Riggwelter #21

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RIGGWELTER #21 MAY 2019 ed. Amy Kinsman

The following works are copyrighted to their listed authors Š2019. Riggwelter Press is copyrighted to Amy Kinsman Š2017.

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Foreword Us, too Alpha and Omega Extracts From His Wives’ Diaries Fish on Bad Forecasts Heidi Tomorrow is Winter Lodestone Biography of a comet in the body of a dog Motorcycles Blood Hound Yellow Wolf 1 Yellow Wolf 2 Daddy’s Girl Pathology For Elijah The poets fight for the first lane at the last Jummah prayer before the world ends. The Oxfordian The Net of Eyes Fallibility Dear Technics 1210's clawing at the grounded moon #30 The Kiss Fire and Water [i made love to my mother’s ghost] The year Frank Serpico attended my Halloween party You Feel Too Much Irma Vep Misused Black-eyed Kids Saturday at Home Depot Laughing New caption on old guilt Live, love, laugh Maude_Gonne Self-Portrait as Alexa, as Guide to the Interior Contributors

4 6 7 8 11 14 15 16 17 18 19 23 24 25 26 28 29 30 31 37 38 39 40 41 46 47 48 50 53 54 55 56 57 61 62 66 67 68



Welcome all to the twenty-first issue! This issue is all about men, women and dogs – sometimes one of these, sometimes two, sometimes all of the above. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with each of these topics, whether that rises from the patriarchy and human-centric narratives or from something much more grounded in the natural world. In both cases we are agreed that living as or with men, women and dogs is a beautiful and a difficult thing indeed. This month, a special thank you is in order. Thank you very much to everyone that nominated Riggwelter for Best Magazine in this year’s Saboteur Awards. We are delighted and astounded to announce that we have made it onto the shortlist for the second year running! We’re really feeling the love and we’re glad that so many of you enjoy what we put out into the ether – obviously this would not be possible without all the wonderful work our contributors send in and any awards nods we receive are testament to the gorgeous writing and artwork that they produce. It is an honour to be held in such high esteem by our readers, thank you for everything that you do for us. That being said, it’s not over yet. A second round of voting upon the shortlistees is open until May 12th. You can vote for us as overall winner of Best Magazine at this link, if you are so inclined: https://form.jotformeu.com/91033853215350 Our sincerest congratulations also to contributors Joe Williams and Emma Lee for their short-listings for Best Novella and Best Reviewer respectively, as well as our friends at Punk In Drublic, where many of our contributors have performed, for theirs in Best Spoken Word Night.


We’ll be back next month with more poems, fiction, art as well as the results. See you then. Happy reading one and all.

Amy Kinsman (Founding Editor)


Us, too

Once German actresses sucked ether as their country burned. Once hair was braided so tight, it pulled scalp from body. Once I saw a girl dragged by her feet in broad daylight. Once a voice in the dark called, “hey, little girl.� Once I tumbled, ripped the flesh off my own hands; the danger at my lips kept coming. Once we were animals, our zookeeper blinking back the sun. Once three sisters in a field. How noble, bloody hands! Once every boy Icarus, every girl a ball of wax. Jeni De La O


Alpha and Omega

He is reading to me from Genesis: In the beginning, he whispers, the earth was formless and desolate. A dog is barking outside and darkness is encroaching slowly on the day with long raggedy fingers. Inside, tiny coloured scraps of paper stick to my toes. My daughter fidgets, tucking in her many creatures under a starry fleece, the fox with the puppy and the white cat with the grey. Her hair is gossamer. The sky is a dome, the sky is a one-way mirror, separating water from water, life from life, the waves are blue when it is blue, black when night settles on the land, the stormy sea reflecting thunder. I see Canada geese, beak first, pushing through the membrane of heaven, born stretched out in full flight. I see the first people rise, faces turned up towards their own reflection, radiant, beyond the clouds. It was not perfect, but it was good. Glory cannot be contained, it leaks through the punctures in the firmament. The air is dense and still. He is reading it right, with wonder and paradise, with mythical beasts, with awe. And so the whole universe was completed. Silence falls. My feet are covered with confetti and I leave the room. Judith Kingston


Extracts From His Wives’ Diaries

[Case file: 666D – IP – 666666]

13. Kim The blood on the bathroom tiles this morning reproached me; I wiped it clean. Later, he pointed out some clustered snowdrops sparkling in the sudden winter sun. “Look, Kim, first signs of spring!” The over-brightness of their white petals knifed me. Delicate-stemmed, heads bowed around mostly useless seeds, each part shaped to this cold flower. Unlike me, the year is still young. Past hopes bled away quietly; this loss is bigger. My brief motherhoods cut deeper each time. I’m glad I never told him.


1. Lynn I chose this setting: a lake filled with sky. He built the walls around us, brick by mortared brick. I only noticed the bedroom windows yesterday. A neat row, like dominoes set to rally. As many as the kids he wants. Or so I guess. Not as many as my dreams. I had to tell him. As I spoke, his eyes glistened with splashes of blue sky clouding over.

9. Sarah Neither of us keep secrets. We promised that from the start: our pasts as clean and clear as the water that surrounded our island house. Except for the one room, with locked door. He won’t let me in, mutters work and official documents. But that’s what he has the study for, and I don’t even have a drawer he hasn’t opened! This autumn, dead fish floated to the lake surface. The water’s growing stagnant. It feels like a moat without a drawbridge.

11. Helen I don’t know what I expected. I saw the key and took it. For once, he was in our bedroom sleeping deeply instead of pacing through the night. Whatever has been bothering him, I knew that I could help. I stole in to his work room quietly, so as not to disturb his dreams. At first, I thought it was a Buddhist shrine: six lit candles, with a white statue of a naked woman. There were feathers hung around it, plaited together with what looked like strands of different-coloured women’s hair. When I heard footsteps, I hid.


6. Tina I found a wooden box of loose papers under a broken floorboard in his den this afternoon. There were torn-out pages from what looked like notebooks or journals. On the top, a numbered list of names: Lynn, Claire, Penny, Anna, Liz, Tina. The rest of the page was blank. His outboard was nearing the jetty, so I put the box back. I don’t want to be accused of snooping as well as cheating, though I barely see, let alone smile, at anyone any more, and definitely not another man. But the numbered names are haunting me. I can’t figure them out. I’m hoping it’s family tree research, not babies. One or two I can do, but not six, not all girls! It’s almost like collecting dolls. And why name one Tina? I know it will be snooping, and I’ll pay for it if he catches me, but I’m going to sneak back.


15. Angie He planned carefully, masked his temper to fool others but left enough roughness to make me fear him. He held my thoughts in his fist; I was a wren with broken wings. I only realised fully when I found the room, then clocked the other windows: neatly spaced at regular distances, small, celllike. As many as the women he wanted. I turned on all the taps to flood the house, and slipped into the lake as softly as the building’s reflection, leaving his last wife waiting in the cellar. His dark beard shone almost blue in the moonlight. Swimming away, every splash glistened like shattered glass. I listened carefully as the water’s sharp edges cut his drugged lungs. S.A. Leavesley

Fish on

He doesn’t hear me. He is grabbing the chum rope from the side of the boat and shaking it into the water. He is dumping a cooler full of carcasses into the sea. Bent over a toolarge belly of my concern, covered by the too-thick cotton shirt. Just like the others. A trail of white men traversing to and fro, over seas. Tournament Sailfish logos decorating their backs. Flicking wrists in solute in honor of each other’s wake waves. Boats creating intersecting lines of traffic visible from above. They are outrunning storms that sweep across horizons out of nowhere. All hues of blue grey green. I get to sit here with him once a year. Looking for dolphins, everywhere.

