Emma Neale





At the end of a sunny parquet corridor:
the shock of mud dumped
on the pristine, polished floor.

Closer in, vision adjusts;
the lump seems like a salt-rasp sob
that clots the building’s throat.

Dread-dense as a sea mine,
heavy as a bell cut dumb,
little ditched anchor of gone away,

the baby crouches, sleep-sunk
as if in air’s last sweet under-layer
as the planet burns.

No eyes, but it sucks a thumb
that our own tongues know
would give the blunt, cold tang of flint

like the jungle-bars we licked at school,
even taste like the salted-plum
of lips split by a swing’s chain-links.

Though my own sons are old enough to lift —
one even to raise —
this earth-brown lostling,

she seems like a cast taken
of grief’s naked wail,
the raw howl of denial

of the void space
in a child’s form
that makes a vilomah.

It’s all I can do not to clutch her dark ice mouth
to breasts that sting with milk’s phantom,
drawn because I’m her alloy;

all I can do not to rock and cry
as when my own sons made day break
with the red-hot radicles of their spines

that shed me  — peach flesh parted on stone,
agate cored with fire — as together we strove
for them both to enter

the shape and light of their names
that seem now to speak
in love’s translation

for keep, for safe and sound, for found.



Emma Neale is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. She works as an editor and is the recent recipient of the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry. Website: emmaneale.wordpress.com


Note: After Antony Gormley’s cast iron sculpture ‘Found’, often also called the Iron Baby, exhibited at the Foundling Museum, London

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Hélène Demetriades





Trailing the outer path of Regent’s Park like a half-lit ghost
grieving the foetus I’ve shed
I crawl under the skirts of a pink rhododendron.

I enter a womb of writhing branches, humming blooms,
pink filtering light.

A bee homes in on my dress as if I too were a blossom.
The O of my ovum shudders, dilates. It will swallow the Earth.



Hélène  Demetriades‘ poetry can be found in Envoi, Obsessed with Pipework, Poetry Shed, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, The Ofi Press, Eunoia Review, Allegro, Clear Poetry, The Curlew, Sarasvati. She’s been highly commended by Patience Agbabi in Marsden The Poetry Village Competition.

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Andrew Shields



The Bus Pulls Up

The bus pulls up
at the curb beside
the half-smoked cigarettes,
a single rain-soaked woolen
glove, and two face
masks, one with peacocks,
the other with Pikachu.



Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong was published by Eyewear in June 2015. His band Human Shields released the album Somebody’s Hometown in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016.Twitter: @ShieldsAndrew  Blog: http://andrewjshields.blogspot.com/


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Michael Bloor





Case No. 1991/203

Witness – Full Name: Ianthe Jane Frobisher-Forbes
Address: 1 Priory Lane, Old Basing, Basingstoke

I first met Jason on Johnny Antrobus’s yacht at St. Tropez  in July, 1990. I didn’t know at first that he was from the Alpha Centauri star system: he told me he was from St. Albans. Both I and my friend, Mandy, thought he was very good-looking. But I later learned that the authorities in Alpha Centauri had been monitoring Earth communications for many years and had modelled Jason’s looks on Elvis Presley, President Kennedy, and the guy that plays Indiana Jones.
On the last day of the holiday I discovered that he had very strange genitalia. When I told Mandy about it, she reckoned Jason was an alien. I thought she was jealous because Jason hadn’t got off with her. And, besides, Jason had told me that he loved me and would come and visit me in Basingstoke; he had a red MG convertible.
In the autumn, Jason gave up his job as an investment banker to work full-time for the Conservative Party. Then, in November, the party got rid of Mrs Thatcher. Jason seemed to take this very hard.
It was around this time that I noticed his addiction to wine gums, especially the black and red ones. One night he got absolutely sloshed on Esther our cook’s black currant cordial. That’s when he told me about Alpha Centauri. Apparently, they don’t have black currants there.
Anyway, it was that same night that he told me that Mrs Thatcher was also from Alpha Centauri. I didn’t take it too seriously then, as he wasn’t really making a lot of sense at the time. He spent most of the evening talking about the economics of an import business in Alpha Centauri, importing British wine gums.
Not long after that, the cook gave her notice and Jason dumped me for her. She’s 37, for Chrissakes. Something to do with her blackcurrant jam.
Mandy said I ought to come to the police station to tell you about Alpha Centauri. Mummy and Daddy won’t be very pleased. But Mandy said I should do it for England.

