I wait outside

They always met in the room at the back of the shop. It was one of those shops where the coloured crystals in baskets (just £1 each, ‘full of healing energy’) and single joss sticks for 10p a go sit beside Taoist wind chimes and Native American dreamcatchers.

The woman asks me to come in. Welcome, Niamh! Merry Meet!

There’s the room at the back, and the door of the room opens out to a tiny vacant lot. It’s paved over, dead, save the grass and dandelions growing in the cracks. But the women in the room at the back of the shop where they sell crystals and dreamcatchers, those women say

it’s as good as a forest clearing, the vacant lot. They give me ginger tea. It’ll cleanse your aura, they say. I look around the room at the girls with pewter symbols dangling from leather cords around their smooth necks, sitting on the edges of their two-seater sofas, painted with

eager smiles.  A woman wearing tailored clothes, her hair sleek and grey as seal fur, holds up a stainless steel knife, her athame she explains. They want me to look out across their little patch of land, and notice how it isn’t just a concrete lot. Green life grows in the cracks,

because Mother Nature will have her revenge. Our Lady Diana of the moon shines her light on us. They reel off their Wiccan platitudes

by rote. And it harm none, do as thou wilt. And it harm none. The rule of three, so mote it be.

Another woman, tall, robust, stands behind me, grips my shoulder with hard fingers. So here we are. Maiden, mother, crone. At first I squeak mouse-like under her talon-pinch. Then: Ask Diana if she harmed none. They stare. While you’re at it, ask your huntress if she was vegan.

Grey lady puts the athame down on the too-opulent altar, glaring. It’s alright, someone soothes as a girl slides from the edge of her loveseat. It’s the light of the Goddess. You’re just feeling it for yourself, isn’t it wonderful? A quick glance at me. Not everyone can feel it.

I step outside to catch my breath, where the dandelions push through concrete.

Mother Nature, we are one.

I pour my tea over the golden heads. It tasted like piss, anyway.

Kate Garrett
A  ‘chapter’ of 'Bewitched' from Bewitched and Other Stories, available now from independent publisher Pankhearst.


Stranger on the late train back from King’s Cross

She had a face that told no lies.
An honest beauty not forced by regime.
Eyes answered every question I thought to ask
so I resigned to a smile she didn't see
then went back to gazing dramatically
at fields through the train window
as if a soundtrack played
and viewers watched on.
In hindsight, I'm content
with not catching her eyes;
Disappointment can only come
from meeting one’s heroes,
or falling for a stranger
on the late train back from King’s Cross.

Ryan Madin

Wicker

Fed with gold you dream
of sandbanks, sunspots, finches.
Your blood silts up with light,
heart glitters metal traces.
Weighed, your body is precious.

Buoyed on these midstream
popples, I dream an otter.
Its head is a nib
writing light, throat quicksilver.
Whiskers bristle out winter.

Squat, green bulbs, bitter
as smoke, I offer you figs
from Sheffield’s east end.
They have exile’s toughened flesh
and skin; its deep-cut bloodline.

Chris Jones


Late Night Tales

After dark we slurp kebabs from polystyrene trays
and pick at polystyrene chips with sweat-salted hands.

After dark we over-compensate with light whiter than the sun
and eyes wider than the morning.

After dark mascara dribbles into our vinegar tears
and vinegar words are not held back from tender ears.

After dark high-heels snap, ideals collapse, balance lapses;
walking on two legs begins to appear ridiculous.

After dark the whole world seems to fall to pieces.
We shout
We cry
We are human
We are confused
We put our heads onto the railway tracks,
shut our eyes tightly, and try only
not to think of the impact.
We find God in pools of our own vomit
on the floors of phone boxes
in our small home towns.

After dark, as we swallow down strips of Halal rubber
and stare at the halogen strip-lit moon, we are reminded

that it only takes a little darkness
to send the whole thing reeling wildly
out of control.

Gevi Carver