‘Postcard’ by Phil Wood

upon her stone a thrush rehearses
a stormcock bird   the tempest bursts

all bones glean in soil song, that pulse
of water rite   the goodbye rust

grotesques gurn   their mocking faces
where is the letterbox for graves?

this writing’s damp   with mushroom stamps
gargoyles spout   the gutters gush

I write the card   in pouring rain
the speakable sky   of wet not dry

Meet the Poet!

Phil Wood was born in Wales. His interests include painting, chess and (of course) poetry. His recently published work is a collaboration with Belfast photographer John Winder and can be found at Abergavenny Small Press.

‘Negligence’ by Daniel Schulz

I am trying to tell him something, but, of course, he has to parody the high pitch of my voice. It’s his way of telling me that I’m not masculine enough. He interrupts me to show me I have nothing to say. He is not going to listen. Building myself up in front of him, I glance at him with irony. Suddenly, he laughs and continues to work and that’s the end of that. Harold loves displaying his masculinity. He loves boasting to me about sex. He loves to parody. I leave him be. Packages are falling off left and right from the belt. Our team leader has switched his diet from beer to bourbon. They are trying to drive production rates up. People are falling out with no one there to replace them. 

Workers stuck in the delivery trucks, unloading a long traffic line of packages, working blind every day, ignore how they are overloading the belt. The only thing that matters is speed, as the metro clutters and jams. Standing tall the supervisor hovers over the scenery, tall, delegating one of the workers to stop unloading, fix the jam, all while holding his coffee cup. When I am around, he prefers to act as if I didn’t exist. Multitasking is his strong suit. I grab my work gloves, pump up the lifting carriage, and pull the empty crate behind me, while Harold pulls off in the opposite direction with his priority packages. Rest assured, we will see each other again. But if the world fell apart around us right now, we would not blink an eye, as it wouldn’t come to us as a surprise. 

Everyone seems overworked this time of year. There is hardly enough space to get through with my cart as packages are crowded around work benches, deliveries for our district. With business infinitely expanding in a finite space, we find ourselves buried underneath deliveries, as a team leader recently discovered as a package fell down on him from above. The machine is just as overcrowded as the space we work in. Mending this, mechanics have riveted plastic walls onto the metal frames of our slides to minimize hospitalizations. Mail sort has been expanded in order to keep production rates up without risking lives in order to keep the overload we are experiencing at its limit, though you can still see things falling from above, sometimes.

“It’s as if peace doves are shitting boulders down on us,” Jack tells me, as workers hurry to fill bags with envelopes, neatly sorted by post code. “Do you know that guy?” he asks me, pointing at one of the men loading one of our export containers, nearby. Everyone is sweating and complaining about the pain in their bones. Not Jack. He is complaining about a chill running down his spine.

“He’s gay,” he answers me, “he’s gay. And I mean, good for him, but every time I turn around, I’m afraid he might be looking at my ass.”

“Well, then you know how women feel,” I snap, only to watch his face distort in astonishment.

“But that is something else,” he gasps, talking to me about how that type of desire is “natural.” I tell him about the two gay bunnies I had when I was a kid, but he says that is different, because they were animals.

“But animals are ‘natural’”, I smirk, then retort, “You know, just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he’s into you.”

Shaking his head, Jack turns his back on me. “What do you know?”

Loading my empty cart at the mail sort with packages full of paperwork for global export, I see another colleague waving at me, asking, “Do you even like women?” Cem has been asking me that for the last few weeks now, again and again and again, staring at me with wide eyes. Probably overhearing my conversation with Jack, he utters this question with renewed urgency. Something about the way that I act seems to trigger this question for him, something he thinks seems different about me makes him impose his inquisitions on me. Suddenly, it seems, my private life is his business, making me feel like I’m under surveillance like that man back there in the container.

“Do you have a girlfriend, Jamie,” Cem asks me with repeated urgency and concern, “or are you gay? …  Hey, Jamie, I asked you a question!” 

“James,” I say to him with resentment, because I want some respect, “my name is James.” 

“Okay, Tina, don’t answer me. Your choice. I just wanted to know, because you don’t seem to be like any of us. I mean the way you act isn’t norm…” –

Blurring his voice out, I let the sound of the machinery take over my mind, rolling over the acidic mockery he has been handing me for the last five weeks. It gets to you at some point, the way that people treat you, the way you are constantly supposed to acknowledge their boundaries, but they never respect yours. I stare into the void of my feelings and stay there for a moment, far away from the acid he wants me to swallow. It’s all about self-affirmation. That’s what he wants. Confirmation of his own thoughts on me. And looking up, I suddenly find him grinning at me, mischievously.

