Riggwelter #11

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RIGGWELTER #11 JULY 2018 ed. Amy Kinsman

The following works are copyrighted to their listed authors Š2018. Riggwelter Press is copyrighted to Amy Kinsman Š2017.

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Foreword To the underground Parenthood Emanations from a mall Street Elevation #29 How to ride a bike Two men and a hornets’ nest Charity Serpico Wants To Play Breakfast in bed Amaryllis Study Breathing Space Prophet Cobbled Path Paradise Safe Harbour David Bowie – Life on Mars? this intricate silence the minotaur remembers Appalachian Magick Lumber Small Town Haibun Hate Speech for a Rhinoceros Glasgow’s Clockwork Orange Allsorts Universal Credit Orders Artist and Empire One Hundred Mayors Screening Cage learning to write again Cardinal Going Away Contributors Acknowledgements

4 5 6 7 11 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23 24 29 30 31 32 34 35 37 38 39 40 41 43 44 45 50 51 52 53 54 58



Welcome to the eleventh issue! This issue is all about the uncanny – all that is familiar but just a little off-kilter: cats creeping at the corner of your vision; beloved pets suddenly turned violent; things that resemble human beings but aren’t; liminal spaces; Kafkaesque government policy; strange anatomies; changing geographies. These are the stories that question our realities – does reality even exist? In a world where reality TV stars now lead countries, in an age of “post-truth” and fake news, existence seems increasingly surreal and lives feel like they’re being lived on the edge of apocalypse. As I write this, Manchester, England is hotter than Malibu, USA and a huge wildfire is burning two miles behind my house. Crazy, right? Before we get too post-structural, some thanks. Thank you to the firefighters, farmers, mountain rescue teams and volunteers working tirelessly to keep that wildfire I mentioned above under control. Thank you to everyone fighting our surreal reality. Thank you to Riggwelter’s fantastic reviews team (Jack Little, S. A. Leavesley and two others to be announced in the near future). Without you I would be suffocating under a mountain of poetry books, which incidentally is my preferred method of death. Thank you to the Riggwelter community: those that submit, those that support us on social media and most importantly, those that read. You’re who we do it for. Enjoy!

Amy Kinsman (Founding Editor)


To the underground

It’s the black cat’s corpse on the pavement that scares me – not its cold death but that it’s a day for stepping over dead black cats. My only ideas, little bullies stab-stab me through the entrance, press me through stubborn barriers to join the surge. The jester serenades. Feet stepping tip-tap down escalator, down, slantily sinking suck felt falling. On the platform, wait. A breeze shushes from the tunnel, embraces my face. The train expects me. Through its door I grip a rail, carriage sways and a young woman dazzles, turns the rhythm to a dance; throws back her head and laughs, catches my smile in her eye.

Louisa Campbell



I carry my uterus to the backyard, cradling it in my arms and bury it there underneath the rusted-out monkey bars in the fertile Pennsylvania topsoil and I sit down next to the disturbed earth waiting for something to grow I sit for days under the sun, the moon, the clouds and rains watching as bones begin to sprout from the dirt Over the weeks a tiny skeleton emerges void of skin all blood and tissue fragile I take it in my arms it stains my shirt I carry it home it calls me

father Jay Douglas


Emanations from a mall

The abandoned shopping malls began their migration in the summer before Sylvie’s youngest son Richard went to college. They first saw the news while shopping at the Silver Birch Mall. The Sears was closing, and their cart was close to overflowing with sheets, pillows and countless things Richard would need as a freshman. At first, everyone had thought the videos online were an elaborate hoax, or some clever marketing campaign, but when the TV networks beamed live footage, the world took notice. Hundreds of incidents were broadcast, with incredible sights of dilapidated malls tearing themselves from their foundations, ambling over fields and highways. The military was activated but stood down when it became apparent the malls meant no harm. Scientists, politicians, religious leaders and business executives debated hotly on TV why some malls left, and others stayed. The malls moved to empty spaces—deserts, rocky coastlines and boreal forests—before smashing and breaking themselves apart. It was surprising how quickly the incident became lost in the regular news cycle of scandals, global conflicts and tragedies. Sylvie did wonder if the malls had thoughts or emotions, and why they were leaving, but she kept herself focused on home. She wanted to make the most of the last few weeks with Richard. She ferried him to and from friends’ houses, enjoying dinner in the evenings or watching Netflix together. She avoided looking at the days he crossed off the calendar in his room.



Sylvie helped Richard move into his dorm at Tilson College on a Sunday. In the evening they shared a bowl of nachos at some hot new Tex-Mex restaurant chain. She counted away each chip until there was nothing left. Three children gone out into the world over the last five years. Sylvie struggled to keep calm as Richard spoke excitedly about his frosh week schedule. Before paying the check, she went to the washroom and stared in the mirror for a long time, splashing cold water onto her face, telling herself not to lose it. “I’ll be back for Thanksgiving, Mom,” Richard said as he hugged her in the parking lot. “I know… I love you,” said Sylvie, her voice brittle, stammering. “Have a great time.” She got into the car blinking back tears, telling herself off for acting foolishly. She drove away, skipping through radio channels before shutting it off, focusing on the sound of the wheels on the road. As she neared the on-ramp for the highway a pool of darkness loomed off to the side. She cut across the lanes and followed a curving road that proceeded into a vast and empty parking lot. A few fireflies zipped around as she sat in silence, clenching the wheel tight. She opened the door and stepped into the warm evening air, standing in front of the car. She sat on the hood, the headlights shining around her into the nothing-space where a mall had once been.



