They hold hands on the Clipper as the tour guide drones on about pirates and the heyday of the East India Company, a soft voice drifting through a hazy sky.

“So many warehouses,” Jamal murmurs, grey buildings hunched over the grey Thames.

“They used to be warehouses,” Agnieszka says, her head resting on his shoulder. “But they’re all converted now.”

“No,” he says with a mischievous grin, “Warehouses still. Designed to keep their wares in the best possible state until they’re ready to be picked up.”

“And their wares are?”

“Why, people of course!”

A game they play, these two. He strokes his stubble, dark eyes staring into the distance. “Young professionals; highly trained, preferably childless.” He shifts on the blue vinyl cushion and she sits up a little straighter, putting her arm round his slim waist. “They can’t pack them in as close as they packed bales of cotton or crates of tea, but these are much more valuable commodities and there are other benefits.”

She smiles. “Such as?”

These goods pay for their own upkeep. Pay to be kept in their sterile little one or two bed apartments.”

“Like yours?”

“Like mine.” Jamal kisses her and then kisses her again as he gathers his thoughts. “They–we–queue up to be stored safely. So many of us that merchants rush to build new, fake warehouses along the side of the Thames. You know when they’ve put together another shipment, because there’s a rash of ‘For Sale’ and ‘For Rent’ signs.”

“I’ve seen them,” Agnieszka says. “Doesn’t anybody notice when the people disappear?”

He shrugs. “These people don’t know the names of their neighbours, let alone their business. And it’s no surprise if the most successful young couples move on, even if no-one’s quite sure where they have moved on to.”

“And the people, the cargo; do they put up a fight?” She nestles back into his shoulder as she probes the stray threads of his story. Though this is a rather tame tale, lacking the flights of fantasy that usually result when, story collapsing, they delve into the myths of their respective cultures and conjure up Azdaja or Djinn. This is a lazy, summer afternoon tale, at best.

He reaches into his jacket pocket, pulls out a glossy flyer. “No…” Jamal says, slowly turning it over in his hands. “They go willingly, bought and paid for by the offer of free canapés and drugged wine.”

He looks down at the pair of empty plastic tumblers on the bench beside them and at the other dozing couples on the top deck of the boat that has, at some unnoticed moment, left the warehouses behind. Even the blocky shapes of Canary Wharf are shrinking into the distance.

He links his fingers with Agnieszka’s unresisting hand, squeezes his eyes shut and wonders where they’ll be when he opens them again.

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Liam Hogan is a London based short story writer, the host of Liars’ League, and a Ministry of Stories mentor. His story “Ana”, appears in Best of British Science Fiction 2016 (NewCon Press) and his twisted fantasy collection, “Happy Ending Not Guaranteed”, is published by Arachne Press. 

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She had been waiting at Heathrow airport for the last thirty minutes. She didn’t mean to show up this early, and technically she didn’t. Arrive early that is. Glancing upwards at the flight departures and arrivals boards for what felt to be about the fortieth time in the past five minutes, she noticed that his arrival was still blinking, mocking her.


It wasn’t as if she could text him. She had tried, but his phone was still turned off, not wanting to be charged fees in this land he would now call, “international,” and which she was temporarily calling, “home”.  

There were so many things she wanted to ask him, even though they had spoken a mere ten hours ago, before he had quickly said goodbye before taking to the cloudy skies in Los Angeles. She wondered if it had been unseasonably warm there like it always was in December. Here, she was half-glad she didn’t have to go outside of the sterile terminal just yet. Even looking out the windows she could see how cold it was through the exaltations of air from foreigners lips, clouding into the air just above their heads, as if the skies were calling these tired passengers to come back and travel again. She could see the way their hands were rubbed together again and again to fight off the cold, while others who wore gloves smirked at them smugly from the corner of their eyes.

All that black luggage looked like an abyss down at the weary travelers feet. Most of them still had a long way to go too. For those heading into London, the Heathrow Express would whisk them along into the very center, but others that were heading to the countryside, had a much longer journey. For some, she could tell from their posture alone that it was good to be home though.

Others, most with screaming children and weary eyes, studying tube maps, felt scared and uncertain. Which line was Central? Did they take that one or Piccadilly to Paddington Station? She could read the questions lying painfully on their faces knowing exactly how it felt to be so lost, wishing she could go to them and tell them the best route.

But she wanted to wait for him. Had to wait for him. Wanted to see him round the corner of the international arrivals gate and search the crowd for her, lugging his own black suitcase behind him, filled with warm sweaters and the few books she had begged him to bring her from her overstuffed bookshelves back home. She wanted to see him lock eyes with her, and burst into a brilliant grin that she already knew would leave her breathless and gasping for air as her tears would begin to prick her eyes. Inevitably those hot tears were going to flow down her face, marring the perfect look her makeup had created, and his would start to become red too, tears cascading like waterfalls down his smiling cheeks.

And she couldn’t wait for the moment they would push through the crowds, not caring if people gave them dirty looks as they finally, finally, would be able to wrap their arms around each other in a tight hug that would squish ribs and press their beating hearts closer and closer together. They would both say, “I love you,” over and over again as if it were song lyrics they had gotten stuck in their heads. Inevitably a short distance away, a single traveler, with no one to greet them at the arrivals, or an old couple who had long since gotten past the days of anxious separations, would smile and feel the outpouring of love between the couple.

Caught up in her own daydream, half a smile on her face, she glared up at the arrivals board, crashing back to reality.


She almost growled in frustration, wanting to smash something. She had to remind herself though, that every time she had flown into Heathrow she had been delayed as well. There simply weren’t enough gates for the planes to allow passengers to disembark.

He was probably as anxious as she was right now, having been the one to actually suffer through a ten-hour flight in economy. On British Airways no less. She shuddered with the memory of how awful her first flight with the airline had been. Rude flight attendants. Soggy food. Less than stellar seats and tray tables. She considered herself lucky in that regard; she actually had a bed to lie down on last night and get some anxious fretful sleep, whereas his long legs had probably been stuffed behind someone in front of him. Likely someone who didn’t understand the meaning of the word “courtesy” and had slammed their seat back as far as it could go, nearly jamming the headrest into his chin.

Despite herself, she giggled at the thought.


Hugging her phone to her chest, burrowing deeper into the thick black coat she had worn for this meeting, she begged the air traffic control gods to please, please, just let him get off the damn plane. She didn’t even want to consider how long the lines were going to be at the customs gate. She hoped he would have any trouble finding it. This would be his first time travelling by himself and she wished she could hold his hand and walk him through the process, but that would defeat the purpose of him being alone. He could do this. In that sense, he didn’t need her.

She just wanted to see him so urgently, to kiss those perfect lips, to pull his jacket closer to hers and whisper that she had missed him so desperately but that none of that mattered now. He was going to be here, with her. Nothing and no one else mattered.

Thinking back to the last time she had seen him at an airport, waving goodbye to her while she joined the snaking security line at Los Angeles International Airport, she couldn’t believe they had even made it this far. Well, she could. They were soul mates, best friends, partners in crime. They belonged together no matter what. And he had helped her through all the tough times and the joyous one’s. From frustrations over converters and adapters with the wrong voltage, to the smallest things like completing her first homework assignment on the long road to her master’s degree, he had been there for it all. Just a quick phone call or text message away, always saying, “I love you” and, “I’m so proud of you.”

On the other hand though he was asleep half the time because of the dreaded time difference. Though, she had been too. That was one of the harder parts. And shoddy Wifi connections that left most of their Facetime conversations sounding like, “hello? Can you hear me? I can hear you, I just can’t see you! It says poor connection let me try calling you back.”

Now though, he’d be here in high definition quality. No buffering, no failed calls over thousands of miles, he would be here; holding her hand on the tube, seeing this city through her eyes.

She would show him her favorite Tesco stores (because no two were ever the same). The school where she poured hours of hard work and heartbreak into the pieces she wrote. The different palaces that each had something distinct about them and which one’s were not even worth stepping inside (“Kensington Palace is so overrated, and Hampton Court is far superior,” she’d say).  She’d guide him through the underground, pulling his arm this way and that so he wouldn’t get lost in a crowd and quizzing him about how many tube stops they had left once they had dashed inside a carriage, because during rush hour, god only knows what would happen if they got separated from each other.

She would walk through Regents Park with him, pointing out flower beds and shivering in the shade of the trees, where the leaves hadn’t fallen quite yet. She’d drag him to all her favorite cathedrals, pausing for a moment to soak in the spiritual nature that both lifted a weight off her shoulders, and filled her spirit with longing. They would pray and she would feel close to tears again, wondering how she got so lucky to share this moment with him.

He would share his first trip on the overground trains with her, whisking through the countryside and wishing the train would slow down by a fraction of a second so he could take more pictures. Always taking pictures. Of her, of the beautiful architecture surrounding them at the very heart of the city, of everything. She knew he would never forget this trip, no matter what the future held for them, he would hold it close to his heart, because she would always be close to his heart.

He would gaze in wonder at the spires, the markets filled with a cornucopia of noise and food, smiling in wonder as she expertly made her way through a crowd, accidentally leaving him behind then needing to backtrack to grab his hand and urge him onwards, always travelling the same path twice for him.

He would be amazed by the beauty of the city, with its towering skyscrapers, age-old history, and culture running thickly through the streets and down every corner, blending old with new. Here, there’s always something for explorers and adventurers to find.

She couldn’t wait to make him tea, drink a pint with him at a local pub, show him her favorite German restaurant, go to a football match together, and fall even deeper in love than they had the previous day. Because this is what London did to people. It made them see its inner-most places, the secret hideaways, and public displays at the numerous free museums. It showed them that there was still so much to be explored, even after spending a week, a month, a year, living there. There would still never be enough time to explore it all.

It also showed people something about themselves, too. London had a way of awakening this feeling that in this city, great things were about to happen. They had already happened for centuries, that was evident enough in all the world heritage sites scattered throughout the city, but there was always something on the horizon of the Thames or hidden behind a rain cloud.


She wondered if he had happened to look out his window and see the city beneath him. Had he seen Big Ben covered up under its own construction, and the River Thames weaving its way through the gray city, creating a strong divide between northern and southern London? She hoped he would like the south side of the river as much as she did. She loved to walk down there and get away from the stench of the city, with the stuffy underground, the puffs of cigarette smoke blowing in her face every time she turned a street corner. On the south side, she felt she could breathe a little more freely, despite the cigarettes. No matter how cold it was she loved to feel the wind brush her hair off her shoulders, tangling it behind her and sending a smack of crisp, damp, air into her face. She loved closing her eyes and hearing the sound of the water slap against the banks and bridges. It wasn’t an ocean like back home, but it had to suffice in a city teeming with industrialization and a few gardens to break up the cloister of buildings.

And when it inevitably rained, and they would inevitably be unprepared for it, having grown up in a part of the world where rain is a mere hope on the horizon, they would fall into a café, soaking wet. The cold would sneak its way through their jackets and brush against their skin. They would laugh and gaze at each other in loving rapture, pressing their cold lips to one and other.


Huffing out a breath in frustration, she didn’t realize she had been tapping her foot so ferociously until the man with the tweed coat sitting next to her reading a magazine shot her a dirty look. She tried to give him a gentle smile and mentally ordered herself to stop when the lights on that one line she had been glaring a hole into for the past hour finally changed.


Her heart leapt. Of course, it didn’t mean he would be coming around that corner anytime soon, but that was the keyword; soon. Soon he’d be here. Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Fumbling for it excitedly, she pulled it out, eyes flying across the screen.

“God, that flight took forever. Finally off the plane.”

Grinning widely and a bit manically, she shot off her reply.

“Welcome to London. I can’t wait to see you.”

