Zest and Other inhibitions – Zoë Ranson

Zest and Other inhibitions

It’s Tuesday. The big match
The Whirlpool engineer glazes over
For dinner, something pre-made, easy to heat through
rips in the centre of the soup plate

You really gotta try the raspberry volcanic
from the nonlinear past where food is presented on the laziest Susan
Shirt tail/syntax/unbreakable chain

The Vegas quadrant in Morecambe Bay an opulent public space
Back in the nineties, this whole area was a theme park
with a theme of an unsightly Red-eyed
Hamburglar or a Funny Fry friend from a frieze

Rides have astral/fairyland names
like Vespertine and Nebula
You remember how Olaf had a star named for him once

You know who else was here? Elsie. Elsie was here
in a brick red shade of lipstick
the ghost of her kiss blotted on tissue

Zoë Ranson is a writer and performer from Hackney, via Walton-on-the-Naze. She makes work from micro to epic, sometimes for the stage. @zooeyr @tentative_line

I recognise the date – Becki Hawkes

I recognise the date

and I recognise that today is a bruised sky blue
and purple day: everything readying itself, steadying  
itself, tasting the turn in the air. Squirrels attack me
on my lunchbreak: scale my legs and dive head first
into my Pret paper bag and I cannot even pretend
to be annoyed: they are so unapologetically sure
that I am here to sustain them, so gleefully confident
they won’t be harmed. I recognise the date and I want
to say that the weather, the sky, the wildlife; that they
were all exactly like this – except of course I don’t
remember the weather. I don’t even remember the time
of day. All I know is that they told me it had happened
and that for hours and hours I pretended that it hadn’t:
assumed there must have been some ludicrous, laughable
mistake. My brain is so good at saying oh, no thank you,
not today: it makes everything slippery and lilting
and diluted. Even now I can stand in bubbling light and mud
and rose green amber splendour, five, no six, no seven
years on, covered in fearless squirrels, a nudging ocean
of pigeons at my feet, and wonder what you might be
up to this weekend: decide I should check in, give you a call,
tell you about these squirrels.

Becki Hawkes lives in London, loves being outside and butterflies, and has poems published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Shore, Rust + Moth, Brittle Star and Perhappened, among others. Her first pamphlet is published next year by Survision Books. Her Twitter is @BeckiH_678.

Featured Publication – Erased by James McDermott

Our featured publication for January and February is Erased by James McDermott, published by Polari Press.

Erased deploys found and erasure poetry to answer back to decades of censorship and homophobia. Removing ‘not’ from Section 28 legislation makes it a riot of celebration; the pluralised UK national anthem, an invocation to ‘save the queens’. Through selecting and reversioning these texts, we see that ultimately, in the witty words of Pride placards, “love is/power/love wins” Caleb Parkin

McDermott’s new pamphlet quivers with political tension and confirms him as a vital voice of queer British poetry. McDermott changes the narrative of homophobic documents, revisits their language and moulds it into a glittery powersong of wonder and unashamedly queer joy. ‘God save our gracious queens’ indeed” Serge ♆ Neptune

Erased is a crystallised gem of a collection. Emotive, evocative, and ingenious. Using central conceit that keeps on delivering, James McDermott has uncovered something truly special, an iridescent revision of the canon and our received wisdoms” Rick Dove

Erased is an act of reclamation and fabulous impudence. The whole pamphlet empowers and validates” Simon Maddrell


after Al Parker Productions Gay Porn Video Intro Guidance

the following is being presented
as a visual fantasy
as a viable alternative
to actual sexual contact

some of the precautions
taken by the producers in
the preparation of this fantasy
have been visually omitted
for editorial considerations

this is intended for viewing
by a special and limited audience
namely adults who request and desire
material for their information
education and entertainment

GENESIS 9: 12-13
after God

and god said this
is the sign of
the covenant
I am
making between me and you and
every living creature with you
a covenant
for all generations
to come
I have set my rainbow
in the clouds and
it will be the sign of
the covenant
between me and the earth

after Pride protest slogans

James McDermott’s spoken word collection ‘Manatomy’, published by Burning Eye, was longlisted for Polari’s First Book Prize 2021. James’s pamphlet ‘Erased’ is published by Polari Press. Their poems have been widely published in magazines including Poetry Wales, The Gay & Lesbian Review, The Cardiff Review, York Literary Review, Popshot Quarterly & Atrium. James was shortlisted for Outspoken’s Poetry Prize 2020 in the Performance Category and has been Commended in the Verve Poetry Competition, Winchester Poetry Prize & York Poetry Prize. As a playwright, their plays published by Samuel French include ‘Rubber Ring’ (Pleasance Islington) and ‘Time & Tide’ (Park Theatre). James is also a writer on EastEnders. Follow James on Twitter at jamesliammcd and on Instagram at jamesmcdermott1993. Visit their web site to read more about them and their work here: https://jamesmcdermottwriter.weebly.com

Signed copies of Erased are available to purchase from James McDermott’s website.

Bedroom Wardrobe – David Thompson

Bedroom Wardrobe

I see them as they really are
bright pink and slick-clean when,
in the start-light, they come to me,
choose their veneers for the shine-time.
I display their selections in my silver-side;
she decides herself, always so well finished,
but he needs both our help.

I tend to them faithfully, always ready,
not like that upstart, bed, lying around,
neither providing nor holding a thing,
until they give-up, in the dark-time,
go pale and shivering to that lay-about;
though sometimes I hear them
gasp and moan like they never do with me
their treasured veneers tossed to the floor.

