Maggie Mackay

 

 

 

Lady Mary Hamilton

If you were to be wandering
through the Kunstkamera in St Petersburg,
last century, you’d likely have spotted
a glass jar on a dusty shelf
and inside it a head, pickle-floating in spirits.

This belonged to Mary Hamilton.
It was lopped off her neck by a swordsman
on the orders of her lover, Peter the Great.
He found her guilty of infanticide,
(the drowning of their babe in an outhouse),
the theft of Empress Catherine’s jewels and abortion.
The Tzar ordered her death, preserved her head.

 

 

Maggie Mackay loves family history which she incorporates into work in print and online journals. She is a Poetry Masters graduate of The Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University. Her pamphlet The Heart of the Run is published by Picaroon Poetry and her first full collection will be out next year. She is a reviewer for https://www.sphinxreview.co.uk/.

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Ian Heffernan

 

 

 

The Journey in

 

We pass a shock of roofs, a builders’ yard,
A squat clocktower, cranes, wide bird-filled parks,
Unkempt back lawns and windows seen through trees.
Graffiti flares from walls of darkened brick
And at unmeasured intervals we skirt
Brief-platformed stations, bright and empty still.

 

 

Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at UCL and SOAS and works with the homeless. His poetry has been published recently in the High Window, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Cha, Antiphon, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Under the Radar, FourXFour, the Moth and elsewhere.

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Steve Haywood

 

 

 

The Winter Coat

My fingers flicked across the screen like a concert pianist performing a well-rehearsed and all too familiar musical score: odd numbers, one to thirteen, seventeen and twenty-seven (my lucky numbers), and a small bet on red, just to make sure. I tapped the screen one more time, and the roulette wheel spun, the little ball flying round the circle, fast at first and then slowing down until it bobbed between the little numbered slots before final coming to a rest. A red nine. The machine chimed and flashed up my winnings. I felt the familiar buzz of pleasure that winning always brought. If I stopped now, I’d be up on the day – not that I would stop, of course.

“Good one. You gonna switch it round now, and go evens?”

I half turned towards the speaker, a rather dishevelled man in his fifties, sporting a grey stubbly beard and unruly grey-white hair. His clothes were similarly scruffy except for a rather splendid green coat that looked brand new. “Nah, gonna stick I think.”

He shrugged, then turned back to his own screen muttering something about young people not knowing what they were doing.

I should have listened of course, because the next spin of the wheel the ball landed on thirty-one black, winning me nothing. It sounded like the man next to me hadn’t fared any better with his strategy, if the slamming of his hand against the machine accompanied by some rather colourful language was anything to go by.

I was just setting up my next bet, when he spoke up again.

“Say, I’ve got a good play here, but I’m a bit short of readies. Don’t suppose you could lend me a bit could you?”

I shook my head, sadly. Gamblers did not make good creditors.

He tried again. “Look, you wanna buy my coat? It’s a great winter coat, really warm and everything. Brand new too, just got it for Christmas. I’ll take a tenner for it.”

I looked at him sceptically, my eyes flicking from him to the piles of crisp white snow outside. “You don’t want to do that mate. Look outside, it’s quite literally freezing out there today.”

“Please. I’m really onto something with this one, I just need a bit more. I’m gonna win on the next one, I know I am. I’ll give you twenty back for it.”

I could see the desperation in his eyes; I knew I shouldn’t but at the same time it was a damn good bet to take. Heads I make a tenner profit; tails I get a brand-new coat that was a damn site better than my threadbare effort. I could tell Jackie I bought it in the sales.

“Okay then,” I said finally. “You’ve got a deal.”

“Thank you. Thank you. You won’t regret this,” he said as we swapped coat for crisp new note from my wallet. That was all my betting money for the day, but I’d already decided only allowing myself twenty was too limiting, so I used my card to add some more credit to the machine. A little more wouldn’t break the bank.

No more than a couple of minutes later, there was more cursing from next to me. Looks like I was going to be keeping the coat.

“Didn’t work,” the man muttered angrily. “Damn thing is fixed.”

I nodded sympathetically. “Sorry ’bout that.” The anger fizzled out of him before my eyes, leaving utter dejection. I looked outside. The snow had started falling again. “Look,” I said finally. “Keep the coat, okay. You’ll freeze to death out there without it.”

“You sure?” he said as I passed the coat back to him. “Thanks, so much. I’ll pay you the money back.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like gambling any more today, so I cashed out my remaining credit and left. I walked down the street to get some lunch.

A few minutes later, as I walked back up the street to my office, munching on a hot dog as I went, I saw the man stumbling out the bookies. He was shivering in the cold winter air, the thin, tatty checked shirt he wore doing nothing to keep out the chill.

 

 

Steve Haywood lives in a small historic city in England. As well as writing short fiction, he blogs about short stories, novels and assorted topics at http://www.inkypages.co.uk. He can also be found on Twitter@Lancaster_Steve

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Guy Elston

 

 

 

The Mishap

The first barbecue of summer –
the last, for Peter – had a decent turnout,
uni pals and partners mostly, but the odd
school hanger-on and semi-pitied colleague too.
The first hour was a bit damp, naturally –

politics, sport, the time for bores to shine –
but as the yellow bubbles lifted
so did laughter, into the relatively breathable air
tinged with CO and grass cuttings,
and kerosene from Peter’s grill.

He tried to get it going just as rain started.
In barbecuing, timing is everything.
Matty got a big laugh with an impression of him
holding an umbrella while flipping chicken,
then peering up and asking for sun cream.

