6am by Nicholas McGaughey

She studied the braille

of his back in the

grey before morning,


before the light leached

through the blind, before

neighbours crouched after dogs,


and a shower sluiced

them into the veiled crowds

of the Metro like a drain.



My people by Mark Chamberlain

My people are people who still smoke cigarettes in bed, first thing in the morning, as soon as they wake up. They lie there, smoking, and think critically about the people they met the night before. Some people buy cigarettes for a night out then throw away the unfinished pack in the morning. These people are not my people. Being able to snog a man you’ve just met through cigarette smoke after six pints of lager is the only good thing to have come out of the twentieth century. Sharing a cigarette with a naked man in your kitchen means you’ve made it. My people are people who still nurse their hangovers with cigarettes and coffee. Some people don’t even smoke after sex anymore. I no longer deign to speak to these people and I’ve unfollowed them on Twitter. Smoking while drinking wine is OK, but it’s best done by people who smoke ultra-slim menthols and wear big sunglasses. These people are not my people but I respect their integrity. Smoking cannabis is not smoking, nor is smoking roll-ups, which is what people who are close to nature do. I have disowned all my rural relatives. My people are people who wake up mid-morning and smoke proper cigarettes in bed with naked men and hangovers.

Mark Chamberlain’s poetry has appeared in titles including Magma, The Hudson Review, Finished Creatures, The Financial Times, and FAKE (Corrupted Poetry). He has poems forthcoming in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021 (Black Spring Press Group) and Slovakia in Poems (Global Slovakia). His poem ‘england poz’ was commended in the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2020. He has written about ethics, appropriation, and Robert Lowell for The Times Literary Supplement. In October 2021, Mark is starting a PhD at Durham University looking at dialect and code-switching in contemporary British poetry.

Your heart is very open by Sophia Nicholson

     Your heart is very open                                                                      


Have you done Sufi whirling? i feel a strong karmic connection. Radio V are interested in my journey, my disciplines and practices and what i do in the studio. Colon cleanse. Gurdjieff movements. Teaching Pilates. i love to see you. i want to see you. Sorry, i don’t watch 18 movies. i don’t want that kind of imagery going into my consciousness. Come to mine. Text me when you arrive. Or knock very quietly. To me you’re really pretty. i’d like to see you in black silk and lace. You look like an angel in your underwear. Is light slapping ok? Can i pull your hair? You don’t like choking? Some people do. Baby you feel so good. When i look at you i want to…can i come on your face? Does it hurt a lot? Don’t worry. It won’t take much longer.

I have to give you maximum points for this

I could’ve looked for a chemist’s in Finsbury Park before getting on the bus but punctuality’s my thing. After three months of nothing, I didn’t expect more than a few light spots. Scrunched up loo roll. An hour later you fetched a towel but we were moving around too much. I’d seen my other friend earlier on. He’d been in too much of a rush so I was half way there already. You didn’t mind that you looked as though you’d been eating lipstick and even though your flatmates were around I didn’t hold back. Next morning, an old scouring pad did a decent job on the mattress. You didn’t flinch, even when your favourite white T got smeared.

I’m fine I think


It’s ok darling

I only feel slightly sick

don’t worry about me

it was sort of alright

lying down together 

I wasn’t trying too hard

to work out how long 

since our last time in bed

and then taking our jeans off

when our mouths met

I realised how much I’d missed

your fluids

but when you squeezed

inside my bra

touching me so close

to my heart

.                                  and then you had to get up

to play tennis

you said

you didn’t want to pursue it

 but you hadn’t touched a woman

for six weeks

(the trouble with long distance)

I do wish you well

with her I do


your happiness of course

                                                    most spotlessly

only a mild reflux

of regret

I did like kissing you

wet and pink

like an internal organ

I didn’t want it to stop

I wish it hadn’t started

when your text arrives

I’ll be waiting

Sophia Nicholson is a poet and song writer. Her poems have appeared in Ink Sweat & Tears and New Welsh Review, and her debut E.P. ‘Blue Sky Falling’ is available on all streaming services.

this language is / nothing by Mark Chamberlain

this language is / nothing


my barber said my daughter’s in trouble


except he didn’t cuz when i said

oh gosh, in trouble how? he said no


she’s not in trouble, she is trouble


but actually he said none of this

cuz when i have a haircut my aura says


do not engage me in conversation


so he gazed at my head with sad eyes

& i watched the mirrored clock




nothing is where it’s at


hurry-up i said to the delivery guy

who said urry-up nuffin


& it’s been mine ever since




my ex said are you seeing anyone?

& i said nah mate, seein anyone nuffin


he said he likes a bit of rough trade


then grinned & asked when i had

become so louche with language




king lear said nothing comes of nothing


except he didn’t cuz what he actually

said was nothing will come of nothing


the point is he had never met my barber


& clearly never understood the trouble

yous can get into with a good sharp


cut / & playful freedom of expression




Mark Chamberlain’s poetry has appeared in titles including Magma, The Hudson Review, Finished Creatures, The Financial Times, and FAKE (Corrupted Poetry). He has poems forthcoming in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021 (Black Spring Press Group) and Slovakia in Poems (Global Slovakia). His poem ‘england poz’ was commended in the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2020. He has written about ethics, appropriation, and Robert Lowell for The Times Literary Supplement. In October 2021, Mark is starting a PhD at Durham University looking at dialect and code-switching in contemporary British poetry.