Paige Murray, originally from the States, is an explorer at heart and lover of both books and bacon. She loves to write about the world around her, either in fiction or creative non-fiction.

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let’s live somewhere the temperature changes


mud howard is a non-binary trans poet from the States. They write about queer intimacy, interior worlds and the cosmic joke of the gender binary.

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My Sister’s Grandson is Missing in Oklahoma

Dale's storyMy sister’s grandson disappeared about a year ago, because the universe is an utter bastard. They said he was last seen in Tulsa, Oklahoma and my sister’s first instinct was to ask, “Where’s Tulsa and what the ever loving shit was he doing there?” but really I’m fucked if I know. She got married young and had kids young and got a divorce young and her daughter had kids young and skipped the rest, so at the tender ages of fifty-something, thirty-something and seventeen respectively, my sister’s daughter’s son disappeared about a year ago somewhere near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The local police waited a month before telling us that wherever he was, he likely ain’t breathin’ much no mo’. In these United Kingdoms, however, we’re far more considered in our estimates, so it takes seven years for a missing person to be presumed dead. In March 2013 the somewhat morbid Presumption of Death act was passed, which means that my sister’s daughter’s son’s mother can apply to the High Court to have him declared dead before seven years are up. She can walk into a courtroom, face down the wigs and say, “I want you to tell me my son is dead.” How about that.

She’s been inconsolable, of course. How could you expect the young mother of her eldest young boy to be okay with him leaving for the States and never coming back, having disappeared in Tulsa, Oklahoma? He only left a few weeks before with two of his friends, both older. They talked a lot of talk about going on a big American road trip to find some big American girls. I could’ve sworn the three of them were just fucking each other, but hey, what do I know. Anyway, his buddies went missing too. They planned to take the 70 from St Louis all the way through to Denver, but from the map the police found in their rental it seems they changed their minds at the last minute and headed for Albuquerque. Presumably someone told them it was worth the detour. We all knew they were really headed for Vegas. They were just stopping over for the night in Tulsa, then some hick saw them walking into Osage County and that was it.

One of them, the eldest, 20s, blond, narrow shoulders and a firm arse, turned up two weeks later, but he wouldn’t say a word. Just kept blubbering and blubbering until his old man gave in and sent him to rehab. It had to be drugs, they said. They all said. It has to be drugs, they said, and that’s why they walked into the woods and that’s he blubbers and that’s why the other two never came back and that’s why marijuana’s bad for our fair state and its wholesome people and it’s because they were British and Jesus doesn’t like socialists. The one thing we could agree on was that they were wrong. His mother said, “Not my little boy, he’d never take drugs,” and her mother said, “He’d better bloody not have,” and her brother said, “Weed can’t fuck you up that badly,” because I’ve seen Trainspotting and I know about drugs.

My sister was also inconsolable. Not grief-stricken, not angry, not even upset. My sister is a hard woman – hard and spiky. She’d be like a hawthorn bush if it didn’t get pretty red berries in winter. You could drown your conker in vinegar or bake it in a furnace or paint a stone to look like a conker and she’d still beat you. No, she’s never needed anything from anyone, especially not me. So when my sister’s grandson went missing about a year ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma she was inconsolable, because she didn’t need to be consoled. I was inconsolable too. It took me a while to work out what it was and I really have become more self aware this year as a result, but I think I just don’t care. Even that’s not quite right; you’d think to say, “I don’t care,” means you don’t care, but it actually means you care enough to say, “I don’t care,” which suggests you care just a little bit. Saying it indicates you harbour some sort of emotion about it and I’ve been struggling to find either that emotion or the words to express not having it. I think perhaps I’m indifferent. I never saw much of him; when I did he never spoke to me and I never spoke to him and that was fine. So now that he’s not here my own life is really not that different. It’s in-different. I’m indifferent. My sister’s daughter’s son went missing about a year ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I’m inconsolably indifferent.

I never went to America. Everyone told me, “You should go! You’ll love it there.” Friends from the other side of the pond told me, which was sweet; friends from this side of the pond told me, which actually felt a bit insulting; even my own mother told me. Eventually the love of my life told me I should see America, but it wasn’t the right time for me, so he went alone. The only people who wanted me to stay here were my sister and myself. I may have wanted that out of fear, but I’m not naive enough to suggest it had nothing to do with my sister. All my best opinions come from her. She would say, outfitted head-to-toe in Primani and with a face beat for the dogs, “It’s tacky. There’s no history there, nothing real. The roads are straight and so are the people.”

I rarely argue out of any genuine feeling, rather from a contrary attitude, so I told her, “Roman roads are straight, but they seemed to have fun.”

And she replied, “That’s different, they were Italian.”

That’s how she sees the world and so that’s how I see the world and anyway I’m very happy here in London. London with its busyness and its curved roads and its oldness. London with its endless clean streets of identical chain restaurants with identical people shackled to identical tables. London with its innumerable individual old heroes commemorated by innumerable identical blue and green plaques. London, where people care more about time than about people and since time is money, care more about money than about people. Two-faced London, with one pristine, lacquered with makeup for the tourists and the other underground, staring blankly at Londoners. It’s just as tacky as America and we share most of the same history, but it’s real. It’s cold and grey and awful, but it’s real and I’m happy with that.

Still, it’s amazing what an instagram filter can do in the autumn, so right now London’s on fire. Without your instagram goggles it’s still grey, just with a lot of brown, but which of us can honestly say we haven’t had our eyes fitted with Valencia or Amaro or Clarendon options by now. Although Christmas is approaching fast, Amaro still makes London warm. I’m surprised to see it, though, because this year either Christmas is early or autumn is late. There’s something distinctly disquieting in seeing a tree in Valencia-fire beside a fake snowman, or a pile of Juno-fire leaves around a taxidermy polar bear. There was a taxidermy polar bear at the end of my road until about a week ago. They had to take it down. The fact of the matter is a taxidermy polar bear is all well and good until it falls over or comes to life and crushes an old couple from Eastbourne. I suppose it must have been the first time in three years that I had seen Mum and Roger; certainly it was the first time they’d been to my house. Mum’s fine – shaken a little physically and a lot mentally, but she’s about as fit as an eighty-three year old can be. She’s always been extremely tough of body, presumably to compensate for her mind. Roger wasn’t so lucky – he had a slipped disk a few months before, so his sciatica flared up, but he also managed to pick up pneumonia when he was lying on the ground. Only Roger could manage that; picking up a disease off the street in less than half an hour for next to nothing.

So it seems likely Mum will be burying a fourth husband after all. Part of the reason she went for him was that he’s fourteen years younger than her. Who dies at sixty-nine in this day and age? Other than Bowie. And Rickman. And Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Well Roger’s preparing to join the sixty-nine club, which is supposed to be like the twenty-seven club, but sounds a little too much like the mile-high club, which actually is perfect for Roger. I don’t dislike the man, he just exudes the impression of a creepy sixties music executive, which makes him really hard to like, which I suppose I don’t. I don’t care about him, or, at least, I’m indifferent.

His age is difficult to be indifferent about. It’s hard to argue that a younger man wasn’t a relatively sound investment for an eighty-three year old woman, but being a whole fourteen years younger than her, he was also only fourteen years older than my sister and I. I never really noticed until she, outfitted in a black high-street trouser suit and with a large hat to suggest she was happy for the newlyweds, said to me, “Don’t you find it odd that he’s so much younger than Dad? And her?”

To which I replied that I hadn’t really thought about it and she said, somewhat acrimoniously, “You never do.”

So I tried thinking about it and of course she was right. In fact, I can’t think of a time she hasn’t been right. In half a century and a bit, even together in the womb, I reckon it would be accurate to say she’s never been wrong. I think that might be what I love most about her. She’s hard and unforgiving, she didn’t cry when Dad died or when her grandson went missing or on any of the nights her daughter wailed into her lap. She didn’t cry when her husband ran off with a woman younger than their daughter. I say ran, his left leg was shorter than his right, so he tended to limp in a pained, irritating way, as if his abject suffering made him holier-than-thou. She didn’t cry when she found out he caught a tropical disease in Guadalajara or when he died a few weeks later in Ramsgate.

What I love most about my sister is her reliability, her consistency. The only time I saw her shed a tear was when my lover moved to America and I sat beside her, dry-eyed, pushing my thumbnail into the textured wallpaper of her front room and watching the indentation remain.

I suppose I might be the only person she’s shown softness to, but then she’s the only person I’m not indifferent about. We’re two peas in a large, otherwise empty pod. Two babes in a single womb who only care about each other, and even then only a little. So when my sister’s grandson went missing about a year ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she didn’t need consoling, but I was there. Indifferent, but there. And now, while London’s Valencia-burning, Roger’s on his early death-bed and Mum’s inconsolable, preparing for widowhood again, my sister and I are there. Hard and indifferent, but there.


Dale Hall is a writer and English teacher from the rural depths of the Jurassic Coast who writes queer fiction, poetry about menopausal women and Kevin McCloud and novels about pirates.




I helped two Americans with directions the other day. They embodied the role of lost tourists with full force. I spotted them when I jumped on the escalator and had surmised their confusion by the time my descent was complete. When I saw one of them rotating the map 360 degrees, staring blankly, I removed my headphones and said, ‘Do you want a hand?’

I do this predominantly out of kindness, but I won’t pretend there isn’t a part of me that enjoys the reaffirmation of my feeling like a Londoner when I do know the way.

The one without the map laughed and said, ‘Yes! We need all the help we can get.’ Meanwhile, the other continued to rotate the map silently, his face screwed up in confusion, as if willing it to somehow make sense. I asked where they were going and they told me the British Museum. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think what tube stop was closest, so without a second thought I pulled out my phone and typed the destination into CityMapper.

The man without map laughed again. Throughout this conversation he remained jolly in a way that only the person who isn’t feeling responsible for getting the two of them to the destination could be. “Don’t be such an old man, this young chap has it right here on his phone already,” he said to his stressed out companion. The intention of course was to gently mock his friend but instead it sent heat to my cheeks. I was mortified.

I sent them off in the right direction and they were thankful, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what the man said. About how quick I was, how quick we all are, to rely so readily on our phones for directions. Of course technology has changed the game from getting you to a – b. 8 times out of 10 I’m in too much of a rush to stop and think about where I’m going – I just need to get there as fast as possible. But what those gents reminded me of is that there is such wonderful freedom and vulnerability in being, quite simply, a bit lost. You’re forced into one of three options:

  1. Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetTake a chance and follow your gut, for better or for worse.
  2. Remain exactly where you are.
  3. Admit defeat & ask for help.

It’s a luxury – for want of a better word – that can only be afforded to those on holiday or not on their way to work or something important. In those cases being lost is misery, stress and often in my case, tears. The circumstances which require you to get from one place to another are directly correlated to your emotional reaction regarding how easy the journey is to make.

I’m proud of the way I’ve come to know this city I’ve been wandering and roaming for two years now, yet so often it’s far easier to just plug in the destination and follow a step by step guide on how to get there. It’s travelling by numbers. I can’t think of the last time I asked someone for directions, because why would I need to? The knowledge we obtain of the streets we roam is rendered useless half of the time because it’s easier to be told than to work it out. It’s a resistance to finding your way as opposed to following. An often unnecessary dependency, like holding on to your script when you really already know your lines, or continuing to ride your bike with the stabilisers you no longer need. I want to try and take off the stabilisers more often. I want to get lost.

We have been blessed of late with some beautiful weather, so it’s become a regular habit of mine to take long walks and also to walk when I can in place of the bus or the tube. The other day I met my friend at the South Bank and I decided to walk all the way back to my flat. I live by the river so it was surely as simple as following it home, I thought. The sun was shining, I had podcasts galore queued up, I had been feeling decidedly anxious and nothing calms me down like the repetitive, monotonous, gloriously simple act of walking.