Although the November winds blew cold, Sylvie found herself taking long walks around the neighborhood. One evening she went left instead of right and came upon the now closed Silver Birch Mall. Already, nature was reclaiming the space. Weeds had sprouted up from cracks in the empty parking lot and cobwebs hung from the doorways. Bleached store signs scarred the exterior walls, like faded tattoos. She noticed that someone had smashed a window and she peered through. She reached for a handle and opened the door. A musty scent filled the empty space, her footsteps echoing on the tiles as she walked through familiar corridors. She went to the food court, where a stilled fountain was silent. She was sure she’d sat here with Richard once, when it was just her and him, a day or two before he’d started kindergarten. He had giggled as the jets of water made loud splashes and plops. Now, it was filled with leaves. Motes of dust drifted around her. Sylvie imagined the great mall listening, drawing in where once there had been so much noise. “You’ve not left yet?” she said aloud, running a hand along the chipped tiles. A sharp edge pricked her index finger and she stared as a bead of blood appeared. There was a sudden rumble and a crack spread across the stained floor. Dust dropped from stilled ceiling fans as the walls heaved and shook. Sylvie shrieked and ran back the way she’d come, pushing the door open, tripping and tumbling into the parking lot. With a rending sound, not unlike a scream, the mall lifted itself from the ground, pulling great chunks of concrete and steel into a roughly humanoid shape. Its movement stirred up a massive cloud of dust, and in the distance a car alarm blared.


Remnants of signage and words were visible within its form. Store names and posters, broken down into particulate forms and shapes. The mall turned its head and stared west, across the now empty space and to the farms and fields beyond. “You’re looking for the others?” said Sylvie, trembling. “They’re out that way.” It turned to face her, a jagged visage of broken metal, inhuman, but familiar. A great knee pressed into the ground as it craned its neck forward. Metal bones jutted out and Sylvie found herself reaching forwards, her hands trembling. She grabbed the cold metal tight, wedging her feet in a cleft. The ground fell away as the mall stretched upwards, its feet lifting and falling, stepping over the parking lot and past the service road. She glanced back, watching as her home slipped away in vast bounds. The setting sun shimmered, reflecting in broken steel and glass around Sylvie. Shivering, she willed her heart to be still. She closed her eyes, thinking of places from before and places new.

Paul Alex Gray


Street Elevation #29 Robert Boucheron


How to ride a bike

I am the girl in the bicycle lane, riding her pink bike, helmet covering wild hair, white T-shirt, huge grin. The road that runs behind my childhood home winds around perfect two-stories and a tiny park. I rode with the training wheels attached around the gentle curve of the road, loving the spring air that carried me faster and faster, loving how the farther I went the more houses and trees and road I saw, until I could finally spot the neat roof of my own house. My mother stood in the road one day to take that picture of me with the fake grin plastered across my face. I already knew how to execute that smile for pictures. But it’s easy, really. Easy as riding a bike. My father took the training wheels off one day. You’re too old not to know how to ride bikes, Wanda. You start now. His hands pushed me hard and then let go. Sent me pedalling wildly, desperately reaching for hands I knew wouldn’t catch me. He watched from the sidewalk, arms crossed. The next time, I pedalled harder. A few weeks later, I could ride without wobbling. My father took me to the park and walked the dog out in the grass field, while I rode circles around the jungle gym. I pedalled until my movements were smooth and balanced, over and over in endless rings. I looked up for a moment, looked out at the field, my front tire gave out from under me. I flew, smacked hard on the pavement, my elbows, knees, and face on fire. A small blond boy on the jungle gym asked if I was okay. Yeah, I choked out, shaking, and got back onto the bike and pedalled out to the field gasping for air. Dad, I. I fell. I’m hurt. He looked up from the dog, from his phone call, at the mess of tears, dirt, and blood mixing together on his daughter's face. Wanda, shut up I’m on the phone. Dad He shooed me away with one arm and turned to face the setting sun.


I choked back sobs. I’m too old to cry, too old to fall off of bikes. I hopped onto my bike and rode back down the bicycle lane, wild hair streaming behind me like frayed ribbons, white T-shirt spotted with blood, down the winding road that leads straight to my house. Wanda Deglane


Two men and a hornets’ nest

Two men and a hornets' nest on a day whipped with leaves: the hornets' nest high out of reach in the chimney stack, its smoke wandering out to be blown to hell over a moonscape of scattered foam, and the men, thin and skanked, drawn down to skin and bone by a low-lit world, an underworld, bones defining nettled skin in some determined way as if to hold their own against the light. Oh, the hoot they'd had, like some circus act, balancing their makeshift pole rigged with wire and canisters of gas, wheeling twenty, thirty foot up, aiming the jet at a crack in the brick. We pass round the binoculars and chat. Our new neighbours tell us they are Christians: they don't drink; they are clean. It's been hard, too complicated to explain, but they're here now and it's OK. They're the lucky ones, they say, watching the crack, its pudding of bright foam and the last few hornets clunking drunkenly at the stack, butting and looping back and fore in the bewildered air. Jane Lovell



Spiders don’t like to be caged even if they don’t ever go anywhere, or even if it’s for their own good. After a couple of days they stop making webs across the glass stop scouring the perimeter of the tank stop trying to push their legs through the fine mesh of the lid. Instead, they will eventually fall to huddle in a corner, legs curled around their bodies as if in self-embrace, self-defense and finally, they just die, fade into dried-out exoskeletons, fur-covered carapaces indistinguishable from the corpses that tumble out of the vacuum cleaner bag each spring. Holly Day