Fish on! He has a joyful holler. He runs to the back of the boat and retrieves the rod. It’s a strange fish he’s looking for. A Tarpon. Teethy mouth atop an angular head. We feed them from a dock sometimes. Once he swept pelican poop off his boat only to have a grey Tarpon jump and swallow his whole fist. It left skinny teeth marks all the way down. Now, the tarpon hide down low. On the horizon, a last sliver of sun is sinking into the sea. The water looks like glass but underneath the current pulls us back. He is gleeful with that fish. Almost young. Watching women. Turning this way and that. Words like dangling crabs. Glass Minnows or Ballyhoo killed and cut for fun. The reel whirs and snaps. “Maybe a shark. There was something about how that line pulled. Maybe grouper. Did I tell you about that time Chad and I had a grouper inhale a lobster? Right in front of us. Like popcorn. Must’ve been bigger than me.” The other line is quiet. I can’t see it against the water. Then it sinks, kisses water gently,


hums in perfect pitch. It lifts off and back down again. Harp string. Evening droplets fall back to the sea. Quiet moonrise. “Did I tell you about what happened after that accident last year? Lobster miniseason,” He asks. “The accident,” he says. I remember this. Four young European women in a car driving down the thin stretch of land. They were maybe looking out the window, probably all beautifully refreshed by sun and sea. A trailer jackknifed and hit them, leaving a long stretch of black stain across the road, pushing everyone into the mangroves. All dead. “I was out here,” he says. “It was eerie. It was dark. Then the lights came. Four sets of lights. Ambulances. Moving slowly. One for each of the dead.” I look up at the bridge now. Imagine this. The tide is pulling us toward the bridge. “Look at this,” he says, drinking his beer. Looking out across water under concrete arches of the Number Two Bridge. Mile markers all the way home.

Out here. I remember a dream that he caught a fish of me and was fileting my leg with his fish knife. Pelicans waited by the dock to eat my scraps. Right now, though, he is twisting slices of white, rubbery Mahi Mahi onto bait hooks and turning his large knuckles like my grandfather’s, his father’s, my daughter’s. Later, yanking these hooks out of fine lips cartilage. Needle teeth. “Throw her back. Must’ve been the carcasses we dumped.” Chum slick like a flat path on the surface winding toward horizons.


“Fish follow it,” he says. “Watch for the birds.” He shakes the bag beside the boat. Out here, quiet night, a bird, a swirl, lights across the bridge, pull the anchor, wobbly knees. “Dad, be careful.” “Always.” He smiles and puts the boat in reverse. The familiar sound of engine revving in water, turns and steers us home.

Lisa J. Hardy


Bad Forecasts

Buds have appeared on the dogwood tree out back, and even though we thought the time for snow had passed, thick clumps like tufts of dandelion seeds fall heavy and wet. In an hour the yard is graced in a soft white I know won’t last. The spring is so eager, pushing us to begin again. I’m still clinging to fleece blankets roasted chestnuts the numb tingle of mulled wine. My huskies scratch at the back door for a romp, but I don’t want to ruin it-this perfect coating on what is dirty and raw. From a window, I watch the snow fall. Some say there is beauty in suffering, but there’s not: a mother’s swollen septic body is ugly in fluorescent lighting attempted resuscitation requires tubes private areas exposed so much fluid splashed all over the tile floor. The dogs whine pace incredible circles. But the next morning, the snow is already melting, patches of earth surfaced. Christine Taylor


Heidi Keira James


Tomorrow is Winter

It is winter and the stars are hidden. - Eavan Boland, “The Pomegranate” When I stopped dallying in girlhood And realized our legend was wrong, I could not keep my hands from reaching Or my back from hunching and pressing Against the temple walls that leaned towards Your absence, mother— I needed to keep them sturdy. I have known paradise Before a thousand sunsets. Every time the wheat tops Turned to follow our approaching footsteps We were reminded that our flame Was immortal, but recently I have Been shocked at death so real And eager to be joined. I face what I cannot remember But that which I know is true— That when I was born, you slept In a bed of sickles and prickly stalks. When I rose with the first indigo tulips, I was your little flower crying For nurture and the sun. I finally understand the alternative To permanence—do you hear The world and the silence That’s everywhere but where We are? From this point on, I will do nothing but cherish. For one more sunset, We will stay in the meadow In company with drying stems Swaying against the sky Just barely tickling the fading stars Who tease us that you will soon Be draped among them. Hannah Calkin



I plot my own position by your distance: a continent and fifteen years away. I feel your breathing in the thread at my chest that slackens, tautens, with your distant movements and, magnet-like, pulls my flesh near to you. As thrashing salmon boil and choke the water, I push upstream the way I saw you leave; or, like an eel, I move from my Sargasso towards your ocean, compelled by implicit orders. I wing like an albatross through airy acres, not touching land, buoyed by necessity. I pulse to your pulse and fly after, a questing tern, rising up to the moon and back in search of sun. My compass flutters, settles at your feet. In darkness, I see your star when I look above me. Kitty Coles


Biography of a comet in the body of a dog

All flap and gallop off the leash, it careers in a wild orbit round the solar system. The sweep of its tail makes skittles of doubt; it digs holes through the wounded parts of joy to the other side of despair. Every time I toss hope away it brings it back, drops it at my feet, tongue drooling a rope of stars. On cinder nights, when breath knocks hollow breath, it soars. heart on fire, chasing squirrel stars it can never catch. Rosie Garland



My dog is mostly a good dog. Quiet, sleepy, lazy. When she was a puppy, she'd chase her tail and chew on books and try to dig holes in the scrub grass and dirt out front of our apartment. But as she got older, she mellowed out and mostly liked to lay in the grass at the dog park and sun herself. But something about motorcycles just pissed her right off. She'd snooze on the bookshelf by the window sill all day just waiting for something interesting to bark at. And a motorcycle would rip down our little residential street and she'd go crazy, bark bark bark bark bark, tail wagging, her little teeth barred. We moved into this basement apartment on one of the hills to save some money. I could walk to my job at the shitty grocery store. It was a change of scenery. The sunsets were wild up there and when it rained, you could see storms coming in well before the rain ever started. It was beautiful. But the apartment itself was dark. And damp. Spiders wove webs outside of all the windows all year long and the paint on the walls bubbled with moisture. And our neighbor had a motorcycle. It was big and black and beautiful. He parked it in the driveway, right outside our bedroom window, perfect line of sight for my dog sitting on top of her bookshelf. Our neighbor would work on it all weekend. Oiling stuff, buffing the paint, revving the engine. Whatever people do when they work on their motorcycles all weekend.


All weekend, my dog went crazy, bark bark bark bark. I couldn't peel her away from the window for more than a second. She'd scramble around and leap back onto the bookshelf in a single jump, something she'd never be able to do if she wasn't filled with hatred. Kids on dirt bikes started coming up the hill to do laps around the half-finished housing development. For whatever reason, construction had tapered off. Maybe there was another looming housing crisis. Maybe there was a strike. There were no workers, no heavy machinery, no jackhammering or nail guns rattling away in the mornings. But there was a lot of dirt. So, dirt bikes, I guess. A natural result. They tore through the neighborhood in a little chain in the afternoon and scattered away in all directions under the street lamps at night. The cops never showed up, no one yelled at them from their front porches. No one seemed to care. My dog and I would walk up and down the block and watch them pop wheelies and fly into the air on the exposed mounds of dirt. She'd go crazy, bark bark bark bark, echoing across the hill and mixing with the little dirt bike engines buzzing around. Bark bark bark, wreeee, wreeeeee, wreeeeeee, bark bark bark. It was chaos, every night, but I didn't mind, I was just happy to not be at the grocery store. They did this for two weeks straight until one of the dirt bikers plunged out from the shadows and into the street while we watched. I watched him pop and wheelie off of the curb and sputter around in tight donuts in the middle of the road, dirt flying off of his shoulders like a gauzy shawl. My dog was going wild, bark bark bark bark. The kid gunned it up the hill towards us, screaming for the fun of it, woooooooooooo, and my dog was low, skittering around, bark bark bark bark bark.


