Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Long Walk Through Hoxton

Through housing trust towers of red brick blocks
Old Street littered with Perfect Fried Chicken
Pit bull terriers foaming the leash
scooter bikes tipped in Union Canal -
a shaft of light ran through the estate

The day was sad,
I thought I’d lost him,
like dandelion cotton out of my palm
my own paranoia a catalyst crown as
liquid eyeliner streamed down my cheeks
staining my collar, headphones clipped on -
a dark tunnel twisted down to the park
where a beautiful tree sat in full bloom
a broken branch dangling in the sun

Under its leaves burned red as a blister
I stroked at its bark,
admiring the colour
this tree had
witnessed it all
– pastures, paddocks, boats and high rises
right across Pitfield’s primrose edged lawns

A shadow crept up
tapped me on the shoulder,
an old lady from across the way
wearing a pinny, scent of Anais Anais
“That’s my tree” she said,
her transparent hands pointing above
“Stan, he rescued it years ago,
dug up the weeds, cut down the ivy
just look at it now, 20ft high”

She pulled off a leaf
put it into my satchel
“He died last year.
The two of us would sit
eating shortbread, holding hands
on Sunday afternoons just like this”

The lady reached up, to the branch overhead
broken in two by white van hooligans
“See this tree, it’s all I’ve got now..
you have to look after
the things that you love”

I smiled at her,
she gave me a hug
unexpected from a cockney born pensioner
and I walked back home
to the flat with two cats
dim in the basement
picked up the phone
and whispered ‘I love you’
a bright red leaf
held in my palm
brown leather book laid open
on my lap,
his face stared out
from a photocopied card
voice reassuring
north eastern, from the heart

Adelle Stripe

Uncle Tommy

20 silent years later, Uncle Tommy eventually said that he was the one who had to identify the body. He said it had turned black…. that’s what happens when you stay in the water for a few days until some unsuspecting lady walking a dog, discovers you.

Then he handed over some old black and white photos of him as a kid and an Easter card I’d made him before he popped his clogs, which he’d kept at his Mum’s house. At some point they said, they’d give me his portable radio.

Moving from Brighton with a young wife and a kid, to a northern ‘flat cap, pigeon keeping’ brewery town called Tadcaster, in the late 70’s on a council house swap is not a good idea, if you’re slightly unhinged and like a bit of a tipple and every third building is a pub.

The letter from the police said that, as soon as we got back from the yearly Dad-less caravan holiday to Filey, Mum had to go and see them.

The doctors said that they had never seen so much alcohol in a body in an autopsy. Then the local papers repeated the same story.

A few weeks after the drowning, the junior school bully came over and said she was sorry that Mr Laud, the form teacher, ‘had said those bad things about your Dad’ on the school day trip by the river earlier. I think that was when the forgetfulness started.

Now it’s all a jumbled up jigsaw of short stories and memories.

… A pissed up walk into the Sunday school hall, half way through a ballet lesson, Abba’s ‘Super Trooper’ playing out of the tape deck, to give the beetroot face teacher a tenner, for making his daughter happy.
… Doing a Dad search and managing to collect 50p from the all the skint blokes he lived with in the workingmen’s house.
… Sneaking through the Vicars secret garden together, to hide in the plants.
… Being given the special task of choosing a bottle of cider for him from The Spar shop on the hill.
… Trying snuff with his schizophrenic Mum, (my Gran), at 5 years old and cider with him at 6 years old.
… His Thursday evenings allocated time for a visit.
… An afternoon of, ‘tell me you love me’, always ending in a refusal.
… Crying together at a late night visit after another month of invisibleness, while Mum was working behind the bar at the British Legion.

The constant disappearing acts when he was alive, led to dreams and wants of discovering that he was actually in prison and not dead after all.

We never found out how or why.

He lasted Two Years in Tad.

Emily Turnbull

The Diary of Kevin Doherty Pt 1

Been teaming tonight, bit of manic energy. Got in a panic and thought I couldn't find Kevin's ID. But it had slipped some shelves, was lodged in behind a pile of CDs. Thank fuck.This is Kevin's diary....

