The little parcel

Here’s a tiny one for you. It might be worth telling, I can’t tell.

I was wandering to the post office, a package swinging in my hand. A snug, fine, perfect little parcel: wrapped-up neat, stamp set straight, handwritten address just so.

It struck me suddenly: how splendid, how simple and splendid, to walk with something swinging in your hand. A cap, a suitcase, or the patient weight of a book perhaps… maybe some sweets (in one of those small, slightly waxy, brown paper bags). Better yet, another hand: the fingers, the palm, the touch of a friend or lover.

And I thought – and I thought – and I decided, without thinking: this was a moment worth writing about. So here we are.

Fritz Kocher

A Toast

shrill heartbeat
of the bushes.

How each note,
each struck glass,
is like a toast
to that worn muscle
in your chest.

How they set it off,
to sound out above
the undergrowth
of these days.

Hazem Tagiuri

Keep Them Closer

Under those pressures that we deemed
impossible, we managed to retain both
our heads and backs. That fuzz of doubt
blocked by the disintegration of any
appointments, whose responsibilities
we ensured remained silent.

We then shook off the excess lies
like spilled ash. We resided in those
back streets and bars; the seats just
a little too comfy, the beer just about cold
enough as we allowed the knuckles of our
ideology to eventually heal.

Back outside, drenched in rain we regrouped,
embossed in that grim, damp light; unable
to strike matches or conversations. Again, we
repeated those mantras that seemed by then
to have grown somewhat stale, yet still capable
of retaining an echo.

Jonathan Butcher


They sat in each day waiting for the news, an ear cocked to the radio, dipping spoons towards the milky upsetting of their cereal bowls.

For the main part, their lives carried on under that mild temperate sky that did its best to convince you it wasn’t there. No news settled in like damp air.

But the bad news, the really bad news which everyone agreed was bad, they would savour. It was on those days that the toast had more crunch, the butter a more viscous appeal. The same toast, the same butter. And just when they were thinking of switching.

Aaron Head


There is a bicycle, propped against a post,
halfway along Clermont Road.
Classic features: sprayed green of colour –
military – mud guards warped but still
cutting a half-shimmer on a startling
January day, two hours past dawn.

The seat, you could say old-fashioned,
oversized and cushioned; the handlebars, a
chic cream plastic, once immaculate –
it’s all retro here.
The wheels are caving in,
it’s been here for what seems like years –
since before I arrived South.

A regal-looking bird (stork or crane?)
for a cross bar crest.

But it’s the khaki I like best;
pride to the fenders, the coating
fends off the Brighton winter –
now the bitty-looking bike can
become one with the wooden telegraph pole –

At high-commuter times, briefcased men
and umbrellaed women, bound to and from
Preston Park,
pass by and think nothing of it –
the bike.

Christy Hall


The water dazzled him with the whiteness of sky, the hulking black shape of the mangled Buick quivering below his elbows. He shattered the image in his thrashing attempts to scramble out of the ditch, but the mud beneath him was too wet, too yielding.

One final spasm like a netted trout, and he too relented, sinking beneath the water into the murky clouds he had churned up.

Perhaps it was better this way, he thought. Virginia could remarry; young Bill would still have a father to look up to.

Who knew, he might even grow up to be President.

Daniel Gooding

The First Death in England

She deceased, her doctor says. He shows me the dictionary he checked the definition in. We’re astonished. We’ve heard of death, obviously. But we’ve heard of unicorns and alien invasions, and know they’re not real. BBC Breaking News says, There’s been a death in the country. It confounds the public. Nobody understands how a person can just stop. Why can’t she stand up? Why can’t she be repaired? How does a photograph of her exist if she doesn’t? We don’t know. I wail, gouge my hair, poke my eyes, but the corpse is motionless, won’t get up, remains dead. I confess regrets to it, but its skin is green and peeling. I tell it things we should’ve done, but it’s acquired a caustic smell. Communication with the corpse is impossible. Sex with the corpse is impossible. I’m invited on TV but nobody understands a word I say. I try to explain the grief conundrum but I’ve been caressing the corpse willing it to move, and it won’t move, ever again apparently, unless I attach strings, dance it like a puppet. That can’t be explained. I say, Grief is like sand everywhere. The Prime Minister attempts a reassuring speech but she’s a famous liar. Then pundits posit the question of another deceased, who it might be. I finally agree to bury the corpse. People that never knew it are weeping, not because they’re devastated, but because they’re newly scared for themselves, the bastards. After something called a funeral, emissaries from other cultures visit. We’re so terrified of death, they say, we invented absurdities. Music, to drown out the noise of it. Money, to forget it. We invented war, which is a fight not to be the first to die. They teach me heaven and hell, various afterlives, resurrection, ghosts. An emissary says reincarnation and sand slips out of my ears and eyes. Now I’m roaming the earth, shouting her name at newborns, puppies, lion cubs, piglets, tadpoles, ducklings, fledgling owls, dolphin pubs, vapour trails, sapling trees. Until I find her again.

Daniel Edwards

Death > Telesales

Do you want a death without dying?
Try telesales.

Death without the key benefit:

Just the no going back
Soul-flowing away
Ring-a-ring-a rigamortis

No official funeral
If your friends want free drinks
From your wages they must come

If given this choice and only this
I would prefer to live out
The dying death

Feel a little something
Before the eternal stretch

Give fewer the call
They never wanted to receive.