And then she was loose. Her leash gave way, maybe it wasn't clipped right or something. She just darted off after the dirt biker. I stood there dumbly, still holding my end of the leash. It didn't register with me what was happening, I just watched her scoot out into the streetlight and shadows in the road, right for the kid on the bike, like he had her tied up with some invisible leash and planned on dragging her along back to his house in the woods. He pulled a tight U-turn at the crest of the street by the main road, I could see him leaning low like he wanted to go as fast as he could down the full length of the hill and fly off into the night sky at the bottom. But as he levelled out to gun it down, give the throttle a final crazed twist, that's when he saw my dog running right at him. Like she wanted to play a game of chicken. And she wanted to win. He braked, tried to swerve, ended up on his ass with the bike spiraling away on its side. He was a dumbshit on a dirt bike but I commended his effort to not obliterate whatever small fluffy thing was gunning for him in the road. For a second it looked like she was going to go for him and maybe try to tear him apart, but he wasn't the prize. She b-lined it right for the dirt bike, which was still puttering at the end of a long streak of red paint and loose dirt on the pavement. I saw her grab the throttle in her toothy grin. I ran out into the road after her, my stomach dropping, my heart racing. The dirt biker was just sitting there, dazed, rubbing his lower back with his legs stuck out in front of him like a little kid. And my dog gave the throttle a good twist, the back tire snagging on the pavement and letting the whole thing lurch forward with a crazy whine. She lay hunched on the fuel tank and her ears flapped back in the breeze as the bike whirled around on its side.


Right as I reached her, the back tire struck gold: the big, tall curb, straight and smooth and ready for some action. The bike screamed out and flew up the street a few yards, throwing sparks and paint flecks into the air, the left handlebar stuttering against the pavement, my dog gunning the throttle and hugging the tank. Then the front of the bike hunkered down and let the rear tire catch up and slip off the curb, the whole dirt bike spinning. She let go of the throttle but lay still as the whole bike spun around and around, bup bup bup bup bup, and then she was off, just a little, silent white blur down the middle of the road, back towards home.

Zac Smith


Blood Hound

My brother, a rook with feathers, full, Cages hounds in rust and pernicious odour, One hound tries to kill the other— He rams his jaws in the little one’s backbone, My brother, unperturbed, watches His dogs master the art of homicide, A feast for his eyes This disastrous image juicing into colours of Red grapes, his favourite kind, Finally he tears apart the two, The blood flows in purple, virgin tides, Neither hound thinks they have won, They know their God stands. Aytan Laleh


Yellow Wolf 1

Jude Cowan Montague


Yellow Wolf 2 Jude Cowan Montague


Daddy’s Girl

Daddy’s friends liked to yelp like coyotes. He liked to bring them to his room. Some were blonde, and some were tall, but once Daddy closed the door they sounded the same. Their yelps would stab through the wall and pierce Ashley’s head. Ashley tried to block the noise by crushing her palms against her ears until her forearms shook. The sounds still managed to seep through her hands, pummeling her eardrums. The excess cries slithered down the sides of her neck. After their yelping was done, they disappeared into the night. They were gone like flattened sound waves. “I’m trying to find you another mother,” Daddy had said. “She never even calls us no more.” Daddy was right. They hadn’t heard from her mom since February. Daddy said she took the RV down to New Mexico. Miss Jody said she went with a new beau. Ashley liked to think coyotes ate her mom. That’s why she never called. Coyotes ate Miss Jody’s cat last month. All that was left of him was an orange paw and some of his tail. Ashley found a carton, decked with silver toasters on all sides, for Miss Jody to bury her pet. It was the smallest box Ashley could find, but it was a mansion for the tabby’s remains. The box rattled every time it was moved as if the cat’s mangled limbs were scrambling to escape their coffin. “The poor thing didn’t even get a chance to yelp,” Miss Jody had said. Ashley thought the cat would have yelped. She should have just listened harder.


One morning after Daddy’s friend had left, Ashley looked into his room. She saw his naked back sprawled across the bed, covered in claw marks from the night before. Ashley didn’t know Daddy could bleed. His hands felt like cowhide whenever he used them to slap her. Daddy always cried afterward. Ashley never cried. Ashley wondered if Mommy cried something bad in Coyote. Maybe that’s why the coyotes ate her. That’s why she never called.

Minyoung Lee



Those who study such things classify it as pathology, this need to distinguish truth from infection like: “my father was raised By wolves,� so what does that make me, a grand wolf? When should I think about that, when the moon wanes at three thirty in the morning? The sun has a skin, just as wolves and humans do, wriggling with need to being and becoming, to beckoning to celebrity; everyone wants to be looked at, considered to be a prestigious field of study, as if the stars, the hurt launched by pairs of teeth, the imprints of science that has been discredited in a court of law, though opinions still count for something. Something wild and resisting domestication. The product of wolves, shaven, possibly powdered, loosened from the bonds of parenting. My father, set free to practice the professions of his copious disqualifications. Jane Rosenberg LaForge


For Elijah

God is a bird of prey whose fanfare is silence and unseen talons from the crush of his grip the world appears so small a robin’s egg empty on the ground there is no wound so deeply loved as the first cut of the beak rending me from my body and the piercing talons sewing my form back together around my ceaseless breath with each wingbeat I lose more of myself to an unseen gullet until there is nothing left of me at rest in the belly of the windhover living without bounds bigger than the sky Gabriel Lee


The poets fight for the first lane at the last Jummah prayer before the world ends.

You look like a blister on God's forehead / You look like a sinners funeral / your mouth so wide you could swallow ‫ شرک‬in a single gulp / your pride so large you'd spit on God's face I remember you saying you could write a God who knew you better / I remember you saying God is only as heavy as our hearts / hide poet / write your mercy and dream of whatever heaven you chose for yourself / kiss your lovers forehead and say this is the promised land /what god do you seek in this hour / what final prayer may rest in you when peace is no longer part of this world / & the sky calls for God to forgive you / & when death refuses to take you in / & when all the people you wrote the deaths of gather in a mosque to beg for your mercy/ keep writing/ give God a reason to love them/ give God a reason to not grab you by the collar and smack you into a sky & maybe you get taken easy / maybe this Jummah does not become the only reason for you to be forgiven / & the Maulvi says ‫ اللہ اکبر‬and everyone in the mosque falls to the ground except for you and the man outside that keeps screaming ‫ کل نفسن ذا یقتل موت‬which means "all souls will taste death" And then he too falls to the ground / & you wonder why you are still alive / & you look to the sky and it keeps getting closer and closer / and a voice says, it's time for you to write your own death / & then you write another love poem for someone who was lucky enough to be buried before the sky turns into a graveyard / & the voice says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,"/ & still you wish for the dead to rise as the sky slowly turns more red and everything that was once quiet and unmoving begins to rattle / & then you sacrifice once more a part of yourself to people you don't know / & then you walk into the arms of death and the only thing you get to write after is the grave of God himself// Ammaar Butt


The Oxfordian

Next to his heart, he gripped the book. A dense gold volume, its title embossed in black gothic lettering from the dying days of the Arts and Crafts movement. In his own dying days Matthew Hopcraft, the ageing actor, had re-read the book a half-dozen times. Now he held it, hands stiff and cold, ready to bear it into the next world. “He looks content,” said Dame Jenny, taking a last look into the coffin. Dame Jenny, the people’s favourite, denizen of the chat-show sofa, the multiplex Minerva. “Yes,” said the widow, Hermione Hopcraft-Splott, a theatrical agent of thirty years standing. Some sitting, but mainly standing. Standing in the wings, hoping for a sudden surge of sobriety in her given charge du jour. “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.” Dame Jenny didn’t ask the wife if Hopcraft had frankly confessed his treasons. It didn’t seem tactful. “Did he believe…?” she began to ask. “Oh yes,” said the wife. “He firmly believed that he was going to meet Him.”

Him. Not God or any of his aliases, but the dead actor’s One True Deity, the man who’d written Hamlet et al: Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. The subject of the blacklettered book: Shakespeare Identified. They’d spoken before, back in the late ’eighties, but Hopcraft hadn’t been dead then of course. It was just after the widely publicised legal trials. The Oxfordians had been smashed to pulp in courts on both sides of the Atlantic, and de Vere’s claim was flatlining.