The Long Weekend and other poems by Fran Lock



i remove my wedding to write. a certain indecision in the air, your name, a sound without breath behind it: the kitchen door that closes by itself. this house is haunted, a ghost caught in the window like a twist of spinach in a smile. last night the lean-to was full of flies. i killed them with room spray. their tenacity was both impressive and horrible. it begins slowly. the ghost grows pink and partially. when i am alone, i can think about you. the close, damp day will never give you up, the way you wait inside a word, contain all words. all words contain you, glowing but hollow. i am trying to be bones. my body, a soft catwalk. a girl is one half hair and better dead. if i had only known. leave the gas on. i will prove the work of white gloves after all.


in the dream i swallow the bedclothes, drawing them into me like a reverse spirit medium, like a cartoon dog eating spaghetti. the janus profile of a labrys, settling on the lit cleft of a boy’s head. a winged axe is a butterfly. in my dream, all things are possible: a world reduced by heat. and you, ascending your own vanity like a fatal throne with sceptre in hand. in the dream, my body begins to assimilate the house, starting with the soft-furnishings. it wants to wear the rooms i walk through. or else dissolve around them, like a red and white pellet of gelatine. i dreamt i was back in camden, a machine of gravel, sullenness, and meth. all of her arches, triumphal and funerary. in the dream, amy: drawn with a stick of rancid mascara. she knows a private vein, a refusal as firm as a brand new bruise. i will not ask you what this means. i do not want to die, but to perish, grandly.


wake up. the rich white women kiss each other on screen. which is really kissing themselves. which is really a type of mutual congratulation. in the centre of some lavish catastrophe, eyes like rice wine, i want to be famed into motif, my face is the future, is a wound with no exit.


why do i make myself ridiculous defending you? every night i peel off my own invisible pitchcap, join the other maimed dunces on our three-legged stool. fear is a wig too tight to the scalp, the dress that shreds me as i waltz in step. to be a kind of satiny pariah, a wife. get up. the verges, sweating out a miracle, these yellow orchids, culvert glories. a smell that stimulates both appetite and gorge. my dreams are apologists for my waking thoughts, where thorns gird me, dragons guard. to stand outside of time, in a slick and looping fever of return. damsel: they desire my desire, not me. men who take me apart with deft disinterest, to rebuild me like a rifle. because they can. they time themselves: how long to reconstruct me, functioning and lethal. women who walk with the tortured obedience of greyhound dogs. i love my love with an l because she is… i love my love with a b… names become manes. or dulled to punctuation. i love my love with an asterisk, interrobang, forward slash.


the woman in a red puffa jacket: cheek-chewer’s pirouette, tried to catch our eyes in her open mouth. a quick pink tongue, all slick with need. i can no longer endure. i can no longer sustain, maintain, ceaselessly do. next week, i will plant red fuchsia. i want the mellow sorrow of fable. history is hard. i want your shoulder, without request or apology. but you are trapped inside the thing to which i’m tied, and therefore x marks your spot. poverty a phantom zone. don’t tell me how far i’ve come. those morbid self-saluters saying things on twitter. there are songs to raise a storm, assuage the sea, wreck the ship, and my mouth is an ark of curses. love, we portion out our hopes in fits and starts, never too far into the future, exceeding our restraint only with guilt. but they allow themselves to dream; they always win. they are thieves. it has never occurred to them that your thoughts belong only to you. i am so tired. all the crosses on the wall hanging crooked. the ghost gathers its flies with concerted effort. and how do you tell a fly from the ghost of a fly? our bones are open inside of us. cracking apart. the black blade of sight.



or in ice. the body dreams

of itself and sunday, condensed

inside a cul de sac: we are going

to church in long white socks,

lucidly fleeced, a race of glimpsed

poppets. we wow the boys. is
that how it was? or summer,

urgent and idling, a bad case
of the lowering fidgets. someone

says: they can smell it on your

breath, and i was an ashtray,

full with the stubs of other

people’s tidy sex. our dull

summers, cornered

and then shunned. there is
always a man, with a van,

an unpleasantly

spacious mouth. he rolls

me up in plastic, tighter

than a tube of arcade change.

the body masquerading
as a mannequin, an angel,
a perfect lily of tv dread.

in barrels or in brown

off-cuts of carpet. look at us
now. at me, surfacing

through the grim sling
of my own skirt, where
only the waistband

remains. pageant sashes
of weed. water works on
us, and the face
is a casual glacier,

calving from the skull.
to slide from the self

in sheets, form sediment,
the stuff of nightmares.
what was the land but
a surface, all surface,

a crust you pick with
the nib of a spent pen.

i dream of suitors,
pushing back

their sleeves, the hempy
night, fathers, and a critical

affection. i am uncreatured
here, am fathom-fire,

a shape but not a form.

prost! you found me.

now it’s your turn to hide.



