Getting Ready by Vivien Jones

Lock the doors, close the curtains. Check that next door is at work. Nip upstairs and get ready. Make-up, hair and clothes. Apply a little tangerine lipstick, mascara from the spiral brush, backcomb the top, spray the lacquer from the thick plastic bottle, poke with the tail of the steel comb. Open the walnut wardrobe, flick through the hangers, take out the orange and pink print dress with three layers of frills, find the tights and the white smoked shoes. Get dressed. Look in the mirror. Yea.  Downstairs to the kitchen, grab a finger roll, pick out a hotdog from the saucepan, a swirl of mustard, a curl of onion, a bottle of Coke from the fridge, with a straw. Into the lounge, heels clacking on the bare floor, open the radiogram, find the six 45s, fix them on the changer, lean towards the Play lever. The letter-box slaps. Expecting something important, pick up the brown envelope, run a thumb along the flap, take out the stiff white paper, read it. Good. Back to the lounge, push the Play lever, listen for the crackle until the needle finds the groove. With the drum intro, start moving. When Chubby starts singing already halfway to the floor, arms in opposition. ‘Come on, Baby, let’s do The Twist’.
Good that the pension’s going up even by so little. The price of mascara these days you need every penny you can get.

Vivien Jones

Vivien Jones Her first poetry collection – About Time, Too – published in September 2010. In that year she also won the Poetry London Prize. A second short fiction collection on a theme of women amongst warriors – White Poppies – published 2012) Her second poetry collection -‘Short of Breath’ – published in November 2014 by Cultured Llama Press. She is one of three editors of ‘Southlight’, a literary journal in south-west Scotland, and one of three Literature Animateurs in Dumfries and Galloway, helping to make things happen on the literary scene.


Pathways by Tamar Hodes

They did not usually cycle that far. Jonny and Matt liked to keep to the familiar routes near their bungalow (this was what their mother requested, anyway) but today they both seemed to have agreed to cycle further away from home without even having discussed it. This bond that the brothers had bemused others. Their intuitive understanding of each other could make others easily feel excluded. Maybe their foray was a way of escaping the atmosphere at home where their mother, still grieving for her mother, seemed constantly sad.

So today they cycled higher up the Pembrokeshire pathways that led along the cliff edge where, down beneath them, the sea shrank lower and smaller the higher they climbed, like water being drained from a glass. As they cycled, their cheeks red now and their puffing more audible, the water glistened and blinked in the sharp sunlight.

When they grew tired, they stopped and lent their bikes against a grassy verge. The wheels spun for a few seconds before slowing to a halt. The brothers took out their water bottles and the sandwiches made and packaged by their mother. They had hoped for cheese and pickle and they were not disappointed. They unwrapped the greaseproof paper packages and ate without talking, looking down the gorse-covered cliffs to the bay where a few lone boats sailed slowly past.

Refreshed, they mounted their bikes again and cycled off. They knew the area well enough not to worry about being lost, even though it was not their usual territory. Here the terrain was wilder than at home. Where they lived, neighbours kept their lawns trim around their small homes and their mother was more house proud than most. Maybe it was to do with being a single parent. She knew she had to do better than others in order to evade criticism. Everyone in the area knew that Bob had left her. So her curtains needed to be smarter; her windows more polished. She had done her best to bring up her sons to be good and well-behaved. When others said what great boys they were, her heart swelled with pride. She knew that her ex-husband was missing out.

Willow herb and cow parsley grew tall and knotted amid the grassy cliffs and swallows circled the sky in a frenzied way. The ground was bumpy and uneven. The sea was a mere pond from up here and the beach had almost vanished from view, just a thin yellow rim around the rocks. There were a few houses dotted around, white cottages and bungalows rather like their home.

It was almost silent now. There was a slight breeze and the boys found that their cycling had slowed down.

But then they heard sounds. There were raised voices, shouting. Both boys stopped their bikes and paused, still straddled, and listened.

‘We’ve told you over and over again not to use our pathway,’ said a woman’s voice.

‘Yet you still insist,’ said a man angrily.