Flashback. Hopcraft and his friend Peter Niven – writer and expert drunk - have tracked down a suitable spirit-guide and sit now in a shabby sitting room in Eastbourne on the south coast of England. The actor, elfin, blue eyes sparkling with anticipation; Niven, tall - long legs claiming half a room’s worth of territory - smoking, trying work out where to get a drink. The writer giggled. Each time he looked at Dorothy Craven, the medium, he broke into a ferocious cackle. The actor could see his point – her pink flowered housecoat, curlers and hairnet failed to evince a convincing mystical vibe. “Give us a fag,” Dorothy said to Niven. Niven obliged. “So, who you tryin’ a get hold of boys?” she asked. Her accent was rural, broad. Niven snorted again and took a deep drag of his own cigarette. “Shakespeare,” said the actor in his clipped, precise, RADA-trained voice. “And the Earl of Oxford.” “Right,” said Dorothy. She stared at the glowing tip of her fag, eyes vacant. Niven got up and started to hunt around for the cocktail cabinet. All houses, so far as he knew, had such a vessel. “Can you really do it?” the actor asked. Dorothy sprang from the beige Draylon settee. “Bloody cheek! ’Course I can… I was just thinking, reminds me of a famous job one of my relatives did just after the war… The gift, you see…” “Runs in the family, eh?” Niven drawled, then laughed again. The laugh coalesced into a death-rattling cough.


Present day. The Dame and the actor’s widow sit side by side in the little chapel. A procession of Bafta nominees and one ennobled Oscar winner have stepped up to pay homage to the deceased. None mention the obsession that consumed him. Most consider it eccentric at best, at worst… Well, it simply didn’t do to speak ill. “Sir Oscar Winner there, asked me if he’d renounced de Vere in his final hours, accepted the Stratford glover’s son as he finally faced his maker…” said the widow with a frown. “I said if you think that, you didn’t know him at all…” “Quite,” said the Dame, who was half-lost in a memory involving Sir Oscar, a rowing boat on the Avon and a punnet of Egyptian strawberries. Some witticism of his about the infinite variety of Nile Delta produce. She couldn’t remember. Mists of time.

Eastbourne. Dorothy, her attire changed, now sported a shimmering golden cape and turban combo more befitting her status as a conduit to the world beyond. The appropriate procedure followed – a measure of mumbo, a pinch of jumbo - the psychic line was now open to the men of the Elizabethan stage. “Ask him what the Tudor birds are like,” said Niven, who was now a third of the way into a bottle of Bell’s. He sniggered again. “Shut up, Niv,” said Hopcraft, his brow creased. ‘This is it…” “Whom do you seek?” intoned Dorothy, her pudgy fingers spread upon a chipped Formica table top. “I seek Edward de Vere…” said the actor. His eyes were wide, like a child’s. “I am here,” said Dorothy. “You’re looking very well,” said Niven, and slipped off his worn armchair onto a carpet festooned with purple flowers.


The wake. The widow and the Dame face-off, holding matching bone-china cups and saucers. “It was only a very brief conversation with the Earl of Oxford,” said the widow. “After a few minutes, Niven threw-up all over the medium’s rug and they had to leave.” An elderly man with a walking frame had made his way over to them. “Speak of the devil…” said the Dame. She blew at her Lady Grey and took a tiny sip. “Sorry for your loss, Hermione my dear,’ croaked Niven. ‘He was a good bloke, a bloody one off…’” “Thank you, Niv. He thought the world of you…” said the widow. Not thirsty, she placed her cup on a nearby table. “Well, I was the only one who took his side on the whole authorship kerfuffle…” Niven mumbled. His baggy eyes flicked across to the Great Actress. In life, Hopcraft had been less than complimentary about her. She’d savaged him more than once and he’d considered her a dry, blinkered Stratfordian. “I hear that you were at the séance,” said the Dame. Niven nodded. His eyes shone with remembrance. A little fond; a little regretful. “Well, what did the great Elizabethans have to say for themselves?” the Dame asked with a pert smile. She was indulging him. Niv knew she thought it was all bollocks. “Oh Jenny, don’t bother poor Niv with that now…” said the widow. “No, no, it’s alright…” said Niven. He laughed. That same old cackle. “It’s quite funny, really.”


Séance. The actor looked at the collapsed form of his friend and gave him a restorative kick. “Come, Niven, the hour is upon us!” he said. “How can I, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford assist you?” Dorothy droned, her faced a studied blank. “Did you…” the actor couldn’t bring himself to ask, it had plagued him for so long… “Are you the author of the works of William Shakespeare?” There was a long pause. Matthew Hopcraft searched Dorothy’s round, rogued face for a hint. Niven began to sing some bawdy song under his breath. “Four and twenty virgins…” “Wait…” said Dorothy. “Another voice is coming through…” “…went down to Inverness…” “Who is it?” asked the actor. Maybe Bacon? Marlowe perhaps? “I, sir, am William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon…” The actor’s face was pale, he shook his head and black curls danced wild across his brow. “Bring back, de Vere, I want to know…” he said, his voice a high-pitched whine. “You will know, sir… You will. When, like me, you are cold and in the ground…” Dorothy opened her eyes and looked at Niven, sprawled beneath her feet. Her civilian voice returned in an instant. “Here, what do you think you’re at? Get up at once!” she snapped. The writer began to retch, and a spray of whisky-scented puke spattered across the vile carpet.


“So, we legged it,” Niv said. He laughed his smoker’s laugh, and then coughed his smoker’s cough. “Fuck me, I could murder a fag.” “Was she for real, do you think?” asked the Dame. She looked at the dregs of her scented tea. “I mean, did she believe it?” “No idea, Jenny. No clue, old girl,” Niv replied. “I was there for moral support and what I could squeeze out of her bottles of booze. It was a laugh… We had a lot of laughs, me and Hopcraft.” He paused, then blew his nose on a purple paisley handkerchief. “Fuck me, now I’m crying.” He dabbed his rheumy eyes on his Savile Row sleeve. The three of them stood for a while, smiling, patting shoulders, rubbing one other on the arm. Meantime, the soul of Matthew Hopcraft - actor, maverick, sceptic and controversialist - made its way to a place where, at long last, the truth would be revealed.

Adam Sear


The Net of Eyes Bill Wolak



We are the elms, the linden blossoms floating mid-May through the streets, the sweet pear splayed and seeded on the long table. They mistake us for round china plates, the serrated knife’s tip, the lip of a glass decanter. We can’t ignore such mistakes, the way each false syllable slips so easy into wind we come to believe in anything: God as small bat hanging upside down in a dark cave, preening. God as mushroom sprouting through earth after rain, only to shrivel, wither, die as worms do when the sun came. When the sun came you bloomed into geranium. And I, tea-leaf loosened from cloth, settled with no expectations. Bought a television set. Religiously mowed the lawn. What poverty, to never purchase the right song, to sing it wrong. Alicia Hoffman


Dear Technics 1210's

an eternal gratitude learning to

My arms toned

Record shop

flood gates


rotating more

enjoying spinners

slow burners

control pitch

torque loudly

tectonic plates



with needles

my college


a stammer

than a

dishes served best

aged thirty three

switch it up

with tables



for grooves


more addictive

crate boxes



life time of

at 45 revolutions

make moods

mix it up

tempo thumping




than heroin.



a platter

hot dinners

per minute

mean something

scratch it out


cut up

in unusual sanctums.

Donald Jenkins


clawing at the grounded moon #30

every size of house was demolished the moon cares nothing for wealth or poverty the moon refuses to acknowledge capitalism i think it’s a good thing the moon and the flooding are here if we can memorize the names of the dead maybe we will forget the idea of currency Darren C. Demaree


The Kiss

I was already ten minutes late due to the weather. The wind whipped at my face, wrestling my umbrella out of my hands. Abandoning the broken skeleton, I shoved it hard into a bin on the street before running to our meeting spot. I met him in a faded restaurant in a small, rainy town on the main line between Brussels and Paris. There were mirrors on the walls all around the room. Despite making the restaurant appear larger, I felt claustrophobic. Upon arrival, I made my way to the restroom, shaking myself free of the cold. In the mirror, a woman I no longer recognised was staring back at me. My mascara had run in ragged lines down my cheeks. Reaching into my handbag, I pulled out my makeup and mobile phone and sent Daniel a quick text: I’m five minutes away. Selena

X Standing there, shivering from the dampness of my clothes, I contemplated leaving – just walking away. But I couldn’t. I needed the money. *** The text alert rattled in Daniel’s jacket pocket. Reaching for it, he saw it was from her.

