Sunday, October 22, 2006

Methodist Centre

The night I came round
to your two bedroom semi
for part baked
sausage rolls
and two crates of stella

I figured that
blood trickled
like smelting tar
deep inside
the pores of your skin

You took me upstairs
got out the black box
tried on a pvc halter
crotchless hot pants
showed me your third nipple
“he likes me kinky”
you uttered as
the policewoman’s costume
came out from the wardrobe

that night I
heard him beat you
cracking your head
against the stone fireplace

trapped under the duvet
I hid from him and you
until you found
nestled in my arms

naked but for a
red lace g-string
and three dinner plate bruises
running across your chest
you cried to me
“please don’t ever tell”

when we were 7
breaking into
your dad’s top drawer?
ripping open a durex packet
pushing it over the end of the tap
until it held
a bath’s full of
water and foam
we screamed with laughter
until we got caught

The time when you
starred in my student
porn movie
stalked by a
werewolf in the closet?

The night I made you
wet the bed
dressed as count Dracula
in a black bed sheet
covering my head
in the YMCA?

I even forgave you
for Mark O****
letting him push
his cock between your tits
thinking I’d never find out

you never became Katie Price
but left for a Barrett estate
in Welwyn Garden City
to marry that cunt
working in uniform
for the Metropolitan Police.

Megan Hall

Swimming And Religion

One of my earliest memories is of swimming
With my old man and my sisters
In the public pool
On a Saturday morning
We loved that
Especially because the pool was brand new
So everything was new
Even the car park
But the best thing of all was
The sunlight on the water
The building had amazing glass windows that stretched from floor to ceiling
And on a bright day the sunlight came flooding in
And half the pool would be illuminated in sunshine
And we kids would always rush to that side because
It made you feel like you were on holiday
So we looked forward to those swimming Saturdays
And we always hoped the sun would shine
So we could swim in the dappled water, so clear, so pure,
So unlike the council estate,
Where we lived
Then one Saturday we went to the pool
And the sun was shining
But there was no sunlight on the water
And the light was artificial and gloomy
I looked around at the windows
All of the windows had been blacked out
And there was no sun
So I said to my old man
What happened
And my old man unable to conceal his anger said
Some swimmers don't like people looking through the windows
And I said why
And he said, it’s something to do with religion
And I said, what
And he told me to stop asking questions
So I did and carried on with my swim
But I missed the sunlight on water
Joseph Ridgwell