‘Because I am allowed to,’ said a weaker female voice. ‘I have checked with the Highways Agency and it is a right of way. I like to come here and pick blackberries,’ (she lifted her basket as evidence) ‘and look at the sea and I am entitled to do so,’ she continued.

Jonny and Matt moved their bikes a little so that they could see. Down a grassy track stood a bulky man and woman on one side of a fence and a smaller older woman in front of them.

‘Are you thick or just mad?’ asked the man. His voice had a nasty roughness to it.

‘Neither,’ said the smaller woman as if she were trying to be brave but the boys could hear a quiver in her voice. None of them seemed to have noticed the two boys, so engrossed were they in their dispute.

‘Then get off our bloody path,’ shouted the larger woman. ‘Stupid cow.’

‘No, I shan’t,’ said the smaller. ‘You can’t make me.’

‘Can’t I?’ said the man and the boys saw him swing his arm back like an arrow in a bow and swipe the small woman. She fell instantly to the ground, like a squatted fly.

Without hesitation, Jonny and Matt dropped their bikes and their spinning wheels and ran over to the old woman. She was lying on her side on the grassy ground. There was blood coming from her forehead where she had hit a stone. The blackberries from her basket had tumbled onto the path. The red blood and purple juices mingled with each other.

‘Are you alright?’ said Jonny, putting his hand gently on the old lady’s arm.

‘I think so,’ she said, touching her forehead and looking at the blood moist on her fingers. ‘Just a bit dazed.’

‘We saw them,’ said Matt. ‘We saw that man push you,’ but when he turned to look at them, the couple had gone.

‘Would you be witnesses for me?’ said the old lady.

‘Definitely,’ said Jonny, his heart beating with a mixture of excitement and fear. He had never been part of a crime investigation before.

‘Do you live nearby?’ Matt.

The lady pointed. ‘Yes, that’s my cottage.’

‘Let’s get you home then,’ said Jonny.

They left their bikes where they were and helped her, one boy on each side. They led her slowly home, worried about moving her too quickly. She invited them into her cottage. Inside it was just like their Nan’s house used to be: lacy cloths over dark settees; china ladies frozen in frilly dresses; cut glass in a cabinet; a gas fire with artificial coals; a calendar of garden birds on the wall.

She – Mrs Turner she was called – insisted on giving them each a glass of squash and a biscuit and she had sweet tea. She sat in her comfy armchair and pressed a hanky on her head to stem the flow. Jonny thought she should see a doctor but she said there was no need.

The boys wrote down their address for her.

‘Oh, you live in one of the bungalows near the station, do you?’ she said.

‘Yeah,’ said Matt. ‘With our mum.’

‘Well, I bet she’s proud of you two,’ said Mrs Turner.

‘Maybe you shouldn’t go up that path again,’ said Matt. ‘You might get badly hurt next time, Mrs Turner.’

‘What? And let those horrible people bully me? No way. Anyway, I’m going to speak to a solicitor and make a formal complaint about them.’
Back in the bungalow their mum was sitting on the sofa with Brian.

‘When d’you think we should tell the boys, Suze?’ asked Brian.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘It’s just always been the three of us since their dad left and I can’t seem to, can’t bring myself to.’

‘How d’you think that makes me feel? That you’re ashamed of me?’

‘No, not at all. It’s just not the right time. What with their Nan dying and all that. They’re too upset at the moment.’

‘It’s never the right time, Suze. That’s the problem. The boys and me, we’ll get on really well. I’ve brought up my own kids, remember. Give us a chance.’

‘Let me think about it.’

‘Okay. I’d best be off, then.’

‘No,’ said Suzy, pulling him gently back. ‘The boys won’t be back for hours yet.’

The boys cycled back down to their bungalow. Coming downhill had been easy but their faces were still burning from the incident and the shock of it all. There was a scuffed blue car on the drive. They had never seen it before. They looked at each other, bemused. Matt opened the door with his key.

‘Hi Mum,’ he called. ‘We’re back early because -’ but then he stopped. A large man was sitting right up close to their mum on the sofa, his arm around her shoulder. Their mum’s hair was ruffled and her top was undone. Her face was flushed.