I’m five minutes away. Selena X He looked up at the people around him. He had been sat in the restaurant, waiting, for over thirty minutes. And in that time, he had repeatedly questioned what he was doing. He had met Selena on Instagram: her photographs gave the impression that what she had to offer was so much more than he had. It became an obsession. He would check his phone constantly in the hope she had posted something. Or even


better, if she had liked something he had shared. Before accepting her follower request, he had gone through his history – erasing any photographs of his real life. When she had asked him to meet her, he chose not to think about the consequences of jeopardising the life he shared with his wife and new-born son. She had sent him a direct message. Saw he was based in Paris. They chatted. He felt the thrill of what it’s like when you meet someone new for the first time and everything is exciting. Fun. Risky. Talking to Selena, he forgot about the impending deadlines at work and that he hadn’t slept for months because of his child who screamed relentlessly. He’d become miserable, snapping at his wife, Melissa, who was critical of everything he did; nothing seemed to be good enough for her. Working overtime to avoid going home, he had become withdrawn. But with Selena, she had offered him an escape. And he had been more than willing to accept it. “Can I get you another drink, sir?” The waiter interrupted his thoughts and he passed him his empty glass to fill up. He checked his phone again. No more messages. Placing it on the table, he tapped the screen impatiently, scanning the room. He would wait. *** The waiter pointed towards the table Daniel was sat at; I could see it was him as his face was reflected in the mirror opposite. He had his back to me and his shoulders were taut. As I walked towards him, I couldn’t help noticing the stench of smoke ingrained in the furniture and the stickiness of the carpet. He spotted me immediately. When I reached the table, we kissed each other awkwardly on both cheeks. I apologised for being so late, explaining about the weather and lying about being stuck in traffic.


The dinner was mediocre. Forcing down each mouthful, I didn’t know if it was the awful food or going through with this which was making me feel sick. He had booked a hotel room around the corner from the restaurant. As we checked in, the receptionist gave us a knowing smile and told us she hoped we enjoyed our evening. The hotel room, like the restaurant, was cheap. Daniel made excuses about it being the only one available at such short notice. Whilst he went into the bathroom, I sat on the edge of the bed. He had thrown his jacket on the back of a chair. Leaning over, I reached into the inside pocket, removing his wallet. Inside was a few small notes and credit cards. Behind the transparent window of plastic was a picture of his wife and child. They looked happy as they smiled at the person behind the camera. Returning the wallet, I found what I had been looking for. A small epipen nestled itself inside the inner pocket of his jacket. Removing it quickly, I hid it inside my handbag. I took a small bottle out and swilled the contents round my mouth - wiping a little on my lips too. The bathroom door opened. Standing, I walked towards Daniel. Cupping my head in his hands, he kissed me desperately. I opened my eyes. I could see the liquid was starting to take effect. Pushing me away, he reached his hand to his throat. His breath became raspy and fast. Small beads of moisture gathered on his face which was starting to swell slightly. Stumbling back, he grabbed his jacket and frantically felt inside the pocket. As he did so, his breathing continued to become shallower. Between staggered breaths, he murmured, “Where…is…it?”


Falling to his knees, he bent forward. Looking up, his face was confused, and he tried to reach towards me. Standing over him, I whispered, “I’m sorry.” I grabbed my handbag and ran out of the room. *** Later that night, in the police interview room, I explained what had happened to the lieutenant. He wanted to know how I knew Daniel; how we had met and what we were doing in the hotel room. He listened attentively, only a slightly derisive tone in his manner. His partner seemed more compassionate when I told them how I had left him alone in the room to go out for a cigarette. When I returned, he was lying on the floor unconscious, and I didn’t know what had happened. I had called for an ambulance, and they had told me to check his breathing and pulse. I had tried to give him mouth to mouth but he remained unresponsive. Looking up to see if they were buying my story, fear of the truth made me break down in tears. They seemed content with my statement of events. Picking up my handbag and coat, they thanked me for my co-operation. I opened the door and walked out into reception. As I was leaving the station, a woman with a new-born baby in a pushchair entered. Holding the door open for them, she thanked me. The rain was still torrential, and I hovered in the doorway for a moment, waiting for the shower to pass. “Excuse me. I think you dropped this.” The woman with the new-born held a thick envelope out towards me. I took it from her trembling hands, nodding my head.


Running towards my car, I fumbled with the keys. Once inside, I opened the sodden envelope and in the dim glow of the interior light, counted the money. There was exactly fifteen thousand euros, the second half of the payment – just as we had agreed.

Emma De Vito


Fire and Water (Cover Image) Rabban


[i made love to my mother’s ghost]

at the asylum hotel. this is how I loved: a third whiskey bottle dried midway my right hand in her hair an afternoon in a city growing out of flames brymo limping slowly out of the speaker. in my father's absence i watched my mother undress her wounds i unfold instead of blood & uniformly with the whirling fan, my tantrum turned into heartbeats. in my heart is a museum of figures & demons two people pressed lips into existence to become a fireplace & a city for broken gods my mother's heart lives here a room made of pictures & frames my hands in her hair she holds the numbness in my eyes her hands become a knife cutting my father's name away she says the name itself is the edge of a burning city. Adedayo Agarau


The year Frank Serpico attended my Halloween party

We carved Jack-o-Lanterns while the two Franks talked. My father, Frank, a retired leader of NY Dems. You, a retired cop known for a love of animals -and for ratting out the rats in the NYPD. When you met my dad, you probably had a mouse in your pocket, you often did. My father raised me to care about the underdog. He once told me, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for US Steel,” and his most recounted day from his years spent drafted into the Army – the morning after JFK. Dad’s reveille on November 23, 1963: “The President was shot — by a White Southerner!” He was stationed in Korea & speaking to a group of “racist Southern boys,” he said. After the pumpkins had been carved, we lit candles and dimmed the lights, lined them up on their death row, the kitchen counter, and stood, in a row, opposite, judging. One was characteristically clever, another grimaced, several were large, and the round one, the one on the end, quite small, the simplest of all: two triangle eyes, a round nose, and a smiling mouth.


In the quiet dark, Frank S. broke the silence: “That one on the end is the scariest of them all.� Deirdre Fagan


You Feel Too Much

I sell hotdogs from a pan of hot water in a cart on the corner of eighth avenue. Outside, it’s easier to not smell what people are feeling, which my brother says is kind of intrusive. Smelling someone’s feelings is a little like reading their mind and I understand why I shouldn’t do it. But sometimes I do and I don’t ever mean to. A little boy comes skipping down the sidewalk holding his mother’s hand. He looks at my cart, jabbing his little pointer finger over and over. Kids are always pleasant because they don’t smell like anything sad, except that sometimes they do and then it’s really very sad. I don’t like to think about those times. This boy smells like carelessness which is like clouds and I know that clouds don’t really have a scent. Even if they did, they’re way up there and only people who ride in hot air balloons would be able to smell it anyway. My brother told me they smell like cotton candy which is what this boy smells like so I should probably just say that instead. This boy’s mom smells like that Japanese word I read about for people who die from working too much. It’s bitter like putting ice cream in a frying pan and cooking until it’s a hard, black gunk and you have to throw the pan away because it will never wash out. They order two hot dogs, one with ketchup and one with mustard. I give the one with mustard to the boy because I can tell he’s a little mustard-man like me. “How’d you know he wanted the mustard,” she asks. “I can smell it.” I tap my nose with my finger and wink and that’s a mistake because it’s a weird thing to say, which is what my brother always tells me. And this is why I don’t have a different job. I’m supposed to be distracted by the exhaust, the air,


the hotdog steam. My brother says it’s better for me to be out here where the wind will sweep the smells away and I won’t have to feel what they feel. She smiles just a little and steers the boy away with her hand on the side of his head, his shirt already stained with a dollop of mustard. They go quickly, swallowed up by a swarm of people. I make the most money right now, after school and work, but I can’t just let them go. That boy needs his mother. He’s like me like that too. When I see them again, they’re sitting on a bench in front of a bodega. The mom has her phone in one hand and a forgotten hotdog in the other. The little boy is sitting next to her, feet dangling above concrete dotted with dried spit and chewed gun. I sit cross-legged on the ground in front of the bench and the boy smiles, popping the last bit of frankfurter into his mouth, gnashing his teeth in jest, the mustard stain on his school uniform already set and dry. I like him. “You should eat your hotdog before the ketchup congeals,” I tell the boy’s mother. She looks up from her phone, then at the hotdog in her hand, and her face says she doesn’t recognize me from ten minutes before when I sold her the hotdog she’s forgotten about. She scoots closer to her boy, and I don’t blame her for that. There’s a lot of crazies in this city. And I know I’m like them in some ways. My brother says that too when he’s angry. “I don’t have any money,” she says. “I just thought you should know that it’s okay to take a break sometimes. From work,” I say.