Serpico Wants To Play

You notice the strangest things when you’re being squeezed to death by a playful anaconda. I can see the translucent delicate cobwebs adorn our basement’s smoke detector, gently swaying as the nearby vent blows warm air, tickling the back of my neck. A sickening black arachnid is slowly pulling its ant prey along a strand, a strongman acrobat defying gravity. Our smoke detector’s flashing red light creates a tiny crime scene, reminding me that I should have replaced that battery months ago. We bought Serpico at a dingy strip mall pet store ten years ago. He was only a foot long then, sometimes gently wrapping himself around my forearm as I dropped a mouse into his cage. Today, eight-foot Serpico has been methodically sculpting my spine into a perfect corkscrew. Each graceful turn releases an excruciating “pop!” as my vertebrae separate up to the cervical bony rings just below my skull. Closing my eyes, I imagine Serpico as my straitjacket; mimicking Houdini’s wiggles, tightening, then releasing, relaxing, then quickly slipping downward before my crafty serpent could react, face down on the cold concrete. Rolling over, lightness and the pure joy of escape overcome me as I slither upstairs, starving.

Jeffrey Toney


Breakfast in bed

In the morning when you bring me strawberries it is the way you concentrate so carefully to select each unspoiled bursting berry the ripest, reddest; it is the way you watch as you raise these gifts to my mouth and place them between my lips; it is the way your eyes see me clearly as I suck and savour these fragrant fruits. I turn my eyes away – red fruit in glass bowl on pure white sheet – then, it is the way you lick juice from your own lips that wakes new light as our eyes meet. Jackie Biggs


Amaryllis Study Marsha Burke


Breathing Space

I hook my fingers under the half-moon of the handle and pull. A fug of metal and ammonia escapes into the evening as we stumble into the kiosk, our bodies twisting and shuffling until we are facing each other. It’s a few long seconds before the door closes behind us but we wait – no point forcing it, resistance is part of the design. My chin doubles; I’m trying to get another look at him but he’s too close and there’s no light. I can make out the shape of his head, a slab of fleshy rectangle and I touch the soft, thinning hair curling at his collar. I don’t usually go for men with moustaches and the approach of his gaping mouth reminds me of when my son was little, pressing his puppets into my face, damp felted jaws gnashing, growling, Kissy Kissy Kissy! I’m not sure I’m his type either; Matronly Goth is my signature look since my husband went. We break off from the urgent gnawing and I back up a bit, slide my elbow along the shelf where the phone book would have been, feel my bracelet digging into the tender, puffy skin on my inner forearm. He looks around, disorientated, like a tourist who popped in to use ye olde payphone and now has unsupervised access to the local defibrillator. I picture the parish notices growing out of the top of my head. Bun Sale in the Foyer. Carers Needed. Wanted: Second Hand Bike. I try to find a way back in my mind; to the car, the walk-in wardrobe, the chemical toilet at Glasto. I slide my arm around his middle, bracing myself as if to lift a giant toddler and hoist him towards me. His beer-firm belly presses up against me and I bury my face in his chest so hard that my nose is bent at an angle. He smells a bit fusty, half-dried washing and wet dog. My husband hated dogs but I wonder if I should get one now; a faithful companion. I am listening to the breath whistling through my


restricted airways when suddenly he lets go, loses balance and the back of his head meets the pane of glass behind him with a dull pat. He apologises, asks me if I’m alright, punctuates his concern with a small burp. I nod and hum something jaunty that sounds a bit like the Antiques Roadshow theme. A wodge of gum, splayed like a dirtywhite angel on the door hinge, catches my eye. The moment has definitely passed. Like an elusive sneeze, it’s just not in my control any more. None of it is. We make polite excuses and push our way back into the night. It’s a few long seconds before the door closes behind us; no point forcing it, resistance is part of the design.

Monica Dickson



Before time was called on time the wee chattering sparrows fell to muteness in his deaf ears, and for days and nights his tired eyes nursed tomes from piled towers by his chair. Horrid histories, stories brutal in their candour. His loud CDs tuned the air to thick curd, as he waited. Scared and sacred music beat a sugared meter, morphed into tart steps, feet stung by hornets lurking in yellow stickiness. Fear hollowed his old sheepskin slippers to dark grooves where his toes curled. He drew the heavy red drapes and the corner lamp played charades in half-light, like we did once. Outside in the sky, aircraft juggernaut the earth to hell and he congratulates his nightmares and their true prophesies. Today, I listen hard. I need to glimpse the light falling, through French windows It is not the end, until the end, I say. He frowns, refuses to give up his ghosts, satisfied that he was right all along. Ceinwen Haydon


Cobbled Path Jeffrey Toney



The opposite of a great truth is also a great truth. But strength born of leisure – impossible. What we saved on flowers, we invested in seeds, and soon had enough flowers to each die twice of floral asphyxiation. When they drew together, they called the drawings “scribulations,” as though drawing were one of life’s great trials, about which they might later testify in song, or speak about in congregation when the preacher called for stories of faith and temptation, though their drawings were vibrant and joyful, more colorful than a bouquet of birthday balloons. An example of desire gone good enough. Obstreperous detail. I care more for your careless love than I’d care to admit.

Andy Stallings


Safe Harbour

Digg had always felt like an alien, a wee E.T. stranded on this strange, blue-green backwater of a planet. He couldn’t really remember how he’d got here. It was as if he’d been somehow winked into life one clear, cold February night. An eye-blink, and then there he stood: thirteen years old, wearing jeans zipped and elasticated at the ankles, a frayed t-shirt emblazoned with Chinese characters, and dirty white high-top shoes. He knew his name and address, the school he attended, and the basic details of his friends and enemies. All this information, but an absence of understanding, of purpose. This might have been normal for all he knew, but he had to be careful; too many questions could arouse suspicion.

