licking
    an electric fence, all wet hunger and idiot shock.
    You won’t always want this trouble.
    You won’t always have this appetite.
    You won’t always write DMs and then
    delete, and then refresh. You won’t always insist
    on getting your chin wet. This story stretches
    only as far as browsing the cost of a flight.
    Ask lightning, an easier trip, a gentler blast
    than a nude at midnight.
    Girls are taught to make
    hunger –
    I am built for sating, packet-mix, preheated,
    impatient. I am buttered peaches,
    I am the wide field of expectation, I am the calm cow
    who asks how the new fence tastes, and I am proof
    that you might always have that appetite.

    alice tarbuck
  • If We Had Met Before

    Maybe on the first
    day of first grade,
    before we had money
    and all that came with it,
    before there were hand marks
    all over both of us,
    before we stumbled
    like blind men without dogs,
    it would be just me
    standing behind you
    in the class picture,
    two of my fingers
    making bunny ears
    above your head
    small but sure as soldiers,
    saying
    it’s you, it’s going to be you.

    Julia Wagner
  • HONOUR THE DAY

    I start today
    Washing away
    The wine stain
    On my mouth

    Leiah Fournier
  • My Mother Taught Me

    My mother taught me to eke
    out inherent goodness in others, even
    if amounting to only a few drops and shower
    them with waterfalls of praise, to behave
    with books as with babies,
    gently. I can now command reams of paper into to-
    do lists that efficiently crumple
    from ticks
    and scratches
    she told me, wound practical
    people less. My mother taught me that the
    kindest kind of kindness
    is always spontaneous and unremembered,
    but sings as silence would when
    it comes back; I see the poetry
    in her eyes when she hears it. My mother
    taught me to exploit
    discounts, fresh fruits and her
    superlative cooking; my stomach grudges
    being away as much as I do, but grudges,
    like life, are not permanent she said.
    Love is. Loving is.
    Like oxygen, her love is life-sustaining but invisible,
    My mother never taught me love, I
    understood it the moment she cradled
    me in her arms.

    Anuradha Rao
  • At Barrio

    Roll out,
    in a sticky mass.
    Whistling indistinctly,
    we stumble on into a
    round, circular night.
    It’s a perversion of the bestest kind.
    I open my mouth, with words
    ready to defile the host.
    But derision is an ache in my gut, just where I feel you the most.
    A fine wind lands headfirst onto the solitary candle, and so I lose your face and your aquiline nose.
    I weep up a storm cloud, spilling out on the asphalt.
    I am an urban pomegranate.
    I take to the Underground, just minutes before shutdown. I am here most of the year: a mole in search for a home.

    Idil Galip
  • The Scotrail Lady

    Not much is awake yet.
    The train snub-noses into the dawn
    and the dawn shrugs. It’s not warm.
    Polmont November. Geese.
    The gummed rails’ murmur.

    I tell you about the documentary
    I watched, in which
    some smart person sought out
    The Scotrail lady.
    You don’t know her,

    under the buffer of your border
    river, in London, where everything
    is spoken in the dialect computer.
    But I tell you
    one woman gives us this day

    our daily bread: incantation
    of Coupar, Leuchars, Dundee,
    Arbroath, Montrose. I know
    she recited each calling point –
    Crianlarich, where this train will divide –

    a magic three times. In a list,
    the penultimate stop,
    and each journeys close:
    – and Mallaig. Bathgate,
    where this train terminates.

    She said she did it years ago –
    Glaswegian actress with a gas bill
    to pay – but that travellers still
    write letters to tell her of kinks
    in the sequence at Dumfries, Tweedbank, Drem.

    There’s no more dawn at Croy
    than there was at Falkirk High. I say
    the word dreich for you to learn,
    but you’re sleeping: lean and braced
    as though facing a galeforce wind.

    But in your weird and moving dream –
    cold shuck of glass at your temple
    and the tea-trolley’s ankle-break whirr –
    you’ll hear her cast the glamour
    of our impending arrival.

    One day I’ll write her a letter
    myself: say I’m thankful
    for journeys she’s guided me on:
    change here for the bus link and services to –
    travel in the rear two carriages…

    At Glasgow Queen Street you wake,
    and it’s like she’s still guardian angeling –
    take all your personal belongings
    with you – knowing you’re precious,
    your skeleton carefully made.

    Take good care, she says, on the station.

    Claire Askew
  • 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