When I got about half way, there was lots of construction work going on, diverting my simple, follow the river route back home. My iPhone battery was running dangerously low, so I was inclined to find my way, without the stabilisers. I followed signs and my instinct, before long ending up in an almost obnoxiously beautiful park. Endlessly green and picturesque, I had no idea it existed, let alone that it was so close to where I live. After I’d walked through the park I made my way back to the river, just as the sun was setting. The sky was surreal. What is it about a sunset over a cityscape that gets me every time? The contrast of the soft pastel hues against the harsh metal of the metropolis. The light peaked round the corners of the buildings, like someone sneaking out of a party without wanting to say goodbye, knowing everyone would beg them to stay if they did.  I had to catch my breath. It was perfect. Cinematic. In that moment I couldn’t have been more grateful for my low iPhone battery forcing me to not rely on the crutch of an app to ‘get me home’ – for I know a quicker route exists, but I was in no hurry and now I know the beauty of what I might have missed.


David Atkinson is a Scottish actor and writer based in London. He writes short stories, non fiction and poetry. Recently he wrote and performed his first one man show, which he’s hoping to perform again in London and at home in Scotland next year. He also writes a tinyletter, a newsletter that sporadically pops up in the inbox of subscribers (where his piece first was self published) – you can find him there to read the archives or subscribe.

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Two freak-outs in the Roman wall and one outside

1) Missa est

I became quite familiar with the correct route to the church, though it was very difficult to find. The old streets that led to it were winding and didn’t follow a standard grid. I was always confused when trying to find it. I don’t come from this place.

I suppose, thinking of it now, it isn’t really a church. I think that once upon a time, it had been a church, but the building had long since been converted into a theatre. I suppose the difference between a church and a theatre really only depends on two things: It depends on what people are doing inside it and it depends on the ornamentation.

The vicar was waiting for me when I arrived at the door. Handing me the key, he said, “Leave it in the letterbox once you have finished.”

“Thank you,” I said, “I will.” And with that he was gone and I haven’t seen him since that day. I never needed to again.

The key was large and old. It was strange to me that a key this old hadn’t been lost over the years, or that a key so old would still be functional in this day and age. It didn’t seem essential in providing a secure closure for the building, knowing what kind of technology we have now. It was more of a security blanket for the peace of mind of the proprietors and owners. As I turned it and passed through the doors, I took three steps to the left and using the number written on the tag hanging on the key, deactivated the alarm which had begun to buzz when I opened the door. The buzzing stopped at the pressing of the fifth button.

It was down a narrow, winding street and nobody would know. I hadn’t yet told anyone I would be there. Nobody was expecting me. I simply turned the key in the lock and the door swung open, darkness and an enormous void appearing behind it. It was the perfect place for something like this. It had to be done quickly. It would have been better at night. It would have flowed better. Nevermind.

I went to the confessional. In the dark stall, lit dimly by a ray of daylight entering through a stained-glass window, I saw nothing. Just the seat and a worn cushion, covered in material long since out of fashion. I entered the room. It was no room, as big as a broom cupboard. I sat down in front of the little window where the penitents confess. Beneath the seat, I could feel a small area about the size of a cubby. Reaching in my hand, I felt a small bundle. This was what I had come here for. Quickly, I grabbed it and exchanged it for a smaller bundle. The exchange was made. It felt like about a kilogram.

I raced past the transept and down the nave, out the door. I locked the heavy door quickly, depositing the key in the letterbox where I had found it. This might turn out to be a regular thing. Or, I might never come here again.


2) Mollis ad astra via

I found that the door opened easily when I ran my shoulder straight through it. Littered with pipes and needles in the cobblestones. I have come to worship. St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street.

Like I have been in days past, down by the river, cheek to jowl, shoulder to elbow. I find that the pews are comfortable, I worship well. I find that the confessional is commodious; I get a lot of thinking done there. I could feel the stars passing down through sunlit windows. Like the tailor in his shop beside, or the tobacconist.

Above everything was a purple picture of god. It had callouses and yearning and kindling and dough and all the trappings of heaven. The colours of the immaculate never fail to dazzle. It sounded like the liquid of sky, from around. Something was coming from underneath the door. Don’t be afraid of being heard, that’s why we’re at least going through the motions, because we think it makes a difference. If they really are listening. You really should only want to be heard if you think they are listening. And then the music begins. To play the game close, and low. One vote per finger. I’m missing a finger.

You put your finger in a bag, and it comes out with extacy, put your hand in a cubby and out come 100,000 pounds. You can take yourself to places afar, and make riches untold. Counting facts, figures, measurements. Learn to spell things correctly, using just the power of your open mind. And language was opened unto you. Speak now, the elders are listening. They will teach you to run their machines. The mentions and motions of tattoos have betrayed your falsehoods. Commodities of the new world, sounds of commerce far off in the distance.

I wanted to learn something about myself here, and maybe gain some measure of rest, a fine edge of awareness. I wanted the sensory deprived sanctity that only a sacred or serene place could provide, and so to find the pure font of inspiration, the wellspring of life, something so irrevocably human, and then maybe I wouldn’t be traced so far. Like a rough draft of things past, with plenty of time for practice. Dark notes of chocolate and sapphire, cash crops of our dynasty, beatitudes of our devotion, indentures of our servitude. The promise of god and a new day. All Hallows Bread Street.

3) Sicut in caelo et terram

This is where the spirit becomes flesh. This is where the sacrament that we have added to our chalice has begun to take its effect. From Crutched Friars through the Savage Garden past blind old Samuel Pepys and his secret language. We all have a language of our own. To Trinity and Byward and Great Tower, rolling on our own wheels and flying on wings of angels. Then Eastcheap and Cannon past the bald dome at Ludgate. Daily bread and express pizza. And filing past the reporters and writers on Fleet Street who try to stop us and say, “How do you find the city, Mr. So-and-so?” and, “How much was that dress Missa Dandova?” And at the Strand where they say, “O rare Samuel Johnson,” with his Gladstone full of dictionaries. And there is a theatre where my father saw the Mikado. And there is the theatre where Diana, and later, where I saw the Mikado. And we stop for a few minutes in the vestibule to breathe kisses upon one-another, and to breathe in once again the secret vapor of ourselves, renewed and reinvigorated from the exchange of fluid and vapour, and cross-filtration. Breathing in your breath and you breathe in mine, and, lips locked on and arms clutching with the strength of revolution, I look up at the wall and someone has written “graffiti sucks” in permanent marker, in a lovely banker’s blue. And there is the teashop that has been there for three hundred years. And there is the little shop that specializes in timepieces just like my father’s where someday I must hire their services and purchase a new strap.

And reaching the square to look up at the sky and see one thousand six hundred and sixty-six pigeons shoot into the sky at once with the synchronization of Busby Berkeley’s aquatic dancers. Racing through the doors and past the tourists, buttery wings aflutter, billing and cooing in the chancel while from next door there float individual notes of Baroque masterpieces, hovering briefly in the air like doves and hummingbirds of peace and joy, recovering a normal rhythm of breathing, sweeping the heavenly pavement of forehead with my panache, returning to the unstained pastures of heaven. Adveniat regnum tuum. In the murmur of the glory and the grandeur forever, clean of sin and plainly in the eyes of the almighty, in the name of all that is holy. Taking, making, and transcending, world without end, to give the great gift and hold it in the air for a brief moment. In nomine filii et filiae et spiritus sancti.

Godric Rochlen is a writer from California whom nobody knows anything about. He is tall, has blue eyes, likes books, languages, and Catalunya. A lot of other Americans mistake him for being English. His favorite BBC programmes are Are You Being Served? and Monty Python.


Enfield Café; McNicholas 1982

Enfield Café

Mondays: Frank’s Café, Enfield

An old fashioned egg and chip joint that never looked clean enough for me to want to risk the eggs although sometimes I had a (horse?) cheeseburger. The café was five minutes’ walk from what was Friern Barnet hospital, one of the last of London’s old psychiatric bins.

A middle aged, pale faced man in a dirty blue suit and a badly fitting curly wig was always in the café.

I never saw him with more than a cup of tea although sometimes there was a plate in front of him with fried egg stains and the remains of a portion of baked beans, it wasn’t the kind of café where they were in a hurry to clear up, there was no danger of a sudden rush.

The man in the wig appeared not to speak, I wondered whether one day he’d gone out of the hospital and returning overdue found it locked up but waited every day hoping to hear that the hospital had reopened and there was a bed ready for him.

tm submission

McNicholas 1982

 For all the lads I worked with on the permanent -way.


 ‘Come on lads put yer backs into it. Come on McNicholas the new man, shovel’s for digging man, not stirring fockin gravy.’

That was Martin the ganger man rearing up on them for nothing, liked the sound of himself shouting. He’d worked that out soon as Martin told ’em to  ‘get out the fockin hut.’

Martin the roarer. He was a big cunt and all. No danger of Martin putting his back into it, he was occupied, standing by the side of the track talking to his mate, the look out man. The look out’s name was Moses or something like that. Strange fucking name but he knew which side his bread was buttered on. Standing there laughing at the ganger man’s jokes  instead of standing on that curve where he should be, twenty yards away, keeping them all safe, getting ready to blow on that horn if a train was coming. First day on the railway but McNicholas could work that out, no problem.

‘Come on the new man’, he hadn’t been on the job more than two hours. Ganger man was on his back already.

‘Lifting rail’, that’s what the Inspector had told him they’d be doing when he booked on at the station. ‘Lifting rail’ that was like ‘pulling cable’, words they used to kid you on that it wasn’t going to be hard collar, except that’s what it was. Shovel hurting yer back and yesterday’s drink squeezing out of your armpits in rivers. You could even feel it sweating out of your feet through your socks and into your boots, made yer feet feel slippy. ‘Lifting rail’ almost sounded like you’d be having fun, words bunged into a sentence to fuck you.  

This was a sentence alright, sentenced to eight hours a day on the shovel.

Nearly ten o’clock. Two hours they’d been out here already and nothing said about a tea break. He thought he might have to go for a shit anyway except there was nowhere out here to go. He’d asked ’em when they’d still been in the hut, drinking that tea boy’s piss that he made in a bucket.

‘Back to the station two miles away or in the bushes up the railway bank boy’, that’s what they’d told him, laughing as they said it. Now his guts were starting to go. He knew the procedure alright, he’d have a shit and once that was out of the way he’d feel worse, be almost rattling. It shouldn’t work like that he thought, you should get rid of the poison and feel better.

‘One on the up’, Martin shouted, ‘Get out the fockin road boys.’ They all stood back waiting for it to come past, the rest of ’em were further up the track. Some of them had been racing each other, who could clear the most ballast.

He was only there because of the labour, ‘I’m very sorry Mr McNicholas, you’ve run out of stamps.’ The clerk had loved it, knew he was safe behind the counter, like a Nazi laughing at him like he was a Jew. It was something about the unemployed stamps, he couldn’t quite remember, he’d had a can that morning before he got there. He’d been out with Desi, all the day before, needed the livener. All he was sure of was they’d called the gendarmes* on him, lucky he never got the lock up.

Standing there he felt his arsehole beginning to twitch. It was going to be worse once they were back working.

Martin was up the track near the regular men but he was keeping an eye out for the new man, dangerous time man’s first day on the track, before he got used to it although Martin thought he might not last. He hadn’t done more than scrape ballast when the others had been grafting away and he looked like a beaten dog, the ones the labour sent down here always did.

He looked at his watch, nearly time for a cup of tea. He nodded at the tea boy to go back to the hut put the kettle on.

‘Back to it now, come on lads, no fockin moanin.’

Otherwise they’d stop for a smoke, wouldn’t go back to it ‘till after the tea break.