‘Matt, Jonny,’ she said, jumping up in shock and quickly buttoning her shirt. ‘This is Brian.’


Tamar Hodes

Tamar Hodes was born in Israel in 1961 and has lived in the UK since 1967. She read English and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge. For the past thirty years she has taught English in schools, universities and prisons. Her novel ‘Raffy’s Shapes’ was published by Accent Press in 2006. She has had many stories on Radio 4 and in anthologies including ‘The Best British Short Stories 2015’ published by Salt. She is married with two grown-up children.

Pickpockets, Boat Builders & LSD Takers – Excerpt from the Novel ‘Kicking Back Drunk’ by Paul Tristram

I hit the Full Moon looking for the boys, couldn’t find them.
I hit the Bluebell, no one about.
Hit the Duke, still no sign of anyone.
Then Spider walked out of the toilet.
“Aw right, Jack?”
“Alright, Spider?”
“D’wanna drink?” he asked.
“Aye, I’ll have a pint of dark, mate.”
“Right you are.” he grinned.
“Seen any of the boys about?” I asked.
“No, I wish I had. This place is fucking boring. I’ve
been amusing myself by spitting at Chin. Look at him. The
back of his leather jacket is soaking.”
“Aye, serve the cunts right.” I stated, “He’s like the
fucking pub prefect. The sooner someone fucks him up, the
We got our drinks and sat down. I walked to the jukebox
and put on ‘Do The Dog’ by The Specials, then returned
to my drink.
“Nice choice, Jack.” said Spider.
“Did you know they’ve got a Dogs D’amour album in that
“What?” I shouted.
“The fucking Dogs are in the building! Which album is it?”
“In The Dynamite Jet Saloon.” he replied.

“Oh yes, I want it, I want it all!” I said as I strutted
back over to the juke box.
I stuck in enough cash for the whole album, thirteen songs.
As I returned to my seat I shouted to Tasha, the daytime
“You get ‘A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles’ in that fucking
machine and I’ll live here.”
“You already do!” she shouted back and laughed.

I blew her a kiss and sat back down. Tasha came over and
put a double Jack Daniels down on the table in front of me,
then bent down and gave me a monster of a kiss.
I sat there stunned…..
Fuck me, I thought, as I watched her arse walking back to
the bar.
How the fuck did this work?
Last night I had slept with heartache and heaven all rolled
up into one. I survived, hit the Duke, met me mate Spider,
got a drink in, found out the Dogs D’Amour were playing in
the house. Then Tasha the fucking barmaid comes over and
eats my face, then puts a double whisky in front of me.
Normally when I’m on my own I can’t manage to scrounge
a drink or a friend.
This was unbelievable.
This was insane.
Any minute now, I thought, I’d be woken up in cell two, by
a big thick-as-shit, truncheon happy tit head saying ‘wake
up you drunken excuse for a man. You’ve been here for two
But I wasn’t.
I drank the double Jack.
Spider got up to get some more.
Fuck me, I couldn’t work it out, so I stopped trying.
Life was peculiar enough without me trying to dissect it, so
I didn’t.
I just sat back and smiled.
If this was Lady Luck, then I wanted a fucking triple.
Spider sat down.

“My missus has left me.” he said.
“Oh, bummer” I replied.
“No, I wanted her to go really.” he said.
“Oh, nice one then.”
“But I miss her. I can’t stop thinking about her.”
“Oh, sad one then.”
“But I am probably better off without her ain’t I?”
“It hurts, Jack, you know, but I feel free at the same
time, ya know?”
“Aye.” I replied.
“She’ll probably phone here any minute now, looking for
me or checking up on me.”
“Aye.” I replied.
“But she’s taking her fucking time… the bitch.”
“Do you think I should phone her up, Jack?”
“Fuck no!”
“Why the fuck not?”
“Well the fucking bar is open, innit?”
“Aye.” he replied.
“You’re a good friend, Jack. A good listener.”
“Aye.” I replied.
“I owe you one, mate.”
“Pint of Stella.” I replied.

