David McVey




First Class

‘It makes a mockery of the whole university!’ said Tam Clark, the Senior Lecturer. He was a bit Old Labour, so this kind of reaction wasn’t unexpected.

‘Oh, no,’ said Jeannie McKay, one of the bright, younger lecturers, ‘it’s an innovative approach that engages the degree-awarding process with the discourse of modern culture.’

‘Say all that again in English.’ said Tam

‘Well, ha, ha, I knew I could trust you all to discuss this in a lively and passionate manner!’ broke in Aberfeldy, our Head of Faculty. ‘But you must let me point out, Tam, that while we rightly regard our First Class Honours students as our best and brightest, we must recognise that there are good years and bad years…’

‘Aye, and this is a bad year,’ said Tam.

‘…yet every year, without fail, two of our students are awarded First Class Honours. There is no level playing field across the years. Therefore this innovation is just as valid, will attract new students and media publicity and be a lot of fun, too!’

We voted. There wasn’t really any point. The commercial and PR departments had the University by the throat and were determined to push the new scheme through, for the very reasons Aberfeldy had suggested. But there was only a narrow majority in favour.

‘Excellent, excellent!’ said Aberfeldy, cupping his hands in triumph. ‘And the splendid news is that only two such graduations will take place before that of our own faculty! All the teething troubles will have been eliminated and we, our department and our graduands, will shine!’

In late June, a week before the formal graduations, we convened in the town’s ice rink. The main spectator gallery was restricted to academic staff, administrators and relatives but the rest of the place was packed, every member of the audience equipped with a small keypad.

The first skater emerged; Sam Ryan, a slender, elegant American girl and brilliant scholar. Under the old system she probably would have been guaranteed a First. Her routine was one of the best, too, intricate and with a couple of remarkable spins.

Fifteen skating graduands later, the last to go collided with the perimeter wall and was carried off. The graduands were lined up on the ice and the audience voted. The announcer called out the losing names one by one and each graduand skated disconsolately off. Then they were down to the last three. ‘And a First Class Honours degree goes to SAM RYAN!’

Sam punched the air and screamed, and when she settled down, there was a hushed pause before the second First was read out – Jackson Ohari, another fine student, happily. The third figure on the ice skated tearfully off.

‘What splendid publicity!’ said Aberfeldy to me on our way out, ‘only two in A&E and next year we’re hoping it will be televised!’

‘This is the future of Higher Education!’ beamed Jeannie Mackay.

I think Tam was already in the bar.



David McVey lectures in Communication at New College Lanarkshire. He has published over 120 short stories and a great deal of non-fiction that focuses on history and the outdoors. He enjoys hillwalking, visiting historic sites, reading, watching telly, and supporting his home-town football team, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC.

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Josephine Lay




In a Home

When he sits in his chair by the window
my father’s head shines in the sun
like a hard-boiled egg.

There’s even a dip in his skull
where someone’s put a spoon
to open his cranium.

This was the surgeon who broke through
to the yolk
scooped out the soft mass
of the tumour.

When he sits in his chair by the window
my father’s head droops to his chest
as he snores after lunch
while he waits for me to visit.

When I arrive I see his pale pate through
glass, fine hairs knotted
into a silver halo.

I walk towards him, take his hand
from beneath an ill-fitting cardigan
that doesn’t belong to him,
and greet him with a kiss.

He raises his head,
looks at the clock on the wall,
lances me with a glance
as sharp as a spear,

and smiling, says
‘You’re eight minutes late.’



Josephine Lay is a published poet and writer; her most recent collection is Unravelling 2019.  She is editor for Black Eyes Publishing UK and heads the Gloucestershire Poetry Society. She also hosts the monthly poetry event ‘Squawkers’ in Cheltenham.

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Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan




The Anatomy of Boys

Boys are cold birds
Boys are carrying broken wings

Boys are burning oceans
Boys are drizzling ashes

Boys are not the thorny rose
Boys are petals of hibiscus

Boys are rainbow
Boys are not cloaks for a deluge

Boys are glass prisms
Boys are bends stifling grief

Boys are untapped palm trees
Boys are cask for unharvested tears

Boys are cameras
Boys are libraries of cracks

Boys are dustbin
Boys are cavity for filthy blames

Boys are suns
Boys are shining in isolation without stars.



Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan is a budding writer from the Ebonyi State of Nigeria. He writes autobiographically about life, the boy-child, and about multiple aspects of the ebbing African culture. He is a penultimate Medical Laboratory Science student with lots of unpublished works to his credit. His works have been published at Quills, Ace World, Trouvaille Review, Ducor Review, The Lake, LiteLitOne, Inverse Journal, The SprinNG, Journal Nine, e.t.c. and has also contributed to several anthologies. He was the winner of the 2018 FUNAI Crew Literary Contest.

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Sue Wallace-Shaddad




Walled In

After Banksy:
Rats, My Wife Hates It
When I Work From Home

Rats are on the loose
climbing up the walls,
their agility well-known,
ingenuity to the fore.

They’re hardly noticeable
as you peer into the mirror
asking yourself what exists
beyond this square patch.

Is it just you and the rats?



Sue Wallace-Shaddad is studying the Newcastle University/Poetry School MA in Writing Poetry. Dempsey and Windle will publish her pamphlet A City Waking Up in October. She has poems published by London Grip, Brittle Star , Ink Sweat & Tears, Poetry Space. She writes reviews for Sphinx/Happenstance Press. Sue is Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society.

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K. S. Moore





A jagged edge of sunset gold
cuts the hillside.

Was it folly to build
this land a tower,
that it might fold
its heavenly green
over and over,

peer through
a monocle of window
to meet
the curious
and fanciful?

Remember the night
we tested its magic,
walked in a snowflake
chain of bodies,
stopped before
getting too close?

Remember the shape
of a witch’s shadow,
hat like a dagger,
arms rising to curse
our wicked intrusion,

her figure exposed
before flight?



K. S. Moore’s poetry has recently appeared in Atlanta Review, Mookychick, The Honest Ulsterman, Fly Press Magazine, Boyne Berries and The Stinging Fly.  Work is upcoming in The Stony Thursday Book, Verity La and with Broken Sleep Books. Blog: http://ksmoore.com/

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Rebecca Sandeman




Summer Holiday


Belgrade is a //    ‘kaleidoscopic cityscape’     //     it is also    //  burning,   it is  //    burning  // and I only just understood what that meant  //   Stay indoors   //   don’t eat sushi     //   there are tanks on the street  //   The whole point is to immerse yourself  //    take a seat   //   wear a mask  //  our passport used to be one of the best   // Croatia despises //  him  //  don’t you think it’s best to come home    //    we have barely even started     //     when we went to the police station I saw God  // he was smoking against a wall  //  his hands were full of blood  //  there were raves in our building  //  it was smooth jazz //  on Mondays we bought tiny cakes // we were tired // so tired   //   and I   //  thought it would be different this time   // politics is kneeling on our throats again //  we couldn’t take the tram //   the virus has taken all the seats  //  I’m sick and hungover   // my teeth taste like being kicked  //   I’m not coming home    //   I’m  staying out with new friends   //  I know what I said // but this   // it’s important somehow   //     more than ever  before    //  shoes have been left in the streets //  bloody //  their owners have disappeared   //  who collects the dogs that have been let loose  //  for some time I have been sleeping  //  but  I am awake    //  where are the rooftop parties  // where are the Pomeranians  //  the hooligans have been instructed to kill us with our own tears  //  don’t throw words down a well //  do you know who lives in wells? // Tony Blair //   why pretend  we have a seat at the table //  there is no table   //  I thought I saw a table once //  but it was a German Shepard  // don’t test me world   //  I have a banner and a desire to watch the news  //   disseminate  // revert & return  // my lockdown walks are awe-inspiring  // shame on the post office queue //  the traffic lights haven’t been disinfected   //  stamp duty hasn’t   //  got anything to do with stamps //  listen, carefully   // I think I might just have something to say



Rebecca Sandeman is a (mainly) fiction writer currently living in various places. Her work has appeared in journals such as Strix, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears and Route 57.


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Chris Hardy




Number One

She wore a flowered dress
and the Autumn sun
came through the glass
so light chalk dust
was a mist between me,
the window and the path
to the churchyard where
in a flint wall
coins were left
for me to find.

Was it the first day?
We copied numbers
from the board.
2 was a shape
I could not draw.
She wrote it for me
in my book.
I copied 1 down easily
and later saw
that 1 was also I.

In the picture of the class
we are looking at the lens
which looks straight back
as it buries us alive.



Chris Hardy’s poems have been published widely, some have won prizes. His fourth collection is Sunshine at the end of the world (Indigo Dreams). He is in LiTTLe MACHiNe. “A guitarist as well as a poet Chris Hardy consistently hits the right note”. Roger McGough.

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