I believe the facts stated in this witness statement are true.
Signed: I.J. Frobisher-Forbes



Michael Bloor now lives in Dunblane, Scotland, where he has discovered the exhilarations of short fiction, with more than fifty pieces published in Ink Sweat & Tears, Everyday Fiction, The Copperfield Review, Litro Online, Firewords, The Drabble, Spelk, Moonpark Review and elsewhere.

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Christopher Jackson




Skate Music

Everything went wintry. You skated out
hunched and tentative – your fading skill
recognising limits. Each scrape of fate
came smaller, and we watched you skirl
until you were out of reach of sight or ear,
free and final as a well-phrased thought.

I clutched at the verdict of your skates:
their scratches tiny as voles, and your figure
a silhouette almost lost to weight.
I feared the contents of those mountain-trees
before death shuffled behind me in the leaves.

Out of shadow now, the unearthly call:
a demon swooping in sheets of night-breeze,
bent on giving terror its absolute and all,
while I recalled the judgements you had wrought.

For a moment you were moon-held, toiling away
from red claws which aimed to claim your day –
into the un-life of mountain-shadow.

I heard nothing; saw no sign of you.
I could only hope that if you’d been skating here,
you must have found viable ice out there.



Christopher Jackson is a journalist and poet whose books include the poetry collection The Gallery, The Fragile Democracy, and the leading biography of Theresa May. He appears regularly on television and radio for Sky, Bloomberg, LBC, and on BBC Radio 4. As a journalist his work has appeared in The New Statesman, City AM, The Times, and Country Life.

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Hanne Larsson



When this is all over…

We will hug. There’re two types. A proper one starts off gentle, a soft caress as two people’s arms find a way through each other’s limbs, as chests start to touch, as each pulls the other tighter to them, as you inhale deeply. You learn to rest and recover in those. The other is a quick flash in, two thumps kind of thing. Those are for uncomfortable friends, or boys not wanting their emotions, or a victory over a game.

We eye each other up from across the room, threading ourselves gingerly between the few others there. And then here we are, in front of each other, staring into each other’s eyes. Wondering.

I wonder if he remembers how I used to nibble his left earlobe. If he knows that I remember how we met – both reaching for some packets of ketchup at a bar counter – but neither really looking at what we were doing. Our first touch was one of recoil and apology, then shy smiles and stilted conversation, before I dragged my big girl pants on and asked if he wanted to grab a drink. For our first hug I inhaled his scent – hint of lemon, crushed garlic and wool sweater – but it was gone too quickly, one for awkward friends. We got better at them: lingering cuddles where we moulded to each other, his chin resting on my head or my nose in his neck. We grew into the two of us. We taught our friends those hugs; we embraced our parents and siblings. We leaned in, like two timber-framed houses holding each other across an alley.

He glances around at the others in this room, doubting. I see it scatter across his face and my heart cracks. Of course we must dare to stand closer than two metres.

I reach for him first, hands outstretched, as if I’m calming one of the nervous dogs in my examination room. My fingers graze his jumper – wool – and I can’t help it but my heart bounds in hope.

Our arms reach round each other’s waists, I lean in for a sniff.

Sharp and medicinal.

Pulling away, I glance up into his eyes and see the hurt reflected before he pulls me tighter. I pat him lightly on the back and extract myself.

We will start slow.



Hanne Larsson is a permanently-abroad Swede, using her many-cultured upbringing as story fodder. Her stories have been published in anthologies by Hammond House and Green Stories, with most success on long/shortlists. She tweets at @hannelarsson

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John Rogers




Please accept our apologies

as we stand with a basket of light,
brighter than its weight in gold.
Cherry-picked too. The old lady
pledged that it could withstand

quite the storm. Perhaps she was right,
but the painted sign says in bold:
Sadly, The Woodlands are closed
due to the weather – no finite pause

amidst felled trees, and our contrite hearts
go back along the narrow road
past tied-up watering cans. The story’s told
a hundred times. Sweet baskets of light

arrive, then thresh about in the wind.



John Rogers is a Nottingham-based writer and tutor. He has studied for an MA in Creative Writing and was recently awarded the NTU Prize in the Dial-a-Poem competition. He gives his two cents on Twitter @JohnR692.

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