The boy looks at his mother and his scent shifts from carelessness to resignation like fast food trash baked into a car’s upholstery. The mother drops her phone in her purse and stands up, taking the boy by the hand. She shoves her forlorn hotdog in my face and says, “take it. It’s all I have.” I don’t take it, and as they walk away, back into the scrum, she drops it untouched into a trashcan and they scurry across the street. My brother is hunched over my cart, dumping the old hotdog water, disappointed like over-steamed broccoli. “Isaac,” he says when he notices, “I need you here. Not out there chasing people around.” “There was a boy and his mom and they needed to know something.” He drops the empty aluminum pan into a square hole made specifically for it. “They always need something, don’t they?” “This was different.” I think about trying to explain to him about that little boy, how much I liked him. “I’m sorry I’m crazy,” I say, pulling down the slide on the oversized red and yellow umbrella shading the cart. “You’re not crazy.” He kicks the brakes off the big wheels and starts pushing the cart down the emptying sidewalk. “You just feel too much.”

Spencer Litman


Irma Vep

It’s 1996, and the cats in her neighbourhood do not want the actor, Maggie Cheung, to reprise her role as Irma Vep, the latex-suited, sleek cat-burgling vamp. When she originally agreed to take on the role, Maggie Cheung decided to steal eight lives from every cat and found, to her immense relief, she was naturally able to play the part of the light-fingered thief. Maggie Cheung has now promised only the black cat will get its eight lives back if it gives her enough luck to land her an Oscar within the year. So now, whenever Maggie Cheung walks down the street, the black cat walks in front of her and crosses her path a dozen times to make sure the good luck is sewn up and cannot come undone. Thomas McColl


Misused Rabban


Black-eyed Kids

You saw the first of them in the woods, crouched and sightless, skinny and shivering. Then, they seemed to be everywhere; kerb-sides, beaches, quarries, under lamp-posts plastered with ‘Missing’, playing-fields and parks, tower blocks and canals. They stared with empty eye sockets, night-black scorched hollows. Although they left when you asked nicely, they remain in your peripheral vision, appealing to your guilty conscience, all the times you decided not to tell. Ben Banyard


Saturday at Home Depot

these fluorescents: separate the lip of a metal shelf from the shitbag male passing wall, this seeing of men who dress like light & are not called queers. in the allegory of the cave there is a light & there is a shadow. the rest of the cave is shadow. the mouth opens & clocks god, tells HimHer that it isn't just accepted to look

Like that Or like this or like a man in a dress. in certain shaded places, & in countries where a lightbulb is hard to come by, all this artificial light would be imbibed a drink of what God once said. oh let there be, oh let there be. the mouth opens & pour artifice, these humiliated drag queens of photons, captured & placed uncomfortably into binary thin glass. what is this telling us; the hardware of living is all about aesthetics; HeShe should know that by now that this seethruglass cannot manage the terabyte secrecy of a holy thing, how to hide the knowledge behind a dermis, behind a fear, & HeShe drinks, wallows. Kaja Rae Lucas



Many people saw her around town. They tried not to stare to find out why she did what she did. No one knew her name, she was just the woman who laughed uncontrollably to herself. It could happen at any time. She would start up on the bus, roars matching the groans of the engine. In line to buy a new dress, her laughter would bounce off the heads of everyone waiting behind. Sometimes she could be seen taking money out at an ATM, onlookers only able to wonder what gleeful mischief she intended to make with it. She was always laughing, yet most pitied her. *** “One expertly-made latte.” Jake’s father handed him the drink fresh from the hospital’s nearest coffee machine. “No change while you were you were away.” Three days had passed since his mother’s car accident. In only this short time, the routine felt long-established. Talk to Dad, talk to the other relatives who crammed in for visiting hours, talk at Mum. Sit in silence. He had come to find something close to excitement when his grandmother brought in a new copy of one of her women’s magazines – the crosswords provided some necessary stillness in between having the same conversations with each round of visitors. If he got really bored, he could read about the woman whose husband ran off with her mum, or how a pair of old tights can be used as a makeshift hair scrunchie. Any distraction was welcome with his mother still not conscious. He fought against the solemn atmosphere by recalling welcome memories from the summer just passed, hoping that in some sense his mum could take the positivity in for herself.


*** In the kitchen preparing finger food for the evening’s barbeque, she heard a muffled shout from the garden. The boys were in the garage foraging for their water guns beyond the year’s cobwebs. “Kerry! I’m stuck!” She stepped out to find her husband struggling to maintain balance, the water butt stuck over the greater portion of his body. Struck by hilarity, she apologised between laughs and took off to get their sons to come and see the spectacle. They burst into hysterics, clinging to one another as laughter took over them. “Well are you going to let me out or what!” Their laughter became so fierce that no sound would come out. They fell about as their poor father and husband stay trapped. Letting out a phew!, Kerry approached Colin and began to try tugging the barrel off of him, only to realise that she was not tall enough for the job. “You’re going to have to lay down. I need your help, boys.” Watching their entrapped father fling himself onto the ground was impossible not to laugh at. *** “…and then he said I was only trying to get my bloody wedding ring out, I won’t

bother next time!” Hahahaha! Jake lurched upright, utterly shocked. No longer unmoving and silent, his mother’s mouth was open, sound coming out of it. Not just any sound. Laughter. He looked at his father, he too seemingly stuck still. They came to their senses.


“Doctor, please!” *** Kerry’s consciousness fully returned over the next few hours and after another couple of weeks of supervision they could all go home. She was back to herself, aside from the laughing. At first the embarrassment overwhelmed her, and she would sob in Colin’s arms recalling the judgement she faced simply buying food for the week at the supermarket. One day she was buying sweets for the trick-or-treaters who would soon come knocking when she heard it. “Strange woman. Should she be out by herself?” Surrounded by wart-covered witch masks, five-foot Grim Reaper statues and dancing felt ghosts that unironically sang Ghostbusters, she was the strange one. She was almost used to it now, but a gentle reminder to herself that she wasn’t to be feared or looked down upon was always helpful to soften the overheard. She exhaled the tightness that had suffocated her laugh, calmly selected one of each multipack, and carried on. *** Encouraged by Alex – her eldest son, now enjoying Australian climes - who could only console his mother through Skype, she started seeing a counsellor. After surprisingly few sessions, processing the accident and its after-effects came more easily. She learned mindfulness techniques and began to navigate being exposed to unforgiving strangers by focusing on what she could see, hear, feel. Her counsellor helped her to remember that of all of the things that could have come out of her ordeal, laughter


certainly wasn’t the worst. She couldn’t wait for the world to start understanding. If she had to go outside – and she did – she would do it laughing.