He looked back for the new man but the ghost had flown, booked off.

McNicholas was having a shit.

* slang for the police, he’s in London not France


Bob Boyton has been a writer and performer for more than twenty five years. Details of Bob‘s novel Bomber Jackson Does Some, about a homeless ex boxer can be found at


Summer in Philadelphia is the only season worth writing about

Processed with VSCO with nc presetA shimmering of cicadas whir in the trees
As I sweat through my business casual
Pumping at the gears of a borrowed bicycle
Too nervous to get my own repaired
Too late to take the bus
Too cheap to pay for parking
The season salts my skin
Ruptures my pores
Marks my folds, creases

In winter I am swallowed by my coat
Fall, spring, both colorless doughs
Rising in green glass
Sugar hungry transitional months,
The yeast churning out fire, ice
Garbage to bake under blaring sun
A cacophony of insects nestled in leaves
Humming along to the screeching trolleys
I speed past on my way to work
The mechanisms between my legs
Crying out for oil and air

I’d be lying if I said it was pleasant
Unaccustomed to wet oxygen
To the damp linen of my shirt-collar, I am
More familiar with wildfire, dry brush,
Than a borrowed city
Forever on the verge of vanishing

Somehow, the same city I lived in
Not six months ago, a flurry of ice
And silence, now transformed
Into shouting streets,
Kids in plastic pools hollering about
Knees skinned on cracked cement
Dogs gleefully eating hot trash off
The glimmering black pavement:
A garden for dirt bikes, a mirage,
A glimmer of warm grease.

Julian Shendelman is based in Philadelphia and has two bad dogs. His chapbook, “Dead Dad Club,” was released by Nomadic Press in 2017. He’s working on a novel about people working in a haunted house. You can read more of his work here:

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Under Construction


Rachel Fallon is an aspiring playwright living in London, originally from Manchester. She also enjoys writing short stories.


Snippets of Summer

The prison of mankind is the mind
This is the only space where time exists
If I had any super power I’d make it stop
Just for this second
Just for this now
Where the moon looks luminescent
And just for this moment
When I remember that I am simply being
Consciously breathing

And though sometimes I want to break my chains
Live perfect moments permanently
How could I ever appreciate a timeless dream,
While trapped in one perfect moment
Of a reality that’s just bound to rot
I don’t want to live in a world when the sun
never rises

1 August 18

Been living this life
Like there’s endless time to bide
I don’t remember like I used to
Yesterday is out with last week’s trash

Memories of glass hold my self
And gather dust on a neglected shelf
Day in and day out
I wake up in the same body,
Ponder thoughts in the same brain
One by one my cells slowly leave me
But for all intents, all purposes
I remain the same

In this quest to be more present I’ve left
myself in grains of sand
Scattered in the past
Only to be forgotten when the tide rises again

16 Aug 18

When dusk falls, the basin empties
A lone swimmer straggles and leaves
Solitary splashes for the night’s symphony

Somewhere in the distance the big smoke roars
Winds carry in commotion
From the city of constant chaos

Here in open isolation
Souls stroll slow
Safe in the shadows
Where today ends and
Tomorrow is yet to begin

Then the symphonies stop,
As the sun starts to show his face
And the birds sing their morning salute

When dawn rises
The early worm strives
To make it through the day alive

24 Jul 18

Is it time to stretch yet?
I need to get out of this head
It’s been a while
Since I felt at home
In my own bones

I keep forgetting what I look like
Every morning in the mirror
A stranger stares back at me
Through the wormhole

It’s nice to meet you

For a drifter there is only one rule of thumb:
“Everything is temporary”
On the contrary,
I’ve been with myself from the start

Someone gets lost on their way
home from a party and ends
Up in nineteen seventy-four
I feel like all this has happened before

1 Sept 18


Ali Mulaga is a collection of matter and energy that’s become more or less conscious of itself and hopes to boil down human experience into some choice words. You can probably catch her writing about vegetables.



5L4A0832She was a good pleaser.
She was a good smiler.
She was a good anything any woman was supposed to be good at.
But she was also a good something no one had ever thought she could be good at. She was a good man.

Emily Glass took out her exquisite leopard Manolo Blahniks, and without hesitation, chucked them in the dirtiest rubbish bin. After each swear word, a different jewel flew through the air, leaving the crowd located around the stage door, bemused. They were not sure if that was part of the production or not -although nobody could make any connection between that and Eliza Doolittle’s story.
The pieces of embroidered linen that she was letting fall like dry leaves, never reach the floor -thank the voracious fans, capable of losing their teeth for the transcendental occasion.
Glass did not care. Anymore.

The air seemed to be made of nothingness. It did not move. In her mind, everything became nothing all of a sudden. However, that was the most revealing moment of her entire life.

“Emily! Emily, be reasonable! Emily!”

She ignored. She smiled. She ran. Her heart was drumming; on the verge of releasing cotton candy, pick & mix or any pretty coloury sweet she used to enjoy when she was a child.
Rain, puddles, dog shits… she was like running over pink clouds.

Stop! Stop! Stop right here! Now! Yes, you. You! You! The reader.
This is the exact moment where you have enough common-for-everybody-to-understand information, for me to start again, telling everything how I wish and wished to be known.

They were a good pleaser.
They were a good smiler.
They were a good anything a woman was supposed to be good at.
But they were a good something no one had ever thought I could be good at.
I was a good man. Too.

You can now imagine the rest. However, there is more, much.
Sometimes the form does not represent the content, or at least not as we are used to knowing things. I am happy. That day I felt what scientists say that babies feel when they are born. Everything. My crying was my laugh, though. So, I ran. I did not run away. I just ran.

Emily Glass stopped. Their bare feet were blacker than chocolate and redder than strawberries, puffier than meringue and clefter than cookies… They looked at them. They smiled. They ran.

Crowded streets became quiet suburbs, and these became a forest.
A fresh and mystic fragrance wrapped them softer and stronger than anything else. That was the scenting gate into the unknown. They denuded the last pieces of someone else’s identity while walking through the cottony shrubbery.
They were finally there. There. Finally. Themself.

That river… The softness of the round stones was like a mother’s caress for their feet. At the same time that they were recovering the breath, the water was losing its transparency to see the beauty of truth. Cold took another meaning: purification.

Nude -exposed to their real mother- floated in the water while saying: “I know who I am. However, is that so important? I am here, now. What I do is what remains. But if no one sees my actions, does it mean they don’t endure? I care no more. I am this, here, now, and forever.” Their long blonde hair swam in slow motion untangling all the knots that expensive silver brushes would not do. Every single pore of the skin that was wide naively open before, closed like a wise shield. There were truth, wisdom and courage. All wrapped in a beautiful body full of healing scars.


Tired of reasoning and embracing their final themselfness, Emily came out from the purifier stream with one thing in mind.

“What are you doing, Emily? Have you gone mad? Wash away that stupid smile, hide that disgusting prick and come back to do what you have to do!”

“From the deep of my heart, I wish you all the best.”

His hand crossed the midair like a whip, and not even the blood that came from their nose and lip erased the smile on their face.

“Stop smiling; you nature abortion!”

Now it was the other side of their face. Instead of scaring them, the rivers of red gold that ran all over their body, made them feel more alive than ever. They kept smiling.

“You’ll not live out of this!”

However, this time, they stopped the slap.

“I am Emily Glass, and I care no more.”

They jumped back into the water, and he tried to do the same. All of a sudden, his clothes grabbed him, strangling his whole body. Never before had a Stuart Hughes been so heavy. A perfect murderer for an ideal obtuse. But not even an ignorant mind deserved to die, they thought. He did not know how to swim. They did. They helped. They smiled.

By the river shore, both bodies lied down looking at the sky. It took a while for their short and fast breaths to slow down. His eyes were flooded with pain and fear, and his mouth was like an earthquake about to break through the whole earth. They looked at him.

“I am, and I will be who I have always been, and that is beautiful.”

She kissed him and taking the deepest breath of her entire life, came back to the water, and disappeared from his glance ever after.

Arif Alfaraz is a Slytherin who lives through art, and believes it’s a means to change this world into Wonderland. Born in Asturias (Spain), he likes to write prose fiction and plays.

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A Far Cry From The Scottish Hills

AfarcryfromthescottishhillsJane Davenport had moved into the realm of big pants and had never felt happier. They were basically the big, soft cotton ones that snuggled in under her belly button, looked like pink sacks and could double as dusters.

A lot o’ wimen don’t put them on the washin’ line – did y’ ken that?

There was a crumpled METRO on the seat beside her; it had clearly sneaked all the way from London and was making its way back. The pages were full of rubbish, certainly no news. There was an article that said – we Brits worked more hours than any other country in Europe and as a result, we’re knackered. Jane just wanted a man who stopped and breathed. There was such bliss in pauses and silence. When the world stops, we don’t stop living. She wanted the headlines to read, ‘It’s OK to STOP. And, it’s good to LOOK’. She preferred the man who had mellowed and didn’t care about whether she was in big pants or thongs. She’d thrown out her G-strings, got fed-up with the chafing. The problem was, the only thing that warmed up Jane was hoovering and she bloody hated hoovering, hence her stairs are accumulating dust like her shelves collected books.

We willnae gie y’ her date o’ birth because that’s jus’ numbers and Jane does nae like numbers. An’ we won’t tell you how long Jane’s been single f’ because again – that’s jus’ numbers.

She looked out of the carriage window as the train pulled into London Bridge at the tile and slate roof tops and redundant but lovely chimneys: Lovely – because she loved real fires, the smell of burning wood and the hypnosis of flames accompanied by a good single malt whisky. The newish flats that had gone up in the last ten years looked like LEGO towers, housing LEGO people. Plastic. Robotic. She could have bought a property here in the nineties but just couldn’t bring herself to drink London water, breathe London fumes and be around so many people.

London gave her a headache and that was just scratching the surface of it. There were so many ghosts. She couldn’t sit in a restaurant unless her back was to a wall and couldn’t drink in a pub unless the music and chat was outrageously loud. She got goosebumps every time a glass slid along the bar on its own but it was just the water it was sitting on. Wasn’t it? The thing is, she’d done that experiment and a glass didn’t always move. It had to be a ghost that moved it, one that was taking the mickey out of the sort of people who thought they knew everything. Once her glass of wine had knocked itself over when she was sitting at a table with friends and she was the only person who noticed. But people don’t see.

Perhaps that’s because they don’t want t’ know aboot us. Anythin’ worth knowin’ aboot is hidden. Anyway, it gie her the perfect excuse t’ leave early.

Jane rummaged in her bag and brought out her stash of radishes. The British chilli, she thought to herself. After she’d munched six, she sneezed. Then as she searched her pockets for an elusive used hanky, she found herself looking up. At what and or for what reason she didn’t know.


Jane’s thoughts wandered as she thumbed through her ‘London A-Z’. She thought about London places. She wondered if there ever was a dead man in Deadman’s Place or an angel in Angel Court. . . Then she wonder about the Roman girl’s grave that was found during the construction of the gherkin and why she got to be on page 161 of ‘Secret London: An Unusual Guide’ and why the thousands of other teenagers who have died in London never got a mention – anywhere. The Roman girl’s epitaph read: – To the spirits of the dead the unknown young girl from Roman Lond— then she saw her.

She was sitting in the very same carriage. Jane gawked at her and then realised that no one else had noticed. The girl looked at Jane. The train screeched along the tracks. White noise built up in Jane’s head like history repeating itself, like hundreds of years of accusations – ‘She can see dead people. Witch!’ Everyone in the carriage turned to her, raised an arm and pointed their finger. Jane shrunk down in her seat. Just because you’ve all got normal nine-to-five jobs in an office, there’s no need to point at anyone who’s, who’s a bit different, she thought.