Gary W. Hartley

Your majesty procrastination

i’m so sorry to bother you again
it’s me –
your majesty.

i live inside you
like a seed in avocado
like a belief against killing animals in a sensitive vegeterian’s mind
like a last sip of lager in a loser’s glass
in a gloomy Belfast bar
at totally unimportant night

this is me
i am your majesty
i am your sense of procrastination.


I miss

your long

Freckles like water on your skin.

Thoughts written on irises.

Melancholy smiles.

Will you let me in


Francesca Tomlinson

White blossom

In the gutter
white blossom

In dark skies
clouds burst
with menace.

In a dream
faces merge
with yours.

In a church
voices echo,
they echo.

Mark O'Loughlin

Button, Inevitable

She was an engineer and physicist with an interest in cosmology, an historical discipline forever looking into the past, which is itself forever. Over time and in secret she invented this thing: a device, a button. The kind that you pressed. The button was housed within a box that contained two half-lived and particular isotopes separated by a brittle crystal oriented to the vertical.

The mechanics of operation were simple: depression bore the column down upon the upper isotope, crushing the crystal and bringing it into contact with its lower counterpart. Some might have described the process as brutal but this was refuted by the fragility of the crystal: a slivered boundary; the difference between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

The physics of the mechanism were more complex. Certain calculations based on the properties of the isotopes – as well as those of the crystal – had been made and processed via particularly imaginative formulae, resulting in a number of different hypotheses, all of which arrived at the same conclusion, albeit one that remained untested (1).

The box comprised a lead-lined inner cube and an outer aluminium shell, with four plastic nubbins on the base. The button was made of danger-red rubber and it was protected from accidental activation by a transparent lid that could be locked with a key. It was no bigger than a child’s picture cube and only a touch more weighty (2).

If the existence of the button became known it would be referred to as something grand and destructive, or omniscient and all-powerful (3), but she believed it to be both more and also less than that. The button – like all good solutions – was simple and elegant and it wasn’t so much a question of would she or wouldn’t she, but when, because once such a button has been created how can it not be pushed?

(1) Obviously

(2) Early plans incorporated a factory reset option, but given the button’s function…

(3) ‘The Doomsday Button’; ‘The ‘Atropos Box’, etc.

JL Bogenschneider


Språngbrädor – ‘stepping stones’ (Swedish)

Some people slither around the corners of our lives
They emerge from the silence of shadows
to slip across the patterns of our roads
and then quickly sidestep the narratives
That pass as pavements and verbs
They are simply stepping stones, as we are to them.
Crossing lanes on motorways, jostling down highstreets,
bumping shopping trolleys
Like Tesco Trojans Asda Amazonians
These close encounters count for Lidl else…
We are gallous ghosts
We shake rattle and roll our change
as vampirical iridescent loaves of light
I love scruffiness and the secret smells of dusty books
Their words coiled in tea stains and vintage promises
I love the dishevelled ambiguity of discarded t shirts
and stepping around the toes of worn shoes
Criss-crossing the crumbs of croissants, I love the absence of Sky
Replaced by skies
And when bastilled by bees
I count amongst my number
the alchemy of landscapes corralled within discordant colours
ensconced in charity shops.

Sharon Wilkie-Jones


That film was on last night. That film I only ever see in hotels. That film I watched for the hundredth time because the reception was poor on every other channel. I thought about reading. I thought about that paperback, that slim paperback I keep in my suitcase just in case I forget to bring anything else. I thought about reading, or just going down to the bar, or just having a wank and going to sleep. I thought about those things but I watched the film instead. I watched it for the hundredth time. I watched the film, for the hundredth time, and wished again that they’d given that actress a bigger part. Wishing again that the one part I associate with that actress was more than just a walk on part with a few empty lines. I watched the film again with the same actress wishing they had given her a bigger part and thinking again how much she looks like her. No, thinking again how much she reminds me of her except she’s taller, she’s blonde, and never plays any parts which remind me of her. Thinking again how much this actress reminds me of her because I saw her interviewed once on a talk show, and something in her mannerisms and sense of humour, something in the way she looked at the interviewer, reminded me of her. So I watch the film for the hundredth time, wishing they had given that actress a bigger part, and reminding myself that the next time I talk to her I’ll tell her about the actress who reminds me of her. but I know I’ll never tell her about that actress who reminds me of her. So I watch the film for the hundredth time, turn off the television when the credits roll, have a wank thinking about her or the actress who reminds me of her, and go to sleep, and wait until the next time I’m staying in a hotel to see the same film, and have the same thoughts again.

Colm O'Shea

The Gatekeeper

“Are you a Muslim?”

Implosion on impact.


The man’s shallow gaze pierces my open eyes
In this chasm my silence echoes
Through the chambers of my soul

There she lies, beyond that gate
Her state and fate of late, it brings me to my knees
It brings me to her shores
Just beyond my fingertips

“Sir, could you please answer the question?” he asks.

She lies in wait
Does her heart still beat?
Her lips still whisper
For the truth

Will I outlive her everlasting love?
For I shall die if I do not hold her breath
One last time
Yet she would never cheat death
How could I cheat mine?

“Sir, your refusal…”

The words fall to my feet
Before they reach my ears
Is this my time?
To proclaim my undying love
Standing on the plinth of truth?

For what is left in these mortal coils
Without faith in more than myself?
She gave me that.
Let me save her
Save for her, here

My lips part
Between them, one word
My one heart, no longer in retirement
Therein my verdict lies
I shall see her again
I shall live forever
I choose immortality