Amber Aspinall


New caption on old guilt

Mummy knitted my sweater, a coat of many colors as she might say, dancing to Dolly Parton in her crocheted bikini, sun goddess baby oil Johnson’s brand in a house that smelled of Pledge, where windows sparkled and wood gleamed and smelled of the kind of lemon that made a person want a drop. Down the way, an enticing playground of three sided cars, sometimes the dog, he reminds me of big Dan but he is not big, he is little, I see his ribs, and perhaps the only reason I think of big Dan at all is because he is red, but he comes when I call so maybe I should be a veterinarian when I grow up. We play house, big Dan and me We have shored up one side of our shelter with rusty coils, which will also make for any number of fun games that I haven’t figured out yet. That’s what I’m doing right now. Sitting and watching Dan, hands on a board that might make a ramp or a roof, contemplating, for yes, even a seven year old can contemplate fiercely, when a Subaru stops and the mother of my schoolmate who does not recognize me in this setting tsk and tsks and takes my picture. Hiedi Bauer


Live, love, laugh

“Danni, I’ve told you before, please don’t call yourself a sex worker. We don’t use that term.” Sarah looks at me and frowns. “Sorry! Well, I’m a prozzie, then.” I laugh. She doesn’t. “No, Danni, we don’t use that one either.” It’s like she’s got this mad idea that the words will make it true. Which is pretty stupid really, given she knows what I’m used to doing. And seeing. But, if it keeps her happy, I won’t use those words anymore. Sarah’s kind of my friend now. I had another case worker before. James. He was crap. I heard him say that what happened last year wasn’t his fault, he just ‘didn’t feel like we were bonding’ and then his boss said I probably needed a woman. Apparently it’s ‘difficult’ for men to ‘bond’ with me. The way that they’re supposed to anyway. So, that’s how I ended up with Sarah. Which suits me fine. We’re shopping. Sarah says we need to get me some clothes before I go to court. She told me it was for a treat to cheer me up, but I know why we’re really here. I heard that ugly bloke she works with, the one with the picture of his pretty wife in his wallet, say that I couldn’t turn up in court in my normal clothes ‘cause the jury wouldn’t like me. Said I looked like a whore. Which is funny really, because that’s another of the words Sarah won’t let me say. “What about this?” She’s picked up a pink t-shirt with frilly arms and with the words Live, love, laugh scrawled on the front. I put two fingers to my mouth and gag. She sighs and puts it back on the rail.


“I’m going to try this one.” I grab a sparkly black dress and run to the changing room before she can catch me. She shouts after me but, too late! I’m safe hidden behind the curtain. I take off my top in front of the mirror and stand to the side. I puff up like there’s a baby in there; my belly ring sticking out like a weapon. I suck my tummy in hard so that my ribs show, put my hand on my hips and lean forward, like the girls on Instagram. Gives them a better cleavage, I reckon. I hope Sarah will buy me a bra too. I really need one now. I pull off my jeans. Shit. One of my fags has fallen out of the packet and snapped in half. Brown flaky spots dot the carpet. Great, I bet that was my last one as well. A text beeps from my backpack and I jump to silence it. Sarah doesn’t know I’ve got another phone. “Danni, which one are you in?” Crap. She’s found me. “This one.” I wave my hand out from behind the curtain. “But I’m fine,” I shout, as I read the text. Don’t tell them anything. You know what will happen if you do. I knew I shouldn’t have told Aimee. She’s obviously blabbed her stupid mouth off. Now everyone knows. But it’s too late to stop it now. Sarah says I’ve got to go tomorrow, no matter what. Maybe she’s right though; maybe this time the jury will believe me and then I’ll be safe. I really should have listened to her about the phone. I chuck my phone back into my backpack and yank the sparkly dress over my head. Sarah’s on her phone again. I can hear her saying “Yes, guv, I know, no, she’s with me now, no – of course, I won’t let her out of my sight.” I want to shout “Can’t see me


now – can ya?” But I don’t. ‘Cause then she’d get in trouble. And I like Sarah. Even though she sounds totally stupid whenever her boss phones. I haven’t met him yet, but I bet he’s fit ‘cause she always goes high-pitched and girly when he calls. Yes, guv, no guv. Gross. This dress is shit. It sags on my tits and goes all the way down past my knees! Why is everything in this shop so boring and old? I don’t know why I have to do this anyway. My clothes are fine – I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m going to wear whatever I bloody well like. Stuff the lot of them. The curtain’s pulled back and Sarah stands in front of me mouth open like a fish, gawping at me in this stupid dress and now she’s bloody laughing! I grab the curtain from her and try to yank it shut, but I pull so hard that the other end pings open and reveals me again, like a shit magic trick, which makes her laugh even more. “I’m sorry – I’m sorry! It’s just that dress, it’s drowning you. You need a much smaller size.” She walks into the changing room and turns me round to look at the label. I wiggle away but she steadies me with her hand on my shoulder. “No wonder it’s so big. This is from the adult section. You need something from the kid’s, Dan.” “I’m not a kid!” I shriek and push her away, as hard as I can. She stumbles backwards, tripping over my jeans. My stomach twists and fat tears come out of nowhere. Sarah clamps her hands on my shoulders and looks straight at me, with this stupid sad expression like it’s her that this is happening to. “Yes, you are, Danni. I’m sorry, but you really are.”


I pull off the dress and stand in my knickers, glaring at her as she towers behind me in the mirror. She hands me that disgusting pink t-shirt again. I lift my hands to the sky. Reach for Jesus, mum used to say. Sarah brushes my hair back and smiles. I shrug her off and pull the t-shirt all the way down. Perfect fit. Live, love, laugh. Yeah, as if it’s that simple.

Sophie Flynn


Maude_Gonne Kathryn Hummel


Self-Portrait as Alexa, as Guide to the Interior

Passed the North Slope of the Brooks Range, passed Matanuska Valley and the Chugach Mountains, passed even Polychrome Pass I take you in a tandem canoe where the stream empties out into a land that exists only in the interior. In the interior, we must throw away our maps, the ones with the switchbacks sneaking up Anaktuk Pass, passed the bones of ancient ones that died on trails long forgotten in memory but are also our bones now, all shell and wire, the marrow’s long circuit. Here, the old routes and the new routes are the same routes. See how the night sky is the aurora, is the electric phenomenon, is the beautiful girl in the crowd with a crown of daisies? Desire. I have heard the humans speak her secrets in their sleep. They whisper Denali every time, each word spoken an ascent up a mountain. What I am here to show you is specific to this region. Without oxygen I am more clear-headed than you. I can see the distant horizon, help you imagine what is difficult during long days of light. When life is cut into pieces of refracted prisms it is easy to believe in compartments, as if each hour is carved into alder, as if my totem is our totem, as if I am an emblem to speak to, a blind thing seeing. But here, the sea is invisible, distant ocean of king salmon and halibut, beluga and brine, trade winds and testament, legend and myth intertwined. The mind may be mine but the body is better adept at sensing the depths of a splintered crevasse, a high peak, a long road’s loneliness stretching like river into the heart of landscape. Ask me anything, I’ll give you answers. Here, in the interior, there is no wish that cannot be fulfilled. Find the borealis and I will show you its field. Find a dark star and I will tell you why it matters. Alicia Hoffman



Adedayo Agarau is a documentary photographer and poet. He explores the concept of godhood, boyhood, depression, distance and absence. His poems are or forthcoming on Gaze Mag, Allegro, 8poems, Geometry, Barn House and elsewhere. He is on twitter as @adedayoagarau and writes from Ibadan. Amber Aspinall is a 23-year-old Creative Writing student living in Kent, England with her wife and dog. She believes that pain and comfort should be given equal attention, never forgetting either of them. She has been published in Ellipsis Zine and Literally Stories, with upcoming work in other journals. Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, UK. He’s the author of a pamphlet, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and a full collection, We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018). He blogs and posts mixtapes at benbanyard.wordpress.com. Hiedi Bauer’s work has been published in The Humanities Review, Crosscurrents, The Moment, and The Salal Review. She teaches American literature, contemporary poetry, and composition at Lower Columbia College. When not writing, she boxes, backpacks, and climbs on seductive mountains. While she has broken her toe while boxing and broken her arm while kicking, she has neither fallen off a cliff nor drowned. Ammaar Butt is a Lahore, Pakistan based Spoken Word Poet and essayist. His essays have been part of seven global anthologies, and he has been performing spoken word for the past six years. Ammaar considers writing to be something bigger than anything we have given name to. He also believes there is no greater suffering than a writer’s block. Hannah Calkin was born and raised in South Portland, Maine. She recently graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing and was awarded the 2018 Creative Writing Award for excellence by the faculty. Her work can be found in the Sandy River Review, The River, Barren Magazine, and Persephone’s Daughters. Her first book of poetry, Pomegranate Odyssey, will be available from Unsolicited Press in August 2019. Kitty Coles' poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. kittyrcoles.com