these consequential rodents. you pry

up the floorboards to find them. stiff,
the tail becomes a stick. you call

them micicles. a true name is where
the tongue dwells in difficulty. say

nornahraun,  its freight of glassy

hair. witches’ lava, acid snow. you

might be bewitched: the feather in

the pillow, the threshold of a house.

they do not belong to the field, are
white, and strangely extended. you
say such gifts. and grin a christmas
miracle. look at you, always sexing
the cherry. look at you, always
cuting the corpse.


a ghost wants gazing, is a look-at-me! you have

a dress, but i have a gown. my portrait, an exquisite

glitch in the avant light of a long exposure. a lady,

demure to her organelles, grisaille with constraint.

her frown, a rippling plissé pleat. summer is the slick

proximity of peaches to cream, a strategic tear in

dimity, stiff and bleached. her tableau vivant, her

poses plastiques. summer is the smirk of regret,

the cynical refusal of a silky minuet, a ghost:

grandiose and resolute, seeding the stage with

slippered steps. forensically refined, gauge her

gothic contours through a blue velvet fold. scent,

a forged signature in frigid air. she is so still. ciselé

or shantung. her marbled thigh, her coaxing stare.



smile, you radiant thug, this is your moment. close your eyes.

a deliciously living possession, say: some people just deserve

to squirm. the night denied returns a hundred-fold. i am told.
i am anointed. my enemies carry my heels and hold my hair,

down all the piss-drunk pannierpaths of midnight. a man, in

the sentry box of his stupor, is watching me with a trained
indifference. he does not feel the cold. he is you, and about

to be real. look closely: the shape of your future, showing

through the thin habit of your form: an egg inside a python.
for you, this narrow and furious blossoming, the hot distended
spectre of human love. the interval, the cut. the cut, the savour.
i am barely there. you are making your mark on fogged glass

with a finger, again. your own face, scrubbed in the mirror.

effaced, inscribed, perspiring. and me, a smear on a lens.


these things, for sure: a field reclaimed for wetlands,
a chalk pasture full of poppies. gorse. dishevelled

allotments, wearing their roses awry. footpath,

impossible with campions. this thin green skewing,

squared. a notice to quit, and the new-build estate

bears the names of saints. i’d thought to plant fox-

gloves, i like their prim toxicity, pink and white. i’d

like to grow calla lilies, tight inside their hangman’s
hoods. arum or aurelian, plants that carry the night
in their name, whose scent is a reveille. but my back
is a quiver of nettles. the grain has slipped its silos,

and the rails run to warp. perennial madonna. i grow

chickweed, speedwell, pimpernel. and dock leaves

broad enough for wings. such stings. such thorns.


‘the fundamental myth of patriarchy is Goddess-murder’ – Mary Daly


rise. the new moon’s bleak communiqué is a soiled red hokum. poets, and all your feeble glyphs meaning moon, shut up. my most succulent humour is horror, is a chaoskampf between two lunar nodes: caput draconis, cauda draconis, the way a ruddy light consoles. consult my tension headache: men, in the slow-burn of my low. my low is a throne they squat like rodin’s thinking shitter, shitty thinker, elvis, fat and dead. my low is a modem’s digital throb. the fossilised alarm a paper folds between the faulty capslock of its headlines. outrages are multiple and coming your way. somewhere, a man is fashioning the thin script of his brilliance into amorous soundbites. somewhere, they are ticking a box about you with a red pen and a nasty competence. monster is a kind of questionnaire word, is a one-to-ten scale, a yes or no answer.

the doctor is an orifice, a kind of speak-your-weight machine: tell me about your pain, it says, and the mouth goes through its moist theatrics, unbelieved. i’m a frankenstein science of parts, the body a kind of kitsch jest. here is a tendril, here a tusk. a talon in a camisole. silk, superabundant freakishness. and the doctor says it’s all in the mind. days of selective fret and seek. picture a dragon. picture all the lithe and viperous tenants of the sea. picture snakes: venomous, exalted, and violent. picture maddened lions, big-weather beasts, offspring all unspecified and hairy, scorpions stinging themselves in the head like stan laurel. i had such children. i tried to put on lipstick but my mouth became a scarab, crawled all over my face.


to speak of the face, that fright-mask of dubious ecstasy. the sea is not an abyss but a garden. i had a lover. by which i mean love. he knew my storm-embellished depths and found them – not beautiful –  but  full of a perfected fever. all that glisters is, in fact, myself. in the shimmy and squeeze of being desired. boys killed him. revenge is a golden pendulum, a wind-up monkey banging cymbals, dressed in purple velvet and brocade. a metronome. salt has a savour too. grief is a species of shame. to speak of the face is a roll-call of the faults that i became: monster, in a doting rage. floundering and fissured. 3:00 am. the radio, ejaculating static and my bed on fire, clarified by paraffin.



afterwards, we will need

new names: anusáh, she

says. coerced, accused,

informed against, a star

you sew to yourself forever.

they write everything down

and nothing. the cops know

a song that will get on

your nerves, and the first

verse goes like death. talk

all night, your statement

will never be evidence.

deposed, disposed, then  

dispossessed. doubly

denounced. will i call
myself deoraí, deorad?

a weeping stranger in

rooms where only

women plead.