This is the best present anyone's ever given me (actually, think it was only supposed to be a loan. Have had it a few years now - sorry Mark). Story goes...6 or 7 years ago my mate's helping refurbish a North London pub. Down in the basement there's a door - it's padlocked shut. They pry it open to find a room littered with betting slips, with a small folding cot bed and a blue Langham Diary 1989. Inside the book is Kevin's provisional driver's licence. My friend tries to work out who this Kevin is, but never gets anywhere with it. Records have been searched, apparently he's from Jersey, but there's no record of him ever existing. All we have is the diary. And a picture of him taken in a booth.

Welcome the world of Kevin Doherty. March 10th-12th 1989...

March 10 Friday

Work 8:30. Sean had his first court hearing today. James Mc wants Sean to pay him off. I advised Sean to tell him to fuck off. "Honesty is the best policy" let's hope it pays off. Came home had a good day at work. Sean O'Donovan phoned. I was talking with his present girlfriend Bernie. He wants me to go over for easter, it would be nice but I won't be able to afford it.Myself & Sean went for an Indian we talked mainly about Sean's case, I feel things are a lot better than what they were, especially with regards to the way I felt about Sean being charged... now think there might be a chance.Came home 9.30pm watched Comic Relief. 2.30am DIDN'T GO TO HALF MOON Shock bloody horror

March 11 Saturday

New Zealand Phil called round at 9.30am, I could have run him over!! as it turns out I was glad he woke us up. He has lost weight and is in good form he still doesn't have full use of his left arm or finger. We talked about setting up a business fuck, we should just stop doing what we're doing and do business. Went to Chas (new break pads) then went to Den's bought Una bottle of brandy brought back chairs we borrowed for the party went to half Moon at 3.30pm and left at 2.30am, was really pissed, played darts, pool, the usual shit.Still have twitch in eye. Sleep.

March 12 Sunday

Den called round with two videos and Sean got one as well. "About last Night", Good. "The Last Emperor" Fucking shit. "Unbelievable likeness of being" Very Good.12 o clock bed. Den was sick three times during the course of the day.

Chloe Raunet

The Cutter

The phenomenon
or sub-culture
or necessity
of self harming
amongst young men is
rarely acknowledged
but when you’re
young and intoxicated
and horny and itching
to announce your
greatness to the word
it’s understandable why
a razor blade or
the shard of a
broken vodka bottle
or a fist to the wall
might be appealing
in the eyes of
someone who wants to
punish their own arrogance
awaken their senses
document that confusion
or maybe just
taste power -
however fleeting.

Ben Myers


I ain’t never had no interest in reading and writing, the only ABC I was ever interested in was the Amateur Boxing Club. All the boys of my family went, brothers, cousins, uncles and my dad. My dad was a top fighter, won loads of bouts, got a lot a’ money. I remember a time when my mum had a fancy coat and her hair done at the salon once a week, when us kids had sweets everyday and dad rolled up in a brand new car. He was fighting fit then, his big knuckles tight with speed. We had parties that the whole family would come to, big bowls of coleslaw and sausages on the barbeque; a dustbin full of cold beer and a bottle of Frascati for the ladies. These parties always ended in a fight, but never anything serious.

Girls ain’t allowed to fight at the ABC, the only way in was with my brothers or a boyfriend, and then it was only to cheer ‘em on, get ‘em going. The boys all competing over a girl’s attention. But I wanted to fight. I didn’t wanna hang out outside the record shop all Saturday, blue mascara on my lashes and bleached streaks in my hair. I wanted the rush my brothers had, being a champ, having a chance at being the best. I wanted to fight with the boys. I would spar with my brother in the house, till he got a clout for hitting a girl. I hated being a girl, soft as shit with my whole life mapped out.

I didn’t want a little job looking after kids or perming old ladies hair, till I found a bloke. I didn’t want a council house round the corner from my mum. I didn’t wanna have kids that went to the same school as me. I didn’t want a husband my dad liked that I hated. I wanted a shelf with trophies of my own, I wanted to win and I wanted to be good at something other than just being a girl. Biology is something to beat right?