‘Do you remember being small?’ he asked his friend, Jon, one May afternoon. They were sitting on a sun baked climbing-frame in a small litter-strewn park. Jon frowned, his dark, slightly pudgy face instantly looking older, more handsome. ‘Like a baby, you mean?’ he said. ‘Yeah, or a toddler. Smaller. Younger,’ Digg said, trying to seem nonchalant. The truth was he could recall nothing prior to the last few months. That winter night, when he’d become conscious of his existence, was his first real recollection. All the other stuff seemed programmed in, like strings of computer commands.

The first morning, he’d woken in a room that seemed vaguely familiar, but the bed was facing the wrong way, and the books and clothes strewn around were like those of a


stranger. Digg descended the stairs and found a kitchen. Head pounding, stomach tight, he entered. Sitting at an untidy dining table was a man in a blue polyester business suit. He had thick, dark hair and a bushy beard. Digg knew that this face must match one in his mental data-bank. He squinted in concentration, trying to access the memory. ‘Morning, Digg,’ said the man. Digg was still and silent; his eyes shut tight. ‘Digg, are you alright, son?’ Got it! Digg opened his eyes. ‘Yes, Dad,’ he said. The word felt odd in his mouth. He wasn’t certain that Dads were a known phenomenon on his own world.

‘There’s a photo of me with my dad,’ said Jon, stretching his legs out across the scorching metal of the climbing-frame. ‘I’m about five. We’re on a merry-go-round. I can remember it, ’cos after one go around I was crying to get off, and Dad shouted at me.’ ‘That’s a bit shit, man,’ said Digg. It hadn’t taken long to pick up the everyday speech rhythms of his peers. ‘He left my mum and me just after that, the arsehole.’ Jon added. At a loss, Digg simply nodded and repeated Jon’s final word.

Digg’s dad turned out to be OK. He was friendly enough. Not too much of an arsehole. Not an arsehole at all, in fact. However, Digg had come to realise that a standard trope of teenage discourse was that adults were all assumed idiotic until proven otherwise, and, even then, their credibility remained in doubt. To praise a parent or teacher was socially fatal and to be diligently avoided.


In the house, there was also a woman. She was small, with fine features and hair that changed colour every six weeks. This, it turned out, was his mum; his dad’s wife. The humans called it married. Life-long pair bonding. It seemed implausible, but there it was. She was OK too. A little over-solicitous maybe, a touch fussy; but her intentions were good. She always smelled really pleasant. Like flowers and basil and citrus fruits.

‘How about you?’ asked Jon. ‘What do you remember?’ Digg, heart racing, decided to change the subject. ‘Did you see they sank that Argentinian ship? The Belgrano.’ ‘Yeah,’ said Jon. ‘Serves them right.’ Digg wasn’t so sure. Since discovering that he was living in a place called Britain, which was presently at war with another country half-way around the planet, he’d begun to detect serious flaws in adult human thinking. As far as he could tell, the daily killing was predicated on the disputed ownership of a distant penguin colony. This, also, seemed highly implausible.

That night he had a dream. He was standing in the small square garden behind his house when a dazzling light appeared in the sky. In his dream he’d made it appear just by thinking. It drew closer, brightness intensifying. When he woke, he knew how to get home.

Nightly, he'd raise his arms to the glittering, star-stuffed skies and crease his brow, willing them to come for him. His parents began to ask questions, so he asked for a


telescope for Christmas. It would be the perfect cover for standing outside at all hours, trying to summon a lift.

The long-awaited festival, which involved the worship of a baby who’d been born in the Middle East over two thousand years ago, finally arrived. It was said that he’d grown-up to work miracles, suffered a horrific execution, and risen from the dead. According to one of Digg’s teachers, about two billion people believed this. He added it to his expanding list of implausible things. Later, he wondered if, like him, Jesus had been stranded on Earth, waiting for a ride home.

Years passed. Digg grew. Body hair sprouted in unexpected places, spots crowded his previously smooth face. His friends paired-off, but he never quite understood their motivation.

‘Becky Jones likes you, Digg,’ Jon said one night at a sixth-form party. ‘Yeah?’ Digg replied. ‘Well, why don’t you ask her out?’ Jon said with a suggestive wiggle of his thick eyebrows. ‘I don’t like her,’ Digg said. He knew he should have said ‘fancy her,’ but it was another of those expressions that felt all wrong in his mouth. ‘What?’ Jon spluttered. ‘She’s well fit! What’s the matter with you?’ Digg was silent. ‘Sorry, mate, I didn’t mean…’ Jon began.


‘No, Jon, it’s alright. I dunno. Yeah, she’s nice… I’m… I’m waiting for something…’ Waiting for the spaceship to come and take him home.

School done, exams passed with ease, Digg packed his bags and moved to London to study cosmology. There were a few good spots for stargazing in the otherwise lightpolluted city, and Digg’s favourite winter haunt was the Grove Park nature reserve.

It was a cold, clear night in February, and he was setting up his telescope. ‘Beautiful night,’ she said. Digg looked up from his task. ‘Asta,’ she said, extending her mitten-clad hand. ‘Digg,’ he said. Their hands touched, and then he felt it: he was home.

Together, they watched the skies, two wee E.T.s stranded on this strange blue-green backwater of a planet. The spaceship never came, but in one another they’d found safe harbour.