here is how it will be:

the parrilla, the pillory,
the pillow-talk of peine
forte. i pray to margaret
clitherow, trussed in
a toll booth, crushed by
her own front door on
lady day. on top of me,

a flesh cuirass, a rigid
mass of splints n’

studs, is abberation’s
cavalry. endurance or
duress. a bodice
embroidered with
guelder roses, said to
allude to hard white
stones. his voice is

sober excrement.

i could be flowers:
sword lilies.
dessicant papers
slipped inside a psalter.

could keep my colour.

a wench is a maiden
stained, a maiden squared.

wench, wrench, wretch.

say my spell to cud.

notorious felons,

standing mute. all

the king’s soldiers,
pressing their suit.


flowers are delinquent
genitals, she says.

the garden fucks to
itself with nihilistic
abandon. in the lean-to,
the filament burns
itself out. there are
bulbs and bulbs,
fine and rival skulls.
we meet for coffee.

trail the percussive
tongue through theory.

maids all mewling
and pure. the trysting
talk of money gets her

going. luminous girl,

of paraclete persuasions,

angel at my shoulder, says:

this body is the mark

singing to its maker. light

in the bright wreck of my

wandering. and god. i am

glass, she says, biding hot.

marver me in graphite

sheets. or not. and strikes

me like a match against

myself. the mouth,

its pontil wound receives.

a row of girls, frilly for

communion, kneeling

pink and still, like myxy

rabbits staring, lamped

and flaxen, and obedient.

she begins to believe
i am allergic to electric.

how else to explain
by bad head mood.
small green space
of succulent temper,

where no one is

looking. until

everyone is.


in the teeth of it, as the say. between the horns of this ordeal. or the tines of a fork. or the loins of a hive. my head is a hive that contains no honey. no, a solemn vespiary, the monody of wasps, their eerie sexless industry. the book becomes spit, becomes pulp. an opus grows in the mass-mind of a mouth, this colony poiesis. fiction toiled into fiction, each brittle paper cell, a page. the book becomes the book contains the library. slim volume of frustrated rage. the jaw, working like a guillotine. a wasp is a poet, a bedroom philosopher. poke a hole in fruit with your finger, for the fun of it.

listen: the estate is alive with the child-catcher ditties of ice-cream vans. ask for dragon’s blood and screw-balls, the quelling taste of caramel. i could not ask for anything, my tongue a planchette, pushed around my mouth to spell out howdy! the rubberised handles of my bike leave black forensic stains where i sweat in shorts, not being a boy. not not-being a boy. in the slackened cabaret of parks, i assume the mantle, the softened knack in ankle socks.  girls, in the burlesque of their handstands, handsprings, plimsolls. jesus. men, their woo is a charm wound up. impulse perfume, push-up bras and green gym-knickers: that day-glow lycra hymen, technically intact. flâneuse, my stride is my slum and i walk this hall of tortures into reckoning. they talk with a voice as thin as soup. i will not look at them. to comb my hair across my face like cousin it. to lower my luddite lids over silver lyddite eyes.

when and where? these are adultland questions and i’m not quite. instead, that they are coming down the road and the distance clings to them: clods on their boots, a biscuity crust to their skin. his face is a thin varnish. you could pick it with a compass point in class, cotton-ball it off with pink, pear-drop-smelling acetone. instead, his shirt in a ball on the floor, fold upon fold, a dispassionate brain. how ladies talk, stinting cake with a rancid elegance, their scent a sighing enzyme and we wanted to be like. make me feel grown up, a civilised piglet, squealing myself back together every morning. and that one night, a gummy seam of stale mascara. speak softly, of the dissipated silver, blackening in draws. do the fickle drawl around a ginger tooth. errant and halt in a halter top, sweet with expendable melancholy.

my head betrays my shape: unwomanly. baroque by belomancy, arrows pointing inwards, little sharpened stones. the eye entraps its augers, one by one. cats in the sexcrime silence of the night, settling into their swagger. roadkill, gaffed to the tarmac. i am still, a black incisor in a sticky pouch of cloth. a small town, this, kitsch with fear. owls do choral hemlock: totem, idol, omen, ghost. the wasps go in and out of me, little shuttles sewing dirt into my maid’s finery, a paris shawl, a cloak of power. purl and pearl. i am, perhaps, a horizontal loom, hot mess of heddles, battens, reeds. oh, pale jacquard. oh, matelassé. brocade, broderie anglaise. i am come to lace, to blue-green damask tatting. pillowslips, brooding with embroidery, the simpering trim of a peasant skirt: tassels, tiny silver bells. i am recycled into linens, silks, spirt-medium muslins, white and shining. i am a garment district, a chinese laundry. textile piecework, measured by the yard. i am bolts and spools. i wind from me. i am a rag trade.

dream of laura palmer, wrapped in plastic. or don’t. in fragile florists’ cellophane, precociously corpsed on a shingle beach. the dead have the night, with its freight of lunar hungers. on video, most exquisitely crepuscule. the dead are busy, glamorising cigarettes. eat that cherry pie through all its phases to exhaustion. towns like this, sclerotic and macho. it wasn’t laura. glowing, dancing, laughing. it was the seed pearls of my acne. the close in its halfwit walpurgis. heat. the violet nocturnal of curfew. do i really remember? dogs in their tomboy nonchalance, loitering. and terminant. scooting with worms. inside i am taffy, my body a kind of star-shaped piñata, i come apart in chewits and skittles, a severed ear like a sugared shrimp, its pale pink pool-cue chalk. i apply lipstick for the licking of, singing kandy pop, wanting to look like manda from bis, wanting a powerpuff bobblehead look, wanting my sleekest denier stretched between chimneys. my mouth is full of wasps, agile survivalists. him, holding my head down, going: taste the fucking rainbow. fire, walk indeed. a prayer.