Him Upstairs

Sometimes God would just turn up uninvited. Usually at the most inopportune time. I’d just be getting settled in front of the tele with a microwave lasagne, or be wandering half naked round the flat, when I’d hear him tramping down the stairs.
I’d chuck some clothes on and try make the place look half respectable - closing the kitchen door so that he wouldn’t be able to see the pile of untended washing up - and wait for him to knock. In the beginning, I used to try and hide, pretend I was out. But there was no point. He’d just keep banging at the door until I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d have to open up and pretend I’d been asleep.
“Asleep?” he’d say, shaking his head gravely. “In the middle of the afternoon?”
Either that or, if he did give up and trudge back up to his own place, I’d have to spend the rest of the day shuffling around like a mouse, pretending I wasn’t there. It just wasn’t worth the hassle.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if there had been any point to his visits, if he’d wanted to borrow a cup of sugar or something. But he was just a lonely old man.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely heartless and I’ve known loneliness as well as anyone. And I didn’t mind keeping the old codger company from time to time. But it was just getting to be a bit much. It got to the point where he’d come down everyday. I’d get home from work and as soon as I turned the key in the front door he’d be waiting on the stairs.
“Alright?” I’d nod half-heartedly. “On your way out?”
He’d purse his lips together and shrug. “No. Not really,” he’d mutter a little sadly. There would then follow a protracted, awkward silence – a standoff really - while I waited for him to leave and he waited for me to ask. He always won.
“Cup o’ tea then?” I’d say.
“Oooh, that’d be lovely, son” he’d reply. He always called me ‘son’.
Things would invariably then progress in much the same way. He’d follow me inside and I’d put the kettle on, making small talk as I offered the plain chocolate digestives. But small talk never lasted long. There was always something for him to moan about. Pick a subject, any subject, and he’d launch into what was wrong with it.
For example: “It’s all about money. That’s what people worship nowadays. No one gives a damn about anything else. It’s just money, money, money...”
Or this: “Bloody fags an’ queers everywhere. ‘Alternative lifestyle?’ My arse. A fag’s a fag, simple as that.”
There’s more: “’Course, it all started going wrong when women started going out to work. Oh I know your not allowed to say it, but women weren’t made for work. Women were made to raise the kids. It’s no wonder they’ve all gone off the rails.”
On and on and on: abortion, equality, immigration... It was like talking to someone who’d fallen into a coma in the fifties and had only just woken up. Even if I tried to steer the conversation onto less contentious subjects, he’d always find something to moan about.
“D’ya see the game last night?” I’d ask.
“Football? Don’t get me started on football. One of man’s better inventions admittedly, but even that’s gone to the dogs. Oh yes, a lot of very talented players - very gifted players. But do they acknowledge what they’ve been given? Do they hell. No appreciation that’s the trouble.”
See what I mean? It was hopeless. And there was no arguing with him. What he said was carved in stone.
He was like some bitter old man who couldn’t accept the fact that the world had moved on, never missing a chance to bask in past glories whilst pissing on someone else’s fire.
“So you’re a writer then? I wrote a book once.”
“Yes, I think you may have mentioned it.”
“Big seller too, translated into almost every language.”
Which of course wouldn’t have mattered had he been a little more reasonable about that tower in Babel. But I let it slide.
“’Course, nowadays everyone assumes it was ghost-written. Like I couldn’t possibly have written it myself. As if I’m just some Z-list celebrity with a book deal rather than the creator of... everything!”
But the worst was when he started talking about his kids. About how they’d deserted him. How they didn’t care about him anymore. “An’ after everything I’ve done for them,” he’d say. “It’s as if I don’t exist.” Always the same thing. “All they do is bicker amongst themselves. An’ then they blame me for everything! It’s as if they’re descended from monkeys.”
Blah, blah, blah....
He would veer between indignation and melancholy. There were several times when he was close to tears. “Maybe it is all my fault?” he’d say. “But what can I do? I tried. I really did try my best for them kids.”
“Of course you did,” I’d say. “And I’m sure deep down they know that.” Well, what else can you say to someone in that state?
“’Course, they got the other fella now ain’t they? Bloody devil.” Oh he hated that other fella. But then the two of them had had their share of run-ins over the years. But the more he talked, the cooler the other guy sounded. “Of course they love ’im. Let’s ‘em do whatever they want. Turns a blind eye to everything: drinking; smoking; sex; drugs...”
And he’s got all the best tunes. But again, I let it slide.
“No discipline y’see,” he’d go on while I tried to stop my eyes from glazing over. “Let’s ’em get away with murder. Encourages them half the time ” And then we’d sit in this awful silence while he brooded on it. “Sometimes,” he’d say, “I just want to wash my bloody hands of ’em.”
More silence. And I’d be left to rack my brains for a way to get him to leave. Only he hadn’t finished yet. “Of course, it’s different when the chips are down.” he’d say. “Who do they come running to then? That’s right, their old dad.”
In spite of everything, it was hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for him at this point.
“They come back and it’s all, ‘I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.’ And of course I forgive them. I’m their dad, right? I welcome ’em back with open arms. And they say, ‘If you just give me this’ or ‘If you could just do that, eveything’ll be ok.’ But they expect me to make things right for them jus’ like that. In an instant. And if I don’t... well then there’s hell to pay. They start swearing an’ taking my name in vain, shakin’ their fist and yelling: ‘I knew you couldn’t help. I don’t believe in you anyway!’”
He would allow himself a rueful chuckle. “And do you know what I say to that?”
“Tell me.”
“I say: ‘Well then, what are you talking to me for?’”