Adam Sear


David Bowie – Life on Mars? Mark Reeves


this intricate silence

listen a tree moves air. you hear you sleep in spaces the full colour white & sounds my meaning you hear you here in reflux you think & where the night touches ground a dark line the darkening still you hear a tree breathe Reuben Woolley


the minotaur remembers

like crows perched on the blind eyes of streetlights in the yellowgrey haze of summer afternoons like fever was lucid there was running through a maze of vision and i cast no shadow moved slowly between your open legs and what it felt like was christianity reinvented like shiva ascending and i taught myself the names of all the saints opened my eyes against the ceiling and then straight up through found the sky above the ocean found the wound where i'd left it drank as much of the poison as i could John Sweet


Appalachian Magick

It’s in your blood, inherited like your crooked, bowed legs from your mother and her hatred of anything Ford your father’s scoliosis, his bad knees, his love of rum or your great grandmother’s yellow-toothed smile. You don’t need to understand it or where it came from only need to know that it pulsates under your skin, that the world unravels then ravels itself again in the time it takes to blink your eyes becomes something new. It comes through when you need it, this unravelling: when there’s just-enough money for food even though there’s not. When the car runs on empty for a week and counting with just-enough gas. It happens when you aren’t looking for it: When your bank account yields an extra $100 more than you need to make rent When you see a fairy ring by the garden and the tomatoes sprout four feet high that year red and round and dripping with juice. When a pack of empty cigarettes offers up one more on a sweltering August day. It comes in the small things and the small-big things. So you know in a visceral way in a carnal way the way you know a man can hold the still-beating heart of a bloody, dead doe in his hands because of words like muscle memory that there are things you can’t explain and places you can’t see


- places you can’t see that there are stones in the thick of the woods you can’t kick over, step over, touch because if you disturb the circle the devil will find you so you take the long way around even though you don’t believe in the devil anymore. Jay Douglas


Lumber Geraldine Clarkson


Small Town Haibun

with a line from Maggie Smith.

There is a murder trial happening in the courtroom next to my office. I hear details from the court reporter and the bailiff. I dry heave in the third-floor bathroom. Sometimes I think that most kindness I see in the world happens in the Aldi parking lot. Women, some I know are widows, passing their shopping carts onto the next, waving away the offered quarters, asking that they just pass it on to the next.

A child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake, or left under a motel bed frame

I am getting used to life in town, again: streets with sidewalks, school buses stopping at all the corners, the church bells that hand out the hours. Since moving our lives into this house on a corner, across from a limestone church, catty-corner from a giant inflatable swan doing back and forth laps in a tiny swimming pool, my sons and I have watched a fawn and its mother eat in our backyard. The doe is a large one, eyes dark and always fixed on her baby.

Trash bag, blue cooler odor so strong the police won’t bring it inside


The fawn has slowly lost its spots, the dot-to-dot peppering its back. It comes into the yard to eat the hawthorn berries dropped from the crooked tree, comes almost to the dining room window. We throw out apple cores for him to find, but I explain to my sons that we don’t want him to trust us. We leave the food, he finds it. We don’t want him eating from our hands. The world is full of animals. Animals. So full of animals.

Barbara Costas-Biggs


Hate Speech for a Rhinoceros

A horn par excellence, water source in poems. Morally superior skin, a scenic form of knowledge, to be sure. Oddtoed, made of clay and everyday severity. Nobody, and I mean nobody, pities victory; fire’s suicide by tears. Written in your hindgut by the sunlight’s stylus: Thou Shalt Not Die. Jake Sheff


Glasgow’s Clockwork Orange

in his the tin wheelchair soldier


to scratch

the artists model

plays statues for hours

an unfettered mind

freewheeling from pigment prisons

bumming a ride

dressed to kill

the student of


a tobacco scented refugee from Glasgow’s tenements

at home in a box

1000 yard stare



peerless dreams

stealing glass eyes

syringe an Temazepam psychedelics’ optical tribes illusion

Karen Downs-Barton

invisible limbs


fractural faux perfection

Allsorts (Cover Image) Geraldine Clarkson


Universal Credit

Learn this lesson: assume the supplicant’s position, low before the arbiter. Hang your petition on the ox’s horn and pray as it turns and plods inside the keep. Forty-two days in the wilderness, longer than Christ’s self-chosen stay. Time to go home and count the copper pennies in your palm, time to scour the bins for corn cobs overlooked, scraps on bones, nubs of bread, hide candles and kindling, beg remission on your rent. Time to forage hedgerows, scrape bark for baking bread, claw the furrows for potatoes, hush the hungry child while you lie clamped and clemmed, fashioning hope from feathers and dung. You may be lucky: beneficence parsimonious may be granted or day on day on days delays will find you in winter’s shadow outside the castle walls. Frank McMahon




I put on the uniform and pledged to obey all orders. When I returned, I attempted to commit suicide. I was, obviously, unsuccessful. There’s more stigma to a failed attempt than to a successful one. We worship success. I’m a narcoleptic child trying to concentrate on the catechism. Sleep is sweeter and sweeter. The priest puts his hand down my pants. I fall asleep again. When I awaken, I know it has been a dream. I put on another uniform and pledged to obey orders. I cheated on my wife because those were the only vows I felt free to break. She was breaking her vows too. We were both caught in the same trap. That was partly why we loved each other.