there’s a pile of leaves in the broken sink. without windows the true carnivorous splendour of a house becomes possible. the wasps are a quilted ceiling. i am furtive food. guttural, clutching, and splayed. the empty bedrooms talk to themselves like stomachs. lie on the mattress and breathe in dust. talk travels backwards through time toward the mouth. fear. asphyxia. crab claws make scare-quotes around the promenade. obscenity. to eat so much sand. how i used to confuse desert and dessert. wild rhubarb in the garden and a hole in the roof. in the teeth of it, as they say. that trinkety smile, exceeds the face it’s set in. remnants. keep your sea change. malt vinegar light runs in a tight loop around the rotten fixtures. i’m one hundred sulphur heralds. strange. stranger. strangest.


Fran teaches at Poetry School and hides out in Kent with her beloved pit bull, Manny.

POEM OF THE MONTH – RASH by Tamsin Hopkins

Tamsin Hopkins reading Rash




You   have   a  rash   on your   back.

I  think   I’m  supposed to  tell  you,

but  while  you’re  asleep I   take   a

picture   of   your   skin and  search

through         fifty   common     skin

diseases    and   now   I have     seen

so         many             dermatological

nightmares,     embedded   insects,

worms, infections and   swellings,  

I don’t know     how

to  discuss   any   of this    with you.


I decide I will leave you a series of

post-it notes, pink/ yellow/ green.

It’s     not    strictly     relevant,     my

mother wants me to be a doctor, a

dermatologist could be acceptable,

or   failing   that    I  could   marry   a

doctor, but I told her – I can’t even

stand       thinking         about        the

discussions   we’d    have  at  dinner

every    night.    Or    at      breakfast.   

Those medical eyes.


Going     by    all    the     pictures     I

Googled,   I  think  you   may    have

Colorado  Tick   Fever,  although   I

don’t   suppose    it’s    prevalent    in

Vauxhall. Or  you  are allergic  –  to 

the sheets /  the  washing  powder /

your shirts/ your  X-Box chair.  Or

me.     Possibly,   you’re   regressing,

becoming    the  teenager    I    never

met.  Your  sister  says you had skin

issues    then.   If  I  ever   become   a

dermatologist, if I even befriend or

date    a   skin specialist,      I   will  let

you   know.   A  green post-it  under

your door.






Should   I   preserve   a  clear   image of

myself  in  my  own  mind? Should the

image have a strong outline? Are you

doing this?  Is it important to retain a

memory  of  what  you’ve forgiven for

forgiveness  to work?  Is  it  important

to know who  and what  your  parents

loved,    or    is    it    enough  that    they

existed?  How  important   is  it  to  like

your    lover’s   family?   Why   do  your

friends    never     mention    your     ex?

Would a full veil wreck my hair? Will

the wedding  be  in Jamaica? Will it be

windy? What  kind of rice will  people

throw? Will it stick  in  the  veil?  Will

turtles   come  up   the  beach  to  watch

us? Will  dolphins  frolic  and   leap for

the photos? Is it true that your friends

like   me   better   than   they   like  you?

Have  I  imagined this?  Does having a

titanium plate in  your  face  make you

have   weird    dreams?   Why     doesn’t

your     father    drink? Why  doe   your

brother    drink   so   much?   Can   self-

knowledge ever  be  achieved  without

knowing  your  parents?   Do   orphans

have   it   easier?  If  I  forget  what  you

did,  does  that mean  you are more, or

less  likely  to  do  it  again? Why did it

take you three years to tell your sister

about   me?    Just   asking.  Will  I trust

you to  drive with  children in the car?

Will    the    sides     of    my    face     age




French Glacier


When you said you’d like to see me at two-thirty, I said yes.

When you named the place, I thought you’d look stunning

in all that scenery. I said: yes, yes.


There are two ways here – valley up or peak down.

I’m checking for you in both directions, over my shoulder,

using selfies, so as not to appear obvious.


There’s nobody else here. Except an older couple down to the left,

each holding Ziplock bags containing perfect fondue bread cubes.

Probably rye bread – just the way you like it.


It’s already two-forty-five and if I leave, I might meet you

on the way up and then I’d have to turn around. Are you on the way?

In a distant cable car, zipped up in Parker and mittens?


Yes, I am wearing the wrong clothes. Yes, I didn’t want those boots

or any form of cagoul. You’d think four inches of stiletto would hold

a pirouette in the ice, but what they have here is not what I call ice.


Also, you didn’t say glacier ice would be dirty – pitted and rutted, as if

an army of jeeps passed this way just yesterday. Or trucks full of GIs,

like in the Dirty Dozen, which I’ve seen seven times. Thanks to my father.


