You taught me to be a meat-eater—
to chew carefully with flesh-shredding-bones—
but I wanted to be a bird, I suppose.
Something light and aloft, edible if I intended to be.
Or smashed against a window, bone-thin, hard-boiled,
chewing dust and flour in an alleyway; you’d rather I baked
an egg on the sidewalk than eat something that would never be alive.
Where is the soul in that, said a man with a dog, and ate his bone.
You wanted to farm corn on the cob, but butter doesn’t grow on trees,
and so you became a teacher. There was a stillness to your method:
look, there’s the stove, there’s the fridge, and over here the cow.
I had a hatchet and your hand, neither one very hard, no diamonds,
but how heavy steel can be in your back pocket I found out the hard way—
running against a glass door with a cleaver in my pocket, forgotten there
when I tried to swoop from the hill, spinning my arms in crop circles.
A promise in the pain: at dinner, we scratch at old wounds.
You and I, we sure were a team of knives, sharpening each other
until you found a bone to pick with the meat. I’d rather you didn’t eat that,
you said, teaching me: maggoty scraps of haunch, rib-eye rearing its ugly marrow.
Don’t dig your nose into somebody else’s meat, don’t trust flesh
that you didn’t see die. You said ‘meat’ like others said ‘love’ and ate the way
most people kill; all stealth and without motif, but always with aim and shot.
You taught me that meat begets a meal,
so I ate it all: the plate with the bones, the knife with the blood, the world
with all the living-bleeding-teaching. Aren’t you proud now that I
am a chink off your knife, all blade and no handle? Here I am,
teaching myself to eat grass with teeth that you gave me, all eyes for the birds,
I hold your weight, hoping to fuse to flesh to flesh in ways beyond digestion.
Marie-Aline Römer is studying Russian in Vladivostok, where she is trying to recover from the shock of recent university graduation. She is originally German, studied Chinese in London, and generally has no idea what is she doing where most of the time.Read More
God is drunk in the stairwell
curled into a ball, slamming his head
against the chipped white paint and
slurring “forgive me” under his breath.
His hands tremble at the sides
of his skull, fingers
clawing at his scalp.
He can’t shake the voices.
Matthew Voscinar is a hip-hop artist and sleep enthusiast from the 589-square-mile nursing home known as Hernando County, Florida. He currently teaches at Pasco-Hernando State College.Read More
Among Dusty Stage-Props
Once again I looked at myself
in the mirror.
Once again I was overcome by
Where are the hard manners I demand
I take hold of my mirror
(Translated by Katalin N. Ullrich)
Kinga Fabó is a published Hungarian poet, linguist, essayist. Her bilingual Indonesian-English poetry book waspublished in January 2015 in Indonesia.Read More
Ways of Falling
Age five and slipping off the blue metal swing out back at 13 Marlyns Drive,
it was a given the soil would be concrete-hard and Copydex’d with dead grass.
The friction of my hands tripping down the chains lifted the scent
of hot offal into the air and made the sound of trains
and landing, I stared up at swing’s A frame, made pictures from its acne of rust as
layers of the earth travelled through my bones until I vomited
them out of my mouth in a shower of magma and stones.
I could not move and was, it seemed, thigh-deep in lava and shingle,
a savoy cabbage planted in my chest with a detonator inside.
I remember counting while waiting for the tingle, for it to explode.
Now I fish in the back room of my house and count and wait.
There is friction and track-rattle and I brace,
but it’s a given each word will struggle and flail. Sometimes
the sun thwacks against their scales, there’s a hint of phosphorescence
and their mouths gasp as I lift them clear, my line hooked hard in their soft fish lips.
I watch them slap the dry grasses, their fish slime drying slowly,
marble eyes watching a Tuesday-blue sky as I count
and wait for them to die. Sometimes sirens sound on London Road
and there’s always a little blood and it me who falls backwards
and the ground cracks daily, the ground cracks daily.
Claire Dyer’s poetry collection, Eleven Rooms, is published by Two Rivers Press. Her novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair, and her short story, Falling for Gatsby, are published by Quercus. Claire is undertaking an MA in Poetry at Royal Holloway.Read More
The Cleaving Rain
The rain tapped soft holes into Beth’s sleep and she awoke saturated with sweat. A dream slipped away beneath the dark surface. The sky had been falling all night, dropping like flakes of wet plaster. Beside her, Ben gave up clouds of damp breath to the air. She fought the urge to look at her phone and see the time.
She lay prone, on her back. Beth had long since ceased to hope that Ben would hold her through the night. He dreamed apart, curled towards the door, while she reconciled herself with the ceiling. Sometimes she turned towards the external wall for symmetry, but tonight she didn’t have the strength.