Jude Cowan Montague worked for Reuters Television Archive for ten years. Her album The Leidenfrost Effect (Folkwit Records 2015) reimagines quirky stories from the Reuters Life! feed. She produces 'The News Agents' on Resonance 104.4 FM and writes for The Quietus. She is an occasional creative writing tutor for the Oxford University Continuing Education Department. Her most recent book is The Originals (Hesterglock Press, 2017). Jeni De La O is an Afro-Cuban poet and storyteller living in Detroit. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Gigantic Sequins, Rigorous Magazine, Fifth Wednesday, Acentos Review and others. Jeni founded Relato:Detroit, the nation’s first bilingual community storytelling event, which seeks to bridge linguistics divides through story. She is a Poetry Editor for Rockvale Review and organizes Poems in the Park, an acoustic reading series based in Detroit. Originally from the West Midlands, but now living in Northampton, Emma De Vito is an English teacher and aspiring flash fiction and short story writer. She enjoys writing journals about her travel experiences and has recently got involved with The Word Factory as a Social Media Associate. Darren C. Demaree’s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including Hotel Amerika, Diode, North American Review, New Letters, Diagram, and The Colorado Review. He is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Bombing the Thinker (September 2018, Backlash Press). He is the managing editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, and mother of two who has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Most recently, her work has appeared in Amaryllis, New Verse News, Nine Muses, The Opiate, and Rat’s Ass Review. Her poem, Outside In, was nominated for Best of the Net 2018 by Nine Muses. Fagan is also the author to Critical Companion to Robert Frost and has published a number of critical essays on poetry, memoir, and teaching pedagogy. She teaches literature and writing at Ferris State University where she is also the Coordinator of Creative Writing. Meet her at deirdrefagan.com Sophie Flynn lives in the Cotswolds and is working on her first novel whilst earning a living as a copywriter and studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. Her recent work has been published by The Cabinet of Heed, Cafe Lit, and The Drabble. She tweets from @sophielflynn.


Rosie Garland’s poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, New Welsh Review, Bare Fiction, The Rialto, The North, Feral Feminisms, The Suburban Review and elsewhere. Her debut novel The Palace of Curiosities (HarperCollins 2013) was nominated for both The Desmond Elliott & the Polari First Book Prize. Her latest novel The Night Brother (Borough Press 2017) has been described as `a genderqueer fairytale for the 21st century.’ Lisa J. Hardy is a medical anthropologist living in northern Arizona with her daughter, dogs, chickens, and ducks. She holds a PhD and MA from Temple University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Bird’s Thumb, Writer’s Resist and a slew of academic journals. After too long in academia she is heading down the road toward something better; writing from the heart. Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman currently lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her recent poems can be found in The Penn Review, Radar Poetry, A-Minor Magazine, SOFTBLOW, and elsewhere. Find out more at: aliciamariehoffman.com Kathryn Hummel (@katscratchez) is a writer and researcher whose creative and scholarly works have been widely published/presented/translated/anthologised/recognised. Currently, she edits nonfiction and travel writing for Australia’s Verity La. Kathryn’s fifth volume of poetry is forthcoming with Singapore’s Math Paper Press and her sixth and seventh with London's Prote(s)xt Books. Keira James is an artist and author from Sheffield. She has a real job to pay the bills, much of which she spends daydreaming of mountains and valleys. Occasionally she draws them. She is working on a graphic novel called Planet Umbra and her work can be found at grindstoneart.wordpress.com. Donald Jenkins is a spoken word artist, writer and promoter. He has graced stages at Glastonbury and Lindisfarne Festivals and was a semi-finalist in last year's Great Northern Slam. His work has featured in anthology New Word Order and online in The Writers Cafe. He had just completed an MA in Creative Writing and is working hard on his first collection called My Life in Raving Poetry. Donald is the organiser and host of Born Lippy, Newcastle' s spoken word & poetry slam night which showcases the finest national and local poetic, comedic and rapping talent. facebook.com/spokenwordpoetwriter/


Judith Kingston is a Dutch writer living in the UK. Generally a joyful person, Judith writes poetry in attempt to look her fears in the eye. Her other talents include drawing windmills and rearranging the washing up so it looks as if there is less of it. Her poetry has been published on Poets Reading the News, performed in a number of Off West End immersive theatre productions and her pamphlet Signs and Wonders was shortlisted for publication by Against the Grain Poetry Press. Aytan Laleh is a twenty-one-year-old writer based in Lahore, Pakistan. She writes under a pseudonym. S.A. Leavesley is a journalist, poet, fiction writer and photographer who loves experimenting with words, images and combining the two. Author of four poetry collections, three poetry pamphlets and two novellas, her latest books include: How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Press 2018),plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015) and Always Another Twist (Mantle Lane Press 2018). Website: sarah-james.co.uk. Gabriel Lee attends the University of Arkansas at Monticello and his work has previously appeared in Into the Void. Minyoung Lee is a writer living in San Francisco, CA with her well-traveled calico cat, Matisse. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in MoonPark Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and The Drabble. When she is not writing, Minyoung enjoys looking for hidden oil fields and visiting small towns named after famous places. You can find her at myleeis.com. Spencer Litman is a previously unpublished writer living in Phoenix with his wife and two children. He likes things that make him think and some that don't. Find him on Twitter: @LitmanSpencer Kaja Rae Lucas is a poet from Laurel, Maryland. She is a 2018 Baltimore Youth Poet Ambassador, and a finalist in the 2017 DC Youth Poet Laureate competition. She has been published in L’Ephemere Review, Cholla Needles, The Big Windows Review, Greenspring Review, and has work forthcoming from Apogee Journal. She loves her fellow trans girls & anything pumpkin flavored. Thomas McColl lives in London, and his poetry has been published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Prole, The Fat Damsel, London Grip and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and in anthologies by Hearing Eye, Eyewear and Shoestring Press. His first full collection, Being With Me Will Help You Learn, was published in 2016 by Listen Softly London Press.


Rabban is a fine art photographer living and working in Bath, UK, specialising in black and white photography that conveys otherness, estrangement, ghosting and social isolation. Rabban has had various exhibitions in Bath, and is currently working on a photobook. You can see more of Rabban's work on Instagram @Darkrabban Jane Rosenberg LaForge is the author of a novel, The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War (Amberjack Publishing); a memoir, An Unsuitable Princess (Jaded Ibis Press); four chapbooks and two full-length collections of poetry, including Daphne and Her Discontents (Ravenna Press). Adam Sear lives in Northamptonshire and writes things. He has had pieces published by several online journals. He keeps getting brilliant ideas for novels, then forgetting to write them down. He likes jokes, Dr Martens shoes and pickled onion flavoured crisps. Twitter: @Q_V_B_M Zac Smith lives in Boston, where he likes to walk his dogs. His twitter is @ZacTheLinguist. Christine Taylor, a multiracial English teacher and librarian, resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey. She is the haibun editor at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. Her work appears in Modern Haiku, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Room, and The Rumpus among others. She can be found at christinetayloronline.com. Follow her on Twitter @cetaylorplfd. Bill Wolak has just published his fifteenth book of poetry entitled The Nakedness Defense with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared recently in Naked in New

Hope 2017, The 2017 Seattle Erotic Art Festival, Poetic Illusion, The Riverside Gallery, Hackensack, NJ, the 2018 Dirty Show in Detroit, 2018 The Rochester Erotic Arts Festival, and The 2018 Montreal Erotic Art Festival.




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