“I knew it,” Cem cheers, “I knew it!” And I realize that instead of staring in the air, I have involuntarily stared at some colleague’s well-rounded ass. Closing my eyes, I breathe in a deep sigh of humiliation and get on with my work. Cem nods at me with acknowledgment, because, in his eyes, we both are men.

Washing the filth off my hands and washing my face, after a hard day’s work, I take a breathe and sigh. We’re on the other side of the mirror now, on the abyss underlying the surface. This is the place where I let out all the screams I cannot let out in my everyday life. This is the place where I get to be a human being, instead of just being what I am expected to be, an automaton. Closing my eyes I hear the machine rolling on inside my mind, turn up the volume to blend it out of my head. Music is my sea of calm. I still feel too much like a machine. I go on. I repeat. I want to break out. My freedom is only a few blocks from here, a place where I can be me, a place where I can be with my friends, a place where I can feel gorgeous, instead of feeling like I’m not a human being.

Closing the door behind me, I go out on the street to take a breathe of fresh air. It’s a good night to be out on the streets. It’s a good night to go out to the club, or so I think, as the calm of the air settles inside my chest. Seeing red and blue lights flashing underneath the street lamps, I hasten, not sure of what has happened here. I draw closer, see a body bag, see an ambulance nearby. Police keeping away the crowd to which I now belong looking into my life from the outside. Only a few hours later the News will announce a shooting having taken place here. Only a few hours later the News will spread out about the eight deaths and twenty two wounded, my friends.

There is a mother of two children among the victims, there is a father, a sister, a brother, someone’s sibling, someone’s parent, someone’s child, people who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this. People I cared for and that cared for me and cannot be brought back. But year after year they just keep on coming for us, imposing dress codes on us with a shot gun and shrapnel, telling us how to act and to feel, telling us who to be, because for some odd reason they feel that they are the victims, they that censor us with violence and guns.

Looking around, I try to find my friends, hoping that none of them have been harmed or sent out in a body bag. I am both afraid for them and myself. Heading toward the back alley, I see a friend’s van standing there, shot up with shrapnel. But no bodies to be seen other than the men looting it, steeling packages from the back. How could all of this have happened, I ask myself. And as some of the packages crash down and split open on the asphalt like a special delivery, I realize that a cold breeze has taken hold of the air and that nobody really cares.

Meet the Author!

Daniel Schulz is a U.S./German writer known for his publications in journals such as Mirage #5/ A Period(ical), Gender Forum, Fragmented Voices, Versification, Café Irreal, Cacti Fur, The Wild Word, Shot Glass Journal, Outcast Press Journal, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Word Vomit, Dipity, Flora Fiction, Steel Jackdaw, anthologies such as Heart/h (Fragmented Voices 2021), The Clockwork Chronicles (Madhouse Publications 2022), and the catalogue Get Rid of Meaning (Walther König Verlag). His poem ‘Gorgon’ was shortlisted for the Mono Poetry Prize in 2021. He is a 2022 Pushcart Nominee. His editorial work Kathy Acker in Seattle (Misfit Lit 2020) will be republished this year. IG: @danielschulzpoet

‘Daisy’s Knot’ by Ben Banyard

She comes to my desk,
clutches a mangled clump.
My necklace is all muddled up.
Can you fix it, Daddy?

I can tell that something went wrong
when she tried to unravel it herself,
only to make it much worse.

I keep it on my desk,
fiddle with it in idle moments
worry away to loosen it.

Eventually I untie the last clump,
admire the simple clean line,
a silver acorn on a fine chain.

I fasten it around her neck,
hope to always resolve her tangles,
no matter how tight the knot.

Meet the Poet!

Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary just outside Bristol, UK. His third collection, Hi-Viz, was published by Yaffle Press in 2021 and is available via his website: https://benbanyard.wordpress.com. Ben also edits Black Nore Review: https://blacknorereview.wordpress.com.

Translation Tuesday – ‘Two by Two’

Each season we share a series of translated work from a particular country, as part of our mission to share voices you may not yet know! Building bridges, creating conversations across borders… making a whole with Fragmented Voices. Today, we are delighted to bring you some Polish poems, translated into English. Enjoy!