But I know they love me,
they spray sweet-scent,
massage my sides until I gleam.
It is me they trust with memories
kept in a box at my top,
though the lid stays closed.

Sometimes children visit and play inside me;
they know me better than I do,
find whole worlds in the back of me,
their laughter echoing in my chest.

David Thompson is a poet from Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. His work has featured or is upcoming in MagmaOrbisThe Cannon’s MouthThe Seventh Quarry and New Contexts: 1 (Coverstory Books, 2021).

Be Mindful of Mud – Rachael Clyne

Be Mindful of Mud

Step warily my dear,
on slippery earth-paths
that thread uphill
past ivied trunks
away from a world
of dull-crack gunshot
and quadbike roar.
Lift your head instead
to light that catches
silver on hazel bark.

If, my dear,
you find yourself
wire-barred –
backtrack down,
bottom-slide, clutch
each handhold branch
offered by
soft-eyed strangers.

Learn, my friend,
to avoid the glisten
of sticky opinion.
If its mire sucks you in,
wave your wing tips
and let the pull of air-tides
uplift you all the way
to the hillfort crown.

Rest there, my love,
on an old horse-trough.
Gaze at dainty deer track
by your feet, scrutinise
badger sgraffito.
Listen to rook chatter
and feel your body fizz.
Now you are human-imal,
mudful of mind.

Rachael Clyne’s collection, Singing at the Bone Tree (Indigo Dreams), concerns our relationship with nature. Her pamphlet, Girl Golem (www.4word.org) explores her migrant heritage and sense of otherness. She is currently expanding this work into a collection.

Not all photographs belong in albums – Abigail Flint

Not all photographs belong in albums

It’s Christmas morning and his face
is a stale balloon.
His brined eyes seek something
beyond this house. And her,
in Care Bear pyjamas
clutching the Sindy horse and carriage
in its pink and white box,
her eyes wide as mushrooms.
She leans to him the way children
make lions of the fathers they have.
Let me reach in and shift his weight
to the wall. Let me fold her
like paper into the dolls’ house
and tell its scaly feet to run deep
deep into the Baba Yaga’s forest.

Abigail Flint is a heritage researcher from Sheffield. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in a range of magazines including Under the Radar, Ink Sweat and Tears, Reliquiae, Popshot Quarterly, About Larkin, 192 magazine, and research project anthologies. Twitter: @constantunusual

The Time Machine – Tom Kelly

The Time Machine

Vincent is Captain America only the zip on his back is missing
revealing a five-year-old’s spine and not our superhero.
He does not care one little bit as he flies constantly
waiting for me to growl, frighten him, but not too much.
I pull an evil face (easy for me), he dives away.
I shout louder, his head almost spins off its axis.
When it is time for me to go, he follows on his scooter –
we both agree it’s really a time machine.

Tom Kelly is a north-east of England writer. He has had eleven books of poetry, short stories and a play published in as many years. His new collection THIS SMALL PATCH has recently re-printed by Red Squirrel Press.  https://www.redsquirrelpress.com/product-page/this-small-patch-tom-kelly

Wild – Hannah Linden


Mouse-eared into tight corners, smalled 
into holes lined with abandoned wishbones, 
it took time to learn the skreels were my own.  
He did not seem to hear them, or realise
that behind skirting boards, there were 
tunnels gnawed into being when the house 
was asleep. He still walks through the rooms 
he opened to the public, but the real work 
is behind the scenes, deep in the foundations 
or under layers of old wallpaper that is no longer 
replaceable. I have chewed it all, made nests 
for impossible futures, conceived them 
when he was unaware how my wildness still 
lived under floorboards, in cavities in the walls.

Hannah Linden is published widely including or upcoming in Atrium, Lighthouse, Magma, New Welsh Review, Prole, Proletarian Poetry, Stand, The Interpreters’ House, Under the Radar and the 84 Anthology etc. She is working towards her first collection. Twitter: @hannahl1n

Tickenham Hill – Matt Gilbert

Tickenham Hill

Somewhere beneath that listening ridge
the winds are gossiping again, in tongues
beyond the most vague and coarse translation.

A breezy sonic-catalogue of air let loose,
wheezes up behind walkers staggering up
the slopes, outroaring the M5 at every step

Until the top with banks now bare again,
fit for prehistoric sentries to cast their eyes
across the stretching flats, Land Yeo wriggling

Off towards the estuary’s greyed-out islands,
Wales industrious over fast brown waves,
not quite yet the sea, still almost as strange.

It is a chafing edge of sorts, rabbits racing
over grass towards the woods, not waiting
to witness other beings cloud over the horizon.

Matt Gilbert is a freelance copywriter and blogger at richlyevocative.net. Originally from Bristol, he currently gets his fill of urban hills in south east London. He’s had poems published by Anthropocene, Black Bough and Green Ink, amongst others.  Twitter @richlyevocative

Bird Strike – David Thompson

Bird Strike

A thud against patio doors;
on the other side, a sparrow
totters on matchstick feet,
striving to keep upright
like a boxer caught
by a hook to the chin.

Deceived by the glass
infringing its flight path,
it staggers on paving slabs
fighting to regain full senses,
whilst the neighbourhood cats,
claws sharpened, lurk in the gardens.

David Thompson is a poet from Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. His work has featured or is upcoming in MagmaOrbisThe Cannon’s MouthThe Seventh Quarry and New Contexts: 1 (Coverstory Books, 2021).