Dan Broadbent

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blue Lips

The horse house bubbled with activity and smells
examples of the newest off-cuts hung from its darkening walls;
it was the heat that made the abattoir air a cycle of flies
and blocked the drain pool with coagulated blood

over time it was abandoned and only the flies remained
to multiply like blackened abacus beads given life
and nearby nauseous vultures screeched nervously like violinists
too afraid to enter the black maggot doorway

the stench – the stench was amazing, confounding, overpowering
for it was not the stench of rotten flesh or decay but the
musk of me hanging here on the hook, the humidity making
my fractured bones ache and my taut skin too supple to consider.

Ben Myers


Initially they were funny.
Stories of you answering
the door wearing nothing
but last nights glob filled durex;
or the infamous phone vid-
settled on the toilet spewing
into ankle dropped boxer shorts.
Finding you, jacket singed,
leaning on the 2 bar fire,
bed-sit sweltering, drum-tight,
til a window's opened to
the psssttt of your next can.
Yeah, initially they were funny.
Fat Ernie
fucking you the night
your fiancé left,
sharing crabs with a whiskey quart,
and me asking "Why?"
as you curled a questionmark
on the same fetid bed
now propped in the yard,
surface a burnt charred
Rorschach Mark,
interpreted locally as:
an illness,
a weakness,
a drunken twat..............................

Christopher Major

The Shooting

Bobby pulled out his large barrelled shooter with a flick of his wrist, "Ok you boisterous bitch," he snarled, "listen up and listen up good, cause ole Bobby is gonna shoot you in the face if its the last thing his rotten soul does before it chokes."

The woman was lying there, naked, with her legs apart and juice between her legs. Her hands were over her mouth, covering up her two bit fear, "Don't, dont shoot me Mr, I'll do anything, anything Mr.."

Bobby smiled as those words lingered. He thought about pushing the tip of his shooter back into her cunt before he pulled back out to shoot her in the face. He let this swirl around his crop but it didn't rouse him whatsoever. Nope, not one bit. All he needed to do was shoot her in the face and that was that. It was simple, as simple as the act of shitting in a can.

"You got nothing lady, nothing that could make me shoot this thing anywhere else but that pretty little face of yours."

And boy what a pretty little face this woman owned. She had curves in all the right places and lips that looked like they could suck a skeleton right out of a prick. Bobby felt his shooter twinge between his large hands. The woman uncovered her mouth. She sat up some thrusting her breasts towards Bobby. They were large, firm and rounded, hanging there as wonderfully as the Gardens of Babylon. Bobby felt about tending those delicate rose buds, of diving into the bush and planting his seed. Of ravaging this patch whose perfume drifted around them. The lady fluttered her large eyes at Bobby with absolute want. She did it submissively, with a yearning so momentously potent that it could've stopped the sea from rolling in if it wanted to. Wild thoughts leaped through Bobby's mind. His hands began shaking, twitching. Bobby's eyes clamped shut, his body tightened as the tip of his shooter shook and without being able to control it the piece went off in his hands. Bobby released an almighty groan of pleasure as his being shuddered. He exhaled deeply, joyfully, magnificently, and looked down. His shooter was still rock hard in his hands and the womans face was covered in spunk.

"Oh Mr..." she gasped, "you shot me, you shot me real good!"

Matthew Coleman

In Memoriam (He Was A Childhood Friend Of Mine)

Where do I start with the story of Paul Day or Paul Bowyer as I once knew him?
Let’s go back to ninety-eighty two, the year the football world cup was held in Spain, and a council estate in East London
And a hot summer’s day
I met PB by the giant rubbish bins
At the bottom of our block of flats
Paul was smiling a big white toothed smile and on his cheek were many dotted marks made by the speaker of a radio
Where he’d stayed up listening to music all night and I laughed because he looked weird
But when he told me the story, about how he had stayed up all night, fighting sleep, to catch some pirate dj’s graveyard shift I was glad, because at ten years of age it is good to know your hero is a rebel
A rebel undefeated, undefeated by life and the system
A system that has the awesome ability to destroy anything and everything in its path
But that was a good long way, way away

