Then

the colour on my pregnancy test
was the most beautiful shade of pink   I ever saw
and, at the time, there was so much more
to the word
positive

Margaret Timlett


Dusty Road

December morning traffic jam,
shop fronts giddy with news of reductions,
head picking over the remains of three days’ drink.

The passenger seats are occupied by carrier bags,
and car lights flicker from snow white
to Father Christmas red.

Then a break in the stream of shoppers.
The package in the next car is long and wooden,
and the vehicle that follows is full
of the knotted faces of the mourners.

A third car completes the dark visitation,
and Christmas seems for a moment as unwelcome
as it must have done for Herod.

Joe Caldwell


Middlesbrough

A gadgie slept slumped out the library, bloody automatic doorclamps kept a gonging on his conkbox. Like a scarecrow stuffed with spam chunks, oozy belching out his chin schism, face flaps all a dangling, pulseless mulchy pulp pomace. I gipped a bit in me sleeve, long night, and dialled an ambulance.

Pigeons shifty scuffle foraged crumbs in bus stop yup stubble. A cabbie done the finger at a Volvo, which was parked. Mucky skip fox snickered biscuits into polystyrene chugmug. Parademics clambered on the corpse, took off their gebs, said “morning Gary”.

Longtom Richardson

Friends

“That’s it, the final straw, I’m leaving” cried Ross as he slammed his too-full wine glass down onto the table, expensive white wine sloshing over his pizza, salad and sides. No sooner than the base of his glass had touched the table he began to wonder; what was the final straw? What was just said? Why am I leaving? But he did not voice these thoughts, instead pushing his chair back, it screeching across the marble flooring. “You can make your own way home!” once again a cry, too loud for their restaurant surroundings. He turned on his heels and left.

“You forgot your bag!” came another raised voice from behind him as he departed the restaurant, wobbly and several steps at a time. Thud. Something collided with him, just where his neck ceased to be his neck and started to be his back. Something heavy. Several more steps flew past and he met the cobbled street below with his forearms and his elbows and his face. “Fuck!” He scrambled to his feet, tripped and then scrambled to his feet once more. “You absolute bitch!”

Rachel had thrown his over-full, over-priced, over-the-shoulder bag that she had bought him for his birthday out of the restaurant after him. The bag was heavy, filled mainly with books about dinosaurs that had been purchased throughout the day, some with his debit card and some purchased with hers, in between the purchasing of beer and wine and then lunch (this time just her debit card) and then more beer and wine.

“Why did you do that!?” Ross shouted, his voice echoing around the Victorian arches and the narrow, cobbled streets. “Well, why do you have to humiliate me in public like this!? Always drunk and yelling for no reason,” Rachel responded. “Humiliation!?” Ross yelled, his voice louder now, beginning to break, a break that was emphasised by the echo “I’ll show you humiliation!”

Ross clenched his fists, squinting his eyes. His cheeks began to flush and redden and then a sharp rasping sound bounced across the cobbles, through the Victorian arches and down the street. Ross had shat himself directly in front and in full view of the raised, glass fronted restaurant which sold expensive wine and expensive pizza and expensive sides. The tables lining the windows were full; all reservations had been met.

Stephen James

Nereid

Today you taught me about circles
iridescent silver in sunsettingsaffron
take the lining wrap it round our bodies
did you know that our truths mask with sadness
that the punctured light behind those twig weaved trees
is fading out like the tide
we are deepening as shadows into one another
held together held apart by circles
vying against the high ebb unbranching streamlets
the sandshore dusks its cloche pressing against the chalkcliffs
what we feel swells baby chicks in eggs nesting on the cliff face
in the intricate patterns of your necklaceshell heart
glinting coils of bone against bone flooded
tear water blood water washed up Nereid
hair circles water ripple ring circles
goose barnacle blue windows
sprawled dots filled with sea empty fingers.

Vera Fibisan