He got up to go and get it. That was the hardest pint that
I’d ever earned.
I was becoming bored shitless.
I hoped the boys would arrive soon.
If it wasn’t for the ‘Dogs D’Amour’ I would have left as soon
as Spider started his shit. By the time the ‘Dogs D’Amour’
were playing ‘The kid from Kensington’, the boys appeared.
They bought themselves some drinks, came over and sat down.

“My missus has left me.” said Spider to Dai.
“F-f-f-f,” continued Dai.
“Aye, for pastures new.” interrupted Slag.
“F-f-fuck off.” said Dai angrily.
“I c-c-c-come here to f-f-fucking drink.”
“Enough said.” said Slave.
Spider took his leave.

“Thank fuck for that!” I exclaimed.
Spider was a good guy.
I liked him, but we all had women trouble of our own.
If we all sat around talking about it, well, there would
be no time left for drinking, now would there?
“Oi, Slag.” I said with a grin, “listen man.”
He did for a second or two, then leaped off his seat.
“The Dogs D’Amour are in the fucking building, alright.”
he cried.
Tasha the barmaid shouted over,
“That’s enough of that shit, Slag. Anymore of it and
you’re out on your arse.”
She winked at me and smiled.
I smiled back.
Slag picked up his pint, he looked bewildered.
Slave filled a glue bag and went off to the toilet.
“Is he back on that again?” I asked.
“Aye, he got his fucking giro this morning, didn’t he.”
replied Ethel.
“Oh great!” I exclaimed, “We’ll have his nobody loves
me but my pot of glue routine to listen to later on then.”
“Oh no we fucking won’t.” replied Ethel, “I’ll stick his
fucking glue bag over his head if he starts any of his shit
Slag started laughing.
His bewilderment seemed to have vanished with his first
mouthful of alcohol.
“Jack, do you know what happened when he went in to buy
the glue?” asked Slag.
“No, prey tell me.”
“Well,” explained Slag, “he keeps going into the same
shop to buy his stinking, fucking glue. So the lady turns
round today and says to him, ‘I don’t know if I should be selling
you all this adhesive jelly, you may be giving it to minors?’
Slave turns round and says, ‘Am I fuck, I need it all me
fucking self.’
‘I’m building myself a boat’ he continued.
‘Must be a big boat.’ she answers him, ‘You’ve been coming in
here for six years.’
‘Aye’ he says, ‘but it’s a fucking classic’.”

Everyone laughed.
I laughed so much that I nearly choked on my pint.
Dai got up to get a round.

“Tell us one of your stories, Slag?” asked Ethel.
“Oh, come on, I must have told you all of my stories
a hundred times or more.” replied Slag.
“There must be one or two you haven’t told us yet?” asked
Ethel hopefully.
“Tell him about the first time you took acid.” I advised Slag
“Oh, that was fucking horrible!” he exclaimed, his face
cringing as the memory came back.
“Why, what happened?” asked Ethel.
“Well,” began Slag,
“we were in the fourth year at comprehensive and
we were at Slater’s place in the Melyn. He was a school
friend of mine and Jacks. There were about eight of us and
I was the only one who hadn’t taken a trip before. Well,
anyway, I took it about eight o’clock at night, sat there
drinking and waiting, half an hour later it started.
Slater put the TV on and there was some crazy fucking
programme, like a dark musical or something impossible like
Everyone started laughing, really fucking laughing, mun, and
I just sat there feeling crazy, I was not laughing. The whole
scene was freaking me out.

I decided to go out for a walk to try and calm down a bit.
I walked to the shop on the corner and as I turned the corner,
Oh my God, there were police everywhere. I wanted to run
but I couldn’t.
I was about two foot away from them and they were looking
at me.
There was nothing I could do, mun. I swallowed down my panic
and walked past them into the shop.
I just kept thinking to myself, they know, everybody knows
I’m tripping. I can’t handle this.

When I got into the shop there were two policemen talking
to one of the girls behind the counter.
She looked at me, pointed and shouted,
“That’s one of them.”