Two Poems by ENORMI STATIONIS (Bartosz Radomski)


to the unaided eye
invisible from the terrestrial world
a small red dwarf

among the infinite number of stars
shining in the universe
is closest to the Sun

but the order of the cosmos
does not allow them to get close


In the morning I can still hear its sound.
The music still reverberates in my head.
The sun wakes up and lights up the sky.
My world is just going to sleep. It is rocking.
I am unable to read the notes
From today’s stave of my life.
I sing and play to my own tune.

Two Poems by David Mateusz


I saw a homeless guy on Dębnicki Bridge spread his arms
out in the orans posture, waiting for what
is yet to come. I took walks along the boulevard
and recognised the spot where the Vistula coughed up 

two dead swans. Once a year,
I offered a sacrifice in the form of illness,
usually in November, for the sake of 
peace. I heard a rook praying out by 
Planty Park, and the spring airing of townhouses 
accepted as proof of changes to come. I saw

the march of inequality and bottles upon the heads
of the Left. I saw the march of inequality and scars
upon the heads of the Right. You were all beautiful

and drunk that night, and I ate up the hate 

both your hands served up, when I ran out in rapture
right into the annunciation of some suspect ladies 
and among girls as sad as the Ruczaj district
             to eat up

their fish with knife and fork, and the sky using fingers,
running blind. 
    You showed me how to love and betray,

and so I knew how to love and betray. I inhaled
sterile apartments and the stink of their bins. Carrying
across a river the carcass of an idea, I saw
a homeless guy on Dębnicki Bridge spread his arms
in the orans posture, waiting for what
is yet to come.
And I’m still looking,

as that same intense absence dictates the pulse –

* translated by Marek Kazmierski


Since I’ve been living in water tower station,
I step outside just to trim the privets.

You’ll get a slap on the wrist, you nearly cut 
your finger off, my father says handling sheers

sticky with resin, obedient and quiet like mother,

looking a lot better in his hands. How many times
did I get a slap on the wrist for touching or taking it
upon myself or my lips? How many times did I have

to return and apologize? Since

I’ve been living in water tower station, our hands
are full of resin. – How will you finish, put it back where it belongs
– my mom cuts in.

Thrice I asked about the name of the plant.

* Translated by Lynn Suh

‘Hypothetically Speaking’ by Leanne Moden

Say you see me, getting off the train. Say it’s past midnight, and the taxi rank stands empty. The chip shop closed hours ago, but the sharp scent of vinegar and grease lingers. The concrete bus shelter opens wide, like a mouth.

Say you see me cross the car park, stepping carefully through broken glass. Ascending the stairs to the bridge over the tracks.

Say you watch me stop at the top, look back, move forward.

Say you follow me then, through the nice part of town. Darkened windows, blinds down. Gated gardens, railings black, where the air smells of sweet honeysuckle and hot tarmac. 

Say you watch my pace quicken at the crossing, not waiting for the lights to change. Still slightly out of range. Strides widening briskly, in sensible shoes. The ones I always choose: double-laced, thick soles, comfortable control. Running shoes. 

Say you speed up too.

Say I’ve mapped every shadow between street lights. Where, even on warm nights, no one lingers. I count the paths on my fingers, choose the one closest to the road, know through luck and repetition the right way to go. I hear you breathing behind me, but tell myself it’s nothing, rushing past the edge of the skate park, roundabout, car park, housing estate. 

Say it’s too late to be out alone, that I should have got a taxi home, but I’m skint and I’m definitely not complaining. I mean, at least it’s not raining. 

Say I cross another road, cut through the precinct, and I think you’re still there. No, I know you’re still there. You’ve been behind me since the station. And it’s not just my imagination. So, I stop to tie my shoe outside the late-night KFC. Watch you hesitate, glance down, then walk right by me. 

Say I wait for three beats: one… two… three –

Say, I only follow when it feels safe, inwardly scolding myself for staying out this late. 

Say I walk behind you through the rough estate. Now, say you’ve slowed your pace. So, I slow down too. 

Say I’m scared of you.  

Say you look back at me, expectantly. Only three streets from home, on a narrow road. I’ve got nowhere else to go, and you step off the path, behind a tree. To wait for me. Waiting for me. 