And we walked along in the bright light of a dusty summer’s day, heat waves shimmering in the distance, tarmac melting on the dusty roads
Of the council estate where the gardeners had turned the earth in the flower beds creating plenty of dirt bombs for us to use later on
To throw with all our might
At each other
Or at car windows, or the wall of a house, just for a laugh
And then to run, run, run into the horizon, and run into the day, into the streets, towards the night,
And if you had seen us then, you would have admired such vitality, such great hunger, such innocent intelligence, such lust for life,
Thinking what a waste, what a waste, what a beautiful waste, what a lovely beautiful waste

And Paul talked about the world cup and how he wanted the England team’s world cup single, how he would do anything for that single
Knowing full well that I possessed that single,
Only the very first record I ever bought,
‘This Time We’ll Get it Right.’
But although it was the first record I ever brought, it was rubbish, just like the English football team was rubbish,
And then the surprise, when Paul asks, the facial dots from the radio speaker rapidly disappearing, to reveal his flawless brown skin, chiselled like a young god, an Adonis, ‘D’ya wanna swap that England record geez?’
Me sensing a trap, but eager anyway, ‘What for?’
And then a small miracle;
‘My Specials EP.’
‘My Specials EP? The one with Too Much Too Young, Longshot Kick De Bucket, Liquidator, Skinhead Moonstomp, Guns of Naverone on it, no don’t lie, don’t lie, but I kept my cool and with bated breath,
“I dunno, they’re shit ain’t they?”
Paul, maintaining his cool like me, but even more so coz two years older, “fucked if I know, but fucked if I’m ganna ask ya again.”
Me trembling, knowing I want that record more than anything, more than an Atari games consul or a Mongoose BMX, always had done, and the England record was proper shit, ‘Alright den,’ I said.
‘Sweet,’ said Paul all nonchalant, like he wasn’t bothered, and I don’t think he was coz the last I saw of him he was wheeling away like a ballerina, like an ace, like a diamond.
Oh yeah I forget to tell ya that PB was only the best footballer of his generation, even better than me, and let me tell you I was good, but PB was better, a bonafide talent, a dusky genius of the streets, the streets of East London, where I lived in the flowering of my dynamic youth………………………….


And then the world fades away. And I’m trying to get that emotion back, lets try to get that emotion back, I’ll tell you its hard, because I’m trying to describe how we grew up, which is hard. Thieving was the only way. And you may mock and criticise and look down your noses, but we were forced to do it,
Because like Lennon said, they hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
But we were no fools, no mugs, just on the ball, sharp as a knife, quicker than quicksilver, raging like an unstoppable hurricane
So we stole a lot of stuff, but only from large department stores, Taxing we called it
And every week went up West on taxing missions
When we should have been in school
Learning the words of books
Or sunning ourselves on a dirty riverbank in June
And then we got caught
And that first arrest was the start of the long decline


I’ve a story to tell about my childhood friend and his name is Paul Day, Paul Bowyer to you and me
It’s decidedly not a feel good story, but you will hear it anyway, even if what you’re hearing is not very comforting
Call it a tale for our times
And despite the odds I’m ganna tell it, I’m ganna tell it till my lungs burst


And the short day came when me and Paul Bowyer went out separate ways
Leaving behind the glory days forever
Days spent on the old estate
And I travelled the whole world trying to escape from the nightmare
A nightmare created for us by the establishment of our green and pleasant land
But PB was never going to be able to escape, he was not like me, or lucky like me
Arrested time and time again by the police
Burglary, followed by armed robbery, followed by prison, and then in and out of prison like a criminal yo-yo.
And probably when I was in New Zealand, wandering the streets of Auckland searching for the meaning for life, PB went on a dirty protest
A dirty protest, and now at 31, a grass and really a non-conformist, a real bona fide non-conformist, someone that would have made Theroux jump for joy in his own Walden
But the dirty protest was to be PB’s last hurrah
For PB, the greatest footballer of his generation hung himself, with whatever prisoners hang themselves by, it might have been torn sheets, or razor blades, but really these things are unimportant, because he is dead,
Crushed like a cigarette butt in the gutter
One so tall and good looking and full of life
And I salute him, oh yes I salute him, I salute a true non-conformist,
And I’m still alive, but sometimes I wish I’d been brave enough to join him
Amongst those angels in the sky, with their heads held so high, above those who oppressed them, and they know who they are,
Jeffers said, ‘Be angry at the sun,’ and I am angry at the sun and
Those who condemned PB so easily,
And they know who they are,
The weak, the greedy, the selfish,
The one’s who couldn’t give a shit
That one’s who sleep easy at night
But one day we will have our dance
And then we will sing our songs, and everyone will sing our songs,
The songs of the underground, the songs of the innocent, the songs of the brave!