Instead, Beth pulled herself up and went to the open window. Drawing back her makeshift curtain, she could see the puddles shatter in the dim glow of light pollution exhaled by the city. Whatever the hour, London was quiet. Only the distant death rattle of a freight train marked time’s passing.
It was cold, but the downpour seemed too forceful to deny. She left the window gaping and returned to bed.
She met him at the point where the groyne gave out to waves. She stood on one post and he slightly further out, a sentry on a weed-lashed post. Although the sea frothed beneath, it gave up his plinth again and again, never once licking his toes. Her feet gripped the sharp studs of concrete, anxious for grip.
“So, you came back?” He smiled sadly at the grey ocean.
“Yes, I just needed to get some air.”
“But you forgot me, didn’t you. You love me now, but it can’t be sustained once you leave.”
“It can. I’ll try harder to remember. I’ll find a way to communicate when I’m not with you.”
“You’ll forget again.” He shrugged. “You can’t help it, you have another life.”
“It’ll change. It has to. We love each other and that’s all that matters. You’re the one who told me that.”
“It’s not enough, not when this isn’t real.”
She looked out beyond him, to where the mist staged a false horizon with the sea. He continued: “Too much waiting will petrify us. We’ll turn to barnacled statues – me looking to land and you forever fixed upon the sea.”
She repeated, fainter now: “But I love you. Without this constancy to return to, what do I have to dream of?”
“This isn’t constancy, it’s just a moment of parting repeating over and over. Our real lives are moving on.”
He was right, again. She remembered the ending now. The sea had already reached his knees and the lines of groynes seemed to tilt, plunging down below the skyline. As the shock of water braced her stomach, only his head and shoulders remained. Already a memorial bust, fragile as clay, drowned from view in a single wave.
Beth inhaled sharply and threw herself up the pillow, gasping for air. The rain felt cumulative, and she was sure it must now lap the windowsill of her basement room. Beside her, Ben coughed lightly and shifted in his sleep. She kept her eyes tight shut and listened to the cleaving rain, hard drops patterning earth into clay.
“Beth, what’s up – are you ok?”
She opened her eyes in surprise. Ben was sat up between her and the window, a soft black silhouette against the weather. Sleepily, he pulled her back down the bed and wrapped an arm around her. Its warm weight hardly exerted pressure. His other hand curved above her head, stroking strands of damp hair from her face.
The night ebbed and reality firmed beneath her. Filled with love for the man who could make such an uncomplicated gesture, she slipped into a dreamless sleep.
Eleanor Matthews (@efmatthews) lives in a large, ramshackle house in London with more people than the architect intended. She writes sparse and succinct copy for her day job, but has a secret predilection for big words and small fictions.Read More
We’re the youngest guests at the Queen’s Hotel –
and you’re 52. It’s the summer solstice and we’re breaking up
except we’re making love on the fifth floor
in an evening light as yolky as an afternoon.
The sexy doom of the split
is like falling in love and a stay of execution.
Everything’s alive: whelks, do-nuts.
The soupy fumblings of the sea.
Just a day trip to Seven Sisters, you said,
without the bookies. You clot with nostalgia
for our first months, sharbing in Tottenham:
Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power.
The wind touches us up as we tussle
in the purple gorse,
the beam of the nougat bitten cliffs,
and Eastbourne: ballroom dancing, plastic bed sheets, eggnog,
women whose hearts are clamped on their faces
hard as wedding bands.
Driving home (though it’s no longer ours),
we stop at Pease Pottage services:
a piece of the universe
that love forgot, you despair.
I hug my knees by the window at 3am,
remember the sea heaving the pier’s stilted limb.
Alison Winch has been published in Rialto, Poems in Which, and others. She was showcase poet for Magma 51.Read More
The Ghost Hotel
I walk with my skin open in the hotel for ghosts.
They are here because they had secrets. I will have none.
They are always opening and closing the doors,
a constant latching behind my back. If I laugh
it’s because I thought the word ‘liminal’.
I think cruelly. To admit otherwise would risk a lie.
The body can be a bed, or a blank canvas,
or a back bared for whipping.
It is important to describe accurately the colour
and viscosity of blood. In the ghost hotel
these transactions are no longer complex.
They take place simultaneously in every room.
Once I had the surgery to remove my eyelids
I felt a lot more comfortable.
At the entrance I have planted the dark tree, the dam kor.
If you ask me I will speak. But if you don’t I won’t.
I work in the ghost hotel because they don’t bother me,
the living or the dead. Their snickering of lace curtains.
I have come to accept I will never see them.
I hold out my hand. I give them the keys.
Annie Brechin has been published in The Wolf, Stand, Magma, Rising, B O D Y, Paris Lit Up and others. In 2003 she was awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Young Poets Apprenticeship. Former Poetry Editor for The Prague Revue, she moved from Paris to Dubai this year.Read More