Then, just like in a zombie movie, the commuters dropped their arms and went back to staring at their mobile phones. Jane looked across at the girl in the hope that she’d gone but she was closer to her now in the next row. Unwillingly, Jane found herself wondering how many ghosts there were in London. It was then that she noticed a sickly smell like incense. She sniffed the air, trying to work out what it was, to see where it took her and then she was off again. . . wondering if giants ever walked under Giant Arches Road, if William Blake ever saw angles in Peckham Rye, if there ever was a real falcon at Falcon Grove, if Elvis ever visited Elvis Road, if there were indeed a row of Elves on Elf Row or if, in fact there were ever any saints in London – in St Pancras, Saint this place or that place. She looked up out of her reverie and the dead girl was gone.

At least she wouldn’t have to get on the underground, Jane thought. When she was younger, she always got lost. In those days, she had wanted to scream her confusion to everyone. How was she meant to know which way she was going? What was West and East, was that right or left, North and South? Then she’d have to get off when she realised she was going in the wrong direction (again) and change platforms. Jane breathed deeply, London made her feel sick.

Today, she was on a pilgrimage to Davenports Magic Shop. Why? Because it’s all in the name. At least that’s what she told her friends but actually she was going to see if she could find something… A clue. A suggestion of something else. A mystery.

She needed a bit o’ that. T’ be honest, she jus’ needed a distraction. When we asked her, whit secrets she’s takin’ to the grave – she told us t’ get lost. Instead, she’d explained t’ us that she w’s very intuitive, clairvoyant because these were safer words t’ use than psychic. Heaven forbid – she w’s given that label. She thought o’ herself like a linen cupboard wi’ all her secrets folded. There are nae colourful surprises or expensive bed linen in her cupboard but a heck o’ a lot o’ STUFF. She should really purge it, share it wi’ friends an’ drop it off in charity shops.

Jane had moved seats on the train three times but she couldn’t care less if she looked like a nutter. A suited man in the seat in front of her had been listening to really loud Drum ‘n Bass on his headphones but she couldn’t hear it properly— that was just frustrating! She moved away from him. Then the sun came out, a natural strobe light, flashed on her novel like a nineties’ acid memory and she felt like she was about to do robot arms, not that she ever did robot arms but that’s what the memory felt like, as if it had happened to somebody else. She moved seats again. Then when the train had pulled into Sevenoaks, she spotted a weirdo – not like her but proper. He was about her age, stooped with a stick and tinted glasses.

Wh’t is it abou’ tinted glasses?

And she’d heard our chorus of ‘NOs’ which reaffirmed her intuition and sure enough, he came and sat next to her. His eyes kept moving sideways, his head didn’t move but she could see his eyes, fidgeting in her direction and he never sat all the way round in his seat – as if he knew, that she knew. It was all too much. She’d said, excuse me and chose a seat in the same carriage.

She walked onwards through the crowds until a little voice inside her head told her to stop and she knew she’d missed the entrance to The Davenports Magic Shop. She reversed along the pavement. A strip light in the ceiling flickered as Jane descended the steps to the underground arcade. Above her a billboard announced, TO THE SUBWAY SHOPPING AREA, Mad . . .  Fancy Dress, Fitness, MAGIC. Jane looked back over her shoulder to glimpse the street with its buses and people and to reassure herself that this was the way out. To her left was a shop selling fitness equipment and in front was an array of closed shops, boarded-up fronts and filthy windows. Most arcades had money poured into them to make them enticing and shiny. This subway had been forgotten about in a town planning filing cabinet in the 1980s. There were two spots on the floor where homeless people had left cardboard, a nightlight, shoes and pieces of clothing.

Her eyes registered mannequins in Hallowe’en fancy dress. This shop front and drab environment appeared far too deserving of each other: There was a male mannequin in a nun’s habit, a white dress on another was covered in blood, a headless anomaly in a black cloak, a screaming Trump mask and a crap-looking witch. All of which made a corny prerequisite for the magic shop and to finish off the tableaux, she spotted a stash of plastic canes with skulls in top hats that looked like Baron Samedi throwaways from ‘Live and Let Die’.

IMG_2633She saw the Davenport shop to her right and cautiously walked towards it. The three large windows displayed magic posters and memorabilia, she took photos of the first two windows but not the last because a man lay on the floor in a sleeping bag.

Inside the shop, were red glass cabinets with Magic Rabbit boxes, Candle Through Arm boxes, playing cards, Take My Word For It Sponges, Appearing Canes, clown shoes, Chop Cups and Magic Linking Rings. The books, posters and DVDs created a modern library of magic: Houdini, Black Magic, The Science of Magic, Changeling ODO and Spirit Theatre . . . Her mind wandered to what was invisible.

T’ us and the Others.  M’ybe she widn’t find wh’t she w’s lookin’ f’ in here, maybe it w’s already wi’ her.

A man in a black t-shirt and short red hair came out from a door at the back of the shop.

“Hi,” said Jane. “I’m doing some research. Do I have your permission to take photographs?”

“Sure,” he replied.  

“My married name was Davenport,” she said. “But I’m not related to thee Davenports.”

A second man appeared looking like an extra from a Harry Potter film, with a knitted Fairisle tank top, a black corduroy jacket and a small gold stud on his lapel.

Instead of taking note of what was actually in the cabinets, Jane clicked away on her camera because she was thinking about her maiden name and what she had inherited. Her father’s name was from Wales and she knew there were witches lurking down that line in the darkness of time. On her maternal side there was Spiritualism and attempted suicides.

What hope has she really?

Something strange happens when you lose a parent, Jane thought to herself; there is grief coupled with confusion. Even if you know it’s going to happen, it’s still terrible – that experience of grief and you have to cradle it in your arms and bundle it around like a child carrying a pillow but eventually, you want to beat the shit out of the pillow but that’s the pillow you have to carry everywhere you go. Jane’s arms ached for years. She could hardly sleep for the pain. The pillow that she carried became such a burden. Then the two emotions became animated as though they needed a release and actually, they got fed-up of her bundling them around. So, she threw the whole damn grief thing away and then the next thing that happened was, the floodgates of memory opened. Until then her memories were prevented by tiredness but with these memories, she started processing, or at least trying her very hardest to make sense of her life and what her dad meant to her.

She caught a vague reflection in one of the glass cabinets. She looked tired. She felt her baggage, her excuses and get-out-clauses. She used her get-out-clause superbly to avoid detection, feeling or conflict. She thought of her own disappearing acts.


Her mind whirled until she saw herself as a little girl standing in the garden feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of life, the profusion of experiences, of hearing things that others didn’t and of feelings; of not being good enough, of not getting enough reassurance. She’s still standing there, thought Jane, simultaneously forty-something and five, head lowered, unable to move forward or grow-up.

The best run she’d ever had was after a trip to Switzerland. She was staying in the spare room of her friend’s house and she saw an impression of a girl in the room and she could hear her speak. She was sleeping in her friend’s sister’s room who had committed suicide. Apparently, Switzerland had the second highest suicide rates after Japan. When she’d returned to Scotland, she was so happy to be home, she put on her best trainers and went running up the hills. She was fearless, jumping along sheep paths past the bracken and gorse bushes and returned home elated. But when she walked into the back garden her dad said to her, with as much disgust as something that had crawled out of a drain, “Why don’t you get a job?” He was standing in the garden with a cigarette and a coffee. Yup – he had a knack of ruining every beautiful moment, every up and bring her down so that she stayed, down.

Then she remembered one friend who was physically abused. She would take the beatings so that her brothers didn’t. When her dad died her friend said, “He’s finally released me. I can be myself.” Jane wanted to warn her friend that ironically, that freedom came at a huge cost. Jane’s friend was in hospital for months.

But what Jane realised (that no one ever says) is that death can be liberating. Stuff, and it is just stuff, that’s been holding you down your entire life lifts: One part of you is in crisis but the other part is cruising so high that you need someone to pull you down by your feet. They had all known dad would die. He’d fought cancer for years but the knowing and waiting was agonising. The night he died, they all knew in their hearts it was going to happen. They were at home and Jane’s mum was in the hospice. She had been ringing the landline but Jane hadn’t heard it ringing. Jane was woken up by her dad saying her name as clear as if he was in the room with her.

Then Jane thought to herself that when people have a terminal illness, they are not morbid but by-God do they have regrets. Sacks full.

Don’t ever be fooled by the celebrity who tells you they h’ve nae regrets, they’re nae being honest wi’ thems’lves.

The truth is, people experience relief that they won’t have to hide their secrets any longer.

C’n you feel that?

Their secrets are safe now and only God will judge them, thank goodness it’s not family and friends. When her mind came back into the room, one of the men behind the counter was laying cards face down on a black mat.

“Are you going to do something?” asked Jane.

Suddenly awkward, the man gurgled something inaudible and then said, “I, I could.”

She looked away so that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed and when she turned back, he was holding four silver rings. She watched as the individual rings became magically linked into two pairs and then both sets became one chain.

“Amazing,” she said. She was stunned. How was that possible?

On the train home, Jane sat next to the window, listened to a podcast on her phone and hoped that no one would plonk themselves beside her. At Waterloo East, a bearded man sunk into the seat next to her. He got out his mobile and started to watch something. Jane thanked God he was normal, for it wasn’t just London that was exhausting – it was getting there.

Pauline Davenport is an art teacher originally from Scotland. She likes Gothic and enjoys writing about the invisible – ghosts and witches. She has a BA (Hons) in Drawing & Painting from Edinburgh College of Art.


Extracts from Anthelion

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Anthelion, 1996


It is where I am gone,
where I am in nothing placed
entombed in another world
alive with beguiling thoughts
of memory and distaste
and as guilty as these thunder clouds,

it is where I am gone that holds my mind
and makes this time a misery
as less than useless now…

What few days I have,
but it is now, I know,
where I am gone to now,
where I am in nothing placed,
entombed not in your world
but as alive as absurd
under London’s cinematic skies
that aren’t its own and rarely mine
enclosing frailties like madder wines
and as the steering rudders,
calms this awfulness
that’s magnetised with me
along this putrid and uncertain tropic
ordained by an old and moulding mind
that mothers me like fiction mothers pain,
and blast this sun
this planetary heat that has me squint
on this midday of a Monday that feels
like the autumn of a clay village
under the shadow of infallible ziggurats
emptied by insanity and disease
sparing a hornless, hoofless goat
bemused by hunger,
crippled under a heavy sun
and I will escape this sleep,
into an ecclesiastical museum
to recline behind the statues
I built out of my mind
with nothing but a cruel intrigue
and a solemn humour, medicined by mirth,
so I’ll shed this hurt
as if I spied the raging cyclops
looking for his other eye
when a vehicle dripped
from the spherical sky
to knock him flat
as a house of cards
and he held his only eye
and shrugged a curse,

“Bugger, one eye will do,
I saw a lot less with two.”

“And I shall wear a monocle and a purple patch of silk
swaggering, dejected, in, like an indifferent buccaneer
stranded on sea legs in a boatless port and be drunk
with coarse cut marmalades and sweat whiskeys and pork fat.”

It was then that a skeleton of a horse rapidly galloped
clicking like an old umbrella tapping down Piccadilly
quite white and smooth like an old lady’s tooth
and with an orange mane that flowed
like the fire found in still photographs,
or as icicles of water towers,
but since my Love lives in the old red town
I climb beech trees and poplars to look beyond the towers
to paint sour colours in dark clarets
and hunch like a goat with a stiff neck,
or as a unicorn curled up on a peninsular beach
smoking a fat Greek cigarette,
conducting smoke with my manicured hoof
I am resigned, orange as a dragon
eating blueberries from a long tin ladle
whistling scriptures and Beethoven
to infant eagles in their nests
for we can not wash clean the world with tears
and nothing’s new but older fears
conversing with occasional joys,
and so I’ll swim a dance
at the marriage of my friends
or spin like a fan’s rotating blades
circling in one’s mind
if I were more than real then I’d be dead
iamreal iamreal iam i
like pistols in banana groves

“Best go to sleep my friend and make the doctors smile at Bart’s.”

