• 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
  • Ravioli Inferno

    You died and Facetimed me from Hell.
    It’s not so bad, you said. Heat is included in the cost of rent.
    That’s nice, I said. One less bill to worry about.
    Ravioli is the national food, you tell me.
    What kind? I ask. I prefer spinach.
    Spinach, you smile. You know it’s my favourite.
    So you’re okay? I wonder.
    The view from my window is the world on fire but my apartment is warm and I can eat pasta all day. The devil loves carbs.
    I’m okay, you tell me, and suddenly I remember you’re gone.

    Olivia Spidel
  • My Cardigan

    The thing I really like about my cardigan
    Without a shadow of a doubt
    Is you can’t accidentally put it on
    Inside out

    Unlike a jumper

    Rick Sanders
  • Blank

    The woman sitting opposite me is sobbing and I didn’t even notice for the first half of my journey. Hunched over her phone she’s in a text conversation with someone and, while she waits for a reply, she dabs her nose with damp tissue and absently wipes tears from her cheeks.

    The other passengers in the carriage are staring everywhere but at her.

    *

    I move forward, gently patting her knee and she looks up at me with dark ringed, bloodshot eyes. I offer an expression that says, ‘I don’t know what the problem is but it’ll be ok.’ She half smiles as I hand over the tissues I’ve managed to pull from the bottom of my bag. She mouths ‘Thank you’, before returning to her phone.

    *

    I move forward and rest my hand on her knee but she flinches and shoots me a look that shouts, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’. I snatch my hand back as she looks to the people around us for help but they’re all cocooned in their own private worlds. I smile awkwardly, trying my best not to look like a sex offender and hold out the tissues I’ve retrieve from my bag as a peace offering. She glares at them and leaves my hand hanging in the space between us. The train carriage closes in around me.

    For the remainder of the journey she types furiously on her phone. At one point she tilts the back of her phone up towards me to take my picture. I’m fairly sure I’m now the topic of conversation on social media.

    *

    I think about tapping her knee to get her attention. I could catch her eye and smile, maybe tell her that it will be ok. I could give her the packet of tissues from the bottom of my bag and ask if there’s anything I can do. I do none of it. Social acceptance forces me to do nothing and, along with everyone else in the train carriage, I hope that she gets off soon because feigning ignorance is harder to maintain on the longer journeys.

    Steve Campbell
  • Devil’s Food Cake

    I want

    CAKE!

    More than

    a peach

    bottom;

    plan forgotten;

    It’s all behind me now.

    Susan Evans
  • The Second Little Black Box

    Next time I go to an antique shop I’m
    going to try my hardest not to think about
    the Gallagher brothers or the colour of your
    bra or how many times I’ve tried this before.

    Somethings, some thinks are repetitive and
    I think that that’s ok like the whurring of an air
    conditioning unit, you can’t be
    cool without it, so you just have to stop listening to it

    eventually. I know that I could just ask
    you by text, if I wanted to, and you’d tell
    the truth, but where’s the fun in that? Isn’t
    love supposed to be an air conditioning unit

    it’s huge and an impossible distraction
    but somehow, we all see the attraction

    Billy Pilgrim
  • Collaborators

    Here’s the problem. The witch
    needed to recruit accomplices,
    silent partners who actively hunted
    fresh human children, then
    led the unwilling babes into
    the corrupted oaks. One lone hag
    would not have survived on just charms
    or enticing scents wafting
    from her gingerbread doorstep.

    No, she must have employed double
    agents outside her boundary to
    spin secret snares and traps
    in local parishes, to better catch
    those unsuspecting innocents.

    The alternative is that parents
    walked their children to
    the start of the twisted path,
    knowing or ignoring the sacrifice,
    then turned back, leaving
    wide-eyed boys and girls to
    the dangerous siren song
    of so many interwoven branches.

    David Lewis
  • Texting In The Noughties

    YouCameUpWithThisSystem
    WhenEveryWordCounted&Cost
    ToAvoidUsinSpaces&Squeezed
    EverythingUpTogether

    EachMessageHadToBeRead
    WthGreatCare&TheReplyDrawn
    YetMoreCarefully.EssaysGoing
    Bck&ForthLookingLikeMumbo
    JumboOrSoYourGMASaid.

     

    Nathan Fidler
  • Serviette

    The serviette says
    pleasing things with appealing neatness.
    It likes having specks of soup on it.
    They are its opinions.

    James Stradner
  • 4018

    In the Great Hall, they held an exhibition
    about the Circle People.

    Their name came from the part of a
    great wheel, and great disk,

    found in the river once known as
    the Thames.

    They used glass and metal, some
    stone. Their words were probably spoken,

    rather than written. Little else about
    them is known.

    Ian Patterson
  • 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