Since you’re running late, I’ll probably sit on this boulder and watch

my own breath. I might ask the older couple to give me a photogenic

square of bread. I could hold it between my lips until you get here.







Tamsin Hopkins is studying an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. In 2020 she won the Aesthetica Award for Poetry. Her poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in ‘Best British and Irish Poets 2019-21, Tears in the Fence, The New Statesman, Finished Creatures, The Alchemy Spoon and a variety of competition anthologies. In 2021 she was longlisted in the National Poetry competition. Her poetry pamphlet Inside the Smile is published by Cinnamon. Her short fiction collection SHORE TO SHORE was shortlisted for the Rubery Award and longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize.

ANDY by Ogu Nnachi


by Ogu Nnachi


Andy scoots past Woolworths and The Amhurst

dazzles grey building blocks

roller skates tops

of brown brick walls


Trees are naked, need cleaning.

Andy pauses

grabs his mop of gold

swipes the mud off the leaves

cleanses the branches

scrapes debris into a silver dustpan.


Andy calls on the rain.

When it arrives every tree is showered

every space, plant, and building

bathed and cleansed.

Amhurst Road becomes trays of silver

that playful feet can dodge or splash.


Andy twirls his orange dust cloth

flicks and wipes at the black tints

edging the Pembury Estate windows.


Light stares through bedroom glass

at bare bodies

wrapped in sheets

and duvets.



unstick lazy lids

draw back curtains.

Are smothered by the rush of brightness.


I imagine you Andy, that night inside the Pepys.


It is packed as usual. The air is thickened with voices. Couples and groups sit around tables sporting multi-coloured quiffs, sculptured hair or carefully messy dreadlocks. I see you, expertly squeezing yourself through the mass towards the front of the bar. Your hair is a yellow beacon that attracts the bartender. She grabs your note, bends her ear towards your mouth, you’re both like a couple about to kiss. You shout your order. The music is loud, so loud that it gives you a headache, makes your ears pound.


I think of you sitting by the bar, dipping crisps into the frothy dregs of your Guinness and eating them slowly. You ignore the noise, munch each soggy crisp; let it slide down your throat. You wash your mouth with a final swig, crash your empty pint glass onto the counter, then let out a loud belch.


“Enjoyed that didn’t yer Andy” Bob would laugh at you. See you off with a slap on your shoulder.


That evening, outside the Pepys, it was quiet. You waited, lifted your hot face and let the cold caress your skin. You started your usual walk home, the Guinness and Becks and cheese and onion crisps, spinning cartwheels in your stomach. With your head lowered and your mind a smoky blur, you swayed past the Pembury, then stumbled on the pair of hidden voices.


Your breeze

flicks your golden hair

into moon crescent waves.

Your legs stretch across squares of pavement

lapping up Amhurst road.


fall to the ground

become your shadow

trailing your speeding body.


The two boys, laugh as they wipe the scarlet stains from their fingers, onto the grass. You, lie in the early morning darkness, inert, surrounded by grass tufts, empty beer cans, drink cartons, discarded tissues and clumps of newspapers.


“He thought he could mess with us. Piece of trash in some trash” says the taller boy.

The other, eyes his watch then points to the bus-stop at the bottom of Dalston Lane.

“Come on, if we hurry, we might catch the last 38”.


Your battered body settles into the slightly damp grass. Your hair glows. Windows are firmly shut, curtains closed. You force yourself to stay alert, your mind to concentrate, whilst your body craves rest and sleep.


Thirty minutes later the police car sidles outside the Pembury, sirens flashing. You see the smooth mannequin faces of two coppers hover by the windscreen. You move your body slightly trying not to disturb your fractured jaw. Your mouth makes an odd movement as you try to speak but all that comes out is a moan. Your eyes feel heavy, it is such an effort to keep them open. One man all in black, emerges from the car carrying his baton. You struggle to sharpen your vision and focus the blurred image.


“Are you okay son?”


The man speaks with an underlying bored tone to his voice. You try to lift your head but can’t. A pain, deep and sharp passes through you.

“I’m okay” You mouth the words slowly and carefully, the copper has to lean forward a few inches from your face, to hear you.

“You don’t look okay to me son. Sure you don’t want a lift home?”

“Piss off and leave me alone. I just live ‘round the corner”.


The man pauses, staring at your crumpled body in the mound of rubbish.


“Okay. If that’s how you want it”, he says slowly. The copper turns, looks around him carefully scanning Dalston Lane, the estate and Amhurst Road, he takes one last look at you and then strolls back to his car. Seconds later the greyness is lit up by multi-coloured flashes of light and the squeal of tyres.


Your head pounds as if your brain is knocking on your skull. Out loud you say, “I will get up in a minute, make my way home. I just need a bit more time, a few more minutes, for the pain to go away”.


Darkness. I cannot see. I am blind. I reach out. The air is thick. I’m travelling through melted black cotton wool. Where am I? I remember now. I made it home. I feel something soft and warm then something sticky, my hands are covered in it. I try and pull at the stickiness. It is clinging to my hands. I rub and rub and flakes of something like when glue hardens on your fingers; comes off. I reach towards my chest, press close to feel the stickiness. I reach up to my head. Slowly as I am still in pain. It is in my hair. All stiff, like a dried-up paintbrush. Can someone put the light on? Do I want to see myself? It is better this way. I am a broken tree. Heavy, dried up, snapped and wrinkled. So still. So dark.