And then you’d stare at naked judges
swilling poison sins in Chancery
on bare back ornamental donkeys
in the fog that Dickens told us of
more than once on a well leafed page
in Bleak House, my old Bleak House
which entertains a gathering of metal sharks
and angry hogs with bristling brows
grinding my mahogany, with a fierce delight
like ghosts enjoying amber jellies and a palets de boeuf Dunois
all before the darkening carcass of this youthful buffalo.

My head is growing more than hair
like dogmas growing mockeries of men
as headless parrots tickle pears in bowls of fruit
in my Bleak House, within the fog that Dickens told us of
and Cardinal Richelieu has three hats and more
than a marvellous collection of red robes

“Of which I am envious”

“But I will wear clouds Accumulo, parted on the left
and trail a crimson scarf coiled around my abdomen
like thorns that leave their bloody marks
on minds of men who built us mental roads
within the mazes of our minds
to show us more if we should fall
or gallop along like horses in a violent storm
plundering evils with a cleansing scimitar
like horses in a violent storm
and fill the skies with a roar that rumbles
tears from from monks and holy men
in archives of the Seine, the Arno and the Nile
who shudder in the torment of their pious lives
like violent horses in a storm,
and all the skies, rip incised
to show the fire flames behind
with a madness to make these cities squawl
like violent storms in horses
dragging darkness in their atramentous manes
sweeping from the sky into our minds.”

I am not alone
and can not further hold my images in words
for Mothers and Daughters do walk in,
eternal messengers of love and medicine,
maybe it is better for us all
as now I stroll in unending gardens
domed as bell jars in silent open skies
Open Sesame
calmed by refreshing moons
and moving words in conversations
with courtly lizards, I play them whist
with a handful of diamond trumps
and a heartful of happiness and peace
that unfurls like flags of saffron silk
uncurling in this southern wind
to treat me with a fleece of golden air
where I can sculpt the sky with a comic glance
and cure your tiring pains and mine,
for there is only more
than madness and sadness
there is only more than time
and there is more than word and mind
for there is more than silence
and if not silence, there is always wine
and women of the aether kind
who’ll paint the sky with freak and friendly lightnings
whilst I orchestrate these thunders to rage throughout the sky
or I’ll colour in all the empty stars and join them up until I die
for I am an orchid with an hexagonal mind
gasping, since it still is never done;
it can not be done for there is no end.


The tiring lights of ceaseless change

‘And the first greys of morning filled the East
And the fog rose out of The Oxus stream’,
as riverboats on the gleaming silver sheet
with Juggernaut by Embankment’s tide
creaking barques within the Thames
by Albert Bridge as cold as Shelley’s fate
then I am irate
this April morning of the Thames that has no ghosts
of fizzing lights mourning in my mind
for now is the only story
now far under spherical skies
it’s more than writing words you see
and now until I am quite tired
of mystery and ritual
in fabricated stars
and like the water under moons
and like the water moons
or towers smoking fumes
of pyres before my time
of mirth in mind
and a strolling frame cut from light
and falcons casting waves of wings within my eyes
as purple berries twisting stalks, in vigil
of three candles floating fires
of jasmine flowers,
at night, in flames on a wax meniscus,
as landscapes of Claude Lorraine
abstract in oval mirrors rowing quiet tomes
of skeletons in flesh at night
dictated to by an unknown might
on the ivory kneelers of an ebony board
that clicks by a double clicking trap
arranged in plan for thirty two,
for a meeting at the end of Lent
where a pascal lamb was slaughtered
for our guts
and Burgundies and German wines
and sugared almond nuts
and guts of lamb
are scattered on the floor
like unremembered jokes
and unrequited love

and lanterns cease to raise the dead
when friends are witnesses to friends

“Bang Ran gangly dun”
“Bang ran gangly dunh”
“with an extra h.”

Henry Virgin is a writer, artist and photographer based in London. Having studied the Philosophy of Religion at London University, he taught in Rostov-on-Don, South Russia in the late 90s and in Guangdong Province South China. For the last twelve years, he has been working, in different sectors, with digital imagery and graphics. He is currently working with a leading architecture and design studio.

His writing has been published in the Independent, The Moth Magazine, The Highland Park News and the Pasadena Star. His Poetry books ‘Anthelion’ and ‘The Glass Aubergine’ are available on Amazon along with his travel journal ‘Teaching in Tangxia.’ Other works are in the production pipeline, including his first completed novel ‘Exit Rostov’ and a collection of his earlier unpublished poems, ‘RAW.’

His video projections have been shown at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, The Serpentine Gallery in London, At the 2014 and 2016 Venice Biennales, with the ICA, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Dongdaemun Plaza in Seoul Korea, Tel Aviv Israel, Dubai UAE, Miami USA, NY USA, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, DAC Copenhagen.


Henry Virgin wrote the poem ‘Anthelion’ in 1996. Set out in 13 canzoni, it charts the tale of a wandering voice, through the streets of London, out of town, over oceans, continents, deserts and mountain passes. Love, and the lack of it, is ever the guiding light. Experiencing an array of characters and situations, the protagonist ventures forth, determined to reach his goal. Part soliloquy, part love poem, part spirit flight and invocation, this lyrical abstraction arouses the soul with a sonorous flow of visions and ideas. Blending insight and humour, this poem will delight and astound you.


All Material Copyright Henry Virgin ©


A storm woke me up very early in the morning. I could say it was early as I couldn’t smell coffee, but the skies were already lit up. I stretched my arm towards the bedside table to get my watch and check the time, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe I left it in the bathroom yesterday. I heard thunder and heavy rain, splashing in the puddle that would always appear right under my window in such weather. I wanted to get up and look outside, but I couldn’t. As if there was something holding me back. I thought I still might have been dreaming, so I collapsed back in the sheets and waited consciously a couple of minutes. Meanwhile I contemplated the weather and its effects on human beings.

I found the traffic unusually busy. I thought that an accident must have happened nearby as I heard the cars going all the same direction. I heard sirens. Some of them had sirens. I wondered what was happening out there under my window. I strengthened my body and tried to get up, but I barely moved my head up. Maybe I was too weak, either in body, or in mind, or in both of them. Maybe I was still dreaming, but I wanted to check the time and look outside. I tried to reach the other side of the bed, but there was no other side of the bed. I was in a different bed. I opened my eyes and realised I was in hospital. Apparatus were looking at me how I was entangled in tubes. No coffee, no watch, sirens. Different puddle, different road, different view. At least I was still in London, I could smell it. Fish and chips and curry.

When I woke up again, the nurse was checking on me. She gauged my blood pressure and brought biscuits and milk, but I didn’t feel like drinking milk. Actually, I didn’t feel like eating at all. They said I fainted in my flat and that I was very lucky that my friend Frannie was worried about me and called a locksmith to break the door. I was spending a lot of time with Frannie recently. She’s been my best friend for years. After Marion left me, she’d call every day and Sundays she’d take me out to the markets to buy sourdough bread and some nice wine. She knew I had a thing for fresh bread and nice wine.

‘Can I call Frannie, nurse?’

‘Sure. Your phone’s there in the table cupboard by your bed.’

I had a good time on the line, but as soon as I hung up, I felt like shit again. I missed Marion. I wanted her to come, but I know she wouldn’t.

After fifteen hospital dishes and various examinations, the doctors still didn’t know the reason of why I was so weak and dizzy, but they said I was definitely getting better. I also remembered how I fainted. I was reading a poetry collection that I found attached to the newspaper once. All wrapped up, cuddling the duvet, I suddenly felt somehow soul-less. I had to put the book down in the box under the bed where other books I didn’t want to read again rested. I felt pity to throw them away. A cloud of dust rose up from under my bed. I was about to get a glass of water, but instead I fell on the floor. I remember lying there for hours, half asleep, half awake, being afraid of staying there forever and not seeing Marion again.

On Sunday Frannie came over. She’d just been to the markets and brought me some sourdough bread and fresh apple juice. Oh how much I loved Frannie and the way she cared about me. She overheard the doctors saying that it seemed that I was intoxicated and that my level of serotonin was very low but they still didn’t know what the illness was exactly. I told Frannie I already wanted to go home, but she said I better stay for a couple more days, till the doctors knew what was really going on. Most of those days I spend reading and looking out the window.

When I got bored of the window view, the nurse came around with a box of chocolates and told me that I was ready to go home. The doctor gauged my heart beat with the stethoscope for the last time and said I was in my whole sound, that there was nothing to worry about. I also got a report to read and keep. I packed all of my stuff in one of those boxes as they do in the movies when they’re fired and slowly walked out of the hospital. As I was waiting for my bus, I had a quick look at the report. I didn’t understand most of the stuff, but there was one thing that seemed very clear to me. One of the brackets said: Reason for hospitalisation – lovesick. I was love intoxicated. Well, at least it was nothing serious.

Daniela Kankova is a realistic dreamer and discoverer with Czech artistic roots. She likes morning coffees and evening wines and meanwhile she likes to write, poetry and fiction.





Simon Poems-1


Simon Poems-2

National Park

Simon Poems-3

Simon Bracken is an experimental writer, of poetry and fiction and things in between. He’s originally from London and writes a lot about the city.

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oznorI Want My Time With You
(At St. Pancras Station, London)

He put his hands
Around her waist
And said so lovingly:
“I want my time with you.”
She put her hands
On his cold cheeks,
Looking deeply into his eyes,
As if looking for some sign,
That his words are true.
The clock struck midnight
And their trains
Were about to leave
Their separate ways.
He breathed in,
She breathed out,
And finally, words
Came running from her mouth,
Just like the seconds on the clock:
“And I want my time with you.”
The clock struck midnight
One last time,
The trains rattled away
And the couple in love
Froze in time together
Holding each other

*Inspired by the statue of the couple, “The Meeting Place”, at St. Pancras Station, London.

The Immigrant’s Words


My thoughts are all over the place,
London, you scare me so much.
People silently judge on both ends
As I tremble and make my first steps.
In UK they will say I’m an immigrant,
A dirty Eastern-European, a schemer,
Whose only wish is to steal our jobs,
A lazy millennial without a purpose,
Who will ruin our country.
In Latvia they will call me a traitor,
A weak and lazy millennial,
Who is avoiding all of her problems,
She dreams to marry a Brit
And she thinks she’s better than the rest of us.
While in the end I’m a nobody,
I have no home – not here, not there;
I just have my words that need to be heard.
I’m just looking for somebody,
Who might be willing to listen
Without judging and pointing their fingers.
London, please, be kind to me!
I don’t intend to steal from you,
I’m not here to beg or protest,
I just want you to listen,
I just want you to be the home
For my words
And that’s all.

Shiny Light


Shiny lights
Paint the London nights
In red and white,
And it makes me think of home,
My Latvian colours,
That run deep in my veins.
Noises here and there
Fill the air,
And it makes me long for silence
Back at home.
But there’s some romance
In the busy scene;
Always running and shouting,
London is living
With it’s chest turned out,
And people are so proud
To shout out loud,
That England is the best place
To get drunk off your face
And make love,
And sing, and dance,
And to dare to take a chance
For a better tomorrow,
That will arrive with the sun
And take away the sorrow.