Joseph Ridgwell

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Last Sitting

Draped in white sheets
sucking the rim
of a tinted glass
drips of Chateau Lafite 55
sticking to the edge
of your purse coral lips

Gazing into the lens
of a rough Brooklyn snapper
you looked inside
the camera’s glass
through the back
into his eye
where you stayed
forever lodged

Crashed out on angel dust
the half light pushing
beams off the floors
you pulled a metre
of dress up pearls
across your neck
into your mouth
as glitter and rhinestones
fell out from your hair

The lines ran diagonal
from the edge of the lashes
skin weathered
taut and dry
from endless dawns
and sleepless nights

This was the last time
you would lay out on the bed
with a drink,
a smile,
a glint from your eye.

That night you went home
to your satin silk spread
sank the tablets into slumber
with Champagne over water
never to wake
- death in style -
an orange cross
scrubbed across your chest.
Adelle Stripe

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Piss Town

going back
through institutional corridors
and overgrown secret paths
which cut across the backs of the hospital
like surgery scars on desolate hills
up the winding stone staircase
to an industrial ground-zero
of abandoned refrigerators
and dripping chimneys spewing
thick, grey chemical smoke
to the blackened wall
where I wrote the inscription
“Joy Division” in silver paint
sometime around 1992

when I close my eyes
the images play out
against the lids
a travelogue of childhood flashes:
piss town.

from a secluded path where
an acne scarred girl charged one cigarette
for a hand-job and a glimpse of tit
to the crumbling, faux-Victorian pub
were I was served my first beer
and the old, beaten up whores
of Clayton Street, lurking in the shadows
of the lumber yards and the gas works
waiting for trade to stumble drunkenly
from the twinkling lights of the pubs and clubs

the frozen image of a sad-eyed young girl
staring out window of a terraced house
and then stolen away in a flutter of net curtains
and a girl I once knew, half dead now,
crushed with poverty and port wine
two incubator babies and her insides
dumped into hospital bins before she turned thirty:
piss town.

I served my time
in dusty world war two bedrooms
you wrote your name in childlike letters
on a box of forgotten papers
in a stifling attic

I severed my ties
bled from my hands, my mouth,
my pen
all of the others still locked behind
a sturdy steel door of drunken recollection
preserved in amber
hand frozen over a glass of bitter
forever wired on pink amphetamines
brutalized by the intervening years
some killed by work, some by knives,
or women,
and some by the steady
passage of time:

piss town

on the news
the US secretary of state
waving from the town hall steps
with the local MP (who lives in Whitehall)
both smiling stiffly beneath
the Sunday skies
how fitting – Basra, Gaza
and now here…

while in The Swan those driven insane
by the brutal drudgery of it all
drink cider and whiskey to forget
to speed up time’s monotonous progression
desperate to skip ahead
to the final act
a misty churchyard
a handful of mourners
it was a lovely service
just lovely:

piss town

but sometimes, alone
underneath the crumbling architecture
of Queen Park hospital
looking down from my spot on the wall
at the empty bottles of Zeppelin and White Lightening
discarded bras and dosser’s blankets
I’d close my eyes and listen
to the Imam’s call to prayer
floating up from Audley Range
a welcome interloper from some inaccessible continent
the feel of the light, July wind
on my face, and I concede
there is something special here
hidden away from prying eyes