I stopped in my tracks, halfway across the shop floor, mun.
I was fucking panicking. The two policemen started walking
towards me. I didn’t know what to do. I thought if one of
them touches me, my head’s going to blow up.
Shit, there were tears running from my eyes, but I wasn’t
crying, I was going insane.
I started screaming, ‘I only want some fucking smarties,”
over and over again. Just before the policemen got hold
of me, Jennifer came out of the back of the shop, her father
owned the shop. She was in my class at school, she shouted,
‘It’s not him. He’s Slag, I know him.’

The policemen turned, looked at each other and said, ‘Slag’,
giggled and walked back to the girl at the counter.
I picked up a tube of smarties and walked over to Jennifer,
‘We’ve just been robbed by some skinheads and you’ve got
that crew cut. Sian must have thought you were one of them.’

I put the smarties down on the counter and pulled my money
out of my pocket, it was mostly in pennies. I kept dropping
them and picking them up. The fucking things kept falling
through my fingers.
‘you can have the smarties for nothing, after that fright
we gave you’ Jennifer said.
‘No, I’m paying for them,’ I insisted. ‘I’m fucking paying for
them,’ I threw all the change in my hand onto the counter,
picked up the smarties and walked out of the shop.
As soon as I turned the corner, mun, I decided to grow my
hair, then I ran back to the flat.

When I got in, everyone was still rolling around laughing
at that stupid, fucking TV programme.
I told everyone what had happened and they all started laughing
at me instead of the TV programme.
That was it, I couldn’t stand anymore.
I ran out. I ran all the way up to the Melyn Woods and stayed
there all night, sitting under a tree, hiding, paranoid and
freaking out until I came down off the acid. It was now
about six in the morning. It was just getting light and the
first thing I noticed was that I still had the tube of smarties
clenched in my hand. I opened the tube but they were all
That’s how my first trip went.
The second one was better. I knew what to expect and I did it
in good surroundings, but that first fucker, what a bastard,
really frightening shit!”

“Fucking hell!” exclaimed Ethel.
His fear of LSD reaffirmed. You see, Ethel had only ever
done one trip and it frightened him to his very soul. He
sat and cried all night. Some people just can’t handle acid.
It makes their failings and weaknesses stand out painfully
in their minds. They become pathetic and stupid to themselves.

Ethel reckons tripping is like insanity. He still comes
picking mushrooms with us, but he doesn’t take any. He just
drinks and watches us taking them. Me, on the other hand,
I can take acid whenever I like. I’ve never had a bad trip.
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, or am I?

Slave came out from the toilets, sat himself down and had
a sip of the warm, flat pint that he had left on the table.
He was no longer included in our rounds. He didn’t drink
much when he was sniffing that Devil’s snot.

“Tell us a story, Slave.” asked Ethel.
Slave thought for a moment.
Then coughed.
The fucking fumes from his breath nearly burnt our hair.
He was stinking.
“For fuck sake, keep those cigarettes away from him.”
I advised everyone.
“So how about a story, Slave?” Ethel asked again.
“Well.” said Slave.
“The dinosaurs never got paid as much as the zebra’s
and buffaloes for eating all that grass, so they gave up,
and that’s why they’ve become extinct.” he looked at us wisely,
filled another glue bag and returned to the toilet.
“Jesus Christ!” I exclaimed despairingly.
“We’ll be visiting him in a psychiatric ward if he keeps
sniffing that shit.”

Slag got up and went over to the pool table, there were two
girls playing. I didn’t recognise one of them but the other
one was Tracy something or other. Slag slept at her place
from time to time.
“How about a story, Jack?” asked Ethel.
“No!” I replied.
“One day but not quite yet, I’ll tell you a good one,
I’ll tell everyone it, I’ll tell it to the whole damned world
but meanwhile I’ve got a bit more drinking to do, so shut
the fuck up and get the drinks in, it’s your round!”
“Alright, alright.” he replied.