A money spending culture
it turns you into a vulture
looking for more things
more thrills, more flings
more money to spend
it all just turns to waste –
a waste of time
a waste of money
a waste of life –
but you keep spending
Spreading these papers and coins
becoming just a meaningless point
in the story of billion others,
spenders just like you,
more sweaters, more trousers,
more drinks and food
to put in your fat belly
do you even want it
or do you just want the power
that feel of freedom
that comes with ability to afford
and do you feel sorry
for those who sleep on the streets
without a piece of bread for days?
Or perhaps you just waste
your time spending what you’ve earned?
Be smart, be kind
spend less money on shit
and more time on your soul
otherwise you’re just a prick
like anyone else.

Marta Kepite is a Latvian journalist and a passionate music lover, who likes to put her feelings into words. Will they turn out as poems or a bigger story? Not even Marta knows.

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The View

Along the river they walked.
Two souls in sync with one another.
They stared at the unmistakable London skyline
they couldn’t take their eyes off it.
Waiting for nine o’clock to come
they explored the city.
Starting at the London Eye
watching it stare down on them.
Like the eyes of God, it stared.

They kept on walking.
The Thames River a welcomed friend
joining them for an evening stroll
unafraid to be heard.

St. Paul’s appeared next.
Sitting in place, wanting to be noticed by the couple
Like an obedient puppy waiting for it’s owner.
They looked and smiled, he did his job.

Shakespeare’s Globe appeared on their right
nestled between the Tate Modern and old pubs.
“There’s nothing more English, right?” he said.
She laughed and smiled. “Right.”

They walked and walked
Their destination coming up ahead.
Over London Bridge they went
Passing the Monument to the Great Fire.
It towered above them like a skyscraper.

The Sky Garden, they arrived.
Up and up the 37 floors
the elevator stopped with a ding.
Met by the cold air, they walked in.

The view was extraordinary, unforgettable.
Both their mouths ajar they looked.
And looked.
Amazed by what they saw.

The buildings that had towered over them had shrunk.
They were now the ones looking down on them.

They just barely saw the Eye,
It lost its track of them,
Unable to see the couple anymore.

St. Paul’s was seen as well,
overshadowed by the view,
he was almost forgotten.

Shakespeare’s Globe was hiding,
overpowered by the larger buildings.
Afraid to come out.

The Monument was barely visible.
Just below, the couple towered above him now,
They were the skyscrapers.

They were the ones to tower over London.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
They viewed the city as the city viewed them,
an all-seeing eye.


Tara Murray is an American living in London. She’s a self proclaimed literary nerd trying to figure out life one anxiety attack at time. She writes semi-autobiographical short stories.




Transparent Stones

Transparent stones- imageI thought that walking down the Thames path I would send away the desire to catch the infinite blue of the sea combined with the kind breeze of a summer day. Unfortunately, the grey colour of the river did not help me too much. Here and there, occasionally some seagulls were playing with the wild waves just above the water, as if they don’t have enough courage to get involved in this battle properly. A naughty seagull is disturbing my contemplation with a desperate song which is in perfect harmony with the fury of the river. Trying to keep the pace with the stream, another bird joins her. I am sure they both missed their music classes during high school. What can I expect? I am in the middle of a blast world and I am complaining that some poor white birds, who are just doing their job, are disturbing me. After all, I think I am the problem here.

The small sad boats are floating lazy on the surface of the river. As if they can feel in the air the smell of another foggy Monday. Others, the old and colourful ones, they are just waiting tired on the side. Perhaps some of them had been forgotten a long time ago, no use nowadays. Now, they are serving as haven for decorative plants, hoping to get some attention from casual tourists who are still having an eye for simplicity and sublime.  Despite this aspect, they are a real proof of the old, past times, which serve as a reminder of a long and great 2000 years history of London jostling amongst the modern day “citadels” of finance, banking and law within the square mile. In the middle of this hectic chaos, the river is nothing more and nothing less than just an element meant to provide rest for people and habitat for various species.

My body starts to feel the cold of an ending summer day. The dead leaves are on the avenue, releasing into the air the smell of the elapsing days. The serenity of the surrounding does not fit well with the brown tiny houses alongside the pathway, they stick out like a sore thumb. A mischievous squirrel is finding its own way to nowhere. One minute later I find myself analysing old stones and colourful pieces of glass along the river bank, following the squirrel. Holding an assortment of old glasses and stones makes me feel like staring at history, well preserved by Thames, the sole surviving witness of the olden days. I feel very tired, as if every single muscle inside me is fighting against my body. The weather is not helping me either. I sat down on the small pebble beach, admiring the city and the river, creating my own world where the main characters are the buildings in front of my eyes.

It is simply amazing how the story of time is told very often by architecture. It can be noticed very clearly that glass makes the rules in terms of extravagant and uncommon constructions. A cocktail of past, present and future is all I can see at the moment. The humble medieval houses are almost vanished amongst the transparent mountain of mirrors. I blink. I blink. I blink and here I am, blinking again. The smell of smoked weed tells me that I am not completely alone in my imaginary universe. I ignore the olfactory senses for the time being. It’s London, the place on earth where the scent of weed is as common as the perfume of roses in Queen Mary’s garden. Nothing to worry about.

I imagine myself at a station, standing on the platform, taking the train to my visionary world. The train is approaching, I step in, the doors are closing, and I am back.

Servants wearing amber aprons are part of the past. Most of the time they are very quiet, shy and resigned. With memories in their pockets, they accepted the idea that their time of glory is gone.

How can you not feel like a royal celebrity when the sun gives you the most incredible glow of all time? Yes, we are talking about the present now. The transparent cliff in front of me was once just a bunch of stones. How many tourists come to London to see the pebbles on the bank of the Thames? How many tourists visit this city to see the new architecture and all these colossal buildings? The only difference between the two elements is just a process of transformation. Just a process. You cannot be a piece of luminous glass if you were not a stone first.

Mirrors everywhere and the myth of Narcissus experienced a reborn. The modern buildings reflect not only the sun, but their own personalities. Selfish, arrogant, proud, lost in a polished dimension, they are all a macro image of the son of the River God.  When the daylight touches the top point of each building you can barely see anything, except an accumulation of bright. The tall construction cannot be ignored. Can of Ham, Cheesegrater, Gherkin, Stealth Bomber and Walkie-Talkie. They have the entire attention of the tourists. Luckily, there are travellers too, not only tourists, so the servants can be silently admired as well. As we can see so far, the present is very illuminated. Maybe that’s not a coincidence, and maybe we should live and enjoy it more.

If in real life skeletons are the figure of a past, in my new world they represent the future. The cranes are decorating the whole landscape, as if someone dropped everything randomly from a plane. I cannot say that the high construction machines perfectly fit in the context but are part of something that does not exist yet. It might seem very annoying and disturbing for a contemplator, but the bunch of bones are placed there with a certain purpose, being part of the metamorphosis. Here is the genesis room where my characters are about to breathe for the first time. Each skeleton is filled with muscle by well-trained architects, constructors and labours. A new sphere gets contour. It takes time, a lot of time, years and decades until the splendid imperfection wallows in the colourful society.

Hushed and full of rainy days, the counsel of the last century, Tower Bridge, continues to breathe. His gasp brushes the surface of the Thames creating restless waves. Thus, the river is resurrected, back to life, and we have a sentinel between the north and the south. No matter how much glass surrounds him, his beauty and value will never be a shadow. Two towers, two eyes meant to observe each and every single detail of the society. From the most important person to the most insignificant stone by the river, he is never too tired to contemplate the variety of the picture. The iron ornaments give him a royal dignity, and the small crosses over his head makes me understand that he knows better than anyone what the definition of war is. Always with open arms, willing to restore the peace between the old and the new, he is the major link between the two worlds.

No, this is not possible. It must be a mistake, an error in the system. Something went very wrong and I am not sure if the counsel can do something to fix the issue. My heart beats faster and faster, I feel sad, sorrowful and powerless. I close my eyes and all I can do is touch every single piece of glass with my inner eyes, hoping that my attention will hearten a little bit of his loneliness. There, deep inside, somewhere in the middle of yesterday a ranger rises, always ready to fight the battles inside him and to win the final war. Albert Camus tried to tell us something about the darkest fear of the century, but you never understand alienation properly until you feel its teeth tearing your body.

‘What does not kill you makes you stronger.’ Is it so? I’d say that what does not kill you makes you wish you were dead. Too dark? Too depressive? How can it be otherwise when the glorious Shard is there alone by himself, being the strongest symbol of solitude. I ask myself thousands of questions. I want to know why. The bridge tells him old stories sometimes before sleep, and his desolation backs off.

The Shard might be all alone, born on the left side of the right-handed world, but he is the witness of the most interesting and dazzling stories that the city is seeing now. And if you ask me which is my favourite modern building of London, you can find the answer at the beginning of this paragraph, because the solitude paints his glass in the most original way.  

In the end, I don’t think it was a mistake. The great architects cannot be wrong. Every single character of my story belongs exactly where they were placed. Everything is there for a reason. To give us a lesson, or simply to provide us with enough imagination so that we can escape from the prison called reality.

Servants, autocratic masters, merger creatures, a counsel and a ranger. That’s the world of my story. A world that might not make too much sense, but honestly, look around. What makes sense in this enormous chaos?

A small drop of water clutches my cheek. I am confused. I cannot figure out if the Shard is crying or the small pearl is my own tear. Maybe, maybe the river was born out of tears. Sour, bitter tears which are the best remembrance that my characters are definitely alive.

It’s not a tear that merges with my skin, just a cheerful rain drop playing around. The first step, second one, a few more stairs to climb and I am back to reality. I am still stuck in vain, half of me walking, the other half gives the ranger a warm hug. I find myself waiting on the platform, metropolitan line from Baker street. It’s peak hour and heaven knows how much I hate this aspect of the city. I have no choice. I don’t understand why, but for some reason I looked down to the black and dirty rails. As a part of the landscape, pretty hard to be noticed, three or four mice are running without any purpose on the sharp rocks between the lines. I feel disgusted and I try to look around. The image does not want to leave my brain. I try to think of something beautiful, useless.

The train approaches, the doors open and sadly enough I realise that there is not much difference between what I saw earlier and what I see now. I wish I was wrong. It can’t be true. I hope it’s not true. No, it’s not true. We are more than that.

Camelia Birza is an ambitious, budding writer with a great aptitude for absorbing the beauty of this world through her Romanian eyes. She likes to write creative fiction and non-fiction.




Untitled; Marcuse, in Eros and Civilization; Mashed Potatoes

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I step out into the dusk, clutching a cup of cold steeped tea in one hand, a black zip up hoodie in the other. I settle on cement steps, startled by their persistent heat collected from the cloudless day in late July. They warm my butt through holy jeans. I am stoop-sitting, waiting for traveling poets to arrive at my home, one of countless stops on a cross country tour. I wonder would they count each stop as home?

I count the number of homes I have ever lived in – I’m on # 21, planning for 22 in two months, knowing 23 will follow this coming winter.  It could be said I know I’m home when I know it’s temporary.

I like to think that, given the choice, I would choose against all of the moving. I could open a thrift store with the amount of gizmos, gadgets, kitchenware, furniture, boxes, keepsake knickknacks I have hauled, lost or gotten stolen from me across three corners of this country, thinking they make a home. It could be said I know I’m home when I open, unpack, and breakdown a cardboard box.

But I’ve always had somewhere to go, some door in some city that has opened when I twisted some key in my possession through its toothy barricade, some cushioned horizontal surface that I could stretch out on for hours without questions – does the generosity of friends make me more or less homeless?

The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a truck driver. The second was a pilot. Each uncle parked their shiny rigs in their Tulsa driveways in between gigs. Every grandfather a soldier, a sailor, a pilot. My family has always moved for a living. It could be said I know I’m home when I’m operating a moving vehicle.