something private, odd,
neither from the council estates of Higher Croft
nor the abandoned terraces of Shakeshaft Street
something that appears at dusk
during stolen moments of peace like this
before it is inevitably carried away
from me again:

piss town

Tony O'Neill

The Jewish Wedding

it can be worse being lonely in some places than in others
the music and flowers
the love floating up to the ceiling in balloons
people being hoisted up on chairs
the alcohol kicks in
the taste of whiskey on your tongue
the union of two souls conjoined forever
this is the joy
the petals on the floor
the singing
there are only a few things in life that mean anything
birth marriage children death
these rituals we play them out
i was sitting near the dancefloor trying not to look sad
super aware of the expression on my face
in my eyes
and not one word from her
not one word from her for so long and then
like the sound of birds wings
as they take off
in a moment
its all gone

i wanted to be dancing so i got up and span around and around
spinning til i felt giddy and sick
a stranger grabbed my arm
another linked his arm around my neck and we continued to turn around and around in the music until i felt hot and flushed and i cried and then my friend from time saw me and in that moment we understood each other again as we once had as children
it was hot
and then the music swelled and the bodies got in the way
i was pushed aside
i started clapping
someone spoke to me
i asked her her name and she told me her name and i carried on clapping
i didnt want to clap anymore
or talk to her
she had a nice smile
nice eyes
see you later i said good bye
squeezed her on the elbow as
i went and sat down
back in my seat
i wont speak to her again
memories filtered through
i had to block them out
these feelings are spasms that rise in me
i know they do me no good and it is all ruined
sitting in the chair
more clapping
drinking wine now
before i know it its time to go home
i sit in the back seat of a black car and am driven down a foreign motorway
staring mesmorised at the street lamps flashing above me
flashing past
leaving it behind
knowing it will pass
and for a moment i am an astronaut
a horrible smile and going
going with it
hoping i will never have to return.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Soap And Water

God -
only you
can help me

hours deep
into a coke

inches deep
in a woman

age because
she’s the one

4am sun
rise murderous to

shot eyes,
we must not

rise or
we may die

flaccid cock
in her mouth

she wears
dentures, fake tit

and heart
in young dirty

needs washing
with soap and
Ben Myers

Northern Outsider

The Northern Outsider

[The Vagabond]

"Once it was all over, I [The Sofa] was thrown out with all of my possessions [The Fridge]."
Joel Dever


I knew before anybody told me. I was kicking a tennis ball around the backyard and I knew.

All I remember of that day is the silence. And I don’t just mean quiet. I mean dead silence. No murmur of cars passing the house; no spring breeze through the cherry trees in the garden. Even the house-martins nesting in the eaves seemed to mime their twittering. It’s as if someone has turned the volume on my memory to mute. Or perhaps the whole day had been padded with bubble-wrap and sealed inside a box marked “fragile”.

And then the phone rang, shattering it. And I knew.

But it wasn’t any psychic phenomenon. It was the way my brother answered that phone. Not what he said, but what he didn’t say. What he didn’t say was, “How is he? Did it go ok? When’s he coming home?” There was none of that, just more piercing silence. That’s how I knew.

And I just carried on. Carried on kicking that battered tenniser around the yard. Only harder now. I remember focusing on a spot on the coal shed door and trying, with every bit of strength my eleven-year-old legs could muster, to put a hole through that door with the ball.

Eventually my brother came out to talk to me. But I swear I can’t remember a word he said. I can picture him knelt next to me, staring at the flagstones as he spoke. But it’s like a frame from an old home movie: his lips are moving but there’s no sound coming out. I guess he was trying to prepare me, to prepare me for the possibility, without actually saying, “Dad’s dead.”

We waited. God knows how long we waited, but by the time mum got back from the hospital I didn’t feel anything. She told us, making it official: he wasn’t coming home. But I couldn’t respond. In the end I had to force myself to cry just to break the silence.

And later that evening we sat numbly in front of the tele. I don’t recall which American sit-com was on and I certainly don’t remember the joke. But I do remember laughing. I remember laughing out loud. And I’ve never felt so guilty.

Dan Broadbent