Say I veer left, push through bushes that scratch my arms, running from harm across an unlit dual carriage way. Desperate to get away. Run as fast as I can go, don’t stop till I get home.

Say you never think about me again, but I think of you every night for months. Say the one person I tell says there must be a rational explanation. That men don’t just follow young women home from the station. That it must be my imagination. 

But it wasn’t, and they do, and it happens every day. Say these stories get dismissed, again and again and again. What else is there to say?

Meet the Author!

Leanne Moden is a Nottingham-based poet and writer. She’s performed at events across the UK and Europe, including WOMAD Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sofar Sounds, and Bestival. Leanne’s latest collection, ‘Get Over Yourself’ was published in 2020 by Burning Eye Books, and she’s currently working on her second theatre show. You can find out more about her work on her website: www.leannemoden.com 

‘Full Of Green’ by Julie Stevens

In a grubby green cardigan, he shelters with coffee
offers time to music, which is not to his taste.
The garden inside is a better sound.

A girl in apple-green stilettos staggers past.
Paints a running whiff of coffee
down his shoes. Her apple turns sour.

She barks at him. Mind out the bloody way!
Wipes her own loss and slumps, as far away
as the café allows.

Paintings line the wall, take my eyes
to green topiary, green conifers, green buds −
an escape to keep you alive.

Your cardigan will keep the leaves growing,
play your future, but steal my thoughts.
A mind empty, but full of green.

Stay in the warm old man. Green is safe here.
Your dangling threads can curl from cuffs
and soak up coffee. Catch the hour. Catch the years.

Hold that conifer and let it lift you,
walk those fields and charm the air. 
I’m here, you’re there and we are gathering green.

Meet the Poet!

Julie Stevens writes poems that cover many themes, but often engages with disability. She has two published pamphlets: Quicksand (Dreich 2020) and Balancing Act (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021). Her next collection Step into the Dark will be published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press later this year. www.jumpingjulespoetry.com

‘That 80’s Scar’ by Roly Andrews

A cold rainy day on a wind-swept pedestrian mall. Doesn’t get better than this. Nat rolled her eyes – it should’ve been a Sunday.

A lonely busker stood on the corner, hood up, head down, playing for an audience of one – that’s if you could call a sopping empty hat an audience. He was playing a song with a laconic, down-low Caribbean vibe. She didn’t recognise it, something about sorrow and serendipity.

She shook involuntarily, turned, then walked up the narrow staircase to the clinic.  

Twenty-five minutes later, a chirpy audiologist tried to sell a tepid smile.

“Your hearing is within the normal range; there’s nothing on the audiogram indicating any hearing problems.”

Nat shook her head. 

I’m going mad, she thought.

She stared at the audiologist, tears welling. 

Words failed her, spilling out as silly-sounding staccato clicks. 

She was about to cry.

“I’ll get some tissues,” the audiologist said in a panic.

When she returned, Nat’s tears had already drowned her cheeks and reddened her eyes. The cuffs on her blue jumper were ruffled and damp.

“Here, take these, darling.”

The audiologist scratched her head; it was not unknown for people to cry after a hearing test, but never after learning they had perfect hearing.

Nat sobbed. “What do I do now?” 

“I don’t know, dear, but at least you know your hearing is not the problem!”

Her problem. 

Nat tried to smile; it seemed her problem had just become so much scarier. 

She whispered, “Thank you,” picked up her bag and left. 

She decided to go to the coffee shop on the corner, grab a cuppa-tea.

She sat down, sighing loudly when she heard ‘Madness’ playing Prince Buster’s ‘Madness.’

It could’ve been worse. Over the last three months, she’d quickly learnt that the tempo and production values of the late 70s and early 80s ska revival bands were more to her taste than their Jamaican inspirations.  

Her mind returned to her problem. 

The doctor said there was nothing physically wrong with her. He asked whether anyone in her family had hearing issues. Nat had no idea; she shrugged her shoulders; she didn’t know her family. So, he sent her for a test. And now, there was nothing wrong with her ears or hearing. There was only one conclusion to make – she was going mad! Although they were her words, of course, not the doctor’s. He politely suggested that the emotional distress and trauma she’d recently experienced needed to be explored further, code for you’re bat-shit crazy, lady!

The thought of seeing a counsellor left her feeling colder than the High Street bus stop she’d be standing by in twenty minutes. 

Is it better to think you are mad or have it proven?