I sat there for a while, just looking about the Duke, watching
the people at their many games. There was lots of drunken
flirting going on.
The girls were flashing a bit of leg here, a bit of breast there,
laughing aloud at something their friend had just whispered
to them.
It was all crap really, all just a game. The friend had probably
only asked her for a cigarette but they all did this laugh,
they think it makes them look interesting and care free.
You always know when a girl fancy’s someone in a pub, she
stares in the bloke’s direction and gets her friends to ask
her for cigarettes, so she can laugh like a fucking mad woman.
It’s the first come on, most blokes don’t understand it,
they have to wait for the third or fourth come on.
Whenever me and the boys hear this laugh, we spin around
to see if it’s directed at us. Sometimes it is.

The blokes are the worst fuckers, standing around in groups
of two’s or three’s, straight as fucking lamp posts. Whipping
out their wallets and money whenever a nice girl goes to the
They walk up next to her and order an expensive drink,
flashing all that cash.
Sometimes the girls notice, sometimes they don’t but the
pickpockets (Oh, that’s us, by the way!),
we never miss a fucking trick.
The blokes are two shy to go up and talk to the girls, or
maybe they’re scared of rejection (sad isn’t it!). The laugh
that the girls insist on throwing at the blokes, doesn’t help
matters, it makes them even more nervous. So they all
resort to bumping into each other all night,
“Whoops, sorry!”
“We’ll have to stop meeting like this!”
“Whoops, sorry again!”
Then she hits him with the laugh to show him she’s interested
but of course it frightens the shit out of him. So there’s about
30 seconds of embarrassed silence and they go their separate
ways again. It’s pathetic.
The only time these blokes pick up the courage to chat up
girls is when they’re drunk, which isn’t very often, then ninety
per cent of the time they forget about the girl and start fighting
with their friends. Sad bastards.
Nobody’s had more rejections than Slag and nobody’s had more
women than Slag. What’s the point of being stuck on someone
for six months and not having said anything to them except for,
“Whoops, sorry!”
“We’ll have to stop meeting like this!”
“Whoops, sorry!”
It’s best to find out straight away or forget about her.

Then I started watching this guy. He didn’t look like he
belonged in the Duke, he looked like he belonged on a golf
course or something.
(And I don’t mean buried on one, although some of the fuckers
here looked just like that, especially that fucking Chin!)
These three girls were taking this poor fucker for a ride.
He was running back and fore to the bar, buying them doubles.
All the while their boyfriends were sitting across from them
grinning. It was going to be a cheap night for them. This other
poor fucker was greasing their girlfriend’s for them.
Then when he was skint the boyfriends would go over and reclaim
their girlfriends. Anyway, the poor fucker was dribbling and
drooling and running back and fore, he was like a dog with two
cocks about the place.
Sadly he wasn’t gonna be rewarded for his dedication.
Never mind, at least he was trying, I thought to myself, which
is more than can be said for some of the other cardboard
cut outs standing around, too scared to even try just in case
they ended up getting scammed by someone. He’d score, and pretty
soon, judging by his enthusiasm. Good luck to you poor fucker,
I thought, then I turned away and forgot about him.



paul smoking

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight, this too may pass, yet. Buy his book ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at And also read his poems and stories here!







Celebrity novels: an Obloquy by Sally Evans

Vile unclassified killers of literature
publishing grabbed for money
smug garrulous self-satisfied
on lousy paper, horrid hard casing
worthless as a crap sofa
once sold unresaleable
they cram up the charity shops
nobody wants them, undignified,
agent-written, secretary-finished,
unremarkable, unmemorable,
logicless, faded but never bright,
not to communicate, poetry next,
unread presents — stop it, celebrities
who do you think you are?


smaller sally

Sally Evans lives in Scotland and has Welsh connections. She has had several books of poems published including Poetic Adventures in Scotland (2014) and the Bees (2008).



Two Become One (Mirror Sestet) by Goodness Lanre Ayoola

Rhythms crawl up the lines of strings
Strings like springs of comfort in pitter-patter rhythms
Hearts beat in bits, saintly shatters by the struck of love
Love creeps in concealed groans in ribs after hearts
Lyrics sweet and sound rest on the waves of tunes
Tunes tranquil travel beneath the soft trod of lulled lyrics.