Heidi James


“Where the hell where you?”

Asked my nail-nosed boss, as I come shivering back into the kitchen from being on the roof catching asmoke. Again I’m struck by that thick soup smell which will accompany me for the rest of the night.

“Get back to work.”

He shouts this randomly, make believing he’s caught someone slacking and trying to give the impression he’s on top of things. Really Flintock is less efficient than most of us. I’m at a point where I will take anything, at anytime, anywhere and Carla, one of the waitresses, is offering.

Next break we meet outside the disabled toilet. With a broken extractor unit and depending on the previous occupant, it can be pretty foul. But it has a full length mirror on one wall and a lockable door, so is the preferred meeting place for any employee liaison.

In our agitated state we both thought the other hand locked the door. Our error became apparent a few minutes later when Flintock opened the door wide andstood there with some of the kitchen hands craningover him to see. I was the first out and Flintock let the door swingclosed on Carla as I followed him to his closet sized office.

“That, Behan, is not the kind of behaviour we expectfrom employees here at Renfield’s. You’ve given me nochoice but to terminate your employment. I mean Behan,you acted like a damn animal.”

“All animals are defiant.” I sniffed.

He wasn’t going to fire Carla. I’m sure he was hoping to get her in there now. I told him so and to stick his standard company reference but it didn’t feel as good as I thought it would.

Leaving, I knew this would become another haunting memory. That there will always be bosses, troubles,questions and ghosts and that I would always remember in future to lock the door behind me.

Brian McGettrick

Lovebytes 3

She was the kind of girl who had been stepping on and off escalators her whole life. He was the kind of boy who could remember the first shop in his town to get an escalator: Allied Carpets. He and his childhood friends used to ride up and down it to the consternation of the powdered faces and pouffed-up hair of the old ladies who worked there.

Falling in love with him, she said, had been like letting go at the end of the tube train when it hurtles past you on the platform. Standing at the edge of the platform, toes on or just peeping over the yellow line, the carriages in front of you, doors beeping closed, slower, then faster and faster they streak past. Flick, flick, flick! Go your eyeballs as you look at all the passengers flashing past inside. You become lulled by its rhythmic rattling in front of you, its colours white, red, blue, black, London Underground colours. Ca-clack, ca-Clack, ca-Clack! And then it ends. If you've been staring hard enough you sway slightly forwards as the last carriage clatters by.

Falling in love with him, she said, was as if just at that last moment when you sway forwards with the end carriage, you let your soul go and hurtle along behind it, alternatively carressed and buffeted by its momentum. That is what falling in love with him was like.

Falling in love with her, he said, was like that moment in a song when you've been following the harmonies while they flowed round and around you, up and down. Enchanting, like mermaids, drawing you into their song, the sirens of the sea. Then that moment when just as you have truly immersed yourself in the music and let your soul swirl with it, it ends. You sway trying to catch onto the final fronds but they have vanished; it feels like falling.

Falling in love with her, he said, was like finally catching that final note and holding it tight, making it grow and swell again, drawing the melody and harmony back around you. That is what falling in love with her was like.

And so they fell, with their city and their music, in love, together.

Lisa Payne

A Park Bench Story

The sky spits out a silver flash-
the Apocalypse winks at me!
-this is last week
when I couldn’t got to work
I just couldn’t
I am a BURNT fool on IDIOT fire,
the Apocalypse winking at me!

I am sat in the park
my head is in my hands
I am lost in clich├ęs
and I say
my head in my hands

I am watching the squirrels-
and their simple park lives,
and I am vowing
to sit in parks more often
and then
the Apocalypse is winking at me!
it splits the sky-
in a blinding burst of white-
I say
and blink my eyes on the bench
startled like a bunny

it is Friday the 13th
when the Apocalypse winks at me!
-this is last week
when I couldn’t get out of bed
I just couldn’t
I am in bunker mentality
denying mortality obviously
when the Apocalypse winks at me!