“Excuse me,” she interrupted a drenched middle-aged man sitting at the table next to hers. She stole a second glance; he looked familiar; then she recognised him as the busker. 

He looked up in surprise.

“Can you please tell me the name of this song, the one playing through the speakers?”

He cocked his head, sat motionless, tuning in.

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear any music playing; usually, I can hear everything, but I honestly can’t hear any song, sorry love.”

That proved it: she was going mad.

Her problem started three months ago. Just after her mum died. Now, everywhere she went, in every spare moment, ska music engulfed her. When she turned on the radio – ska! Advertising jingles on TV – ska. Walking into shops – ska, ska, ska. It was driving her to distraction.

Her tea arrived as the first few bars of ‘The Guns of Navarone’ started blaring. The volume set at a rock-steady five, just loud enough to fill her consciousness without being migraine-inducing. 

She stared at her milky tea. 

Why, mum, why?

Why was the question. 

Cancer was the answer.

Neville Staple started toasting as her icing sugared pastries arrived; full throated horns squirting joy and triumph. 

It was always like this. Whenever she thought of her mother, her illness, or her death, her thoughts were stolen away by a thumping walking baseline, tightly woven drum rimshot and harmonic brass accentuating the off beats. 

Thirty-six was too young to die. No one died of cancer when they were only thirty-six. 

And eighteen was either too young or too old to be an orphan. Nat couldn’t work that one out. Yet, either way, she was now alone. 

Uni friends had gathered around, laying upon her a soft protective wreath woven from kindness and empathy, so weighty it felt suffocating. Devoid of true understanding and staying power, her friends slowly drifted off. Philosophy lectures, exams, boys, and the irresistible force of élan vital paring them away.

Nat didn’t suffer in isolation though; loneliness, pain and anger gleefully masqueraded as de-facto companions, and she was comfortable in their company. Nat discovered despondence could also be a good friend of the bereaved. It expected nothing from you – you didn’t even have to try. Emotional squalor was cheap, but not necessarily nasty.  

That was until late one night in bed, the 4/4 time signature and choppy guitar strums of Jamaica floated in through an open window and took a rent-free room in her brain. It was weird. It came from nowhere but soon became a welcomed beguilement. She found she enjoyed the toe-tapping rhythms, the testy themes of social justice, and the novelty of hearing something no one else could. She wondered if her mother was sending a message, but she hated ska. She’d told Nat that many times.

“Dope smokers and heathens,” she called anyone associated with reggae or ska. “Bob Marley was the king of the wastrels,” she said, as if she knew him. “Studio One was a den of debauchery.”

No, Mum much preferred the white bread diet of Doctor Hook, Leo Sayer and Roger Whittaker. It didn’t escape Nat that both Bob and her mother had died too young from the ravages of cancer. It seemed perverse that people so different in life could be connected in the manner of their death. Since the ska invasion, Nat wondered whether her mother and Bob might jam together in heaven, maybe doing Glen Campbell covers. Now, that would be fun to watch and listen to. 

Aunty Dot was not really Nat’s aunt; she was her mother’s best friend. Aunty Dot filled Nat’s earliest memories and was the closest thing to family Nat had ever known. Aunty Dot and her mother had been inseparable in life, so it was no surprise that she came to stay and help take care of her mother toward the end. The only problem was that she had never left. 

Aunty Dot was demanding, interfering, and opinionated. Co-parenting by personal invitation, she had to have a say in anything to do with Nat and her upbringing. She was also an outrageous lush and was likely at home right now tickling her throat with a sweet Riesling or some other wine she called pudding plonk. When Nat returned home, she would likely be onto her second bottle. 

Nat sighed as she picked up her bag and was ushered out of the coffee shop by The Body Snatchers jaunty but deceptive and misleading song, ‘easy life’.

“Did you know I knew your father?” Aunty Dot spurted recklessly and dangerously. She was a repeat offender of speaking under the influence. Nat had just walked in the door and kicked off her shoes when the onslaught started. 

“I told your mother she should tell you about him before it was too late. She said no, of course. She said, ‘what’s done is done.’ She’d made her decision long ago.”

This was a well-played record; Nat had heard this tune many times. 

“I’ll get some dinner on,” Nat said, wanting to escape to the sanctuary of the kitchen. As she walked past the lounge door, ‘Save it for later’ escaped into the hallway. It must have been an insurance advertisement on TV.  