The damage was somewhat terminal,
it seemed; the coals permanently sodden,
the chicken flesh pink and oozy. Unfed giggles
turned to peals of screams, shouts and playfights,
a dealer was called; things were getting

out of hand. Peter added firelighters,
oils, tinder, all sorts. There was a belly-woosh
as the flame roared up drunkenly;
there was a moment, as Peter turned his face
to us, when everyone was still laughing.

 

 

Guy Elston is a teacher in Liverpool. Recently his poetry has been included by Rust + Moth, Atrium, Fly on the Wall Magazine, Anthropocene and others. You can find him on Twitter – @guy_elston – and find his work at https://linktr.ee/Guy_Elston

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Evan Hay

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone, so please excuse brevity, spelling & punctuation

Sent from my iPhone whilst dieting, so please excuse an 8-point-font

Sent from my iPhone during a senior moment, so with all due respect Missy- excuse spelling & punctuation

Sent from my iPhone clad head-to-toe in hard-wearing corduroy whilst tuning pianoforte along the Cotswold Way, so pitched perfectly- excuse punctuation

Sent from my iPhone iTyped with iThumbs, so excuse brevity-spelling & punctuation

Sent from my iPhone within an eruv in NW-London: it’s not some clever legal trick trying to avoid a rule

Sent from my iPhone resident in the People’s Republic of Conformity so just excuse apathetic listlessness

Sent from my iPhone whilst drinking Dr. Pepper, what’s the worst that can happen?

Sent from my iPhone: I’m struggling anxiously to increase sales volume by 20% (in accordance with an inflexible corporate strategy) so excuse brevity, spelling

Sent from my iPhone scunnered by 5-decades-of-wage-slavery so excuse self pity

Sent from my iPhone having been advised to place my personal feelings aside whilst learning for a fact that I’m definitely not receiving what I thought I deserved, & now apparently I need to envision the bigger objective first- so please excuse my tears

Sent from my iPhone- currently chained to my Mrs whilst she untiringly seeks ever more inventive-onerous-opportunities to break hard rock’s together- shoot me

Sent from my iPhone whilst navigating from wife-through-girlfriend-onto-lover: have a heart cock, & excuse brevity or any STD

Sent from my iPhone whilst having my shirt lifted in the famous Cockring-night-club, so excuse double-dutch spelling

Sent from my iPhone whilst being probed by Prince Hisahito of Akishino; excuse this inscrutable Japanese text

Sent from my iPhone whilst perched painfully upon a spinning fickle-finger-of-fate, so excuse me all over the place

Sent from my iPhone inspired by Bruno Manser, so get naked, camouflage your face & start blow-piping lumberjacks

Sent from my iPhone during black mass at a local coven- so until next time: merry-meet-merry-part-&-merry-meet-again fellow pagan xx

Sent from my iPhone energetically riding a wart-hog; excuse casual animal cruelty

Sent from my iPhone whilst wanking please excuse typos, brevity & spunk

Sent from my iPhone whilst running naked across the common, closely pursued by community officers, so please excuse typos & brevity

Sent from my iPhone whilst being dishonourably discharged from an internship with our local coastal Edelweiss Pirates, so please excuse brevity, spelling & punctuation

Sent from my iPhone at home alone listening to Carmina Burana on full volume: my wife’s left me, so please excuse typos or punctuation

Sent from my iPhone reflecting upon my unforgivably bestial behaviour, increasingly concerned that my shame shall long outlive my trials & tribulations

Sent from my iPhone presently inside a coffin buried somewhere in SE-England with only 9% of phone battery remaining & perhaps another hour’s oxygen- if I do dig myself out I’ll respond fully tomorrow: but for now- thanks for keeping me au-courant with your debauches. Do please excuse typos, punctuation & brevity etc.

 

 

Evan Hay is resident in Britain, & rather than follow spurious leaders over the years, he’s found it therapeutic to write thoughts, feelings & ideas as short stories, to be considered & interpreted by clinical practitioners who might offer assistance.

 

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Grant Tarbard

 

 

 

The New Testament of Dog

Dog, elemental creature delving in puddles,
fully formed in mud, this body earth, all love
without mechanism, he is the murmur that nestles
into these delightful sounds of apocalypse. Enemy fire
turns off the crickets chirping. Dog’s rolling papers
are crickets wings, he hunts them when they’re out
to dinner, when they’re as unsuspecting
as a box of kittens. Dog, din of hair, promises
stored in his nostrils, every time he sneezes
my luck gets better. When I’m at my naked self
my heels are to be regarded as mineral deposits,
when they’re wrapped in the rags of a bedfellow
it’s as if I have strange clothes, a lush coat, dog
whispers sawdust into the ears of my pockets,
after all, the ghosts that dog feared
were just children in mother’s best sheets.

 

 

Grant Tarbard is the author of Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams). His new pamphlet This is the Carousel Mother Warned You About (Three Drops Press) and new collection dog (Gatehouse Press) will be out this year.

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Zoe Brooks

 

 

 

Stars in Class

Our teacher would give out stars –
gold stars to the bright supernovas,
silver for the hard-working planets,
and none for the boy at the back
a black hole that sucked
in everything she threw at him
and gave back nothing.

The children in his orbit
felt their desks shift
beneath their pens,
saw books fly past,
large multi-winged bats
homing to a cave mouth.
Soon their chairs crashed
and the children slipped,
hung on to desk legs,
before crying disappeared.

Sam has imploded again, sighed the teacher.
Don’t look, it will only encourage him.

 

 


Zoe Brooks lives in Gloucestershire. She has been published in Dreamcatcher, Prole, Obsessed With Pipework, Fenland Reed, and The Rialto. Her collection Owl Unbound will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2020. Writing blog: http://zoebrooks.blogspot.com/

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