I am on a train into Bank
and then I am sat on museum steps
not knowing if I am cold or not,
I am reading a free paper
and I watch people
meet each other,
I watch people
say goodbye to each other,
they do it with hugs kisses sweet pauses
for each other,
they are dressed
in good shirts
and work skirts
they probably bought together,
and they don’t know
that the Apocalypse winks at me!

I meet a girl there
and we say hello to each other,
I am kissing her cheek
and we smile with each other,
I am taking her underground to a bar
to sit on the sofas and talk to each other,
I am trying to forget
that the Apocalypse winked at me earlier!
and when
she is going
to where
I told her
the toilet was
she finds only more bars. . .

I am thinking
this all very nice together. . .
like Sean Bean
I always die all rubbish
in early scenes in a leather
-this is maybe because
the Apocalypse winks at me!

we are sitting in a corner
on a sofa
that’s busted
and hard
and comfy
and dusty,
she had collapsed into it
a pixie subdued by a cold,
she is sipping
a small glass of red wine chilled,
she is tucking her legs up
and her excellent hips look at me
with their bones . . .

I am telling her
how comfy
she always looks to me
when she’s on any chair
when she’s in any home
when she’s pretend sleeping on any short sofa
when she’s standing
neatly waiting
for her granny bus to come
I don’t tell her about the Apocalypse
how it winks at me!

Ford Dagenham

Armchair Brutality

She sounds like she’s reading her lines from a booklet. His blues are so blue they’re black. They are each other’s shabby consolation.
We’ve abandoned the afternoon streets to dust and heat. An oppressive blend of retina-scorching sunlight, grit and grace. Through the open window I can smell shoe-polish mixed with petrol; city sex and impossible things. I leave my sunglasses on and pour myself a drink. I don’t offer them one. Instead I pass around a blown-up photo of a diseased lung that I found in my brother’s room last night. Rico holds it upside down and scrutinises it. He shows it to Carole, but she acts like she’s not interested. He reaches over and jabs a cigarette hole through her paper dress, playfully. She leans over him and whispers something into his ear in her sandpaper rasp. He grins and laughs dirtily. I can’t hear what she’s saying. The deaf lady next door has her TV on loud again. Sometimes when it’s at top volume I have to sleep in my car.

As the theme tune to a once-popular TV quiz-show seeps through the wall Carole starts to dance in front of Rico. She’s twisting like she’s in a 50s grindhouse – all hips, tits and hushed lust. I make myself comfortable and ease back into my greasy armchair. In her eyes there are glimpses of something a bit like love. I fucked an older woman once. She didn’t look as good as Carole though. Her legs looked like chicken drum-sticks. She was my primary source of sex for over a month, but eventually I got sick of her regular hepatitis injections and walked out.

Carole struggles to straddle Rico’s slumped form, and stands hunched like an old woman defecating into a plastic bag. It isn’t a good look for her. As she swivels lamely, the TV-din next door crackles into raucous applause. Rico is grinning uncontrollably. Carole sways slightly and almost loses her balance. Blood drips from her left nostril and splashes onto her paper dress. I know what that kind of blood tastes like. Rico notices too, and stops laughing. Carole turns and croaks something at me urgently. The fat, detuned TV next door drowns out her words. Suddenly everything stank. A torrential nosebleed erupts, and Carole sounds like she’s gargling blood. Rico looks furious. I scratch my face and re-adjust my sunglasses. Blood splatters his jeans. The room stinks of rotten meat. Carole’s brown watery eyes plead with me. I walk out of the room and leave the door open behind me.

Tom Leins

The Start of the Long Decline

You know it’s over

when you find yourself in another strange girl’s apartment

on another lonely hung over morning

with shaking hands

a ruined stomach

and deluded thoughts of immortality

swirling in the windmills of your saturated mind

the girl has gone to work, leaving you all alone

to wallow in self-pity

and dreams of yesterday

but you are older now

and the thrill is gone

and there is nothing to look forward to

except the start of the long decline

noting sadly that those days of thunderous youth

will never come again

the girl has left a note and a set of keys

apparently you are to lock the door on your way out

and leave the keys in a flowerpot

you gaze vacantly around the room

to see if there is anything worth nicking

but of course there isn’t

the flat is filled with brand new mass produced rubbish

designed by unimaginative Capitalists.