Aunty Dot collected and clinked her bottle, then followed her. Objectional behaviour preceding the smell of alcohol, Nat was quickly on the receiving end of both. Aunty Dot sidled up beside her. 

“How old are you now?”

“You know I’m eighteen; you’ve asked me that many times.”

“Well, don’t you think you should know who your father is?”

“I’ve lived this long without knowing, so I see no reason to change that. And I certainly don’t want to hear it from a pissed-up friend of my mother’s.”

“Phwoar, aren’t you feisty today?”

Nat stared. Aunty Dot was a good-looking woman, still in her prime. She was wearing an on-trend geometric bob on top of a two-tone ensemble of black and white. In Nat’s estimation, she could have any man she wanted, yet her choice was to save and ruin herself on the fruits of Brother Dominic. Nat didn’t understand why she’d lived her life vicariously through her mother’s and hers. The only thing she knew was, like her mother, she’d suffered a catastrophic family breakdown.  

Perhaps drinking was just her way of coping. She and her mother had been close; clearly, she was missing mum just as much as she was. Nat changed tact. 

“Tell me more about when you and Mum hung out.”

Aunty Dot’s face relaxed; she smiled, pulled up and plopped herself down on a kitchen stool.

“Oh, my gosh, you couldn’t want for a better friend. She was such fun. She loved to party, loved to dance. She loved the boys too, and the boys loved her. We used to sneak out on Friday and Saturday nights to go to parties and pubs. We wouldn’t tell our parents; we were pretty naughty.” 

Nat interrupted. “How old were you?” 

“We started going out to town during the 5th form, so what’s that, fifteen or sixteen? We didn’t stop until your mum became pregnant. Then, everything changed. Your mum transformed from this beautiful, fun-loving party girl to a beautiful but very serious and responsible young mother. I’ve lost her twice – really.

“We loved going to pubs and listening to bands. I knew many of the guys playing, so we’d never have to pay a cover charge. Awesome times and great music. And, in the eighties, there were so many great bands.”

Nat smiled, “So, what kind of music did you listen to?”

“Oh, anything and everything really: new wave, pub rock, punk, psychedelic.”

“Wow, there was a lot going on.” 

“There sure was, but our favourite was ska.”

Nat dropped the potato she was peeling into the sink and spun around to face Aunty Dot.


“Ska… Your mother and I loved ska; we followed a band called Zooty Tooty.”

“I thought Mum hated ska.”

“She did after she became pregnant.”

“Why, what happened?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t say, your mother promised me to secrecy. She made me swear I would never tell you. Sorry, I’ve already said far too much. “

“Is it about my father?”

Aunty Dot paused, topped her glass, and then after a moment, nodded. “Yes.”

“It’s so hard, Nat,” Aunty Dot confessed, “I’ve been carrying this secret for eighteen years, and it’s so heavy, it’s killing me. You have a right to know. Please release me from this horrible burden.”

Nat thought for a moment. Mum was gone. She now could choose. “Go on then,” she said. 

Aunty Dot burst into tears and reached for Nat’s hands. Through her sobs, she spluttered, “Your father played rhythm guitar for Zooty Tooty. He was a musician. The lousy creep never wanted anything to do with your mother after he found out she was pregnant.”

“Oh, oh no, poor mum. Did you know this guy? Does he still play?”

“Yes, I knew him, and yes, he still plays. He does odd painting jobs but busks on rainy days.”

“Oh my God, so you still know him?”

Aunty Dot drained her glass, quickly topping it up again. She hung her head. “Yes, I do. “


“Well… well, he’s… he’s my brother.”

Meet the Author!

Roly Andrews lives in Nelson, NZ. In his spare time he enjoys tramping. After many years of practising, he is still trying to learn to play the trombone! A champion for everyone, he has mentored rough sleepers and supported people affected by suicide, and is a disability rights activist.

‘Bombshell bearing on a Fell near Caldbeck’ by Stephen Paul Wren

For Sarah

At unexpected times,
an unexpected look
plays in my plane of view. 
It is an engraving,
a fracture that rises
from your other rare gems.
The precious stones of God.
I see natural fields
laud your beauty, and grades 
of your intelligence.
But, what strikes me by chance
is a look, rich in tone,
that harbours new facets.
Its lights show your childlike
joy, open heart, and loss.
Like a scar that reminds,
your new bearing halts me.
A vaulted reminder
to love and protect you.
As a pallid wind blows,
I gape. 
Why do clear-cut
discernments sometimes dull?