There are birds in these alleys who conspire with the squirrels. Squirrels are rats with bushy tails. Birds are escapees from the dinosaur kingdom. They are looking for other allies. They are sending secret telegrams to the Islamic State. They are contemplating what sort of decapitations they might be capable of. We have pulled out of our alleys. We have left them to the Axis of Evil. They know when we’re going to take out our garbage, and our recycling. They know when


we’re going to drag out a tree limb that split off from the trunk in the last storm. They know when we’re going to drag a cracked toilet out there, or some scrap carpet. It’s their territory. They’re not worried about our little incursions. They have advanced intelligence. They have done psychological studies of us. They know we are powered by fear and greed. There are birds in these alleys, crows and magpies. Even their robin confederates are rough and cynical. Their voices are as hoarse as Leonard Cohen’s. They accept his homage to them as birds on the wire. They enjoy the dark cynicism of his songs. They are like the songs that emerge from their own beaks.

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois


Artist and Empire

A redacted poem after the 2016 Tate Britain exhibition of the same name using titles of included artefacts. Figures painted on rocks and carved on a gouty stem tree, standing female figure, pendant in human form, spiritual form guiding the leviathan of Retribution. Life on the ocean the usual occupations of young officers in the steerage of a British frigate at sea. A privateer. Lay back, keep quiet, think of what made Britain so great: our bones in your collections, our hair in your collections, our skin in your collections. Hostage. And what of war? After the battle a cock match beside a twelve-story gopuram of empire and caste wooden male figures used as gable ornament; ceremonial scenes, entertaining with a Nautch and santhal drummers the secret music party goddess tune and dancing with flying apsara, figures EnTWINed. A page from an album, a mural inside a cave, depicting a circle map, all roads lead to ‘face to face’ questions… ‘The trophies of empire, or, restoration?’

Karen Downs-Barton


One Hundred Mayors

Each Spring we place one hundred mayors around the city, blank canvasses to project upon. Feral nightshades, surrealistic illusions, bring to life the lions and hares, but frighten when they’re worn by mayors. One is covered in mosaic mirrors to better reflect the local surroundings. Pigeons seeking restrooms lobby unsubtly. Body shape curves distort our viewpoints. At the end of each summer, sold off to the highest bidder. They appear at parties, like static clowns. Stand around uselessly, in lobbies of foreign offices. Neighbours shake their heads, but this is what we are now. The city of the fibreglass mayors. Chris Hemingway



The lunch area was on the top floor of the building, it had a canteen, a chill out area — where people mostly looked stressed— and a swimming pool with a glass bottom that spanned between the two buildings that made up the company’s headquarters. Swimming in the pool, as people often did after lunch, you could see the iridescent bodies of the people walking below, warped through the changing contours of the water. By night, you could see the lights of the financial district in the distance from here; the red lights on top of the buildings hung off the air like a static explosion and often, through the smog, they looked like bandaged wounds. A bar table skirted the inside of the glass cubicle that formed the canteen and I sat in the corner, at the meeting point of three inclined glass screens. I watched my fellow employees queuing to select food from the bar, and the other people reflected in the glass that sliced through them and merged with their bodies. Refracted through the glass floor, I could see some kind of champagne reception happening in the communal space below. It must have been quite chaotic for them down there, as their stomachs pulled them around like they were on the catering equivalent of a Ouija board, jerking between drinks and food —but to me, it was all mapped out. I could see that employee A would never collide into B, but they didn’t know that in their panic. I felt in control of them, even though I was just sitting there. They just felt like images. I noticed a corridor was reflected perpendicular to the queue, and it ploughed violently into the waiting workers. I often sat in the same spot at lunch times, but I still couldn’t tell where all the reflections came from. I would concentrate on one layer of


the faint mirror images, but then some muscle in my eye would get tired and the whole configuration would change again, the edges all running into each other. The therapist said that I wouldn’t know what the trauma was, or how bad it had been, till it was over— but how is it possible to delineate its perimeter? I tried not to think about it anyway. The reflection was extremely beautiful, and it was relaxing to be sealed off from the world in its enclosure, but as the corridor’s reflection swung back around and careered into the lined-up bodies again, I thought of immaterial terrorist attack. I had been working for the company for some time now, nine years I think. They were a housing developer, and they specialised in displacing communities in London — they didn’t say that of course, but they did. They would encircle a deprived area with crystalline new buildings, this would then make the deprived area look worse, and, labelled as a ‘sink estate’, they could then move all its tenants out. The tenants would then be sent on random journeys all over the country to find new places to live. Civilisations mostly drifted west, however in this instance they were usually sent east from London. The clouds from above echoed themselves slowly over my feet. You might call these random journeys ‘dérives’, but instead of being revolutionary they are now a subtle — in the same way that everything is becoming increasingly subtle— form of control and social cleansing. The dérive is a negative now, and just like everything else we strive for or find attractive, it ends up attacking us in the end. We don’t see free movement as liberating, but we fear it; we fear the movement of immigrants, and we fear that when walking down the street a car may liberate itself from the rigid confines of the road and drift into the inhabitants of the sidewalk. There


was such free movement in my visual dérive in the reflections, which was nauseatingly confusing, but I couldn’t help but be attracted to its beauty. I worked as a visualizer —or digital artist as it’s sometimes called — for the company, and throughout my nine years with them, I think I had modelled every part of London, a job I did more precisely than was ever needed. I liked the precision and allusion of control it gave me; I think the architects liked it to. The exactitude however, was a red herring and it allowed them to ignore other, much greater, concerns— which, I guess, was the same for me too. Anxiety, before I started the job, was something I heard a lot from other people, but I hadn’t suffered from it myself. But after around three years it started to creep in. The world of the computer was safe, and I could control everything; from the texture of the floor I imagined myself walking on, to the lighting conditions and the people that inhabited the particular scene I was working on. But once I stepped out of the office or turned my face momentarily away from the reflected world of my computer screen, I became incredibly anxious: everything seemed extremely random in comparison. The model then, had become more real than reality itself, and my actions outside of it seemed to have no consequence. I had started to gamble with this recently, committing random acts to see if it would trigger anything in me. It didn’t. So I didn’t believe in the reality outside of the computer, but I believed in my fear of it. The normal logic of the world was similarly smeared in the reflections. Bodies were no longer solid, feet were walking by other people’s heads, figures walking towards me were also walking backwards, large bodies scattered behind me were thrown against smaller bodies in the distance — reflections of other reflected screens