Ogu is a mother of three children and a full -time special needs teacher of nearly 30 years. She has written for a local magazine and for The Voice newspaper and had a short story published in Artrage magazine which was also exhibited in tape slide format – ‘Black Women In View’ exhibition – Brixton Art Gallery. Her poetry was published in ‘London Voices’ and a short story accepted for publication by ‘Fred’ magazine. She has performed her poems at the Soho Poly Theatre, Yaa Asantewaa Arts Centre and the Poetry Cafe. She is currently collating her poems for publication.

ADULTHOOD by Paul Stephenson

Paul Stephenson reading Adulthood


Adulthood as The Talented Mr. Ripley


You wonder if this is how Tom Ripley felt,

wearing a borrowed Princeton jacket

and landing up in Italy, pretending to be

somebody while hanging out with socialites.


How he really felt, befriending Marge

while obsessing over Dickie, dressing up

in another man’s clothes – alone in a palazzo

by night, dancing in front of the mirror.


What it’s like inside? Being the only one

who will ever know what happened

in the winding streets of Mongibello.


Deep down, you feel like Tom – adrift

in open sea, looking down to find an oar

in your hands, and blood. Scuttling the boat.



Day Trip with an Attitude


Nonchalance and I take a train to Nantes.

Nothing to see – a blanket of fog till Le Mans.

We arrive. Nonchalance doesn’t care for coffee

or a croissant. Empty-stomached Nonchalance.


I buy a city map, ask what it fancies doing first,

suggest a walk down the river, across to the island,

for a ride on the giant mechanical elephant.

Nonchalance sighs, drags its heels en province.


What about the Jules Vernes Museum, I enquire,

You know, him of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days?’

Ner, winces Nonchalance, as if he’s seen it all,

You go, I’ll just wait outside and sit on the fence.


Hey, we could climb the ramparts of the château

then rinse our tonsils in the local plonk?

Nonchalance shrugs its shoulders – soberly,

says, I’m teetotal. Can’t stand royal history.


The cathedral took 457 years to finish! I insist.

It was hit by Allied bombing, the roof ravaged by fire.

Nonchalance isn’t listening but sat in a trance,

headphones in, volume up, nodding, ensconced.






Early to the classroom.

Ten thousand press-ups

next to the desk

before morning register.



Lightning off the block.

A greyhound chasing

the rabbit round the floodlit

tracks at Walthamstow.



Not KFC.

An emporium with atrium,

all the pheasants hanging

in Harrod’s food hall.



A game of hopscotch.

The pastel chalk numbers

washed away

in a series of showers.



A heavy goods vehicle

carrying flammable liquid,

all gleaming silver hub caps

and faulty



                         that swerves

and jackknifes,

                         smashing through               the barriers,



              rolling over,

                              down into

                                                           the ravine.






Paul Stephenson has published three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), which won the Poetry Business pamphlet competition judged by Billy Collins; The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016), written while living in the Paris at the time of the November 2015 terrorist attacks; and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He took part in the Jerwood/Arvon mentoring scheme and the Aldeburgh Eight. He recently completed an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) with the Manchester Writing School. He co-edited the ‘Europe’ issue of Magma (70) and co-curates Poetry in Aldeburgh. He interviews poets at paulstep.com and is on instagram: paulstep456

WOMAN by Anastasia Velounias



A sequence by Anastasia Velounias






Caged like a bird-

Oh Maya, it is still so blurred


We have the racism, fascism,

Communism, cynicism, criticism,

The barbarism, elitism,

The narcissism and the Darwinism


Oh Maya, your lyricism

Still sings with humanism,


Oh Maya, sing like a caged bird once more,

Will you please?






There is beauty in my pain,

There are scars left to heal


But the scope of happiness widened

And the meaning of life ripened.






I live to die,

You will live to see,


My no is not a yes,

Your ignorance is not in jest.






This country breeds men as dogs,

Barking and barking,

Waiting for their next attack.


But domestic abuse is expected, don’t you see?

This country breeds men as dogs,

It breeds women as subservient wrongs,

Living how we ought to be

Don’t you see?






I am a punching bag

But I do not bleed

And I do not succeed


As a woman who is

a punching bag

who only bleeds

and cries in disbelief


At women so cruel,

To let this be.






Dance to my tune,

I will make you forever weep and swoon.


The Pied Piper of Hamelin now resides at your jest,

‘Tis clear’ the women use to cry at their very best.


Oh- how little did they know,

Oh- when all we do is die slow.


Sing with me and dance to my flute,

I will make you flutter, you dirty brute.






I am a prisoner

Chained to your feet

I am your listener

But pray for me- give me fleet.


I am a pet

On a tightened leash

I am in your debt

But pray for me-let me unleash.


I am your wife

Bound for life

Death do us part

Because of a bleeding heart.






Feel empowered they said

When those people have bled


The double-edged sword they said

When those people were hanging on by a thread


Our time will come they said

When those people said this infection has yet to spread


What can they do they said

Either get wed or dead.