Echoes run the streets of vocals and chords
Chords chorus in deep hollow melodious echoes
Drums roar and plant idle feet movements
Movements move moments from fleeing beats from drums
Ecstasies rain on yoked fingers of ringed thoughts
Thoughts drenched in stagnant crops of ecstasies.

Laughter scales the lips of lovers
Lovers of love grin teeth rafters a labial laughter
Yours is this day courted in decorated coats
Coats that take you beyond coasts with a heart only yours
Perfect rhythms hedge the bond and folded arms in-
In a blended love and life, a dwelt passion passionately perfect.

Goodness Lanre Ayoola (b. 1989) hails from Osun State, Nigeria and lives in Abeokuta, Ogun State. He is a teacher of English language. His poems are published and reviewed on poetry sites and online magazines. He loves to work with great minds.

Goodness Lanre Ayoola (b. 1989) hails from Osun State, Nigeria and lives in Abeokuta, Ogun State. He is a teacher of English language. His poems are published and reviewed on poetry sites and online magazines. He loves to work with great minds.

A 10 Question Interview With The Artist…Bobby Parker

Why do you write?

It makes me happy. I forget that I’m depressed or anxious when I write; that I have often debilitating mental health problems; that I am a recovering drug addict struggling to deal with big, sad, adult stuff. I write about my life and the people in my life, and the people in my work are like angels to me. It’s a warm, spooky feeling – close to what I imagined God to be when I was a child – the ‘I’ in my work ceases to be me, my girlfriend ceases to be my girlfriend, and so on; and if I could describe the way I visualise the characters in my work I would say they appear to me as almost blindingly bright people-shaped lights, they really are quite pure, and it feels important to help them.

What books do you read?

I have a reading diet that works for me: A new poetry collection, an older poetry collection, a new novel, an older novel, a collection of short stories, a biography about a writer/artist, a book about writing, a book about another kind of art (such as painting), some philosophy stuff if I can, and a book about something spooky, paranormal or historical. I like to have at least a dozen of these kind of books on the go, if I can afford it.

What inspires you?


How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?

I knew I wanted to be a writer because it was the only thing that truly engaged me. Everything else felt far away and quite alien, but writing centres me. I started writing when I was a child, around ten years old, and poetry was a secret thing I picked up in high school. It helped me deal with the abuse I suffered. It brought me closer to people, but at the same time it helped me escape them. I left high school and worked in factories. There wasn’t much hope for me, and no expectations for me to succeed at anything. I think I was eighteen when I knew. It stopped being a secret thing. I started showing people my notebooks and they encouraged me to pursue writing.

How do you deal with rejection?

Just fine. It’s always one person. At least that’s how I think of it. So this one person says NO and that’s okay. At some point someone will say YES. It’s actually quite easy. It’s not like falling in love or anything.

Who are some writers you admire?

This makes me pretty anxious to be honest. If I miss someone out I would have to slam my hand in a door or something, guilt is something I struggle with every day. I admire so many writers and there are a lot of beautiful poets who have helped me in a personal way. Right now, I’m high on a poem called ‘First Date’ by Bob Hicok. I came across it while I was flicking through magazines in a book shop, waiting for a friend. A few days before I discovered this poem I had tried to take my own life, so it really punched me in the chest. I needed it. It’s a special piece to me right now. I couldn’t afford to buy the magazine, so I took a photo of the poem on my phone. I read it every day. It’s not the best poem in the world or anything, it just has most of the ingredients I personally look for in a poem, by which I mean it inspires me to be a better writer. It has this lovely, simple otherness to it.

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

No. I would describe myself as an artist who writes. Writing works for me, but I play with everything else, as long as I have access to those other mediums. It comes down to money. If I could afford to, I would do all the things. I would make films, music, paint huge pictures, make clay models, sculpture, installations, performance based stuff, photography, everything really. Writing is quite cheap. So that’s my best thing right now.

What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?

Stop being so hard on yourself.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

No, not really, just do what makes you happy and hopefully that happiness will rub off on the world. Be a good person.

What is your writing process?