Joseph Ridgwell

A Barrelful of Swine

I’d only been back in the office for a couple of minutes myself when Paul, with whom the room was shared, exploded through the door and stormed to his desk. I could tell his six month Sales Review hadn’t gone well.

Oh yeah – you could say I’ve got a something of an eye for these things.

He crashed into his chair and punched – literally punched – the wall. Boy, was he ever in a piss.

Fucking Hursey, he began, cursing our Sales Director. Jesus, he’s out for blood today. The man must be a fucking Nazi or something. I swear to Christ, he wants miracles. Miracles! I bet he wouldn’t even crack a smile if I dragged 100k out of my ass right in front of his beady little eyes. When are you due in?

I told him I was up in twenty: time enough to gather my figures and crunch half a pack of Polos in a fragrant disguise of the cheeky pick-me-ups I’d just necked down the Weatherspoons. Really, with the Review looming, lunchtime boozing had been a risky undertake, but I’d persuaded myself with the argument it would settle any nervy anxieties. Plus, I’d overheard that new girl from Customer Relations mentioning a trip to the pub, and she had a pair of tits which were totally worth a drink with.

Good luck then, mate, Paul spat. All the best of fucking British. You’re going to need it. That shit won’t be happy until we flog ourselves to death for him. I feel like marching back in there, flopping my balls on the table and screaming he should just cleaver the boys clean off. Save us both the time and trouble. He could wear them as dangling trophy earrings, like a mad tribal voodoo priest or something. Jesus, that sadist’d probably get the horn over it. How long have we been doing this job?

I told him he’d got ten months under his belt. One short of my personal grand total.

We ought to just fucking leave, you know that? Paul was angry. Paul was always angry. He’d go into a similar rant every week. Regular as you like. Angry that the salary left him short, that the motor wasn’t a Beamer, that he still had to rent his flat and was maxed out enough credit cards to make a player’s deck of fifty-two.

That’d show him, Paul continued. If we all just upped sticks and told Hursey he could do one. The whole Sales team piss off out the door. I was talking to Cleenly the other day, and Paul leant forward to lower his tone with a sudden conspiratorial register. He reckons they’re crying out for reps over at his new place. Targets are lower than a crackwhore’s standards and the commission’s right up in the stratosphere. Stupid money, he was saying to me. Absolutely fucking crazy.

Cleenly was our old manager in the Northern region. He left under something of a cloud after shagging Hursey’s PA, allegedly – as etched in company folklore - right across the top of Hursey’s own desk.

That’s what we should do. Paul threw himself back in his chair, eyes ablaze with possibility. Get new jobs. Get out of here. Make a fresh start. Invest in some property. Settle down. Buy a nice car. Enjoy proper holidays. Stop all this twatting about. We need to make our move.

Both Paul and I sat there for a moment to consider these wondrous, staggering ambitions. He was right, you know. This job, this life… it wasn’t helping anything.

But still, what are you going to do, eh?

Fancy another line? Paul asked me. I need something after that torture. God, look at me. I’m starting to get the shakes.

I walked over to the door and kept watch as he rummaged in his drawer, withdrew a wrap and began carving out a couple of massive lines on his mouse mat.

I couldn’t speak for anyone else, of course, but as the days kept flying by in a blur, I found myself increasingly convinced that somehow this was all going to end in tears.

Mark Colbourne

Burn the Louvre

Crowded bar
ugly faces
black labels and thin traces
of white powder on porcelain

the fire flickers in the corner
and we sing songs of redemption
hoping to find solace in dark ales and throat burners
from Russia
with love

In the morning we wake
to crude jokes
and cigarette smoke.

April May March