cut the bodies variably into sagittal, coronal and traverse planes; it was a real autopsy of my subjects. It was this type of smeared logic— my therapist had told me— that managed to ensnare people in abusive relationships, and the same logic that made it so hard for people who hadn’t been abused to understand them. I thought about how I was sealed off in the vacuum of reflections, and that in itself was quite comforting, even sublime— I didn’t have to understand anything, simply because I knew I couldn’t; but it’s by this same token, that you don’t realise that this beautiful insular world has ensnared you, and the underlying tumult is so confusing, you don’t know why, or how you are trapped, or, see a way out. The alternate logic in the reflection, and the fragmentation of the body and mind that it entailed, was a near perfect diagram of the geometry of gaslighting — those seeds of doubt that eventfully make you question your own memory, perception and finally, sanity — that I’d fallen victim to; at least, that’s what I was told anyway. The people did become, in the glass, like a gas within the vacuum of the office lighting. The geometry of the ethereal gas that had once seeped into me was bleeding into them too, though they couldn’t see it. They were washed over with incessant breakers of unordered conflicting opinions and fake news. A mirrored image usually shows what’s already passed, what’s behind you— even if you’re looking at yourself, the image is slightly old, a delay of fractions of a section— but this particular reflection said a lot about the current state of things. It not only delineated abuse, but also the current system of control that ensnares us all. The world is stunning with its endless flows of data, and we can have access to all of it. But what we don’t always realise is that nobody can fight such fluid systems of constant


echoes and shape shifting flux; because nobody can grasp it— nobody can a carve a recognisably whole to fight against. I saw my own streaked reflection finishing my sandwich, and I went back to my computer.

Matthew Turner


Cage Jen Rouse


learning to write again

first scrape away crackled carapace turned shit-brown with neglect shellacked with forgetting underneath, brightness gone dark sweat and fester and tears of acid and wild laughter, probably & then white absolute concentration i can’t do it i do not know what to do with this world i need another breaking the block is it like popping a cork? ppvvrtt! and she’s back Euterpe, i mean or is it like folding in limbs or petals however many involuting spiral like a sunflower until they cradle meaning Mandy Macdonald



This glass distorts you, your flight caught in amber a line flung from a nib or words released underwater, a blue tide flooding in and no way back to the surface. Painted from memory, your lurid plumage, its spokes of keratin, the windblown threads of cinnabar and mercury vermilion already dream. Your eyes steal the dim light of oil in a flurry of wings, the chatter of a brush falling, the trip of a shutter. I am left with only your shadow and a haunting record of your song

did you know I would leave? did you think of me as dust? Jane Lovell


Going Away

Becoming northerly, lost, visibility poor, no port of my own. F. R. Kesby



Jackie Biggs has had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies, including Clear Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon, Poetry24, I am not a silent poet. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her collection, The Spaces in Between was published in 2015 (Pinewood Press). She performs her work regularly at spoken word events all over west Wales, where she lives. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Blog: http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk Twitter: @JackieNews Robert Boucheron grew up in Syracuse and Schenectady, New York. From 1978 to 2016, he worked as an architect in New York City and Charlottesville, Virginia. His short stories and essays appear in Fiction International, Litro, London Journal of Fiction, New Haven Review, Poydras Review, Short Fiction, The Short Story , and other magazines. Marsha Burke, has a BA (hons) in Fine Art, and is currently a self-employed artist and teacher living and working in Ayrshire. Louisa Campbell's first poetry pamphlet, The Happy Bus, was published by Picaroon Poetry in 2017, and her second, The Ward, is due out with Paper Swans Press in 2018. She lives in Kent, England. Geraldine Clarkson is from the UK Midlands, with roots in the West of Ireland. She has had poems published on cupcakes, handkerchiefs and buses, and in public toilets in the Shetlands (under Jen Hadfield’s ‘Bards in the Bog’ initiative), and she is interested in combining poems with other media. She is fond of photographs and enjoys taking her camera for a walk. Barbara Costas-Biggs is the 2017 winner of the Split This Rock Abortion Rights Poetry Contest. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared recently in Glass, The Coil, MORIA, JARFLY, Dodging the Rain, Bird’s Thumb, District Lit, Literary Mama, and others. She lives in Southern Ohio, and can be found online at www.barbwrites.com, facebook.com/barbarabiggs, and sporadically on Twitter @bcostasbiggs. Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I'm in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.