My life is too chaotic for me to have any kind of process. I let my thoughts and feelings pass over everything around me until it feels like there could be a poem. I worry people must think I’m rude, since I’m not totally present all the time, always thinking. I write a lot of notes on my phone and always keep a notebook nearby. There has to be an urgency, a need to write, otherwise it feels wrong. Once it feels right, I need to wait until there’s an opportunity to try and get the poem down. This can become frustrating and it’s difficult to be around me when I can’t write, I complain about everything and sleep too much. I need a desk, a chair, a computer and a room to myself, since I don’t have these things I try to work on my girlfriend’s laptop when she’s not using it for her own work. I don’t write much by hand because I have bad knuckles, punched too many walls. Dumb stuff like that. My girlfriend lives in London and my parents have a spare room I stay in from time to time, so I move between the two places. After a period of homelessness it’s nice to have a bit of security, to know there are safe places I can stay. It’s rather cramped though, wherever I am, so it’s impossible for me to find a routine. Once I have a poem down I will tinker with it at every available opportunity, if I’m well enough. Writing makes me happy, but it also makes me quite ill. It takes me a while to come down from the high of being creative. I have to be careful. There’s a truth that we must remain faithful to if we want to succeed in anything. Find that truth and make it work for you. It can be scary at times. I’m basically looking for redemption.

Bobby Parker's first full poetry collection Blue Movie is published by Nine Arches Press, available here

Bobby Parker’s first full poetry collection Blue Movie is published by Nine Arches Press, available here

Bon Voyage by Jay Passer

puppet heads, cellular phones,
bathtub legs,
who ran with the last of the money and who got
you can punch
in the numbers like a chemist
or pilot a thousand Enola Gays,
gain light speed till the body ejects the brain
and yet
nobody knows for
amidst a tortuous galaxy of diamond-eyed slatterns
the pecking order of the stars.

what’s at stake is the prisoner reborn,
green rimming neon light captured along the meridian,
tree-lined streets, aerated shopping-clouds
to host a rent in the earth
cinema noir’s
most victorious hour,
elegance bruised with strychnine heat:
the way
wings inside the body
lend voice to the hidden symbology of dreams.

you can punch
the living daylights out of the heavyweight
or dare risk telepathy with dragonflies:
all certainty reserved
for ether and bones.

Jay Passer's work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.

Jay Passer’s work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.

Apart by John Tustin

It is almost like our
Open mouth kisses
Hands held across the table
Walks to the door
Midnight telephone calls
I Love You in the dark
Twisting two bodies in heat
Whispers as the clock ticked
Looks glistening in the eye
Never happened
At all.

John Tustin has two perfect children and no awards or trophies. is a link to his poetry online.

John Tustin has two perfect children and no awards or trophies. is a link to his poetry online.

Irish Rovers by Alan Catlin

“Don’t put on any airs
When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue….”
Bob Dylan

If they had a name these guys
would be called, The Dead Before
Death Gang.  All of them aging
badly, an average of two ex-wives,
three point one kids. All of them on
probation, or just off for no support
paid, driving without, driving under
the influence of, the whole nine yards.
All of them thought they could have
been contenders, would have made
the team if it weren’t, could have had
that job but, would have married the
girl they really loved if only.
All of them living fill in the blanks
lives, lists of if onlys like posted
legal notices in newspapers, their
lives foreclosed long before the fat
lady sang, the time clock expired,
the summons was handed over.
All of them knew every process
serving trick in the book, had even
invented a few themselves when they
were on the hook for a job and nothing
else was available. Washing dishes was
for wetbacks and they weren’t going there
no matter how bad it got, could never
be that desperate.  The stuff they wouldn’t
do, hated worse than their lives, could
fill volumes, Buy them a shot and a beer
and they’ll be glad to recite the whole list.

Alan Catlin is a widely published poet in the US of A and elsewhere.  His most recent book is “Books of the Dead: a memoir with poetry” about the deaths of his parents.  He is a retired professional barman and the editor of the online poetry zine

Alan Catlin is a widely published poet in the US of A and elsewhere. His most recent book is “Books of the Dead: a memoir with poetry” about the deaths of his parents. He is a retired professional barman and the editor of the online poetry zine