And then there’s this house, this 21st address in this 8th city, this string of broken promise, of rules shifting midstream, of dead rabbits and dead crows and dead neighborhood dogs, of surprise basement floods and outstanding cleaning charges, of lingering odors and vanishing items, of bounty of flowers, herbs, food, fruit, of a wild yard none of us were willing to contain. So soon, it’s time to go already.

What is home? Four walls? Foundation? “Family?” Television and couches and books and food and more stuff to disappear into? A wall of unopened cardboard boxes. 23 places in 34 years. 6 in the last 12 months. An unquestioned unthreatened horizontal space. A swollen key ring. A capacity to swallow. A fist-sized hole, a faint smell of urine, a growl echo. Where I can do what I need to do for me to be me. A collection of places to which one belongs, an understanding of belonging that involves the self. An understanding of, and identity with, the self. Home is never belonging anywhere so keep moving. Home is a moving target whatever it is I am leaving. Home has four wheels and seats that retract a tent blanket and sleeping bag in the back. Home is a tent-pitched flat patch. Home gets parked under giant redwood. Home steps out of the car, looks up and lifts itself into the silent placental canopy. Home, in the face of infinite and selfless light, becomes a quiet accidental smile on the tilt of an upturned chin. It becomes mine. It becomes me.

Marcuse, in Eros and Civilization

“Private disorder reflects … the disorder of the whole, and the cure of personal disorder depends … on the cure of the general disorder.”

I move out into the sun and wind of Clifton and Grand. One hit, then a search for a stoop upon which to sit, then a cigarette. A Commodified Prayer. What does the Release of Commodification look like? At the northern crown, Family Wealth created an Institut(e)ion. We are Accountable to That. Institute of Tobacco (Duke, Durham, NC). Of Oil and Sugar. Of Coffee and Cocoa. Of Fuel. Economy. Machine. The Machinification of the Body. The Commodity of the Body. The Commodification of the Prayerful Body.
Commodification. Co-modification. To Collaboratively Alter. To Change Together. To Change, in the Attempt of Togethering. Merger. Combine. To Be Made Valueable. To Be Given Worth.
Commodification. To become a Commodity.
Commodification. Common Edification. Common-making.
I think of Albert’s Einstein’s brain, preserved in a jar in a university lab in New York City. He died in 1955. I wonder how the scientists preserved his brain: with the best they knew of at the time. Waiting, hoping, for the technology to one day be invented so as to study this brain, his brain, without inflicting damage.  I think they can do that now. Take 3d pictures and images of things without dissecting the actual organ. MRIs and Cat Scans and shit.
I think of the NYU Department of Neuroeconomics. Gathering neuroscientists, doctors, economists, marketers for a collaborative study on the Decision-Making of the Human Animal. Their words, not mine.
I think of how, according the website of the American Economic Association, the definition of economics does not include one reference to Humans. People. Only Well-Being. Resources.

I think of how, all this time, I haven’t fundamentally understood myself as real. A collective vessel of electricity moving through the spaces of earth. A collection of sensation and perception and memory with illumination and mass and force and impact. Influence. How this whole time the anaesthesia has been slowly wearing off. Every damn day, Waking Up.

Mashed Potatoes

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Cecily Schuler is a genderqueer writer and spoken word artist, raised and based in South Florida. Their work is featured in Jai Alai Magazine, Winter Tangerine, the Offing, great weather for MEDIA and elsewhere. Cecily received their MFA in Writing from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and has attended residencies at Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Home School: Miami, and the Vermont Studio Center. They are the winner of the Inaugural National Poetry Month Online Slam (2018), the 2016 Vox Pop Individual Slam Champion, and have repped and coached teams for Seattle and New York City. As a 2017 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, Cecily is currently working on a full-length experimental poetic memoir. Their first chapbook, 296, is available on Next Left Press.


Alien by mud howard

The first time I found Arches was two years ago. I was excited about London back then. I fantasized about the sticky web of public transportation. I dreamed of the long journeys spent reading science fiction novels, scribbling love letters, people watching with ferocity. The unexpected intimacy that comes from smushing yourself up against a stranger, their stubble in your eye. I listened to Adele and called it a “case-study.” The city seemed so clean and fancy —bathrooms with plastic doors and locks, all glass airports, large roundabouts with no stop signs. Announcements sound in the underground stations warning people to “take care on the escalators” (so thoughtful).

 The person I was falling in love with lived in London. We were young, with fresher scars and better boundaries. My second night in the city, we took MDMA and saw Mariah Carey live at the O2. Mariah was 46 in a silver sequin dress and still slaying it. Priscilla and I made out all night. I rode the underground the whole way back with lipstick smudges all over my face, as if I had eaten a pomegranate with my hands behind my back.

Back at home in the kitchen, we were both peaking in our separate neuroses—me, furiously compiling to-do lists on every spare piece of paper I could find, her, scraping candle wax off the kitchen floor with a butter knife on all fours. We filled up the tub with warm water and threw a pink bath bomb in. The glittering ball crumbled in our cupped palms and spilled out the edges like a living organism coming apart. Rose petals and Epsom salt unfurled into the pastel water swirling around our two newly bonded bodies.

Two years later, I’m sitting in The Arches Wine Bar on an ordinary night. It’s not snowing outside, but the wind will bite your face if you go out without a scarf.  The old brick walls of the bar still crumble. The bartender’s platinum blonde pony-tail still swings. The French woman painted in her silver-blue gown on the tiles of the corner table still weeps. I don’t even drink wine, but somehow, I’ve got a glass of house red in front of me. It’s hard to say no to the servers; they are the type of women who chase men into the street for looking at them the wrong way.

I moved here for love. My partner and I have been together for about two years now. We are both foreigners to this country; she’s a Kiwi. We met at a Latin American restaurant in Oakland with pink walls and the best fish tacos you’ll ever taste. We are a good match for each other, and our relationship has been a careful, stressed-out, messy dance between borders. You never quite realize how straightforward it is to fall for someone of the same nationality as you, until you don’t.

My relationship with London is a bit more complicated now. I go to my first info session for my Creative Writing MA and Monica Germana, a young, polka-dotted professor with an eyebrow piercing, asks if I knew that the immigration centers near the airport are called detention centres? Have I ever seen the documentary on Netflix about the centre outside of Gatwick Airport? It’s just awful when you think about it.

I think about it. I think back to those immeasurable hours spent pacing and crying and not eating in the maze of holding rooms beneath the airport. The buzzing fluorescent lights. The thick plated window glass. The people curled up in balls trying to sleep on crooked lines of plastic folding chairs. I remember how thin yet enormous the line felt between ordering takeout on the couch with the person you love and having all your belongings stripped off you and placed in large plastic bags with colored tags.

 Sometimes I walk through the underground stations—the labyrinth of Euston, the spiral descent of Goodge, the blunt edge of Mile End—and stare deep into the CCTV, searching for the eyes of a border officer tracking my movements. I still have the card they gave me at the Colnbrook Detention Centre tucked into my wallet. Now, every time I cross a border, my fear is a palpable fruit, fleshy and beating in my chest. Your relationship with a country changes after something like that.

 When I finally got into the UK, my partner and I moved in together in a red brick flat in NW London, around the corner from Arches bar. It is the kind of apartment you’d imagine yourself living in if you had never moved to London. Arches is one of those bars that fills you with other people’s memories the minute you walk in. 80s ballads puff and shimmer out of the small speakers tucked up in the back corners, amongst the twinkling lamps and rusted kitchen appliances hanging from the ceiling. It’s tiny: the size of a double-wide trailer, max. That’s probably a very American way of describing size, but what can you expect. I was raised in a city with the best green chile you’ll ever taste, but I live in a country with a sky grey as steel.

Ride the silver snake of the Jubilee line to Swiss Cottage station. Walk down the hill too steep to skateboard on. You’ll pass the beige building on the right, where the second-story flat leaves the curtains open to brag about the size of their bookshelves. You’ll pass the Tesco Express on the left with the bored security guard checking Grindr behind the glass doors and the 24-hour ATM out front. Once you hit the roundabout, veer right towards Fairfax, towards the supermarkets and the corner stores with fruit ripe enough to steal. First, you’ll pass the luxury bathroom interior design shop (wouldn’t be London without one) with marbled sinks and stone blue bathtubs big enough to fit 4 drunken adults in on a Friday night. Everything in the shop costs half as much as a houseboat, but it’s easy to look and laugh at.

You’ll notice the ancient willow tree, older than any of your living ancestors, drooping its braided leaves in the center island as the traffic orbits around it. The tree looks dead, like a lot of things in this city, but it’s not. The men in the first two corner stores before Zara Cafe might harass you or wave, depending on the day. Somedays the way they harass you will be to wave, friendly at first, but then promptly followed by a wink and a quick up-down of the eyes. Best to avoid them all together, unless you need a few Anaheim peppers. The safer store is Fairprice Superstore, around the corner, up at the end of the block. The men who work there just sell you things you want to buy.

A stone’s throw from South Hampstead, Arches is nestled between two dry cleaners. When I walk by the shops, I have childish desires to hide between the crisp white dress shirts hanging in their ghostly shells, to feel the warm plastic brushing against my face and between my fingers and get drunk off the smell of fresh linen. Sometimes I stand outside of the dry cleaners and imagine being small enough to crawl inside the washing machine and never come out. Arches is the opposite of a dry cleaner: dark, red, soft, pulsing glow. It’s a dim, twinkling, fertile zone.

If the UK was even remotely close to a fault line that could shake out an earthquake, this place would be the first to go. The room is a litany of lost things. Dragonfly Tiffany lampshades dangling from the ceiling above the tiny black staircase. Cobwebs crawling up the chains like algae from the bottom of the sea. Seventeen porcelain light fixtures scattered across the room speckled with bits of warm orange peel. Empty wine bottles line every ledge not filled with bowler hats or rusty trumpets, mason jars or cookie jars, whole shelves of pre-war toys. Tall red candles jut out of orifices with waxy waterfalls splashing down. Each candle wears at least a decade of wax frozen into lumpy bulbous skirts, fit for Victorian queens. Old photographs of men with well-manicured mustaches hang from the wall. The ceiling is made of collectable stalagmites: copper saucepans big enough to bathe babies in, blackened kettles and gas lanterns, thin violins and black-haired dolls with missing limbs.

The clientele are 80% men while the staff is 100% women. You might catch a rare glimpse of the woman who runs it if you walk by before 12 on a weekday or 10 on a Saturday. Once, I saw her step out of a taxi in a bright orange wool coat and six-inch heels. Her hair was a curtain of black ice cutting the afternoon in half. Her thick liquid eyeliner moves up instead of out. Even without the heels, she is taller than me and she knows it.

The women who work here are all mid-30’s to 40’s English-as-a-second-language Eastern European no shit femmes. They have that high feminine power that takes your eyes and breaks them. They remind me of the Russian women I grew up with—my friends’ moms who tattooed on their eyeliner and owned more snakeskin heels than could fit in their condominium-sized closets. Working class women. Bright blonde hair with at least one butterfly tattoo type of women. Never leaving the house without a handbag type of women. The type of women who buy watches and cufflinks for their boyfriends and count the number of times he wears them.

Seasons in London are measured in greyscale. In the winter, babies have sleeping bags built into their strollers. The night tube is an intoxicated circus. Southerners yell extra loud when they are drunk because it might be the only chance they get to actually say what they mean. Craft beer is expensive, wine is cheap. Clean clothes always get a bit crunchy when you hang them out to dry. The city was built when people were smaller and shorter. The weather is shit, the streets are hectic, and houseboats may be the only sliver of romance left in this city, but I would spend another night in a room with no windows just to be here with the person I love.



mud howard is a non-binary trans writer from the States. they write about queer intimacy, interior worlds and the cosmic joke of gender. you can find more of their published work here.

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