Wanda Deglane is a psychology/family & human development student at Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming on Dodging the Rain, Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. She writes to survive. Wanda is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and lives with her giant family and beloved dog, Princess Leia, in Glendale, Arizona. Monica Dickson writes short fiction. She has recent work published in Firewords, Salomé and The Cabinet of Heed. You can follow her on Twitter @Mon_Dickson. Jay Douglas is a queer, trans, Appalachian fortune teller with mountains under the skin and muddy rivers for veins. When not writing, Jay is busy exploring glitch and abstract art, queer theory, and ambient/experimental music. Karen Downs-Barton is a neurodiverse poet studying for a History of Art with Creative Writing BA at the Open University. She lives close to Stonehenge in a quarryman's cottage held together with mud-and-hair mortar and her non-poetic occupations include magician’s assistant and dance teacher (Middle Eastern and tango). She is combining her love of form and divergent poetry in a forthcoming chapbook and is the dyslexic co-editor of Matryoshka Poetry. Karen has been published in Alyss, The Goose, Word Gathering, The Curly Mind, Three Drops From A Cauldron and I Am Not A Silent Poet. Find her at: https://thepapercutpoet.wordpress.com Paul Alex Gray enjoys writing linear and interactive fiction starring sentient black holes, wayward sea monsters, curious AIs and more. His work has been published in Nature Futures, McSweeney's, The Arcanist and others. Paul grew up by the beaches of Australia, then travelled the world and now lives in Canada with his wife and two children. On his adventures, Paul has been a start-up founder, game designer and mentor to technology entrepreneurs. Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published on the internet and in print. She recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. She believes everyone’s voice counts. Chris Hemingway is a poetry, prose and song writer from Cheltenham. He has published two collections Cigarettes and Daffodils and The Future, and has a new pamphlet (Party in the Diaryhouse) coming out later in the year with Picaroon Poetry. Chris helps in the running of Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Gloucestershire Writers Network, and the Squiffy Gnu Poetry Prompt Wordpress Blog/ Facebook Group. F. R. Kesby is a poet and storyteller from Leeds who has publishing credits with various magazines including Laldy!, Picaroon, SFZ and Wanton Fuckery. She has done guest spots at poetry nights such as NeurodiVERSE, Leeds Savages and Stirred. She is also a regular contributor for Women's Republic and the sole writer of Spoons and Toons.


Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over thirteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, including Riggwelter. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers Centre Prize (Australia) for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver. Jane Lovell has been widely published in journals and anthologies. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015 and has been shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize. Jane is currently working on her first collection This Tilting Earth. Her pamphlet Metastatic is to be published in 2018 by Against the Grain Press. Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer living in Aberdeen. She returned to poetry after many years in 2014. Music, poetry and gardening keep her sane. Her poems have appeared in various anthologies, most recently Songs for the Unsung (Grey Hen press), Solstice Shorts: Dusk (Arachne Press), and the #MeToo anthology (Fair Acre Press), and elsewhere in print and online. Frank McMahon lives in Cirencester. Professional career in social work. He has written several plays and had poems published in: I am not a silent poet; The Cannon's Mouth and Cirencester Scene. Social justice, the natural world and human stories/events inspire his work. Mark Reeves is an up-and-coming British artist specialising in pop art-style portraits of iconic pop, rock and jazz musicians and abstract geometric-style nudes. His recent painting David Bowie - Life On Mars? was inspired by Mick Rock’s 2016 re-edit of the 1973 official video of that song. Liquitex iridescent acrylic paint was used for the silk neck-tie and for the background, creating a backlit effect and the illusion of depth and movement. Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Pretty Owl, The Tishman

Review, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Sinister Wisdom, the Plath Poetry Project, Occulum, Lavender Review, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Up the Staircase's 10th anniversary issue. She’s the 2017 winner of Gulf Stream’s summer poetry contest. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse. Adam Sear lives in Northamptonshire. When not busy earning a living teaching, he writes short stories and creative non-fiction. He is currently studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing with the OU and has contributed to The Cabinet of Heed. He also tweets very short stories on #vss365 here: https://twitter.com/Q_V_B_M. His interests include: cosmology, sci-fi, history and the natural world. Strong tea, no sugar.


Jake Sheff is a major and pediatrician in the US Air Force, married with a daughter and three pets. Currently home is the Mojave Desert. Poems of Jake’s are in Radius, The Ekphrastic Review, The Brooklyn Review, The Cossack Review and elsewhere. He won 1st place in the 2017 SFPA speculative poetry contest and was a finalist in the Rondeau Roundup’s 2017 triolet contest. His chapbook is Looting Versailles (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). Andy Stallings lives in Deerfield, MA, where he teaches English at Deerfield Academy. His second collection with Rescue Press, “Paradise,” will come out in 2018. He has four young children, and coaches cross-country running. John Sweet, b. 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. An optimistic pessimist. Opposed to all organized religion and political parties. Avoids zealots and social media whenever possible. His latest collections include approximate wilderness (2016, Flutter Press) and bastard faith (2017, Scars Publications). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing. Dr. Jeffrey Toney has published scientific peer-reviewed articles, news media opinion pieces as well as short fiction stories in Sick Lit Magazine, O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of The Veterans Writing Project, Crack The Spine and in 2 Elizabeths. Recently, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his 100-word story, “The Quiet Raspberry Wormhole”. He serves as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kean University. Matthew Turner is a writer and architect living in London where he has recently founded Studio Augustii Architects. He is now working as writer and assistant editor for LOBBY magazine. Recently, he has written for The London Magazine, arq, this is tomorrow, DrawingOn, and Cabinet of Heed. Matthew also teaches at Chelsea College of Art and the University of Brighton. He is currently working on a series of short stories which explore the friction of making immaterial information networks and apps physical, spatial and narrative constructions. Reuben Woolley has been published in Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter's House and Ink Sweat and Tears among others. Published Books: the king is dead, 2014, Oneiros; dying notes, 2015, Erbacce; skins, 2016, Hesterglock; broken stories, 2017, 20/20 Vision Media. Forthcoming: some time we are heroes, The Corrupt Press. Runner-up: Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and Erbacce Prize, 2015. Editor poetry webzines: I am not a silent poet, The Curly Mind.



`Universal Credit’ by Frank McMahon was first published by I am not a silent poet in November 2017.