Hustling like a fraud

Waiting for my big applaud

Cooking up a storm

Receiving all the scorn

Nursing like Nightingale

Reading a bedtime story tale

Cleaning all the crevices

Scrapes, cuts and all the blemishes

Dressing up in couture

Acting so very demure 

Hustling like a fraud

Waiting for my big applaud.






Daniel Hinds reading The Corona Prince


Three poems by Daniel Hinds


The Corona Prince


By now, you must have heard his legends.

You abide in his empire.


In the kingdom of the rising star

He rose from a small bowl of hot bat soup


Pausing long enough for sunken eyes,

Slimed in matted hair, to glare like an alligator


Surfacing to see the prey come to drink.


He stood full height, small feet in the primordial,

A hungry ghost in black scaled armour.


Skin the colour of hardened phlegm.

Consistency of a patagium wing.


The old man’s whistle cut short

Before it could cool the broth on his upraised spoon.


With the red light behind him,

The West saw only a body, a thin line of shadow:


A judgment of God over Egypt.

And turned aside their gaze.


On the other side of the sun they say

He fell from the stars with the ink black space


Poured onto the armaments of men

Under the shadow of an eagle’s wing.


In truth, his womb is the mucus

Of your lungs the red crown points pierce


As they breach and spit the flesh

As he flails and splutters from the eldritch.


He is born a thousand times each day.

The thin golden string of your life


Is his cut umbilic cord.


His ritual ointments are soap and wine

Darkened water. Courtiers, wring your hands.


His long fingers will squeeze the drops

From your neck, like a tight mink scarf.


For libations, he sups the sweat of his subjects.

Like Stoker’s creature he hovers by the bedside


And runs a cracked tongue; stokes flames.


His palaces are spotless white.

With the pomp of pale robes and gurney carriages


He leads procession after procession

Down the scrubbed and stretching corridors.


A pied piper with a liking for liver spots

And time folded into wrinkles.


His subjects shuffle behind.


Like poetry,

He lives on breath and air


And the liquid libations, the flecks that cross

The vermillion border.


Unlike poetry,

He does not survive long on paper.


Smiths and scientists labour

To construct the spear


To spike his groin.


Their designs drawn like a meal made

From a cook book covered in spewed up slops.


The ingredients expert eyes discern

In the detritus at the bottom of your bowl:


A thin and silver shard of his crown

And a scraping of his phlegmatic skin.


A king caught in his coronet.


Count to twenty

And you will name his successor.




The Sequence




Is a criminal line up where every figure

Committed the crime.


Guilt against the backdrop of a black

And white height chart.


A rogues’ gallery

Where every painting is hung.


In a sequence, they all hang together.




The egg fertilised and splitting;

The planned pregnancy


Becoming unplanned octuplets.


A line of succession,

With sometimes seconds in-between,


If the midwife’s eyes and hands

Are still greedy for the slime of birth.




Picking your cards and blind fingers finding

The same soft fabric. They all wear the same suit;


Odd bodies pressed and dressed to match,
Or better, whatever your opponent’s holding.


All of your hard-won hearts pulse

In time and dribble: a cobweb of red lines.


Or perhaps it was a paper cut;

Your red prints marked

And stained every card you drew.




The small portraits of kings and queens

Framed in wood


By the reaching branches

Of a long overgrown family tree, knotted


By centuries of interbreeding,

Like a vast maze of umbilical cords.




When the cups stop moving,

Finding a ball in each cup.




One cup overflowing into another.


If you have a thirst for a mixed drink,


The sequence will see it quenched.




Not just the palm lines of your hands

But the spaces between fingers, hand and hand.


Your nails


Turned, not always in the same direction,

By a single screwdriver set.




In a sequence

Every word is bigger.


Blackened worlds hang in white space;

The space between is small.




Sundog Howl


‘Better bring

A shovel.’

– Scott Walker, Sundog


When Scott Walker died he left me his voice,

Tore out the redness of his throat and pressed it in black.


Scott, you go night flying

And I walk in the day.


I put my ear to your coffin.

Heard nothing.


You promised you’d be listening,

You and Brel; bet your getting along real well.


They buried you like a dog’s bone

Finished playing.


Scott, you walk beneath the earth.

There’s no dancing near your grave.


The later stuff, you couldn’t dance to.

Thought I’d bring a shovel, and a show.


Later, I heard you punching the meat

Over by the funeral spread.


The thumbs of spring

Have closed your eyes.


The disc turns and turns again.


The sundog sets

The sundog plays

Another set piece.





Daniel Hinds won the Poetry Society’s Timothy Corsellis Young Critics Prize. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The London Magazine, The New European, Wild Court, Stand, The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Blackbox Manifold, The Honest Ulsterman, Fly on the Wall Press Magazine, Finished Creatures, Rewilding: An Ecopoetic Anthology, Newcastle University’s One Planet Anthology, Amethyst Review, Perverse, Streetcake Magazine, Riggwelter, Orbis, The Seventh Quarry, The Wilfred Owen Association Journal, Selcouth Station, Nightingale & Sparrow, Cardigan Press’s Byline Legacies anthology, BFS Horizons, and elsewhere. Twitter: @DanielGHinds