Meet the Poet!

Stephen Paul Wren is a chemistry academic. His books ‘Formulations’ (co-written with Dr Miranda Lynn Barnes) and ‘A Celestial Crown of Sonnets‘ (co-written with Dr Sam Illingworth) were published by Small Press and Penteract Press respectively. Stephen’s poetry has appeared in places such as 14 magazine and Tears in the Fence.

‘Beautiful Rain’ by Ian Smith

This would make an arresting opening scene of a movie, I thought, on my way to Heathrow to drop off my rental before crossing the channel for an assignment.  I had a little time to spare so exited the motorway, backtracking to her.  You never know when or where opportunity might present, and my luck was in often enough in those days.

Adapted to Britain’s wet weather, I parked in the emergency lane, indicator flashing.  Minolta always ready, roughly counting cash I carried, I knew I could change at the airport.  Her face lined, perfect, perfect, hair dark grey, silver jewels of fine misty rain set in, adorning it, lowering cloud shielding shrieking jets from our sight, I approached, smiling, choosing words, the right tone, body language.

She sat, silent, upright on a rug spread over the grass with her few possessions exposed, lorries slamming by on an overpass, tyre whine like a tomcat fight.  Asking how I might help, aware of time’s ruthlessness, I started recording even as I sought permission.  Those who record cannot intervene; those who intervene cannot record.  A pro, I sometimes disliked my voyeuristic self but honoured and respected timing.

Her face trickling with that rain, she looked like a gypsy beggar, her story an oral jigsaw of staccato bursts, dark eyes furious, nostrils flared, while I moved about her, sometimes for Dutch angle shots, murmuring encouragement.  This fallen woman daft with rage who could have spilled from a grimoire’s page presented a magnificent study.  I figured a man’s involvement.  No.  Two men, one her lover, the other a stranger, both hokey.  I would have given her angel’s wings if magic power were mine, capturing her lift-off from below.

One man, not her husband, was a betrayer, a breaker of promises, of hearts.  She had clung to belief in him because she had no-one else.  He said he would meet her.  Here?  By the motorway?  I asked.  She reacted with an expression I nailed shifting to the side and behind, her face turned, that said I was a fool.  From her havering I deducted the other man was a lorry driver who picked her up expecting payment for the ride with her body.  The shots I took of her contempt for him were gold.

I left, thanking her, pinpricks of rain her diamond tiara, my Drum ready-rubbed tobacco stashed somewhere on her, most of my cash in her bra, I think, wishing her better luck after she refused my quasi-earnest offer of a lift with a disdainful look I also shot and used, but thinking we make our own luck, elated with this impromptu plein air freelancing.  When triggered, earthy odours rain releases from soil and vegetation mixed with diesel and industrial fumes permeating my hippocampus, urge me to review my portfolio of these grainy treasures.  I now believe we each deserve precious luck on our fraught journeys.

Meet the Author!

Ian C Smith’s work has been published in BBC Radio 4 Sounds, The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Ginosko Literary Journal, Griffith Review, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.

‘TANK’ by Stephanie Powell

they were the first to do it not the last but this was after school and
afterwards he made her polish pancakes that was after the cleaning
up though I heard that the bedsheets had to go in the wash and that 
his sister was home so they had to be quiet we all wondered about 
what it was like the sex the oil and sugar remains on the plate on fingers
 if they sat up on a table or ate in bed if it hurt we waited for her on the oval
under dishcloth clouds knee socks loosened down legs diligently razored
and soaked in body butter bags half open like our mouths TANK is not
the word for something soft but that is how those afternoons felt 
metallic unyielding the bad wanting not to go home but amble and gossip
speculate about sex and the other people doing it and how they 
seemed different even the shape of the thigh where it met the skirt
how rounder and more woman in their sex muscles and the difference in
the sway of hair under knotted cumulus overhead steel grey oxidised 
our bodies wanting the same thing hearts like cupolas banging against the sky.

Meet the Poet!

Stephanie Powell writes and takes photos. Her collection Bone was published by Halas Press in 2021. She is the recipient of the Melbourne Poets Union Poetry Prize, 2022. Her work has also appeared in Ambit Magazine, The Moth, The Rialto and Cordite Poetry Review. Her collection Gentle Creatures will be published by Vagabond Press in 2023. IG: @theatticpoet